Saturday, March 29, 2014

When Things Go Wrong

Robin Lane
(photographer unknown - used without permission)
by Dick Mac

In 1978, and the years to follow, I listened to, watched, admired, developed crushes on, and came to adore Robin Lane.  With her band, Robin Lane and The Chartbusters, she owned a substantial slice of the Boston music scene, which was exploding at the time.

I attended live shows every week:  Robin Lane, Human Sexual Response, Mission of Burma, Lou Miami, Pastiche, The Girls, The Outlets, Phobia, The Stompers, Unnatural Axe, The Lyres, Lizzie Borden, La Peste, Classic Ruins, Thrills, Del Fuegos and more -- so many more.  I got to know musicians and singers, bartenders and bouncers, record producers and band managers.  I landed in videos and films, radio stations and recording studios.  I produced plays and wrote comedy. I took too many drugs, drank too much, had sex with too many people, and absolutely adored my life.  It may have been the end of the 1970s, but it was still the 1970s we all loved and were lucky to live through.

The Rat, Cantones, Sp(a)ce, Inn Square Men's Bar, Streets, Storyville, and other haunts became my homes away from home.

Some weeks I sought out a particular band, some weeks I was chasing a particular romance, some weeks I was looking for particular drugs, but every week included some time in one of these venues.

I never had any trouble meeting and picking up girls or boys, and was known to be very direct with anyone I wanted to be with. On more than one occasion I asked the wrong boy to dance, and would find myself in a potentially violent and dangerous situation.  Fortunately, the majority of the people on the scene were not as offended as the guy who considered himself my 'victim' and I could talk my way out of death with the help of friends or casual acquaintances.

I jumped at any opportunity to see Robin Lane and The Chartbusters.  Robin Lane was adorable, and sexy, and looked so tough and seemed so vulnerable.  She was everything a rock 'n roll chick should be in my young, naive mind.  I had the hots for her, as I said in those days.

Whenever I had the opportunity to say hello or chat with her she was charming and friendly.  I would get tongue-tied, stammer and mumble, and eventually make an excuse to withdraw.  No matter how cool, hip and sophisticated I thought I was, she was cooler, hipper and more sophisticated.

In the ensuing decades, I learned about self-centered fear, and the way events of my youth shaped my ability or inability to form healthy relationships with other people.

A few years ago, I saw Robin Lane listed as a 'friend' of a 'friend' on Facebook.  Facebook is that place where the word 'friend' means something very different than than definition I remember from Catholic school.

I checked-out her page and read about her work with women and girls and music.  She was clearly a survivor like me and so many others of our generation who made it out alive.  She was using her valuable life experience to be of service to others.  I was now more impressed thirty-odd years later than I had been in my youth.

Eventually I became her 'friend' (in the Facebook sense of the word) and followed her goings-on from a distance.  I read a post she made one day and it resonated so deeply with me that I sent her a message, and we had a brief correspondence about some issues of importance to both of us.

Some weeks/months/years later, I saw a poster online announcing her performance in the Boston area on the same bill as my cousin, Andrea Gillis.  We shared some messages about that and I was excited to hear that she admired Andrea.

Sometime in 2012 (I think), I saw an announcement that Chartbuster's drummer Tim Jackson established a kickstarter project to fund a movie about Robin.  I was thrilled and I followed the progress as announcements were made.

Finally, earlier this year, the premiere screening of the movie was announced for Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Arlington Regent Theatre, near Boston.  Next Friday.

I got two tickets immediately and started making plans.

I will be there.

Will you?

Get info here:  When Things Go Wrong, Robin Lane's Story

Get tickets here:  Regent Theatre

Look for me:  I'll be the really good-looking guy who used to be much younger!

And I'll look for you:  I remember who you are.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Development and the Social Conscience

by Dick Mac

The Chelsea neighborhood of New York City is home to many famous people:  actors, singers, television personalities, writers, etc.  And it is home to many people not quite so powerful and affluent.

The more socially-conscious of these celebrities often speak-up when something unsavory is happening in their neighborhood.  In fact, in the not-too-distant past, one famous couple (actor and actress) attended public meetings held to consider if a financially-strapped hospital could use its air rights to build luxury condos that would save the institution.

St. Vincent's was the only hospital on the West Side of lower Manhattan, it had an important legacy of charity, and pretty-much invented the protocol for treating people with AIDS.  It was part of the fabric of the city and its loss would be devastating.

It was a relief to hear that Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star Couple would be attending the meeting.  They could bring a powerful voice to the needs of the community.

Well, oddly, they were taking a stand AGAINST the hospital!

She said the hospital was dreadful, that SHE would never bring HER children there.  And he mocked pro-hospital demonstrators by agreeing that the neighborhood deserved a world-class hospital, but he would only go there if it was life-or-death (implying it was not a world-class hospital and never could be).

The chapel inside St Vincent's Hospital
For those who do not know:  St. Vincent's went bankrupt, closed, has been demolished and luxury condos are being erected.  There is no hospital on the west side of lower Manhattan.

A few years after that world-altering, earth-shattering event, Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star had the ovarian fortitude to stand in front of the now-dead hospital to endorse a mayoral candidate and decry the loss of the hospital!  Yes!  She gathered with a group of people upset about the hospital closing!

She spoke against the hospital five years earlier, and now she was upset that it was gone.

The only word that comes to mind to describe this amnesiac is a word that today I will not type.

Fast forward to 2014.

Less than a block, in throwing distance of the lovely Chelsea home owned by Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Stars (now-separated), at 124 W. 16th Street, a developer has purchased the air-rights above a church of questionable business repute, and is erecting an 11-story luxury condominium building nestled in a neighborhood of 6-story buildings.  (See picture here where the developer's artist has drawn the adjacent six-story building out-of-proportion so it looks taller than it really is and the new building looks smaller.)

I don't know if Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star still owns that nearby home, but she still lives in New York and I can't imagine a good reason for her to have moved from that lovely neighborhood.  If she does still live in the neighborhood, she has failed to use her considerable clout to fight this development, which unlike the hospital plan, IS a blight on the community.

A building like this could diminish the value of her property.  Sadly, the diminished value of her property would mean diminished value of the property owned by people not quite as affluent and powerful as she.

In the big picture, with friends like her, that neighborhood doesn't need enemies.

The construction of this building destroys the character of the neighborhood (which I know means nothing to America anymore); but, it diminishes the value of taxpayers' homes (and even a Tea Party supporter should be un-in-arms about that).  This development is bad for everyone but the developers.

Yet, the development goes on and those who own property on that street have no recourse.

I hope the community stages daily walking pickets outside the building when prospective buyers come to shop.  Let them know they are complicit in this debacle.

Nobody like Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star has come to their aid, and nobody of any importance will.

Read about the new development:

In case you hadn't paid attention to the St. Vincent's debacle, read here:

Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star is so concerned in 2013: