Sunday, September 29, 2013


It was the adventure that wasn't supposed to happen...but it did.

Earlier this month, while staying at the Charles M. Schulz estate the weekend of our lecture and comic book signing at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, myself and my occasional collaborator, cartoonist RAFAEL NAVARRO ("Gumby's Gang Starring Pokey," "The New Adventures of the Human Fly"), had a vague inkling of an idea of a thought that the winery of the great Oscar-winning filmmaker FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA ("The Godfather" movies, "Apocalypse Now," "The Conversation," is naming his films really necessary?) was in our midst. He mad so many terrific movies in the '70s....(back when studio movies still mattered.)

This was our second year in a row speaking at the Schulz in early Sept. And so we already felt at home at the Schulz guest house, overlooking beautiful Santa Rosa and surrounded by wine country.

A typical breakfast out on the veranda in the morning at the luxurious guest house, which we dubbed "The Getty" (because it was big and it reminded us of the Getty Center).

The weather could not be more perfect that weekend....I'll drink to that!

So on the Friday we were up there visiting (Sept. 6), we hit the winery in Geyserville, California, and stumbled onto a real adventure as we discovered that this was waaaaay more than just a winery. 

It's a good thing Raf bought a pith helmet on the drive up (in Gorman, CA of all towns...wink-wink, Raf!) His amazing discoveries began from the get-go with the unearthing of a box of vanilla Cokes (Raf's favorite) back at the guest house. 

And it only continued on the road to "Coppoland".... 

It was smooth sailing up the 101 to Geyserville...(for these people, anyway). We were blasting SEASONS IN THE ABYSS while on the road north of Santa Rosa to Geyserville...(There's nothing like a bit of Slayer on a road trip...)

...And after we drove through the golden gates and parked...

What awaited us beyond the golden gates was a veritable museum to the man included a showcase for his five Academy Awards (including the envelopes that announced them), a Tucker car representing "Tucker," and rooms devoted to "Apocalypse Now" and "Dracula." It was uncanny.

Check out the Academy Award envelope announcing Coppola's win for BEST DIRECTOR. Bravissimo!

The "Apocalypse Now" display.

From 1992's "Dracula" - prancing around in red armor

The "Apocalypse Now" surfboards

Of course, we hammed it up a little, mugging at Marlon Brando's desk from "The Godfather." (True fact: Marlon and I share the same birthdate: April 3.)

We also discovered one hell of a resort-style pool. It was kinda hard to miss, especially with the bikini-clad beauties circulating...

On Sat., Sept. 7, we returned to partake in the pool, where we frolicked and mingled with the locals (none of whom were actual locals).

 Here's Raf doing the "Apocalypse Now" thing rising out of the water. Can you believe he did this with absolutely no training from Martin Sheen?

Life was really good...

 Eff "Breaking Bad," "Game of Thrones," and all the trendy shows we were SUPPOSED to be keeping up with! :D Back at the guest house, Raf and I were watching the complete series of the "Logan's Run" TV show, which ran for not much more than a season. It was surprisingly good, and Raf had "Logan's Run" on the brain all weekend long (shout out to Don Moffat as REM!)

Our lecture took place at the Schulz Museum at 1 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 8, and Raf fulfilled one young audience member's day by sketching her favorite comic book character for her.

The signing was fun, too. We hung out with our friend KIRA BROWN, who took a bus from San Francisco to make our signing.
We capped off the weekend with a triumphant dinner on Sunday night, courtesy of Jeannie Schulz, our lovely hostess, at a delicious Santa Rosa Thai place at Railroad Square called KHOOM LANNA. She invited Kira along, and we all feasted on some upscale Thai treats.

In the Railroad Square area, there is no shortage to municipal statues of Schulz's iconic PEANUTS characters. It's quite a sight to behold.

Overall, a terrific and triumphant weekend! And a special thanks to Jeannie Schulz, Jessica Ruskin at the Schulz Museum and the rest of the staff, Kira Brown for her presence and assistance, our buddy and one of my collaborators cartoonist Marcus Collar, and Francis Ford Coppola (unbeknownst to him) for all of the hospitality during our four days whirlwind tour of Santa Rosa, Napa and Geyserville, California.

