RANDOM THOUGHTS: AN INCOMPLETE GUIDE TO MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Olivia Pope
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Italian smartass Niccolo Machiavelli is acknowledged for writing the widely used playbooks for jerks and weasels. After reading The Prince it is ridiculously easy to see through politicians, professional agitators, lobbyists and bureaucrats. Machiavelli was correct about everything he addressed but you can learn a lot more about how to walk through life from studying the moves of Olivia Pope in Scandal or the Micheal Corleone character in the Godfather II film...

The true badass players of the world don't seem to crave the limelight of public attention while politicians, sports announcers, college professors, professional protesters and failed musicians insist on showing their ass in public at any given opportunity. In Memphis, Fed Ex founder Fred Smith absolutely and positively maintains a low profile. Mr. Smith has been elevated to folk hero status and Memphians realize that if there has ever been anyone as cool as Elvis Presley, it is big Fred. Apparently, he spends half his time running Fed Ex and the other half helping other people. There are a lot of big checks written for worthy causes and it is done under the radar, not for the sake of public relations.

On February 20, 1981, Andy Kaufman was the guest host of ABC Television's "Friday's" late night comedy show. Without any question, it was the night for the greatest moment of true dada and surrealism in television broadcast history.

Kaufman had a strong anti-drug stance in his personal life but was placed smack dab in the middle of an early 1980's drug-type comedy routine. During the broadcast of the skit he appeared to break out of character, apparently forgetting his lines and wandering away from the other actors. In a moment of true comic genius Michael Richards walked off stage, grabbed the cue cards and slammed them on the table in front of Kaufman. Maryedith Burell appeared stunned as Kaufman threw a glass of water on Richards and started a mini-food fight with Melanie Chartoff. It was a beautiful illusion of chaos as Jack Burns ran onstage and called for the control room to go to a commercial break just as a perceived shoving match broke out.

Everyone thought it was for real. The cast, audience and everyone watching on television thought they were witness to the worst train wreck ever broadcast on the airwaves. Only Kaufman, Burns and Richards were in on the joke that could have been remembered as the most amazing choreographed stunt in television.

When they returned from the commercial break Kaufman and Burns were still going at each another with crew members restraining them. You know, one of those fake fight deals that you see in professional wrestling or on the playground between two jabronies who do not really want to fight. In an instant, you could sense the whole thing had been staged--they almost pulled it off.

Whitney Houston's song "I Have Nothing" is the finest 4:48 of music that has ever been created. David Foster is the master craftsman who perfectly captured the most beautiful voice of our generation at it's prime. Bravo!

Unfortunately, the song has become a standard for every want-to-be diva attempting to launch a musical career in an amateur talent competition. You should remember Ms.Houston fondly the next time you find yourself held captive in a restaurant during karaoke night forced to suffer through the torture of hearing some annoying jackass butcher this wonderful song.

Memphis newspaper columnist Bill E Burk was a trusted acquaintance of Elvis Presley (earning the nickname "007" from Vernon Presley) who often met privately with the king to plant info/stories in the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Years later, Burk championed the German heavy metal group Scorpions before their first Memphis visit in 1980 only to be snubbed for an interview at the start of their next tour in 1982. Burk retaliated by phoning a contact at the Leber-Krebs New York office with a false claim of owning "incriminating" and "homo-erotic" photos of a certain group member taken at the Hyatt Regency during their last stop in Elvis-town. Burk claimed they were "too graphic" for publication in the local newspaper and threatened to "give them to a friend at Stern magazine in Germany." Within minutes the band's publicist called to apologize followed with desperate calls from three members of the band (calling in sequence from various locations on the globe) for phone interviews. It was an eventful evening when the Scorpions played the Auditorium North Hall in Memphis (with opening act Iron Maiden) on the tour--the concert was temporarily stopped after audience members jumped the into the orchestra pit as the makeshift flooring (pieces of 1/4 inch plywood with a thirty foot drop below) began to give away! In the weeks before the Memphis Press-Scimeter closed it's doors, Burk excercised his "five finger discount" privilege and helped himself to all things Elvis that were in the newspaper's archieve--spending the rest of his life publishing the images in a fanzine and traveling the world speaking at Elvis conventions...

