Celebs Behaving Badly: New York City Edition

This is the latest in an ongoing gossip marathon but I’m calling it a memoir, so bite me. Be sure to see Celebs Behaving Badly, Celebs Behaving Badly: CalArts Edition, and Celebs Behaving Badly: Burbank Edition.

Copyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Glorious Pile of Rubell

I used to go to Studio 54 with my pal David, the handsomest gay man in the world. (Sorry, also-rans. Is what it is.)

David, Copyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

David, Copyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Co-owner Steve Rubell was always out front, personally cherry picking who could go in. He’d be all “You, you, and you but not you.”

David and I breezed past the eternal line of bridge-and-tunnel losers. Well actually, David breezed by them and I got in too, because Date of Handsomest Gay Man. He coulda breezed into Fort Knox.

One night David and I spilled out of a cab in front of Studio and scrambled straight for the front door. Rubell stopped us.

Well actually, he stopped me. My outfit was something best described as Raquel Welch’s costume in One Million Years B.C. Or as David put it, “Ohmygod you’re not wearing anything!”

He got over it. But Steve, he no likey.

“C’mon!” I said to him. “You always let me in!” which he had no reason to remember. He was totally blasted on … something. He looked me up and down, all bug-eyed and weaving (him, not me). Finally he said okay because a fight was breaking out that he had to go supervise. I think that was the night David and I shared a couch with Lee Radziwill and Jay North.

West Side doorman Steve Rubell - Copyright © 2017 Robin Platzer/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

West Side doorman Steve Rubell – Copyright © 2017 Robin Platzer/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Lifecycle A-Go-Go

Way back when, I used to write for cycling magazines. They made me attend the annual ritual of mass consumption, Boogerbike or whatever it was called. It was a trade show held at a venue nobody misses now, the New York Coliseum. The Coliseum was less like a place where gladiators would’ve hung out and more like a dirigible hangar. (Later Biketastic moved to the Javits Center, then to Philly, then I stopped going.)

Tedious as these shows were, they did have their moments. I met his highness Eddy Merckx and the delightful Georgena Terry, from whom I bought a delicious custom frame. But mostly Bikegasm was endless displays of fredware and birdseed energy bars. One magazine I worked for wanted me to write up the launch of a stationary bike called Sit-N-Spin. I am not making this up.

As you might imagine, the swag in the vast crapscape that was Bikerteria generally sucked. So I was thrilled the time I scored a huge poster of Connie Carpenter.

She was all kinds of hot that year, having just won the Coors Classic and Nats, and gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships. She was a force of nature, that girl. Also really cute. (You young’uns might know her better as the mom of three-time national champ Taylor Phinney, a 2017 Tour de France rider for Cannondale.) Someone I knew who raced her told me, “When Connie makes up her mind to win, everyone else may as well go home because what the hell’s the point?”

Anyway, I was so excited to get this great poster with her on it that I had to pee. I ducked into the Bikerama can, and holy macaroni — there’s Connie Carpenter herself! In the flesh! By which I mean buck nekkid!

She’d been biking around town and was changing into street clothes, so she’d look less smelly at the booth of the company she repped. We’re not supposed to see superheroes out of costume. But sh!t happens, especially to me. I was so embarrassed, I spun outta there like a motorized dreidl.

Everything worked out okay, though. A little later I found her at the Cannondale booth, where she graciously autographed my poster and laughed at me for running away. She was adorable! And I still have her poster.

The magnificent Connie Carpenter - Copyright © 2017 Getty Images

The magnificent Connie Carpenter – Copyright © 2017 Getty Images

Haute Cloture

I used to design artsy fartsy fashions. (See Celebs Behaving Badly for a brutal play-by-play.) One of the first places I tried to sell them in New York was Julie: Artisans’ Gallery.

There really was a Julie — Julie Schafler — and there really was a colon in her store’s name. It was on Madison Avenue in the 60s. I don’t think it’s there anymore, but here’s a Groupon. Let me know.

Julie Artisans' Gallery - Photo Copyright Julie Artisan's Gallery

Julie: Artisans’ Gallery – Photo Copyright Julie: Artisans’ Gallery

The store was famous for wild one-of-a-kind artisanal clothes and accessories. I introduced Julie to my already-made stuff, which she liked but not enough to buy any. Instead, she wanted me to custom-make something just for her: patchwork leather gloves slathered with beads. Like an idiot I said okay.

Meanwhile, the only customer in Julie’s store did want to buy something I’d brought in: the fancy leather suit bag I’d made to transport samples to buyer meetings. I was happy to sell it to her. I was happy to sell anything.

I really wanted into this store. It got lots of publicity and the prices were crazy stupid high. Assuming Julie would double my wholesale price for her hapless customer as is customary in retail, I asked her for an economical $700. “That’s not enough,” Julie said and marched away.

Not enough? What the actual f⊔⊏k?

While she was off doing who knows what, I met the customer she’d been yapping at  through a curtain about her “jet-setting husband,” as if she had no money or identity of her own. Not that there weren’t shoppers like that in Manhattan. But blow me down! Out of the dressing room stepped Ann Turkel, one of the hotter-than-a-rope-burn supermodels of the late 1960s.

She was on the cover of every magazine I ever loved. She’d just begun acting (soon to star in one of my fave guilty pleasures, Humanoids from the Deep). And only tangentially interesting (to me, anyway) was that she’d recently married Richard Burton’s beer bro Richard Harris, who’d just won a Grammy and a Golden Globe.

Ann Turkel - photo Copyright © Conde Nast

Ann Turkel – photo Copyright © Conde Nast

I’ve seen lots of models in person, and way too many are totes skanky. Not Turkel. OMG, so gorgeous! And funny. And so not snobby. She said she had to attend a stuffy, old-money formal event for which she needed suitable attire. She wanted to look special, she said, “not like all those old ladies in their crappy chiffons.”

She tried on a boho frock that was… interesting, I guess. But in the end she left with nothing. As did I, with the exception of my assignment from Julie that I should’ve gotten a contract for but didn’t.

A month later I returned with exactly the unique, labor-intensive creation she’d requested. She greeted it with “No! Needs more beads! And feathers! And fringe! Go crazy with it!” Stylewise, she was still shaking off the brown acid at Woodstock.

I left with my gloves and never went back.

Art & photo Copyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Art & photo Copyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Steal This Suit

Back when Barney’s New York had just the one extraordinary store on 7th Avenue, I practically lived there. This was before it became McBarneys, moved uptown, and morphed into the Men’s Whorehouse franchise that went bankrupt.

Barney’s men’s suit department was the bomb. I got a lot of stuff there, because a) it fit me better than women’s clothes, b) Barney’s tailors were aces, and c) they never gave me any crap about being a girl and/or using the men’s dressing room. They were so utterly cool!

One day as I rapturously rifled Barney’s suit racks, a great commotion arose from the dressing room. I hadn’t gone in yet, so it wasn’t my fault this time.

Presently a disheveled old fart shambled out, ranting and confused, wearing a fine Italian suit with a hopelessly rumpled shirt and the pants around his ankles. A coterie of handlers hustled him off the sales floor, but not before the whole store recognized him. Even with the plastic surgery you could tell it was acquitted Chicago Seven superstar Abbie Hoffman.

Hoffman needed elegant attire for his upcoming coke trafficking trial. He was convicted for that one, but received a commuted sentence. See? Barney’s rules!

Abbie Hoffman makes a public appearance in his Barney's finery. Copyright © 1981 Ida Libby Dengrove

Abbie Hoffman makes a public appearance in his Barney’s finery. Copyright 1981 Ida Libby Dengrove

 

Another Kind of Suit

There was a club on Fifth Avenue at 13th Street that I liked a lot, the Lone Star Cafe. It hosted a steady parade of unrepentant Stetson-wearers and big music stars (Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Albert Collins, The Blues Brothers), plus a 40-foot iguana. The humans worked the inside; the lizard had the roof.

The Lone Star Cafe

The Lone Star Cafe

I once saw a performance there by The Suits, a rock band fronted by New York City slumlord Jay Weiss. Weiss owned the Happy Land Social Club, a Bronx venue burned down by an arsonist while 87 people were inside. In case you’re wondering: Yes, Weiss was as good a musician as he was a landlord.

Happy Land Social Club - copyright New York Daily News

Happy Land Social Club – copyright New York Daily News

Anyway, pre-show I ducked into the can. I was shocked to be competing for the vanity with Kathleen Turner. Yes, that Kathleen Turner.

