Do teenagers still go through a Doors phase? I mean, is that still possible? Jesus, I think it is. It’s not as if the Doors’ music is any more dated now than it was in the early ’90s, back when I went through my Doors phase and a lot of other kids at my middle school when through their Doors phases. Deciding at a certain age that the Doors are the coolest band that ever existed seems like a rite of passage on par with getting drunk in a park on a bottle of blackberry brandy — it might be a ridiculously misguided idea only a child could endorse, but it’s also transcendent. More than any other hippie-era classic-rock band, the Doors signify the danger, the excitement, and the mystery of adulthood as it could only be perceived by those who have zero conception of what being a grown-up is actually like. If you’ve never taken drugs nor engaged in sexual activity with a person other than yourself, Jim Morrison perfectly encapsulates the imagined awesomeness of those unknown pleasures, and the awesomeness said pleasures project on those who have experienced them. Putting on a Doors record at that age is like strapping on a pair of leather pants — no matter how it looks to the outside world, it makes you feel immortal.
A founding member, guitarist, and songwriter for Slayer — arguably the most important thrash metal band ever after Metallica, and among the most influential groups of any genre from the last 30 years — Jeff Hanneman died Thursday of liver failure in a hospital near his Southern California home. He was 49.
Before his death, health problems had kept Hanneman off the road and out of the studio for two years. In 2011, Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a rare “skin-eating” disease that wears away skin and tissue at an accelerated rate. This rare, horrific condition — which Hanneman most likely caught from a spider bite, no less — prompted numerous jokes online about Slayer’s guitarist suffering from a very Slayer-like ailment. But Hanneman was truly in a bad way; he almost lost an arm, and lapsed into a medically induced coma for a short period. And yet he appeared to be on the mend, and his bandmates (as late as last month) thought he might still be able to launch a comeback. It's unclear whether his death was related to his disease.
George Jones died today inside a hospital in Nashville. His exit from the world was not uncommon for an 81-year-old man: He was sick — with a fever and irregular blood pressure, reports the New York Times — he got himself checked out, he spent eight days in a reclining bed, and then he was dead. And yet it was out of character for George Jones, in the sense that George Jones didn’t seem capable of being dead until the minute he was. Jones loved, lost, fought, clawed, cried, cared, drank, snorted, and, most important, sang like a man who was above the law, even the laws of nature. Life is supposed to be fragile but George Jones’s life was not fragile; he treated his nervous system like a gorilla treats luggage. No amount of pounding could ever completely bust up George Jones’s life; no death-defying close call seemed capable of preventing him from continuing to pound. It would be a mistake to call him a victim of excess because he was neither a victim nor excessive; he just had a much, much higher tolerance than the rest of us. George Jones was always game. When it came to rehab or marriage, he often failed and was always willing to give it another whirl. (His longest marriage out of four attempts, to Nancy Sepulvado, lasted the final 30 years of his life.) And, in spite of a truly monstrous dark side, people kept giving “No Show Jones” second (and third and fourth and so on) chances too. And now, against all odds, he’s found peace.
If you’re not familiar with Storm Thorgerson, just know that he earned the right to be named "Storm Thorgerson." The most famous album-cover artist of all time — his most celebrated and longest lasting association was with Pink Floyd, though his work also adorned records by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Peter Gabriel, Phish, Ween, Anthrax, the Cult, Muse, the Mars Volta, and Audioslave, among many others — Thorgerson supplied the visually striking and often surreal iconography that served as a backdrop in countless college dorms for lobotomized interstellar couch trips. His most iconic concepts — a dark prism refracting white light into a rainbow, a man shaking hands with his inflamed doppelganger, an industrialized hellscape flecked with floating pigs — leapt out of vinyl stacks and onto wood-paneled bedroom walls, forming lasting images in the cloudiest sections of so many people’s memories. (No man did more to make suburban recreational drug use in the late 20th century feel epic.) If it’s possible for an LP cover (or a blacklight poster) to approach art, a lot of that has to do with Thorgerson.
I listen to Penicillin on Wax, a profoundly ignorant, 22-year-old album about how much Bronx rapper Tim Dog hates Compton, more often than is probably suitable for someone with a wife, an actual dog, proper adult responsibilities, and no real feelings of ill will toward N.W.A., Compton, the West Coast, the Raiders, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Penicillin is ignorant in a punishing, old school sort of way, bereft of wit or cleverness or grace or gimmickry. It’s just one severely aggrieved guy from the Bronx on the wrong side of history, as he yells and growls and stumbles over his own rage-filled words. It’s like the hatred grew so intense that it’s tipped over to glee, as Tim calls N.W.A. a bunch of “PUSSIES!” over their own beat, fantasizes about their sexual abuse, schemes to roll into Compton with a hundred Bronx brothers and the Nation of Islam, guffaws about Eazy-E’s “little ass dick,” calls Dr. Dre out for beating up on women, and mocks their Raider gear “when the Giants won the Super Bowl.” And that’s just the album “Intro.”
Conrad Bain, who played the stuffy-yet-kindly widower Philip Drummond for eight seasons on NBC's Diff'rent Strokes, died yesterday in Livermore, California. He was 89.
Born in Alberta, Canada, Bain was a prolific theater actor before he became a sitcom dad. He played Larry in the same 1956 Off Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh that launched Jason Robards's career; a 29-year-old Peter Falk played Rocky the Bartender.
In 1974's Emmanuelle, the Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel — who died in Amsterdam on Wednesday, at 60, of esophageal and lung cancer — plays a young model who moves to Thailand with her husband, a French diplomat, and embarks on a journey of erotic self-discovery.
If you're straight and male and your own journey of erotic self-discovery began sometime between the dawn of premium cable and the advent of the Internet, there's a good chance you knew that already. Today every 14-year-old who can work an iPad is perpetually about three taps away from a firehose blast of HD-quality smut graphic enough to put Caligula in the mood for a Silkwood shower. But back in the '80s, to see people doing it on film, you had to either tune into the Playboy Channel's scrambled signal and squint for glimpses of Cubist nudity, or stay up late, like Linus waiting on the Great Pumpkin, until that magic hour when Cinemax's programming turned bleu.
Swedish naughty-schoolgirl sex comedies. Innumerable erotic thrillers that all seemed to star Shannon Tweed as a no-nonsense vice cop whose beat required her to make love on a billiards table in a room lit by abstract neon boomerangs. And, sometimes, Emmanuelle, which began its cultural life as the highest-grossing domestically produced French film of 1974 and became the Citizen Kane of softcore, a landmark that shaped the aesthetic and tone of the countless silk-sheets-and-sax-solos adult films that followed.
Editor's Note: Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the '80s. Every so often, we'll e-mail 24-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn't seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he's watching it, then we'll post those thoughts here. This week's installment, unlike any other, was selected by Rembert Browne. The selection: Don Cornelius' first and only trip dancing down the Soul Train line he created. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the '80s, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
When told the news that Soul Train creator Don Cornelius passed Wednesday morning, I was thrown for a loop. Here I was, 10 minutes into my awake Black History Month, mourning the death of a pioneer. After sitting there for a few minutes, I considered what he meant to me and began writing down a few words. Even though I have strong feelings for the man, it didn't feel right for me to pen anything substantial. He was my guy, but I'm simply too young for him to truly be my guy. Over the course of the day, people who lived through the hey-day of Soul Train came out with statements, all of which were poignant and all of which supported my belief that I should keep my mouth shut and just respectfully observe.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Paul Brittain is leaving Saturday Night Live, “effective immediately. A source close to the actor tells EW that Brittain ‘had the opportunity to pursue other projects, and he and the show parted ways amicably.’” And your response, possibly, is – who the hell is Paul Brittain? Understandable! Brittain joined the show in September of 2010 alongside Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer, and Jay Pharoah, and while all four have had memorable moments, none have quite worked their way to "integral cast member" status. It’s odd that Brittain is leaving mid-season, instead of toughing it out until the season break, and would suggest that the famously tasking pace and vestiges-of-cocaine-energy late-hours work schedule of the show may have burned him out. Equally possible is that he has indeed landed "other projects" in the form of a pilot or a movie for which he had to leave immediately. Who knows? Who cares? We come here not to speculate about Brittains’ next move, but to celebrate his last one.