New York’s Alright

It was the 1981 Halloween show of Saturday Night Live. Fear, a punk band from California, was set to be the musical guest. Ian MacKaye, of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame, was one of the punks brought in to dance during the performance. He relates the strange story of how it happened:

“At eight in the morning, some point in October, I got a call. I was driving a newspaper truck for The Washington Post at the time, so eight in the morning was brutal. It was Lorne Michaels’ office, Lorne Michaels being the producer of “Saturday Night Live,” and I get this woman, “Lorne Michaels’ office, please hold.” I was completely delirious. Lorne Michaels gets on the phone – “Hi, Ian, it’s Lorne Michaels of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ I’m calling you because I got your number from John Belushi. He says that you might be able to get some dancers up here ’cause we want to have Fear on the show.” I was completely baffled by this. “Pardon me?” “Hold on a second.” John Belushi gets on the phone and he says, “This is John Belushi. I’m a big fan of Fear’s. I made a deal with ‘Saturday Night Live’ that I would make a cameo appearance on the show if they’d let Fear play. I got your number from Penelope Spheeris, who did ‘Decline of Western Civilization’ and she said that you guys, Washington DC punk rock kids, know how to dance. I want to get you guys to come up to the show.” It was worked out that we could all arrive at the Rockefeller Center where “Saturday Night Live” was being filmed. The password to get in was “Ian MacKaye.” We went up the day before. The Misfits played with The Necros at the Ukrainian hall, I think, so all of the Detroit people were there, like Tesco Vee and Cory Rusk from the Necros and all the Touch and Go people and a bunch of DC people – 15 to 20 of us came up from DC. Henry [Rollins] was gone. He was living in LA at this point. So we went to the show. During the dress rehearsal, a camera got knocked over. We were dancing and they were very angry with us and said that they were going to not let us do it then Belushi really put his foot down and insisted on it. So, during the actual set itself, they let us come out again. If you watch the show. . . before they go to commercial, they always go to this jack-o-lantern. This carved pumpkin. If you watched it during the song, you’ll see one of our guys, this guy named Bill MacKenzie, coming out holding the pumpkin above his head because he’s just getting ready to smash it. And that’s when they cut it off. They kicked us out and locked us out for two hours. We were locked in a room because they were so angry with us about the behavior. . . They said they were going to sue us and have us arrested for damages. There was so much hype about that. The New York Post reported half a million dollars worth of damages. It was nothing. It was a plastic clip that got broken. It was a very interesting experience and I realized how completely unnatural it is for a band to be on a television show – particularly a punk band – that kind of has a momentum to suddenly be expected to immediately jump into a song in that type of setting. It was very weird. Largely unpleasant. Made me realize that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”

This incident became notorious in punk rock circles and as Ian notes that was a big media freakout. I’ve scanned SNL reruns for years, hoping they might one day repeat the episode. It has never been shown again. Thanks to the wonders of the internet though, footage of one of the songs they performed (“New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones”) can now be seen here:

As you can see here, and in the documentary Decline of Western Civilization, Fear was one of those bands that liked pissing people off. I saw them play at CBGB in the early 90s and frontman Lee Ving mercilessly mocked the crowd throughout their set. Strangely enough Ving attempted an acting career in Hollywood. His most notable role is Mr. Body in the film Clue.

A Taste of Salumi

So Flying Lab is right across the street from the Metropolitan Market, which is a high end grocery full of all kinds of tasty stuff. Today Tynes was over there and discovered that Armandino Batali, the proprietor of the legendary Seattle foodie mecca Salumi (and father of Mario), was going to be appearing for several hours. John, Jess, and I had made a lunch pilgrimage to Salumi a couple of months back, waiting in line for an hour for a chance to sample Batali’s famous salamis. Today Jess and I gathered up a bunch of folks from our department and headed across the street. I thought it might be crowded at 5 but we just walked right up. Armandino had brought seven or so different kinds of salami and he encouraged us to try them all. You could tell this was his passion and he wanted to share it with people. Since we descended in a bunch, he was curious where we had come from. I explained we worked across the street and were publishing a pirate computer game. We chit chatted for a few minutes and he was a genial and pleasant guy. I picked up some of the mole salami, which is made with chocolate and is outrageously good. He also let us sample a new salami made with anise that Salumi is debuting in a couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure about meat and anise together, but it too was delicious. Here’s a guy that really knows his craft. That was a nice (and tasty) way to end the work week.

Not Yet Sold On It

Before gaming last night Rick and I stopped in at Games & Gizmos in Redmond. He wanted to pick up the rulebook and first army book for AT-43, the latest miniatures game from Rackham. Rick is a sucker for good art and graphic design and French game companies tend to excel in those areas. I flipped through the books and indeed they are very pretty. And yet I still hesitate to give AT-43 a try. I chalk this up to two things. First, Rackham’s history of English-language products is spotty at best. A couple of years ago I made a point of going to their GenCon booth to buy Confrontation, 3rd edition. At last, I thought, all the Confrontation rules in one beautiful hardback. I put it in my carryon so I could read it on the flight back to Seattle. I got about 30 pages in before the terrible translation made me put the book down. It was clear that the translator was not a native English speaker and it showed. Last GenCon I passed on buying the even more beautiful Cadwallon game after that experience. I figured I’d wait for reviews to come in and sure enough when they did a similar problem was identified.

The other thing makes me hesitate is the miniatures themselves. They look nice enough and are much better than many pre-painted minis. Non-collectibility is also a huge plus in my book. I have yet to see the army that is so cool looking that I have to have it though. Most of the figs are very similar to 40K ranges like the Imperial Guard and Necrons. The AT-43 walkers are nice because plastic construction means they can be nice and big. The apes in power armor are also intriguing but there don’t seem to be many released yet. I suppose it must also be said that I need another miniatures game like I need another D&D; book full of feats and prestige classes. So until I hear more about the translation and see an army that really appeals to me, I’ll be holding back on investing in AT-43. And hell, I still have Panzer IVHs and Nebelwerfers to assemble and I’ve been meaning to do that for months.