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inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #0 of 103: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Jul 99 15:26
    

Let's welcome KATHI KAMEN GOLDMARK, Literary escort and record producer, to
the Inkwell!

She will be interviewed by Mary Mackey, a renowned author and poet who
herself was recently the subject of an interview here.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #1 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Sat 24 Jul 99 18:46
    
Hi there! 
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #2 of 103: John Henry, the (steeldrv) Sat 24 Jul 99 20:30
    
Well, hi!
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #3 of 103: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 25 Jul 99 00:26
    

Hello and welcome. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing
Kathi Kamen Goldmark. Kathi, as you'll soon see, is a woman of
many talents. She's funny; she's witty; she's kind-hearted; she's
outrageous; and she can sing. She's one of the most sought-after
author escorts in the country; she plays the guitar, hosts a
monthly jam at a San Francisco night club, and is perhaps most
famous for founding the all-author garage band The Rock Bottom
Remainders (also known as the worst band that Bruce Springsteen
ever sat in with). Kathi is the woman who persuaded Norman Mailer
he could sing, and we're going to be talking a lot about her new
CD "Stranger Than Fiction;" but before we do, I want to get the
ball rolling by asking her to fill us in on what she did before
she transformed Amy Tan and Stephen King into rock stars.

Kathi, your bio says that you got an M.A. in Drama and Education
and then went on to work as a "costume shop manager, family
planning educator, media consultant to the government of Mexico,
retail clerk, and very bad waitress."

I understand that you showed up at the San Francisco Books By The
Bay Festival last week wearing a wig that made you resemble Marge
Simpson. Could you please tell us a little about your job in the
costume shop, and the role costumes have played in your life?
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #4 of 103: (my|pi)thical (satyr) Sun 25 Jul 99 09:39
    
http://www.fox.com/simpsons/images/marge.gif
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #5 of 103: David Gans (tnf) Sun 25 Jul 99 10:18
    
I want to hear about Kathi's Leopard-print guitar!
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #6 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 25 Jul 99 13:21
    
Hi, Mary!  Recently, my mother found my kindergarten report card, which
says something along the lines of: "Kathi enjoys making clever costumes
out of scarves and other every-day objects" so I guess I've always enjoyed
the idea of dress-up and costume.  I think on a deeper level, a costume
can be transformational.  People don't say "What are you going to dress up
as for Halloween?" but "What are you going to be for Halloween?"  I don't
think that usage is an accident.  

In the Remainders, Amy Tan literally transforms herself from famous
novelist  to trashy rock singer with a wig and costume.  She claims she
can't do the role without the costume.  And I have always felt that
dressing up -one way or another- for performing is important.  

As for the wig at the Book festival...I find Amy is right about a costume
and wig helping with character.  I was performing as "Auntie Poo" the lead
singer on our Potty Animal CD... Auntie Poo is way more glamorous in a
cartoony sort of way, than I am.  (Think Cinderalla's stepsisters if they
were nice people...)  So the wig helps me "become" the character of Auntie
Poo in a way I can't really ezplain.  When I worked at the Footlight Shop
running the costume department, I noticed over and over again how people's
physical demeanor changed when they tried on costumes.  A businessman
becoming a dancing tomato, for example, can be a breathtaking experience.

As for the guitar...well I guess the musical world is divided into those
of us who sit and practice our instruments and those of us who dress them
up in little outfits.  You can guess which side I'm on, there.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #7 of 103: Libbi Lepow (paris) Sun 25 Jul 99 13:47
    

Waiting to hear more!
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #8 of 103: Reva Basch (reva) Sun 25 Jul 99 15:02
    
Me too. So glad you were able to join us, Kathi.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #9 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 25 Jul 99 15:54
    
I'm actually kind of curious about other people's experiences with
costumes and transformation.  The first time I ever met (peoples), long
before she WAS (peoples), was at a costume party where my boyfriend and I
went in drag.  He had a wonderful time flouncing and flirting.  I felt
uptight and futsy in my 3-piece suit and itchy mustache. (peoples), by the
way, was stunning as Scarlett O'Hara...but anyway...

the wonderful thing about costumes is that they provide a way of being
someone else for a few hours without having to change anything
permanently.  You can see how it might feel to - oh, I don't know - have a
different hairstyle or something.  The funny thing is that I will start
changing my behavior to match the costume, without even realizing this.
Does this happen to you too?
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #10 of 103: canonical didactic bananahead (peoples) Sun 25 Jul 99 17:49
    
> The first time I ever met (peoples), long
> before she WAS (peoples), was at a costume party where my boyfriend and I
> went in drag.

I love it that people still talk about those Halloween parties I used to
throw nearly 25 years ago. Whee!

I totally agree about costumes and personality shifts. There's something
wonderfully seductive about being able to "become" somebody/something
entirely different from one's everyday self just by donning the symbols of
that other entity. 
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #11 of 103: Steven Solomon (ssol) Mon 26 Jul 99 07:02
    
Halloween... the one night of the year when everybody taks off their
mask!
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #12 of 103: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 26 Jul 99 12:45
    

One of the most enjoyable times I ever had was the time Kathi
persuaded me to impersonate Janis Joplin. I wore a feather boa and
drank "Southern Comfort" (actually cold tea) and sang "Mercedes
Benz" to an audience that I later discovered included a member of
Big Brother and the Holding Company. So, Kathi, I have to say that
your costumes have been a yellow brick road into fantasy for a
lot of tone-deaf writers.

One of the things I've always loved about you is the fertility of
your imagination. How about telling us something about the very
unusual way you handled your job as a family planning educator.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #13 of 103: Linda Dyer (lin) Mon 26 Jul 99 13:36
    

yes, yes, stories!

[kathi has a way of talking people into things they would never do, but
things which are not somehow at odds w/ one's inner personality.  for
instance, last halloween, i showed up at Paradise Lounge as a nun, costume
and finishing touches by kathi.  it was...uh...a little different than the
dreamy, naive fantasies i had in catechism.]
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #14 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 26 Jul 99 14:45
    
But they are still talking about "Sister Linda" at the paradise lounge...

The family planning thing happened in a weird way.  Right after college, I
was teaching in a small private school in LA...also getting a masters
degree and living with one of the original members of Steely Dan.  (I
should note that I wasn't allowed to teach academic subjects.  I think
even in the freewheeling atmosphere of a Summerhill/Rogerian based
progressive school, they only trusted me with "fun" stuff...my classes
were folksinging and drama.  We put on elaborate musicals and less
elaborate original skits. And the folksinging class's main task was
writing an original song for each child on his or her 13th birthday.)
Because of the Steely Dan connection and the fantasy that I could procure
tickets for any show though, I guess I was invested with a little rock &
roll glamour by the kids, and considered a "popular" teacher.  Which is
why Phyllis Fleishman (the schools' founder and director) thrust a book
in my hands one day and said, "Here.  You're teaching sex ed.  Read this."
That was the full extent of my sex education training.

I started a couple of informal groups where everyone talked about
questions they had.  If I didn't know the answer, we looked it up
together.  Shortly after that, I was lured away from teaching by Phyllis'
stepson, Norman Fleishman who was director of the West Coast office of a
nonprofit agency called the Population Institute.  Based in DC, the
organization did all kinds of population and family planning education
projects. My job was to come up with something (this was in 1974 or so)
related to the rock & roll music industry "to raise awareness about teen
pregnancy" - and that was the full extent of the job description.

So once again, I was sort of catpulted into a job that no one else had,
and no one knew how to do.  My first official act was to award a
well-publicized gift certificate for a free vasectomy to Paul Anka for his
song "You're Having My Baby."  Then I got various rock star friends to
record public service radio spots urging teens to "Think about having a
child before you make a baby" and Norman and I together came up with an
annual Condom Couplet Contest (WAY before condoms were popular - this was
the 70's disco era remember, and before MTV started) to raise awareness
about young male responsibility.

The spots were aired on 800 rock stations eventually, and might have kept
exactly 3 teenagers from becoming pregnant.  But somewhere along the line
I was offered some grant money to go to Mexico and work with their
government health agencies as a family planning media consultant.  I spoke
no Spanish, and knew nothing about Mexico.  I was the worst possible
choice for this assignment.  But turn down an adventure like that?  No
way!  I recruited a Spanish speaking buddy with a family planning
education background (Angel Martinez) and together we made several trips
to Mexico City and talked to various people about various concepts for
media campaigns.  Meanwhile, I learned a little Spanish and started
recording the PSAs in Spanish as well as English for U.S. use.

We ended the Rock Project when Reagan's Title 10 cuts caused funding to
dry up for agencies that were providing direct services to teenagers - it
became more difficult to get funding and it didn't seem right to be
competing for the few dollars that were available, since we were sort of
second-tier (media education as opposed to direct service).  But I think
the best thing to come out of our project was a lighter, teen-friendlier
approach to media messages about the subject.  We were light-years ahead
of the standard public service communications to teens, at the time.  And
of course the condom thing was way ahead of its time too.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #15 of 103: Linda Dyer (lin) Mon 26 Jul 99 15:31
    

oh, how much do i love the vasectomy gift certificate for Paul Anka!

is your Angel Martinez the same one who is on NPR?
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #16 of 103: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 26 Jul 99 17:03
    

Great stories, Kathi. We'll skip the "really bad waitress" part
unless you have some great stories about dumping soup, and move
on to your current career: running a famous author-escort
service. How about telling us what that is (I suspect there are
people reading his who may not know) and how you got into it?

I'd like to know the up side and the down side. Along the way
you can tell us about your worst and best clients (without
mentioning any names, of course. I know you are fierce about
preserving their privacy).
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #17 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 26 Jul 99 18:34
    
I don't think "my" Angel martinez is on NPR, but he's full of surprises,
so perhaps.

In answer to Mary's question, a Literary Escort (or Media Escort) is kind
of like a babysitter for touring authors.  The way book tours work these
days, there is no one with the time to go out on the road with each and
every author tour.  Used to be the high priority authors toured with a
publicist, the mid-list authors were driven around by regional sales reps
in each city, and the lower-budget authors were left to fend for
themselves and get around in taxis or whatever.  I guess they were losing
too many interviews that way, and the reps and publicists got too busy as
the number of tours increased...anyway, about 20 years ago two women in
Cleveland (Emily Laisy and Sally Carpenter) started the Pro-Motion Media
Escort Service, and a new industry was born.  

I've been a Media Escort for over 15 years.  The first year, I think I
worked with 11 authors.  The last few years, we've had close to 500 a year
(usually for more than a day at a time).  I got into the business because
my mom (betty) on the well, went on a book tour and came back raving about
the escorts saying "They use their own cars and they all look so happy!"
I had wonderful media connections going back to my Rock Project days (we
did all our production at KSAN in San Francisco, under the auspices of
"Big Daddy" Tom Donohue) and that was crucial.

So, what a media escort does is greet the author at the airport and
shepherd him/her through whatever special torture the publicist has
arranged.  This can include book signing, radio/TV/Print interviews, a
reading at the Herbst Theater, the usual author events.  Or it can include
photo shoots in bizarre locations, food demos at Costco, tracking down
karaoke tracks so an author can sing an original song parody at a
bookstore, a tour of the City Morgue, or - you name it, just about
anything you can think of. I've gone antique shopping with Martha Stewart,
have driven over the Bay Bridge with an illustrious NY Times journalist on
the floor of my car (they never remember to tell you about phobias until
it's too late), sat in Jessica Mitford's kitchen with Maya Angelou,
attended the MOMA Founders dinner with the guest of honour (I had to
change into "black tie" in my car cause there was no time to go home),
hire a bodyguard to accompany a former white supremacist witha price on
his head, walked through the Mission with Edward James Olmos, lost Norman
Mailer in Chinatown, and talked about folk music with E.L. Doctorow.  

The thing about Media Escorting is it's kind of like getting paid for
being a codependent because you have to be very flexible, think on your
feet, and be totally there for the other person.  The hours can be
grueling, and like most "glamour jobs" the pay is low.  None of us do this
to get rich, believe me.  The sentimental part is the wonder of basically
having most of contemporary American literature (not to mention pop
culture) parading through my car.  For a book junkie, that part is
wonderful and the business has opened my life up in some remarkable ways.
The downside is dealing with the occasional psychopath author and an
ever-declining degree of professionalism in many of the publicity
departments at major publishing houses.

It's different for everyone, of course, but personally I'd rather deal
with a "difficult" author than a boring one.  Probably the hardest for me
these days are the first-timers.  There is a very human and understandable
tendancy to think the world is going to stop dead in its tracks for a
first book.  The palpable hopefulness and worry and disappointment and
lack of perspective can be exhausting for me, even though I completely
understand it.  Book tours are a combination of ego-fluffing and
simultaneous humiliation.  They pronounce your name wrong on live TV.
They ask stupid questions on live radio.  They schedule your big hometown
book store event during the superbowl, etc. etc.  The seasoned "literary
lions" approach a tour with more even-keeled perspective and
professionalism, and it's always great to see an old friend again, too.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #18 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 26 Jul 99 19:32
    
Quite a few of the Well-members who might be reading this have been on
book tours.  I'd welcome any insights they feel like sharing about the
whole process.  Also, I'm sure for every author-horror-story, there's a
media-escort-horror-story.  Don't be shy, now...
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #19 of 103: John Henry, the (steeldrv) Mon 26 Jul 99 19:43
    
>I've ... driven over the Bay Bridge with an illustrious 
>NY Times journalist on the floor of my car (they never 
>remember to tell you about phobias until it's too late)...

If only you weren't sworn to secrecy!
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #20 of 103: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 27 Jul 99 10:55
    

I've done several tours and in my experience the media escorts
are angels. Once in Seattle, I lost one of my favorite earrings.
My escort *insisted* on driving back to the radio station (after
she took me about 50 miles in the other direction) to get down
on her hands and knees and sift the rug. I've had no bad experiences
with my escorts. In fact, I suspect authors on the whole are more
difficult than their escorts. A difficult escort wouldn't last
very long. Famous authors, on the other hand, are supposed to be
big trouble. If they aren't (and most are quite pleasant) people
always seem to feel a bit cheated. As an Irish poet who doesn't
drink, I've had this experience on several occasions.

