SFJ: There’s a lot to talk about in that it mirrors the larger economy… You know, all the mergers that happened at the corporate level are now happening at the musical level. I was talking to someone who was handwringing about Spotify, a fellow musician who wrote an editorial, and when we were talking about the whole thing, he said, “You know, there’s no reason to yell at any particular party, because they all have equity in each other. It’s all one thing, and they’re completely aligned against the artist in every case.”
What we had in the ’90s was… what another very famous, huge record executive [said to me] in a very, very hilarious way. We went to his Fifth Avenue townhouse, gorgeous space, and he said—maybe I’ll give it away if I can do his accent properly—but he said [Affects accent.], “You know what this is? This right here? It’s stupid money. It’s CD money. That’s the kind of money that made dumb people feel smart.” You have the biggest fucking markup in retail history, and somehow in one winter, the music business—with Phillips leading the way—said, “Hey, that $7.99 album you love? Guess what? Your lucky day: You get to buy it for $18.99, it’s going to sound worse, and you have to buy fucking pieces of equipment.” And everyone said, “Great, I’d like to buy more of them please.” And so there was this incredible surplus of money. And then musicians like me [Frere-Jones played in the post-rock/punk-funk band Ui at the time. —ed.] get a day job doing very little at Columbia House, and go on tour, because those jobs existed.
Thanks to The Slipper Room for helping us out. You can listen to the episode here or catch it on iTunes, Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts.
Can’t front like I was the world’s biggest David Bowie fan in life, but reading about him after his death I’m getting more and more into the guy! From The New York Times:
After he became Ziggy Stardust, and a huge star, Mr. Bowie found refuge at the West 20th Street apartment of his publicist, Cherry Vanilla. In her memoir, “Lick Me,” she recounts how he would do brain-sizzling amounts of cocaine and drink milk for nourishment (no solid food in those years), and they’d rap about “power, symbols, communication, music, the occult, Aleister Crowley and Merlin the Magician.”
Says Cherry Vanilla:
David liked my apartment on 20th Street, and he also liked Norman Fisher’s coke, something for which he’d recently acquired an insatiable appetite and for which I had, of course, hooked him up. And since my days were winding down at Mainman, I guess David felt comfortable getting high with me and opening up about anything and everything that was on his mind. He spent many an evening, often an all-nighter, sitting in one of my canary-yellow enameled wicker chairs, doing lines, drinking milk (he never ate at all during this period), and telling me one crazy story after another — Defries and Adolf Hitler were buddies . . . Lou Reed was the devil . . .he himself was from another planet and was being held prisoner on earth — going on and on about power, symbols, communication, music, the occult, Aleister Crowley, and Merlin the Magician. I never did any of David’s coke (and, what’s more, he never offered). I just sat there, smoked my pot, sipped my Café Bustelo, and got totally into his rap. This was probably the period when I was most in love with him.
Sometimes David would busy himself with my record collection — Duke Ellington’s Live at Newport and the Ohio Players’ Skin Tightamong his favorite LPs. And occasionally he and I would have sex in my mirrored, mosquito-netted, dycro-lit, pink-satin bedroom, taking everything a bit further than we had that first time in Boston, and utilizing the many new sex toys I’d since acquired. One time, after I’d arranged for him to shop privately at the new Yves Saint Laurent boutique on Madison Avenue and get the most fabulous black wool overcoat, he came up the five flights of stairs to my apartment, and fucked me without ever taking off the coat and then left immediately to hang out with Mick Jagger. Bowie liked my bedroom so much, he even brought Claudia Lennear and Jean Millington (the other sister from Fanny) there for sex on occasion. I didn’t participate, but I got off on how much he appreciated the setting.
Really enjoyed this AV Club thing about Columbia House:
SFJ: Scattered through many musician interviews and oral histories, you hear a lot of stories of people early on who really did have no other way of getting music, and how important it was to them. And, even as a kid in Fort Greene [in Brooklyn], I subscribed to Columbia House because I wasn’t allowed to go buy things on my own yet. I would wait and wait for my ELO record. One of the most disappointing moments of my life was [when] I came back from vacation knowing that Kiss’ Alive II was going to be in my mailbox, and for some reason the son-of-a-bitch mailman, as if he didn’t know what he was doing, folded the fucking thing in half and put it through the slot.
All: [Rousing chorus of everyone groaning and saying, “Nooooooo!”]
Once, back when I lived in New York, I went down to Coney Island to have a look around. On Surf Avenue, there was a man with glasses, maybe sixty but energetic, and good-humored, standing behind a table, handing out fliers about some neighborhood development thing or another. He was opposed to it. I got to talking to this guy, and he brought up Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father, and the various destruction he’d done to Coney Island. To this man, Fred Trump was both laughable and a villain.
Some time after that I looked up Fred Trump’s obituary in The New York Times. He died in 1999. It’s a great obituary, written by Tracie Rozhon:
Frederick Christ (pronounced Krist) Trump was born in New York City in 1905. From World War II until the 1980’s, Mr. Trump would tell friends and acquaintances that he was of Swedish origin, although both his parents were born in Germany. John Walter, his nephew and the family historian, explained, ”He had a lot of Jewish tenants and it wasn’t a good thing to be German in those days.”
His father was a barber who arrived from Kallstadt, Germany, in 1885 and joined the Alaska gold rush. By the turn of the century, he owned the White Horse Restaurant and Inn in White Horse, Alaska, while also supplying food and lumber to the miners.
Fred Trump started a construction business at fifteen. With the money he made he paid for his kid brother to go to college and get a Ph.D.
”He made a great contribution; he filled a very big hole in the market,” Mr. LeFrak recalled. ”We took Queens; he did more in Brooklyn. He was a great builder who rallied to the cause like we did; he built housing for the returning veterans. I guess you could say we’re the last of the old dinosaurs.”
Fred Trump married a Scottish immigrant. When he died they’d been married 63 years.
His estate has been estimated by the family at $250 million to $300 million, but Mr. Trump did not believe in displays of wealth — with one exception. For decades, he insisted on a Cadillac, always navy blue, always gleaming, and always replaced every three years, its ”FCT” license plate announcing its owner wherever he went.
Fred Trump was frugal:
Mr. Trump was a demon for controlling costs. Besides collecting unused nails, Mr. Gordon said, Mr. Trump often performed the exterminating chores in his buildings by himself. ”He became an expert,” Mr. Gordon said.
When it was time to order the thousands of gallons of disinfectant necessary for his thousands of apartments, Mr. Trump gathered samples of all the available floor cleaners on his desk. ”Then he sent them out to a lab and found out what was in them and had it mixed himself,” Donald Trump recalled. ”What had cost $2 a bottle, he got mixed for 50 cents.”
What the guy on Coney Island didn’t like was the destruction of Steeplechase Park, told here by Wikipedia:
After acquiring the site in 1965, Fred Trump intended to build a low-cost housing development. Trump was unable to get a change to the zoning of the area, which required “amusements” only (largely due to the efforts of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce), and decided to demolish the park in 1966 before it could obtain landmark status. Trump held a “demolition party,” at which invited guests threw bricks through the Park’s facade. Trump bulldozed the majority of the park, save for a few rides and concessions stands, among them the Parachute Jump, that were along the boardwalk.
The housing development never happened though, and Coney Island is a bit of a wasteland.
The story of the demolition party is also told in this book:
This book is incredibly poignant. Charles Denson is a good writer, and his book is very personal. Some it is about how his memories of the park were tied up with his longing for his disappearing father.
NY Times obituary of Timothy Dowd, the detective in charge of finding Son Of Sam:
Ms. Begg said in an interview on Monday that her father had disdained television dramas about the police because they were unrealistic about police work — all except one, she said: “Columbo.” That series, especially popular in the 1970s, starred Peter Falk as an untidy, seemingly distracted detective in Los Angeles who solved cases by poking around in a practiced but random fashion and stumbling in the direction of a solution.
“That’s how it’s done,” she said her father explained to her.
In the biggest case of his career, when he finally came face to face with the killer, Inspector Dowd said he knew he would be able to discuss the crimes with him.
“I told him we had never abused him or criticized him in the press, and he agreed,” Inspector Dowd said at the time.
And Mr. Berkowitz’s first words to him?
“Inspector, you finally got me. I guess this is the end of the trail.”
Once Mayor Tom Menino of Boston came to speak at my high school. He was a terrible speaker, had a bad speech impediment. He said that when he was a kid he told his teacher, a nun, that he wanted to be an engineer when he grew up, so he could build bridges. The nun told him he wasn’t smart enough to be an engineer. So, he said, he became the mayor to build bridges between communities.
(photo by Jim Rogash, Getty Images, swiped from here)
2) This video is all over my Facebook. I have a tale of New York City street harassment.
One day in 2009 I was walking around looking for apartments with a real estate broker. The broker was an extremely attractive woman, the girlfriend of a friend. It was a really hot day, she was wearing like a bare-armed shirt thing under a jacket and she took the jacket off.
The catcalls and stuff yelled at her was INSANE. Like, at least ten dudes said something, most of it muttered after she walked past.
Now, being a self-absorbed dude, my reaction to this was fascination but also like “am I supposed to do something about this?” Like, “I’m walking with this woman, and presumably it could be my girlfriend or my sister or something, am I supposed to like beat up all these dudes? Because that would take a long time and also would by no means be a guaranteed victory.” She rolled with it as though it was no more significant than the squawk of pigeons but man.
Anyway, now I have successfully made this story about me.
Contra Joyce Carol Oates:
this was in Union Square and literally Washington Square Park and the heart of the West Village, also mostly white dudes.
I defer to Mero on this one:
Alert reader Tia in Manhattan writes:
Very excited for your new podcast. Are you following the Central Park Bear Mystery?
Tia, thanks for writing. Of course I am.
So, a dead bear was found in Central Park. Here are the facts we know, all from the NY Times:
- The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the results of a necropsy showed that the cause of death was “blunt force injuries consistent with a motor vehicle collision.”
- After revealing the results of the necropsy, Lori Severino, a spokeswoman for the state conservation department, said that the agency still did not know where the bear had come from, only that it was “likely not the park.”
- The Central Park Conservancy, which runs Central Park and provided preliminary information on Monday, had nothing to add on Tuesday. And a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, said it was no longer involved and did not wish to comment.
- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which has been dealing with a surging black bear population, had nothing to say.
- Calls were made to a retired Bronx homicide commander, Vernon Gerberth. “It wouldn’t be a police matter,” he said, “unless the bear was killed by a person, or if somebody was keeping it as a pet and brought it to the park. People are crazy.”
- Dr. Lana Ciarniello, a bear expert in Canada, said that most bear experts in the United States were attending a conference in Greece and would be hard to reach for comment. She could not make the trip, so she was able to offer her thoughts on the mystery.
- She also said that the bear’s gender might have some relevance: “From a biological standpoint, it’s highly unusual for a female bear cub to be so far from her mother. Mother bears make male bear cubs disperse far from her home range to prevent inbreeding, so it would be less unusual if this were a male bear cub.”
- While there was a bear foot found on a lawn in Queens in 2011, bears have not regularly been seen in New York City for decades.
- An entry in the 1916 edition of Valentine’s Manual of Old New York contains an account of bear hunting on Pearl Street from 1678.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys The Great Debates! Available here: