Things I sometimes get mixed up: Studio 60 and 30 Rock… Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden…


Preferably Purple Rain, Like Miami Last Sunday. It’s Been a Dry Winter in Cali, and We’re Mourning the End of Another Football Season
1. Prince at the Super Bowl:
Sure, he was a revelation, and the most conclusive proof to date the only thing that can rival a hard-fought pro football championship is some good old-fashioned rock & roll pyrotechnics, but with every close-up of the Purple One wearing a bemused expression and that schmata on his head, I couldn’t help thinking of Fred Armisen’s hilarious caricature on SNL. Still, the whirlwind set had a completeness about it, starting with the appropriate “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Baby I’m a Star” before segueing into a set of covers, including “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watchtower” and the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You,” followed by the climactic “Purple Rain,” set against, in a completely cosmic coincidence, a downpour refracting the like-colored spotlights. And while his silhouette behind the sheet evoked the predictable fretting about a guitar being just a guitar and whether this time it was something else, for those of us who remember when Prince would perform “Darling Nikki” in a G-string while spurting water from the tip of his axe, it was no real surprise that the man could seize the moment and make it his own. Hey, it sure beat Up with People!, the Grambling College Marching Band or Billy Joel singing the National Anthem, for that matter.

2. Suicide, One Day + Live at La Loco/Paris (Nocturne): My good pal Michael Hartman bought me this DVD at Tower Records’ closeout sale for $10, capturing the groundbreaking duo’s performance at the French club La Locomotive in Jan. 2005 before a rare adoring audience. Consisting of two wacky Jews—singer/provocateur/OG street hustler Alan Vega and Talmudic scholar/keyboard-drum machine maestro Martin Rev—Suicide span the gap from the late-'60s avant leanings of the Velvet Underground through the mid-'70s glam-rocking N.Y. Dolls to the '80s minimalist No Wave of Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Sonic Youth and beyond, all mashed together with a clattering, thudding disco beat equal parts Elvis, Kraftwerk, Iggy and Nine Inch Nails. Although they’ve memorably caused riots akin to the debut of Stravinsky’s “Rites of Spring,” Vega and Rev have now mellowed into respected elder statesmen, their influence acknowledged by bands and historians alike, and this live glimpse captures the amazing cacophony and sheer slapstick brilliance they create. Think Vladimir and Estragon meets Penn and Teller, Alphonse-Gaston making way for Abbott and Costello, a chain-smoking, bandana-wearing Vega alternately sneering and giving high-fives, a silent Rev behind steel-welder goggles, slamming his keyboards like Bruce Lee one moment, exaggeratedly caressing them as he would a women’s back the next, the true heir to Sun Ra, Philip Glass, Jerry Lee Lewis and Keith Emerson. “White Man” storms out of the gate like a galvanized version of “White Light, White Heat,” while the industrial bleat of “Wrong Decisions” features Vega in genuflecting hip-hop mode, wailing, “Where are you, Ma?” “First Come, First Serve” has a chicken-scratching dance-floor funk feel, while the band’s classic ballad, “Cheree,” receives a lilting, bossa nova, “Stand By Me” Brill Building treatment, Vega interrupting his croon to blast an overeager fan: “Let go of my fucking feet. You want my sneakers… What the fuck for? I’ll give them to you.” On the inspirational “Dream Baby Dream,” Vega shares the microphone with Rev for the first time I can remember, and as the ordinarily stoic Rev wails tunelessly, it becomes apparent why it has happened so rarely. On “Stay Alive,” which Vega attributes to the Bee Gees tune of practically the same name, he chants repeatedly, “You gotta stay free/Do what you want/It’s all you got/You got to make your dreams come true.” After surviving their way for nearly 30 years against hostile audiences and commercial indifference, it’s typical of the way they turn the terrors of technology into an affirmative and ultimately, humanistic message. They may call themselves Suicide, but Alan Vega and Martin Rev’s art and music are unabashedly pro-life.

