Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-On Entering North Adamsville High Redux , Circa 1960 –With Chubby Checker’s The Twist In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-On Entering North Adamsville High Redux , Circa 1960 –With Chubby Checker’s The Twist In Mind




Introduction by Allan Jackson

[Funny as larcenous as I was as a kid under the wanting habits guidance of my old friend Frankie Riley and the larcenous planning expertise of Scribe I was always a pretty good student, always liked to read. Except unlike Scribe who wore his knowledge very heavily on his shirtsleeves for the whole fucking wide world to see the son of a bitch I wish he were here right now so I could lambaste him in person I read on the low, on the quiet sneaking to the Thomas Adderley Library branch across town from the Acre so nobody would suspect what I was doing.

Along with that I never had much trouble, again like Scribe and to a certain degree Frankie as well adjusting as we entered each new school on our way to graduation. Always was kind of ho-hum about it unlike in the story below where Frank Jackman who I am sure did not want to see this sketch come to life since he would deny the whole thing on seven sealed bibles who literally sweated his ass off each time he moved up the ladder and not just in high school entry days either. Maybe it was because I had some other burdens I was carrying that seemed heavier, weighed heavier on the grand scale that I was so non-plussed every time a teacher or a corner boy expressed how hard the next step up the food chain was. We had plenty of corner boys pass through who couldn’t handle school, were not students in any sense you could call them students so they just dropped out like my brother Timmy and got lost in the shuffle. I wonder what happened to Richie, Brain, Buzz-saw (you don’t want to know on that one), and Jack Devlin. Yeah, I would like to know. Allan Jackson}             





The Twist (Yo Twist)

1.     Come on baby
Let's do the twist
Come on baby
Let's do the twist
Take me by my little hand
And go like this
Ee-yah twist
Baby, baby twist
Ooh yeah, just like this
Come on little miss and do the twist
My daddy is sleepin'
And mama ain't around
Yeah, daddy just sleepin'
And mama ain't around
We're gonna twisty twisty twisty
Till we tear the house down
Come on and twist
Yeah, baby twist
Oooh yeah, just like this
Come on miss and do the twist
Ee-yah
Yeah, you should see my little sis
You should see my my litlle Sis
She really knows how to rock
She knows how to twist
Come on and twist
Yeah, baby twist
Oooh yeah, just like this
Come on little miss and do the twist
Yeah, rock on now
Yeah, twist on down
Twist
('Round and 'round and 'round)

A few years ago, maybe four or five now, around the time that Frank Jackman (always Frank and not Francis since that was too much like that St Francis who was good to animals and stuff and no self-respecting corner boy wanted that tagged to his name besides the formal name sounded kind of faggy, hey that’s what we called guys before we knew better who were kind of girlish although I used queer more, when the guys talked about names one night, also not Frankie since that name was taken up in his crowd) and Frankie Riley (always Frankie and not Francis for the same reason as Frank but also Frankie because he had always been called Frankie since time immemorial to distinguish him from his father Frank, Sr.) his Jack Slack’s bowling alleys corner boy chieftain all through high school in North Adamsville had been commemorating, maybe better to say comparing notes, on their fiftieth anniversary of entry into that school in the ninth grade. Frank had written a remembrance of the first day of school freshman year. He had written it at the behest of a female fellow classmate, Dora, for a class website where she was the webmaster which she and a few others had established so that those from the Class of 1964 who wished to, those who were able to, could communicate with each other in the new dispensation of cyberspace.

That remembrance, one of a series of sketches that he eventually did, and on recent inquiry from Jimmy Jenkins another classmate and ex-corner boy comrade, Frank has stated that he stood by that “sketch” characterization, centered on the anxieties that he had on that first day about making a brand new impression on the freshman class, about changing his junior high school quasi-“beatnik” style, his two thousand fact barrage that he would lay on anybody who would listen. A style change that lots of guys and gals have gone through when faced with a new situation, although the people he was trying to impress had already been his classmates in that junior high school and were painfully aware of the previous way that he had presented himself, presented himself  under Frankie’s direction, to the world.

When Frankie at the time read what Frank had written, a thing filled with new found sobbing, weeping, and pious innocence he sent him an e-mail which brought Frank up short. Frankie threatened in no uncertain terms to write his own “sketch” refuting all the sobbing, weeping, piously innocent noise that Frank had been trying to bamboozle their fellow classmates with. The key point that Frankie threatened to bring down on a candid world, the candid world in this instance being the very curious Dora for one, and her coterie of friends who had stayed in contact with each other since high school since they all still lived in the area (except in winter, now retired winter, and most headed to Florida, mainly around Naples), to be clear about was the case of Frank Jackman and one Lydia Stevenson. Or rather the case, the love-bug case he had for her. That, and not some mumble-jumble about changing his act which he never really did since you could always depend on Frank going on and on with one of his two thousand arcane facts that he tried to impress every girl he ran across in high school with and to dress like he had just come walking in from post-beat Harvard Square, was the very real point of what was aggravating him on that long ago hot endless first Wednesday after Labor Day morning.

