Sunday, February 26, 2012

Satan Enters GOP Presidential Race

In a surprising move, The Devil, himself, announced this morning he has decided to throw his hat in the ring for the republican nomination for president. Speaking from his home in Trump Tower, when asked why, after all this time, he thought now would be a good time to reveal himself to humanity, the Prince of Darkness replied, "I just couldn't take it anymore. I've been close many times. WWl, WWll, the O.J. verdict, etc. There were numerous times throughout history, I thought, 'Now is the time,' then, for one reason or another, I would always change my mind. But, after watching the complete debacle that is the GOP race, and reveling in the hypocrisy, lies, and downright evil being committed, on both sides, all in the name of American politics, I realized, this stuff is far better than anything we have going on down in Hell at the moment. I just had to be a part of it. Besides, I can learn a thing or two from this Santorum guy. He even scares me, and that's no easy task."

When asked about his campaign platform, Satan replied, "It won't be much different from any of these other guys, but, I will admit, unlike my competitors, I do, in fact, have a problem promising things I have no intention of delivering. That's just not my style. However, after witnessing how much support a loon like Santorum's getting just by being himself, there's really no need to hide your agenda anymore. It's completely clear, the American people will let you do whatever you want to them, as long as you don't raise their taxes or take away their guns. Both, of which, I'm completely fine with. Thus, I will proudly wear my beliefs like a badge of honor, and I think most folks will agree with me." He then added, "I'm very much looking forward to sending civil rights back to the dark ages - especially the persecution of women and gays -, building the military to the point we're so powerful we can pretty much bomb anyone and get away with it, crushing health care, the environment, education, and, of course, my favorite - freezing taxes indefinitely and drastically lowering the tax rate for millionaires. Thus, allowing the deficit to, once again, spiral out of control and swallow us whole, like a giant serpent rising from the sea. But, this time, it'll take at least a hundred years to repair. None of this four to eight year crap my proteges Bush and Cheney tried out. That was amateur hour."

When asked about his views on religion, Satan thought for a moment, then said, "Religion's gonna be a tough one. But, honestly, I don't think there's that much of a gap between what Santorum's been preaching and what I believe in. Incidentally, if I win the nomination, I don't see any reason he couldn't be my running mate. I'm also suggesting we change mascots, from an elephant to a Hydra. It's much more intimidating, and it really captures what we're all about. Just like the mythical beast, a republican has many faces."

Before heading to his first event, a luncheon sponsored by N.J. Governor, Chris Christie, Satan closed by saying, "Al Pacino did a brilliant job of portraying me on screen, and he almost got it right. But, it's not "The law" that puts us into everything, it's politics. Whereas, in the past, a guy like me might have been run out of town, come November, I fully expect to be carried through the streets on the shoulders of the masses. Still, the best part is, even if I lose, I'm completely confident one of these gentlemen next to me will do a fine job wreaking havoc upon America, and the rest of the world. Whatever happens, it's sure gonna be fun to watch."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Andrew Lloyd Webber to Helm, "Greece!" The Musical

Now that they've been rescued from the brink of certain disaster, the first order of business for Greece's finance ministers, is to begin figuring out ways to pay off the astronomical debt that will accrue as a direct result of the Eurozone bailout. While the plan is being hailed as a good short-term remedy, a loan of this size, and the interest accrued, will no doubt, saddle the Grecian people with near insurmountable financial hurdles in the years to come.

To ease a bit of the strain, the move most everyone in Athens seems to be applauding, is the plan to turn the story of their country's economic collapse into a musical, appropriately titled, "Greece! The Musical," and which, if sources are correct, will be written and directed by B'way legend, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber has reportedly already agreed to pen the story, which, according to one source, centers around a group of Greek teenagers in the fifties who end up causing a global financial meltdown.

"The idea behind the project, is that a hit Broadway musical, and its potential for sequels, spin-offs, and national tours, will bring a constant stream of revenue into our severely ailing nation, no matter the condition of the world's economy," explained Greece's chief economist, Danielo Zukopolis.

Webber said in an email, "I'm delighted to put my talents to use helping this stoically beautiful country, and its people, reclaim some of their dignity." Webber volunteered that, before settling on the current, simplified title of the production, there were a few they opted not to go with; such as, Greece! Turn Off the Snark,- Greece! The Book of Morons, - and, Greece! Trillion Dollar Quartet.

Songs Webber has already written since lunch include, Hopelessly Indebted to You, Look at Me I'm Sandra Default, Business School Dropout, Freddy Mac- My Love, Greased Palmin', and Born to Hand Outs.

D.C. powerhouse, the Brunswick Group, have been brought on to handle the PR, and rumor has it, their first order of business is to persuade Greek president, Karolos Papoulias, to adopt the musical's cheerful spelling as his country's permanent moniker. When asked to comment, Rory Flanders, Brunswick's V.P. of communications, stated, "People are feta up. We need these guys to understand the damage they did to their country's credibility - and, as soon as we find someone who can speak Greek, we will tell them that. They need to recognize the psychological effect changing the country's negative-sounding name to something more upbeat and positive will have, in how they are perceived by the rest of the world. "Greece," just won't cut it anymore. It has 'failure' written all over it. However, "Greece!" has a totally different ring to it. Nothing says "We're Happy! Everything's fine!" like a couple of good 'ole exclamation points. Combine that with a fancy logo, and you're halfway home. This new, positive direction would be exactly what the world financial markets need to relax and begin trusting them again. And a hit Broadway show never hurts, either. I mean, either!"

Whether it works or not, you have to give them credit for trying. And, aside from that being the only type of credit they're good for at the moment, let's not forget, putting on an original musical, in this day and age, requires an "exzorbatant" amount of time and energy. For what it's worth, let's hope, going forward, this seemingly rejuvenated version of "Greece 2" is more successful than the film of the same name.

"Greece!" The Musical, is preparing for a March 2013 opening at the Sherbert Theatre.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How About a Hand for J.C. Penney C.E.O. Ron Johnson?

It must be weird to be on the wrong side of history and not know it. It was less than fifty years ago that the passing of the Civil Rights Act gave blacks the same privileges under the law as whites. Even though it was a milestone, there were still scores of Americans opposed to it. One, in particular, was the governor of Alabama, himself. Gov. George Wallace, the highest elected official in the state, stood in that doorway of that school, on that day, and tried to prevent a black girl from entering. Aside from losing the standoff, he wound up making a fool of himself for all eternity. No matter what good he did, he will always be remembered as the bigot who stood in that doorway.

Fast forward to now, there are many among us who, not having learned a thing from history, would stand in that doorway to prevent same-sex couples from walking down the aisle. Some of them are even running for president.

Just a few years ago, it probably wouldn't have even crossed the mind of the marketing folks at JC Penney to use an openly gay woman as their spokesperson. The political fallout would have been suicide for any middle-American C.E.O., and it would've been understandable if the company bowed to political pressure. But, just as social media can do some pretty bad things, it can also make known the general conscience of a nation. And the conscience of our nation says, "The right of gay and lesbian Americans to be treated equally in the eyes of the law is another issue whose time has come."

Of course, there will always be the haters on their "Mission from God," claiming to have a million mothers up in arms over what they did, and threatening to spend the rest of their days making sure Penney's chief exec., Ron Johnson, and his company, suffers for it. They can shout all they want about gay marriage, about homosexual spokespeople, about queer pets or insects, etc., etc. The fact is, The Times They Are A Changin'. Nonetheless, we still should take a moment and applaud Penney's commander-in-chief, for not so much as blinking in the wake of the political storm created by naming Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson. Heck, everyone should go and buy a pair of socks or a sweater to show their support.

Years from now, when every state in the union has recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry, we, as a nation, will look back and shake our heads at those who, in the name of religion, tried to stop their fellow citizens from living with the same privileges and rights they experience, because of their sexual preference. Just as we marvel at the unfortunate ones who opposed the civil rights passage nearly five decades ago, we will remember, with sadness and bewilderment, all those who preferred to side with the angry, the bitter, the misguided, and the shameful.

What those stubborn individuals on today's conservative right fail to realize is that, for all their protesting, all their lobbying, all their campaigning, all their thinly-disguised bigotry and hatred, in the end, it will ultimately be for naught. Because standing in the way of human progress in this day and age is like a farm house standing in the way of an interstate in 1952. Sooner or later, it's gonna get run over, and I'd hate to be standing there when the dozer comes. A marriage is the union of two souls. Not two body parts.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Will Grannies Be the Only Ones Watching the Grammys?

Let's be honest. Most big time award shows are nothing more than a "Hooray for Us!" celebration, designed simply to reaffirm who's "in the club" and who gets to stay in the club. After all, if you're a corporate cog looking to cross-collateralize your widgets with a hot, young piece of "talent," or a network exec. interested in garnering ratings for your attempt at an eighth generation spin-off of a talent competition, nothing says you won't get fired like a gold phonograph.

The Grammys have long been to music what KFC is to chicken(see Jethro Tull's win for Album of the Year). And, now, with the recent signing of a petition by legions of angry musicians who demand NARAS, the organization behind the annual awards show, reinstate the Latin Jazz category -- and other recently eliminated ethnic groups -- to the ballot, as well as the planned protest outside the Staples Center this Sunday, it's beginning to feel more like Occupy the Grammys than anything else.

For a show that now seems to be entirely dependent on Lady Gaga's outfits for ratings and a mandatory appearance by the Foo Fighters to maintain its 'danger factor,' pissing off tens of thousands of loyal supporters to the point where a class action lawsuit is now underway, doesn't seem like the best way to go. Add to that the refusal of the "Grammy Republican Guard" to release the minutes of its secret meeting in which these eliminations took place, and we could be looking at a musical version of the Arab Spring (Arab Spring Awakening?). Hey, here's a category; Best Revolutionary Action by a Growing Group of Disenfranchised Artists. "... And, the winner is, Molly Hatchet!"

The Grammys are the largest non-profit organization in the U.S. and, like any non-profit, any of its members are entitled to read the minutes of any meeting upon request, but, according to nominee pianist/composer Mark Levine, who rejected his recent nomination, "For some reason, the repeated requests for the minutes of this particular meeting have been met with nothing but resistance. Thus, the petition and lawsuit, backed by legends such as Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana, seems the only way to go."

In N.A.R.A.S.'s defense, when looking at some of the discontinued categories, it appears they got it right (has anyone ever bought a "Pop Instrumental" Album?). However, it took members of the Latino community over seventeen years of lobbying to finally get N.A.R.A.S. to include the Latin Jazz category, so, if nothing else, it certainly seems they could at least make an exception to reinstate this popular genre, as opposed to, say, Best Contemporary Pop Album by a Hawaiian Playing a Blowfish.

If Chris Martin and Rihanna performing their version of Miss Saigon isn't enough to entice you to watch this year's Grammy telecast, keep in mind, each year they manage to come up with one-huge-gaff which makes for hilarious water cooler conversation - e.g., last year, some unknown named Justin Bieber lost the Best New Artist award to a long-established Hispanic, Contemporary Jazz artist by the name of Esperanza Spalding. Even Spalding herself was shocked. This year should prove to be no less exciting, as, in keeping with a condition of his probation, Chris Brown has agreed to perform in handcuffs. Just in case.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mr. Friedman's Opus

It's March of 1985. I'm a senior in high school. It’s a good time. I haven’t yet heard of a company called Clear Channel and I’m still naive enough to think that music is more than just a business…

Growing up in Fair Lawn, NJ meant that, for as long as I could remember, every Memorial Day, the whole town would gather for the Senior Class Softball Marathon. Each year, this three-day, non-stop, round-the-clock softball game raised money for different charities. The senior class was divided into teams that competed against each other, straight through the night and into the next morning, without stopping, while a mass of beer-drinking, hot dog-munching town folk gathered to cheer them on, even at four-thirty in the a.m.

So, it happened that, on one particular sunny afternoon, my friend, Matt Gitkin and I were approached by Howie Friedman, our beloved chemistry and physics teacher who would brag in the halls on a daily basis about being the 38th most allergic human on the planet. Mr. Friedman was a "rocker" in the truest sense of the word, back in the sixties; he lived for rock music and the power it displayed. He told us of his idea to form a student-teacher band to perform classic rock tunes during the first intermission at the upcoming Marathon. Matt and I thought he was joking, as that was nothing new, and eventually, the nutty professor managed to convince us to drag some friends into the madness, while he recruited some semi-sane teachers willing to make fools of themselves singing Steppenwolf in front of their students. We called this student-teacher rock extravaganza, "The Boptones."

We rehearsed in my parent’s basement and after a few shaky months, we dragged our Peavey amps and Ibanez guitars onto the poorly lit ball field (picture Field of Dreams meets School of Rock). We played to a smattering of supportive cheers and polite applause. Our audience didn’t hate us, it was just tough to hear us. The two Campbell's soup cans we used as a P.A. couldn't provide the oomph we needed to really "RAWWWWK!"

That first "concert", Memorial Day weekend in 1985, featured six kids on our respective instruments and three crazy teachers, singing everything from Born to Be Wild, to Runaround Sue to Aqualung. Little did we know what we (or Howie) had started.

Fast-forward twenty years later (Jesus); Matt gets a call from a girl who claims to be on the official "Boptones Advisory Board" of Fair Lawn High School. Huh? Apparently, when we weren't looking, the Boptones student-teacher rock band had gone and transformed itself into something of an anomaly.

No longer are there six students and three teachers; no longer are there soup cans for P.A.'s; and no longer is the concert a forty-minute gig on the ball field between innings. Now, there's a lengthy audition process for both juniors and seniors, during which over one hundred and sixty kids try out each year and only thirty or so make the cut. Now, handfuls of crazy teachers lurk the hallways practicing their best Ozzy impersonations. (Mrs. Levine, the darling, sixty-something Spanish teacher who's retiring next year, is rumored to be performing Black Sabbath's Iron Man at this year's show.) Now, the P.A. is a state-of-the-art sound system, complete with top notch console, lighting board, and monitor wedges for the performers.
Even the art department donates their time and builds huge scaffolding and risers for the performers, complete with fake, crepe paper flames shooting up from the stage. The "gig" has become an event; a three-hour plus party held inside the school's thousand-seat auditorium, and I would be rendered speechless.

The phone call Matt received was to inform him that this year, Mr. Friedman would be hanging up the chalk and moving to Florida, and would we like to say something on his behalf at the upcoming concert? She explained that there would be a short video tribute to him during the show and they could film us saying something nice for his retirement. Matt and I had a better idea. What if the original Boptones were to reunite and surprise Mr. Friedman at the show by doing a few tunes from years ago? Now all we needed was to find everyone.

Thank God most of us from the original band are losers and never moved anywhere outside the New York area. We were all easily reachable, except for Chrissy Campanella. Who knows what she's doing these days? Last I heard she’s working for Clear Channel.

After about sixty thousand emails arguing what tunes we should do, we five surviving members get together a few days before the show to rehearse our short, but emotionally charged, set. The songs are Sergeant Pepper, Runaround Sue, Born to Be Wild, and Sounds of Silence.

The night of the show arrives and the high school auditorium’s packed. Backstage, I glance at the set list. No more Let's Spend the Night Together or Won't Get Fooled Again. Now, there's Bulls on Parade and Green Day's Longview. Dylan was right.

We stand in the wings watching the show and to my amazement, these tiny, little dwarves (I think they're called teenagers) come up to us one after another to shake our hands, ask me where I got my "groovy looking guitar", and tell us how psyched they are that we're there to play for Howie's last concert.

I stood in awe, watching scores of teachers and students sharing the stage and singing away together in front of a mob of cheering and, for a change, happy adolescents; I wondered if Mr. Friedman really knew the full extent of what he'd created that day, twenty years earlier, with the simple idea to play some rock n’ roll with his students.

Halfway through the performance, the video screen is lowered and a "This Was Your Life at Fair Lawn High School, Howie Friedman" piece is shown. After slides and footage of the original Boptones (and me in parachute pants - which I'll publicly deny if asked), Matt is asked if the original Boptones would ever play together again, to which he replies, in true "Behind The Music" fashion, "No way. The five of us could never get along. We were always at each other's throats and there's too much bitterness involved now, so I don't see that happening anytime soon." With that, Mr. Friedman is beckoned to the stage and one by one, we are introduced from the wings. It’s all quite emotional. We lovingly molest each other, and take our positions on stage.

The kids go crazy. It feels like Altamont. (Never mind, bad analogy.) We have a blast playing our songs and for the last one, Sounds of Silence, we bring Mr. Friedman and a few new, younger, "Tones" up to join us; it feels very much like the passing of the torch.

Then the moment comes when I realize how old and out of touch I really am. We’re right in the middle of "Silence", the whole school is singing along, and I’m in the moment, looking down at my guitar. When I gaze up, I see one of the most spectacular sights I'm to witness as a performer; every kid in the auditorium’s waving his/her arms back and forth and a glowing, blue, neon stick is shimmering in each one of their hands, creating a sight I immediately take a mental picture of to make sure I'd never forget. What are those blue things? Are they those sticks that you break in half that glow neon when activated? I can't tell. Then it hits me. They're cell phones. Every kid in the crowd has his/her cell phone window glowing iridescent colors, replacing the obsolete cigarette lighters of old. My brother-in-law holds up his lighter and is about to flick it, when some twelve year old girl, shooting him a very serious look, says, "Um, sir, we don't do that anymore." Dylan was right again.

I realized that at the very least, the one thing I left the school with that night was knowledge that couldn’t be taught in a classroom; that one teacher, armed with the gift of music and a generous spirit, can bring an entire community together just by being crazy enough to “put it out there” and see what happens.

That night there were no cliques, no insults being hurled, nobody getting beaten up outside by the "Green Hill", no teachers being patronizing toward students. Everyone was "gettin' their groove on" together, like one big Partridge Family. And, I couldn't help but think, the next time a problem arises with a classmate, when a temper may cause someone to do something they'd later regret, simply remembering the sight of their teacher singing Black Sabbath with them, might make them laugh instead. What more reason do we need for keeping music programs alive in our schools? Thank you, Howie.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Steven Tyler Accidentally Hits on Himself

Gazing into the full-length mirror left in the back of the room by a P.A. on a lunch break, Idol judge, Steven Tyler, accidentally took his own reflection for that of a prospective hopeful, and began complimenting the singer on his looks, his talent, and most of all, his "sexiness."

Fox is debating whether or not to run the as of yet, un-aired episode in which Tyler is heard cooing, "I can't find a single flaw on you. Even your wrinkles are sexy. My goosebumps are getting goosebumps."

Both J. Lo and Randy Jackson, Tyler's co-judges, tried to tell the googly-eyed rocker that he was talking to himself, but Tyler was lost in his own thought; going as far as to offer a ticket to Hollywood in exchange for his phone number. When the vision in the mirror accepted, Tyler proposed. Having been subjected to week after week of national humiliation, Erin Brady, Tyler's fiance, has reportedly been seen jogging up and down Simon Cowell's block in lingerie.

Idol producers are reportedly up in arms about the Aerosmith front-man using the show's audition process as his own personal dating site, and are believed to be actively seeking a replacement. Sources close to the show say exec. producer, Simon Fuller, is demanding this time they go in an entirely different direction, with a host who's known for his/her tact, grace, and lack of ego. Rumor has it the short list includes Snooki, Donald Trump, and Kim Kardashian.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Patriot Fans Create Kickstarter Campaign to Build Tom Brady A Time Machine

It's one thing to lose the biggest game of your life in the final seconds when your team is on the verge of making history. It's another when it happens twice - to the same team... at the hands of the same guy. Add to that the "mission" to win one for the owner's beloved, recently deceased wife, the personal goal of vanquishing the demons from your psyche, thereby reaffirming your legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the sport, and, lest we forget, the bitter, century-old rivalry between the two cities participating, and you can say this was the biggest of big games.

Recognizing the disappointment suffered by their star quarterback, and terrified that, this time, he may never recover, several loyal-yet-delusional New England Patriot fans have created a campaign on Internet funding site,, with the hopes of raising enough money to build Tom Brady a desperately needed time machine.

The campaign is the brainchild of diehard Pat, Redsox, Cubs, and all-things-cursed-in-general fan, Charlie Wiggums, 29, of Worcester, Mass. Speaking in an accent which belies his intelligence, Wiggums, a peanut vendor at Gillette Stadium, stated,"Befaw ya go and say, 'Oh, daat's ludicrous. Ya can't build a time machine, numnuts. Dat's impossible.' Unduhstand, weah not lookin' ta build one to take us back to prehistawic times - of caws, dat's impossible. And, we'd get eaten by dinosaws. Weah just tawkin' about twenty-faw howas, heah. Just lawng enough ta get ah stah quawtahback da win he deserves. We figya we can do it faw about ten grand. My brawtha Tawmy's already out at Radio Shack scopin' fa pahts."

One of the first contributors, a doctor from Braintree, Mass who wished to remain anonymous, commented, "This is not happening. There's no way Manning did this to us again. And, if I have anything to do with it, he won't."

As an incentive, those who contribute $500 will receive a Super Bowl 46 championship jersey autographed by the entire Patriot team. Contribute $1000 and you get to ride with Brady in the transport.

The largest contribution, a donation of $5,000, came from Madonna.

Whether or not the campaign is a success, one has to admire the support, loyalty, and denial these great fans demonstrate toward their team and its crestfallen leader. A smaller campaign to "un-bitch" Bill Belichick from Tom Coughlin is also underway.

Prospective donors can visit to contribute.