In 1977 at Sherwood Jr High in Memphis, Tennessee there was this kid who always fell asleep in Ms. Gladys Scott's music class. On more than one occasion Ms. Scott directed the students to exit the classroom--she refused to embarrass the child by waking him in front of others. While standing in the hallway with other students, you could hear her comforting the boy as she escorted him to the assistant principal's office-- where he could finish his nap. Years later, I learned that during this time the boy's parents were in a very bitter and violent divorce (his father was a Vietnam vet who had just returned home addicted to drugs while his mother had a new boyfriend that did not want the child to live with them) and she was protecting the boy when he had no one else. It was the highlight of my life to walk into her classroom -- she made learning fun. Scott was a classicaly trained opera singer who exposed students to all music and explained music theory in a way that 12 year-olds could grasp. She was a diva who knew her stuff! I distinctly remember her dissecting Natlie Cole's song "Our Love" while methodically explaining how the background vocals were stacked and using Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and Maurice Ravel's "Ma Mere I'Oye" (also known as the "Mother Goose Suite") to illustrate how different string players worked inside of a chord. Unfortunately, there are not enough teachers like Ms. Scott (with the love of teaching and passion to mold young lives)-- many enter the field for the job security offered with government employment (and two months vacation every year) while riding the clock until they are eligible for a state or city pension.

Much has been written about the observation of musicians exhibiting a spiritual/psychological connection with a favored instrument. There has never been a more fitting example of this type of emotional bond between a player and their favorite axe than when blues master Albert King salvaged his prized Gibson Flying V guitar from his flooded home in West Memphis, Arkansas. The instant that he was allowed to drive through the police barricade and into his house, King waded into his bedroom to rescue the guitar and immediately drove over the bridge to Pyramid Guitars in Memphis. He was soaking wet when he handed the instrument to luthier Rick Hancock (there was still a considerable amount of water leaking out of the unopened case) and asked him to "just fix it." Apparently King was so reluctant to view the guitar in a damaged condition that he did not even attempt to open the guitar case before trusting it to Hancock and refused to return until the restoration was complete!

This guy who calls himself Elvis Costello is the most extremely overrated jabroni in the history of pop music and A Taste of Honey was the best thing to come out of 1978--far better than Costello, The Cars, or Toto. In retrospect, it is fair to reason that the song "Boogie Oogie Oogie" saved my life in 1978. Where in the world is Hazel Payne today?

Television evangelist Jim Baker claims that when he was in federal prison his cellmate Lyndon LaRouche received daily phone briefs from someone speaking in German. If this is true, who the hell has been using the 92 year-old LaRouche as a mouthpiece all these years and wouldn't it be great to see a Bohemian Grove-style mud wrestling match between Henry Kissenger & Lyndon LaRouche at the next Wrestlemania?

Led Zeppelin were musical heroes for a lot of junior high school guitar aficionados in the 1970's but their obvious plagiarisms have started to catch up with them. With all the money in their Swiss bank accounts they could easily spread some cash around with the families of the people they ripped off. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to ever happen. Grand Funk Railroad and the classic-era Aerosmith were much better with the 1970's guitar band approach anyway...

There is nothing enjoyable about a visit to McDonald's, but you can get a tea for 99 cents and it is mildly entertaining to watch the employees curse and fight.

1985 was an extremely depressing year but Tina Turner strutting onstage to join Mick Jagger for a couple of songs at the Live-Aid concert in Philadelphia on July 13, 1985 was an epiphany of cheerful comfort that lifted the most hopeless of dejected souls out of distress. In fact, the cold chocolate milkshake from Nutbush wrote a prescription that cured more ill than a truck-load of prozac. Frank Zappa claimed the show was "probably the biggest cocaine money launduring scheme of all time" and it appears doubtful that any funds raised aided victims.

It's good to know that "World Boogie is Coming" but how about a clear definition of what it is and an explanation of the effect it will have on my daily life once it arrives?

LIFE IS NOT FAIR...

"Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. After all the student rebellions in the 60's, civics was banished and replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees- a contract between the citizens and the government- now nobody knows what's in it. It's one of the best-kept secrets. So, if you don't know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them?"

Frank Zappa-- Spin Magazine 1991

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