3. Ron Sexsmith, live at the Troubadour, L.A./Time Being (Ironworks): “Never Give Up,” the title to one of the new tracks on his latest album, may be a love song, but it also perfectly describes the stick-to-it-iveness of this songwriters’ songwriter as he releases a new album, his tenth in a career that includes a 1996 major-label debut on Interscope, which featured his cherubic, child-like angel’s face on its cover. Still looking like a beatific choir boy, Sexsmith in concert evokes, at various times, his Canadian compatriot Gordon Lightfoot, along with the melodic croon of such forebears from admitted influences Roy Orbison and Paul McCartney to Jackson Browne, James Taylor and outspoken admirer Elvis Costello. Sexsmith's understated, but deep-seated, lyrical pop may not be heard much on the radio these days, but it continues to foster its own fervent cult, which hung on his every word at the Troubadour as he fronted a nifty, sympathetic three-piece band that perfectly showcased his delicate, imagery-laden narratives. “From the moment we are born/We are in the hands of time,” sings Sexsmith on “Hands of Time,” one of several songs from the new album he performed in the set, turning the moment into the here-and-now. “Jazz at the Bookstore” is a gently mocking take at how music these days serves as the backdrop for selling coffee and magazines: “And has it really come to this/Can ignorance be bliss?” It’s a rueful commentary, given poignancy by his own less-than-commercial status, but Sexsmith manages to soldier on with the hope that his small truths and carefully honed melodicism don’t fall on deaf ears. “There’s still a lot of good in the world/No matter what they say/And when the darkness comes unfurled/There’s a light that was built to stay,” he sings in “Ship of Fools,” with the kind of clear-eyed, heartfelt belief that can win over even the most skeptical. “We are all in the same boat, darlin’/On the same rough sea.” As long as Ron Sexsmith is at the helm, we are in good hands for that voyage to terra firma.

4. Venus: Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and written by Hanef Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette), this film about an aging actor (a justifiably Oscar-nominated, career-culminating turn by Peter O’Toole going for a first-ever Academy win with his eighth nod) who lusts, as much as he’s able, after a much-younger woman, played by the equally impressive newcomer Jodie Whittaker. There is an unpleasant element to the May-December pairing, which never quite blossoms into a romance despite O’Toole’s unquenched desire, leading his fellow retired thespian Leslie Phillips to dub him the “Professor of Pussy.” With her gum-chewing adolescence, mascara-streaked raccoon eyes and thigh-high miniskirts, Whittaker knows she’s torturing the old man, trading him nibbles on her shoulder and hand-touching for new dresses and a pair of earrings, but the relationship deepens when O’Toole lands in a hospital with a coma, and she feels responsible. The theme is about maintaining one’s dignity and sense of humor in the face of sickness unto death, and the fact youth is often wasted on the young, not exactly a sure-fire commercial proposition at today’s multiplexes, though the Corinne Bailey Rae/David Arnold score (including “Put Your Records On”) does add a rather jarring upbeat element. O’Toole’s ego-less performance is amazingly brave, as he cuddles up to his former wife, played by Vanessa Redgrave, his thinning hair revealing a bald head, along with an aching soul, hidden beneath the mask of a proud performer, launching a number of neat Shakespearean soliloquies in the process. Not for everyone, but if you allow it to, Venus reveals the ties across generations that ultimately bind us, from young to old, from sexual longing to spiritual need, from the living to the dead.

5. Village Pizzeria (131 N. Larchmont, L.A.): As a transplanted Noo Yawker who first moved to L.A. in 1985, one of my Holy Grails has been to discover the West Coast equivalent to pizza, bagels, deli and Chinese food, and while I have found, or rather settled, for regional variants on most, the perfect slice has, so far, eluded me. Until yesterday, that is. Thanks to recently transplanted Easterner, Capitol Records’ promo exec Ed Green, I’ve finally struck paydirt with this find from Larchmont Village. Whether it’s the water, the dough or just plain technique, the large garlic cheese pie we ordered for lunch beats such highly touted, if new school, renditions such as Mozza, hands, and slices, down. With plenty of cheese, but not so much it rolls off the slice and into your lap, and a consistency of crust that allows you to fold the sucker over and slide it into your gaping maw, Village Pizzeria offers the next best thing to Stromboli’s on the corner of St. Marks Place and First Ave. For all us expatriate New Yorkers, it’s a welcome slice of life in Hollywood.

6. The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central): Already causing controversy with its anything-goes spirit, not-so-nice Jewish gal Silverman invades the formerly male bastion of yucks with her own uniquely infuriating pseudo-reality series. Dealing with such politically incorrect notions as God in the form of a black woman’s head on her tiny bulldog and incurring a DUI while high on cough syrup, Silverman bravely makes herself the butt of the joke at the same time as she blithely cruises above the fray. It’s kinda like That Girl meets Curb Your Enthusiasm, with a surreal random quality which has you following wherever she wants to take you, whether spoofing homosexuality with her gay neighbors (Brian Posehn and Steve Agee), or mocking the clueless Officer Jay (a deadpan Jay Johnston of Mr. Show renown), who asks Sarah if she knows why he’s standing outside her car window, ticket book in hand, only to have her respond, “Because you got all C’s in high school?” It’s the kind of show where Sarah makes a complete obnoxious pest of herself, yelling out stuff like, “It smells like farts in this car,” to her dutiful, long-suffering sister, played by real-life sibling Laura. It’s not for everyone, but Sarah Silverman is a welcome breath of femme flatulence in the overwhelmingly macho realm of comedy. Jimmy Kimmel is one lucky sunnuvabitch.

7. Eleni Mandell, Miracle of Five (Zedtone): This hamishe Jewish singer-songwriter from L.A. is one of the town’s best-kept secrets, someone who has never quite made the step to a major label, but has managed to carve out a decent career through six independent releases. A product of the celebrated local Café Largo scene—her first album was produced by regular Jon Brion—Mandell’s latest was helmed by Anti- label chief Andy Kaulkin (Merle Haggard, R.L. Burnside) and features such hometown heroes as frequent Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, X drummer DJ Bonebrake and her own longtime rhythm section of drummer Kevin Fitzgerald and bassist Ryan Feves. There’s a real come-hither sensuality to songs like the opening “Moonglow, Lamp Low,” the tender title track (in which she extols “the miracle of sex”) and the slightly sweet-and-sardonic observations of “Make-Out King,” about her current boyfriend, which make you think there’s every reason Mandell can still find her own mainstream audience in a world where Norah Jones sells multi-platinum. Unlike Jones’ Americana tilt, Mandell expresses an outsider status by mining her Semitic roots, particularly in “My Twin,” a Cat Power-like meditation on nature vs. nurture and fate that mixes in clarinets and strings in a way that recalls immigrants such as Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, who tried to join the Old and New Worlds together in their vision of a promised land. “Salt Truck” proves an apt metaphor for the treachery of life and love that compares the danger of an icy highway to the uncertainty of romance. “I want roads that I can drive on/I want a love I can rely on,” sings Mandell. With Miracle of Five, she proves a homegrown artist whose consistency we can count on.