Turned out she was The Suits’ singer. Also Weiss’s wife. Yes, she acts better than she sings. No, she wasn’t really bad, it’s just that I wouldn’t have paid to hear that. The Suits were the opening act for the band I actually did pay to see. They probably got the gig because they owned the building.

I was pretty sure the Lone Star had private facilities for the talent. Whatever. Dressed in her best rock chick outfit, Turner bounced off every hard bathroom surface — people included — while emitting a nonstop look-at-me rap. I fled the restroom mid-plea.

Sadly, the Lone Star burned down in 2006. Probably just a coincidence.

Kathleen Turner rocks out.

Kathleen Turner rocks out.

Copyright © 2017 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

DEAD SPOT on AmazonSydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

RUN AMOK! | Mapping the Tour de Trump’s Mishaps, Foul-Ups and Egregious Exaggerations

Copyright © 1989, © 2016 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Did you know that before Donald Trump was buying presidential races, he was buying bicycle races? Here’s a 1989 article I wrote for Spy Magazine about the Tour de Trump, an extravaganza of cheating, demagoguery, and over-the-top hyperbole. Some things never change.

The complete article appears in a readable format after the too-small-to-read screencap of the original (below). But do take a look at the awesome Spy map, illustrated by John O’Leary. The text is keyed to it. The intro was written by Spy editor Jamie Malanowski.

Before we get started, here are some insider fun facts about the Tour (and things Spy wouldn’t print):
🚴 When Olympic gold medalist Viatcheslav Ekimov was assaulted, the only racer who stopped to help him was three-times Tour de France champion Greg LeMond.
🚴 The New York City stage almost didn’t happen. Gotham has a long and illustrious history of shaking down bike racing promoters, and Trump was no exception. He ponied up a five-figure cash bribe to nail it down.
🚴 The finishers of Stage 1 were greeted by a mob of protesters with signs reading “Fight Trumpism” and “Eat the Rich.”

Protesters at the finish line of Stage 1 in New Paltz, NY. Copyright Kevin Hogan

Finish line of Stage 1 in New Paltz, NY. Copyright Kevin Hogan

🚴 When Trump wanted to ride bitch to view the race from a support motorcycle, officials made him wear a helmet. Think his hair’s bad now? You should’ve seen it then.
🚴 Trump brought his yacht to the race. The $100 million Trump Princess was formerly Nabila, the yacht of Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. It had a disco and helipad. (When it was Largo’s Flying Saucer in the film Never Say Never Again, it had nuclear weapons.) When Khashoggi was arrested for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, Trump scored the tub at a fire sale for $29 million. In 1991 Trump sold it for $20 million to pay debts when his Taj Mahal casino went bankrupt.

1

Read about everything else that happened at the Tour de Trump below the following screencap. It’s a pretty solid preview of a President Trump Administration.

On Your Mark, Get Set, RUN AMOK!
Mapping the Tour de Trump’s Mishaps, Foul-Ups and Egregious Exaggerations
originally published in Spy Magazine, September 1989
Text Copyright © 1989, © 2016 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

The Tour de Trump: who can forget the fun we had? If we couldn’t join sports nuts who flew into Atlantic City to attend the showdown, then (after calling our bookies) we joined our friends in front of the TV for a festive, sure-to-be-annual Tour de Trump party….

Oops — sorry! We were thinking of the Super Bowl. Actually, the Tour de Trump was that curious event last May that, according to its namesake, was supposed to have cycling’s hottest stars and the world’s most lucrative prizes (at least three European races award more), and was generally sold as being the premier cycling race in America. Maybe it was. However, it was also certainly an over-hyped, under-scrutinized event, characterized by snafus, Wile E. Coyote shenanigans, critical errors and a remarkably casual approach to facts. Cycling expert SYDNEY SCHUSTER recaps the highlights.

TRUMP TOWER, MANHATTAN
SUMMER 1987
Basketball analyst and entrepreneur Billy Packer, one of three partners attempting to launch an American bicycle race on the order of Le Tour de France, seeks the financial backing of Donald Trump. Before their meeting Packer thinks, If he asks me, “What’s the race’s name?” I’ll say, “Tour de Trump.” As Francophones know, this term actually describes a race where competitors travel around Trump’s body. Depending on which newspaper note-taker received Trump’s more accurate recollection, he replies either “You have to be kidding…. The idea’s so wild it’s going to work” or “Are you kidding? I will get killed in the media if I use that name…. You know, but it is a great shtick.”

THE PLAZA HOTEL, MANHATTAN
DECEMBER 6, 1988
This marks the third occasion on which Trump announces the race. At various times before the event, the promoters issue press releases that describe the Tour’s distance as 837 miles, 850 miles, 900 miles, 925 miles, 937 miles, 950 miles and 1,000 miles. The length is actually 782 miles. At the press conference. Trump unveils the obligatory commemorative LeRoy Neiman poster, showing a bareheaded cyclist crossing the finish line with arms upraised against a backdrop of the Atlantic City casinos. (In real life the cyclist, being helmetless, would have been disqualified.) Trump writes in the event’s official program that the Tour will feature the American debut of “the first Soviet professional team…a thrilling breakthrough in international sports history.” The Soviet team, Alfa Lum, does not show; they are racing in Spain. Trump, who has never seen a bike race in person, goes on to promise that the event will be “the most unique and spectacular event on the Eastern seaboard this year.” Unique, certainly.

ALBANY
MAY 5, 1989
(illustration 1) The prologue to the race is a two-mile individual time trial, in which each rider races alone against the clock and the best time wins, thus establishing a race leader. Governor Cuomo is supposed to fire the starting pistol but backs out. A Trump spokesman describes Trump’s reaction to the news: “Privately, he might be a bit angry, but publicly he didn’t flare up at all.” At the last moment Cuomo finds time in his overbooked schedule to appear.

ALBANY
MAY 6
The first stage of the Tour is a 110-mile race down to New Paltz, New York. Though Soviet amateur Viatcheslav Ekimov is the world’s fastest track racer, the pros are flummoxed when he soundly beats them on the open road. This is not because he surprises them with his ability but because he has broken a tacit rule of racing etiquette: Amateurs do not show up the pros. (2) Trump watches this leg of the race from the caravan of 100 or so support vehicles following the cyclists, his stretch limo standing out among a pack of bicycle-laden hatchbacks, vans and Jeeps.

THE PLAZA, MANHATTAN
MAY 7
(3)
Trump wanted to start Stage Two of the Tour in front of Trump Tower, where, he had rhapsodized in the program notes, “more than 120 cyclists will explode onto Fifth Avenue.” Unfortunately, the city has regulations curtailing public gatherings on Fifth Avenue (and may well have an ordinance against exploding bicyclists), and the start is relocated to another Trump venue, the 59th Street side of The Plaza. The new location guarantees that the Tour de Trump will cross paths with the 25,000 recreational cyclists involved in the American Youth Hostels Five-Borough Bike Tour.

Though Trump promises that Mayor Koch will launch this leg, a 123-mile race from Manhattan to Allentown, Pennsylvania — “I just hope he doesn’t point the starting gun at me,” Trump says — Koch declines to make nice to his antagonist and stays home. [Trump had threatened Koch over his never-built Television City development; Koch called Trump “piggy, piggy, piggy” and “one of the great hucksters.“] In fact, the city denies the Tour a racing permit, effectively rendering the first 35 miles of this leg an escorted parade out of town. Meanwhile, little things go wrong: Clif Halsey, cycling expert for NBC (the network provides financial backing for the event as well as broadcasting it), fails to identify cycling superstar Andy Hampsten [two-time winner of Tour de Suisse, three-stage winner of Giro D’Italia, one stage win in Tour de France], and the racers discover that the hot-pink-and-black Tour de Trump race leader’s jersey bleeds profusely when washed (4).

BETWEEN GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, AND WINCHESTER, VIRGINIA
MAY 9
(5)
The professional racers choose this stage of the race to send a subtle message to the precocious amateur, Ekimov. Fifteen or so racers surround him, grab hold of his jersey and jam a feed bag into his wheel, allowing 7-Eleven, Panasonic and PDM team members to speed away in front. Ekimov has to stop and remove the feed bag, which places him so far behind that it becomes impossible for him to win.

BETWEEN FRONT ROYAL AND CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA
MAY 10
(6)
The amateurs retaliate. Inspired by the Soviet coach — who commands his men, “No pee-pee today!” — the amateurs burst past the professionals at the moment the pros slow down to relieve themselves. US national road champion Rishi Grewal establishes an extraordinary lead that lasts well over half the 107-mile race to Charlottesville. The pros eventually catch up, after which Grewal is “accidentally” hit by a support-crew Jeep. (7)

BALTIMORE
MAY 13
(8)
As the pros and amateurs continue to battle extralegally, Trump chooses to watch the next stage of his Tour, a 51-mile circuit race, from the Trump Princess. Later that day in Atlantic City he brushes off the cycling press and spends his time showing the boat to bigwigs.

ATLANTIC CITY
MAY 14
Pro races usually don’t end with time trials, but this one does. Because of the way time trials are held (racers go off at specified intervals), they offer Trump the picturesque vision of racer after godlike racer thundering past the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in prime time — indeed, he has it contractually stipulated that the race end this way. As befits an event run by amateurs and media hogs, the 24-mile time trial is marked by numberless incidents of hanky-panky. Racers illegally cut their times by riding in the slipstreams of their escort motorcycles. (9) Three riders converge head-on from three different directions at an intersection, meaning that at least two of them took shortcuts or wrong turns. Many riders go off course because of poorly placed markers and a lack of road marshals. One of the world’s foremost time trialists, Eric Vanderaerden, misses a well-marked turn, prompting speculations that either he was intentionally misdirected or he wasn’t exactly trying to win. Trump and his armed bodyguards commandeer official motorcycles to see the action better.

FINISH LINE, ATLANTIC CITY
MAY 14
After a race full of small disasters (a support van drives into a ditch, the chief motorcycle marshal totals an $11,500 BMW and a sportscaster on a motorcycle trashes an ESPN video camera), $93,150 is awarded to first-place finisher Dag-Otto Lauritzen and his 7-Eleven team, the same team that was featured earlier in the day in an elaborate three-and-a-half-minute NBC documentary — almost as if someone knew the results ahead of time.

The real winner, of course, is Trump. In return for his $750,000 sponsor fee, he has got an estimated $4.5 million worth of promotion for himself and his buildings on NBC and ESPN, reams of uncritical newspaper attention, and even some bonus publicity for his not-yet-completed Atlantic City Taj Mahal when a racer plunges into a barrier around the construction site (10).

🚴🚴🚴

Sports Illustrated ran a great article about the Tour de Trump, with lots of details about the racing. Read it here.

🚴🚴🚴

Copyright © 1989 & © 2016 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

DEAD SPOT on Amazon

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

Memo from the Dead Zone | 1986 World Cycling Championships

Let’s take a trip back in time. The year: 1986 — the last and only year the US was allowed to host UCI World Cycling Championships since 1893. You’re about to find out why.

In the mid-1980s I was a columnist for the greatest cycling magazine ever, Bicycle Guide. They sent me to cover the Worlds in Colorado, and the following is my report. Consider it a little taste of what to expect next year when, for better or worse, the Worlds return!

That’s right, in 2015 the World Cycling Championships road race is scheduled for Richmond, Virginia — a state with hurricanes, tornadoes, hazardous seismic activity, toxic waterways, 31 Superfund sites, doctors in tents instead of modern clinics, a governor convicted of 11 felony corruption counts, and police who tried to force a teenager to have an erection to prove they saw it in private emails they spied on illegally. Yup, Virginia is for lovers. And, uh, racing.

 ★★★

MEMO FROM THE DEAD ZONE
originally published in Bicycle Guide, January/February 1987
Text and Photos Copyright ©1987, ©2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER

Colorado Springs, America’s largest small town, wasn’t quite ready for the Worlds. After all, who else would sic police dogs on the World Pursuit Champion and ask you not to ride your bike in their hotel rooms?

***

I’m no good with small towns. I need large quantities of food at odd hours, department stores open ’til 9, all-night newsstands, winos who wipe your windshield because gas stations won’t, and 24-hour greaserias serving rotgut coffee. I’m a New Yorker. Bite me.

In the pantheon of small towns that should be avoided, Colorado Springs may be America’s largest. Its population, mostly somnambulant, consists of 375,000 tropes who seemed utterly unaware they were hosting a major international sports event.

Upward of 100,000 bikies had been making World Championships-related reservations since the previous January, but by August the Springoids remained staunchly oblivious even as cycling interests mainlined $10 million into the local economy. Few area businesses benefitting from this windfall reciprocated by donating primes to the Wheat Thins Mayor’s Cup street races, pretty much the only recreational entertainment available (and organized by David Pelletier, a savvy non-USCF East Coaster, natch). Because, you know, … duh.

Me, I saw the planets lining up upon my arrival at my fancy B&B, which was more like a dorm in hell. The headmistress saw our bikes and demanded to know — wait for it — if we intended to ride them in our room. Huh?!

I tried to imagine her scenarios: The next track session is three hours away and every restaurant in town is closed (yes, that happened): “Honey, I’m bored. Let’s ride bikes around the room!” Or I’ve just met some interesting people who also shlepped bicycles along, like the Italian team (that happened, too): “Hey, let’s have some fun riding bikes around my room!”

Soon the headmistress found out I was press, which resulted in surveillance of my “gourmet breakfast” plate. Her “inn” publishes and sells a collection of its “special recipes” (too special to actually waste on guests, apparently; I was never served any). My leftovers (ie, everything — hippie moderne crap!) elicited a stern lecture from the management, who considered that a smart way to avoid bad publicity.

I have to tell you, this grub nouvelle was everywhere, like acid rain. And they couldn’t even get that right. Hungry bikers turned militant as they searched in vain for bacon and eggs and burgers, and starved altogether from 3 to 5 pm and after 9, when Colorado Springs rolls up its streets — even when 100,000 tourists blow into town, dying to burn $10 million.

The city has exactly one diner (which I discovered on my way out of town) and barely enough late-night eateries to count on one hand. These establishments are distinguished by religious graffiti in the restrooms and menus featuring airbrushed, highly idealized photos of food-like matter. The pictures came in handy when the Japanese team (whose English was better than ours) failed at verbal communication with the waitresses, who eventually took orders by pictures. That is, after they finally stopped laughing and got up off the floor.

Where's the beef?

Where’s the beef?

Basic math

Ever notice how the ratio of small brains to small towns is in direct inverse proportion? I went sightseeing by bike and a local passed me in a tricked-out RV, yelling “Go Germany!” The jersey I wore was yellow, with my New York City club’s name on it. The Germans wear silver ones (East), or white (West). With German words, usually. Go figure.

I was luckier on my ride than others. Another hayseed drove his car over Olympic track star Shaun Wallace, and the police sicked an attack dog on world pursuit champion Tony Doyle. (Said Doyle after winning the pursuit gold with the teeth marks still visible on his calf, “I’ve got three legs he could have bitten. I’m glad he chose the one he did.”)

The Russians rode their bikes over to K-mart and were orgying inside when some hoods swiped their rides parked outside. Their bikes were recovered only because sharp-eyed neighbors noticed the $2,000 custom Colnagos with Cyrillic decals parked beside the Carrillo’s trash. [$2000 was a LOT of money in 1986. — ss] Sensing something not quite right about that, they called the cops, who clearly need all the help they can get. They never did find the $25,600 worth of equipment stolen from Campagnolo’s service truck.

Colorado Springs — a national treasure

No, really. Where else would contractors build bleachers to seat 8,000 by balancing them on little piles of sticks and sand? Where else would an elite international audience be expected to sing “Home on the Range”? Where else can you spend $100 on dinner and get food poisoning? (The Broadmoor, y’all — plan accordingly.) Where else would the Soviets end up in the Satellite Motel?

It’s somehow fitting that the United States Cycling Federation* is HQed in Colorado Springs. As small-time as small-town operations get, the USCF was unfortunately the organizer of this event, and mired in provincialism to the bitter end. First they blew a deal for network TV coverage. Then they let sponsors paint advertising directly onto the brand-new, state-of-the-art track surface at the US Olympic Training Center, on which many racers subsequently slipped and crashed. They mounted signs on all the velodrome’s rails, blocking most paying folks’ view. They recruited redneck road marshals who’d never seen a bike race before, much less hoards of hardcore bike racing fans, with whom they interacted like the Berlin border patrol. There were a lot of fights.

Strategically placed advertising is key to viewing enhancement.

Strategically placed advertising is key to viewing enhancement.

Judging by how late the town got the event memo, I’m guessing the USCF dropped the ball on publicity, too.

The one thing that was micromanaged was the press. The Federation demanded that we send in passport pics for mandatory photo IDs, which the Federation immediately lost. Then the USCF generously reshot them, thoughtfully providing a broken laminating machine to seal the magic passes. I call them magic because, although they looked alike, women’s prohibited them from bringing anyone inside the press area, while men’s allowed access by their entire families plus their analysts, stockbrokers, refreshment dealers, Akita trainers, et al.

Olympic and World Champion Jeannie Longo looks for an exit.

Olympic and World Champion Jeannie Longo looks for an exit.

A night out in paradise

Every convention has its party scene and this Worlds was no different. The only thing was, utterly no entertainment was provided for athletes or press, so improvisation was necessary. The trick was finding a decent location for a party.

One nightclub deejay proudly informed me, “I’m from Iowa, and we’re at the same level musically as New York.” Sure. Whatever. He demonstrated by spinning up a stupefying disco cacophony of stuff listened to in New York by people who wear vinyl pants and shower caps.

I pounded the buckaroo meat beat until I struck gold. Everyone else seemed to have found it first — including the hardhats, food designers, RV fans, waitresses, merchants, graffitists, thieves — even the deejay from the other club was there. One townie flew at me out of nowhere, shrieking that I better dare not take the empty barstool that was obviously hers because she’d left her wallet on it while she was gone. Like, to reserve it. I am not making this up.

The track events had just concluded and the biciclisti were there, too, boogying with a vengeance. The crème de la crème of sports proceeded to rout the scum de la scum of Colorado Springs. By midnight the townies had retreated in disgust.

Closing time came and went (too many receipts to skim). The morals squad came and went (not enough paddy wagons). Into the wee hours the bikies danced on the tables, danced on the chairs, danced on the bars. Had there been rafters, they’d have swung from them. No big deal, our clueless bartender assured us. “It’s always like this on Ladies’ Night.”

The next day I called it quits. A simpatico native asked to beam up with me.

“The people who live here think the UCI championships are an annual local event,” he told me, incredulous. “They’re already talking about next year.”

Call it a hunch, but I’ll bet it’s a cold day in hell before Colorado Springs hosts another Worlds. And that’s just fine with me.

Many-times Tour de France winners Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault, and Jacques Anquetil (and some guy) at a Colorado Springs press conference, wishing they were someplace else.

Many-times Tour de France winners Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault, and Jacques Anquetil (and some guy) at a Colorado Springs press conference, wishing they were someplace else.

Text and Photos Copyright ©2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
May not be reproduced without permission.
*In 1993 the USCF was incorporated into USACycling. It didn’t help.

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Let’s Make a Deal | Bicycle Guide

I’m proud to say I used to write for Bicycle Guide, the world’s greatest sports magazine. It broke every mold by being irreverent, funny, and always on the mark. It was like Top Gear (the fun UK one, not the clueless US one), except for being a magazine instead of a TV show, and about bikes instead of cars. Bicycle Guide never wasted editorial space sucking up to superstars or advertisers. I don’t know about them, but every other cycling freak loved it!

The magazine was run by Ted Costantino, the coolest editor of all time. His own writing was so astute and witty and flab-free, it made me laugh and cry at the same time. He had as many fans as Madonna and looked way better in Lycra.

I had a huge crush on Ted. I even saved all his letters, including the first one in which he doubted I had anything special to offer his magazine. (This was before the Internet, when people communicated by killing trees.) I wrote regularly for Bicycle Guide for the next couple of years.

This was in the 1980s, a truly exciting time in the sport. The US hosted Olympics and (for the first and only time) the World Cycling Championships. There were spectacular pro events like the Coors Classic and Wheat Thins Series. Greg LeMond became the first, second, and third American to win the Tour de France. Women were finally allowed to compete in Olympic events involving bicycles, so I got one.

Back then I spent roughly three hours a day on my bike, and I do mean roughly. I rode it to my job in Manhattan, through the slums of Brooklyn, and over busted glass and potholes to do a few laps in Prospect Park before dusk or D races on weekends. My daily misadventures involved cabs, crack heads, thieves, cops, flats, furious building supers, antifreeze spills, and unleashed dogs. And that’s what I wrote about for Bicycle Guide.

Ted gave me my first publishing break in 1985. But more important, he encouraged me to cruise on the edge and never look down.

———

The following article originally appeared in the November/December 1986 issue of Bicycle Guide.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL
Copyright © 1985 © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Racing? she asked. Who’s got the time or money? Then somewhere along the way, I decided tread marks would make a great conversation starter and a few new enemies wouldn’t make an appreciable difference. I took the bait.

Once upon a time, I was a mere twit in art school. Painting was then the fashion and so was unbearable pressure on all us art twits to paint. I preferred constructing weird fetishes out of garbage. Frankly, smearing colors around a canvas that took two weeks to prepare was beyond my attention span.

I did eventually bow, ever so reluctantly, to administrative intimidation. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind painting so much. The results were even kind of likable. A good thing, because otherwise I’d still be there. But there were some unexpected bonuses: lessons in lightwave theory, timber framing, and creative b.s. techniques. All served me well in subsequent endeavors.

Likewise, I once detested Star Trek, Mexican food, most of the Rolling Stones, brassieres, New Yorkers … the list is endless. The only reason I mention this is because I seem to have developed a pattern regarding tastes that are acquired, a category into which bicycle racing fits neatly.

I certainly liked the idea of it, but my early impression of racers was that most were overbearing jocks who I didn’t care to emulate, and I didn’t know any women who raced. Then I started accompanying a friend who competes in local events. To my eternal gratitude, there were women there. Fast women.

One weekend the 7-Eleven team was in town. They made an appearance at a New York City training race, and my friend got dropped by national champ Cindy Olavarri. He was only impressed. I was dazzled.

Meanwhile, I graduated to a “serious” bike. I rode it briskly to watch the races.

One day I inquired as casually as possible of my competitive friend whether I might make a good racer. I figured he should know, having personally been used and abandoned by the 7-Eleven women. He gave me The Look. I dropped the subject faster than Olavarri dropped the weenies.

But at the park and on my way to work, I noticed cycling women crawling out of the woodwork. I initiated as many conversations as possible, most of which gravitated to what we perceived as pressure to compete. I kept hearing this whiney voice grousing about being run down by speed demons half her age, or making new enemies for being too bossy. The whiney voice turned out to be mine.

It was convenient to let it convince me that waking up at 4:30 a.m. to train is demented, and redirecting beer money to replace crashed bike parts is sick. I heard you need an Italian bike just to train, and a custom job for the real thing. Who’s got time, much less the funds?

But somehow, somewhere along the way, I conceded that bicycle tread marks on my face might make a fine conversation starter, and a few new enemies wouldn’t make an appreciable difference. I’d heard that nothing enhances one’s sense of immortality quite like crashing and spending. I could always live on credit cards.

The bottom line was this: Could racing be any worse than painting, or jalapeño peppers, or William Shatner?

I decided to accept the challenge. That Saturday I traded the week’s grocery money for a team jersey, the promise of high-speed thrills, and a blurry newsletter. In short, I joined a road racing club.

I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting into. Fabulous prizes! Juicy gossip! Tight pants! Deal me in.

My new club’s D riders were a particularly desultory group. I fit right in.

I wasn’t expecting to win, of course; there are more important things in life than winning. By now I’d been making circles alone in the park for so long, what really mattered was the prospect of camaraderie, meaningful conversation, and a wind block.

The big day, as they say, had arrived. My wheels were true. My new cleats finally pointed in more or less the right direction. Even my two bikes were almost paid for.

The Ds lined up for the gun. The race was launched! Up the first hill with Herrera, Argentin and Muffy! Around a series of treacherous curves I stuck with the pack! Okay, so I was at the back, but I was there.

Things were going smoothly — too smoothly. On the next hill I shifted up to honk; everybody else shifted down and spun merrily away.

Well, I didn’t win my first race. Someone said it’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s how you lay the blame. But hey, who cares? Didn’t I meet a swell bunch of new people, get treated with more respect than usual, and get dropped by some first-rate tushies? Not a bad rush for a pink-cheeked pledge. Think I’ll go back next week.

All content Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

Kickin’ It with The Village Voice

The following is a true story. The names have been changed, but not very much, for obvious reasons.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

KICKIN’ IT WITH THE VILLAGE VOICE

DATELINE: Gotham
ASSIGNMENT:  Enlighten leftist newsweekly’s degenerate readers about joys of cycling.

I used to write for the Village Voice. This was during the 1980s, after it was bought by dog food colossus Hartz Mountain and before it was a freebie used to mop up blood from bodega floors. My favorite editor there was Mim Udovitch, the legendary rock‛n’roll chronicler. I loved writing for her, and she made me look good. Journalism doesn’t get much better than that. Sometimes, though, it gets much worse.

At that time there was a bicycle boom in progress, and the Voice belatedly realized cycling was a cool trend – one that was happening without their input.

Unfortunately, that was everything the Voice knew about cycling. Ripping into spin cycle, they hustled up a hip but erudite spokesperson to guide their drooling readership. Me.

Back then bikes were my life. I owned a gajillion of them. I wrote for glossy niche magazines like Bicycle Guide and The Bike. I officiated bike races. I’d spent my last vacation at the World Cycling Championships hyperventilating at the tightest Lycra-clad butts on earth.

I kind of viewed the Voice assignment as public service (and, okay, easy money). Maybe spreading the gospel would fix the metrogoons swarming the wrong way against traffic who were driving up my insurance rates.

Udovitch had just left the Voice to write for Rolling Stone, so my pitch was forwarded to someone who hadn’t. I accepted the paper’s final proposal, which on the face of it was ludicrous. They wanted a 1,500-word piece on every kind of ride and where to buy it. I wanted a new bike, so I signed the contract.

Fast forward to the first draft, a 4,500-word epic of love and rust and how stylish you’d look riding in the same direction as buses. My new editor, Mr. Hernia (not his real name), was super excited.

“Great!” he said. “But make it funny! And give it a romantic twist! And have a fashion angle! And do it in 1,300 words!”

Huh? “But, but…,” I explained as he hung up.

So I cut out track bikes and recumbents. I tossed frame geometry. I dumped steel frames versus aluminum, tubular tires versus clinchers, directional motility versus tropism. Out, out, out, until all that remained was 1,284 somewhat humorous words about miracle synthetics and all the dates you’d get wearing them.

I delivered my handiwork to Hernia in person and before deadline. I wanted to impress him, because he was an important guy. When I arrived at his office, I learned just how important. He’d left for a job at Newsday.

Good riddance, I thought. But compared with his successor, he was William Randolph Hernia.

My new editor’s total sports experience consisted of copying NFL scores off a teletype. We met to discuss the last-minute rewrite he’d done on my story instead of asking me to do it. He looked like a five-foot frog.

To Toad (not his real name), all bikes were alike. He thought my attention to the differences was overkill, so he’d fixed that. And he dropped my dealer recommendation for entry-level and budget-minded shoppers, the legendary Kissena Cycles in Flushing. Toad figured anyone with a dollar for a newspaper isn’t on a budget. And besides, Queens is a drag.

The slant of the work, what was left of it, was enhancing one’s social life via the right bike and get-up. As proof I’d invoked real-life glamour couples of the day: Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter and U.S. pro champion Davis Phinney; U.S. track champion Connie Paraskevin and power coach Roger Young; cross-country champs Sue Notorangelo and Lon Haldeman — all gods in anyone’s book. Anyone’s but Toad’s. He thought they were my drinking buddies or something and axed them.

I screamed at him. The couples went back in. Touchdown for bicycle romance! I thought we were done. I thought wrong.

The art director wanted to see me. He hadn’t read my article, be he had definite ideas about visuals.

“Get really sexy models!” he ordered.

Who, me? I looked around. No one else was there.

“And make sure they wear something really flashy!”

Uh, sure thing.

Then he hooked me up with the staff photographer, Plotzy (not her real name). We arranged a shoot in Prospect Park for the next Sunday. Plotzy wanted models too, so I assumed she’d cover that. Whew!

The day before the shoot I learned what Plotzy had covered. Nothing. Didn’t lift a finger to procure any models, nor flashy outfits for them to wear, nor bikes for them to make out on.

In a panic, I notified every bikie in New York. All they had to do was bring their own ride, I told them, in dodgy weather and on indefensibly short notice, to participate in this noble endeavor. “It’ll be fun!” I lied.

“Any money in it?” they all replied.

“Only eternal fame, sorry,” I had to tell them. Sadly for the Voice, every cyclist in New York had recently been a paid extra in the awful flick Key Exchange. Now that they were pros, they had expectations. I had a bagful of nothing.

Sunday came along, damp and winterish. The response to my cattle call was one bike-racer hunk who was going to have to make out with himself if I didn’t do something fast.

I jumped on my bike and personally chased down a dishy blonde trying to elude me on her new Trek (like I said, Prospect Park…).

Now we had the perfect bicycle romance couple! But that darned Plotzy — she wanted a crowd. Or rather, she wanted someone to get one for her.

By now it was nearly sunset. I and my better half (a.k.a. the most put-upon spouse since Al Bundy) were the only other people stupid enough to be out with bikes in weather this nasty, in a place where people get stabbed after dark for a cigarette.

And so this was our crowd: four “models” with runny noses, indistinguishable from each other in black thermal riding suits, commanding four disparate, muddy bikes.

I didn’t see how this could possibly relate to recreational sex. But Plotzy knew, even though she hadn’t read my story. We models were instructed to roll in a circle at 3 mph and take flying lunges at each other. Plotzy shot four rolls, mostly of our feet and a passerby’s dog.

When the sun set, everyone who wasn’t Plotzy fled. The good news was that this suckfest was finally over. Anyway, that’s what I thought. But then Toad called.

He required clarification as to why cycling was fashionable, now that he’d edited out all the reasons.

Unlike sports such as football, I explained more patiently than he deserved, cycling is a hands-on deal. The equipment is high-tech, yet affordable. The clothes are sexy. Cycling is good cardio.

“So what?” he said.

“Madonna does it.”

Bingo! A technicality Toad could relate to.

We said goodbye, for what I prayed was the last time.

Ha!

Before I continue, allow me to provide some perspective. Having written about bike culture for years, I can vouch that “cycling journalism” is an oxymoron. Nobody invests in this for its intellectual value. I’ve been sent on touring assignments in hurricanes, packed off on interviews with bad contact info, and forced to question confused foreigners while fighting off media barnacles like Phil Liggett.

So why bother?, you ask. Well, I did meet all my sports heroes. And the genre was a free-for-all for rebel wordsmiths like me. I was never muzzled by Bicycle Guide, or Cyclist, or even Cycling USA, a cheezy tabloid published by the stick-up-the-ass national cycling federation. So you can imagine my astonishment upon reading the final edit of my contribution to the mouthpiece of the ACLU, only to discover that Toad had excised the word “wop” from my discourse on Italian bikes.

“BUT WHY!?” I screeched at him even as I imagined him housing my Hoffritz collection.

“It would offend people,” he said. I am not making this up.

The next day the issue was, mercifully, supposed to close. My phone rang. It was Toad. He hoped I didn’t mind, but important late-breaking news had forced him to cut my piece by four inches.

Listen, it’s the nature of the business. Shit happens all the time at newspapers, especially this one. And I wasn’t sure how much verbiage four inches was, exactly.

I found out two days later when the issue hit the street. My judiciously neutered feature appeared in the same issue that likened arms trader Adnan Khashoggi to a Lower East Side Jew, suggested homosexuals’ foreheads be branded, and called Harley owners “balls-out, knuckle-dragging, Bud-guzzling, loud-farting men.”

And there, inside the back cover, behind everything else including hundreds of ads for expert oralists and jocks with big tools, was my sanitized 1,085-word velo Gesamskuntswerk. It was illustrated with a blurry photo of what looked like two inkblots passing a rutabaga.

My article filled the entire rest of the back page. That is, it did if you don’t count the four-inch box of football scores smack in the middle.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

The Stiff That Wouldn’t Die | Eddie and the Cruisers

This is a story I wrote around 1992. It’s kinda long, but if you like showbiz dirt, stick with it.

It was never published but got thisclose three times. The first magazine decided I didn’t bash celebrities hard or fast or famous enough. The second magazine changed hands before the piece could run, and it got lost in the shuffle. The third magazine, whose content typically derived from repeating other mags’ reportage, demurred because they didn’t understand where the quotes from named sources came from. It’s called “getting an interview,” dogs — bite me!

The story appears here in its original 1992 form, except for a few updates and outtakes too good to leave out. Therefore, some information will seem dated. It is what it is. Real good!

A hack director wants to make the Springsteen story. A desperate band wants a recording contract. A bad actor tells everyone he’s a rock star. A bargain-hunting backer gets a surprise windfall. What do you get?

The Stiff That Wouldn't DieCopyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Go ahead—name one good thing about movie musicals.

That’s right. Unless you’re a Julie Andrews fan, you can’t. That’s because most musicals are on autodestruct. They cost too much. They rarely turn a profit. They age badly, and they ruined Elvis. Often, stars as untalented as they are famous must be dubbed surreptitiously. Poor Marni Nixon is still apologizing because bad swimmer Natalie Wood really wanted to sing in West Side Story.

Sadly, movie musicals often launch stars from other media into the footnotes of film history. Remember Light of Day with Joan Jett? The Allnighter with Suzanna Hoffs? One Trick Pony with Paul Simon? Didn’t think so.

Drifting in this swamp of flotsam is a pair of floaters that were all this and worse. They were low budget and looked it. Their plots defied credulity. The first one’s music was blatantly anachronistic. How the cult bombathon Eddie and the Cruisers got to be the innovative musical of the 1980s is really two intertwining tales of how Hollywood steamrollered a perfectly good novel twice, and a small-town bar band rescued two panting dogs from B-movie hell.

guitars

It all started around 1980, when former Ashley Famous (now ICM) talent agent Martin Davidson decided he could make a better dead rocker film than 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story, or even 1979’s The Rose. Davidson had a hook. His dead rocker would be Bruce Springsteen.

Davidson, you may remember, was immortalized in the Julia Phillips Hollywood tell-all You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again as a writer-screwing philistine. [At a party, he screamed at people that Charles Webb, who was cheated out of screenwriter pay for the Oscar-winning film adaptation of his book The Graduate, deserved to be a shoe salesman in the East Village, which he was. — ss]

After co-directing the sleeper hit The Lords of Flatbush in 1974, Davidson optioned the novel Eddie and the Cruisers, an entertaining yarn about the premature dispatch of an enigmatic rock‘n’roll idol. He then convinced Canadian investors Aurora Film Partners to give him $7 million to film it.

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It was a perfectly good book, but because Davidson couldn’t leave well enough alone and Aurora was essentially an investment outfit, Eddie wound up as a tax shelter for dentists.

The production values say it all: Actors’ mouths sing when the soundtrack doesn’t; a boom mic swoops through a shot; props move by themselves; a car drives into oncoming traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel. Lines of dialog howl. “You got your Edsels, Norges, Dumonts — and Eddie Wilson, together at last, creating our own incredible monument to nothing!” Sheesh.

The book Davidson adapted deserved better. Former Wall Street Journal reporter P.F. Kluge authored the lively mystery about a fictional 1950s New Jersey band and its Rubic’s Cube of a front man, Eddie Wilson. Strictly a seashore cover band at first, the Cruisers switch to original material and catch fire. Mistakenly thinking he’s Mozart, Eddie embarks upon an overly ambitious, ill-fated musical experiment. He and the session tapes disappear, and the grumpy Cruisers disband at their career apex.

Thanks to a fairly convoluted plot line, everyone is hounding the surviving Cruisers now, two decades later. The story’s narrator is former keyboardist Frank Ridgeway (Tom Berenger), whom we find mired in a midlife crisis, brooding about his year as a Cruiser and searching for Eddie’s lost tapes. Frank’s sojourn is rudely impacted by bad people who are also chasing his maguffin.

From 1980 to 1982, everyone involved with the cinematic Eddie was chasing something too — a film start. Along the way were financing delays, two fired screenwriters, and an unusable score by, of all people, Joe “You Light Up My Life” Brooks. Brooks was canned [and indicted on 11 counts of rape] and the screenplay was finished by Davidson and his sister Arlene, with uncompensated and uncredited assistance from Kluge.

In another time-honored Hollywood tradition, the final script diverged wildly from the source material. For example, the 1950s flashbacks moved to the 1960s. Eddie’s groundbreaking jazz fusion foray morphed into a post-medicated-Beatles style concept album. The book’s linchpin, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, became Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell.  A homicidal Rolling Stone writer and his oversexed girlfriend were replaced by one character, an insipid Diane Sawyerish TV reporter who never takes notes (Ellen Barkin). In the book, the missing tapes are in someone’s sock drawer; in the movie they’ve sat in a junkyard for twenty years, miraculously undeteriorated.

From the time he sold Martin Davidson the film rights to his novel, Kluge never really expected his creation to survive intact. “If a butcher buys a cow,” he says he told friends, “is he gonna make changes?”

On top of all that was the Eddie problem. Kluge’s character was a skinny, no-frills Buddy Holly sort. Davidson’s unswerving vision was Bruce Springsteen.

The director denied having a fixation, claiming in interviews that Dion and Jim Morrison were his true inspirations. But someone sent Springsteen a script. And Springsteen’s then-girlfriend, actress Joyce Hyser, was a finalist for the part of Eddie’s girlfriend. Davidson even asked Springsteen’s sound-alike friend, Southside Johnny Lyon of the Asbury Jukes, to produce the score.

No one was bothered that Springsteen, then 33 but not dead, was a tad hoary to play an 18-year-old. No one considered that he might be a budget buster, too. Or that the E Street sound was neither technologically nor historically possible in 1962. In any case, Lyon declined, Hyser lost, and Bruce never called back. [Southside Johnny did record three songs for the film as himself with the Jukes, all of which were cut out.]

A more cost-effective unknown won the Eddie role. Twenty-four-year-old Michael Paré looked like a Calvin Klein ad, had an intractable Brooklyn accent, and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Paré’s main talents were effecting a smug superciliousness and filling out jeans nicely, the only skills Davidson apparently figured a rock star needed.

Paré had twelve lines of dialog. But he — and not top-billed Berenger — got the star treatment: a feature in Interview, fashion layouts in Vanity Fair. He careened over the top in interviews, claiming he was a Culinary Institute of America grad (he dropped out halfway through the program), Tavern on the Green’s head chef (just a cook, says Tavern), and a top Zoli model (the agency has no payroll record of him). [An actual top Zoli model of the era told me he saw Paré at some go-sees; that’s apparently as far as he got.] Paré also allegedly studied acting with Uta Hagen. Judge for yourself.

On the dork side: Michael Paré helps model Nancy Donahue with a chiropractic adjustment.

On the dork side: Michael Paré helps model Nancy Donahue with a chiropractic adjustment.

In 1981 the Irish guy with the French name played an Italian kid in ABC’s “The Greatest American Hero,” and a Brooklyn kid in the TV movie Crazy Times. [Paré told Seventeen magazine he also was a crowd scene extra in The Chosen and Fort Apache the Bronx.] This was his entire resume when he was cast, without a test, as rebel wasp Eddie Wilson.

Michael Pare and another woman on Greatest American Hero.

Michael Paré and another woman in “The Greatest American Hero.”

Arlene Davidson boasted to Cosmopolitan magazine that Paré didn’t need to test. “We took one look at him and knew we’d found our Eddie.” [Whatever. In the Seventeen story, Marty Davidson says he thought Paré was “a breath of fresh air” when they first met. After filming started, Davidson tried to fire him.]

Long story short, in the end it took three people to build Eddie Wilson. Paré merely supplied the Thighmastered body. The virtuoso lead guitar licks were provided by Gary Gramolini, and the rhythm guitar work and suspiciously Bosslike singing voice are John Cafferty’s. Both musicians are from a Rhode Island-based band called Beaver Brown. The other members — don’t call them Cruisers, thanks — are keyboardist Bobby Cotoia, bassist Pat Lupo, saxophonist Michael “Tunes” Antunes, original drummer Kenny Jo Silva, and new drummer Jackie Santos.

The band honked around the same club circuit for twenty years with (and managed to outlast) the now-defunct E Street Band. The two white groups with black saxophonists and whisky-voiced front men have been compared relentlessly.

“When you have a group of people the same age, who basically listened to the same radio frequencies at the same time, there are certain things that you all draw from,” Antunes explains without even waiting for the question he still hears every day. “We think of it as a compliment.”

