Monday, June 24, 2013

Chapter 53 - Stephen’s Disenchantment



From 1977 through early 1980, Stephen was spending his time in transit from Santa Monica to Burbank with West Hollywood sandwiched in between. Basically homeless, he was sleeping most nights on Jon Marr’s couch in the living room of his one bedroom apartment at The El Cortez on Fourth Street. It was a difficult time for him, especially when Jon’s fiancĂ©e, Carol, was around. Carol had an apartment on the first floor directly below Jon’s and disliked Stephen, to put it mildly, and the feeling was mutual. To escape from the turmoil, he would take the bus to Burbank and visit with Renee, who was becoming a famous Hollywood actress. He would sleep in her spare bedroom and at times would knock on Renee’s locked door to enter, hoping he could cement their relationship, or at least take it to the next level. She would always have an excuse, she was tired, or was reading, and they never did move to the next level. Stephen, to her, was more of a spiritual advisor. He would analyze her astrology chart and decipher her numerology, although being with her in the Biblical way, was just not in the cards for him. Speaking of Biblical, she had now re-acquainted herself with Jesus and, for Stephen; any thoughts of a deeper love with Renee were all but lost. She had Jesus and that was enough for her now.
The day that Stephen realized that Silverspoon was finally over was sometime in 1978. It was at Jon Marr’s apartment. Joey and Jon were arguing about vocal harmonies while I just sat there with my guitar in hand waiting for the dust to settle. It didn't  Larry was there too, but left as soon as he saw the writing on the wall. It was the same old story, Jon was trying to teach Joey an intricate harmony which he couldn't grasp, a fight ensued and I myself had had enough, said I was out of there, and left. Knowing that I had Robin Stewart waiting at home who was more than happy to help write another song increased the feeling of independence from the dwindling, almost non-existent band. Stephen was mortified, finally realizing that a group with Jon, Joey, Larry, me and himself was out of the question. Not only that, his love life was in utter chaos between Renee, Robin (who always came in and out of his life like a yo-yo) and Stephanie, the beautiful French model and best friend of Michelle Hormel, who lived on the third floor of the El Cortez. He would fly to Vegas and visit with Stephanie and all they did was have sex. Who could blame him? But when he came back to LA she rarely visited him. He knew he could always find Robin, mostly showing up at precisely the wrong time to squelch a budding relationship with someone new. He also had Renee, if he wanted to have a spiritual companion, but most times he left her feeling frustrated and alone.
Having no money and impacted teeth, Stephen was in dire straits. Ever since the death of his step-father, Tom Gries, in 1977 and the events of the Red House with Christa’s murder, he was a lost soul drifting from place to place in the city of angels. Not being welcome at Jon’s apartment because of the animosity between him and Carol, Stephen began staying at John Shoemaker’s place on Fifth Street, not more than five hundred feet away. Shoemaker was a sports –loving, druggie derelict who needed someone to be with to share his cocaine delusions, although I don’t think Stephen took part in any of the drugging. He was barely hanging on to reality and drugs were the last thing he needed—alcohol, on the other hand was beginning to be a major vice or distraction for him, me too, unfortunately. I would see him from time to time in Venice. We would hang out by the beach, play a little guitar and reminisce and later go to the bar. He had gotten a job at Merlin McFly’s as a doorman and would leave work wasted at three in the morning and somehow make his way back to Shoemaker’s apartment. Stephanie tried to convince Stephen to move to Atlantic City where her father was a pit boss at one of the casinos there. He couldn't see leaving LA, the Mecca for all the music, film and the rest of the arts, to be stuck in some godforsaken place where the only music was covers of cheesy sixties hits. They subsequently broke up.
