I Am Jan Brady
I grew up feeling like Jan Brady. I was the middle child with 3 beautiful sisters and 3 handsome brothers. I had long blonde hair hanging to the middle of my back. I wore gray cat-eye glasses and was always saying or doing the wrong thing. I was also painfully shy, very introverted and always had my nose buried in a book. My dad called me stubborn and my mother called me “wild flower.” I never felt like I belonged to this family; for a while I was sure I was adopted and my siblings took full advantage of that fact and teased me mercilessly. After all, I had golden blonde hair (but not like my mother!) and all my siblings had lustrous dark hair. I was the alien outsider, always out of step with the rest of the family.
When the popular TV series The Brady Bunch was on TV in the early 70s, I watched it obsessively, looking for clues about how to relate. My mom was a first-generation American Sicilian vivacious stay at home mom, once in the theater, now acting the part of a lifetime as the matriarch of this clan of 7. My dad was an Austrian-born brilliant scientist who single-handedly saved the US brewing industry by developing hop varieties that produced more and were resistant to a strain of fungus that was destroying hop plants around the world.
I aspired to have a life like the Brady’s’ where my parents would take me aside and gently ask me what was wrong. I yearned for a mom like Carol Brady, who intuitively knew how to say the right thing, and help me sort through my feelings of anger, jealousy, and weirdness. But the reality was, with 7 kids, there was never any time to do that. You just have to hope your kids figure it out and find a way to make the best of whatever situation was tormenting them at the time.
Jan’s cry of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” in response to the attention her beautiful sister always got struck a matching chord of frustration so deep in my soul that even today, when I hear people chant that phrase, I laugh weakly and get chills all over my body. No one can understand how painful it is to feel invisible unless you’ve experienced it.
In one episode, Greg Brady became a rock star, and a light went on. Rock and roll was a way to stand out, be noticed and be cool. I started listening to my records all the time, wearing floppy hats and sunglasses and bell-bottom jeans that were flared out with shocking orange and purple paisley silky material. I felt hip, I was cool, and I looked like a rock star.
I learned to embrace my weirdness, my freakish otherness that the rest of my siblings never struggled with. I learned to make it a part of who I was, to enjoy standing out in a sea of conformity. Punk rock and the underground lowbrow world of hot rods, art and music became my family. It didn’t matter that I didn’t look like everyone else. That was the whole point. It was ok to be different. In fact the weirder you were, the cooler you were.
The passing of Florence Henderson, the actress who played Carol Brady, several weeks ago triggered a moment of mourning, as if my own parent had passed. I deeply love and respect my parents, but Carol Brady was the mom I longed for as a child. I see now that my own mother accepted me for who I was, and was happy to help me express myself. She sewed the clothes I wanted and supported my struggle to find my creative voice by signing me up for art and music lessons, no questions asked. I will always be grateful for that support.
When I was in college, a record by an all-girl band called The Lunachicks caught my attention. I played their hit Jan Brady every chance I got, an inner knowingness that I had found kindred spirits in this raggedy group of girls empowering me every time I played the song on my radio show. I longed to tell them how much that song inspired me, but was too shy to track them down and tell them. Maybe someday I’ll get that chance.
Jan eventually learned to love her “otherness” just as I did in real life. Embracing your uniqueness is what gives art, music and hot rods that special something no one else can; your own voice, your own perspective.
Live Fast and Be Weird! It’s the key to enjoying life.
RIP Gene Wilder
As a child, I was painfully shy. I had several close friends but relied mostly on my brothers and sisters for playmates. We had fabulous imaginary forts and tree houses and romps in the woods. We rode our bikes and played pirates and cowboys and Indians and all sorts of fantasy games inspired by TV shows on the air at the time such as I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched.
I also spent hours with my nose buried in books, sometimes reading 4 or 5 books a week. One of my favorites was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, followed by Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
When the story made its TV debut in 1975, I was eleven years old. I had a vivid, colorful imagination, encouraged by my mother and the playtime with my siblings, but nothing prepared me for seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in living color. It blew my mind in a way nothing up to that point had, except maybe The Wizard of Oz. To see the strange and curious Willy Wonka come to life I could imagine him no other way except as actor Gene Wilder played him in the weird and wonderful show.
