The beginning of our conversation about music, life, and growing up in 1970s Hollywood. Show Notes: 0:00 – Why did The Professor and Mary Ann get screwed in season one of Gilligan’s Island by being lumped together as “the rest?” 0:55 – Something from our “hair days…” Rogue Alley – City of Pain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=378gO3Qs2Jk Rogue Alley was one of our bands in Hollywood. 5:50 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and The Grand Strand – where we live now: https://www.cityofmyrtlebeach.com/ Tinder Box of the Carolinas – where we work: http://www.tinderboxcigars.com Chris moved to Myrtle Beach in 1992. Roger in 2005. 8:20 – More about Rogue Alley 8:43 – The Yale Brothers were born in Miami but grew up in Hollywood. We actually attended three high schools there: Daniel Murphy High School, Hollywood Professional School and Hollywood High. We're boomers who came of age in Hollywood. It was, as Chris says, “beautifully grungy” then. 10:25 – The Magic Hotel (now The Magic Castle Hotel) – our dad, Carl Yale, managed that place for ten years. 12:35 – The Yamashiro and The Magic Castle. 14:55 – Highland Gardens Hotel and Camp Hollywood. 15:25 – The front desk and the old switchboard at the Magic Hotel. Also – we knew every square inch of that place. We had a rehearsal room in the parking garage. 17:06 – Mystic Sound Studios and Mystic Records 20:00 – We thought we’d be rock stars in our teens. 21:22 – The Sunset Strip. Gazzarri’s, The Central (Viper Room), Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy – and the Bla Bla Café. 23:21 – The Gilligan’s Island question – answered. https://www.metv.com/stories/there-was-drama-on-gilligan-s-island-over-who-appeared-in-the-credits-and-when Until next time.
The first time we tried this, embarrassingly enough, was in 2008, when podcasts were still gaining steam and long before they became ubiquitous. Over a period of a years, we made several more stabs at this – and then we just stopped.
Some earlier attempts went up on SoundCloud, sort-of complete but not quite actual episodes. But we had stories to tell…
And we still do. Stories about growing up in Hollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s – a period when the town was what my brother called “beautifully grungy” – well before a Build-A-Bear Workshop appeared across from the Chinese Theater.
We lived at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive, in an apartment building wedged directly in between the fabled Magic Castle and a 40-unit hotel our father managed called The Magic Hotel. The hotel is now called The Magic Castle Hotel.
At that time, not only the names of the buildings were magic. Our young lives were as magical as could be.
This podcast will be cathartic for us, and I hope the stories of twin boomers coming of age in lotus land will strike a chord with those curious enough to have a listen.
But we’re not just about looking back. Expect to hear original music in each episode and updates on what’s going on with us now in Myrtle Beach.
I have written before about the fear of my intentions being misunderstood, and some of my friends responded that they felt the same way about theirs. It’s a thing, and there must be a basic human need to be understood. We have societal structures in place: language, manners and nonverbal cues. These things can help us avoid being misunderstood.
But it happens to me quite often.
Just when I think I have gotten over one misstep, another one comes along to start me back down the rabbit hole of uncertainty, overthinking and loss of sleep.
I believe in being positive, but I also aim to be truthful about this. I don’t want to sweep this under the carpet or grit my teeth and try to will it away.
Related to this phenomenon are what I call Larry David moments. These are not so much about being misunderstood, but rather the awkward moments, mistakes and misfires in my daily life that make me want to crawl under a rock.
These are not game-changing life events, either.
I know from experience that many of these moments are mountains-out-of-molehill situations, but for me the discomfort is very real. And because I am sober, I need to find ways to deal with them. Maybe writing about them will help.
Here are a couple examples of what I am talking about from the past week or so – but there were more than just these two.
THE WRONG WRIGHT
My last blog post, “Is 56 the New 12?” featured an excellent rendering of Harry Potter’s Professor Snape with my face edited into it by my friend and fellow writer Brendan Wright. I credited another friend, Bill Wright, with the photo. It was only after Brendan saw it and reminded me that he had created it did I remember where and when he first showed it to me a couple of years back.
The memory is a funny thing, and to say I was chagrined is an understatement.
