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Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Follow-Up to Treacherous Double-Dealing from June

I woke up to the sad news this morning that Harry Nilsson was not among the those nominated to be inducted into the 2016 class at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Back in June I published a post called Treacherous Double-Dealing, which concerned my horrible treatment at the hands of two people who wanted to claim all the credit for the campaign. Now, as far as I am concerned, they should share all the blame for it not happening. Step right up Gabriel Szoke and Todd Lawrence to take your bows.

After I was summarily kicked off the triumvirate committee that was spearheading this drive, those two crazy MoFos came up with what I always thought was a stupid idea. Milo Bender, Willie Aron, and Rob Laufer wrote a cute little jingle called "Let's Put Harry in the Hall." Sure it was a catchy little number, but the last thing that was needed was to turn it into a We Are The World-style vanity project. Watch:

I have no idea how much time, energy, and money was wasted on this vanity project, but I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, that it all would have been better spent actually doing some of the things that we had discussed, and agreed upon, before I was dumped.

It was my idea that we needed to start a grassroots campaign for Harry's last birthday, something that was actually done. However, we knew that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committee ignores grassroots campaigns because all bands and artists have those. The bigger idea, which never seems to have been implemented, was to use this grassroots campaign to influence the next level of influencers, who would then influence the next level of influencers, until it became a snowball rushing down the mountain that couldn't be ignored.

But, a cute little video?

Oh, puh-leeze!!!

And, yes, at this point this is sour grapes. I was never in this for the credit, but merely to get Harry in the Hall. However, those two MoFos were all about getting credit. They made sure to get their credits on the video (and Gabriel made sure he got his name on there twice) and they were delighted whenever their names were mentioned in the scanty press they were able to garner.

Had I still been part of the committee, I guarantee that there would have been far more publicity. Furthermore, I would have been able to attract much bigger names to sign onto the campaign. I can't say we would have succeeded getting Harry nominated, but it would not have been such an anemic and fruitless attempt.

Back in June I tried to warn people about these two. Sadly no one listened.

Since it's Thursday, this seems like an appropriate way to end this post.

I'm the Barber of Oakville ► Throwback Thursday

When I was about 20 years old I bought a barber's chair, something I treasured for many years.

I found it in an antique store on Lakeshore Road in downtown Oakville, Ontario. It was one of the first big purchases of my life. It was easily the heaviest purchase of my life, until I bought my first car, a Volkswagen Beetle, a few years later. The Volkswagen was infinitely easier to move.

It was a wonderful, comfortable chair, which was fully functional. The handle (on the left) had several actions. Pushing it out would allow the chair to tip all the way back to recline, which is what barbers would do when they needed shave you. Your head would sit on the adjustable, padded headrest.

Pumping the handle forward would adjust the height of the chair, using an oil-filled hydraulic mechanism. From its lowest position to the highest was about a foot-and-a-half. It was a whole lot of fun to raise the chair up to its highest position and then release it.

The chair would also rotate 360 degrees. It was far more fun to put someone in the chair and spin them around, making them dizzier than a GOP candidate trying to explain their policies.

When I bought it it was delivered to my house on Brant Street. I never really considered what it would be like to move it from one residence to another ... and boy, did I move a lot over the years.

This thing was easily 500 pounds. The metal parts were made from chromed, cast steel. The white parts were made out of the same material as old ceramic bathtubs. The padding on the seat (as well as the back) had horsehair above a set of metal springs. Everything about it was solid and heavy.

It took a minimum of 4 people to move it anywhere. Even when using a 2-wheel hand truck, it required a small cadre of folks to get it from one place to another. Stairs were its worst enemy. Yet, it made it up several sets of stairs to several apartments over the years.

The last place I had my barber's chair was my 2nd floor apartment on Roncesvalles Avenue. When I moved from there to a 4-storey walk up on Lauder Avenue, at St. Clair, I couldn't find anyone who would help me with the chair. It went into storage in a friend's garage, but I lost it when he moved without telling me, abandoning the thing to a new owner.

I still miss that chair. It was a beaut.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mrs. Miller ► Monday Musical Appreciation

The '60s are known for great discoveries in music, from Motown to The British Invasion to Psychedelia. However, there was no greater discovery than Mrs. Miller, born on this day in 1907. 

Mrs. Miller was Kitch before Kitch was Kool.

She was discovered in the early '60s by LA DJ Gary Owens, better known as the announcer on Laugh-In. However, her star didn't begin to rise until she was signed to Capitol Records in 1965. According to the WikiWackyWoo:
Singing in an untrained, Mermanesque, vibrato-laden style, according to Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace in The Book of Lists 2, Miller's voice was compared to the sound of "roaches scurrying across a trash can lid." [1]

While growing up in the '60s, I was fascinated by Mrs. Miller. I couldn't wait for her many appearances on the various talk shows of the day. I thought, "If she can make it in Show Biz, then so can I," which may have been my impetus for starting Cobwebs and Strange, a band I formed with my childhood friends.

According to Searching For Mrs. Miller:
From Claremont [where she lived] to Capitol is two hours in average traffic. There is a piece of story missing here, being that an organist/pianist on these sessions, Fred Bock, by all accounts a smart man with a sharp sense of humor, knew he'd found something unique. Fortunately, he knew somebody of consequence in the music business.

Lois Bock recalls: "Mrs. Miller would come to the L.A. studios and make recordings to send as gifts to orphanages those old, old songs like ` Alice Blue Gown' in what she called her `operatic style', and, on one of these sessions, Fred talked her into doing `Downtown', which he took to Lex, who was an employee of Capitol at the time, and he heard something there." She was signed to the venerated label, and work began on her debut, Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits.

Barry Hansen, a/k/a Dr. Demento raised an interesting point. "It took some imagination on Lex De Azevedo's part to make an album of her doing all rock 'n' roll songs. It certainly was a departure from what she had recorded before." Conventional legend has it that Mrs. Miller had no idea that she was a novelty act, but Lois Bock is quite clear about what Mrs. Miller was told. "Fred and I were honest with her. We told her it would be funny. And the audience loved it. The more they laughed, the more she would, you know, work it. I don't know if she knew more than she let on, because she was always quite a character. But she loved audiences."

Like so many superstars that burned far too bright, Mrs. Miller eventually flamed out:
As Lois Bock said, "She had a good run for eighteen months, which was seventeen-and-a-half more than anyone had a right to expect." Mrs. Miller continued to perform sporadically, playing more benefits than just about any performer I can name, including one to raise funds to build a hospital in her hometown Jetmore, KS. When the hospital was built, she personally furnished the nurse''s lounge. She also devoted much time to raising her niece, Audrey.

[...] She retired officially in 1973, resigning from the Screen Actors' Guild in honorable standing, and eventually settled into a condo at 9535 Reseda Blvd in Northridge, CA (the Valley). Unfortunately, in January 1994, the huge Northridge Quake destroyed the complex. Old age took its toll. Elva relocated to the Garden Terrace Retirement Center, in Vista, CA, where she died in 1997, at the age of 90. She is interred at the Pomona Mausoleum, near her beloved Claremont.
However, we still have her music to keep us warm on those cold nights: