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Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

David Lynch, PAFA press conference, 11:02 am, by JONATHAN VALANIA

PAFA: In 1967 as an advanced painting student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (PAFA), David Lynch made a hybrid work of art that brought together painting, sculpture, sound, film, and installation. Six Men Getting Sick (1967) expanded Lynch’s practice and opened him up to the possibilities of filmmaking. He went on to become internationally renowned as a film director but never stopped working as a visual artist. Lynch has maintained a devoted studio practice, developing a parallel body of painting, prints, photography, and drawing that deserves to be better known. In many ways his identity as an American artist brings together all aspects of his creative life into a unified field of subjects and concerns. David Lynch: The Unified Field will be Lynch’s first major museum exhibition in the United States, organized in close collaboration with the artist. It will bring together approximately 90 paintings and drawings from 1965 to present. Part of the exhibition will explore Lynch’s early work, much of which has never been displayed in public. Six Men Getting Sick will be restaged for the first time and presented with related drawings. Several early short films, made in Philadelphia, will also be on display. MORE

RELATED: Michael Solomonov, the chef and co-owner of Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts, jumped at the invite to make confections in honor of the first major retrospective of Lynch’s work, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (where Lynch studied painting in the late ’60s). With names like Blue Velvet and Good Coffee — a “Twin Peaks” reference — Solomonov’s creations are an homage to the master of magical realist cinema. There’s one, though, that won’t see the light of day: the David Lynch. “I would have done a little clove and allspice, to get at the Indian-mystical thing, and a bit of malt powder since he used to have a daily milkshake,” Solomonov says. “Plus a healthy dose of windowpane LSD.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: There Goes The Eraserhood

PREVIOUSLY: The Blue Velvet Underground

PREVIOUSLY: Mild At Heart?

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INCOMING: Tim & Eric & Dr. Steve Brule Tour

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Coming to the Keswick Theater on October 10th. Stay tuned we’ll have a Q&A with Temple alum Eric Wareheim coming soon to a Phawker near you!

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Q&A: What’s Eating Gilbert Gottfried?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014


DISCUSSED: Groucho Marx, Dick Cavett, Milton Berle’s cock, Ben Kingsley, Katharine Hepburn, F-Troop’s Larry Storch, Forrest Tucker’s cock, Boris Karloff, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, the Screen Actors Guild, Communists, the Godfather, fucking Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, Danny Aiello, getting fired from SNL, Eddie Murphy, The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Do The Right Thing, getting fired by Aflac, suing the pants off Aflac.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Preparing for our Q&A with Gilbert Gottfried I came across this elegantly-rendered and wizardly-reasoned assessment of Brand Gottfried by Jay Ruttenberg in the Lowbrow Reader. He says it better than I ever could, so let’s let this excerpt serve as the intro for our Q&A. (I urge you to click through the link at the end and read the whole thing. And how about this illustration from the always awesome Drew Friedman? Likewise I would urge the unitiated to go HERE and check out his work.)

In 1987, Gilbert Gottfried made his debut appearance on Howard Stern’s radio program. Although it went unspoken, the host and his guest had somewhat overlapping lives. Both men were in their early 30s and clinging to the fringes of show business. Both were Jewish nerds who had come of age as outsiders in rough patches of New York: Stern in a predominantly black area of Long Island; Gottfried in pre-chic Brooklyn and the East Village of burning tenements and open-air heroin bazaars. They found escape and salvation through the junky pop culture of monster movies, super heroes, rock & roll, and comedy. And while both performers’ acts had roots in the ’70s, their entry to comedy’s major leagues began at the dawn of the ’80s, when Stern paired with his invaluable on-air foil Robin Quivers and Gottfried started his short-lived—and little-remembered—tenure on Saturday Night Live. [...]