8. The Real Housewives of Orange County (Bravo): Truth is stranger than fiction, as this so-called reality series one-ups the fictional Desperate Housewives by focusing on a turf as foreign to most of us as the inhabitants of an African village…or Mars, for that matter. The shallow materialism on display here would almost be laughable if it didn’t completely dictate the existence of what we recognize as real human beings who live among us. There’s a sadness to this pursuit of happiness and luxury that may be guaranteed in the Constitution, but certainly isn’t available to all in Bush’s America. One housewife dresses up for a dinner party to meet Presidential candidate Mitt Romney by musing she always votes Republican because her parents did, even though she has no idea what the party stands for. A rich guy tries to convince his gold-digging girlfriend to get pregnant as she insists she will never have children in one of the many incredibly mismatched couples on display here. The real hard part is to hear so many seemingly ignorant people who have made so much money that even their downsized houses look like mansions. And there’s not a person of color in sight, unless you include Jo de la Rosa, the Latino party girl who’d rather guzzle Mimosas and club-hop with her pals than look after her forlorn sugar daddy Slade, who’s searching for the perfect wife and ends up with an out-of-control spoiled child. There’s a cautionary tale in here somewhere, but for the most part it’s like rubbernecking at a roadside accident you can't take your eyes off. The beauty of the show is how it allows you to feel superior to the rich, and even a little sorry for them. Though not too sorry.

9. I Love New York (VH1): What the heck is going on over at VH1? Between this Bachelor-style scripted reality show, which plays like a parody, and the continually engrossing The White Rapper, the network seems to be pushing some racial hot buttons. Starring one New York, a sassy black woman with a healthy sexual appetite (real name: Tiffany Pollard) who previously appeared as Flavor Flav's love interest in Flavor of Love only to become a star in her own right, the program centers around five racially integrated groups of three men apiece vying for her “favors” by performing a series of typically ridiculous tasks while living together in a Big Brother-styled mansion. New York isn’t afraid to get chummy with all of them as the mixed bag, sporting aliases such as 12 Pack, Heat, Tango and Mr. Boston, try to win her affections by working in teams to do stuff like building a dog house for her pet Chihuahua Your Majesty, as they take their directions from a blatantly gay henchman named Chamo, who dresses as a construction worker, Indian, cop or sailor depending on the show’s theme. Whether it’s enforcing racial and sexual stereotypes, as its detractors claim, or spoofing them, as its creators would have you believe, the result is simultaneously mesmerizing and repellant… You repeatedly end up wondering if you’re losing your grip on reality, as the double-entendres and just-this-side-of X-rated love scenes actively press at the limits of censorship in a world turned upside-down. You have to see this to disbelieve it. Either it represents the end of civilization as we know it, or the beginning of a brand-new world of racial harmony, sexual freedom and cooperative understanding. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.

10. Gripe of the Week: Things I sometimes get mixed up: Chicago agit-punks Rise Against and Florida agit-punks Against Me!… Sensitive, straight-guy actor Bill Pullman and sensitive, straight-guy actor Jeff Daniels… President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush… Brothers Daniel Baldwin and Stephen Baldwin… Broccoli and asparagus… Studio 60 and 30 RockBarack Obama and Osama bin Laden… Academy Award-winning English actress Maggie Smith and Academy Award-winning English actress Vanessa RedgraveIran and Iraq… Old dead fat comic Jack E. Leonard and old dead fat comic Jackie Vernon… Living rapper Flavor Flav and dead rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard… Wu Tang member RZA and Wu Tang member GZA… Pop crooner Josh Groban and pop crooner Michael Buble… Latino actress Eva Mendes and Latino actress Michelle Rodriguez… Black model Naomi Campbell and black model Tyra Banks… Oh, yeah: Anna Nicole Smith and Marilyn Monroe...

Friday, Feb 9th
Clippers @ 76ers (Prime Ticket):
Lots of turmoil surrounding the ball club, and it has shown in their recent play as the team heads into the Wachovia on a three-game losing streak—and just when it seemed like the Clips had finally righted the ship midway into a disappointing season. Something has to give between Corey and Dunleavy; otherwise, I see this team going nowhere. My plea as an 18-year season-ticket holder is to either promote Dunleavy or get rid of him so we can utilize Maggette the right way.

Saturday, Feb 10th
The Roots with special guest appearances by Jill Scott, Akon and Lupe Fiasco @ Gibson Amphitheatre: Wow, this sounds like the show of the year!

An Evening with Bobby Brown @ House of Blues Anaheim.

