Editor’s Note: Mike Edison has been out on the road promoting his new book, Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! – Of Playboys, Pigs, and Penthouse Paupers, an American Tale of Sex and Wonder, on what has been a book tour like no other, perpetrating a mix of literary mayhem and music in bookstores, pizza parlors, dive bars, and art museums, and will be sharing his tour diary and road tales here in this exclusive blog. For more info on DDD and all things Edison, please visit www.mikeedison.com. Click here for the full tour diary.
Nov. 10, New York City
Punk Rock, Dirty Blues, and the Dark Side of Professional Wrestling: A Real Beat Happening
With the Midwest fading like headlights in our rear view mirror, Mickey Finn, The World’s Greatest Piano Player, and I are ready to take on the home town crowd in New York City.
The venue is none other than Manitoba’s Bar on Ave B and 7th Street, the scene of many of my favorite outrages. Once upon a time, I had a band called the New York Sheiks. It was a kind of a punk rock blues and dirty boogie band, a free wheeling experiment in gospel, glam and rock’n’roll terrorism, and back around the end of the century we played at this bar every Thursday for about three months getting ready to record our first record.
From Valentino, to the ring, to “the Original New York Sheik”- post-modern acrobatics run amok.
The persona of “the Original New York Sheik” was one I had pinched from a combination of sources, including Rudolph Valentino – the greatest onscreen lover of his generation who made the archetypical Sheik the universal symbol of virility and was the inspiration for “Sheik” to became a popular name-brand condom, and why a handful of blues men and singers in the 1930s called themselves Sheiks as well, eg. The Mississsippi Sheiks who had a hit with Sitting On Top of the World long before Howlin Wolf did — and, my all-time favorite wrestler the Sheik (form Detroit, not to be confused with the Iron Sheik). In fact Manitoba – himself a wrestler of some stature, and of course the loudmouthed Jew frontman for protopunk legends the Dictators – and I actually cut a version of the song I LIKE TO HURT PEOPLE, which was the theme to a movie about the Sheik. Later, after I was working as a wrestler in France, I used some footage a fan took to make the video.
The short of it is, of course, that after 9/11, dressing like an Arab terrorist, no matter how camp or kitsch it may have been (not to mention the spectacular post-modern acrobatics of connecting the dots between silent screen stars, blues musicians, and professional wrestlers) was going to be a marketing disaster of New Coke proportions, and so I took some time off and we eventually came back as the Edison Rocket Train, which was just as well, since I may have been getting just a little too into the “Terrorist with a Telecaster” gimmick, and rockets and trains were probably truer to my retro-future vision of outer space rock’n’roll and jet-powered groove music than parading around a bar with a kufiya on my head, as much as I felt it helped my singing.
But I digress. It has been years since I’ve done a gig at his bar, but Handsome Dick and I remain great pals, and when I want to show off for the home town crowd, there is no other place I would rather do it.
Handsome Dick, beyond all else, is a mensch among men, and does everything imaginable to make the gig a success and us feel welcome. He calls me everyday, like a Jewish grandmother, which despite his own loud-mouth persona — big as the Bronx where he came from — is a very real part of the man. It’s no sthick, — “Is everything ok? Do you need anything? What can I do to help?” He is the neo-platonic ideal of a bar owner, and it is shocking that someone like this, in a business like that, can even exist. Thanks, Richard.
The author with rock’n’roll legend and Jewish grandmother-in-training, the Great Handsome Dick Manitoba, a mensch among men.
Showtime arrives and we have a packed bar ready to be wowed. Everyone knows we’ve been out on the road and in mid-season form, the book seems to be getting a little bit of a buzz at least in my circle of miscreant, literary, and like-minded, and after the requisite four tumblers of bourbon we’re ready to throw down.
We kill the big Cocksucking Number – I set the theremin extra loud to underline the part about the “silken swirl” and “the hoover” – bury the hatchet in everyone’s favorite old queen in Hugh Hefner Hates Girls (see video in previous entry)- and probably inspire a rush of women running out to buy blue eye shadow when I twirl the set piece What I Look For In A Porn Star. A little dirty blues, our Holiday Song about Meth Amphetamine, and one greatest hit from I HAVE FUN EVERYWHERE I GO later, and everyone is drunk and happy and laughing and feels very clever for actually coming to a “reading,” such as it is — a real beat happening — rather than the usual punk rock shenanigans that bars on Ave B are better known for. I unload a case of books (coulda sold more if I had them) and repair to the ridiculous restaurant next door to celebrate the homecoming with a vat of cheese fondue, a bottle of serviceable Bordeaux, and more bourbon, natch. And so goes the DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY! Tour.
The next stop is San Francisco, but unfortunately, I cant take The World’s Greatest Piano Playwer with me. It is just a question of econmics – book tours don’t pay since all the shows are “promotional” (although we can see this becoming a night club act pretty soon, and then we’ll be rolling in it… interested talent agents and bookers please call!) – and so I am going solo to the west coast and will handle the keyboard parts myself with a combination of tape loops and live organ stabs, plus the theremin, natch, and a combination of local musicians who I have recruited through the old boy network. I miss Mickey already, having an acommpanist made me feel special, like fucking Miss America or something. No, really, it made me feel like fucking Miss America. Or something.
Now on to California. The last time I was there touring my first book I learned something very important: When you tell a west coast crowd, no matter how literate and au courant they may be, that you consider the best thing you ever wrote in your porn career is “Maureen Dowd’s Filthy Quest for Cock,” you get zero laughs, whereas in New York, that sort of talk puts drinks on the bar. Needless to say, I have plenty of new material. Hey ho, let’s go.
Click here for the rest of Mike’s high speed book tour entries, or, for more mayhem, buy his book: Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! – Of Playboys, Pigs, and Penthouse Paupers, an American Tale of Sex and Wonder
—Mike Edison is the former publisher of marijuana magazine High Times, and was the editor-in-chief of the irresponsibly outrageous Screw. Edison has worked as a correspondent for Hustler and a high-paid gun-for hire of the legendary Penthouse letters. In addition he is an internationally known musician and professional wrestler of no small repute. He is the author of 28 pornographic novels and the cult classic memoir I Have Fun Everywhere I Go (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). He speaks frequently on free speech, sex, drugs, and the American counterculture, and is “proof positive that one can be both edgy and erudite, lowbrow and literate, and take joy in the unbridled pleasures of the id without sacrificing the higher mind.”