From the End of the World

I like documentaries better than almost any movies. And I like non-fiction and history to read.

Showtime had really a great documentary on tonight:  From the End of the World, about the final tour last year of one of the world’s most popular groups.  It didn’t glorify them as indiviuals, and by the end you felt great compassion for them as they disbanded.

After having virtually nothing to do with the music business other than enjoying it during my Derby years, it virtually became my life and lifeblood for over 25 years that I was in the computerized ticketing business. I wanted to know all about it, so I made friends and worked with virtually all the clubs, venues, and promoters in Northern Califonia.  I heard Huey Lewis and the News at their very first date at the Old Waldorf, saw Prince at the Keystone, and the list of acts could go on and on as at the time most performers and groups played the clubs or the smaller venues like the Fillmore or other places where promoter Bill Graham presented them.

Then for some unkown reason I was asked to be ticket manager and advance person for the secret Roller Thunder Revue tour through the Northeastern US, featuring Bob Dylan (actually the promoter), Joan Baez, T-Bone Burnett, Roger McGuinn and others and saw the mechanics of a tour, so different from when we toured with Roller Derby.

And when I was back in the Bay Area I tuned in to what the FM stations and AM rock stations were playing and subscribed to all music publications so I would know who the artists were, often before they even toured so they could either be our clients or we could sign up the venues they might play in……I can honestly say that there wasn’t an artist from Rhythm and Blues to jazz, Rock and Roll to Punk and Country that I didn’t have a good idea what their popularity and ticket selling potential would be.

I would pour over the weekend papers and counter-culture publications to get an idea of who would be the next big act, and at that time the club scene provided a huge share of our ticket sales.  And through the popular club (long gone) Keystone Berkeley, the Hells Angels found me and for several years I promoted their outlaw country acts:  Willie, Waylon, Merle, etc.

Well finally in the late 90s my days ended with BASS and Ticketmaster, and I purposely wouldn’t look at the publications or listen to the radio to keep up with the music scene……I loved he fabulous Days on the Green, seeing Prince at the Forum in LA, Madonna at Madison Square Garden, backstage with Elton at the Universal Amphitheatre, but it was because my work required it…

I still listen to the music I like, and when the Stones tour I try to see them but damned if I will pay $500 for a ticket.

So that what was so strange about this wonderful documentary I saw; it was about a group of ex-djs who played electronic music that was rave oriented and drew crowds of 30,000 to 60,000 everywhere they went on this final tour.

Their name was Swedish House Mafia, and I had never heard of them.

So I guess my abdication was effective.

Clatsop County Roller Derby? are you kidding me?

(1) Tara Hopman Dyrset.

Pictured in the link above is Shanghaied Roller Dolls, out of Astoria, Oregon……see if you can pick out my friend, Tara Hopman Dyrset…..of course you can, immediately.

So much of my family history is in Clatsop County. Every summer for as long as I can remember we were in Seaside and eventually had a home there. Seaside is on the Pacific Ocean, just 16 miles from Astoria, which sits at the mouth of the Columbia river on the ocean. I fished in the Columbia and actually caught a 38-pound Chinook….not sure you can still catch any in the River.

Tara’s day job is at the Columbia Hospital, an excellent medical facility serving the county……Her fun job is Roller Derby.

She does the merch and tickets for Shanghaied Roller Derby….I can only assume the name comes from the former great seaport of Astoria and those unfortunate enough to have been slipped a mickey and awaken on a sailing festival far out to sea.

Astoria is named for the prominent pillager of animal skins and other travesties, John Jacob Astor…..the Astor tower sits far above the small city and you probably saw it in Arnold’s Kindergarten Cop which was filmed in Astoria, and Tara sent me a great photo of her team around the statue in front.

This is a league for fun; they got rid of the drama last year and have made it easy to come and skate and learn and enjoy…..great participants in the local communities and parades and gatherings and functions….just what you would want to be when you think of Roller Derby.

And a number of women are from Seaside, near Seltzer Park.

Last Saturday they had a game at the Fairgrounds in Astoria; ironically where we had scheduled Willie Nelson for a benefit to raise money for Seltzer Park….Obviously we succeeded with other fund raising and benefit concerts by Willie again in Seaside and one by the Smothers Brothers.

And their game last weekend sold out, drawing 500 people to the building and it was fast and hard hitting and everyone had a great time….who won? I don’t know and don’t care.

By the way, they sold out their advance tickets through Brown Paper Tickets.

Thunder Road, Etta James, Judi and me

Jerry Seltzer:

The good news: Frank Deford’s classic 5 Strides on the Banked Track is coming out as an ebook on March 25, and this was the night he and Willie, and Roger Ebert, The Smothers Brothers, and my “friends” roasted me……too damn many memories to keep track of.

Originally posted on

Thunder Road is a teenage drug and alcohol center in Oakland that is so much more.  It includes family counseling activities and training for life.

