Friday, May 29, 2015

Respect

I was driving to work yesterday morning, and while sitting at the forever long light at Lincoln and Venice Boulevards, a woman on the corner caught my eye.


She was sweeping the entire corner with a tree branch, very thoroughly, very solemn. It was almost like watching someone perform a pennance, as everyone around her just went about their business. I wonder if it was for her a reverent space because that is where the Japanese were rounded up and picked up to be transported to the internment camps at Manzanar during World War II. That corner is where the Memorial will go to remember those people and that blight on our colletive national conscience. To find out more about the Memorial, you can visit the VJAMM (Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker) site and know what's happening with it.

The light changed and I had to go, but I wanted to offer that woman my respect, because I couldn't stop thinking about her.

Respect, Madame.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Jay Adams Z Flex Classic At The Venice Skatepark

The Jay Adams Z Flex Classic skate contest was held at the Venice Skatepark last Saturday, and it sure was a great way to spend the sunny afternoon. There was a large crowd surrounding the park all day long, and the vibes were so good it was hard to leave.



We got there just in time for the Legends session, where skaters like Tuma Britton (also one of the day's MC's, with Dave Duncan), Steve Alba, Bennett Harada, Pat Ngoho, Grimes, Hackett, Olsen all showing what they still got.



One guy whose name I missed slammed hard on his head, and left the blood there the rest of the afternoon, drying there as a badge of courage. Skate or die style.



Legends session was a great name, as surely these guys all are, and were skating in honor of their good friend and the contest's namesake, Jay Adams, who passed away last August. His memory was omnipresent as the skaters all tried to outdo each other and try to out-Jay Jay - which simply can't be done.



Britton announced the winners of the earlier contests, and when Desmond Shepard was declared the winner of the 10 and under category, he said simply, "Skateboarding is really fun." That was all Britton could get out of him, and cracked us all up when he said, "He likes turtles." Ha!



Julian Torres won the 14-17 category, and I think Azara Sanchez (spelling?) won the 18 year old amateur division. I caught up with Sean Johnson (aka "Bowl Rebel"), a kid I'd interviewed a while back, and was happy to see that he'd taken third prize. He was smiling ear to ear, holding up his signed poster of the day, and reveling in what he said were "all the good vibes today. RIP Jay!"



He was right. People were hooting and hollering and laughing and loving it all day. In truth, I'd only intended to stop by for a bit, but it was so fun, and the skating so good to watch, that we hung in there all afternoon, earning a terrible tank top tan line for it, and not even caring.



It was great to see all the familiar Venice faces come out and catch up with each other in the sun. It was even greater to see that skating is alive and well, and the kids of today are making their Venice skater predecessors proud. Tuma repeatedly yelled "Look how hard these guys are going, let's let them hear it!" ... because they were. I don't even know how you can keep that energy going ALL. DAY. LONG but these guys (only a few girls, sadly) were going for it.



Particularly impressive were a guy named Sky from Seattle, dressed in camo pants and a farmer type hat, and completely giving his all. A guy named Grayson from Colorado was super smooth, like old Tony Hawk. A guy named Robby Russo was great, and a crowd favorite, as was a guy named Santero or something. Sorry I'm not better with names, guys, but you were all ruling it.

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The Spirit Of Jay award was given to Willy Lara, who gave it the most Jay-ness of the day. The Cash Grab for tricks was on the rest of the day, and these guys WANTED it. Lots of cash was given out for SICK tricks, and then it was a merch giveaway with things from Black Flys, Osiris, Z Flex, etc. The crowd loved it. I should also mention that great tunes were being spun all day, lending to the party fun atmosphere.



You could see people walking around in their "Venice Skatepark Ground Crew" t shirts, which brings up some housecleaning we need to do. Jesse Martinez has been cleaning that skatepark every day since it opened, out of the goodness of his heart, and with NO help from the city.



But you can help. You can donate to the Venice Skatepark Fund HERE to help Martinez and Company, so that our Venice Skatepark is clean and able to host wonderful days like this for long into the future.