See Frank had gotten absolutely nowhere with Lydia, nowhere beyond the endless talking stage, and thus nowhere, in junior high but he was still carrying the torch come freshman year and fifty years later he still felt that fresh-scented breathe and that subtle perfume, or bath soap, or whatever it was she wore, breezing over him (maybe it was perfume stolen from Ma’s dresser top, he these days liked to think she had made that thief to drive him crazy, crazy with her girlish wiles). Or maybe her curse, a North Adamsville curse that he claimed at one point that Lydia cast on him since he never had then a girlfriend from school, or from North Adamsville for that matter, always from some other town. Not in high school anyway.

The currency of that fresh breeze that occupied his mind may have been pushed forward by his getting back in touch with classmates. And as fate would have it, the thrice-married Frank, never one to say never to love had as a result of getting back in touch with classmates on the website had a short fruitless affair with another classmate, Laura, who had been a close friend of Lydia’s in junior high school and told him a couple of things about what Lydia had thought about Frank. Laura confirmed that Lydia had expected Frank to ask her out in junior high school but also after the affair had run its course unconsciously confirmed by that failed affair that Lydia’s curse was still at work fifty years later. And it is that missed opportunity to fall under the sway of that Lydia scent that will drive this short sketch, hell, forget Frank and his sketch business, this short piece.                  

This is the way Frank described to me what happened after Frankie sent that fatal e-mail that might expose his long hidden thoughts: 

“Frankie, for once listened patiently as I finished my story, the one that he say was filled to the brim with sobbing, weeping, whining bull about starting anew and being anxious about what would happen, and which he threatened to go viral on, immediately after I was finished let out with a “Who are you kidding Jackman that is not the way you told me the story back then.” Then he went on. “I remember very well what you were nervous about. What that cold night sweats, that all-night toss and turn teen angst, boy version, had been about and it wasn’t first day of school jitters. It was nothing but thinking about her. That certain "she" that you had kind of sneaked around mentioning as you had been talking, talking your his head off about filling out forms, getting books, and other weird noises, just to keep the jitters down. The way you told it then, and I think you called me up right after school was out to discuss the matter, was that while on those pre-school steps you had just seen her, seen her with the other North Adamsville junior high girls on the other side of the steps, and got all panicky, got kind of red-faced about it, and so you are going to have to say a little something about that. And if you don’t I will.” 

Frankie continued along this line, stuff which seemed to be true but which made me wonder how a guy who when we met at the Sunnyville Grille over in Boston for a few drinks to discuss this and that, not the Lydia thing but our corner boy exploits, couldn’t remember where he left his car keys and we had to call AAA to come out and find them on his driver’s side seat. Jesus.  Here’s what he was getting at.

“See, I know the previous school year, late in the eighth grade at North Adamsville Junior High, toward the end of the school year you had started talking to that Lydia Stevenson in art class. Yes, that Lydia who on her mother’s side from was from some branch of the Adams family who had run the jagged old ship-building town there in North Adamsville for eons and who had employed my father and a million other fathers, and I think yours’ too if I am not mistaken, for a while anyway, around there and then just headed south, or to Greece or someplace like that, for the cheaper labor I heard later. She was one of the granddaughters or some such relation I never did get it all down. And that part was not all that important anyway because what mattered, what mattered to you, was that faint scent, that just barely perceivable scent, some nectar scent, that came from Lydia when you sat next to her in art class and you two talked, talked your heads off.

“But you never did anything about it, not then anyway although you said when we talked later about it you had this feeling, maybe just a feeling because you wanted things to be that way but a feeling anyway, that she had expected you to ask her out. Asking out for junior high school students then, and for freshmen in high school too because we didn’t have licenses to drive cars, being the obligatory "first date" at Jimmy Jack's Shack (no, not the one off Adamsville Boulevard, that's for the tourists and old people, the one on Hancock up toward the Square is the one I am talking about). You said you were just too shy and uncertain to do it.

