About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Sidebar Edition, Part 2

The Everlasting First is an ongoing A-Z series recounting my first exposures to various singers and superheroes, rock 'n' roll groups and popular publications. While records and comic books have taken up a lot of my consciousness over the past several decades, there have occasionally been a few other things that captured my short attention span. So let's devote a couple of posts to a few first-times that won't be covered in The Everlasting First. We'll touch on some comic books and pop combos, sure, but also some foods, some movies, some experiences, and maybe some...um, y'know, gurls.

(Great. Now I'm blushing.)

Some obsessions predate conscious memory. I'll never be able to tell you about my first TV show, my first spaghetti, my first drive-in movie. The rest? Lessee what we can conjure up.

You can read Part 1 of these conjurings here.

FIRST JOB: If we don't count the occasional paid lawn-mowing gig, or the times I tried to help my Dad at MacArthur Stadium (where he worked in the Visitors' Clubhouse for teams playing against the Syracuse Chiefs AAA baseball team), my first job was with a Friendly's restaurant in the fall of 1976. I lasted almost a month.

FIRST BOOK: The first book I remember was some kind of circus book, or maybe a book about a circus train? Can't recall any specifics, but I'd memorized it sufficiently at the age of 5 to recite it by rote. I also loved Dr. Seuss (beginning with The Cat In The Hat), and a book called 365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert. That book will come up again a few entries from now. The first book to include my writing was 1996's MusicHound Rock, a CD buying guide that slapped together a bunch of miniature career overviews of various performers. I subsequently contributed to that book's sequel, and to Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, and Lost In The Grooves. I've written enough material for this blog to fill two books, and counting.

FIRST PUBLISHED WRITING: In the late '60s, a bunch of kids at Bear Road Elementary School were asked to speculate on The Easter Bunny's preferred mode of transportation. I mean, we knew of Santa Claus with the sleigh and the reindeer and the up on the rooftop quick-quick-quick, but what about everyone's favorite egg-delivering cottontail? If asked today, I'd say he uses either a hareplane or rabbit transit. At the age of eight or nine, while I no longer believed, I found it fun to fantasize about The Easter Bunny and friends traveling like Batman would, hence my creations The Bunnymobile and The Birdcopter. These flights o' fancy were included in an article collecting our oh-so-cute responses in the weekly community tabloid, circa '68 or '69. In sixth grade, I was very briefly on the school newspaper, writing plagiarized cartoons and attempting to write...I have no idea what the hell I was trying to write. But a poem I wrote in sixth grade about Hanukkah was published in that paper, Roxboro Hi-Lights, when I was in eighth grade. That was my first stand-alone published writing.

FIRST RADIO GIG: I just remembered that I tried to get a job at WOLF-AM when I was in high school. HA! I say HA!! My attempts to join the campus station WBSU while a freshman at Brockport were abandoned when station management pissed me off, and I left in a huff. And a used Huff at that, with no air conditioning. I did eventually sit in with friends during their WBSU shows when I was a senior. In the mid '80s, I did two amateur-DJ stints on WBNY's Ha! Ha! I'm On The Radio at Buff State. Then along came Dana, and the various Dana & Carl radio collaborations began in 1992.

FIRST TV APPEARANCE: In high school, I made some appearances on public access cable in North Syracuse, starting probably around '75 or '76. I think the first was a discussion of our high school magazine The NorthCaster; I did at least two of those, alongside some of my fellow staff members. The first one was taped at the cable TV studio, and a subsequent one was taped at the home of the cable show's host. After one of the NorthCaster discussions, which I taped with the lovely Mary Saur (whom I probably should have asked out on a date at some point during my teen years), the host and his crew asked Mary and I if we'd like to record a second show. What the hell, we said, and spent another hour sharing our thoughts on the subject of television itself. I also did a solo, unscripted bit about Star Trek for a friend (Mark Colvin), recorded at the high school's TV production studio and later broadcast (and re-broadcast) on the public access channel. I'm sure none of these shows survived bulk erasing somewhere along the way, but it would be a kick to see 'em. Many years later, Dana and I appeared with Gary Frenay of The Flashcubes on Syracuse Channel 9's morning show Bridge Street, promoting the first BRIGHT LIGHTS! Syracuse New Wave Rock 'n' Roll Reunion live show in 2014.

FIRST VCR: An Hitachi 2-head VHS machine, which lovely wife Brenda and I purchased as a Christmas gift to ourselves in 1986, when we were nearing the unhappy end of our time in Buffalo.

FIRST VIDEO TAPE: If we don't count the copy of The Monkees' movie Head that my friend Deb Hannay recorded for me off Cinemax, my first video tapes were VHS copies of The Beatles on Ready Steady Go! and a collection of 1940s Superman cartoons.

FIRST DVD: Either the documentary Badfinger or The Ramones in Rock 'n' Roll High School. I can remember that much, but I can't remember what my first Blu-Ray was, like a little over a year ago.

FIRST SUPER 8 MOVIE: Super 8s were black and white silent movies marketed for home entertainment in pre-VCR days. In the early '70s, I discovered a Super 8 projector stashed in our attic, and briefly became a Super 8 buff. My favored films included comedies starring Charlie Chaplin or Abbott & Costello, but my biggest faves were 1940s superhero serials. My first acquisitions were either Adventures Of Batman Episode 5: The Executioner Strikes or a Captain Marvel chapter.

FIRST AUDIO CASSETTE: The soundtrack from Billy Jack.

FIRST EIGHT-TRACK: I've only ever owned two! First was a Paul Revere & the Raiders tape, a collection of the Raiders' early tracks (from before they signed with Columbia Records). I recall it included a song called "Sharon," which was my girlfriend's name at the time. Awwww! In the early '90s, Dana gave me an eight-track player--which I still have--and a copy of Dedication by The Bay City Rollers.

FIRST COMPACT DISC: I bought my first CD player (a Pioneer) circa 1988 or so, but held off on buying CDs, preferring to just borrow discs from the library. When Like This by The dB's was reissued in 1989, I jumped at a chance to finally own a copy of this great album, which I'd missed getting during its original release. I opted for the LP version--still wasn't buying CDs yet--but discovered that both my initial copy and an attempted replacement skipped like a fugitive flight risk. Grumble. Returned the LP for the second time, and bought CDs of both Like This and The Beatles' Past Masters, Volume Two at Spectrum Records up on the SU hill.

FIRST JAMES BOND FILM: I wanted to see Live And Let Die because I loved the theme song by Paul McCartney & Wings, but I wasn't sure whether or not I'd dig a 007 movie. So I deferred the decision. My first Bond flick was The Man With The Golden Gun.

FIRST LETTER PRINTED IN A COMIC BOOK: Superman # 289, cover dated July 1975. More would follow.

FIRST COMICS REPRINT COLLECTION: The 1966 Signet paperback Batman. More would follow.

FIRST COMIC BOOK FOR (SUPPOSEDLY) MATURE READERS: A department store called White-Modell had a smoke shop, and the smoke shop sold magazines. There, right next to Penthouse magazine, was a black and white comic book called Vampirella, which mixed horror and the supernatural with pulchritude and sex appeal. I don't remember whether I picked up my first issue there or at World Of Books, but either way I believe I started with Vampirella # 18 or # 19 in 1972--I got 'em both in short order, but perhaps not in sequence. Nonetheless: bitten and smitten!

FIRST CONCERT CANCELLATION: I bought a ticket to see Lou Reed at Brockport in the Spring of '78, but illness forced him to bail on the show entirely. Insert your own "Waiting For The Man" reference here.

FIRST LINER NOTES: THE FLASHCUBES! My status as The World's Most Insistent Flashcubes Fan made me the natural choice to write the liner notes for the group's first-ever long form release, the Bright Lights anthology CD. The disc was released in 1997, but I think I wrote the liners more than a year before that. It was one of my favorite pieces among all I've written, and I somehow convinced editor Jeff Tamarkin to also run it as an article in Goldmine. My first paid liner notes gig was for Rhino Records; someone at Rhino contacted me in 1997 about writing the liners for a power pop compilation called Poptopia! Power Pop Classics Of The '90s. When the Rhino rep apologized and explained that they couldn't pay much, I interrupted him to say I'LL TAKE IT!! Tough negotiator? That's me! Fun gig.

