Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Sunday and it's Father's Day. I'm a father so it's my day too. My son once said to me he's glad he's not Batman. When I asked why he said, "Because them you'd be dead." He has a point. Father's out there, this Father's Day, embrace the man you've truly become... a motherfucker. Okay, that was uncalled for... I apologize. Let's move on, shall we?
Yep, today is Father's Day, and a few housemates in Spokane, Washington, who won't have access to their own dads for the weekend thought it might be fun to hire a freelance father figure for their backyard BBQ. So they did what any of us would do and posted an ad on Craigslist. Craigslist has unconscionably deleted the post, but here's what it looked like...
According to local news affiliates, the guys did get in touch with a few eligible dads, and with forty people attending, they would be interested in hiring as many as three. The payment isn't in cash, of course, but grilled meat and cold beer. But who is their ideal candidate? None other than Bill Murray. The party is today, so they probably have time to re-post the ad and interview more than a few candidates. I just hope their actual dads aren't too hurt.
You may have heard that this summer's Shakespeare in the Park production, staged by New York's Public Theater, is Julius Caesar. If you passed either your 10th-grade English or history class, then you know the play involves the assassination of the Roman dictator. And, because Shakespeare's works are often adapted to address the current political climate, the Caesar of this play is styled to look a bit like President Donald Trump. That doesn't sit well with Trump-supporting goons who lack any grasp of art or literature, many of whom are now openly threatening theater companies that have nothing to do with the Central Park production simply because they have "Shakespeare" in their name. But the backlash truly reached a hysterical pitch on Friday night, when two alt-right trolls interrupted the controversial show. The first, identified as Laura Loomer, got on stage to denounce "normalization of political violence against the right." Once she got hauled off the stage (on the way to getting arrested), the guy filming the outburst... Jack Posobiec... stood up and started calling everyone in the audience "Goebbels," as in the Nazi minister of propaganda during World War II. Wow, guys, you did it! You... got kicked out of a Shakespeare play that continued without incident. Congratulations. Why do I suddenly get the feeling that this is going to be a very long, hot, stupid summer? Maybe next year they should put on a Beckett play instead. Sure, it would mean lower attendance, but at least no right-wing illiterate would pretend to understand what it means.
Here's a story that covers humanity at its worst and also at its best. Buckle up! The owner of auto repair shop Collision Masters LLC in Buffalo, New York, shared on the shop's Facebook page Tuesday about a customer who came in that day after his truck had been covered with racist graffiti. "All the air tools and employees stopped and shook their head in disgust on what they saw," wrote shop owner Frank Todaro. This is the sight that caused an entire auto body repair shop (and those places are noisy as fuck!) to fall silent...
Some spineless, anonymous human garbage had sprayed the n-word and other hate speech on all sides of the man's car. Now that we've covered the "worst of humanity" section of this post, let's move on to the "best of." This auto body repair shop and their staff quickly sprung to action. "I looked at the driver and told him that 'you are not leaving until I fix this!' wrote Todaro on Facebook. "Literally my guys dropped everything and attacked this truck like a Pit Crew and got the job done." With everyone chipping in, they got the job done in 30 minutes, and free of charge. "I told the owner of the vehicle this ones on me and I wanted him to know that Buffalonians will never stand for this!" wrote Todano. "Great job and many thanks to the team at Collision Masters." Good karma pays off, apparently. Because Todaro's post has gone massively viral with over 53,000 shares on Facebook since Tuesday. And based on the comments, I'm starting to think humanity might actually be okay after all. So, in conclusion... some people are good. Some people are human garbage. But at least when human garbage strikes, there's a great auto body shop in Buffalo who can help you clean up the mess.
