Saturday, August 30, 2008

INTERVIEW WITH BILLY STARK - PART 4

Continuing with my interview with Billy Stark of the Blessed. Part 4.

ME: Who was the first really famous person that you met? Were you at all impressed that you were so young?

BILLY: The first so called famous person of any note that I can recall had nothing to do w/music. That would be Elia Kazan (The Director) My Father was friends with him and his wife. We visited him @ his house somewhere upstate-when I was about 8 or 9 years old. When I still lived in Connecticut my Mother and I used to go to the Westport country playhouse to see plays in the summer. This is the place that literally started summer stock theatre so we used to finagle our way backstage and I got the only two autographs I have ever asked for in my life Vivian Vance a.k.a. Ethel Mertz on ‘I love Lucy" and Shirley Booth a.k.a. ‘Hazel’. I also met Hans Conried but I didn’t know who he was and my autograph asking career was over @ 9 years old.

There was also a certain amount of so called celebrities, artists, models, and people of all walks in the arts that my father associated with through his work and studio from before I was born. Through my school in NYC there was all that element of "Famous" so I have never been what you call star struck. I don’t recall ever having posters of Rock people on my wall-Movie stuff yeah-maybe a Pistols poster when they came out but that early Pistols stuff was ART –Jamie Reid stuff- but never that typical teenage stuff. I’ve always admired people themselves and their work, not the show biz personas but the behind the fa├žade grist and mill. Blind fan worship always seemed really weird to me.

One of the reason that Rock’N’Roll was attractive to me is when I was 11 years old I was having such a miserable time in Connecticut and when I took notice of some groups of the day "Hey! Those people look kind of look like me and vice versa" and look at all the people that are attracted to them and how crazy they go over them?? HMM, maybe that’s the road I should take! This was a contrast to the crew cut haired kids whose mothers bought their clothes and dressed them that I was associated w/ in the Good old Elementary schools of Connecticut. After seeing how manic fans acted toward the bands and liked them THAT MUCH, I thought maybe that’s the direction I should take. The secondary reason thing- was how people go crazy over groups. THE MAIN REASON is I wanted to perform and be creative in that area - fame etc was the secondary reason.

One last thing is that I never went through a girls are "icky" phase that so many kids go through. I always enjoyed and liked girls as they had better conversations and were more into music and stuff. You hear about so many Guys who get into bands to GET GIRLS but I always did very well Thank you with or without being in a band although being in a band certainly made it more palatable and opened up many more avenues to explore. Now I don’t like when people go into details and name names and such I think that’s just vulgar and I will always keep that side private. I kiss but I don’t tell but let me conclude that for a 15-16 year there were plenty of ‘older’ women in their 20’s and such who did show me a great time so a big Thanks to them all. I tell you, some of these women –and girls too -were really so brazen and so upfront, talk about your lack of inhibitions I mean it was ALMOST SHOCKING -lol

ME: What was it like for you in high school? Did the kids in your class know that you played in a band at night?

BILLY: Ok, here is where it gets ugly. I quit High school when the band started. I went about two weeks into 11th grade when I was 15 so I have really no idea if anyone knew I played in a band although I had run into a couple of them later on but I’m pretty sure most knew I quit school to start a band. I didn’t play @ night then go to school the next day. It was all Blessed all the time.

Now here is a dirty little secret no one but the band members and very close friends ever knew –a very guarded secret-lol- but the school I went to was for Professional kids who were working as Actors and in the Arts. The other one in the city was Professional Childrens school but mine was their competitor if you will. It was in Lincoln Center across from the Julliard. The premise was that the curriculum was kept to a minimum as the students were professionals in the industry, on TV shows, movies, Broadway shows, Ballet etc. They had very busy work schedules that the school was set up to accommodate. It was very small of 150 students or so from grades Kindergarden through 12th grade. I went there from 7th through two weeks in 11th. It was a private school but the first year a friend of my parents paid for it and the following years we scrimped and paid as I went along. The school needed the enrollment Numbers for the State or something and kind of let me slide but I never had any friends over my house. We didn’t have any(very little) furniture and stuff and I was very much a black sheep out of my element. In fact The Band was the first friends I think I ever had over and the lack of furniture made it easy when we started to rehearse there.

