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Good News, Bad News

Bad news first:
My friend Pat DiNizio has passed away at age 62. Pat was the lead singer and writer for the New Jersey band The Smithereens.

Pat called me out of the blue one day to offer me a job — but more importantly to chat about all of the things we both loved. Pat and I connected on so many levels; our love of classic monsters, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, EC comics, pop music of the mid to late 1960s and the general popular culture of that time period — which is kinda funny, since Pat was six years younger than me. A lot of what we said to each other could be considered a kind of shorthand, as we had shared so many interests we didn’t have to explain the context of what we were talking about.

Like me, Pat loved his fans. He came up with what I consider one of the coolest ideas for tightening that fan connection. When The Smithereens toured, Pat would contact key fans with this offer: While The Smithereens were in town, for a small fee fans could hire Pat (and often other members of The Smithereens) to come to their homes to give a very personal acoustic concert in their living rooms. Fans pooled resources to make this happen in each city. What a brilliant idea!

Pat hired me to create two Smithereens CD covers. My first was for an entire CD of songs from The Who’s Tommy (the band had previously — and quite successfully — recorded their version of the entire Meet The Beatles LP). I created both the front and back covers of this CD:

The second was a take-off on the movie poster for 12 Angry Men (I think it was going to be titled 4 Angry Smithereens).
The original image:

My take-off:

That’s Pat, far left.

To Pat’s enormous disappointment, the rest of the band rejected this cover. Always the gentleman, Pat personally paid me out of his own pocket for the work I had done.

Now there’s a hole in my heart, and its name is Pat. Rest in peace, my kindred soul brother….and rock on.

I would ordinarily save the good news for another day, but my L. A. friends, fans and family might be pissed if they missed a chance to pick up today’s Sunday Los Angeles Times.

The lead Section One front page story today is “Bones to Pick – Archaeology as blood sport: How the discovery of an ancient mastodon near San Diego ignited a debate over humans’ arrival in North America”.

I’ve known about this discovery for years but had been sworn to secrecy until the public announcement. The gist of the story is this: During a road-widening project in San Diego County, parts of a mastodon skeleton was uncovered. This is rare but not truly unusual. What was special about this find was that indications of early humans were discovered in the site, pushing back the appearance of humans in North America by over 130,000 years! I was sworn to secrecy because this discovery was so extraordinary that it was certain to ignite a huge debate among the archaeological and early man scientists. The scientists studying this find wanted to make sure they were on solid ground, as they knew they would be savagely attacked if every “i” and “t” had not been dotted and crossed. They were brutally attacked anyway, of course…there’s a lot of scientific turf and reputations at stake here.

So, I was pleased to read this thoroughly engaging article. I was totally blown away, however, when I turned from page A1 to page A8 (the second page of the three-page story) to find a huge full color reproduction of one of the Pleistocene murals I had painted for the San Diego Natural History Museum! And fully credited (Thanks, SDNHM!).

Merry Christmas, indeed!