Today’s playlist commemorates the January 30 birthdays of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship’s Marty Balin, Small Faces’ Steve Marriott, Genesis’s Phil Collins, American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel, Kid Cudi, Dorothy Love Coates, and Shalamar’s Jody Watley, and the January 31 birthdays of Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten, Justin Timberlake, Lloyd Cole, Chicago’s Terry Kath, KC, The Dells’ Marvin Junior, Chuck Willis, Music Explosion’s Jamie Lyons, and Carol Channing.
Todays playlist commemorates the January 28 birthdays of Rakim, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt, Sarah McLachlan, Rick Ross, Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, McFadden & Whitehead’s Gene McFadden, NSYNC’s Joey Fatone, Acker Bilk, The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb, Peter Schilling, Steps’ Lee Latchford-Evans, and Anthony Hamilton, and the January 29 birthdays of The Ramones’ Tommy Ramone, Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame, The Dictators’ Dick Manitoba, Amii Stewart, Bettye LaVette, Uriah Heep’s David Byron, Adam Lambert, and John Raitt.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety-five.
Being Jewish, my family celebrated Hanukkah. We ate latkes – yum! We exchanged gifts for each of the holiday’s eight nights. From ages eight to 38, when someone decided we were no longer deserving of gifts, I always asked for albums by Diana Ross or Elton John or Aretha Franklin. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We placed tinsel on the living room ficus, ate candy canes – yum!, and exchanged small but practical gifts. For example, one year I gave my mother a roll of scotch tape, part of which I used when wrapping it.
Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I have a major jones for Christmas music. I’m saying Christmas music, not holiday music, because there aren’t many good Hanukkah songs. There’s “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica” by Tom Lehrer, in which Tom tells us where he spent past Jewish holidays. He spent Shavuos in East St. Louis, Rosh Hoshana in Arizona, and Yom Kippur in Mississipper, but none of those place would thrill him as much as Santa Monica, where amid the California flora he’ll be lighting his menorah. There’s “The Little Drum Machine Boy” by Beck, which opens with the Hanukkah robot saying a prayer in Hebrew and goes into Beck yelling something about the Hanukkah pimp. Chances are you’re not familiar with the holiday’s robot and pimp, due to the well-publicized war on Hanukkah. There’s the song “Hanukkah Rocks” by Gefilte Joe and the Fish, the album Hanukkah Rocks by The LeeVees, Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song,” soul singer Sharon Jones’s “8 Days (of Hanukkah),” rapper Too $hort’s “Hanukkah (Favorite Time of Year),” and “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” performed by the cast of South Park, who added some lyrics (I don’t think lusting after Courtney Cox was in the original composition), which is included on Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, another assault in the war on Hanukkah.
When I say I love Christmas music, I don’t mean groups of people singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” at my front door. As Blink-182 sing in “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas,” “Outside the carolers start to sing / I can’t describe the joy they bring / ‘Cause joy is something they don’t bring me.”
I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking hundreds of ‘em.
My collection isn’t big on Christmas classics performed by middle of the road singers such as Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.
Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 77 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my library, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, the Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul, who, by the way, lived in the same building as me in West Hollywood.
I have 70 versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul, who, by the way, never said “Hello” when you rode the elevator with him. Werk, jerk!
I have “Christmas in Love,” “Christmas in Jail,” “Christmas in Prison,” “Christmas in the Yard,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in the Jungle,” “Christmas in the Congo,” “Christmas in America,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmas in Chicago,” “Christmas in Cali,” “Christmas in L.A.,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in Vegas,” “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Herald Square,” “Christmas in Dixie,” “Christmas in Waikiki,” “Christmas in Viet Nam,” “Christmas in Capetown,” “Christmas in New Orleans,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmas in Hell,” “Christmas in Space,” “Christmas in the Stars,” “Christmas in July,” “Christmas in September,” “Christmas in My Heart,” “Christmas in My Soul,” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”
I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, the White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, Lady Gaga, Kate Bush, Liz Phair, Simon & Garfunkel, James Brown, James Brown, James Brown, James Brown, and Radiohead.
I have John Denver’s festive “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Daddy may wish to consider attending a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.
I have Sarah Silverman’s joyous “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.” Ouch!
Then there’s the classic “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, named by VH1 UK viewers as their favorite Christmas song of all-time. The jolly song evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by Salvation Army Santas. Its music video stars Matt Dillon – yum!
I have “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” recited by Liberace. I don’t know if he was a scumbag or a maggot, though I do know that once Liberace sued a newspaper for claiming he was gay, and he won. Years later, that same newspaper claimed Tom Cruise was gay. He sued, and he won. Just saying.
Liberace’s rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which she takes some liberties with the words. Liberace performs it straight, so to speak: “A bundle of toys he had on his back / And he looked like a peddler opening his sack,” while the Queen of Soul says “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, ‘the same old shit’.” I also have Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem, a poem which clearly transcends all demographic boundaries. Like Christmas ‘Reth, Snoopzilla puts his own spin on the words. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Clement Clarke Moore’s poem said about Saint Nick “He ate and he ate and that fat motherfucka ate.” The rest of Snoop’s words are less family-friendly than that line. Even his “ho ho ho” takes on a different meaning.
More mirth and merriment can be found in “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena.” Who doesn’t? “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, a la “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in. It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.
I own a catchy ditty called “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” and a you-must-hear-it-to-believe-it rendition of “Sleigh Ride” performed by C3PO and R2D2.
Some Christmas songs really aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment. Still, the Gentiles have claimed them in the never ending war on Hanukkah.
Like the lump of coal I’m giving RuPaul this year, let me wrap this post.
My #95 album is Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics. Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo is my favorite Christmas character. He’s not the first piece of shit to release an album; Ted Nugent has him beat by 30 years. In case you are unaware, Mr. Hankey, a character from The Bible’s Book of DooDooteronomy, brings presents to all the boys and girls who have a lot of fiber in their diets. This album is built around a South Park episode that was first televised on 1997. I love Mr. Hankey so much that one year I asked for a Mr. Hankey doll for Hanukkah. If you are better at math than John Denver, you’ll know that puts me in my thirties when I asked for this gift. And your point would be what?
Christmas is a singles genre. Typically, Christmas albums are spotty at best. That’s partly because they lack imagination. Everyone does the same old songs the same old way. I already own 57 versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Unless you have a new spin on it, leave it be.
Some artists create new Christmas songs. New joyless dour Christmas songs. One such song on an album? Fine. But to sustain an entire holiday album, you need holly jolly, not melancholy.
Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics works because it combines new twists on classics such as “O Holy Night,” “Carol of the Bells” and “O Tannenbaum” with cheery originals like “Merry Fucking Christmas,” “The Lonely Jew on Christmas” and “The Most Offensive Song Ever,” which lives up to its title. The song is a duet between Mr. Hankey and Kenny, who, as you may know, mumbles, so Google the lyrics to be completely offended.
There is more Christmas music to come on this list.
Today’s playlist commemorates the January 26 birthdays of Eddie Van Halen, Lucinda Williams, Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B, Anita Baker, Wham!’s Andrew Ridgeley, Huey “Piano” Smith, Jean Knight, Technotronic associate Ya Kid K, and James D-Train Williams, and the January 27 birthdays of Tricky, Faith No More’s Mike Patton, Bobby Bland, Fuck Buttons’ Andrew Hung, Elmore James, Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, David Seville, Boys Town Gang’s Cynthia Manley, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Amy Rigby.
Today’s playlist commemorates the January 24 birthdays of Warren Zevon, Neil Diamond, Aaron Neville, The Blues Brothers’ Jake Blues, Jack Scott, Ray Stevens, Matthew Wilder, Daveed Diggs, and Jools Holland and the January 25 birthdays of Alicia Keys, Etta James, Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Sylvers’ Edmund Sylvers, John Cooper Clarke, and The Jets’ Haini Wolfgramm.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety-six.
2003. March, the fifth month of winter in New York. Seven months before my birthday. I cannot turn 40 in my 200 square foot apartment (far below the acceptable ratio of 15 square feet per years on earth).
The phone rang. It was a business associate at a record label on the west coast.
“What would it take for you to move to Los Angeles?” His company was looking for someone to head up Licensing and Contract Administration.
L.A.? Vomit. What would it take for me to move there? A lot. I threw out a salary that was 60% more than I was presently making. I knew that would kill it, but at least I can tell myself that I considered the opportunity.
Two days later he called me back. “Your salary is approved.” It was? I should have asked for 70% more. Still, it looks like I’m moving to L.A. “You’ll love it here. You can’t beat the weather, and it’s more laid back than New York.”
While I looked for a place to live, the company put me up in corporate housing, a place called The Oakwoods, where everybody who’s nobody trying to be somebody stays when they first come to L.A. I recalled an interview with my New York City neighbor Rufus Wainwright where he mentioned he stayed there. Is that where he wrote his lyric “life is the longest death in California?” I don’t know, but even though I’ll miss New York, I’m excited to begin a new life in a new place with a new salary.
I looked up The Oakwoods on-line. They have a swimming pool, tennis courts, an exercise room, a convenience store, a hair salon, dry cleaners, a car rental agency, and free cable television! With HBO! It’ll be like living at Helmsley Palace for free!
I arrived in Los Angeles on the last Saturday in May 2003. The taxi from LAX dropped me off at The Oakwoods. Suitcase by my side, I approached the check-in desk. A cheerful twenty-something woman wearing colors not found in a Manhattanite’s closet, i.e. colors, i.e. not black, greeted me and pulled my file.
“You’re from New York?,” she asked. “You’ll love it here. You can’t beat the weather, and it’s much more relaxed.” What is the preoccupation with being relaxed? They need to chill with that.
She gave me the key to my temporary home along with a map of the grounds and a list of local restaurants (Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Ribs USA, Pizzeria Numero Uno, Weinerschnitzel).
This resort did not have a bellhop, so I lugged my suitcase to my new apartment. It’s huge! It must be at least 600 square feet! There is a dining room table that seats six, a kitchen that can fit two people AT THE SAME TIME, a living room with a desk and a coffee table and a couch and two recliners, as well as a bedroom. Get this – in the bedroom was a bed! The only furniture I had in New York was a mattress on the floor and a folding tray table. I left my suitcase and walked the grounds. I said hi to strangers I passed, as I heard people outside NYC do that. I saw lots of palm trees. People think Manhattan doesn’t have trees, but we had one down the street from my apartment on 16th Street.
Needing a nap after a long day of traveling and exploring my new environs, I returned to my apartment and took advantage of my new couch, the first couch of my adult life. Sofa so good!
I awoke at 10 PM, my usual dinner time. Too groggy to drive around, I decided to find something to heat up at the convenience store. When I got there it was closed. Inconvenient. I called the restaurants on the list the lady wearing colors gave me, but all closed at 9 or 9:30. I settled for eating the other half of the turkey sandwich I bought at the airport.
At 11 PM, upon finishing my sandwich in the dining area, I walked into the other room (I love being able to say that) to go to bed. Finally, for the first time in my adult life, outside of a hotel, I’m going to sleep in something that isn’t merely a mattress on the floor. Could it be any bedder?
I was a second away from greeting Mr. Sandman when I was jolted by the sound of screaming from the hallway. “WHY ARE YOU SO LATE? WHERE WERE YOU?” I got up, put on a robe, and opened my door to learn that the screaming came from behind the closed doors of the apartment directly across the hall.
“YOU WERE WITH THAT WHORE AGAIN! SHE’S GOING TO GIVE YOU THE CLAP!” She raged on for another 40 minutes, and while I did need my sleep, I was enjoying this one-sided argument. I think what really made it for me was the reference to “the clap.” Learn from this, Hollywood.
Once my neighbor ceased her shouting about that whore, it was so quiet. In New York, one got onto their mattress and heard sirens and cars honking and construction on the street, lulling one to sleep. How does one fall asleep without the white noise of a real city? The stillness was unsettling, but eventually I drifted off.
My peaceful sleep was interrupted shortly after 6 AM by a very bright light in my eyes. It wasn’t burglars shining their flashlights in my eyes while deciding if I was worthy of dismemberment before they steal from my home things that aren’t mine. (Why would you think that? Are you from New York, too?) Rather, it was the damned sun everybody here is so crazy about. It shone through the crepe-paper blinds into my eyes. I rolled over. The sunshine reflected off the mirrored closet doors into my eyes. (By the way, when I got to looking for my permanent L.A. home, I observed that every closet door in every apartment I saw was mirrored. That’s how vain people are here. All these mirrors and they still go out wearing lots of bright colors.) The light from the sun was accompanied by the most horrific sound coming from just outside my window. It was an incessant, excruciating, high-pitched chirping. It was birds. You know what birds sound like? They sounded like birds, like in the movie Snow White. We had birds in Manhattan, but they didn’t chirp or tweet or peep or trill or warble or chitter or chatter. The worst they would do is give you the finger.
Seeing as I was awake and it’s sunny out, I checked out The Oakwoods’ pool. It was crowded with my fellow transients. I found an empty chaise lounge and observed my new neighbors.
A heavyset woman wearing a Garth Brooks t-shirt over her bathing suit was yelling “Use your hips more. Move slowly. Pout! Not a sad pout. A kissy pout. Try it again!” Listening to her mother, the six-year-old with the blond curly hair strutted around the pool. Mom interrupted the catwalk. “Come here! Let me re-apply your lipstick.”
Sitting on the edge of the pool were three guys engaging in a game of “Who Fuckin’ Rocks.” “They fuckin’ rocked the House of Blues last night!”, said the guy with the ponytail and the tattoo on his chest of Lynyrd Skynyrd (all twenty-two members of each incarnation of the band).
“My band played there in the spring. We fuckin’ killed the audience. They fuckin’ loved us,” replied his friend with the mutton chops.
“You’re fuckin’ shittin’ us dude. You never played the fuckin’ House of Blues on Sunset,” protested the Skynyrd fan.
“Oh, not the one on Sunset, dude. That one fuckin’ sucks. We played the fuckin’ House of Blues in – what the fuck’s the name of that fuckin’ city?”
“Hey – watch your language! I have a child here,” yelled the lady teaching her daughter how to be more appealing to pedophiles.
On the lounge chair to my left a skinny young woman was laying on her stomach, reading a script. She lifted her head and said to nobody in particular “Drop the gun!” She paused a few seconds. “Drop the gun!” She said it a few more times, sometimes accenting the word drop, sometimes gun. I had a good feeling that before the day was over she’d have that line memorized. She rolled onto her back, pulled a cigarette out of her purse and lit up. I thought smoking was illegal in Los Angeles. I turned my head the other way and noticed a cute guy on the chair to my right. Our eyes met.
“Hey. How’s it going?,” he asked. Look at Glenn, meeting a cute guy on his first full day in L.A.
“I’m doing alright,” I replied. “I just moved her yesterday from Manhattan.”
“New York? You must love it here – relaxing in the sun.”
“It’s June – the sun is out in New York now, so I would be doing the same thing if I were there.” Look at Glenn, engaging in conversation with a cute guy.
“You had a pool?”
“No, but we had the beach.”
“There’s a beach in Manhattan?”
“No. It’s in Long Island. You walk to the subway station, then take the subway to Penn Station. From Penn Station you take the railroad to Queens, where you switch trains. Then you get off the train in Long Island and hop on a shuttle bus and twenty minutes later, you’re at the beach.” Look at Glenn, making sexy talk about public transportation. “Where are you from?”
“North Dakota. I moved here to pursue acting.”
“You certainly have movie star looks.” Look at Glenn; he got game.
After a couple of hours tanning I headed back to my apartment, stopping by the convenience store to pick up some bottled water. The wall behind the checkout counter was lined with photos of who I assume are former or current denizens of The Oakwoods, future superstars such as Mary Ellen Bethany, Elizabeth Covington-Fordham, and an aspiring pop star who, like Madonna and Prince and Beck, went by one name – Kevin. It blew my mind to think that I may have been at the pool lounging near the next Kevin.
Come lunchtime I got into my white Ford Focus rental car and found a diner-esque restaurant just a few blocks away. I ordered a tuna sandwich. A few minutes after she brought it to me, the waitress stopped by my table. “How is everything? Can I get you anything else?” I found that in L.A. they do this in EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT. It always threw me, as in New York, the waitperson takes your order and you never see or hear from that person again until it’s time for the check. How should I even answer the question “How is everything?” I’m by myself, eating a tuna sandwich in a nondescript restaurant in a strange city with strange customs. Everything is hunky dory.
Come dinnertime, newly adjusted to 7 PM, I stopped by Pizzeria Numero Uno and had an individual size pie of what the people here call “pizza.” It made me nostalgic for New York, where cheese and sauce and dough and oregano blended together to form an entirely different food, one that can be eaten and enjoyed. You know how the movie Titanic was loosely based on the actual events of that ship hitting an iceberg? What I ate that evening was loosely based on pizza. It wasn’t a shipwreck, but it wasn’t a happy food, either. It was missing something. It tasted empty, lost. I ate it, though it as far from what I wanted.
When I got back to The Oakwoods there were no parking spots near my building, so I had to park further up the hill. I saw a couple of white dogs outside unleashed. Their owners were nowhere in sight. Wait! Those aren’t dogs. They’re coyotes! Fuck fuck fucky fucky fuck fuck and fuck. I wouldn’t get out of the car until they left, an arrangement I failed to run by them first. Minutes passed, and I lowered the seat back so I could sleep there as comfortably as possible. After twenty some-odd minutes of the coyotes and mine standstill, I saw a car near the entrance of my building pull out, so I drove to that spot and ran inside, locking my apartment door behind me, just in case the coyotes followed me and knew how to turn doorknobs. Anything can happen in L.A.
My first weekend as a resident of Los Angeles was coming to an end. I felt out of sorts, but knew that’d change the next day, for that Monday was my first day of work at my cushy new job. I was excited about the new job. I was excited to meet my new co-workers. I was excited about the challenges of the position. I was excited to start house hunting. Though this weekend had some rough patches, I was optimistic about what lies ahead. I looked forward to getting a good night’s sleep in my real bed in my spacious apartment, behind closed doors, safe from coyotes. I was at peace.
“THAT WHORE IS GOING TO GIVE YOU CRABS!”
Fuck fuck fucky fucky fuck fuck and fuck.
I reminded myself this home was temporary. It was a time of change for me, becoming the music executive I wanted to be. It’s a similar realization to the one David Bowie comes to in the first verse of “Changes,” the classic opening track to his Hunky Dory album. As a native New Yorker, adjusting to life in L.A. meant dealing with a lot of ch-ch-ch-changes, and to survive, I had to turn and face the strange. I also related to Hunky Dory’s “Life on Mars?,” where in a young girl is bored by her life and tries to escape through art, and finds herself disappointed that the movie scenes are not reality. Hollywood is nothing like Hollywood. Nineteen years later I’m still trying to figure out this city and why they can’t make a decent pizza. However, I have no intention of leaving. It’s more laid back than New York, and you can’t beat the weather. My other favorite cuts on Hunky Dory are “Kooks” and “Oh! You Pretty Things.” It was a landmark album for David Bowie, and it’s my 96th favorite album of all-time. There is more Bowie to come on this list.
On today’s playlist we remember Meat Loaf and commemorate the January 22 birthdays of INXS’s Michael Hutchence, Sam Cooke, Journey’s Steve Perry, Culture’s Joseph Hill, Electric Six’s Dick Valentine, Malcolm McLaren, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daniel Johnston, Yarbrough & Peoples’ Cavin Yarbough, and The Excellents’ John Kuse, and the January 23 birthdays of Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, The Pointer Sisters’ Anita Pointer, Jimmy Castor, David Arnold, Chita Rivera and Joe Dowell.
Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number ninety-seven.
As the VP of Licensing at Warner Music, I fielded requests from around the world for our catalogue’s music to be utilized in all sorts of venues. I licensed Bruno Mars songs for Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation CDs. When you hear Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” playing at CVS while you’re purchasing deodorant and suppositories, you have me to thank. If Hallmark wanted to sell a Valentine’s Day card that played Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” they’d come to me.
From Holland I received a request for “Like a Virgin” to be placed on a chip in a plush toy – a pig. A pig with a blond ponytail, a cone bra, and a headset. You can put lipstick on a pig – nay, you can put lipstick, a blond ponytail, a cone bra, and a headset on a pig and have it “sing” “Like A Virgin,” it still isn’t Madonna. By that time in my career, Madonna and I had developed a very close relationship, in my mind. As her best imaginary friend, I knew she wouldn’t go hog wild over this proposal.
How did this toy company conceive of this product?
“Two things that are popular – plush animals and Madonna. If we combine the two we’ll be rich! But what should the plush be?”
“A material squirrel!”
“Who’s that squirrel?”
“What it feels like for a squirrel?”
“Hans, fuck off!”
“Well, what’s your brilliant idea, other Hans?”
“Madonna is a woman who brings home the bacon, so what about a pig? Who doesn’t adore Porky Pig? Or Piglet? Or Wilbur? Or Babe? Miss Piggy is a boss, an icon, just like Madonna. Pigs are highly intelligent, just like Madonna. Pigs are playful, just like Madonna. Pigs are very social, just like Madonna. Pigs like to roll around in mud. Pigs can breathe through their butts. Our Madonna plush needs to be pig!”
“And what song?”
“’Like a Virgin.’ After all, pigs have to make it through the wilderness.”
“No, they –.”
“Did I not tell you to fuck off? This Hans is going solo.”
Research demonstrates that most followers of the Jewish discipline of Kabbalah, as Madonna is, are not fans of pork products to begin with, and would consent to being portrayed in such a manner when pigs fly.
Ordinarily I would dismiss it out of hand and not expend my valuable time on something that at best would be received with a disgusted snort; however, at the time I received the request, Madonna was angry with Warner about something or another. I had two choices:
Present the request to her. If I do that, she’d complain that Warner sends her insulting and degrading requests (BEING A PIG IS NOT INSULTING AND DEGRADING, MADONNA!, not that she ever actually said it was. They’re intelligent, social, playful and can breathe through their butts. (That’s 100% true, btw.) Listen to what the Hans said!). Presenting the request to her would likely result in permanent damage to our one-way pretend friendship, something she wouldn’t want to happen; or
Don’t present the request to her. If she should she somehow find out about it, she’d complain that Warner withholds financial opportunities from her. She’d never forgive me, her bestie, for this, and our non-existent relationship would cease to (non-)exist.
I was stuck between a pork and a hard place, sweating like a pig over what to do. Ultimately, I figured out how to handle the situation and salvage the relationship I didn’t have with Madonna. I sent an email to her manager: “I received a license request that I’m guessing you’d like to pass on, though I’m forwarding to you the details as I wish to ensure you see every request we receive.” Score! Her manager responded that in all likelihood they’d say no, though she appreciated my consideration in letting them know about it. My simple act of doing so brought Madonna and me closer. She was the first person I reached out to to write the foreword for my book, and I was the first person to receive a “no” to that request, via a member of her legal team. That no came sooner than the no for the plush toy, as before they gave me the definitive answer on that, Madonna’s manager wished to see a prototype of the Virgin pig.
The company making the request did send me a prototype. I desired to hold on to it, knowing Madonna’s office would not permit it to be mass produced, resulting in me with the only Madonna pig in the world. I love goofy tchotchkes, and a Madonna pig would look great on my shelf next to my Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam sweat socks, my Terence Trent D’Arby electric toothbrush, and my Sophie B. Hawkins “As I Lay Me Down” hammock. Well, that hammock isn’t on a shelf. It’s in my pig sty of a primary bedroom closet with my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax. Damn, I wish I had a backyard.
I said to Madonna’s manager “Let me know when would be a good time for me to stop by with the pig,” to which she responded “Just messenger it to me.” Dang! I knew if I do that I’ll never get that piggy back, and I’ll think of it every time I glance at my shelf and see my Aerosmith thermos, my Teena Marie sunglasses, and my Michael Jackson duffle bag. Well, that duffle bag isn’t on a shelf. It’s in my pigpen of a primary bedroom closet with my Sanyo version of a Sony Betamax and my Sophie B. Hawkins “As I Lay Me Down” hammock.
The pig took her trip from Burbank to Beverly Hills and never returned. Madonna’s manager confirmed this deal was a no go.
Madonna hasn’t brought it up in all the times we’ve spoken since, which is never. I appreciate that she didn’t let this license request get in the middle of our pretend friendship, and I can still enjoy her music, even though I’m sure that somewhere there’s a plush pig with a blond ponytail, a cone bra, and a headset, that “sings” “Like a Virgin,” that instead of being prominently displayed on a shelf is sitting in someone’s slop heap of a primary bedroom closet.
As I listen to Madonna’s True Blue, my #97 album, I still thrill to the strings that open “Papa Don’t Preach” and at the time of its release “Live To Tell” was her best ballad yet. Throw in “Open Your Heart” and “Where’s the Party” and “La Isla Bonita” and the title track and you have a bangin’ album.
There’s more Madonna to follow on this list, but for today, th-th-th-that’s all, folks!
Today’s playlist commemorates the January 20 birthdays of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Kiss’s Paul Stanley, The Roots’ Questlove, The O’Jays’ William Powell, 10cc/The Mindbenders’ Eric Stewart, Take That’s Gary Barlow, M People’s Heather Small, and Ray Anthony, and the January 21 birthdays of Edwin Starr, Run-D.M.C.’s Jam Master Jay, Cat Power, Spice Girls’ Emma Bunton, Tweet, Billy Ocean, Richie Havens, Rapsody, Snooks Eaglin, Mac Davis, and Wolfman Jack.
Commemorating the January 18 birthdays of The Temptations’ David Ruffin, Korn’s Jonathan Davis, The Ting Tings’ Katie White, remixer Frankie Knuckles, Estelle, The Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, A Taste Of Honey’s Janice-Marie Johnson, Kula Shaker’s Crispian Mills, Hard-Fi’s Richard Archer, and Bobby Goldsboro, and the January 19 birthdays of Deep Purple’s Rod Evans, Janis Joplin, The Everly Brothers’ Phil Everly, Dolly Parton, America’s Dewey Bunnell, Robert Palmer, Marcy Playground’s John Wozniak, Shirley Ellis, Deon Jackson, Caron Wheeler, Johnny O’Keefe and Lil Scrappy.