Gottfried’s Hollywood stock, in the conventional sense, probably peaked in the early ’90s, when he appeared in the Problem Child movies, voiced a parrot in Disney’s Aladdin, and hosted USA Up All Night, a B-movie program on basic cable. In 1987, he had headlined a sitcom pilot, Norman’s Corner, which aired as a Cinemax special before fading into the abyss. The show was co-written by Larry David just before he created Seinfeld. I have heard comedians—albeit mildly demented ones—swear by Norman’s Corner as the Seinfeld-that-might-have-been. Now approaching 60, the comedian remains a prolific character actor and a reliably screeching voice in cartoons. His moments in the spotlight generally transpire because he has said something wildly inappropriate—a comedy mode that Gottfried has raised to an art form, if not raison d’être. In 2011, Gottfried famously got fired as the voice of the Aflac duck mascot after writing a series of corny Twitter jokes about the Japanese tsunami. (A sample: “I fucked a girl in Japan. She screamed, ‘I feel the earth move and I’m getting wet.’”) The loss of the long-running commercial gig clearly unnerved Gottfried, a notorious penny pincher who was apparently unaware that Aflac conducts the bulk of its business in Japan.

A decade earlier, however, his pathological yearning for vulgarity yielded what likely will prove his career apex. Appearing at a Friars Club Roast weeks after the World Trade Center attack, Gottfried took the podium bedecked in the kind of ill-fitting tuxedo a circus monkey might favor and cracked what Frank Rich, in the New York Times, described as the first public 9/11 joke: “I have a flight to California. I can’t get a direct flight—they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.” The joke was met by boos and an audience member’s cry of “too soon,” a phrase that quickly entered the lexicon, deployed when a comedian has made an appalling remark about a recent tragedy. (With alarming frequency, that comedian tends to be Gottfried.) – JAY RUTTENBERG Lowbrow Reader


PHAWKER: My first question is about The Voice. Where did The Voice come from, what was it inspired by, and what motivated you to want to deliver jokes in this shouty-screechy tone?

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: My normal speaking voice sounds exactly like Ben Kingsley. When people ask me about my voice and my delivery, and everything like that — I never consciously thought of developing anything. I used to go onstage all the time, and over a long period of years. One day you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve been doing it this way for a long time.’ To me, when people ask where it came from, it’s kind of like going up to someone in the street and going, ‘Hey, the way you are walking around and moving your arms and pronouncing certain words, how did you develop that?’

PHAWKER: Point taken. On your Podcast, which I will plug here, Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, you interview people that have influenced your comedy. Your first guest was Dick Cavett, who I love. Dick Cavett, the man for whom the word ‘plummy’ was invented.Maybe I’m tin-eared, but I’m not hearing Dick Cavett in your work. Tell me about how or why he became an influence. You used to watch him as a kid?

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: Yeah, it’s not necessarily people that have influenced me directly, but people I liked growing up. I had, and still have a fascination with the show business that I grew up with. Dick Cavett was on the air all the time back then. He would have the guests that no one else had, like one week he’d have Katharine Hepburn. The next, it would be John and Yoko, and then Groucho Marx. All of that became fascinating to me. I became especially fascinated listening to Groucho on there, ‘cause he had turned into this weak old man with a quivering voice. It fascinated me more than even than the Marx Brothers movies, which I was a tremendous fan of, because those used to be shown all the time on TV.

PHAWKER: What other once-famous/now-on-the-skids show biz personalities have you had on your podcast?

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: Oh, so many. Larry Storch from F Troop is still alive, and still alert. I went up to his apartment, and interviewed him. He’s in his nineties, and he stands on his head every morning

PHAWKER: Larry Storch was the blonde, tall guy? Or was he Agarn?

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: No, Larry Storch was Agarn, the lanky one. The other one was Forrest Tucker. I kept trying to get Larry Storch to talk about Forrest Tucker, because Forrest Tucker was kind of famous that Milton Berle was famous for, and that was an extremely large penis.

PHAWKER: I did not know about this.

