April 9, 2003
funny in Kansas
Arts and Entertainment
By Kimberly Chun
Shock and awe
OK I'LL 'FESS up: I've been touched by Elvis. I've listened to The Sun Sessions till the grooves in my cheap reissue wore out. I've made the pilgrimage, the rock 'n' roll jihad. I've gossiped with guards at Graceland. I've ooohed and aaaahed over the racquetball court out back, the bed in his jet. So as soon as I got the new Lisa Marie Presley CD, To Whom It May Concern (Capitol), I realized it was too good to keep to myself. I had to share, and who better to share it with, and who is better at sharing his nakedness, bodily fluids, and well-embedded in-your-face attitude than eXtreme Elvis.
On a recent afternoon visit to the Bay Guardian office, El's shock incarnation turned in a surprisingly reasoned assessment of the Presley spawn's longtime-coming album. "My first impression was, to quote her father, 'Return to Sender,' " said the king o' full-frontal male nudity, flipping through the CD booklet. "We have to remember, the profits are going to the Church of Scientology. There's something behind all this that has nothing to do with artistry at all. The fucking point is that [Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley] are following this prefab guru when the central spiritual figure in America is Elvis. The irony is that they're as close to the source as you can get, and they're dicking around with some Hollywood fringe fucking cult."
He leaned back in his chair, exposing formidable boobs and belly, which jutted forth from his open white jacket, and watched the video of Lisa Marie's first single, "Lights Out." "I mean the most obvious thing is look at the way she moves her hips compared to her dad," he pointed out. "There's a seductiveness of rock 'n' roll that she just doesn't have."
eXtreme Elvis is used to mixing his seduction with plenty of repulsion. A few months ago he destroyed the audience in Elvis's hometown of Memphis by giving them the shock rock they came for taunting the crowd about the town's racial segregation and finally peeing into the mouth of his backup singer Ann Marie Taylor. Then there was the time at the Stork Club when eXtreme Elvis traded places with cerebral palsy-wracked performance artist Frank Moore, racking up the criticism from politically correct audience members who were unaware of Moore's condition and work.
And there was the recent March 22 performance at the Starry Plough, which was canceled at the last minute after the club sent the eXtreme one a set of rules barring any overt sexual behavior. So X-El did what any self-respecting Elvis imitator would do: he set off fireworks and played an acoustic set outside the club.
"I just finished a tour of Memphis and El Paso, places where people thought for sure I was going to die, and I've been asked back. And here I am in Berkeley, home of the free speech movement, and they're worried about overt sexual behavior," he complained.
What can you expect April 11 at the Hemlock Tavern? If his show is anything like last week's gig at Hotel Utah, it's likely you'll see a very large man with mutton-chop sideburns and tufts of back hair who is completely stripped of his stained, beaded white togs and plopping his naked ass on the foot of the stage ouch, splinters for an impromptu bull session on man stuff. Do women like bad guys or good guys, eXtreme asked, exhibiting his full-throttle sensitive side before going into "It's Now or Never" and hustling everyone upstairs to look at his vacation snaps of Memphis.
Makes you wonder how Lisa Marie can even compete with all of the other unsanctioned-by-Elvis Presley Enterprises progeny and preachers her father has created. Maybe she can blame the Burning Man culture and DIY sentiment that pervades our city and, really, an entire country, said eXtreme, 30, who got his start at B.M. and made his name chowing down on, well, b.m. Hell, why else would she want to get into the industry, barring a good dose of programming from an early age?
"Too much of culture that surrounds San Francisco has to do with that idea of no spectators. No spectators means everyone's a DJ, everyone plays didgeridoo, everyone has a band, everyone is a spoken word artist," eXtreme drawled. "There's a kind of culture of narcissism guilty as charged, right? that kind of pervades the Bay Area. You can see it in demonstrations there's a lot of people drawing attention to themselves rather than to the message."
• • •
Strange case of Amnesia: Whoa, I'm getting mixed messages from Amnesia S.F. at Club NV. First, Surreal Productions put a patriotic spin on its March 15 Bling Bling event at Club NV. The theme, "Boot Camp: Made in the USA," was announced via e-mail with this missive: "Bling Bling is made in the USA & Uncle Sam wants you to show you're proud to be an American by wearing your army gear. That's right get your camouflage threads and show your support!" That explains the GI Jane lingerie fashion show of ladies in camo bras carrying toy machine guns. OK, it was shocking, maybe even more shocking than eXtreme Elvis or Madonna's new video, but my mind was truly messed with when I noticed, a scant three Saturdays later, on April 5, that Amnesia has scheduled an evening called "French Kiss." So, dudes, which side are you on: freedom kisses or naked Francophilia? And what's next? "Shock and Awe Naughty Lingerie Nite"? It just makes me want to drink some vino (French or not) and forget, oh, to forget.
