An Unseemly Demeanor
"Can you make a peace sign, man?" asks the stinky Haight Street hippie, holding up a cheap box camera. The man in the gold-plated wheelchair and diamond-studded "#1" pendant raises his hand in the V sign, the hippie clicks off his frame, and the crowd inside the Booksmith smiles. Pornographer Larry Flynt then resumes signing copies of his new autobiography, An Unseemly Man.
Released just in time to coincide with the movie starring bridge-climber Woody Harrelson, Flynt's story chronicles his life from a Kentucky hillbilly boy who once had sex with a chicken up to his current Beverly Hills publishing empire of magazines that include Trading Cards, Camera & Darkroom, Fighting Knives, Rip, and, of course, Hustler.
But while his life makes for a vigorous read and all-star feature film, his demeanor suggests one of complacency. Here is a man who's flown around the world in a pink jet, thrown his own feces at psychiatrists, sat in a diaper made of the U.S. flag in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and called them a bunch of assholes to their faces -- and, five years later, having the court side with him against the Rev. Jerry Falwell. He's recovered from the death of his wife, Althea, he's off the medication, he should be cackling with glee over all this mainstream attention. And yet he's strangely quiet ... polite, even.
His legend still precedes him, of course. One fan standing in line for an autograph is flustered into near incoherence by the presence of his hero:
Fan: Uh ... do you like your movie?
Flynt: [quietly] You're gonna really like it.
Fan: Is there a lot of ... [he pauses, his mind racing] ... YOU in it?
Flynt: Oh, yeah. [signing his name] You're gonna like it.
The Ballad of Prop. 215
This space was recently alerted to what may be the audio version of the city of Pompeii, a bizarre archaeological wonder buried deep in the archives of the Crack Emcee.
The Love Shortage LP was recorded by a guy named Fred Gardner, back in that unforgettable, halcyon summer of 1979. Accompanying Fred's vocals and cymbal-playing are a group of friends on banjo, acoustic folk guitar, mandolin, and other instruments crucial to that era's folky hippie sound. Fred trots out heartfelt songs about Thomas Paine, Mao Tse-tung, Patty Hearst, and Bill Walton, plus some girl named Karen.
But the true gem on the collection is the first song on the first side, an ode to Fred's dealer titled "The Ballad of Dennis Peron":
Out of the service, finally free
An idealist wondering What should I be?
Living with friends in a house in the Haight
He decided a new kind of space to create
The saga unfolds. Peron's space was a beautiful thing, man -- Colombian and Thai, but no downers or speed. Dennis knew everyone by first name -- hippies, housewives, and hard hats. No HIV patients, no medicinal purposes, no Prop. 215, just folks hanging out listening to music. But then the "rip-offs arrived with guns and knives." The cops approached him at Castro off Liberty one night, with Eyewitness News on hand, "busting Peron and his pot-smoking crew." The chorus kicks in:
How many ways, how many times must we be the victims of victimless crimes?
So true. What is the answer? Seven? Seven ways and seven times? Or nine, like a cat? Fred's final verses wrap up the ballad with a warning to, hey, think about this seriously:
Listen up people wherever you're at
A downtown office, a Haight Street flat
That miracle ounce y'all legally own
Mighta come from a pound care of Dennis Peron
Better get into his cause
'Cause it's yours
We gotta get rid of
These dangerous laws
If Dennis can't deal with those terrible pounds
How can y'all score your miracle ounce?
Eerily, 17 years later, Dennis has become the national soundbite for legalized marijuana. Look for the Love Shortage album in the stacks of your favorite street bum. And watch for a new release from the Crack Emcee, who is currently fielding offers from three record companies.
Beatlemania for the Holidays
Singer Bart Davenport stands hunched over a set list in front of the drum kit. His band, the Supernaturals, has just finished the song "Foxy," he's just blown a mean harp, and the other guys in the group wait expectantly for Bart to tell them the next song to play. Their Farfisa-organ-driven, London-swinger-style sound feels like it's straight from a Russ Meyer movie, and the R&B groove fits perfectly for this gig they're now in the midst of playing -- the staff Christmas party for the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater.
But Bart is more than a little disoriented. He has just been mobbed by legions of screaming exotic dancers, who have been leaping onto the stage, gyrating and spanking each other's butts throughout the band's set. During the previous song they mauled Bart like a pack of angry kittens, unbuttoning his pants and stripping him completely down to his underwear. (To his credit, he didn't miss a beat of his harp solo.)
The ideal rock star fantasy has just come true, and now Bart squints at the piece of paper on the floor, pulling up his pants, circuits shorting out inside his head. My god! Did that actually happen? The band waits, as the pause grows. What the hell? Is he OK? Bart continues looking through the songs, still on his knees in front of the drums. Finally he mumbles into the mike: