It’s been nineteen years since The Usual Suspects came out, and the “Who is Keyser Söze?” debates have fallen dormant. So let us now attempt to unravel the mystery of Kevin Spacey’s hair in that movie. Is it a widow’s peak? Is it a fuckin’ devilock? I choose to believe the latter. Spacey is obvz a closet Misfits fan and this was his subtle tribute.
Alternate title for this post: YO I JUST WATCHED THIS OLD ASS MOVIE ON NETFLIX
Keep your eye on Orlando Weekly’s blog section, for I am now a daily contributor. It’s only been a week and already I’ve managed to work cape buffalo into a story. Cape buffalo, I say. Your draconian rules of alt weekly-ing mean nothing to me. You can’t tame this fire.
Related: I am now living in Orlando. Hey, I’m as shocked as you are.
But I digress. For a (more or less) complete history of my freelance writing career dating all the way back to that wild and wooly year of 2005, scroll down to the JG2 OFF-WORLD menu on the right hand side of this page. If any of the links direct you to some nonsense that isn’t stuff I’ve written, I apologize. I can’t configure every known website to best benefit me.
We (American consumers) all had a good chuckle last week when Radio Shack’s Super Bowl spot aired. Oh, was it ever amusing to see ALF, Dee Snider, and cheap facsimiles of other ’80s pop culture titans attempting to “take back” “their” electronics store as Loverboy’s hit of hits “Working For The Weekend” pumped in the background. In the week that has followed, however, certain dark corners of the Internet (read: Ghostbusters message boards I frequent) have been buzzing that Radio Shack’s cute little advert includes a veiled jab at Dan Aykroyd.
A few ghostheads out there have interpreted the end of the commercial, wherein Slimer flies through the wall of the new Radio Shack only to be told he’s arrived “too late,” as a shot at Aykroyd and his years-long insistence that a Ghostbusters 3 will be made. It’s “too late,” they say, for that third and ostensibly final entry. Too much time has passed. No one will accept AARP Venkman and Spengler and even less people will accept this “new generation” of busters Ayk is insisting are in the GB3 script. So hit the bricks, Slimer. You’re done. Float away to the 1980s mascot retirement home. Spuds MacKenzie and the California Raisins are waiting for you.
There’s a feeling of reverence for the decades old figures in this ad, and based on that I don’t think Radio Shack would purposely single one out just for sly ridicule. On the other hand, Slimer is a computer graphic; unlike Hulk Hogan, they can say some messed up shit to his globby-ass face without fear of physical retribution. Also, generally speaking there’s some favoritism at play within the spot. We get Ponch from “CHiPs” not John, horror movie icon Jason but not Freddy, eternal barfly Cliff Clavin but not Norm. In that light I’m surprised they used Sgt. Slaughter to compliment Hogan.
I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that Radio Shack took a swipe at the Ghostbusters franchise, but if you’re trying to zero in on the most washed up and/or least profitable property featured…well, look, they put Kid ‘n Play in there, and I think a Ghostbusters 3 of any stripe would make more money than another House Party or Class Act. I’d be willing to bet my reserve supply of Ecto Cooler on that. No disrespect to Kid or Play, of course. I love House Party, but more kids dress up like Ray Stanz every year for Halloween than Chris Reid.
Things I had to fact check for this post: if Loverboy was one word or two, if the “Working” in “Working For The Weekend” was spelled “Workin’,” the proper spelling of Spuds MacKenzie, the proper spelling of “CHiPs,” where to put the apostrophe in Kid ‘n Play.
- the Green Day albums prior to Dookie are good but you listen to them and think, “Man, these guys need a budget”; this is that rare breed of punk (hyper melodic) that’s actually hindered by rawer sonic ethics
- the middle of “Burnout” rips off the middle of “Pictures of Lily” by the Who, but “Burnout” is faster, so…all forgiven?
- speaking of the Who, that rah rah ending of “Chump,” the bit that crashes into “Longview”…why were any of us surprised when Green Day became an arena band and started writing rock operas?
