Category: Count Dante
Rag-Na-Rocking My Way to Fitness with Thor
I set up a 75-lb. TKO brand heavy bag in my garage and started sparring again. I’m feeling the effects already – my hands hurt.
My band, Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society, is backing up Thor, the Rock Warrior, bender of steel bars, destroyer of hot water bottles and singer of such metal anthems as Let the Blood Run Red and Thunder on the Tundra at Slim’s (333 11th St., SF, CA) again this coming Wednesday May 27th at 8pm. Roughly translated this means that me, Jim and The General are going to be Thor’s band for the night. We did this about a year ago and many headbangers and even lowly hipsters came away from Slim’s that night exclaiming that it was the show of the year. We’re also playing an opening set so there’s going to be a whole lotta Count Dante and the Black Dragon Society at Slim’s next Wednesday. If the appearance of the Thunder God who lives to rock wasn’t enough to draw you out on a school night, ArnoCorps is headlining. They headlined last years’ dose of Thor/Dante merged Rag-Na-Rocking and the results were historic if not truly epic.
But back to boxing: since I have to relearn an entire set’s worth of Thor’s music in a little less than two months, I’ve had to listen to a mega dose of Thor. Call it total emersion into the art of the man who brought us the classic film Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. Last week I started boxing to the same Thor CD that I use to pick up bass riffs from and, thus, found the perfect use for Thor’s straight ahead metal. Songs such as Thunder Hawk drive me to plunge my heavy fits ever deeper into the bag’s canvas and sand mass. When I am wavering, Thor’s lyrics offer affirmation, urging me to keep my arms up and throw leather as the bag sways back in forth in a futile effort to avoid my blows. “Thunder Hawk/I am the Thunder Hawk,” Thor’s voice tells me from the CD boombox on top of my washing machine. Yes, at that moment as I double the right hook into the side of the bag as if I am sinking those blows into an opponent’s ribcage, I am the Thunder Hawk! “In the sewers and the stench/Feeling sweaty, feeling drenched.” Thor, o ancient predator, you truly understand. Thunder Hawk ends. I take a break for a minute and lift my arms above my head and take deep breaths. Knock Them Down starts with its grinding power riff. Another round begins.
“I was born a fighter/Survivor of the street/Only Rage and Fists/Kept me on my feet.” Again Jon Mikl Thor understands the pugilistic urge better than even Jack London or Norman Mailer. “Knock them Down/Oh Yeah Knock Them Down/Rub all their dirty faces into the ground.” No one says it better than Thor.
It only stands to reason that Thor’s muscle rock would be the perfect soundtrack to manly physical pursuits such as boxing, judo or weight lifting. He is the first man to hold both the Mr. USA and Mr. Canada bodybuilding titles. The question now becomes, why doesn’t Thor open a chain of Thor’s Gyms across the US and Canada? With his godlike powers, he has revived a long dead Vancouver hockey team. He has done, and continues to do, feats of strength most of us schleps can only dream of. He has a new record label, Vulcan Sky, which has singed ArnoCorps. Your average Thor’s Gym can pump the music of Thor and other Vulcan Sky artists 24/7 and deliver us from the techo and disco usually played at your average 24 Hour Fitness. I’ll have to ask him about this at practice on Tuesday. Maybe I should write a business proposal.
You can buy tickets for next Wednesday’s show by clicking here.
Wed. May 27, 2009, 8pm
Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society
Freddie Flex & the Heavy Eric Si-Fi Show
333 11th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Here’s a video of last year’s mayhem:
Roctober Keeps on Rollin'
Roctober #46 features in-depth coverage of Soul Train’s Chicago roots, trucker music, and my days of having tortillas thrown at me while I wrestled women + plenty of comics!
JAKE AUSTEN DON’T TAKE NO MESS. While such zines as Psychotronic and Punk Planet have folded in their tents due to the corporate rape of their distribution system, Austen still grinds out hard copy of his Chicago based music and pop culture zine Roctober, has them printed on pulpy newsprint that deposits a healthy amount of ink on your hands, stuffs them into envelopes and mails the mags to subscribers. He’s not giving up and becoming a blogger. The sheer volume of info on psychedelic freak outs, proto metal bands, Midwest soul and blues musicians, forgotten garage rockers and strange yet fascinating pop cultural phenomena lovingly packed into each ish of the Roctober cannot be broken down into one line bullet points on Twitter or lost to the flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere. It was relatively recently (this century) that Austen embraced the scanner and computer as a means of delivering his pages to the printer. For him the medium is truly the message and that medium is the ‘zine.
