Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fame game

Joe and i had some good pizza (from Bella Via, really classy pie place just over the Pulaski Bridge in LIC; nice charring on the crust, etc.) and watched a good flick last night. had scored Mr. Warmth, a new Don Rickles doc, from work, so we checked that out.

i knew Rickles's name, of course, but i didn't really have an idea of the scope of his work. basically he's sort of a classic insult comic (race jokes, sex jokes, basically anything with a squirm factor), but he's also a film and TV star and more importantly, he's just a really potent example of what seems like a bygone age of what can only be called Showbiz. most of the doc consists of talking-head interviews, and the subjects are incredibly wide-ranging: Clint Eastwood, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Ed McMahon, Regis Philbin, all the way to Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel and Chris Rock. all these folks express incredible affection for Rickles, and a lot of them hark back to this amazing moment in entertainment where there were just all these celebrities who seemed to be famous *because* they were famous, and people just loved watching them go on TV and act like themselves.

the highlight of the doc in this regard was a section on the repartee between Rickles and Johnny Carson. Rickles used to go on Carson's show and they'd have this acidic banter together. apparently at one point Rickles guest-hosted and broke Carson's prize cigarette case, so the next night, Carson notices and asks the camera crew to follow him to the adjacent studio where Rickles was filming his own show. so he bursts in on Rickles's taping and confronts him. hilarious stuff, but the great thing is how when Rickles is like "Ladies and gentleman, Johnny Carson," Carson is like "Why do you always do that? They know who i am!" then he intros Rickles in the same way. the message is sort of like, in that age of celebrity, you should just be KNOWN, no questions asked--the idea of unfamiliarity was insulting or something.

on that tip, many would say that celebrities (Sinatra, etc.) didn't feel they'd arrived until they'd been insulted by Rickles. today we always wonder why so and so could get famous for doing something so silly (William Hung, etc.), but w/ Rickles, you don't question it at all. he's famous just on the strength of who he is.


checked out a few Cecil records over the weekend (duh), including the splendidly titled "It Is in the Brewing Luminous," a marathon live set from 1980 w/ Jimmy Lyons, Ramsey Ameen, Alan Silva, and both Jerome Cooper and Sunny Murray on drums. the drummers were the real draw for me, esp. since to my knowledge this is the only recording of Cecil w/ Murray after those classic '60s sessions.

unfortunately, though, the sound is really muddy and inconsistent and the bass and drums often get lost. Lyons sounds excellent as usual, but the majority of the hourlong disc is Cecil soloing alone or w/ Ameen. it's one of those classic Cecil live dates where he plays with demonic intensity, ramps it down, then plays with even more demonic intensity. this happens like ten times, and sometimes it seems as if the band is just exhausted. but Ameen does a good job of racing along with him.

wish the sound on this one were better, b/c from what you can hear Cooper and Murray really contrast with each other in a nice way.

in other news, the second track on the solo disc "Garden" might be the most intense single example of solo Cecil i've ever heard. absolutely--even scarily--turbocharged playing.

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