One of the best biographies written by a musician!
A Riveting, Mythic, Rock and Roll Memoir
Wonderful! Excellent Read!
A Great Read
A Window Into a Fascinating Era
Rock and Roll, baby!
A Must Read
A Great Read About An Exciting Life
Music Has Found Me Again
SO Worth Reading!
My Life Seemed Extremely Boring After Finishing “Night People”
Lessons of Life, Love, and Sex in the 60s
Genuine, Exciting, Graphic and Memorable – life in the 60’s
Fantastic Coming of Age Memoir!
Great Look At An Era
Meant to be savored
Rock and roll band life
Passion for music
Car Thieves take me away!
In a recent update to the update newsletter for LOOK BACK IN LOVE, a 60s tale of love and rock n roll, I promised on the book’s website to write about who would be portraying our personal manager Seymour Heller in the recent HBO movie, Behind The Candelabra. At the time I hadn’t actually seen the movie yet. Seymour Heller was best known for managing Liberace from a struggling pianist to a gigantic international star but he also managed Debbie Reynolds, and a long list of famous stars, that also included, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves in the late sixties. I not only knew Seymour from the three years he worked with me as the bandleader in managing our act from during those years, but also for the nearly three years later when I worked directly for him as an associate personal manager in the early 70s. I think that gives me enough credibility to comment frankly on this movie and how he and Liberace were portrayed. While I didn’t know Liberace nearly as well as Seymour, I met him often in the years when our band played at the Flamingo and International (Now Hilton) Hotels in Las Vegas, and afterwards working with Seymour.
Let me set aside for a moment my thoughts about the actual content of the movie. With several later years experience in video, film and post production, I have some strong opinions about the actual movie making process itself. As the movie unfolded, my wife Laurie and I constantly looked at each other wondering what in the hell we were seeing. The screenplay was just flat and poorly written — one-sided, un-nuanced and trite. It was adapted from an adversarial memoir, Behind The Candelabra, My Life With Liberace, by Scott Thorsen, who sued Liberace for palimony and is played by Matt Damon as a victim of Liberace’s seduction. Replace the gay young man with a young girl and any rich movie star or entertainer and you have the most over-worked Hollywood story ever written. Despite the amazing cast of characters, their performances were flat and one-dimensional and so many possible themes that could have been interesting and relevant were skipped in favor of the film’s exploitative goal. I thought the direction was uninspired, the cinematography average or below. I would be hard pressed to find any redeeming quality about the movie, amazingly enough, not even costumes.
I’d found it hard to understand why Seymour Heller was being played by Dan Ackroyd when I first heard about it; Sy was a personable guy but hardly a comedian. I heard a fiction writer say the best way to make a story believable was to make nine out of every ten facts in the story accurate. Apparently both the memoir and the screenwriter used this principal along with spin to deliver an inaccurate defamation of Liberace and an interpretation of Seymour Heller as a buffoon and pimp. I could never have believed the stars in this movie, many who must have known them both, would have taken part in such a character assassination of Liberace, or the parodying of an important and foundational man in the entertainment business as Seymour Heller if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Especially now that they are now dead and unable to defend themselves.
Let me tell you what I know firsthand. Seymour Heller, along with his New York partner, Dick Gabbe, practically invented the term personal manager. He fought to establish the talent management profession and worked with the big New York and Hollywood agencies to setup the rules that allowed them to co-exist. He established the Conference of Personal Managers, COPM, the first professional talent manager’s organization. Seymour began managing Liberace on a one year handshake contract in 1950 until Liberace’s death. Seymour was a tough negotiator and strict with his artists, and fought for them tooth and nail. He was a gentleman and wise in the ways of show business. There was nothing accurate in his portrayal in Behind the Candelabra. While we didn’t agree on everything, and I eventually struck out on my own, I always held Seymour and his integrity in the highest regard.
As for Liberace, he was an extremely kind and gracious host every time I met him. I did understand him to be thrifty, perhaps even tight-fisted except when it came to expenses for his show. Never did I see anything of the predator he is cast as in this movie. With Behind the Candelabra receiving 8 Creative Emmys, and likely to win several 2013 Emmy Awards I can’t help but feel sickened. I can’t believe I watched the same film. The cartoonish portrayal of Seymour and the single-minded depiction of a predatory Liberace disgust me. Very hard for me to see some of my favorite actors like Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Scott Bakula, Dan Ackroyd, Debbie Reynolds in such damning roles.
If you do decide to see, or have seen the movie, I hope you’ll keep my opinions in mind.
