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August 30, 2001

WORST GIG # 386590 IN A SERIES OF 739144! (Pictured right: irate letter-writer Rob Labelle)

My band has had some bad shows but this was one of the all-time worst. Our first & only American Devices show in America was a disaster, due, as far as we're concerned, to appalling assembly line methods enforced in Manhattan to accommodate the endless onslaught of touring bands vying for attention there. Summer of '95 I was initially pleased to find out Lower Yeast Side club The Pyramid would have us & naively got us a gig there over the phone on verbal agreement with booker Lauren Rafiqui. Once there, following a grueling 8 hour ride cramped up against our equipment, we were told we had to be on by 8 PM instead of the 11 PM originally agreed on, so anybody I told that I knew in NYC to show up at 11 wasn't gonna see us. Their reasoning was that instead of 2 bands, they'd overbooked the evening with 8 & we weren't top priority. We ended up playing (tight as fuck) to the few friends who came with us (forced to pay admission) & a couple of disinterested roadies assembling the next band's amps on the dance floor. A girl we knew (who'd already paid) went out for a walk & then was given a hard time coming back in by Lauren (permanently perched on her barstool next to the door) & the bouncer. A fight between them all broke out. As we left in a huff, Lauren bellowed out how she'd never book another Montreal band. I think we did "Montreal" a favor. Member Rob Labelle surprised us all with the following letter he wrote her shortly after the fiasco to square things up:

Dear Lauren

Whew! What a ride! We should have fastened our seatbelts! From the moment we walked down those stairs off Avenue A, until we emerged outside on the street again, The Pyramid really packed a punch as being a premier New York punky-wunky club!

But what makes a club a club? Or for that matter, what makes a scene, like a cool rock scene, what it is? It's not just the atmosphere of a storage room, the broken monitors of an ancient PA system, the soundman standing behind a huge board with one wire leading into one mike which doubles as a hammer. Although The Pyramid has all those things, it has something else, something that can be overlooked when one is dazzled by decor. It has personality. That's what really makes the scene what it is. And, Lauren, at the core of that personality is you.

The first thing we become aware of after making our way down the stairs, after our eyes accustom themselves to the murky light, is your round dark form perched on a stool at the bar. But even before that, we've probably heard a sound, a kind of undulating wave, a hollow nasal pitch that resonates throughout the room. We soon discover that this is the sound of your voice. It is angry, defiant, full of chutzpah & verve -very New York - & when we hear it we know we have arrived! All evening long it dominates the scene, is the scene. The muttering confusion of the soundman, the threatening poise of the doorman, even the demure cowering barmaid, all seem to be emanations of yourself. At your central spot you command control.

Biographers & historians often try to explain & locate the reasons why certain personalities rise to the top. What gives them that spark? Sometimes simple physical traits & quirks can be attributed to the cause of the greatest events in history. Some say it was Alexander's aversion to sea food that drove him inland, forcing him into battles that led him to conquer all the known world. It was a hiatus hernia & not seduction that kept Cleopatra in a reclined position during her fabled meeting with Mark Antony.

But, Lauren, what is the secret behind your success? Is there some physical anomaly that has pushed you into being the queen of The Pyramid? Since returning to quiet, drab Montreal, The American Devices have been trying to figure that one out. We've pieced together all the events that each of us can remember from the night we were fortunate enough to experience your presence, and by process of elimination, one common thread has emerged. All of us have noted that throughout the evening whenever you were seen, you were seated on that bar stool, and, perhaps most importantly, in your absence, this bar stool was also missing!

At first, we thought that the thing was quickly removed by the doorman every time you lifted yourself off it, but judging by the fact that he spent a good part of the evening harassing the few patrons that ventured into the club, we doubted he had time to do this, especially without any of us noticing. Another aspect of the mystery is the testimony of several shell-shocked patrons who swear you possess a long black rigid tail which drags behind you. All these clues have led us to the conclusion that the top portion of the bar stool is lodged in the interior of your rectum, perhaps as far up as the ascending colon.

Obviously such a condition must be the main contributing factor to your altered sense of ego, the force that gives you such drive. If the rectum is blocked in such a way, impacted shit would surely cause poisons to be filtered back into the system. The known effects on the brain in such cases are: delusions of grandeur, selective dementia, & theatrical aggressivity. All of these symptoms were observed by us during the evening.

We can only guess at the cause of such a situation, for judging by the size and weight of other, similar bar stools in the club, yours could not have been inserted in such a way by yourself. It must be the result of some act of aggression, perhaps one that happened some time ago. Was it perpetrated by another rock band, unhappy with their sound or the fact that they weren't paid? Perhaps it is the result of an altercation with some current or past rock god who visited The Pyramid. We've heard that such figures can get quite ornery when certain arrangements are not provided for. But we asked ourselves, Lauren, how such a painful, as well as medically dangerous condition could have been tolerated over an extended period of time. Surely a simple surgical procedure could extract this foreign object. It must be that you don't want it removed. There must be a psychological attachment between yourself and the dark, offensive cylindrical metal lodged in your body's lower cavities. Perhaps you hang on to this terrible affliction in a rimming reminder of your "brush with greatness."

This type of bond between victim and aggressor is quite common. The effects of such a bond can cause the victim to become attached to and even eroticize the physical remnants (wounds, etc.) of the original act of aggression. In the case of a rectal obstruction, the victim may even be under the delusion she/he is "controlling" the situation by holding & retaining the object.

So, although The Pyramid & you, Lauren, are at the center of the coolest rock scene in the coolest city in the world, all you're really doing is externalizing the struggle going on within your own body. One could say it's a simple cry for help, or, to describe it more aptly, a loud, obnoxious whine. Some of us seriously considered answering this cry for help, contacting a good professional & sending him or her down to investigate. We are sure that after the initial surgery of extraction, which at this point would cause serious physical trauma (these things have a way of "taking" if left in the lower cavities long enough), several months of strict negative reinforcement therapy would rid you of these delusions. But, we asked, what if 911 existed at the time of Van Gogh? Perhaps a heavy Ritalin & Prozac combination therapy would have resulted in the saving of his right ear, but would the Sunflowers be hanging in the Tate Gallery today?

Sometimes it is the product of the mind that is more important than its health, like a twisted plant that produces a beautiful flower. And you are one such twisted plant, Lauren. So, rather than sending down a battery of experts to straighten you out, we thought, if anything, we should be seeking ways to continue and preserve your madness. Rock scenes are ephemeral things, & while the one you have created surrounds & supports you now, it may disappear with the passing years. We strongly believe you should be at the center of something much more enduring. After much thought, we came upon this simple but fitting solution. The Pyramid, living up to its name, should be sealed off. Sandstones should be imported from the banks of the Nile to fill the stairway, & for all eternity, you & your staff may bitch, stomp & howl your way into the afterworld. Then, after the millennia, archaeologists digging up New York, will find you perfectly preserved, your iron throne having petrified your entrails, the rarified air having dried & contracted your skin around the oval of your open mouth. Like Tutankhamun, who reigned for a few brief years in Upper Egypt, but now reigns forever in the museums of the world, you will be so poised in some future place, where untold future generations may file past you and compare you to another icon of our era: the coyote from the Roadrunner cartoons after a bomb has exploded in his face!

But before all this is done, however, there is (unfortunately!) a small matter to be settled. The original agreement provided for a payment of $2.00 on each ticket paid at the door to those patrons asking to see The American Devices. Somehow that payment was overlooked on the night of the concert. We counted our audience at six people, which would mean that the club owes The American Devices $12.00 AMERICAN. This payment can be made by certified check or money order & sent to enclosed address.


August 23, 2001


One of my fondest junk food memories comes courtesy of The Colonel back when I was a little brat. Every once in a Friday, I remember my mom would complain how she didn't feel like cooking. When she'd suggest Kentucky Fried Chicken, I'd jump for joy. To be the officially appointed carrier of the bucket in the back seat of the car was not only an honor but an opportunity for me to sneak my infantile digits through the cover's finger-holes & pinch off whatever crisp of skin I could snatch n' pop into my mouth before my pop could detect anything thru the rearview mirror. Even rumors circulating among neighborhood pals that the reason why those chunks of chicken came in such oddball shapes was because rats in the factory warehouse bit them apart that way couldn't curb my craving for The Colonel's "Special Sauce." There was something intoxicating about holding that big warm bucket home & aiming my nostrils at whatever streams of greasy steam were escaping to take as long an inhalation of salty, juicy "southern-fried" clumps I could. About once a year I still cave in & get a bucket of Kenfucky (w/extra Classic Sauce I could just drink straight from the cup) but it never fails: immediately afterwards I always feel disappointed, ripped off & then guilty for having spent so much on the crap.

My mom might have inadvertently encouraged my affinity for junk food by having marveled at the packaging & practicality of the phenomenon back when it was still in its infancy & more of a novelty than a heart attack. I sampled McDonald's before they were anywhere near our hometown vicinity on a family vacation to the States. The fact that I bother to remember this minor event at all makes me wonder just what it is they did to make junk food outlets so eternally appealing to kids (when Ronald McDonald wasn't so prominent). Both Kentucky & Mcdonald's boasted "Special Sauces." Both housed their wares inside of dollhouse-like take-out joints that seemed to come out of the same mold, with each their own color combo & cartoony corporate logo. A friend in the T-shirt business once told me Mcdonald's actually OWNS a particular color combination. Anyone using it is susceptible to a lawsuit of some kind. This friend had his business cracked down on when it was brought to their attention he was peddling humorous "Ronald McMurderer" T-shirts to his punk rock clientele. He got away with a warning because he was smalltime but they destroyed his designs in front of his face. You don't mess with the big boys.

That didn't stop me from running to Mcdonald's when they introduced "McRibs." TV commercials baffled me enough to have to experience "McRibs" in person. Ribs by definition are made up of bones & I was highly skeptical that Mcdonald's could include the potentiality for choking to death in any of their fun-foods. Sure enough McRibs was barely edible but well worth the price of admission. I marveled at how they could pop mashed up pork-like product out of a mold to look somewhat like a row of tidy symmetrical ribs (camouflaging the seams with syrupy-sweet dark BBQ sauce). It came as a sandwich but I'm sure the first thing everyone did once they sat face to face with the thing was examine the contents as suspiciously as me.

Even hospitalization couldn't stop me from playing with my food. Years ago when an accident had me in intensive care for a week, I was fed intravenously & eventually had to learn how to chew & digest all over again. Then I was transferred to the regular hospital area to recuperate. A couple of well intentioned nutritionists came to visit & spoke of fruits & vegetables, proper eating habits & healthy dieting. They offered to come around every once in a while & teach me more but I rudely told them I wasn't interested. All there was to do all day was watch TV & the new fast food gimmick being advertised at the time (which I hadn't yet tried) was Burger King's "Mini-Burgers." Instead of buying one ordinary burger you could buy 2 or 3 cute 'n' cuddly miniature versions that amounted to the same thing for the same price. I begged a friend who often visited to smuggle some in for me against hospital regulations. Were they ever disappointing. The buns were disproportionately large & they were too dry overall but it was worth it because the packaging & concept fascinated me, plus I was the first one on my block to try them out. I'm sworn off Muck Dognalds for good now though, ever since the last cheeseburger I ate there (last January when I was so broke I couldn't resist their impossibly low prices). It gave me instant exploding diarrhea.

August 16, 2001

POETRY CORNER: F-MINUS IN HIGH SCHOOL! (Pictured below: drawing of mine that accompanied my high school newspaper poetry submission circa mid-seventies)

Before being bitten by the punk rock bug, in high school I used to wanna BE Jimi Hendrix even though he'd been dead over half a decade (& despite having never touched a guitar in my life). I used to cultivate a honky 'fro & try to dress like a hushpuppied version of him (thanks mom). Also carried around a crappy picture-bio of his everywhere I went like it was my bible. But the closest my marijuana-addled mind figured it could come to emulating his acid-fried noggin was by scribbling stream-of-consciousness psychedelic LP liner-note-styled hippie ramblings every chance I got, often to accompany my horrendous Peter Max/Robert Crumb inspired sketchbook doodles of the day. My English teacher read the "poem" below from the school paper it was published in & went out of her way to single out in front of the whole class just how utterly devoid it was. Her insults bounced right off me though, 'cause I knew full well it was a piece of crap so I kept my trap shut (not that I could utter anything coherent in my defense). She thought she had some kind of insight because she used to brag about how she frequented hip Montreal cafes back in the swinging sixties where Hendrix would make occasional unannounced appearances. Arrogant bitch. Thank fuck for punk rock.


by Rick Trembles circa 1975

"Guess what," the cow said mooing rapidly in circulatory motions, "I'm not licking my beans for no snot-suckin' pot-fart like Bifznoski!"

