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03/10/11

Permalink 12:19:53 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 2210 words, 7159 views English (US)
Categories: News

The Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Stories That Need Adapting

science fiction paperbacks
A whole pile of science fiction, horror and fantasy paperbacks that have gone untouched by Hollywood producers (pulled from the author’s shelves and piled on his bed).

Remakes. Reboots. Re-imaginings. Prequels. Prequels to remakes. That’s what 2011 is going to remembered for—the year of the prequels to remakes. We’ve got three of them coming out this year ("Death Race 2,” “Untitled Thing Prequel,” and “Rise of the Apes"). I’d say this could start a trend, but it already is one. Meanwhile, Alcon Entertainment has announced that it’s going to produce a sequel or prequel to “Blade Runner,” it doesn’t know which. Last year’s “Tron Legacy” was a sequel that was widely referred to as a remake. It’s getting so the critics and the producers themselves can’t tell what’s what anymore.

There was a glimmer of hope offered by Guillermo Del Toro’s $150 million version of H. P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” but Universal has dropped this project like it was an awful (and costly) squid-head with writing feelers and the stench of a thousand opened graves. With the idea in mind that there may be some sentient life in Hollywood, I asked the authors, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and artists in my inner circle (i.e. Facebook) what science fiction, horror, or fantasy novels or short stories they thought should be made into movies. To be fair (and to jumble things up a bit), I’ve alphabetized the responses by the authors of the works being suggested for adaptation.

I hope to see further suggestions in the comments, making this the eldritch creeping horror of blog posts. With all of the great responses, I’m still not seeing anything by Asimov, Fritz Lieber, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven (etc. etc.) on this list.

Alan Black (Author of “Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey;” web): “Wasp Factory” is so twisted you wish at times that you had not unscrewed the cap on Iain Bank’s first literary shake. Explosively remote, imagine a fantasy of murders executed by the clear eyes of a young nutjob screwing you tighter into his wicked ways. Not to be read in the dark.

Rafael Navarro (Graphic illustrator and creator of El Sonambulo; web): The works of Alfred Bester have influenced the sci fi community for years. From space travel, telepathy, to teleportation and the earliest fundamentals of what eventually became the cyberpunk movement. Two noted works, “The Demolished Man,” and my personal favorite, “The Stars My Destination” are stories that are just DYING to be made into film. Sad to say, they have not! “Demolished Man” has all the traits of a great film noir/murder mystery but involving government controlled mind readers or “peepers” if you will. It follows Ben Reich, an industrialist giant caught in an intergalactic web of intrigue, deceit and murder all leading to a spiraling brainwashing conclusion! “The Stars My Destination” is an absolute masterpiece! It tells the tale of Gully Foyle, a survivor of a space wreckage left for dead, who, like the Count of Monte Cristo and even Travis Bickle, decides to go on a vendetta kick against those that wronged him and feed the angry inner demon from within.

Daniel Boyd (Writer/director “Chillers” and “Invasion of the Space Preachers;” Professor of Communications; independent pro wrestler; web): A Russian novel I’ve always wanted to adapt (science fiction in the way “Frankenstein” is); “Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Crissy Calhoun (Author of “Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries;” web): Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series ("Soulless,” “Changeless,” “Blameless,” and the forthcoming “Heartless” and “Timeless"). Set in an alt-world Victorian London with “out” vampires and werewolves, the books are “New York Times” bestsellers and with good reason. Heroine Alexia Tarabotti, a woman without a soul, is clever, hilarious, and often in the middle of a misadventure featuring dirigibles, parasols, and steampunky science. With writing that’s been favorably compared to P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen, Carriger has created a world that begs to be adapted for the screen. We may be overrun by vamps and wolves these days, but the “Parasol Protectorate” series is an entirely new, and wicked, twist that crosses genres.

Chris Morley (Visual Effects Supervisor, Tippett Studio; imdb): “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski. An attempt at this would be purely insane, which is the greatest reason it SHOULD be done. If executed in a beautifully stylized way my faith in Hollywood would be one step closer to climbing out of the void.

Floyd Webb (Documentary filmmaker currently working on “The Search for Count Dante;” web): Great sci-fi stories for film are space Operas like Sam Delany’s “Nova.” Set in a world of cyborg machine-human interface tech where decisions are made by tarot card in a metaphorical Moby Dick-like tale in which one noble family is pitted against another. The Ahab character is a half Senegalese-half Swede on a great quest to turn the economic tide of energy dominance against his super rich nemesis, a plot that’s even more relevant now than it was when the book came out in 1968.

Andre Perkowski (Writer/director of zero-budget film versions of the Ed Wood novel “Devil Girls” and William S. Burroughs’ “Nova Express;” youtube): It’s impossible not to daydream about doing Philip K. Dick justice on the screen as so many of his quirky works lend themselves to flickerin’ pictures despite the mostly grim track record of extant adaptations. If somebody dumped a sizable sack of cash in front of me, I’d love to tear into “Ubik” – his corrosive, hysterical novel that flips upside down and rots from within, playing with time and tepid SF tropes, mutating them into his own gorgeous personal stew of personal problems and bureaucratic annoyance. You get crunchy satire about life and death and a spritz of salvation in spray can form – what’s not to love? I hope someone does it right but I’ll always snarl and do an Elvis lipcurl knowing I could’ve done it better with ten times the power – oh, and without stupid Super Mario sequences of CGI platform-jumping too. Consider this your final warning, motion picture business.

Jackie Kashian (Comedian; host of the podcast “Dork Forest;” web): I picked randomly from the bookshelf behind me, “When Gravity Fails” by George Alec Effinger from 1988. Here’s why it needs to be a movie (and please don’t ruin it. Daredevil I’m talking to you).
• It’s Islamic Cyberpunk, set in a futuristic Dubai. (That should sell it.)
• People get surgical ports into their heads so that they can “chip in” with flash cards with different personality “mods” (endless porn-y possibility should sell it).
• Our hero is a lapsed Muslim in the red-light district who doesn’t want the technology himself (i.e. “you can get an iPad, I don’t need an iPad”).
• There’s a serial killer using illegal “mods” to simulate different killers from history on a killing spree. (Jack the Ripper, James Bond, etc.)
• The “Godfather” character insists our hero gets “mods” to out “mod” the bad guy. (Which is just awesome and you should already be looking for directors).
• I checked to see if it had ever been adapted and couldn’t find anything but a reference to a computer game called Circuit’s Edge which I may have to get now that I know it exists.

Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin (former editor of “Fangoria;” screenwriter of “Frankenhooker;” imdb): I read Daniel F. Galouye’s “Simulacron-3″ in 1966, while flying from a stay in San Francisco General’s psychiatric ward [a stay brought about by ingestion of bad drugs and an accumulation of my own sorry shit], back to my family in New York. In the novel, the protagonist develops the thesis that he, and everyone he knows, exist only in a computer model of the world, maintained for the purpose of getting poll numbers without actually bothering anyone with polls. The climactic moment comes about when the protagonist chooses to test his theory by driving to the city’s limits, where he finds finds himself staring into a void of electronic nullity at the edge of his world. For me, that moment came to represent the arbitrariness of all existence, not just for the poor souls in that fictional computer, but through all of time in all manifestations of being. I have often thought since what a problem it would be to bring that moment to film. I only recently learned that “Simulacron-3″ has been adapted twice, in 1999 as “The Thirteenth Floor,” and before that as “Welt am Draht” ("World on a Wire"), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder for German television in 1973. I’m afraid to see either of these.

