How to Wreck a Nice Beach

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Something To That Effect

Air Freakazoid Vs. Flying Cholitas

By Dave Tompkins at 11:54am ET

This is Vincent Calloway, Midnight Star’s vocoder Freakazoid, kicking air right in the face. Vincent was recently inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame at age 50.

The inscription reads: “To David: I know the book is gonna be kickin.”

Roundhouse kicks over mic stands were pretty standard during Midnight Star live shows. During soundcheck, Vincent would do the WOPR while reciting lines from War Games through the vocoder.

Freakazoid live, view it here.

This is Carmen Rosa, an airborne Cholita wrestler from Bolivia. Please come meet her at the screening of Betty Park’s amazing documentary Mamachas del Ring, which is showing this week as part of HBO’s New York International Latino Film Festival. (Carmen will also be tweeting her first trip to New York @mamachasdelring.)

The opening take-down scene is worth the price of admission alone.

Another Summer

By Dave Tompkins at 11:19pm ET

(Courtesy of Chris Lasalle* and Dave Funkenklein)

This team photo was taken at the New Music Seminar in July of either 1989 or ’90.

The white guy in the middle, Dave Funkenklein**, once swore to me that he would deliver advance cassettes of the second Organized Konfusion album to the NMS, despite Disney’s filibustering, not to mention all the chemo. (And he did.) Funkenklein could not be stopped. He once drove to Tijuana with a malignant tumor in his spine to see Rodney O and Joe Cooley.

The guy indicating he’s number one, wearing the Cut Master DC polo, is Cut Master DC.

He appears in the vocoder book scratching records with basketballs.

The guy holding the D-Moet sign, is not D-Moet but King Sun. The last time I saw King Sun, he was in a similar position while being hauled off by a security octopus after a brawl that may have implicated Coolio, at an overbooked NMS event that included a surprise (surprise!) appearance by KRS-ONE, Mad Lion, the UMC’s, all the UMC’s buddies from Staten Island, and the Wu-Tang Clan, in their entirety.

The guy to the left of the D-Moet sign in the white Kangol is D-Moet, who used to be down with Excalibur.

The red topsider just behind King Sun’s left elbow houses the foot of Grandmaster Caz.

The guy to the right of Caz is Steady B, possibly wearing the same Fila windbreaker he rocked on the cover of What’s My Name?, and sadly now serving a life sentence in Houtzdale, PA.

The guy dead center, normally in a Ninja mask, is UTFO’S DJ Mix Master Ice.

The guy in the Gucci & Tenille hat, upon which his gold teeth once appeared, by themselves, is Just-Ice.

Please help me identify the others.

*I first met Chris Lasalle when the Source Tour came to The Zoo in Raleigh, NC with Lord Finesse, Organized Konfusion, Roxanne Shante, Biz, and The Almighty RSO. Before taking the stage, the RSO dispatched a crew of girls to case the building. They wore Boston Bruin jackets and spandex shorts and communicated with the RSO limo by walkie-talkie. The evening concluded with gunplay in the parking lot. Apparently, one of Biz’s records caught a bullet and saved the life of Source tour manager Jennifer Perry, who was ducking under the passenger seat. A full recount appeared in The Source’s 50th Anniversary Issue with Flash, Bambaataa and Herc on the cover.

**Here’s a brief excerpt from “Burn Rubber on Plastic Bubbles,” a tribute to Funkenklein that appeared in Jeff Chang’s anthology Total Kaos, as well as Wax Poetics. (Funkenklein once ran his wheelchair down an office hallway paved with bubble-wrap to simulate a drive-by.)

In 1993, a delegation of 18 Samoan rappers went to Disneyland. Averaging 300 pounds a pop, they called themselves Boo-Yaa Tribe. Admission was on the house. At “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Boo-Yaa shattered the standing record for maritime tonnage in an Animatronic buccaneer fantasy. Even more astonishing was that Disney staff had the cannon balls to kick them out (“Please do not agitate the skeletons”), despite the protests of their guardian, who happened to be in a wheelchair. Apparently, Disneyland did not share Boo-Yaa’s enthusiasm for testing the properties of volume and displacement. After all, it’s a small world.

