PCR past banners Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #199  (Vol. 5, No. 3)  This edition is for the week of January 12--18, 2004.

LA FLORIDIANA
The “Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, 1980-1983” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
by Will Moriaty
THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"The Cooler"
 by Mike Smith
ODDSERVATIONS
BLONDIE Concert Review .... Romeo's 1515 Coffee House .... Nolan's "My First Quasi Death Threat"
 by Andy Lalino
CREATURE'S CORNER
CMGs...."Big Fish"
 by John Lewis
MATT'S RAIL
Happy Birthday To Me....Master Of Horror....The Freeze Is On
 by Matt Drinnenberg
MIKE'S RANT
It Wasn't Me!...Passing On....Funny Stuff....Meet The Beatles
 by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

BLONDIE - Concert Review
Jannus Landing, Friday, January 2, 2004. 8:00pm
St. Petersburg, FL

When I first read about the show, I had to wonder why such a venerable band was playing at Jannus Landing, not the largest of venues. Then, reality set in; this isn't 1981 (*sob*) and oh, so many people who grew up with the music of the band are so unwilling to take one night out to go and see them in support. I'm glad to say I did - and eagerly so.

My last personal foray into Blondieland was Sept. 1, 1999 when they played a most excellent show at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in support of their then hit album "No Exit". In 1999, Blondie proved they could at least temporarily tackle the pop culture drek of the '90s and score a memorable hit with "Maria".

As a rule, I don't miss New Wave concerts that come to town under any circumstances, so I was incredibly excited to have the privilege to experience Blondie for the second time. The show kicked off at 8pm, but of course there was an opening band, The Crippled Masters, who were there for support. Supposedly named after a '70s(?) camp martial arts movie, the psychedelic - dare I say late '80s Post-Modern - trio were actually very likable and listenable. One smart gal behind me said they looked like Devo (they didn't).

The St. Pete.-based Crippled Masters played a good sampling of their self-penned tunes, which the audience seemed to dig. They also played up the fact that the crowd wasn't really there to see them, but Blondie. I thought the crowd reacted very enthusiastically toward the band, however, and deservedly so. A few other 'Oddservations' about TCM: they all wore wine-colored turtlenecks (hence the Devo comparison), they were funny (also like Devo). Incredibly, the drummer was able to play while staring into space, and hardly ever stared down at his drum set!

Debbie Harry of BLONDIE
Debbie Harry of BLONDIEPhoto by Louis Jones
After TCM set was over, the lights went dim, and we knew we were about to get our Blondie fix. Rarely have I seen Jannus Landing so packed with music lovers; according to St. Petersburg Times music critic Gina Vivinetto, there were 1,300 people in attendance. Jannus is a great place to see Blondie, simply because it has that New York look, complete with brick walls that made you feel like you were in an outdoor CBGB's. Unlike most bands, Blondie went to the trouble of decorating the stage with huge banners, featuring orange-ish oriental dragon artwork.

Their first tune was not a Blondie song at all, but a rousing anthem that exhilarated the crowd (esp. me) - "The Chase" theme from "Midnight Express"! One-by-one the band materialized, dramatically backlit by the great music; it was a moment. For the perplexed or uninitiated, "The Chase" was a memorable instrumental disco hit, circa 1978, by Euro-composer Giorgio Moroder, who produced "Call Me" with Debbie Harry (Blondie's biggest hit).

Chris Stein of BLONDIE
Chris Stein of BLONDIEPhoto by Louis Jones   
Interestingly, the Blondie line-up on this tour was a 6-piece, including 3 original members of the band (Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and drummer Clem Burke) and three younger musicians. Missing was keyboardist Jimmy Destri, who was replaced by a white hip-hop rapper-looking dude, who looked woefully miscast on this stage full of legends. It was reported that the show would feature all original members, but that proved not to be true, with Destri's absence. He must have a thing against Tampa Bay; I recall him looking at his watch while tapping his 'ivorys' at their '99 concert.