The main difference can be summed up pretty quickly. Cafferty is one of the great underrated vocalists of the century. By comparison, Springsteen croons with all the mellifluousness of a garbage truck on pick-up day. Bruce singing anything makes you want more beer. Cafferty singing “Drift Away” makes you weep in it.

Rolling Stone called Beaver Brown “perhaps the most popular bar band on the East Coast.” Nevertheless, the group couldn’t get a recording contract during its first decade. Bands that sound like Springsteen, recording poobahs kept telling them, don’t sell.

Then in 1982, along came Martin Davidson. He had a deal with Scotti Brothers Records for a soundtrack album for Eddie and the Cruisers. Scotti Brothers is best known for supplying Stallone film soundtracks to your neighborhood bargain bin.

The Scotti sibs are Ben, Fred and Tony. Ben’s an ex-football star (Redskins, Eagles, 49ers) and pugilist (he KOed teammate John Mellekas during an argument over who killed JFK). Tony was a colorful casualty in the granddaddy trash film Valley of the Dolls, and more recently oversaw the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures. Fred’s the one who got permission for Weird Al Yankovic’s Coolio parody “Amish Paradise” that Coolio claims he never gave. All three Scotti brothers exec-produced the tranny comedy mess He’s My Girl. The Scottis know talent. They planned to release the Eddie soundtrack through CBS — Springsteen’s distributor. All they needed was musicians.

Left: Tony Scotti & counterculture casualty Sharon Tate. Right: Ben Scotti gets his arabesque on.

Left: Tony Scotti & counterculture casualty Sharon Tate. Right: Ben Scotti gets his arabesque on.

Fred Scotti in 2007 (left). Kenny Vance (right).

Left: Fred Scotti in 2007. Right: Kenny Vance.

Beaver Brown, Davidson’s fourth choice in his attempt to invoke Springsteen (unless John Mellencamp and Alex Chilton also declined [as it turns out, Rick Springfield was a contender]) was recruited by Davidson’s long-suffering musical director, Kenny Vance. Vance was with Jay and the Americans once. Check it out: His is the tenor singing voice of Cruiser bassist Sal Amato (acted by Axis carmaker shill Matthew Laurance). [Laurance made German car ads for American TV.]

In a neat in-joke, Vance also plays Lew Eisen, the despotic mogul of the film’s Satin Records — the kind of creep you know Vance has met a few times for real. (This was actually the most inspired casting of the whole production, in a tie with Martin Davidson as Barkin’s clueless news colleague.) [Fun Fact: Davidson also gave himself a role in The Lords of Flatbush. Because he’s, you know, just like Hitchcock!]

Vance/Eisen hasn’t heard “Revolver” yet and rebuffs Eddie’s artistic experiment. Vance gets the enviable cinematic task of telling Paré/Eddie he’s no musician.

Eddie takes the news personally and drives his ’57 Chevy off a bridge. He doesn’t bob up with wacky Kennedyesque excuses and a limp date, so everyone assumes he drowned. Except the next day, the Cruiser tapes maligned by Eisen inexplicably vanish from the studio. Is Eddie really alive? Duh.

The movie relies heavily on flashback to 1962-1964, when the Beatles still backed Tony Sheridan and the Boss still hid girlie magazines under his bunkbed. Here the soundtrack falters only in that stylistically, some of the songs couldn’t have been performed that way at that time. But the music is great, as its cult-like legion of followers still attests. That includes “some real rabid fans from Japan that fly to the United States to see us play,” says Beaver Brown bassist Pat Lupo.

“Marty pretty much gave Kenny and the band a free hand in the music,” says Lupo. “He liked us a lot and he trusted us. Marty took a big shot in giving us as much creative control as he did. We had never scored a film before.”

To help with the visual cues informing the film’s period look, Vance recycled Southside Johnny Lyon as his technical adviser. Lyon was tasked with shaping six unknowns into the onscreen Cruisers, a massive feat considering four weren’t musicians and two weren’t  actors. The latter — cabaret hottie Helen Schneider and Beaver Brown saxophonist Michael Antunes — turned in the only authentic performances as band members: Schneider as Eddie’s dishy squeeze Joann, and Antunes as Wendell Newton, a doomed character from the novel whom Davidson admitted to Rolling Stone that he rewrote with E Street’s Clarence Clemons in mind.

The period costumes were covered by expert shopper Sandy Davidson, Martin’s wife. In bowling shirts, skinny lapels, and pre-Spandex stretch knits, all the Cruisers look correct. All of them, that is, except Eddie. Somebody dressed Eddie like … well, like John Cafferty.

Cafferty’s trademark rolled-sleeve black Ts, tatty jeans, and Cuban heel roach-chasers are the exact same not-very-’62 costume Paré wore in the film. Arlene Davidson says the vintage outfits worn by the rest of the cast looked stupid on Paré’s overpumped chassis.

“We were forced to use the only clothes on hand that fit,” she recalls. “The T-shirts and jeans are what he looked best in.” So it was just a coincidence. Really.

No one would go on record about the very special relationship between guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Cafferty and pseudo-guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Paré. In a press release, a quote attributed to Tony Scotti lauded the “tremendous collaboration between … Michael Paré and John Cafferty” — a collaboration, say insiders, that consisted of Paré catching exactly one of Cafferty’s performances, which he left early and then parroted shamelessly.

Officially everyone scoffs at any rivalry. But Paré stated in many interviews that he “played” Cafferty’s music. (The only “playing” by Paré was in the rooftop scene where the Cruisers perform “On the Dark Side” for the first time, accompanied by a loud and painfully off-beat whumping sound. It’s Paré’s foot.)

Paré did, in fact, make an album of his own. An album, in fact, that you’ll never hear. It consists of nine songs in which he pathetically apes Cafferty, who (among other things) can hit every note and doesn’t sing through his nose. [And btw, there’s no “playing” by Paré on his album, only “singing.”] The producer shopped it around for years before finally giving up.

Cafferty doesn’t like to talk about Paré. Pretty much all that’s on record is what he told Rolling Stone in 1983: “It’s really hard for me to deal with the fact that ‘Tender Years,’ my most important song, is in a film and somebody else is lip-syncing it.”

Tender Years singles

But one memorable night in 1991, he made up for years of silence. At a gig at the Lone Star Roadhouse in New York City, a free-range no-brainer asked him, “How did that guy in the Eddie movies write all those great songs?” Cafferty went ballistic. “That guy,” he exploded, “didn’t write nuthin’!”

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Cafferty and Paré collided head on and fast, creating their own incredible monument to nothing when Eddie and the Cruisers was released in September 1983. Promotion was cryptic and minimal. The ads were all pictures and no words. Roger Ebert called the film “all buildup and no payoff.”

Variety crowned it “a mish-mash of a film.” The New York Times deadpanned: “Eddie’s final declaration … stretches the material’s potential for melodrama to its limit, and beyond.”

Other reviews proclaimed it flat out stank, with Rolling Stone using four pages to say just how much. “A dumb, hackneyed melodrama,” wrote Steve Pond. “Isn’t it a little early to make The Bruce Springsteen Story?”

1980s advertising for Eddie and the Cruisers - UK poster (left), US newspaper ad (right)

1980s advertising for Eddie and the Cruisers – UK poster (left), US newspaper ad (right)

The film opened in only eleven cities, shrank to two after five weeks, then disappeared. Filmgoers were more interested in seeing Risky Business and Return of the Jedi. According to Variety, Eddie grossed just under $1.7 million, or about 24 percent of what it cost to make.

The soundtrack went begging too, at first. It was released as an Eddie and the Cruisers record, with Paré on the cover instead of the band that made it. Some of its ten Cafferty/Beaver Brown cuts smack of E Street circa 1977. Others, however, pay delightful homage to Elvis Presley, Dion, and Bobby Freeman.

In July 1984 HBO began a 26-time national run of the Eddie movie, and 17,000 soundtracks sold within a four-day period. Rather unexpectedly, it was soon number 9 on Billboard’s album chart.

The press was all over the then-12-year-old band, hailing them as overnight sensations. In early interviews, Cafferty dismissed his iconic song “On the Dark Side” as “a vehicle for actors.” A year later that stoogemobile reached number 7 on Billboard’s singles chart and number 1 as an MTV music video. It’s still his biggest hit. [In 2015 Spin ranked it number 14 on its 50 Best Fictional Songs of All Time list.]