Arturo R. García (Site Lead, Racialicious.com; twitter): “Stranger In A Strange Land,” by Robert Heinlein. Sci-fi fans like to think they’re progressive? Let’s see if they could deal with this plot played out in 3-D: nice-enough guy, raised on Mars, comes back to Earth, becomes a celeb, forms a polygamist cult, gets killed … then gets made into soup by his buddies. Somebody get David Tennant on this, stat!

Steve Leialoha (Multi Eisner Award winning comic book artist of “Fables” and “Howard the Duck"; wikipedia): CGI animation has advanced to the point where I think it would be possible to do some sort of animated version of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” by William Kotzwinkle. It’s (kinda) the story of a bear that comes across a book manuscript in the forest, is subsequently assumed to be the author and becomes a media sensation. There’s lots of other wackiness of course, but it has terrific potential in the right hands.

Mandy Keifetz (Journalist and author of the crime novel “Corrido"; twitter): I’d like to see H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” (WT, 1927) made into a movie. The horror is inchoate and eterne - and I almost live there. It’s ineffably creepy.

Dan Kelly (Journalist specializing in the weird, obscure, historic and religious; web): “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” by H.P. Lovecraft. Beginning with the totally emo quote, “Life is a hideous thing,” “Arthur Jermyn” is populated by a weirdo cast of anthropologists, archaeologists, aristocrats, gorilla trainers, showgirls, murderers, lunatics, and a lost tribe of white apes for good measure. It features no alien gods, dabbling instead in cursed bloodlines, Cronenbergian body horror, and, (SPOILER ALERT!) inter-species romance. Sadly, Lovecraft’s penchant for racism is evident—the gentle and scholarly Arthur’s simian appearance explained through the red herring of Portuguese and Roman ancestors, for example—and the twist ending is telegraphed early on. Still, the story is a blackly comedic romp. I picture Wes Anderson at the helm, with Alec Baldwin narrating passages like: “One morning in Chicago, as the gorilla and Alfred Jermyn were rehearsing an exceedingly clever boxing match, the former delivered a blow of more than the usual force… They did not expect to hear Sir Alfred Jermyn emit a shrill, inhuman scream, or to see him seize his clumsy antagonist with both hands, dash it to the floor of the cage, and bite fiendishly at its hairy throat.”

David Henry Sterry (Author of several books ranging from “Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent” to “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published;” web): “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk–it’s a story about all these strange ways that people have of getting themselves off. The climax involves a swimming pool, lots of suction, and tons of unraveling intestines. It just begs to be made into some kind of sick creepy, fucked up movie.

Eugene Robinson (Punk singer, journalist, MMA fighter, author of “A Long Slow Screw;” web): Hmmm….well I would say the Thanos epic that was part of the “Captain Marvel” and “Warlock” series drawn by Jim Starlin… Jesus, I hate to even mention it on the outside chance someone else might read this and according to the same laws that had Hollywood destroy a great comic book like “Howard the Duck,” completely ruin this by making it a simple expansion of the bar scene from Star Wars. But you have asked and so I have offered. So there. Now I have done it. It will now be ruined. All that’s left is the crying….

Adam S. Cantwell (Emerging author of works of weird fiction; web): We all know that Hollywood won’t plumb the infinite wealth of imaginative fiction out there without some guaranteed cross-marketing payoff they can sell to the bankers. So why not just go for unfilmable, unsellable gold? I hereby challenge Tinseltown to bring Gene Wolfe’s protean science-fantasy epic “The Book of the New Sun” to the screen. Hypothetical 18-to-34-year-olds will (never) thrill to the exploits of the apprentice torturer Severian; nor will they shiver as the dread Alzabo, who absorbs the memories of its prey, prowls the night, nor gasp at mountain ranges carved in the likenesses of long-dead Autarchs of remote-future Urth; nor will they tremble as the mindless hordes of the dread sea monster Abaia march to battle to foil a last desperate plan to reignite the dying Sun… Wolfe’s masterpiece has all this plus aliens, time travel, romance, intrigue, and hidden destinies galore–actually, Hollywood, never mind, I’ll just read the books again.

02/14/11

Permalink 11:02:26 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1139 words, 18708 views English (US)
Categories: News, Music, Wrestling

Chris Jericho wrestles for literary gold in Undisputed

Jericho Undisputed
Left: Chris Jericho’s new rock and wrestling memoir, “Undisputed.” Right: Jericho launches himself off the top rope during a match with The Rock. (Images: Grand Central Publishing.)

Pro wrestler/rocker/game show host Chris Jericho ends his first wrestling memoir, “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex” (2007, Grand Central Publishing), only moments before his 1999 debut in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. After spending the bulk of the 1990s toiling in ramshackle Canadian wrestling schools, Japanese hardcore matches, Mexican lucha-libre, crazed Hillbilly leagues and ineptly run cable TV operations, Jericho finally makes it to the top of sports entertainment. But if you think that getting signed by the WWE puts Y2J on easy street, his inevitable follow-up, “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps,” has arrived to dispel such foolish notions.

Fortunately for Chris Jericho the best selling author, he’s never more endearing or hilarious than when he has a ladder to climb. “Undisputed” not only has him climbing that ladder, but this time around he’s getting knocked off of it over and over again like a competitor in a Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania. Only days after his pyro-laden intro on “Monday Night RAW,” sympathetic wrestlers tell Jericho that he has “a target on his back” and that he doesn’t know how to work the WWE’s style. When Jericho first signs with the WWE, McMahon says he’ll let him know if he’s doing anything wrong, but such instructions never come, leaving the wrestler to fritter away his newly signed $450,000 contract by bombing on national television. When McMahon finally gives him some feedback, the grappling impresario calls Jericho “the drizzling shits.” Now that’s a performance evaluation.

But verbal drubbings from McMahon and having “scorching heat” in the locker room aren’t enough to keep the Lion Heart down, and Jericho uses his ups and downs with the WWE to forge a compelling page-turner. As committed as he is to living his big time wrestling dreams, he still recognizes the absurdities of working for a company where calling the boss’s daughter a “filthy, dirty, disgusting, brutal, bottom-feeding, trash-bag ho” on national cable TV is a good career move. Reading “Undisputed” quickly becomes like watching an old “Naked Gun” movie with Leslie Nielsen, where if you only laugh at a third of the gags and tales of the just-plain wrong, you still won’t stop chuckling. This makes Jericho the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker of wrestling memoirists, a cultural reference that I’m sure he’ll appreciate—and Jericho loves cultural references.

