Thursday, September 8, 2016

Juice Newton Live in Saginaw September 26th 2011


                                               Juice Newton

                                  The Queen of Hearts Revealed

                                                  Juice Music


Juice Newton penetrated the dharma and hit the jackpot in 1977 when she formed what proved to be a long-term collaboration with guitarist/songwriter Otha Young. Together they penned Sweet Sweet Smile intended for their band Silver Spur but picked up by the Carpenters who rode it to the top of the charts. It put Juice Newton on the map. By 1978she went solo and never looked back. Her first solo release Well Kept Secret was a rock & roll album of the first degree that put Newton’s versatility on display and hit you like a punch. Though it didn’t chart, it created a buzz that persisted even as she shifted her focus to country music. In retrospect it was a clever strategy as evidenced by the success of her one off single Let’s Keep It That Way. It was a great song and climbed up to the Top Ten in the Country Charts. The release of the LP Juice in 1981 proved to be a sentinel event for Newton as it spawned three consecutive Top Ten Pop Hits: Queen of Hearts; Angel of The Morning; The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known). The LP sold more than a million copies in the U.S. and went triple Platinum in Canada. In 1982, Newton received Grammy nominations for Best Female Vocalist in both the Pop and Country Categories. And the hits kept on a coming.

The exquisitely arranged Loves Been a Little Bit Hard on Me reached #1 on Billboards Adult Contemporary Charts. Newton’s vocal was playful and note-perfect. Her stoned immaculate remake of Break It to Me Gently won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Performance. She continued to chart Top Ten Country hits throughout the eighties with songs such as You Make Me Want to Make You Mine, Hurt, Tell Me True, and What Can I Do with My Heart. In October 2010 she released Duets: Friends and Memories with guest appearances by such luminaries as Willie Nelson, Melissa Manchester and Frankie Valli. It’s been quite a ride. I first saw Juice Newton perform in the eighties. She was long and lean with hair down to her waist and enough energy to fill up a stadium. She had spunk and a bit of the devil in her eyes but she sang like an angel. She didn’t take crap from non-believers, rack jobbers or the press. She was nobody’s fool. Juice Newton is an original who walks her own musical path whether it’s rock & roll, country, or pop. She’s a rebel with a cause who is stubborn enough to keep on singing with just enough spark and strut to heat up a stage with some of the best music in the business - Juice Music.

Juice, I first saw you in Saginaw opening for Mickey Gilley in the 80’s. You stole the show. What was that tour like for you?

 We worked with Mickey a few times but luckily I was able to play with a whole litany of artists over the years. Each time I go out I feel happy to be on the stage and everything seems to come together and come alive. So every tour is always fun. I always look forward to working.

 So you enjoyed working with Gilley? He was a country artist and I thought of you as kind of a rocker at the time? You had all those hits that spanned genres.

 If the music is compatible it works out fine. I personally

play a variety of music, a bit on the pop side or pop rock then we were fortunate enough to cross over from that side to country. So if its good music, you have a good audience.

 You had a lot of spunk at that show and you sang your heart out. I loved your response to a TV interviewer who asked you to describe your music, you simply said, “Juice Music” – can you describe “Juice Music”

 I think I can. I try to pick songs that I really like that speak to me, if I didn’t write them, I choose them because they speak to me as an interpreter. And I think that’s the key – if I pick those types of songs or write those types of songs it just translates into my energy and my commitment and because I really love performing then it works its way to the surface. So I think Juice Music would be the same in a sense as Springsteen Music or BeyoncĂ© Music or Justin Timberlake Music. They like the music they create and it all translates into their own particular musical identity.

What is your favorite type of music?

 There isn’t just one genre. If the song touches you then it’s your music. I don’t think you should be afraid of any genre you can do well and relate to. For me I was fortunate - still am – to be drawn to crossover material that appeals to me and seems to appeal to other people.  I don’t focus on just one type of music

 The first time I saw you I felt you had some rebel blood like a countrified Kid Rock – Did you see yourself as outside the mainstream?

 Well, yeah. I’ve kind of have always been …over there. I’m doing music that the label or Program Director wants – you can’t second guess it. You need to be true to yourself. I’m just trying to do music that I can live with for a long time

 I thought you were a great rock & roller. You leaned in that direction a few times. Why did you let it go?

 Radio changed and the songs changed. I was writing a little bit of everything but it didn’t change my insides. I think that if anything I’m back in that direction again now because I truly like to do the music I like if it’s a little rock or pop that’s what you do. You write it and you like it and you own it, so to speak, then that’s your music. 

Juice, you have some great pipes. How do you rate yourself as Singer

I don’t necessarily see myself as a great singer. But what I do see myself as someone that commits - every time I step onstage I commit and I think that translates to the audience. Like Kid Rock – he may not have a great voice but he commits and though he doesn’t sing as well as Justin Timberlake, for instance - it doesn’t matter because he has soul.

 What was your lucky break?

I believe that hooking up with Richard Landis who produced those first big hits on the Juice LP (Queen of Hearts, Angel in the Morning) was my lucky break. I actually think that the timing was just so lucky as we were both available at the same time – doesn’t always happen. We sort of interviewed each other and did a few demos to see if we really liked the way we worked together in the studio. I consider that excellent timing.

 What happened when you first went out on your own? Were you accepted right away?

 People liked the music and liked my voice but we didn’t have a breakout tune at that point. It didn’t matter we just kept going. We had a great support system – a great producer, personal management – sometimes it was just our families. Your support system can sustain you emotionally and morally and keeps that energy moving forward


 You’ve had a long prosperous career. What are your most precious memories, proudest achievement?

Well, I’m really proud of the fact I’ve been noticed by my peers – that’s more on the inside. I’ve had Grammy nominations and I’ve won a Grammy; In the Bay Area - an Emmy award. I feel really blessed by having all those accolades and recognition – that’s not what really keeps me going – but it is a way to measure how all that hard work has paid off. One time I brought my dad to the Grammys - it was a thrill of a lifetime!

 You did a great version of Hank DeVito’s Queen of Hearts right around the time Dave Edmunds released his LP version. Did you hear it? Are you inspired by Edmunds?

