For devout followers of a particular team, the anticipation—and acceptance—of eventual elimination is the sort of mortality metaphor that’s difficult to come to terms with.


Some Days You Eat the Bear,
Some Days the Bear Eats You
Like fellow New Yorker Roy Trakin, I loved the great Knicks teams of the early ’70s and loathed their arch-rivals, the L.A. Lakers, bringing my rooting interest with me to L.A. But, unlike Roy, my allegiance began to shift one day in the spring of 1979, when Jerry West drafted Magic Johnson, a special player who’d led Michigan State to the NCAA championship. I became a Lakers fan at the end of the first game of the ensuing season, when, after they pulled out a thrilling win over the San Diego Clippers, the exuberant Magic embraced a startled Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. Soon afterward, while doing West Coast A&R for Arista, I discovered that departing office head Michael Lippman had left behind four season tickets, and for the next three seasons, my wife, my buddies and I were regulars at the Fabulous Forum, soon figuring out all the shortcuts between Studio City and Inglewood. (Thanks a million, Michael.) It was huge when my neighborhood got cable later in the ’80s, enabling me to watch all the games from my couch, and I’ve missed very few since then. The Showtime era was exciting and gratifying, as one of the headiest teams in pro-sports history competed nightly and came away with five championships. There were some lean years after the tragic Magic announcement in 1991 (that was the day Lenny Beer got off the bus, becoming a Clippers fan), but I found the Nick Van Exel-Eddie Jones-Vlade Divac teams appealing, even if they couldn’t get it done in the postseason. The additions of Kobe and Shaq comprised West’s final masterstroke, and after Jerry brought in Phil Jackson, winning time (as Magic had called it) returned. That superstar trio brought the franchise three consecutive championships in the present decade, providing me with more drama along the way than I could get from any other entertainment medium. Now, the end of the West era appears to be imminent, and Jackson’s remarkable skein of postseason-series victories will almost certainly come to an end within a week or two. Admittedly, I’ve got nothing to complain about—only Yankees devotees have enjoyed as many happy endings as Lakers fans. Nonetheless, for devout followers of a particular team, the anticipation—and acceptance—of eventual elimination is the sort of mortality metaphor that’s difficult to come to terms with. The Lakers will reload, the Mitch Kupchak era will begin, Shaq and Kobe will return, surrounded by new faces, and they’ll contend. So I find myself joining Roy and Lenny to say, with great hope and conviction, wait till next year. —BS

1. 24 and Six Feet Under Build to Their Season Finales: I’m gonna miss both these series, as they literally hurtle to their conclusions, with Kiefer Sutherland and company sucking wind, but holding enough momentum to be riveting to the end, while the HBO series takes the notion of soap opera and raised it to, unh, operatic heights. With the fate of the world in the balance, and President David Palmer (a marvelously stentorian Dennis Haysbert) gamely trying to hold out for the peace, only Jack Bauer stands between us and a full-out nuclear war. The series certainly gained a bump in credibility from reality itself, which it seemed to eerily mirror, but it made the same mistake the potboiler Sum of all Fears did: Once you explode a nuclear device, everything else is kinda anti-climactic. So whether the President’s scheming wife was involved from the start, or merely along for the opportunistic ride, I can’t say I really care at this point, which goes double for the fate of Jack’s irrepressible “Perils of Pauline” daughter Kim. But I was there for the duration two years in a row, and I can’t say that for many other network series, and I’m sure glad it’s renewed for next year. In our house, it’s family entertainment. As for Six Feet Under, I’m so involved in the Fishers’ just-left-of-humdrum lives, I’m going to miss them like old friends, which is the surest sign you’re hooked on a series. The incredible encapsulation of emotional situations that are so uniquely 2003 is like nothing else on TV—or the movies, for that matter. Only the postmodern complexity of something like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections is able to convey the harsh conundrum of life—and death—at the dawn of the 21st century. Go toward the light…and end up in darkness. The characters in Six Feet Under prove, in their unending search for love, peace and happiness despite being inevitably doomed by failure, repression and loss, the journey is still worth the effort. —RT

2. Liz Phair, “Why Can’t I?” (Capitol): Some of the brilliant and foxy Phair’s longtime fans, who swooned to Exile in Guyville’s genius combo of insight and provocation, are crying foul over this ultra-pop single, co-written and produced by The Matrix (you know, the trio behind Avril Lavigne). “Sellout,” they cry. “Mainstream pabulum,” they pout. They can say what they want—I dig it. Despite my admiration for Phair’s writing, I often felt that her indie cred was an albatross around her neck, causing her to pick the obscure path every time. The worst part was that she could obviously sing, yet consistently pitched her songs too low for her own voice. Why? Blame the contrarian impulse of ’90s alterna-rock. It’s a thrill, frankly, to hear her sweet, throaty voice belting out radio-friendly, hook-heavy pop without apology. But she’s still Liz Phair—who once deadpanned that she wanted to be “your blowjob queen”—which means this ode to breathless infatuation packs a subversive wallop. When the little girls, drawn in by that soaring chorus (“Why can’t I breathe whenever I think about you?”) hear this adult woman sing, “We haven’t f---ed yet, but my head’s spinning,” the color of Avril’s necktie this week will suddenly seem a lot less compelling. —SG

3. NBA Playoffs—Survival of the Fittest: The Spurs may be the team from San Antonio, but the Alamo reference more aptly applies to the wounded, outnumbered L.A. Lakers this weekend. With both Rick Fox and Devean George out of action, the Lakers’ already meager bench is now non-existent, and it’s hard to imagine this weary six-man rotation going much further, even if two of them are Shaq and Kobe. After the Game One loss, lifelong Lakers fan Joel Amsterdam insisted, “Lakers will find a way to win this series. Don't know how, don't know why. Just know that Kobe, reminiscent of Earvin Johnson, will NOT let us lose.” And I replied, “What strikes fear in the hearts of Lakers fans is what Kobe lives for. I hope he can find a way.” But Kobe didn’t find a way in Game Two, and the Spurs ripped them to shreds. The Lakers’ defensive deficiencies, dramatically exposed by the Spurs Wednesday night—who used the pick and roll for easy layups and consistently found themselves open for uncontested threes—were a microcosm of the entire frustrating season, so it seemed almost fitting, in a dispiriting way. As one who loves this team and has been thrilled by their exploits over the previous three seasons, I just want to see them play their game, or what's left of it. A day later, a solemn Joel wrote to me, “Yeah, we got real problems. Look, what can you say, we were RAZOR thin before Fox and George went down. Now, we're a CBA team with two superstars. It's very ugly. It's been a great run, and I hope that Lakers fans keep their perspective and don’t panic too much. Bring me the heads of Juwan Howard for the mid-level exception, Alonzo Mourning for the minimum and a sign and trade for Jason Terry. It's up to Mitch to put this team back together.” When hard-core fans start dreaming about next year, you know the end is near. Still, until the last buzzer sounds, a glimmer of hope remains. Will the Spurs take them eight in a row? Will the Lakers be eliminated Sunday afternoon? Or will they gather themselves and fight on? Stay tuned. —BS

4. Daniel Lanois, Shine (Anti): You probably know this transplanted Canadian as one of the most respected producers around (for U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and countless others). You may know him as an inspired guitarist. But if you don’t know Lanois as a singer-songwriter, this disc is an excellent introduction to his evocative world. Shine has a winning, tone-poem grandeur. Soulful, rootsy and organic, it’s nonetheless spiked with all manner of inventive sound. As always, Cajun influences rise up through the notes like smoke off a grill. Highlights include the compilations—the exquisite “Falling at Your Feet,” co-written and co-sung by Bono, and opener “I Love You,” featuring dulcet vocals by the great Emmylou Harris—as well as the moving title track and “As Tears Roll By.” —SG

