One must always temper one's hunger for knowledge with respect for the risk involved. To learn one must risk getting burned.
The trouble began three years ago when mail that was strange even for newspaper post-office boxes began piling up: letters plastered with cryptic misspellings, patches of print-media clippings, colorful drawings -- and all that was just on the outside. A code of many colors. Return address: the Prom Sluts.
The Prom Sluts then sent me a formal dinner invitation.
Yeah, right, I'm going to show up, by myself, at the apartment door of some psychos who've been sending me obscene and frightening mail. I'll walk in and there'll be a bunch of naked serial killers preparing an altar on which to sacrifice me.
The food, like the Prom Sluts's avant rock, was incredible. Tomato-mozzarella-prosciutto appetizers followed by spinach salad with mustard-based dressing, homemade bread, stuffed green peppers, an elegant orange-tuber side dish, perfectly cooked roast beef -- none of it poisoned or even laced with LSD. Then came dessert: fondue, chocolate cream pie, and, of course, Limburger cheesecake. (Really. I even took a bite. Like most things different, you don't know until you try it.)
Now time has finally come for a three-years-later pay-ya-back to a band whose credo was "we want to become immortal -- and then kill ourselves."
They did -- the Prom Sluts disbanded.
Frontman Sir Robert and drummer Tim Tim Tim the InTimidator have since formed a new band -- Kreamy 'Lectric Santa -- with Sister Ray (violin and some vocals), Shazam De la Rok (guitar and colonic), Barbarian (bass), Jan 9 (vocals and gymnastics). Their new three-song record, "Supergroup 2000," also features guests, credited thusly: "JM (sax), Sasha (chicken butt), and Dave Kudzma (projections and savior)."
When a rock group issues new product, members must make the promotional rounds -- Letterman, Rockline, in-stores at Spec's. Lacking those opportunities, this group was naturally eager to accept my invitation: a barbecue at Baker's. (Almost poetic, ain't it?) No Limburger cheesecake this time. Chicken guts, though.
I chose a sparkling summer Sunday 'cause I figured God wouldn't mind if we experimented with His reality. I invited the band members proper (so to speak); their manager, Sean Kelly; their record producer, Frank R.B. Falestra; and poet-band consultant Lionel Goldbart. The editor of this newspaper -- knowing full well I'd be plastered before the first piece of meat came off the grill -- assigned investigative ace Jim DeFede to cover the event. Twenty people showed up. (Guitarist De la Rok couldn't make it due to the fact he was sick and vomiting blood A and he hadn't even consumed any of my food!) The group had a reputation for doing crazed and twisted things on and off stage, and I thought it best to be prepared for anything.
The band had a live show scheduled for 4:00 that afternoon, so timing was tight, but I discovered that the propane tank for my grill was empty. My wife took off to get fuel about noon, when the first guests began to arrive: a photographer named Priscilla Forthman (on assignment for New Times) and Frank Falestra, who had flown in from New York City earlier that morning, abandoning the New Music Seminar early, driving straight to my place from MIA. Frank obviously takes his R.S.V.P.s seriously.
Frank and I popped open some cold brews and tried to explain to Priscilla what a Club Guido is, who the Boredoms are, things perhaps too obscure for general consumption. By the time we convinced her she should spend every night at Washington Square moshing, the Kreamy entourage began filing in.
From reporter DeFede's notes:
For those who've never been to the Bake-abode, you must realize it is about the size of a two-car garage but with fewer amenities. When I arrived Baker was working the grill on the back porch. He had about 80 pounds of meat in various stages of readiness. On the stove in the kitchen was bubbling a tub of baked beans...
Trained observer DeFede apparently did not look under the lid of the big frying pan, where the chicken guts were gently sauteing in garlic, onion, butter, and white wine.
Blaring from the stereo was Kreamy's new seven-inch single -- which they call a "vynal CD." "Supergroup 2000" contains three tunes: "Resurgence," "Ism," and "KLS Love Theme (Love Theme from KLS)" (partially mistitled in the credits as "Love Theme to K.L.S"). It's guitars and rhythms and vocals and squalling and different and beautiful because it's different. There are traces of the Fall, the Damned, Captain Beefheart, Zappa-but-on-drugs, the Buzzcocks. Music as anti-music but musical. DeFede knows what I mean.
Lionel Goldbart brought along a pal of his -- Fred. Clearly Lionel was a dupe in Fred's investigative game, some government agency or another was surely trying to nail us all for doing...oh, God, paranoia already. From DeFede's notes:
Cracking open a Pabst Blue Ribbon, I decided to see who was in the house. In the kitchen, sweating profusely, was a man in a floral print shirt, reflective sunglasses masking his face, neatly cropped gray hair adorning his dome. He looked fiftyish. This guy had Fed written all over him. I moved past him as quickly as possible.
Sodas and beers were distributed, burgers flipped, beans stirred, guts tossed. Five people crammed themselves onto a futon meant for three, everyone else was splayed on the floor or in motion. From the couch came the small but nonetheless authoritative voice of Sir Robert suddenly announcing, "Rock started as an act of rebellion against authority. Now it has become institutionalized. Even punk rock, though relatively obscure, has been stripped of its merits and packaged for mass consumption. Everything from traditional punk, psychedelia, and trash metal to Michael Bolton. Our main goal is to expand our resources and continue our musical experimenting. If mass acceptance should somehow come, then we'll stop eating macaroni and cheese."
Sorry, Sir, no mac-and-cheese. But I fixed two kinds of potato salad, if that helps. "No, man," Sir said. "Our main goal is to be endorsed by as many beer companies as possible and then dropped."
I stepped over a couple of the members of the Funyons -- Steve Milano and Mario Ramos -- and dodged my friends Janese "Jan 9" Weingarten and Lissette (no, not that Lissette) to squeeze out of the house. On the back porch Lionel Goldbart was noting how he and Clyde McPhatter joined the army on the same day. Goldbart wiped sweat from his face. "Did you see that Motown was sold to PolyGram by the investment company that bought it from Berry Gordy five years ago?" he asked Sean Kelly and me. "They paid him $61 million. So it went from nothing to $61 million in 20 or 30 years, however long he had it. PolyGram now pays $325 million to the investment company just five years later." The poet paused, stuck out his paper plate. Grilled ground chuck landed atop his onion roll. "Those figures are out of my league," he continued. He looked down at the beans and burger. "Yours too, I'm sure. But isn't it unreal and somehow sinister? It sorta makes you want to be a communist."
When he said this I looked around nervously, the paranoia striking again. I live in a neighborhood that's almost all Cuban.
Soon the bounty of fine food increased. Sean Kelly brought along these killer shish kebabs, which went on the grill. The Funyons had provided chicken and a watermelon the size of a Toyota. Photographer Peggy Nolan showed up with a charming and piquant pasta salad made from scratch. Peggy, her daughter Stella, and Peggy's friend Gram Wyatt fought for space on the porch, where Goldbart regaled the guests with tales of Dylan rudeness, Woodstock adventures, and Zappa uncoolness.
Kreamy 'Lectric Santa bassist Chief Dan Carradine -- who would soon be replaced by Barbarian (who played bass on the new record, then quit, and has rejoined) -- didn't know it yet, but in a few hours he'd play his last show with the Santas, at least for now.
"KLS is more of a family than a business," said Sir Robert, also known as Sir Bo TurBo.
We ate. (From DeFede's notes: "Baker's beans were great.") We waited for something important to happen. It did.
DeFede engaged members of the band in a dialectical inquiry:
DeFede: "So, who's in the band?"
Band members: "What band?"
DeFede (looking nervously over his shoulder for the Fed he spotted earlier): "I don't know, whatever band this barbecue is for."
Band members: "Kreamy 'Lectric Santa."
DeFede (whipping out his notebook): "And exactly how is that spelled?"
Band members: "K-r-e-a-m-y L-e-c-t-r-i-c S-a-n-t-a."
DeFede: "Oh, Kreamy Electric Santa?"
Me: "No, Jim. Lectric."
DeFede: "Right. Kreamy Electric Santa."
Me: "Now you got it."
Once done with the important stuff, Sir Robert moved on: "Florida has its share of uncompromising, intelligent underground bands," he said. "Harry Pussy, Cavity, Postface.... But they're all forced to play off-nights at Churchill's or create their own gigs. The venues are all closed to anything unique or different. We'd rather create our own gigs than be on the political merry-go-round of the club scene."
From DeFede's notes:
With the band now stuffed in the front room, word suddenly comes that the folks on the porch are ready to cut open a 25-pound watermelon. "Watermelon!" they collectively scream, jumping up and running to the porch. It was like watching some sort of Satanic ritualistic sacrifice. They hacked at the watermelon with a knife. For a few moments there was quiet, except for the sound of everyone spitting seeds and the thuds of watermelon rinds being tossed into neighbors' yards.
As the last of the meat sizzled away, Frank Falestra and Sean Kelly and Sir Robert began loading up so they could get to the famed record store and sometimes show venue Y&T by 4:00 p.m. The chicken guts I'd worked so hard to prepare just so remained largely uneaten. Normally I'd have been happy to have 'em, but thanks to the generosity of the guests, I had enough leftovers of all sorts to last days.
Y&T was not crowded until the barbecue contingent arrived. Regular customers must have been surprised to see the dabs of barbecue sauce on some of us -- it looked like dried blood and we were smiling fiendishly.
Even without their guitarist, the Santas played a stunning set, filled with provocative moments -- Sister Ray's Category 4 violin wails and violent vocals on "Ism," Sir Robert dishing out innovative and rich guitar leads and singing like the heyday of CBGB wasn't over fifteen years ago. Tim Tim Tim tom-tom-tomming away, Jan 9 standing on her head, Chief Dan's bass belching happily. Even Fred the Fed eats it up.
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"It's cool to see freaks, hippies, punks, and normal folks enjoying our shows," Sir Robert, whose appearance fits three of those four categories, said after the 'lectrifying performance. "We also like to gig with an odd assortment of unlikely acts. And I'd like to see Sloth with Mary Karlzen, Rooster Head with Chickenhead, Nuclear Valdez with Harry Pussy. Those would be interesting bills. And that'll be long after hell freezes over and the meek cockroaches inherit the Earth."
Roaches! We haul ass back to the house to clean up.
Lionel Goldbart calls with big news a few days later. "I hear Kreamy 'Lectric Santa's playing Washington Square on September 1. Tell your readers that to get in, they have to come see me and the ACME reading series at Stephen Talkhouse earlier that night." Sure Lionel, right, I'm going to waste space in a story about one of my favorite bands to plug your little gig.
From DeFede's barbecue-sauce-stained notes:
Work encroached ever so briefly when Tim Tim Tim the InTimidator walked over to Baker and asked, "So when are we going to do the interview?" Baker screamed, "Fuck the interview. This is the interview. This!"
Kreamy 'Lectric Santa performs tonight, Wednesday, at Washington Square, 645 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 534-1403.