 Edmunds is a very cool guy. I didn’t hear his version of it until much later. I started doing the song live and I did it live for about year before I recorded kit. Then I brought it to Richard Landis when we started the Juice album. He wasn’t convinced at that point that it was a breakout song but I told him I think it this is a real cool song… so we cut it.

 Do you have a favorite road story?

 Hmm…no. Weird stuff happens. It’s not for everyone. You travel across country and you go to the wrong hotel. You have no place to sleep and nothing to eat. You would get lost or go to the wrong venue. It’s grueling and it’s tiring. Years ago one of the roadies told me, “The music just gets in the way of setting up and breaking down.”

 How did you hook up with the County Sheriffs?

 Well, it is a great organization. They help bring music to the area and they have a dedicated volunteer staff.  The people have a good reason to go out. The audiences are very welcoming and it’s a cool thing to do. I’ve also done shows for the military folks. I’m very much looking forward to be back in Saginaw. I hope the weather cooperates, it’s so unpredictable. I guarantee we’re going to have a good time and can’t wait to see all the people in the audience.


Juice Newton Interviewed with this author on September 8th, 2011 She performed in Concert at the historic Temple Theatre on Monday September 26th, 2011. It was a fantastic show that included many of her most cherished songs including Queen of Hearts, Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me, Angel of the Morning, Hurt/Break It to Me Gently, You Make Me Want You To Be Mine, The Sweetest Thing, Any Way That You Want Me and Restless Heart. Get the Juice!


Bo White

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Pete Woodman

                                                            A  Sixties Icon

                                                       The Prodigal Son Returns


Pete Woodman recalls the early days growing up in Freeland off old U.S. 10. He remembers when he hung out with his friends from the Music Box days and high school dances. Now they are in their sixties and seventies and those times have sharpened into prism of memories, fondly embraced. It was an era in which Butch White became a tentative rock & roller with the Playboys and perfected his craft just months before Dick Wagner rode into town with Lanny Roenicke and Woodman to become a rock and roll hero. He renamed the band the Bossmen and they became our Beatles. But the real story started several years before when 12 year old Pete worked his craft, learning drum beats from an Estonian band teacher that loved Pete’s spunk. Around that time Pete and his brothers Rock and Michael caught the bug. They formed a band called the King Toppers and they won a prize for best band at the Chesaning Showboat. Pete never looked back. It was in his blood. To this day Pete claims he is the most famous drummer in Freeland only because I’m the only drummer from Freeland!                                    


Pete met Lanny Roenicke in high school, trading off gigs with Saginaw High and Arthur Hill bands. At this point Butch White was playing guitar and was the putative leader. Pete has a vivid memory of Butch performing gravy train and nailing it; At the time a piano player was making the rounds, he was loud and he was ripped but he could play like Jerry Lee Lewis and could singer better than most. It was warren Keith! Pete got to know him when he would sit-in occasionally in Adrian just north of Pontiac. Warren was in a band called the Eldorados and he told Pete about this guitar player who could play behind his back and could sing great. It just so happened that Butch White was gonna quit the band so Lanny and Pete drove to Drayton Plains and hired Dick Wagner on the spot! When Gary Lewis and The Playboys hit it big with This Diamond Ring, Warren Keith renamed the band, it was a cool name…the Bossmen!                                         

From 1964-1966 The Bossmen were mid-Michigan’s Beatles. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time of the music business when we could cut our own records and distribute them at teen dances and at local radio stations. Every one of the Bossmen 45’s were local hits. Pete says his favorite Bossmen Songs were You & I and Bad Girl and he felt the harmonies were perfect! The Bossmen performed all over the state and had a headlining show at the Grande ballroom shortly after the Grande opened for business. A local event for the new Montgomery Wards Record Department featured the Bossmen. They sang all the Bossmen songs all the A & B sides. Mark Farner was a full member of the group and performed a few R&B covers at that particular show. Pete encouraged Mark to write songs and his first composition was Heartbreaker, later covered by Mark when he was a member of Grand Funk Railroad!  Pete annd Mark became close friends and Pete got to know his brothers and sisters. To this day Pete  was thrilled with the acclaim of being a local celebrity. Pete says, “It was worth a million dollars, other bands would play our songs and they’d ask Pete, “did I play it right.” And I would always say, “Of course you played the right drum part.” It was kind of special!

After the Bossmen, Dick and Pete tried to put something together but it didn’t work out but when he hooked up with Bobby Rigg & the Chevelles that was pure magic. Pete agreed, “That was the best move for Dick because the Chevelles were a great band and everyone could sing!” Pete went on to talk about Wagner, “Dick was an established songwriter and he helped his new band to improve their craft and write better songs. When the Beatles came along with all those great songs, Dick wanted to be a Beatle. The Bossmen were the vehicle for Dick to write these songs. They are still great tunes with good arrangements!”         


After that Pete put together a band called the Bean Machine and it included his future wife New Zealand born Susie Kane. At the time she was learning chords and scales on the keyboard and in no time she was proficient enough to tour and record with the band. The first song she performed onstage was Midnight Hour and it was a total groove. It wasn’t too long after that Rudy Martinez (Question Mark) asked Pete to play drums for his band. Pete agreed. The band was still red hot with their big hit 96 Tears (along with I Need Somebody). Pete rehearsed and I learned the songs essentially all the songs recorded for the first album. Pete  learned alot on the tour, touring the midwest and the southern states. Susie Kane became the tour manager and made sure there was gas money as well as the profit. Susie would count all the money, all singles. Often she would count out three or four thousand dollars! At that time merchandising was an afterthought, not a revenue source. While in New York Pete recorded Cherry July (on the Cameo Parkway Label) for one of the last great songs recorded by Question Mark & the Mysterians!
After our time with the Mysterians, Susie and Pete moved back to Freeland and we had lots of money.  Pete remembers, “So we decided to pack up our 1966 Chevrolet and it was a big load. We had my drums in the back and Susie’s organ on the top. I still wonder how we did it!” The move to California proved to be an epiphany. We met Boyce and Hart, Michael Nesmith , David Crosby, Joey Bishop, Steve McQueen, and Tiny Tim doing some cool vaudeville. Then we met a Detroit Band called the Southbound Freeway. They recorded an album at Gold Star Studios but their drummer left so Pete got the gig, though it was short lived it was a good band. They had a minor hit with Psychedelic Used Car Lot. But Goldstar was a haven for musicians and singers. Pete recalled that Buffalo Springfield, Sonny & Cher and the Byrds all hung out there.                                