I'm sure other Well writers may want to pitch in with escort
stories. So go ahead folks. Have at it.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #21 of 103: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 27 Jul 99 19:33
    
But first, I want to hear more about this tidbit:

> I've gone antique shopping with Martha Stewart

Where? When? What did she buy? Did she give you any home decorating tips?
What was she like?
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #22 of 103: Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 27 Jul 99 22:29
    

I have the feeling Kathi's lips may be sealed about specifics, but
I'll let her speak for herself.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #23 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Tue 27 Jul 99 22:54
    

Honestly I don't remember much about the shopping part with martha
Stewart.  She bought a whole lot of stuff...beyond that my lips are indeed
sealed.

Today I may have met the nicest person EVER to go on a book tour - Richie
Havens!  Tomorrow (Wed. 7/28) he will sing, sign and tell stories at
Staceys in San Francisco at 12:30 PM.  GO THERE - IT WILL BE A REAL TREAT.
I knew I was gonna like him.  I knew we were gonna end up knowing a bunch
of the same old east coast folkies.  But when he said,

"Is that a KAZOO in your car?  My dad used to have an act where he played
the piano and had a bunch of guys doing the horn parts on kazoo cause he
couldn't ever afford a horn section!  I LOVE Kazoos!"...well, some of you
know that I do the same thing for the same reason, on my recordings.
We're talkin' magic moment, here, big-time.

He has a great attitude about touring, about music, politics, life and
even kazoos.  It doesn't really get any better, on my endless book tour.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #24 of 103: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 28 Jul 99 08:50
    

That brings me to my very next question, Kathi: how did you get
involved in music? Tell us about your first guitar, your first band,
some of the other bands you formed and gigs you played before
you founded Rockbottom Remainders.
  
inkwell.vue.41 : Kathi Kamen Goldmark
permalink #25 of 103: Moist Howlette (kkg) Wed 28 Jul 99 17:17
    
I guess I started guitar lessons when I was about 14.  I remember the
first song I learned was "Hang Down your Head Tom Dooley"  with a long
pause where you're supposed to change chords so it sounded like:

Hang down your head Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and                                      cry.
Hang down your head Tom Dooley
Poor boy your bound to                                       die.


Nothing remarkable about my playing but I sure loved figuring out chords
to songs I heard.  We moved right before 10th grade, and I decided that
going into a new school I could sort of reinvent myself.  Instead of being
the shy girl eveyone had known since kindergarten, I created a new
persona:  the exotic poet/folksinger.  This required a great deal more
guitar prowess than I actually possessed so I practiced like crazy.  To
this day, most of what I know about the guitar is stuff I learned between
the ages of 14 and 17.  In the new school (10th grade in 1964 for those of
you old enough to remember those times) there were performance
opportunities in the form of "Hootenannies" held in various high school
gyms (during the school year) and the local park in summertime.  I became
a regular Hootenanner as a solo guitar-vocal act, your garden variety Joan
Baez wannabe.

Once I hit college and realized I wasn't the only sweet-voiced folkie girl
in the world, I was intimidated into quitting playing for a while.  There
was a lot of other interesting stuff going on.  And I was never
comfortable as a solo performer but there weren't that many obvious band
options for girls in those days.  In retrospect, I should have learned
electric bass instead of guitar.  But in the mid-sixties I doubt anyone
would have wanted a girl bass player.  Also I had this mixed-up notion
that dating a musician was the same as being one, as stupid as that sounds
now.  So it wasn't until the 70's - after I'd had several years living the
"glamorous" LA life of living with the original drummer in Steely Dan -
that I picked up the guitar again and started a band.  

It was called "El Rancho Motel" (named after a classy joint we passed on
the way to our first gig at a biker bar in San Pedro, CA) and in some ways
it was the most familial band situation I've ever been in - very folkie
actually cause we didn't have a drummer.  We not only played gigs together
but rehearsed several nights a week, went out a lot to hear music and even
kind of moved to San Francisco together in 1976, where of course we almost
immediately broke up.  

After that I joined the Perpetual Garage Band, which became the Surgeons
of Sound, which became the Enchanters.  The Enchanters had real gigs at
places like the Stone and featured a wild-man Belushi-esque singer named
Billy Quiver.  It wasn't a very good band, but it was a lot of fun and we
made a single that got played a lot on KUSF.  I learned a whole lot about
performing in high volume situations, learning to use monitors and stuff
like that.

So - are you totally bored yet?
  

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