Posts Tagged ‘Passings’

Holy Supper, Batman!

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

When the Batman TV show was announced in late 1965, I was ecstatic. It would have been a dream come true had I ever thought to dream it. In January 1966, I was the only comic book fan in my high school in Muscatine, Iowa, and certainly the only person who had been reading the BATMAN comic since around 1954.

Perhaps there were others around me, closeted in four-color shame, but I didn’t know about them. I was open about it. Everybody knew I was into comics, just as everybody knew I was a Bobby Darin fanatic. That I was driven, intense, and wanted to be a writer or a singer or a cartoonist or something in the arts. I was cheerfully humored, although I’m sure this status was no help in getting me laid.

When I got into comics – trading two-for-one at a local antiques shop, or buying them used for five cents or new for a dime – MAD was still a comic book, the original Captain Marvel was still being published, and H.G. Peter was drawing Wonder Woman in a style so eccentric even I knew something was wrong, yet very right, about it. I saw MAD turn into a magazine and the EC horror comics disappear just as I was laying hands on them. Captain Marvel just disappeared, as if a super-villain had taken him out.

For a long time, I had an allowance of ten cents a week, which meant I could buy one comic book a week. Dick Tracy and Batman were the only certainties. The rest went to Dell comics like the sporadic Zorro comics and various movie tie-in issues, filled in with Superman and his “family” – Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane.

Later I bought Amazing Fantasy #15 off the stands, as well as Fantastic Four #1 and Spiderman #1, and probably the first ten years of both. Sold the valuable issues for hundreds of dollars when I was a college student because, well, I was a college student and the money I got from playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band only went so far.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In January 1966, a senior in high school, I was delighted and amazed and astounded by the prospect of a Batman TV show. To say I was looking forward to it is an understatement of super-heroic proportions.

Then a disaster happened: on the night Batman would premiere, my church group (the MYF, which I believe stood for Methodists Youths getting Effed) was throwing a supper to raise funds for something or other (certainly not the poor or disadvantaged – probably to go on some trip). I had to serve. Define that any way you like, but it entailed bringing hot plates of food to the waiting victims in the church basement’s dining hall.

Understand that there were no VCRs or any other recording devices to “time-shift” a TV show you wanted to watch. That was as far-fetched as time travel itself. For days I tried to think of a way out. I was past being able to fake sickness for my parents, and the notion of saying I wanted to skip a church function to watch a TV show was as crazy as thinking that someday I would no longer be a Republican.

So I schemed. My parents would be at the church supper, too, which meant the house would be empty. Batman was only a half-hour show. We lived across town, a trip I could recklessly make in under ten minutes. It was possible. It could happen. A laugh oddly like the Joker’s echoed around inside my brain, bouncing off the walls, currently decorated with photos of Elke Sommer.

Wednesday, January 12, 1966. Arriving early at the church, I found a parking place near the kitchen’s side door, went in, and began being conspicuously (suspiciously?) helpful. Hungry Methodists arrived. I began serving. In the kitchen door at right you would go in, pick up your food, then carry a steaming hot plate of who-the-hell-remembers out the other door, at left. Deliver food, maybe get a smile and a thanks (usually not), and repeat the process. At 6:20 P.M., I began the process, entering the kitchen at right, then – not missing a beat – slipped out the side door into the alley and got behind the wheel of my Chevy II.

Like a madman I drove across down, and by 6:29 was seated Indian-style on the floor in front of the TV. The nah-nah-nah-nah-nah theme plays over cartoon credits, my mouth drops open and stays there as I witness a comic-book world awash in color, Adam West and Burt Ward portraying Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson (SPOILER ALERT: the secret identities of Batman and Robin). Frank Gorshin appears as a manic, cackling Riddler, with whom I could identify. The Batusi is danced. Mesmerized, delighted, I watch as the comic book I had loved since age five comes alive in an amazingly deft manner that at once honored and spoofed it – I knew immediately a little kid could enjoy the adventurous, colorful surface, and an adult could enjoy the tongue-in-cheek spoof of it. Since I was both a little kid and an adult, I was the perfect audience.

