September 21, 2011In September of 1975 I was standing in Jeff Bloom's hipster clothing store on Fourth Avenue in Tucson. The place was tucked in a walk-up (you had to kind of know it was there) on Hippie Row. Mucho platform shoes, bell bottom pants and, amazingly, classic snap button Western shirts with flowers on the yoke (I bought three different ones for some $50 each and still have them). At that time, Eclipse was THE most stylin' place in the state of Arizona. Jeff was an heir to the Bloom Big & Tall stores in Tucson and Phoenix. Jeff was also a supporter of the Razz Revue, a humor magazine published by Dan and Darlene Harshberger and Olive Mondello (seen here in the casket, along with Dan admiring her shoes, which were from the store next door to Eclipse):
As you may know, I was also involved in the Razz and, in fact, was at Eclipse on a sales call (yes, I sold the ads. All ten of them!). Jeff always had the hippest music playing, so, as I stood waiting at the front counter, i heard the most amazing rock song blasting out of the speakers. I had never heard it before and it was pure, waist down bravado. When it was over and Jeff got off the phone, I said, "Is it my imagination or is the chorus to that last song, "White Punks On Dope?" He laughed and said yes, it's from a new group out of San Francisco called The Tubes. That was my introduction to the song and the band.
I soon found out the group was actually from Phoenix and had been known in the Valley of the Sun as The Beans. Just prior to this encounter, I met the Mell brothers, Frank, Lee and Ed in their art compound in downtown Phoenix. Not only did the brothers know all of The Tubes (in fact Lee was in their shows), but they also had just come from conquering New York City and had done several covers of the National Lampoon, the hottest and hippest new publication on the hipster landscape.
Fast forward to 1980 and I joined Ed in sharing art studio space at a grocery store he rented, and later bought, at Tenth and Oak (he still owns it and still paints there every day, except today; he is in New York at a 60 painting retrospective and art show at the Forbes Building, so if you're in the neighborhood, drop by tonight for the opening). I spent six years in that space and learned more by osmosis from Ed, than I had in five years in college. Here we are goofing, when, during a photo shoot by Ralph Rippe, I came over and Ed borrowed my hat.
Fast forward to last Friday at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott. This is the same spot where Barry Goldwater announced he was running for president in 1964.
After the unveiling of the centennial postage stamp by Ed, we retired to the VIP garden and got a front row seat to a concert by, Arizona's own, The Tubes. The lead singer, Fee Waybill told about growing up in Phoenix, living in Jerome, working on the Perkins Ranch, before joining the Tubes. According to Ed, Fee (actual name John Waldo Waybill) was the roadie in the Beans and later became the lead singer. Just before the show Ed took me backstage and I got to meet Prairie Prince, the drummer and that was a thrill. In my humble estimation, he is one of the best drummers in rock, and he's played with Ringo Starr, George Harrison and many others. Of course, the closer to the set was their signature song "White Punks On Dope."
So, we have come full circle in a 35 year arc, intersecting the Beatles, National Lampoon (which spawned John Belushi among others), Malcolm Forbes and Barry Goldwater. Not a bad game of Six Degrees of White Punks On Dope, eh?
The irony to me is that the punks the Tubes were singing about are probably all moguls of the arts and industry today. I'd love to know who actually inspired the song.
"Mom and dad moved to Hollywood."
—The Tubes, "White Punks On Dope"