“Why? Well you said it was because you came from the “wrong side of the tracks” in the old town, over by the old abandoned Old Colony tracks and she, well like I said came from a branch of the Adams family that lived over on Elm in one of those Victorian houses that the swells are crazy for now, and I guess were back then too. That is when you figured that if you studied up on a bunch of stuff, stuff that you liked to study anyway, then come freshman year you just might be able to get up the nerve to ask her to go over to Jimmy Jack's for something to eat and to listen to the jukebox after school some day like every other Tom, Dick and Harry did then.

“.... So don’t tell me suddenly, a bell rang, a real bell, students, like lemmings to the sea, were on the move, especially those junior high kids that you had nodded to before as you took those steps, two at a time. And don’t tell me it was too late then to worry about style, or anything else. Or make your place in the sun as you went along, on the fly. No, it was about who kind of brushed against you as you rushed up the stairs and who gave you one of her biggest faintly-scented smiles as you both raced up those funky granite steps. Yeah, a place in the sun, sure.”

And so there you had Frank satisfying Frankie enough with his agreement to make public on the class website the gist of his stubborn e-mail. Funny though as much time as they spent talking about it back in the day and then when they resurrected it a few years ago Frank never did get to first base Lydia in high school, although she sent him a few more of those big faintly-scented smiles which Frank didn’t figure out until too late. Within a couple of weeks of the school opening Lydia was seen hand in hand with Paul Jones, a sophomore then, the guy who would lead North Adamsville to two consecutive division football championships and who stayed hand in hand with him until she graduated. Frank had had a few girlfriends in high school, Harvard Square refugees like himself who went crazy for his two thousand facts but they were not from the town. The few times Frank did try to get dates in school or in town, get to first base, he was shot down for all kinds of reasons, a couple of times because he did not have a car and the girls had not the slightest interest in walking around on a date, a couple of times he was just flat stood up when the girls he was to date took the next best thing instead. Yeah, the Lydia hex sure did him in. And after that Laura disaster don’t say he wasn’t jinxed, just don’t say it around him.       

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Out In Pooh’s Corner-With The Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Out In Pooh’s Corner-With The Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit In Mind




Introduction by Allan Jackson

[It is funny, and not in a gleeful way, how those wanting habits I have been thinking about lately which drove a lot of my youthful activity down at the base of society down among the poorest of the poor worked itself. Like I said not in a gleeful. I suppose everybody, at least in America from top to bottom has wanting habits of some sort but I would argue if only from anecdotal evidence that those striving are more intense down below if only because the success rate is very low when the deal goes down. Take my own family, my two brothers, one older the other younger making me the middle child which has some sociological tendencies of its own. We were always short of something, some money thing, for clothes, food, and rent but mainly extras, simple extras like a cheapjack transistor radio from now mostly gone under Radio Shack which even kids in the projects of North Adamsville where I and my brothers came of age had to listen to their rock and roll in the privacy of their rooms, shared or single. We never had enough extra money to get one.      

That situation affected my two brothers in slightly different but in the end fatal. My older brother Teddy started out very young stealing money, coins mainly at the beginning, from our mother’s pocketbook. Many a time he, and a few times we three, in my mother’s rage at Teddy were thrown out of the house for his transgressions. And that was when we were not even teenagers, a situation today which would some child social service agency on her case. Now this petty larceny if you wanted to get technical about the matter would not universally lead to a life of crime and other factors came into as well but Teddy became a career armed robber (first unarmed but then he “graduated”). He never said this to me personally but I assume he was working on premise that his targets were where the money was an idea made famous by legendary bank robber Willie Sutton. Teddy did half his life in some jail, county or state, before at some point later in life he just couldn’t keep up with the life, couldn’t do the time anymore from what he told me.  

My younger brother Kevin went a different way which did not become noticeable until his early twenties. He had started into taking drugs, early on before they were commonly used by members of generation, the generation of ’68 generically. Somehow, they had made him feel better about himself from what he told me before he lost it. Did some dealing, did some exotic synthetic drugs the net effect was that his personality changed dramatically, and he started on a long series of stays in mental institutions for serious disorder, disorders triggering anti-social criminal acts which led him eventually to state hospital for the criminally insane where he died. No pretty.