There's a lot more to report on from this trip... but my assignments beckon. Eventually, I'll post more shots from this long weekend, including our detour into Napa Valley to meet up with my main man, mad man MARCUS COLLAR, artist and collaborator on one of my upcoming comic book projects. Stay tuned, that's NOT all, folks!

Monday, September 2, 2013

10 articles I wrote last week for the ARTS ISSUE....

Some 10 articles I wrote last week for the current ARTS ISSUE 

Photo by Henry Diltz. Taken inside the Hard Rock Cafe pub in the Skid Row section of downtown Los Angeles. From the MORRISON HOTEL sessions.


NPR's ART TALK host and art critic EDWARD GOLDMAN

THE DOORS photographer and MORRISON HOTEL cover artist HENRY DILTZ:



Producer and art gallery owner VALENTINA CASTELLANI QUINN:

Experimental filmmaker KELLY SUN KIM:

LINCOLN BOULEV-ART (two-page spread of murals not available online):


LOU FERRIGNO getting a lifetime achievement award today at Muscle Beach.

CAR WASH soundtrack funk group ROSE ROYCE:


Friday, August 23, 2013

A fun one to write: FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH released 31 years ago this month

'FAST TIMES' on Montana Ave by Michael Aushenker 

It was the movie that “launched a thousand careers” –and perhaps even inspired a comedy spin-off or two.
Thirty-one years ago this week, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” made its theatrical debut. The American Cinematheque’s Westside venue, the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, will screen Amy Heckerling’s 1982 coming-of-age comedy at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, along with Keva Rosenfeld’s 1987 like-minded documentary, “All-American High.” Heckerling and Rosenfeld will appear at the screening for a Q & A.
“‘Fast Times’ is one of my favorite films of the 80s,” movie critic Leonard Maltin told The Argonaut. “It captures the zeitgeist of Southern California teenage-hood in a way that’s both credible and funny. That’s largely because (writer) Cameron Crowe observed it all firsthand for his article in Rolling Stone, and because Amy Heckerling reproduced it so well.”
While oft-quoted “stoner” lines such as “Hey, bud! Let’s party!” and “That’s my skull! I’m so wasted!” caught on quick with tweens back in the 1980s, “Fast Times,” in hindsight, is considered by some to be the smart man’s teen sex comedy. While it didn’t have the box office success of the massive sleeper (and much more crass) “Porky’s,” “Fast Times,” a tidy little charismatic hit, eventually (thanks to video and cable) became a revered classic on the strength of its freshman class of Hollywood acting talent, well-drawn characters, a sharp script, and its unvarnished take on first love and teen sex with all of its attendant awkwardness.
“Fast Times” follows a school year in the lives of sophomores (including Stacy Hamilton, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) experiencing the ups and downs of first love. The film’s colorful characters include Stacy’s older brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), working petty jobs to pay off his car; and stoner/surfer Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) and contentious history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).
“Fast Times” instantly established Penn as one of Hollywood’s most formidable actors thanks to Spicoli, still one of Penn’s most memorable roles. The movie also helped establish Leigh, Reinhold, Phoebe Cates and Forest Whitaker. Even the minor roles featured future stars Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Nicolas Cage. (Penn, Cage and Whitaker went on to become Academy Award-winning A-list actors.)
“We certainly didn’t think it was going to be a hit or have longevity while we were making it,” Reinhold told The Argonaut in a phone call from New Mexico, where he was shooting an upcoming project.
“Fast Times” was not only a breakout film for a who’s who of young actors, it was Heckerling’s and Crowe’s Hollywood debut. The in-demand Heckerling, currently busy directing episodes of “The Carrie Diaries” and “Suburgatory,” went on to direct “European Vacation” and another teen classic, “Clueless,” as well as the “Look Who’s Talking” movies and “A Night at the Roxbury.” Crowe, who based the comedy on his Rolling Stone article and subsequent book detailing the antics of high schoolers the then-20-something writer met while posing as a fellow student at San Diego’s Clairemont High, eventually became the auteur filmmaker behind “Say Anything” and “Jerry Maguire.”
While “Fast Times” may not have invented the coming-of-age comedy (George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” predates it by nearly a decade) or even the teen sex comedy (“Porky’s” came out five months earlier), it proved influential. In the wake of “Fast Times” came several John Hughes classics (“Sixteen Candles,” “Pretty in Pink,” “The Breakfast Club”), Heckerling’s own “Clueless,” “Bring It On,” and cult favorites “Dazed and Confused,”  “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Adventureland.” The lineage of onscreen surfer/stoner dudes, from 1989’s “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” to the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” to Nic Krause’s Sid in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” in 2011, harkens back to Penn’s Spicoli.
As Rosenfeld pointed out, the key to “Fast Times’” success was excellent casting.
“The casting is miraculous; every part is filled to perfection,” Maltin said. “Sean Penn is such a serious-minded actor that I sometimes find myself reminding people how hilarious he is as Spicoli in this movie… but again, it’s rooted in reality, as Penn remembers observing surfer dudes like that when he was growing up at the beach.” (Penn grew up in Malibu.)
“Amy was the perfect person to direct this movie,” said Reinhold, noting how she mastered “a consistency of tone” that avoided melodrama. Crowe, then courting future wife Nancy Wilson of the rock group Heart, trusted his material with Heckerling. “He totally turned it over to Amy. He was just really happy and at ease about what was going on,” Reinhold said.
Reinhold, who, with “Fast Times” and the original “Beverly Hills Cop” is proud to have played in two films on American Film Institute (AFI)’s Top 100 Funniest Movies list, commented on how Heckerling landed the gig.
“Amy broke into the business the same way Marty Brest did,” Reinhold said, referring to Martin Brest, director of the original “Beverly Hills Cop,” with a legendary New York University student film. “She got great attention from an AFI film she had made. Marty and Amy were friends. I never thought about it until this moment but they broke into the business the same way (with a student film).”
Reinhold landed the role of Brad Hamilton because their first choice, a then-unknown Cage, was underage.
“They couldn’t use Nic,” Reinhold said. “He was 17. His age would’ve intruded on the shooting schedule.”
At the time, Reinhold was living with his girlfriend and future first wife, Carrie Frazier, upstairs from Heckerling. Frazier, who went on to become a major casting director for HBO, was Heckerling’s assistant and confidant. Heckerling instructed Reinhold to pretend not to know her when he auditioned.
Producer Art Linson liked him, but Reinhold was 23 and Linson’s reaction, as Reinhold recalled it, was, “‘You’re so old, though.’ He starts to talk about me like I’m not in the room. He said, ‘He looks like Ed Asner.’” Linson’s solution: “‘Just cast everybody else older.’ All the extras looked older.”
Reinhold landed the part. Cage, billed under real name Nicholas Coppola, subsequently had a bit part as “Brad’s bud.”
“[Casting director] Don Philips was insane,” Reinhold remembered, laughing. “They were all having to get over the fact they couldn’t use Nic (as Brad). Don Philips never quite got over it. Especially after (Cage’s career) took off.”
Heckerling shot the movie in the San Fernando Valley, including the mall scenes after-hours inside the Galleria in West Hills.
“It was all location,” said Reinhold. “When we did the last scene, the (convenience store) robbery scene we were really downtown. I think we were in South Central. It had a vibe. The regulars thought they were open (and were disappointed to learn the store was closed).”
He remembers Penn as an enigma during the shoot.
“We didn’t know who Sean was. We knew he was from Malibu. We thought he was the stoner guy. The girls (in the cast) were really turned off. He loved turning them off,” Reinhold said, chuckling.
Penn essentially stayed in character, and then, to Reinhold’s surprise, he would overhear Penn’s “erudite conversations with Cameron and Amy. I was like, ‘Who the hell was this?’ And then I started to realize he was really good. Man, this guy is really smart.”
Upon the movie’s completion, the studio executives panicked.
“Two weeks before the release, Universal gets cold feet,” Reinhold recalled. “(They said) ‘This is just about California kids. Other kids around the country won’t get it.’”
So Linson took charge.
“He ran across the street to (MCA’s Black Tower),” continued Reinhold. “He goes into (powerful music industry executive) Irving Azoff’s office and he says, ‘Hey, Irving, do you want to produce a movie?’ Irving knows nothing about producing movies. Art says, ‘It doesn’t matter! Get me Tom Petty! Get me, Jackson Browne! I need a hit soundtrack.’ He goes back to Universal and says, ‘We’ve got a hit soundtrack!’” Unusual in its day, the rock song-laden soundtrack became another bullseye arrow in “Fast Times”’ quiver.
Rolled out by Universal Pictures on Aug. 13, 1982, “Fast Times” went on to gross more than $27 million – six times its $4.5 million budget.
The Cinematheque credits Rosenfeld for suggesting to pair his movie with “Fast Times” at the Aug. 17 screening. Rosenfeld, who has known Heckerling since when she shot “Fast Times,” says the movie’s success derives from the fact “she puts a lot of heart in her work (which is) always character-driven, personal, very relatable.” And he says the brilliance of Penn’s performance (and the movie at large) was “its authenticity. You know those people in high school.”
“Obviously, some of the material is exaggerated for comic effect,” Maltin added, “but never so much that it becomes completely unrealistic or absurd.”
Reinhold chalks up “Fast Times”’ success to a large talent pool: “We were all on our game.”
He regarded Linson as his unofficial mentor, and he singles out the synergy between Heckerling and Crowe, both great writers: “They really liked each other a lot. They were both on the same page.”
Added Rosenfeld, “She had Cameron, she had a great cast, and she had a great casting director.”
“Amy was inscrutable,” said Reinhold. “She was nothing but encouraging and supportive. I’ve heard her say she was very nervous, but she never showed it. We never saw it.
“Her directions were succinct and specific. Those are the two things you want from a director. That’s what she was from the beginning.”
The actor credits his performance in “Fast Times” for getting him cast in “Beverly Hills Cop,” sans audition. And he still gets a thrill when young people approach him about it: “It’s had more resonance later on in my life because we have a whole new generation of fans.”
Rosenfeld has plenty to be excited about regarding the Aero engagement. For the first time since its original release, “All-American High” will be screened in a theater. And for the first time since making his doc, he will be joined by some of the people he filmed.
“Many of them are going to show up,” he said of his subjects, now middle-aged with teens of their own.
Rosenfeld is looking forward to seeing “Fast Times” and Heckerling again. This event, he added, will be an opportunity for new generations of cinemagoers to see some stars before they were famous and soak in those terrific lines.
Or, as Reinhold’s Brad tells a shirtless Spicoli in the movie: “Learn it. Know it. Live it.”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The LCE comes to the LBC this weekend....

