Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Barnstorming strippers seeking Tin Lizzy gig


My brain was clouded with morning fog Monday at 6:30 a.m. when I unlocked the front door of the Tin Lizzy and gave it a little push. Only half awake, I barely noticed the business card flutter to the floor.

I picked it up and held it under the light. 

It read, “Bodies in Motion: PA’s only female traveling exotic dance company!” Beside it was a picture of a smiling young blonde with an inviting cleavage that appeared cavernous.

A tag line promised, “The most exciting show you’ll ever see!!”

There in the twilight I wondered if that could be true. The boast transported me right back to 2012. I’d taken the kids to the old Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. That was in the Dark (but entertaining) Ages when the Greatest Show on Earth featured trained elephants.

An elephant eats up to 600 pounds of salad fixings each day. In hindsight it would have been useful to know that fact prior to show time.

Because you can train an elephant to stand on its back legs, but you can’t train it to be discreet when it comes to purging itself of that enormous colon-cleansing intake. As it happened, we were directly behind the colossus when nature called.

Talk about hindsight.

The tail shot straight up and the massive sphincter began to pucker. I glanced down at the 6 year old. She looked up at me like she was waiting for a signal we flee to higher ground. The rear of the elephant looked like it was preparing to discharge a parade of anal Volkswagens.

Then out of nowhere appeared this slight black-clad woman with a snow shovel — and what a pity for a tool that grew up complacent it would only be used to shovel snow.  But it was like she’d rappelled from the rafters. She positioned herself directly in the danger zone. 

Now, I’ve seen the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and most of the great rock bands perform. I’ve seen the Steelers in their glory years and I was there the night Mario Lemieux split the Minnesota North Stars for a Stanly Cup goal that was immortalized into the statue that today is outside the arena.

But nothing was exciting as watching this heroic woman respond to what seemed like a HazMat event sure to devastate the Tri-State area.

I encourage you to read the first link below or ask either one of my daughters to relate the story of the elephant we on the spot named “Dumpo.”

So that was the most exciting show I’d ever seen. How four or five gypsy strippers could ever compete with that, I do not know. But who am I to argue with a little business card hyperbole?

I was curious about when they’d rambled by. It had to have been Sunday evening. Coincidentally, I was in my 3rd floor office most of the morning and afternoon. Had I been here when they stopped, it’s likely this post would have a far jauntier tone and wouldn’t include any mentions of elephant poop.

I didn’t know what to do with the sexy business card. I should have given it to Buck, the owner, who might assume his tenant has given up writing to manage a troupe of itinerant strippers. In the short-term, he’d likely have greater respect for me. But a lie like that might backfire.

So I instead scoured the building for a pen with whore-red ink and wrote: “Hi Buck! It’s Brandi.” And here I drew the little pulsing heart above the “i.” Then I put, “Call me! We miss ya, Stud!” and left it where all the bar gossips could find it.

I think a distinguished gent like Buck would enjoy a little scandal, and I know the rest of us would enjoy watching him try explaining it to his wife Louise. 

I reflexively assumed just because they took their clothes off for horny strangers they were women of loose morals. But that’s unfair. 

Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe they’re motivated by the belief that there are underprivileged pockets of Pennsylvania where men don’t have access to naked women.

This would put the dancers more in the missionary tradition, not to be confused with the missionary position. 

Or it could be the wave of the future. Brick ’n’ mortar establishments are going away. Maybe instead of going to the strip joint, having the strip joint come to you makes sense.

I could see myself giving it a shot. I mean what red-blooded American male wouldn’t want to bring the most exciting show ever into his very own living room?

I just don’t see how four or five strippers are going to fit Dumpo through the front door. 



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Monday, January 7, 2019

The day the Muzak died


Shared musical interests were one of the things that first drew me to the woman I was to marry.

Joe Ely, Todd Snider, Steve Earle, Delbert McClinton — we both reveled in the alt-country music that originated in mostly Texas and Nashville.

She eventually became the paper’s country music writer providing lively interviews with luminaries like Alan Jackson and George Strait under her picture and the generic “Country Connections” header.

I found the title uninspired and lacking the appealing zing of her column. I suggested they use something more provocative, something like … 

“Fiddlin’ ‘round with Val!”

So I always pay attention when ever she makes a point about music which is what I did when she wanted to know what happened to Muzak. “You used to hear it everywhere,” she said, “then it just disappeared.”

Careless readers will be confused by that last paragraph. Note: We’re not talking  music.

We’re talking Muzak.

Music of all forms is appreciated by someone, even if it’s the cheerleader moms or clueless groupies.

Despite being heard by tens of millions of people around the world each and every day, Muzak had no fans. It had no mothers, no groupies. It was utterly unloved. 

Queens College music professor Gary Gumpert described Muzak in a 1990 interview: “It’s a kind of amniotic fluid that surrounds us; and it never startles us, it is never too loud, it is never too silent; it’s always there.”

They’d take popular mainstream music — think “Ruby Tuesday” — play it with muted stringed instruments and record it through amplifiers that must have been deadened with three feet of wet Kleenex. The result was “Ruby Tuesday” sounding as distinctive as “Yesterday Once More” played at the bottom of one of the SeaWorld whale tanks.

It was, to me, an infuriating artistic affront to a band that included all-caps listening instructions on its monumental “Let It Bleed” album: “THIS RECORD SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD.”

While bands like The Stones, The Who and The Beatles were dominating FM radio, Muzak was in control of everything else. The service reached millions of unwitting listeners — aural hostages, really — each day. It was played in countless office buildings, waiting rooms and grocery stores. On the launch of Apollo 11, Mission Control piped Muzak into the capsule on the belief it would calm the astronauts.

Yes, Muzak was our national anesthesia. 

“Muzak fills the deadly silences,” went one of the company’s own promotional slogans.

And it was played almost with out exception in elevators, thus earning the widely repeated pejorative that Muzak was “elevator music.”

What happened to Muzak?

Clearly, I needed an expert on both music and elevators. Luckily, I’m pals with a two-fer. He’s Jim Beattie. I’ve known him almost 25 years. 

Or to be precise, I knew him for two hours in 1995, lost complete track of him until August and now spend three or four nights a week getting gooned up with him right here at The Tin Lizzy.

He in 1995 was running The Gaelic Shop in Ligonier. I was at the time doing wacky features for National Enquirer. That was the year Mel Gibson, then one of the sexiest men in the world, released “Braveheart.” Enquirer editors wanted to see how regular folks would react to a commoner (me) in a kilt.

Shopkeeper Beattie gave me the kilt off his, er, back.

It was a fun day as you can see here. Lots of people wanted to know if I was wearing anything under my kilt. I was told a gentleman would not dignify the question. But I will say this: If you had a list of the five people you’d most want to moon in Westmoreland County, I got three of them.

I returned the kilt and never expected to see Jim again. And for 24 years I was correct.

Then he out of the blue last summer called to tell me he had some Arnold Palmer stories that might be good for my book (he was correct). I asked if he could meet me here at the bar. He stopped by and now it’s like he never plans on leaving. I’m fine with that.

So what was he doing the previous 24 years?

He was an Otis elevator repair man! He was all over the country ensuring Otis lifts operated safely. And he and I share the same exquisite tastes in music, primarily deep appreciation for mostly both Van Morrison and Mark Knopfler.

Certainly, my buddy could give me a good blog-ending zinger on the fecklessness of elevator music.

Wrong!

“It was never on when I was in the elevators,” he said. “Never heard it. If it was on I just tuned it out.”

So, alas, in the end, this blog is like Muzak itself, cloying, innocuous and utterly pointless. Utterly pointless save for this final note. The company that ran Muzak buried the service February 5, 2013.