5. Fox Guarding the Henhouse: Those rabble-rousing folks at, who brought you the first organized online anti-war movement, are now spearheading an effort to mobilize public opinion against further consolidation of mass media. The FCC is prepared, on June 2 or thereabouts, to remove virtually all restrictions on one entity’s ownership of TV, radio, newspaper and other information outlets, even within a single market. Given the political views of the biggest culprits in this arena, that can mean an ultra-conservative monopoly on the mass distribution of information. Those of us who already feel that too many news and broadcast organizations are in too few hands are appalled at the prospect of the rules being relaxed still further—but that’s what will happen unless public outcry materializes. Not that the public is going to hear much about the issue on Fox News, or from a certain radio chain that tried to deep-six the Dixie Chicks. “When we talk to Congresspeople about this issue, their response is usually the same: ‘We only hear from media lobbyists on this. It seems like my constituents aren't very concerned with this issue,’” reads a recent missive from MoveOn. “A few thousand emails could permanently change that perception. Please join us in asking Congress and the FCC to fight media deregulation.” It may not be a super-sexy issue, but there’s one little fact you should bear in mind: the airwaves are supposed to belong to the public. You can speak out, via MoveOn’s easy-to-use online activism template, by clicking here. And please, pass it on. —SG

6. Annie Lennox’s Bare Essentials: [Ed. note: The cover ofBare, the former Eurythmics singer’s upcoming album on J, is a strikingly candid self-portrait (see above). Here, Lennox explains her motivation for revealing herself so unflinchingly.] This album contains songs that are deeply personal and emotional. In a sense I have “exposed” myself through the work to reveal aspects of an inner world which are fragile…broken through experience, but not entirely smashed. I am not a young artist in their early twenties. I am a mature woman facing up to “core” issues. I don’t want to express myself visually in some kind of cliched, airbrushed, saccharine kind of way. I want to reveal myself as I am. For me, this is a powerful and courageous statement. As an artist, I need to be authentic…to take risks… to break the mold when necessary. The “posture” of the image refers back to the earlier days of Eurythmics with the Touch cover, only this time I have now turned to face the audience eye to eye, as it were. I am as “Bare” as the title suggests, though not entirely exposed. The image is timeless, gender-free and racially ambiguous. I could be a statue, a ghostly apparition, or an Indian saddhu. The false lashes represent the artifice of “performance.” The color has been drained from my mouth) where the words and sounds issue from), to saturate the title with redness (signifying lifeforce and anger). I hope it makes sense to you. Love. —AL

7. Promo Weasel Stupid Site of the Week: This educational site helps weasels to learn the alphabet:

8. Rainy Nights: Now, granted we're having floods and tornadoes here in the 6-1-5, but short of this presage du Armageddon, there's nothing like the sound of rain on the roof when you're trying to fall asleep. It's like the natural rhythm of angels dancing on the stars, or something...and even the lightning has this excitement to it—flashes of brilliance and kinetic promise bringing everything visible, then fading again. And as for the thunder, well, aside from Seger's ultimate line to end all lines ("Woke last night to the sound of thunder/How far off? I sat and wondered..."), it's a rumbling in your soul that reminds you to get on with it. Scary for the animals, reckoning for those of us willing to deal—and ultimately a rolling reminder that life is now. —HG

9. Sneak Preview: Haven’t heard the latest Hall & Oates record, so I can’t make comparisons, but Trakin and I just received copies of a new Daryl Hall solo album, due June 10, and it’s impressive and maddening at the same time. Unlike his first solo effort, 1983’s quirky Sacred Songs, the album, Can’t Stop Dreaming, on Liquid 8 Records, aims for the creamy center of Hall’s milieu, and even a cursory spin will make it clear that this guy remains an avatar of Philly-style blue-eyed soul. Hall’s voice, a liquid thing, has lost none of its fluidity since Hall & Oates’ mid-’70s-early ’80s heyday, and this batch of songs, most co-written with former Average White Band co-frontman Alan Gorrie, provides him with ample opportunity to show it off. The problem is David Bellochio and Hall’s pragmatic production, which sounds tailored to the antiseptic demands of the Smooth Jazz format. Tellingly, the label is working opener “Cab Driver,” the only track to exhibit any real warmth, but only to Smooth Jazz stations. The studio compromises are a drag, because, at their best, Hall’s singing and songs could conceivably connect with listeners in 2003 as naturally as they did in 1983. He may no longer be the blond pretty boy of blue-eyed soul, but this flawed album nonetheless shows that Hall still has it, as he’ll undoubtedly demonstrate on the Hall & Oates summer tour. —BS