In my mind, coming back from something like that is tough. For other people, an apology would suffice. For me, the need to overexplain reigns supreme. Of course, I apologized and made a quick change to the post, but that’s not the point. For me, the damage had already been done.
I lost face. The only logical end to this would have been for Brendan to cut off my head after I gutted myself. Seppuku.
Why didn’t I remember…
SOMEBODY STOP ME: THE MASK INCIDENT
I was taking a break at work the other day, sitting in the closed cigar lounge at Tinder Box Myrtle Beach with my girlfriend, Brenda. A mask was dangling by a loop my right ear.
“So what,” you might say…
Here’s what sent me into a tizzy:
Our friend, Meghan, came to see us. She was outside lounge door, which was locked. Brenda let her in while I remained seated.
Meghan made some awesome masks for us to help us through this time of social distancing, and we’re grateful for them – but when she came in that day, the mask that was dangling from my ear was not hers. Rather, it was made by another friend, Karan, who was kind enough to send us a few great masks as well.
Based on my anxiety level, you would have thought I got busted sleeping with somebody I shouldn’t have been sleeping with.
I was speechless and my mind was racing. What course of action would be best? All I could think to do was quickly unhook the mask, let it drop it into my seat and try to play it off the best that I could.
What was my motivation in that moment? Why was I so awkward?
Did Meghan notice? I don’t know, but I continued to babble. I realized even then that I should have addressed what was, to me, the elephant in the room.
Why didn’t I just say something…
Like, would Meghan really care that I wasn’t wearing a mask she made and opted for one of Karan’s that morning? Unlikely.
Would Brendan lose sleep over the fact that I made a mistake about a photo he made for me in fun? I wouldn’t think so.
Nothing in these events would indicate that my friendships with Meghan or Brendan would suffer – but in those moments, I feel like it’s curtains for me.
I asked my daughter to take a look at a draft of this post, and she said, “Wow. I really am your daughter.” She went on to tell me that she once texted an apology to a friend who didn’t even realize there was an issue.
My Larry David moments border on the pathological.
I’m 56, so I guess that depends. To a teenager, I’d be ancient.
I don’t feel much different than I ever have, and God knows I act like the perennial 12-year-old – albeit with the weight of decidedly adult stresses and the consequences of the decisions I have made over decades bearing down on me – contributing to what might be a low-level but persistent depression called dysthymia.
But is that it, really? Dysthymia is defined as a mild, chronic depression – less severe and with fewer symptoms than major depression. And it can continue for years.
If you know me, you’d hopefully see a positive and upbeat person. That’s true, too. We humans are complicated. Every new day brings a chance for new vistas of opportunity and renewed hope.
If I were to experience a sea change in my finances, I suspect I’d be even more upbeat. It’s not money that is the root of all evil, after all – just the love of money…
My mother’s first husband, I have been told, had something to say about this – a riff on the old quote about having been poor and having been rich, and rich was better: “I’d rather cry myself to sleep on a silk pillow,”
I always found that to be amusing.
But a good friend of mine told me that he went to a high school reunion, and many of his peers who had made the “right” decisions – perhaps pursuing “The American Dream” by finishing college, dutifully working a solid career path, marrying and raising a family, saving for retirement and buying a home – perhaps enjoying the finer things in life – looked old, played out and decidedly unhappy.
Of course, many others are completely happy and fulfilled.
Still others peaked in high school. You know the ones.
I have zig-zagged my way across the country, worked jobs that make no sense on a linear resume, and have lived in major cities and rural areas. I have been addicted to drugs and alcohol, and I need to get over my fear about giving voice to this, because there is a lot of ground to cover.
I was a single parent for many years and have been sober for nearly six years.
But for more than a decade, I have been fortunate enough to be engaged in the things I love, namely writing and music. Sure, the paychecks could be vastly improved – but I am happy to be writing, playing and singing.
Without a doubt, I am most grateful for the relationship I enjoy with my twins – a son and daughter, now 26. I don’t know if I could have gone on if not for the absolution they seem to have granted me. They love me and I them, forever and always.
So far, I have none of the aches and pains that many other men complain about after 30. I am as inflexible as I have always been, and I have been doing my part to make sure I exercise and stretch. I hope I have been given some sort of cosmic dispensation; that because I am attempting to take care of myself, the universe is responding in kind.
My reflection in the mirror – this 56-year-old man looking back at me – betrays a still-youthful twinkle in the eye, the corners of his mouth ready to curl upward into a smile – the laugh lines growing deeper with each passing day.
I am a writer. I should write daily. I should write without restraint. I should say what I want to say without some people-pleasing inner troll telling me to watch out – that I might offend somebody or that I might piss somebody off. After all, isn’t good writing meant to elicit an emotional response?
As writers, our goal is not to deliver a lukewarm version of what we intended to say.
“Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. The most effective stories match the world view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story.”
Godin has written extensively about the importance of finding one’s tribe, and that concept makes sense to me. The right people will gravitate to your message. The substance of what we have to say will resonate with some, and that some is enough.
It’s like the old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial. One person tries it. They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on…
I have been a people pleaser, and that has not worked for my emotional well-being. I have learned over the years that this phenomenon stems from deeper self-worth issues, and I need to get to the bottom of that. Where the hell did these issues come from? It would be easy – and intellectually lazy – to blame somebody else for this. Was my mother the culprit? If I were to point fingers, I’d be sure to include those misguided phys-ed teachers who, brimming with toxic masculinity, failed to see that not all boys were the same.
Over time, I have learned to say “no” more often. It’s pretty liberating, and I need to do more of that.
How about the bullies?
I didn’t suffer much at the hands of bullies, but not all kids get beaten up physically – and I am very good at beating myself up.
Now nearly six years sober, I always thought that I intentionally started using drugs and alcohol because it was simply what aspiring rockers did. But something happened somewhere, and I intend to find out what it was.
On the face of the title alone, you’d likely expect some sort of story about a monster that lives under Bob’s bed. Bob could be a child, and the monster could come out to introduce himself. Perhaps they become friends – or maybe the monster comes out to scare the shit out of Bob.
“Bob and the Monster” is a 2011 documentary by filmmaker Keirda Bahruth – a look at rocker and recovery advocate Bob Forrest, longtime frontman for punk outfit Thelonious Monster but perhaps best known to the general public as the shoot-from-the-hip counselor on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
The film is the story of Forrest’s transformation from dangerously addicted indie rock star to the respected beacon of recovery he is today.
We’re talking about folks like Louis Gossett, Jr., Mackenzie Phillips, Danny Trejo, Everclear frontman Art Alexakis and many more. This year, Forrest spoke on March 5, followed by Dr. Drew Pinsky on March 12.
For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to write about the series in The Sun News, a McClatchy paper here in Myrtle Beach. This year was no exception. CLICK HERE for the February 19 story. I was able to speak with Pinsky via telephone, and Forrest got back to me with some awesome email content – thanks to King.
King has said many times that he wants to change the face of recovery – and that change is happening as more and more professional people come forward in their recoveries and make their stories known.
“It no longer has quite the stigma that it had 15 years ago as I began my journey,” he said.
He has always been gracious enough to make sure I got seats for the recovery events I covered, but this year my gig schedule conflicted with the Thursday events – and I wasn’t able to see either man’s presentation at the college. Because I am moving toward six years of sobriety, these events are important to me – and King knows this.
When I arrived, I found King, and there was Forrest – unassuming and real. From what I gathered, the crowd was made up mostly by mental health professionals – and Forrest delivered a compelling talk, not only about his struggles with addiction, but also about the problem of how to reach today’s young people who are struggling with substance abuse, a decidedly entitled demographic.
What struck me was how ardently Forrest pursued the sex-drugs-rock ‘n’ roll thing. There was a good deal of cache attached to it, especially if you were a young rock musician in Hollywood. I daresay many of us went into that lifestyle with our eyes open. Forrest himself said in “Bob and the Monster” that it was his goal to eventually shoot heroin.
Today’s dynamic is not so straightforward but every bit as deadly.
My “inspiration” was a biography of Jim Morrison called No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman. I was a happy kid. I wonder what my life would have been now if I hadn’t decided to drink and do drugs.
After Forrest’s presentation at the coffee bar, he and many of us convened for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant called El Patio in Conway. It’s good to know that there are folks who give a damn about recovery in our neck of the woods. Methodologies and approaches may vary, but hope remains that folks can and do recover.
Forrest’s advice to those in the throes of addiction is this:
“First and foremost, don’t die. Especially nowadays, with fentanyl in almost everything and tens of thousands of people dying of overdoses every year, being safe and not dying is the absolute most important thing.”
He said he had overdosed and been revived a few times and was starting to think things were not going to end well for him.
“But of course that wasn’t true at all. What I figured out is that as long as you don’t die, amazing things can happen. It takes time, but life becomes this amazing adventure. I was able to be there for my son, and I have two more small kids now. They’re my life, and they remind me what’s important. It comes down to love – and to just being here with each other. Life can be brutal and harsh, but it can also be such a beautiful, poetic experience. And it doesn’t last long. So we need to forget about all those BS trappings of ‘this car is going to make me happy’ or ‘this toy is going to make me happy.’ I think a lot of us who’ve come through recovery know that better than ‘normal’ people do. It’s relationships. It’s music. It’s nature. It’s experiences. It’s love.”
Forrest now has his own recovery center, Alo House. It is his hope that anybody who needs help knows that they are there and that they really care. Reach out by clicking the link above.
In Disney’s “The Lion King,” the shamanistic mandrill Rafiki instructed Simba to look deeply into a pool of water, revealing his father to him. Mufasa appears in a cloud, dispensing what was to me the best advice ever: “Remember who you are.”
I would like to get through this blog post without naming the source of the global pandemic currently at play. Rather, this is an opportunity to touch on a subject that might have become muddled for many boomers over time – myself included.
Seclusion offers a chance for reflection. In some cases, this reflection gives birth to an agonizing reappraisal – a reordering of priorities and beliefs and an existential reset.
THE EYES OF A CHILD
I knew who I was when I was a child. My favorite years were likely ten and 17.
“Mad Does Smell / Mad does smell / Prices raised too high
First ten cents / Now fifty / Not worth it to buy
Trashing all the Mads / In a single garbage can
Might be pretty tough / ‘Cause there’s too much to stuff…”
You get the idea.
Note that I said I was writing and submitting. As far as selling – well I might still have those rejection slips in storage. I hope so. But I loved to write. I identified with it.
I was also a voracious comic book collector and budding entrepreneur. I used to place classified ads, calling for neighborhood people to sell their old comics. My “business” name was Mr. Comix, and I bought up a lot of books on the cheap. I got more interested in keeping them than selling them.
In my late twenties, the cares of the world and my own bad decisions let to my decision to sell off my comics to Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood – for a fraction of what they were worth. I needed to make in-arrears payment on a 1988 Harley-Davidson Sportster I had no business buying in the first place. Eventually, it got repossessed. No bike. No comics.
I don’t care about the Sportster. I still wake up with a start when the comics pop into my mind.
I was an enthusiastic ten-year-old, and the world was my oyster. I liked nothing better than writing, in no small part because my father was then a screenwriter – and he encouraged me when he saw that I had taken an interest. Dad never got the break he was looking for – but he was prolific, and I still have his screenplays.
At 17, my twin brother Chris and I had already been playing music for several years and we teamed up with a French kid named Pascal Srabian – a great, natural guitarist – and formed a trio called Yale. We played out at places like the Bla-Bla Café in Studio City and actually won a Battle of the Bands at Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip. Our dear friend Lee Newman managed us, and we were all inseparable.
Lee is busy these days running his family business, Jimmy McHugh Music. McHugh was Lee’s great-grandfather and gave the world such priceless tunes as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I’m in the Mood for Love” and so many more. Lee is the real deal. Hollywood royalty. His other great-grandfather was Eddie Cantor. Think about that for a moment.
Sadly, Pascal was gunned down one morning in 1981 as he was about to get into his Firebird. A jealous husband found out that Pascal was sleeping with his wife. The husband fled, presumably to Mexico. I don’t think there was ever any closure.
But our late teens were heady times. Chris and I believed we would be rock stars. Unfortunately, we partied like rock stars but failed to do enough work. We had several bands in Hollywood after Yale, and our failure to launch haunts us to this day. That’s almost as painful as losing my comics.
It’s no use pining away for what might have been – and it’s never too late to correct course.
If we get in touch with our inner 10-or 17-year-old selves, we might be able to salvage some of those old hopes and dreams.
What makes you want to get up in the morning? What do you remember doing when you were a kid that lit you up like nothing else? What were you certain about? What would you be doing now if you stayed true to those nascent plans – those stirrings that urged you on?
My world centered on writing and later, music – and although I am not getting rich with either, I am happy to report that I’ve been again engaged in those things for more than a decade – and I still get lit up about it.
A byline, a show completed. There’s still a thrill attached to both.
If you worked at Motown Records, you worked for Gordy. Whether you actually saw him was beside the point. I never saw him, but a lot of mail passed through my hands on the way to him.
I found out about a mailroom opening from a friend while I was working at a hotel my dad managed in Hollywood, The Magic Hotel (now The Magic Castle Hotel). I was twenty and had worked at the hotel for several years – doing a little bit of everything but mainly front desk duties at that time. My twin brother Chris also worked at the hotel and, looking back, we had a sweet deal. In addition to our paychecks we lived rent-free in a wonderful old apartment on Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive – in between the fabled Magic Castle and the hotel.
But none of that seemed to matter. I was young, and this was Motown.
I spiffed up and went to fill out an application at what I thought of as the First Interstate Bank Building at 6255 Sunset. I met the HR boss, Brenda Johnson, and had a brief chat after I filled out my application. Memory is a funny thing. I’d like to think she hired me on the spot, but it would be safer to assume I got a call from her later.
Motown occupied three floors in that building and each floor seemed to have its own personality. Floor 16 was a bit sterile – things like personnel, accounts payable and receivable (finance), the tape library (run by an outstanding human being named Frances Maclin) and what I believe used to be called data processing – an ice-cold room that housed the computer systems. But Jobete Music, a Motown publishing arm, was also down there.
When I started, songwriter Ron Miller’s office was directly across from the mailroom. I could lean on the half-door’s counter and look at him in there if his door was open. Miller wrote many songs for Motown artists in the sixties and seventies, including the lyrics to “For Once in my Life,” – of which Stevie Wonder’s version was a monster hit.
Another memory of the 17th floor was that a young Benny Medina had an office there. Medina was A&R boss at the time, and some of his real-life experiences were the basis for NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The 18th floor was rarefied – Gordy’s executive suite, Smokey Robinson’s office and Motown Productions (MPI – headed up by Suzanne de Passe) were all there. I also remember a guy named Tony Jones, who had a management company up there, somehow connected to Motown. At that time, he represented an artist named Finis Henderson. I remember a couple of Henderson’s songs; “Skip to My Lou” and “Blame It On the Night.” Years later I saw Henderson do standup at The Comedy Store on a bill with a then-relatively unknown Dennis Miller.
I did mail runs twice a day – maybe three – on every floor with my little cart. It was also part of the job to restock the coffee stations. We were also in charge of the office supplies, which were kept in a locked storeroom inside the mailroom – and my immediate boss Reginald Dotson was over purchasing. I cross-trained in purchasing – processing purchase orders. We made a morning and an evening trip to the Hollywood post office on Wilcox. I worked with a great bunch of guys, and I will never forget them.
I was at Motown for roughly 18 months, beginning in August of 1983. Everywhere you went, it seemed like the walls breathed music. Everybody had a stereo, and most of them were in use at all times. Some examples of stuff that came out during my time there are Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” The Commodores’ “Night Shift” and Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” Rockwell was one of the boss’ kids, Kennedy Gordy, and I suspect a favor was called in for Michael Jackson’s appearance on that record.
Jackson was long gone from Motown by the time I got there, but Jermaine was still signed. Three months before I joined the payroll, Michael debuted his Moonwalk on NBC’s “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today Forever.”
Other snippets of memory: DeBarge’s “All This Love,” Teena Marie, and the Rick James’ album, Cold Blooded.
I’m happy to be setting all of this down before the memories are lost to time. There will be more.