Archive for the ‘rock music’ Category


Four winters ago, toward the end of my Hollywood period, my wife Carol, Leila, and I house-sat for the woman who directed Skipped Parts: the movie. She and her husband had this monster truck of a house that the Welch family of Welches Grape Juice and Jelly built under the Griffith Observatory there in Griffith Park. The Welches planted grapevines all over the mountain that is now an upscale L.A. neighborhood. The house had six marble staircases, a veritable nightmare for a couple with a two-year-old daughter. More than once I called Carol on the cell phone because I couldn’t find her, even though I knew she was somewhere in the house.

Tamra, the director, who is wonderful in every way, is married to a nice guy named Michael Diamond who is in a band called the Beastie Boys. They had some interesting friends, coming in and out of the house. On their son’s birthday, Michael, whose friends call him Mickey D., played disc jockey all afternoon while the kids yelled and ran through the garden and down by the pool. I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs he played. They were all on vinyl record albums.

Normally, it would be bad form for a house-sitter to mention this stuff, but they have since moved, so I think it’s okay now. I enjoyed the winter, in spite of the constant struggle to keep Leila from tumbling down steps. They had a screening room where we watched eight-foot tall Telly Tubbies dance and fall down backwards. Imagine that.

. . telletubs.jpg

But this blog is not about house-sitting; it’s about fan mail. You see, street kids in L.A. stand on the corners of major intersections selling these things called Star Maps. Tourists buy them and drive around Hollywood, looking for the houses where their favorite movie stars live. So far as I know, the Star Map addresses are wrong. For instance, they gave the address where we were staying as belonging to Brad Pitt. This was back when he was still with Jennifer Aniston, so far as anyone knew.

Later, I asked Tamra and neither Brad Pitt nor Jennifer Aniston had ever lived there. Neither had ever visited the house or lived nearby, but this didn’t stop a daily dribble of cars from driving by the front gate while tourists craned their necks and sometimes even touched our mailbox. Once or twice a week, an airplane or helicopter swooped over the pool and some pushy type leaned out to take my daughter’s photograph.

Once we got past the fear of a nutcase fame-chaser climbing over the fence, we weren’t bothered by the gawkers. Heck, we probably would have had tourists anyway, if they’d known it was a Beastie Boy house.

But the thing was — the mail. Brad and Jennifer got a lot of mail. Someone must have posted the address on the internet. It tapered off later, but the first few weeks brought ten or twenty letters a day. I guess if I’d known where Brad lived I could have boxed up his mail and taken it to him. It would have made a nice icebreaker with Jennifer. But I didn’t know and I don’t think they wanted the mail anyway, so I did what any other normal American would do with a pile of unsolicited mail addressed to Brad Pitt — I opened it.

Not all of it, of course. I had better things to do, like watching eight-foot tall Telly Tubbies jump out of holes in artificial turf. But I opened enough to get the general drift.

I used to receive fan mail myself. Nothing like Brad and Jennifer, mind you, but enough to establish a pattern. Very few were scary. Most of the writers said they enjoyed my books and I should keep writing. Sometimes, guys who’d recently lost girlfriends would get drunk and write these two a.m. twelve-page rave-ons, putting down all the pain they would never dump on their friends. A surprising number of girls wrote to tell me how their boyfriends were in bed.

“I don’t much like him and I would break up with him but he’s so good at . . . ” and then they would describe a procedure I’m not sure is physically possible.

A number of letters started out, “I always wanted to write Such-and-So but then he died, so I decided I should write you before you die.” My not dying years ago seems to have gratified many readers.

Very rarely, someone would say, “I’ve had such an interesting life, everyone tells me I should be a writer. How about if I tell you my story and you type it up and we’ll split the money.” These letters tended to come from guys in prison. My theory is Sex and Sunsets was one of the few hardbacks with Sex in the title, so it sold well in prison libraries. Whatever the cause, I used to be the swamp where prison mail went to die.

Nowdays, I don’t get much post office reader mail. It comes in over MySpace or the Timsandlin.com guest book. I enjoy hearing from readers, although the occasional angry person can be trying. I got a message the other day from a man who said he would have been a best-selling author if he lowered himself to writing sex scenes, the way I do. Humorous fiction brings out the hate in people.