GILBERT GOTTFRIED: Yeah. People know about Milton Berle, because he was showing everybody. I got confirmation when I interviewed Jeff Ross who actually saw Milton Berle’s penis. I tried to get Larry Storch to talk about Forrest Tucker’s penis, but he wouldn’t take the bait. [Laughs] He wouldn’t bite the worm, so to speak. [Laughs]

PHILLY BLUNT: Illadelphia Will Become The Largest American City To Decriminalize Marijuana

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014


HUFFINGTON POST: Philly Mayor Michael Nutter confirmed Monday that he will sign a bill into law that will make his city the largest in America to decriminalize marijuana possession, Philly Mag reports. Essentially it softens the penalty for such an offense from possible jail time to a $25 fine.Nutter wasn’t a fan of the bill in the past, but he told KYW Newsradio that he agreed to sign the bill — with a caveat — because he’s seen too many of his citizens slapped with charges for small amounts of pot.“So I think the agreement ends up putting the city and our citizens in a much better place,” Nutter told CBS News, noting that signing the bill won’t be the same as condoning marijuana use. Though earlier reports have stated that Nutter would sign the bill this week, it’ll likely take another two. He arrived at a compromise with City Councilman Jim Kenney, who originally sponsored the bill in May. Nutter’s tweak will tack on a $100 fine for smoking in public, which can be waived with a few hours of public service. Kenney’s bill will be amended Thursday by the council and get a final vote two weeks later before it shows up on Nutter’s desk again. MORE

PHILLY.COM: Kenney argued that marijuana arrests were unfairly impacting African Americans – Philadelphia police arrested 4,336 people for marijuana possession last year, 83 percent of them black – while wasting valuable police time. MORE

CBSLOCAL: Kenney says this approach will spare more than 4,000 people from being arrested each year, and will save the Philadelphia Police Department about $4 million a year. “There will be no criminal record for an individual. And that’s a major step,” Kenney notes. “We have so many people that we are putting in the prison pipeline, and the poverty pipeline, because a criminal record is a debilitating thing.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: IN THE WEEDS: The Behind The Scenes Story Of How Philadelphia Got Its Decriminalization On

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Monday, September 8th, 2014


ROLLING STONE: In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.

Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception for the following principal reasons:

■ The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence‑gathering employed by the CIA. Although the Agency has cut back sharply on the use of reporters since 1973 primarily as a result of pressure from the media), some journalist‑operatives are still posted abroad.

■ Further investigation into the matter, CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing relationships in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most powerful organizations and individuals in American journalism.

Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune. By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. The CIA’s use of the American news media has been much more extensive than Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with members of Congress. MORE

RELATED: LA Times Disowns Ex-Inquirer Reporter After He Is Outed As A CIA Collaborator


‘Rock Is Sick And Living In England’


ROLLING STONE: A man with curly, moderately long, red hair, a pale face and an apelike black sweater gets out. It is Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, the world’s most notorious punk band who I have flown from New York to meet and see perform. McLaren has been avoiding me for two days. I introduce myself and suggest we get together soon. He changes the subject by introducing me to Russ Meyer, the softcore porn king of Supervixens and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls fame, who is directing the Sex Pistols’ movie. “You’re a journalist?” asks Meyer. “Do you know Roger Ebert? He won the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism and he’s writing the movie with me. You should talk to him. At the Chicago Sun-Times, he’s Dr. Jekyll. With me, he’s Mr. Hyde. He’s really into tits.”

McLaren seizes the opportunity to disappear into the Vortex and is lost to me for the rest of the evening. The dense crowd inside consists of a few curiosity seekers and 400 to 500 cadaverous teenagers dressed in black or gray. Often their hair is dyed shades of industrial pink, green and yellow. Several blacks, also drably dressed and with rainbow stripes dyed into their short Afros, speckle the audience. The music over the loudspeakers is about two-thirds shrieking New Wave singles and one-third reggae tunes, which the kids respond to with almost as much enthusiasm as the punk rock. The dancing is frantic as a band called the Slits sets up. The style is called pogo dancing – jumping up and down and flailing one’s arms around. It is as far as one can get from the Hustle, and it is the only way one can dance if one is wearing bondage pants tied together at the knees. Most are pogoing alone.

