Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Daniel (dfowlkes) Sat 13 Jul 02 10:21
<scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Sat 13 Jul 02 10:46
Love that story about your officemate. I, too, take that as a compliment. Strange what pull B's rap still has. Maybe you should lend him the CD. And yes, it seems as though a Buckley gestalt is slowly descending on the culcha. I hope so. And if I'm not being too presumptuos, what kind of work do you do? Can never resist finding out more about the constituency.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 13 Jul 02 10:53
Dan Guy, one word: headphones!
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 13 Jul 02 10:55
For those of you waiting for your books to arrive, or if you need a nudge toward buying one, click this link to read a few sample chapters from the book: http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/buckley/
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sat 13 Jul 02 18:28
I was digging the CD again last night that accompanies your book, Oliver. Robin Williams is the contemporary who comes to mind most often while listening to Buckley. Both of them change voices, tonalities, and mood constantly, even shifting from farce to pathos in an instant. I'm going to shamelessly plug the book, but it's truly an impressive achievement. It's densely packed with information -- no fly-by-night quickie it be -- with the smart construct of 1) first person oral history and opinion, 2) Lord Buckley himself, including, most crucially, his routines, 3)the author's histoscribing that links it all together. And then the reader gets a CD of quintessential Buckley to boot. It's one of the finest biographies ever writ, and as I've told you, I've read thousands of 'em. Now that I've fluffed your nutter and hopefully moved a few copies, perhaps the most touching section is the recounting of Buckley's death. America executes nonconformists without necessarily or literally strapping them into a gurney or tying a noose around their necks. Can you explain the circumstances of Buckley's death and express any personal opinion about how he actually died?
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sun 14 Jul 02 01:41
The book has the potential to be made into a classic flick. It's a natural, one man, tour de force for almost any great actor. I was thinking Robin Williams and, of course, he is a distinct presence in your book. What were your impressions of Williams? When he's 'on', there are few contemporary comedians who skirt the edge of madness the way Williams does. A moie based on "Dig Infinty" would also be a helluva truly witty comedy. Those are rare these days. Do you have plans for turning "Dig Infinity!" into a film. It's clearly the most comprehensive bio and source material on Lord Buckley. Anyone who wished to make a film on Buckley would have to go to you. Any ideas on who could play His Lordship? And just out of curiosity, do any of our audience members have suggestions as to what actor would make a perfect Lord Buckley and WHY?
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Sun 14 Jul 02 13:21
Thanks again for your gracious compliments. Sometimes hard, thoughtful work does pay off. And, the accompanying CD is really the necessary icing on the cake. Part of my thinking with the CD was to present as wide a portrait of the man and his craft as possible. ANd his banter with Studs really shows that there was no mask he standing behind: he had truly become LORD buckley. That's one of the reasons it's a little light on the classics but varied in its choice of other, in my opinion equally as great, material. You should hear the uncut Buckley/Terkel tape: there are killer versions of "The Raven" and the rare, unreleased "Swingin' Pied-Piper." Yes, Robin Williams certainly comes to mind as perhaps the most high-profile Buckley artistic descendent. I'm told he even quotes His Lordship's "People" at his live show. But certainly, his free-flowing stream-of-consciousness riffs really challenge the listener to stay on his helium-powered psychic roller coaster and quickly connect the dots and associations of his mind-blowing/bending verbal excursions. And he would make a great Lord Buckley should a movie ever become a reality. Gene Hackman, John Goodman, Nick Nolte, Tommy Lee Jones, Peter Boyle, Anthony Hopkins, and Kevin Kline are others that have come to mind when the subject of who would/could play Buckley arises. I think in terms of the strengths these greats of the screen would bring to the role and each on each one of them, if given the opportunity, would be really intresting to see play with the man and his matter. Robin, as you noted, was a great interview. It's funny...when I was interviewing him I kept thinking to myself that he was giving me nothing shtick. Entertaining as hell but shtick nonetheless. However, when I came to transcribing the interview I realized just the opposite: here was a thoughtful, insightful lover of Lord Buckley with really salient (and funny) impressions of the many layers of Lord B. In re: the Buckley film: I have been developing a screenplay with Michael Monteleone, lordbuckley.com webmaster who has also been working on a fine video documentary of LB's life & art, for a number of years now. It's rendered as a road movie with flashbacks taking place in the last weeks of Buckley's life with visits to each primary epoch (the dance marathons, vaudeville, bebop & the beats) in his ever-lovin' passage on this plane and includes roles of Al Capone, Bird, and, most significantly, Ed Sullivan. Think "The Many Lives of Isadora" meets "My Favorite Year" to put in La-La Land pitch terms to give some idea of the aesthetic we were aiming at. Although witty and comic, I would describe it more as a tragic hero's journey rather than some zane-fest about a wild and crazy guy. Don't forget, Lord Buckley does die at the end. And, while on the subject of Buckley's death, allow me to briefly summarize. After Prohibiton, the NYPD instituted what became known as the cabaret card statutes as a means of keeping the mob out of the nightclub biz. The basic deal was this: if a nightclub employee had any kind of police record (even an arrest without a conviction), it could be used a means to deny he/she a cabaret card to work in the clubs. While well-intentioned, the laws eventually devolved into an institutionalized shake-down operation in which the vice squad could routinely line their wallets. Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holliday, and Buckley were the more well-known individuals to suffer at the hands of the law's vague provisions but most of the victims were nameless waiters, dishwashers, busboys, hat-check girls and the like. Buckley blew into NYC in October 1960 to begin a gig at the Jazz Gallery on St. Marks Place. While not a commercial smash, his act began to attract a following. But after a couple of weeks, the vice squad got wind of his police record (minor busts from nearly 20 years before) and used this to confiscate his card and deny him work. Doc Humes (who I mention earlier) was his manager and got a bit in his teeth over the problem. A seriosuly well-connected cat, Doc pressed the matter, pushed for public hearing re: the vice squad's shady m.o. This was major front page news at the time in all the city's dailies and even garnered a spread in Life mag after B's death. Anyway, at the height of the flap, Buckley died of what was alterntley reported as a heart attack, stroke, uremic poisoning or natural causes. But there are many other conflicting and bizarre stories about his last days. Some say he poisoned after a jewel heist or counterfeiting scheme went south, others say he was beat up by cops or black militants and died from internal injuries. Perhaps, as one friend suggested, "Lord Buckley was so heavy Jake, he just FELL off the planet." I dunno. Though I often tend towards conspiracy theory in my normal life (you gotta hear my 9/11 rant some time), I tend to think that there was no foul play directly linked to his death. There is eveidence that he suffered some kind of stroke in Chicago a few weeks before he got to NYC and when combined with the anxiety and stress of the cabaret card revocation and probable on-going police harrassment (and the fact that he was once again falling off the wagon while not being able to afford to pay for a proper diet) all resulted in his death on 11/12/60. Also don't forget that this was a guy who almost always seemed to have cigarette burnt down to a nub in his paws. The cabaret card laws were eventually rescinded, it appears, as a direct result of his circumstance. Really, it's all way more convoluted than that but I think gives some kind of accessible thum-nail graps of the matter. This is my bottom line re: the circumstances of Buckley's death. As a biographer I tried to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts. I truly wanted to get down to the bottom of "what REALLY happened." The storyteller in me, however, likes it left a little vague. It makes it all so much more...mythic.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 14 Jul 02 14:58
HBO is running a special tonight, Robin Williams Live on Broadway. It's on at 9PM. Live in New York, so I guess we Left Coasters will have to settle for delayed broadcast. Wonder if he will be including any of the material you mentioned, Oliver.
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Sun 14 Jul 02 20:16
I saw the ad on a bus stop billboard this afternoon on 7th Ave. but I don't get cable...56 channels and nothing on if you know what I mean. Perhaps he'll a nod to the Lord. It couldn't hurt.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 14 Jul 02 23:40
I watched and laughed myself senseless. What he did was all pretty topical, but this is my first intro to the Lord, so...I don't know.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 14 Jul 02 23:41
E-mail from Michael Monteleone: As Oliver mentioned, I'm working on a documentary film about Lord Buckley (titled "Too Hip For the Room".) One of our interviews for the film was with Robin Williams. It was a lovely session. He was very present and his great love and respect for His Lordship was much in evidence. Four or five times during the interview he dropped into a Buckley like voice and it was extraordinary. Williams is a very accomplished mimic and his ability to produce the timbre and rhythm's of Lord Buckley's speech really gave me goosebumps. The voice was hip, seductive, jazzy, almost overpowering and charged with a quality that was simultaneously elegant and hilarious. It gave me just a hint of what it must have been like to have been in the audience at one of Buckley's performances. There is something about being in a room with a powerful orator that really flips one's meter. So, long story short, if Lord Buckley goes Hollywood big time I vote for Robin Williams. Second choice: John Cleese (he's tall, he's got great vocal range, and he's got the same energy as Lord Buckley.) thanks, Michael Monteleone
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Sun 14 Jul 02 23:55
Thinking and talking and writing about Lord Buckley has also caused me to think about free spirits, free thinkers, and artists. The mark of a true, no-shit, original is someone who synthesizes myriad -- often disparate -- influences with a strong personality. The problem with most humans is they think in boxes. The entertainment industry thinks in boxes. To make up an example, a common phrase heard out here in Hollywood is "We need a Janeane Garofalo type. Get me a Janeane Garofalo type." Well, why not get Janeane Garofalo? The LA Weekly, who I write for, recently ran a tri-section cover story piece about the lack of originality in rock criticism. One section profiled Richard Meltzer, another Paul Williams, as examples of rock scribes who by breaking rules created singular forms of practicing music criticism. For those who are unfamiliar, both Meltzer and Williams, while completely different types, are both early maverick rock critics. Both have also gone beyond music and written fiction, poetry, etc. But I found it galling that the Weekly was bemoaning the lack of originality in music critcism when I've never seen Meltzer's or Williams' by-line in that newspaper. I've lost count how many times I've been told to "tone it down" in The Weekly (not usually the music dept.) because I was being too weird for the delicate sensibilities of the bourgeois readership. "What does this have to do with Lord Buckley?", you may ask. "How the fuck do I know?", I answer. All I know is that the real genii don't do what everybody else does and that's what seperates the golden wheat from the everyday chaff. Lord Buckley is Lord Buckley and not Joey Bishop because there's only one Lord Buckley and there's thousands of third-rate joke tellers working comedy clubs or Vegas. Lenny Bruce used to say, "I'm not a comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce." "Comedy" is a box, and Lenny was more than a walking joke book and so was His Lordship. The lesson we learn from Lord Buckley is when you find a rule in whatever art form you're working in, either ignore it or smash it into smithereens. If someone says "You can't do that", the answer is "No, YOU can't do that, I can do whatever I want." Most of the time, however, true originals are simply INCAPABLE OF BEING TRITE. The road will certainly be rockier if you ignore the rules, but a real artist gets used to the bumps. Sometimes it kills them young like Buckley or Bruce. And it's very sad. But thank you Lord Buckley. Thank you Lenny Bruce. Thank you Jim Morrison. Thank you Jerry Garcia. Thank you Maya Deren. Thank you John Coltrane. Thank you Diane Varsi. Thank you [insert name of favorite maverick]. Any thoughts, Oliver?
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 15 Jul 02 03:49
To Michael M: I'm sure you'll agree that our main day, king-sized buddycat Tom Calagna is not only an A-list Buckley channeler, but can take you one a verbal journey off-stage that would rival Svengali. If Lord Buckley goes Indy Film small-time, I vote for Tom. To Michael S: Perhaps when they say "I want a Janeane Garofalo type" it's because they want someone cheaper or because they fear that the audience won't be able to see the character through the actor. That's probably the only reason why, if I was producing a Buckley film, I might shy away from Robin W as Lord B: that he's too close to the genre of stand-up himself to make to leap believable. And it may be why Robin might himself shy away from the role, that it wouldn't be considered enough of a stretch or that he was falling into the trap Billy Crystal or Richard Pryor did when they made films of their roots: "Mr. Saturday Night" and "This Is Your Life, Jo Jo Dancer." And yes, Lord B could never be put into a box. Really, I hardly ever even describe him as a comic. More like visionary storyteller. I think using the word "comic" sets up certain expectations that are just not there. Describe him as a comic and the uninitiated is waiting for the punchline that never comes. I think of almost like quantum physics where if you set up an experiment to find the wave, you'll find the wave. If you set up the experiment to find the particle you'll find the particle. With Buckley, if you listen for the comic you will hear it. But if you listen for the sage philopsopher you will hear the sage philosopher. If you listen for the post-modernist storytelley you'll hear that. If you listen for the holy fool jazzster goofball, you'll hear that. Me? I can usually hear them all simultaneously but that took years of work. Perhaps "Meta-comic" works best. And yeah, guys like him often do die young but others, like Moondog or Sun Ra, managed to make it last. The world can be a dangerous place for those who step off the grid. And while we're at it, thank you Bird! Thank you Clifford Brown! Thank you Eric Dolphy! Thank you Hart Crane! Thank you Richard Farina!
Daniel (dfowlkes) Mon 15 Jul 02 06:52
<scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
Andrew Alden (alden) Mon 15 Jul 02 10:56
I would never call Lord Buckley a comic. He was a living freedom jazz dance.
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 15 Jul 02 11:20
Beautiful thought, dear prince. How about cosmic folkster?
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 15 Jul 02 13:00
The enthusiastic listener to NPR that I heard quoted on Morning Edition this morning enthusing about your book and its subject, set me to looking for the story about your book that was done on July 1, 2002. I just discovered that it's available online at NPR, but because it's audio, I can't give you the exact URL. Just go to www.nrp.org and do a search for Lord Buckley and it comes right up.
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 15 Jul 02 17:28
E-mail from Wayne McGinnis: Oliver, The fabulous & legendary- in- his- own- right jazz musician Bob Dorough is still around & at least once gigged with The Lord in L.A., I believe. Do you know anything about their relationship [I see Bob is not in the Index to your truly momentous book (!), however]? If not, would you like to know the little tid-bit I think--think--I can supply? As Michael Monteleone says, Yours in the Lord, Wayne McGinnis
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 15 Jul 02 18:50
The name Bob Dorough is familiar but I can't remember if I ever tried to track it down. So, Wayne, lay it on us right and tight from the alleys and the valleys, on the plains and the mesas with your little bit o' tid. If you're uncomfortable about floating it for public consumption, feel free to email me private-like. Also, any of your own impressions of Lord B are most welcome. Like Bird said, "Now's The Time."
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Mon 15 Jul 02 23:32
In addition to a hipster resume the size of a telephone book, Bob Dorough produced "Good Taste Is Timeless", the 1971 album by super-freaky psychedelic folkies the Holy Modal Rounders, whom I just scribed a tribute to in the forthcoming issue of Crawdaddy magazine. Six degrees of seperation and further proof of my maxim that "There are only eleven truly hip people on the planet at any given time." I was pondering ways to push this cyberchat into different realms. Howzabout we get a psychic online and see if we can get His Lordship hisself in on the gumflapping? If there is a heaven, it'd be interesting to know which historical figures Buckley is hanging with. Oliver, what's the scenario in your imagination? Buckley and funny guy Jonathan Swift and that troublemaker Galileo and of course the libertine De Sade whom His Lordship riffed on. And the dames! If there is a heaven and it's as heavenly as its name suggests, he must be one happy hipster.
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Tue 16 Jul 02 03:15
I know a guy who channels Buckley. Let me email him and see if he can do it online? Lord Buckley in Heaven? What a thought. Personally, I think he's still in Limbo. "Hey! Bring that boat ovah here! This River Styx don't seem so sticky! C'mon Lord, let's knock those little ol' TRANS-gressions off the rap sheets and let me slide on by. Why I can see Cleopatra and Clara Bow just ovah there peelin' me my grapes for lunch. Oooooo-weeee I can taste 'em now. Whatta ya say? Can I cross the river today? Damn man, you sure is one hard-to-pleasy soily cat."
Gerry Feeney (gerry) Tue 16 Jul 02 19:34
Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Tue 16 Jul 02 21:00
I'm sorry to quote Terence McKenna again in a forum reserved for Lord Buckley, but as different as they were, they also swung in the same infinite universe -- which we all do but very few are aware of it. In an essay entitled "Psychedelic Society", Terence wrote: A psychedelic society would abandon belief systems for direct experience...We must transcend the historical moment and become exemplars of humanity at the End of Time." It seems to me that His Lordship had arrived at a similar conclusion. He existed in past, present and future simultaneously. Past by his fascination and usage of history and literature, Present in that he lived -- like any hipster -- in the moment, and the Future in that he was a prototype for The Ultimate Human, beyond ideology and square convention. So Buckley -- again like all great hipsters -- serves as a model. If more people aspired to transcend normalcy, roadblocks to bliss such as religious war (to use a common topical example) would be less frequent for so would organized religion. As I stated in an earlier post -- Buckley's lesson is "think for yourself". Has it occurred to you, Oliver, that your mission in spreading the Gospel of Lord Buckley has weighty potentialities?
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 16 Jul 02 22:53
In hidden response #47, <gerry> asks that explain the steps I took to find the story about Oliver's book that was broadcast on Morning Edition. So, here goes: I went to www.npr.org. At the very top of the page is a box that says Enter Keywords, and to the right of that box is a button that says "search." I entered "Lord Buckley" without the quotes in that box, and clicked Search, which resulted in three links. The first two appear to be identical, and are links to the audio broadcast of July 1, 2002 of Morning Edition, which is presumably when the story aired. The third is to a page about a show called Jazz Set, which says that on August 22, it will broadcast: "Kurt Elling in Washington With the three-horn section from his CD Flirting With Twilight, Kurt Elling sings his own tunes, as well as those of Stephen Sondheim, Lord Buckley, and Jon Hendricks. Pianist Laurence Hobgood is the musical director. From the Louis Armstrong Legacy Concerts at the Kennedy Center. (Written and produced by Mark Schramm)."
Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Wed 17 Jul 02 04:06
I can go a few ways with this. Sure, the gonzo existentalist in me yearns for a more in-the-moment, spontaneous, creative life of potential and revelation. I've even lived that life for brief stretches back when I was living with Doc Humes or hitchiking and hopping freight trains to Alaska or New Foundland and back or when I got on the bus with the Grateful Dead traveling to shows far and wide. But then reality in the form of survivng and you know, like getting a job, kicked in. It seems like that employment is about the surest way to asccomplish the task of feeding and sheltering oneself. It occurs to me that the psychdelic society McKenna speaks of, while well-intentioned, has been used by a cop-out by others. Isn't it kind of cop-out rap for the semi-privileged? Most people (myself included) are way too busy just swinging some Muscatel on table or slapping a patch on junior's pants to really consider this utopian path too seriously. Not to sound too square, but those I know who still tread the tail of that tiger seem kind of lame, not only forever spinning their wheels in a quest for instant karmic bliss, but letting down the people who love them in as well. And you know something, despite Buckley's artistic accomplishments and unusual life, the path he chose to walk was a dangerous one and probably hastened his premature death. And yes, while we can admire and romanticize the troubadour in him that spread the truth from town to town living by his wits in the pure flash of hipster moment, he also burned alot of people who were not pleased that he had run out on a hotel bill or worse. Again, as his biographer, I have to look at some his exploits with a janudiced eye. I guess some of my tude this morning comes from a kind of "chance<?>" meeting I had last night with Lee Hambro, a well-known pianist and educator (he toured with Victor Borge for many years and is a friend of a neighbor here in Brooklyn). While a friend and admirer of Buckley's, some of Lee's stories were not so pleasant, portraying a kind of maniacal, not-so-charming operator who didn't really give a shit where the chips fell. None of this was exactly new news and it brought back to me one of the reasons I got drawn into the Lord B vortex in first place...that there was a vital yin/yang mojo working itself out both in his life and art. That he could be, on some level, all the characters in his routines and carry all the impulses percolating in his material. For every Nazz there is a de Sade, for every Hip Gahn there is a murder, for every Gasser a Nero. And while all of this makes for a fasicinating and compelling biographical subject (and I think a good read), it doesn't exactly hold up as a paradigm of a virtuous life. Yet, for me, the light in Buckley's life and art and the possibilities for redemption and rethinking of how we actually do business as humans, still seems to mightily outweight his dark spots by some great measure. I was thinking about the synchronicities implied by T McKenna's work that we discussed earlier and how often that not only has long-factored into my worldview and experience but impacted my Lord B research journey as well. Needless to say, I made many connections with people and archival material in the most unusal ways. My favorite, and one that I tell quite often, concerns how maverick flutist Robert Dick wound up contributing to "Dig Infinity!" About seven years ago, I changed my daily cycle so that instead of writing after my son went to bed at nine and working till midnight or whenever (a real burnout!), I figured if I can't beat 'em, I'd join 'em. So I began crashing at nine and waking usually about 4am and working till 7 when the family rose. I always wanted to be an early early morning person anyway and it has proved to be a change that has resulted in greater focus and productivity over the years. Anyway, maybe the second or third day into the new regime, I was up and pecking away at the keyboard, listening to the radio (the probably soon-to-be-lost WKCR Columbia U station) and enjoying the light of a spring morning washing into my home office. A beautiful, exotic piece of music came spilling forth from the speakers and I made a point to catch the title and artist's name when it was finished. When it did, the DJ announced that it was "Robert Dick and his composition 'A Black Lake With a Blue Boat.'" "A Black Lake With a Blue Boat"....I kept repeating ot myself, "A Black Lake With a Blue Boat"...I knew I knew that phrase from somewhere but where? Suddenly it occured to me: "THAT'S BUCKLEY!!" And it was. A line from his "Bad-Rapping of the Marquis de Sade." So I call the radio station, get all the info, the name of record company etc. Later that day I write a letter to Dick caro of the record company. Weeks go by, a couple of months...then, one day, out of the wild blue yonder, I get a three-page fax from Dick explaining his fasicing with Lord B and describing a cycle of Buckley related/inspired pieces he'd composed. Turned out he was a huge baseball fan as well so we became friends and hang out when he visits NYC...saw David Welles strike out 17 Oakland A's (incl. Mark Maguire in last game as as Atheltic) one afternoon back in '97. I hooked him with Michael Montelone who worked up a website for him and even shot an instructional flute video with him. So, out of this "chance<?>" radio experience many years ago, a whole vein of connectivity developed. Like "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" sez: "Synchronicity Spoken Here." Really, I got a million of 'em....
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