In today's episode of, "wtf were these white people thinking???" popular game show "Wheel of Fortune" celebrated "Southern Charm Week" by using a photograph of a plantation house featuring two black women who appear to be dressed in "slave garb" in the background. Yeah, no one finds this "charming," "Wheel of Fortune." The misguided choice of background image, in a segment featuring hosts Vanna White and Pat Sajak, was spotted by Twitter user Josh Itiola. "Someone please tell me why @WheelofFortune has slaves in their 'Southern Charm Week' images?" he wrote in the tweet. So far, we don't have an answer to his (very valid) question. The show's executive producer Harry Friedman has since apologized for the gaff. "We regret the use of this background image, and we will be replacing it moving forward on any rebroadcast," he said in a statement to the "Daily News." Cool, thanks. But this sketchy story has an even sketchier possible back-story. Because according to an executive for the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana... where the photo was reportedly taken... the venue does not have actors who "dress up as slaves," the "Daily News" reports. Which leads to this question I never thought I'd have to ask... did "Wheel of Fortune" photo shop pictures of slaves in to an existing photo of a plantation?? Plantation spokeswoman (holy smokes what a weird job title) Hillary Loeber told the "Daily News" the show filmed at the plantation more than a decade ago, but she's "not sure" if the picture in this segment was taken by the game show's producers and adds that they may have purchased a stock photo. Regardless of where the photo originated, casually using a photo of women who appear to be slaves in a segment about "southern charm" is a huge NOPE. C'mon, "Wheel of Fortune." We expected only marginally better from you.
There are many things going on in the world to be concerned about right now. Donald Trump's precarious grasp on grammar, laws, and sanity. Vladimir Putin being lauded for putting on heartwarming piano recitals. People using their boyfriend's scrotum to blend their makeup. Just in case you had any confidence left in the American public, here's a statistic guaranteed to destroy it... Seven percent of Americans believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. That works out to 16.4 million people in this country who really, truly believe that if you squeeze the udder of a brown cow, Nesquik comes out. God help us. The shocking statistic comes from an online survey conducted by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy. It's easy to dismiss this number as fake or inflated (it HAS to be, right? Right?!) but as the "Washington Post" points out, a Department of Agriculture study once found that 20% of Americans were not aware that hamburgers are made of beef. And many Americans rank "potato chips" as their favorite vegetable. In other words, maybe we should be counting it as a win that people realize milk... chocolate or plain... comes from cows at all. At this point, if Trump wanted to nominate Jessica Simpson for Secretary of Agriculture, it wouldn't just make perfect sense, it would be exactly what we deserve.
So, I usually just sea shorts and a t-shirt as you know, kids, but if this was the 70s I would be wearing this...
Sex. Do you know what I think is cool? When geeks protest, like this one...
Voldemort and all of the Malfoys may have found their home in Slytherin, but even the Sorting Hat would have had a hard time justifying the decision to put Trump in with all the other Slytherins and with the failure of his Healthcare plan and Muslim Ban, it seems Trump can't even pull off great, but terrible things like He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. So, I saw this pic of Jeff Sessions the other the day and it reminded me of something...
And then it hit me...
See what I mean? Speaking of Jeff Sessions, dod you watch the hearings? In case you didn't, here is a quick screen shot...
Hahaha. Ever see an inanimate object and think you see a face? Me too. Check it out...
Hahahaha. That made me laugh. By the way, if you ever feel like cheating on your loved one may this pic change your mind...
I feel bad for somebody but he or she probably deserved it. So, a few weeks ago I told you the story about the men's lace shorts... well, it seems they have caught on in Washington D.C...
Hahahaha. Okay, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...
Top Phive Things Overheard During Melania's Move Into The White House
5. If you see a creepy stranger in the bushes outside the window, it's just Sean Spicer!
4. Don't throw out the boxes and bubble wrap... I probably won't be here long!
3. As requested, Mrs. Trump, your own bedroom that locks from the inside!
2. See, Melania... I started my own booger wall, just like at home!
And the number one thing overheard during Melania's move into the White House was...
1. Wow, not a single box of books.
Hmmmm. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, my son and I were recently talking how when he was a toddler we used to watch "Sesame Street" together. In hindsight I don't think t was the best show for him to watch...
Hahaha. Alright, kids, are you ready to play a game? It's time to play...
So, which one is it? Potato or Amy Schumer... send in your answers.
Donald Trump hasn't been a popular figure in the U.K. for some time, but his controversial reaction to the recent terrorist attacks in London cemented his place on the general population's list of "people we don't fancy at all." If you'll recall, Trump used the horrific attacks to rally support for his travel ban, and went on to twist the words of London Mayor Sadiq Khan to make him seem weak on terror. Trump was quickly and decisively slammed back by Khan's team, J.K. Rowling, and pretty much everyone in London. Even so, the U.K.'s conservative leader Theresa May has maintained that Trump would be welcome for a state visit whenever he'd like. The visit hasn't happened yet, and thanks to recent reports of a phone call between Trump and May, we might finally know why. Trump has indicated he wants to put off his visit until he can be reasonably assured that he won't have to deal with protesters and a negative reception. So... like... never? According to "The Guardian," Trump "told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming." Based on current public opinion, the odds of the U.K. enthusiastically welcoming Trump are slim to none. But best of luck with that, Mr. President.
April 3rd, 1930 — June 16th, 2017
They said he was friends with Vladimir Putin. The leader of a country friends with that maniac? Man. Good thing that would never happen in the U.S.
The 61st book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...
Phile Alum and author Jim Korkis will be the guest on the Phile a week from today.
This is pretty cool... today's guest is is an American actor, musician, and playwright, whose career includes roles in films, stage productions and on television, for which he has won an Emmy Award and received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Tony Award nominations. His album "Days Like These" is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile, the one and only... Jeff Daniels!
Me: Hey, Jeff, welcome to the Phile. It's so great to have you here. How are you?
Jeff: You bet. I'm good. You?
Me: I'm okay I guess. So, I love the album 'Days Like These," Jeff. It came out a few years ago, I know, but when did you start writing for it?
Jeff: The recording process is easier to pin down. The writing has took about five years or so. "Days Like These" I probably wrote in '88, "California" was probably in the 90s... I got this notebook full of songs. Some of them are crap, I am not gonna play them for anybody. But you have to write that one to get to a good one. Then as I went through them I thought well, maybe if I did something with "Days Like These" it might work and that's how they kind of got pulled out and at least get looked at as a possibility.
Me: Are you writing songs all the time, even if you are on a film set, or do you set a side a time to write?
Jeff: I am kinda always writing. I have a theater company called Purple Rose Theater Company and every Christmas and New Years I go on stage and play songs and do comedy and stuff. It raises a lot of money for the theater. It's strange because I think the closer I get to have to walk on stage with a guitar the writer in my goes "let's get this, let's get that. It needs help."
Me: It's a laid back record, Jeff, different then I expected. When you recorded it was it laid back?
Jeff: Yeah, we recorded it in the cottage. There's a cottage next to our house here and I live on a lake and Ben and Amanda, his fiancée, live in that. They had converted out of it into a recording studio I kinda gave it to Brad Phillips who produced it and Ben who mixed it and went off to shoot Dumber and Dumber 2. They kinda did what they did with it and I'd say 90% of it is what they heard. They'd clear stuff with me and I'd say, yeah, go do it. I never tell anybody what to play... I don't do that with Brad, he knows more about music than I do. But "Holy Hotel" is a song that's all Brad. That's his string arrangement that he didn't even send in, he thought it was to much and I said no, no, no, if anything do more.
Me: I love that song... what is the Holy Hotel?
Jeff: That's something we learn later in life... Probably is triggered a little bit by all the religious wars we have going on still. We certainly had them for centuries. I had read a book called "The History of the Arts" and you saw what the Catholic church had done in the 14th century and you start to go nobody is immune here with the stuff that is going on with the terrorism and all in the name of religion and what people do in the name of Christianity to. We had in the first season of "The Newsroom" an episode where Will just starts riffing all the things done in the name of Christianity that were violent and cruel and all that. It just seemed to be a big huge charade and you kinda come to that and think I think I'll just check out of this Holy Hotel and live every day instead of the mercy of some Sunday morning doctrine.
Me: Not only are you a great actor but you are a great guitar player. I love the guitar sound at the start of "Wicked World," Jeff. Where did that come from?
Jeff: I had that little riff... I found that and that took about a month to master because it's so quick. And there's a lot of this finger picking so it's not like you have a flat pick. I like that and that hung around and I remember writing that during the first season of "Newsroom." I don't know but maybe it's because some of the stuff Aaron was writing about... I'm not sure but it just seemed like admist all this stuff is going on love still conquests all. So, that was kinda my version of that.
Me: I love the line "that'll make all the doors in your head start slamming." Where did that come from? It's very clever.
Jeff: That's a straight steal from a professional golf announcer, David Feherty. I don't know where he's from... I want to say Scotland or something but he's very well known here in the U.S. on the Golf Network and all of that. He's always one of the guys with the microphone and he has his own show. He's got some of the greatest little quips that he says, he's so funny. He was doing an interview with somebody and one guy said, "Oh, God, it was driving me crazy." And David said, "That'll make all the doors in your head start slamming" and I just stole it. It was a complete steal.
Me: I keep a notebook, or on my iPhone notes a list of interesting things I hear. Do you do the same thing, Jeff?
Jeff: I think writers do that. I write plays a lot to for my theater company and the radar is always out 24/7, and when I hear something it might be a play, it might be a line in a play, might be a song. We were doing an independent movie and Ryan Reynolds was in it. We were shooting in this little house, there and there was little room, so we were passing each other in the hallway and we tried to get around each other. As we came up we bounced and went the same way and he goes, "How about we take our pants off and relax?" I thought make a note, and that became a song called "How 'Bout We Take Our Pants Of and Relax?" which is actually a sing along. I get the audience to sing along with that lyric.
Me: When did you first start playing guitar, Jeff?
Jeff: Well, I knew four chords back about 1976. I moved to New York City to to be an actor and I bought a guitar, a Guild D-40, and threw it in the back of the car and took it with me. I have done musicals and taken a little piano but I just wanted to learn how to play the guitar, it's as simple as that. And when I got to New York, Off-Broadway, I was with Circle Repertory Company and there were a lot of play writes walking around for a young actor who had done plays in colleges... plays like Shakespeare, Molière, Ipsen, O'Neill and all that you just think they're all dead. Playwrites are dead. Then I went to New York and walk in and there's Lanford Wilson and other play writes sitting there trying to rewrite a second act. I thought my God, they live and breathe. I fell in love with that whole writing process... why his second draft was so much different than his first and why the first one was even better. I was thinking how did he make the change. So, I was immediately surrounded by all these writers and I wanted to do that. The place I could actually get a result was with a guitar... I could write a song. I started to pay attention to the songwriting, not just the melodies. You start picking up guys in my world... Arlo Guthrie, Steve Goodman, John Prine. These guys were paying attention to the words just like the playwrites... so, I chased that. I knew I couldn't get a play on Broadway, I couldn't write a movie and get it done, but I could write a song in my apartment and get that done. That became this wonderful creative outlet that a lot of musicians and songwriters have. It's what kept me sane during all those years. Still, all these years waiting for the phone to ring, if you're an actor you can go nuts or creatively you can go to sleep. To have a guitar and be writing, working on the next song is sanity. Do you play guitar, Jason?
Me: No, but I do play a mean kazoo. Haha. What is it about the guitar that you like?
Jeff: The guitar never lets you down, is always there when you need him, if you screw up and the guitar could talk it would go, "Oh, I didn't put my fingers there." But when you get it right it sounds so great, and you're are one with it. Then when you write something and it works... it's the joy of creating. It's what artists do and it doesn't happen the way you want it to all the time, no matter what you're creating. In my case, when it does work, I have it forever. I liken it to golf... I tried to play golf for years and I got okay at it, but the seven iron that you hit and lands three feet from the pin today you can go out there and drop the ball there tomorrow with the same seven iron and you put it in the pond. With the guitar the lick is still there... the one that you learned. As today is there tomorrow and it's there next week. I like that, I wish golf was the same but it's not.
Me: Okay, you play solo as a musician, right?
Jeff: I do, yeah. I did initially. As an actor with a guitar there's two strikes against you... they may be tickets critically... the critics go, "Go do something else please." So, I didn't want to go out there and hide behind a band or inside a band where I could play the wrong key and who would know. To be out there naked with an acoustic guitar and stuff I wrote... if I could pull that off that would allow me to be taken more seriously at least critically... sooner rather than later.
Me: Does being an actor help you perform as a musician?
Jeff: There's one thing I know how to do and that's be on a stage on Broadway... I know how to be in front of an audience. I spent decades doing that so with songs I can act them out. I just automatically play the different characters and it makes it more entertaining and it's any I've written some of the earlier CDs, some of the funnier stuff on them, partly because that's what people expect. When you do Dumb and Dumber they want some of that entertainment factor going in when they see you so you give them that. A part of that is acting and being so comfortable on the stage, its like a second home. It's more than just staring at the guitar and closing your eyes and doing a song that means something to me. I've always been taught as an actor that if there's no connection between what's happening on stage and the audience then you got nothing. I could sometimes help that by going to them as a character in a song or using the acting tools I've got to help the song.
Me: Jeff, I not only discovered that you play guitar, not just being good at it, but you have your own guitar model. How the hell did that happen? And congrats.