I learned of this rap barnacle when reading “Gangsta Limpin,” a column written by late hip-hop writer/impresario Dave Funkenklein Klein, who as it turned out, had arranged Boo-Yaa’s day on the plank. Klein headed a Disney-owned rap label Hollywood BASIC Recordings and was interested in adding Boo-Yaa to a roster which included a Maxwell Melvins and a group serving life sentences in a New Jersey State prison, Zimbabwe Legit, DJ Shadow, and Organized Konfusion, two guys from Queens who rapped about cytoplasmic disintegration. This may have been counter-intuitive for Disney, but certainly no less hardcore than singing dwarfs, dancing brooms, and a night on Bald Mountain with Chernabog.

Through Funkenklein, I learned that Coolio used to be a fireman, that Bozo the Clown’s manager was named “Morty” and that JVC Force dug Detective Stan “Wojo” Wojciehowicz. Funkenklein downwormed tequila on transatlantic flights with Ultramagnetic and took Erick Sermon to Sea World. In one of his Gangsta Limpin columns, you’d read LA riot commentary, medical reports, inbred music-biz jokes, concerns for Robocop 3, and an offer to swap glossies of Ice T’s wife (Darleen) in exchange for a Wattstax video.

Five Milli Years To Earth

By Dave Tompkins at 6:53pm ET

(Photo by Keetja Allard. Originally published in Relax, 2002)

Phone conversation with myself and Rammellzee (first voice), from October, 19th, 2007:

“You like oysters, boss?”
“I’ve got a spot over here for you. We can watch the boats sink.”
“I’ll let you hold the bomb.”
“Do you know anyone at the Smithsonian Institute?”
“Working on that one.”
“You need to talk to someone in the Department of Space.”
“The Andromeda Galaxy is going to be here in 5 million years. It will consume this galaxy.”
“This means something to me.”
“Of course.”
“It’s sending a master blaster radio cloud ahead of itself.”
“That one will be here in 10,000 years.”
“I know it’s a little far off, but you might want to take a look at it.”
“And finish my book before it happens?”

Time enough.

Thanks Hua for digging this up from your inbox.

Thanks Dr. Quatermass and Five Milli for the original on-screen face melt.
(See: Sex Pistols, Lipstick Traces)

Canticle for Rip Cord Rex

By Dave Tompkins at 12:26am ET

(Image: Urb magazine, 1993—my first feature.)

Q: Are you going to see the new Transformers movie?

A: I don’t need to see it. I am it. Why do I need to see me?

Rodeo Big Duck

I bought “Beat Bop” while on a family Christmas trip in 1983. I was 14. Having lost my parents to Macy’s, I escaped to a nearby record store (which may have been Rock & Soul) and blew my Christmas shopping money on 12 inches. A guy who kind of resembled the manager of the First Avenue club in Purple Rain (“What’s this one-song shit!“) recommended five records: “Fresh” by Fresh 3 MC’s, “Rock the House” by the B-Boys, “Death Mix” by Afrika Bambaataa, “Bad Times” by Capt Rapp (produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis), and “Beat Bop,” which was credited to Rammellzee Vs. K-Rob.

I’d never heard of a song being by something vs. someone. The conflicted verses. Many questions. Who was making with the freak-freak? Rodeo big duck? What’s a Rammellzee? Why is his pinky nail so long? Who’s driving this German tank?

In eighth grade, my asthmatic friend would recite all the jabberwocky of “Beat Bop,” occasionally hitting his inhaler while quacking around in his green Sergio Tacchini flip-flops.

Scare Quota

I first met Rammellzee when I was in town for the New Music Seminar in 1993. I was with Randolph Heard, a former copy editor for Hustler, then working for a Larry Flynt hip-hop magazine called Rappages. En route to Rammellzee’s Battle Station, we stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and Randolph talked about the giant chicken statue in Flynt’s basement. And then something about Ultramagnetic MC’s first visit to the Rappages office, all of them dressed for summer, save for Kool Keith, who had arctic mirrors welded to his bald head—the rest of him furred up, as if he’d just mugged a dogsled.

When the elevators opened into the office, the Four Horsemen just stood there.

The Yeti hunter said, “Enter the spaceship.”

I loved that story so much I accidentally tossed my wallet in the KFC trash with the nugget tray. It kind of turned into a thing, with my arm half-eaten by the Thank You flap, and the guy behind the register, mildly entertained, as if watching some grisly zoo accident. The Garbage Gods were watching.

The rest of the day’s events are accounted for in the book. Men from Zurich challenged Rammel to a transversal alphabet drag race using letters on zip wires.

I remember the fumes.

