Reading Nancy’s Lips and Wyman’s Beads

I don’t know if Facebook still does Throw Up Thursdays but I thought I’d offer this rare photo of Ronald Regan’s sister wives together. It may be the only time Nancy Davis Regan and Jane Wyman Regan were captured in the same frame.

My big take-away from the aftermath of the Harryghan Nuptials was the need for more experienced lip readers. There’s a lot of storyline being missed that not even the exhaustive reporting of CNN or HuffPost can capture.

So I enrolled in a Phoenix University correspondence course and one of my first assignments, for which I received a C-, was of this photo.

In 1954 when Nancy pulled some family values trickery and deliberately got pregnant, Regan was forced to take one for the Gipper and marry her. Nancy with the laughing two-face made no joke of her disdain for the divorced first wife, Ms. Wyman. Like any cult with weak-minded recruits, all links to past personal relationships were severed so there could be no escape route. Nancy forbade mention of Jane, treated her as nonexistent and never acknowledged her for the next 50 years.

When the sole issue of the Regan-Wyman union died in 2002, the two women were forced to call a brief truce to the pettiness and meet in public at Maureen’s funeral. As best I can tell, the former first lady consoled the bereaved Mother with these words: “I mean it, the Meissen was Ronnie’s, it belongs to us!”

Ms. Wyman seems stunned, unable to express herself. She hadn’t been this lost for words since she won her Oscar for Johnny Belinda, in which she played a deaf-mute.

 

Regina, Start the Show

Cover art of the era that I preferred to Sgt Peppers.

Since its release, Their Satanic Majesty’s Request has been criticized as nothing but a Beatles’ rip off.  While Sgt. Peppers’ is hailed as the one of the most influential albums ever it seems if you’re one of those who was influenced by it you’ve committed a crime. What the sine qua non?

I loved the Beatles but was obsessed with the Stones. The Beatles wanted to hold your hand but the Stones aimed for a more intimate portion of the anatomy. The manroot of it all may be in Keith’s observation to Paul: “yours was a songwriters’ group, ours was a musicians’.”

When you strip away the lonely hearts veneer from Satanic Majesty’s, there are some excellent songs. Citadel alone is worth the price of admission. Its great riff highlighted by Charley’s shimmering cymbals is one of the Stones’ best ever. The curious break after the second chorus is nothing but reverb. A reviewer at the time said those five seconds summed up “the entire history of The Who.”

When it was released I wondered who they were singing about in the chorus, “Candy and Taffy, hope you both are well.” Twenty five years later I discovered that, while I was a gawky teenager in Grandmother’s kitchen, humming The Old Rugged Cross and baking Sugar Cream pies, Mick was in Manhattan hanging out with Candy Darling.

She’s A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years from Home were the most popular songs and have stood the test of time. And even The Lantern remains interesting with Nicky Hopkins’ piano playing.

Satanic Majesty’s is not the catastrophe it’s been made out to be. It was the product of an experimental time when being innovative meant more than to just produce good music. You couldn’t get too weird for the 60’s.

Candy was a trailblazer in the use of silicone for breasts. Unfortunately the substance was injected into the body and not implanted in bags. She was dead from cancer within 10 years.

There is footage from that period of Yoko Ono in the Beatles recording studio asking for her own microphone. (I’m not sure if this was before or after she demanded a bed be placed in there too.) The band members are non-confrontational and let her have the mic. Then they just ignore her.

As they work out a credible version of Get Back, she intermittently screams onto the recording “John!…..John!……John!” It’s annoying and makes no sense. The scene exemplifies the Petri Dish that was Swinging London and may explain where Gomper came from.

After decades of listening, 2000 Man has become my favorite track on the album. It starts off as a jaunty, acoustic folk song. Then the chorus adds a jaw dropping (but only on a good sound system) rhythm section with some astrological lyrics: “Oh Daddy, be proud of your planet, Oh Mummy, be proud of your sun.” A sarcastic clue that maybe they weren’t into the psychedelia thing as much as they were putting on.

Sheer terror at the Rococo. Waiting to go on.

In the Joan Rivers documentary, A Piece of Work, she’s booked into a seedy dive in the Bronx. To maintain her edge and polish her craft, she felt the need to work a live audience often. And she didn’t care where it was. In this case she finds herself in a backstage area that gave every indication of being just inches away from the city’s sewers. She was as comfortable there as she was in her own Upper East Side Penthouse with its ormolu and furs.

Backstages in night clubs are the great equalizers. It doesn’t matter how exalted you feel on stage, you enter from and exit through a dressing room that’s a gas station toilet. Maybe it’s an economy move by management to maximize profits. Or it could be a way to remind the talent they are the continuation of a centuries-old lineage of carnival folk engaged in an ignoble profession.

Grandmother enjoyed theater but would never have considered associating with those kind of people. You’re going to befriend someone whose professional skill set is based on deceit? That would have been only one of her many objections to my act.

Whenever I found myself in one of those shitholes, surroundings were the last thing on my mind. I was so consumed with fear, so terrorized about being in front of an audience, I would sit in stony silence and plot ways to bolt from the club without being seen. It always seemed like a viable option. I’d end up going on anyway but performing happened on such a primal level. I was riding a wave of blind faith.

The last cut on Satanic Majesty’s is On With the Show. It’s a mash-up of ambient lounge chatter, Brecht like melodies, dissonant piano and Jagger’s vaudeville banter. His phony concern is mixed with uninspired strip show spiel. Then, in a moment that is anything but majestic, Mick herds the girls onto the stage with a tawdry aside, “Regina, start the show.” One can only imagine the magic they created.

Not only does Their Satanic Majesty’s Request give us The Who in a nutshell but it also captures, in one phrase, the essence of Show Business.

With Pearl Harbor thinking of the nearest emergency exit. The Rococo Lounge, 1995.

Tony, I Didn’t Know Ye

He didn’t.

In late adolescence I realized you either looked good in eye liner or you didn’t. Genitalia shouldn’t dictate whether you wear make-up or not. I’ve spent my life fighting artificial sexist stereotypes.

This whole chef brohood scene exemplifies that sexism.  Since women are traditionally associated with the kitchen and because the first great personalities of modern celebrity culinary cults were gay, male chefs have worked triple time to distance themselves from the perception. Get over it.

We want your recipes not your bodies. As Rudy Guiliani said so brilliantly and with such great sensitivity “just look at them!” Emeril? Please! Guy Fieri? Puke.

I found Anthony Bourdain hard to watch and easy to dismiss. The premises of his shows seemed interesting but they were served with way too much tude. He came on so strong I couldn’t get past the veneer.

Reading some of the things he’s written and watching various clips over the weekend, however, makes me think I was too hasty. He may have come from a meathead background and had trouble shedding that image, but he seemed reflective about it all and willing to change. And winning over people like that is the goal of any good cause.

Although you have to respect his privacy for what he did, selfishly I wish he’d stuck around. He would have been good to have on our side.

Candice Bergen says get the equal pay thing settled first and the rest will fall into place. Still I pursue other angles, like unravelling the Weinstein/Batali thread. All roads seem to lead to Paltrow. There’s an unsolveable conspiracy theory there. The Me Too Generation may have a Dorothy-Kilgallen-knew-too-much-about-the-Kennedy-Assassination on their hands.

Do You Love Me?

I have been to the muffintop!

In the mid-70’s when my cash flow was running light, I signed up to work on election day. The precinct they assigned me was way out in the Sunset.

Not only was it a Herculean effort to be somewhere at 6 a.m., but I was taking public transportation almost to the ocean. The bus left at 5. The hour commute afforded an opportunity to reflect on the previous night’s closing of the Midnight Sun at 2 a.m..

In a neighborhood of working class retirees, it was a boring 13 hours of long waits for some member of the greatest generation to show up and vote.

At 6 p.m. a sudden rush produced a three minute line to cast ballots. A  6’4″, gray flat top veteran stood seething, waiting for his turn to approach my station. He exuded the “white is right” attitude that still enchants the Republican Party today.

Before giving me his name to check off the roster, he asked sharply, “why should I be penalized for speaking English?” It was the first year for bilingual instructional posters in California elections. Being the model of discretion, it was not my place to answer.

The incident has stayed in my memory mainly because I’ve never figured out what penalty he was paying. Maybe he used phonics to read and two-thirds of the way through the instructions realized not all the words were in USofA American. Wasting time and effort like that can be annoying.

I vowed never to work elections again after that day. But this year, in an attempt to pad my portfolio of personal investments, I gave it another shot. The life’s lessons learned in the intervening 40 years made me feel I could bring something new to the experience. Like poll dancing, which didn’t even exist in the 1970’s.

Babs’ love shack. Today she has a 19th C. town house in the Dordogne. Sometimes things just work out.

Yesterday’s precinct was less than a mile away and nowhere near the ocean. What it lacked in distance, however, it made up for in height. The 21st Street hill has the steepest grade in the city. By the time I reached the summit, I was huffing, puffing and looking every bit my age. I had to fend off the roving van from the Death’s Shore Retirement Center which was targeting me for fast-track admission.

I knew this neighborhood well. In the early 80’s Barbara lived a block away on 20th. We gathered there on Wednesdays to watch Dynasty and eat pizza. Between cackles, the conversation ran the gamut from “can you believe Alexis did that?” to “can you believe we’re watching this shit?” Questions that remain unanswered to this day.

Two blocks in the other direction on Fair Oaks is where Gary (aka A-Hole) had his hillbilly wig party. A couple of doors down from where my friend John Acmoody once resided. Today Acmoody’s mansion is owned by a certain M. Zuckerberg. I looked for Marky-Mark’s name on my roster but to no avail. He’s probably bought his own precinct somewhere, population one.

Up on Fair Oaks where the Mountain Dew ran freely.

To share the personal voting information I’ve learned is a violation of the sacred Poll Dancer’s Oath I took. But there was one minor celebrity sighting, former Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg.

Bertie to her friends, Roberta was the first lesbian candidate for San Francisco mayor, a HUD Under Secretary in the Clinton Administration, and a confirmation hearing adversary of Jesse Helms. Always alpha driven, her interest in voting Tuesday seemed a distant second to the breakfast muffin she was multi-tasking on.

Walking in, I had admired her black and white checked pants. Then I looked up to see her wildly gaping mouth chomping away on this banana-walnut concoction. Possessed, she tried to force even more cake into her mouth while she chewed. Her look was one of complete unawareness, to people and to her surroundings. Finally she spoke. It was a garbled mess.

The idea was to engage voters to verify their name and address. But I knew who she was and just wanted her away from the table. I handed her a ballot then watched her spittle a trail of crumbs to the voting booth.

Do you like it like this? Queens’ Christmas 1981, The Brothel Hotel (now Majestic), Sutter at Gough.

It was an interesting day that, in the end, had yet one more sad reminder of my advanced age. I’ve never worked a poll for 13 hours and come away with no tips.

After leaving the polling place I treated myself to a burger at 10:30 p.m. Utterly exhausted I vented my fried mind to the stone cold, millennial chick cashier. Within seconds she was calling me honey, mothering me and throwing in extra fries as she packed me on my way.

My heart was filled with civic pride as I boogalooed down Broadway all the way home. Watch me now, HEY!