Jeff: Thanks. I did that. When I was in New York a friend of mine had a Martin and it just sounded different. I know there's luthiers all over the world who make their own special guitars that are ten thousand bucks a guitar and those are incredible, but the Martin had mystique of being a Martin. The braces are the same since way back when, so I completely bought in. I was doing a movie in L.A. about ten years ago or so and I had to do a scene where I was playing the guitar for my son in the movie. The prop truck had an Ephiphone, which is perfectly fine guitar, but I had a 1934 Martin that had a top piece on it that was from 2003. They had taken off the top piece because it had broken and now it was kinda a 1934 with a 2003 top... it was a hybrid. So it sounded like a vintage but it wasn't. I'm sitting there going hmmm, I wanted to play the Martin in the movie just because it was mine so I called the artists relation guy at Martin. I said, "Dick, you never met me, you don't know who I am..." He said, "Yeah, I now who you are. Dumb and Dumber." I said, "Okay, great, thank you. Listen, I'm doing this show, should I use the Epiphone or should I use a Martin?" He said, "We don't give money for that." I said, "I'm not asking for money." He said, "I'll tell you what, why don't you use the Martin and then come by Pennsylvania next time you're around, we'll give you a tour and we'll look at that '34 you got." I said, "Okay." A year later I showed up and we talked a little bit and he took a look at the guitar and he goes, "When did you start playing?" And I told him the 70s, then in the 80s I picked up all the tablature books from Stefan Grossman, who is a God... an acoustic guitar God. And I remember the CDs a friend of mine, the guy with the Martin, turned me on to John Renbourn and Grossman, all those LPs back then I thought these two guys... my God. I got the tab books from Stefan teaching you how to do the flat, the finger and alternating thumb and all that. That's where I learned to finger pick from Stefan's books. So, here we are 25 years later and Dick went, "Stefan Grossman, huh?" And I said, "Yeah." "Have you ever met him?" I said, "No, God, no." He goes, "Well, he's sitting way over there." And there he is! He was in New Jersey, he brought his guitar in to get fixed and he was just hanging around Martin. So, I talked to him and he couldn't be nicer and he helped my son Ben get a Martin and and he ended up being this great friend who that given me lessons. Stefan looked at my guitar and he told Dick, "You don't have this. You should make this, Dick." It's really similar to a lot of other guitars... like the Clapton signature guitar with the finger... it's a pretty close to that." Stefan really helped Dick and Chris Martin go well, yeah, okay, let's make it. So we made and specked it out specifically to the '34 and put different wood on it and stuff so you could take it to Europe without getting it confiscated... We sold about 50 or 60 of them, they made 7 at a time so they never lost money. It's inactive now which is great because now they're even more valuable, so that's how I got it. I mean I was just looking at the list... Johnny Cash has acted but he's a singer, Gene Autry has acted, Andy Griffith I think had one... I'm one of the few actors amidst of a list of about 50 artists... so I can go and go to heaven, it's all over now.
Me: That's funny. Do you pay banjo or mandolin or anything like that as well?
Jeff: I bought a banjo, open G, I can play it... I usually just whip it out to play certain songs for a different feel during a live show but I haven't pursued it. The time I sent working on the banjo is the time I should be getting better at the guitar. I bought a cigar box guitar when we were shooting Dumb and Dumber in Georgia and there was a guy named Mike Snowden from Snowdens Guitars who you should interview. He came to the hotel and said, "I heard you play." He brought all these cigar box guitars and I bought like four of them. They're great... three strings, you plug them in. We ended up writing a song that Ben's band and I do called "All So Close, But No Cigar." It's about the worst guy in the world that you wouldn't want to sit next to you in a bar if you were a woman. It's this guy putting all the moves on her and so close, no cigar. He doesn't get anywhere near.
Me: You write a lot of funny songs, and some serious ones like "Grandfather's Hat" which is a sad song from the album of the same name. You sure like going for people's emotions, don't you?
Jeff: That's the goal. Sometimes it is just to get a laugh, but sometimes it's the one that stay with them that connects with them. "Grandfather's Hat" is a song that does that. It's just a song about a missing a loved one. I wear this fedora sometimes and one time at an event for my kids a guy said, "Is that your grandfather's hat?" "No, but thank you." Then I went back and wrote it. But people come out and say I have my mothers necklace, my aunts bracelet, they're crying. I guess that's one of them. "Mile 416" is one. That's a song about driving down through Montana, nothing but prairie, and I was driving across country by myself and I went by one of those crosses on the side of the road where somebody had bought it and I just got the legal pad out and started to write this song about the person who I'll never meet.
