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Lisa Johnson: 108 Rock Star #Guitars @108RSGUITARS by @JMarshallCraig @IndieStardust #Photos #Video #rock #music

By Karen A. Brown and J. Marshall Craig

108 Rock Star Guitars Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson is a photographer to be reckoned with. With her groundbreaking vision she traveled the world to photograph the most exquisite guitars of our favorite rock stars! We sat down with Lisa to get details of her incredible journey with her new book 108 Rock Star Guitars.

 

Armed with a macro lens, an incredible eye for detail and a truly ground breaking vision, Lisa Johnson's guitar art, is taking the world of fine art photography on a rock and roll ride. Far from still life, Lisa's work conjures the abstract, yet also possesses a very sensual and ethereal feel that intentionally illustrates the intimate wear and tear details of the instrument. Her unique presentation undoubtedly personifies the musician and captures their true spirit in these wooden extensions of their own iconic flesh.

I’ve enlisted my buddy J.Marshall Craig to assist me with this interview as he has written both Eric Burdon’s autobiography, “Don’t Let me be Misunderstood” and “Between Rock and a Home Place” with Chuck Leavell.

KAB:  Welcome Lisa! Thank you for joining us today. You’ve been touring with 108 Rock Star Guitars. Finally your own tour! How does it feel? Any wild stories from the road to start us off?

LJ: Well this whole past 17 years of creating the book and now launching it has truly been the ride of my life! My first official book launch event was kicked on in NYC on October 8th (10/8) at the infamous “Cutting Room” and I was thrilled to have the current Les Paul Trio perform at the event with Lou Pallo at the helm. We showcased guitarist Porl Thompson, formerly of The Cure, whose guitar is in the book. And it was indeed super wild that my Father got to play two songs with the Trio. It was the thrill of his life and mine too so see him perform so well.

Brian May’s Red Special PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Brian May’s Red Special
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

JMC: You once worked for Kodak, but not as a photographer, is that correct?

LJ: Yes, I worked as a Technical Sales Representative for Eastman Kodak. My job was to visit professional photographers and the photo labs that serviced them and make sure they were using Kodak products. Most of us at Kodak were also photography buffs and we had to understand our product so we were always testing the films, paper and chemistry we were selling.

JMC: Where did the idea for 108 guitars come from?

LJ: I am a yogi. I teach, practice and study yoga philosophy and the number 108 is a significant number in yoga philosophy. So significant the number 108 has its own page on Wikipedia if you google it! I had traveled to India in 2009 and was staying with my yoga teacher, whose family astrologer came over to give me a reading. I told him I was trying to figure out what I would call my book. I knew I had to be something like “Rock Star Guitars”. He suggested adding the 108 to it and I knew instantly that was it! While I have photographed over 108 guitarists guitars, I thought that was a perfect stopping point and would lend a cosmic element to the book instead of the regular 100 or 101 greatest.

KAB: The angles, the light, the positions you must have placed your body in in order to get the shot you wanted. Tell us about how much of a contortionist you had to be shooting the guitars.

LJ: Yea, well that question brings me back to yoga! It’s true, I have laid on the ground and shot up, and on my stomach and shot across, have crouched in some pretty tight corners to get the shot and definitely used yoga breath, contracted my abs and entire body to get a lot of these shots! I would not say I’m a contortionist, but it has been very helpful to be limber and flexible to get some of these photos.

JMC: Which was the most difficult to photograph ~ and why?

LJ:  Jeff Beck’s guitar shoot was one of the most difficult because of the small space I had to work in. But it was cool because the space was behind a black curtain that flowed perfect with the black background I had laid down. Only problem was that I did not have much room behind me so did not have much leeway to move around at all. I did lay on the floor and shot upwards toward the guitar. It was tough to pull it off quickly and know that I got the shot I wanted that would be creative and interesting, but I ended up being very pleased.

KAB: Which was the most fun to photograph and why?

Roger Waters PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson
Roger Waters
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

LJ: I absolutely LOVED photographing Roger Waters iconic 1970’s Fender Precision Bass in one of the coolest locations ever… directly underneath The Wall, just moments after sound check. It was in Athens, Greece in one of the Olympic Hall buildings, in which I had been in before because I had staffed the Olympics in Greece for Kodak. Prior to the shoot I got to sit and watch the sound check, in which Roger was completely in charge of on stage, orchestrating the children’s choir with The Wall animated films projected on the Wall. Absolutely fantastic moment in the creation of this book.

JMC: Do the guitars have personalities, just like their owners? Did any take your breath away to be right there, photographing?