Austen called me “the dynamic wrestling, seminar conducting, kung fu fighting, rock and roll genius” in his review of the last Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society CD Fat Power in Roctober #43. While that was flattering as all getout, what was even more awesome was that review of my most recent trash rock opus was in the same mag as an in depth interview with Paul Williams about the ghoulish rock musical, Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Not only is Brian DePalma’s Phantom one of my favorite films but, watching it recently, I realized that the glam numbers in it informed me of what a rock band should be at a tender young age. It didn’t help that they showed clips of it in the intro to Creature Features every week on KTVU Channel 2, reinforcing the message that rock bands should play distorted pentatonic riffs, wear outrageous costumes and be electrocuted on stage. Un-characteristically, the interview with Williams is available online by clicking here.
The newest ish of Roctober (#46) has a flip cover. One side is cartoon of a trucker barreling down a highway with his trusty ape (pictured). The flipside has a photograph of Don Cornelius wearing what can only be described as a low cut blouse and an accessory that closely resembles a dog collar interviewing a very well dressed B. B. King. In the corresponding article, Austen delves into the locally produced, almost DIY Chicago Soul Train that ran parallel to its LA based nationally syndicated show.
But amidst the pages and pages of record, book and DVD reviews is a rollicking four-page interview by Dan Kelly with yours truly where I not only discuss Beer, Blood and Cornmeal but also get to spout off about my band like we really did something. I even start quoting The General’s lyrics to the still unreleased Sgt. Rock and talk about Steve Leialoha (the Fat Power cover artist), comic scribe Doug Moench, Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu and those really weird DC Shadow comics from the late 1980s. In all, it’s the kind of Filmfax or Psychotronic interview that I’ve always dreamed of doing. Reading it made me feel a little bit closer to H.G. Lewis or the late Ray Dennis Steckler talking to Fangoria or V. Vale. Thank you Roctober.
And if that wasn’t enough to inflate my already dangerously enlarged ego, the magazine also sports what may be the last interview with country picking legend and Smokey and the Bandit co-star Jerry Reed, an essay on Sam Pekinpah’s movie version of the hit C.W. McCall tune Convoy and a crazy comic spoof of 70s cosmic Kirby comics called The Internals.
It’s Roctober. There isn’t an online version. You have to buy it. It’s worth it even if you don’t want to read about me. You can click here to order a copy. In fact, get a three issue subscription. You’ll be glad you did when those 100+ pages of glorious newsprint arrive in your mailbox every now and then. You really will.
Count Dante reviews "The Wrestler"
This review may contain spoilers. I’m not quite sure it does per se, but you can probably puzzle out the film’s flow of events by reading this. Proceed at your own risk.
ONE OF THE MOST POIGNANT SCENES in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler shows Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) making his way through the winding hallways of the “employees only” area of the super market where he works. It’s his first day of manning the deli counter where he will be seen by the public instead of moving boxes in the store’s loading dock. The scene is shot over Rourke’s shoulder, giving you a feeling of first person immediacy rarely captured in cinema. In the soundtrack you can hear the cheers of a crowd. They are faint at first but become louder with every turn down another concrete corridor. There is little to distinguish the backrooms of the super market from those of the arenas where Robinson used to perform. In his head he still hears those cheers although now, he is only going to slice ham and dish up egg salad.
He calls old ladies “spring chicken” and tosses tubs of potato salad at costumers as if they were Hail Mary passes. He works his audience just like he used to in the ring. He uses crowd psychology. He becomes the star of the show. For a moment he almost makes his post-squared circle transition to the quiet life – almost.
Anyone who has ever been in the ring, deserving of that honor or not, knows what “The Ram” is going through here. I have moments, sitting in my cubicle at my new job, where I wonder how I can get back on a bus and back in a concert hall packed with drunks to slug it out with Poontangler. I miss people throwing food at me. None of my new co-workers ever fling a vodka Collins in my eyes. You miss that kind of reaction from people. It gets in your blood.
Randy doesn’t have such appealing options as I do however. He won’t write a book or become a research analyst at a major university. While I always had to keep my dayjob, Randy made his living from the wrestling game. He was a spandex clad superstar in the 1980s but now he’s pissed away whatever cash he earned during his salad days on easy women, cocaine and steroids. Rourke’s portrayal of Robinson is a riff on superstar turned crackhead Jake “The Snake” Roberts with Shawn Michaels’ aesthetic and a ghastly detour into Terry Funk country. Randy lives in a trailer. He’s late with the rent. He romances a stripper (Marisa Tomei) but she won’t break the club’s ban on dating costumers for him. His daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) hates his guts. He headlines small time cards in high school gyms for a couple of rolled up bills. With the hopes of making it back into the big time, he gets drawn into an extreme wrestling bout complete with staple guns, thumbtacks, barbed wire and broken glass. He vomits and has a heart attack. He tries to stay away from the ring but he just can’t manage that. By the time he’s driving his beat-up van and rockin’ to Accept’s “Balls to the Wall,” Randy’s balls really are to the wall.
