It’s hard for me to believe that I am well past 5 years into this blog nonsense and I have never written a single post about Dusty Springfield. I am a huge Dusty fan – she’s my diva. When I had my public access show here in New York City, I ran performance clips of Dusty so often that I received condolence calls and letters from viewers when she died in 1999.
Back then, there was still much to discover: whole albums of unreleased material were unearthed and LPs that had been out of print for decades were remastered and reissued. But now the cupboard is bare, with even incomplete performances cobbled together to produce somewhat finished products.
With a career spanning close to 40 years and hundreds of recordings in genres from folk to disco and everything in between, it’s easy to forget about some of the lesser known Dusty performances. I was recently reminded of the time she covered a Kate Bush song.
Yes, Kate Bush.
And I’m also a huge fan of Kate Bush. But somehow, I had forgotten about this.
It’s like artists converging from different dimensions. Or maybe not. We live in an age where Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett duets are a thing.
Picture it: London, April 1979. Dusty has just turned 40 as she returned to the UK after living in the US for most of the 1970’s. Meanwhile, 20 year-old Kate Bush had released her first two albums within the previous year. Dusty was performing several shows at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Unfortunately there are no official recordings of the performances but we do have a couple of bootleg audio recordings. Dusty introduces the song:
“When I came here last year, I was surprised and mostly pleased at the musical changes that had happened here. I like things like (Ian Drury’s) ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ just as much as you do…. anyway the thing that impressed me most was that so much originality was around. In particular one young lady came through with a song called ‘Wuthering Heights’…. Kate Bush has an immense amount of originality and I was absolutely staggered by her. I’d like to sing a song that I think is one of the prettiest ones ever written, certainly by her. It’s called ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes.'”
She then goes on to, as Neil Tennant would later say, “Dustify” the song. It’s a beautiful performance of an unexpected song choice:
Dusty was not alone in her praise of “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”. Besides reaching the #1 spot on the UK pop charts, the song also won an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting.
Later that year, Dusty’s performance at Royal Albert Hall was properly recorded for posterity. Unfortunately, by that time the song had been removed from the set list.
Today would have been Dusty’s 83rd birthday. She is still sorely missed and I’d trade my eye teeth to hear her sing a duet with Lady Gaga.
I recently came across a 1978 issue of Gay Times, East Coast Edition – Issue #69 (ahem).
The news section was dominated by California’s Briggs Initiative, aka Proposition 6 – the first attempt to restrict gay and lesbian rights through a statewide ballot measure. Thankfully, it was defeated that November with 58% of the vote, but the stakes were high when this issue went to press.
It was the importance of this vote which also inspired the centerfold:
The photo is from Robert Bresson’s 1957 film A Man Escaped, a WWII drama based on a true story of a French resistance fighter portrayed by Francois Leterrier (center).
Welcome to 2022, when it all seems painfully current, domestically and abroad.
Ah, but it wasn’t all politics and protests. Editor Pat Pomeroy interviewed The New York Man: Damian Charles. He’s described as an Aries ram, former school teacher, author of 49(!) books of erotica, and a centerfold model. He inspired orgasms in 17 countries! (I have to wonder who collects such statistics and where does one find the raw data?) And also – what quote could encapsulate the era better than “… as I have sex with a succession of lovers under the strobe lights at Studio 54”?
I reached out to photographer John Michael Cox, Jr. to see if he had any recollections of this dynamo. “Charles Herschberg was a very close friend & the writer I most used to conduct interviews – I didn’t like to transcribe interviews so I employed writers. For his nude modeling, he decided on the name Damien Charles, which I never liked. He never had the ambition to do much & mainly posed for me. He never did films but I did shoot some hardcore pix of him with his lover Richard Allan. Chuck died around 1990 in Florida.
“These photos are from the first session we did. I never worked for Gay Times, so Chuck must have given them the prints to use.”
I asked about Chuck’s work as a writer. “I met Chuck when he was writing a piece on (gay porn star) Roger. I came over to the Eros to photograph him and Roger’s manager Jim Bacon introduced us. Typical of Chuck – he never finished the article.”
Ladies and Gentleman, it is time once again to revisit that late great dynamic lady of song, Madame Spivy LaVoe or LeVoe (1906-1970), also known simply as Spivy. A lesbian entertainer, nightclub owner and character actress, Spivy has been described as “The Female Noel Coward” – to which I add “…. if he had been born in Brooklyn as Bertha Levine.”
Our latest offering is one of her signature songs: “I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90’s”. Curiously, on the recording Spivy introduces the song as “Intimate Memories of Buffalo In The 90’s.” This is the fourth side we have profiled from her 1939 album Seven Gay Sophisticated Songs. The lyrics were written by Everett Marcy, who also co-wrote (with Spivy) “Why Don’t You,” another song from the album. Marcy also had a few Broadway writing credits including New Faces of 1936.
The music is credited to Prince Paul Chavchavadze (1899-1971), a writer, translator, and deposed Georgian royal living in New York City. And with that nugget of information, I have to say… whenever I look into the eclectic array of international bohemians associated with Spivy, I am reminded of the party scene at the beginning of Auntie Mame. This is also a fitting scenario considering Spivy later played Mother Burnside in the Broadway production.
Oscar Wilde plays a part in the lyrics of the song, as a guest in the home of our fictional hostess. It should be noted that he did conduct several lecture tours across the U.S., including speaking engagements in Buffalo. One of the topics was “The Decorative Arts.”
I Brought Culture to Buffalo In the 90’s
I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90’s. When Wilde was there, he visited my home I showed him all the glories I’d bought so cheap in Greece and all the wonders I’d brought home from Rome. He was spellbound at the splendor of my whatnot and the cigar butt Papa got from General Grant. He couldn’t tear his eyes from my bay window and the maidenhair beneath the rubber plants.
I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90’s – the year I took the iron dog off our lawn. In its place I put a Venus in a nightie and a rather naughty but authentic faun. I completely reproduced the Versailles garden though the Erie claimed they had the right of way. I swore I’d die before a tie was laid to desecrate Versailles. I made Buffalo the place it is today.
I was the first to have a Turkish corner though plenty followed suit, you may be sure. I produced a pageant based on Jackie Horner and the deficit was given to the poor. I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90’s. I made the natives conscious of the nude. In my dining room I put “Boy Extracting Thorn From Foot” and my guests that winter scarcely touched their food.
The season that I gave my talks on yoga was one I felt I never could surpass. I had a negligee cut like a toga and all my candelabra piped for gas. I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90’s. When Wilde was there, he visited my home. Filled with all the treasures of the ages and a nugget Uncle Nate had sent from Nome.
I showed him all the house right through the garret and said “What one thing does it still require?” When Oscar looked at me, I could not bear it. “A match,” he said, “Madame, a match to set the goddamn place on fire!”
Eagle’s calling and he’s calling your name, Tides are turning, bringing winds of change Why do I feel this way? The promise of a new day…
Paula Abdul still reigns supreme on Lite-FM, if my trips to the pharmacy and grocery store are any indication. Her #1 hits from the Forever Your Girl LP are still in heavy rotation there, yet her chart-topping follow up album, Spellbound, seems to have been forgotten along with its two #1 hit singles: “Rush, Rush” and “Promise Of A New Day.”
“Promise Of A New Day” – the lead track on the album – was my unofficial theme of the Summer of 1991. Not the edgiest choice, but it perfectly captured the energy I felt as I moved into my first New York City apartment. I picked up a used promo CD of Spellbound at St. Marks Sounds and played it as I hung posters and organized my books and records on unstable milk crate shelving units.
So I wasn’t a rebel through and through, but I loved the East Village. I felt like I belonged there more than anyplace else, even if I was content to spend most nights in my apartment getting acquainted with Robin Byrd and leased access television rather than going over to Avenue B to watch GG Allin roll around in his own poop.
I previously wrote about my first professional theatre job as the Cowardly Lion on a children’s theatre tour. It was a big adventure with a little romance and a lot of angst as the tour drew to a close. Most of the other cast members had theatre jobs lined up for the summer, while I was about to wake up on the black and white side of the rainbow with no prospects other than crawling back to Carle Place Tower Records and asking for my job back.
I had to get to Manhattan. It was looming in the distance like the Emerald City. As I wrote in another post about this period… Dorothy may have been happy to go back home, but the Lion, with his newfound courage, stayed in Oz.
It turned out that Glinda the Good Witch didn’t have a job lined up, either. She lived in a women’s hotel on Gramercy Park South but was ready to make a move. When she suggested that we find an apartment together, I jumped at the chance.
I knew this might not be a perfect fit. Glinda’s nickname on the tour was Eeyore – partly because she carried the stuffed animal around with her, but also because it matched her personality. She was a lumbering sad-sack with a constant cloud of doom over her head. It was much more amusing when we were on tour than while apartment hunting in the summer heat.
We looked at one apartment after another – she would hem and haw and say that she needed to think about it. Any halfway decent place was taken by the time she made up her mind. In the meantime, she continued to live in the women’s hotel while I kept schlepping into the city from Long Island. This went on for almost two months.