Debbie Harry, 58(!), appeared vibrant and young-at-heart; you simply cannot age a true punk rocker. Deb was decked in an orange Blondie T-shirt which featured the 'flame' logo from their forthcoming album. Her hair was cropped short (shorter than 1999) and she found it fit to tussle it around the whole night, at one point donning an '80s headband which really made the onlooker hearken back to better days. Her skin was clear, and she had all the right (albeit bizarre) moves, constantly prancing and gyrating on stage (including numerous crotch grabs). I only wish I can do the same at 58. You go, girl; you're forever young. Stein was dressed entirely in black (yeah, baby), including wayfarers. Mid-concert the Florida climate overwhelmed, causing Stein to lose the sport coat, and have Harry complain "How can you live in Florida? It's so fucking hot!". Burke wore a leather jacket with a cool "New York City" T-shirt underneath.

The usually stoic Chris Stein was more animated than I have ever noted before, goofing around with the other band members and Harry, who he suggested "pole dance" for the crowd. Clem was remarkable, performing the type of musicianship he's heralded for as one of rock's great drummers. The other musicians (keyboard, guitar, bass) were younger than the original band, and were clearly honored to be sharing the stage with these Punk/Disco/New Wave/Pop pioneers.

They began their set with some of their lesser-known hits, such as "Hanging on the Telephone" and "Atomic", while venturing in to a substantial amount of new material (one song had a strange chorus: "Waking up the roosters"!) from their new CD "The Curse of Blondie". The casual fan was hardly disappointed, with Blondie serving up literally all their A-list of hits: "Call Me", "Dreaming", "One Way or Another", "The Tide is High", "Rip Her to Shreds", and their triumphant comeback hit "Maria". Missing from the lineup were album cuts from "No Exit", an album which had some really great Blondie songs. It would have also been a real treat to have heard tracks from Harry's solo albums, such as "I Want that Man" (produced by Thompson Twin Tom Bailey) and "I Can See Clearly", "Communion" or "Dog Star Girl" off her outstanding 1993 CD "Debravation". It didn't happen.

If there was a low point to the evening, it had to be during the rendition of "Rapture", when the keyboardist, who had to have been in his early '20s(!), accompanied Harry during the 'rap' sequence of the song, coming off like a hip-hop deejay pathetically trying to get the crowd pumped. I was a little surprised when I looked around and noticed the lemmings around me swaying their arms to the hippy-hop rant, as if they were at a Backstreet Boys concert at the State Fair. For the record, I did not (nor would ever) participate in such anti-Wave behavior, and did not applaud after the performance of "Rapture", which is normally one of my favorite Blondie songs.

Let me clarify something: New Wavers do not like rap, they never have and never will. Had Blondie injected more reggae into their music, as in "The Tide is High", that would have been way cool, because reggae fits New Wave infinitely better than rap. There are rare occasions when rap is an asset to a particular song/single, as in "Rapture" or Shriekback's version of "Get Down Tonight", but for the most part, keep it far away from New Wave. It just doesn't work.

Blondie treated us to two, count 'em, two encores. Guess what? They performed "Pet Semetary", baby!!! I almost went insanely out of my mind. What a great tribute to fellow New York punk pioneers The Ramones. A lesser band would have covered more familiar territory such as "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" or "Rock & Roll High School", but we can rely on Blondie to serve up a stunningly original selection, written for the great 1988 horror film based on Stephen King's novel. They followed "Pet Semetary" with "Heart of Glass", which I considered the best-performed song of the night.

Yes, it was a complete pleasure to sit literally a few feet away from Harry and Stein, taking in a second performance by the Great Ones. As the band members age, I shudder to think there will come a day when these and other '70s/'80s Punk/New Wave legends will no longer tour. I hope they hold out as long as they possibly can; their true fans and the wise Fanboys who do not forget their roots wish they were around forever and a day.

Thank you to Louis Jones of "Blondie - The Complete Discography" http://www.recmod.com/ website for permission to use the live concert pictures from the Jannus Landing performance.

