I know I don't act like it around here, I know you can't really tell, but I am a trained professional journalist with nearly twenty years' experience. I haven't had many teachers, but the few I've had were the best. Mrs. Murphy in high school taught me the basics. Professor Townsend at Miami-Dade turned me into a pro. Billie O'Day at the Miami News and Mad Dog Kent at the Miami Herald gave me opportunities. Jon Marlowe at the Miami News made me a music critic. And Jim Mullin here at New Times. Those are my main mentors, along with a guy named Bill Cosford. When I say Townsend made me a pro, I mean it literally -- I landed a job at the Miami Herald when I should've been a junior in college. While I was a snotty brat in the Herald newsroom, Cos took me beneath his wing. He wasn't my boss or anything, just my friend, someone who helped me along. Maybe it was because he'd started his career entry level, as a copy boy, and worked his way up by getting the job done and nothing else. Cos walked funny, hitched, as if one leg were six inches shorter than the other. An only child, Cos had acquired the strange gait in youth -- "I started walking like this to get attention." I recall once he came into the newsroom with a radically different haircut and made everyone laugh by announcing, "I'm remaking my image." And when he quit smoking he turned that into one of the most insightful feature stories you could ever read. Over the years we chatted occasionally, usually when I called him for one favor or another. I ran into him a few years ago while visiting someone at the Herald building. "So how are things going around here?" I asked Cosford. "Just fine," he answered, "you know, the same old, everything's great." He paused, looked at me with sparkling eyes, and continued: "C'mon Baker, I'm not gonna stand here and shit you. It sucks. It sucks like it always has and always will." An honest journalist. There are too few of those. And now there's one less. "A standup dude," is what the whiskey drinkers are saying. Here's to it. I'm sympathetic to Bill's family and friends and colleagues at the Herald and the University of Miami and Love-94. But, cold though it may seem, I mostly mourn the loss my profession has suffered.
I'm glad we have Tom Austin and Liz Martinez to keep track of the clubs, 'cause I sure can't keep up. Biscayne Grill begins staging live music under the moniker 901, the South Miami Avenue address of the huge space. This Friday during happy hour (7:00 to 9:00 p.m.) Arlan Feiles plays acoustic. On January 21 a band called Natural Causes takes the stage at 10:00 p.m. (cough, cough). The word is that the club doesn't intend to compete with nearby Tobacco Road, but instead should form a nifty little club triangle (with Firehouse Four) for hopping. Just such a triangle used to make South Beach worth visiting A the Talkhouse, Cactina, and Square were, what, about 50 stumbles apart? We all know about the Square's fate (it's now called something like the Dark Room). And in case you hadn't heard, the Cactus Cantina has closed.
Yup, after four and a half years of staging the finest in local music, and blazing plenty of palates with those incredible munchies, the Cactina is gone for good. "The scene just isn't happening," says owner Linda Lou Nelson, "and I'm not willing to run a disco." She's currently in the process of selling the space. "I'm going to take a vacation," Ms. Linda Lou says, "and when I get back, I want to get the Blues Society on its feet. I hope to have the time to do that. I'll still be involved, produce some events, I don't know. The tough part is all the musicians who considered this place home." Maybe. For the rest of us the worst part is losing one of the area's best nightspots.
Halo plays an all-ages show this Sunday at Plus 5.
I can see for Miles and Miles and miles -- I'm listening to a VUM DJ named Miles and holding in my paws two tapes, one from Miles Hie (of Itch fame) and one from a band called the miles. The former -- Homeless for Christmas -- is not a holiday record. Homelessness isn't seasonal. The album tells the story of Bill, a homeless person Miles interviewed at length. Bill's commentary is mixed with rich acoustic songs that evoke rather than proselytize. The miles -- a young band in every way -- deliver four pop punk tunes on their debut. Heavy on the melody, light on the angst, the miles mix a Peter Buckish (sorry) guitar sound with casual vocals and elegant rhythms to create accessible tunes. Both tapes, and listening to VUM for that matter, are recommended.
Vandal is about to head back to L.A. They'll play a see-ya-later show this Friday at Plus 5 with Skin Tight, Rhythm Duval, and Spiritual Graffiti. The following night the club hosts Collapsing Lungs (recently signed by Atlantic) with Things of Naught, the Niki Taylors, and Erecti Cocktopus.
There is cool stuff going on in the Square/Spo-Dee-O-Dee/Dark Room space. We've mentioned the wild Screw on Tuesdays, which this week intends to stage the way cool Stimulators. On Sundays it's Boom! -- the Aftermath, a Latin rock night with videos and soon international touring acts.
The Melanie concert on January 22 at the Talkhouse is a benefit for Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
Festivals are a nickel a dozen 'round here, but this one's over the top. It's the South Florida Folk Festival, a two-day orgy of smart, friendly, provocative music headlined by Oscar Brand and Rosalie Sorrels. Call 964-7787 and check out the "Calendar."
Yo, drummers. The Drum Talk workshop series begins next Tuesday with Vinx. The place is the Lincoln Theatre, the cost is $10, the phone is 672-7519. Beat a path.
Bob Kuiper, a local jazz vocalist, says he obtained the Holly Cole Trio album and liked it so much he went to see both of their shows at Stephen Talkhouse. Now he wants to know why Love-94 refuses to play the Holly Cole Trio. Good question.
Road trip, anyone? An excellent opportunity to get a taste of North Florida, and some of its alternative music, this weekend. Two dozen bands play the Alachua Fairgrounds in Gainesville on Saturday and Sunday. Organizers say there wasn't enough of a budget, but next year they hope to make it an all-Florida-bands event, featuring some of South Florida's bright lights. Tickets -- only five bucks -- can be obtained at Y&T. Among the bands: Whoreculture, Tone Unknown, Gruel, Ten Feet Tall, Stalefish.... Call 904-336-8360.
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Butthorn of the week: Madonna sucks in the presence of about several thousand butthorns. Me, I was busy watching the Miami Heat do battle with Shaq and his Orlando Magic support staff. The yupsters around us, and plenty of others, wouldn't shut up about the fact Madonna was there, sucking on lollipops and staring at Shaq's largeness. Todd "Sloppy Joe" Anthony turns to me early in the game and says, "Hey, Bake, you see Madonna, right? That's what everyone's yapping about." I couldn't resist offending the yupsters. In a loud voice: "Madonna who?" I have to admit I took a look. It was very late in the game, the Heat down by about ten, when Glen "G Money" Rice nails a three-pointer. The crowd goes wild...the Heat gets the ball back..."Minute" Rice nets out another three! The place erupts. I glance down. Madonna is one of maybe three people in the Arena sitting dumb. And while we're on the subject -- Steve "Please Leave" Smith blew that game and is blowing too much lately. Madonna's not the only one who sucks.
The media circus: The other night for New Year's one of the teevy news shows had psychic Micki Dahne on the air to make her 1994 predictions. Among those predictions: Barbra Streisand's Vegas shows might be her last live performances ever. A day later Variety reported that it looks like Babs will tour.
Pet corner: Update: Sarah or Sara -- she never did leave her name spelling or phone number -- did call back after I asked her to in this space and she did finish the story of cat Maggie. "She was a stray in my apartment complex who kept getting pregnant. So I took her to the Humane Society and got her spayed. It cost me $25. But Maggie pulled out the stitches.... So I took her to the nearest vet. I better not tell you his name. I told him I was a student and that the cat was a stray, not mine. He still charged me $250. I guess it's a business and they have to make a living. The cat got better, and I found her a nice home, so I guess it's a good ending." A $250 stitch job? I still want to know more.
Hello and goodbye: Eduardo Rodrigo Bustamante, Jr., was born December 30 at 1:00 p.m., weighing in at nine pounds and measuring 21 inches. Roxy the Chum Dog likes him, licks his head. Nobody tell Eddie Sr. or Irene, but me and the little nipplesucker are going shrimping for the next few days. See ya in two weeks. If we all should live so long.