Where does all that leave me. Well I was as capable of robbing my mother’s pocketbook as Teddy was and later took a ton of drugs but the real tipping point was in high school when my clean cut, but larcenous corner boys led by Frankie Riley under plans by Scribe would burgle town rich houses. So, my own experience was a very close thing as well. But these days I am haunted by something else now that my two brothers are gone. One out of three is very poor odds for those coming out of the bottom of society and in my case a very close thing. That my friends are the pathologies of growing up desperately poor in America back in the day, now too. Allan Jackson]       

******************

A while back, maybe three years ago now, I was sitting in the Sunnyvale Grille in Boston where I was visiting my old time merry prankster friend, Frank Jackman, where we got into a hot and heavy discussion about the kind of songs that turned us on back in the 1960s when we had come of musical age. We had young kids’ stuff grown up on the classic Elvis-Jerry Lee-Chuck-Bo-Roy stuff but that was mainly copped from our older brothers and sisters, the ‘60s sounds and their attendant political connections were our real age time. I had met Jackman out in California after I had hitched out there in the mid-1960s just after I had graduated from high school up in Olde Saco, Maine. He was going under the moniker Flash Dash then , don’t laugh, for a while I was the Prince of Love, those monikers used in abundance as a way to break from our traditional-bound pasts, to break from the old neighborhood corner boy stuff, on the a way to make our own newer world. That night Frank had a couple of his recently reunited North Adamsville High old corner boys, Jimmy Jenkins and Sam Lowell, and a guy he met after he had just graduated from high school, Josh Breslin, who was from Hull about twenty miles south of North Adamsville all of whom I had previously met one time or another out in the “Garden of Eden,” which is what we called our search back then and which came up California for all of us then whatever happened later.

Now the reason that I have mentioned who was in attendance at that “meeting” (really an occasion to have a few drinks without the bother of womenfolk around for a short time and without the lately more pressing need not to drink and drive impaired since Pete was in town for a conference and had been staying at the Westin a short walk down the street) is that each and every participant was a certified member of the generation of ’68. That generation of ’68 designation meaning that all were, one way or another, veterans of the political wars back then when we tried to “turn the world upside down” and got kicked in the ass for our efforts and, more importantly here, veterans of the “hippie” drug/drop-out/ communal experiences that a good portion of our generation imbibed in, if only for a minute. And thus all were something like “experts” on the question that was pressing on Frank’s mind. That question centered on what music “turned” each guy there on. Not in the overtly sexual way in which the question asked might be taken today but while they were being “turned on.” Turned on being a euphemism plain and simple for getting “high,” “stoned,” “ripped” or whatever term was used in the locale that you frequented, for doing your drug of choice.              

See Jackman, full name Francis Xavier Jackman but nobody in his old high school corner boys crowd called him that, nor did I or do I here, had this idea that rather than the common wisdom Beatles, Stones, Doors, Motown influence that when the deal went down the Jefferson Airplane was the group that provided the best music to get “turned on” by. By the way since she will enter this story at some point the only one that I can think of who called Frank that three name combo was a girl, what we call a young woman now, whom we met, or rather he met, and then I met and took away from him, Cathy Callahan, out in La Jolla in California, who went under the moniker Butterfly Swirl back in the 1960s. She thought, clueless California sunshine ex-surfer guy girl, the three name combo was “cute” like Frank was some Brahmin scion rather than from his real working-class neighborhood roots. But that was a different story because as he said, she “curled his toes,” curled mine too, so she could call him (or me) any damn name she wanted.  

Naturally there was some disagreement over that premise but let me tell you what the mad monk Jackman was up to. See, as a free-lance journalist of sorts, he had shortly before our recent meeting taken on an assignment from a generation of ’68-type magazine, Mellow Times. A ’68-type magazine meaning that it was filled with full-blown nostalgia stuff: New Mexico communes where kids strictly from suburban no heartache homes tried to eke, the only word possible for such exertions, an existence out of some hard clay farming; outlaw bikers who guys like gonzo writers like Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe made infamous, or rather more infamous; acid head freak-outs in the Fillmores of the East and West sipping weird drug concoctions out of Dixie cups and getting twisted to the high decibel music up front; merry pranksters riding shotgun to the new dispensation taking more than a few over the high side with them; the Haight-Ashbury scene from the first “all men are brothers” days of sharing on the soup kitchen lines to the gun, drug shoot-up bitter end; Golden Gate Park days when that park had more kites, more bubbles, more wha-wha than any other park in the world; psychedelics from drugs to art; retro- art deco styles like the lost children were channeling back to the “lost generation” Jazz Age jail-breakers as kindred; and, feed the people kitchens in the good days and bad, Sally or Fugs, that kind of thing from that period.
Jackman, well known to a select audience of baby-boomers for his previous work in writing about the merry prankster hitchhike road, what he had called in one series that I had read-The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night- in which he had used me as a stick drug-addled figure from Podunk who didn’t know how to tie his own shoes until he came under the god-like Jackman spell, was given free rein to investigate that question under the descriptive by-line- Those Oldies But Goodies…Out In The Be-Bop ‘60s Song Night -that was to head the series of articles the magazine proposed that he work on. Here is Jackman’s proposed introduction to the series that he gave us copies of that night: 