Pete met Meatloaf shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles. Meatloaf was a big man, over 300 pounds. He had dirty blonde hair, he didn’t look very clean and he didn’t wear shoes. He was walking with a few other guys and one of them saw my drumsticks and he said, “You wanna play with us on these songs we have?”Pete agreed and so he went into the studio and there was Rick Bozzio and Meatloaf. They laid down several rough tracks and Susie played keyboards. The band was christened Meatloaf Soul. The band was quite successful in Michigan. Pete recalled getting gigs through Punch Andrews (Seger’s manager) and played the Hideout Clubs, the Blue Light in Midland and Bay City and Daniels Den. Pete recalls that at that point in the seventies, original live music was at its height of popularity! To this day Pete recalls teaching Meatloaf how to count in- 1,2,3 during a song! They even played the Grande Ballroom with the Fugs!

“When I look back, says Pete, I want to be able to say I did the best I could do. I had lots of fun and everything I did was positive. It was good for my direction in life. I wanted to feel good about myself. Every day is the best day ever is a phrase I used when I worked at Orchard St. Marys, an all boys Prep School for kids from 9th grade to 12th grade. I worked at the Field House on the Ice Arena. I would say to the kids “You’re going to be great today! The best day ever!! And the kids would yell back – “Best Day Ever!!”

Pete and his band HIPS with Susie and Sarah Woodman will be performing @ Freeland’s Tittabawasee Park in Freeland. Dick Fabian’s wife Gail will make a few remarks about her late husband Dick Fabian. The concert starts @ 7pm. Come and witness a local legend and dig the music!


Bo White

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Legend of the Hot Ratzow PT 4

The Legend of the Hot Ratzow

The Harrisburg 8, Nashville Cats, and Short-Haired Girls with Tattoos

                        This is my friend Theresa chatting with Ronnie Stoneman from He Haw.
                                                           It was a very good year!

1976 was a very good year. I was 24 years old and immersed in a persistent boyish immaturity, ready for anything...or so I thought. I was a cook, a dishwasher, a waiter, and a host at Bicycle Jim's Restaurant in Ann Arbor. And let me tell you...there was something special going on. Almost everyone working at the restaurant had earned a college degree or was working toward a degree. I had earned a BS in Psychology from MSU in 1974. I was full of myself, cocky but racked with self-doubt (a classic narcissist) and though I didn’t realize it at the time I was ready for a real psychic enema. I had just dropped out of the Social Work Graduate program at U Of M. And I was in plenty of pain, mired in a stew of unresolved traumas small and large. There were plenty of ghosts in my nursery but they were buried in time and outside of my awareness.

I was living with one of the managers of restaurant. His name was Tom Knapp aka TK, a friend both dear and distant as time would reveal our awkward dance. I was one of the marginal figures on the periphery of the scene - out-of-step and awkward. I was living in the mist of the actors, musicians, poets, visual artists, and me –I was without an ounce of talent or redemptive cool.

This invisible wall played out in different ways. For example, at parties everyone would listen to jazz, Mile Davis, Keith Jarrett or hip singer songwriter's like Janis Ian (At Seventeen) or Dan Fogelberg (Longer) and I would walk in and plop on a tape of the Monkees. The hip and sophisticated would just about S-H-I-T. But I loved the Monkees and Davy Jones just knocked me out with "She Hangs Out" or "Daydream Believer" and Michael Nesmith''s "Listen To The Band" totally blew me away. My friends just smiled and gave me a pat on the back while they led me to the front door .
But I was useful in other ways…

At the time I was barely scraping by, living in the basement of a dilapidated slum with a St Bernard by the name of Bernie Schwartz. I slept on an unadorned mattress on the floor. Bernie slept where ever he wanted. And he craped like an orangutan....there was crap all over the place. Mounds of huge St. Bernard shit. It really affected my quality of life

My three roommates bunked upstairs and we had a total of 5 dogs. I named my dog Snow Puppy in a nod to our interest in cocaine. It was at this time when our lease ran out and I was assigned the mission to sublet an apartment because I looked the most normal. So I was sent out to meet the unsuspecting renters and convince them that I was almost normal.We got the apartment, had they only known...

So, .I guess...maybe I did fit in. And I learned quite a lot. It was a joyous discovery.

One of the other managers of Bicycle Jim's was Joe Gilchrist. He gained notoriety as one of the Harrisburg 8. At the time Joe was preparing himself for the priesthood and he joined Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and others in protesting the Vietnam War. It became an ugly game of protest and incarceration that led Berrigan, Gilchrist and others to make a radical anti-war statement. They chose their target carefully heading over to Pennsylvania the home of DuPont (a manufacturer of chemical weapons) with the intent to destroy the draft records in the entire state. Apparently, they dumped human blood on the offending draft records rendering them unintelligible. Joe was also a member of the Jesuits, the intellectual arm of the Catholic Church, and had been steadily rising in its ranks before the apostasy of a criminal trial. Berrigen was anti-war activist that promoted peaceful solutions to conflict, feeding and giving medical care for the poor, and ending the nuclear proliferation. He warned about the shallowness of our culture and the militarization of politics in Washington and the need for religious discipline to survive it all. Such non-conformist views kept Berrigan on a "hit list" of leftist radicals. And he enjoyed a certain infamy as one of our government's most wanted political criminals. He was tried and convicted of various crimes and misdemeanors and spent considerable time either on the lamb or in prison

