Following the Bunny Slippers down the Rabbit Hole with Peter Ivers

In Heaven Everything is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre by Josh Frank and Rabbi Charlie Buckholtz (New York: The Free Press, 2008)

Every decision you make is the chance to become a hero.
– Peter Ivers

Political correctness notwithstanding, some people are born with a creative pulse and an innate set of skills that set them apart from the rest of us. In Heaven Everything is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre is the oral history of one of those people – Peter Ivers – and the cultural milieu he helped create. It’s a celebration of the bizarre, a story of love, and a tale of the magic of creative combustion set at Harvard in the early 1970s and in Los Angeles for the duration of the decade and into the early ‘80s. It ends in murder.

Who was Peter Ivers and why should we care? He was the epicenter of some of the most influential American artists in film, theatre, music, and television of his day: David Lynch, Devo, National Lampoon, Harold Ramis, Francis Ford Coppola, Saturday Night Live, as well as perfomers in the burgeoning Los Angeles punk scene. More than just a lynch-pin, Ivers brought a dazzling array of talents and sensibilities to his work: he was a blackbelt in karate, a yoga enthusiast, and a habitual pot smoker. And it was none other than the great Muddy Waters who called that Jew boy “the greatest harp player alive.”

45 Grave performing “Evil” on New Wave Theatre.

Ivers’s accomplishments and collaborations included: writing the theme of Eraserhead (for which this book was named), dating Stockard Channing, working with John Lithgow on college theater, recording five albums of distinctly strange music for unappreciative major labels (Epic and Warner Brothers), performing in diapers and bunny slippers at Lincoln Center, and, as opener, on separate occasions, for the New York Dolls and Fleetwood Mac (whose fans booed him off the stage). Most of all, Ivers is known for championing all things genuinely queer as the puckish host of New Wave Theatre, an early cable access program showcasing the efflorescence of musical talent then found in the Los Angeles underground.

While some people are takers – they take your ideas, they take your time, they take lives – others, like Peter Ivers, the tragic hero of this tale, are BUILDERS. New Wave Theatre began on Los Angeles cable access and was soon picked up by the USA Network as part of its “Nightflight” programming, making Peter Ivers the Johnny Appleseed of American alternative culture. New Wave Theatre simultaneously created a space for people to shine and projected the generated light into the American living room, inspiring a thousand flickers of oddness across the country.

Ivers interviews the Castration Squad on New Wave Theatre. (Photo via Alice Bag, thanks!) L-R: Tiffany Kennedy, Elissa Bello, Dinah Cancer, Shannon Wilhelm, Peter Ivers and Tracy Lea.

Alan Moore: “I for one am sick of worms.”

Author/sorceror Alan Moore. Photo by Jose Villarubia, via Swindle Magazine.

A remarkably candid  interview with the grand magus of comics writing, Alan Moore, went up today over at the LA Times, discussing, among other things, Moore’s utter contempt for various Hollywood film adaptations of his body of work. Now, I know a lot of folks are really excited to see the new Watchmen movie (based on Moore’s seminal graphic novel, illustrated by Dave Gibbons), and while I’m sorry to piss on the parade, I must admit I’m in complete agreement with Moore that this book in particular (arguably his most influential work to date) is “inherently unfilmable.” I’m glad to see him speaking up. Quoting from the interview:

I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying… It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The Watchmen film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms. Can’t we get something else? Perhaps some takeout? Even Chinese worms would be a nice change.


I’m fairly convinced that no matter how hard director Zack Snyder tries –and undoubtedly the good man is trying very hard– his adaptation will pale in comparison to the scope, depth and resonance of the original work, just as every other movie based on Moore’s books has failed to measure up. (Sure, V For Vendetta was, well, watchable. Is that really saying much?)

This is not to imply that flicks adapted from other formats are without merit (hell, sometimes they even surpass the original work; Blade Runner, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Excorcist, The Godfather, and The Shining all spring to mind), only that Moore, being a undisputed master of his chosen format, has proved time and time again that one can achieve a sublime kind of storytelling through sequential art that cannot, WILL not be conveyed through in any other medium.

We’ve entered an era ruled by scavengers. We are starving for substance. Obviously, we can’t look to Hollywood schlockbusters to nourish us. Still, the platform of narrative movie making has its own profound and distinctive magic. Here’s hoping that somehow, thanks to the increasing accessibility of equipment and relative price decrease in digital film and editing software, more and more storytellers standing beyond the gates of the sausage factory will be goaded, either by hunger or the pure urgency of inspiration, into making their own moving pictures. Otherwise, we can all just look forward to endless helpings of the same insubstantial, derivative slurry, ad nauseum.

Speaking of substance… I was lucky enough to acquire a copy of The Mindscape of Alan Moore a few months ago. The directorial debut of DeZ Vylenz, Mindscape is the only feature film production on which Moore has collaborated, and given personal permission to use his stories. I can’t begin to tell you what an enjoyable and fascinating documentary it is. It will be officially released on DVD on September 30th.

Alan Moore’s not just one of most important writers in comics; he’s one of the most important writers, period. So really, whether you’re a longtime comics reader or you’ve never delved further than the first issue of Gaiman’s Sandman, the Northhampton Wizard of Words’ body of work cannot be recommended highly enough.

Weekly Ad Uncoiling: Lifebuoy Handwash

Oh buoy. Welcome back Web explorers to the Dr. Moreau School of Digital Art Direction. On the plate today: a tabby croissant. Because “you eat what you touch.” Lifebuoy is just the latest advertiser trying to capitalize on our post-modern germophobia, where washing your hands with simple soap IS NOT ENOUGH. Pet your cat, eat your cat. Take out your garbage, eat your garbage. Wipe your ass, eat your ass. Putting aside my utter distrust of this whole fucking product category, here’s my one sentence review of this campaign: maybe you ad creatives should’ve concentrated on visually dramatizing a believable reason to buy, as opposed to making me think about biology class, and dead cats, and whether or not I have any Pepcid in my Timbuk2 bag (I endorse both of those products). At least the cat-croissant isn’t crawling with worms. Click here for a closer look, and then jump for a second pet experiment featuring a dead hamster muffin.

[Weekly Ad Uncoiling is a guest column by CLIO, ANDY, Mobius, One Show and Bobcat pin (Cub Scouts) award-winning advertising creative director copyranter, who won those pointless awards years ago, and now seriously dislikes the “creative process” and Pinewood derby races.]

Happy Tombstones Show How People Lived, Died

This man has been immortalized on the Internet forever, though probably not in a way he would’ve approved.

This Romanian cemetery is a splitting image of my favorite playgrounds growing up in Russia – it has the same feeling of being colorful, cheerful and creepy (Russian playgrounds are famously creepy) all at once. Each person here has a story. Some are obvious, some are more mysterious. Okay, so Gumby attacked him from beyond the grave. And her husband ran her over. Meanwhile, he… loved Etch-a-Sketch? Other interpretations are welcome in the comments.

While this merely reminds me of a playground, I’d love to see this idea fully realized. My ideal cemetery is now one giant playground: everyone that’s buried has their own swing set or slide, in all different colors. Rich people who’d normally have mausoleums could have treehouses and jungle gyms. Cremated people get to be a sandbox.

The Pervert’s Guide to Etsy

coilhouse pervert's guide to etsy

To the casual observer, is a cutesy realm of craft hipster chicks and middle American stay-at-home moms; a twee repository of homemade flowery jewelry crafts, popsicle stick and Fimo clay sculptures and hand-sewn terrycloth baby bibs. I am here to tell you that I have spent the week spelunking Etsy’s dark side and my friends, there is so much more. It’s a pervert’s treasure trove waiting to be discovered. It’s almost October, which means it’s almost Halloween, which is basically Goth Christmas (oh yeah, I said GOTH CHRISTMAS and I’ll say it again). Here are my gifty picks for the special perverts in your life.

coilhouse pervert's guide to etsy

1. Road Kill Squirrel Neoprene Mask. Hand made from neoprene rubber, reinforced with leather, padded inside for comfort, with three straps to ensure it won’t slip off during moments of necro-furry Valentine/Halloween passion.

coilhouse pervert's guide to etsy

2. Latex Cage Dress. High quality latex is always pricey and this is no exception. But for this kind of detail and quality you expect to fork over the cash. HMS Latex features pieces that hit the holy trinity of sexy, tough, and ladylike with this dress, these adorable latex gloves and this to-die-for elegant shrug.

Sonny Vincent and the Beaten Heart of Punk

[Earlier this year, our mysterious New York liaison Agent Double Oh No interviewed Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO. Now, he sits down with punk rock veteran Sonny Vincent. Click beyond the cut for the full, exclusive interview!]

Saintly Sonny Vincent on the cover of his Resistor 7″.

On the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence –
through a curious transposition peculiar to our times –
it is innocence that is called to justify itself.

– Albert Camus*

In the 21st Century punk rock may seem a faint yelp from a remote and even somewhat quaint age when people could find solidarity in a hairdo.  Please consider that there really are Punks, people who have lived the fiercely wild and ill-advised life of the rock’n’roll rebel and have paid the price. As even Eddie Cochran knew, when you fight the law, you rarely win.  It doesn’t take courage to be a well-adjusted “winner” in a society bent upon its own destruction.  True courage is the courage to lose.  As Coilhouse is dedicated to exploring what it means for a culture to be truly alternative, it made perfect sense to track down an archetypal punk – someone whose life mirrors the reckless, passionate, uncompromising music he has made – and talk about a life lived on the limen between freedom and captivity.  If you dare to win, then dare to lose.

You won’t read about Sonny Vincent in the pages of Please Kill Me because he was too bitched out from kicking cigarettes to talk on the phone when Legs McNeil called him.  It’s like this: Sonny stood in the maternity ward when punk was born, was forcibly estranged from the infant, and has spent much of the next thirty years watching it grow up from the outside.  Of the more than 40 songs Sonny recorded in the 1970s, he only released a 7″ single, “Time is Mine“ bw “Together,” whose true irony lay in that its author would do time, hard time, and be forever cursed to live out of sync with the times whose ethos he personifies.

Like the relationship of one of Antonio Gramsci’s “organic intellectuals” to actual socialism, without characters like Sonny, punk would’ve been just a ripped t-shirt with some words scribbled on it. In short, Sonny has been too busy living punk to be a punk rock star, although nearly all of its actual stars have paid him the ultimate homage by playing on his records. Yes, that’s right, members of punk’s most influential bands – The Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols, The Stooges, the MC5, New York Dolls, Television, The Heartbreakers, The Voidoids, The Damned, The Dead Boys, Black Flag, The Replacements, Half Japanese, Sonic Youth, Rocket from the Crypt, Devil Dogs, and the Bellrays – have recorded with Sonny, and many have backed him on tour. Despite the respect of such rarefied peers, Sonny is literally unheard of among most fans of punk. He’s like a step-dad whose kid will never know him no matter what he does.

Sonny in a photo booth in Times Square, NYC. 1975.

Sonny’s story must be told before Hollywood ruins it by casting some pretty boy star from E.R. instead of an ex-con who knows the role from the inside. (Surely, Sonny could put you in touch with a lot of talented people who just need a break in life.) Sonny’s life and antics are more than legend – they are real. This is as true a story as you get in an age when it can be so hard to keep track of the truth. Remember: Johnny Cash never did hard time and he didn’t shoot anyone in Reno or anywhere else.

Sonny Vincent sung and slung a guitar in the Testors, who, from ‘76 to ‘79, played Max’s Kansas City and CBGB with acts like the Cramps and toured with the Dead Boys. Even before “punk” meant “rock,” Sonny was in and out of homes for bad kids, committed to mental wards, and was forcibly impressed into a tour of duty in Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corp by his abusive Foster Parents.  Since punk entered his life, Sonny’s been arrested in at least four different countries, episodically imprisoned, deported from Canada three times, and he’s fathered eight kids from five women.  This cat has not lived nine lives – he’s lived a thousand.  And he’s not done yet.

This is the first interview I’ve seen where Sonny actually tells us what happened and how it went down. In person and on the phone, Sonny comes across as meek, even a bit shy, about his life – like a dog that’s been beaten too much. Most of all, he’s cautious. So I assured him that, having done the crime and served the time, he may as well live to tell the tale. For much of it, he’s contrite. His is a cautionary tale of an artist rebelling with and without cause, and losing on both sides of Benjamin Franklin’s bourgeois Law of Relativity – both time and money have been lost.

(Full interview with Sonny Vincent under the cut.)

Help Build Steampunk’s Funeral Pyre

It’s been coming for a while. The steampunk penis pump, that Randy Nakamura article on Design Observer – steampunk fatigue has been a-circulatin’. But do not mourn Steam-boom’s passing! Let creativity thrive instead by entering Gizmodo’s “Final Nail in Steampunk’s Coffin” Photoshop contest.