Those with partners (usually of the same sex) grasp each other at the neck or shoulders and act like they are strangling each other. Every four or five minutes, someone gets an elbow in the nose and the ensuing punch-out lasts about thirty seconds amid a swirling mass of tripping bodies. Unlike in American punk clubs, which occasionally become as crowded but where most people still try to avoid jostling each other, no one here hesitates to violate another person’s physical space. Everyone is fair game for a push. The dance floor is phenomenally stuffed with sweating humans, and getting more stuffed with each new song. Roadies onstage and a few fans hurl beer glasses at each other. MORE

WATCH: The Filth And The Fury

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LOST CLASSIC: The Gun Club’s Fire Of Love

Monday, September 8th, 2014


Fire Of Love
(Superior Viaduct)

On the night of August 16th, 1938, as Robert Johnson lay dying, poisoned by a jar of corn whiskey laced with strychnine by the jealous boyfriend of a pretty girl Johnson was flirting with at a country dance he was playing in Greenwood, MS, he had a brief and flickering vision  — of gaunt white man in a cowboy hat slumped in the backseat of a car motoring through the backwoods of West Virginia on New Year’s Day 1953.  It was Hank Williams. Drifting in and out of consciousness as a potent cocktail of morphine, chloral hydrate and alcohol slowed his heart to a stop, Williams also had a brief and flickering vision — of a bloated, sweaty man wearing nothing but Rhinestone sunglasses seated on the toilet, spangled jumpsuit bunched around his ankles, as he gritted his teeth and grunted with Hulk-like intensity. Right before Elvis Presley’s immaculate, drug-scarred heart exploded as he sat on the throne at Graceland in the early hours of August 16th, 1977, The King also had a brief and flickering vision — of a purple album cover emblazoned with a crude, creepy mosaic of zombie voodoo shit his mama would not approve of on the cover. It was Fire Of Love by The Gun Club. All three men died for its sins. – JONATHAN VALANIA*

*Via the current issue of MAGNET MAGAZINE

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N.A. POE: Live & Direct From The Naked Biked Ride

Monday, September 8th, 2014

NOTE: No turtle-dicks were hurt in the making of this.

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BEING THERE: Die Antwoord @ Electric Factory

Saturday, September 6th, 2014


Being assigned to cover the Die Antwoord show at the Electric Factory last night meant boning up on Zef culture (pun intended), which is all about looking extravagant while being poor. Zef is the South Africa version of ‘ghetto fabulous’ meets white trash. All of which dovetails nicely with Die Antwoord’s mission— embracing the oddities of humankind, casting aside all negative associations with obscenity and horror, and telling censorship to go fuck itself. Hard.

Waiting in the photo pit at the lip of the stage for the band to arrive, I began to worry that maybe I was a little too close for comfort. Turns out my Spidey senses were dead-on, as per usual. An alien-masked member of the group named DJ Hi Tek introduced MCs Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, with both sporting huge matching neon orange hoodies and sweatpants — think Gitmo meets Rocawear. Die Antwoord wasn’t onstage more than a minute before Yolandi took a big sip of water and spit it at the crowd in a long unbroken plume, most of which hit me square in the face. It was almost like we had a moment. This was in addition to the keepsake of a press pass I was wearing, which marked me as “VIP NIGGA, SUCK MY DICK.” Nice. It was probably the most Zef I’ll ever feel.


Saturday, September 6th, 2014

SLATE: We’ve seen supercuts highlighting Wes Anderson’s love for symmetry and overhead shots, but Vimeo user Jaume R. Lloret has made a video focused on another of the director’s signature tics: point-of-view shots from various vehicles. MORE

