Thinking About Tang

If I'd known how many of you little sweetlings would believe me when I said I was having dinner with Isabel Allende, I would have taken up lying years ago. I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting vices. Suckers.

No, I didn't get within 100 feet of Allende at the Metro Pointe Barnes & Noble Friday night; the woman who wrote House of the Spirits was surrounded by an estimated 500 people, some of whom were climbing on the bookshelves to see her and then falling off, taking with them copies of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't.

There were so many people there we were crammed behind the shelves of the biography aisle, where tomes on Mao, Marxand Picasso gave way to a bio on Sarah Jessica Parker, who was just one book over from Sojourner Truth. Truly, we live in a terrifying age.

Only fragments of Allende's voice, mic-ed though it was, reached us, particularly with the huge number of teenyboppers downstairs making time, their shrieks and giggles echoing up through the atrium. But she told the story of meeting Pablo Neruda, of being invited to his home. Since she was a young journalist, she assumed she was there to interview him. “I was very young,” she said. “I was totally convinced that I was the best in journalism.”

But Neruda apparently didn't agree. “I would never be interviewed by you!” he exclaimed. “You are the worst journalist in the country! You lie all the time; you put yourself in the middle. . . .” Allende related this as though Neruda thought it was a bad thing. But she, with an admirable amount of narcissism, put the objections of one of the world's great poets down to “Eh, he's old and senile.”

Phil Shane is getting a lot of press these days from ironic young hipsters—the same ones who overrun the velvet-walled womb where the codgers play, The Fling. The hipsters love him because he's shrimpy and wears funny clothes and sings to karaoke-style programs on his keyboard and then dances on the bar. But these are not the reasons to love Phil Shane—except for the dancing on the bar part. The reasons to love Phil Shane have nothing to do with sarcasm but hinge mostly on his dedication to '70s soft rock. God damn, I love Neil Diamond—and so does Phil Shane!

But seeing him surrounded by gray heads at Harpoon Henry's in the Dana Point Harbor is a lot different from seeing him surrounded by gray heads in the tattered old Fling. The gray heads in Dana Point are much less drunk than those in Santa Ana/Tustin for one thing, and they've got much more money for another, and they sit quietly instead of trying to grind on twentysomething honeys for a third. And so Shane gives the audience what it wants: tastefulness. This is the wrong way to go, especially since Shane spends an awful lot of time on The Big Chill soundtrack and the Stand By Me soundtrack and whatever other bad soundtrack of '50s and '60s music came out in the '80s, which is when the '50s died. Who put the bop in the bopshebop? I don't know, and I don't care. Bring on “Sweet Caroline”! Shane made us wait for that one, bringing out instead Santana's “Smooth”(with Rob Thomas!) and Lee Greenwood's “God Bless the USA!” Well, alrighty then!

From there, my lovely sister Sarah gave me a terrifying tour of San Clemente's nightspots, and really, we might as well have been in Huntington Beach. At the Sundance, which was a surprisingly nice spot considering the clientele (the Mexican tiles were lovely, but most of the guys looked like Nazis), the one other girl in the bar (a pretty brunette) was drunkenly telling her boyfriend to get off the phone. “Why don't you come talk to your real girlfriend instead of those hookers?” she was shouting, while another man restrained her from whomping her boyfriend upside the head. One of the bartenders, meanwhile (the other two were pretty women; even though one had giant breasts and fake blond hair, we liked her because she had an interesting nose), was a personable young man who explained that he doesn't drink. “I don't want to get like that,” he said, indicating his bumbling customers.

The Outrigger was a clean, well-lighted place where there was little danger of date rape or curb jobs; the people drinking beer were doing so without falling off their chairs, and they were older and mellower than the tuffs at the Sundance. I liked it, so my sister made us leave. Goody's had a cover band whose chick singer was hitting the high notes to Blondie's “Call Me” beautifully. Sad Marines were sitting by themselves. “They're thinking about Afghanistan!” my sister declared, but they weren't. They were thinking about 'tang. I guarantee.

On Saturday, I hit the Irvine Improv for Dave Chappelle. Host/house manager Jeff Jena—a Libertarian who reads newspapers and usually has something interesting to say about the world and its events, talked about Osama bin Laden as a spoiled rich kid turned bad dude. It was, he said, about as authentic as thug life in Woodbridge. (That's in Irvine, yo.) Middle act Greg Behrendt (one of my three favorite comics in LA) discussed how, at 38, he is no longer cool and declared the need for adult rock shows. They would start at 7 p.m., no one under 28 would be admitted, and they would end at 8 p.m., with valet parking all the way around the arena. Sadly, Behrendt then got into a discussion of Pictionary.

But headliner Chappelle—much-loved among the Irvine thug crowd for his movies Half-Bakedand, uh, probably some other ones about weed, too—was prepared to delight us, first whistling the theme to The Smurfs to capture OC's essence and then discussing, at length, his thesis that when people fuck animals, bad things happen. He was in the middle of the differences between the way white people and black people talk when someone in the back shouted out, “You're a goddamn dirty coon!” and then followed that up with, “Show me the money!” All the white people started yammering (especially those up front, who by this point felt they and Chappelle had a personal relationship), and from that point, nobody would shut up. Apparently, they had never so much as thought a prejudiced thing—at least not about those black people who are well-spoken, well-educated and funny. But Chappelle didn't want to see any white-on-white violence. “I might be the first black man to be called a coon in 40 years!” he declared almost happily, and he kept things light—except that by this time, everyone was drunk and ready to riot like it was 1965.

Fake Celebrity Spotting of the Week! On the way out of the Barnes & Noble into the surprisingly chic mall Friday night, I passed a man I thought was Ben Affleck but who thankfully wasn't. Affleck is so handsome and well-spoken and a born-and-bred Democrat who actually (just like Jena!) reads newspapers. He's also 100 percent charisma-free. There was a period in my life where I just didn't know what I would do if I had to pick between Affleck and his small buddy Matt Damon. But then I saw Bounce. Reindeer Games? Armageddon? It's so sad. Read along with the Girl: Co**********@ho*****.com“>Co**********@ho*****.com.

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