The next day, they weren't quite up to it & decided not to at all, while fixing the white lilly-horsed cabins nearing the woodburns. "We shouldn't, don't you agree? …Shouldn't we not?"

Wilbert, challenging the runners up not to, walked toward baby twenty, smiling a tim-buck lace. Later, they slept, dreaming of storage rooms plentiful in color, with lillyput-men dancing gleefully towards the forbidden door.

As the door turns open, life goes on in the merry-go-round of the business world. Power-happy money-mongers rush day by day, unaware of their soon-to-be evident self-destruction.

Lady Back couldn't make up the hill, but left room for one more. One borns quicker than one dies, populating more, nearing… towards… ?

August 9, 2001

THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING & BECAME MIXED-UP SLEAZOID EXPRESS! (pictured right: cherished, sticky, dog-eared S.E. 1984 issue)

In honor of this week's review of grindhouse classic Cannibal Holocaust, I thought I'd plug an all-time favorite 80's zine, Sleazoid Express that I recently found out has been resurrected. What Joe Bob Briggs was to the drive-in Bill "Mr. Sleazoid" Landis was to NYC's inner-city "grindhouses." In the early-to-mid-eighties his brand of investigative journalism smudged distinctions between spectacle & spectator by coloring film reviews as much with the characters peopling the rundown neighborhood smut houses they were screened in as with the taboo-obliterating transgressions flavoring the films themselves. Sleazy occurrences transpiring onscreen described in microscopic detail (& type) seemed only to mirror & pale in comparison to what sleazebags were doing in the aisles (psychos, winos, transvestites, junkies, pickpockets, hustlers, tricks, etc…). My only issue from the eighties was a travelogue through Mr. Sleazoid's pre-gentrified NYC lower-yeast-side world of "grizzled," impoverished zombie Mangrannies, Popeyes, Poppos, Gummos ("half man, half Buddha, ALL man"), Shrunken Heads, & Ones (named for all they could afford to cop). Pre-disco polyester & platform soft-funk crooners records (hailed the perfect backdrop for nodding out & dubbed "velour soul," I.E.: The Delfonics, The Mad Lads, etc...) are rated on his scale of whether or not they "remained in the unsellable pile during Mr. Sleazoid's summer habit." You see, Mr. Sleazoid put himself wholeheartedly into his work, blending in with the natives as far as getting busted copping dope & thrown in the slammer (accompanied w/photos & excruciating descriptions via diary entries right down to what kind of incarcerated ethnic types he had to hide burgeoning boners from during withdrawal). An incomparable, tattered tour of skid row 'hoods no doubt long gone by now.

Well Sleazoid Express is back & a book seems immanent as well (from Simon & Schuster). Did you know John Waters ranked the shock value of Pasolini's Salo (1976) with an A+ for beauty & reacted to it with nothing but reverence? Did you know that the cofounder of the mondo-movie, Gualtiero Jacopeti was a pedophile? Did you know there was a movie directed by Serge Gainsbourg starring Jane Birkin & Joe Dallesandro all about: anal sex? (Check out the J'taime, Moi Non Plus (1975) review in the "Rear Entry" section of the summer 2000 issue). Other choice section highlights include Forty Deuce Sadist Shockers, White Trash Sharkbait, Cannibal Sadism, & The Cinema Of Cruelty all written w/anecdotes about having seen the films the way they were meant to be; trapped inside theaters that made you fear for your life. The new Sleazoid reads a little like Psychotronic Video Magazine but with a decidedly more perverse bent a la Hollywood Babylon. Coincidentally or not Bill Landis also wrote an excellent unauthorized & gossipy-a-la-Kenneth-Anger Kenneth Anger biography.

Did you know Montreal had it's own grindhouse? No, Mr. Sleazoid didn't report on this particular tidbit. I used to frequent the run down Crystal at the old red light district on St-Laurent & St-Catherine up until the mid-to-late eighties when it folded. Horror/Porn/Kung Fu triple-bills ran for dirt cheap 24/7. I drew a comic about coming this close to being assaulted by a french-cussing "mangranny" while studiously trying to watch a golden shower epic (click here to see the strip). I suppose "grindhouse" remnants still remain in MTL in the form of several still-existing (unfortunately video-only) porn theaters. Last time I was inside Cinema L'Amour on Duluth & St-Laurent to take sketches for a strip I was doing on ornate movie-houses of yesteryear (see it here), I caught in the corner of my eye a handful o' homegrown "grizzled" Mangrannies, Popeyes, Poppos, Gummos, & Shrunken Heads happily giving each other hand-jobs in the back row to the hetero-generic gynecology occuring onscreen.

August 2, 2001


Can't believe I actually made it out of town for a couple days. Haven't been outside Montreal for years. At the very last minute I managed to haul my ass out to Manhattan's CBGB's Gallery last week thanks to a carload full of Montreal cartoonists splitting costs on a rental (air-fucken-conditioned to boot)! It ended up costing less than taking the bus. Rupert Bottenberg, Eric Braun, Henriette Valium, Rick Gagnon & me stuffed our carcasses into a mini-van & blasted cheesy tunes (Braun sang along to MÁH-NÁ-MAH-NÁ, Valium jumped for joy to Sweet's greatest hits) all the way to the rotten apple to witness our artworks on walls side-by-side with the greats. Me & Rick Gagnon had a good snicker watching bug-eyed Braun ever-so-unsubtly eyeball a jail-bait Britney Spears lookalike, panty elastics yanked over her waistline, lined up at the Taco Bell somewhere in semi-rural NY State. He told us later he was sodomizing her with his eyes (I think we all were). We all contributed to Danny Hellman's cause, the excellent anthology, Legal Action Comics, devised to help raise funds for him to pay off legal fees from being sued by a humorless cartoonist offended by an email prank Hellman pulled (read all about it ad nauseam at Hellman's site). They're freaken sue-happy down there! Anyhow, the 256 page book is gorgeous, boasting submissions from the likes of Crumb, Spiegelman, Spain Rodriguez, Kim Deitch, Mike Diana, Julie Doucet. Palled around with Mike Diana. Valium was pulling his leg bowing down to him in worship. Gabbed briefly with one of my all time favorite classic undergrounders Kim Deitch. He told me he'd been to Montreal twice before, once in the early 60's when he was in the merchant marines ("it was a good way to get laid") & later with his mom when she was looking for Eskimo art. Peak Manhattan heat-wave actually did my asthma some good. Me & Rupert went to a dilapidated lower east side hole-in-the-wall for drinks before the show & the waitress was so happy when he squished a clumsy cockroach the size of a small mouse on the bar (next to the head of a passed out patron) that she gave him a free beer. The vernisage started off with free red & white wine so I got wasted. Eric Braun looked so shitfaced-drunk when I got there I just had to slap him in the face. By the time he responded I was already across the room. It was only a tap, but he insists it was a major affront. I feared vengeance in the car-ride back but all I had to suffer through were his armpits & occasional farts (he didn't bring a change of clothes). On the way back Valium was threatening to do a comic about us like the one he did about his trip to some comix nerds convention he went to in the States last year (which became his contribution to Legal Action Comics). He said he was gonna draw me as a piece of Silly Putty (?). The piece I had up at CBGBs was a signed & numbered Cows poster print. Hellman actually framed the fucker under glass. Beautiful. I told him to sell it for whatever he wants & put the money towards his legal crap. I yammered through most of the bands with various locals & transplanted Montrealers now living in NYC that came to check out the exhibit. By the time all-girl band Mz. Pakman came on to close the night I had a good buzz, kicked back & thoroughly enjoyed their lo-fi garage-punki-wunkiness. They've got a psycho-sexy mesmerizing clunkiness to them you just can't fake. Singer/cartoonist Jenny Gonzalez (also a contributor to LA Comics) flirted with some kind of knife all over her body on stage. The friend I was staying with danced to them incessantly (she was the only one). I told Pakman they were "craptastic" & swapped a tape of my band for one of their CDs. I warned Jenny that my band sucks because I was in awe of their craptasticness. They do a cover of "Maneaters (Get off the Road)" from Herschell Gordon Lewis' She Devils On Wheels (1968). Apparently, Hellman sold out his supply of books for that night. For all the longwindedness of Hellman's legal affairs, my split-second trip to NYC this summer was a breezy, lightheaded affair I won't soon forget. Tee hee. FREE DIRTY DANNY! Find Legal Action Comics in Montreal at Fichtre.

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