In the prose of Jericho and collaborator Peter Thomas Fontinale, the minutiae of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies and an intimate knowledge of the track list of Dio’s “Holy Diver” album are co-mingled with dense recollections of the early 2000s wrestling scene. The Godfather; the Ho-train; Chyna; X-Pac; Road Dogg; Mr. Ass; D’Lo Brown; Jindrak & O’Haire; Tajiri spewing green mist; Steveweisers; the Peoples’ Elbow; Stephanie McMahon’s breast implants—they all come flooding back along with an entire Ozzfest’s worth of metal references. However, the frequent name-checking of just about everything that Jericho holds dear only helps to maintain his everyman vibe even after he becomes the WWE’s only undisputed champ (hence the book’s title) and holds his own in a very real backroom brawl with Bill Goldberg. Jericho knows his audience and he is us.

Even after his greatest triumphs in the WWE, Jericho never feels that his position is quite secure. Almost as a reaction to his uncertainty, he doubles down on the trash culture crazy train by launching his power metal band Fozzy at the same time that he’s darting around the country in rental cars to make weekly installments of “Smackdown.” With the concurrent careers, not only does he get chewed out by McMahon, but he’s also called a “wanker” by Sharon Osbourne for playing a game of fastball with Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde in the parking lot during an Ozzfest show. Jericho also recounts being kissed on the lips by Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, making me ponder what beautiful children they would have had.

Aside from the kind of hair-metal gossip that could’ve kept the website Metal-Sludge.com going for another year, the best aspect of the Fozzy tour diary material is the contrast between wrestling in packed arenas one night and playing to nearly empty dive bars attached to homeless shelters the next. Rock and roll is a hard business, but just like his early years of working makeshift matches in Winnepeg sports bars, Jericho is undeterred. Last year, I saw him put on a rockin’ set with Fozzy in a Tempe, Ariz. strip mall rock club a little more than a day before he was slammed through a table at WrestleMania. When I interviewed him over the phone last May, he was in between a record signing at an FYE in Austin, Tex. and a match with R Truth on “Monday Night Raw.” Like any other musician, Jericho can’t quite quit his day job.

But Jericho does walk away from the squared circle during the last third of this volume, and it’s here that “Undisputed” takes a dark turn. His mother passes away, his longtime friend and former tag team partner Eddie Guerrero also dies, he’s arrested for drunk driving, and then there’s Chris Benoit. Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself in his weight room in late June 2007. He was also Jericho’s friend. Jericho could have easily written Benoit out of “Undisputed,” the same way that the WWE no longer references the man who once held their world title (and it’s hard to blame them). But to Jericho’s credit, he stands by the Benoit he once knew if not the murderer he became. “I’ll always love the kind, funny, excitable, supportive, levelheaded, polite and humble man whom I’ve trusted more than anyone I’ve ever met in this business,” Jericho writes, “But I’ll always despise the man who murdered his family and ruined his entire legacy in the last days of his life.”

“Undisputed” only covers Jericho’s initial run with the WWE and the months directly after it where he goes to Hollywood to become a true multimedia star with work in improv comedy and a brief stint on a reality show. Like “A Lion’s Tale” before it, “Undisputed” sets up another follow-up that will likely cover his WWE comeback, the continuing saga of Fozzy, and his short season of hurtling prizes off of a building as the host of a primetime ABC game show. If this future memoir to be written in airports and all-night diners in between band gigs and pay-per-views is anything like the first two, I can hardly wait for it.

Chris Jericho’s “Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps” will be hitting the shelves on Wednesday, February 16th.

11/10/10

Permalink 12:58:44 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 1679 words, 11009 views English (US)
Categories: News, Interview, Politics, Wrestling, Television

Mick Foley: Wrestling with Reasonableness

Mick Foley
“Countdown to Lockdown” and its most reasonable author, Mick Foley (Images courtesy of Grand Central Publishing).

Mick Foley is the last person that you’d expect to be honored at something called the Rally to Restore Sanity. In the world of pro wrestling, he’s known for taking sports entertainment to its most masochistic extremes. He’s lost an ear in the ring, and just a little over a week before his appearance at Jon Stewart’s “Million Moderate March,” Foley body slammed a half-naked, 61 year old “Nature Boy” Ric Flair onto a mat covered in very real thumbtacks on Spike TV’s “TNA Impact.” But there is a kindly Dr. Jekyll to Foley’s grappling Mr. Hyde. Outside the ring, he helps build schools in Africa through his giving to Child Fund International and is a passionate supporter of RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence nonprofit that Foley first learned about through his devotion to singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Yes, the man dubbed “the Hardcore Legend” in wrestling circles is one of Amos’ biggest fans, both literally and figuratively.

Equally as extreme in his philanthropy as he is in a steel cage match, Foley donated the entire advance for his fourth memoir, “Countdown to Lockdown” (Grand Central Publishing, 2010), to his charities. Although Foley’s previous three memoirs all hit the “New York Times” bestseller list and he still earns a living through wrestling, forfeiting his advance is no small tithe from a man nearing the end of his ability to sacrifice his body on the altar of sports entertainment. Foley writes about living at the twilight of his career in “Countdown to Lockdown” and intersperses stories of his philanthropy with the red meat of his pay-per-view comeback and his parting with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. In a recent phone interview, Foley discusses the Rally to Restore Sanity, how he got talked out of going on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and how democrats can tap into their inner pro wrestler.

BOB CALHOUN: Did you ever think that Mick Foley, the hardcore legend, would get an award for sanity?

MICK FOLEY: I don’t know about sanity. It was officially for “reasonableness,” and I know that because I’m looking at it as it hangs around my neck. No, especially because one can argue that many of my actions in and around the wrestling ring were not all that reasonable so I think it’s appropriate that Jon specified that the award is for being reasonable everywhere else but my day job.

BC: You’re not losing an ear for your charitable work.

MF: No, but I’d be willing to.

BC: But that’s almost reasonable–almost.

MF: You know I think that is completely reasonable. If the stakes were high enough I would lose a body part to end sexual violence.

BC: Being at Stewart and Colbert’s rally, what do you think it accomplished?

MF: I loved Jon’s speech at the end of the rally. I think almost everybody who watched could take the story of the cars passing one by one into a small tunnel only by working together to heart. When it’s phrased that way, and when Jon mentioned that we actually do work together in this country everywhere but in congress and on cable television, it struck a chord with people.

BC: In keeping with Stewart’s criticism of the 24-hour news cycle, in “Countdown to Lockdown” you write that you contemplated going on “The O’Reilly Factor” to address the Chris Benoit tragedy, but were talked out of it. (In June 2007, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and two children and then committed suicide.)

MF: I was talked out of it by a woman at Child Fund International, formerly the Christian Children’s Fund. I told her that I thought that Bill and I could have a good conversation and her quote was, “Yes, you could, but that’s entirely up to him.” I really thought about the coverage that the Benoit murders had received and I realized so much of it was sound bytes and knee jerk reactions. Despite the fact that the cable news channels ran 24-hours a day, there was almost no deep reflection on what may have happened. More recently, the chaos in Iran following the elections ceased to exist once Michael Jackson died. It seems amazing to me to think that the people in charge of the news don’t think that the American people can concentrate on more than one issue at a time.

BC: How do you feel about the beating that your profession took in the recent Connecticut senate race? Was there a better way for Dick Blumenthal and Democrats to criticize Linda McMahon’s tenure as a CEO of WWE?

MF: As someone who is close to the subject and who has fed his children through the business of professional wrestling for their entire lives (I’ve been in it for 25 years; I’ve had a family for almost 19), although Blumenthal won in Connecticut, I think the idea that people were criticizing a form of entertainment enjoyed by millions of people across the country was very condescending and may have led to the feeling Americans had of democrats being out of touch.

BC: Do you think that the Democrats need to get in touch with their inner pro wrestler?

MF: I think they need to make Jim Webb the senate majority leader and attempt to shift the image of democrats from liberal weenies to tough-talking, straight-shooting Americans. I really respect what Harry Reid has done and I think Nancy Pelosi is a great congressperson, but I do not think that people can connect with them at all. If every liberal in the country was willing to give up lattes for two years, you could put those republicans in the unenviable position of having to talk about those “damned whiskey drinking liberals.”

BC: In your new book you have your own criticisms of WWE like the fake McMahon memorial.

MF: I openly criticized them and I thought that a couple of storylines that (the Blumenthal campaign) trotted out to hurt Mrs. McMahon were indeed terrible storylines, but I don’t think that they’re indicative at all of the type of program WWE is. It reminds me of reading Joe Lieberman’s memoir, “In Praise of Public Life,” (Simon & Schuster, 2000) where he warned that with senators who make thousands of votes over the course of their careers, that one or two votes can serve as fodder for political attack ads. As an American citizen watching the fifth game of the World Series, I was just irate over the sheer number of political attack ads coming from both sides. The only person who serves to gain from that is the guy doing the voice-overs.

BC: There’s another part of “Countdown to Lockdown” where you’re cheered by an entire village in Sierra Leone and this isn’t for running your body into exploding barbed wire.

MF: It was such a surreal feeling. I had been on the flight from the US to the UK, and then from the UK to Freetown. I knew that nobody in the country was really was familiar with wrestling at all. I took a ferry from the airport area to Freetown proper. Out of the six or 700 people on that ferry, not one person knew who I was. They looked at me because I was a large white guy with long, unkempt hair, but that was the only thing remarkable about me. Yet when I got to these small villages, child after child was yelling my name. They even had songs they sang in unison, and it turns out that I am known and very well liked solely because I contributed money to help build schools in the area.

BC: How did that change your outlook on things?

MF: First of all I realized that I did not have to commit so many reckless acts to earn the acceptance of people I’d never met. But I also, on a serious note, I came to identify Africa, at least the part of Africa I was in, as a place of hope and joy and not just despair. I really believe education is a key to bringing this continent out of the situation it’s in.

BC: Has Tori Amos been getting more attention from wrestling fans since your book hit the shelves?

MF: (Laughs) Honestly, I do not know. I have not had contact with her since the book was published. The people I know at RAINN who know her, say she’s still very flattered. I imagine that there’s been a lot of people Googling her or checking out the links to certain songs. If she knew that it’s drawing people to a cause like RAINN that she holds so dear, I can’t imagine her minding.

BC: You’ve written four memoirs. Other memoirists write about cooking Julia Childs recipes, or they don’t use toilet paper for a year, or they write about their tawdry sex lives. Do you worry that the success of your writing is too closely tied to getting choke slammed off of steel cages and would you rather have the tawdry sex?

MF: I do write about my sex life, but because it’s mine, I can’t use the adjective tawdry to describe it. I really enjoy telling stories. This book is not doing as well as the others have, but the people who are reading it are enjoying it. Because 100% of the advance was donated to the causes I care about, it’s always seemed like a labor of love to me.

BC: What’s next for Mick Foley?

MF: I’ve got a lot of things on the horizon. I’ve got a movie based on parts of my life that I’m writing along with director Christopher Scott. It’s a movie being produced by Jeff Katz ("Snakes on a Plane") who’s had great success in the motion picture industry. I may dabble in fiction again. I intend to talk RAINN when the opportunity lends itself and hopefully try to make a difference where I can while simultaneously being a dad who’s home a little bit often.

08/13/10

Permalink 01:33:56 am, by bobcalhoun Email , 722 words, 7984 views English (US)
Categories: News

Rambo: The Greatest Deleted Scene Ever

Stallone Rambo
Rambo lives out his earthly pleasures with Miao Yin in the greatest deleted scene ever.

During the weeks running up to today’s release of “The Expendables,” Lionsgate has flooded the market with Blu-ray editions of its brawny stars’ past glories. The centerpiece of this well-oiled onslaught is “Rambo: the Complete Collector’s Set”, which includes all the enhanced interrogations, decapitations and exploding helicopters of all four Rambo films. But even though Rambo kills 83 people in the fourth movie alone, this so-called complete set would be rendered an example of false advertising if it did not contain “The Greatest Deleted Scene Ever.”

From the moment that a big bundle of Stallone arrived on my front stoop, I had to immediately pop in disc one of the “Rambo” set to make sure that the scene was there. I waded through several trailers and busy-body intros, but I found it almost hidden in a reel of other, far-lesser deleted scenes. Simply titled “Saigon Bar Flashback” on a disc that I scored at Target for seven bucks a few years ago, this deleted scene lays waste to all other cinematic outtakes like a shirtless John Rambo squeezing limitless rounds out of an M-60 machine gun sans tripod.

The sequence begins with Rambo roasting a pig and then cutting off a hunk of meat with that famous knife of his. I know it’s hard to believe that it gets better than this, but stick with me here. As Rambo chomps down on a charred piece of pork, a Lucky Lager logo flickers on the screen with the sound of an electrical crackle, followed by a heavy pentatonic riff that sounds like Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” played backwards. A split second later, the magical Lucky Lager logo transports us to a Saigon whorehouse where hussies are rocking out by the jukebox and drunk G.I.s give us a big thumbs up in between gulps of some god awful Asian brew that’s likely cut with formaldehyde.

As the camera pans over the drunken revelry, it’s apparent that we are actually seeing things through Stallone-O-Vision. For a few seconds, you are Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Rambo. Your gaze fixes on the hottest woman in the bar. It’s Miao Yin from “Big Trouble in Little China” (Suzee Pai) with her eyes of creamy jade. But your moment of being one with the Rambo is short-lived. The camera cuts to Rambo with a Fu-Manchu mustache slow dancing with Miao Yin in front of a neon Schlitz sign. Neon beer signs are gateways to other, better worlds here so we are then transported to Yin’s bamboo boudoir. A harmonized guitar solo joins the pounding drums and monster riffage. Soon Yin’s nipples are revealed, providing closure to anyone who watched “Big Trouble in Little China” countless times on cable in the late 1980s. Rambo’s nipples are also revealed. Rambo is shirtless–his most deadly state of undress. But instead of drenching half of the Asian continent in stage blood, this time Rambo opts to make love, not war.

Before we can hear Sly the Guy’s grunts of ecstasy, we find ourselves back in the present or at least the early 1980s. Rambo’s Fu-Manchu is gone, replaced by some Don Johnson-esque stubble. As Rambo is moved to tears by the thought of the glorious facial hair that was once his, we, the mere viewer, have no other choice but to go back and watch the scene four or five more times.