It is ON today at the MUSEUM OF LATIN AMERICAN ART in LONG BEACH. Part 2 of the epic LATINO COMICS EXPO 2013 and the first ever LCE held in the L.A. area. Check it!

I'll have two new books and a slew of my classic stuff, including the almighty EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER series, BART SIMPSON, GUMBY'S GANG STARRING POKEY.

See you there, amigos and amigas, hermanos and hermanas.....



Saturday, August 3, 2013


STOCkTON CON is ON tomorrow - 10 AM -5 PM ---- see you at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, CA -- This is the convention that instantly grew to 42K attendees last year, enough for them to move it to a bigger venue this year.

Cartoon Flophouse humor comics will be at AA-61! We'll have THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THE HUMAN FLY. We'll have GREENBLATT THE GREAT! and GET THAT GOAT! And, of course, the EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER series.

Swing on by!

See you soon!

Monday, July 29, 2013


Funtastic pair of issues I've got articles in....

Of course, there's the mighty COMIC BOOK CREATOR magazine, issue #2 just came out at SDCC. It's our square-bound JOE KUBERT issue, which is a cover-to-cover treat for Kubert fans, and I wrote the issue's non-Kubert stuff: a profile of/interview with the great IRWIN HASEN, original artist on DONDI and DC's Wildcat, that retired pugilist turned superhero. Hasen is a pip - in his mid-90s and living on the Upper East Side these days. I also have an editorial at the end of the book that I wrote while traveling through Arizona (wrote it in Heart of Sedona coffee shop).

Then there's BACK ISSUE magazine -- #66 -- it's the team-up issue, and I wrote about MARVEL TEAM-UP -- Spidey and a superhero guest (even though, indirectly, I wrote about MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE -- The Thing and a superhero guest -- back when I did my Ron Wilson interview). The issue also presents the DC side of things, DC PRESENTS, SUPERMAN FAMILY and a few others. A particularly fun issue of the mag.

Yeah, babies! You want to taste THIS honey....Oh, behive!