But enough about me, let’s get back to Brad Pitt: Before I grew bored and quit reading his mail, I probably opened twenty letters and not one followed the drift that I get in my mail. No one said, “I like your work,” or “Congratulations, Brad!” or even “I wanted to write you before you died…” Every letter to Brad wanted something from him.

They wanted him to read their script. They wanted him to get them a job as a producer. They wanted him to introduce them to Jennifer Lopez. A lot of them started out, “You’ve had luck and I’ve never had luck and I deserve to be as famous as you, therefore you owe me . . .” So on. So forth. A bunch came at once demanding that he stop smoking on screen. It must have been a campaign because those all hit in one week, then stopped. Any number of the letter writers simply wanted money. Postal spare-change artists.

So, here are the morals to my story: First, don’t write Brad Pitt, asking him to do something for you- The address is wrong. Second, don’t write the federal government and tell them I opened Brad’s mail. I will deny it. Third, don’t write me, asking me to stop smoking on screen. I don’t smoke and I’m not on anyone’s screen. Fourth, don’t go looking for any Beastie Boys over by Griffith Park. They moved. Fifth, don’t send me a CD and ask me to forward it to Mickey D. I don’t know him that well. I was his house-sitter, for Chrissake.

I can’t think of a sixth.


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So Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty came out in a large print edition. That’s never happened with my books before but then I’ve never written a book about sex and drugs in nursing homes before. It seems kind of apt. One of my favorite words — apt.
Only this message isn’t about senior citizens on trips. It’s about Cranford Nix. Sorrow Floats is about an alcoholic woman who drives around town with her baby on the roof and then hauls a load of illegal Coors to the East Coast with some AA guys. Right after it came out, I got a lot of mail from alcoholics and drug addicts, saying nice things such as the book understood them and AA books usually don’t. A number gave my heroine Maurey the credit for them taking a shot at the sober life. There was very little if any follow-up, so I don’t know what percentage made it. I know a book can change a reader’s life.
One of the letters was from a musician named Cranford Nix. He was a heroin addict who, at the time he wrote me, had cleaned up. He said my book was something he could relate to, then he went on to speak fondly of heroin, as if she was a woman he loved but couldn’t live with.
I wrote back and said he had a cool name and I wanted to use it in a book. He sent me a tape of the most painful music I’ve ever heard. Songs screaming of loss. Unenduarable pain. They were love songs, or lost love songs, to heroin. I knew it was great stuff, but I didn’t see a lot of commercial potential. Then, after a few letters, swapping junkie stories back and forth, he drifted off.
Fast forward a few years and I got a letter from someone, a woman as I recall, telling me Cranford was dead. He’d O.D.ed. For some reason, I don’t remember, I ended up hearing from both his sister and mother. His mother is a sweet woman and proud of her son. She wanted me to know he didn’t die from heroin, but from mixing bad pharmaceuticals. It mattered to her that he hadn’t gone back to heroin. Someone sent me a video of Cranford being interviewed on TV by a Florida junior leaguer type who would have had more in common with a Martian. In musical terms, Cranford was to Gram Parsons what Captain Beefheart was to Frank Zappa. Same direction only a light year farther out past the barrier.
I used his name in Honey Don’t as the poet who was destroyed by a critic. My Cranford was black, schizophrenic, and at the end of the novel he had the President’s head on a paper plate in his hovel of a hide-out under some government building. The Smithsonian or someplace.
Now all this might be interesting, or might not be, but then it goes strange. I wrote this blog last week, after I was telling Tiffanie DeBartolo about Cranford. Tiffanie wrote How to Kill a Rock Star and she collects singers who are in pain and not afraid to let it show. After I wrote the blog and before I posted it, I got one of those My Space comments from Cranford’s wife. First off, I didn’t know he had a wife and second, I hadn’t spoken his name is six or seven years before last week, much less written about him.
My own private Twilight Zone episode.
His wife seems remarkably sane, considering she was married to Cranford. She said he died in the bathroom, and one of my postcards was taped to the mirror.
Right before Honey Don’t came out I Googled Cranford, just in case using a real person’s name might cause problems. (It can and has.) And I discovered he had a much bigger cult following than I do. Or did. The kid was loved. I wish he’d known that.

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