Icon Films' "To Live is to Die" Screening - Romeo's 1515 Coffee House - Ybor City
Fighting off a cold and hacking cough (which started the night of Blondie), I was accompanied by Sound Designer/Composer and "Filthy" alumni Eddie Sturgeon and filmmaker Andrew Allan to the showing of the Chris Woods-directed short film "To Live is to Die", starring Chris' partner (no, not that kind of partner) Simon Lynx, who's got the greatest evil stare in the business.

The venue was Romeo's 1515 Coffee House, a truly mad pad, Daddy-O. Being a big fan of Buffalo's beatnik-y "Off Beat Cinema", I was all-to-thrilled to be in a coffee shop, a Greenwich Village-looking Coffee Shop at that, for the screening of some cool indie shorts. I even wore a turtleneck for the occasion, but forgot the shades and beret. I snapped after every movie, though!

Also in attendance were Nolan "King of the Fanboys" Canova, Gus Perez, Steve Barton, aka "Uncle Creepy" of Fangoria.com and The Horror Channel, and his girlfriend Debi. The ambience was electric, with so many talented filmmakers and artists all in one room viewing brand-new works and discussing the future of Florida filmmaking.

I'll get to that in a minute. The evening began with folksy musical entertainment, and then the lights dimmed and the movies were served up hot. There were about 6 shorts in all, beginning with a Full Sail (that's a Film School, among other subjects) 16mm production entitled "Monkey in the Middle", a comedic diddy about a "cursed" coconut monkey head. Following were more local shorts, including "The Joyce Story" and (I hope I'm getting this title right) the video game-ish "The Morning After". "To Live is To Die" capped off the films, which yours truly worked on for a day.

Shot mostly in B&W, "To Live is to Die" is the finest Icon Films production since the award-winning "Bleed", and features outstanding performances by all cast members and great videography. USF's rolling campus served Chris well as an overall location, making all the scenes believable and effective. Chris Polidoro's special make-up effects were terrific as usual, with 5 harassing students meeting sometimes gory deaths. As a prelude to TLITD, Chris previewed the trailer for his forthcoming feature film "Pop" starring Amanda Beck, which promises to be an eagerly-anticipated identity-switch dark comedy. Bravo, Chris & Mark! Lastly, "Remembrance", a quickie sequel to "Bleed", was also screened, as if we couldn't get enough of Simon Lynx for one evening (LOL).

After the films were over, the Florida filmmakers assembled, headed up by Steve Barton, and discussed the future of Florida film and the possibility of starting a network/organization of Florida-based filmmakers who wish to promote Florida filmmaking and the projects they are producing. It was a pumped-up, rousing meeting with everyone agreeing this is something that is our calling. Keep it right here on Crazed Fanboy/Pop Culture Review for the latest updates on Florida independent filmmaking.

Much thanks to the Romeo family of Romeo's 1515 Coffee House for hosting this great cinematic evening, and to Peter and Paul Guzzo of Too Productions for making their event a venue for Florida filmmakers to showcase their work in a public forum.

Nolan's "My First Quasi-Death-Threat"
To Nole: We talked a little about this at Romeo's, Nolan, but I would like to express how shocked I was that you received that nutty phone call after the political discussion with your boss. You and I are polar opposites when it comes to the Iraq War and possibly the War on Terrorism, but I would never in my life wish harm on someone I disagreed with, especially a good-natured person as yourself. I hope that nutbird who made that call wises up and realizes that people have different points of view about things and shouldn't be threatened because of it. It was no doubt an unsettling incident for you personally, and no one deserves to go through that kind of stress in their life. I'm sorry that happened.

Thank you, Andy, I appreciate that. I haven't heard anything more about it, so I guess that guy sobered up or whatever, and it's over....for now.---Nolan


"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. The photographs of BLONDIE's Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from the January 2, 2004 concert at Jannus Landing, St. Pete FL, are ©2004 by Louis Jones. All other graphics, unless otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.