Also featured in the Rambo Blu-ray set are strange documentaries that combine your standard making-of feature with historical background on the real global conflicts that supplied these movies with their bloody source material. Disc four comes with a look at Burma’s closed dictatorship to go along with the most recent Rambo film. Disc three contains something called “Afghanistan: Land in Crisis” where John Powers of the “LA Weekly” points out that “Rambo III” may be the only film about Islamic Jihad shot in Israel. NYU professor Ella Shohat adds that it was “quite hilarious” to hear Hebrew-accented actors playing the Mujahideen. Also worth a look and listen is the Stallone commentary track that accompanies “First Blood” where Sly tells us about breaking his lower rib, his desire to kill a wild boar with his bare hands and drinking Campari with bitter, unemployed loggers.

07/25/10

Permalink 11:54:46 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1431 words, 5558 views English (US)
Categories: News, California

Being Stan Lee

Real Stan Lee, Fake Stan Lee
The real Stan Lee (left) points an accusing finger at his dynamic doppelganger, Fake Stan Lee (right).

In this meta age of ours where Drunk Hulks and Feminist Hulks shun the use of pronouns on their snarky Twitter feeds, it’s only fitting that the Green-skinned Goliath’s creator should also have his imitators. However, Fake Stan Lee isn’t just relegated to 140 characters or less; he’s a living breathing person.

It was Friday just before 2pm. I was in a large conference room on the upper level of the San Diego Convention Center at Comic Con, waiting for the Stan Lee panel to start. I’d lucked out and got a seat only four rows back without having to wait in line for half the day. Seats are hard to come by at Comic Con. Even a Thursday evening panel titled “Geek Girls Exist” had a line winding around the halls for it, and a guy got stabbed in the eye over a chair in the “Resident Evil: Afterlife” panel on Saturday. With a “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” panel (a show I actually watch) beginning right after Stan Lee’s talk, I was camped out in Room 6BCF for the duration of the afternoon, bladder permitting.

But Stan “The Man” Lee meant a lot more to me than some Brutus Beekfcakes in skirts who eviscerate each other on pay cable. With the amount of Marvel Comics that I consumed since the age of five, it felt like Lee’s imagination had fueled my own. I might not be a writer today without Stan Lee. Every issue “The Incredible Hulk", “The Amazing Spider-Man", and “The Fantastic Four” that I devoured in the 1970s had the words “Stan Lee Presents” on the top of the first page. Stan’s shameless self-promotion let me know that being a writer, editor or publisher was a possibility.

At Comic Con this weekend, Stan was hyping Marvel cartoons geared at kids and his more recent creation, Striperella, for a more adult audience. “She strips at night and fights crime later at night,” we were told moments before Stan’s arrival for his panel.

As I was waiting for Stan to show up, Fake Stan Lee entered the room. He was wearing a sweater vest over a blue dress shirt, had Stan’s same receding hairline with an imitation mustache to match. But Fake Stan’s act went beyond the limits of mere cosplay. He’s a Stan Lee reenactor who never breaks character, not much different than the guys who play the part of Benjamin Franklin at certain historical sites in Philadelphia. Every word that Fake Stan utters is spoken with that same enthusiastic, New York accented patter as the real thing.

There was an empty seat next to me so I waved Fake Stan over. He was glad to take the seat and even agreed to answer a few questions.

“What’s it like being Stan Lee,” I asked.

He replied with loving but pointed mockery of the former publisher of Marvel Comics.

“Well, it’s very interesting being Stan Lee because, as you know, I created 95% of the most popular comic books in the world,” he said, “therefore everybody here should be paying tithe to me. So everyone, please get out your wallets and hand forth some money, either five or ten dollars. I think it’s the smallest thing that you can do for all the enjoyment that I’ve brought you over the years.”

I asked Fake Stan if the universe would explode if shook the real Stan’s hand.

“Prob-a-bly,” he answered spacing out each syllable.

When I asked if he escaped from the Negative Zone with the “Fantastic Four” villain called Blastarr the Living Bomburst, he claimed not to know who Blastarr was.

“But you created him!” I exclaimed.

A crowd gathered around to watch my interview with Fake Stan, asking him silly questions and getting silly answers. One woman was taping the interview with a really nice video camera. I’d really like to see that footage. People sitting around us laughed when I asked Fake Stan if he was ever tempted to earn some extra scratch by impersonating Hal Linden in the role of Barney Miller.

“I see what you’re doing and I like the reference,” he said, “You’re a good man and you’re very smart.”

Sometime during this tete-a-tete, a well-stacked model showed up in a Striperella costume. Somebody had a poster of Stan Lee kissing Striperella and now the crowd wanted Fake Stan to kiss Fake Stiperella. Fake Stan got out of his seat and affected an old man’s gait as he strolled up to Striperella. With the crowd urging them on, the two embraced with maybe a reluctant peck on the cheek resulting as the proceedings started to resemble the last throes of a depressing bachelor party.

The attempt at Dionysian revelry ended before it could ever take off and the Fake Stan returned to his seat right before the real Stan Lee emerged onto the stage.

At 87, Lee still possessed the same level of energy (boundless) that he’d displayed in any TV appearances that I could recall from the 1970s. A chair was set up on the stage for him, but he stood at the podium and gestured frantically through out much of his talk. Lee began with a tale of alter egos worthy of one of his costumed crime fighters.

“I used to have a real name, not something silly like Stan Lee.” Lee said from the stage. “It used Stanley Martin Lieber, a real name!”

Looking at Fake Stan Lee fidgeting in his seat, this was too much to process as I came to the realization that there wasn’t a “real” Stan Lee. Stan Lee was the world-renowned hero, with Stanley Martin Lieber relegated to being the nerdy, Peter Parker like secret identity.

Lee had his reasons, however. He used an alias when he first broke into the comics business in the early 1940s because “people had no respect for comics in those days.”

“They didn’t consider them an art form,” Lee explained. “They thought they were things that were read by dumb rubes or moronic children.”

“Today it’s different,” Lee continued. “Today, somebody says, ‘Hey isn’t that Stan Lee over there?’”

Lee paused for a minute before adding, “Excuse me President Obama, I’ll be back in a minute.” At that moment, the hall erupted with laughter.

Eventually Stanley Martin Lieber had his name legally changed to Stan Lee.

“It got so complicated that finally my wife decided, let’s just change it to Lee so now we’re Joan Lee and Stan Lee,” he explained. “I still like Stanley Martin Leiber but when I sign autographs, this makes it easier.”

But even after the transformation into Stan Lee, circumstances in his pulpy corner still forced him to conceal his identity like Tony Stark putting on his suit of armor to become Iron Man.

“I was probably the top romance writer in the world,” he said. “We had books called ‘My Romance’, Her Romance, ‘Their Romance’, ‘Romantic Romances and on like that. I wrote them all.”

The problem for Lee was that the books were written in a first person, confessional style.

“I’m used to signing my name to everything I write,” he said, “but it couldn’t say, ‘I Remember When I was 16 and I Fell In Love with the First Boy I Met’ by Stan Lee. I didn’t want to leave my name and I didn’t want to use someone else’s name. I wouldn’t get the credit. I came up with probably the best idea I ever had. On every one of the stories, I had the name of the story that I would write, ‘As told to Stan Lee.’”

As Lee launched into a tale of how the Comics Code Authority ordered him to decrease the size of a puff of smoke coming out of a six-shooter in an issue of ‘Kid Colt Outlaw’ because the puff of smoke was “too violent,” I asked the Fake Stan Lee if everything was true.