During the film’s final bout, a reunion match with his 80s arch nemesis The Ayatollah (former WCW wrestler Ernest “The Cat” Miller in a surprisingly excellent albeit brief performance), Randy’s opponent remarks, “I forgot how much fun this is!” The Ayatollah now owns a used car lot in Phoenix. Pro wrestling retirement works for him. He uses the fast talking skills that he cultivated to gain audience ire decades earlier to move pre-owned vehicles. The ambitions that he once channeled into the ring are now used to expand his automotive empire. He’s allowed himself to forget the rush of being in the ring. The problem for Randy is that he never forgot.
The Wrestler is flawed yet hits so many of the right notes. Rourke manages to be understated while playing someone who is so totally larger than life. I doubt that this will be the kind of comeback for him that John Travolta had with Pulp Fiction. Rourke just looks too strange for more mainstream or diverse roles. After several sessions with the plastic surgeon, his countenance is both puffy and tight. When he has the right role however, as in this film or Sin City, he can be mesmerizing.
Aronofsky and scriptwriter Robert B. Siegel (a former editor of The Onion no less) capture the smalltime wrestling scene with a shocking accuracy. The scenes of wrestlers working out their matches in cramped backrooms were no different from similar scenes at the Fillmore or Transmission during my days with ISW. Before Randy’s match with the Ayatollah, the two veteran grapplers forgo talking over some of the spots – the hallmark of true pros who can call a match to capitalize on the crowd heat as opposed to pre-planning it.
The film’s flaws can be found in its occasional predictability. When I was starting to work on Beer, Blood and Cornmeal, I had toyed with the idea of writing it as a loosely autobiographical work of fiction or roman à clef. The problem with that approach quickly became apparent to me: with fiction I had to generate the dramatic. Somebody had to die or become crippled in the ring. Melodrama and its resulting predictability were always nipping at my heels with fiction. I couldn’t escape it and ultimately, neither could the makers of The Wrestler. In their defense, there were very few places they could realistically take Randy “The Ram” Robinson. For me, giving a factual account of my days with the punk rock wrestling show was a liberating act. Surprisingly, nobody in ISW became crippled in that rickety ring of ours (at least not physically). Somebody should have broken their neck during one of our shows but nobody did. If I had written it that way as a work of fiction, the book would have been scoffed at for being unbelievable.
The Wrestler also features a lot of a topless Marisa Tomei. If you ever watched My Cousin Vinny and wondered what her tough Jersey girl character would look like in the buff, you get your chance to now. Sure, it’s 17 years later now, but it hardly matters. She still looks great and she even peels to the Scorps during one scene. There’s a fair amount of 80s German metal in the soundtrack to The Wrestler. You can’t beat that with a figure 4 leglock.
Best Blog on Redroom.com and my Librarian Past
My blog about choking out librarians and booksellers at BEA earned the BEST BLOG spot on the front page of the lit website Redroom.com. I guess choking out librarians taps into some kind of deeply held subconscious desire in the lit community. I mean who doesn’t want to slap a sleeper hold on a librarian? Here’s the screen grab…
And yes, for those of you who aren’t up on your Count Dante/Bob Calhoun trivia, throughout much of the time that I was wrestling in Incredibly Strange Wrestling, I worked as a library technical assistant in several Bay Area specialty libraries. I did far too much loose leaf filing for local law libraries (probably the most tedious job in all of bibliodom) and was sometimes the default library director at St. Mary’s Medical Center in SF because, well, for vast stretches of time, nobody else worked in the library except for me and a couple of volunteers. I was the whole show; doing Medline searches, ordering documents, shelving books, processing books, prepping journals for the bindery and panicking when I realized that the journal subscriptions were about to run out. I was also doing technical support on the library PCs that the residents used and AV setups on top of the library duties. If that wasn’t enough, I often fielded long assed booking calls where Audra, The Cruiser and me would determine just what the hell to do with The Poontangler and Super Pulga in the next Fillmore show. Thank God that place had a sound proof office for some reason. It was a Catholic hospital you know and nuns were always strolling into that library. Come to think of it, some level of Catholic guilt probably fueled the concepts behind those ISW matches.
But yeah, wearing crazy assed kimonos and choking out librarians – it’s the way to get ahead in this world.
(PS: I hope this post doesn’t hurt my current job search! Damn those blogs!)
When Gods Collide
The Count and THOR backstage in Seattle.
IT WAS TEN AM. I was nursing an overpriced ($8.63) Jack and Coke at a San Jose airport bar when Thor called. This wasn’t just any generic Scandinavian dude named Thor mind you. This was the Rock God, the metal avenger. This Thor bends steel bars in his teeth and blows up hot water bottles in between belting out such metal epics as “Let the Blood Run Red” and “When Gods Collide.”
“Hey Count, This is Thor,” he said with a hint of a Canadian accent. Thor is Canadian. In fact, before becoming a heavy metal warrior, he won the Mister Canada bodybuilding competition in the early 70s. “We need you to be a tick tonight. The bassist for the opening band got really sick before we hit the road and I was wondering if you fill in for the Blue Ticks.”
“Blue Ticks?” I said scratching my head. My band, Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society backed up Thor at a sold out Slim’s in March. I could chug my way through the Thor set with some authority but I’d never even heard of the Blue Ticks.
“Yeah, the Blue Ticks,” Thor explained, “We do covers of songs like ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ but heavy metal versions. Do you know ‘A Hard Day’s Night?’”
“Um, no,” I replied. Those early 60s Beatles songs all sound real easy when you just listen to them but they’re not. They have crazy jazz chords and modulate all over the place. That’s their genius. They make the complicated sound easy.
“Well, how hard can it be you know? We’re only gonna’ do like five songs.” Thor shot back, trying to be encouraging. At least one of those songs he mentioned was “Wild Thing.” That helped.
“Hey Thor, I’ll see what I can do. We can just bury me in the mix and hope for the best.” Thor seemed encouraged by this. It’s what he wanted to hear and honestly, I have a hard time turning down Thunder Gods.
My new girlfriend Rosie and I had planned this trip to Seattle around Thor’s show up there. He was playing this new club called King Cobra’s last Thursday. After the aforementioned Slim’s show, we kind of missed the big guy and his shred-master guitarist Steve Price. Our flight was on time. We got to the hotel and then got to the venue a bit early in the hopes that I could pick up the Blue Ticks songs during an extended sound check. The sound check never happened. The Ticks’ guitarist did show me how to play “A Hard Day’s Night” and some Paul Revere and the Raiders song but I forgot what sequence the chords went in as soon as we had stopped playing them. The seemingly endless supply of Pabst didn’t help.
The opening band, a Seattle outfit transplanted from San Diego called Skelator played this very Maiden-esque set of power metal. They had long, straight hair too. A lot of people there seemed to be there to see them. There was no way that this crowd of metal maniacs wanted to see me and the Blue Ticks murder Beatles songs. They were probably okay with the murdering part but not the listening part. Thor decided to cut to the chase and just go on since the guys from the Ticks were the same guys in his band.
Thor did ask me to wear the creature costume and duel with him in the middle of the set. The Phantom of the Winds of Time performed this duty at Slim’s. I was honored but was somewhat worried that the suit wouldn’t fit. Luckily it had plenty of stretch. They had a skull mask for me to wear with it, making me a very well fed skeleton. Following Steve Price’s solo “Berzerker,” I donned the costume and went out and menaced the audience. Most of them were properly menaced, backing away from me as I grabbed for them. A drunken little punk rock girl wasn’t afraid, however. She ran up on me. I couldn’t retreat from a 5’3” girl. I was the monster, the creature, the undead come to do battle with Thor! I scooped up her small frame as if I were to body slam her, held her for a while and then put her down. Excited by the moment, she spent the rest of the night trying to make out with dudes.
Thor effortlessly bends a micstand around my skull-like cranium to the delight of Northwesterners!
Thor was onstage while the song “Intercessor” was playing. “I sense a presence,” he said. “There is one among you who is not human!” Thor shined a skull light on the audience members to determine that they were in fact human. I climbed up onto the stage. Thor saw me and mimed shooting bolts of energy out of his hands at me. I staggered back and fell to one knee. I got back up and shot invisible energy blasts at Thor. Thor sold them just as I had. We did this for a while. I mugged to the audience while Thor was down to make them hate me. Thor ran over and we locked up. He hit me with some mighty blows finally driving me down to the floor. He picked me back up as if I were a small sack of potatoes and then effortlessly bent a mic stand around my neck to the delight of the audience. Defeated, I crawled off the stage while Thor continued rocking.
This was the first bit of pro wrestling I’ve done since my last ISW match on the 2001 Warped Tour. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt great to get out there and work a crowd that way again. Canada is very good to me. My publisher, ECW Press, is Canadian, Thor is Canadian and I just got a very good review in the Ottawa Xpress, Canada’s largest newsweekly. Click here to check it out. Thank you Thor and thank you Canada.
This blog has been skinned.
There are things still, here and there, that I think might need a bit of finessing, but for the moment, this fucker is ready to go.
This is a photo of The Count with some hot chicks.
Beer, Blood and Piecemeal.
The rock and reading odyssey of a 300-pound hulk.