As the episode (sort of) ended – “Same Bat time, same bat channel!” – I ran from the house to my car like West and Ward headed for the Bat-Pole and the waiting Batmobile, and headed back to the church, where my fellow Methodist teens (and my parents!) (choke!) awaited. I parked, ran to the side door, slipped into the kitchen, picked up a plate of food and exited the door at left, into the dining hall.

Some friend of mine frowned at me and said, “Where have you been?”

I smiled devilishly – more Riddler than Joker. “Home. Watching Batman.”

For a good 48 hours, I was legendary at Muscatine Senior High.

Then, two decades later, I would write the Batman comic book for a year and become perhaps the most reviled writer of the feature in history – because I didn’t take it seriously enough, according to fans who take it too seriously…who think the sixties TV show was the worst thing that ever happened to Batman, when in fact it was what made the (sometimes too) Dark Knight a pop-cultural phenomenon.

Who know more about Batman than the seventeen year-old who raced home to see the premiere of the TV show and risked not going to heaven for it. Or at least catching hell from his folks.

Farewell, Adam West.

* * *

There’s a nice review of Bibliomysteries, the Otto Penzler collection that includes the Hammer story, “It’s in the Book.”

Fun review of Supreme Justice here.

Here’s an interesting if patronizing review of both the novel and graphic novel of Road to Perdition by someone who loves the movie and came to the source later.

M.A.C.

Passings

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Three show business figures passed away recently, and as it happens, I had passing meetings with each.

CHUCK BERRY, 90, I met at an airport where we shared a gate. He was traveling with a guitar in its case, and appeared to be alone. But it was unmistakably him. As a longtime veteran of rock ‘n’ roll, I had to have a moment. I didn’t ask for an autograph, afraid I might start trouble for him, because a lot of people obviously didn’t recognize him.

“I just want to thank you for starting it all,” I said.

He smiled and said you’re welcome, and we shook hands.

I think I said something about having played rock ‘n’ roll for decades, and he said where he was headed, though I’ve forgotten. He was quiet but friendly.

What I said to him was about right. Little Richard and other black artists of the early rock days really were r & b starting to become rock, and Elvis fell in that category as well. But Chuck Berry, with his guitar-driven rock and his teenage subject matter, was not r & b, but at the very forefront of the new genre. Pure rock ‘n’ roll.

He was playing regularly in his home, St. Louis, until very recently.

TONY ROSATO, 62, is one of the unsung heroes of SCTV. He and the great Robin Duke were in the final season of the original incarnation of the show (they both moved to SNL after). His big character on the show was TV chef Marcello Sebastiani, but he was also a fine mimic, playing Lou Costello in a memorable Abbott and Elvis Costello parody.

He had a fine career, with a lot of Canadian TV, but mental health problems took him into a tragic area in later years.

I met him at the SCTV reunion in Chicago several years ago, in a crowded lobby of fans and Second City performers. He was accompanied by a minder of sorts and was obviously feeling a little lost. He was frankly surprised when I recognized him and asked for an autograph, which he gave me, and he smiled when I told him what a big fan I was of his SCTV and SNL work.

ROBERT OSBORNE, 84, the charming and knowledgeable presenter on Turner Classic Movies, I met backstage (actually upstairs somewhere) at a theater in Hollywood. My pal Leonard Maltin was giving me a chance to meet Jane Powell and a few other celebrities at the TCM Film Festival that year. I chatted with Osborne about (this will surprise few) how cool it would be to have a Mickey Spillane film festival on TCM, as they’d already shown The Girl Hunters a few times and Kiss Me Deadly many times. He was friendly and gracious, and exactly the guy you saw on TV.

I thanked him for everything he did for classic films and for sharing his enthusiasm, and knowledge, with viewers. And I’m glad I did.

While I never met him, BILL PAXTON, 61, was a good friend of my pal Bill Mumy and appeared in “Fish Heads” (which he also directed) and other Barnes & Barnes videos. What a terrific actor, and what a devastating loss. If you’ve never watched his HBO series Big Love, you should correct that mistake.

I don’t recall meeting the great cartoonist BERNIE WRIGHTSON, who like me was born in March of 1948, but I loved his work. Decades ago, when I started realizing interesting new things were happening in comics, and that I wasn’t the only one who liked the medium, Bernie Wrightson was at the forefront.

Such passings define bittersweet – we are so lucky to have experienced the art these creators shared with us, and so unlucky to be denied any more.

* * *

For those who suspect I have become a curmudgeon where current movies are concerned, walking out more often than staying to the finish, I am pleased to report Barb and I saw a terrific movie this weekend – Get Out.

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is a horror movie with darkly satiric overtones and some outright comedy that never dampens a truly creepy tale that might be described as an African-American Stepford Wives…though that doesn’t do it justice.

Remember how lousy I said the script of Kong was? And how I was chastised for expecting a monster movie to have good dialogue? Well, he’s a horror movie on a modest budget with no huge stars (but a strong cast) that not only has sharp dialogue but a well-constructed narrative that pays off everything it sets up, in a most satisfying manner.

This one I’ll be buying on Blu-ray.

* * *

The Will to Kill, the new Spillane/Collins, is getting some lovely reviews. Have you ordered your copy yet? What are you waiting for? You wanna get on Mike Hammer’s bad side? In the meantime, check out this wonderful Criminal Element review.

And here’s another great Will to Kill review, this one from the NY Journal of Books.

The new Hard Case Crime edition of Quarry’s Vote inspired this sweet review.

And Publisher’s Weekly likes Antiques Frame, due out in about a month.

Finally, once again my Eliot Ness/Batman graphic novel of some time ago is getting noticed.

M.A.C.

Dinner With Perry and Della

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Barbara Hale is gone.

She was 94, so it’s not exactly a tragedy, but it still hurts. Few actresses have done more with so underwritten a part as Ms. Hale did with Della Street on Perry Mason. She brought humor and intelligence to the role, and her genuine connection with both Raymond Burr and William Hopper brought a sense of reality to a fairly ridiculous if enormously entertaining concept – the defense attorney who (almost) never loses a case.

I was lucky enough to meet Barbara Hale and spend some time with her. Here’s what happened.

Back in the late ‘80s, I got the chance to collaborate on a project with Raymond Burr. Now, coincidentally, I had for some time been collecting the old Mason shows on VHS, and reading the Erle Stanley Gardner novels as crime-fiction comfort food, even collecting Mason first editions. Barb was a fan of the TV show, too, so it was a mutual enthusiasm, which is always nice for husband and wife.

Getting the chance to meet Burr, and work with him, was a dream come true. I made three trips to Denver, where the Mason TV-movies were being shot, and spent a lot of time with Raymond (he preferred that to “Ray”). He was an interesting guy, warm and generous and puckishly funny. The high-end hotel where I was staying had a residential wing where Burr lived during production of the films. I went to his suite, knocked on the door, and he answered, wearing a railroad engineer’s cap and coveralls – he had an elaborate model railroad set-up that threaded through the various rooms of the apartment. And the trains were a rollin’!

He and I got along fine. The first trip we didn’t work – we just got to know each other, and he regaled me with tales of his long and fascinating, much-travelled life. I heard about the Ballets Russes, where his career had begun, and of such world figures as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, as well as his experiences touring with the USO in Vietnam. I told him we should just skip the idea of doing a thriller and put together his autobiography. But he was adamant that he would never write that book, after spending hours convincing me it would be important and fascinating. His bisexuality, which he fairly openly referred to in our conversations – his frankness was part of my acceptance as a friend – was something he never wished to discuss in public.

On the other two Denver trips, we worked – plotting an espionage thriller in the morning and over lunch, with me working several hours in the mid-afternoon in my hotel room to put our thoughts on paper, joining him again an hour or two before supper. Every meal I had on these trips was with Raymond.

One meal was particularly memorable. Barbara Hale was arriving to shoot the next Mason TV movie, which was about to begin production. Raymond asked me if I would like to meet her and go out with them for dinner at the best steakhouse in Denver. I would have gone to the worst diner in Paducah for a chance to do that. I called Barb and said, “Guess who I’m going out to dinner with tonight? Perry and Della!” She said she hated me, but sounded sweet saying so.

Barbara Hale would have been 66 at the time – two years younger than I am now – but I remember being almost startled by how lovely and young she seemed to me, and, frankly, sexy. She came across older on television in the Mason movies. There was a genuine chemistry between us, and the fact that I could make Della Street smile so easily was just about as good as it gets.

We definitely hit it off, and she was impressed that I knew about her career right down to her appearing in small roles in various RKO movies of the ‘40s, like The Great Gildersleeve entries. In the limo on the way to the steakhouse, sitting between her and Raymond like their overgrown child, I told Barbara how much I loved her in Jolson Sings Again. Raymond, with his ever-present twinkle, said, “Oh, I agree. She was wonderful getting down on her knees in blackface.” She giggled and batted his arm and he giggled back. These two loved each other. Was I really here?

At the steakhouse – where actor Tom Bosley (filming the Father Dowling mysteries in Denver) stopped by to pay his respects – we had a long dinner during which I questioned Raymond and Barbara incessantly about the original Mason show. I had brought along the hardcover first edition of a Mason novel that had Barbara and Raymond pictured together on the back cover – I got this signed by both of them. They had a great time reminiscing about the original show and I only wish I’d secretly recorded all of it.

The TV movie they were shooting, The Case of the Musical Murder, had Debbie Reynolds as a guest star, but she wasn’t around while I was. I did get to go on set several times and watch scenes being shot, and also had several nice conversations with William R. Moses, who had just begun playing Mason’s young assistant on the show. For the first nine movies, Barbara Hale’s son, William Katt, had played Paul Drake, Jr., and Moses was essentially replacing him. I didn’t know why and was tactful enough not to ask.

But I did, at our steakhouse dinner, tell Barbara in front of Raymond what a great job I thought her son had done in that role. She beamed at that. The next day, when Raymond and I picked her up at her suite for lunch, she took me aside and gave me a hug, and whispered, “Thank you for what you said about my son.” Katt, it turned out, had left the Mason movies for a (short-lived) series of his own, and apparently Raymond was not happy about it.

Still, the affection between the two performers was obvious. Raymond told me over lunch one day that he planned to end the series of movies with one in which Mason and Della finally got married. The films began to include genuine expressions of love between the characters, even a kiss or two (the original series had been much more coy about what was an obvious long ongoing relationship between boss and secretary).

Unfortunately the project with Raymond (and I do apologize for speaking of him so familiarly) did not go anywhere. The New York editor who had put us together wanted a mystery, and even suggested a courtroom-oriented one, with the world-hopping thriller we proposed not doing the trick. The editor clearly wanted something like Perry Mason or Ironside. Raymond Burr, with all his international interests and travels, wanted something wider-ranging and in the espionage field. I later learned that two other writers were put together with Raymond Burr and in each case the actor’s strong personality guided them to espionage, and each time the New York editor bridled.

Of course Perry and Della never got married. Raymond Burr’s death in 1993 pre-empted that.

While I regret I never shared the Burr byline on a book or even series of books, I still relish the memory of the collaboration.

After all, it’s not everybody who gets to spend an evening with Perry and Della.

* * *

Arrow is giving some info about Wild Dog’s origin. Still haven’t watched an episode.

Here’s a fun look at Mike Hammer in the movies and on TV (though the writer, who quotes me occasionally, does not seem to have read Mickey Spillane on Screen by Jim Traylor and me).