By the time I found the apartment on East 6th street and Avenue A – a converted 2 bedroom in a 5th floor tenement walkup for $750 a month – I felt that this was our last chance. If she didn’t go for this one, then I needed to come up with an alternate living situation. Perhaps she sensed that this was the end of the line, because she agreed fairly quickly and we got it.
There was a clause in the lease – a standard apartment lease – that says something about the tenant being responsible for carpeting 80 percent of the floors to reduce noise for the downstairs neighbor. When we asked the landlord about this on the day of the lease signing, he started to laugh. A little too long. Then he simply said; “Don’t worry about it.”
Our first night in the apartment, we were startled awake by the blood curdling screams that sounded like a woman being attacked. This quickly escalated into a shrieking, incoherent babble that echoed inside and outside the building. I immediately thought of Kitty Genovese and the nightmare of urban apathy. It abruptly stopped before we could find the source. We soon learned that the neighbor right below us had frequent schizophrenic episodes – usually in the middle of the night, although they would happen at any time. So no, we did not need to carpet our floors to limit our noise for the downstairs neighbor.
Despite its flaws, I loved that apartment. It was above this derelict bar called the Cherry Tavern. 20 years later, the NYU kids were lining up to get in. We had no door buzzer so visitors would have to call from the pay phone on the corner – this was pre-cell phone, of course. One of us would have to walk down all those flights to let them in. The floors in the apartment were so slanted that we had to put a 2×4 under one end of the kitchen table to keep it level. The ceiling leaked. The exposed brick wall in the living room was actively crumbling. Anything placed near it was subjected to a coat of debris.
Our living room furniture was purchased by chance at a garage sale on moving day for a total of $8: a $3 wood coffee table with a wobbly leg and a $5 foam couch which folded out into a bed. Suddenly, we had a guest room.
Unfortunately, the couch would collapse sideways if you leaned on the armrests. Our heavy foot lockers were placed on either side to act as end tables as well as bookends.
Before the move, I had started working in the city. Technically, it wasn’t a telemarking job, but it was pretty close: trying to persuade doctors to take part in phone conferences sponsored by drug companies. My friend worked there and made tons of money in commissions. He loved it.
Two weeks after the move, I was fired. My success rate wasn’t high enough. I didn’t have a strong, assuring voice that was able to convince doctors that spending an hour on a conference call talking about Cardizem was a particularly good use of their time.
I tried not to panic. I had bills now. REAL bills. Shit. What the hell was I going to do? Hit the Village Voice want ads. I applied at St. Mark’s Sounds, which would have been my dream job if the $4.25 an hour they paid would cover my expenses.
My next job was a temporary night time position filling laundry carts at the Midtown Sheraton Hotel. I was in charge of the 36th through 50th floors, filling housekeeper’s carts with freshly laundered sheets, towels, little shampoos and soaps. I climbed a lot of stairs. I never saw any guests or housekeepers. It was solitary work but it paid well.
Although this was supposed to be a three month position, I was let go after three weeks. Was it my earring? It had been suggested that I not wear it to work, as the head of housekeeping would not approve. But I never SAW anybody while I was working, so I left it in. I crossed paths with her one day, and was let go at the end of my shift.
On the plus side, I had acquired a linen closet full of Sheraton sheets and towels and a year’s supply of sundries.
I had to remind myself that I didn’t move to Manhattan to be a housekeeper or telemarketer. I continued to audition but that went about as well as the employment prospects.
Meanwhile, Glinda was having her own issues. She was in full Eeyore mode: Unhappy in her day job. No theatre job prospects. No social life. She would stay in bed all day watching television with the lights off in her windowless room. I tried to include her when I went out with my college friends, but she complained that we all talked about the past and she felt left out. She became increasingly petty and jealous. She was not the kind of person who would be happy for me when I got a job or a callback audition or went on a date. Her first response was always some variation on “Why don’t I have that?” She also seemed quite pleased when the job, callback or date didn’t work out for me. Years later she was diagnosed as clinically depressed and went on medication, but we didn’t know about that at the time.
One day I came home, opened the apartment door and walked into the Amityville Horror. She had painted the 5’x5’ entryway high gloss blood red. But she didn’t do it carefully. There were red spatters on the black and white tile floor and red smears along the ceiling. It looked like a slaughterhouse. If she had ever mentioned that she wanted to paint, I certainly would have helped… first and foremost by explaining that a simulated bloodbath in the vestibule might not give guests a favorable first impression.
In late August, I got the call from the children’s theatre company that had done our Wizard of Oz tour. They were lining up their Christmas shows – would I like to do a New England tour of Babes in Toyland? Hell yeah. Of course, Glinda was not happy, because they didn’t call HER. And now she would be living with a subletter.