Shortly after we met, Joe changed his name to Coleman – only one name like Madonna or Cher. He was experiencing the pain of growth and change (and government oppression) and was consciously reorganizing his identity .I remember Coleman having a terrible time convincing the utility and phone companies to provide service to a man with only one name. He didn't win that battle either. They would forever bill him under his pseudonym, Coleman Coleman. Take that!
Anyway, one drunken night Coleman and I decided to get earrings...the whiskey was flowing and there was some mighty fine Colombian. But we were the ultimate male pussies, scared shitless. We shivered and quaked and worried it might hurt and we thought people would be intolerant.
The "short-haired girls" were there to perform the operation. They were just people we worked with friends. But they all shared a certain perspective. And in one way or another they had each been betrayed by men and by a culture so pervasively hostile to women that sexism was simply a matter of course. They knew this deeply. And as a result of their hard-earned wisdom they did not take crap from anyone. They refused to be treated as objects or parts of an object. And they seriously rejected media images of women as submissive sex kittens, languid and demure. victims. They shot that whole line of subliminal imaging right out of the water. And they started with the physical manifestations of the sexual stereotype. They cut their hair short - real short and got tattoos of various colors, sizes, and shapes. They eschewed dresses and other accoutrements of oppression e.g, lipstick, jewelry(except for the cheapest and tackiest). Don't get me wrong. They loved sex. But they were not gonna be used and discarded by some stupid testosterone-fueled douche bag.

Anyway, I got my earring that night but Coleman - even drunk as a skunk - chickened out.

Another chapter began...

The short-haired girls were always up to something, little trips and adventures and such. And this time they came up with a doosie. It was something so unlikely for a group of gypsies like us that it was too cool. It was our magical mystery tour to the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville Tennessee.
But the short-haired girls were dead broke just like the rest of us. So they began the process of shining up Coleman to put up the moneyfor a trip. Coleman was easy...too easy

He liked the idea of a psychedelcized journey to the capital, the very heartbeat of country music. But in keeping with his tendency to back out of things, Coleman backed out and into a different diversion. This left the short-haired girls in a quandary. They still wanted a man to drive and provide "protection" as the tested the Nashville skyline...and I just happened to be available.
And away we go...

Nashville was pretty cool for an aging city. But it was in the nascent stages of re-birth and things were shaking out. Our hotel was nice enough. I slept on a couch with a roll out bed that I shared with the others. I would sleep with a different girl each night.
But we never had just wasn't part of the deal.

On our first night we dropped acid and tripped over to the Grand Ole Opry. I didn't know it at the time but it was a radio show! No kidding'...The Opry is the longest running show in radio history and has been on the air since the 1920's. In 1974, it moved from Ryman Auditorium to its current location at the Opryland Complex, just outside town. I entered the complex expecting something akin to a rock concert(a format I was used to). But a radio show?...I was freaking
...cycling from a laughing irreverence to a frightened culture shock. The apparent boredom of the studio musicians puzzled me and the crowd - older and sedate - would only clap when prompted by the host/deejay. When I giggled at some blotter-induced internal stimuli, people would turn around, stare, and give me "the look."

At the moment, I was sensitive to such things

                                                   Left to right  Mimi, Theresa, and Cathy

It was a great show even by my skeptical and unknowing perspective. Hell, I didn’t  know jack about country music then. In fact, I knew so little that I summarily dismissed it as hillbilly-stupid, unable to see the nobility in the music and the truth in the message. But that night I got a real education. Many of country's greatest stars were there; Johnny Cash and June Carter, Flats and Scruggs, Roy Acuff,  Skeeter Davis, Barbara Mandrell, and Mel Tillis. Despite our altered consciousness, we left without incident, chastised by the stared response to our chemical silliness and baptized by the considerable yet humble gifts of the performers.

The next night we skipped down to Printer's Alley. It was named for its early connection to Nashville's printing and publishing industry (that flourished in the early 1800's). By 1976, it had fallen on hard times, a decayed shell of strip clubs and hard core juke joints. There was one shining exception - The Possum Holler. George Jones owned the nightclub and gave it an authenticity reserved for only the very elite...the few artists still alive that had a link to country music's glorious past. Jones was connected to Hank Williams. They had actually played together once.

The circle was unbroken...

Ronnie Stoneman was playing that night. You may remember her as a comedian on the TV show Hee Haw. She was always ironing pa's shirts, her hair up in curlers and teeth missin'. Well, that night she was shinin' and beautiful. She was a great singer and could pick the banjo with the best of 'em. She sang "Rocky Top", "Tiger By The Tail", "End of The World", and many other classics...a superb show!

One of the short-haired girls, Theresa was particularly taken by Stoneman's charm. I took a picture of them together, arms wrapped and smiling (I hope it survived).
Anyway, Theresa, being all thin and sexy, caught the eye of a table of Nashville cats. They were obsessive about their pursuit, not taking Theresa's "not interested" cues and after awhile she was tired (and a bit frightened) by their persistence.
So she asked me to help
Well, I have to admit that I was not-to-keen on the idea.

But Theresa was a friend. And I was part of this journey under the pretense of being a man.
I sauntered up to the offending table and in a deep and unfamiliar voice I said,
"Excuse me guys, this is my woman and I'd appreciate if you would leave her alone".
I didn't have a clue to how they might react. I was standing there twitching and squinting and expecting the worst. But I was totally unprepared for what happened next
A big burly guy (who gets bigger with each passing year) dressed to the nines in rawhide and wearing a cowboy hat gets up slow...real slow...and gives me a long, hard look. He takes a step forward lunges toward me...
And gives me the biggest good-ole-boy-handshake like I'm a "brother" or something and says, "We're sorry man...didn't know she was your Philly
Well, we all had a big nervous laugh and some sweet relief.
We even bought each other a few rounds.

