Y Marks the Spot: The Nasty, Brutish, and Short – On Bullying

I hate categorization, especially when it comes to human beings.  In my opinion, there isn’t much that is more of a threat to the well-being of mankind than demographics.  I see the problems created by primarily defining one’s self by gender, ancestry, age, spiritual status, and whom one sleeps with as sort of a polar paradox.  Sure, groups separate people from one another, causing bigotry, tribalism, and discrimination, but at the same time they don’t separate people far enough, to the point where every person is an individual free from all the expectations and biases of the competing cultures.

Going further, I refuse to claim a sexual orientation.  First off, I’m far too narcissistic and antisocial to define myself by the presence of someone else.  But I suppose the main reason why I choose to not define myself along sexual lines is that I demand the ability to like any person in any way that I want.  Sex holds a pretty low rank in my relationships, so describing myself as gay, straight, or bisexual would feel like a cop-out.

Of course, this means that I often get treated as though I’m gay.  Wearing makeup and dresses and singing songs about molesting the male cast of Saved by the Bell hasn’t helped.  But I think I’d get the homo label anyway.  As progressive as we like to think of ourselves, there’s still a huge gay paranoia within our society, the magnitude of which draws parallels to McCarthyism.  One must always travel with one’s identification in full view.  Among guys (and let it be noted that I’m not presuming to speak for the ladies), this pretty much means that if you’re not banging at least five smokin’ hot girls at once, in full view of the entire world, your sexuality is suspect.

As an adult, I’ve fallen victim to this meatheaded thinking, but as a teenager, in a public school, shit.  I’m going to come right out and say it: fuck public school.  It’s a refinery of anti-intellectualism populated by savage little shits constantly at war with each other.  With the exception of a few friends, teachers, and an army of guidance counselors, I hated just about every moment I spent in the system.  My great grades were no indication of my experience.  On the off chance that I have children, there is no fucking way I will subject them to what I went through.

I suppose I’m queer in the more universal sense of the word, which is to say that I’m a chronic stranger.  But in that 12 year prison term that is public education, few recognize the difference.  The weirdos are faggots, regardless of what nascent form of sexuality is developing within them, and they suffer for it.  In that hateful maelstrom of loneliness and status-seeking, I was no innocent, though I mostly survived by vanishing instead of damaging.  For the belligerent, homophobia was often a convenient excuse for being an asshole – but sometimes we were just being assholes.

I’m happier now, by the way.

So I look at the recent rash of gay teen suicides with horror and sympathy, and I think that the massive outpouring of support for these kids – especially that shown in the It Gets Better Project – is nothing short of amazing.  Comparing the current reaction to something even so recent as the Columbine shootings of 1999 is mind-blowing.  In my experience, Columbine became a justification for bullying, not against it.  All soul-searching and self-questioning were quickly drowned in reactionary concealment and witch hunts for boogeymen wearing trenchcoats.  I remember.  I was there.  I was wearing one.

Yet today I also see a danger in some of the reactions.  While most people have their hearts in the right place, I’ve picked up on a lingering tendency to emphasize the gay in gay bullying, and the gay in gay suicide.

With all due respect to the fact that homosexuality is still viewed by too many as a source for second-class citizens, and being fully aware of the monstrous shit that is still coming out of the mouths and keyboards of the wannabe righteous phobe-trolls, I don’t think that the problem of bullying should be defined by who it’s happening to.  I don’t think that most, if any, acts of brutality should be.  Suffering is personal, relative, and can’t be compared.  Between the extremes of hypochondria and institutionalized crimes against humanity, when a spectator rates one person’s misery as more important than another’s, humanity’s lesser natures tend to creep in.  It also makes people placed outside of the special circle less inclined to care.  In fighting injustice, you can’t just stand up for those you claim as your own.  You have to stand up for everybody, or nothing gets solved.

Keep in mind that the early Christians were fed to the lions.  Look how well that turned out.

So when I hear or read about people saying that people who aren’t gay can’t understand the horrors of gay bullying, my first impulse is to answer that this isn’t always true.  Just because I’m not gay doesn’t mean that I haven’t been treated like shit because someone thought I was gay.  I feel like people who make such exclusionary comments discount not only the damage and perspectives of the straights, but also those of aliens like me.

But in spite of my cynicism, I hope – to steal a phrase – that things do get better, and we take the larger view.  And I think most people are.  It may take a little nudge and a willingness for people to look beyond their usual circles, but it seems that we’re approaching a common ground where all kids will be viewed – and further, treated – as important.  That can only mean good things when those kids become adults.

Y Marks the Spot: The Selfish Gene

Back in 1963, a comic book guy named Charles Xavier rolled around in his wheelchair and wrote the book on “differently abled.” As what his creator Stan Lee dubbed a Mutant – a blanket label with a scope ranging from chesty telepaths to five-assed monkeys – Professor X led a crusade for equality that was unprecedented in comic book history. Lee’s intention in this landmark title was to mirror the current struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, with Xavier filling the role of Martin Luther King Jr. and his friend and nemesis Magneto playing the reactionary side of Malcolm X. Throughout its history, through its great and not-so-great story arcs, the mutants have held a unique status of being dyed in the wool heroes who don’t quite get along with those they protect. (An argument could be made for Batman being the forerunner of outcast heroes, but then again, why is he in the Justice League – and why was he played by Adam West?) As opposed to the cheers heard at the end of most Golden Age comics, the X-men are as often as not pelted with bottles and run out of town by mobs and killer robots. The obvious reason why is because they’re different, other, freaks.

This ongoing theme of bigotry and nobility in spite of it has resonated with the public, and has made the X-men one of the top comic franchises in history, and for good reason. But there has always been a problem with the series, one which has grown more obvious in recent years as storylines in the Marvel Universe have grown more Orwellian.

Let’s start at the beginning. Our pal Chuck operates his team of young superheroes within the veneer of an academy for “Gifted Youngsters.” Now, we all know what gifted means in this case; Chuck’s running a safe haven for mutants, where they can feel safe and learn to control their powers, when they’re not rising (en masse, it seems) to save the world and make it more tolerant. Much is made of Xavier’s King-like dream of peace between mutants and non-mutants.

So here’s the problem. Why doesn’t Chuck teach non-mutants? In reality, any norms who show up on campus are, here, the freaks.  You’d think that making a mutant school open to non-mutants would be a significant step toward unity and reconciliation. Nope. Instead, this school is insular and, ultimately, a defensive construct. With all the bastards trying to kill Chuckie and the Gang, walling up like this is partially justified. Nonetheless, making a school that preaches tolerance mutants-only throws the baby out with the bathwater, denies normies the opportunity to mingle with the freaks and realize that they’re not all that bad. Wasn’t integration a crucial aspect of the Civil Rights Movement? The X-men could have faced a George Wallace-like villain who stood in front of the X-Mansion, refusing to let non-mutants in. Would have been a blast.

I’ll give you a nerd catch-up on the present. In recent storylines, the mutants have suffered mass genocide at the hands of giant robots, after which the not quite dead Magneto became a Che Guevara t-shirt. His daughter went crazy, created an alternate Happyland where Magneto rules, but then all-but erased mutants, leaving less than 200 on the planet. It’s here where the X-men (who, of course, emerge unscathed) become their most insular and paranoid, dropping almost all greater altruism in favor of keeping the laser beam dodo alive. The team’s heroism becomes more narrow and embattled, focused solely upon events’ effects upon its own people. While this isn’t totally out of line, there’s more than a little persecution complex bigotry here, which ruins the original dream of peace and harmony.

This is a problem caused by the taking of sides, of tribalism, of a social Selfish Gene Theory.

The saying which comes to mind in explaining this is, appropriately enough, an Arab proverb: “Me against my brother, my brother and I against our cousin, and my brother, cousin, and I against the stranger.” As humans following (mostly invented) differences, each person finds their cultural niche, their side, which fulfills both the need to belong and the need to have enemies. The person as individual and the urge for self-preservation are obscured and replaced with delusions of serving the greater good, turning saints into monsters and martyrs.

We’re seeing this play out in Gaza, where Israel and Palestine are abusing eons of history to mandate their current savagery against each other. We’ve seen it play out in our politics, where the two-party system has created an either/or, top/down mentality. We see it in the selective acknowledgment of atrocities perpetuated throughout the globe. We see it in the absurdity of asserting that an all-loving God would have a chosen people. We see it every time someone brings any form of social category into play. A friend and I once agreed that, should the current forms of bigotry someday come to an end, humans will simply move on to hating each other based on what entertainment one consumes.

A life defined by social categories and mass-market ideals is one lacking in vitality. It’s alright to be selfish; self is critical, original, the vendor of hope. Bratty entitlement and greed are different, equally as dangerous as factioning. But each life is lived alone. In this, the only sides that matter are inside and outside. The balance between determines everything.

Y Spy: Less than Jake goes to TV Land


On their latest release, veteran ska punk band Less than Jake has taken an amusingly odd turn.  As a title like “TV/EP” may indicate, this is a covers collection of 16 theme songs and commercial jingles, few longer than one minute, reformed into the Less than Jake style.  It works out really well.

Trombone and bass player Buddy Schaub described Less than Jake’s newest offering as in keeping with the band’s tendency to veer off into strange territory.  In our conversation, he noted other precedent-setting ventures from the band, including the Travolta-channeling ‘Greased’ EP, which would make an album like TV/EP feel inevitable, yet great fun nonetheless.

Y Spy: TV/EP is a brilliant idea.  What led you to make it?

Buddy Schaub: Back in our early days, we used to cover [the theme songs of] Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days.  We used to do that live at shows and at some point we recorded a few of them.  They were thrown together and half-assed, so for the last few years we had been talking about really doing it for real.  The idea kept escalating, and eventually it came to be what it is now.

The idea kind of came from how you can get those CDs that are all TV show themes.  I’m pretty sure that some other band has done this, but we tried to do a completist ideal.  The concept was like you were sitting on a couch in front of a TV, changing channels.  If you go to our website, we put a continuous stream of the commercials and TV shows that go with each song.  I actually did the video myself.  Having the videos go with the music was the culmination, the truest form of what the idea was.  It’s definitely more of a complete picture, and there’s a little teeny clip of us I snuck in there.

Y Spy: Why did you choose the particular themes and jingles that are on the album?

Buddy Schaub: I don’t know.  Laverne & Shirley we had done before, so we wanted to give that a fair shake.  That was one of the first ones, and while we were practicing we’d brainstorm ideas.  JR stays at my house when we’re doing stuff, and Chris came over a few times and we were going through YouTube videos.  Once you Google one old 80s commercial, 65 of them come up and you keep going through.  We picked songs that we thought we could pull off, stuff that was a bit of a variety and wasn’t all one time period.  Yet there wasn’t a completely methodical plan to how it went.

Y Spy: Was the making of the album a quick process?  There are a lot of tracks on TV/EP, but they’re all really short.

Buddy Schaub: It actually came together really fast.  I thought it was gonna take a little longer than it did.  Once we had taken what we were gonna do we worked it out at the Warehouse a little bit.  At a certain point we just started recording them.  We did it all at Roger’s house.  Once we got the drums down and started putting down the basic tracks it was really easy to start layering the other stuff.  You don’t have to worry about writing lyrics because they’re already there.

It was a great experience because the songs are short and the commercials are even shorter.  But they pack so much songwriting into that little bit of time.  There are crazy harmonies, still a verse chorus verse, a bridge sometimes.  They still manage to pack a full song into a minute, so it was really cool to get into the head space of people that write jingles and TV show themes.

Y Spy: Are you going to be playing these songs live?

Buddy Schaub: We’ve been doing a bunch of weekend shows and throwing them in there.  We’re not going to do the whole album or anything, but we’ve been playing four or five of the songs.

Y Spy: One of the great things about this album is that you’re not taking yourselves too seriously as musicians, and you’re just having fun.  Was the intention to get out of your usual mindset and do something a bit sillier?

Buddy Schaub: Yeah.  We were getting ready to write some new stuff, and we hadn’t done it in a while, and we thought it was a good way to get back into the swing of things.  We still had to do some sort of writing for this and make the songs our own.  It was a good warmup.

Y Spy: You’ve announced a new U.S. tour.  What are its details?

Buddy Schaub: We’re coming back in January after going to Japan and Europe.  It’s starting mid-January, we end somewhere in California in February, and we fly over to Australia to do the Soundwave Festival. It’s pretty much all over the U.S., and it’s with two bands called the Supervillains and Off with Their Heads.  We’re still figuring that out.

Y Spy: Are you preparing a full album?

Buddy Schaub: We’re definitely writing songs.  I’m not sure exactly what we’re going to do with them yet.  We’ve already got ten shelves of songs that we got done before this onslaught of touring that we’re getting ready to start up.  After we come back in January, we’re gonna either try to finish demoing out some of the ideas or see how far we can get with them.  I’m not sure what our plans are yet, but there will be new material.  Hopefully you’ll be hearing original music from us in the upcoming year.  Never fear!  There’s always new stuff to be written!

TV/EP is available now.  More information can be found at www.lessthanjake.com.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus




Movie: Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

Director: Ace Hannah

Starring: Deborah Gibson, Vic Chao, Lorenzo Lamas

Written by: Ace Hannah

The thing I don’t like about any of the Monster versus Monster films that have popped up over the past decade is that the ending is almost invariably the same.  Some dick humans are going to get caught up in the film’s epic conflict and somehow, improbably, they’re going to come out on top.  Even if they don’t take out the combatants outright, enough innocent bystanders are going to escape the arena.  It’s the same problem I have with the shitty new Transformers movies: human beings should have no place in the plots of what are essentially gladiator films.  At best, Johnny Human should be a shocked bystander; more often, he should be cannon fodder.

Thus, while I was easily excited by the prospects of a film with such an awesome title like Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, I knew that some shaved ape jackoffs would inevitably stick their noses into this epic aquatic combat.  I was not disappointed.  Yet having ex-teen pop star Debbie Gibson in the title role provided an interesting way for the humans to triumph.  After all, what better way to defeat underwater monstrosities than by unleashing the Electric Youth?


Instead, she breaks out the White Lightning.


Sadly, this film does not heed by my punny strategies.  Instead, Commodore Gibson must combat the menaces at the behest of Lorenzo Lamas, the Steven Seagal of television.  Lamas plays a dickhead government functionary who forcibly recruits Gibson, her Irish mentor, and her soon to be Japanese lover (soon to be her lover, I mean, not imminently Japanese), into war against the monsters.  While her boyfriend joins his countrymen to combat the Octopus, Gibson, Lamas, and the teach board the USS Electric Youth – captained by a guy who looks disturbingly like the great Chris Penn – to go after Mr. Shark.  The humans lead the beasts into each other’s presence, and a nautical argument which might have resolved peacefully goes sour.


What Would Captain Chris Penn Do?


This movie is a titan of bad CG and absurdity, but there are two scenes which deserve special praise.  The first comes after the opening credits, which takes a panoramic view of mountains and helicopters, two places traditionally safe from sharks and octopi (in theory).  In her stolen minisub, Commodore Gibson is shown in certain shots typing with a left hand bearing black nail polish, while her right hand, in a different angle, features clear nails.  A naval code, perhaps?  Yet when her right hand is shown typing, it also has black nail polish!  Durr.

But the greatest thing in this movie?  The scene in which THE SHARK LEAPS OUT OF THE OCEAN AND DESTROYS AN AIRPLANE.


Jesus Fucking Christ.


They’re making a sequel, and Urkel’s in it.  I’m not joking.

* * *

[As a bonus, here’s how things would have really gone down.]

The Designer’s Drugs: Mick Foley – Countdown to Lockdown

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Mick Foley – Countdown to Lockdown

Anno: 2010

The oversaturated, often ghostwritten world of the wrestler’s autobiography has been worn out since Mick Foley single-handedly created – or at least legitimized – the field.  His first of four autobiographies, titled Have a Nice Day!, was a remarkable account of pro wrestling, compiled from handwritten notebooks written in Foley’s own hand.  It remains the benchmark against which every other pro wrestler’s memoirs are judged.  Since then, Foley tends to pop up every few years with a new book of varying quality detailing his life’s recent events.

Of these follow-ups, Countdown to Lockdown finds itself in the middle of the road.  The main thrust of the book details Foley’s exodus to TNA, wrestling’s number two promotion, where the old gun attempts to deliver a solid match within a steel cage.  The days count down as Foley’s fears, insecurities, and physical condition threaten to overwhelm him, yet he pulls himself together.

The ultimate problem that plagues this book is the insecurity.  Foley’s accounts of the wrestling world are still enthralling, and it’s still really easy to get behind him in his newest adventures.  But wow, does he come off as nervous in this one.  The book’s scatterbrained tangents, bashful asides, and schoolboy shout-outs to the ladies take a heavy toll on the narrative.

As such, the best chapters in Countdown to Lockdown have nothing to do with the main story.  Foley’s account of his marginalization within and departure from the WWE, and his take on wrestling’s many casualties and tendencies toward substance abuse, feature some of the book’s boldest writing.  Foley’s criticisms of his old job, jaded fans, and the industry at large are delivered largely with fairness and without bitterness, though a few cheap shots do come out from time to time.

Another key element in the book is the description of Foley’s charitable work, both as a wrestler and outside of it.  His work with disabled kids and wounded soldiers has gone back for years, but Foley spends a lot of time in this book promoting his favorite charities, particularly his work sponsoring children in foreign countries.  It’s interesting to read about his impact upon a village in Sierra Leone, a place where the celebrity of pro wrestling doesn’t reach yet where Foley is treated as a hero.  These stories might have felt out of place in the average ghostwritten wrestling memoir, but are completely fitting alongside Foley’s optimistic style.

The Hardcore Legend's Legend

But the most notable part of this tale is, believe it or not, Tori Amos.  Though she’s been mentioned in Mick’s other books, here he devotes an entire chapter to praising the singer.  In what basically amounts to a fan letter, he breaks down the lyrics to his favorite Amos song, builds up the nerve to meet her, and then agonizes over whether he creeped her out.  It’s a strange and occasionally fawning part of the book, but one which ties in with the main narrative later on.  In the larger context, it makes sense, but the presentation could have been less starstruck.

It’s an odd, meandering piece of work, but Countdown to Lockdown should appeal to the already converted wrestling fan.  For the newcomer, however, start with his first book.  Foley’s gift for writing may not be in full force here, but it is present often enough to signify that, while his wrestling career is coming to a close, he may still have a few good books left in him.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Chairman of the Board


Somehow, I feel as though the movie was responsible for this...


Directed By: Alex Zamm

Starring: Carrot Top, Jack Warden, Courtney Thorne-Smith

Written By: Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Alex Zamm

Even before he got all beefy and plastic-faced Carrot Top was one of the most reviled comedians in history. Only Gallagher, Sinbad, and Gilbert Gottfried draw comparable cringes (though Gilbert is a goddamn genius). So of course, it was only a matter of time before somebody gave the Propmaster General a shot at the silver screen, crammed every second of film with his wacky gadgets and inventions, and leaned back to wait for the dough to roll in. Idiot.

Chairman of the Board is one of the most savaged flicks of all time, badmouthed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni Mike Nelson – a man who has seen his fair share of crap – as one of his most despised comedies. It currently ranks #66 on IMDB’s Worst Movies list. Babies cry when the movie’s case is held in front of them. But fear not, loyal crapseekers! I shall take it upon myself to defend this fine diamond of comedy from the cinematic philistines!

When I forced my similarly warped friends to watch this epic, their main complaints revolved around their intrinsic prejudices toward Mr. Top, not the humorous content of the film itself. They wanted to like the film, especially the parts where the always awesome Jack Warden shows up, surfs, dies, and stars in the greatest video will ever made, involving a flight to heaven on a winged bed. For reasons unknown to any sane person, Warden leaves his multimillion dollar empire to the gadgeteer ginger freak he met not weeks before. Top sets to work winning over striking workers with Luau Wednesdays, funding the harebrained schemes of Beetlejuice’s Otho, and bumbling his way into the heart of the blonde chick from Melrose Place. In the wings, Warden’s stuffed shirt bastard nephew schemes against Mr. Top in order to claim the company. It’s all a little bit Billy Madison by way of Pee-Wee Herman, which is fine, because both rule.

My friends, and the rest of the so-called movie media, are bigoted fools for their dismissal of the great Carrot Top. Chairman of the Board is a masterpiece of Prop-aganda! I can only wait and hope that Mr. Top will find the strength to make Chairman of the Board 2, where he goes on roid rampages and fights Gallagher Too with a boxing glove jack-in-the-box. It would be a beautiful dream come true.


Hopefully, the Chairman of the Bored will be there...



...or at least Yahoo Serious.


The Limits of Our Time

The man stumbled through us,

After the swim,

And swirl,

And pulses pulled away.

He fixed me a postage-due gleam

And with Girls Gone Wild spectator splendor

Said, “Dude, you’re the man.”


I don’t feel like the man.

I’m just confused again.

Halfway down the block,

The corner zigged instead of zagged

And I was abandoned again,

The water thrown out with the weekend.

Once again,

Underneath all potential damage,

I’m lying unfulfilled and empty,

Going on eleven.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Warrior of the Lost World


Movie: Warrior of the Lost World (1983)

Director: David Worth

Starring: Robert Ginty, Persis Khambatta, Donald Pleasance

Written by: David Worth

This gem, made in Italy, is what I’d classify as Spaghetti Apocalypse.  Less kind folks might refer to Warrior of the Lost World as a shameless Mad Max ripoff.  But there’s so much more to this tale of dirtbags rising up against fascists and reclaiming the world!

First off, let’s get the derivatives straight.  Mad Max isn’t the only piece of work which Warrior of the Lost World draws inspiration from.  Sure, the nameless hero is a grizzled loner who rides into town and dispenses justice – though he actually looks more like Russell Crowe with really womanly lips.  Yet his ride of choice, a wiseass talking motorcycle, is more Knight Rider than Thunderdome.  The film’s villain is a direct steal from James Bond, as Donald Pleasance essentially reprises his role as 007’s nemesis Ernst Blofeld.

The kids know him as Doctor Evil.

It could also be argued that the neon punks, writhing bondage Nazis, and headband-sporting karate geeks which fill out the supporting cast are also lifted creatures: the punkers are Headroomesque, the Nazi sluts remind me of the vapid fashion plates of Liquid Sky, and the karate nerds could have come from anywhere.

After an epic Star Wars like text crawl (“The nuclear war has been fought!!!  The Earth is in ruins!!!  All governments have collapsed!!!”), the lone rider roars upon the scene.  In short order, he crashes his superbike into the side of a cliff.  Oops.  When he’s resurrected by the flashlights of a cult of creepy old people in bed sheets, our hero is told that the barrier was really the “Secret Wall of Illusion.”  Right.

The old people turn out to be members of the resistance, and the resident babe recruits the rider in order to save her old man.  After the pair bumble through an inexplicable sequence of a critter-filled cave, sexy nightclub, airport walkway, dairy, run-down warehouse, and finally, Evil Headquarters, the goof saves the girl’s dad, only to lose the girl.

The hero regains ground by participating in a Tournament of Dirtbags, in which he fights pretty much every 80s movie caricature available, including a lumberjack midget.  After he whips this dork collective into a proper army, the hero takes on the jewel of the evil army – MEGAWEAPON!

Despite its awesomeness, Megaweapon is essentially a glorified dump truck with spikes in front that shoots fire in one direction.  A kid in a big wheel could get around it, if not destroy it.  The hero slides his bike under Megaweapon, and old MW thankfully kills his annoying ride.  Unfortunately, that buys the goofball time to take it out like an imperial walker.  Boo!

Not so impressive from the side.

Ultimately, this flick is a collection of many discordant elements that somehow make a great little B-movie.  Most of the people in the story are dumb, the plot is nonsensical, but everything works!  Mad Max had to try in order to succeed; Warrior of the Lost World only had to fail.

Though Max didn't look like a novocaine addict.

The Designer’s Drugs: Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Deluxe Edition)


Medium: Album

Stimulus: Brandon Flowers – Flamingo (Deluxe Edition)

Anno: 2010


Owing to their Vegas roots, the Killers have always flirted with the idea of being a casino band, but on his solo debut singer Brandon Flowers drowns in gambling metaphor.  Flowers opens the album with “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” where he takes in the huddled masses with the intent of fleecing them all.  “Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts” isn’t as blatant, though the references to rolling dice and playing cards paint the walls throughout this dancing romance.  The album’s best storytelling is on a dopey country tune titled “The Clock Was Tickin’” which chronicles the down and out life of a Vegas dreg with forgiving scope.

Yet Flowers advances this formula one step further and injects this Sin City story with a healthy dose of the Lord.  While this factor could send the album into a preachy quagmire, the storytelling on most of these songs is often an advantage.  A few of the lordy tracks are lackluster, the most obvious being the album’s closer, “Right Behind You.”  Musically it’s a sad and pretty work of electropop; lyrically it plays out like the “Footprints” fable.  Yet “Playing with Fire” – easily the album’s best track – is a gorgeously sparse track bearing the imagery of Christ out in the desert.  Similarly gripping, “On the Floor” plays out like a vice spiritual featuring animals out of Aesop’s Fables.

Though it’s not as immediately exciting as the Killers’ work, Flamingo is Flowers’ bold, and perhaps inevitable, break from its dance rock style.  It’s also his best work since that band’s debut.

Y Spy: Tony Clifton – Free Hookers!

Mister Tony Clifton!

Tony Clifton doesn’t give a shit about your feelings.  He has no time for the open-minded and close-mouthed.  For decades, this comic genius, reluctant philanthropist, and International Singing Sensation has amazed and frightened his audiences with his Vegas-style musical renditions of popular music, his off the rails personality, and a mouth that would kill a hippie stone dead.  The Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon” recalled Mr. Clifton in all his chaotic glory, expanding his profile for a new breed of fans.  Though the time since has seen sporadic appearances by the man, his legend as a song and dance man hasn’t disappeared.

Currently, he’s back on the road, getting ready for a big new album, and being as wonderfully crass as ever.  In anticipation for Mr. Clifton’s Friday show at the Triple Door in Seattle – a show in which one lucky audience member will, no shit, win a free hooker – the man and I had a conversation about his long and storied career.  In the course of this interview, Mr. Clifton took no prisoners and was mercilessly funny.  It should be assumed that every one of his nasty, offensive jokes had me doubled over with laughter.

Not everyone will share my warped sense of humor, so I’ll preface this with a warning.  If you’re offended by, well, anything, you might want to sit this one out.  But if you appreciate comic brilliance outside of the acceptable lines, read on.  More importantly, go see Tony Clifton for yourself!

Y Spy: Your new tour is being billed as a return to the road.  Where have you been?

Tony Clifton: Well, I’ve been in my own skin!  I haven’t been anywhere!  I’m the same guy I’ve always been.  As you know, I’m considered the International Singing Sensation, so I work internationally.  For the last number of years, I’ve been over in the Third World countries performing.  I fill up soccer stadiums!  I do a little faith healing too, on the side.  People come in to hear some songs, I do some Sinatra singing and everything, but then people in the Third World countries will believe any damn thing.  So I get myself a plant here and there, make some people walk out of their wheelchairs, everybody goes crazy.

I don’t charge a lot of money.  Matter of fact, you could bring some canned goods to get into my shows – back in the Third World countries.

Y Spy: Not in America, though.

Tony Clifton: Oh, not here, no.  Here we wanna get the money from them.  That’s why, what is it, Friday night over at the Triple Door, 7:30 is gonna be showtime.  And I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t wanna miss this.  I’m not a comedian; I’m an International Singing Sensation.  This is a big Vegas type of show.  I got all kinds of musicians on stage; I got three horn players from New Orleans, they’ll blow the roof off and blow the door down at the Triple Door!

Hey, what nationality are you?

Y Spy: Mostly Norwegian.

Tony Clifton: Norwegian?  Well, I don’t think I know one fuckin’ Norwegian joke.

Hey, what’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?  One less drunk.

Did you hear about the Polack whose wife had triplets?  Yeah, he went looking for the other two guys!

Why is Aspirin white?  Because it works.

How do you stop little black kids from jumping on the bed?

Y Spy: I have heard this one, but go for it.

Tony Clifton: [Then] I’m not gonna tell you.

How do you stop little kids from playin’ in your yard?  Rape one!

What sound does a baby make when you put it in the microwave?  I don’t know!  I was jerking off!

[Noticing my constant laughter] You’re a sick man, aren’t ya?

Y Spy: I am a sick man!

Tony Clifton: How do you get a gay man to make love to a woman?  Put shit in her pussy!

We take everybody on!  Every nationality.

Y Spy: You’ve gotta come up with a good Norwegian joke.

Tony Clifton: You find one, you let me know!  Norwegian was the, whatchacallit, that was the big warriors, what were they called?

Y Spy: The Vikings!

Tony Clifton: The Vikings!  Yeah, the fuckin’ Vikings, man.  Vikings were crazy motherfuckers.  You’ve got crazy DNA!  Those guys were warriors to the end.  They’d wanna die a great warrior death.  Like that movie 300.

Tony Clifton - America's Viking

Y Spy: But those were Greeks.  Got any good Greek jokes?

Tony Clifton: Greek?  No, but I’ll tell you a pedophile joke.

Two pedophiles were sitting on a park bench.  One turns to the other one and says: “You know, I had myself a 12 year old last night.”

The other pedophile says “12 year old?  We’ve all had ourselves 12 year olds!”

He said “Yeah, but this one had the body of a 7 year old!”

Y Spy: Wow.

Tony Clifton: What’s the best part about fucking twenty six year olds?  There’s twenty of them.

What do you call a short Mexican woman?  Cunt-sway-low.

We have fun.  But seriously, the show’s a big musical show.  And wait till you see the Cliftonettes!  These are the top strippers that I have, right out of New Orleans.  So people come to this, and it’s not just music and jokes, but hot, hot chicks.

Y Spy: Speaking of which, I’ve heard that you’re offering free hookers!

Tony Clifton: I am!  This is what I’m going to do.  You know Dennis Hof, the show Cathouse on HBO?  Dennis Hof is a good friend of mine.  I was just over at the famed Moonlite Bunny Ranch.  He had a big birthday there; we were celebrating with him, me, Joey Buttafuoco, and Ron Jeremy.  We had a good time with all the young girls.  Matter of fact, I maintain a suite over at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

So what we’re doing is that everybody who comes to the show – we have to word this just right because prostitution is illegal in Seattle, [though] it is legal in Nevada, where the ranch is – we’re having a free raffle.  We’re not charging anybody for this.  Everybody puts their name in a hat, and that night we will have a drawing.  I don’t care if it’s male or female – whoever wins will get the hooker of their choice at Dennis Hof’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch, totally and fully paid for by yours truly and Dennis Hof.

So this is gonna be wild.  Some of those horny guys – and horny girls, maybe they got a little lesbian tendency – they will come and have themselves a time.  They can go to the Moonlite Bunny Ranch website now and start thinking and fantasizing about what girl they wanna fuck.

Y Spy: But you’re not paying airfare or anything.

Tony Clifton: No!  From Seattle, that’s a short flight anyway.  You go right to Reno, and we will put them up over at the ranch.  They will have VIP treatment and they will meet Dennis Hof.  I will be there, cause we will work this out with the dates.  We’ll get everybody there at the same time, and it is gonna be quite an experience.

And this is true.  There’s no bullshit to it.  But we’ve gotta do it as a free raffle.  We can’t be charging, or else we’ll get in trouble with the law.

But I’ll tell you my philosophy: you’re only as old as the person you fuck.  I’ve had a rule for the last 30 years: I will not fuck any girl that’s over half my age.  And that’s why I have all this fuckin’ energy, man.  I ain’t fuckin’ some old broad!  Some of these poor guys that are married and got fat old wives, what the fuck?  You’d wanna blow your fuckin’ brains out!  You need some nice young stuff there.  That is the fountain of youth – guys fuckin’ in their 80s, 90s.

Y Spy: Like Tony Randall, who had a kid at that age.

Tony Clifton: Yeah, that’s right!  Tony Randall!  Absolutely.  Gary Busey just had a kid; he’s 65 or something.  I’ll tell ya, there’s nothing like young pussy.  It keeps you young.  It keeps me going.  I’ve got groupies and everything; I don’t have to pay for it if I don’t want to.

Let me ask you a question.  What does an 80 year old pussy taste like?  Depends!

That cloth has been around. I'm sure of it.

Y Spy: So as a big Vegas-style showman, what’s your favorite thing about Vegas?

Tony Clifton: Well, Vegas is Vegas.  What can you say?  When I think back on Las Vegas, I think back to those days when I was a young man in the audience watching the Rat Pack perform.  Back then in the old Vegas, you had anything you needed.  You wanted hookers, there was no fuckin’ problem.  That’s when the Mafia ran the place – but they knew how to run that!

Now you’ve got that whole Disney crowd that moved in there.  Vegas is going through a lot of crap.  What hurt ‘em in the last few years with the economy going to Hell is the Indian gambling that came in.  When we gave all the Indians all that damn free land and allowed them to do the Indian gambling, that’s just killing these big casinos.  When we had a chance 150 years ago to wipe the red man out, we should have done it.  We had the Gatling gun then!  We could have blown them all out of the way and then we wouldn’t have people suffering today.

And another thing: those damn Injuns can’t even hold their liquor.  Liquor?  I hardly know her!  My doctor tells me I gotta get away from the booze.  I drink the Jack Daniels just like Sinatra drank.  Like Frank used to say, he felt sorry for people who didn’t drink, because when they woke up in the morning that was as good as they’re gonna feel all fuckin’ day.

People come to my show and this is big-time party.  We do all kinds of music, from Sinatra to Zeppelin, and since I got the horn players, I throw in a lot of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and Chicago.  A lot of guys won’t play that shit because they don’t got the horns.  This is a great fuckin’ show.  The more people drink, the better I sound.

Y Spy: So the band is called the Katrina Kiss-My-Ass Orchestra.  How did you go about assembling it?