“It’s all absolutely true,” Fake Stan said looking awed by his living source material.

Last year at Comic Con, Fake Stan played the dozens with dudes dressed up as Deadpool and Spider-Man. Throughout the panel, I kept expecting Fake Stan to attempt the same with the man who was once Stanley Martin Lieber, but he never did. Soon after I asked Fake Stan my last question, he got up and left before the the legal Stan Lee had finished recalling his numerous name changes. Maybe things had gotten too meta for even Fake Stan Lee.

07/22/10

Permalink 11:59:23 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1412 words, 6565 views English (US)
Categories: News, Politics, California

Comic Con Holy War

margie phelps
Margie Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church protests the San Diego Comic Con.

If Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church had his way, God would be sending Biblical plagues down upon the San Diego Convention Center right about now and turning hundreds of nerds dressed in Batman costumes into pillars of salt.

It’s the first full day of the San Diego Comic Con. I was in front of the Convention Center, trying to cross the street against an unending tide of convention goers carrying oversized bags stuffed with assorted plastic figurines and video games. As I made it to the crosswalk, I saw a man in a checkered shirt on the side of the road holding up a dayglo lime green sign that read, “GOD HATES KITTENS” with a picture of a cat pasted to it. I chuckled and snapped a couple of pictures of him. I’m taking a lot of pics at Comic Con this year. Next to the man with the sign expressing the Lord’s hatred of baby felines was a person dressed like Bender the robot from “Futurama” holding up a sign that read, “KILL ALL HUMANS!” I took some more pictures of the beginnings of a picket line bathed in satire.

I then saw a line of cops behind Bender the robot, and beyond them were the God Hates Fags people. Fred Phelps and his congregation from the Westboro Baptist Church took some time away from protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers to spend a little time waving their hateful placards in the general direction of Comic Con and its annual mega-gathering of movie stars, geeks, nerds, Klingons, stormtroopers and multitudes of gals dressed in Princess Leia slave girl outfits.

I walked past the line of San Diego police officers. “I’m press,” I said, “I want to get some pictures of these people.”

The police let me through but instructed me not to go any further than a concrete barrier that separated the lawn the Westboro Baptists were standing on and the street. The police also told me not to go into the street.

Once I got to the end of the concrete barrier, I snapped a couple of pictures of a woman who turned out to be Margie Phelps, the daughter of Fred Phelps. Her bottom half was wrapped in the American flag and she was holding up four signs at once, two in each hand. This gave her the illusion of more limbs, making her look like a strange pagan goddess of intolerance and hate. One sign said, “Fags doom nations” and another one read, “America is Doomed.” All of their signs have the benefit of really good four color printing. They take pride in these signs.

I asked her if she’d grant an interview and she agreed. Still mindful of the police presence, I inched as closely to her as I could, and held out my digital recorder and started asking questions. The transcript of this conversation is below for those that want to read it, but talking to Ms. Phelps was a little like arguing with a brick. I called her a fame whore, so there’s some satisfaction of that but I do wish that I thought of saying that her cup is filled with the filth of many nations. That would have been a Biblical zinger there, but that wouldn’t have brought a pillar of fire down from the heavens to destroy the Westboro Baptist Church.

God Needs a Starship

As I was conducting my interview with Phelps, more Comic Con attendees had gathered to form a counter protest that started to outnumber the original protest. One guy in a Starfleet uniform held up a cardboard sign that said “God hates Jedi” on one side and “God Needs a Starship” on the other. Other counter protesters held up signs that said, “Support fiction, read the Bible,” and “Odin is God Read ‘The Mighty Thor’ #5″ The comic con goers also rallied themselves for a rousing chorus of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” making the whole thing seem a very serious, or “a very special” episode of “Glee.”

But the best counter-protester was a man dressed like Jesus Christ who was carrying a sign that said, “God Loves Every Body.” Sure, he separated the words every and body, but that’s still a lot closer to what the Bible says about the Almighty’s preferences than anything written on the Phelps family’s signs.

god loves every body
Jesus here has the right idea.

Here is the interview with Margie Phelps. For those of you who got through my interview with Andrew Breitbart, this should be a walk in the park if only because it’s much shorter…

BOB CALHOUN: So why are you out here at Comic Con today?

MARGIE PHELPS: well we’re out here to say that if were to invest one fraction of the resources that you spend and invest in worshiping Batman, and the Ghostbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so fourth in reading the Bible and obeying God, this nation would not be (garbled).

BC: You seem to be pretty knowledgeable you threw out Buffy there.

MP: We read the news. It’s not hard to track what’s going on in this country. This kind of convention would draw a lot more people than, for instance, a convention about obeying God.

BC: What about the Promise Keepers though? The Promise Keepers fill arenas several times bigger than this.

MP: Promise Keepers. Promise Keepers, dot com, potato, po-tah-toe – all worshiping false Gods.

BC: So the Promise Keepers are worshiping false gods as well…

MP: Of course they are. They are worshiping themselves, first and foremost. It’s just another false religion.

BC: So who are the real Gods then?

MP: You mean who are the real servants? There’s only one God and you know it and all mankind knows it. It’s in your DNA. The Promise Keepers claim to worship the only true and living God, but instead they worship their works and self righteousness and that’s every bit as wrong as these foolish people worshiping Batman and all.

BC: Okay, Batman I understand, but why picket the soldiers’ funerals.

MP: Because the soldiers are dying for the sins of this nation and the whole world is looking over at those events. They are big, splashy, patriotic pep rallies. We’ve picketed over 500 of them. They’re great, big, giant public events. Why not picket them?

BC: It’s really tacky. These people are grieving. These families lost somebody.

MP: They’re not grieving. They’re angry with God and they’re mugging for the cameras, and they’re mugging for the cameras and they’re bringing all their business outside… Let me finish. They’re bringing all their business outside on Front Street and Main Street for everyone to talk about.

BC: At a cemetery? That’s Main Street?

MP: Number one, we don’t picket cemeteries. We picket on public sidewalks, 30 minutes before the funeral, and we leave when it starts. Have you ever been there picketing? I have. I see what goes on.

BC: But aren’t you people just mugging for the cameras? You’re here at Comic Con. You’re at Ronnie James Dio’s funeral. Aren’t you just being fame whores just like the whores of Babylon you purport are in there (pointing to the San Diego Convention Center)?

MP: We’re using any public forum available to get these words before the eyes and ears of doomed America. (Raising her voice) We are not claiming…

BC: I think you’re just fame whores like the people in there (Note: Sylvester Stallone was in there somewhere).

MP: And I don’t care. Now going back to what sprung you off onto that side trail, we don’t claim that we’re privately mourning for our dead son. They do.

BC: How are you supposed to know that though? How are you supposed to know whether they are mourning privately or not? What made you God? Does God speak to you?

MP: By their public actions. I don’t care or know or care what they do in private. We don’t speak to them in their private quarters. We speak to them when they come out on the public sidewalk. And that’s what all of America is doing, bowing down to those dead bodies saying, “God Bless America” like a bunch of fools.

(NOTE: I’m sure we could have gone on like this all day, but I asked Phelps for her name and ended the interview after that one because the counter-protest was really heating up.)