Sunday, Feb 11th
Energizer Presents Cartel, Cobra Starship and Boys Like Girls @ Newport Music Hall in Columbus, OH

Take Action Tour With The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Emery, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, A Static Lullaby and Kadisfly @ House of Blues Orlando.

Sarah Silverman @ Showbox Theatre in Seattle.

Musiq Soulchild @ House of Blues Cleveland in the Cambridge Room.

1. As a record promoter, do you see yourself as more of a 'Hey Buddy' or a 'How you doing, pal' kinda guy?
"How you doing, pal" on the phone...finger pistols in person. I'm pretty sure Dale Connone has 'Hey Buddy' trademarked...
2. Do you prefer FedEx or brown envelopes?
No preference.
3. Who's sexier: Aiken or Hicks?
4. Have you ever seen Lenny Lyons naked?
Not yet.
5. What was your first job in the music world?
Washing Ross Grierson's car.
6. Who did you vote for in the NY Governor race?
I sat this one out.
7. LCD, DLP or plasma?
Ask my wife.
8. During a Clive presentation: coffee or Red Bull?
9. Have you ever passed gas on an airplane and looked at the person behind you in disgust?
Giggling, of course.
10. Who'd win in a slap fight: my Dad or Jeff McClusky?
The Cliprboy

Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Cuba Gooding
During an impossibly adverse childhood being raised at the Goldon Wonton Restaurant and Orphanage, the nerdy Norbit is rescued on the playground by Rasputia, an obese gal who wields a mean right hook. The mismatched pair become boyfriend and girlfriend and eventually husband and wife. But many years of misery later, Norbit meets the woman of his dreams and must finagle a way to get away from Rasputia without being permanently bodily injured.
Thoughts: ??? No comment.

Hannibal Rising
: Gong Li, Gaspard Ulliel
: Believe it or not, serial killer/cannibal Hannibal Lecter was once a little boy. During WWII, the young maniac evades both the Nazi war machine and the Soviet menace to grow up relatively peacefully in France with an aunt. But after a chance meeting with some former war criminals, Hannibal begins to develop the darker side of his personality — the much, much darker side.
Thoughts: This could have been good but has stinker written all over it.

We’re five weeks into the new year, and that means we’re in the season of bad movies. Rarely do we get a good movie until at least March. My recommendation is to review my top movies of last year below and check out the ones you have yet to see.

V for Vendetta
This is my favorite movie of the year, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.

Babel: This may be the most depressing movie I have ever seen, but also maybe one of the best. It’s simply breathtaking and almost leaves you speechless when it ends. I must warn you that this film isn’t easy to watch, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

The Last King of Scotland:
All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable. I believe he will win for best actor. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

Happy Feet:
Sheer brilliance. More than just an animated movie about penguins, it has real-life political views and it is definitely a movie the whole family can enjoy. The music is awesome, and the dancing is sensational, thanks to Savion Glover.

Notes on a Scandal: Really good and really intense, and both Kate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench are amazing.

Blood Diamond:
Yes, it’s extremely violent and gory, but well worth seeing nonetheless. Plus, Jennifer Connelly is so beautiful.

Little Children
This movie is incredible in so many ways, including the unique way it was executed. Hard to describe, it’s one of those movies that just leaves you breathless.

Casino Royale:
One of the best Bond movies I’ve ever seen.

Borat: All I have to say is, “very niiiiiiiiice, I like it.” This is by far the funniest movie of the year.

World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.

The Illusionist:
Giamatti and Norton are truly brilliant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.

Mission: Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.

An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.

The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.

Ain't too proud to beg. (1/27a)
Burrowing into trending industry topics (1/27a)
David Byrne and Diane Warren have noms as well. (1/24a)
Merck's a belieber. (1/25a)
Sisters doin' it for themselves (1/28a)
The astonishing first half-century of a world-rocking genre.
in the catalog game is...
More independent music rises at the DSPs.
At last, America can focus 24/7 on Hunter Biden's laptop.

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)