My Expertiousness, Part I

A couple weeks ago, I got an email out of the blue from an ABC News reporter who wanted to talk about L. Frank Baum and the myths that surround The Wizard of OZ. (A couple years ago, I wrote a review for a new bio of Baum.) We talked for a long time, very fun, and then she included me in her article like I was a professorial, talking-head type of guy. The article can be found here.

Little known fact: Baum called his landscape “OZ” because that was the serving size he required for his sinsemilla. And the Lion was meant to refer to Haile Salassie, the “Lion of Judah”, even though he was only 8 years old at the time.

Don’t believe me? Try that little trick with the movie and “Dark Side of the Moon.” Properly baked, of course.

“Prairie Home Companion” at Interlochen

Yesterday I drove up to northern Michigan, to drop off Number One Son at Interlochen for his week of sketching, drawing, painting and all around visual excitement. For those who haven’t been up to that school, it’s a campus-like feeling in the pines there, less like a camp than the boarding school it is. Spiffy and new, a mecca for tasteful patrons of the arts.

In their bandshell, the first concert of the season was “A Prairie Home Companion”. Some part of me resisted buying a ticket to this show until the last minute, but I finally decided to stick around and watch. I bought the ticket 3 days before the concert, and there were all of 4 tickets left. They were in Row G, and were more than I intended to spend, but I’m grateful it worked out. I was about 30 feet from the stage, and it was an awesome evening. If I’d had my honey and my daughter with me, it would have been perfect.

Doing some math, I realize I’ve seen Garrison Keillor now four times, in four different locales: St. Paul and Chicago in the 80s, New York (or Brooklyn?) in the early 90s, and now Interlochen. He’s planning on retiring, I had heard, so I figured it would be worthwhile to see him one last time. The setting was gorgeous, the evening weather was perfect, and all of the musical acts were sublime (except for Robin & Linda Williams, who had all the presence of margarine and looked like a couple people who repped pet toys at conventions, though Keillor’s comfort with them was unmistakeable).

Most of all, it was supremely enjoyable to watch Keillor perform. His stage demeanor was much warmer than I ever remember it. He was having a great time, and did a good job interacting with the audience and the young musical performers. Pacing back and forth as he told the news from Lake Woebegon, it was like he was telling a story at a cocktail party. A highlight (as you might expect for me) was watching him try and stump Fred Newman, his sound FX guy, with ever-more-elaborate vocalizations. I didn’t realize the subtle labial variations required for sounds of an outboard motor, a chainsaw, and embarrassing stomach noises. (I still can’t figure out how he made the dead-on sound of a truck backing up.) The other actors were great fun, too, especially when they performed highlights from movies filmed in northern Michigan (“Muskie Man” and “The Buddy System”). I listened to the repeat of the show today, by accident, and got the fuller effect of seeing it all in my mind. Coupling the sound with the memories of last night were a real charge to the imagination. In fact, listening to the whole show, I forced myself to remember everything I could–what performers were wearing, what the harpist’s brown hands looked like on the strings, when performers laughed, the signs in the background for Guy’s Shoes and the Catchup Advisory Board. It felt like flexing a strong muscle, warm and enjoyable.

With a career as long as Keillor’s, it’s easy to focus on a few faults. Sure, he’s corny. He coasts a lot of the time (I never have to hear “Da Doo Ron Ron” again please — I can’t stand any more boomers and plus-boomers trying to clap to the beat). He panders a little to his liberal, educated, arts-patron crowd. But he’s also crafty and entertaining and knows what he’s doing. More importantly, we won’t see the like of him again very soon, so I’m very thankful I went. The drive home in the dark was worth every minute. Thank you for your many years of creativity, Mr. Keillor.

For this show from Interlochen, check out videos and information here.

A Couple of Limericks for My Favorite Opera

Before I lose these in a haystack of paper, I thought I’d share them here:

Turandot was fond of her riddles,
Scaring suitors so much they would piddle.
The Ice Princess feared
Anyone with a beard
Who might end her tyrannical idyll.

Then Calef in ragged disguise
Looked in her mysterious eyes
And guessed them, all right.
No one slept through the night
As he took claim of Puccini’s prize.

Honk Honk, My Darling: A Rex Koko, Private Clown Mystery!

The literary event of 2011 is here! You’ve been waiting patiently, wondering whether VS Naipaul and Paul Theroux have really buried the hatchet, whether we’ll ever have villains as long lasting and nattily dressed as the Nazis, and why there’s no Nobel Prize for Country Music so Lyle Lovett can win the first. You’ve been waiting for the latest trend, after chick lit, dick lit, mick lit, heimlich lit, flea-and-tick lit, and New Brunswick lit.

Well, that new trend is now launched: Schtick lit.

Or more specifically, Clown Noir.

Honk Honk, My Darling: A Rex Koko, Private Clown Mystery is now available as an e-book for all platforms, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and metal head plates. You can buy it from Amazon, and for any others, you can check it out conveniently at (You can also go straight to B&N, iTunes, the Sony Store, and others.)

The action is captured brilliantly in this synopsis from Amazon (written by me, of course):

In Top Town, a ghetto full of washed-up circus lifers in the shadow of a big city, Rex Koko is a pariah. Yet this clown’s brand of chaos helps him solve the most heinous crimes, as he tries to earn personal redemption. In “Honk Honk, My Darling”, Rex is hired by an aging, arrogant trapeze star to bring back his wayward wife. Every time Rex comes close to finding her, however, other aerialists come to gruesome and spectacular ends. Is Addie Carlozo a “black widow”? Is Rex really cursed with bad luck? Why is he being followed by those red-headed roustabout bastards, the Redd Brothers? And will “circus justice” intervene before the police do? Revenge, corruption and murder headline the bill in Top Town, where life comes 3 balls for a nickel. Babes, bullets, banana peels! As the poet said, “Damn everything, but the circus!”

Who could resist such adventure! What red-blooded reader could turn away from such a spectacle!

But wait, there’s more!

I’ll also be recording podcasts for every chapter in the book, and release them bi-weekly throughout the end of the year. Complete with music, sound effects, and fake advertisers, the podcast will feature me doing more than 20 magnificent characters, including midget detective Pinky Piscopink, cooch show owner Lotta Mudflaps, Mayor Eugene X. Brody, and of course, the Redd Brothers. These can be found on the Rex Koko website, as well as at Liberated Syndication. Here’s Episode 1 to get you hooked, brought to you by the fine folks at the Suddsy Corporation:

All this and more is contained at the new Rex Koko website, That will be the place for news and updates, merchandise, and everything else. You can even follow Rex on Twitter, if you’re the wired type of person who needs updates from fictional characters (I should talk–I follow The Real Deadpool, DrunkHulk and Jane Wheel). Look for RexKoko4Hire in the twitterlands.

For all the tree-haters out there, I hope to have paperback copies available by the end of the summer.

Thanks to all my readers for their support through the years. I hope they enjoy reading about Rex Koko as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about him through the years.