07/11/10

Permalink 11:08:02 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 1044 words, 6087 views English (US)
Categories: News, Television

Werewolves, now with 50% more hair

wolf moon of mars

The last time that Lionsgate unleashed a werewolf movie on Redbox patrons, we got the hairless wolf men of the Alan Smithee directed “Neowolf.” “If you can’t afford a bale of yak hair,” I quipped at the time, “you’ve got no business making a werewolf picture.” It seems that Lionsgate got the message, because they’ve come roaring back (all puns in this particular column are intentional) with “Wolf Moon,” and this time the lycanthropes have the appropriate amount of hair. The werewolves still look like what you’d get if you tried to make a wookiee costume from black hefty bags and a whole mess of clip on tresses, but at least these howlers don’t need an appointment with Sy Sperling and the Hair Club for Men.

“Wolf Moon” starts off with a brutal murder shot in black and white followed by a couple of truckers getting torn up by a wolf man. Some bare b-cups make their way into the picture at the 21-minute mark but then the bulk of the first hour is taken up by enough music videos to start a new digital cable channel that nobody watches. Like most people, I watch a werewolf movie for some mutilations, time lapse transformations and even a little inner torment, but I don’t watch them for scene after scene of a drifter auto mechanic (Chris Devecchio) frolicking in local swimming holes with a teen hoochie (Ginny Weirwick) to the strains of a wannabe Steve Perry solo project. As I watched “Wolf Moon", I couldn’t help but picture a guitarist rushing into band practice saying, “Hey we got a song in ‘Wolf Moon’! We’re finally gonna’ MAKE IT!” Poor fools. “Wolf Moon” marks your group’s zenith, not its ascent. Now get back to the barroom and stop taking up space in cheap horror movies.

“Wolf Moon” features Maria Conchita Alonso ("Running Man") as the lady sheriff of a small Nevada town, Billy Drago (you’ve seen him in many straight-to-DVD and SyFy movies) as a werewolf hunter who spends a lot of time looking at microfiche, and Sid Haig ("The Devil’s Rejects") as a cranky rancher who’s way too into Viagra. Why you’d make a werewolf movie with Haig and not have him play a werewolf, I don’t know. Max Ryan, who appears in “Sex and the City 2″, makes a bid to be in two of the worst movies of 2010 with his turn as the werewolf patriarch who strings together more clichés than I ever thought possible. “Blood is thicker than water/There’s a storm blowin and it’s coming down heavy/ You’d better realize what side of the fence you’re on,” he says almost one tired line after the other in a move more savage than any he commits under the light of a full moon.

Your average straight-to-DVD movie clocks in at 80-90 minutes, but “Wolf Moon” is a punishing two hours and four minutes. It feels even longer at times. I know that Roger Ebert or someone will probably tut-tut me for this, but I was driven to watching long stretches of this movie on that 2x fast-forward setting where you can still hear sped up dialogue and slowed it down to normal speed for the occasional slaughtering of hookers and hot werebeast-on-werebeast action. This is how I recommend viewing “Wolf Moon” and think that Lionsgate should include a special feature suggesting this on any future pressings of the disc. This movie rates a T for torturous on the ol’ SHITE meter, making it one cut above “Neowolf", which only eked out an E for endlessly dull.

In other straight-to-DVD news that has totally slipped past me for six months now, Global Asylum, the makers of such “mockbusters” as “Snakes on a Train” and “The Da Vinci Treasure” as well as “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus", has beaten Pixar to the punch with their December 2009 release of “Princess of Mars", an adaptation of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 space adventure novel that kicked off his John Carter series. Pixar has their live action “John Carter of Mars” movie scheduled as their big release for 2012, but “Princess of Mars” has fallen into public domain so Global Asylum can adapt some source material instead of slapping together their usual shameless ripoff. Why they released it so far in advance of Pixar’s effort instead of cranking out something called “Toy Tale” is anybody’s guess. Still, an actual literary adaptation gives Global Asylum an unsettling air of legitimacy.

Any legitimacy is quickly shattered upon viewing the disc, however. In Burroughs’ novel, John Carter is a confederate Civil War veteran who is magically transported to Mars after being bushwhacked by Indians. Once on the red planet, he romances the titular princess and grapples with Tars Tarkas, a four-armed badass with huge fangs. Writer/director Mark Atkins (cinematographer of “Transmorphers: Fall of Man") updated the tale and has Carter (Antonio Sabato, Jr.) shaking down opium growers in Afghanistan before getting whisked away to some planet called Mars that isn’t the real Mars. (Please don’t make me explain.) Beginning our tale during the War on Terror is understandable, but Sabato’s tramp stamp is a piece of modernizing I could have done without. To compensate for Sabato’s unfortunately placed tattoo, the film boasts lots of Traci Lords in a metal bikini, but then it plunges back into negative territory with a chintzy two-armed Tars Tarkas (Matt Lasky). I’m not a Pixar zombie by any stretch, but at least I know they’ll deliver a Tars Tarkus with the right amount of limbs.

It’s also safe to say that Pixar will give us a more creative vision of Barsoom (as the Martians call it) than that patch of Vasquez Rocks where Captain Kirk once fought the reptilian Gorn in an old “Star Trek” episode and the waste filtration plant where this “Princess of Mars” ends up. In the movie, they say that the plant is used for making breathable air on Mars but I bet there’s a lot of poo moving through those old pipes. There was also 42 inches of visible poo on my flatscreen TV when I was watching this thing. I wanted to give this an I for interesting for the curiosity factor, but the good ol T is more appropriate.

05/20/10

Permalink 10:44:28 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 538 words, 5603 views English (US)
Categories: News, Music

Headbanger Life Expectancy

Lemmy Ozzy Dio

For the Black Sabbath album “Heaven and Hell” (1980), Ronnie James Dio penned a fast-paced metal anthem titled “Die Young.” As guitarist Tony Iommi’s monster riffage builds to the tune’s climax, Dio hammers home the song’s refrain by repeating its title (7x according to Lyrics007.com). Dio went on to live another 30 years after writing this song, and was 67 years old when he died from stomach cancer last Sunday.

Despite the exploding drummers of Spinal Tap, it’s amazing how many heavy metal musicians are making it to their golden years. The original four-man lineup of Black Sabbath, pretty much the first heavy metal band, is still with us. And remember, this line-up includes Ozzy Osbourne, a man known for biting the heads off of bats and other potential carriers of rabies as well as for his comparatively mundane battles with substance abuse and depression. Ozzy turns 62 later this year. Although Sabbath fans across the Internet are shocked that the Ozzman outlived Dio (just search Twitter for Ozzy and Dio even now), Ozzy still has slightly over five years to truly outlive his Sabbath replacement. He only has three and half years until he can collect full social security benefits however.

Eighteen people have been in Black Sabbath since the band’s self-titled debut album four decades ago. Only two of them have died: Dio and Ray Gillen. Gillen (not to be confused with the 64 year old Ian Gillan who sang with Sabbath in 1982) replaced vocalist Glenn Hughes (age 57) during the Sabs’ 1986 tour but never released any albums with the band. Gillen, a singer best known for his work with the band Badlands, was 41 when he died in 1993 – too young to die, but still middle aged by any definition. Of the 16 surviving members of Sabbath, only drummer Mike Bordin (best known for Faith No More) is under 50, and he’s just two years shy of the half-century mark. Like Gillen, Bordin filled in on a tour but never released any material with the band.

