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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Most-Played Artist on TTRH: George Jones Deposed

Even though we're only midway through Season 3 of Theme Time Radio Hour, and the scramble for top slot could certainly change again, it's worth noting that with the airing of the "Work" episode on the 7th, Tom Waits officially became the "most-played" artist on TTRH, slippin' past George Jones, who had led the pack at the close of Season 2.

Given that Tom is still continuing to mail cassettes of commentary ("Thanks for the marmalade") to Our Host, he may also hold the record for being the most-referred-to artist, too.

According to "Absolutely Sweet Marie" over at the Expecting Rain TTRH forum, Waits has now been played 10 times, with George Jones and Dinah Washington tied for 2nd, with nine airplays each. Personally, I'm pulling for Dinah. You can read the full list here...

To your left (or above, dependent on how this ends up formatting), is the cover of Small Change, Waits' album of 19 and 76. Mr. D. played I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (and See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue) from that album towards the close of the "Work" show mentioning, in one of his patented asides, that the stripper pictured behind Waits was rumored to be Cassandra Peterson, better-known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and later Mistress of All Media.

Elvira's life could easily fill a Dreamtime podcast by itself. In her Cassandra persona, she was listed in the Guinness World Book of Records at age 17 for being the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history; hung out with Elvis Presley; became the lead singer of an Italian rock band, had a bit part in a Fellini movie, did improv comedy; auditioned for the role of Ginger for the third Gilligan's Island TV movie (howza 'bout that for a Dreamtime connection) appeared in a half-dozen sit-coms including Happy Days; and eventually became Elvira.

It seems to be generally accepted on the Web that the "stripper" is Peterson/Elvira, although as Mr. D. was careful to mention it is a rumor -- or at least I coudn't find anything that even resembled an "official" citation. It's probably worth noting that the cover isn't mentioned in Peterson's biography at the official Elvira site. On the other hand, neither are Peterson's nude layouts for various men's magazines of the `70s and `80s.

Who knows? Maybe Tom will enlighten Our Host and he'll pass the true git onto his listening audience.

Although I've told the story before, articles are fleeting here at Dreamtime, so I'll mention again how I once rescued Tom Waits from imminent arrest by a rent-a-cop.

My initial college career - such as it was, and it wasn't much - was interrupted by the draft in the early `70s, and consequently I started college several years later than most of my peers. I eventually graduated from the University of Southern Maine in the late `70s; then known as the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham, or sometimes as Pogo U., which may be why the name was changed by the College Fathers.

In any case, although I was less than full of school spirit, I did haphazardly participate in several activities and organizations, including the college paper; a group that put on cult films; and another group that brought music acts to the school. During that time I helped produce USM concerts for such `70s period acts as Loggins and Messina; Phoebe Snow; and Maria Muldaur.

Out of the dozen or so acts that I dealt with, Maria was one of the nicest, a fact that I'd remind her of when I interviewed her for a web site column I was writing at the time (the web site and I parted ways, but you can still read the interview here). Maria was still at the height of her Midnight at the Oasis fame in those days, and Tom Waits, who was promoting his Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night album, was her opening act.

I didn't have all that much conversation with Waits, who I had never heard of at the time, which was around 1974 or `75. But I did go out and buy his album the next day. But off-stage he was a strange, scruffy, boho-type character wearing a cheap Salvation Army suit and with not the best personal hygiene. In fact, he reeked.

Getting ready to go on, Waits decided he wanted to bring a beer on-stage. Some security guy stopped him, and I had to intercede when the argument began to get heated. While I had the rent-a-cop distracted, Waits hid several cans of beer in his suit jacket, walked out on stage, sat down at the piano, reached inside his jacket, pulled out a beer, popped the top, put it on the piano, turned to the backstage, and gave the security guard the finger. I spent the rest of Waits' set talking the security guy out of stopping the show, noting that he'd be taking his life into his own hands if he tried to pull Waits off-stage in front of an audience of several thousand. Either from luck or recognizing that discretion might be the better part of valor, Waits departed from the other side of the stage at the end of his set.

When I told that story to Maria, some thirty-odd years in the future, and mentioned that I remembered Waits had smelled a little, ah, ripe, she began to laugh. "My God," she said. "I haven't thought of that tour in years. You're right, Tom was pretty pungent. We used to have to make excuses not to sit at the same table with him. We were saying, 'My God, doesn't this guy ever bathe?'"

1 comment:

Edward said...

I'm no authority, but I know Waits did some early shows with a stripper named "Dewanna" as opening act--you can hear him thank her at the opening of the live NIGHTHAWKS AT THE DINER--and I had understood that she's the one on the cover. Never heard her identified as Elvira. Plus, if you look at the original LP cover (I know, I know, but believe me such things did exist) you can see her face well enough to see that she's probably a bit more well-worn than Cassandra Petersen would have looked, even without makeup, in the mid-70's.

But we know Bob's a boob man; maybe he never actually got up to the face.