LJ: They definitely do. Which is why I never ask for the photographers to be in the shot. My work is all about showing the wear and tear details of the guitar that personify the artist without them being in the photograph. The guitars tell a story in and of themselves about the artist by what they leave behind. You can tell a lot about how the guitar is handled and played and they do take on a personality of their own that also portrays the soul of the guitar and perhaps its owner. When we opened the case to Jimmy Page’s 1968 Gibson EDS 1275 SG double neck, it was pretty breathtaking and a whole lotta love and soul emerged out of that case!

Jimmy Page Gibson SG Doubleneck  PHOT: Lisa Johnson
Jimmy Page Gibson SG Doubleneck PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

 

KAB: Your book is stunning. Is the final result everything you had hoped for?

LJ: Yes, I am so pleased with how it turned out. Even I have to pinch myself when I look through the pages and say wow I took that photograph! But aside from the imagery, my design team at SMOG Design in Los Angeles did a superior job. They have a real talent for listening to their clients and they masterminded exactly what I wanted.

JMC: What guitar took the longest to get the approval to photograph?

LJ: Jeff Beck and Rick Nielsen! Both held out on me for a long long time. But both shoots were very much worth the wait! I got Jeff’s Fender Stratocaster that has a 1993 Neck affixed to a 1995 Body, and it has a nice bit of tender wear on it. I got a Fender Tele guitar of Rick Nielsen’s I hadn’t seen before at all called the “Rick of Diamonds”, with uber cool crystal work on it, alongside a vintage Les Paul and a couple of his infamous Hamer guitars.

Robby Krieger’s 1963 Jose Ramirez Flamenco Guitar. PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Robby Krieger’s 1963 Jose Ramirez Flamenco Guitar.
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

 

KAB: Did any of the guitar owners play an impromptu private show?

LJ: Yes… Robby Krieger came over to my house for the photo session, which was wonderful because I have a great studio here in a controlled environment. As I photographed each guitar, he would play one of the other ones for me. Noteably he started playing Spanish Caravan on his 1963 Jose Ramirez Flamenco Guitar. Michael Wilton of Queensryche also plugged into a little amp after I photographed his skull crushing 2009 ESP MW Custom Signature Model-“Skull Guitar”. Such cool moments in the life of this project!

JMC:  Is there a guitar you didn’t get to photograph that was on your wish list?

LJ:  Many! Angus Young, Mark Knopfler, Pete Townshend, The Edge, Jackson Browne, John Fogherty, and many more were all requested but have not manifested yet.

KAB:  How much traveling did you have to do?

LJ:  I’ve been all over the USA including NYC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Louisiana, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, England, Greece and more. It’s been a fun journey. (see attached fact sheet)

JMC:  What was your favorite ~ and why?

LJ:  One of my favorite shoots was working with Nils Lofgren. He has a beautiful collection of guitars that are all very well worn yet well taken care of and they all have stories behind them. I got to go to Nils home and we spent several hours together photographing his guitars in a huge studio he has made on his property. There is just so much love energy in his presence. His lovely wife, and many dogs and just Nils is a beautiful human being who not only plays for the Boss in the E Street Band, his also has a very impressive catalog of his own solo material. I love the way his guitar images grace the pages of the book, including one acoustic Martin guitar that Neil Young gave to him when he was 17 or 18 years old. Nils has had a wonderful career and I adore him and his music. From what I understand you will see several of the images I took of his guitars on his forthcoming box set that is soon to be released.

JMC:  Les Paul wrote the foreword — tell us about your friendship with Les.

LJ:  When Eastman Kodak transferred me from Memphis, TN to NYC I had already been studying the photographing of guitars for about 6 months or so. When I arrived in NY I knew that I wanted to continue photographing guitars and decided that it may as well be famous ones. I noticed that Les Paul was playing every Monday night at The Iridium Room so I trekked down there by myself with an envelope of prints in my hand to show what I was doing. At the time it was Black and White images that I would hand tint with oils. I sat at the bar at the back of the room and eventually Paul Nowinski, the fiddle bass player in the Les Paul Trio at the time, came over to get a drink. I introduced myself to him and asked if he thought Les would let me photograph his guitar. Paul made it happen and the next thing I knew, I was on the stage photographing Les’s guitar that he had left on the stool he sat on for the shows. The next time I came in, I brought B&W hand tinted prints for Les and I got to personally deliver them to him. The next time he saw me he said “Hey there’s that girl who does that guitar art!” That made me so happy. I would go to Iridium as often as I could while I lived in NY and then after I moved to Las Vegas, I would always make a point to go and see Les when I would return to visit NY. Lou Pallo and Paul Nowinski would always help me out and make sure I got back to see Les. It was always exciting for me to sit and talk with him, and show him my prints of the latest guitars I got. He would encourage me. He told me one time that my images would inspire young people to buy a guitar because of the way my images illustrated how the guitarists would personalize them. He loved to have young people come up on stage and play a song with him. I wish he could see the book now that it is done. I think he would be proud of me. A percentage of the book proceeds will benefit the Les Paul Foundation to help fund music education and the hearing impaired. I had to do that in his honor and especially for being so kind as to write the foreword for the book.

Don-Felder-1959-Gibson-Les-Pau. PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Don-Felder-1959-Gibson-Les-Pau. PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

 

KAB: Is there anyone you were particularly starstruck to meet during the journey?

LJ: Well I didn’t get to meet all the artists in the book, but I did meet a lot of them. I’m not really that star struck kind of person. I was so happy to get to meet Nancy and Ann Wilson and got to present a book to them. They are the coolest women in Rock and their music means so much to me. It was a true honor to meet these women who have inspired me so much.

JMC: Do you play guitar?

I can play a few chords! But am really just learning. I have a great teacher in LA who comes out to my house. I can’t wait to shred one day!

KAB: Did you play any of the guitars you photographed?

LJ: No, I never ask to play them, I have so much respect and reverence for the guitar and the opportunity to have access to photograph them that I would never want to overstep my bounds or timeframe I said I could get the session done in. Maybe when I get good enough I will ask!

JMC: Do you choose subjects according to your own taste as a fan?

LJ: For the most part I do. Sometimes I may not be a regular listener of some of the artists, but I have tremendous respect for the work they do. A couple of the guitars in the book were suggested to me by people that said I just had to get this one or that one, but for the most part I have requested artists that I grew up listening to or are listening to now.

KAB: Were the artists there when you photographed their guitars?

LJ: Some were there and those were some cool shoots. Robby Krieger, Nils Lofgren, Steve Earle, Steve Lukather, Mark Farner, Wayne Kramer, Hutch Hutchinson, Kim Thayil, K. K. Downing, Michael Schenker, Porl Thompson and many more guys where there hanging with me during the shoots. So fun!

Ace Frehley: KISS PHOTO: Lisa Johnson
Ace Frehley: KISS
PHOTO: c. Lisa Johnson

 

JMC: Tell us the Lou Reed story!

LJ: I love the images of Lou’s guitars in the book. I only met him once, after the photo session was done. I got access to his guitars because we had a couple of mutual friends who both went to him and told him what I was doing. So he agreed via communication through them. I went to his house in Manhatten, no one was home, it was just me and his assistant who gave me carte blanche to his guitar room. It was quiet and beautiful with a real art vibe. His was one of the first guitars I ever photographed and I used a very special Color Infrared film that Kodak had made especially for NASA to shoot vegetation from space. It was quite appropriate to use this film on Lou’s guitars. I’m so pleased he got to see the prints before he passed and he posted my favorite image from the set onto his Facebook page just a few days before he passed. Lou’s music and soul was a true gift to the world.
 

KAB: Thank you so much Lisa. And thank you, JMC! Fabulous interview! If our readers would like to order your book, 108 Rock Guitars, they can order here on Amazon.com Lisa Johnson: 108 RockStar Guitars

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108 Rock Star Guitars Deluxe Hardcover – Deluxe Edition

The rich saturation of color in Lisa Johnson’s ground-breaking photographic vision documents not only some of culture’s most important rock star guitars, but also recounts how the instrument itself has become the essential symbol of rock. Her bold use of unusually low depth-of-field photography visually caresses the instrument in the way a skillful musician might – zeroing in on subtle gradations in a guitar’s patina or hugging the curves of another’s silhouette. Johnson accompanies her images with text cultivated from interviews with the proud guitar owners, revealing the personality of the musician who plays the instrument while her images revere the instrument itself. Johnson provides up-close inspection of guitars, including those of Eric Clapton, Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons, Rick Nielsen, Brian Setzer, Chrissie Hynde, Ace Frehley, Carlos Santana, Jack White and many others. Here, the guitar is made exotic, sensuous, and evocative – it transforms from an instrument into an artwork.
 
Includes padded-leatherette hardcover book, 16-page booklet describing inspiration behind project, and black guitar pick printed with one of three holographic foil designs. More at  http://108rockstarguitars.com

ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT 2013: LISA JOHNSON

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Phil Hansen: Embrace The Shake via @TedTalk

Have you ever been creatively stuck? Phil Hansen teaches us all how to use a limitation to find infinite creativity within ourselves. And for those creative folks living with chronic pain or illness, this Ted Talk is a must!

tattoo a banana
Click to purchase via Amazon

phil hansen

Planes, Boats, Children, Appetizers and Steve Bluestein….