As I became a teenager, Gene Wilder movies figured prominently. It gradually dawned on me that being weird, funny and a little off was OK, and in fact, maybe a desirable thing. Which was good because I was definitely a weird kid.
Young Frankenstein became a favorite movie in my family. We’d laugh hysterically repeating lines from that movie like “Werewolf! There wolf!” I sought out the movies Gene Wilder starred in because I knew they would make me laugh.
It was inspiring to me that this pop-eyed, frizzed haired zany man was a movie star. He wasn’t cast for his looks, but for his personality. His humor wasn’t forced, and he didn’t rely on profanity. He was truly a silly funny guy who made his quirky personal style the basis for laughter. I always felt better after I watched one of his movies: it gave me hope that, as different as I was from my siblings and friends, it would be ok. The taunt of “you’re weird” didn’t hurt so much.
His relationship with the unconventional Gilda Radner was also inspiring, proving there was a special someone out there for everyone.
The remarkable impact Gene Wilder had on pop culture cannot be emphasized enough, and I am so sad to hear of his passing. The world has lost a man who made us laugh but more importantly gave all us weirdoes permission to be goofy and unconventional. RIP Gene Wilder, your laughter, light and quirkiness will be deeply missed.
(6/11/33 - 8/29/16)
SXSW, Then and Now
I first started going to South By Southwest (SXSW) in 1999, just as a music fan. To find a collection of some of the most exciting new independent music collected all in one place, set in one of the coolest cities around was a dream come true.
Garage punk, rock n' roll, alternative country and americana, killer thrift stores, to die for bbq and all around nice folks made up those first few years of my annual excursions to Austin, TX. I was lucky enough to have friends living there so I crashed on their floor. I slept like a log despite the uncomfortable conditions because we'd been out rockin' and drinkin' till the wee hours of the morning, and that kind of activity can only lead to a slumber so deep, no amount of cat hair or hard floors could keep me from the rest I so badly needed.
Breakfast was always at the Magnolia Cafe, recharging the batteries with a steaming plate of Huevos Rancheros and a Bloody Mary chaser, then we were ready to hit the free afternoon parties and BBQs that made so much of the early days at SXSW memorable.
Fast forward a few years. Gearhead was already an established record label, hosting our own afternoon parties at cool places like South Austin Speed Shop (now owned by the infamous Jesse James), put on by our good friend and Gearhead enthusiast Mike Adair (he now lives in Washington and owns Electric Boogaloo Tattoo) and putting on night time showcases that became the talk of the town.
Gearhead found and signed a number of bands during those years, most notably Japanese bands Gitogito Hustler, Electric Eel Shock and The Spunks. It was a festival that brought bands from all over the world and was created with the intent of connecting artists and labels. The creators achieved that goal so admirably that the festival became the "go to" place for bands hoping to take that next step in their dreams of becoming rock stars.
I fondly remember when I discovered Gitogito Hustler. I was rushing from an afternoon party back to my hotel to get dolled up for the Gearhead showcase that night. It was 2004, at the height of success for the label. We had a killer showcase planned (The Turbo A.C.'s, "Demons", Dragons, The Lashes, Riverboat Gamblers and The Wildhearts, (you can read more about it here), and had been chosen by the Austin Chronicle as a "must see" event that night. People were already lining up outside of Emo's for our showcase which featured the infamous Wildhearts in their debut performance at SXSW. I had spent the afternoon ushering the band around to various interviews, the most notable of which was a chat with Spin Magazine editor Doug Brod. I was smitten. He was so charming and enthusiastic and had a genuine appreciationfor the garage rock Gearhead was championing. Needless to say, my head was all abuzz as I made a beeline through the back alley ways to the hotel. But cutting through the din and the hazy BBQ smoke filling the air was a sound so exciting, I stopped dead in my tracks and listened for a moment or two before deciding I had to see who the band was that was making that glorious noise.
There they were, four diminutive dollies, all dressed in matching plaid bondage pants, rockin' out like there was no tomorrow. I wrote about this moment in the liner notes of their debut full-length Love and Roll. I still remember how awestruck I was. Despite the fact that they spoke no English, I was able to get across how much I loved what they were doing. With the help of their then tour-manager, Hajime (who's own band The Spunks would also later be signed to Gearhead), we exchanged information with a promise of further exploring the possiblility of working together.
