Of Solstice & Avatars!
June 23, 2:04AM

Boy the way Glenn Miller played.
Songs that made the hit parade,
Guys like us, we had it made.
Those were the days.
And you knew who you were then.
Girls were girls and men were men.
Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn’t need no welfare states.
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old Lasalle ran great.
Those were the days.
—Theme from All in the Family by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse



What news to hear on solstice. Caroll O’Connor (76), one of the greatest actors of our time, and John Lee Hooker (83), the Mississippi-born guitarist whose voice and guitar style defined a blues style, had died. Both of these guys found a place in the hearts of several generations of Americans and set a standard for those who followed.

I fortunately had the honor of meeting both of these men. I met Hooker about a year or so ago in his booth at a SF club, The Boom-Boom Room. I recognized him and just dropped by like an adoring fan should do, just to say I appreciated his music. He invited Pat and I to sit with him and we talked about just ordinary stuff that turned out to be extraordinairy now that I look back at it. Then some guy came by and started asking him, not very politely, to sign his guitar (the one he carried at his side). Well, Hooker was on to this guy, he told us that this guy just showed up everywhere where Hooker would be like he had a inside track about his whereabouts. A friend of Hooker's had told him this guy was selling his signed Hooker stuff on e-bay at quite a profit. Apparently, this guy would also take a picture of hooker for authenticity each time he signed something. Hooker told him he wasn’t interested in funding the purchase of his house anymore and told him to take a hike. The profiteer started getting agitated for all of 20 seconds before these bulging-muscled, men came and carried him away. Hooker shook his head and bought us a drink, the first of many during a three-hour conversation about love and life while his friends popped in and out of the booth. What a great guy just to hang with. I asked for some advice about love and he said, “Don’t try to force love, let the bad ones go. A good man who will always love you will stay put - he'll honor you, he will die for you. A man not worth having, will end up in another woman’s bed — on his way out the door for the evening, throw his shit out and change the locks. If you think he’s cheating, he probably is.” Amen! At the end of the night, I didn’t ask him to sign anything. What I remember about him was that he was really genuine in his commentary, very raucous at times and always checkin' out the room.

O’Connor was a different kind of guy. We met at a party several years ago. We started talking about Hollywood — and I learned something very interesting. Here I thought all these years that Normal Lear was a mega-genius. Not so, only a semi-mega-genius. He actually adapted All in the Family from Till Death Do Us Part, a BBC series. O’Connor’s character sparked conversation throughout a world that was just beginning to adopt a PC type of behavior. In the Heat of the Night was one of my favorite shows for years, and one that I wish would have set a standard that other shows would have tried hard to meet. I was deeply touched when O’Connor went public about his son’s suicide and grieved through his anger by targeting his son’s drug dealer. Whatever gets you through the night.... We talked for about an hour on a balcony of someone’s house in Malibu (I actually still don’t know whose house that was, I was just dragged along). Anyway, he gave me some great advice for my screenplay side of the business — he said, “Write what will make a difference, and if you’re lucky it just might do so.”

These two guys will be really missed. But what a thing to hear on solstice.

Just hours before I heard the news about O’Connor and Hooker, I was riding back from a very long day from the hills of Santa Cruz. I went up to meet Bruce Damer, author of Avatars! (www.damer.com) and his partner in crime Galen who is just too cool for words. Avatars are 3-D characters that talk real-time over the Internet and they can even make instant expressions and you can hook up and talk in communities. They are communications tools for people. Went up there with Michael Land, Peter McConnel and Michael McMahon. Well, we had a great time at the Digital Gardens and visiting Theo the pig and checking out the ranch. We saw lots of cool avatar stuff and got a great demo of Traveler (www.digitalspace.com/avatars/index.html).

Then, off to visit Dr. Bob Glass, over at Roo. Dr. Bob was once a visionary/evangelist for Sun — and we were connected by Nicole Kidd. What a fabulous day! And off to wander the empty rows of cubicles in search of John Mirassou at Emu where we found no John, but instead found a smiling Niel.

After our meeting with Bob, we went back to Bruce & Galen’s ranch where we went off to this wild solstice party. Well, we went to this place in the hills of Santa Cruz and we found about 300-400 people who were frolicking in the warm summer-like night. Dancing goddesses everywhere — only in California! Women dancing with snakes and just very cool stuff going on everywhere. This one chick who was dancing in a "goddess" like presentation had it goin' on, I must say though that it seemed like she was a freelance stripper/goddess - she had that stripper wink and smile thing happening that looked rather out of place among the earthy, cruch, granola feel of the party. As always, I doubt if anyone else noticed but me. It happened to be the home of the guy who patented spiralina, who is now dead, but apparently his wife throws these huge parties at this mansion (or should I say - on the grounds of - the house was under lock and key and had a ton of security measures to keep people out, which always makes me want to go in somewhere that someone wants to keep me out so badly. I'm sure it will be a sense of curiosity that kills this particular cat one day) that looks like it was pulled directly out of a cartoon - like the architect was slapped silly (until he was silly) before he drew up the plans. The place is a real piece of work, but the grounds are beautiful. I was immediately drawn to a geodesic dome that had some kind of light show inside with all of these cool people inside. I met this fabulous inventor named Warren Stringer who had developed some C++ software that allowed someone who was manipulating a media art board connected to a laptop and a projector (that filled the entire ceiling of the place with moving psychedelic images), to control the images. Anyhow, stayed there for hours on my back playing with the media board. I had to find the one guy at the party among the hundreds of Goths and goddesses who was looking for venture capital.

Of course, I had my handy, dandy digividcam — the only problem was that it was shooting on night mode so a lot of the footage is in black and white and most of it looks like film that ended up on the cutting room floor of the Blair With Project as a followed Michael and Peter into the forest to a make-shift gazebo temple. I heard there was a sweat lodge, but we couldn’t find it. There was also this really strange van system of transport, where you forked out $35 at the bottom of the hill at a horse ranch, got a bracelet — the kind that looked like you escaped from a hospital — and were shuttled to and from in a van that should only hold 10 at max — but was holding 20 or so. There were some pretty interesting seating arrangements as we winded our way up through the black hills….

I think it was about 4 when we all rolled back to my place and the guys trekked back over the bridge back to the East Bay. The sun was coming up on a new season.

All in a day's work.

Good night,
sal