Anyhow one of the kids in my class who I sometimes would hang w/ after school has a Mother that worked for a big talent agency and we’d hang out there sometimes (they lived in the same building as the Agency). Eventually they asked me if I wanted to get into the biz. So for a few years I did a few things, some movies, TV, a bunch of commercials, a small thing on a soap opera. But I didn’t actively pursue it since I wanted to be a Rock’n’Roll singer and was terrified of getting a sitcom or something. It never really works our for Actors who go into music. I remember going on some audition for some Shakespeare thing on Broadway and purposely NOT DOING GOOD so I wouldn’t get it.

The first ‘PROFESSIONAL’ thing I did was when I was 3 years old. My father was a commercial photographer and used me in an ad for a Sunday supplement ad. I did several modeling things as I was growing up and a lot of test stuff for his ad agencies etc. So by the time the Blessed started I had a bit of ‘PERFORMING’ experience under my belt. Being in a Band was my main and only choice of creative expression or what have you @ the time. I like to joke that I was the only member of The Blessed in S.A.G.(Screen Actors Guild) though I let my membership lapse when the band started and the only Blessed member---so far as I know-to have been directed by Woody Allen (I worked on Annie Hall for about a week). So this also answers the previous question-Who was the first famous person you met?

A lot of the kids in my school and class were well known on TV and movies and having worked on sets myself and in the industry I’d met a lot as well. I was never particularly ‘Star-Struck’. I was always been more interested in people and their work rather than fan type stuff. How it felt the first time on stage - it was just where I wanted to be. With having worked on movie and TV sets etc I already had been performing in a sense for a few years so being on stage wasn’t as foreign to me as it was for the other band members.

Also in late’76 my school was planning a charter trip to London-with an emphasis on the Plays and a Shakespeare excursion or whatever which would have been nice. I would have gone and ditched the school thing to go see The Pistols and everything else going on there at that time at The Roxy Etc. Maybe I could have caught an Anarchy Tour date or something but it was cancelled due to lack of interest. I WAS SO PISSED- but I showed them by quitting the following year-lol -OK that’s enough of that.

XXXO
http://www.jlporiginals.com/
www.myspace.com/jlporiginals

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interview with Billy Stark (Blessed) Part 3

ME: Since you were so young, what did you think of the fact that you had fans?

BILLY: Age really had nothing to do with it. I don’t think or felt at the time that ‘How unusual it is that we’re so young and have "fans". We were a new band and pleased that it was working and people were coming to see us and each show the crowds grew and grew so it was as it would be for ANY band regardless of age. I mean I didn’t know any different being 15 or 16 or whatever, it was all I knew at that point so there was nothing to compare it to.

Now, Do you mean now looking back? -its what we set out to do and it worked to a certain degree-its interesting that it DID work to an extent-Not to the level we would have liked or were aiming for nor did the real message I think we were driving at once we got rolling(no pun intended) the whole Teenage aspect was unavoidable and we just dealt with it head on so, the fact was that we WERE teenagers who HATED being teenagers and ranted about it-not in a dopey angst way like many emo-esque bands do today but I just couldn’t stand these 30 year old guys singing about how they wish they were 16 again…. Oh, to relive those good times blah blah blah SHUT UP I’M 16 AND IT SUCKS AND I DON’T ever want to go through this again.

