An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
The limo pulls up in front of my building at 2:45. I'm waiting. Should I get in the front seat? Be real chummy with the driver? Nah, that's for ultra rich guys with something to prove. I'll sit in the back. He knows I'm just this guy with a date at a TV station. I could be a mass murderer on Geraldo. What does he know? Just 'cause I take his limo doesn't mean I'm rich, right? The network's paying.
He says he's Egyptian, studying computers. We talk shop.
"Ditch your 286," he tells me. "You can't use that in the modern world."
"I can't afford a new one," I say, establishing my poverty credentials.
By the time we're done discussing operating systems, we're at the door.
A girl with a walkie talkie meets me.
"Mr Board?" she asks.
I look around to see if my father's there. She's talking to me, though.
"Yeah," I tell her, "that's me."
Smiling one of those Jesus-who-the-fuck-is-this-joker smiles, she asks me to follow her. She leads me around a bunch of corners, down a long staircase into a basement. In the basement, is a room with coffee and Danish. A very polite Negress sits on the couch.
We smile at each other. "Is she one of the guests?" I wonder. I'm completely out of touch with mainstream TV culture. She could be a famous TV personality and I'd never know it.
The Negress comes up to me and asks if I want to open my pants or have her do it for me.
"Pardon me?" I say.
"I've got to get in there, one way or another." she says.
Not expecting this fringe benefit from appearing on TV, I'm unprepared with a clever answer.
"Well, if you want to do it, that's ok with me." I say, "Why don't you just go ahead."
She nods, smiles, then takes out a long black cable attached to a sinister-looking metal box.
"Whoa!" I tell her. "What're you gonna do with that wire?"
It turns out to be a microphone. It's got to be hidden. The wire should run from my pants through my shirt to the collar. I install it myself.
Next comes make-up.
They shuffle me off into a little room. Inside, there's a barber chair, a mirror and a girl in a white smock.
Admission aside: I think of myself as an open-minded guy when it comes to sex and gender. I'll perform most any non-painful act with most any gender. I've done IT with more races and orientations than are listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
But, after these forty five years, I've never worn a dress in public. I'm not proud of it, but that's the case. I just don't have the self-confidence-- the balls-- to wear one of those things. I can't even put on a kilt!
Along with that phobia, somehow intertwined with it in my psyche, is make-up. I've never worn it. They wanted to put it on me when I did the Huey Lewis video. I said no. Otherwise, no one's asked me If they had, I would've refused. No lipstick or rouge. No eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, pancake or toner. No gloss, highlighter, smoother or wrinkle filler. The thought of it is akin to the thought of scraping my teeth on a blackboard. This is not a moral belief. I have nothing against make-up. It's an irrational phobia-- like fearing elevator rides.
As with dress wearing, I admire boys who DO wear make-up. They've got the balls to be what they want to be and do what they want to do. Unfortunately, those are balls I lack.
With that in mind, we'll end our aside and return to that chair in the little room. I'm in front of the mirror with a woman in a white smock, and dozens of little bottles, brushes and sponges-- all filled with make-up.
"Hello" says the make-up artist, "Why don't you climb right into that chair and we'll do you up?"
Words stick in my throat.
"I see you have a bad sweating problem." She says, "We'll use some powder to take care of that."
I sit down. There are no straps on the chair arms. There's no metal skull cap hanging above.
She looks at my face, makes a slight "tsk tsk" sound, and holds up a bottle. She puts it next to my cheek and squints. Then she shakes her head and grabs another bottle. For this one, she nods her head, and pours the liquid onto a small triangular sponge.
"You'll look so good when I'm finished." she says. "No more dark circles, no more huge pores, wrinkles gone. They'll love you."
This is not encouraging.
The actual application turns out to be less painful than I expect. The lip gloss is hardest to take, but it's tasteless. When I'm released, I go back to the waiting room, now filled with the other guests.
One of them is a huge Texas-looking guy. I could bite his navel without bending my knees. His shoulders are wider than my refrigerator. He's introduced as the editor of Clinton Watch newspaper, and a campaign manager for Oliver North.
Then there's Rolanda No-lastname, a modern colored woman who hosts a daytime talkshow. The other guest is another young woman with a tan as dark as Rolanda's natural. (Ever notice how these TV-type blondes wanna turn their skin as brown as possible? The colored folks, on the other hand, all wanna lighten up?)
The blonde has something to do with HBO, but I never get it straight. Maybe she has something to do with the lower half of some producer. She doesn't seem to have Einstein's brain or Lenny Bruce's wit. As it turns out, I misjudge her.
Most of these show biz types know each other. There are enough oh-dahling,-remember-that-time-in-Vegas-es to make Liberace gag.
Then there is the host, Bill Maher. He's tough to figure out. He's show-biz. No doubt about it. Slightly loud jacket-- but a jacket and tie. He shmoozes with the crowd and knows all the right people.
"Oh Marty," he tells some waiting-room visiter, "I saw your show on Turner. Loved it. I want you to do my show sometime. Give me a call."
But somehow, he's an outsider. He doesn't take the David Letterman make-fun-of-your-guests tack. Instead, he makes fun of OTHER things, but still parodies the show-biz shmalz.
"Oh Sammy Shlitz! Yeah, I remember him. Too bad they caught him with his pants down at the telethon."
It's as if he stands outside of himself, looking at his alter-ego playing Hollywood. He knows if he doesn't make fun of it, it'll eat him up. It's a treacherous tightrope.
Before we go on, the producer comes into the room. He's a youngish guy, five o'clock shadowed. No cigar. No paunch. Not very producer-like. He gives us each a pep talk. He pays special attention to me, because I've never hit the talk-show circuit before.
"Just relax," he tells me, "but don't sit back. If you wanna say something, jump in. Don't be shy or hold back. If you have an opinion, just shout it out. The worst thing you can do is be too polite."
"I don't think I'll have a problem with that." I tell him.
He smiles and walks out of the room. The show biz folks talk about Los Angeles and Vegas for awhile. Me and the Clinton Watch guy sit by ourselves.
Just before showtime, the girl with the walkie-talkie returns to lead us to the set. The make-up artist comes along. We get to the fake livingroom on the stage. The producer is there, warming up the audience.
"We want you to laugh hard anytime anyone says anything the might be funny." He says, "If you're not sure, laugh."
"Applause too," he continues, "we want lots of applause: for the guests, for Bill, for the commercials. Applaud. Applaud. Applaud."
He points to some lighted signs over the cameras. "These are applause signs. When they light up, just go wild."
The crowd applauds.
"Not yet, wait for the lights."
While this is going on, a backstage stagehand explains the seating arrangement to us. I sit on one side of the table with Rolanda. On the other side, will be the Clinton Watch guy and the tanned blonde.
Bill does his monologue. It includes a joke about Palestinians blowing up Jews on a tour bus. I'm not offended, but it's not one of those great moments in monologue history. Then, we're introduced.
Bill says "the singer for the band, ARTLESS, former leader of the band, YOU SUCK. He currently writes a column for Maximum Rock'n'Roll, called You're Wrong! Let's give a big hand to Mykel Board."
I had already told him that I was never in YOU SUCK. I just produced their first-- and only --record. Bill didn't care. He wanted it to sound good. It did.
For the first half of the show, me, the Clinton Watch guy and Maher all yelled at each other. I don't remember much else. During the commercial, the make-up girl came out to powder us up.
"Boy, do you sweat!" she says.
Then the producer comes and squats next to my chair.
"You're doing very well," he tells me, "but, er... we have to give the women a chance to speak. OK?"
After the commercial, Bill talks about Ollie North convicted of lying to congress and DC mayor Marion Barry, convicted of cocaine.
"What crime would a politician have to commit in order NOT to get reelected?"
"Child molestation." says Rolanda.
"I'm not so sure about that." answers Bill.
"It could be anything!" says the blonde. "O.J. in '96!"
The crowd-- and the guests break-up. It's a funny line. She's smarter than I thought.
"Anything else?" asks Bill.
"Well," says the blonde, "I don't think we'll see Jeffrey Dahmer running."
"Sure we will," answers Bill, "His campaign slogan will be Take A Bite Out of Crime."
After the show, I talk with the Clinton Watch guy. He promises to send me a copy of his magazine. So far he hasn't.
But this story is just the preliminary to the real reason I'm writing this column. What counts is that after my TV appearance comes a message on the internet punk-list. The subject line: Mykel, the Sell-Out.
The message, of course, refers the TV show. Usually, I shrug off criticism. Half the times the critics are so off base that they're entertaining. (The ones who call me Fascist, for example.) Other times, they are actually correct. But what they criticize is something I'm proud of. (The one's that call me 'anti-feminist' or 'libertarian'.")
This one hit a sore point. Occasionally, I use the words sell out-- though I don't use them lightly. It is not a compliment. It is close to a 'betrayer'; not only of your friends, but of your own ideals. This is at such odds with my self-image of pig-headed consistency, that I'm angered by it. It does, however, get me to more closely examine what exactly a sell-out is.