I will always remember that trip as a moment of purity where I came face to face with my impulses and my fears and did the right thing. I remember the short-haired girls fondly

I wonder what their memories tell them

The Legend of the Hot Ratzow PT 3

The Legend of The Hot Ratzow
Part 111

Snow Puppy. Snow was my buddy and we were inseparable. I use to take him into all the record shops I frequented in Ann Arbor and one cool used record store in Ypsilanti, right off the main campus of Eastern Michigan University. It was at that particular store that I bought my first copy of the Beau Brummels' magnificent LP, Bradley's Barn, to this day, an undiscovered masterpiece (that got me through many lonely moments). Snow was named for his beautiful white fur and for that burning white powder we all enjoyed so much in a brief moment. I bought 20 cases of Strohs for my friends in Oregon. Strohs was still a regional beer and was highly valued out west just as Coors’ was valued in the Midwest. I was recovering from an operation and had to swear off beer and caffeine for the next month. So, Snow and me, well, we picked up stakes and headed down the Highway. It took me 60 hours to drive from Saginaw to Corvallis. It was a marathon session that left me exhausted and almost delirious. I would rest at a roadside stop for a few hours, take Snow for a walk, drink some coffee, and get back on the road again. I couldn’t wait to see my friends, just couldn’t wait

Corvallis Oregon is snuggled between Portland to the North and Eugene to the south. It is the home of Oregon State University and is the seat of arts and culture in the Willamette Valley - plus it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to that beautiful Pacific coastline and just a few hours from the mountains. You can swim the surf, ski down and climb up the mountains, and commune with the migrating whales. For me, Corvallis was a passion play imbued with a youthful vigor and good feeling that eventually gave way to constant drizzle of melancholy, and ended in a depraved act that I – and my friends – have kept hidden for the past 28 years. Maybe it never happened; perhaps it was just a dream, an acid flash of deranged memory, a chemically induced epistle that led me to where I am today, to reveal the truth, the awful truth about the Hot Ratzow.

I was ecstatic when my old roommate from Ann Arbor called me from Oregon. Tom Knapp – TK. He was a mentor of sorts, encouraged me when I was down, hopelessly romantic but quite ruthless. He inspired me with his keen intellect and his boldness. He was a player yet was thoughtful...deep. He loved women in a superficial physical way yet he was gentle and caring. He was a man who was searching for the perfect paradox. But me...I was all nerves and emotions, masking pain with humor and irreverence. I was seeking something I could not articulate. I wanted to be connected yet I pushed others away. I was loving but insecure about loving. I loved adventure and living life on the edge yet I was frightened by the world and my own angry impulses. In other words, I was a mess and I remained a mess for a long time, even today.

TK and I stayed in touch just as we grew apart. He told me that he and our mutual friends Roger Brown, Linda (Lou) Henshaw, Theresa Lockwood, Mary Bentley, and the Hot Ratzow were starting a restaurant in Corvallis Oregon. He wanted me to join them; He told me I could live with him and Theresa. The restaurant was just in the planning stages and the building needed some work. I couldn’t be paid because we were all broke but I could do some roofing and other odd jobs to help out. I even applied for food stamps so we would have food to eat. TK made sure that I was free to come and go as I please. He hinted that once the restaurant opened and we became successful, the profits would be divided between the seven co-founders. I jumped at the opportunity. Not that I was unhappy with Saginaw but I felt out of sorts there. I was conscious of my failures, dropping out of graduate school at U of M, asking my father for a job at White’s Bar when I couldn’t find a job with my degree from MSU (BS in Psychology). I was ashamed of my lack of achievement so I hid my education and just tried to fit-in. I became reacquainted with an old childhood friend Andy Puszykowski and became friendly with his friends. Andy remembered me as a good athlete and asked me to join his White’s Bar softball and basketball teams. I agreed though I had lost interest in sports and felt that I’d moved on to other interests such as politics, music and the arts. But when I began playing and getting some strokes for it, and feeling the camaraderie, I sensed that I was home where I belonged but I still had nagging doubts, my new friends talked sports incessantly and I just never made any sense of it. I tried to watch sports on TV and read the sports section in the newspaper but I didn’t felt a passion for it. My new buddies loved poker but I had never learned card games and was at a loss to appreciate its appeal. Though I was becoming friendly with Potts, Harcourt, Doc, Peaches, and Master Bader we didn’t always fit together well or maybe I didn’t fit-in. But they taught me about drinking beer and laughter. I was gradually adopting a persona of a happy drinker, a goodtime kind of guy - even though I never liked the taste of beer. I discovered that if I  put salt or tomato juice in the beer, it tasted much better and if took a few shots of schnapps or blackberry brandy, it was all the better. The initial numbing was pleasant yet at this stage of my life, I never took drinking too seriously... never drank to get the monkey off my back and never had any tremors or memory lapses. Ten years later I’d be singing a whole other song.

So, in mid-September 1977, I left for Oregon with 20 cases of Strohs beer, a few select record albums and Snow Puppy in tow. I was recovering from surgery (to correct my shitty outlook on life) so I couldn’t eat spicy or fatty foods and couldn’t drink alcohol or carbonated and caffeinated beverages – all the things I loved. So the beer was a not-so-subtle appeal for acceptance. It took me 60 hours to drive from Saginaw to Corvallis. I stopped occasionally to rest but I couldn’t sleep…too excited. Couldn’t wait to see my friends from Ann Arbor and renew my search for meaning and identity. I drove straight to the restaurant upon arriving in town. Though I was close to delirious, I stayed up for several hours talking with Theresa. She told me that it was a bad time for me to visit. She and TK were having problems. She wondered if I could stay somewhere else. I was immediately deflated and wondered if I was more of an unwanted intrusion than a friend. I fell into a fitful sleep – I was falling, tumbling wildly head over heals into a bottomless eternal void, screaming and kicking in the darkness.
But no one heard me.

