I've Never Lived With Such Madness
by Dr. Derek Lamar
“Let’s Go To War!” That actually was the title of one of my songs in the 80’s. It had that New Wave spin to it. Lyrics which echo the irony we are experiencing now: “Iran is a winner, see the revolution’s done, their top ten’s in confusion but Khomaini’s having fun. Egypt signed the treaty but the Arab world has doubt, the Jews did what was needed but the PLO still shout Let’s go to war, let’s go to war, let’s go to war, what are we waiting for?” I said to Johnny Forever: “Remember the Stones when Ed Sullivan said they couldn’t sing ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’? I would have to rewrite this song for sure.” So in a week or so I rewrote the song for fun and titled it “Let’s Go To The Store” in keeping with our consumerist society.
(Above right: The Rolling Stones, in order to perform Let's Spend The Night Together on the Ed Sullivan Show changed it to Let's Spend Some Time Together. I am now working on changing Let's Go To The Store to Let's Go Online.)
It was comfortable in the Hollywood Hills even though our apartment was small. I was still moderately busy doing graphics design work and advertising but at a low-income level. I wasn’t dedicated professionally to what I was doing for a living because my music and continuing research and studies in metaphysics took priority. This meant we would just barely meet our monthly bills with little money left over. So even if we wanted to move somewhere else that could be a problem.
West Hollywood was a colorful place to live. When you realize how much of it is connected to the entertainment industry: actors, actresses, hairdressers, designers, agents… hairdressers - then you can imagine the drama which must go on in the midst of people’s lives. And yet something new was always happening. One day we needed haircuts and as we drove down Doheny Drive Nancy noticed a salon called Kenneth West. She had her hair done in New York at a famous hair stylist named Kenneth so she figured this was his West Coast salon. It turned out the guy’s name was actually Kenneth West and it had nothing to do with the Kenneth in the East. The first thing the hairdresser asked was “Who did your hair last?” Actually I had my hair cut at King Kurt’s in Hollywood. His claim to fame was that he did the coif of Bubba played by Don Bexley on Sanford & Son. Out of frustration with hairdressers who never cut our hair the way we wanted I decided to give it a try myself. I mean, it was a punk/new wave music scene and I had an x-acto knife, right? So I started whacking away and it looked pretty good so Nancy let me do hers. We’ve been doing each other’s hair ever since. I use scissors now.
(Above left: Bubba, played by Don Bexley. Bubba with Sanford & Son. I wonder who did Crazy Grady's hair.)
Kevin Lee, the creative director at the Kenneth's salon in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, was talking about Demi Moore and he said: "She's the perfect example of the new 30," he said. "Is she too old to pull off that long hair? No. She looks fabulous.", he says. Kenneth Battelle did Marilyn Monroe's hair for the night she sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President". Kenneth groomed the Kennedy's for Inauguration Day the year before. But we were now 20 years later and many thousands of miles away getting our hair done in Kenneth West by a Vietnamese woman who had been one of the "boat people". And she was going to be getting a grant from the U.S. government to open her own business. And who is going to pay for my art studio? My rock and roll career? I will float in a boat!
After a while we became managers of the apartment complex. This meant that our rent was reduced which dropped our overhead considerably. Ordinarily this would be a good thing but it also created a situation that meant I could earn even less to get by on and in the end that would be very stressful. With less money actually coming in it would be even harder to move. But things picked up when my wife Nancy started working for Noel Marshall (producer of the Exorcist) and Tippi Hedren (from Hitchcock’s The Birds) while they were producing the film Roar. I even tried my hand at writing the theme song for the movie but as fate would have it that was not to be. Noel wouldn’t even listen to it. He told me that for legal reasons he could not listen to demo tapes and also that whoever did the soundtrack music would want the title song to be their own. The title song is the one which usually brings in the most royalties.
(Above left: Movie poster for Roar. Tippi Hedren goes out on a limb with her animals. Above right: Tippi on left and her daughter Melanie Griffith who also was in Roar. Left: Tippi's husband Noel Marshall busy directing Roar. They were divorced not long after the movie was completed. Tippi Hedren now runs her animal compound in Acton, California and is called the Shamballa Preserve.)
Having a bad hair day is common in the Hollywood area. There is so much hope and faith and fantasy for one’s future that it ultimately meets its counterpart in frustration, disappointment and emotional turmoil. But this period of time seemed to have an abundance of all of that. By now AIDS was becoming an epidemic and people were starting to die. West Hollywood had a dark cloud over it and you could feel it. What had been a creative movement among the gay community was now a political movement. But the political movement was being constructed on the pain and suffering of the injustices which had gone before. This is often the case with movements but the state of mind that results out of that energy is often disruptive long before it becomes one of healing.
It seems like there was so much in the way of death and injury during this period. My mentor, Betty Cuff, died and even her own daughter died in an auto accident about a year later. Leonid Breshniv died, Anwar Sadat was assassinated, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul barely survived assassination. John Lennon died too, of course, and a handful of people connected to me in some way that found their place in my journal in the early 80’s. As every decade it was certainly one of transition. I was also going through my Saturn cycle just prior to this decade and much of that turmoil continued to be the source of personal work I would be engaged in for a long time. I thought I was dying. It seems that every time I feel that I am dying there is actually a process of letting go or needing to let go that accompanies that manifestation. I usually finally come to my senses and recognize that there is something I have to let go of, and in a sense it is my self, in order that I can move on from there and get on with “my life”.
Much of this turmoil was outpictured in the people around me. We had some tenants upstairs who were having a “domestic crisis”. No, it wasn’t Marcia and Gordon Clark. It was these two guys whom I had named Captain Nemo and Captain Crunch. Nemo got his name from his car that was parked below us in the subterranean parking area. He would park his car, turn off the ignition and it would still keep making a strange sound. It was like the submarine in Jules Verne’s story of Captain Nemo. And Captain Crunch had this car that had attempted suicide in an intersection somewhere and was noticeably crumpled up. The two of them were having issues that came to blows one night. Don’t even go there. But there was some physical abuse starting to take place. However, the physical assaults were nothing compared to the yelling and carrying on which ensued. Eventually Captain Nemo got "her" diving gear in an uproar and began throwing Captain Crunch’s belongings overboard. That means off the balcony.
(Below: Cap'n Crunch, a serial of madness and the Nautilus, the submarine (subconscious) of Captain Nemo.)
Now this was kind of funny at the time because it was so Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. It was so Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp. It was so Gilbert and Sullivan. It was so Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey. Well, the noise that was coming from their apartment certainly sounded like SOMEBODY must be jumping up and down on a couch: yelling and screaming - screaming and yelling. “You hit me again and you’ll be sorry!” This continued for sometime. “You don’t care about me. I’m tired of being your Friday night doormat! Get out of here! I’m not going to put up with this anymore.” Then we could hear loud thuds and we were hoping that it wasn’t someone hitting someone. But no, not this time. It was Thor pounding on the ceiling with his mop handle. Banging and banging and yelling back at him, everyone exchanging “Be quiet” and “Mind your own business!” This really pissed Thor off.
(Above left to right: Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Oscar Wilde, Quentin Crisp, Gilbert & Sullivan, Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey. It's electrifying. What more can I say?)
SLAM!!! Hearing their door close we looked out our bedroom window and suddenly saw Captain Crunch leaving down the back stairs to his car. Their apartment was technically on the third floor. The real problem with the emotional altercation was the fact that their immediate neighbors, and ours, had to get up and go to work in the morning. Thorbjorn was from Sweden and he lived under this couple and next door to us. Adam was from Poland and he lived under Thor. Thor had to get up early to go to school, which, at that time, was the American Film Institute. Adam had to go to Beverly Hills and work for a lawyer and his wife. His job was to help Joanie, the wife, spend her allowance of $10,000 a week. But that’s another story.
Crash!!!! Again we would look out our bedroom window and suddenly see stuff flying down to the ground level. Books, shoes, clothes on hangers, boxes of God only knows what. Adam stuck his head out his door that is immediately below and asks what’s going on. “Mind your own business, you foreigner!” This really irritated Adam and he marched up to the next level and knocks on Thor’s door. Soon they marched up the stairs one after the other. Thor and Adam are both in their robes, Thor with his pushbroom moustache and Adam with his Jewish natural and heavy Polish accent. They pounded on Nemo’s door. “Who is it?!?” Adam went into a diatribe about how they can’t get any sleep and had to get up in four hours. Making fun of Adam’s accent Nemo screamed: “Why don’t you just go back to Transylvania where you came from!” They left with a new plan.
(Above left: Ain't love grand?)
Suddenly it got quiet. The stairs were just outside our front door and we heard someone walking upstairs. Then faintly a doorbell rang. Captain Nemo screamed: “Get out of here! Go away! I’m not letting you in. Just go to HELL!” A more mature masculine voice responded: “This is the Sheriff. “ Nemo screamed: “Oh, sure it is. I’m not falling for that. I’m not letting you in here!” A moment later there was a loud and definite knock. “This IS the Sherriff. Open the door.” Nemo yelled: “I don’t see a badge. Who are you?” Nemo attempted to look through his peek hole. Finally Nemo opened the door and we could hear voices but it was too hard to make out what they were saying. The Sheriff left but before he turned onto the Sunset Strip Nemo was screaming again. This time he was on the telephone telling Crunch he can forget coming back. He slammed the phone down and continued throwing items off the balcony. Meanwhile everytime we heard a crash we would look out the window. Next thing I saw was Nemo holding a TV set that he planned on dropping to the ground below. For some reason he changed his mind and took it back inside. Then we heard him yell: “I’ve never lived with such madness!!!”
© Copyright Derek Lamar 2006
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