Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, August 08, 2005

(being 2 excerpts from an abandoned reminiscent lazy un-prosed ramble)

. . . loving musicians wildly
and loving them even more if they’re ambivalent about our love
and loving them even more if they wish there weren’t so many of us loving them
and loving them even more if they suffer on the horns of the dilemma
of wanting to be wildly loved -- but not by too many people
as we fan the flames of that love by cheering them on in their crazy ambivalence

“we love you for not wanting to be so widely wildly loved!

“it shows you have integrity

“it shows you have a proper ambivalence about selling out”

whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean in a commodity system
where the purpose of the radio program is to deliver consumers to advertisers
and the purpose of the rock magazine is to deliver consumers to advertisers
and the purpose of the club gig is to deliver drinkers to bars

. . .

years ago this guy i met
he was the good friend of a good friend of mine
he was in a band that got offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to be in a Michelob commercial
and this band wasn’t making big bucks by any means
they could have really used the money
but they said No
and that’s cool
i don’t blame them
i admire them in a way

but then this saying No became their calling card
their slogan
and when they came to my town -- this was back in the late ‘80s --
when they came to my town one of the alternative rock critics said
Go See Them They Said No To Michelob
that’s what it said in the paper, in the alternative weekly, that was the selling point

They Said No to Michelob

and the guy in the band i’d met, he seemed like a nice guy, and a good musician
so i went
and the middle of the set the main singer, who was not the guy i’d met,
introduced one song by bellowing in an arena rock HELLO YOUR TOWN kind of voice --


which, if you don’t remember, is a play on Michelob’s slogan back then which went
The Night Belongs to Michelob
so this guy said, maybe with fist in air i don’t remember


and the guitars and drums raged into a new song
and most of the club crowd roared its approval
as they drank -- as we drank -- our beers -- i wasn’t roaring --
i thought it was pretty sad --
if you’re going to let Michelob define your thing
you might as well take the money

if you define yourself by your relationship to Michelob anyway --

i shouldn’t be so harsh on the guys
thinking about it now i’d guess that they were conflicted about saying No to the money
and i can hardly blame them for that
i would have had a lot of doubts too
and i know they could have used the money, none of them was rich
and so staking their reputation on the fact that they had said No was a way of compensating
for the lost compensation, i guess
which is too bad

and it’s true
a lot of people
probably including me
would have thought they were lame for taking the money
because taking money from Michelob and being in a TV ad isn’t cool
even though they -- like all musicians, even a hemi-demi-semi-pro recreational-leaguer like me --
were already getting paid for bringing people into the bar
to drink Michelob and other beers
and if your thing is happening enough to get on the radio
you’re getting paid for bringing people to the radio station
to listen to ads for lots of other stuff

by a coincidence, by a funny coincidence,
something like the week after the alternative rock critic said THESE GUYS ARE SO COOL THEY SAID NO TO MICHELOB --
the same alternative weekly paper ran an ad from another beer company, a print ad -- Special Export, I think the beer was --
and Special Export asked the arts people in the paper to list cool upcoming shows on the ad,
cool rock shows and cool theater shows and whatever

and this theater group that i had worked with, that i had been a member of,
though i think i had quit it at this point, temporarily --
it was an anarchist theater group, so membership boundaries were fluid --
my old friends were getting critical raves -- they still do, when they put on shows,
which isn’t as frequently as in the old days
when they would put on something like 6 or 7 original shows a year
which is roughly the equivalent of putting out 6 or 7 albums a year,
maybe 6 or 7 double albums

and they had a hot show on then, when Special Export asked
and so the weekly paper put them in the ad without telling them
and then the weekly paper got really offended that my friends got really pissed and offended

and this was ironic because the same arts section of the same paper had just applauded this rock band for refusing to TAKE A LOT OF MONEY to be in a beer ad
and then couldn’t understand why an ANARCHIST THEATER GROUP that DIDN’T CHARGE ADMISSION but would only take donations would get offended that they’d been SLAPPED IN A BEER AD WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND NOT EVEN GOTTEN PAID

and the newspaper people were disdainful and defensive, saying
why are you pissed this ad just gave you more free publicity

they really didn’t get it

pretty funny when you think about it

i mean, humans, right? contradictions, blind spots, silly pride -- i know i got ‘em!

that night of the day the paper came out my friends had a show
and even though i had quit the group and was temporarily on the outs with one or two of the people
including the man who wrote the play
they were still my people
my friends
and i asked if i could give the curtain speech
and my friends said Yes

i had recently seen a stage production of Beaumarchais’ play The Marriage of Figaro
without Mozart’s music, which came later,
and it was really good, really sharp and really funny
a really good production

if you don’t know the story, Figaro is a servant of a Count
in pre-Revolutionary France
and Figaro is about to marry another servant
a real cutie
and in those days and those places
when servants were getting married
the Lord of the estate had something called Droit du Seigneur
which means Right of the Lord
which was the right to sleep with a servant’s bride on the wedding night

so the play is all about the Count wanting invoke this right
and Figaro and his fiancee and the Count’s wife all conspiring to trick him out of it
and because it’s a comedy they succeed and all ends well
and it’s really funny

so the speech i made
the speech i made likened the weekly alternative paper
which didn’t charge any money to its readers
it was a free weekly
this weekly paper that had slapped my friends in a beer ad without telling them or paying them
i likened them to a servant on a medieval estate
and the advertisers were the lords of the estate
because they paid for everything, they paid all the bills
the paper wouldn’t exist without them

and this particular lord of the estate
Special Export beer
they would say to the vassal
who’s your sweetheart
who’s your honey
and my friends’ theater company was definitely one of the paper’s sweethearts
every show got a smashing review

so i said a lot of this in my speech and i said

so Special Export beer said to the Reader -- that was the name of the paper --

Special Export beer said to the Reader
who’s your sweetheart who’s your honey
i want to sleep with them

and that’s how we woke up this morning and found ourselves in bed with Special Export beer

and i paused and mustered my best deadpan comic timing and said

didn’t even get paid

and people laughed and i felt happy
because i hadn’t known what i was going to say when i got up to speak
just that i was going to talk about Figaro
and then i said Enjoy the Show
and i sat down and Enjoyed the Show

. . . .

(end un-prosed ramble)

At the time of this kerfuffle between my friends in Theater Oobleck and the Chicago Reader, I was working as a proofreader for the Reader. My friends had a couple tense meetings with some of my bosses, who printed a letter from someone in the group disavowing any affiliation with Special Export beer.

That particular play, which my friend Jeff Dorchen wrote, has been produced since then. I shouldn’t be surprised to remember -- it’s on the theme of celebrity artists. It’s called “The Slow and Painful Death of Sam Shepard,” and here’s a review of the most recent production of it I can find, from 2001 in LA.
Now this is funny ;)
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