The next day TK welcomed me with open arms and Theresa was friendly too. Tom explained what they were up to and mentioned that his folks and some of the other partners’ folks put up the money for the project. He suggested that I apply for food stamps, rules were pretty relaxed in Oregon, and I could contribute to the household in that way. In no time I had my food stamps and we had plenty of food and more than enough beer. Gradually, the remodeling work was folded into my routine. We all worked hard. It was great to see everyone. Linda and Roger were in a long-term relationship but seemed to be on the outs and the Hot Ratzow was glorious, mindful, and always available for a kind word or a helping hand. There was quite a contingent of Michigan expatriates that joined our circle, friends of friends. I kept busy working on the roof and the air ducts. I helped TK on a few road trips to Portland to buy equipment and had quite a few beers at Bogie’s Place – a themed tribute to actor Humphrey Bogart that I found odd, but then again, it seemed to be popular, why not…

The Valley Restaurant was located at 136 SW 3rd St around the corner from OSU. The building was a modest looking affair and needed some TLC. All of us got busy according to our talents and inclinations, a socialist dream. Theresa and Mary were already busy making some of the best homemade bread I’ve ever tasted and they had a growing catering business that included stores on the coast. Somebody had to make some money. Bob, Roger and Linda Lou lived in the country on the outskirts of the city and became farmers, hoping to develop a cash crop that would supplement their restaurant income. TK’s neighbor was a carpet installer and offered me a job. I was broke and tempted but I declined, preferring the freedom of coming and going as I pleased. We eventually put in long hours as we got busy on the renovation. At the end of the day we would walk across the back alley to a little bar that had tasty sandwiches and a friendly atmosphere. I got to know the owner and even joined his basketball team, and I discovered the wonders of 3.2 beer (beer with lower alcohol content). At first, I didn’t drink – due to my recent surgery - but I made up for it in no time. I was drinking that crap like it was water and laughing about how weak it was...that is, until I stood up and fell on my butt. That 3.2 beer could sneak up on you. My friends were cool but I was stinging with insecurity and wracked with doubt about where I was heading. Friends and family from home would write appeals for me to return to Saginaw. I felt confused and a bit lonely. At one point Peaches and Potts traveled from Saginaw to visit. We had a night on the town. It was cool. Linda Lou joined us and I was blown away. After knowing each other for a few years we suddenly seemed to connect. Propinquity. She was a beautiful girl with dark eyes and long dark hair, slender but curvy, quiet yet wickedly funny. I thought to myself, “I just might have a future here”. For a moment I didn’t feel so lonely. I had dated a girl in Saginaw but it wasn’t working. Her father was a regular at White’s Bar and he was righteously pissed that we were dating. She was a homecoming queen, smart and popular, a million friends or more and I was just so awkward. Her father just about shit when I asked him if I could take his daughter up north for a weekend to visit one of my Air Force buddies. But in an unlikely turn of events, he agreed to let her go, on the promise that I would not do anything wrong and make sure she was safe, the pressure was on. We had fun just knockin’ around the base, touring the airport etc. But at night things changed. Seems my friend was into wife/partner swapping. He explained that when he first heard about it, he thought it was perverted but after he got into it, he found that he had a lot more friends, it was exciting and that everybody was doing it, and it made his sex life better, much better.
I declined.
Our friendship was never the same after that, though I’ve reached out on several occasions years later. But now I might have a chance with Linda.


       Snow Puppy was my best friend when we lived in Ann Arbor. He also lived with me in Oregon.

Renovation was nearing completion and we were preparing a menu and we were rehearsing for opening day, preparing and tasting most of our menu items. I agreed to be a breakfast cook as I had some experience with the Little Brown Jug in Ann Arbor – me and the Hot Ratzow had worked there. We were quite a team. The women there loved us, especially the Hot Ratzow, for all the obvious reasons - the “Hot One” was absolutely the most beautiful man in Ann Arbor but he didn’t seem to know it. He was kind, gentle and thoughtful and just wicked enough. And I was outrageous. We were Yin and Yang or was it Arnold and Danny - remember Twins? Anyway, the big day came and I absolutely blew it. My untested pancake batter turned out to cook up like rubber and I was unable to flip my over-easy eggs without breaking the yokes. The more I tried the worse I got. I panicked. I must of trashed 5 dozen eggs before TK took over. It was a nightmarish experience. I was mortified and I didn’t recover until years later. I was a failure. I briefly took solace in some of Roger’s and the Hot Ratzow’s cash crop. They harvested a magnificent crop of smoke, filling an entire van, front to back, floor to ceiling. We had a party after they dried and cured the leaves. It was cool to have everyone together. I wasn’t much of a smoker but I agreed to a few puffs, didn’t think much of it, even said it wasn’t very potent smoke, until an hour later, I was under a complete paralysis, sitting in the corner away from everyone else, with just a hint of drool edging around the corner of my mouth, I mumbled something like, “goo sheet mon”. Oh well. I think it was TK but maybe it was Roger but someone suggested that we head over to Eugene (University of Oregon) to party with John Belushi of Saturday Night Live fame, seems they were making a movie there. We could take some Strohs and some smoke and maybe they’d put us in the film – or just get ripped with us. It never happened. At the time I wasn’t listening to the radio and I wasn’t watching very much television so meeting John Belushi was not a big deal, not then. But I was into music and I listened to crap I loved such as 10CC’s I’m Not In Love, The Trogg’s Strange Movies, Big Star’s September Gurls, Do Ya by the Move, Les McCann’s version of Compared to What, Michael Nesmith’s The Prison, or any of his releases with or without the Monkees, and the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen. I liked Punk but despised disco – though I secretly loved How Deep Is Your Love by the Bee Gees and I thought the new and improved Fleetwood Mac (w/ Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham) was an absolute travesty. I was still reeling from Nixon and Watergate, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and the Kennedys and I was in no mood for more crap. I felt the Bicentennial in ’76 was an exercise in mind control almost as bad as Saginaw’s All-American City award in 1968. Both seemed to resonate with a calculated appeal that was disingenuous. There was just too much deceit at the highest levels of government and business for me to embrace that self-congratulatory blather, except Jimmy Carter was just elected President and he was kind and spiritual and perhaps the most intellectual President ever elected. I thought, "maybe we have some hope after all".

I was deeply immersed in my own reflection, angst-ridden and insecure - walked out when a "guest" chef was invited to cook during my shift, even ripped out a bread shelf that I clusmily assembled; they all laughed at my fumbled attempt at carpentry (though the Hot Ratzow had patiently guided me through it). I generously gave Theresa a back rub but then constantly fantasized about her in an impure way. But that was nothing compared to what I did on that fateful day, the day that forever caused me shame and doubt.
I never recovered.                  

It was like any other day in Oregon, moderate temperature, pleasant, not too windy...just right. We all decided to close early on Sunday and get together, just like we used to do in Ann Arbor. We had plenty of booze, smoke, and psychedelics along with a vegetarian dinner and my made-from-scratch cheesecake. We were getting plenty lit, when the Hot Ratzow began talking to us, it was more like a prophecy as he gently led us through the four doors of perception. He talked quietly, in a gentle rhythm like a summer rain; he lulled us with his melody and his words. He seemed to be speaking the wisdom of the ages, of cabbages and kings, of enlightenment and love and peace. We formed a circle and embraced each other. When suddenly the Hot Ratzow, lay down on his back and whispered, "I am with you and I will be part of you forever". With that, he took his last breath and closed his eyes, he was gone. We sat beside his body for what seemed to be hours, until one by one, with knife and fork, we began to slowly consume his body, and gradually our pious reverence gave way to a frenzied ritual, we sensed that his soul would be reborn in each of us. When I awoke the next day, I couldn’t remember eating the Hot Ratzow. But the others remembered and TK said that I ate more than anyone else, that I should be ashamed. I became incensed and vowed to leave and never come back. How dare he or anyone else claim I would eat more than my fair share of the Hot Ratzow!

So, I left and returned to Saginaw. But for 28 years I’ve kept this awful secret and I never told anyone about my repeated dreams of sweat lodges and vision quests and that I long to have just one more bite...

Thank God he’s still on the menu

Peace & Love... and fine dining

The Legend of the Hot Ratzow PT 1

                                            This is a photo of me with the real Nell Caraway.
                                            We were pals but we wished for more.

The Legend of the Hot Ratzow, Part I

Bicycle Jims, Jackson Prison


The Pursuit of Hope Versus Despair

I met the Hot Ratzow in late 1975 when I applied for a job at Bicycle Jim's Restaurant. I can't remember why I chose that particular restaurant but I recall eating there a few times and sensing a good vibe. I was attending graduate school in Social Work at the University of Michigan and having feeling a nagging ambivalence. I had just completed a one year field placement as a psychiatric social worker at Jackson Prison, just barely passing. I was a 22 year old vegetarian, weighing 145 pounds and wearing my hair down to my shoulders. The convicts took one look at me and licked their lips and rubbed their hands together and they made no bones about eyeing me up and down and blowing me kisses…hmm, this was going to be a real test of how much I can endure while I try to learn psychotherapy. I didn't have a clue. Several of the cons asked me for sex therapy.  One prisoner - all 6ft 5in and 300lbs of him went so far as to ask me to make a referral to University Hospital for a sex change operation. In session he wanted me to call him Donna. So I did.My supervisor Ron Gilles only laughed...the prick. It turned out that Donna just wanted to get close to me for some sex therapy.

Before I stumbled my way out of Jackson Prison, I presented a case to a prestigious team of psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. One of the expert was a researcher from Michigan State University who had developed a Rorschach card (ink blots used in a projective psychological testing). I was nervous presenting to so many knowledgeable clinicians and researchers. I stumbled and stammered through my presentation. patient was more composed than me. He was a self-mutilator, a cutter, with at least a dozen tattoos. I can't recall the outcome of this important pow-wow except the Rorschach man had the furriest eyebrows I've ever seen. All he had to do was look in the mirror for the perfect Rorschach card. He reminded me of Jack Elam doing his best Dr.VanHelsing with a huge auto-erotic hypodermic needle that had more than a passing reference to phallic symbolism.

Anyway, my student loan didn't come through and my father refused to help. We were fighting.
I was lonely broke and depressed - a fatal combination for an aspiring graduate. I recently broke up with my girlfriend also a U of M student after a particularly intense acid trip. At one point I told her that I didn't really love her. As I continued tripping I curled up in a fetal position and tried to re-enter her womb. She wasn't having any of that so we ended our relationship.

I felt the void and realized something was missing...just didn't know what. The era was imbued with a fine paradox so pure in its contradictions that I existed in a vacuum of questioning authority and experimenting with choices. I was breaking out in a wildfire of heat and frenzy as if I was afraid the dancing would stop and life would fall silent and dreary. We all had grown up with bomb-shelter cold war paranoia and the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations. Many of us protested the Vietnam War and were horrified by the government brutality of Kent State. We were stunned by Watergate but smug in Nixon's disgrace. We laughed at President Jimmy Carter's lust in my heart statement as just a bit disingenuous. A Playboy interview was just too hip. Billy Carter became a marketing pawn with his Billy Beer. He was all the rage along with Punk rock and the Sex Pistols
The legacy of violence and betrayal left us a little cynical and even slightly embittered. We celebrated America's Bicentennial with our tongues-in-cheek as we sang along with Loudon Wainwright III on his big hit Dead Skunk hit and his cool-strange "T-Shirt" album. He seemed the perfect vehicle for our particular fear and loathing. I guess it was destiny or dumb luck that led me past Steve's Lunch and up the stairs to 1301 S. University. I noticed the Bicycle Jim's Restaurant marquee. I walked up the stairwell to the front door of the restaurant. The first person I met was none other than the Hot Ratzow's sister. I filled out an application and she hired me on the spot. She told me to report back on the next day and trained me for a position as a host. I would greet customers, seat them, and cash them out. I would also help bus tables and trouble shoot. Ms. Ratzow was friendly in a cold efficient way and was so fastidious about money that she would arrange all the dollar bills so they faced the same direction...north, I think. Eventually I met everyone...the management team of Joe, TK, Ann, and Kate as well as the revered head chef Roger Brown, Cathy, Linda Lou, Mary and the Hot Ratzow. 

How can I put this delicately?
The Hot Ratzow was the most beautiful man I ever met., tall but not too tall, lean yet muscular, His incredible physique was naturally sculpted like a Greek God. He had naturally curly blondish-brown hair and deep blue eyes that were penetrating and kind. He was gifted with a soft voice and manner that revealed a genuine appreciation of others. He was intelligent without preening. He did not have to state his point-of-view. He listened to others.