Steve Bluestein is a comedic genius and just a warm, sweet guy. He has written for TV, film, comic strips too! He’s done Stand-up for over 20 years and has distributed so many belly laughs and myriad of joyful moments to us all. Look him up, wiki him, google him watch his reel.. all of it.. He’s spectacular!

Steve Bluestein

So, Steve took a little vacation.  A cruise.  Europe! Upon his return he shared in all of his glory, only the way Steve can, a complete and totally comedic verbal waterfall which we will be sharing with you! Now, before you take the journey of “The Vacation” I asked Steve a couple of questions.

KAB:  How old were you when you figured out you were funny and what was the circumstance?

SB:  I was about nine. My Aunt was saying that my Uncle was a big baby… I got up and left the room. My mother asked, “Where are you going.” and I said. “To change Uncle’s diapers.” HUGE LAUGH.

KAB :  Is there anything you would like to tell folks about your latest book, ” It’s So Hard to Type with a Gun in My Mouth.”.. other than buy buy buy?

SB:   Just that it’s funny and touching and people seem to find it helps them.

KAB:  It’s very true Steve, I’ve read it. I loved it!  Do you plan on going on another cruise in the future?

SB:  As soon as I can… I need the material.

So  fasten your life preserver, as your oxygen mask deploys from the overhead compartment, hold on to your drink……Here’s Steve Bluestein!!

Planes, Boats, Children, Appetizers and Steve Bluestein….

by Steve Bluestein

I don’t take vacations Why? I never leave my home and it’s hard to get Paris to come to my house. So when I do take a vacation it’s a big deal. The big deal started seven months ago when I decided to take another cruise. Are you ready?

THE FLIGHT TO ENGLAND.

British Airlines has managed to squeeze every possible inch of space into those planes. The only way they could get more people in is if they lined the interior with Vaseline and stacked us in with Velcro.

I’m in my seat and so far so good. No Samoan woman has taken the seat beside me. I’m on the aisle and I can manage some elbow room. We take off and I’m serene, the flight is safe and smooth… and then it starts. Apparently, the seat behind me is occupied by a nine-year old Rockette who kicks the seat like it’s the Easter Show at Radio City Music Hall. This kid thumped my seat from LA, half was across the Atlantic Ocean waking me every 15 minutes. I couldn’t take it any longer. I turned around and said in my sweetest voice, “ Kick the back of my seat one more time and you’ll find out why the windows don’t open” Where are the parents of mini Ann Miller… they are sitting in front of me, by the exit row, with enough let room to accommodate Tommy Tune.

And let me tell you about the flight attendants. They were so young I thought if there was an emergency I was going to have to burp them to calm their nerves. Where do they recruit Romper Room?

We land in London… easy breezy through immigration… customs… done in 20 minutes. Although I must say if Satan ever designed an airport it’s Heath Row… you land walk down miles of corridors, take an elevator up to a train who takes you to your gate. By this time you want turn around and head back home. I continue on. the limo driver is waiting for me as ordered and we head to the elevator. He moves up to the door. I follow. The elevator doors open and a short, fat English woman who looks like Winston Churchill screams at me, “WHERE THE BLOODY ELL DO YOU THINK YOUS GOIN’. ARE YA BLIND. THERE’S A QUEUE ERE.” And she says it with such a loud voice that the entire terminal stops and turns to see who the American asshole is. I say, “I’m sorry I didn’t see the line.” To which her husband adds, “DEN YOURA MORON CAUSE DA LINE’S RIGHT ERE.” To which I say, “Aren’t you two a wonderful representation of English grace and charm.” This shocks them both, they are dumbfounded. England has grace and charm?

The elevator doors open and my driver heads in. OHHHHH NOOOO, I shout. “I’m not entering an enclosed space with Bonnie and Clyde.” A stranger on the elevator says, “Good on ya luv” and the elevator doors close. I’VE BEEN IN ENGLAND TWENTY MINUTES.

We get to the hotel and it’s lovely… modern, clean… everything you’d hope for in a London residence…the only problem is it was designed by a science fiction writer. I could get nothing to work, not the lights, not the water in the bathroom, not the TV. I felt like the apes in the beginning of 2001 a Space Odyssey. I was banging on the pipes with that hanger that has no head on it. Now that I’ve been totally demoralized I discover the hotel is off the beaten path… Yugoslavia is closer. So to see anything we walk and we walk and we walk… we walk… and in four hours we take a boat cruise, a bus tour, a dinner and ride on the London Eye. When Hitler was bombing London he wasn’t this organized.

The next day we leave for the ship. I pick up the morning paper… HEADLINE: DAVID FROST DIES ON CRUSIE SHIP. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear as headed for nine days at sea.

The limo driver is there at 11 as promised. I’m already making funeral plans. We drive the two hours to Dover and I get to see the White Cliffs of Dover…all the time I’m thinking a little 409 is needed here.

So far my planning has been impeccable. Everything has gone like clockwork. And then we present our tickets to the ship, the lady hands me something to read…I go for my glasses and they had crossed over into that fifth dimension. I’ve left them in the Limo. Now let me explain something to you…without my reading glasses Stevie Wonder has a better view of the world. I am completely blind. Mind you, I have brought a second pair of glasses because without my reading glasses Stevie Wonder has a better view of the world. I’m a dyslexic nightmare. So it’s not like I have been stranded without glasses before… but just the fact that I have lost them has given me something to use to completely ruin the rest of the trip. I try to comfort myself, “At least you’re not David Frost”.

86 year old hooker at sea PHOTO: Steve Bluestein
86 year old hooker at sea PHOTO: Steve Bluestein

DAY ONE: GUERNSEY

We take a walking tour of Guernsey led by Mary Poppins. The nicest, sweetest lady you’d ever meet who is stunningly handsome at about 75. One of the members of he group is late, let’s call her Helen Gurley Brown. However, two members of the group a husband and wife… let’s call them Donald Trump and Ivana… are not happy. “We are on time, why do we have to wait?” The woman whose expression has not changed since she arrived on the ship pipes in, “I’m not waiting.” And she takes off. OH. The expression…it’s like she’s constantly smelling shit.

We take the tour and Donald and Helen are suddenly getting chummy. He turns to Ivana and says, “She knows George and Laura.” To which Helen says, “History will show he was the greatest president this country has ever had.” My balls hit the pavement. I suddenly realize that I have discovered a nest of Republicans. Everywhere I look there are Republicans complaining. I start playing a game … FIND THE DEMOCRAT. “Oh look someone is smiling. Must be a Democrat?” There was one African American Family on the ship…the husband came up to me…”HOLD ME.MAN”.

I get through the day. Tomorrow is a day at sea. I wonder what it will hold. That night on the ship they play THE IMPOSSIBLE, the story of a family that goes on vacation and is hit by a Tsunami. THIS is the movie they play on the first night out… I go down to the lobby and a violin trio is playing… I SWEAR TO YOU… “Closer to God are Thee” the tune they played as the Titanic went down. As a comic I see the comedy in the situation as a passenger I want to run to my room and leave my life vest on…forever.

DAY TWO: AT SEA.

I’ve always wanted to see whales. I just didn’t think I’d see them in bathing suits. There should be a law… if the flap of skin on your back folds over and touches your hip, you cannot wear a thong.

The men are no better. I saw one guy walking down the hallway. He was so wide he was knocking paintings off the walls on both sides as he made his way to his cabin.

Oh and day two is the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The last time I was in Temple Eisenhower was in office but I thought it would be fun to be in France and celebrate the New Year in another country. The service is at five p.m…. I go down there at five. We have crossed a time line and clocks were set a hour ahead. It was actually six p.m. and I missed the service. Who would have ever guessed that I would be upset about missing a Jewish New Year service. There is a first for everything.

DAY THREE: BORDEAUX, FRANCE

So next morning I’m up at six a.m. and I’m ready to go to services. I walk into the room and one lady is sitting with a shawl. On the pulpit is a priest with vestments, behind him is a huge cross with Jesus. She says, “Come in… join us.” I say, “I haven’t been in Temple in about 40 years but I don’t think this is a Rosh Hashanah service.” The woman laughs so loud the priest stops spraying the incense.

Ok, so I come back in half an hour and there are the Jews… all ten of them. I have found them in this sea of WASP wonderland-ness. We get to talking and suddenly I realize I have found the rarest of rare… REPUBLICAN JEWS… a living oxymoron. It’s like it’s when I found out fish eat their young… I was horrified.

The service lasts exactly 12 minutes. Why? The Rabbi has to take a tour of the Bordeaux countryside. This is the Jewish Holiday I have wished for my entire life.

So we board our bus to the wine country. We have a French guide… a woman with a voice just short of grinding silverware down the garbage disposal. She spoke in such a thick accent no one could understand her and when we asked her to repeat whatever she said she got furious. “Vat is Wong wit you peoples” I thought I was going to have to stay after the tour in detention. Six of us started a support group for survivors of the tour which we are now calling the Death March on Bataan.

