Damn You, Vin Scelsa

Not sure who these guys are but we probably all got stoned together, too.

One of the many advantages of living in fly-over country is excellent satellite reception; there are neither skyscrapers nor the attendant monstrous egos to block the signal. Unless one is camped out under a highway overpass in the vain (and possibly fatal) attempt at avoiding an onrushing tornado 1, folks here only have clouds and those CIA-sponsored contrails with which to contend.

So it is that while trapped in the office we usually have a Shrunken Planet podcast ripping through our ear buds., but on the road XM Radio’s The Loft  propels our little red car. Which is why over lunch yesterday, a little after Pavarotti finished something from Turandot (maybe Nessun Dorma; I was busy avoiding a homicidal semi and not fully engaged), I came to be listening to Mike Marrone call in on Vin Scelsa’s show and start talking about how he (Mike) got high a couple of times with John Belushi.

My first thought was – how unlikely. My second more uncharitable thought was – yeah right, everybody got high with someone famous back in the day – just ask them.

Which immediately seemed harsh and unfair because I suddenly recalled how in ’73 I got high with either Brewer or Shipley in the Ruskin High School parking lot. 2 As well as shared a doob once with Alice Copper backstage at the old Cowtown.

In ’79 I got high with The Tubes after their show in Oakland. And the same year (or maybe ’80) everyone in the audience got high with John Prine at an intimate San Diego gig. Hell, it was such a ridiculously outrageous night I think even the spandex clad wait-staff was blowin’ dope throughout that one. I remember looking at glass ashtrays adorning all the round white-clothed dinner tables and seeing nothing but roaches in them, keeping company with half finshed drinks with melting ice cubes littering the tables…


I know it was ’79 (Oakland again) at a little bar near Lake Merritt, just round the corner from that wonderful old broad the Grand Lake Theater, where I ran into Linda Ronstadt. We blew a couple and then…well, I wrote about that elsewhere.

And there were more folks passin’ through Uncle Charlie’s up in Marin than you could shake off your cowboy boots; a little town called Corte Madera and if you had an in with Fat Chance, you had an in with anyone playing there. Hell I blew dope with Huey Lewis’ band and roadies so many times I was convinced Lewis lived out back of the place…

As the 80s streaked on the tenor changed, energy was needed and what better medicinal than Bolivian marching powder? It added a certain zing! to the otherwise routine assignment of videoing President Ford falling down a relatively easy BLUE in Vail; yes…we didn’t exactly share any dope, but the vibe was there…

Aannnnd…damn you, Vin Scelsa!

He had done it again. Somehow I was parked back at work, no idea where I had just been or what I had done, listening to Scelsa’s Gal Friday mention she had never seen Animal House 3 4 and wondering how much longer I could play hooky before my cell started screaming.

Which was especially galling given the fact the first couple of times I heard Vin I hated him.

Maybe I missed the baton exchange, maybe there was a memo and (sleep deprived) I ate it instead of reading it. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but one day instead of Marrone spinning his usual mix of eclecticism there’s this old gasbag on the air talking his way through the dark and twisted forest on the way to grandmas’s house and absolutely no music. Shit! Shit shit shit!!!

Happened the second time I caught Vin’s show, too. Double shit.

The third time, however…nuthin’ but net.

I came in on James Brown’s It’s a Man’s World and disapparated for the next 40 minutes. When the music ended Vin started in on the set list and little by little, the prick, he drew me in with unseen threads and connections between the artists and the songs. I couldn’t quit listening.

It turned out Marrone was actually a gateway drug that led me to become addicted to Vin. Insidious bastards.

I started raving about the show to anyone who would listen and got back blank looks; Idiot’s Delight may well be standard fare Back East, but in the Midwest it’s more Johnny Dare. 5 I became –GASP– a bore on the subject. Finally I offered to drive a few people from the office to lunch one Wednesday; once I had them strapped into the car, I beamed in Vin’s show. Then I took the long way to our fave mexican place. On the way back to work I dawdled as well.

Walking into work one of the ladies commented, “I see why you like him; you guys could be brothers, the way you both go on about the hippy days (hippy days?) and who knew who…”

“Yeah,” another of my staff chipped in, “it’s like you tellin’ us about writing video arcade games, and who owned what, or when you did animation…”

“FOR STAR WARS,” the whole 4 person chorus of them harmonize.

“..or when you did that video for Candy Givens and shared a hot tub with her…”

“BUT NOT THE NIGHT SHE WENT DOWN FOR THE LAST TIME,” the fuckin’ Greek chorus again. 6

“Seriously,” the lady staffer again, “you old guys have some amazing stories. Thanks for sharing.”

Thanks for sharing? Wait…old guys?

And it hits me: holy fuck – nearly a generation of people have all become Vin Scelsa.

All of which is by way of saying that apparently, just apparently mind you, I have aged more that I care to admit. 7

Rock on, Vin, and Thor bless.

Keep on truckin’. 8


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Show 8 footnotes

  1. I’m looking at you, New Jersey plated, black airport limousine cruising east on (Kansas) I-70 at mile marker 387; hope you folks survived. Especially the buxom ladies poking through the moon roof shakin’ their bare beauties at passing traffic – dimwitted bravado should occasionally be rewarded.
  2. The duo were barely famous back then for one particularly topical song and certainly not above playing a gig in a high school gym: my little brother’s graduation as it turned out.
  3. Like totes unbelievable…unless she’s Scelsa’s 15 year old great niece. And even then? Dudette!
  4. Also? Is that, like, the first official degree of Kevin Bacon? If not -what flic, doyathink?
  5. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
  6. Though they’re right: forgot – I blew dope with her in Boulder a couple three times.
  7. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
  8. Oh, and Vin? If you have any suck with the Powers That Rule The Dog Star, could you, like, now that the overpriced New York DJ with the micro-dick is gone, as well as the Big O (whom I hear has retired to sit at the right hand side of God), and thus has freed up their exorbitant salaries, might we once again resume free Internet access to the shows? It’s not so much the 3 or 4 bucks a month, it’s actually the principle: I didn’t sign a contract with the Doggy, I signed one with XM, and just because the Doggy paid through its snooty snout for for XM –and overpriced micro-dick and O — is no reason to break faith with its user base. In any event, you might try that argument on them. Any lil’ thing you can do, that would be groovy. Thanks.

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