The Bitch

Obitchuary Column

The Bitch was fascinated by an ad for a hearse posted by one of her Gothic music pack mates, so she called death-coach owner Stivan Widick to ask him why he was selling his beloved Sarah. Turns out Widick, creative director of Persistence of Vision Motion Picture Arts, has a spare bod rod and also belongs to a group of fellow fanciers, The Lucky Stiffs.

Widick speaks eloquently about mortuary moving vehicles: "I love unique things, and these cars are anything but mundane. I remember seeing an old Cadillac hearse, one with the fins, as a small boy, and I thought it looked like an even cooler version of the Batmobile. Since then I've come to appreciate them for their dark beauty as well as for the long tradition of design and details that go into their hand-built coach-work. Sayers & Scovill, the coach maker that built both my hearses, has been making funeral coaches since 1876, starting with horse-drawn models. These coaches can cost $100,000 new.

"On the practical side, they have tons of room inside, are usually very well cared for, and have lower mileage than most used cars. It's also a conversation starter. I have met a lot of hearse and car enthusiasts as well as a variety of other very nice people who have been intrigued enough to come up to me to ask questions or have a quick look. I don't mind at all, although sometimes it's hard to get from the parking lot to inside a late-night club because of the gathering crowd. And the things I've been asked to let people do in there!...

The Lucky Stiffs get together for hearse talk and a generally lively time
Jonathan Postal
The Lucky Stiffs get together for hearse talk and a generally lively time
Trini and Eugene make merry in their new studio
MTV
Trini and Eugene make merry in their new studio

"There are some negatives. The reaction of some people who apparently have mortality issues of their own to work out can be downright hostile. And finding parking for a nearly three-ton, twenty-one-foot vehicle is not always the easiest thing!"

The Bitch asked Widick how to trick out her Subaru Impreza hearse-style. "Put small landau bars on the sides and maybe crowbar in some Caddy taillights and fins," he advised.

Henry Stone, Man!

When mercurial label owner and producer Henry Stone announced in March he was setting up an online store via his Website www.henrystonemusic.com, with several out-of-print titles from pioneering raunchy rapper/parodist Blowfly's catalogue, many industry observers were skeptical. After all, like most pioneers from the early days of rock and roll, Stone has been repeatedly accused of withholding royalties from his artists, particularly while he was owner of TK Records, which housed Seventies disco stars such as KC & the Sunshine Band, Betty Wright, and Blowfly's alter ego, Clarence Reid.

However, according to Tom Bowker, one-time New Times contributor and Blowfly's current manager (as well as a drummer and vocalist in Blowfly's band), this venture is on the up-and-up. "Everything's agreeable at this point," said Bowker as he prepared for this past Wednesday's headlining gig alongside Luke and Avenue D at the 420 Festival at I/O. "He's doing right with us at this moment. I can't go back into the Seventies. I wasn't even alive then."

Bowker explained most of Blowfly's catalogue hasn't been commercially available for years, not since Stone reissued them through his Hot Productions venture in the mid-Nineties. Thanks to Stone, who has been selling the new discs to the band at wholesale rates, Blowfly can now shill his memorable works -- he made his name rewriting pop chestnuts ("Soul Man") into nasty funk adventures ("Hole Man") -- to impressionable new college-age fans. Bowker added that Reid, who couldn't be reached before press time, is pleased the records are available again: "He's happy that the stuff's out. We've been selling them at our shows. It's good to have the catalogue out there."

Stone, who recently won a judgment against Ray Charles's estate granting him ownership of four early Charles recordings made at Stone's Miami studio in 1951, noted that Blowfly's recent comeback, which has encompassed a national tour, an acclaimed appearance at the SXSW festival, and a forthcoming album on legendary punk label Alternative Tentacles, prompted him to reissue classic LPs such as The Weird World of Blowfly.

"Clarence has been out on the road and has started to work again, so there's been a renewed interest," said Stone. "Basically he still has a cult following too. Like everything else, it's coming around. It's coming back."

MTV Puerto Rico VJs

It's true The Bitch's heart is on the island, so she enjoyed spending some time this week with newly anointed MTV Puerto Rico VJs Mari "Trini" Menendez and Eugene Rodriguez Santiago. The pair was in Miami this week to do some promo for the network, which just expanded to twenty-hour-per-day broadcasts. Unlike its American counterparts, MTV PR is broadcast not on cable but on regular VHF bandwidths, so anyone with big enough rabbit ears can tune in.

