Sunday, April 3, 2022

Doris Day

Artist: Doris Day
LP: By the Light of the Silvery Moon [10" EP]
Song: "Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee"
[ listen ]
Song: "King Chanticleer"
[ listen ]

Happy 100th Birthday to Doris Day! If you're like me, you always hoped someone would lure Doris out of retirement (her last movie was released in 1968) to star in one last comedy...or maybe even to star in one of those horror movies featuring a formerly-super-famous actress! (I bet Doris was good with an axe well into her 70s and 80s.) Anyway, it seems appropriate that Doris and her centennial birthday have brought me out of retirement here on the blog. 

This year I revived my tradition of bringing a Doris Day birthday cake to work...but now, working at USPS with 40 or 50 colleagues, I had to supply a much larger cake than I've ever had to before. Sadly, of those 40 or 50 at work, only about 5 of them had ever even HEARD of Doris Day before, with one colleague actually even able to reference something about not eating the daisies. But if someone has to drag these youngsters, many of them raised outside the USA, kicking and screaming into mid-20th-century America, then I'm happy to be assigned the role. 

In addition to the Doris Day shrine in the break-room, the cake was accompanied by a Doris Day playlist I'd put together on my phone the night before. I couldn't figure out how to photograph my phone with the playlist on the table by the cake, since I also needed my phone to take the photos. (I bet somebody younger and more tech-savvy could've shown me how to do it.) Anyway, in spite of nobody having heard of her, and in spite of somebody pausing my Doris Day playlist every time I left the break-room, the cake was a hit with the USPS crew and it was gone by the end of the day!

[ Doris Day: April 3, 1922 — May 13, 2019 ]

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Salvador Esuedero y su Rumba Flamenca

Artist: Salvador Escudero y su Rumba Flamenca
LP: Salvador Escudero y su Rumba Flamenca
Song: "Historia De Amor"
[ listen ]

I hadn't finished posting the stuff I found at record stores in Minnesota, and now I've been to record stores in Arizona too! This 1972 flamenco pop record is one of the neat things I found at Zia Record Exchange in Tucson. I didn't have Zia on my Arizona list initially, but the clerk at the Downtown Clifton Hotel recommended it when he found out I wanted to buy some vinyl. I'm glad he did, since Zia is one of those old-school '80s-looking music stores packed to the gills with used vinyl, CDs, and DVDs. The more boutique-like stores in Tucson had some terrific stuff (which I'll hopefully be posting soon), but when it comes to a huge used Latin section of vintage vinyl, Zia is where I really struck the gold.

Unfortunately, there's no info about Salvador Escudero on the Internet...unless his side gig was as the Minister of Food and Agriculture in The Philippines from 1984 to 1986. But if you've ever wondered what the theme to "Love Story" would sound like with a flamenco twist, then this particular Mr. Escudero is certainly your guy.

[ Zia Record Exchange — Tucson, Arizona ]

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Donna Summer

Artist: Donna Summer
LP: 12" single
Song: "State of Independence"
[ listen ]

Yesterday at work as we were loading up our mail trucks in the garage, we were trying to think of 4th of July songs we could sing while we worked. We couldn't really think of any. "State of Independence" by Donna Summer was the only one I could come up with. (Well, I actually thought of this one too, but I didn't mention it, since the last thing I wanted to hear anytime before noon was one of my USPS colleagues trying to sing it.) Of course nobody knew what I was talking about when I suggested the Donna Summer song, and I couldn't offer much help, since the only lyrics I could recall and present in their proper sequence were: "This state of independence shall be—This state of independence shall be!" But now I've got the lyric sheet, so I'll be better prepared for next year.

Written by Jon & Vangelis and produced by Quincy Jones, the 7" version of "State of Independence" went to #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1982. The song would definitely make it into my own top 40 list of best songs of the 1980s. And take a look at the roster of famous voices supporting Ms. Summer in that all-star choir!

[ Donna Summer
: December 31, 1948 — May 17, 2012 ]

Thursday, July 1, 2021


Overheard when: 9:26am on Thursday, July 1, 2021
Overheard where: At the table next to mine at The Egg & Us Café (4609 46th Ave. NW, #108) in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA [map]
Overheard who: The female half of a youngish straight Christian couple (mid-to-late 20s? She: non-Caucasian with shoulder-length black hair; he: Caucasian, blonde and balding) who were working through a recent rough patch in their relationship over breakfast. She admitted having been overly sensitive; he conceded that he had been too analytical. After resolving their issues, she mused aloud:
Overheard what: 
"There's a reason that God brought a man and a woman together."

