The other week, deep summer, we went to see David Johansen in his persona as Buster Poindexter. For many years now, Johansen, former New York Dolls lead singer and front flounce, has in his cabaret act been one of the great American songbook curators (Jonathan Schwartz wishes), lurking in the brilliant corners of U.S. pop. (Without Johansen I’d never have heard Katie Lee’s late-1950s pop-Freudian homage, Songs of Couch and Consultation, lead song “Shrinker Man.”) At the end of this particular set at City Winery, he called to the stage his wife Mara Hennessey, who announced that she had a particular favorite she’d like David to sing, whereupon she started to intone the line, “that summer feeling, that summer feeling, that summer feeling,” and Johansen took off into the lyrics. It was so haunting! I knew that song! What was it again? When I got home I looked it up and of course: Jonathan Richman’s “That Summer Feeling.” Astonishing song.
It was moving to read those final four pieces in First‘s tribute to Estrellita. Her writing (only one aspect of her work) seemed to just get better and better. At one point, stupidly, I thought the songy stuff was both contrived and oversimple, now it seems like the genius it was.
When I moved to a certain block in downtown Charlottesville with my ex in ‘93, Susan and I started noticing this Olds 88 (or was it a Cutlass Supreme? anyway something hilarious) always parallel-parked on the street. And it WAS old, beat out, gray. Across the back of the trunk was painted I BRAKE FOR OCD. This caught my attention since like Carmelita I was/am a sufferer. Side panels: TEXACO logo with that DO-NOT-ENTER circle painted over it, drops of blood dripping down. I could imagine talking to this person.
The James Allen exhibit “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America,” which opened in New York in 2000 and is now touring the country, deserves more than the pious attention it has received to date.