This appeals to Rodriguez, whose family lives in a remote mountainous region of the island. "I was excited when I found out they put up a big antenna and could grab the channel," avers the skater-styled former radio personality, who broke into the big time hosting a segment of Unplugged with Vico C. Though he spends his shifts introducing clips by Tego Calderon, Daddy Yankee, and Ivy Queen, Santiago favors rockers such as La Secta, Green Day, Foo Fighters, and Nirvana. "Kurt Cobain was the real deal," Rodriguez says solemnly.

Rodriguez auditioned to be a VJ on a lark, never thinking he'd get the gig: "I thought MTV was too big for me."

Menendez's break was similarly serendipitous. She was on her way from Inter-American University of Puerto Rico to medical school, working part-time as a producer for an extreme-sports program. One day the host didn't show up; Menendez grabbed the chance to get in front of the camera and has stayed there since.

"I love commercial music," Menendez says. "I love Eminem, Madonna, but also El Sindicato and El Bambino."

Menendez cites MTV VJ Lala as a role model, while Rodriguez prefers stalwart Carson Daly ("He's very chill-out.").

When The Bitch invoked the name of her favorite VJ, Jesse Camp, the pair shrieked a simultaneous "Eeewwww!" Rodriguez recovered quickly, demurring, "Maybe you and he are more like ... rock stars."

Home Depot

This past Sunday at 8:00 a.m. The Bitch was intercepted during a stroll in Coconut Grove by another early riser handing out leaflets. "Are you fighting against the Home Depot?" a tense woman asked without preamble. The Bitch, who doesn't care if a neutron bomb explodes over the former Kmart on the corner of Bird Road and McDonald Avenue as long as the supply of aioli dipping sauce doesn't disappear from the adjacent Gardner's Market, murmured a semi-diplomatic: "Um, no, not really."

Seriously, though, what's the problem? Grovites complain a Home Depot would drive down property values. The Bitch says: That's too bad, considering land prices have soared in the neighborhood so wildly in recent years long-time residents are being driven off by the encroaching moated palaces, and new would-be dwellers had better have a portfolio in the seven figures before even ringing up a realtor.

Quality-of-life handwringing seems a pallid point as well, considering there's a Taco Bell, a McDonald's 24-hour drive-through, and an abortion clinic within 100 yards of the proposed HD site.

Traffic? Noise? The very nearby Metrorail tracks and, uh, U.S. 1 seem already to have that ambiance covered.

Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado takes the opposite tack, though, in a letter posted to e-mail listserv of the anti-HD Grove First. Responding to a letter from Grove resident Jeremy Flores, Regalado (whose district does not include Coconut Grove, the province of Johnny "Captain Kirk" Winton) huffed, "The mayor wants the Home Depot, the administration wants the Home Depot, and the area commissioner also wants Home Depot. I am sorry for the Grove, I know what is coming, but they won't listen to me."

Earlier This Month ...

Across the highway between the train tracks and a cluster of antiques shops, in what is known as the Bird Road Art District, an intimate gathering of about 200 people communed outside a warehouse to celebrate the work of artist Jonathan Riesco. Amid the eclectic crowd of boozers, art denizens, and uninvited hippies were two men in dark suits, alert to any would-be terrorists who may have been after a third pinstripe-sporter, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

The mayor dropped in to show support for the son of José "Pepe" Riesco, chairman of the political action committee that has raised more than $300,000 in financial support and gathered 200,000-plus signatures on two petitions aimed at stripping power from the county commission and handing it to Alvarez.

The mayor posed for some photos, perused the exhibit (consisting of 69 paintings and titled "Nice to Meet You Thru Nice to Know You Volume 2: The Benefits of Conversation"), and mingled with the crowd for about an hour. The Bitch asked the artist if Alvarez had purchased a painting. "We discussed a similar set of paintings for the mayor's office," said Riesco.

After making the rounds, Alvarez sped off in the standard government-issued black Expedition and left the politicking in the capable hands of Papa Riesco. Undaunted by his April 5 appearance in front of the commissioners, during which a routine meeting turned into a verbal bloodbath, Pepe collected about 100 more signatures for his Procurement Reform and Executive Mayor petitions.

"We went in there with a plan and a purpose, and they went off on a rampage," Papa Riesco said. "They dropped innuendo and personal attacks. They said it was a power grab, that this is what happens in Cuba and other Latin American countries, which is ludicrous. What we are seeking to do is to provide transparency. Right now there's no transparency. The commission controls the budget, the agenda, the spending, and the purchasing. So if there's any totalitarianism, it's what we have right now." What's sad is that, while trying to "reform government," Riesco didn't notice when some less-than-civic-minded, art-loving hoodlum jacked his $600 cell phone/Palm Pilot complete with the contact info for some pretty powerful Republicans. The Bitch is still waiting for a Paris Hilton-PDA hack-like Website to go up. She needs to bark at Jeb about the crime in this town.

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