Fast forward a few more years to 2007. SXSW had changed so much from those early days. Gone was the preferential treatment of getting to choose what venue and day I wanted to host the Gearhead showcase. The streets were filled with movie cameras from national TV shows. Hip hop artists and limousines clogged the streets, all posing for pictures with anyone who thought they might be someone. There had been some drama earlier, with someone getting shot I think, so the streets were cordoned off with plastic yellow crime scene tape.
I knew right then, that would be my last trip to Austin for SXSW. It had reached the mainstream media, and it was now time to find a new path to tapping into the interesting, but unknown music bubbling underneath the glitz and glamour. I started hosting the Gearhead® Showcases at the annual Lady Luck Tattoo Convention in Reno, NV, but that's food for another story.
SXSW continues to thrive today, but it is such a different world. It's like watching the Grammies, where I know it's about the music industry, but such a foreign world from the one I live in that it holds little interest for me. I've never been interested in following trends. I can watch with mild amusement and detachment as things evolve, and be grateful that I got to experience it in it's infancy, when it was raw, exciting, passionate, and sometimes a little chaotic, but so real.
The music industry continues to evolve, just like the custom car industry and all the other niche areas that have started to attract national attention. It's the nature of life. I love being at the beginning of things and am excited for what might be right around the corner.
Today we celebrate the birth of a man who made "weird" ok. The vision and goofiness of Ed Roth, known to his friends and fans as Big Daddy, set the stage for much that Gearhead and others involved in this wacky world of hot rodding and Kustom Kulture took to heart as their own.
His style was unique and while I never met the man, he is known as a true original. Gearhead paid tribute to his legend in issue #12. He was one of Mike's favorites and I know this issue was a dream come true.
So grab your Rat Fink and give him/her/it a hug and join me in sending birthday greetings to heaven where I"m sure he's painted the clouds with wild monsters and wacky Weird Ohs.
Rock 'n' Roll Royalty Laid to Rest
The legendary Kim Fowley was laid to rest Thursday at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Paying respects were Joan Jett, and Michael De Barres among many other music industry notables. The L.A. Times wrote a very good article on the ceremony which I encourage you all to read.
I've been playing through all my old records, thanking this fellow for his visionary tactics, despite the fact they raised hackles on many. He had a unique way of getting peoples' attention and ears, and while it's not a way most would choose, it was effective. Rock on Mr. Fowley!
RIP Kim Fowley
To say Kim Fowley changed the course of my life would be a gross understatement. I never met the man, but his influence and talent helped make me who I am today.
Outrageous, demented, and with an ear for pop music that I would die for, this man shaped the course of rock 'n' roll in so many ways, it's difficult to pick which one was more influential.
Discovering the talent that formed the Runaways, one of my all-time favorite bands and inspirations was just the beginning of how my life would be changed by a man I never knew. Kiss, Alice Cooper, Blue Cheer, The Seeds...the list is long and impressive, and all of these bands were part of my musical education and growth.
RIP Kim, may you shake things up in heaven and send us some more incredible talent here on earth. The music industry is a bit stale right now and could use some excitement.
--Rev. Michelle Haunold, C.E.O/President, Gearhead®
"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Ernest Hemingway said this, and I have to admit, I have been struggling to do exactly that for a very long time, ever since I published my first article back in 1987, a record review for Oregon State Unitersity's paper The Barometer.
It's hard to write what's in your head sometimes, but I keep trying. I like it when people are real, authentic, and totally themselves and that's what I'd like to convey when I write about something I'm passionate about.
Which leads me to this project I'm currently working on....a little thing called the next, long awaited issue of Gearhead Magazine, #19. I've been involved in putting the magazine together in the past, but it's been a long long time, so I'm starting at ground zero here, trying to figure out what I want to write about, what content should go into a beloved magazine that certainly has a history and a following, and knowing I won't be able to make it what the former editor, Mike, did. Instead, I have to make it my own. I know it's gonna get a few people bent out of shape, but I can't worry about that.
I'll never be able to make it exactly like what Mike did, but I can make it something new, something that reflects my outlook on life, cars, pop culture, rock 'n' roll and this crazy little upside down world we all inhabit. All I can do is write the truest sentence I can.
I'm looking for contributors by the way. Are you interested? If you have always had a burning desire to write an article, story or review for Gearhead, now's your chance! Drop me a line! Maybe your time has come!
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,