Serious at The Troubadour on Halloween in '97.
Sammy recruited the last Zeros guitarist who went by the name of Lacey Lazer Lightning. It would be an understatement to say Mark and I had issues with him from day one. Sammy played guitar very well and the band sounded fine as a three piece. Lacey was a pretty annoying character and we weren't happy when Sammy recruited him for the project. Tolerating him was about the best we could do. We proceeded to play all over Hollywood - The Troubadour, The Whisky (which I was no longer banned from), The Roxy, Mancini's, The Country Club, and of course, The Coconut Teaszer.
Serious at the Coconut Teaszer:
Playing in Hollywood was interesting because it wasn't unusual to look in the audience and see famous rockers at your gigs. C.C. DeVille of Poison and Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. were regulars at our shows. (Though I'd like to say they were there specifically to see us, I don't think Chris knew where he was half of the time.) I even met Gene Simmons at a 7-11 in Burbank once and had a lengthy one on one conversation with him. (I loved that chance meeting. Here was the guy who was the reason I started playing bass in the first place, having a causal chat with me by the Slurpee machine!)
Sammy's professional music career read like a long list of unfortunate near hits and brushes with fame, pretty much an endless comedy of errors. As if Sammy didn't have enough to be bitter about regarding his deal with Hollywood Records going south (when Disney bought the label, they replaced all the staff that had been in Sammy's corner), he also had a great deal fall through with Howard Stern's movie "Private Parts." Sammy had written and performed the original Howard Stern theme song that was played for years at the beginning of Howard's show when he was on WNBC. When it came time to make Howard's movie Private Parts, the song was going to be in it and Sammy would receive huge exposure. There was going to be a scene from Howard's WNBC period, similar to a scene in The Beatles' Hard Days Night, where a bunch of crazed fans would be chasing Howard down a city street to the backing track of Sammy's Howard Stern theme song. The song would also be included on the soundtrack which turned out to be a huge seller. It would have finally put Sammy on the map in a big way, not to mention, make him some serious cash. Preliminary contracts had been drawn up, and Sammy was psyched. Howard owed some friends from his early days and he was originally going to put Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Enuff Z'nuff, and Sammy on the movie soundtrack. Howard eventually had a change of heart and gave in to two influences that lead him away from his original plan. One was the record label, Warner Brothers, wanting their own artists on the album, not Howard's old friends. Secondly, Howard realized how much more money he could make from the soundtrack if he included songs he would co-write with other Warner artists. So ultimately, Enuff Z'nuff, old regulars on Howard's show, were nixed from the movie's track list. Dee Snider got a small non-speaking cameo in the film as a sort of consolation for pulling him from the soundtrack, and the scene with Sammy's theme song was edited out of the movie altogether. Talk about a let down.
Sammy and I were invited to the premiere of "Private Parts" at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. I know it must have been hard for Sammy to sit through the entire movie thinking what it would be like if his song had been in it. A number of people from Howard's show were there and among them was Howard's manager, Don Buchwald. After the movie was over, we were all mingling in the lobby and Sammy approached Don. I didn't listen in on the conversation but later Sammy told me that Don just shrugged and offered some typical business non-explanation/apology. Sammy still lives in the Winnebago he used to tour in. He once told me it's OK and he just thinks of it as being on a lifelong tour. You gotta give him credit for keeping the spirit.
We went on to record a new CD in Las Vegas during the Summer/Fall of '98. Sammy was a great story teller and he told us of one time when he had hooked up with a stripper who said she had been in a porn film called "Nuns in Prison." He found out later that no such film had been made and she was just goofing with him. Mark and I figured that if Sammy thought it was a funny title before, why not now? We told Sammy he should call the new album "Nuns in Prison" and he liked the idea and went for it. The new CD, "Sammy Serious - Nuns in Prison" was released, complete with promotional pictures of Sammy behind bars dressed in a nun's habit, drinking and smoking cigarettes. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Sammy Serious at the Whisky on my birthday in '98.
We continued to play around but the band was strictly a novelty act, and though Sammy was placing his bets that lightning would strike twice and fame would be his again, Mark and I were not so confident in that scenario. The joke was getting old, Lacey was exceptionally aggravating to deal with, and I was ready to bail. We did our last show in Hollywood (with C.C. DeVille in attendance) in January of 1999 and I moved back to the east coast two days later. And with that came the close of a dynamic and colorful twenty year chapter of my life.
In retrospect, my six years in Los Angeles had been interesting to say the least. I don't know if I accomplished exactly what I moved out there to do, but it was a hell of a ride and I wouldn't trade it for anything. At the very least, I can say that I got to perform at every major rock and roll venue in Hollywood and beyond. As had been a consistent theme in my activities in the world of performing music, I had also arrived in LA the year the scene died. I visited LA in '91 before Gazzarri's burned down and the strip was alive and wild. There were numerous rock and roll radio stations like Pirate Radio, etc. but when I moved there in '93, all this was gone. LA had been rock and roll central for thirty years and I got there just after the last wave. It also seemed that if a band didn't have a big money machine rolling behind it for major promotion and expensive pay-to-play gigs, you would get completely lost in the sauce. There were literally tens of thousands of bands in that town, which is illustrated well in the following LA Weekly cartoon which I like to call "The Trouble with LA."
Now, that may all sound like rationalizing, and I suppose to some degree it is, but when it was all said and done, I can honestly say I had consistently larger crowds at the shows I had done on the east coast. I had left New York with the idea that I'd rather deal with some tough competition if I could get a shot at the bigs. But getting completely lost in LA's shifting sea of rock and roll anonymity wasn't exactly what I had in mind and now my priorities were beginning to change. An audience is a beautiful thing, no matter what town you're in, and my thoughts on performing music were coming back around full circle to a philosophy that allowed something to be said for being a big fish in a small pond after all.
...or click through the years listed below...