DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY! A High Speed Book Tour (part VII)
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Dave Insurgent of Reagan Youth, circa 1984
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 16, SAN FRANCISCO
KING OF THE HIPPIES
In 1984, a San Francisco police officer told me I should leave town and never come back. Seriously. Leave town, and never come back. I guess he didn’t like me very much.
Which was fine, believe me, the feeling was mutual. It was like this: I was in town with the Rock Against Reagan/Rock Against Racism Tour, driving and being the general facilitator for New York matinee thrash idols Reagan Youth. Singer Dave Insurgent (nee Rubenstein) was one of my best pals and he insisted I come on the tour and open their shows with the world’s most obnoxious comedy act, a Borscht-Belt Comedian as Satan-in-a-madras-jacket character that would tell one-liners about invading Nicarauga, a real sore point for lefties back then. Invaribly I would catch a hail of bottles and death threats before Dave and the band came on to deliver their message of peace and anarchy: Liberate yourelf, don’t be a reactionary, think for yourself, and get a fucking sense of humor.
Anyway, one day I was double-parked outside of a house on Haight Street waiting for a friend to come out (it wasn’t even a drug deal, really, just innocent) when an unmarked car came up behind me and honked. I waved him around. He pulled up and said, “Hey, you have to move.” (It turned out to be an unmarked car but a fully dressed member of the SFPD, shiny brass buttons and everything.) He was about to wave me off, but when he took a look in my car, and saw my passenger, a black man dressed like a low-budget Jimi Hendrix, he (the cop) said, “On second thought, turn off your engine and let me see your license.” Really, it was just like that.
Rick, the dude I was with, was Reagan Youth’s drummer and having seen him in action I can testify that he was a threat to America’s young women — they were throwing themselves at him that summer. Me, not so much, but at least I didn’t get threatened to have the snot beaten out of me when we stopped at truck stops in Oklahoma. As I like to say, what you lose on the swings you make up for on the merry go round, but personally, at age 20, I might have gone for a beating and the girls.
It was a tough summer. The Democratic National Convention was in town, which is why we were there, we were going to play for free outside of the convention center, opening for the Dead Kennedys, before moving on to Dallas for the GOP National Con and more of same. Also the Olympics were in LA that summer, so everyone was pretty well tweaked.
The cop wrote me a ticket for “reckless driving” and told me to leave town, just as reported above. I kind of laughed at the time, like, Did he really just tell me to leave town and not come back? Am I now starring in Shane? And was I Alan Ladd or Jack Palance? It was all so confusing, I mean, it was a fucked up thing to say — just so freaking silly.
As it turned out I didn’t come back for almost twenty years. No reason, business just never brought me back to SF, but then I went to do a magazine story, and later to tour my first book I HAVE FUN EVERYWHERE I GO (which, not incidentally, is dedicated to the memory of Dave Insurgent, whose story I am proud to have told), and after that I was back, and back again, and I always figured I would see that cop cruising the Haight and he’d yell at me, “Hey, punk! I thought I told you never to come back!” I never paid the ticket and so he’d try to throw me in jail, but I would just kick him in the shins and run, laughing SO LONG, FLATFOOT!!!… anyway, never happened. Maybe he’s forgotten by now. Or was put out to pasture, or euthanized, or whatever they do with idiot cops when they are past their prime.
1. On second thought, let me see your license… 2. Nothing like Bay Area sardines.
But again, I digress, since we are here to talk about the DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY! Tour and I could not possibly be happier than to be in SF, except for the part where Mickey Finn, the World’s Greatest Piano Player, is back in NY pining for The Car. To get over the vacuum where there was once the World’s Greatest Piano Player, I take myself out to dinner, to Cotogna no less, where my buddy Dave Lynch is the wine director and something of a superstar in the SF food and wine world, and let me tell you, there are few things as good as local Bay Area sardines with a nice, crisp, dry Riesling, and not only do they taste delicious but they are very good for your brain. A plate of pasta and some red later, I am fortified and make the pilgrimage to City Lights and Vesuvio’s bar to get my beatnik on, before returning to Union Square where my hotel is and wind up catching last call at some ancient SF relic where the band — who has apparently been there since 1966 and has not stopped playing — turns in their one millionth set of Grateful Dead inspired R&B and country tunes (Turn on Your Love Light, Me and Bobby McGee) and while in no way are they good, and in New York I wouldnt give them the time of day, right now I am drunk enough and happy enough to be in SF on the second leg of the tour that I am digging it, and like crazy, man.
While WGPP is in New York trying to explain his relationship with The Car to his GF, I have obtained the services of a crack band of beatniks to lay down the outerspace blues and dirty bop while I do my ranting. The fraternity of musicians is strong, and I am lucky to have these cats: Richard Berman on the stand-up Bass, Dave Fitzgerald on traps, and Professor Alex Cory on the Fender Rhodes. Rehearsal is on the sidewalk outside of the Amnesia bar where we are playing, and it goes something like this:
ME: First song is kind of a walking blues, what I call the beatnik bop.
RICHARD: What Key? Maybe E flat.
ME: Works for me. Second song is kind of a triplet 12/8 kinda thing, kinda scary, maybe in A minor.
RICHARD: I can bow my bass, play some tritones to make it scarier…
ME: Works for me. Third number same as the first, but slower, and kind of keep it spacy while I am talking about astronauts, and then pick it up when I switch to the rap about porn technology and blue eye shadow.
RICHARD: Works for me.
And so on. It’s a five song set — five long songs — and they already have them in their DNA. So nice to have professional beatniks, and goddamn if San Francisco ain’t the place to find them. Only downside of the gig is that there is an open mic before we do our thing, and one of the “comics” is telling jokes about how rude New Yorkers are, and it is apparent that (A) either he has never been there and is getting this from re-runs of All in the Family, or (B) he was in New York and was outed instantly as a complete dick and got the usual Gotham City Brush Off. For a moment I feel like dropping him with a Brooklyn haymaker, but let it go and decide to revel in my new role as KING OF THE HIPPIES.
4. City Lights, Beatnik Paradise, even for the boy from Greenwich Village. 5 & 6. Getting DIRTY at Amneisa with the newly formed Space Liberation Micro Arkestra.
The gig goes off flawlessly, loose, filthy, and fun, and declared a success. We sell a box of books and barter a few for a bag of grass, which delights my publisher, the legendary Charlie Winton, not just a little. He’s going to be driving me to Los Angeles so his happiness is very important. Go ahead.. You try to find a publisher willing to drive an author up and down the West Coast on a boondoggle book tour… see? This Soft Skull Press is a very special organization indeed, a real cosa nostra. Next morning we head south and put it to the test.
Over and out.
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.”
by Mike Edison