Me: That's an emotional song. So, how do they play out in the show when you have a mixture of funny material and songs like "Mile 416"?
Jeff: It's a battle. Jim Carrey and I were talking about this... we were doing press for Dumber and Dumber To in London and Paris and he said, "I would love not to be so fabulous all the time." When you have to be so on... you just want to drop a song out there where they have to listen. It's a constant battle of how much can I get away with. Just doing that certainly with "Days Like These" there's nothing funny on that. I like being able to do that. I think I have to earn the right to get serious but what I found is if I do something that is humorous or light or funny it sets up "Mike 416" even more. It's just basic theater... they laugh, they're relaxed, and you hit them. You hit them with "Grandfather's Hat," you hit them with "Mile 416" and they're rocked even more. And then you pull them back out with "How 'Bout We Take Our Pants Off and Relax?" Then you're manipulating them, you're pulling them, you're pushing them... I enjoy that. I enjoy taking the audience by the lapels and moving them around for a hour and a half until alright, I'm done with you. Good night, drive safely.
Me: Hahaha. Let's talk about a funny song... what is "Allen Parkway Inn" about? It doesn't have a funny title but I love row words.
Jeff: It's a true story. We were shooting Terms of Endearment in Houston, Texas, and it was a big deal. I was 28-years-old, and you got Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Danny DeVito... you got big stars in a big movie and I'm just a no name actor from New York who got that role because no one in Hollywood of that age would even think about playing such an unlikeable character as Flap Horton, so I got it. Also they paid me like 30 dollars or something... so cheap. So I got the role. So, I get down there... so you'd think big movie, major movie, Paramount Studio, you hear we're staying at the Ritz-Carlton, five stars in Houston. You get off the plane, you're going there, there's all those limousines lined up. Jack gets in, Debra gets in, Shirley gets in a limo and they go, "Jeff." "What?" They go, "Get in the white van." You go over get in the van, with some of the crew and some of the producers. They ran out of limos, it's Houston, that's why. Ha. Okay, I don't have a problem with that. Heading to the Ritz-Carlton... there's the Ritz-Carlton... there goes the Ritz-Carlton. And we end up at a dive of a motel called The Allen Parkway Inn. You couldn't just hear the highway, you felt like you were on the highway. On the marque it said, "Welcome Taylor Clayborn" whoever that is. So, that's where I stayed. The walls were thin, you could hear though the walls and the doors were thin. At four in the morning there would be these fights right outside in the courtyard in Spanish. God bless them, but the Mexicans were beating the hell out of each other at four in the morning. They were drunk... Yeah, glamor, I'm in it for the glamor.
Me: Hahahahaha. You know what I really like about you, Jeff, is that you like to reflect about your experiences in your songs. That's kinda cool. Do you think people are interested in your career like that?
Jeff: To a certain degree. And thanks. The behind the scenes, the making of... there's an interest in that and having been in it and been through it I have the stories. Instead of writing a book and insulting the people I worked with I kinda find things that are more specific to me like Allen Parkway Inn. I kinda let them in on it. Especially when I'm playing clubs, they want to know that. If you give them some of that they'll allow you to do "Grandfather's Hat" kinda non-movie, non-acting stuff and they'll go, "Okay, go ahead, go be a songwriter now. I really enjoyed the Allen Parkway story. I'm good for about 15 minutes."
Me: I have to ask you about "The Dirty Harry Blues"... Great Clint impersonation by the way on the song. What does he think of it, do you know?
Jeff: My impersonation is not to bad. He's such a great guy and he's got such a sense of humor. I still don't know if he heard the song yet, I'm sure he has.
Me: You got to work with him in the movie Blood Work, right? What was that like?
Jeff: He's not unaware that he gets to kill you tonight. As far as days on the set go, for Clint that's a good day. I get to kill somebody. It's kinda fun. It's movies, it's fake, he kinda seemed there was a little spring in his step and my God, you're looking up at Clint Eastwood with a gun and you're trying not to anticipate pulling the shot goes boom... you do the thing, you fall into the water... cut it! Clint's going, "We've got that." So, we're done. I am now in an exclusive club. I've been killed by Clint Eastwood. And again I went right back to the trailer, I got the blood pack off me and I grabbed the legal pad and started writing. It screamed for a song.