People need to understand that it doesn't just happen, and that this Skatepark is a TREASURE for people from around the world, and for the kids of our own town who are carrying on a legendary tradition. If you were there on Saturday, this was abundantly clear.



Thank you to Jesse Martinez, the Venice Skate Alliance, Z Flex, and everyone who helped to make such a killer day of skating and fun for everyone. It WAS a classic!






























Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day In Venice - No Permit

It was kind of a drag to wake up on Memorial Day morning and find that it was completely socked in with fog, not remotely the beach day I'd had in mind. It's always nice to have a day off, even if it's just to catch up on reading or whatever else doesn't require sunshine. But then I remembered that my former neighbor Karen was hosting a block party over on Victoria, and we would certainly be making our own sunshine over there.


Karen's house is a landmark in Venice because it has had a big boat docked there in the yard for at least the last 20 years that I've known her. I've never been inside of it, it just sits there, looking great. We call it yard sailing.


This is a tight block, one of the good ones where neighbors look out for each other. Where Karen will leave you some produce from her garden hanging on the fence in a bag with your name on it. Where kids can bang into other kids' houses without knocking, and parents know they're all being watched in the village that it takes. Where kids wear tie dye.


As it was a holiday, there had to be live music. Nocona had us all stomping our feet and clapping along to their rock with a twang, and as they played this front yard hootenanny, that sun finally came out.

The grills were set up in the street, and as Karen said, "This is real Venice. No permits." Perfect. Neighbors grilled and shared their favorites there on the avenue, as kids and dogs raced around underfoot.


The dining table was a surf board, or your lap. Little babies and old ladies and everyone in between sat and chatted and told stories about how they'd met and funny things that had happened in the neighborhood over the years. It was exactly the kind of block party you want on a holiday weekend, all ages, and the more the merrier.


Paul Chesne played all afternoon, and was as great as ever, maybe even more so because we were all outside, enjoying being alive together. We actually toasted that fact many times, and also poured some out for those who are gone but not forgotten, especially on Memorial Day.


I hadn't been over to my old neighborhood to hang out in a while, and it was so nice to see old, familiar faces, and meet new ones - fun ones with eagles on their jackets. There was plenty of holiday spirit to go around, that's for sure.


I asked one old friend how her baby was, and she pointed to a grown kid and told me that the four week old baby was inside the house. Time is FLYING! Treasure it.

It was even trippier to find that the sweet little boy nextdoor was now 12 and a total ripper on guitar. Sean Vercos got up there with Paul Chesne and blew our minds. Someone yelled - as someone always does - "Freebird!" ... but I don't think they were prepared for Sean to tear that song's classic guitar solo to absolute sonic shreds. Like, jaws dropped. It wasn't like a novelty thing where he had it memorized either. He was in a musical conversation with the big boys all afternoon long, adding little bluesy flourishes in whenever they were perfect. I didn't see him look at an electronic device once all afternoon, he just wanted to keep jamming. Keep your ears perked for this little guy Sean Vercos is going places with that guitar (The video got cut off, but trust).

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The sun began to set, people began to pass out, and the work week loomed over us as the morning would come fast. But there in the golden light, looking around at the dear friends and family that make up our fair town, it was all about being in the moment, and it was all good.


Thank you to Karen and everyone on Victoria who gave of themselves to make a wonderful day of Memorial memories for everyone!



























Thursday, May 21, 2015

Goodbye To Late Night With David Letterman

David Letterman has just always been there for us. I grew up watching the guy, and though we've never met, he truly was a member of our family. He was the Uncle that could be kind of cranky, always hilarious, and there to tell you exactly what he thought. Like a distant family member, you can take them for granted ... just figuring they'll always be there. I did that. Letterman is on pretty late, and when you have early mornings, you just don't stay up for t.v. shows. When the word came that Dave (as we always called him - "Who's on Dave tonight?") was wrapping up his 33 year run as the best talk show on television, I had to stay up to watch his last three shows. I simply was not prepared for how extra emotional it would be ... I literally cried - and laughed - from beginning to end of each show, none more so than last night when Dave went off the air for the last time.


Dave was just always there. We'd come home from parties and gather around watching Dave. I moved to Hawai'i, living far away from my home and family for the first time, and Dave was there to keep me company. He was my friend when I moved to L.A. and only knew a few people. My Mom liked Dave the best too (after Johnny Carson, of course), always saying, "I can't stand that Leno", so we could all watch as a family. We watched until the very end, when Alan Kalter would have some little funny extra thing to say about Worldwide Pants - always very random and weird and exactly our humor. We cracked up at Paul Shaffer's little stony asides throughout the show, and wanted to hang out with him. We looked forward to Dave's crazy suits, like the Alka-Seltzer one, or the Velcro one. We loved it when he had kids and animals on, and Dave always had the very best musical guests around. I've had friends appear on the Letterman show, and all of them have said it was a thrill of a lifetime. I'm getting emotional again just typing about it.

The love for Dave was clear during the last show, with standing ovations the entire time. I watched at home with my brother, Paul ... just like we would do back in the day. I had tears streaming down my face the whole time, and when the Foo Fighters came on to play Dave off with "Everlong", I just openly bawled (Paul did not).

I'm so sad that I never had the opportunity to see a live taping of The Late Show With David Letterman, but he always made you feel as if you were there. We sure will miss you, Uncle Dave. I hope you have a total blast during your retirement ... and know how very much your show meant to us all.

"Is this anything?!" YES - it sure was something.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May Flowers!

Flowers are busting out all over in Venice, and it is something to behold. Every yard seems to contain its own treasures. The recent rain (still not nearly enough, but we'll take it) greened it all up around here, and life is blooming with a certain natural ecstacy that cannot be contained - even up a telephone pole.



One of my favorite books - and quotes - ever is The Little Prince, when Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes, "If someone loves a flower, of just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars."



Walking around Venice, here on Earth, it is enough to make one happy just to look at the flowers.





Thursday, May 14, 2015

Help The Venice Skatepark Fund!

We all love the Venice Skatepark, right? Well, then it's time to help them out over there. Jesse Martinez has been lovingly and faithfully cleaning that place every morning since it opened, and paid nothing for it by the city of L.A. The truck he used to haul all the cleaning supplies was stolen. Martinez has been using his own car to get down to clean the park from downtown L.A. (where he had to move from Venice after more gentrification b.s. - a whole other story ...) at 3 am every day.


The Skatepark doesn't clean itself, and the city does nothing to help. That is a crime. Thank goodness for good people volunteering to help (as about 20 did on Tuesday) and to companies that donate supplies and equipment (as World's Best Graffiti Removal did), and to YOU!


Because you can donate right now to the Venice Skatepark Fund HERE, and help make life a little easier on Martinez and his cleaning crew (when he has one, made up of volunteers). You can also make calls and write letters to place a little pressure on the City Of L.A. (another reason why Venice should be its own city) to PAY the man, pay for supplies, and let the Skatepark keep all the fees and things the city charges to use it, but doesn't use the money to maintain it. No brainer, right?

Few things around town are as iconic, or provide as much enjoyment and excitement as the Venice Skatepark ... let's thank it with some help, Venice (and everyone else who has enjoyed being there)!


*Photos by Ray Rae

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Blind Date At Small World Books

Small World Books is not my favorite bookstore in Los Angeles for nothing. I wandered in off the Boardwalk last weekend to get the new title in my friend and I's perpetual book club (because I was 758th in line to reserve it at the Venice Library!), and, as usual, spent way too long inside of there on a sunny day. You can't help it. After I found my book, I turned the corner to see this fun idea, a blind date with a book!



You pick one based off the clever introductions written on the brown paper, and see what you get. Unlike the dating world, here you cannot go wrong. Small World Books (owned and operated by awesome women) has tremendous taste, a super informative staff, and a perpetual sense of fun that probably comes from spending its entire tenure right off the Boardwalk and Sidewalk Cafe. I love it.


As for my blind date with the politically radical surfer, I do not kiss and tell ... but it was well worth it.






Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Yo Santa Monica? The Selling Of Yo Venice.

A couple of weeks ago I started getting texts and emails from bothered, annoyed, and downright disgruntled friends in Venice, over a snarky little article posted on Yo Venice. In all honesty, I haven't really paid much attention to Yo Venice, since its founder, Bret Haller, passed away from cancer just over a year ago. It just felt different, you know? And now it IS different, because Heller's family sold the site to a corporate media group, that also owns the Santa Monica Mirror. Much like the Jules Muck mural of Haller has now been a bit defaced by graffiti, so now too has his site been defaced.


After all complaints I was hearing about this article, and about the new Yo Venice itself, I had to go read the thing. I won't bother reprinting the smarm, because it's infuriating, but you can read it here. If you want.

Its author, Steve Stajich (who I understand lives and works in Santa Monica), ends his bitchy top ten list with "Thanks for the chuckle, Venice. Now, everybody, back to work." Ooooh. Really, dude? Right there he lets us know that he is not OF Venice, so probably shouldn't be writing for a site that represents Venice. And should certainly not be ripping on the town and its sense of fun and freedom. Then, later in the week, I was at lunch in Santa Monica and saw that the exact same article was in the print version of the Santa Monica Mirror! So Yo Venice basically now IS the Santa Monica Mirror. Which I don't read.

That is what the whole topless sunbathing thing is really about. We don't WANT to be Santa Monica. We want to live in a town that values and celebrates freedom and self-expression. We have a topless "Bare Your Breasts" march down the Boardwalk each Summer. We used to have a naked co-ed bike ride down the middle of the Abbot Kinney Festival every year. We had naked poetry readings on Wednesdays at Abbot's Habit. We've always pretty much done whatever we want (and can get away with) in the name of innocent fun and artistic freedom. Now, Money is killing the very spirit of Venice. It is all being threatened with extinction. Not only by the big monied pockets of people that don't get it, but also now, seemingly, by our own sources of news and information.

I was told that Yo Venice is now ran by "a Venice local", but no local I know would have ever dreamed of publishing that bratty article. Bret Haller would NEVER have let that thing get by. I've always loved Yo Venice (aside from the very nasty fake name chat room trolls I've been told about, but can't be bothered to pay attention to), but today I pretty much find myself missing and mourning the old site as much as I do my good friend, Haller.

No worries at all though. For up to the minute Venice info, go to the always awesome Venice Concierge. They're the REAL local deal.

As for Venice, itself ... it's up to all of us who love and care about it to keep it fun, to keep it free. If that means I'm sunbathing topless on the beach, so be it. For Bret, and for the future of Venice. I'll see you out there!


Monday, May 11, 2015

Even In Venice ... Unarmed Brendon Glenn Shot By Police

I was at dinner last Tuesday night with a group of friends, including Louis and Netty Ryan, owners of The Townhouse. The idea was to head over there after dinner for a nightcap, but I bowed out because of an early morning the next day. A couple hours later, there were sirens screaming like crazy, and I wondered what had happened now.

I awoke the next morning to hear the news that an unarmed homeless man, Brendon Glenn, had been shot and killed by the police in front of The Townhouse. UNARMED. Again. Not in some backwards town somewhere where this might not be surprising, but in VENICE. Shocking. Disgusting. ENOUGH.


I went down to Windward over the weekend to talk to people and see how everybody was doing with this. The answer is not good. By all accounts, this was not an incident that called for deadly force. Not even remotely. What kind of pussy needs to shoot someone that isn't armed, when you have a bunch of different options at hand, called billy clubs, tasers, mace, and the rest of your police department to back you up? Shoot them dead?! For WHAT?! And if you HAVE to use your gun (which you don't, almost ever), you don't learn how to aim for a foot or an arm or something that isn't fatal?! It's sickening, and seems to be a systemic problem, nationwide. And the People have had it.


There was a march calling for Justice that I could not attend, but was proud of. There was a Neighborhood Council meeting, that I also could not attend, but heard it was both fiery and frustrating. There have been candlelight vigils in front of The Townhouse, but that doesn't bring back someone's father. The tape of the shooting has not yet been released, but every single person who witnessed it is saying a gun wasn't necessary. They don't even have to, the man was UNARMED.


The answer is not more police, Councilman Bonin. They're the ones who murdered this man. The entire country needs to do some long, hard self-reflection. All these gun deaths are not only unnecessary, but shocking and embarrassing as a citizen of the world. What kind of crazy people kill each other like this over nothing ... all the time?

It's incredibly sad. You don't think it could happen here. But it did.  And it has to stop.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Glenn. We're all so very sorry this happened to you, here of all places.





Friday, May 8, 2015

My Morning Jacket LIVE For KCRW - Truly Wonderful

OK, I LOVE My Morning Jacket. I'd never seen them live. I got an invitation from the fantastic KCRW to attend a live show at Mack Sennet Studios to see My Morning Jacket play their excellent new album, The Waterfall. I was THERE.


Gnarly traffic got us there the instant the show began, so there was no time to indulge in the open bar before squeezing in to the jam-packed house there to see these super talented gentlemen throw down some rock and roll. I'd spent the whole previous evening listening to the new album on repeat so I'd be familiar with it to double enjoy it all, so it was even better, and awesome that they played it all in order. Thus, they opened with the album opener, "Believe (Nobody Knows)" and the people just went crazy from thereon out.

"Compound Fracture" and "Like A River" were up next, and you could feel the reverence for this band in the room. People seriously LOVE them. For good reason. Even though some in the room may not have even heard the album yet, they were all the way into every single note hit.


The room was a sweltering hot box with all that body heat squashed in there, and nobody minded a bit. The crowd was a mix of older NPR bookish types and total textbook hipsters, rounded out by KCRW staffers, and everyone was enjoying it as much as anyone could. Zero jadedness, just pure, unadulterated joy and appreciation to be there. That was tangible in how polite and kind everyone was to each other, moving aside for shorter people, not caring when a drink spilled on you ... it was that kind of vibe, and probably a tribute to the band, and our hosts.

The older couple in front of me were pretty much making out and dancing together the whole time, and I loved them for it. I want to be them when I grow up. They loved "In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)" and they really loved "Get The Point", clearly already having committed its lyrics to memory. I wish you all the love in this world and beyond ... I hope you get the point,  the thrill is gone ... Maybe the nicest breakup song ever. It was impressive all around.


Jim James wore a technicolor dream coat, which went great with the trippy Joshua Light Show type swirly lights dancing around us. James is a shaman of sorts, and he's very hard to take your eyes off, except maybe to watch the shredding of guitarist, Carl Broemel (that's the side I was on, I'm sure Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan, and Tom Blankenship were mesmerizing too, I just couldn't really see them).


"That song was a matrix to get lost in ... we wanted it to be disorienting, but pleasant, we hope.", said James after a particularly psychedelic passage of "Spring (Among The Living)". People were FEELING it in there, and a guy near me thought aloud how much he wished he was on acid. I've never done acid (perhaps surprisingly to some), but this one made me kind of get it.

After "Thin Line", James thanked everyone for coming, saying that they'd only ever played these songs two or three times, "So it's nice to be playing them for actual human beings." He's right, it was super nice, even more so that the show was being live-streamed on KCRW (and airs on the radio next Wednesday, May 13th), so the whole world was able to be in there watching with us ... though I have a feeling it wasn't quite the same. Or as hot.


"Big Decisions" almost got a bit metal, with a smoooooth ending. I think my favorite track off the new album is "Tropics (Erase Traces)", as it's already almost caused a skip in my Itunes there. So, so good. They closed out The Waterfall with its closer, "Only Memories Remain", another smooth, gorgeous one, that builds and builds until it was an awesome jam that was so good my friend Brad had to leave to mull it all over, missing the encore. He was MOVED. I'm pretty sure we all were.

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The band left the stage for a minute, and then came back out and James said, "I've never given birth before, but when we finished these songs, it felt something like that, with not a millionth of the pain. The songs are new and fragile, and you go 'what the fuck do I do in this part?' ... and then you remember to forget ... We're so proud of them." They should be. It's a great album, as everyone expected.