Thursday, June 24, 2021


Artist: Quartz
LP: Camel In the City
Song: "Camel In the City"
[ listen ]

The next record shop I went to in Minnesota (my 4th) was Electric Fetus in Minneapolis, a place that has evidently been around since 1968. (Electric Fetus, I mean. Minneapolis has been around even longer.) Why, that's even before I was born! One of the neat things I found at Electric Fetus is this 1979 LP from a French disco-synth outfit called Quartz. I'd try to glean more information from the worldwide web about Quartz, but I keep falling asleep while I'm typing. Good night.

[ Electric Fetus — Minneapolis, Minnesota ]

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Watercolors (2008)

WATERCOLORS — ...Or, Pee-Wee's OTHER Big Adventure

Director: David Oliveras

Writer: David Oliveras

Music: Marcelo Cesena, Dorian Rimsin

Actors: Tye Olson, Kyle Clare, Ellie Araiza, Casey Kramer, Ian Rhodes, Greg Louganis, Karen Black

Run Time: 114 mins | Country: USA | Release Date: November 15, 2009 (in Germany)

Best Uses: I can't really think of a good use for this one. Maybe a 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' session with drunken friends?

* * * * * * *

In the 1990s I'd go see every LGBTQ-themed movie that opened at the cinemas. I was interested in what sorts of gay-themed movies were being made, and discovered filmmakers like Gregg Araki, Patricia Rozema, and François Ozon that were doing really interesting work. As the years wore on, the Seattle theaters that used to show independent LGBTQ cinema (Broadway Market and The Harvard Exit, mainly) lowered their final curtains, so now I occasionally pick up an LGBTQ film from Scarecrow Video to watch on DVD. Most of these films, sadly, are not very good...but every now and then you find a gem. WATERCOLORS is not one of those gems.

If you're reading this, which you probably aren't...and if you care, which you probably don't...there are going to be "spoilers" in my if the writer/director and whoever came up with the music haven't spoiled the film already. 

Here's a quick outline of the plot: The film begins at an art gallery's one of those indie-movie gallery scenes that just doesn't feel quite right, even though people are standing in the background holding wine glasses and talking without any sound coming out, like they're supposed to. Anyway, we meet the handsome gay artist whose work is on display, which is supposedly everything he has ever wanted. Yet still he sulks. Why? We flash back in time to find out. 

In an awkward, far-fetched set-up, Danny (Ty Olson), the gay artist-nerd at the local high school, suddenly gets Carter (Karl Clare), a troubled and angry teen-aged jock-swimmer with pouty lips and Maddie Hayes hair, plopped into his bedroom when Carter's dad goes out of town on business. (Carter's dad met Danny's mom at an AA meeting.) The hot jock-swimmer initially taunts the gay nerd, but soon there develops a secret affair. The gay artist nerd has finally found the meaning of life, but the hot swimmer falls apart (suffering, it would seem, from a total eclipse of the heart. Plus drugs.) Hot swimmer ultimately rejects gay nerd after one night of "passionate sex" by candle-light...and by rain-storm; gay nerd gets beaten up by school bullies; hot swimmer dies; gay nerd lives on, forever tormented, and has an art show. 

When we flash forward again to the grown-up Danny (played in present-day scenes by Ian Rhodes) at home after the art show, his hunky new boyfriend, in tacky black satin shorts, declares that it's time for Danny to get over the the dead swimmer from high school. So Danny does, and then he paints on his new lover's naked chest (waxed, I bet) with...WATERCOLORS.

So right from the get-go, in the gallery scene, the dialogue in this film made my face go like: 😬 We see the artist sulking, and then his hunky-but-not-very-interesting boyfriend says something like, "What the fuck is wrong with you? Isn't this everything you've ever wanted? (He motions to the exhibit all around them.) You need to fucking pull yourself together and be professional," or something like that. (The F-word is peppered needlessly throughout the script...usually what writers resort to when intelligent, realistic dialogue eludes them.) 

The problems with this film are many, so it's hard to choose where to begin. Let's start with Danny and Carter and their relationship. Regrettably, Tye Olson plays Danny, the nerd, with just a touch of Pee-Wee Herman. You imagine that his slacks are pulled right up beneath his armpits. It's hard to think of him as a sexual person. Olson, admittedly, gives his Danny everything he's got as an actor, pulling out all the stops in the scenes of suffering, when he's wailing from the agony of a broken heart. But audiences may suspect, as I did, that these scenes provide cathartic opportunities for Olson to vent the pent-up anguish he's feeling over having gotten himself mixed up with this movie to begin with. Danny's scenes with his understanding mother (played by Casey Kramer) are the film's best, as Kramer is the only one on screen that moves and behaves in a natural, realistic way. Her performance is refreshing.

[ Danny, with Carter's hair ]

The relationship between Carter and Danny is shallow and silly. The audience is first introduced to Carter from behind as he...what. Weeps? Concentrates? Awaits? beneath the steady stream of water from the locker room showers. At this point, with his glistening buns so carefully and delicately lit, we've seen just about everything Carter has to offer in his relationship with Danny and, indeed, just about all he has to offer any of us who are watching this film. 

[ Carter's introduction ]

Swimming in pools is a recurring theme here, so we've got to endure the obligatory flirtatiously-splashing-each-other-in-the-pool scene. (Did the filmmakers not once think, "You know, that's been done SO many times before...maybe we actually SHOULDN'T do that") There's also a late-night skinny-dipping scene, of course. 

And then there's the way-over-the-top—like, cow-jumped-over-the-moon—centerpiece lovemaking scene. First of all, the "tender music" is slathered all over it like butter frosting on a cake. The scene may as well have been set to Handel's "Messiah." There's lots of touching going on here and, admittedly, some stellar views of Carter's glistening derrière, but when Danny later confesses to his mother that he and Carter had sex, she asks, "Was it safe?" and I couldn't help but supply my own dialogue: "Oh, yes, mother! We didn't even see each others' penises!" 

Have I mentioned that the love scene takes place in a Danny's bedroom? This of course makes no sense and only distracts from the scene by raising a host of puzzling questions: How do those candles stay lit in all that rain? Is Danny's alarm-clock waterproof? Was the boys' sexual encounter so incendiary that it set off the house's sprinkler system? Did any of this even really happen, or is it just another one of Danny's wet dreams?

[ Love scene in the bedroom, with a 90% chance of showers ]

Anyway, after the soggy bedroom scene, Carter becomes increasingly paranoid that the other dumb jocks at school will find out about his relationship with Pee-Wee...I mean Danny. There's a scene in which these same dumb jocks (who all look like they're around 35) approach Danny in an empty lot and gay bash him mercilessly. (The scene is set, for some reason, to action music. Should we be rooting for the beating?) Up to this point the story seems to be set nowhere in particular, but after seeing the torment LGBTQ students endure at this high school, we intuitively feel they must be in rural Colorado, or maybe somewhere in Arkansas or Oklahoma. But then at the big swim meet (which isn't even worth going into), we discover that their school is in Los Angeles! (WHAT!!?) Where in L.A. anytime after the year 1975 does anyone give a hoot about their classmates being gay?

WATERCOLORS features supporting turns by some relatively big names: Olympic medalist Greg Louganis appears as Carter's demanding swim coach, and Karen Black plays Danny's influential high school art teacher. Unfortunately, Louganis is alarmingly unnatural in front of the camera. He's like a deer in headlights. He shouts his lines, then freezes in place, seemingly unsure of what body movement or expression in the face would come next if an actual person had shouted the things he was just instructed to say. At the other end of the spectrum we find Karen Black, who seems to pin her hopes on WATERCOLORS as the last great chance at that Best Supporting Actress Oscar that slipped through her fingers back in 1971. 

[ Greg Louganis, frozen ]

Even so, it's great to see Karen Black in an inspiring role, playing the one person who really 'gets' Danny and his art. Well, until that scene toward the end, that is, where Black's character berates the African-American English teacher for holding Carter accountable for plagiarism on his final essay. She scoffs when the English teacher says that letting Carter's cheating slide wouldn't be fair to the others. She then recalls in great detail an incident from the English teacher's distant past ( does she know this? Are they siblings!?) where everyone KNEW he had cheated in his French classes (and then he married his French teacher? But she was 15 years older than he? Or something?), but nobody dared say anything for fear of being called a racist. (WHAT!!?) It seems unlikely that writer/director Oliveras wanted audiences to turn against Danny's formerly admirable art teacher at this point and suddenly find her reprehensible, so we find Oliveras reprehensible instead, since he came up with the unfortunate drivel Karen Black has to deliver in this scene.  

[ Karen Black introduces Danny to Caravaggio ]

I'm pretty bummed (no pun intended) that WATERCOLORS isn't a better film. I've tried considering that, when first exploring same-sex relationships in high school, one is likely to cast their pearls before swine. I mean, his perpetually glistening buns aside, Carter really is a prick. He's cruel to Danny in his rejections, yet Danny keeps coming back for more. And Carter is a hot mess. (Just before his demise, we're treated to a manic all-night drug-taking montage where Carter pops pills, snorts coke, pops more pills...I was hoping they'd throw in a midnight cab ride to Chinatown so Carter could visit an opium den!) This sort of athletic disaster probably would hold some fascination for an inexperienced gay high school nerd with artistic tendencies, but do the rest of us have to watch? There's likely a good LGBTQ film out there somewhere that develops these same themes, but with characters who are genuine, interesting, and moving. If Danny had learned anything from his experiences with Carter, that would have helped...but the guy Danny ends up with in the final reel is just another boring, manipulative jock with a mean streak. I bet he's got a nice pair of buns though underneath those shiny black satin shorts.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Connie Francis

Artist: Connie Francis
LP: 7" single
Song: "Whatever Happened to Rosemarie"
[ listen ] 

A funny thing happened as we were nearing Hymie's Vintage Records in Minneapolis, the third record store I visited on our Minnesota Road Trip. While waiting for a seemingly endless line of vehicles to pass so we could turn left and park the car, I muttered loudly, "Come on...come on!!" Jan wisely replied, "Don't worry, the records will still be there when we get there." I responded with, "But what if, when we finally get in there, someone else has all the Connie Francis singles in their hands that I wanted to buy!?" (I had found one Connie Francis single at each of the two previous Minnesota record stores we'd been to, so I guess that's why she was on my mind.) 

Well, I needn't have worried. Nobody was digging in the Connie Francis section when I got to it, and there were NINE beautiful 45s in her bin that I'd never seen before...with glorious picture sleeves to boot! "Whatever Happened to Rosemarie" was one of those; it was released in 1963. 

[ Hymie's Vintage Records — Minneapolis, Minnesota ]

Monday, May 31, 2021

Tiger B. Smith

 Artist: Tiger B. Smith
LP: We're the Tiger Bunch
Song: "Inside My Head"
[ listen ]

The second place I went digging for vinyl on my Minnesota road trip last week was Roadrunner Records in Minneapolis. It's a cute little shop packed with lots of vinyl goodies at good prices. This 1974 Tiger B. Smith LP, however, was a little on the spendy side. But after taking into account their hair, makeup, wardrobe and abundance of glitter (they're also German, which helped!) I decided to take a chance...and I'm glad I did! Tiger B. Smith doesn't have a huge discography, so I've already got just about everything they released, with the exception of a few singles and a million dollar EP. I also left Roadrunner Records with a handful of old French singles, but those I haven't listened to yet.

[ Roadrunner Records — Minneapolis, Minnesota ]

Sunday, May 30, 2021

B. J. Thomas [1942-2021]

Artist: B. J. Thomas
LP: Most Of All
Song: "Rainy Day Man"
[ listen ]
Song: "Most Of All"
[ listen ]
I was sad to hear today that raindrops will never again keep falling on this guy's head for the rest of time. I posted tracks from this 1970 LP back in October of 2015...but I don't have any other B. J. Thomas records, so here it is again. In "Most Of All," B. J. sings that he's at the railway station in St. Paul. I was just there! You can read the New York Times obituary for this handsome crooner here

B. J. Thomas
[ August 7, 1942 — May 29, 2021 ]
We will miss you, Billy Joe.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Valeri Leontiev

Artist: Valeri Leontiev
LP: I'm Only a Singer
Song: "I'm Only a Singer"
[ listen ]
Song: "I Don't Love"
[ listen ]

I've just come back from a week-long road trip all around The Land of 10,000 Lakes! In case you're not familiar, that's another name for Minnesota. Most of the state's record stores are concentrated in the Twin Cities, and that's where I visited seven of them. The first five were all in Minneapolis...

 [ Minneapolis ]

...and my very first Minnesota record store was Cheapo Records, the big store on Nicollet Avenue. There was no listening station there (and none currently available at any of the stores I visited) so on this trip I basically had to judge a book by its cover. But what a cover! I had a strong hunch Valeri wouldn't disappoint with this 1988 LP, and I was right. Valeri (sometimes "Valery") Leontiev is a very big star in Russia, but of course I am not Russian, so I had never heard of him. I wonder: Do they have a lot of leopards over in Russia?

[ Cheapo Records — Minneapolis, Minnesota ]