Here’s an article about the Quarry books and a discussion about what order to read them in, with several options.

Finally, here’s an essay that thinks Cinemax ought to give Quarry a second season. My bank account agrees!

M.A.C.

Snapshots of a Friendship

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I met Miguel Ferrer in 1987 at the San Diego Comic Con. I approached his friend Bill Mumy as a fan – not so much of Lost in Space as of his band, Barnes & Barnes, of “Fish Heads” infamy. Knowing he was guest of the con, I had brought copies of several CDs for Bill’s autograph, and – in line for something and being lucky enough to be right ahead of Bill and Miguel – I got the CD inserts signed. We chatted. Turned out Bill and Miguel were hardcore comics fans, in particular of the Golden Age, and collected the heavy-duty, expensive stuff – early Batman, Superman and Captain America, among many others. They had hung out with Jack Kirby, Bob Kane and Stan Lee.

I was enough of a comics celebrity, as writer of Dick Tracy and Ms. Tree, to gain immediate acceptance, and we went together to a dance in the ballroom of the Hotel Cortez (later Miguel did memorable location work for Traffic at this fleabag). The band was nothing special. In talking about Barnes & Barnes with Bill, I’d mentioned that I was a longtime rock musician myself, and somebody – probably me – said, “We could go up there right now and do better, cold.” (I’d gathered that Miguel was a drummer.) We’d been standing with the enormously tall and talented (and tall) Steve Leialoha, who said, “Well, I play bass.” I said, “Guitar, keyboards, drums, bass.” Bill said immediately that he would talk to con organizer Jackie Estrada about having us play next year. But of course we needed a name.

Miguel, like any good drummer, did not miss a beat. He said, “Seduction of the Innocent.”


Seduction of the Innocent, circa 1988

That very night Bill pitched us and got a commitment for the 1988 San Diego Comic Con. During the year that followed, Bill and I swapped song lists. We used my band Crusin’s song list as a jumping off point, picking the things that seemed to make sense, and Bill added some hipper tunes. So we knew what to work on before we gathered for our first practice.

A few days before the con, we assembled in Bill’s living room in his very cool Laurel Canyon house, and played through his stereo speakers, which were very powerful. And of course we fried them. In the future we would be either in a rehearsal hall or some other room the con provided, and amps would be rented to our specs.

I’m not sure whether we played “King Jack” that first year (Bill’s tribute to Jack Kirby) but we certainly did it by our second performance. And there was a second performance, because we killed at the first. The dance floor was packed, many of the dancers in costume decades before the term “cosplay” was coined. “Pussy Whipped,” another Bill original, was delivered in Miguel’s distinctive growl and was a big favorite. The ‘60s covers we did included “Mr. Soul,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “You Can’t Do That” and “We Gotta Get Outa This Place.” Also, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” – Miguel again, assuming a singular poignance now.

At our first meeting, I didn’t really know who Miguel was. He’d done some TV and had a small role in Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock, and he’d filmed his breakout role in Robocop, but it hadn’t been released yet. During the year leading up to Seduction’s debut, Miguel got very hot and stayed that way through the ‘80s and ‘90s (and beyond). But he was always the most lovable, loving guy to his fellow band members. No attitude. Just great big smiles and wry humor.

We played half a dozen times at San Diego Con, with Chris Christensen – whose small label, Beat Brothers, issued our original material CD, The Golden Age – joining us around the third appearance. Chris was another hardcore comics fan and a versatile “casual” musician, meaning he played all kinds of music with all sorts of bands. When Miguel was drumming, he’d play rhythm guitar for Bill’s lead; when Miguel was singing, he’d play drums.


Seduction of the Innocent, Santa Monica Pier

My friendship with Miguel doesn’t exist in a linear way in my mind. I remember how much we connected – he was the first guy to call me “brother,” and he meant it. I heard some California expressions from him before they got into the national vernacular: “He’s toast,” and “Sweeeeet.” He was a mystery reader and both he and Bill became Nate Heller fans in a major way (Bill wrote a song called “True Detective” for the Golden Age CD). Chris was, too, and probably Steve…but Steve always looked like he loved everybody and everything.

Once Miguel was in Chicago for a shoot on a Scott Bakula movie – In the Shadow of a Killer – around 1991. I was in the city promoting something or other, and Miguel and I spent several evenings together, with late-night conversations on everything from how good Diana Krall was to what it was like playing drums for Bing Crosby (which he had on Crosby’s final tour)(he also played drums on Keith Moon’s solo album). His famous father, Jose, was a big mystery fan too, and Mig got his dad on the phone to introduce me to him – that’s right me to him. Mr. Ferrer was impressed that I was friends with Mickey Spillane – can’t remember much else, just how wonderful it was having that warm, familiar voice in my ear.

Miguel had an afternoon off from the Bakula shoot and I had arranged a tour for us through the secret rooms beneath the Green Mill Café. The latter looked then as it did decades before (and probably does now) – a green-hued deco den of iniquity. As it happened, a comic book shop was next door and the eccentric owner, whose name I will not divulge (though he’s now deceased), had promised the tour. It had been set up weeks in advance.

But when we arrived, the comics shop owner – let’s call him Joe – was not to be seen. It took some talking, but the clerk revealed Joe was downstairs, where he’d been for over a week on a bender. Miguel and I exchanged glances, but gave each other what-the-hell shrugs. We found Joe slumped over a table with a glass and a whiskey bottle and a magnum revolver on it. There was a cot and a little refrigerator, but mostly bare cement.

Joe snapped awake, recognized me, remembered the promised tour, bolted to his feet and, issuing us orders, went quickly through a doorway into the basement’s nether reaches. Miguel and I exchanged glances and followed. After all, the gun had been left behind.

Through several chambers we went, including an ancient men’s restroom with urinals lined up St. Valentine’s Day Massacre style, while Joe turned on hanging bulbs along the way, leaving them swinging in memory of Psycho. He babbled about this being where Capone’s boys went during mob wars and did so while moving very quickly. We could hardly keep up. At one point, Miguel whispered, “Are we going to die down here, Al?” I said, “Maybe. But don’t worry – with the rats, they’ll never find us.”

Somehow the tour ended, and our lives did not. Anyway, we were back above ground.

One of Seduction’s most memorable early gigs was at the Santa Monica Pier in the building with the famous merry-go-round (another was when Wildman Fisher sang “Merry-Go-Round” with us at a San Diego con appearance, but that’s another story). We were joined on some tunes by Shaun Cassidy, who was a nice guy and strong performer.

Prior to rehearsing in LA for the gig, Barb and I were invited by Miguel to stay at his mother’s house. His mother – Rosemary Clooney – would not be home; she, too, was gigging. We had the big house in Beverly Hills to ourselves, and we gingerly peeked into an expansive living room with a picture of Bing on the piano and the ghosts of Sinatra and how many others lingering among expensive furnishings that dated back decades. There was admittedly a Norma Desmond feel to the place. We’d been asked to answer the phone, and Barb did – taking a message from Rosie’s friend Linda Ronstadt.

Before our stay ended, Rosemary came home and, with Miguel at her arm, gave us a tour, including the living room. Oh, yes, all those famous people had been here many times, sometimes singing around the piano. She was as sweet and down-to-earth as my own mom, giving us copies of her latest records. Later, she was at the stove making marinara sauce, and my Lord it smelled good. But Miguel and Barb and I were on our way to a comic-shop gig.

In late night hotel-room conversations, the topic of working together often came up. We each said to the other, “If at the end of our days, we haven’t done a film or movie together, we should kick ourselves.”

Miguel and I talked seriously about having him play Heller in a movie – my novella, “Dying in the Post-war World,” was written for him in lieu of a screen treatment. Miggie was friends with a screenwriter who’d had a big success and wanted to move into directing, and – on a trip to LA specifically for this purpose – I took an afternoon meeting with him in Miguel’s little Studio City bungalow. But after we’d talked for an hour or so about Heller, the screenwriter said suddenly, “You know what we should make? A western.”

Miguel and I traded glances – his seemed to speak volumes about the disappointments and absurdities that he dealt with day-to-day in that town. Back to Iowa.

Which is where Miguel almost appeared in Mommy as Lt. March. He accepted the role on the proviso that if a big-paying gig came along, he could bow out with just two weeks notice. I was fine with that, and he allowed me to use his name and picture in our preproduction publicity, and gave us a letter of intent for fund-raising. A major film came along, and Miguel had to bow out, but he paved the way for Mark Hamill to take the role. Mark was another hardcore comics guy and very close to Bill and Miguel, and I’d spent some time with him at a couple of comic cons – a smart, funny man. (As it happened, Mark dropped out a week from the start of the shoot because of a conflict with voiceover work. We were able to secure Jason Miller for the role.)

At the risk of further name-dropping, I have to mention Miguel’s good friend, Brandon Lee. Brandon loved being around Seduction of the Innocent, and he played roadie for us at several gigs, and partied with us afterward. He seemed to take to me and we got along great. Miguel turned him onto the Quarry novels and Brandon loved them – called me on the phone to rave, once. I asked Miguel, “Why has Brandon taken to me so? There are those who can resist my charms.” Miguel grunted a laugh and said, “Simple, Al. It’s ‘cause you never ask him about his father.”

Only later did I realize that with Miguel any interaction or talk about his famous parents had come from his end, not mine.

Seduction shot a video of “The Truth Hurts” for the Golden Age CD release, and Brandon was in it. Not sure that still exists – it was good.

Just days before we were scheduled to play at WonderCon, Brandon died tragically on the set of The Crow. Bill and Miguel had to cancel because they were to be pallbearers. Steve, Chris and I appeared with Crusin’ guitarist, Paul Thomas, as “Reduction of the Innocent.”

I had a small falling-out with Miguel when we hadn’t gigged for a while. He and Bill had a more serious, real band going – the Jenerators – and in an interview, Miggie jokingly dismissed Seduction, and said something like, “Max Allan Collins is lucky he’s a great mystery writer, ‘cause he couldn’t make a living as a musician.” I didn’t like that – I had in fact made a living as a musician for a while – and I called him on the phone about it. He heard me out and we had a typically warm, laughter-filled conversation.

But I learned through the Seduction grapevine that I was “in the cornfield,” where banished friends of Bill and Miguel went (a reference to Bill’s famous Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life”). The two friends would refer to those who’d got on their bad side by saying they were in the cornfield. I understood what had happened. Miguel was very non-confrontational, while I was and am somebody who has to deal with things right now or they’ll eat me alive. Also, Miguel was a star, and while he never played that card, I had stepped over a line.

When we got offered another San Diego con gig, I was afraid I’d jinxed it. Bill didn’t want to play without Miguel, even though we had done so once when Miguel again got a last-minute movie role. But Miguel said he was in. And when we rehearsed for the gig, it was clear all was forgiven. After the first rehearsal, I apologized, embarrassedly, and Miguel said “Forget it, brother,” with a grin and a shrug.

I had a habit, stepping down off the stage after a night that felt particularly good with the band, of quoting my late friend Paul Thomas: “Rock ‘n’ roll happened.” Bill and Miggie always kind of laughed at that, good-naturedly. But I to this day say it after a good Crusin’ gig. Seduction blew the roof off the dump at the San Diego con appearance. And as we came down off the stage, Miguel came over and put his arm around me and said, “Al! Rock ‘n’ roll did happen.” And he grinned that wonderful grin. It was a kind of apology, but it was much more than that. It was love, brother.

Sweeeet.

M.A.C.