I remember meeting Rip Cord Rex, a character with nitrous tube eyebrows and a spare tape deck that cushioned ejected from his brain. (Alyssa Milano’s hair clip had been borrowed for the teeth.) Rammellzee once showed me a Polaroid of Rip Cord Rex wielding a leaf-blower under a strobe light. He was wearing a kimono. I was then told that Rip Cord Rex liked to steal engines. (This recalled a Sesame Street episode in which Cookie Monster and his jiggling eyeballs drove a stolen steam engine through a game show.) Not surprisingly, Rammel had a miniature toy train with Cookie Monster, the engineer, leaning his blue head out of the window.

That’s how things worked around the Battle Station.

You talk into electric fans, eat bad mushrooms (duds) and put on a 47-pound Jules Verne helmet that seemed to be missing its Krakken. The helmet was welded together by the Morse Diving Company in 1923. I thought I was going to fall through the floor.

You realize it’s best to not try on the masks.

You’re told that this guy is an equation and are reminded of a Peanuts character named 5.

You hear about dentistry, epoxies, oil rig fissures, deep sea decompression, and rescuing baloney-sandwich idiots from the rip tide.

You remember the time you got carsick in back of your mother’s Buick wagon, and how the electronic tailgate got lockjaw.

You learn about the Mettroposttersizer, a planet smasher that triggers “the Wizard’s Game of Pool,” leaving the solar system in a molten state and putting a black eye in the sun. Also known as “a good reason to drink beer.” Sometimes referred to as: “Might be a good time to leave.”

Not so fast.

You listen to a 1984 recording of Rammel and Phase 2 on the vocoder in a basement in Vienna, and notice that Led Zeppelin (“Dazed and Confused”) and Royalcash (“Radioactivity”) have bled through from the other side.

You get sozzled.

You consider things like Word is born is term is time is period is punctuation is ending, and hope your editor saves you from yourself.

You are given a plaster dimetrodon and are told it is part of the letter A.

You are told not to be a scallywag, boss, yet find yourself impaled on a phrase, again.

You have no idea what’s going on, but just go with it, with the understanding that it may not bring you back in one piece, if ever, but if you worry about such things, then you’re probably in the wrong place.

You then leave the Battle Station and make sure the city is still there and that the sky hasn’t gone crooked and is still happy to see you.

I remember Rammellzee growling at me, “When you start thinking too hard, the culture dies.”

Later that afternoon, I stood in a park at the Zulu Nation Anniversary, thinking too hard, watching O.C. do “Time’s Up” in a downpour.


According to Ralph Miller, a retired phonetic engineer at Bell Labs, the letter z is a noise, not a sound.

Of Friends at the Institute

I used to proofread Product Inserts for a pharmaceutical company out in Zebulon, N.C., allegedly near Terminator X’s ostrich farm. One day I received a handwritten fax and a question: “Can science achieve a unified theory of complex systems, permanently skeptical of friends at the institute?”

This was followed by four pages of rhymes about “self-replicating lightning” and “truly complex amoebic bond traders, appearing at the border.” There was no cover sheet, but according to the name at the top of the page, it had been sent by the Emperor General.

Emperor General was Sir Menelik was Scaramanga was Chewbacca Uncircumcised (?), a rapper from Brooklyn who made a few appearances with Kool Keith on Dr. Octagon. Keith once called me collect from a pay phone near LAX, on Valentine’s Day. It was after 3:00 a.m., North Carolina time. I accepted the charges.

I once introduced Menelik to Zee, thinking, well, you know.

Eat A Planet

Last year, I sustained a severe neck injury while trying to finish the Rammellzee chapter—and the book—on my 40th birthday. A terrible idea. Trying to invent a chapter title wasn’t much easier. Rammell suggested “Death of a Monk.” I went with something less terminal: “Eat a Planet and Go On to the Next One.”

He shook his head. “And now we both raise our eyebrows together.”

I reminded him that those were his words, his math. His teeth. He’d said it after telling a story about how he once vibrated his diaphragm too hard when using the vocoder. It made him upchuck his contents under pressure.

He blamed McDonald’s, the planet, and of course, the word whatever.

“Garbage up! Garbage out!”

And with that Rammellzee said, “Time for beer!” and rolled back and executed a crooked reverse somersault from the edge of his bed, aimed in the vague direction of the kitchen, his surf footie akimbo, and Rammellzee himself, hitting the floor, with grace, right on the word beer.

So long, Rammellzee.

I will miss our annual Halloween phone calls.

“I have to go back underwater. We’re turning buildings into spaceships and we’re not telling you.”

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