Me: Do people have a hard time with you being so good at being an actor and a musician? Do they get past you doing both?
Jeff: It's the elephant in the room. Whether they are ready to get past it or not I just deal with it. I spoke to a couple of actors who are trying to do the same thing and they're really serious about their music and there's nothing funny about what they're doing and they have various degrees of success. I kinda understand the attitude of stay in your lane, we'll let you do one thing but not two. So in order for me to get away with two I gotta acknowledge one. So, I do it just to go I know, I get it, it's in the room. We're going to forget about it in about 15 minutes but for 15 we're gonna deal with it. Then we don't have to deal with it anymore. That's kinda been the approach... it used to be a lot more. I used to do a song called "If William Shatner Can, Than I Can Too." That was just aimed directly at the critics going before you even write a word, I'll cut you off at the pass. But I don't even do that one anymore because I don't need to. So, I'm good.
Me: What are your audiences like, Jeff? Fans of your acting I am sure.
Jeff: I love the guitar players. You can tell because they're there ones with their arms crossed. There's a song I do called "Orville Wright." Orville Wright didn't need a pilots license which was right out of a chapter of a book that a friend of a friend wrote. Another steal. And so I was playing in New York, and it was cold... fifty-four below... "New York Times" was there, big damn deal, we're going to crucify him. He better be brilliant because they were poised... everybody was ready. New York! So, I get out there, put the guitar down and five seconds in I'm playing and I look nervous so you can feel the whole audience going oh, my God, it's a train wreck. He can't even remember the first line of the first song. We're about fifteen or twenty seconds in now... that's forever. Now they're starting to get uncomfortable. I keep playing and I said, "I heard that professional musicians usually take about fifteen minutes to warm up." And then I start singing and it goes a hundred words an hour and I get half way through and say, "Okay, I'm warmed up." I got them. All the guitar players go, "Goddammit."
Me: Ha! I was surprised there's a lot of the blues in your songwriting. Are you a fan of the blues, Jeff?
Jeff: Well, it certainly educated me where American music begins I think. Once you hear about it... Stefan Grossman again turned me on to it with this tab books, the county blues and all that. Skip James? Who's Skip James? Sun House? I never heard of Sun House. Robert Johnson? I think I heard of him. Then you start to get educated and you go oh, and then you go down to Mississippi, and you go to Clarksdale, make the pilgrimage, go to Robert Johnson's grave and like me you stand over his grave and play the song I wrote, "Forgive Me, Robert Johnson, I'm Just A White Boy With the Blues" and you're standing there over his grave doing that because you're making the pilgrimage. You're going back to where it began. And you honor that, and it starts to filter through and you learn the blues scale, you go up and down the neck a little bit. For me it made the guitar fun. It made songwriting fun. It doesn't have to be serious and you got sexy and dirty, like the blues did. They took it outta the churches and made it dirty. I liked all that and I explored all that and I liked the simplicity of the acoustic guitar of these guys in the juke joints and the porches. Playing those out of tune riffs on those stellar guitars. I loved all that. It was something I could do. I'm never gonna learn jazz, I don't have the patience. I dropped out of music theory in college, it was to much math. But I can chase the blues, I can learn feel. That's what blues really does for you, the feel of it. Sometimes there's not that many notes but you feel so much depends what you play and when. All those lessons started to come and originated for me with the blues.
Me: I noticed a lot of your songs are about Michigan which obviously has a huge significance in your life. Do you intentionally write songs about Michigan?
Jeff: Yeah, I have written a lot of songs about Michigan. A lot of it has to do with writing stuff to be played at my theater company which is in Michigan. I didn't think a guy like you or anybody outside the state would even care what I was doing. So, why don't I write a bunch of songs about Michigan, we'll raise more money 'cause I hear he's singing about Michigan where we live, so that was the whole point. But then you start if you are gonna write a song about Michigan write a couple of good ones then go write about something else.
Me: I know you've done a little bit of co-writing, Jeff, is that something you like or do you prefer writing by yourself?
Jeff: I'm never done that well... as a play write I can collaborate after I turn over a draft, a song I can kinda play it with somebody and go it's not right, I'll be back tomorrow. Never mind. I can't imagine doing the Nashville thing when you sit down at nine and you put three songs together with your writing partner. I've just never done it. Having done a little bit with Brian, I'm wondering if we could... I have a feeling it would work best with here's half finished thing I've got, where's there's something started and you jump on and you take it where whoever starts it first got their hands on the wheel. I could see is doing that. I'd probably try that with Brian before I did it with anybody else. I've spent over forty years with only me in a room.
Me: It seems you are always expressing yourself creatively one way or another.. writing songs, or plays, or whatever it might be. Would you agree with that?
Jeff: Yeah, I just have to keep creating. I can't control when the phone rings to act in something but I can write a song, or write a play... that's what I do. That's my normal. Working on something... it doesn't have to be intense. Writing a play can be pretty intense. Just as long as there's something you are working on, whether it is just a guitar thing, or getting better at the guitar, or finishing something... I think I get real bored and go into the black hole when I'm not creating so it keeps me happy.
Me: You have met so many famous people as you worked with so many famous people and I wanted to ask you about some but we are running out of time. I have to ask you about meeting George Harrison though. What was that like? I got to work a booth with Louise Harrison, his sister at a Beatles convention once. That was cool. I have to to show that pic now...
Me: That's my friend Jim, Louise Harrison and myself. Man, that was a long time ago. Why the fuck am I wearing a fanny pack? Hahaha.
Jeff: Nice. Yeah, it was a thrill as it should be. I was doing a movie in '97 or '98... David Leland, the wonderful director out of England, was directing it and the company that made it was Handmade Films which was Dennis O'Brien and George Harrison. They made three or four movies and we were one of them. So were shooting Checking Out in California wondering if George Harrison was gonna show up. I mean it was his movie company. After six weeks you kinda give up, then you hear he is coming. We were shooting in Union Station, the big train station in L.A. and he was coming today. And in he comes. And it's George Harrison. I'm the star of the movie and I have to go talk to him. So, I go talk to him. And he's George Harrison and I can't remember my name. I'll show it my pic here...
Jeff: That's me talking to George Harrison... he's asking me, "Have you ever been to Disneyland?" Because I can't even speak. He couldn't of any been nicer. So I finally go, "I have a guitar in my trailer, would you mind signing it?" He said, "I'd be happy to." He takes me into a back room as there were 150 extras... it's just me and George, an actor named Allan Havey and Ben Myron, the producer. Three of us and George. He signs it George Harrison and says, "I'll put a little mystic symbol on it for ya." He does this thing, and of course I don't ask him what it means. Then he flips the guitar over and plays "Here Comes the Sun." Just for three of us. Then he plays "All Along the Watch Tower." Then he plays the Hoagy Carmichael "Little Red Rockin' Chair." He plays three songs then hands me back the guitar. It was a gift and he thanked me for doing the movie. Occasionally I will tell that story at a show and whip the guitar out, show the signature and play "Here Comes the Sun." The audience just goes, "Awwww." Its pretty cool. One of the perks.
Me: So cool! You mentioned Ben... your son. What's it like working with him, Jeff?
Jeff: It's a highlight playing with your kid. His band is a kinda like a blues, rock, Dave Matthews Band, fuse kinda folk... they drop in some hip-hop. They do all these things I don't understand. They've done a great job at grabbing some of my songs and putting a band on them. It's really great. We walk out... they don't open for me, we all walk out together and we hit it. They are all featured by the end of the night. For a father it's a life highlight. To have a kid in the twenties that's speaking to you, let alone being on stage playing music with you it's just great.
Me: That's so cool. Any new movie coming out?
Jeff: There's the "Ascendent" TV movie and an episode of "The Looming Tower" I'll be in. Plus I'll be in the new Netflix show "Godless." I don't get to be a full time musician just yet.
Me: That's so cool though. Jeff, thanks so much for being here on the Phile. I'm a big fan and it was an honor to have you here.
Jeff: Cool. We'll do it again when I put out another CD.
Me: Yay! Happy Father's Day.
Jeff: Yeah, you too. Take care, man.
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. It seemed like a long one, right? Thanks to Jeff for a great interview. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Phile Alum Bryan Bassett from Foghat. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let alligators and snakes bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Happy Father's Day, dad.
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker