A Memorable Dinner In Venice
First, I thought, I'd just re-print the Marcia/Meltzer article. From Stuff Magazine. Back in 1980, 30 years ago...
Then, it just snowballed... becoming a whole flashback to those wild and exciting times.
I remember each Thursday, waiting for all the weekly papers to come out, to see what was happening around town that weekend. There was the L.A. Weekly, still going strong today, and the L.A. Reader, a great alternative weekly that featured the first comics by Matt Groenig (Life in Hell), or so I remember. It ran from '78 until '96. There was also the local monthly Main Mag - produced by Tom Sewell, ex-mayor of Rialto Avenue, a catch-all of what was hip in the 80's Venice scene. Or also Venice Mag - Bill Weiner's publication to himself, featuring ads featuring his photography. I think these were all take-off's on Andy Warhol's Interview Mag, which came of age in the early '70s.
There was also B.A.M. Mag - a bi-weekly music magazine started by Dennis Erokan up in the Bay Area, which featured California rock and roll, a free rag from '76 til '99. Also another monthly publication that was totally hip back then, based in Venice was Wet Mag - Leonard Koren's guide to "gourmet bathing and beyond." This architecture school graduate created a magazine that captured a kind of smart, artsy Los Angeles attitude that was emerging at the same time as punk rock, but had its own distinct aesthetic. It lasted 34 issues, from '76 to '81.
Back then, Venice was also playing a big part in the up-and-coming music scene that seemed to be enveloping Los Angeles. You could hear the changes creeping in on the radio, especially on KROQ. Disco was finally dying, and there was a change-a-coming in the air-waves, like with Jed the Fish nightly playing Brian Eno. Or hearing the Ramones for the first time. DJ's Jimmy Rabbit and Rodney on the Roq... Ricky Klein, a Venice impresario, was hosting live concerts in his loft space on Westminster, featuring many of the then-unknown bands that were forming the underground "punk" scene.
A local denizen, Claude Bessy, was living at the beach in Venice but slamming up to Hollywood every night to partake of this punk movement, of which he was a leader, a follower, and a scribe - de-scribing his own skewed take on this burgeoning movement from his unique British-accent p.o.v. via Slash Magazine, co-founded by Claude "Kick Boy Face" and Steve Samiof, also from Venice, which they started in May 1977. It was through this fanzine - a big term back then that meant anything from rough Xerox copies stapled together to large, oversized tabloid 'zines that even had paid advertisements - that the world knew about the L.A. punk scene. This rag became the bible for people, like me, who wanted to keep up with what was happening around town, who were the hot new bands, and where could we go to see them.
Samiof was always a cool entrepreneur, and his access to this music, and radical art scene back then put him in a unique position to "do what he wanted to do." Along with Bessy, they were some of the earliest and most influential people behind the L.A. punk scene. Slash ran until 1980, then folded.
According to famous artist Gary Panter, the next stop on Panter's media infiltration campaign was through Samiof's Stuff magazine. This was Steve's first venture after Slash magazine, a free oversized tabloid full of hipster ads. Anyone could buy a page and advertise whatever they wanted. And that was the whole contents, just ads. With Panter, Samiof had a blank spot and is a swell dude and so he gave him a free ad.
I recently got in touch with Steve and asked him about this unique magazine. "I started Stuff in '79 after creating and publishing Slash magazine in '77. I too am a graphic designer, which along with eating and paying rent (which was difficult spending most of my time on Slash), motivated me to publish Stuff. Pages were $50. The mag did well enough (I franchised it to a company in Tokyo and one in Boston), for me to develop a coke habit, start an art gallery in my loft space (Steve's House of Fine Art, 654 N. Larchmont) and eat well until a fire melted my loft and everything in it new years eve '86, at which point I ceased publishing. Fun while it lasted..."
I too became part of this free magazine by buying an ad in issue #33, Spring of '82, with the cover a drawing by David Hockney. My page featured a large photo of my autographed hand,1 from an opening at, of all places, Steve's House of Fine Art. I'd had all the folks at this great art event, friends and famous, scribe my mitt, in a drunken revellious moment. I wanted to somehow share my wealth, get something printed for posterity, and possibly get some work out of the deal. Nothing happened.
But earlier, Samiof had actually decided to add some content to the magazine, not just a whole rag of advertisements, as he originally had intended. And one of his writers was the hip scribe Richard Meltzer, who wrote an unusual column on dining.
For those who don't know, Richard Meltzer is considered to be one of the original rock critics. He began his career as a writer for the seminal magazine Crawdaddy and has also written for publications such as Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, Spin and Creem. He has also published several books. His first, The Aesthetics of Rock, came out in 1970. It is (to say the least) a unique diatribe on music, and mentions the members of Blue "Oyster Cult in several places; a band that he lived with for a time, and for which he penned lyrics, including the hit "Burnin' for You."2 A Whore Just Like the Rest: The Music Writings of Richard Meltzer, which appeared in 2000, collects much of his rock & roll critiques, including his 1967 piece Pythagoras the Cave Painter, purported to be the first American feature on Jimi Hendrix.
Nevertheless, he is probably less known for his writing than for cultivating his own persona as a rock critic, through scathing critiques of the industry and iconoclastic behavior. A mild-mannered wild man. The latter often included launching into personal narratives in reviews - which had a tenuous relationship to the album in question - or even writing about albums he had never heard. He also often sprinkled his pieces with textbook philosophy, seeing that he had been kicked out of the graduate philosophy program at Yale at one point in time.
While Meltzer has published works outside the field of music (including novels) and claimed during different periods to be ignoring rock music entirely, he is primarily - in most cases, solely - known as a rock critic.
In the '70s Meltzer left New York and settled in Los Angeles. In 1976, during the punk rock era, he formed the band VOM (short for "Vomit"), and, as "Mr. Vom" was lead singer and chief lyricist. The band released a four-song, 7-inch EP that included "Electrocute Your Cock," in which Meltzer's cries "Electrocute your cock, electrocute your cock / Looking for a handjob? Stick It in a clock!". Despite its profane audacity, it had the pop catchiness and wit to be somewhat of a hit. In 1978 they put out a six-song 7" EP called "Live at Surf City."
In the 1980s, Meltzer dabbled in architectural criticism, writing a series of articles for the L.A. Reader on the ugliest buildings in Los Angeles; these pieces were later published as a book, now out of print. He moved to Portland, Oregon in the 1990s, but continued contributing to the San Diego Reader. By 2004 he was a contributor to a new weekly, Los Angeles CityBeat, that folded a year ago. He is currently the vocalist for the band Smegma.
Back to 1980. At the time, I was dating my present wife Marcia Stone, who was Cher's personal chef back then. I mentioned Meltzer's articles to her, and suggested she should contact him, have him over for dinner - along with our close friends Maxine George and Eric Greenspan, the buffers for the dinner in case it all might go to hell - and possibly get a free write-up by this unique writer. So she did.
And, low and behold, it all came to pass. In Stuff Magazine, issue #23 from May of '80, Richard wrote about our dinner from that April 13th. So here, as originally intended, is that article, with all his lascivious connotations:
JUST LIKE HAVING CHER OVER FOR NUM-NUMS
By R. Meltzer
Only she's not really there. And it ain't exactly your house. But it's just like she was and it was. Pretty close. At Marcia Stone's in scenic Venice (a nice little town except for the condos and roller creeps).
I HAVE DECLINED MY ASSIGNMENT THIS MONTH t' write about the teevee dins they're supposed t' have at the Electronix Olympix downtown at Pico & Figueroa which means that in effect I am BOYCOTTING THE ELEC. OLYM. & ALL IT STANDS FOR while hoping against all hope that our flying butthole in the sky, Mr. Jimmy "Jim Jones" Carter, relents on his boycott of th' big one in Moskva this sum so if the Stuff coffers're stocked by then I c'n get to sample the shashlik and borscht firsthand (I would never review a meal I didn'
eat). But digital doodaddery is not f'r me, gimme the wunnerful NATURAL LIFESTYLE of high ceilings with a skylight and NATURAL COOKERY.
MARCIA'S SKYLIGHT contains no glass which means you're all set for hurricanes, monsoons, standard garden variety deluges and seismics and high winds from outa the desert that make your skin crawl 'cause they're so goddam dry you think you got dandruff even tho you just shampooed your mane all the way down to the SCALP. Plastic skylight will not kill ya and most likely (knock on wood) not even maim. Safety is great when you're eatin' and Ms. Stone's policy is safety first, second, third and - whether you're fond of baseball or not - at home. FEEDBAG PRODUCT THAT IS SO FUGGING SAFE IT WILL NOT: make you sick (unless the lab folks someday discover that snow peas're a contributing factor in myasthenia gravis); make you fat 'n' ugly ("light meals" her specialty); make you irregular (your b.m. will be firm, fully formed and medium brown as God intended); make you mad (her cuisine is "tiptop").
Her HOME if y'ain't already guessed by now is where she cooks when she's cookin' for HERSELF and of course her ma & pa when they drop in unannounced altho parents don't really count so don't count 'em. Rest o' the time when she's broiling, braising, boiling and baking it's for the aforementioned v. luvly & talented Cher Lapierre Bono Allman (Simmons?) and her pair of healthy brats (both legitimate). Everybody except a thief and a farmer hasta pay for their food and Cher is no exception, she pays Marcia. Marcia is her CHIEF COOK & BOTTLE WASHER except she don' hafta wash the bottles and chief only means she's got assistants, lot of assistance required when someone really digs those "midnite snacks" as does the gal who gave the world "I Got You Babe." Like Cher, M.S. is skinny, and (as the "sexists" would say) her gams are "outasight."
But gams don't mix ingredients, it's a good thing she's also got a pair o' hands like everybody else excepting (of course) amputees and thalidomide cases (who we really oughta pray for insteada saying grace 'cause they're so fucking sad you wanna cry). First mixture after the aperitif or shotta scotch as the case may be is crab dip, ready for dippin' into with a slice of pumpernick that's been precut by hers truly to amazingly consistent proportions, slice in/slice out (musta used a ruler or a yardstick). Unlike some dip preparers we've all no doubt encountered this dipperson's far from shy about letting you in on her secret: hit o' dill & such and some PHILADELPHIA CREAMCHEESE right from outa the package. As those lovable cartoon chubbies used to say in the Campbell soup commercials between segments of Lassie, mmm mmm good! (I'm such a pig she's gotta slice more pump.)
Dip's good too for talkin' over ('s why it's as popular at chi-chi cocktail gatherings as cheese & crackers) and thus we - me, my date the fab star of musical comedy hit Sitting Ducks Ms. Irene Forrest and additional with-its in attendance - get t' hear a hefty helping of Marcia's "Tales of Cher": "You already know she's really sharp and very intelligent - I can really talk to her - but she's also down to earth. She just bought a house in Venice, her hair is short and she doesn't wear a wig. She tries to have meals with her kids as often as possible. This (changing the subject) is really a beautiful space (she indicates dining area under skylight which extends to stereo, playing the v. latest ska revival release, Selecters' LP Too Much Pressure), mind energy made it possible. The right space is very important, Paul and I are gonna have to find a mutually acceptable space before we move in together; I'm sure it's in our karma."
Paul, the only beardo aboard ship tonite, seems from appearance to be rollin' in the DOUGH (BREAD) (CHIPS) (hey: money = food!) as does Rick whose face has been kissed by a razor as recently as mine. Although first impressions're sometimes deceiving as heck, these right joes are cold hard evidence that there're evidently members of the gotrocks brigade who are extremely nice and can relate to everyday people's problems like Lakers versus Seattle: a bread breaking that "breaks the ice" in HUMAN RELATIONS ACROSS THE CLASSES, compliments of our hostess's ecumenical guest list for a Sunday's eve.
We move our undrunk shots and chilled white wine ($3.99 a bottle, only the very best 'cause I bought it myself) over to the main table for the post-premeal segment of the chez Marcia experience, starting with soupe a la caulifleur containing leaks and all sort of creamy stuff. Creamy pottage is generally for sissies and people w/out teeth but not this bowlful, no sir. Hot 'n' hearty like you get at Anderson's Pea Soup in Buellton only that's peas and this is cauli which is like apples and oranges so why compare? I DARE TO COMPARE, the cauli wins hands down, substantial enough so you don't even need saltines which is just as well 'cause all that white flour'd only wreak havoc with your blood sugar and just as double well 'cause Marcia don't believe in 'em: hot 'n' hearty 'n' healthy.
Plus there's no unsightly lumps to get stuck in your bridgework which means she musta used a blender and in fact must've pre-blent it before we arrived 'cause if my memory serves me well NO MACHINERY WAS HEARD IN THE BACKGROUND DURING THE DIP. Noise is the death of dippin', something our ultra-together cuisiness knows backwds. by now (thank Christ).
Salade. Some kinda lettuce like Boston or bib or butter; marinated mushrms., artichoke and avocado (oil & stuff); pimento pieces. A fine salade; if salads are your meat you'd've LIKED IT A WHOLE DAMN LOT. Separate salad fork is provided so you don't gotta taste marinade on your first healthy forkful of healthy main course...
Which is: chicken (lightly breaded) w/capers; tomato stuffed w/mozzarella, breadstuff (light) and parsley; the aforementioned snow peas w/big hunks of dark black mushrm. My companion who don't exactly know food from a hole in the wall (her fave is turnips if y'know what I mean) at first thought the chicken was fish but she was wrong, dead wrong, she couldn't be wronger. Finer cluck than you'll ever get at Zucky's in nearby Santa Monica or even Pioneer take-out. Most folks are afraid to cook it themselves anymore (the bones scare 'em) but Marcia Stone sez hoo to taboo: chicks it up like a champ. Tender and chickeny. AND UNLIKE SOME TOMATAS YOU COULD MENTION with the cheese just melted around the top this fat red healthy vegetable is cheesed all the way down (so you don't gotta work your way in thru the side when nobody's lookin' in order to save the cheese for last - at which time it's most likely COLD). Great Moments in Cheese!
The peas: crisssp.
The capers: primo.
"Time out" for a healthy urination. Speaking of which, as mentioned, no hidden tho natural purgatives will force you into have to take a sudden crap unless you've brought one along whose time has come but if you have you won't mind sittin' on her pot at all: w.c. d'ecor is nothing short of magnifique. Lots of incredible green, courtesy of her many splendid healthy looking PLANTS, and lots of nifty little precious objects that most conventional p.o.b. people would exhibit on the ostentatious mantel - while unconventional Marcia keeps 'em in the john: brav-o!
DESSERT IS STRAWBERRY MOUSSE W/GRAND MARNIER which in the dim natural candlelight appears to be chocolate (which un-doubtedly would've meant carob) but as I said looks are sometimes deceptive. Strawberry, this writer's third favorite berry behind boysen and logan, and rarely has the genus been presented to such advantage. No seeds or whatever those unpleasant infinitesimal li'l whatsems really are, and lotsa real good creamy gooey on top. SICKENINGLY SWEET, you wonder? No no no, a 1000 X no no no. As baby bear once remarked, 's just right (I hate sweet shit, and this I did not hate: liked).
Topped off with coffee straight from the jungles of exotic Brazil, laced with the cordial or miscellaneous alco-beverage of your choice: amaretto, kahlua, pernod, more grand marn if that's yer juice, or you can b/y/o (absinthe permitted). Fine topper for a fine repast.
I smack my lips, I lick 'em, I wipe 'em with one of Ms. Stone's excellent cloth nappies in lieu of paper which means one more tree gets to live (although the same can't be said for the poor boll o'cotton), I've et well and am satisfied as fuck-all getout. Only disappointment is on account of her fella and my main squeeze being on the premises I do not get to taste Ms. S's v. fine personal clam which I'm sure is VERY FINE. I cannot review what I have not partook, to make idle guesswork would surely be folly and probably get me kicked out of the Professional Dining Columnists Union (membership in which I cherish). I keep my disappointment firmly in my pocket and settle down for a sensitive hear of the Flying Lizards' debut longplayer purchased at Rhino Records in Westwood (a plug) for that perfect after-dinner musical "touch."
NO CASH REGISTER IS VISIBLE IN THIS UNIQUE EATERY and indeed there is none. It'd give armed robbers too easy a handle on where to look, plus of course this ain't THAT KINDA JOINT. By reservation only and you better reserve well in advance as the demand is nothing short of astronomical. Give milady a buzz on the ameche at 399-0666 and she will gladly give you her address and tell you in no uncertain terms she does NOT COOK LIVER. If you're wond'ring about the 666 in the # rest assured she is NOT A SATANIST (believe me she's the salt o' the earth). Color TV in the nook upstairs if you really gotta watch something real bad.
Vibes rating: seven stars (the max).
1 Thanks to
2 BURNIN' FOR YOU
Songwriters: Richard Meltzer; Donald Roeser
Home in the valley
Home in the city
Home isn't pretty
Ain't no home for me
Home in the darkness
Home on the highway
Home isn't my way
Home will never be
Burn out the day
Burn out the night
I can't see no reason to put up a fight
I'm living for giving the devil his due
And I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you
I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you
Time is the essence
Time is the season
Time ain't no reason
Got no time to slow
Time to play besides
Time ain't on my side
Time I'll never know
Burn out the day
Burn out the night
I'm not the one to tell you what's wrong or what's right
I've seen signs of what (freezing their eyes) went through
Well I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you
I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you
Burn out the day
Burn out the night
I can't see no reason to put up a fight
I'm living for giving the devil his due
And I'm burning, I'm burning, I'm burning for you [repeat]