inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #0 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Thu 16 Jan 03 15:10
    


Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review tour barnstormed for a couple of months in
1975, playing concerts and shooting a movie in its spare time.  Dylan was
accompanied onstage and/or before the cameras by Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn,
Kinky Friedman, Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell, and others; Larry Sloman, who
acquired the sobriquet "Ratso" along the way, was in the thick of the action
when he wasn't being held at bay by a road manager.  "On the Road with Bob
Dylan" narrates the action and includes some striking conversations with key
players.  Rolling Stone magazine's David Wild called it "an all-access pass
to hang with the greatest singer-songwriter of our time.... a true gonzo rock
journalism classic and a revealing study of music's greatest genius/enigma."

Larry "Ratso" Sloman is best known as Howard Stern's collaborator on "Private
Parts" and "Miss America," and is also the author of the Abbie Hoffman
biography, "Steal This Dream."  Prior to that he wrote "Reefer Madness," a
social history of marijuana in America, and the best-selling "Thin Ice," an
account of one season in the life of the New York Rangers.  He has also
served as Executive Editor of National Lampoon and Editor-in-Chief of High
Times.  He lives in New York City.

Leading the converstaion is Michael Simmons, who recently cmpleted a tour of
inlwell duty as the intrlocutor of our chat with Paul Krassner.  Simmons is a
masthead contributor to the LA Weekly and High Times and has also scribed for
Rolling Stone, Penthouse, Crawdaddy, LA Reader, Clamor, The Progressive, and
others.  He won the Los Angeles Press Club Award in 1996 for Excellence in
Journalism for his LA Weekly expose of the Hollywood Vice Division of the Los
Angeles Police Department.  Simmons is currently authoring "Yippie! And The
Politics Of Hip" (University of New Mexico Press) and "The Future Is Now!:
The MC 5 and White Panthers" (Creation Books).  He's also optioned his life
rights and cannabis journalism to HBO and Goldie Hawn's production company,
who are making a docudrama about the controversy over medical marijuana.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #1 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Fri 17 Jan 03 11:00
    

Well, Mr. Simmons is late for the party, so I'm gonna start.

Larry, how exactly did you get the name "Ratso" on the tour?  And why havbe
you been wearing it like a platinum laminate ever since?
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #2 of 175: Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Fri 17 Jan 03 13:21
    
     Hello hello.  Sorry I'm late.  Password difficulties. 
     Ratso is actually in L.A., where I live, for the week.  We toyed
with the idea of sitting in the same room and doing the inkwell
interview.  Sort of both live and virtually live simultaneously (don't
ask me to explain, I just woke up).  But I only have one chair in my
pad and I refuse to let Ratboy sit on my lap.
      So Rats, The Great Gans asked you a question and we shall await
your reply.  
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #3 of 175: Dan Levy (danlevy) Fri 17 Jan 03 15:24
    

A corollary to David's question: when someone meets you on the street or
telephones you, do you actually prefer to be called Ratso, or is Larry just
fine?
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #4 of 175: Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Fri 17 Jan 03 16:11
    
Hello everybody

I'm off to a meeting where everyone will call me Ratso.  I got that
moniker from Joan Baez about midway through the tour.  I was covering
the tour for Rolling Stone magazine, enduring indignities from the tour
promoters, one of which was that I couldn't stay at the same hotel as
the musicians.  So I rolled my rented Granada into the parking lot of
THEIR hotel and saw Baez and a couple of the other people playing
volleyball.  Baez came up to the car, fingered my greasy, stringy hair
(sometimes you miss a shower on the road) and she said, Hey, it's
Ratso.  "You calling me Ratso because I remind you of Dustin Hoffman" I
innocently asked.  "No, because you remind me of Ratso Rizzo" she
replied.  Ratso of course, was the character Hoffman played in Midnight
Cowboy.  I was probably somewhere in between Hoffman and Rizzo but
sensing that being Ratso would give me an identity and maybe some
sympathy I became Ratso.  IN the book, when she calls me Ratso the
narrative shifts from first to third person and Ratso takes on a life
of his own.  After the tour, I made up Ratso t-shirts and I've been
Ratso ever since.  It's come full circle because Ratso is now a
fictional character again, the Dr. Watson character in the Kinky
Friedman mystery novel series.  So that's the story of Ratso, a man the
authorities came to blame.  See y'all later, after my meetings.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #5 of 175: an oceanic sofa of bliss (sd) Fri 17 Jan 03 18:05
    
we love kinky at my house
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #6 of 175: Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Fri 17 Jan 03 18:18
    
      Among the many impressive qualities of "On The Road With BD", is
that it's the closest any journalist has come to capturing a sense of
Dylan as a human being and not an icon.  I realize this is a rather
broad question, but what IS Dylan like as person?  Sense of humor? 
View of stardom?  Kind?  Mean spirited?  All of the above? 
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #7 of 175: Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Fri 17 Jan 03 21:07
    
Hard to answer that.  I've known him now for over twenty five years
and I've worked with him on a few other projects after the RTR tour so
I can only relate my own experiences with him.  The first quality that
strikes me about him is his amazing mind - a mind that doesn't
necessarily traverse the same roads that most mortals do.  You could be
having a conversation with him and one second he might say something
that might strike you as naive and then the next sentence he says
something thats so profound it blows you away.  He's incredibly well
read and knowledgable about a vast array of things that you wouldn't
necessarily expect him to know about.  The only other person who ever
had that breadth of knowledge that I've come across was Michael
Bloomfield and that was because Bloomfield was a stone insomniac and
consequently he had read about 80% of the all the books ever published.
 But back to Bob.  He's got one of the greatest senses (?) of humor
I've ever come across - really droll, intelligent wit.  He's tremendous
fun to be around -- part of the fun is seeing him deal with being Bob
Dylan and seeing how most people are reduced to blobs of protoplasm
when they recognize him.  ON the Rolling Thunder Revue he was nothing
but supportive to me, and when Louie Kemp and Imhoff devised more and
more devious pranks to fuck with me, Bob put a kibosh on them.  I know
that Bloomfield relates a different Bob in my book, one seemingly
imprisoned by his fame, stuck in some character armor but I never saw
that.  I just saw a guy with an amazing gift who continually shares it
which makes him a great human being in my book. 
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #8 of 175: Michael Simmons (michaelsimmons) Fri 17 Jan 03 22:24
    
     Yes, but is he as well-read as Wild Man Fisher? [Rats, Melrose
Larry Green and I spent An Evening With Wild Man Fisher -- same title
as his first album -- this past Monday night.  The experience was like
being inside a Bob Dylan song.  Talk about your Mystery Tramp...]
     You received unbelievable tsuris from Kemp and Imhoff, Dylan's
management at the time.  They were sadistic bullies.  While Dylan, the
musicians and most of the crew were cool, some of Kemp/Imhoff's
bullshit trickled down.  Yet when the tour was over, you took Dylan's
advice, and wrote it all down, producing the finest account ever of a
band on the run -- one fronted by Bob Fucking Dylan.  Has anyone ever
apologized for the shitty way you were treated?
      From both personal experience and stories whispered in dark
corners, I've realized that some -- not most -- but some of the
Grateful Dead's inner sanctum can also be unnecessarily officious,
cruel, condescending, power-tripping bastards.  And its accepted.  I
mention this partly because many WELL participants are Deadheads and/or
connected with the GD.  You know me, I'm a utopian fool.  But us
lysergicized rock and roll hipdog boomers were supposed to have created
a sub-society without hierarchy, without bosses, without assholes
telling us when we could go to the bathroom.  It's always struck me as
particularly egregious when our own people act like fascists.  I've
heard contemporary anarchists in their teens and twenties tell me that
the hippie trip was on this very level, full of shit.  Did this occur
to you when you were on the road in the mid-70s?  That there was a
disconnect between countercultural values and countercultural
realities?    
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #9 of 175: Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Fri 17 Jan 03 23:20
    
There was a pecking order on that tour and, obviously, journalists
were at the very bottom.  Nevermind that Dylan had personally invited
me on the tour to begin with.  But in the minds of the promoters (I
guess I'm saying Imhoff and Kemp) the film crew were also marginalized
on the tour.  IT's no accident that I wound up commisserating with them
and ultimately working on the film as a general location/weirdo scout.
 But to answer your question, strangely enough, after the tour I
became very friendly with Louie Kemp.  He did apologize to me for some
of the "pranks" they pulled and we spend many hours together after
that, whenever I'd visit LA, reminiscing about the good old days,
eating some of his fabled smoked salmon.  I wasn't as close to Imhoff
but we stayed in touch after the tour.  He told me that my mistreatment
was typical rockstars on the road stuff and that I shouldn't have
taken it personally.  I think both of their attitudes changed
enormously after they saw my account of the tour in print.  Hey this
guy's not a crazed rock journalist, he's a respectable author.  Imhoff
died a few years ago but I got a call the other day from his widow who
was thrilled to learn that my book was back in print.  Go figure. As
for that disconnect between countercultural values and countercultural
realities, what else is new?    
 
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #10 of 175: Jack King (gjk) Sat 18 Jan 03 06:41
    

Re: 8

But how do you really feel?
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #11 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Sat 18 Jan 03 08:47
    

Of course they apologized to you after the fact.  That simulacrum of
generosity cost them nothing.


> when Louie Kemp and Imhoff devised more and more devious pranks to fuck
> with me, Bob put a kibosh on them

I was a music journalist for ten years, and I went on the road with lots of
bands.  And I have spent 20 years trying to deal with the Grateful Dead or-
ganization.

It is tempting to blame the proxies and surrogates and hold the artists
blameless, but I think the truth is that the heroes often know very well what
their buffers are doing in their name.