My friend, Joel Selvin, rock critic for the San Francisco Chronicle went to the center to help establish a music department and ended up being a huge supporter.  He put together an annual “Roast and Jam” at San Francisco’s oldest nightclub and invited local celebrities to be “roasted” and local musicians, who probably had similar problems as the kids, to perform.  He was able to have Van Morrison, Sammy Hagar, Huey Lewis, the Doobies, and on and on show up.  And Herbie Herbert, manager of Journey, became a mainstay of the roasters.

Bill Graham, Joel, Sammy Hagar and others were roasted, and I think Joel ran out of victims and asked me to be skewered.  I was an easy target because my computerized ticketing company…

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Another fine mess I got myself into

Weird things:  I skated with the munchkins, yes the real munchkins from the Wizard of OZ; wrestled for intramural championship at Stanford, and took third place (more on that later); rode with the Hells Angels; toked with Willie in his bus; and I could go on.  But yesterday was terrifying.

I decided yesterday morning I was going to go to a club on Open Mike night and do stand up.  There actually was an ulterior motive….more on that later.

I had been around comedy all my life; my father had Red Skelton and Lord Buckley as MCs for the Walkathon; I was at Roller Derby at the Pan Pacific in Los Angeles when Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Joe E. Brown, and Mickey Rooney were there; and of course saw most comedians in person later, from Bob Hope to Mort Sahl to Robin, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Richard Pryor, and on and on.  I became friends with Tom and Dick Smothers.

And lately have become comedy enthused again after seeing Torio Van Grol and the great comedy acts he has brought to Sonoma (tickets at Brown Paper tickets of course).  And along the way have established friendships with Kevin Pollak (the best impressions of Jack Nicholson, Alan Arkin and more) and Bobby (pitbull comedy) Slayton.

So I figured if I could get a decent opening and closing and didn’t screw up too badly, I might get away with it  (sample later).   So I wrote it out, put a bunch of things on a small cheat sheet and went over it   a few times.

There are three great clubs that have opened in Marin and Sonoma County the past five years called Hopmonk.  Really good food, great bars and outside areas, good music….and I was hoping to add them as clients for my employer, Brown Paper Tickets.  So I came up with his idea of why not go and perform at open mike night…..I can’t sing or play an instrument worth a damn.

And I figured if I did it in Sonoma a lot of my friends would show up and kindly laugh at anything……wrong.

I tweeted both Kevin Pollak (you know him from “The Usual Suspects”  the other attorney with Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”, Daryl Hannah’s boyfriend in “Grumpy old men” and many more movies) and Bobby Slayton (he  has been in a number of films, played the Casino manager in “Pulp Fiction”) asking for advice.

Kevin tweeted “Record it”…..sorry Kevin, not a chance.

Bobby was a little more down to earth:  “Since you are a senior citizen, the audience will be more tolerant when you fuck up”……gee, Bobby, why would you assume I would not be perfect.

So I went to the Hopmonk in Sonoma and signed up.  There were about 6 other music acts and one other comedian (I cringed at the name “comedian”).

It turned out the manager of  Hopmonk was BJ, an old friend, and we chatted and I guzzled down a merlot.  And then Allison Coats, the daughter of  PR friend Michael Coats, came over…..I was feeling better already.

After two really good singers and guitarists performed, the MC called my name….I don’t really recall walking to the stage.  I looked out and saw none of my friends had come to support me, but the twenty-somethings and others looked okay so I grabbed the mike and started in:

“Hi, my name is Jerry……I am a sex addict…….oh shit, is tonight Thursday?”

“When I was born, Hoover was President…..took me years to realize that a vacuum cleaner didn’t cause the Great Depression”

“But Americans are tough and resilient…look how well we have managed to exist without  Hostess cup cakes, Ding Dongs, and Twinkies”

“As  you may or may not know, James Gondolfini died today….what a a tragedy….and Boehner is already blaming it on Obamacare”

“Sorry for the cheat sheet (actually, I hadn’t looked at it!),  I usually write the notes on my hand but Sarah Palin still has the Sharpie”

Good response, happy faces, chuckles, laughs, and I am wondering how much of what Bobby had said was true…. it was not great stuff but it all came from my brain.

I then did a bit of family history, a couple of funny stories from Roller Derby times, some from my ticketing days, and explained I was now working for the best ticketing company in the world, not just for profit and community oriented as penance for being part of raising the service charges with BASS and Ticketmaster.

I then closed with “people ask me why you are able to function so well at your age; well I don’t smoke and rarely drink, exercise, take vitamins and I never eat anything that Michael Douglas does”      Huge laugh, leave the stage.     Whew.

So Torio asks if I will pursue this career.  Of course, right after I swim the Everest.

Oh, there were only two other wrestlers in my weight class (110 pounds).  I lost badly to both, but still got third place for valuable points for Encina West…we ended up being intramural champs….who was our best athlete in our wing?  Bob Mathias, Olympic decathlon champion.  Don’t tell me I didn’t have friends in high places.