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TONIGHT: Zen Arcade Fire

Friday, September 5th, 2014


These are glory days for Bob Mould, valedictorian of the indie rock class of 1984; glowering godfather of alt-rock circa 1992; dark lord of the molten dirge circa 1998; shirtless dancing bear spinning the wheels of steel for the Blow-Off, his hugely successful gay-friendly DJ parties, circa 2002; celebrated warts-n-all memoirist circa 2011; and acknowledged American Master of punk-as-fuck-three-chords-and-the-truth tunesmithery circa now. If it looks like things are finally breaking his way, that was never guaranteed. It could have just as easily gone the other way. In October he turns 54. In rock n’ roll years, that’s 108. At this age you’ve either become a living legend or you’re just old and in the way. You’ve either become a classic or just another neglected wreck rusting in the back yard of the music biz. Perhaps mid-to-late aughts, when Mould released and toured a string of middling albums, a case could have been made that he was trending towards the latter. But in the wake of a high-profile autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody and a like-titled tribute concert, “See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould,” curated by Dave Grohl and featuring the likes of Britt Daniel from Spoon, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler from the Hold Steady, and No Age performing his songs at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, not to mention a pair of instant-classic late-career albums for Merge (2012′s Silver Age and the new and great Beauty & Ruin), Bob Mould has raised the curtain on third act that may well trump everything that came before. These days Mould is backed by Split Single’s Jason Narducy on bass and Superchunk’s Jon Wurster on drums, arguably his finest band to date — Sugar and Husker Du included. He’s currently on a tour in support of Beauty & Ruin that stops at the TLA tomorrow night. We have a coupla pairs of tix to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. To qualify, all you have to do is follow us on Twitter, and then email us at FEED@PHAWKER.COM telling us you have done so or already follow us, with the magic words ZEN ARCADIA in the subject line, along with your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

UPDATE: We have chosen our winners, if you have not heard from us by now, sad to say you are not among them. However, we have TWO consolation prizes. First is this new video for “The War” from the new Beauty & Ruin, directed by Dave Markey (1991: The Year Punk Broke ), posted below. Bob and director Dave Markey will chat with fans on September 9 at 3:30pm EST during a Reddit AMA session. Also, Live Nation will be livestreaming tonight’s Bob Mould show at the TLA HERE starting at 10 PM.

EXCERPT: Zen Arcadia

Bob Mould – The War from Merge Records on Vimeo.


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THE SHAME GAME: LA Times Disowns Ex-Inquirer Reporter After He Was Outed As A CIA Collaborator

Friday, September 5th, 2014


BY JONATHAN VALANIA Recently released emails indicate that prominent national security reporter Ken Dilanian — formerly with the Los Angeles Times (2010-2014), currently with the Associated Press (and from 1997-2007 the Philadelphia Inquirer*) — shared stories prior to publication with CIA press office seeking their approval, according to a story up on The Intercept. Now, it is not uncommon for national security reporters to vet facts with government functionaries prior to publication, but the emails indicate Dilanian went much further than that, not only sharing stories prior to publication (a big no-no in almost every newsroom) but he also entered into discussions about how the CIA could bend public opinion of drone strikes their way.

On at least one occasion he re-wrote a lede as per their dictates. He also reported as fact, in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, a CIA claim that there was no collateral murder in a 2012 drone strike on Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. An Amnesty International report disputes that sanitized version of events, citing eyewitnesses that claim upwards of 15 people, including Afghan tribesmen unaffiliated with Al Qaeda, were killed in the drone strike. Obviously, a drone strike that only kills the bad guys is much more palatable to the American people than a drone strike that kills 15. But that’s not journalism, that’s propaganda.

There’s no telling how much of his national security reporting was compromised by the CIA press office, or for how long, because the emails only cover a few months in 2012. The emails were released by the CIA as per a FOIA request by The Intercept for Agency email exchanges with journalists. Dilanian acknowledges sending stories to the CIA prior to publication and now says it was wrong. It was also in violation of the L.A. Times’ ethical guidelines. Perhaps that explains why the L.A. Times misleadingly refers to Dilanian as a “Tribune reporter” in its reporting on the scandal (SEE ABOVE). Tribune Publishing is the L.A. Times’ parent company. However, Dilanian’s Linkedin page clearly says he was a Los Angeles Times reporter (SEE BELOW). Shameful all around. This is not a good day for journalism.