The encore of classics began with "Wonderful", which it surely was, then "Down On Bottom" that had the whole place clapping and dancing along. For "Circuital", James went and put on some kind of little Simon game looking machine around his neck, pulled up a monk type hood, and walked around the stage, singing all distorted and cool. They closed - appropriately - with "Victory Dance", and so it was for us all, just to be there.


Phew! We all exploded out of there into the night, only to find a beautiful, sorely needed steady rain falling from the sky, so maybe it was a rain dance in there as well. All I know is that it was perfectly, indeed, wonderful.

Thank you so much to KCRW and NPR for having me, and to My Morning Jacket for completely stoking us all. Go get The Waterfall right now. You'll love it.

*Great photos courtesy of KCRW's Ethan Shvartzman. (OK ones by my phone.)



















Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bill Graham And The Rock & Roll Revolution At The Skirball

Bill Graham And The Rock & Roll Revolution show opens today at The Skirball Center. If you are a lover of the rock and roll, you want to check this one out for sure.


We heard a little speech from the Skirball people, who introduced Graham's sons, David and Alex, as well as Graham biographer, Robert Greenfield, and Bonnie Simmons, who runs the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation.


It was excellent to have these Graham insiders there to peruse the exhibit with, as any time you had a question, they were all right there with the real story. There is also an app that you can tour the exhibit with, with all these wonderful rock stories told in Graham's own voice. As Greenfield said at the start of the tour, "Bill's voice is on the wall."


Graham was a survivor of the Holocaust, and was an social justice activist all his life, which is one of the reasons this show is opening at The Skirball Cultural Center (before traveling on to San Francisco, Chicago, New York ...).The first thing you are greeted by at the start of the exhibit is a barrel of apples like Graham always had at the Fillmore, with a sign to "Take one, or two". "White Rabbit" was playing - perfectly - when we strolled in, instantly transporting us back to the days of peace, love, and total upheaval.


Graham left Nazi Germany on a kindertransport train to France - where he and his friend would steal apples in order to survive (and maybe why he always had those apples at The Fillmore). Those children were then shipped to New York, where they awaited adoption. Graham was the last child chosen, which may have added to his empathy for others, and also to his grit and determination to get things done. Graham himself was never musical, but soon began a lifelong love affair with the American genre of rock and roll.

Graham never liked his original name (Wulf Wolodia Grajonca), as it was so hard for Americans to pronounce, so he chose "Bill Graham" from a Bronx phone book ... and never liked that either. Young Graham always wanted to act, so he found himself joining a mime troupe in San Francisco. In 1965, the head of the mimes was arrested, and Graham decided to set up an "Appeal Party" starring Jefferson Airplane to raise funds and awareness for getting the guy out. This would be the start of Graham's legendary concert promotion career - and also the start of all the great concert posters he was behind.


The exhibit is divided up into decades, 60's, 70's, 80's ... with the treasures on display from each era. The 60's are all about The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, The Band ... it's just awesome. To see all the original posters of those legendary shows ... Man.


The guitars on display from Graham produced shows were just sacred. A guy near me was so overcome by Jerry Garcia's Doug Irwin Wolf guitar he kept saying how he felt lightheaded and had the chills. Rock and roll can do that to you.


I felt almost the same when I saw one of Janis Joplin's show outfits on display ... and I was dressed pretty much the same, sans the boa.


There is a piece of Jimi Hendrix's guitar, which is probably all that was left after he destroyed them with his genius.


The Fillmore East and West were Graham's concert venues on both coasts, in New York and San Francisco. He maintained them both, flying back and forth every week, until 1971. With all the epically huge shows Graham put on, he would always say the best one he ever saw was Otis Redding. Hence, Graham was one of the first - if not THE first - to put both black and white artists together on the same bill. His goal was to have audiences that were 50/50 as well, and was a real pioneer in that area. Graham again pushing the social justice envelope.


A highlight of the Fillmore East shows was always the Joshua Light Show, a trippy liquid light show that would transport revelers into a psychedelic space. They have recreated a Joshua Light Show in a room of the exhibit, and it was funny to hear an older woman comment, "It's not really the same, is it?" to her friend. I bet.