We’ve seen enough normal gadgets covered in leather and brass to last a lifetime. It’s no longer new or interesting, and until someone makes a functioning airship, I don’t care about steampunk anymore. Let’s celebrate the life of steampunk while confirming its death with a Photoshop Contest, shall we? I want you guys to make some completely ridiculous steampunk gadgets as we give this trend the Viking funeral it so badly deserves.

Whether  you think Steampunk is, in fact, on its last breath, or just love to play with Photoshop, this could be fun! If I were any good with 3D modeling I’d enter a sweet pair of brass knuckles. Made of wood. With brass embellishments, oh yes. Hurry and submit your creation – all entires must be in by tomorrow morning!

Zo! Style Technician. September 15, 2008

This edition of Z!ST is brought to you by Space Channel 5 and everyone’s inner intergalactic mercenary. It’s been a while, and I’ve had time to accumulate some excellent tidbits to share with you. One of the few troubles with being, shall we say, not-so-tall is the eternal bunching of garments around the waist, which has led to my rabid love of cropped jackets and shrugs. As a bonus, this particular piece comes with pink contrast stitching that matches my glasses. And with the slow onset of fall The Layering begins once again – I couldn’t be happier.

At a glance it may be unclear why this admittedly bold outfit would suit a woman on a mission, but I assure you, it’s all perfectly functional. A hood to conceal your identity, an array of shiny baubles to distract the enemy, heels with protective padding for your best kicks all make for fine mission gear.  To the untrained eye you might look like a space hooker, but worry not – that never stopped Aeon Flux or the Silk Spectre.

Cropped jacket: by Tur:bo[wear] via.

T-shirt: Social Awearness

Bubble skirt: H&M

Tights: H&M

Legwarmers: gift from Hong Kong


Accessory details and more photos beyond the jump.

DAMN it, David Foster Wallace…

Author David Foster Wallace is dead. The self-effacing, hilarious, bitter genius behind Infinite Jest as well as Girl With Curious Hair and Brief Interviews With Hideous Men hanged himself at his home in Claremont, CA. His wife found his body late last night. He was 46 years old.

Here’s an excerpt of Wallace discussing Infinite Jest and what drove him to write it during an interview with Valerie Stivers in the late 90s. It’s as resonant a statement today as it was then, and far more heartbreaking:

I wanted to do something sad. I think it’s a very sad time in America and it has something to do with entertainment. It’s not TV’s fault, It’s not [Hollywood’s] fault and it’s not the Net’s fault. It’s our fault. We’re choosing this. We are choosing to spend more time sneering at hype machines, [while still] being enmeshed in them, than we are living.

[My] secret pretension…I mean, every writer wants his book to change the world, but I guess I would like to know if the book moved people. I assume that the future the book talks about, while it might be amusing, wouldn’t be a fun future to live in. I think it would be nice if the book could maybe make people think about some of the choices we are making, about what we pay attention to and give power to, so maybe the future won’t be quite that…glittery but cold.

Mission accomplished, man. Wish you could’ve stuck around. The future still needed your help.

Saturday Slate: Skulls and Metal

Angel City citizens! Are you staring at your walls, absentmindedly chewing pen caps and wondering what ever shall be done this Saturday night? In addition to a trusty Cemetery Screening, I have two evening suggestions for the restless.

For those with a keen interest in criminal psychology, history, grave-robbing or phrenology, The Machine Project hosts a free [yes, free] lecture by Colin Dickey titled Cranioklepty: A History of Phrenological Graverobbing.

With the rise of phrenology, the early 19th century saw a host of bizarre grave robberies, in which the graves of famous men were plundered for their owners’ skulls. Both scientific curiosities and morbid fetishes, the skulls became subject to extended legal battles between religious and secular authorities over who owns these remains, while phrenologists continued to study them for visible proof of genius.

I would be attending tonight, hammer and pick in eager hand, if it weren’t for a previous engagement. Which brings us to the other event sure to rock you right out of your knickers. If you share my secret penchant for melodic death metal, tonight is yours. Sonata Arctica will open for Nightwish at the wonderfully deco Wiltern theatre and tickets are still available, somehow. I’ll be there in my blackest black, summoning my inner darque viking. Finnish metal forevuhh!