FIRST SPORTING EVENT ATTENDED: Gotta be a Syracuse Chiefs game in the '60s, probably before I was even interested in baseball. The Chiefs were and remain our local AAA International League baseball franchise, and they were the New York Yankees' farm club in the '60s and '70s. My Dad managed the Visitors' Clubhouse at MacArthur Stadium, so I was there pretty often, drinkin' Teem and eatin' popcorn and candy bars.

FIRST SPORTS HEROES: Tony Solaita of the Syracuse Chiefs and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.

FIRST INTERVIEW: If we skip past NorthCaster interviews with the folks in charge of the high school ski club and bookstore, as well as an earlier interview with one of my Dad's friends for a seventh-grade paper on immigration, it would have to be the time I interviewed the folks in charge of the Razor & Tie label, which I did for a 1993 Indie Label Spotlight in Goldmine. The first time I was interviewed would have been after the Poptopia! CDs were released, and a writer for a weekly tabloid in the San Francisco area wanted to ask me some questions about pop music. Happy to oblige!

FIRST PULP MAGAZINE: I believe it was an issue of Dime Detective from the '30s or '40s, purchased at the flea market in the mid '70s. I've never owned many pulps, but I still have a very small stack of them in my garage (though that Dime Detective is long gone) . Would kinda like to get a hero pulp--especially The Shadow--just to say I have one, but it's probably not worth the bother or the expense.

FIRST SUSHI: Something I never thought I'd be interested in even trying, but it was served during the wedding reception for my college friends Chuck & Val when they got hitched in Key West in 1991. Loved the stuff on first taste.

FIRST ALCOHOL: I think it would have been a sip of my Uncle Danny's beer at a bowling alley in Syracuse in the '60s. Yechh. I confess I developed more of a taste for the stuff later on.

FIRST TOO-MUCH ALCOHOL: Fall semester 1977, party in my freshman dorm Thompson Hall in Brockport. It wasn't my first kegger, but this time a guy on my floor (Nate? I can picture him, but I can't recall his name) produced a bottle of 151, and I was soon off to the retches. Many more such eruptions and morning-after woes would follow over the ensuing years. In the late '80s, I realized I hated hangovers too much to ever suffer one again. I've embraced moderation ever since.

FIRST LEAD ROLE: I was the MC of my kindergarten United Nations presentation in 1966; my grandfather attended to see little Carlo represent Italy, dance the Tarantella, and introduce those other countries, too. I played the title role in a second grade presentation about Robert Louis Stevenson, and killed in multiple performances of my defining role, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas in third grade, 1968. After a supporting role in my fourth grade class play, I retired from the limelight. I'm still big; it's the plays that got smaller.

FIRST GIRLFRIEND: Technically? Mary Rose Tamborelli, who lived across the street from my Godparents in Westvale when I was five.

FIRST BROKEN HEART: After time and circumstance separated Mary and I, I fell hard for Suzette Mauro in kindergarten, and sat with her on the bus every day, until she suddenly threw me aside and picked Jeff over me. Jeff...?! Oh, the humanity! To add insult to this injuring memory, I saw Suzette again in high school, and she grew up to look seriously hot.

FIRST DREAM GIRL:  Wendy was a little girl who lived on What-A-Jolly Street in the children's book 365 Bedtime Stories, and I knew that I would someday invent a way to make her real, and we would live in married bliss for all of our days.

FIRST KISS: Sharon Dashevsky.


One day in 1969, I discovered an issue of Playboy underneath the seat of the family car. I presume my brother had left it there, forgotten. I was in the back seat, my force of will overcoming my usual vulnerability to car sickness, as I surreptitiously glanced through this magazine with pictures of female models who had removed their shirts. It was the July 1969 issue, and in spite of the cover photo of the absolutely stunning Barbi Benton, the only reason I remember the precise issue is because I know it contained a head-scratchingly dumb pictorial called "Birds Of America," featuring the upper torsos of beautiful nude models edited on to pictures of birds. That's not sexy; that's weird.

FIRST TIME I REALIZED I WAS GETTING OLDER: Playboy magazine, February 1979. Playmate Of The Month Lee Ann Michelle was exactly two months younger than me. That's weird, too.

Shuddup, old man!
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