After Bon Scott’s untimely passing in 1980, no other member of AC/DC has died and the complete lineup of their most popular album, “Back in Black” (1980) is still touring. Cliff Burton of Metallica, Randy Rhodes, Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley of Hanoi Rocks, Steve Clark of Def Lepard, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, Paul Baloff of Exodus, and Eric Carr of KISS have all passed on, but I had to really strain to come up with this list. When Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot died of a cocaine overdose, he was already 52 years old and proto-metaler Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer was 63 when he died last year. Both DuBrow and Peterson qualified for AARP membership.

On the other hand, the complete rosters of Iron Maiden, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses (Axl and all), Motley Crue, and Deep Purple (another founding metal band) are all still walking this Earth, plotting farewell or reunion tours or suing their former managers. Hell, Lemmy AND Ace Frehley are still alive and both men aren’t exactly models of clean living. I’m not going to hazard to do the math but it looks doubtful that metal musicians are any more likely to die from violence or accidental causes than any other population group or profession.

05/16/10

Permalink 04:16:47 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 490 words, 5366 views English (US)
Categories: News, Music

It Goes On and On, It's Heaven and Hell

Ronnie James Dio
Ronnie James Dio flashing the devil horns, the heavy metal hand symbol that he popularized.

There were a few moments of false hope this morning that reports of Ronnie James Dio’s death were just a vicious Internet rumor. A UPI article hit the web around 9:30am PST telling us that the golden voiced metal singer was battling stomach cancer at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Hospital, but hadn’t succumbed just yet. The source of the good news was Dio’s wife, Wendy. I went to the Hotel Utah on Bryant Street in San Francisco for brunch and drink or two. Brandi, my longtime friend and bartender, was spinning “The Sign of the Southern Cross” from Sabbath’s “Mob Rules” album. She hadn’t heard that the official word that Dio was still with us, at least according to official reports. Brandi often wears an upside down cross. She was happy for the optimistic update.

However, it was only a couple of hours before the Associated Press and the LA Times made news of Dio’s passing official. The quashing of all hope was delivered via smartphone to me on a barstool. “Brandi, Dio really is dead now,” I said while settling up my tab. “His wife issued a statement.” Dio had actually been gone since 7:45am. He was 67 years old.

“Aw fuck it,” Brandi said, “I’m playing ‘We Rock’ right now.’”

The opening guitar riff to the opening track off the “Last in Line” album thundered through the bar’s aging sound system. “You watch their faces/You’ll see the traces/Of the things they want to be/But only we can see,” Dio’s recorded voice sang. Lyrics that always bore a certain kind of mock profundity to me became more genuine with the finality of the situation.

By the time the song reached its third verse, it was hard not to choke back a tear for the poet of my ninth grade imagination: “We pray to someone/But when it’s said and done/It’s really all the same/With just a different name.”

But then there were those choruses to remind us of the ethos that Dio had devoted his life to: ” But sail on, sing a song, carry on/’Cause We Rock, We Rock, We Rock, We Rock.”

Yes, because of Ronnie James Dio, the man who fronted Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, fronted Sabbath after Ozzy, and then went solo for the platinum selling “Holy Diver” and “Last in Line” albums, we did in fact rock. Maybe not as often, or as hard, or as purely as Ronnie James himself did, but for a few moments at Konocti Harbor in Mendocino County, or a cramped nightclub on Fourth Street in San Francisco, or driving down the 101 blasting Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” on the cassette deck, or cutting class in the Menlo Atherton High School parking lot, we rocked. And we owe all of this rocking to Ronnie James Dio.

12/17/09

Permalink 12:17:31 pm, by bobcalhoun Email , 601 words, 5894 views English (US)
Categories: News, Press

In the Kindle Wrestling Top Ten

Beer, Blood and Cornmeal
#6 on the Amazon Kindle Wrestling 100.

My punk-wrestling memoir, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling (ECW Press, 2008) was finally released for Amazon’s Kindle this week. This pleases my good friend Len E. B. who only buys books on the Kindle now since he spent around 300 bucks on the thing. Likely due to Len’s purchase (thanks Len!), for a brief, shining moment yesterday BBAC was #6 on Amazon’s listing of Kindle bestsellers in the Wrestling category. My book was behind a download of The Marine Corps Close Combat Manual, which goes for the low, low price of $2.99 a pop and is authored by no less-storied an organization than the USMC. However, BBAC was ahead of Rey Mysterio: Behind the Mask, which came in at #8, and two different digital versions of Hulk Hogan’s 2002 biography Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Surprisingly, The Hulkster’s 2009 follow-up, My Life Outside the Ring, wasn’t in Amazon’s Kindle top-20.

The inclusion of my memoir, with its celebration of the ring exploits of Macho Sasquatcho, El Pollo Diablo (the Devil Chicken) and El Homo Loco, is likely to cause consternation among two types of grappling purists: college wrestling coaches and lucha libre aficionados.

Collegiate wrestling coaches (along with mixed martial arts fighters, Marine Corps Drill Instructors and judokas) are vexed that Amazon lumps theatrical pro wrestling, also known in certain parts of the country as rasslin’, with books on “real” sports such as amateur or competitive wrestling, mixed martial arts, judo, aikido and jiu-jitsu. This creates an odd-listing to be sure, where earnest self-defense manuals written by Ultimate Fighting legends like Randy Couture and Royce Gracie share a category with my book that features a guy who wrestles in a chicken costume while drunks hurl tortillas at him. As I write this, the current #6 on this list is the 3rd edition of Coaching Youth Wrestling, which sports a cover photo of two ten year olds trying to take each other down. Coaching Youth Wrestling is not only on the same list as my lurid account but also The WrestleCrap Book of Lists! (sic). I will agree with these Greco-Roman coaches: there is definitely something wrong with this.

Lucha libre aficionados will be angry at how my book could have come in ahead of the life story of a genuine luchadore for even one whole hour yesterday. I get emails from these guys from time to time, usually railing on how I haven’t “paid my dues” in the squared circle.

For any regular readers, I must apologize for what is nothing more than an overwrought press release here. I’ve abstained from such things for a while now, choosing instead to write what I term “quality blogs” or “essays.” But originally, I started blogging at the behest of my publisher to create a “platform.” These early blogs usually detailed publicity stunts like holding a book reading in front of Cody’s Books in Berkeley after it had closed for good or demonstrating choke holds on booksellers and librarians at the 2008 Book Expo America. Dan Sirota details this phenomenon in his latest OS essay, When Julia Became Julie, Content Lost Its Throne. It is difficult to imagine Robert E. Howard spending the time to prattle on about the release of The Bloody Crown of Conan on the Kindle. Or could you imagine Hunter S. Thompson doing this? Maybe we should crank call Harlan Ellison posing as a rep from Fictionwise Classic and ask him to blog the 69¢ download of Paingod and Other Delusions. I’m sure ol’ Harlan will love that.

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Beer, Blood and Piecemeal.

The rock and reading odyssey of a 300-pound hulk.

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