That night we went to the theater for the entertainment. Sit down… you’re gonna love this. REBECCA AND DONNOVAN. Picture Arnold Schwartnegger singing like Mario Lanza while his wife hung from silk ropes. That’s what this act was. I actually sat through twenty minutes of it until my ears began to bleed and I fled from the theater like The Von Trapp Family.

DAY FOUR: AT SEA

Tbey have provided us with many interesting things to do on this ship. Interesting if you live in assisted living and have a motorized wheelchair. One of my favorites activities is SCARF TYING. I kid you not… learn how to tie a scarf…followed by NAPKIN FOLDING. (Readers: this is not a joke.) These are actual classes. They also have courses you could use like how to shoot video on an ipad, how to play the piano, how to play bridge… each one of THOSE classes was anemically empty. But SCARF TYING was a slam-dunk. Standing room only! Then there was the lecture series… who do they have as a guest speaker…some show biz celebrity… some sports hero… a political figure? NO! Clint Van Zant… an FBI Serial Murderer Profiler. STANDING ROOM ONLY? They were seated on the floor. These Republicans like a good mass murder. I went to the lecture in which I learned one of the killers liked to shove stones up the vaginal cavity of his victims. (beat) FOR THIS I PAID FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS INCLUDING AIR FARE???? I was once on a Princess Cruise and their entertainment was a “Hairiest man on the ship” contest… a Persian woman won.

Ok so tonight is formal night on the ship or as I call it, The Geriatric Prom. Tonight I will see things no man is supposed to see… moo moos and tuxedos… walkers and sequins… ladies wearing things only teenagers should wear… and all to stand in a buffet line and eat things pushed through a pastry tube. I truly do love this experience… it’s a comedy writer’s dream come true. One cruise on the Atlantic and I will be writing about it for the next six years.

THIS MAN WAS 123 POUNDS WHEN HE GOT ON THE SHIP. PHOTO: Steve Bluestein
THIS MAN WAS 123 POUNDS WHEN HE GOT ON THE SHIP. PHOTO: Steve Bluestein

DAY FIVE: Lisbon, Portugal

I’ve figured out what taking a cruise is all about… it’s a series of meals interrupted by Europe. My God, I have never eaten so much in my life. They are feeding us like we’re Foie Gras Geese. They just keep shoving food down our throats… my liver is the size of Connecticut. Any moment I expect the chef to cut it out and force-feed it back to me.

Lisbon, Portugal. Well, I can die happy now. I’ve seen the tomb of Vasco D’Gama. This is the highlight of Lisbon, that and protecting your wallets from pickpockets. I have never seen anything like it in my life, you’re standing alone waiting for the shuttle… suddenly, out of no where, 500 Gypsies surround you trying to sell you shawls. So the entire trip your holding your wallet, your camera, your keys, your passport, your gold incisor… anything you’re afraid they could get their hands on. OH! It appears Lisbon is the thimble capital of the world. Everywhere you go they are hocking thimbles… and coasters. Thimbles and coasters…coasters and thimbles… big ones, black ones, cork ones, blue ones, coasters with Lisbon on them, thimbles with Vasco D’ Gama on them… granite thimbles.( I guess they were from the stone age) It appears the Europeans think that all we Americans do is sew and cook.

There is one funny note in Lisbon. There appears to be a large contingent of Lesbians on the ship, packs of them dressed in tool belts and wearing Berkinstocks.. It would give me great joy to say over and over… We’re in Lisbon with the Lesbians…. Lisbon with the Lesbians… Lisbon with the Lesbians. Has a nice ring, no?

THIS was the sweetest man on the ship. PHOTO: Steve Bluestein
THIS was the sweetest man on the ship. PHOTO: Steve Bluestein

I must say I was disappointed in Lisbon. It’s dirty. It’s crowded. It’s covered in graffiti. It’s New York City with thimbles. I was picturing this quaint little village like it says in the brochure… lovely multi colored homes like a Disney movie. Instead I got the parking lot of an architectural salvage yard. The whole city is a big BEFORE photo. It’s a D.I.Y. project waiting to happen.

One interesting side note about tour guides. How do you get them to shut up? They get you on that bus and don’t stop talking until the ship is pulling away from the dock. They tell you dates and names and countries and kings and queens and all you want to know is, “Where is the toilet?” About twenty minutes into the tour her voice begins to sound like nails on a blackboard. Everything she says you take exception to. “Oh really… Portugal has wonderful weather… really?” You can’t wait to get off the bus and flee for your life but she’s behind you with a bull horn.” DON’T FORGET TO STOP IN THE TRINKET SHOP BEFORE YOU LEAVE.” “DIE BITCH… DIE… YOU TOUR GUIDE FROM HELL!!!”

DAY SIX: SEVILLE, SPAIN-WATCH YOUR VALUABLES!!!!

By this day you have gotten to know your traveling companions and they seem to fall into three categories:
a. People you want be friends with.
b. People you want to be friends with but just can’t.
c. People you want to kill with the bottle opener provided in your room.

Under “a” comes people your own age, people with the same political views and anyone with all their original body parts. Under “b” comes anyone with equipment. This includes oxygen bottles, canes, walkers, electric wheel chairs and a leg made out from composite materials. Under “c” comes Republicans.

There are also sub categories. People with language barriers like Russians and people who stick to themselves, like Asians. These are all nice people but when “Isn’t Lisbon a dumpy city. ” takes 20 minutes, flash cards and a signal flare, a lasting friendship is out of the question.

On today’s trip I found two things. 1. Seville is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been in and 2. There are other Democrats on board. Today at lunch I sat with a lovely couple from Connecticut. Out of the blue she turns to me and says “Did you ever see a bigger bunch of assholes in your life. Republicans…all of them” I heard angels sing. From that moment on the trip took on a new air. She told us of other Democrats on board. I suddenly knew what the French underground felt like during World War II. We had secret handshakes and secret meeting places. “We’re under the stairs in the main ball room” IT’S A WHOLE NEW TRIP!!!!

DAY SEVEN: AT SEA

Last night we were supposed to see The Rock of Gibraltar… we passed it at midnight so that’s one thing that won’t be crossed off my bucket list.

Here we are after our 28th meal of the day. PHOTO: Steve Bluestein
Here we are after our 28th meal of the day. PHOTO: Steve Bluestein

DAY EIGHT: BARCEL…. Ohhhhhhhh who gives a shit!

I have seen more churches than the Pope. I am so touristed out I can’t begin to tell you. I’ve seen parks. I’ve seen monuments. I’ve seen the birthplace of people I never knew existed. This isn’t a vacation it’s credits for my Masters.

The good news is I have finally found the fun people. All four of them. They are under 70, they are Democrats, they laugh… I’ve got four new friends. Worth the whole trip.

DAY NINE; TO THE AIRPORT.

My pick up is at ten… at ten thirty he still is not there. I have prepaid for this ride and suddenly the cruise ship who did everything but wipe my ass has thrown me to the wind. “Oh, you didn’t buy OUR transportation… pity.” So I grab a taxi to the airport with tip and with the money I have already paid to the other limo company this trip has cost me 16 thousand dollars. I could have flown around the world twice for what this cab ride has cost me. And here’s the bottom line. I DON’T CARE. I have had one of the best times I have ever had in my life. I came home with nothing. No key chains, no iPhones covers from Spain. No, snowballs with cathedrals in them. All I have is my memories… 486 photos and four new friends. Hey! Could have been a lot worse… and I didn’t even tell you about the Israeli on the plane home who kept pushing my seat forward because I was “Invading his space.” I wanted to club him with my thimble collection.

Steve Bluestein is the author of: “IT’S SO HARD TO TYPE WITH A GUN IN MY MOUTH” available on Amazon, Kindle, and now an audio book.

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PHOTO: Steve Bluestein
PHOTO: Steve Bluestein

 

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Jonathan Winters: Groundbreaking improv comic has died at 87

 Personally feeling heartbroken. Not only was Jonathan Winters one of my personal all time favorites, but a dear friend of IndieStardust called him “Uncle Jonathan” as he was growing up.  I am working on getting an exclusive personal tribute for us from him. Until then.. if we hear giggling thunder coming from the skies.. we certainly know why..

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Comedian Jonathan Winters, whose “off the wall” brilliantly executed improvisations inspired Robin Williams and every other comic I have ever spoken with, passed away Thursday evening at age 87  at his Montecito, Calif., home of natural causes said longtime family friend Joe Petro III according to AP.

Winters was a master of improv. His facial contortions were the most memorable and eclectically funny.  His characters, like the dirty old lady Maude Frickert were based on people Winters knew growing up in Ohio.

“The Jonathan Winters Show” pioneered dual screen videotape technology in the 1950’s. He was introduced to millions of new fans in 1981 as the son of Williams’ silly space guy in the final season of ABC’s “Mork and Mindy.”

Jonathan Winters as Maude Fricket with Dean Martin 

Jonathan Winters Montage

1988 Jonathan Winters delivers a monologue at “Bob Hope’s 50 Years at NBC”

Jonathan Winters “The Stick” Apr 1964 Jack Paar

Certifiably Jonathan
Certifiably Jonathan

Interview with Dylan Brody on his new CD “Writ Large” by Karen A. Brown

A warm and hilarious storyteller, Dylan Brody has his way with words. He calls himself a “Purveyor of Fine Words and Phrases” He certainly is!  Dylan is adorable neurotic perfection with lovingly supportive generosity. He is able to visually frame any situation so we can be right there with him. “Writ Large” is a must!  

I caught up with Dylan Brody as he was on the phone doing an interview with “Comedy Above the Pub”. But I was lucky enough to get him next.

KAB
Tell me how you feel about words Dylan.
DB
Hah! I love words. I love the way they fit together into images and I love the way in which those images can convey ideas more complex than those literally expressed. This is the nature of poetry and I try to allow poetry to be part of all my word use, whether it is in the creation of a joke, a story or an e-mail message.
KAB
What type of situation do you enjoy sharing with an audience most?
DB
The type in which I stand on stage talking and they sit and listen and/or laugh.
KAB
Ha! (And he said that with a straight face.) Dylan, how long did it take to write and record “Writ Large”? Was it a compilation of many years or a short focused intention?
DB
There’s one piece (Alpha Male) that has been part of my repertoire for some time . . .
. . . I had wanted to get that piece on to one of my CDs for a long time, but for reasons of thematic balance it hadn’t fit anywhere before. Apart from that, everything on this CD was written and developed over the course of the past year. Almost. I just remembered that the track “Size Matters” is actually a joke from my old stand-up days. A fan and friend of mine requested that I put it on the CD, so I did. Also, the structured improv stuff is stuff I’ve done for a long time, but it really is improvised, so it’s always brand new.
KAB
Is there anything specific you would like to share with your listeners?
DB
I want my listeners to know that it is hugely important to me to know that people enjoy what I do. The more silence I allow in my performances, the scarier it is and all encouragement is appreciated.
KAB
So we will always be sure to make lots of noise in the audience.
DB
I don’t think you understand what I mean . . . (sigh).
KAB
I do!!! I really do! But just in case I don’t, tell me.
DB
When I moved from doing four-laughs-per-minute to . . . oh. Never mind.
KAB
No please share! ( Wasn’t going to let this one pass us by. ) There is a certain rhythm when you are on stage.
DB
When I was doing a laugh every fifteen seconds, the laughter became a constant source of reassurance. With the story-telling, a certain amount of silence is appropriate. I build images. I take people on weird, dark little journeys sometimes. I’m not actually hoping for or playing for a laugh, but so many years as a comic habituated me to the sound. So the silence is wonderful, appropriate, focused, rich but also a little bit terrifying. I have to remind myself internally that . . .
. . . as long as it’s listening silence and not coughs and shuffles, I’m doing okay.
KAB
Just watching the Starbucks clip I was glued. You are doing more than ok..
DB
Aw, thanks. That piece is one of my funniest. It’s how I start my set when I’m doing a regular stand up club these days.
KAB
Has anyone ever done this type of comedy before? More storytelling.. less one liners?
It’s a great clip! I loved it!
DB
Oh, yeah! If it were 1946 or 1958 I would just be considered a comic, really. Mark Twain did this sort of performance. Lord Buckley did long-form stuff. Bill Cosby did long stories.
KAB
Bill Cosby! A favorite! It has certainly been many years though. Thank you for bringing it back!
DB
The idea that you need a laugh every 15 seconds became the norm only in the 1980s/1990s with the proliferation of cable channels, TV comedy showcase programs and the “tight six” that everyone needed in hopes of stepping from stand-up into sit coms.
You are most, most welcome. Thank you for accepting it.
KAB
Thank you Dylan! Wonderful interview. I look forward to many replays of “Writ Large”.

Recommendations: 

My Fine Friend Dylan Brody has his newest CD coming out today! Dylan also happens be a regular Special Guest in my Songwriters Showcase and will be performing tonight (Tues. April 2nd) at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena. Dylan will be celebrating his newest CD and will have a bunch with him. Music starts at 7PM. Dylan will Writ Large Later! Oh – and please “Like” Dylan, he is a genuinely wise and funny and thoughtful man who tells the parables of our time. 🙂 – David Harvey
I cannot recommend this CD highly enough (and not just because I was at the recording). Dylan Brody is an incredible storyteller who will caress your brain while messing with your head in the best of ways. WRIT LARGE is wit large. GO GET IT. Amy Engelhardt
Click on this photo to purchase ” Writ Large”

Follow Dylan on Facebook > https://www.facebook.com/TheDylanBrody

Follow Dylan on Twitter > https://twitter.com/dylanbrody

More at > http://www.dylanbrody.com 

Dylan Brody will be at The Coffee Gallery Backstage tonight in LA (April 2nd, 2013. The show starts at 7:30pm.