Tony Clifton: That charity organization put it together – what is it, Comedy somethin’ Relief?  They had the Katrina disaster up there, so a lot of people in the band are there.  A lot of dancers are from New Orleans.  And of course I got involved, not that I do charity work.  Fuck that.  I think charity starts at home!  Matter of fact, if some fuckin’ bastard comes trying to fuckin’ wipe my windshield, I’ll run him over!  I don’t go for that crap.

Hey!  What’s the best part about makin’ love to a homeless woman?  Her pussy smells just like her asshole.  What do you think of that, huh?

What does a black kid get for Christmas?  Your bike!

There’s a car going by with a black man and a Mexican in it.  Who’s driving?  A cop!

It’s rainin’ up in Seattle; I should do some rain jokes.  What’s Seattle known for?  Kurt Cobain, right?  Well, I’ll tell you a little something here, hold it!  You know I was in the movie Man on the Moon with Jim Carrey.  Did you know I fucked Courtney Love?  This is for real!

Y Spy: How was she?

Tony Clifton: Not too good!  Here’s what happened.  Cause she wanted to fuck Jim Carrey so bad, and Jim was going at the time with Renee Zellweger.  So when we’d be on location, you’d have the Winnebago there, and [Love] would come around looking for Jim.  Courtney, she got fucked up, and she’ll fuck anyone that moves.

So she came over to Jim’s trailer one day, and he was out on the set.  She didn’t know this.  So I let her in – Jim and I was real close – and we were drinking a little, and after a while I said: “I’ll tell you what – you wanna sleep with Jim, I can make that happen.  But I gotta be honest; I don’t bullshit people.  You take care of me right here and now, and I’ll put in a good word.  I didn’t fuck her, but she gave me a pipejob, a blowjob.  She wouldn’t let me cum in her mouth or anything like that, but she sucked my fucking cock in Jim Carrey’s Winnebago on the set of Man on the Moon.

Y Spy: So did you ever put in a good word to Jim Carrey?

Tony Clifton: Bullshit, no!  I didn’t say nothin’.  Her and I went through about a half bottle of Gentleman Jack.  I don’t think she even remembered the conversation.  But Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in Seattle, didn’t he?

Y Spy: Yeah!  So a good suicide joke would be called for.

Tony Clifton: Yeah.  I do some Michael Jackson stuff.  What’s the difference between Walt Disney and Michael Jackson?  Disney can still touch children!

Y Spy: I have one that’s similar.  What’s the difference between Michael Jackson and Peter Pan?  When Michael Jackson went to Neverland, he took the second child star on the right.

Tony Clifton: That’s pretty good!  You know what?  This is crazy; I was talking to somebody who was telling me that towards the end, that Michael really went through his fuckin’ money.  That’s why he wanted to do the tour and all that.  And he was living in Santa Barbara, cause that’s where that Neverland is, and somebody said about maybe three weeks before he started rehearsing that fuckin’ show, they saw him – with a bodyguard – actually shopping at fuckin’ K-Mart!

Y Spy: Really?

Tony Clifton: Yeah.  Boy’s underwears were half off.

Y Spy: That was a good setup!  That was a slow burn.

Tony Clifton: You were buying it!

Y Spy: So what else do you have planned for the show?

Tony Clifton: Well, it’s big musical numbers.  It’s a hot bit.  We got a couple of reviews on the road that said that this band, the Katrina Kiss-My-Ass Orchestra, could hold its own with the Boss’s E-Street Band.  People will come and be very surprised, so it’s a place to come and party, rock the fuck out.  People will get blown away by this band, let alone me, let alone the hot fuckin’ burlesque dancers that are part of this troupe.  This is a very colorful show, a lot of costumes, and c’mon, we’re givin’ away a fuckin’ hooker every fuckin’ night.

People have come to shows and said it was the greatest fuckin’ show they had ever seen.  Sometimes we go for hours and hours.  It’s gonna be fun.  That’s what life’s all about, cause people are too pressured now.

I’m not politically correct; the Chicago Sun-Times says that “Tony Clifton will say things that Howard Stern wouldn’t dare say.”

Tony Clifton does not give a shit.

Y Spy: And that’s one of the great things about you – you’re not predictable, and you don’t give a shit and go full-out, calling people on their bullshit.

Tony Clifton: There’s nobody else doing that!  Everybody is so politically correct; I could give a shit.  I’m an International Singing Sensation.  If America doesn’t want to accept me, I’ll get the fuck out of here, and I’ll be glad to.

Y Spy: But how many people in America are going to Africa and faith healing people?  They’re not doing what you did.

Tony Clifton: That’s right!  Additionally, I’ve sold more albums than Elvis and the Beatles combined.  Internationally.  Not here in the States, but internationally.  That is a fact!

Oh, I got a new product now.  Holy shit.  We will have an example of it.  I won’t get into details, but it’s called Tony Clifton’s Young Shaver.  It’s a little shaver for the girls that looks like a lipstick case, but when you turn it a shaver comes out of it.  This is for shaving those little delicate areas.  I tested it personally with over 500 young girls over at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.  Their pussies don’t have any stubble or anything.  I’m actually going to show the clip of it being tested at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

Y Spy: One more reason to see the show.  You’ve got hookers, you’ve got videos of you shaving girls…

Tony Clifton: And I’ve got words of wisdom!  And I cut through all the bullshit.  I don’t get that political, but the main thing is that people gotta let it go, man.  I’m watching this shit with this New Orleans oil disaster.  85 days, people glued to the fuckin’ TV to watch some fuckin’ pipe underneath the fuckin’ ocean with bubbles coming out of it?  People, get a fuckin’ life, man!  People are throwing their fuckin’ lives away.  You live fuckin’ once; you go for the fuckin’ gusto.

We have no fuckin’ set list.  We don’t do anything.  I just sit there and I fuckin’ drink.  The more I drink, the crazier things fuckin’ get.  Everybody in the band drinks, and all the girls are fuckin’ intoxicated, too.  That’s how I get them to take their clothes off.  So people come to this thing and have a little fuckin’ fun in their life.  I’ve had people that fly out to all our fuckin’ shows.  They hitchhike to them.  They’re fuckin’ addicted to them, instead of the same old bullshit, night after night, that people see on TV.

Who the fuck wants to hear the Eagles one more fuckin’ time?  Not me, man.  Even Dylan, he goes on stage, the songs don’t even sound like the songs.  What the hell’s he singing?  It’s “Like a Rolling Stone!”  [Makes nonsensical Bob Dylan noises]

That reminds me: what’s the difference between Santa Claus and a Jew?  Santa Claus comes down the chimney.  See, I can make that joke.  Do you know why?  I had a relative who died in Auschwitz.  He fell off the guard tower!

We hear this over and over: this is the most incredible, fascinating show they’ve ever seen.  Cause you’re right.  I don’t give a fuck.  Sometime I might even drop my pants, shit in my hands, and throw it at the audience, like a gorilla in a fuckin’ zoo.

A man of distinction. A man of class.

Y Spy: I really hope that happens.

Tony Clifton: But you don’t wanna be sitting in the front row when I do that.  Maybe I should hand out sheets like Gallagher.

Oh!  Did I tell you this?  I got an album!  For that charity bullshit, I’m doing like Sinatra did with his duets album.  I’m doing a duets album.  Already we’ve recorded with R.E.M.; I laid down “Man on the Moon” with [them].  And, get this, we did a show back in May, four nights sold out at The Comedy Store, and there was a gentleman in the audience – I didn’t know who this guy was – named Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins.  Afterwards he came back and said that this was the most brilliant fuckin’ show he had ever seen in his life, and he would be honored to record with me.  So he’s coming out to my studio up here in the mountains next month, and we’re gonna do one of his songs, “Today.”

It’ll be a big fuckin’ album.  When you’ve got these titans of music like Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M. wanting to have the opportunity to record for me, there’s something going on.

Y Spy: When is the album going to be released?

Tony Clifton: [Corgan’s] coming out here next month, and then there’s a few other big names that also appear on the album.  I can’t give you those names yet, but they’re all monsters.  I would imagine that we do the tour this fall, and then probably mix everything and get it all ready probably for next year’s fall tour.

Y Spy: So you’ve been doing this for over 40 years…

Tony Clifton: And I never age!  Because of the young pussy juice!  The sex with the young girls will do it.  They start squirting, and I’ll take it right then and there, down my fuckin’ throat.  I’ll rub it all over my face.  That’s why my skin stays so young.

Y Spy: So how have the girls changed over the years?

Tony Clifton: Well now they shave down there.  You look at some old porno; they still got the bushes.  Now they’re nice and shaved, and that’s good.

Certainly what is really a big change is I noticed over the years at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, the brothels, more and more girls are coming in by themselves to fuck other girls.  You never saw that, years ago.  As a matter of fact, they never even allowed women in the brothels, but that has changed – and you see a lot of couples coming in.  And nobody goes: “She’s a lesbian.”  They’re curious!

As a matter of fact, you’ll meet Keely.  Keely’s my adopted daughter, and she’s in my show.  She’s hot as all hell; wait until you see this little piece of ass.  And I buy her pussy all the time.  She loves it!  And she wouldn’t consider herself lesbian; she likes it every once in a while.  And there’s nothing’s wrong with that!

Halloween’s coming up; let me tell you this.  What did one lesbian vampire say to the other lesbian vampire?

Y Spy: I have no idea, but I know it’s going to be amazing.

Tony Clifton: “See you next month!”

Y Spy: Nice!

My final question is: you’ve spent decades being an International Singing Sensation.  How do you sum up the life of Tony Clifton?

Tony Clifton: My career in total has been quite amazing.  I really do think that this is my time now.  Before, when Kaufman was alive, he would do impressions of me, and people would get confused.  What has happened – and I do have to thank Jim Carrey and Miloš Forman for “Man on the Moon,” putting that movie out there – that got a whole new generation of young kids coming to see me.  I thought it would be all old farts coming to see me.  Mm-mm!  Not at all!  I thought all people remembered was Taxi or Saturday Night Live, cause of Kaufman or shit like that.  No, no, no, no!  Who’s coming out?  Young kids, because they got a taste of me in “Man on the Moon.”

As a matter of fact, even though Jim and Paul Giamatti play me in the movie, that last scene, “I Will Survive” – which is my signature song – they actually had me do that myself.  So that’s me at the end of the movie.

The time is right.  People have sold everyone a bill of goods in this country, and the whole thing’s falling apart.  You got fucked over, cause the baby boomers took care of themselves.  I give the kids what they want.  They want pussy?  They got pussy.  They want booze?  They got booze.  They want fun entertainment, jokes that you’re not allowed to say anymore?

I’ll call, what are you supposed to call ‘em, Little People?  Little People my ass!  They’re midgets!  They’re filthy little disgusting midgets.  I’ll call ‘em Pea-pods!  I’ll call ‘em Shrimp!  I’ll call ‘em midgets!

The other day, somebody sent me a letter and was offended because I did “Walk on the Wild Side,” and it says: “And the colored girls go…”  They said “You ain’t supposed to say colored girls no more.”  Now get this!  James Brown did a song called “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”  Now they’re saying you can’t say black.  You’ve gotta say “I’m Afro-American and I’m Proud?”  It throws the whole beat off!  Have people lost their fuckin’ minds?  This is like book burning, this political correct crap.  I ain’t doing it; I fought in World War II, my friend!  I gave a leg to this fuckin’ country!

I say what I want to say!  This is fucking freedom!

Tony Clifton does not fuck around!

Tony Clifton plays the Triple Door in Seattle on Friday, October 8th.  The show begins at 7:30.  More information can be found at www.tonyclifton.net.