“This is another tongue-in-cheek commentary, the back story if you like, in the occasional entries under this headline going back to the primordial youth time of the 1960s with its bags full of classic (now classic) rock songs for the ages. Now many music and social critics have done yeomen’s service giving us the meaning of various folk songs, folk protest songs in particular, from around this period. You know they have essentially beaten us over the head with stuff like the meaning of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind as a clarion call for now aging baby-boomers back then to rise up and smite the dragon, and a warning to those in charge (not heeded) that a new world was a-bornin’, or trying to be. Or better his The Times They Are A-Changin’ with its plaintive plea for those in charge to get hip, or stand aside.  (They did neither.) And we have been fighting about a forty year rearguard action to this very day trying to live down those experiences, and trying to get new generations to blow their own wind, change their own times, and sing their own plainsong in a similar way.”

And so we, his Jack Slack’s bowling alleys hometown corner boys, Josh, and I were the “masses” for the purpose of Frank’s work. Free labor if you like for his little nostalgia music piece. And here is his rationale, or at least part of it that he sent in an e-mail trying to drag me from Portland down to Boston to beat the thing over the head with him:

“…Like I said the critics have had a field day (and long and prosperous academic and journalistic careers as well) with that kind of stuff, fluff stuff really. The hard stuff, the really hard stuff that fell below their collective radars, was the non-folk, non-protest, non-deep meaning (so they thought) stuff, the daily fare of popular radio back in the day. A song like Out At Pooh’s Corner. A song that had every red-blooded American teen-age experimenter (and who knows maybe world teen) wondering their own wondering about the fate of the song’s narrator. About what happened that night (and the next morning) that caused him to pose the comment in that particular way. Yes, that is the hard stuff of social commentary, the stuff of popular dreams, and the stuff that is being tackled head on in this series”

And so after succumbing to his blarney we sat at that table in the bar of the Sunnyvale Grille sipping high-shelf scotch and trying to work through this knotty problem that Frank had put before us. This problem of what moved us though the squeeze that we put our brains through back then. Frank brought something up that kind of set the tone for the evening. He mentioned that coming out of North Adamsville in 1964 he, Jimmy, and Sam, if they had been prophetic, could not have possibly foreseen that they would, like about half of their generation, or so it seemed, have imbibed deeply of the counter-culture, its communal values, its new-found habits, its ethos, its drug-centeredness, or its music. He explained (and Jimmy and Sam chimed in with comments as he proceeded) that in strait-laced, mostly Irish working- class neighborhoods like where they grew up in North Adamsville anything other than working hard to get ahead, “getting ahead” being getting some kind of white-collar city civil service job and finally breaking the string of factory worker generations, since they were in some cases the first generation to finish high school and have enough knowledge to take the exam to white-collar-dom, getting married, maybe to your high school sweetheart or some such arrangement, and eventually buying a slightly bigger house than the cramped quarters provided by the house you grew up in and have children, slightly fewer children than in the house you grew up in, was considered scandalous, weird, or evil.

But as Jimmy said after Frank finished up it wasn’t so much the neighborhood ethos as the ethos of the corner boy life, the life in front of Jack Slack’s bowling alleys up on Thornton Street. That life included plenty of under-age drinking, plenty of talk, mostly talk, of sex with pretty girls  (certainly more talk than any activity that actually happened-except in bravado Monday morning before school banter with every guy lying, or half-lying about what was done, or not done,  after the weekend’s exertions), and a view of the world perhaps slightly less rigid than the parents but still scornful of people of the opposite sex living together unmarried (and in high Catholic North Adamsville even divorced people were subject to comment, and scorn), scornful of guys who didn’t want to get married, sometime, and of the opinion that those who did dope, that dope being heroin, opium, or morphine which they knew about and not so much marijuana which just seemed exotic, were fiends, evil or beatniks. Not the profile of those who would later in the decade grow their hair longer that any mother’s most outlandish nightmare dream, wear headbands to keep that hair back, grow luxurious and unkempt beards, live in communes with both sexes mixing and matching, smoke more marijuana, snort more coke, and down more bennies, acid, and peyote buttons, and play more ripping music than the teen angel, earth angel, Johnny angel music heard down at Jack Slack’s jukebox. Everybody laughed after that spiel from Jimmy.

Those old time references got me to thinking about the days when we had headed west in the mid-1960s days, Frank with various combination of corner boys including Sam, Josh and Jimmy, me, the first time solo and thereafter with Frank and others, the days when we were in search of Pooh’s Corner. Thinking along the lines of about Frank’s “theory” of the great turn on song for our generation, thinking about the search for the “garden,” the “Garden of Eden,” that we had picked up from a line in a Woody Guthrie song, Do Re Mi (meaning if you did not have it, dough, kale, cash, forget California Edens although at our coming of California age money was not a big deal, nobody had any and so we didn’t worry about it, unlike now). Of course everybody then knew the reference from the Jefferson Airplane’s song which contained those Pooh Corner references. I remember I first heard the song one night at the Fillmore, the rat’s end concert hall where everybody who had any pretensions to the new acid-etched music either played or wanted to play, and that was the Mecca for every person who wanted to think about dropping out of the rat race and try to get their heads around a different idea.

We had in any case all headed west maybe a couple of years after the big summer of love 1967 caught our attention. Frank  had already been out there for a few months having hitchhiked from Boston in the early spring, had wound up in La Jolla down by the surfer Valhalla and had run into Captain Crunch and his merry band, a band of brothers and sisters who had been influenced by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters to drop out, drop acid and “see the world” and their legendary former yellow brick road school bus, Further In, earlier in the decade and whose adventures had been the subject of a Tom Wolfe book. That Kesey-led experience, especially noticeable on the California coastal roads was multiplied a thousand fold once the jail-break hit full speed and Captain Crunch and his companion, Mustang Sally, had followed suit. It was never clear whether the Captain actually knew Kesey but he sure as hell was knee deep in the drug trade since the reason that he and the bus load had been in La Jolla was that he and his crew were “house-sitting” a safe house used by one of the southern drug cartels while the Captain was getting ready to head north to San Francisco and find out what was happening with the scene there. Frank had “signed on” the bus (in those days a common expression was “you are on the bus, or you are off the bus,’ and you were better off on the bus) since he had wanted to head to Frisco town from Boston anyway but the vagaries of the hitchhike road, a couple of long haul truck driver pick up the first which left him in Dallas and the second San Diego had brought him farther south. (In those days as I well knew you took whatever long haul ride you could get as long as they were heading west and got you some place on the California coast. I remember telling Frank, and he agreed that, I had never realized just how long a state it was, had been  clueless, until I had my first San Diego ride when I was looking to get to Big Sur several hundred miles up the coast which took me a couple of days of rides to get to.) 

This is the time when Frank met Cathy Callahan, Butterfly Swirl, from Carlsbad up the road a few miles from La Jolla and who was then “slumming” in La Jolla after breaking up with her perfect wave surfer boyfriend and looking for, well, I don’t know what she was looking for in the end and neither did Frank, maybe just kicks, momentary kicks to see what she might be missing because after she got through with us she went back to that perfect wave surfer boyfriend. Go figure. But then people like Butterfly Swirl, ex-surfer boy girls, working-class guys like me from Podunk, Maine, ex-soldiers unable or unwilling to adjust to the “real world” after Vietnam, hairy-assed bikers who had taken some dope and mellowed out on their rage trip, college professors who saw what they were teaching as a joke , governmental bureaucrats who knew what they were doing was a joke, or worse, con men getting all worked up seeing all the na├»ve kids from nowhere who wanted to be hip and were easy marks for bad dope and bad karma , corner boys trying to break out of their corners looking for easy girls, the derelict doing what the derelict always do except not being castigated for it by those seeking the newer world, hot-rod junkies tired of their midnight runs and death, and the like were all taking that jail-break minute to see if they fit into the new dispensation so maybe it was just that. Most of them went back to whatever they were doing previously once the ebb began to catch up with us, once the bad guys put on a full-court press.

So Frank and Butterfly Swirl met, met at a party Captain Crunch was throwing at that safe house, a mansion from what Frank had told me.  This Butterfly Swirl was all legs, thin, blonde a then typical California surfer girl waiting on dry land for her surfer guy to get that  perfect wave and then go ball the night away before he/they got up the next day to look, he, for the next perfect wave. Definitely in the normal course of events not a Frank-type of young woman, his running to sad- sack Harvard Square intellectual types who broke your heart a different way when they were done with you, or mine either, French-Canadian or Irish girls, all virginal and pious for public consumption any way, also heart-breakers, but chalk it up to the times. So they met, got turned on to some great grass (marijuana, for the squares) and hit one of the upstairs bedrooms where she “curled his toes.”  And they were an item as the Captain and crew ambled north for the next few months until they hit a park on Russian Hill where they parked the bus for a few weeks.

