Tuesday, August 28, 2007

52nd Street Theme or Bird's Dead

I played jazz saxophone professionally for 25 years. I love jazz but at this point in our culture it's the musical equivalent of being a Blacksmith. At best, people are curious about it in the way that you're sometimes curious about things that have absolutely nothing to do with your life.

---Yeah, that's cool, after let's go check out the smoke signal exhibit.

The Golden Age of Jazz for me was between 1945 and 1965. It was an underground art form at that time. I don't know what it is now.

I still play but ONLY if it's local to LA and the gig is something I'm going to thoroughly enjoy.
Here are the details of a job I recently took from an agent in NYC:
1)Three gigs (Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights)

2)All local to LA.
3)It is some kind of Dos Equiis sponsored event.
4)I play jazz behind the Burlesque Dancer Angie Pontani of the Pontani Sisters.

Here's the living nightmare that transpired unadorned. I should add that the money was very good but this did NOT factor into my decision to take the gig.

Thursday night.
THE BOILER ROOM. It's 70 miles away. I barely know how to get to another neighborhood from mine in LA proper let alone get on three highways and head into what people are telling me is the heart of Meth country.

The parking lot is gravel and pickup trucks. I can hear very loud heavy metal music. There are tattoos everywhere...even on some of the faces. Oh...I'm wearing black dress pants, a white shirt, shark-skin jacket and a pink tie. I'm feeling like Boy George at a Klu Klux Klan rally.

It gets worse.

I meet the contact who is a marketing guy for Dos Equiis. I quickly deduce that I'm shilling beer here. I'm a Jagermeister girl. I'm Spud Mckensie the Budweiser dog. I'm the "Jazz Guy" for Dos Equiis playing in front of a big logo while they drink two dollar beers and grab hand fulls of merchandising swag.

I'm standing with my horn, waiting to go on, in a hallway between the bathrooms and storage. A huge guy comes out of the can, looks me up and down and says---Do you play saxophone?

As I'm leaving the bartender says to me---You play better than Bill Clinton. Think about this. This is the only saxophone reference he could come up with.

It gets worse.

Friday night.
ELEMENT. It's in Hollywood, five minutes from my house. My mood is shattered by the loudest most evil Hip Hop music I've ever heard. I'm frisked with a metal detector and then have to take my horn out of the case for inspection. Every girl is a Paris Hilton clone right down to the dead reptile eyes.

At 10:30, Angie and I wait for the cue to go on at around 11:00. Peeking through the curtain I see smoke machines filling the stage and a laser show. The music they're playing is unbearable and so loud I can't think. How the fuck am I going to go out there in the deafening silence of that room and play (without a mic) something kinda "jazzy"?

12:00. We still haven't gone on.

12:30 the agent from NYC steps backstage. He's wearing a porkpie hat and two toned shoes. I'm just about to grab him by the shirt collar when I see a camera crew following him around. Apparently he is being filmed for a new reality TV show about an agent and his roster of wacky entertainer people (Broadway Danny Rose meets Survivor?) I manage to separate myself and him from the film crew to renegotiate my fee for this weekend nightmare. It wasn't hard. He knew he had fucked up bad.

1:00 and we still haven't gone on. It turns out the cops or the tobacco, alcohol and firearms whatever have shown up and are busting underage drinkers. The club owner is also getting fined. Said club owner apparently doesn't want to turn off the music for our little "act" for fear that everyone will think the club is closing on account of the legal disturbance. The show must NOT go on. So, dead man walking, I get a reprieve. We're still going to get paid but I'm dead inside anyway.

Saturday night.
VEGAS. That's the club name in Costa Mesa which is about 80 miles down the coast. It's a spring break crowd. Everybody looks like they're from Jersey but with a lot of plastic surgery. Yes, we go on. I get the fuck out of there and suffer a very lonely drive home.

That's show biz.

If you have a soul DO NOT DRINK DOS EQUIIS. Thank you, you've been a lovely audience.


COLE said...

...but you *do* play better than Bill Clinton, unless of course he was was wearing a sharkskin jacket with a pink tie, and the two-tone shoes and had the smoke machine blowing smoke up his ass that could eventually make it out into the horn and release some sort of tune. Fortunately for him putting him *behind* Angie Pontani would have just made it that much easier to assume his talent came from somewhere deep.....very very deep.

Oh, my dear, I hear the voice of a man disheartened by the scene in NY so few lil years ago. Hyped up soul-less Paris wannabes and arragont Dos Equis marketing criers or pennies playing to a crowd of 6? xx

Christian Remde said...

Hearing this story for the first time was funny...but reading it makes it seem much more sad...why is that?

But look on the bright side, LA is a cesspool that will feed on your creativity like a parasite, only to chew your up and spit you out once it's drained you. Leaving you an empty shell of a person, most likely hell bent on walking into a post office with a gun and a C4 vest strapped to your chest...a chest that's totally devoid of a heart.

So you've got that to look forward to...