Sorry Don McLean, but that’s the day the Muzak died.

I suggest we all commemorate the upcoming date by playing some authentic rock ’n’ roll REALLY LOUD.

Because unlike sounds that pretend to be music, true silence isn’t deadly and it often beats the alternative.



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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Escaping "Escape from Dannemora" & the joys of bustin' out



I’d never harbored any political aspirations until one day back, oh, in the mid- ‘90s when I heard one friend put down another more pathetic friend for his inability to secure female companionship.

“Man, you couldn’t get laid in a women’s prison with a fistful of pardons.”

I remember laughing at the funny line, but then becoming very quiet as I succumbed to a silent revery about how often I could get laid under those circumstances. My conclusion: 

A lot!

I’ve been thinking a lot about sex in prison because we just finally — finally — finished watching a Showtime production that featured lots of sex in prison.

It was “Escape at Dannemora,” which ran for seven episodes, but felt more 4 to 6.

Four to six years, that is. Parts of it really dragged. But there was enough sex that we hung on.

I wrote about the 2015 upstate New York prison break (link below) and how I was bewildered when one of the detectives told reporters that one of the escapees was had an extra-large penis. 

How did the detective know? What was his idea of “large?” And how many penises had the detective seen?

These are topics that never used to concern me when I watched Det. Joe Friday and old “Dragnet” reruns.

Size didn’t seem to matter to prison employee Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, played by Rosanna Arquette. She was having sex with both inmates as she aided their escape, a crime for which she’s still serving 7 years. She ran the prison tailor shop and was reported to have had sex hundreds of times in the back room.

Rascals at the New York Post dubbed her “Shaw-Skank.”

The usually svelte Arquette, already earning Emmy best actress buzz, gained 50 pounds to play the horny prison seamstress. The fact makes me feel pity for all the struggling Plus-Size actresses who I’m sure would have been as-is perfect for the role.

170-LB. ACTRESS: “Did I get the role of the 170-pound prison seamstress?”

AGENT: “No, they gave it to it to a 120-pound former anorexic.”

170-LB. ACTRESS: “It seems so unfair. What do you advise I do now?”

AGENT: “I’d say lose 50 pounds in two weeks and start auditioning for all the roles the 120-pound Rosanna Arquette is perfect for until she sheds the weight.”

Hollywood doesn’t cause eating disorders. Hollywood is one big eating disorder.

The show did reinforce my contention that breaking out of prison must be one of the greatest feelings in the whole world. I think it’s what makes any prison break so compelling.

To support my argument, I offer the story of golfer Fred Hamilton. 

He was serving life in prison in Moundsville W.V., for in 1977 killing a state trooper. He tunneled out in 1993 with what he told investigators was one goal in mind.

He wanted to play golf at one of the world’s most historic and magnificent golf courses. He wanted to play Pebble Beach. “He sounded quite serious,” said the arresting officer.

He made it as far as Oklahoma before being captured. It was his 13th escape attempt. I well remember the details as I covered the whole thing for National Enquirer. 

Hamilton said: "Some guys spend their whole sentence trying to get out legally with appeals. I have spent mine trying to get out illegally. I live life to the fullest, even inside this place. Escaping is the ultimate rush.”

I remember my barber at the time telling me broadcast interviews made Hamilton seem like a swell dude. “I knew he was a vicious killer, but he seemed like a great guy, the kind of guy you could enjoy a beer with and a day golfing.”

I’ve long wondered what would have happen had the convict made it to Pebble and secured a tee time. I know many officers would be more than happy to provide lethal ventilation to avenge a fallen brother. But I also knew many officers are avid golfers, a circumstance that could lead to conflict.

I imagined Hamilton surrounded by officers on the 18th green while the one with the bullhorn said, “Drop your club and put your hands behind your head!”

And I can’t help but think at least one officer would say, “Pipe down! Can’t you see the guy’s trying to putt?”


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