There was another young woman who lived at the El Cortez named Maria Corvelone who, if you remember, was responsible for introducing the band to Bob Ringe, the hapless agent from William Morris in 1977. It was now the end of 1979 and I was living with Marly, who I had met in January of that year. Maria was acting as my agent and had procured a gig for me at a place in Venice called F. Scott’s on January 9, 1980. I had hired a band of musicians I had found from the Musician’s Contact Service, except for Brent Nelson, the drummer, who I had worked with before with Stephen Paul. Brent was a fine drummer who had an excellent voice, very reminiscent of Joey’s high tenor. Even though Stephen Adamick-Gries was around somewhere and Larry too, I had no intention of using them in my band. I didn't want another version Silverspoon. We rehearsed some of the songs I had recently written for a week or two and it was show-time. The place was packed. Chas had brought Bette Midler (I will go into more detail about this later), who he was seeing on a regular basis. My sister, Susan was also there all jacked up on something. I remember her yelling at the engineer behind the console in between songs to fix the sound, being a bit distorted, but we were loud and the sound guy was doing the best he could to match the vocal volume with the screaming guitars, thundering bass and booming drums. Then Susan stormed out of her seat to fix the trouble, rushed by my vocal mike which banged against my front teeth. I announced to the crowd that she would get the bill from my dentist. She then tried to grab the controls of the mixing console even though she didn't know the first thing about mixing sound. The engineer was at a loss for words but managed to keep my older sister’s hands off the console. The performance was shaky at best but was saved when I came out to do a solo encore. I did a heart-felt version of my song, Final Bow (Susan’s favorite song of mine), and the crowd responded in an enthusiastic way. After that show, Bette had told Chas that she liked some of my songs and wanted to record one called Mr. Lonely. I’m not sure what happened, because she never did record it. I think she and Chas had broken up—so much for that.
Stephen had enough of the pain that Los Angeles seemed to have caused him, or at least that what he thought, and decided to go up to Carmel to live with his father, Chick. He got a job as a bus-boy at one of the golf courses at Pebble Beach. He would wait hand and foot for the elite; people like Clint Eastwood and Johnny River’s ex wife, the latter of which he had designs on. I don’t think that ever happened but it was a good time for Stephen to get out of LA and bond with his birth father. He had saved up his money and bought a guitar and amp to replace the one that Michael and Ciri Japp had stolen from him. When he came back to LA, he told me he was ready to join the Two Guys From Van Nuys, but I told him we were going to keep it as a duo—just Larry and me. I wanted a situation where we would play live and from past experience with Stephen, we never really did play live. I felt I needed to get my road legs exercised, and the only way was to perform in front of people and not just in the studio, a place where Stephen shined and still shines. Larry had plenty of live experience from Vegas and beyond and I thought the nucleus of the Two Guys should be us. I didn't mean to hurt Stephen’s feelings, which apparently I did, but I was on a mission and could not let friendships get in the way of it.
Stephen told me of his escapades in Carmel and I was a bit jealous. Having gone back to the great game of golf and I played at least once a week at Roosevelt, a course in Griffith Park. Golf was a game I began to take seriously at the age of twelve when my father had taken me out to Rancho Park. By the time I was fourteen I was, much to his chagrin, beating him at his own game. My dream was, and still is to be invited to play the Pro-Am at Pebble beach links, but to do so you have to be a celebrity. Maybe someday? But for now, or then as the case may be, I was pursuing a solo career in music, living with Marly and playing golf. Reuniting with Silverspoon was the furthest thing in my mind, although there would be one more re-union in the future and that, my friends, will be revealed soon enough.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Chapter 52 - Cat and Mouse


As I said before, Robin and I had broken up and it was an amenable break-up. We wanted to stay friends and I am happy to say we still are friends. For some reason or another, I managed to stay friends with all my ex-girlfriends and my wife doesn't mind. She is not the jealous type, the complete opposite of the kind of woman I would soon get involved with after Robin.
After the predictability and domesticity of Woodbridge, living in that tree-house on Gould was emancipating and exhilarating. I suppose it was originally meant to be a guest cottage since there was the main house upstairs where Jack (the junkie) and his girlfriend Betsy, a dark haired beauty with piercing blue eyes, lived. My Dad was helping me move in and had rented a U-Haul van. We were winding down our first load and I had propped up the mattress against the inside of the garage door where Jack parked his car. We went back to Woodbridge for the second load. On our way back, my dad I could see smoke billowing up and it looked like it was coming from the downstairs part of the house, three hundred yards up ahead—maybe somebody was burning leaves. They weren't  The garage was on fire. The fire engines with their sirens screaming slowly made their way up the narrow street and had thankfully put the fire in the garage out in a matter of minutes— but my mattress was burnt to a crisp. I found out later from Betsy that Jack had sold some bad dope to one of the members of Three Dog Night and he, in retribution, had set fire to my mattress, he didn’t know it was mine, of course, but anybody’s mattress would have done the job. Welcome back to Hollywood, Mr. Haymer.