*Obligatory local angle

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RIP: Comedian Joan Rivers Has Left The Building

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Joan Rivers circa 1967

NEW YORK TIMES: Joan Rivers, the raspy loudmouth who pounced on America’s obsessions with flab, face-lifts, body hair and other blemishes of neurotic life, including her own, in five decades of caustic comedy that propelled her from nightclubs to television to international stardom, died on Thursday in Manhattan. She was 81. [...] Vivacious even as a nipped-and-tucked octogenarian, flitting from coast to coast and stage to studio in a whirl of live and taped shows, publicity stunts and cosmetic surgery appointments, Ms. Rivers evolved from a sassy, self-deprecating performer early in her career into a coarser assassin, slashing at celebrities and others with a rapier wit that some critics called comic genius in the bloodletting vein of Mr. Bruce. Others called it downright vicious. But if she turned the scowlers off, she left millions in stitches.

“Can we talk?” she demanded in her signature call to gossip and skewer — the brassy Jewish-American princess from Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Larchmont, in Westchester County, leveling with the world. She would take the stage in a demure black sheath and ladylike pearls, a tiny bouffant blonde with a genteel air of sorority decorum. Then she’d stick her finger down her throat and regurgitate the dirt on the rich and famous, the stream-of-conscious take on national heroes and sacrosanct cultural idols.

On Nancy Reagan’s hairdo: “Bulletproof. If they ever combed it, they’d find Jimmy Hoffa.”

On Charlton Heston: “He told us, ‘I got Alzheimer’s.’ Surprise! He’s been wearing his wig sideways for 19 years.”

On Donatella Versace: “That skin! She looks like something you’d hang off your door in Africa.”

On Sandra Bullock’s Bottega Veneta gown at the Golden Globes: “It looked like Prince’s old prom dress.” (And Tina Fey’s Zac Posen: “A decorative toilet seat cover.”)

On Queen Elizabeth II: “Gowns by Helen Keller.” “Nice looking. Not at all like her stamp. Wears her watch over the glove, though — tacky.”

On herself, desperate for a man: “My parents had a sign, ‘Last girl before thruway.’ I’d get an obscene phone call. I’d say, ‘Hold on a minute, let me get a cigarette.’ ”
Continue reading the main story

Nothing was sacred.

On her husband’s suicide: “After Edgar killed himself, I went out to dinner with Melissa. I looked at the menu and said, ‘If Daddy were here to see these prices, he’d kill himself all over again.’ ” MORE

RELATED: Joan Rivers On Fresh Air

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EXCERPT: Zen Arcadia

Thursday, September 4th, 2014



Bob Mould has survived the rise and fall of Husker Du in the 80s, Sugar going supernova in the 90s, a premature retirement in the late 90s, a detour into DJ culture during the twilight of the alt-rock gods in the early aughts and a wilderness period in the late aughts. And now, at 53, he is simply making the best music of his career. MAGNET goes to Portlandia to find out how that is even possible.

By Jonathan Valania

One day last month, Bob Mould walked into Portland Music Company, a beloved purveyor of amps, axes and snare drums that serves as armory for the Portlandian indie-rock wars. With his balding dome shaved down to stubble and white Gorton’s fisherman beard, his mouth a crooked scribble, Bob sort of looks like Charlie Brown as a middle-aged man. For reasons not immediately clear, Bob disregards the vast array of musical gear on display and peruses the MUSICIAN WANTED ads tacked to the wall. There’s the usual sad, desperate, Sharpie’d pleas of go-nowhere bands trolling for fresh souls to lure into their drain-circling miasma of FAIL.




Pathetic. Bob’s eyes begin to glaze over but as he turns to walk away, one ad catches his attention.


That’s weird, he thinks, those are the exact words of the want ad that Kim Deal responded to when she joined The Pixies 1986. Intrigued, he reaches for one of the tear-away tabs with a phone number and the name CHARLES written on it. Suddenly Jason Narducy, who has been Bob’s touring bassist since 2005, and his biggest fan since the day he heard Workbook, appears out of nowhere and angrily rips down the sign, crumbles it up and storms off, like Lucy pulling away the football from Charlie Brown at the last minute. Startled, Bob’s face lights up with alarm and then dims to that defeated, deflated Charlie Brown look that betrays years of subsisting on on a daily diet of disappointment and quiet desperation. You can see it in his eyes: he feels foolish and unsettled and maybe even a little hurt. If I didn’t know that Narducy was married with children, I’d think it was a lover’s spat. It’s an odd, unflattering moment, uncomfortable to watch, and someone as intensely private as Bob must surely regret that it happened in front of a visiting journalist.  Fortunately, it never really happened.


The camera stops filming and everyone on the film crew breaks out in laughter. Nailed it. Next.

The film crew is shooting a video for “I Don’t Know You Anymore”, the uber-catchy earworm of a single from Beauty And Ruin, Bob Mould’s 14th post-Husker Du album and easily his most vital and vibrant work since Copper Blue, maybe since Flip Your Wig. The premise of the video takes some explaining but it’s written by Jon Wurster — who’s been Bob’s drummer for the last six years, in between tours with Mountain Goats and the reactivated Superchunk — so it’s worth the trouble. Because if Wurster is not the the greatest drummers of the indie- rock era, and he could well be, he is certainly the funniest. So let’s break it down: Bob Mould runs into The Decembrists’ Colin Meloy at a Portland rehearsal studio. Meloy plays a slightly more Faustian version of himself and, with thinly-veiled ulterior motives, sets about convincing him that 7-inch singles are a relic of the past. Kids don’t line up to buy records these days, he says, they line up to buy smart phones. If you want to sell music these days, you have to convince people that it will make their lives better. From this exchange Bob gets the bright idea to convince ‘the kids’ that a 7-inch is, despite appearances to the contrary, actually some new, amazing and life-altering form of technology (which, if you think about it, is actually true if you take the word ‘new’ out of that description). Bob assembles the rest of the band for a kooky powerpoint presentation on how to pull off this hoax-cum-marketing-scheme. By the next scene the band has morphed into the marketing equivalent of the A-Team, outfitted with ridiculous matching blue shirts, bricked smartphone pendants hanging around their necks and staple guns, which were, once upon a time, the glue that literally held together the original social media: punk rock flyering. Hilarity ensues.

Now we’re in a gay bar called Crush, and a drag queen with huge Ann Margaret eyelashes and Betty Page bangs is rubbing Bob’s bald head like he’s Buddha. Bob blushes and then he fans himself. It’s getting hot in herre.


The camera stops filming and everyone on the film crew breaks out in laughter. Nailed it. Next.

These are glory days for Bob Mould, valedictorian of the indie rock class of 1984; glowering godfather of alt-rock circa 1992; dark lord of the molten dirge circa 1998; shirtless dancing bear spinning the wheels of steel for the Blow-Off, his hugely successful gay-friendly DJ parties, circa 2002; celebrated warts-n-all memoirist circa 2011; and acknowledged American Master of punk-as-fuck-three-chords-and-the-truth tunesmithery circa now. If it looks like things are finally breaking his way, that was never guaranteed. It could have just as easily gone the other way. In October he turns 54. In rock n’ roll years, that’s 108. At this age you’ve either become a living legend or you’re just old and in the way. You’ve either become a classic or just another neglected wreck rusting in the back yard of the music biz. Perhaps mid-to-late aughts, when Mould released and toured a string of middling albums, a case could have been made that he was trending towards the latter. But in the wake of a high-profile autobiography, “See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody” and a like-titled tribute concert, “See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould,” curated by Dave Grohl and featuring the likes of Britt Daniel from Spoon, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler from the Hold Steady, and No Age performing his songs at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, not to mention a pair of instant-classic late-career albums for Merge, Bob Mould has raised the curtain on third act that may well trump everything that came before.

Now we’re in Crema, a cavernous dispensary of high-octane caffeinated concoctions, teeming with nattily attired hipsterati sucking back double skinny lattes and pecking away at laptops and smart phones. In between takes of a scene — wherein Team Bob works the room, hyping the mysterious, life-changing invention they plan to unveil the following day at this thing called a record store — a steady stream of 20 and 30somethings approach Bob for autographs or selfies or just to tell him how Flip Your Wig or Copper Blue got them through many a dark night of the soul. MORE


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