Hi, I’m Larry J. Dunlap, and I’m introducing my memoir BAND, memoir of A Naked Car Thief. I’ve been writing since the late seventies when I was in the business side of music. I did artist reviews and a cartoon strip for local music magazines then. Wrote my first story, a science fiction tale about built around a play-by-mail space empire game I was addicted to about then, too. I began professional technical writing after I’d gotten involved in technical training, eventually writing for Fortune 100 companies on contract. In recent years as the press of professional life lessened, I have returned to something I knew I’d have to do before embarking on any other authorial projects, a remembrance of my transition from a young Midwestern man/boy dreamer to a creator’s life in the warm California sunshine via a mid-sixties rock band. An excerpt from this memoir was published in an Inlandia Institute anthology last November.
I’ve always known it was likely I’d be a writer since I have been such an inveterate and addicted reader. For many reasons, I never attempted to write for a wide audience until relatively recently. During the six plus years I was leader of the rock band that grew out of my homespun vocal group in Indianapolis, I formed incredible bonds with my band mates. When we gathered to reminisce, we’d always remind ourselves of the interesting adventures we’d survived. I was always prompted by the guys saying, “Man, you have got to write a book about this.” As the years went by I heard from several of them saying that it was hard to talk about what we’d accomplished because no one could relate to their memories. When I could finally devote myself to this project I wanted to rectify that impression. I realized that vignettes, told out of context, sound like either bragging or disconnection. Telling our story would put it all in context. However, with our fading and differing memories there was only one way to do that, as a personal memoir. The more I settled into the project the more I realized I’d come to the right conclusion. I needed to write about my story, how I felt, what it meant to me, and let the rest of it shine through as I remembered and retold it.
My memoir starts on New Year’s Eve of 1964, though chapter one covers a dangerous and violent night relating to the near hit record our vocal group in Indianapolis almost accidentally had in our nearby big city, Chicago. As a husband of two wonderful little boys and my high school sweetheart wife I loved, I was struggling with finding my creative place in the world. The environment around us in the structured world we grew up in and the hard line taken by our parents finally blew up when the group and I tried to turn ourselves into a working band. Though the first incarnation failed, a miraculous event sealed my fate and I was off to California to join my old buddies in a desperate attempt to create a rock band within a week in the seething musical chaos of San Francisco’s east bay dive bars. At the cost of the wrenching destruction of my family, the journey began that would carry us into adventure after adventure, to the top of San Francisco’s night life, through Hollywood, famous personal managers and record producers, to the heights of Las Vegas’ rock scene and the top of the largest Vegas resorts. A side trip to the Hawaiian islands found us performing for American warriors on R&R during the height of the Vietnam war, where I met a Hawaiian girl who touched me as deeply as my first love. As our status as performing stars rose, though we struggled with recording success, I was certain I’d reached the pinnacle of happiness and success. But there were undercurrents beyond my control that would bring me to the edge of sanity and the end of the music. Somehow I’d have to save my band, hope to save my new family, and try not to lose myself.
I’m currently working my way through the second edit. Memoir is a special form that I’ve come to really appreciate; I learned a lot from Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, and Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody, and read many, many others as I prepped for, and continue to write. I’ve adopted a narrative style including dialog to my memoir because that’s how I remember it even though it was so long ago. We moved through a time of great historical and cultural change the background behind the events of the story; there is no need to embellish the dramatic arc at all, it just is what it was. I hope other memoirists see their story as vividly as I see mine. I’m looking forward to finding more examples of this style to continue to inspire me.
Unfortunately, most memoir readers and many memoir authors see them as tearjerkers, while there’s certainly a low point in my story, so low that it feels more like black humor to me, I’m not looking for sympathy or redemption. Personally, I hate saccharine sweet stories. In my eyes I’m just trying to recount what I think of as a great adventure that I was lucky enough to be a part of, and survive — without judgment. To do this requires honing the skills and dramatic arts of authors of fiction. I hope from the Memoir’s Discussion Group on LinkedIn to be influenced by others who approach their life adventures in this way, and to be a source of influence to others in the style I’ve chosen.
Back in the early 80’s, I lived in the Los Feliz/Atwater area. I spent many a night walking my dog with my neighbor Bud Mason, ne Wayne Mason, who told me stories about growing up in 50’s and 60’s. He seemed to have a story about everything. To give you an idea of how wacky his childhood was, when Oregon went to the Rose Bowl in 1958 they found out Bud had a pet duck. They gave him free tickets in return that the duck could be their mascot for the game. That was the kind of stuff that happened to Bud, and I spent a lot time cracking up at his escapades. He spoke of his days in the navy, hot rodding up and down San Fernando Road, ordering Zombie’s from a black bartender named Ben at Gazzarri’s, and rocking out to a band named “Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.”
I was just a kid back then, but the name was instantly cool to me and remains so to this day. I decided to google your band for kicks, and it is nice to finally be able to put a face to the name. Bud has been gone for a few years now, but every once in a while I think about him fondly and laugh. I have regaled my own son with some of Bud’s stories… and yes, about a band called Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.