When Stark Naked and the Car Thieves came to play the Pussycat A’ Go Go in 1966, there were twelve major hotels on the Las Vegas strip. The Cat was behind a race book, on ground that is now covered by the Wynn Hotel, south of the Desert Inn. It’s sign was a slyly smiling silhouette of a cat that stood high above the boulevard. Continue reading…
It has been a long slog that began a long time ago for research, and nearly full time writing around a year ago. I’ve written enough words for two and a half books but I have finally completed the first draft of My Life as A Naked Car Thief. I must admit there are a couple of caveats: there are some unfinished chapters related to playing the Crown Room at the International Hotel while Elvis was in the main room. I am so pleased that Jim and Jan Seagrave are dipping into their vast resources to try and help me find the correct dates. And there is a slight hiccup with our Caesars Palace dates, which are minimal. It has been surprising to me the dearth of information about the Las Vegas of our era.
The final four chapters actually got written simultaneously for the most part; and there are some rough parts but it all works. The most exciting thing to me, something you just really can’t know until you finish a draft, is that there is a very real story of some pretty ordinary guys, okay I’ll just speak for myself here, an ordinary guy, since there was a lot of talent around me, from the Midwest who fell through the rabbit hole of the sixties and landed in San Francisco where they formed a band that lasted for a lot of years. My fear now is not about the story, it’s only in my own ability to do it justice. Though it is set in the drug-laced and culture-shifting sixties and the music and entertainment business of California, Las Vegas, and Honolulu, it’s mainly about people and how they struggle to survive and flourish, and fail and succeed, in such a maelstrom. It’s about a journey of time and place but also of growth, from callow youth to maturity. It’s about love and loss and living when you’re not sure you can. About realizing that what you get is sometimes worth more than what you want.
I may have to take a small break to get my breath back, I was pounding out many, many pages a week during the last couple of months as I sensed the finish line, but I’m looking forward to diving into the next, the really hard phase, shaping the second draft of these words into a readable story. I want to thank everyone, really everyone, that I have come in contact with during the process who have been so supportive, positive, and helpful in getting me this far. I’d just like to point out a few, my wife, Laurie, Christine and my brother writers from the Coffee House Writers Group, the band mates and wives I’ve been in touch with and some I haven’t, and the tens of people who I’ve contacted for research information. And, of course, the tubes of the World Wide InterWeb. It’s been a great to have so much help.
Last August I began writing “A Naked Car Thief” as a remembrance of the years I was a member of our band, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves. Prior to that, I spent about four months in intense research and writing certain scenarios that I vividly remembered like when we opened Nero’s Nook at Caesars Palace. I was testing to see if I could develop the skill to write something worth the effort it would take and if I could actually dedicate the time and effort and will to finish it. Though I have previously worked as a technical writer professionally for over eight years for three Fortune 100 companies, started an unfinished novel and a few short stories (one published in a game sci-fi magazine), I had never taken on anything like the scope of this project. Of the number of books I have absorbed in trying to develop this skill set, I realize that I should make clear the expectations and limits to what should be expected in a memoir, what it means for my goal, and why I chose this form. I am quoting below from one of the influential books that is guiding me.
“Memoir is a rendering of lived life, as filtered through memory and the wider net of the needs of narrative. Memoir just tells the story, no explicit thesis here. Memoir examines a life, a self, and does so through a period of time, say early childhood or the month you spent with Grandpa in France. Like novels and short stories, memoirs tend to operate in time and space, tend to have a story arc, rising action leading to a climax, a balance of scene and summary. A reflective voice might tell the story, might analyze events, but it tends to stay in the background, tends to let the action do the work. Research can support the storytelling, but the point isn’t a display of facts or information. A memoir lays out the evidence of a life, lets the reader make the conclusions. The mode ranges from pure, plain storytelling to more reflective storytelling. Some memoirs get so reflective and analytical that they move close to and overlap with the personal essay. A few pages, a book, a few volumes, memoir is an expansible form.”
— Roorbach, Bill (2008-06-17). Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature.
I chose this form specifically because I am dealing with a time now well over 40 years ago, where memory does it’s best but cannot mirror specifics. Time and again, after relating vignettes about our group’s adventures people would say “you ought to write a book”, even sometimes a band mate. But as I got further into the project I realized that the story I had to tell, was really about my specific adventures through the lens described above; the band’s story and the story of the times and places had to become the background of my story. It had to become my story, not the band’s.
At first it was for a practical reason, it had become clear that some members of the group had glaring differences in interpreting the memories of our shared experiences. As my goal was to get at the truths that were seminal to my growth through those years; accuracy was bound to take a hit so I dedicated those early months to research and I continue to do spot research during the writing to be as accurate as possible. I also don’t want to take the stance of invalidating anyone else’s recollections so by personalizing them as mine and mine alone, though I make every effort to find common ground, I am only responsible to being true to my own sense of this experience.
But more importantly I have come to realize in this much more personal approach I am uncovering things that go beyond the band and into my relationships with family and friends with far-reaching consequence. I also realized that I wanted to write a story, a book, that anyone could pick up and read for the adventure and journey of several fairly ordinary guys who combined their talents in a leap of faith, and ended up experiencing extraordinary events at extraordinary places at an extraordinary time, the middle to the end of the 1960’s, in music and culture.
[Note] This is mainly of interest to the guys who were in Stark Naked and the Car Thieves in 1968 through 1970, when Larry spent a lot of time following the band. He was certainly an interesting character in those years when the Lamb family was at the peak of its power in Las Vegas and Nevada. It’s sad to fine that another one of the colorful characters that illustrated our Las Vegas band days is gone.
Larry Lamb, who was 66, died at home in Las Vegas, two weeks after falling off a ladder in his garage, said Jan Smith, Larry Lamb’s longtime companion. The exact cause of his death was not known.
Larry Lamb was the youngest of 11 brothers in one of Nevada’s oldest families. The grandfather was one of five original settlers of the Pahranagat Valley, said his son, David Thompson.
Larry Lamb was the brother of Sheriff Ralph Lamb and two other brothers who were also in politics: the late Floyd Lamb, a former state senator, and Darwin Lamb, a former Clark County commissioner. Ralph Lamb was the first sheriff of the consolidated Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, from 1961 to 1978. The Lambs’ fame was mixed with notoriety. Floyd Lamb, a state senator who represented Las Vegas for 30 years, was convicted of accepting bribes in the FBI’s 1983 “Operation Yobo,” which netted another senator and two commissioners.
Larry Lamb was no stranger to trouble. In 1980, he shot and killed a man at a Christmas tree lot. Charges were dismissed, leading to criticism that Lamb was getting a pass because of his family’s connections.
The murder charge was reinstated, but Larry Lamb was acquitted by a jury. He said he acted in self-defense, claiming the dead man, Lee “Crowbar” McCambridge, was threatening him with a hand saw.
“Where the hell was I going to go?” Larry Lamb testified in the case. “I didn’t want to get hit with no saw.”
The large family of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members was close, said Thompson, a Las Vegas police officer. “It didn’t matter if you were running for president or getting out of jail; they’d stand behind you.”
Smith said Larry Lamb could be rowdy, but it was a character trait that was a piece of a self-styled cowboy of the old school.
“Easy? No. Fun? Yes. Loyal? Yes,” is how Smith summed up the man she’d known for nearly 50 years.
“He was colorful. He was never dull. He was a risk taker,” she said. “He was the old America that hadn’t gone all corporate.”
A prankster, Larry Lamb once filled the fountains in front of Caesars Palace with soap bubbles.
He was a bar owner and restaurateur who hosted his brothers’ political victory parties at his Las Vegas bar, the Cockatoo.
“He backed all his brothers, whether it was taking signs out, handing out literature or answering phones,” Smith said, saying he proudly pasted three stickers on a new car: “Ralph Lamb for Sheriff,” “Floyd Lamb for Senate” and “Darwin Lamb for County Commission.”
Larry Lamb is survived by Smith; sons Darwin and David Thompson; brothers Ralph and Darwin Lamb; sisters Wanda Lamb Peccole and Erma McIntosh; and three grandchildren.
So after seeing all of the videos I posted a week or so ago, I thought: why can’t I do a video track to our music, too. I’ve had to do a few videos in the last several months for work projects and I never had time to learn anything more than the basics of the video editing software I use so I thought I could work on some chops and try to put something together for Look Back In Love. Also, we’ve never had a video since all of the footage that was shot for it in Honolulu was never paid for by Attarack/Heller so we never even got to see it, let alone own a copy. 🙁 So this is something at least.
Anyway, I’m posting it here and linking it to the front page on our website. Hope everyone enjoys it. It’s kind of an open letter to all of us from that band. No matter what, in the end I love all my band brothers, including everyone those that I’m not in regular contact with.