And that is where I had met Frank, and eventually Butterfly Swirl. I had stopped off at the park because somebody I met, a guy who had been on the Haight-Ashbury scene for a while, on Mission Street said that I could score dope, some food, and a place to sleep if I asked around up on the hill where the scene was not as frantic as around downtown and in Golden Gate Park. There was the bus, painted in the obligatory twenty-seven day-glo colors, just sitting there when I walked up and asked about a place to sleep. Frank, looking like some Old Testament prophet long unkempt hair and scraggly beard, army jacket against the chilled Bay winds, bell-bottomed trousers as was the unisex fashion then, beat-up moccasins, and looking like he had hit the magic bong pipe a few times too many, said “you can get on the bus, if you want.” But mainly I remembered those slightly blood-shot fierce blue eyes that spoke of seeing hard times in his life and spoke as well that maybe seeking that newer world he was seeking would work out after all, he no longer has that fierce look that “spoke” to me that first time. That introduction started our now lifetime off and on comradely relationship. I think for both of us the New England connection is what drew us together although he was a few years older than me, had seen and done things that I was just getting a handle on. And strangely I think that being older helped when I “stole” young Butterfly Swirl away from him one night at the Fillmore where the Airplane were playing their high acid rock he was mad, mad as hell, when he did find out about us but he did get over it (and I, in my turn, got over it when she about a year later she went back to Carlsbad and her surfer boy).

The “strange” part mentioned above came about because Butterfly Swirl and Frank had been “married,” at the time, no, not in the old-fashioned bourgeois sense but having been on the bus together for a while one night Captain Crunch in his capacity as the head of the band of sisters and brothers “officiated” at a mock wedding held under his authority as “captain” of the adventure ship. While this “marriage” ceremony carried no legal weight it did carry weight on the bus for it meant that the pair were to be left alone in the various couplings and un-couplings that drove the sex escapades of all bus dwellers. Moreover Captain Crunch, a rather strange but upfront guy who was all for couplings and un-couplings at will, oh yeah, except when it came to his own barnyard and he would rant and rave at Mustang Sally, his longtime companion who as a free spirit in her own right made a specialty of picking up young guys who played in one of the burgeoning rock bands of the times, “curled their toes” and made connections to get them gigs too and stuff like that. The Captain was fit to be tied when Sally got her young guy wanting habits on. But what could he do, if he wanted her on the bus.

In any case the Captain who was not only mysteriously connected with the drug world, but knew the mad max daddy of acid, Owsley, himself as well as the hermanos down south who trusted him as much as they could trust any gringo, but also had connections with the rising number of rock promoters on the West Coast decided to spring for a “honeymoon” for Frank (who was still going by the moniker Flash Dash at the time) and the Swirl. The honeymoon was to be a party before and during the Airplane’s next gig in San Francisco where he had copped twenty tickets from the promoter for some service rendered, maybe a brick of grass who knows. But here is where things got freaky, this was also to be something of an old time Ken Kesey “electric kool-aid acid test,” particularly for Swirl who never had done LSD before, had never done acid, and was very curious.
So the night of the concert a couple of hours before it was to start Captain gathered all around the bus then headquartered in Pacifica about twenty miles south of the city at another cartel safe house and offered whoever wanted to indulge some blotter. Flash and Swirl led things off, she trembling a little in fear, and excitement.  Then one and all, including me, took off in the bus to amble the Airplane show. An amble which included picking up about six people on the Pacific Coast Highway road up, offering them blotter as well, and on the in-bus jerry-rigged sound the complete (then) Stones’ playlist which had people, including me, dancing in the back of the bus.

That was a very strange night as well because that was the night, the “honeymoon” night when Swirl freaked out on the acid trip. Good freaking out after she got over the initial fear that everybody has about losing control and about the very definite change in physical perspective that are bound to throw you off if you are not used to that pull at the back of your head, or you think is pulling at the back of your head, after seeing gorgeous colors which she described in great detail, feeling all kinds strange outer body feelings as well. See she and I got together as I helped bring her down after Dash Flash took off with some woman. Well just some woman at the time, although he eventually married her (and divorced her), Joyell, Joyell of the brown-eyed world. He had met Joyell initially in Boston but he had been seeing her quite a bit since she had come to Frisco, come to get her Master’s degree at Berkeley, and whom he had run into at the concert. Yeah the times were like that, a guy or gal could be “married,” or married and then have a million affairs, although usually not on their “honeymoon” but that was Frank, Frank to a tee, and nobody thought anything of it, usually, or if they did they kept it to themselves. We tried about six million ways to try to deal with breaking from our narrow pasts and I think we saw what would be scandalous behavior back in the neighborhoods as a way to do so, although in the end all Frank (and I) got was about three divorces, a bunch of love affairs and many, too many, flings. Here’s the laugher though the thing that brought Swirl back to earth that night was her “grooving” (yeah, we had our own vocabulary as well and you can check Wikipedia for most of the meanings) on the Airplane’s music, on Grace Slick’s going crazy on White Rabbit and assorted other great music from After Bathing At Baxter’s. (Swirl said she felt like Alice-In-Wonderland that night.) So in a way I have to agree with Frank about the effect that band had on us but I will be damned if fifty years later I am going to side with him after he left his “bride” standing at the altar. Even if I was the guy who caught her fall. Yeah such was life out in Pooh’s Corner, and I wish it were still going on, wish it a lot.                                                               

Who Is That Dancing With Rita Hayworth?-Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly’s Cover Girl (1944)-A Film Review

Who Is That Dancing With Rita Hayworth?-Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly’s Cover Girl (1944)-A Film Review 




DVD Review

By Laura Perkins


Cover Girl, starring Rita Hayworth. Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, 1944     

Turnabout is fair play or at least that is what we learned when we were kids and maybe there is something to the matter. The turnabout here is who is watching who in the film under review the 1944 musical Cover Girl. That watching part was predicated by a remark my longtime friend, companion and fellow writer here Sam Lowell mentioned in a review he did of an earlier musical featuring the dancing pair of Fred Astaire and the female dancer here the vivacious Rita Hayworth. Yes that Rita Hayworth who half the guys, the G.I.s in the muds of World War II Europe or on forsaken Pacific atolls has photos of, pin-ups in the lingo of the times, hanging somewhere to remind them of well, let’s just say reminded them of home. Sam had made a big deal of having previously gushed over Fred’s exquisite and strong-legged dancing in previous efforts with former partner Ginger Rogers where he was the focal point of whatever creation was being performed. Not so when Rita came on board since Sam was at one with those guys in the muds and on those damn forsaken atolls and according to my father who was there they really had pin-up dreams, well let’s just leave it at that.     

Needless to say, that there, as here, although I am bound by my contract to say a few words about the plot of the film, what Sam always called the skinny and that seems right in dealing with musicals the mere presence of Rita as the much sought-after Cover Girl of every dream made the dancing of the usually physically very present Gene Kelly from nowhere. That, my friends, as much as a feminist as I like to think about myself as being in these troubled times is my opinion as well. On this showing. Since Sam and I watched this one together (he would have pouted for about three weeks if he didn’t get his Rita fix) I remarked to him how much Rita’s mere presence in a scene lighted the whole thing up. And this a film over seventy years old.      

Here is that skinny I was mentioning above that I am duty-bound to run through although I have already given anybody, male or female, the reason to see the film if that is what is holding anybody back. Rita and Gene, Rusty and Danny, are slowly working their way up the dancing food chain via Danny’s Brooklyn nightclub (that location unlike today when everything is coming up roses in that borough, a snub, a reference to the backwaters of New York City, nowhere in other words) but mainly they are in love and can go either way on the climb up the ladder business. As long as they have each other. That is until a Mayfair swell, a Manhattan Mayfair swell was slumming one night at Danny’s after seeing Rita apply for the cover girl cover of the title. Then the chase is on. It seems that Mayfair swell was all set to marry Rusty’s grandmother, also a dancer back in her day, who looked amazing like Rusty how did they do that, and thus showing some DNA connection to granddaughter, but she a free-spirit and the bane of Mayfair swell’s mother flew the coop, left him at the alter. A sad but hardly unique tale.

Mayfair swell is not just any bourgeois playboy turning gray but the publisher of Cover Girl magazine which every good-looking young woman who had any ambitions that way would die to be on. Naturally, despite six million false denials, Rusty wanted in. Got in and got on the first rung of the ladder to high society, New York style. Sans Danny, or so it seemed. Mayfair swell even set Rusty up with an up and coming Broadway producer in the days when Broadway was the be all and end all of real acting, of the legitimate theater as they used to tout the tag. Rusty bought into the whole plan, including marriage to said producer. You know where all this substitution is heading so you know that in the end she jilts the guy just like granny did in her time and goes running back to blues struck Danny. I will never ever not say when reviewing a musical that the plotline is nada, not a thing and the thing is the dance and the lyrics to the music. Except here it is really Rita going through her paces. Sorry Gene you will get your chance in An American In Paris so don’t fret.