Even now I have no desire to be 16 again heh especially now –lol-most teenagers are very self conscious and just want to fit in and all. We had was an over the top amount of swagger and self-confidence and reveled in our otherness that was rare for a bunch of teenagers. We didn’t sing about your run of the mill teen subjects but in a world weary and jaded maybe slightly feigned way for guys our age and I think most importantly we played up to the fact that we aware that we (at least thought ) we were COOL but in a very non-chalant way, not in an arrogantly off putting way but a genuine healthy kind of take no prisoners confidence despite whatever the situation we were in.

But its funny because we never wanted to really dwell on our YOUNGER THAN THOU stance because that can only last so long and not really what we wanted to be. It was an IN and it was a good way to start off to make our mark and move on. Ironically Nick leaving the band at the time allowed us to do just that-leave it behind and move on although I would have liked to have had an album of that period for posterity but we have some tapes and videos. I’m still trying to track down so that’s that. In conclusion its funny because we never intentionally set out nor planned to be THIS TEENAGE BAND. We just happened to be teenagers-any other member had we met them could have been a 20 year old or whatever on Bass or Drums-it truly was serendipitous that we came together-right place right time. THERE WAS NO ELSE OUT THERE AT THAT TIME.

We really were a perfect snapshot of disaffected yet smart alecky pseudo-intellectual City kids in the mid to late 70’s NYC who feigned an impression of being world weary and jaded @ 16. We were the combination of this new energy and the Punk scene and everything we played up our Younger than thou stance and it allowed us to be more obnoxious than otherwise. We hated it when some people were condescending and ‘Oh, aren’t they cute and all’ first and foremost we wanted to be taken seriously as real contenders in the arena.

Keep in mind that most groups play around a lot before they get noticed but right from the get go from our first gig we had a crowd, made some real $$$, and wound up in major mags. We had to grow-up and learn our craft in the spotlight so we never had a chance to work out any kinks in the band-we did all that on stage. One other thing I do regret is us telling Frank Zappa(RIP) to ‘F*ck off’.He had come to see us play and was interested in maybe buying Howie’s ‘Rare’ Dan Electro Bass and when word was sent to us that Frank wanted to talk we said ‘Tell him to F*ck Off’-nothing personal against Frank-it just seemed like ‘the thing for us to do’. In retrospect I would have enjoyed chatting with him. Plus we never did find out how much he was willing to offer for the Bass-lol-. Finally I will admit in retrospect there was probably a certain Three Stooges quality to the Three of us banging and bounding into other-who is which Stooge is up to conjecture Though (I’ll take Moe’s spot Thank You-lol)

ME: Where was your favorite show you played?

BILLY: Oh all of them !!!-you should ask which were my LEAST favorites–lol- but favorites I think our best ‘FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS’ one so to speak was the Rock convention/Flea market-@ the Diplomat Hotel(same venue the Dolls had played years before I think when Kiss were still opening for them but I’m not sure if it was the same ballroom or not). Also most of the shows at Maxs. Both Nick and Walter eras-this club on West 8th St. downstairs called Rock Bottoms we had some good ones, a few CBGB’s ones- also playing w/ the Dead Boys was fun despite people during the first set yelling out ‘Bring on the real Dead Boys’ and ‘We want the Real Dead Boys-lol- but by the second set and second night we were getting encores so there ya’ go (and I had a tape of that first set with all the cat calls too-but its gone but I just got pix of it though!).

Of course the ‘21’ club would have to be mentioned and the party @ the Nirvana restaurant. I think Nicks last show with us was really good, not because it was his last one-lol- but we showed this old hard core XXX 8mm movie before we on and the crowd had this whole L.A. contingent that converged onto NYC at the time, among the audience was-and if I forget anyone apologies all round but Kid Congo-Trudie-members of X-members of the Dickies I think-members of the Screamers I think-Alice Bag etc, I used to have a tape of this show and Nick played great-he just ROARED and of course the shows we did w/The Student Teachers,The Misfits,The Fast,The Stimulators,The Contortions, The Senders, (if I have forgotten anyone I apologize-please send an E-Mail to the Administrator) !But yeah the Rock Convention/flea market (w/ Legendary Night Bob ( Dolls Stooges, Aerosmith Etc) doing sound for us was MY favorite.

ME: Yes - I will write about the show at the Rock & Roll Flea Market at the Diplomat Hotel when I get up to that section in my diary. You played there on my 21st birthday on April 1st, 1979. What a perfect birthday gift.

XXXO
http://www.jlporiginals.om/
www.myspace.com/jlporiginals

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The First Snow of 1979

Jan 6th, 1979
Went to Max's to see The Fast & Authur's Dilemma. Debby Harry was supposed to be there & I was to meet her through Paul Zone but she wasn't there. I went up to the dressing room to see Paul Zone before the set. He kissed me hello and gave me a photo of Debby Harry he took 5 1/2 years ago. Wasn't that nice of him. I couldn't believe it. He is such a doll. First we had gone to the store Next and then into Howie Pyro's store. I had a really nice long talk with Billy Stark from the Blessed. He is so nice. We wants the Blessed to play in the Garden one day. I hope they do get famous because I am president of their fan club. JV said we should all run the fan club but I am the only President. I think that Mare is in love with Howie. It is kind of nauseating to hear her talk about him all the time. She is always saying such retarded things that are so embarassing. The Fast are playing on Monday & Tuesday at Hurrah's & I want to go but not sure because of the weather. We had to leave early last night because of the snow. Mare was driving but if I was driving I never would have left.

XXXO
JLP
http://www.jlporiginals.com/

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Years Eve...Welcome in 1979

Dec 31st, 1978
Went into NYC for New Years Eve. We really had no plans at all. We went to Max's but it was too early. So we walked over to the Palladium and the David Johansen Band was playing. We ran into one of the Heartbreakers roadies that we knew and he gave us free tickets into the show. I was able to get to the front of the stage and Thomas & Syl saw us. After that we went to Max's and they were sold out. Thank God because we saw a flyer that said the Senders and Johnny Thunders new band were playing at this place called Studio 10. Jerry Nolan and Authur Kane were in the band with him. So we went there and it was great. The sound was so awful and Johnny Thunders was so F'd up. Walter Lure was there and we saw Howie at the end of the night. They had gone to the Mudd Club to see the Cramps. We were going to go there but I am so glad that we didn't. All in all the night turned out to be really great and as it turned out, we got to see all of the New York Dolls between David Jo at the Palladium and Johnny Thunders at Studio 10. Happy New Years! Let 1979 bring in fame & fortune!

XXXO
JLP
www.jlporiginals.com

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More December Nights....

Dec 29th, 1978
Went to Max's and saw the Cramps and this horrible country band. I do not even know their name. I saw Tommy Trask & Buzzy Verno from the David Johansen Band and spoke with them awhile. I saw a bunch of people I had not seen in a long time. The Cramps were great, and Joon, one of the girls we went with is so insane with them.

Dec 30th, 1978
Went to the Red Foxx Inn in New Brunwick, NJ and saw The Rozz. It was my first time that I ever saw them. There were really good and I heard that they all used to really be into Bowie. They did "Chinese Rocks" and "Chatterbox".

XXXO
www.jlporiginals.com

Friday, August 1, 2008

More Rumors...

Dec 28th, 1978
Went into NYC last night. First we went to Howie's store and hung out there for a little while. Then we took Howie and some kid to Max's. We saw Suicide & Walter Stedding. I ran into Lisa and she told me this rumor that this mutual friend of ours is gay and he is really a husler. Some things make more sense now. Walter Lure dyed his hair black. He looks younger but I liked it better orange.

I HATE COLLEGE!

Dec 23rd, 1978
I got my report card. I got 2 B's, 2 C's, & 1 F. I want to kill my teacher for the F. Now I have to take 18 credits my last semester at college. I should have majored in following rock bands. I can not want to get out of school.