In August 1984 the soundtrack went gold. By October it had gone platinum. Eventually it sold over 3 million copies, although no one was sure to whom.

Citing what they called an “independent study,” Scotti Brothers claimed Eddie had an astounding 90 percent recognition rate among film viewers age 12-24 following its cable debut.

Perhaps. But the most compelling thing about what happened is actually this: Before Eddie, cable was considered solely an instrument for squeezing the last dollar out of Hollywood flops. Post-Eddie it was perceived quite differently — as a powerful sales tool for direct marketing. Putting it another way, you may very well have Eddie and the Cruisers to blame for the Home Shopping Network.

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Eddie and the Cruisers is singular in moviedom for another reason: It’s the only dead rocker picture with a sequel.

Released in August 1989, Eddie and the Cruisers II — Eddie Lives! picks up the story where Eddie I dumped it. Eddie’s body was never found, it turns out, because he swam to Canada and got a day job.

The Davidsons weren’t involved with the sequel, which the Scotti brothers commandeered.

According to P.F. Kluge, the Scottis didn’t like the first script they’d commissioned from screenwriter Zev Cohen. They hired Kluge to cowrite a replacement with executive producer Jim Stewart. The Scottis didn’t like that script, either. Kluge says they had Cohen rewrite the Kluge/Stewart script. Then they retooled Kluge’s sequel fee by deducting his screenplay fee from it — after they’d grossed $18 million from Eddie I soundtrack sales.

Eddie’s creator is admirably restrained about being treated like an ATM by the Scottis. “I don’t resent their making money out of it,” says Kluge. “I hope they’re satisfied with the work they do.”

Although Variety called it “one of the most commercial indie pics since Dirty Dancing,” the work in question is exactly what you’d expect from seven producers, a splatter pic director (Jean-Claude Lord — Visiting Hours, The Vindicator), and Aurora, which got in on the action again mostly to take advantage of a new 166 percent Quebecois film tax write-off. It shows.

eddie 2

In Eddie II it’s 1984 or thereabouts, and “dead” Eddie has become a legend. The lost experimental tapes have turned up at last. The same unscrupulous music company exec who called Eddie a jerkoff in 1964 is now issuing recordings of “new” Eddie material, a la Jimi Hendrix. Cha-ching!

Eddie’s really torqued now, and he’s dying to tell someone he’s not dead. His passion for life renewed, our hero straps on a new girlfriend named Diane, slathers on some hair product, and organizes a new band with a black saxophonist who play music ahead of their time. Bloodsucking opportunists glom onto Eddie. He goes looking for a bridge in a used Chevy. Diane convinces him that music is more important than greedy sleazebags. Eddie triumphs.

Eddie II lasted about four weeks in theaters, grossing (according to Variety) five figures or less. Scotti Brothers won’t talk about it. The film then retreated to video and cable.

People who wouldn’t be caught dead watching it in movie houses apparently felt more benevolent at home with their blinds drawn. Eddie II spent three months on Variety’s Top 50 video rental list. The soundtrack recording sold over 500,000 copies.

Michael Paré reprised the Eddie role. John Cafferty and Beaver Brown wrote and performed all ten new numbers for Eddie’s ’80s band. The soundtrack album cover has a photo of Paré “playing” them.

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The band’s popular Eddie catalog alternates traditional rock‘n’roll with smoldering, throbbing stuff about death, resurrection, and devil women that Cafferty wrote to order for directors in the habit of requesting abstruse nonsense. (“Music with Eddie’s pulse” was one such directive.)

Still, it’s all solid stuff, and the Eddie scores stand as a textbook example of astute soundtrack craftsmanship. They transcend being just good music as they adroitly cover details the scripts leave out, such as plots, and what might have constituted artistic rebellion against stultifying Eisenhower-era Top 40.

What happened to Beaver Brown’s careers then, or didn’t happen, is weird. They made two other albums with Scotti Brothers, who didn’t bother promoting either one. Two singles from the first LP, “Tough All Over,” made the Top 20 anyway. The other album, “Roadhouse,” was even more textured and sophisticated and gone in a blink.

tough all over, roadhouse[Author’s update: In 1997 Cafferty sued Scotti Brothers Records in a landmark federal case for copyright infringement, false advertising, unfair competition, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. He wasn’t paid royalties for an album of live performances and other records (Scotti Brothers claimed they gave them away to customers). Cafferty also claimed that the release of previously unreleased Beaver Brown music and rerelease of Beaver Brown albums as Eddie and the Cruisers records were breaches of contract, and forced him to unfairly compete against himself. He asked the court to order Scotti Brothers to return his property. Cafferty lost the case, and Scotti Brothers (now All American Communications) retained ownership of his recordings.]

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We are now left with one nagging question: Would today’s discriminating moviegoers, after sorting out seating arrangements with their Glocks, be receptive to Eddie III?

The Scotti brothers are certainly ready. Like Satin Records, they keep releasing music outtakes from the first two movies, without notifying the band or paying them.

Beaver Brown’s Pat Lupo says, “I really don’t know what their plans are. Then again, you’re talking to a band member. We’re probably the least informed of anybody.”

Asked if he had news of Eddie III, P.F. Kluge replied, “Good Lord, no!”

Michael Paré was too busy making straight-to-video flicks to return calls for this story, but back in 1989 he claimed in an AP interview that Eddie III was a done deal. He has since appeared in many non-Eddie films naked and on a Spy Magazine list of celebrity prostitutes.

[Fun Fact: Paré portrayed a demonic rock star who gets BBQed by Satan in the 1995 crapfest Raging Angels, directed by the incomparable Alan Smithee.]

Arlene Davidson, the frequent target of low-wattage admirers bearing Eddie scripts, says it’s a short bus she won’t drive again. “There was nothing to work on on Eddie II — no real story. The movie had nothing to say. No way will there be an Eddie III.”

[In 2015 Paré told the Washington Post he’s writing a script for Eddie III himself.]

eddie and the cruisers iii posters

Meanwhile, Beaver Brown still plays clubs. Kluge still writes books and teaches college in Ohio. Martin Davidson went on to direct the box office turkey Heart of Dixie. Scotti Brothers keeps releasing Cafferty/Beaver Brown albums with silly fake concert photos of Paré on the covers. [And Kenny Vance produced an Eddie and the Cruisers stage musical in 2001 and kinda forgot to notify all the movie people about it.]

In 1991 Scotti Brothers issued a CD called “The Unreleased Tapes.” It featured “lost” Eddie songs (four Cafferty/Beaver Brown numbers lopped off the last soundtrack) and a super-special bonus, presumably to save money by not buying new material from Beaver Brown: gripping dialog from both movies! It’s deja vu all over again.

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Above: Michael Paré and Matthew Laurance explain the magic.
“We were horrible. Southside Johnny worked with us as a band. He would get really upset.”


Above: John Cafferty and Beaver Brown performing on American Bandstand in 1986.


Above: Michael Paré 1989 interview about Eddie and the Cruisers II.
“I take [the band] out on the road. We put together a whole new bunch of songs. [They never actually played them. — ss] We had two weeks to rehearse.”


Above: Michael Paré 2012 interview. About Eddie and the Cruisers II (17:35):
“The director came to me and said, ‘I can’t stand this script or the music in this movie.’ And I had to work for this guy for seven more weeks knowing he hated the fucking movie. You can’t print this.”


Above: This is Michael Paré’s demo reel. Eddie Wilson isn’t on it.

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Read this interesting scholarly post by Oxford University Press about Eddie and the Cruisers!

Text copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved.

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version‘s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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Photo of Michael Paré and Nancy Donahue © Vanity Fair.
Photo of Michael Paré in The Greatest American Hero © Stephen J. Cannell Productions/ABC.
Eddie and the Cruisers book cover © P.F. Kluge
Photos of Tony Scotti and Ben Scotti © Twentieth Century Fox, © Philadelphia Eagles.
Photo of Fred Scotti © Kevin Cable and David Rossi.
Photo of Kenny Vance © Kenny Vance and Josh Aronson.
Advertising photos © Lee Barnes and © NaturesJoy’s Clippings Pinups Books.
Album covers © Scotti Brothers Records/All American Communications.
Eddie and the Cruisers III movie posters © Kevin Matterson (left) and © Jeff Webber, Andrew Huff, Shylo Bisnett for Gapers Block (right).

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.