Other than I didn’t have a car so my world was very small when I went to college at the University of Wisconsin in the late 60’s, I don’t know how I missed Lombardino’s. Built in 1954, not a lick of this old-school Italian kitsch fest has changed since. Which is a real feat as the restaurant was bought in 2000 and a very fancy chef brought in. So although the ante’s been upped on the food, not a mosaic tile, not a twist of wrought iron, not even a cheesy slogan has been updated. This is a rarity in this day and age where new owners feel compelled to modernize and squeeze the last drop of soul out of their purchases. Here now is a brief tour through Lombardino’s, where I ate right after I conducted the marching band at the Homecoming football game last weekend.


First of all, there’s the Lombardino’s sign painted on the side of the building. The restaurant is on one of those corners, University and Highland, that you pass all the time if you drive in Madison. The sign is a good 40 feet long and not a dab of paint has ever been applied to restore it. This is something that most people can’t keep their hands off of but it’s something that aKitschionados, collectors and architectural historians in general praise. Let things age with dignity, just like a human being who doesn’t pump themselves full of Botox, silicone or anything else that eventually cosmetically alters them into a Stepford wife.


The sign connects to an equally long wall made up of multicolored 1 inch mosaic tiles, the same colors as in the mural so, all in all, a perfect color palette, albeit a little too dark to see well in my photos.

Screen shot 2010-10-14 at 9.15.39 AM

Ceramic reliefs of figures I don’t know to be particularly Italian but I could be so wrong about pepper the tile wall leading to the entrance of the restaurant.


Here are some close ups:

lomdardos2_2638 lomdardos_2640

It’s always a beautiful thing when someone keeps their fat fingers off trying to restore something historic, a move that can only make the actual value plummet, and they choose instead to just leave it to age naturally. In this case, the ceramic relief fell off but you still get the spirit of the party-going figure who once attended the side of the building.


As you swing around the corner to get to the front door, which I unfortunately forgot to photograph, you get a hint of the wrought iron craziness that goes on inside.


I also forgot to take an overview shot of the restaurant when I walked in. Duh… But I was still euphoric from standing up in front of 82,000 people and a uniformed-to-the-nines 300+ piece marching band and conduct them playing my songs, all of this without knowing how to read music. So these brain lapses are to be expected.  But I knew I was in the right place to celebrate when I saw this slogan on the overhang entrance to the bar:


Tipping the camera down a little bit you can see that the wrought iron entrance is made up of a lot of grapes and Christmas lights. It’s always an excellent sign when Christmas lights are left up all year round.


Once through the portals, there are two walls worth of astounding mosaic  and larger tile work.


The ones made up of one-inch mosaic tiles are my favorites. Mr. Lombardino obviously loved his women.

lomdardos_2584 lomdardos2_2587

The scenes made up of larger tiles are pretty great too. I especially love the miniature pizza boy standing at the side of the table next to the actual diner who’s cooling his head with his Bloody Mary:


The ceramic reliefs continue inside as do lots of little shuttered windows with wrought iron balconies. It’s always an excellent sign of kitsch when window treatments exist where there are no real windows and balconies exist only to have wine bottles hang out and peer at the guests.


I’m assuming this big tile relief, at least 8 feet long, is some famous building in Rome but world traveler that I’m not, I can’t be sure:


Another earmark of kitsch is when artwork such as this is backlit with Christmas lights and used as a bulletin board with guests at the Last Supper looking down upon it.

I’m pretty sure that this is on a wall leading to the bathroom:


The two larger tiles make sense in the scheme of things but I’m always partial when ashtrays are haphazardly stuck in to enhance the design.

I forgot to take my usual close up photos of the seriously good food but thankfully I have this photo of who I ate it with there:


From L-R, Mark Blackwell, who traveled to Madison with me to shoot my conducting debut, Jon Sorenson, from the University of Wisconsin Foundation who came up with the idea of me conducting in the first place and had the good taste to choose Lombardino’s for dinner, me, Comm Arts Chair Prof. Susan Zaeske, Professor Mary Louise “Lou” Roberts, and David Bedri. We ate like the pigs that this kind of decor demands.

I appreciated Lombardino’s even more because I started off my Madison trip as I have the three other times I’ve been back since I graduated, by going to see my old dorm, Carroll Hall, a stone cold classic Atomic Age building I moved into my freshman year. Both the interior and exterior left a lasting architectural impression on me that continues to this day. Carroll Hall was a stunningly modern Mid Century building with a beyond to die for lobby. I still have the brochure that made me choose it as a place to live:


Though the building itself was a little too rectangular for my tastes, the steelcase windows and turquoise metal plates that matched the blue of Lake Mendota made me so swoon every time I rounded the corner to see it:


To my horror, here’s what it looks like now:


Yikes! What are people thinking to just slop right over the gorgeous puppy?! Whatever material they used was so cheap you can still see the lines of the metal rods that held the turquoise plates in place. And then you go and paint it brown?! So it will disappear into the lake, not drawing attention to itself like some geeky coed?  At least the blasphemers were bold enough to make it striped but shades of beige don’t really help much. And it’s really cheap paint, the kind that gets sucked into whatever material it’s painted over and even 100 coats will never give it any presence. Which is exactly what the owners of Lombardino’s didn’t do. Which is exactly why the first place I’m going to eat whenever I hit Madison again is Lombardino’s!



I LOVVVVED conducting! I hope that’s evident in this clip. I’m grateful I got the footage I did though I’d planned to have at least five times as much of it to edit from. But as the journey below illustrates, the path was a little more crooked than I’d anticipated though well worth every swing of the drumstick!

I’m a fanatic archivist. I’ve been a walking reality show since I got my first video camera in 1978, racking up over 40,000 terabytes on my server, most of which is video. At any given point I have at least three fairly recent models of whatever’s at the high end of the consumer line as well as a bunch of other cheaper backups. I also have three Flip cams and all of my digital still ones take video. So when I was going to conduct the marching band at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, this past Homecoming weekend, an incredible honor especially for someone who has no idea what all those dots on the musical staff mean, I took all my artillery with me. God only knows how much I paid for overweight luggage but I had at least nine cameras capable of taking video as well as three tripods, two extendable poles so the cameras could be elevated, 15 batteries, three lights and three mics. I prepared for every conceivable eventuality as there was no way I wasn’t going to fully capture what I knew was going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I wanted to preserve a birds eye view of what I was seeing up on the platform as I conducted so I constructed a rig to hold one of my flip cameras around my neck so it could capture most of my arm movements as well as whatever musicians were in my line of sight.


But as soon as I finished conducting I realized that although I had turned the camera on I forgot to hit ‘record’. I stayed cool knowing all was not lost because I had four backups – 1) Mark Blackwell, who came with me from LA and was was never more than 20 feet away capturing all the sweaty details and whom I was directing throughout the performance.


2) Eddie Alshuler, who Mark and I were staying with and who was sitting directly across the field from where I was conducting on the 50 yard line, who could capture a front view of me and an excellent overview of the 300+ piece band. But as I blogged about yesterday, Mark’s footage snagged at a crucial point in the first song, “In The Stone”, where arm movements I’d practiced for two weeks to make the slowed down section at the entrance of the fade-I have no idea what that’s called in musical terms-ultra dramatic. Now Eddie’s footage consisted solely of his wife and my sorority sister, Muffin’s, crotch as the camera lay in her lap waiting to be turned on when, in fact, it was actually already in ‘record’, only to be snapped off the second I mounted the platform. Here’s me conducting from Eddie’s camera’s POV:


Once I left the conducting platform Eddie turned the camera off, which was actually on, so we got an excellent few bonus minutes of Muffin’s ass.

Alternative #3 was another one of my sorority sisters who shot the pregame tailgate performance where I also conducted. But she’s incredibly short so all of her footage featured a booming bass drum with me like a little ant flailing their arms above it.


Number 4 was the husband of another one of my sorority sisters who got some great shots of me but you only see the tops of the heads of a small portion of the band.


So as grateful as I am for all these people manning my cameras, I didn’t end up with enough footage I could edit together so you’d feel the impact or scope of what was going on. In previous days, the fact that both primary and backup systems failed would have killed me, but with age I’ve learned to roll with the punches. I really think that’s how my sense of kitsch became so well honed, appreciating when things went awry and figuring out a way to deal with them. How else would I ever be talking about Muffin’s body parts in a post that’s about my debut as a conductor? If all I wrote about was the wonderfulness of conducting this would probably be a very boring read to anyone other than a marching band freak.

As one final backup, I decided to go through footage from my rehearsal with the band the day before on the practice field. But the bulk of that was either shot from the back of my head as I tried to concentrate on memorizing the arrangement…


… or on documenting me as I tried to figure out what I was going to stand on to conduct. I’m not one to stand still so the thought of having to keep my feet in cement on a tiny platform ten feet in the air while I’m enduring several other distracting conditions was of major concern to me. 1) I don’t read music and don’t have particularly great memorization skills so the chances of looking like I am leading the band are questionable to begin with. 2) I’m performing in front of 82,000 people when the bulk of my stage experience has been as a little fur tree in my second grade play. 3) I’m sweating to death in the unexpected 84° weather and don’t really have the right clothes despite bringing everything I had with the school color, red, in it. 4) I will be bouncing around on a knee with a ripped meniscus that I’ve put off having an operation on and, 5) I’m waving around sticks with two bum wrists from decades of pounding on keyboards. So the issue of safety while conducting is real.

First I tried a smaller version of the ladder Mike Leckrone, the incredible bandleader/arranger who’s been at Wisconsin since I was there in the 60’s, usually stands on.


But the little platform you stand on was only a couple inches deeper than my big feet and I wasn’t eager to meet my death or crush one of the kids guarding me. So I passed on that and finally settled on something that would only involve a broken ankle or two if I fell.


In fact, I almost tipped over three times during the real deal in the stadium. You can see the first time  at 1:02 in the video


… and again at 1:29…


… and finally at 3:00 where I really thought I was going to kiss the dirt.


Thankfully I made it off alive, ankles, wrists and knee intact, and stayed in rhythm 98.3% of the time. I’ve been obsessed about being a conductor ever since.

Once I got back to LA and transferred the footage I realized my only option was to stick with what Mark shot on the field with me and abandon the idea of putting in different angles to make it more compelling or cover every time it got to an angle on my face or body that made me grimace.


I’m the one who always carries on about loving yourself just as you are so I’ve mentally committed to not spotting the flaws but, rather, to just seeing the spirit that gripped me at the moment. But then I see the video once it’s been uploaded to YouTube and the sync is unbearably off. Now this really drives me nuts because I know the sound and picture as the clip sits on my computer is completely in sync but now, because of YouTube’s ever-changing compression schemes, I’m going to look like an idiot. This then brings up all my issues about designing a social network in 1992 based on things like people’s home movies and becoming friends and collaborators with people all over the world but never getting it off the ground because I was too concerned about screwing copyright owners when someone used something they created without paying for it. I can’t even believe that this is coming up for me now! YouTube thrives because it doesn’t pay people like me royalties and now they’re messing with my conducting debut! I digress, but it ate up most of yesterday to finally get something uploaded that didn’t make it look like I was conducting a band in the next state.


So here’s what I’m left with: footage from one camera that has a blip in it right at the exact second of my one big rehearsed move that’s shot too close when I can’t move my feet, forcing the lower half of my body to function differently than it should when the top half is moving as it was, wishing I had starched my pants so they didn’t look like I had just pulled them out of a suitcase overstuffed with camera equipment, none of which functioned properly anyway. And the camera’s close enough that I can see a flinch of sadness when we hit the final bars of the final song, the theme from Friends.

When I was first told what songs of mine I’d be conducting I didn’t understand how the Friend’s theme made it there, especially over marching band favorites like “Boogie Wonderland” or “Neutron Dance” that were left out. But another blessing of this trip was the opportunity to conduct Mike Leckrone’s seriously incredible arrangement of it.


I’m standing up there on the podium thinking that in the context of everything that was happening, “I’ll Be there for You” was the grandest sounding song of all. So in addition to everything else I’m thankful for that occurred last weekend, a serious supreme joy was letting me appreciate my song in a way that so many people have told me through the years that they do. Sometimes it takes massive distance from something you do to appreciate why you did it in the first place.

Such is the life of an artist. Such is the joy of conducting a marching band playing your songs. Such is life.



I just got back from spending three of the most fantastic days of my life. Seriously. As I’ve been blabbing about for weeks now, I had the great honor of conducting the 300+ musicians in the Marching Band at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, as they played my songs at the Homecoming football game which, btw, we won!


I was completely thrilled to be asked and took it very seriously, if for no other reason that I don’t read music and therefore knew I’d have absolutely no idea how to follow–let alone lead–the band as they played. I rehearsed every night by conducting the actual records as they were originally cut, a bunch of Earth, Wind & Fire and the theme to Friends, and then watched literally hundreds of marching bands playing the songs on YouTube, most versions of which were completely different from each other not to mention the original records. Ultimately I decided I would just have to feel the groove and move my custom-made-by-me Wisconsin red and white glitter drumsticks with bicycle handlebar grips spontaneously and instantaneously catch up with any tempo change or unexpected accents that may occur.  Beyond anything, I knew I had to stay cool because I was doing it in front of 82,000 people and my choices were either to be nervous and uptight or hang loose and savor every incredible second knowing that this is something that doesn’t happen to everyone and would be a moment I would remember forever.

aw conducting-pregame

One of my biggest dilemmas was trying to figure out how to blog about this incredible adventure in a concise and meaningful way. I take my blog very seriously. I may write about crazy objects that I’ve collected forever but ultimately my feelings about the objects are all a key to myself.


I’ve long been aware that as an artist my primary canvas is myself. My songs, if I have any control of the lyrical content, are completely autobiographical. My art has always explored some kind of situation I was in whether I was conscious of it or not. And as soon as I jumped into digital technology in 1991 I knew instinctively it was all about social connection and that I, as a consummate party host, would learn more about myself through the people I connected with than I ever would on my own. So, I don’t want to just throw bunch of pictures and videos up here that documented my experience so much as use those things to talk about the impact they had on me as a conscious human being and artist.


All weekend I was blessed to have great friends around me who took care of everything so all I had to think about was keeping the glitter on my drumsticks and be mindful of tempo. Anyone who knows me knows I take making friends very seriously because I realize the impact they have on me. Hell, I even wrote the theme song. Here I am with Jon Sorenson, from the UW Foundation, who came up with the idea of me conducting the band in the first place…


… and Mark Blackwell, who I work with in LA and who flew in with me to video everything…


…. and Mike Leckrone, the beyond legendary bandleader/arranger who’s been at UW since I went there in the 60’s.


Even some of my sorority sisters showed up to support me. There were more of my SDT sisters there but we never were all in the same place at the same time for a group photo.


Standing right next to me is Muffin Alschuler. Mark and I stayed at her house and she and her husband, Eddie, were absolutely the best babysitters/ tour guides/handlers one could ever hope for. But in all of the 600 or so photos I got from everyone’s cameras there wasn’t a single photo of me, Muffin and Eddie together. Which is real shame as they’re two of the nicest people in the world and I never would have had this degree of the world’s most incredible weekend had I not stayed with them. But a threesome photo isn’t the only thing that was missing concerning documentation and the Alschulers…  All weekend long Eddie had a little Sony digital camera that he was taking incredible photos and movies on. But I asked him to shoot my conducting debut on one of the big HD video cameras I brought with me because he and Muffin were going to be sitting across the 50 yard line from where I’d be conducting and would have a spectacular overview of the band with me facing them. I decided to do this at the last moment right before I marched through the tunnel with the band and out onto the field.


Unfortunately, I didn’t tell Eddie that the camera is in record when the light is red, not green. So I ended up with lots of footage of Muffin’s crotch as the camera lay on her lap patiently waiting to go into record, red light blazing, only to snap off as soon as you hear my name being announced and my music starting. Here’s what was captured of my performance:


I know, I’ve never looked better. Alas, I believe in synchronicity and so consider the fact that Muffin, Eddie and I never actually got it together to take a photo with just the three of us a matching set to the non-video they graciously took at the game. Throughout it all I remained cool because Mark was right there with me on the field shooting away so I knew I had reliable backup.


Ha ha. Despite my proclivity for a massive overabundance of documentation as well as the fact that I had the time of my life and now want to be a conductor, the video gods were not looking down on me as Mark’s footage was filled with blips, as if someone put their finger on the tape head every few minutes to make it gag. That’s it for me and Sony Mini DVs. I’m sick of all the aliasing too, as if the edges of everything had been cut by one of those scissors with the diamond shaped teeth that people go slaphappy with in their crafts projects. Check out the drumsticks. They’re not striped in real life. Neither am I.


Anyway, I would like to think that I was more reliable than Sony tapes when I taught a couple of classes while I was in Madison. Here I am with The Wisconsin Singers, students who are passionate about singing and performing and most of whom aren’t majoring in either, something I can totally relate to.

IMG_1493-W-singers IMG_1504-W-singers

I also spoke to students at the Hamel Family Digital Media Lab. They were probably expecting a big visual presentation and lots of tips about how to get into the business but I was there to talk about my belief that anyone can do anything they want to do if they just have the vision and balls to do it. I’m definitely not the one to talk about how to get into the business as I’ve functioned outside of it is a self-funded artist for at least half of my career. If I had to live up to the standards of the entertainment and art businesses I may have had more hits but I’d be a shell of a person for having to club my brain to death so I could stay within the lines. So I just talked about being yourself and and making the absolute best of that.


The only school I ever went to to learn about music was the radio. I like it when people study one thing and do another. I like it when I don’t know how to read music yet can conduct an incredible marching band. At its best, life is about learning to do what you love by whatever means necessary. The last place I ever thought I’d be is in the middle of a gigantic stadium conducting music that I have no idea how I ever really got it together to write in the first place. But there I was anyway. And that’s something that no faulty video tape or green and not red light can ever erase.


Video, complete with blemishes, coming tomorrow!



As we speak, I’m most likely on a plane to my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, where I’ll be conducting the Marching Band who will be playing my big hits at the Homecoming football game on Saturday. This is not only exciting but insane as I don’t read a stitch of music despite the fact that my songs, 9/10ths of which I also write the music for, have sold over 50,000,000 records. What I’ve learned from watching marching bands on YouTube is that versions of the songs they play not only differ from the records but also differ from each other. So I’ll just be winging it. In front of 82,000 people. Here’s a video I found on YouTube when I decided I should see how big the band is. I almost had a heart attack when I saw this:


I may not know where the band is going with my songs but one of my musical strengths has always been that I’m best creating spontaneously. Throw something at me and I can make immediate sense of it, like I can put a melody over chords the first time I hear them. So my plan is just to listen for what the band’s doing and react instantaneously. At least the hundreds of musicians in the band will be able to clearly see what I’m doing because I just got done attaching bicycle handlebar grips and glittering my batons or whatever you call those sticks conductors use to conduct with.


I always have a lot of drumsticks and mallets on hand.


All the plain drumsticks are missing because they’re going to the football game with me. Which brings me to the main reason why I’m so excited to conduct a marching band. First, I’m elated, of course, that they’re playing my songs. But even moreso, I love marching bands. And I especially love marching band drums. Not only do I have a vintage set as you can see in the photo at the top of this post but I have quite a few sets of them, including one we used in my current YouTube extravaganza, “Jungle Animal” by Pomplamoose and Allee Willis.


“Jungle Animal” is by no means the first time I used marching band drums in one of my songs. In 1980 we used an entire marching band in “Street Beat”‘, a song I wrote with Toni Basil and Bruce Roberts and sung and danced brilliantly by Toni here in 1980:


All of which is to say I’m pretty damn pumped about conducting the University of Wisconsin band. I’m a little concerned about falling off the conductor’s platform as from what I hear it’s just a few feet square, with no rails and 25 feet up in the air. I’m not one to be trusted not to move, between my natural proclivities to do so and the sheer psychologically altered state I’m sure I’ll be in in front of all those hundreds of musicians playing my own songs in my #1 favorite genre of music. I have no idea what I’ll attach myself to but I’m bringing extra strength bungee cords along to hook on to something so if I tumble I’ll just bounce. Knowing me, I’m pretty sure I can bounce in rhythm.



As I’ve never learned how to read music, even that which I’ve written and somehow managed to plunk out on a keyboard note by note until I build a full record, it’s going to be quite a kitsch adventure conducting the Marching Band at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, when I go there this weekend for the Homecoming football game where they’ll be featuring my songs at the tailgate party and pregame show. If watching the hundreds of marching bands I’ve seen on YouTube is any indication, marching band versions differ greatly from the records. So I will just have to bounce around up there on the 20 foot high conductor’s platform and follow as best I can as I attempt to lead, taking advantage of the fact that I’m very good at reacting spontaneously when curves are thrown at me.

As far as I know, the 300+ member band will be playing “September”,”In the Stone”, another one of my Earth Wind & Fire songs that’s a marching band staple, and “I’ll Be There for You”, the theme from Friends. I’m not quite sure how that last one got in there when big marching band numbers like “Boogie Wonderland” and “Neutron Dance” didn’t make the cut, but the playlist is not my decision to make so I’ll stick with some other important ones that I have some control over. Like what to wear…


Wisconsin’s colors are red and white. As much as I love red, I was shocked to comb my closet and not find anything that color in my current wardrobe. I have plenty of close-to-red maroon but that’s the color of the opposing team, Minnesota. So I had to dig into the inner recesses and pull out stuff that I haven’t worn in years. Had I known about this gig longer than two weeks ago you can be sure some of these would have been in there to choose from:

Screen shot 2010-10-06 at 10.12.23 AM

And if I had a different body type, maybe even some of these:


As I’ll be making my conducting debut in front of 82,000 people, not only does what I wear need to fit right and look good but I need to be able to move my arms around freely in it. This puts quite a crimp in the selection process. Though in a way, ill fitting clothes that make me ultra conscious of how I move is probably not a bad thing as I pray the bottom half of me doesn’t move around THAT freely as the aforementioned conductor’s platform that’s 20 feet up in the air is only a few feet square and has no rails. Which means it’s probably a blessing that I don’t know The Marching Step as I don’t need a tumble from the platform being my most memorable move.


Marching Step or not, I do know that my feet will be looking very good as for whatever I’m lacking in red clothes I have quite an excellent selection of red shoes.


Just looking at this photo of my shoes reminds me that I’ve got to pack, not to mention finish work deadlines and get everything else done I need to do in order to leave LA in peace. So I must cut this short. On Wisconsin! I’m ready for my close-up.


At least I’ve got my reading material for the plane.



I bought this Party Pendant at a thrift shop recently, brought it home, shined it up and glued little rhinestones on it. I’ve only worn it out a couple of times but people have ooh’d and ahh’d as if I’d gotten it at Tiffany’s. So I decided to make it a habit and wear it when I knew I’d be attending a hot party. I did, in fact, know that Nancye Ferguson’s birthday party Sunday night would be hot as all of her parties are at her amazing Atomic house that gives you one of those aerial postcard views over the entire city of LA. But when I got home and dumped my photos I realized that not only had I forgotten to take a photo with Nancye, the Party Pendant along with every other piece of jewelry I meant to wear had been forgotten in a drawer at home, replaced with my Color Purple backstage pass that I still had on from earlier in the day when I went to see the fabulous new cast of my musical at the Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks. As proud as I am to have that pass swinging from my neck, I do wish that my ratty ass cheap Party Pendant were also present as it would have been so appropriate hanging in the following photos.

Here I am party pendantless with Michael Patrick King and Prudence Fenton.


Michael may have written and directed the Sex and the City movies and much of the TV series but this guy wrote The Graduate and created and wrote TV series like Get Smart.


Not  that I wasn’t excited to see Buck Henry but I almost needed to be hospitalized when I stumbled onto Dr. Kildare in the kitchen.


I’ve long been a collector of Richard Chamberlain/ Dr. Kildare memorabilia.


Speaking of doctors on television, here I am with Ian Buchanan, Dr. Greg Madden on All My Children, and Diva Zappa.


Diva’s father was Frank. Here’s a portrait of Frank carved a few years ago by Diva’s brother, Dweezil.


Dweezil was missing in action Sunday night but here I am with his mom, Gail Zappa.


And here I am with Pamela Des Barres. Among other things, Pamela used to babysit for the Zappa kids and was in the all girl band Frank put together in the 60’s called The GTOs.


It’s ancient history but Lisa Loeb used to go out with Dweezil.


In 1999, Lisa commissioned my alter ego, Bubbles the artist, who I used to manage, to do a portrait of Dweezil and all the things he loved for his birthday. Lisa is standing outside the window playing golf, Dweezil’s favorite sport.


I wish I could say that we played golf or did anything other than taking long rides on Sunday and eating in dives and somehow tie it into the rest of the narrative, but here I am with Charles Phoenix and Jack Nesbit.


Ultimately, I can only tie that photo in by saying that Charles and Jack brought the balloons we’re standing in front of for Nancye’s birthday, the one person I somehow forgot to take a photo with. Here’s one of us for reference, taken at Diva Zappa’s birthday party last year, tying things up nicely.


I love going to parties when they’re good parties. I have good friends who throw good parties. Now I also have good bling for good parties which I’ll hopefully remember to wear the next time I go to one.



Once an intro includes shooting a blank wall and someone tripping on stage you know that you have the potential for something great. Once the singing starts though I thought it was going to pan out to be a little too good. But that Caucasian-spiked arrangement I talk about a lot that so many school chorale groups follow with all the “hey hey heys”, new harmonies and rhythms straightened out to be so on the beat that the funk gets thrown out like an old piece of fish, is alive and well here. The fun really starts at 1:43 when someone steps out to solo. That’s when I am certain that whoever wrote this arrangement was drinking. I don’t know where they got the melody from – literally not one note of is right for that point in the song as it jumps from the lead vocal to a bizarre background note. And then there’s that wrong lyric that constantly drives me nuts that, because someone was too lazy to get the sheet music from the publisher and thought they were hearing it correctly from the record, went with it in their arrangement, perpetuating the inaccuracy forever.  It’s also fantastic how the mic is handed off to a second soloist who then steps out front with it dangling at his side and continues singing backgrounds as if only a lead vocal needed a mic. The vocal that finally comes left me speechless. Only to be capped off by that funky little ending the aforementioned arranger, who I’m certain only listens to theater music, wrote.


I don’t usually like mugs with serious faces on them but “The Gertrude Stein” mug made by Fitz & Floyd in 1976 is a rare one featuring legendary and first-outta-the-gate lesbian life partners, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Gertrude actually looks like Gertrude while Alice looks like a mushroom person, the kind of  poisonously sweet little gnome-like being that ceramicists were somehow infatuated with in the late 1960’s and 70s.


Stein, an American writer living in Paris in the first half of the 20th Century, was ultimately known most for her “a rose is a rose is a rose” saying and for coining the term “Lost Generation”, while Toklas is revered for a brownie recipe with a little something extra she published.  They were also known as spectacular party throwers for the salons they hosted that attracted the “mugs” of great artists and thinkers of the day, including regulars Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder, Picasso and Matisse.

As gay women who are out and throwing parties go, #1 progressive morning radio show host and Larry King regular, Stephanie Miller, threw a spectacular one Saturday night.  After years of being an outspoken supporter of gay rights, especially as regards the repeal of Caifornia’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage, Stephanie announced her gaiety on her radio show last month and then threw this combo Birthday/Coming Out bash to celebrate.

Screen shot 2010-10-04 at 10.07.36 AM

Stephanie’s “mug” looks an awful lot like this 1964 Republican Vice Presidential candidate’s. That would be because William E. Miller was her father.


Stephanie being a staunch liberal Democrat, their “mugs” are as far as the resemblance goes. My “mug” doesn’t look anything like Mr. Miller’s but it would have been stupid to have been this close to his in his daughter’s house and not popped off a shot.


There were a lot of  fantastic “mugs” at the party, the kind that sit on top of your neck and smile as opposed to ceramic ones like Gertrude that you sip something out of. Here I am with three excellent ones, Jane Wagner, Rep. Maxine Waters and Lily Tomlin.


My compadre, Julie Brown, was also there…


…along with Prudence Fenton


…and this “mug” who I was very excited to meet, George Schlatter. His show, “Laugh In” changed my life, not to mention introduced the world to Lily Tomlin.


I die for Rep. Maxine Waters. She speaks her mind and is right on target. I’ve always loved her for her mojo and spirit. She has an amazing personality for a politician.


I only saw the “mug” of attorney Gloria Allred from afar.


Although Stpehanie’s “mug” appears out her cake, it’s her starts-with-j-and-rhymes-with-mugs that are used to best advantage on it.


A big blow-out Happy Birthday & Coming Out to Stephanie Miller!!