I needed two months of employment to get me to the start of the tour. My sister worked in the main office of the Petland chain of pet stores and directed me to an open position at their 14th street location. I would clean out the bird room every day – scrubbing bird shit off the cages with a wire brush. I learned how count out bags of 20 live crickets, and how to hold mice by the tail, flick them on the head to knock them out before feeding them to the snakes. Every day I acted like this was my career choice – nobody knew I was just biding my time.
I was barely making enough money to get by. I still feel a little queasy when I see those cheapo Table Talk individual dessert pies, which were 50 cents each. The Wendy’s dollar menu was also a big treat. And I was in New York City! I was sitting in Union Square eating my sad little lunch rather than a suburban mall parking lot. One day I watched Harvey Keitel film a scene from Bad Lieutenant and then went back to work and sold a bag of live crickets to Ellen Greene. Besides, I knew I would be back onstage and out on the road again soon. I was a New York City Actor now, with my own apartment to come back to.
One of my favorite memories of this period was a hot summer evening when I took my dinner plate of spaghetti out on the fire escape to catch a little breeze. I was wearing cut-off shorts and a t-shirt, eating off of a paper plate, while five stories below was the rear garden of a pricey Swiss restaurant on 7th street – an early sign of how the neighborhood would eventually change. A string quartet serenaded the outdoor diners. Every once in a while, one of them would notice me, up on my perch. They would point and whisper to their dinner companions while I pretended not to notice.
In my head, I heard the tremulous voice of Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch saying “It’s all right… it’s just one of the little people who live in this land…”
I didn’t care. I was as happy as a clam on my city balcony with the Empire State Building off in the distance. I felt like I was exactly where I wanted and was supposed to be. I had come to the end of one road and felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing how hard I worked to get there. There was a whole other adventure up ahead, but for now I was in the East Village, and I was home.
It’s not nice to stereotype. This may be especially true of homosexuals, who have borne the brunt of unkind pinpointing for so long that they believe it themselves.
…so begins an outrageously stereotypical article from the May, 1980 issue of Blueboy Magazine, titled “Is There A Typical New York Faggot?”
Now… before you lose your shit over the title, keep in mind that those were different times. The “F” word wasn’t taboo. Larry Kramer’s book by that name had been published just a year and a half earlier. So let’s put that sticking point aside. There’s plenty more to discuss.
Another caveat: This is from Blueboy. A gay porn magazine. It ain’t the Advocate or The Village Voice. Presumably author “J. Greller” was the pen name of a jaded queen with his tongue firmly planted in his own cheek and his head up his own ass. Who can say for sure? I wouldn’t want to, you know, stereotype… but Harold from Boys In The Band could deliver this piece as a monologue.
It’s mean and bitchy, but not in a fun way. It’s like the author had one martini too many and his New York City rant went to a dark place that was no longer funny or clever. The specificity of many of the “types” described gives the indication that he had an axe to grind with very particular unnamed individuals.
Have a read:
To be fair, the entire piece isn’t completely tone-deaf. There are glimpses that ring true, especially in the downtown neighborhoods. This is due in part to the quotes from others – Doley the Third’s observation on Harlem, for example.
I find the piece to be out of sync with the NYC neighborhoods as I have known them since the early 1990’s. But this is my perception over a 30 year period. I wasn’t there in 1980, but I have to wonder if the author has based his observations on, say, a 30 year period prior to that. Were there were really still old vamps & flappers on St. Marks in the CBGB era? Did 57th Street really have its own gay male type that needed dissection? Did nobody ever travel out of their own neighborhood to socialize? Were the streetcars not running?
Interesting to note that, for all this compartmentalizing of Midtown East neighborhoods: Kips Bay vs Turtle Bay vs. East Side… there is no mention of Murray Hill. At the time, according to older gay New Yorkers that I have known, it was referred to as “Mary Hill” due to the large number of gay bars and homosexual residents. J. Geller missed a golden opportunity.
Kudos to the graphic artist Favio Castelli, though.
While scrolling across the internet in search of photographs by George Platt Lynes, I came across one that I had never seen before – a handsome shirtless young gent sitting cross-legged on a bed. Initially I was dubious of its authenticity, as the subject looked so casual and timeless. There is nothing dated about the guy or his surroundings: the image could have been captured at any point in the last century.
I decided to do a little investigating and found that it was, in fact, an authentic Lynes photo. The handsome subject was a fellow named Randy Jack, Lynes boyfriend circa 1947-48. A new Lynes biography also helped to fill in the blanks.
Homer Randolph Jack was born on April 5, 1926 in Lake Clinton, Illinois. He attended Waukegan High School where he enjoyed singing and performing. As a senior, he starred in the high school’s production of the comedy Best Foot Forward. Upon graduation in 1944, he joined the Navy.
After WWII, with his Naval tour of duty completed, Randy Jack settled in Los Angeles, where he embarked on a relationship with ice cream parlor impresario Wil Wright Jr.
Californians of a certain age still swoon at the memory of Wil Wright’s frozen delights, decades after the last shop closed its doors.
In the recently published George Platt Lynes bio The Daring Eye, author Allen Ellenzweig refers to Randy Jack as “Wil Wright’s favorite.” In August of 1947, the two of them rented a room in Lynes’ Hollywood home. The New York-based photographer was in the midst of his “Hollywood period” working for Vogue magazine. Lynes – who always lived beyond his means and was notoriously bad with money management – decided to take in roommates to share chores and expenses.
This arrangement did not last long because, as Lynes wrote to a friend, “Wil can’t bear not to be boss and that is one thing he can’t be. Not here.” Wright also resented George’s influence on Jack, encouraging him to pursue a career as a dancer. When Wil moved out after a couple of months, Randy stayed…. and found his way into Lynes’ bed as well.
Randy Jack committed himself to a vigorous regimen of ballet classes. Although Lynes was aware that Jack was a bit long in the tooth to start training for a career as a dancer, he supported his efforts nonetheless. He wrote to his friend Monroe Wheeler; “He’s too old, 21, but he has a ballet dancers body and a ballet dancer’s soul.”
Randy Jack’s protruding ears – called “bat like” in several accounts – were viewed by Lynes as a further hindrance to attaining success as a ballet dancer. While he could not erase Jack’s advanced age, he could do something to remove this obstacle, so the cards would be “stacked in his favour, to remove whatever flies there may be in the ointment.” He agreed to barter with a plastic surgeon: Lynes would photograph the surgeon’s glamorous wife in exchange for the operation to pin back Jack’s ears. Lynes wrote to his mother at the time: “…I can’t leave things alone but redecorate or remodel anything I can lay my hands on, people as well as houses.”
The photos of Randy Jack taken in Lynes’ library are understandably the most popular.
Ears firmly clipped, Lynes photographed his roomie en tenue de danse at Vogue studios, creating this striking series of photos:
In May of 1948, Lynes’ contract with Vogue ended and he returned to New York City with Randy and their dog Bozo in tow.
As mentioned in our profile of Ted Starkowski, Lynes and his artist friends often shared models. Like Starkowski, Randy Jack was the subject of several other artists’ work, including Bernard Perlin.
Soon after their move to New York, Jack abandoned his ballet studies and began to find work as a fashion model. This proved to be a far more attainable and lucrative goal.
In mid-summer, George wrote to Katherine Anne Porter that he was troubled about the young man, “… I wonder what New York has done to him, or what I have done.”
Whether or not Randy left George or their cohabitation ended by mutual consent is debatable. The fact remains that he moved out in the Fall of 1948… and Lynes’ next boyfriend and muse, Chuck Howard moved into the apartment 10 days later.
David Leddick writes “Jack became one of the most successful fashion models in an industry that was just becoming big business, posing for both photographers and the many illustrators of the time.”
When I look into the life of an artist’s muse from the past, there is always a point in their story that brings to mind the Kirsty MacColl song “What Do Pretty Girls Do?” The answer, she sings: “They get older just like everybody else.”
As his modeling career waned, Jack began his third act as an interior designer. His work with commercial / hotel spaces led him to the Middle East, where he settled on the island of Bahrain and became a restaurateur, opening the Upstairs Downstairs restaurant in 1977.
In 1982 Jack published Upstairs Downstairs Cookbook, featuring favorite recipes from the restaurant’s menu alongside his own illustrations.
In the mid-90’s, Intimate Companions author David Leddick reached out to Randy Jack to talk about his early years with George Platt Lynes. Leddick recounts being tipped off that Jack was living in Bahrain, and that he was able to simply call the local information to get his phone number. Strangely, Jack’s birth name in the book is listed as Randolph Omar Jack, as if the author misheard “Homer” on a poor telephone connection.
A current photo of Randy Jack appeared in Leddick’s 1997 book Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes. Shortly after the book’s publication, on June 5, 1997, Jack died in Bahrain. He was 71 years old. The Upstairs Downstairs restaurant is still in operation today. The restaurant’s Facebook page has comments from patrons recalling Randy Jack’s hospitality and the good times they had there.
The kid from Waukegan had come a long way.
You can see my post about George Platt Lynes models / bedfellows John Leapheart and Buddy McCarthy here, and Ted Starkowski is profiled here.
Back in the summer of 2001, I was living up in Spanish Harlem when soul singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash. I was walking down the street and heard this guy on his cell phone saying “Aww man! All my divas are DYING!” Although I wasn’t a fan, I felt his pain.
I thought of this recently with the passing of three key members of top 60’s girl groups: Wanda Young Rogers of The Marvelettes, Rosa Lee Hawkins of The Dixie Cups, and Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes. The latter two groups now have just one surviving original member.
It was Wanda who gave The Marvelettes their second act. Gladys Horton sang lead on their early hits, including Motown’s first #1 hit “Please Mr. Postman” and “Too Many Fish In The Sea,” but as their chart success waned, Wanda transitioned into the lead vocalist position on more smooth and sophisticated material – usually written specifically for her by Smokey Robinson. At the time, she was married to Bobby Rogers of Smokey’s group The Miracles.
Robinson recalled, “In the groups I worked with, I always felt these ‘sleeping giants.’ I felt the same way about the Temptations with David Ruffin when I did ‘My Girl’ on him… I knew if I could get a song for her it would be a smash.” She sang lead on such Motown classics as “Don’t Mess With Bill” “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” and “Destination: Anywhere.”
Post-Marvelettes, her life was plagued by tragedy, addiction and mental illness. She recorded briefly for Ian Levine’s Motorcity label in the late 80’s. Wanda was 78 when she passed away on December 15, 2021.
The Dixie Cups didn’t have a distinct lead singer, but they had a sound: all three members usually sang in unison or tight harmony. Rosa Lee Hawkins was 1/3rd of the New Orleans trio, which also featured her petite older sister Barbara and cousin Joan Johnson.
Phil Spector originally recorded “Chapel of Love” with Darlene Love and the Ronettes but was never satisfied with the results. The Dixie Cups version was chosen as the premiere single for Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller’s Red Bird Records. Produced by the songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, it was a smash – knocking the Beatles out of the #1 spot in June of 1964.
The combination of The Dixie Cups with the Barry/Greenwich producing/songwriting team resulted in girl group gold for Red Bird Records with classics like “People Say”, “Iko Iko”, “Girls Can Tell” and many others.
It was just last year when Rosa Lee Hawkins released her memoir Chapel Of Love, in which she writes not only about her career in The Dixie Cups, but also about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Joe Jones, their manager. She felt a great relief in finally telling her story. “I did not write my book to hurt anyone;” she said “I just wanted to get it all down on paper.” Rosa was 76 when she passed away of complications following surgery on January 11, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.
And then there’s Ronnie.
I waited to write about Ronnie Spector’s passing because I knew it would get ample press coverage, her career examined and appreciated with the florid language in which Professional Rock Critics thrive. Why would I race to compete with that? Please don’t make me use the word “zeitgeist”.
Rolling Stone posted a list of 15 Essential Ronnie Spector Recordings. Of course I disagree with some of the choices, which I envision being compiled on a post-it covered bulletin board with equally weighted opinions from one old fanboy and four baby rock critics who had to Google her name when they got the assignment.
Here are five choices that I would have preferred to see on the list:
1) The Ronettes – “You Baby” (1964) This Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil classic first appeared on the Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes LP. It was subsequently recorded by Linda Scott, Len Barry, Jackie Trent, Sonny & Cher and The Lovin’ Spoonful, just to name a few.
2) Ronnie Spector – “It’s A Heartache” (1977) Ronnie’s recording of this song was released in the U.S. the first week of November, 1977 alongside competing versions by Bonnie Tyler and Juice Newton. Tyler ultimately won the battle with a #3 pop hit.
3) Ronnie Spector – “Any Way That You Want Me” (1980) The Rolling Stone “15 Essential” list features no tracks from Ronnie’s first two solo LPs: the Genya Ravan-produced Siren and 1987’s Unfinished Business. This Chip Taylor composition from Siren was originally recorded in the 60’s by The Troggs and then Evie Sands, but Ronnie makes it her own.
4) Ronnie Spector – “Something’s Gonna Happen” (1989) In 1989 Ronnie recorded a handful of Marshall Crenshaw songs with Crenshaw and his band backing her up. These Alan Betrock-produced tracks are among the best of her solo recordings – it’s hard to choose just one, as the artist and material worked so well together. Unfortunately, plans for an entire album were halted and the recordings stuck in financial limbo until Ronnie bought them back and released an EP in 2003. As blogger Denis Pilon recently wrote; “In a better world, the release of this EP would have marked Spector’s triumphant return to the spotlight.”
5) Ronnie Spector – “Don’t Worry Baby” (1999) Brian Wilson wrote the song for The Ronettes as a follow-up to “Be My Baby” but Phil Spector would not let them record it. 35 years later, Ronnie finally gave it her best on the Joey Ramone-produced EP She Talks To Rainbows. Entertainment Weekly wrote; “She sounds more fragile than belligerent now, and her bruised, cracked vocals work wonders on (the song).”
Brian Wilson hears Ronnie’s version of “Don’t Worry Baby”:
As some of you may know, my partner Toby Hobbes, aka dudley ghost is a musician / artist who frequently contributes mixed media to Jonathan Russell’s quarterly Monkeyshines zine. I have joined him in contributing to the hot-off-the-press Winter 2022 issue. Here is my contribution:
In a Queens, New York row house a mother and her infant begin their daily stroll. She pushes the carriage forward embarking on their route in these trying times.
She turns right into the kitchen then right through the living room another right into the dining room where mother and child are momentarily bathed in a sunbeam through the skylight.
Another right turn and it’s back through the kitchen again.
There’s a rhythm to the carriage wheels rolling on and off the area rugs. The mother chants along in a sing-song voice: Right turn, right turn, right turn, sun! Right turn, right turn, right turn, sun!
Around and around they go through the sunlight every 37 seconds. The child squints and laughs. The mother smiles through her song.
This moment in time she will always remember how she kept her baby safe. This moment in time she will never recount to a child too young to remember.
The mother’s efforts will not be in vain. The child will live for 101 years. Ultimately exposed by a grandson who didn’t trust the science.
Lying in an ambulance headed to Elmhurst Hospital There is some cellular recall. A flicker of a memory: Right turn, right turn, right turn, sun.
Monkeyshines | ˈməNGkēˌSHīnz | 1. pl. noun: Mischievous behavior. 2. noun What is probably the finest, best example of a zine in existence.
A little backstory…. I walk my dog in the alley behind a block of these row houses in Queens, New York. In the early months of the pandemic, I would see this woman pushing a stroller around inside her house. She would repeatedly pass by the dining room window, always entering on the right and exiting to the left, moving through a sunbeam from the skylight as she walked the stroller around and around. This image stayed with me as such an interesting symbol of the strange time we were living in…. this mother did not want to risk taking her baby outside, but infants are often calmed by the movement of a stroller, so she just kept circling around in the house, day after day.
As comparisons were made to the 1918 flu pandemic, it occurred to me that my grandmother was born in April of that year in Woodhaven, Queens. This is just a mile or two from where I live now. My great-grandparents lived in a row house and, with the birth of my grandmother, had three daughters under the age of 6. And yet there was never a single story passed down about how they made it through or what life was like at that time.
Back to the present: my partner and I see this guy around our neighborhood who lives on the next block in the house where he grew up. When the pandemic hit, he was caring for his elderly mother and was especially concerned about her health. As time progressed, it became clear that he was anti-mask and anti-vaxx. “For your mother’s sake, if nothing else,” I said; “you really should get vaccinated.” We started to avoid talking to him when we would see his stupid maskless face heading towards us.
His mother died last month. I am unclear on the circumstances.
In August of 2020, porn star Koldo Gorantweeted about three fellow performers who had recently died. In one of those instances, Goran’s tweet remains the only public notice that the performer, Dani Rivera, had been murdered. “I realize nobody talks about it, we are unprotected and forgotten;” Goran tweeted “We are humans, people, enough of contempt.”
Most gay news outlets choose to ignore the passing of all but the biggest names in the adult film industry. Porn companies also seem reluctant to broadcast the death of a performer who is still on their roster, forever young and present in their website content. An obit is a real boner killer, ya know? Why jeopardize the profit margin?
Additionally, performers who abandon their porn personas and return to life under their real name often pass away unnoticed by former employers and scene parters.
In 2021 we lost two of the biggest gay porn filmmakers: Wakefield Poole, who basically invented the genre with 1971’s Boys In The Sand; and Jerry Douglas, director of many critically acclaimed gay adult films that were story-based but incorporated hot sex scenes. Poole’s passing was marked with a New York Times article and Douglas’s death was also widely reported in the gay press.
In contrast, some of the porn star passings that we note here have no verification other than the crumbs of information posted on the IAFD database. We remember those that we lost in 2021 to prove Koldo Goran wrong – they are not forgotten:
1. Alex James, one of the most popular performers at Active Duty, passed away of a “heart attack” on 2/15/21, according to the menofporn blog. He appeared in several dozen scenes starting in 2018 with new content steadily released in the six months following his death.
2. According to the IAFD database, Eric Pryor was 38 years old when he passed away on January 12, 2021. No other details were given. The Michigan native primarily worked for Randy Blue from 2009-2013 and also appeared on Baitbus as Mikey McKenna.
Teyon Goffney with identical twin Keyon (l), and solo.
4. Flex-Deon Blake, aka Kevin Moss was a 2004 inductee into the Grabby’s “Wall of Fame” after a 10 year career in the industry. He was the long-term partner of fellow porn star Bobby Blake and founded a Dallas-based ministry to help people resolve any conflict between their spirituality and sexual orientation. He passed away due to ongoing medical issues at age 58 on 3/1/21.
5. Tattooed top Bo Dean, aka Michael Jensen worked primarily for Jake Cruise but also appeared in scenes for Raging Stallion, Lucas Entertainment and Next Door Studios between 2009-2014. In 2015, he was shot in the chest and left paralyzed from the waist down. His cause of death was not disclosed when he died on 3/30/21 at age 41.
6. Treshawn / Treyshawn Valentino appeared in films for various companies (including Bacchus, Lucas Entertainment, Titan, Thugmart and Latino Fan Club) over a jaw-dropping 15 year period. The Illinois native passed away on 4/2/21, according to his IAFD listing. No other details have surfaced.
7. Michael Watts was an Oregon security guard who also worked as a Freddie Mercury impersonator. He chose Freddie as his porn persona when he did two scenes for The Guy Site in 2019. The 37 year-old went missing on May 1st and was found in the Willamette river two weeks later. The investigation is ongoing.
8. Versatile blond Ty Thomas began his porn career at Jason Sparks in 2016 and went on to appear in 30+ scenes for Next Door Studios. According to the IAFD, he passed away on 5/6/21 at age 29.
9. The death of 22 year-old Alex Riley on 5/9/21 was widely reported in the gay press. The popular performer was best known for his work with Helix Studios but had previously worked for Men, FraternityX, RealityDudes, and Next Door Studios. Riley was nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2020 Str8UpGayPorn Awards, and he won GayVN’s Best Newcomer award. Rumors of suicide circulated but were unconfirmed.
10. Muscular Bryce Evans loomed large in the gay porn industry for close to a decade with versatile appearances in scenes for Lucas Entertainment, Men, Pride Studios, Dominic Ford, Men Over 30 and several others. The 46 year-old reportedly suffered a “heart attack” in early June but his death was not made public until three weeks later.
12. On July 22nd, Chi Chi La Rue tweeted “Tommy Ritter passed away. No details have been given. Tommy was a great guy who saved many a movie with his amazing performances, even before he decided to be fully on camera!” Ritter, a versatile Channel 1 / Rascal Video exclusive, appeared in a dozen films circa 2005-6.
14. Mel Grey, aka Elder Packer (missionaryboyz) aka Toby Muck (familydick) was only 24 years old but had been in the business for three years, working with the studios listed above as well as Treasure Island Media. IAFD reports that he was “shot by a random intruder when trying to protect other people present” on 12/11/21.
15. A reader alerted me to another passing: Hoody LaVaye, aka Justin Miley. His film work spanned 8 years, with scenes for FlavaWorks, Rawrods and several other outlets. The Virginia Beach native passed away of a “heart attack” on 12/3/21 at age 33.
It’s that time again… due to popular demand, it’s our fourth installment of WWII-era photos featuring the jockstrap-clad pre-flight training school cadets at St. Mary’s College in California. You can view the first one here. Part II was from last Christmas. Part III was the boys of summer. And now here we are with another look at these strapping young men – many away from home for the first time – photographed as they trained to go to war during the holidays.
I first became aware of these black and white 5″x7″ triptych photos through posts on the Vintage Workingmen Beefcake Facebook group. Listings also turn up on auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by the index card used to record the physical training progress of the cadet.
The earliest photos (from June 13, 1942) feature the men completely nude, but all subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fencing to better detect posture misalignment and spinal curvature.
There is still some confusion between these photos and the Yale / Ivy League posture pics, since the Navy photos were sometimes used to illustrate stories about the Yale pics. Note that all of these images contain a visible U.S. Navy / St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School placard, even if they have been cropped out in some posts. Similarly the Yale University photos are identified as such within the frame of the photos:
Fortunately for us, multiple photos of some cadets have surfaced, allowing for comparisons of their training progress:
And while there is a lack of ethnic diversity, there are a variety of body types.
My collection now includes close to 600 jpegs of different cadets. While some of these men did perish during WWII, the largest majority that I have researched lived to ripe old ages.
Any surviving cadets would now be close to 100 years old. I recently discovered one who passed away a few months ago at the age of 103.
One thing these young men have in common, as they were documented in timeless photos of their physical prime: they were far from home during the holidays, training to fight for their country.
At this time of year, nearly 80 years later, we again salute The Greatest Generation for their fine forms and dedication.