10. Little League Games: We've all been there. The intense concentration of competition—where it all means so much, and is well within the grasp of the 7-year old, the 10-year old, the 13-year old. If Major League Baseball sometimes misses the point, this purer than pure take on America's National Pastime offers up a holy reminder that deep within us all is the essence of a dream. Maybe that dream got deferred, but it's still there, shining like a new penny, with all the hope that we should bring to our lives every single damn day. —HG

Caesars, 39 Minutes of Bliss (in an Otherwise Meaningless World) (Astralwerks):
These footstomping Swedes, known as Caesars Palace in their homeland) have received the requisite garage-rock tag from the music press, but they’re really barking up a different tree—several trees, really—on this wickedly clever album, which compiles tracks from their last three LPs. You’ve already heard “(I’m Gonna) Kick You Out,” though you may not know it—the irresistibly pumping chorus electrifies a Smirnoff Ice commercial. “Sort It Out” begins with the charming couplet, “I wanna smoke crack/’Cause you’re never comin’ back,” snarled, Johnny Rotten-like, by frontman Cesar Vidal over an absolutely ferocious riff from guitarist/songwriter Jocke hlund—but the song is framed by a well-behaved folk-rock jangle. The throbbing Farfisa organ, thick fuzz bass and winking black humor that permeate the record channel the Stranglers of Rattus Norvegicus, but there’s an underlying ingenuousness that’s pure Merseybeat. The quartet’s disarming split personality comes through loud, if not exactly clear, on tracks like “Let’s Go Parking Baby,” “Crackin’ Up” and single “Jerk It Out.” Bud Scoppa

Blur, Think Tank (Virgin): With the exit of guitarist Graham Coxon, frontman Damon Albarn takes a cue from his Gorillaz persona and stuffs the band’s new one with all sorts of sonic kibbles and bits. He starts off in the mode of Low-era Bowie on the brooding “Ambulance” and vintage Roxy Music on “Out of Time,” with its hyper-romantic flamenco strings and Moroccan world-beat exotica. But it’s the first single, the swaggering, vocoder-inflected glam-slam of “Crazy Beat,” which shows Albarn’s heart is clearly in the dance-floor pulse, as does the rhythmic paean to night life, “On the Way to the Club.” It’s obvious international success of the hit “Clint Eastwood” has freed up Albarn to confidently move his explorations into soundscapes and Radiohead-like experimentation, but it’s all tethered to the dictates of the primal beat. Roy Trakin

Verbena, La Musica Negra (Capitol): To call this band a Nirvana sound-alike (as they have been in the past) is to miss the point, especially on the Birmingham, Alabama-bred combo’s third album and first since 1999’s Into the Pink. Rather than flannel-flying grunge angst, this album’s packing a rootsy panorama viewed through a spaced-out lens. Leadoff single “Way Out West” sets the tone with its many classic-rock lyric references, while the hard soul of “I, Pistol” and monster riff of “It’s Alright, It’s Okay” expand the palette. Midpoint winner “Camellia,” meanwhile, recalls the gorgeous, understated harmonies of Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque. Sure, Scott Bondy’s voice can sound like Kurt (“White Grrls”), but that’s just one of this record’s many moods and hooks. Jon O’Hara