• • •
Is it the end of a punk-retailing era? With Mission Records scheduled to close and Lower Haight's grandpappy of S.F. fringe video, magazine, and zine shoppes, Naked Eye, keeping irregular hours nowadays, me and other folks at the Bay Guardian started to worry about where we'll be able sate the need for fresh copies of Chin Music and Japanese fetish films.
Well, we dried our eyes when we found out Naked Eye isn't closing, it's just looking for a new home to lease.
On the other hand, Mission Records' owner, who chooses to remain anonymous, has decided to let it go after five years once the lease runs out in October, staffer Melissa Merin told me. The business hasn't yet been put up for sale, and no one has been willing to take it over. Who will fill the void once it's gone, we wonder. "It's really one of the only independently opened stores that specializes in punk rock music and local punk rock at that," she said, adding that about a third of former S.F. punk HQ Epicenter's zine library had made its way to the store.
Coming out of the woodwork: Meanwhile other local producers and proprietors are planning their comeback. Kilowatt, on 16th Street, will host its first live show in about four years April 13 when Staci Twigg celebrate the release of their new album, True Tales of Love, along with the Velvet Teen and Oranger.
Watch yerself: They call this heightened security? Xiu Xiu lost a bunch of equipment in Montana, which put a kibosh on the tour, while on the other side of the globe the Numbers' personal belongings were hit in Rome when some creeps broke into their van.
• • •
Search and destroy and donate to a good cause: The people behind Survival Research Laboratories may be secretive, they may like to blow up things real good, and they may never tell you the date, time, and location of their next performance for fear that it would get shut down by the police or fire department, but they will spread the news about one thing. They're ready to get naked as eXtreme Elvis for a good cause: their recently released SRL Nudie Cutie Charity Calendar.
Founder Mark Pauline told me last week that SRL folks are banding together and dropping their drawers for a member of the "family": Tim North, longtime SRL friend, sound designer, and engineer, ex-drummer for Indiana new wave combo Dow Jones and the Industrials, founding member of Crash Worship, and current bandmate with his wife, Suzy, in Sauce of the Future.
In January, shortly after moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, the 42-year-old North was diagnosed as being in the advanced stages of abdominal cancer, Pauline said. So the group put together a March 25 benefit at SomArts with performers such as Beth Custer, Joan Jeanrenaud, the X-tra Action Marching Band, and Naut Humon, and acting on the suggestion of Pauline's fiancée, Amy Pritchett, the group debuted a 15-month nudie calendar featuring various SRL members in states of undress playing out naughty vignettes. It's just "guys and gals and machines," as Pauline put it. All the money from the benefit and the calendar ($25; www.friscozone.com/srlnudie.html) will go to North and his family.
In other SRL news, Pauline says they're continuing work at their longtime Potrero Hill location, building new gadgets like a large machine they'll introduce in November at a secret S.F. show for only 700 or 800 SRL insiders. "We keep them really secret mainly because we don't want to have too many people come to them. When we get 4,000 or 5,000, then the police get freaked out and the fire department has stopped shows before because they monitor our Web site," Pauline said.
Next scheduled to appear at the Gearheads book party and robot extravaganza at the Fort Mason Firehouse April 12, alongside reps from the Robot Wars and BattleBots and other robotics-fixated spawn of SRL, Pauline is also in negotiations with the city of San Jose for a performance. But forget Europe. "We were good enough to cause national alerts and bad international events, so we never got asked back," he said. "Again good work."
How does he do it? Certainly not with NEA funding. Describing himself as a "vulture capitalist," Pauline said he raises the $150,000 he needs to run SRL by buying and selling dot-com assets. "I fund all the shows myself; I haven't applied for a grant since '92," he said. "It's just easier for me to buy the essence of a dot-com. It's part-time and it allows us to build better machines and funds all our nefarious activities here." Nice to know all of the smoke and mirrors are good for something.
A bell rings every time I get tipped. So jingle-jangle over to firstname.lastname@example.org.