The Hot Ratzow and I become friends and even lived together like we were the odd couple. We hung out...Roger, Tom Knapp (TK), Hot Ratzow and others. I was more of an outsider. I never quite fit-in with anyone, not totally.
They listened to jazz and Janis Ian. I listened to the Monkees
But I loved them all. And we had several wonderful adventures...

In the spring of 1976, Michigan encountered an ice storm of horrific force and dimension. Ice blanketed the state. Power outages were reported from Detroit to Copper Harbor. The storm caused millions of dollars of damage. Towns and cities were shut down for several days. It was declared a natural disaster. So what did we do…we tripped on some sweet windowpane. It was better living through chemistry… Roger, the Hot Ratzow and me. It was the journey of a lifetime within the brace of an afternoon. It only seemed like a lifetime. So we dropped acid over at Roger's home on Division Street. I had just moved out of his basement and moved into an apartment with TK where I lived modestly with a mattress and blanket and a few prized possessions. I shared the space with St Bernard who shit all over the floor and - even worse – he was a sloppy kisser. I was the only one with a car when I bought a '64 Chevrolet Impala for $300. It was prized possession.
I would lend it out freely to my friends and between me and everyone else who drove it, I accumulated a mountain of parking tickets that eventually landed me in jail but that is another story.

 Well our acid trip was gradually altering our perceptions, I drove us a few blocks down the road and parked at the Arboretum. We disembarked and started our journey as the acid began to hit. I remember thinking how lucky it was that I was tripping with such acid veterans. I felt safe...for awhile. Suddenly I feel an intense rush of anxiety. I looked up into the sky and I see Roger Brown’s face and his face is laughing at me. As he continues to laugh, his image increases in size until it covers the entire sky.
I'm freaking out. So I look over to the Hot Ratzow and Roger for some kind of comfort and assurance that I hadn’t lost my mind and lo and behold they're freaking out too!.
So we are all shaking and moaning and we are beginning to understand that we are all too high, maybe the acid was cut with some poison or something. Our solution was simply brilliant. We lighted up a joint and drank some beers. In our mind bending state we thought dope and booze would help us come down and it did seem to help. We regained a trembling semblance of composure as we continued our amazing journey. It seemed likehiked for miles until the Hot Ratzow pointed out that we were walking in circles and getting nowhere. We were hopelessly lost despite the fact thatwe had all spent countless hours at the Arboretum, walking our dogs, throwing Frisbees and playing hacky sack. We gradually made our way back to the beginning but not before we encountered the carnage left by the storm, dead birds were everywhere, on the ground and stuck in unnatural and gruesome positions in the trees. Hitchcock couldn't have done it any better. Wemade it to my car.. As I slid into the driver’s seat. I told Roger and the Hot Ratzow that I was too high to drive. But they insisted they were too high to drive. So we compromised. We all drove. I'm in the driver's seat but for the life of me I can't reach the pedals and the steering wheel is three times its size, street lights are melting before my very eyes so Roger and Hot Ratzow helped out. Ratzow gave directions and operated the gas pedal. Roger filled-in with the over-sized steering wheel and the brake pedal. It was all very cozy.
We made it home but I was still in bad shape. So I called TK over at Bicycle Jim's and Theresa was dispatched to help me come down. She was an angel!

It was during our time at our apartment at North University that we got to know an infamous Weatherman. The Weathermen were a radical faction of the Students For a Democratic Society (or simply SDS). The SDS carried some heavy political currency with an intellectual leadership that included Carl Ogelsby and Tom Hayden (later married to Jane Fonda). However, in 1969 at the SDS National Conference, a militant faction calling themselves the Weathermen released a position paper entitled, "You Don't Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows (a lyric from Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues).” They advocated for urban guerilla cadres to carry out the revolution with sporadic acts of violence. This led to the dissolution of SDS influence and signaled the beginning of the end for the New Left.  By 1976, the Weathermen were only a memory even though a few surviving members soldiered on in solitary pursuit of the working class struggle. So it was an unlikely alliance when we met a former disciple of the Weathermen. It started with Ann Arbor passing a leash law. Students and others would often allow their pets to run free in the Arboretum and other public places. In fact, some students would simply abandon their dogs before returning to their home towns. This resulted in packs of wild and hungry dogs that were sometimes quite menacing.
It was a problem.
Snow Puppy and I were use to going everywhere together - stores, record shops, coffee houses without a leash. No one seemed to mind. One sunny day the Hot Ratzow and I decide to walk our dogs at the Arboretum. We lived close-by and had to only walk through a small cemetery and squeeze through a fence. It was a glorious day until an animal control truck screeched to a halt right behind us. The Hot Ratzow and Taurus ran off with the Dog Warden and his deputies in hot pursuit, stun guns drawn and ready. They attempted to drive after them but Snow and I blocked their way. I was detained and issued a $50 citation. I gave my real name though I didn't have identification on me... duh! Several hours later everyone is at home. The weathermen dude was present and angry about the oppressive leash law. He suggested taking action such as putting a pipe bomb or sugar or something in the gas tank of a police car as a sign of protest. We unanimously declined.
I never heard from him again.
It seemed like things were getting a little strange. By this time the Hot Ratzow and I worked at The Little Brown Jug Restaurant.a pale comparison to Bicycle Jim's. In an unusual turn of events, the owner of Bicycle Jim's refused raises to the women of our management team (TK, Joe, Ann, and Kate) and in a show of solidarity, the entire staff walked out. I was hitching across country to California at the time. So I joined the strike in absentia. We all lost our jobs
and our friends and colleagues dispersed to the four winds. By now I lived with TK across town in an apartment complex. It was getting strained. A party complete with steaks, salads, cheesecake, and a huge mound of cocaine turned into a fiasco. Too many people taking the spoon...we had to move on. I moved back to Saginaw and worked for my father at White's Bar. I would get occasional letters from my former roommate TK and energy was building from Jackson Hole Wyoming to Corvallis Oregon. My friends were opening a restaurant in Corvallis.
Would I like to be involved?

Stay Tuned for Part II