Sell-out has been thrown around like PC. Nobody bothers to define it. Most of us use the word to mean anyone who makes a lot of money doing something we wish WE could make a lot of money doing. I'm guilty too-- but it'll stop. Now that I've been bitten by my own teeth, it's a good idea to pull back and examine what is or is not a sell-out.
I'm not gonna talk etymology. I'm not gonna talk dictionary (the second to the last refuge of the scoundrel). I'm gonna define the word the way I use it. If you don't like it-- make your own definition.
A sell-out has a lot in common with a hypocrite. The difference is timing. A hypocrite says one thing and then acts in a completely different way. Republicans who say they're for "small government" and then advocate censorship and strong drug laws are hypocrites. Both the speech and the opposite action happen at the same time.
A sell-out, on the other hand, is a person who preaches one thing at one time. Then, later, acts in a way completely contrary to that preaching. Clinton's support for homos in the military and later cave in to "don't ask, don't tell," is selling-out. It has nothing to do with money or fame or any of that. Ross Perot and Rush Limbaugh are not sell-outs.
I have never complained about tabloid TV shows or the Comedy Channel. As a matter of fact, I've written that it's things like Morton Downey that make America great. My appearance on Comedy Central-- even my ride in the limo-- was not selling out. What would selling out be?
I've written about the evils of useless production-- and of advertising whose function it is to create a demand for products. For me to appear in an ad for such products would be selling out. I've complained about warning labels on records-- and the insidious from of censorship they create. For me to make a record with a warning label on it, would be selling out.
I don't care if Jello Biafra lives in a castle with a fleet of Rolls Royces. (He doesn't.) If he has done it without turning away from his principles, then he has not sold out.
Henry Rollins, on the other hand, even though he was paid only $750-- did sell out by appearing in a Gap ad. He's projected himself as an outsider. How much more inside can you be than doing an ad for a chain store? Even worse, as an MTV VJ, he has to say nice things about bands he hates and deal with Warner Brothers censorship. That is selling out. His image was built as being a rebel in pain. Ass-kissing an entertainment complex is pretty far from that image.
And RANCID? I don't know. Have they signed to a major? It wouldn't surprise me. The reason is NOT because they are sell-out type people. I wrote that I think a lot of the band-- especially the way they treat their fans.
I wouldn't be surprised, because they've had to put up with assholes like you calling them "sell-outs" for so long. They might have figured, "Why not? If they're gonna believe I'm a sell-out anyway, why not go whole-hog and make something from it?"
So I ask that before you shout "sell-out," you look carefully. It IS possible to be successful on your own terms. Fugazi, Biafra, Mordam and Epitaph Records have done that. They are NOT sell-outs.
Don't throw around the term "sell-out." At best, you'll cause minor annoyance. At worst, you'll get people thinking, "Shit, if they're gonna accuse me of it anyway. Why not go and do it? What do I have to lose?"
--> Fernando, who does MOSH HARD zine (Urano 1409, Col Nva. Linda Vista, Cd. Guadalupe, NL 67110, Mexico) wants me to pass the word along that he's a very horny Mexican guy. He wants hardcore sexy letters, from girls especially. Pix will also be appreciated. I'm just passing the word along.
--> How come you let them say that about you dept.: Folks often ask why I don't answer all those letters about me. Other columnists often tack on rebuttals longer than the accusations. I just let 'em come without a comment. Why?
I believe in free speech. The marketplace of ideas. The right to be heard. I've already had my voice. Said my piece. No one butts in and answers each of my points. It would be unfair of me to do that to someone else. I throw my ideas and adventures to the public. The public has a right to throw some ideas back. Let the readers decide. It isn't fair to get the last word every time. Readers deserve an unimpeded chance as much as I do.
--> Postal conspiracy dept: The post office sent me-- without cancelling-- the strangest mail I've gotten in awhile. It was a small packet containing a California drivers license from Pedro Lopez (a hispanic male in his fifties), a Resident Alien card from Alejandro Zuniga-Navaro (an attractive Hispanic-Negro male in his early 20s), a pair of girl's green underpants (no smell), and a photo of a blonde California surfer guy. On the pack of the photo, written in an unfamiliar hand, are the words: Remember Me? Head?
--> Jim, I think the guy with two penises is a fake, but it looks good. Thanks for the video.
--> Bloody Mistake dept: Last month, I wrote about the former punk rocker who couldn't go to a Bloody Mess show with me because he had to protest the opening of a porno shop. That was not exactly right. It was another show he couldn't go to. He WAS at the Bloody Mess show, heckling the shit out of poor Mr. Mess.
He kept shouting, "GG! Drink, fight and fuck!"
Much of the audience there that night expected to see GG reborn. They wanted shitting on the stage and a brutal audience assault. They were angry they didn't get it.
Bloody says that often happens. Folks associate him GG so much that they expect a carbon copy. They don't stop to listen to the songs.
Bloody is NOT GG. He's a decent enough performer. He even starts trouble. (He burned a flag in a VFW hall. That gets punk points.) The songs are good, poppy punk, heavy on the Rock'n'roll. But he's not GG.
I'm writing this because he called me and complained about not being taken on his own merits. I asked him if he thought it might be his own fault for so closely associating himself with GG.
"I worshipped the guy," Bloody said, "but I am not him."
He has a point.
--> ME blowing HIS horn dept: Ben has hit two in a row: his hilarious identity politics parody column (fight the saners!) and the newest issue of his zine: Panic Button (c/o AK Press, PO Box 40682, San Francisco CA 94140-0682). In that issue, there is an analyses of PUNK ROCK INC. It's about the whole major label issue and bands selling or not selling out. Ben is right about almost everything-- in that article.
Unfortunately, there's also more Biafra bashing (in answer to a Flipside interview), including an article by Timmy. This nyah nyah bickering has gone on too long. It's silly-- on both sides.
-->Least needed addition to your reading rack dept: The Other Side, (PO Box 2007, Hagerstown MD 21742-9935), is a new slick magazine aimed at homosexuals. "It's the message of Jesus the 'Religious Right' doesn't want you to hear!" Oy vey!
-->Second least needed addition to your reading rack dept: I also got an ad for Quotient: The Monthly Newsletter of the Gay & Lesbian Market. (349 W. 12 St, NYC 10014). You'll find all you need there, including:
1. The latest reports and studies on market size and demographics.
2. Advertisements for gay ad agencies.
and my favorite:
3. how to attract lesbians and gay men without turning off the straight market
Charter subscriptions are only $179C more than 20% off the regular price. Sign me up! Quick!
-->Who's his PR man DEPT: Uncle Timmy and MRR's name have been popping up all over lately. In Spin, MRR was called the instruction manual for militant vegan anarchists. Tim's name appeared in a quiz in that same magazine.
In Rolling Stone, GREEN DAY put Tim down-- but only after being provoked by the interviewer.
Weird! It's always the second place guys who put down the biggies. Pepsi runs taste tests against Coke-- Coke never mentions Pepsi. It's amazing that these Goliath publications feel so threatened by a little David, one tenth their size.
Now, I disagree with Tim more than most folks, but he must be doing something right to have all these guys hating him-- in print!
-->Grrrrl power dept: BUGOUT SOCIETY's Bill Florio tells me they were kicked off the bill at a recent benefit for ABC NO RIO? Why? BIKINI KILL played that bill. Their fans pressured the club to drop the offensive meat-throwers.
-->Is Fat Mike putting on weight? I saw a great show with NO FX, FACE-TO-FACE and TEN FOOT POLE. The better life has agreed with Mike and the guys. They tour in a bus instead of the deadly van of the past. He's dyed his hair blond and has chubbed up a bit since the last time I saw him. The show, of course, was spectacular. It was my first time seeing FACE TO FACE. I was impressed.
NO FX? They're the reigning kings of punkrock. I can't think of an existent band I'd rather see. (Though, if POISON IDEA decide to tour again...)
Only thing, I think it's time NO FX cut out their parody of MINOR THREAT'S Straight Edge. Their fans are so young, most of 'em don't even get the joke anymore. They think NO FX wrote the thing!
-->Special thanks dept: To the folks in Knoxville and Bristol Tennessee who came out to my spoken work show there. Most especially to Chad and Jon who set up the whole bash, fed me, chauffeured me around, and took care of (almost all) my needs. Bands wanting to set up shows in the area should call Chad at: (615) 673-3070. He and Jon are among the best promoters I've ever met.
As for me, I just accumulated enough miles on my credit/air miles card that I can get free AIRFARE to any city within 300 miles of New York. So if you can give me a place to stay, $100, and a six pack, I'll come and speak my word in your town. Get in touch. Snailmail: PO Box 137, Prince St. Station, NY NY 10012, email: email@example.com. Speak to ya soon?
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