Uh,I'd better not get started here...
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #12 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Sat 18 Jan 03 08:55
    

I just loved this quote from Mike Bloomfield:

"Character armor.  It's to keep his sanity, to keep away the people who are
always wanting something from him.  But if a lot of people relate to you as
their concept of you, not your concept of you, you're gonna have to do some-
thing to keep those people from driving you crazy, but if that is so strong
that you can't realize who is trying to fuck with you and who just wants to
get along with the business, if you can't tell the difference, if's very dif-
ficult."
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #13 of 175: Dennis Donley (dennisd) Sat 18 Jan 03 08:56
    

re:
>It is tempting to blame the proxies and surrogates and hold the artists
 blameless, but I think the truth is that the heroes often know very well
what
 their buffers are doing in their name.


I believe you're absolutely correct, David
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #14 of 175: Dennis Donley (dennisd) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:00
    

and the quote from Bloomfield is right on
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #15 of 175: Berliner (captward) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:06
    
Where's the Bloomer quote from, David?
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #16 of 175: oh me oh my, love that country pie (lava) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:07
    

Yes, but in the defense of the the  proxies and surrogates, the artists
need them to act as they do to maintain some sort of order, don't they?

How often do people in those positions satisfy both the artists and the
journalists? We're not talking about Barry Manilow here, after all.  :)

BTW - Welcome, Ratso.

The question that comes to my mind while reading the book is regarding the
volume of direct quotes. Did you record a lot of the situations on tape,
take great notes, or is it a photographic memory-type thing?
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #17 of 175: Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:15
    
I haven't read the book yet, so please bear with me. The mid-70s are
by far my favorite Dylan era -- where all his musical strands were
woven together. 

I'm curious about the differences between the two legs of the tour.
The first leg was reported to be "magical," where everything came
together, Dylan was in high spirits with his whiteface and crazy
flower-festooned hat and such, and band was tight and rocked out. The
second leg is seen as a mistake -- Dylan at a low point, wearing a
bandanna (Howard Sounes sees this metaphorically, as a psychic bandage)
and the shows didn't go well. Dylan insisted on playing lead, and
people complained it didn't sound good.

Now, I'm in something of a minority in that I really like the Hard
Rain album. Even before I knew the story of that show, I somehow knew
it was a rainy, cold day. Something in the music suggests it -- not
just the title. And the I really like raggedness of the music --
including Bob's clumsy leads. 

What can you tell us about all this? What's your take on the
differences between the two legs of the tour, and the differences in 
Dylan's attitude and persona on each leg?
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #18 of 175: "First you steal a bicycle...." (rik) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:16
    
Nick Gravenites once told me that Bloomfield realized that everytime he
signed a contract, he was agreeing to be INSPIRED at a given time and place.
The pressure was crippling.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #19 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:18
    

> Where's the Bloomer quote from, David?

Page 287 of the book.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #20 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:19
    

> the artists need them to act as they do to maintain some sort of order

I would say the artists need those interlocutors, but not necessarily to "act
as they do."  I have dealt with some nasty mofos who were clearly acting more
in their own interests than their bosses'.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #21 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Sat 18 Jan 03 09:21
    

> everytime he signed a contract, he was agreeing to be INSPIRED at a given
> time and place.

That's a bit romantic, don't you think?  You could just as easily (and
accurately) say that you're agreeing to be PROFESSIONAL at a given time and
place.  And very often, that's enough.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #22 of 175: "First you steal a bicycle...." (rik) Sat 18 Jan 03 10:16
    
You could say that.  But he couldn't.   He was Mike Fuckin Bloomfield, the
greatest white blues guitarist in the world.   And, since he didn't have th
resources we do (including all the cautionary tales), he couldn't take it.
I'm just repeating what Nick told me.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #23 of 175: "First you steal a bicycle...." (rik) Sat 18 Jan 03 10:24
    
I was reminded of this a few years ago watching that movie where Emily
Watson plays the classical cellist, Jacqueline DuPrez.  You hve these scenes
of her touring solo in the 60s, and sending her laundry home to her mother
in England.   She had no resources.  Didn't even know how to get laundry
done in Madrid.    She was barely out of her teens, touring the world solo,
and there was no body of knowlege on how to do it.  By the time I started
serious road work, in the early 70s, we had some role models to follow, and
some to avoid.    Elvis Presley pioneered being a rock star, and since
nobody had efver done it on that level before, he was on his own.   Curt
Cobain should have known better.  By that time we had a body count to point
to.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #24 of 175: David Gans (tnf) Sat 18 Jan 03 10:27
    
I hear ya.
  
inkwell.vue.173 : Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
permalink #25 of 175: Larry Ratso Sloman (ratsosloman) Sat 18 Jan 03 10:50
    
David,

I'm not absolving Dylan of any blame.  Just suggesting that when dirty
tricks started to escalate, he intervened and put a stop to it.  And
after my famous meltdown scene (see beginning of Renaldo and Clara) he
came through.
  

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