Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I've always liked the Talking Heads and have enjoyed David Byrne's solo stuff, even if it is uneven. But I stumbled across this video he made for "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" and wondered how could I have missed it when it first came out not quite a decade ago? I mean, I was generally following him on his blog back then, yet it slipped past me. This is very much vintage Heads surrealism here. The mid-century modern aesthetic is lovely and detached and, to be honest, I have no idea what that whole shtick symbolizes, if anything. Sometimes weirdness for the sake of weirdness is its own reward.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Andy Taylor.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

THIS IS NOT A DRILL!

Bamboo Ben is in San Antonio today. That's him to the right, in this 2004 photo by Lee Unkrich. "Who is Bamboo Ben?" you may ask. Well, I'll tell you: Bamboo Ben is the foremost tiki bar designer and builder working today. He's the grandson of Eli Hedley, who earned the moniker "the Original Beachcomber" and did design work for many of the great, original tiki bars and restaurants back in the 1940s and 1950s. Bmaboo Ben has built and/or designed dozens upon dozens of tiki bars over the past 20-plus years, including Strong Water, Mamahune Kauai, Bamboo Club, Zombie Village, TikiCat, Frankie's Tiki Room, Pacific Seas, Kona Club, Forbidden Island, Jan & Dean's Tiki Lounge, plus many, many lush home tiki bars all over the country, ranging from Pixar directors in California to Austin's own Moai Ice House.

And he's in San Antonio. Today, September 12, talking about a tiki bar build.

This is a big freakin' deal, to us the technical term. Tiki culture by an large avoided Texas during tiki's heyday, mainly because 1) Texas' historically restrictive liquor laws and 2) lack of basements curtailed the home bar culture. Even so, over the years Houston and Dallas have played host to outposts from Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic and Stephen Crane. Austin had Steak Island. Even Corpus Christi had the Lahala House. Of Texas' major cities, only San Antonio--ironically, the one with the biggest tourism industry--has had no full-blown tiki experience. Oh, sure, San Antonio has had a few places that flirt with tiki cocktails (Hot Joy is the current fave) but nothing that fit the traditional, escapist exotica mold.

Exactly where Ben may work his magic with lauhala matting is not confirmed (and really, he's not under contract yet that I know of) but it's easy to make an educated guess. Last November, Ben Olivo reported in the San Antonio Heron that the old Witte Building, located at the end of the River Walk on 135 E. Commerce St., was in line for a major makeover that would include a full-blown tiki bar at river level (photo by Ben Olivo):

The group behind this project is Chris Hill, who owns the popular Esquire Tavern a short distance away. Houston Eaves is attached to manage the tiki bar. These are well-established movers and shakers in the San Antonio hospitality scene, and they have money behind the project. This isn't a fly-by-night, on-the-cheap attempt to cash in on tiki's current popularity. From what I've seen, they've done their research and are doing everything right. Hiring Bamboo Ben (or at least having serious discussions with him) is yet another sign they're determined to avoid any missteps with this project. In February, Olivo reported that the project had received approval for 11 gas-powered tiki torches. Wow! That's some serious infrastructure along the lines of what Disney has at the Polynesian Village, or the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale. That's not cheap, or fast, or easy. It's flashy and eye-catching, and will literally stand out as something unlike anything else that currently exists on the River Walk.

I, for one, cannot wait to see this open. Heck, I can't wait to find out what it'll be called. One thing's for sure, though: Inertia counts for a lot. This project is a lot farther along than any other abortive tiki efforts in recent years have gotten. Pitfalls remain, but knock wood, I think this thing is really happening.

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Friday, September 06, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The universe is weird. A few weeks ago, this song popped into my head, unannounced. I hadn't heard it in decades and barely remembered anything about it beyond its chorus. Who was the singer? I had the vague notion it was associated with Duran Duran, but obviously it wasn't a Duran Duran song. That band's members were doing a lot of solo projects in the mid-80s, though. Power Station? The guitar rock fit, but that obviously wasn't Robert Palmer on vocals. John Taylor? No, he proved he couldn't sing with "I Do What I Do." And it wasn't Simon Le Bon, because everything he's done since Arcadia sounds like Arcadia. I was stumped. Then last week, riding in The Wife's car, out of the blue "Take It Easy" starts playing on the radio. Oh, Andy Taylor! Well, that solves that mystery, although I have to say it was an awful lot of brain power to devote to a song I only sorta liked in the first place. I have to say, though, that the actress in the video's movie clips sure has some moves. I wonder if "American Anthem" is any good--I missed it back when it came out.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Prince.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

People today just can't understand what a huge deal Tim Burton's Batman was when it came out 30 years ago. It was such a big deal that Prince's accompanying soundtrack was an event unto itself as well (this does not diminish Danny Elfman's score, which was profoundly influential in its own right). The first track off Prince's album was the surreal "Batdance," and it was a monster hit. The second single, which actually featured in the movie, was the wildly flamboyant "Partyman," which I've long considered the best work on that disc. Oddly, "Partyman" was only a top 20 hit, and I never saw a video for it (despite "Batdance" running what seemed like 24/7 on MTV at the time). Turns out, MTV refused to air the extended video because of the sexuality of the girl in the water tank and Prince's supervillain move of killing everyone at the party (oops! Spoiler alert!). In any event, Prince's estate has no aversion to the interwebz, and in the last few years has released all manner of Prince videos on YouTube for us all to enjoy, and this gem is a dandy piece of 1989 frozen in amber.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jimmy Castor.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I'd never heard of Jimmy Castor prior to this week. And a quick scan of his biography online shows that he had a hand in all sorts of musical styles. With his group the Jimmy Castor Bunch, however, he was pure, distilled funk, as evidenced by his 1973 hit, "Troglodyte (Caveman)." Can you sock it to me? Right on!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

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Friday, August 02, 2019

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The Kinks have been broken up since 1996, with only occasional solo albums from Ray or Dave to fill the void amidst perpetual rumors of a reunion. In light of that, new Kinks music is rare. We've gotten a few unreleased bonus tracks here and there on remastered albums, and the 50th anniversary of Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire brings us a new gem in the form of "The Future." It's a freaking do-wop song! It's a nifty number that has its charms, but it is easy to see why it didn't make the final album--the acapella harmonies simply don't fit with the sound of the rest of the album, even though the lyrics match the mood quite well. Fortunately, it's no longer unreleased. I wonder what other treasures remain hidden in the vaults?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Mikaela Davis.

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Thursday, August 01, 2019

Chicken Ranch anniversary: CLOSURE!

On this date in 1973, the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel of La Grange, Texas, closed its doors for good. The closure followed a week (give or take--it's been tough to pin down exact dates) of broadcasts by Houston TV station KTRK's consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler, accusing the brothel of corruption and conspiracy. The Chicken Ranch had survived attempts to close it before, but the white-hot media spotlight proved too much for it. Today marks the 46th anniversary of its closure.

On this date in 2016, however, another milestone was reached, with the official release of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse. Has it been three years already? Apparently so, but it's hard to believe. The six years I put into it seem to have paid off as far as critics are concerned, with the book's reception being as close to across-the-board positive as is reasonably possible.

Just a reminder--book reviews help tremendously. If you've read Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch and are willing to do so, even a short sentence or two on Amazon, Goodreads or other online book site would help get the book in front of new eyes and spread awareness. Thanks!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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