Rosemary Welsch, PD, WYEP Pittsburgh
Ibrahim Ferrer, Buenos Hermanos (Nonesuch):
Ferrer is an ageless wonder with a subtle sense of
humor and an overt passion for music and romance.”
Ben Harper, Diamonds on the Inside (Virgin): “Harper's
music defies pigeon-holing as it changes pace but never
misses a beat.”
Rosanne Cash, Rules of Travel (Capitol): “Cash has
gathered a distinguished crop of songs and rendered
them exquisitely.”
Jesse Malin, The Fine Art of Self-Destruction (Artemis):
“Malin reminds me of people, places and events in my
life that I managed to both love and survive.”
Richard Thompson, The Old Kit Bag (Cooking Vinyl/
“Twisting words, masterful guitar work;
brilliantly British, this is smart stuff.”

Daddy Day Care (Columbia)
Premise: Eddie Murphy plays a dotcom casualty who
opens up a free-spirited “guy-run” daycare business in
his house, much to the chagrin of the owner (Anjelica
) of a more traditional rival.
Stars: Murphy, Lacey Chabert, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s
Jeff Garlin, Huston, Regina King, Steve Zahn
Director: Steve Carr (Dr. Doolittle 2, Next Friday)
Thumbs Up: Murphy’s comedic talents playing off a
bunch of precocious kids. Hey, it worked with animals
in the two Doolittle box-office successes.
Thumbs Down: Murphy’s once-edgy humor blunted for
the PG crowd.
Soundtrack: Columbia album includes the hits by
Katrina & the Waves, Bachman-Turner Overdrive,
Jackson 5, Nilsson, Glen Campbell, the Ramones,
Carl Douglas, Gary Wright, The Sweet and Bow
Wow Wow

is a light-hearted fast-moving site that offers plot synopsis,

cast and crew info, story, photos & downloads, previews,
“meet the kids,” playground (games like “School Maze”
and “Virtual Day Care”), outtakes, contests and theaters
with showtimes.

Only the Strong Survive (Miramax)
Premise: Documentary examines the current careers of ‘50s-‘70s Stax and Motown soul and R&B singers.
Stars: Isaac Hayes, the Chi-Lites, Sam Moore, Mary Wilson, William Bell, Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett, Ann Peebles, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Fox News writer Roger Friedman (who also produced).
Director: Legendary documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, Ziggy Stardust, Don’t Look Back) Chris Hegedus (, The War Room)
Thumbs Up: Might be anotherStanding in the Shadows of Motown style sleeper hit, with a multi-media spin.
Thumbs Down: If you thought gossip maven Friedman was hard to read, wait’ll you see him gush over onetime soul stars.
Soundtrack: Koch Records album includes songs from all the film’s stars, including Pickett’s “Soul Survivor,” Thomas’ “Soul Survivor,” Sam Moore’s “Soul Man,” Thomas’ “Walking the Dog,” Butler’s “Only the Strong Survive” and Hayes’ “Don’t Let Go.”
Website: is a perfunctory sight with synopsis, trailer, movie showtimes.

The Shape of Tbings (Focus Features)
Premise: Based on his own off-Broadway play, Neil LaBute’s contemporary comedy of manners about the nexus of art, relationships, morality and betrayal in romance between a misfit museum guard and an attractive art student.
Stars: Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol, Frederick Weller
Director: LaBute (Nurse Betty, Possession, In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors)
Thumbs Up: Always insightful LaBute’s take on the rules of today’s romantic game. Reported return to form after commercial dalliances of Nurse Betty and Possession.
Thumbs Down: Sometimes his subtle take on reality isn’t all that entertaining.
Soundtrack: Stage version utilized Smashing Pumpkins songs; film reportedly includes new Elvis Costello songs, but no soundtrack looks like it’s available.
Believe it or not, there’s no official website, but there’s info about the film at

Do people really run away to Mexico? It happens all the time in the movies. There’s always a couple that can’t be together for some reason or another, and the entire movie revolves around the love they feel for each other but are unable to cash in on. Finally, they give in to their feelings, run off together to Mexico, and the last scene of the movie shows them walking hand in hand on the beach at sunset, like that Charlie Sheen movie The Chase, with the original Buffy the Vampire chick. You’re probably asking yourself, why would anyone run away to Mexico and, most importantly, why did I pay money to see that movie? In the movies, usually they’re running from the mob, the police or a psycho ex-husband, and Mexico is close and cheap. As for the movie, I liked it—I’m a chick, so give me a break. In the end, the couple is happy, in love and living in paradise. Can I order one of those fantasies, but leave out the part about being chased by bad guys. Where am I going with this? Who knows—I certainly don’t. Anyway, all of this rambling is due to the fact that my very first “true” love of my life recently made an off-the-cuff comment about kidnapping me and running away to Mexico. I suddenly envisioned long walks on the beach, sunsets, long kisses, blah, blah, blah—I snapped out of it, realizing I am still pathetically single in Smog City. This week’s cocktail is for those of you who have ever wanted to run away to paradise with a sexy someone. If I suddenly disappear, you’ll know where to find me.

South of the Border
1 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
Fill with sour mix, salt the rim of the glass and garnish with a lime

If you’re going to run away to Mexico, I hope you make it further south than Tijuana, unless 99-cent Coronas and Donkey Shows are your cup of tea. So, why do you tell a person you love them and wish you could be with them, if it’s not possible? I think it’s a lot easier knowing a person you love doesn’t love you, rather than knowing someone you love loves you immensely but can’t be with you. That sucks so much more. In these cases, we live in our little fantasy worlds of sunset walks and margaritas, as we stare out of the office window where we can almost see the mountains through the smog. All of this has prompted yet another one of my famous lists—Top Five Things To Bring When You Run Away To Mexico.

1. A hot, hot sidekick: That extremely sexy, but unavailable someone you long for or at least lust after. It helps if they’re running from the law or an incredibly mean ex-wife/husband.
2. Your passport: Although you don’t need it for Mexico, you will when you move on to your next exotic locale.
3. Bathing suit, flip-flops and sunblock: You’re about to live the beach live, so dress like it.
4. Bartending for Dummies by Ray Foley: You have to make money somehow, so act like Tom Cruise in Cocktail and shake it up.
5. BYOW: Bring your own water, unless you want to spend your time together in the bathroom instead of the bedroom.

De’s L.A. pick of the week: I’ve decided not to pick a bar this week; instead, I’ve chosen a party place. As I mentioned before, Tijuana is filled with all types of dirty deeds you can take part in. Whether it’s bartering with a Spanish-speaking native for jewelry or blankets, or throwing back (and then up) bad tequila and bad beer, there’s plenty of fun awaiting you in this sleazy little border town. I think everyone deserves a little break, so head south of the border, remembering the old saying, “What happens on the road, stays on the road.” Just don’t drink the water—Coronas and tequila only.

This is shorter than usual, because I have a plane to catch. I’m off to South Florida—not to rub it in or anything. As I mentioned last week, I want to begin a “Question of the Week” section in my column. Send me questions about dating, drinking or anything fun, but I can’t do it until I get the questions—so be creative! Before I go, I want to give a huge shout out to one of my fans—Michael from EMI. I was going to print his last name, but decided that the many readers of my column would be swooning over his sweet gesture, causing him to be bombarded with potential date offers, and I didn’t want him to be put through such torture, so I withheld. To my surprise, last Friday afternoon I received a special package accompanied by a nice letter. I ran around the office, waving my present—a the newly reissued Al Green CD set—in the air, making everyone in the office hate me (even more than they already do) by rubbing it in that I have GREAT fans. Thank you so much Michael, and thanks to all of you who continually read my ramblings, sending your responses and, of course, praise. Until next week—hugs and kisses. Denise Bayles

Contributors: Joel Amsterdam, Denise Bayles, Darren Cava, Holly Gleason, Todd Hensley, Simon Glickman, Annie Lennox and Roy Trakin

Edited by Bud Scoppa

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