My friend Chas, who, who lived up the street on Walnut off of Kirkwood, was getting his career off the ground. He was now in a band called Romanse with Tony Berg on guitar, Art Wood on drums and Jeff Eyerich on bass. They were doing that pre-eighties style of music with the bass thumping the root with eight notes and the drums sounded like canons. The Knack was in the process of recording their first album and playing places like The Starwood and The Whiskey. There were some pretty good bands around then, a group called 20/20, and Chas’s brother Richard played drums in Great Buildings, a group fronted by Danny Wilde, who would later go on to write the theme song from Friends. Me, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with bands, unless they were a back-up. After Silverspoon and then The Knack I had enough. Doug Fieger was a demagogue and ran his outfit like Napoleon ran his little French army. I had no use for that kind of thing in music—hey, it’s supposed to be fun, right?
Ed Blair, whose real name was Blaustein, was a fellow New Yorker, and member of the tribe, who as I said, I had met at Alice’s, Robin’s landlady at 2222 Laurel Canyon. Ed is a kind of a hustling-bustling, street-wise and well-fed patron of the arts. He hired musicians, actors, street artists—anybody who needed a job. He figured these “artists types” could act or were desperate enough to make thirty calls and hour, for four hours straight, or as Ed called it, ”dialing for dollars”. There was a storefront shop downstairs by the name of Shakey’s Wigs which I would bypass on my way through the glass doors to the elevator which lifted me to the third floor. We were selling typewriter ribbons and lift off correction tape, mostly for the IBM Selectric II, which comprised ninety percent of the business. I did fairly well—some weeks were better than others. It wouldn't be until Central Supply moved to Van Nuys two years later when Jim Phillips hit pay-dirt—his ship had come in and it had come in directly from the U.S.Virgin Islands. I (or Jim Phillips) had found a phone book from The Virgin Islands in the back of the directory room, sort of a storage closet for phone books. I asked Ed if it was all right to call the islands and if we could ship the product over there. He said any book in the directory room was fair game—go for it. I did and before too long, I was driving a Porsche and getting into that ubiquitous, wretched, white powdery substance— a little too much. I could always take it or leave coke, I never bought it. I remember doing a few lines with Ronnie Huff in 1969 before a gig at The Troubadour, or with my first girl-friend and her father on the houseboat which floated peaceably down the Sacramento River. I also did some lines with Larry and Jeff and most definitely with BJ, except he often snorted that sulphuric acidy stuff called crank. It burned my nose like the dickens and it made me all jittery and nervous. I don’t think I ever snorted coke with Stephen Gries—thank God for that. The marijuana, acid and mescaline raps were bad enough—an all night coke rant would have been unbearable.  I often wondered, if I had stayed away from the habit for so long why did I start then at the age of twenty-six? Why so late? Jimmy Haymer could never afford it before. Jim Phillips changed all that.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and go back to Hollywood’s Central Supply. As I said, Ed Blair hired artist types and sitting next to me there was this tall, skinny, dark haired guy who was struggling at the job at hand. I tried to give him some pointers and, on a break we started talking about music. He was a singer/songwriter too, and had worked with some of the same people I had worked with. He told me he was the guy who had that billboard up on Sunset and La Cienega in the late sixties, where the Pink Dot is now, proclaiming the Stephen Skull was coming. His real name was Stephen Scakulnikov, whose father was a Taxicab mogul in Manhattan. I told him that I remembered seeing that billboard and thought it was enticing and I often wondered who this Stephen Skull was and when he was coming. Little did I know he would arrive at the desk next to mine on Hollywood Blvd selling typewriter ribbons and lift-off tape?
 Stephen Paul, as he went by now, was a mad scientist sort of guy, kind of a genius in electronics. He drove a rust colored Opel GT and we drove out to Joshua Tree to see the Blue Rose Ministry. He, being the rational thinker, was very skeptical but fascinated nonetheless. We would also hang out at his apartment on Havenhurst and wound up singing Beatles or Eagles songs. He had a decent voice, but really nothing to write home about. He tried to convince me to start a duo with him doing some of the same songs we were singing plus some Paul Simon and Cat Stevens. I had nothing else going on at the time so I reluctantly agreed. He wanted to call the duo Cat and Mouse. He, of course, with his thick black hair and Snidley Whiplash mustache, would be the cat. I, much to my disappointment, was delegated to be the mouse. It was the “I’m not playing” syndrome I had gone through when my father was building a bed and asked his three progeny what famous cowboy hero they wanted to be to pass the time. They both picked my favorites before I could choose. Susan said, ‘I’m Daniel Boone.” Robbie said, “I’m Davy Crockett.” I said, “I’m…not playing—the story of my life. I did after awhile reluctantly assume the role of the mouse. He said I reminded him of Anatole the mouse from some children’s book that was read to him when he was a kid.
Cat and Mouse had some promotional photos taken and we got a few gigs. They were terrible and we kind of sucked. His main talents were behind the recording console not in front of it. He had a friend who had a twenty-four track studio in, of all places, Studio City, and we got some free time there. Stephen decided he was going to produce a couple of tracks that I had written there. I agreed, since the studio time was free and I needed to add to my catalog of recorded material. The first song we did was a number I had written when Michael Japp was staying at my sister’s apartment when I was house-sitting for her in 1977. It was entitled Daybreak Heartache. The second song was called Don’t Say You’re Passing Me By; a very Cat Stevens influenced song. He was a pretty darned good engineer, I must admit, and the tapes turned out nicely. The main problem was this Cat and Mouse thing. I didn't want to do it anymore but I couldn't blow it off without jeopardizing the recordings, so I hung in there. Another problem was the fact that Stephen was very opinionated and controlling—I hated that. There is not a Scorpio I know that likes to be told what to do, and I was no exception to that rule.
As a producer, Stephen was very influenced by friends of his, Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher. Usher was the earliest outside collaborator The Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson, co-writing more than ten songs (among them In My Room ,409  and Lonely Sea). Wilson's domineering father, Murry Wilson clashed with Usher and discouraged Usher's close personal friendship and working relationship with his son. Usher later recalled that the nicest thing Murry Wilson ever said to him was "not bad, Usher, not bad" upon hearing Usher and Brian Wilson play In My Room after they had co-written it. Curt was the founding member of the underrated group, The Millennium who had one album entitled Begin released in 1968. They were very psychedelic and Stephen Paul was an ardent fan and student of the recording techniques used. Later, Curt would produce Mike Love’s solo record, Looking Back With Love in 1981 and was a fan of The Two Guys From Van Nuys, (a duo consisting of myself and Larry Harrison). He loved our song Running Around the World and promised he would record it someday. He was true to his word and it made it to the Love record. Curt, a gay man, was the first person I ever knew who died from AIDS in 1986. He was an extremely talented character and I miss him and his amazing vocal and production abilities so much.

Stephen Paul, after we lost touch with one another, went on later to re-invent  a microphone and built a company around that innovation. He, I found out, had developed some rare disease where his body compressed and shrunk by about a foot. He suffered with extreme arthritis for years and lost the use of his hands and one of his eyes but— he died of liver cancer in 2003 which he didn’t even know he had until four days before he passed. His company is still alive and you can visit his website at spaudio.com.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chapter 51- The Package




I got the word the BJ was coming back to LA. He called me when I was back at Oakhurst Drive in between girlfriends or visiting my parents. I must have still been with Robin but things were on the wane in our relationship. It wouldn't be long now until the two year stint with her would be drawing to a close. It must have been Thanksgiving of 1978, that’s why I was home. BJ had called to tell me he, and his friend Walter Hallanan, were coming back to take over the LA pop scene and he was going to send me a package and I was not, under any circumstances to open it. Me being the trusting lad that I was at the time, listened carefully to his instructions. It was going to be a box; roughly the size of a shoe-box wrapped in brown shipping paper and it would be sent to BJ Taylor at the Oakhurst address. “What’s in it?” I asked my friend and social mentor. “Don’t worry about it. But I need to know I can trust you not to open it. The contents are very personal and it is something that will help all of our careers.” I wondered what it could be. Were they contracts from a record company? Were they gold bars or coins that his aging mother and father had given him to get him back on his feet again in LA?
BJ had a business partner, Walter Hallanan, who had sold his house in the Philadelphia area and had bought himself a large percentage of Taylormade (BJ’s music company) productions. He wasn't coerced, nobody held a gun to his head or even twisted his arm— he did it willingly and under his own cognition. As I mentioned before, BJ could sell Bibles to an atheist, or garlic to a vampire, and he had sold poor Walter the bill of goods, lock stock and barrel. Welcome to the wild, wacky and wonderful world of showbiz, Mr. Hallanan.
The package arrived right before Thanksgiving, and I had already told my folks that it would be coming and not to open it. I knew that they would never open mail belonging to someone else, but I was only taking precautions since I knew how valuable it was to BJ—it was a matter of life or death to him. I must have been staying in my old room in the back because I was the first one to see that brown shoebox size package addressed to a Mr. BJ Taylor. I was curious as to the contents of this shoe-box size package. What in the world could it be? But, being the loyal and trusting friend that I was, I didn't open it. I might have lightly shaken it, or maybe I sniffed it, but I didn’t open it. There it stood on the edge of the mahogany baby grand piano in my parent’s living room.
BJ and Walter arrived in LA about a week or two later and I picked them up at the airport in my Mom’s Mercedes. There were these two six-foot four inch bearded Philadelphians that looked exactly alike. At first I thought that Walter was BJ, since I hadn’t seen BJ in a couple of years—that’s how much they looked liked one another. We all drove back to Oakhurst and I asked my folks if it would be all right if the two transient friends of mine could stay in the back room for a night or two while they went apartment hunting in Hollywood. Of course, my parents being the greatest people that ever lived said they would be more than happy to accommodate them. They were always so supportive of my friends and my endeavors. God, I miss them so much now.
I gave BJ the package and he said thanks. I thought he was going to open it right there and then to make sure everything was hunky-dory. He didn't.  He asked me to drop him and Walter off at a friend’s house in Hollywood and would call when he needed to be picked up. He said it would be worth my while to be around when he called in a few hours. So I hung around my parent’s living room, played a little piano, watched some TV, probably a Dodger game with the incomparable voice of Vin Scully and waited.  He didn't call that day. He didn't call the next day. On the third day he finally called to tell me that they had rented a house at the top of Sunset Plaza for a hefty sum of money. I was wondering how in the world he could afford something like that. When he gave me a call to come up and see the place I was amazed. It was a modern house with white carpets and built on stilts. It looked out over the entire city and I felt that BJ was on his way back with a vengeance, and this time he was taking no prisoners. I knew that Walter had sold his house to help finance their move from the city of brotherly love to the city of angels, but there must have been something valuable in that box to allow them the extravagance to shell out at least twenty-five hundred dollars a month on a place in the hills, not to mention the car they had rented— and it was party time every night. The bar was always loaded (as were the patrons) with everything you could imagine and the fridge well stocked with cold cuts and Heineken beer. There were always beautiful women there drinking and snorting a white powdery substance which, from time to time, I sampled myself, but mostly I partook of the green leafy substance rolled in a Zig-Zag.
It wouldn't be long until BJ had finagled studio time back at the Record Plant working with Michael Bronstein, a staff engineer who was employed at that studio. He had hired some of the best studio musicians including Jeff (Skunk) Baxter to play guitar, Earl Campbell on drums and many other giants of the music industry. I myself even played guitar on the two tracks called “Rock and Roll City” and “Hollywood”, the latter written about a woman named Holly, who would and definitely could! The tracks rocked and I was getting caught up in the glitz and glamour of BJ’s world again. He was on his way back and I thought if I could hang on his coattails, success may just rub off onto my lapels. What did I have to lose? Silverspoon was a painful memory now and I had no idea what Larry, Stephen and Joey were up to. I had broken up with Robin and I was a single guy of twenty-six. Every night we would all meet up at Roy’s restaurant across the street from the famed “Riot House” and I would always sample their classic Hot and Sour soup or Chinese chicken salad. I never had to pay for a thing. But I would pay, as in other ways. There are no free lunches, or free soup and salad, as the case may be. It wasn't until a year later, maybe longer when I finally found out what was inside that shoe-box wrapped in brown shipping paper. He told me that it was a large amount of that same white illegal substance he was sampling before that was the entire rave in Hollywood, if not the whole country—the finest that money could buy. I was flabbergasted. How could he use me like that? How could he jeopardize, not only my safety but the safety of my parents? “The end justifies the means,” he said, “and it’s not like you didn't benefit from the contents of the box, Jimmy”. I knew it was wrong and I felt guilty about what could have happened, but it was too late to do anything about it.
 This is the guy who once convinced me to charge a birthday present for my mother at Max Stollman’s Pharmacy, the family druggist (Mom had a charge account there) who had a shop on Wilshire and San Vincente. He emphatically told me we would pay the bill before anyone was the wiser. Well, the bill came before I had a chance to intercept, and the shit hit the fan. I took the fall for that and kept BJ out of it. This is also the same guy who, when I wanted to trade in my Martin D-18 in on a five year old Gibson J-200 at West LA Music, helped put me over the edge on my decision to acquire the guitar. I wrote a check for six hundred dollars on an account that only had two hundred in it. He said he had a check coming on Monday and it would be covered. It never came, or came late and the check bounced. My dad had to make up the difference. It wasn’t looking good for me in my father’s eyes then. Don’t get me wrong about BJ, I loved him like a brother, or as if he was a crazy old uncle, the kind you go visit and not mention it to the rest your family. This same guy also provided me with a beau-coup of opportunities in the music biz—he always promoted me as a great songwriter and would inspire me to play in my “Feely Wangbar” (surf-blues) Stratocaster style. He coined the name Feely Wangbar for me. I think he thought of me as his little brother—the one he never had. I was weighing my options, but I knew covering for BJ was getting old and I didn’t want to be taken advantage of—even though, in essence , it was a two way street. I was a willing participant. Soon the money would be gone and BJ would have to find other people (including Walter) to entice into his world of rock and roll and debauchery. I wasn't going to be one of them—not this time.

I (or Jim Phillips) had a new job selling typewriter ribbons and lift-off tape at Central Supply in Hollywood run by the irrepressible Ed Blair, who I had met at Alice’s house. Alice was the landlady of a cute little house on Laurel Canyon where Robin had moved into the room downstairs. I made sure she was close by since I had rented a tree-house on Gould—a studio apartment surrounded by Jacaranda and Night Blooming Jasmine. It was right down the street from Chas’s house on Walnut drive just off of Ridpath in the famed Canyon. I don’t really know why Robin and I broke up, but it was over and we both knew it by the end of 1978. Maybe it was because we were too much alike in some ways and totally different in others. Maybe it was the oceans of coffee she and I would drink trying to write songs. It was getting on my nerves having a lover who was also a song-writing partner. I knew it would be better for my psyche to be with a woman who had nothing to do with the music business. That would happen to me much sooner than I thought.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chapter 50 - Alias Jim Phillips and the Notorious Paine Boys



Before the gig at the Whiskey with The Knack and before I actually joined that band, things were starting to go sour for Robin and me in that apartment on Clark Street. We were still doing all right in our relationship, but it was getting too crazy in the city. Crime was rampant and it was too damned noisy in that apartment. There was a guy who lived next door named Danny who was a real pain in the ass. Often in the wee hours of the morning there would be some drugged out groupie banging on his door yelling “Danny, Danny…” that would keep us awake. He must have been a musician of sorts because we would hear a lot of raucous sounds wafting in from that apartment. Although he was a nuisance, he did inspire us to write a song about it called “Danny Did It” about the escapades of a Hollywood musician who had a fleet of groupies banging on his door in the middle of the night. That song and others that Robin and I had written together started a relationship with Warner’s Publishing; our key man there was a guy named Greg Penny who would later go on to be a well known music producer at the helm of artists like k.d. lang. Although we never did secure a publishing deal with Warner’s, we did have access to their little studio on Sunset and came out with some decent demos.
This was also the time that the Hillside Strangler was loose in the area and Robin was a little paranoid about living in West Hollywood.  We figured the valley would be a much safer place to live plus we knew some other musicians who lived out there, Chuck Fiore, Beau Segal and Jimmy Eingher that were playing in the band “Billy and the Beaters” with Billy Vera. I still had a subscription to Homefinders so Robin and I scoured the pages for rentals in the San Fernando Valley. We found a cute one bedroom bungalow on Woodbridge Street not far from CBS Studio Center –near Radford. It was a great place with wooden floors and big rooms, perfect for playing and writing music and we moved there on New Years Eve of 1977/ 1978. We had to be out of the apartment on Clark by New Years Day so Doug and Judy helped us move all of our stuff in the pouring rain that night. When we got to the bungalow on Woodbridge the landlord had forgotten to unlock the doors so we had to break in through the big window in the front. The locks were such that you couldn’t unlock them without a key, even though we were inside the place, so we moved all of our belongings through that window—not an auspicious beginning.
The wooden floors were unfinished and a bit too bleached out looking for my taste. One day while Robin was out working one of her temp jobs, I decided to stain the floors in a dark walnut. Stephen said he would help me out and I rented a floor sander and bought a gallon of stain. Stephen also said he was experienced at floor staining and suggested that instead of applying the stain and then immediately wiping it off that we should leave it on for a few hours. We did exactly that then and went out to get lunch at the local Subway (the first of its kind in LA) and then walk around the sets of CBS Studios. When we came back the floors were so dark it looked like they were painted dark, dark brown if not black. It looked terrible. I was so pissed off at Stephen, who still thought the floors looked great, but they were a disaster. I had to rent the floor sander again and remove all of that walnut stain and I was cursing him for every plank sanded. I finally re-stained the floor the proper way and I must admit I did look great and I forgave Stephen after a while too.
Even though I had to commute to West Hollywood to rehearse with The Knack, it was much better and more peaceful than living in the heart of the “pit”. I was in between jobs at the moment and money was short so I decided to look for work. I found another phone sales job in the valley selling copy machine supplies—mostly toner. The company had one of those generic names so they could appear to be on the level—but I knew deep in my heart that it was a rip-off. They went by the handle “National Advertising”. It was another one of those jobs where I had to get up at five in the morning and be ready to start dialing for dollars by six. There were some extremely colorful characters working there, one in particular was this black lady by the name of Mrs. Perking but everyone called her Perky. She had this pitch that was hard to deny and came off like a holy-roller selling toner for Jesus. She made a fortune there. Another character was this guy, who was also a musician by the name of Bobby Paine and we became friends. After the eleven o’clock bell rang we would sometimes go over to his motel room in Van Nuys and play music. He had some really great country songs, one in particular that I loved called “Honky-tonk Hell” about a bar in hell where the devil was buying ‘til the end of time and never was going to say “last call”.
Just before meeting Bobby and his younger brother (the same age I am), Larson Paine, who was also a songwriter, I had done a few sessions at a studio in Hollywood called Pranava Studios. I had re-cut my anthem, “You Hurt Me So” with Richie Moore behind the console and Robin, Doug Fieger, Michael Japp sang background vocals. It was a classic mixture of vocal blending and I really thought it was great. We also re-cut “Be My Baby in Between” with these farty saxophone parts a la “Savoy Truffle”. Chas was recruited to play one of his trademark tapping solos that we had gotten on tape while he was just running it down. I knew he was always at his best when it was still fresh in his mind and we ended up keeping that take. I still have those masters somewhere and I am thinking about baking (a process where you heat the tapes up in an oven at low temperature to remove any of the sticky deposits) the tapes and re-mixing them.
Anyway back to those notorious Paine boys, I was playing the tapes from Pranava to them and Larson thought that “You Hurt Me So”, as he put it, was a real contender. It made me think of Rocky Graciano in his hay day—that image still burns brightly in my mind. Bobby and Larson had booked a session and they were going to cut “Honky-tonk Hell” and another song. I was hired to play Hammond B-3 organ and was even paid for the session. I lost contact with Bobby after awhile but I always knew someday our paths would meet again. I was right. Thirty years later, now living near Nashville, Tennessee I had a friend, Bruce, who was a waiter at a fancy restaurant, Mario’s near Music Row. Bruce had told me about this character who was flashing hundred dollar bills around and had this much younger doll hanging on his arm. Bruce said this guy was a musician and when he described him I knew it was Bobby. I told Bruce the next time he came in to give him my number. He did, and sure enough it was him although he goes by another name now, Sunset Slim. Slim and I are great friends now and we play music and golf together at least once a week. I never knew he played golf back then but he is really good. In fact he is a great golf instructor—always pointing out flaws in my swing and he is right ninety percent of the time. Got to love it!

Anyway, selling toner was somewhat profitable for me back then but I thought there must be a better and more honest way to make a living. I had a pseudonym on the phone—it was Jim Phillips. I always hated being called Jim (my father would only call me that when he was angry with me) and I thought if I went by that name I could become a completely different person—one that could lie, cheat or steal without guilt. It worked, for awhile anyway. But with a little money, ego and power in my veins—bad things were going to happen soon—some good things, too.