A trip through the 70's was up next, through the good times and the bad. The next venue Graham opened up was The Winterland Ballroom, again in San Francisco, and again the place to be for the very best rock shows.


The 70's were also all about The Rolling Stones for Graham, as he managed their tours. There was a cool display of all the Stones concert tickets Graham was responsible for ...


...As well as a huge photo of a massive crowd at a Stones show, along with the shorts and hat Graham would wear, and the broken heeled boots worn by Keith Richards.


They had the suit Peter Frampton wore on his Frampton Comes Alive album cover, and was also worn in a show he did for Graham. It looks so crazy dated now, but at the time could not have been more fresh.


Graham saw a great deal of need in the San Francisco Public Schools, so did a massive concert for  his organization, SF SNACKS (Students Need Athletics, Culture & Kicks!), raising over $600,00 with everyone from Bob Dylan to The Grateful Dead playing for the kids. That was the kind of draw Graham had, and the kind of social awareness he raised.


This was also the time of Days On The Green - one day outdoor festivals at the Oakland Coliseum, featuring acts like Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, The Grateful Dead ... all on one bill! Wow. Those were the DAYS.


The 80's saw Graham keeping up with the times, and in fact, helping to create them. He produced the Live Aid show, that was broadcast to more than a billion people. This was the genesis of the huge modern day benefit show as we all know them.


He grew with the artists, and actively booked all the latest acts, while staying true to the people that got him where he was. Soon his shows featured the likes of Madonna and Prince, as by now, Graham had created such a name for himself that everyone wanted to play his shows.



Graham was celebrated also for the killer New Year's Eve shows he would throw, always with the best bands, and always with an elaborate costume for Graham. One year he flew into the party on the back of a big Grateful Dead butterfly ...


Another year found Graham lording over the festivities as Father Time. You can tell as you walk around these wonderfully curated memories of the man's life, that he'd be a really good time to hang out with ... and a really good friend.


Graham was also righteous in his beliefs about the world and social justice. He wrote an open letter criticizing Ronald Reagan for visiting Berlin at the time. A few days later, a molotov cocktail was thrown into Graham's offices, destroying much of his priceless memorabilia. You can see his melted telephone on display, as well as a blackened, destroyed menorah Graham had in his offices. Extremism is still sad, and still doesn't do any good, yet still goes on. Sigh ...


The concerts never ended for Bill Graham, as he was out producing them under the "Bill Graham Presents" banner until his last breath. On October 25, 1991, Graham caught a chopper ride back from a Huey Lewis concert to save time. There was bad weather, and they hit an electrical tower, killing them instantly. I listened to this story, and got kind of choked up watching Graham's sons, David and Alex, listening too, knowing that this was the moment that they lost their father. Graham was 60 years old, stopped short, with a lot of shows yet to envision.


The outpouring of love at the Memorial for Bill Graham was overwhelming. Over 300,000 people attended the "Laughter, Love and Music" show that featured all of Graham's friends and colleagues like The Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ... all there to celebrate the man who loved music. A story was told about how Graham taught the words to a Yiddish song called "I Love You Much Too Much" to Santana, who then played it at the Memorial. It was extra touching. As the sign at the end of the exhibit says, "It was the first time in history that so many people had turned out for a man who played no instrument, could not really sing, and had not written a word to any song. At long last, the crowd had finally come for Bill."

I foresee a crowd continuing to come for Bill, as this show should be visited in droves by music lovers from around the world throughout its run at The Skirball until October 11, 2015.

The Skirball Cultural Center
2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard
310.440.4500
Skirball.org



*Special mention must also be made about the great installation also up at The Skirball now ... The Singing Posters: Poetry Sound Collage Sculpture Book - Allen Ginsberg's Howl by Allen Ruppersberg. It's the entire Howl poem printed phonetically on posters, mixed in with pop culture posters, and meant to be read aloud. It is awesome, and should not be missed.

**Photos courtesy of the Skirball Center (pro) and Me (phone).