- the Green Day backlash (which occurred, what, between 1995-97?) was so intense I still feel residual guilt for ever owning an original cassette copy of this album (which is dumb, because you should just like what you like and love what you love and I’ve since owned far more dubious musical ventures, including a good portion of Leonard Nimoy’s discography)
- I’ve heard “Welcome to Paradise” so many times throughout my life (both voluntarily and involuntarily) that it no longer registers as anything except a sound that is occurring in the vicinity of my ears
- part of me wishes the entire album had the twangy tone of “Pulling Teeth” (seems a little richer)
- part of me wishes the only segment of “Basket Case” they had released was Billie’s vocal track
- people who accuse this album of being (too) juvenile have obviously never heard anything by the Queers or Screeching Weasel
- Dookie producer Rob Cavallo has worked on everything Green Day has done since 1994, including soundtrack stuff and live albums; that kind of job security is rare these days
- Dookie producer Rob Cavallo also worked on Kid Rock’s Rock n’ Roll Jesus, which makes me want to smash a fucking carp right into his face
- Dookie is fun and will always be the Rosetta Stone that made me decide to further investigate this punk rock stuff, but it stopped being my favorite Green Day album the second Insomniac dropped in ’96; they just sound like a stronger band on Insomniac, playing tighter, louder songs with way more frenzy and better melody…I don’t understand why people tend to dismiss that one sight out of hand (or w/e that nonsensical phrase is)
- the hidden song here is the aural equivalent of looking at Pauly Shore
My age in this photo? Possibly old enough to know better. What I can tell you for sure: aside from the coffee table, I’m the only thing seen here that’s still alive in 2014 (the hat fell apart right after Titanic came out).
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman conquered many great roles, but the one that immediately came to my mind when I heard he died was Art Howe in Moneyball. What a perfect portrayal of the surly baseball manager, the guy on the edge of the dugout who wants to look even-tempered but who you can see is just simmering with rage. Hoff got all the mannerisms and the physical attitude down pat. The scene the above still comes from, where Brad Pitt shows up to reveal the Peña trade, sheesh. That’s all I can say: sheesh. I would have gladly watched him a spinoff w/ PSH covering all of Howe’s other travails.
[I had a macabre little bet with myself to see what movie Hoffman's New York Times obit would mention first. I didn't imagine it would be Moneyball. I thought maybe Boogie Nights. I feel like that's the point film-going America really became conscious of him (yay, nay?). At any rate, the Times, after several paragraphs discussing recent theater work, opened the cinematic discussion with Doubt. Conventional wisdom suggests it should have been Capote, the work that earned PSH his Oscar, but whatevz, it's a beautifully written obituary regardless of this inane quibble, go read it already.]
Goodnight, Philip. Please have peace where ever you are.
Photo via Wad Mag.
Mishka is the clothing line where urban flavor meets the flea market, where stylized renderings of horned cyclopses and disembodied eyeballs pop out of neon frameworks without seeming gaudy. Alongside pal Mikhail Bortnik, Greg Rivera started the line in Brooklyn in the early 2000s; today Mishka is consistently pointed to as one of the most interesting and/or unique street wear brands on any continent (an accurate statement in that Mishka, aside from two stores in California and its flagship New York location, has a retail spot in Toyko).
Greg and I have been friends since high school, and occasionally we’ll stop texting each other “Webster” references long enough to speak via phone. What follows is the most recent of those phone conversations in which Greg and I discuss the current state of Mishka and where he and the company might go in the future. There is also some talk about roadside attractions and Greg’s legendary collection of Mr. T memorabilia.
GREG RIVERA: Tell me when the interview has started. Tell me when we’re on the record.
JAMES GREENE, JR: Right now, the interview has started.
GR: My favorite movie of all time is Bad Ronald.
JG2: Of course it is. I ask people this question all the time because I’m obsessed with turning points—is there a specific moment in time when you realized Mishka was successful? Like one event you can point to?
GR: Well, there was definitely a moment in time when [Mikhail and I] realized we had to quit our day jobs to focus full time on Mishka. Mikhail, I think, was actually fired from some of his other jobs for working on [Mishka] stuff. I was still a [tv production assistant], riding around in a truck, trying to do our business on the phone…but as for one moment? You know, things are so crazy, it’s just been a gradual thing…and we haven’t reached a level of success where we’re [financially] comfortable.
JG2: Is there a benchmark for that, that level of “comfortable?”
GR: I hope so! [laughs] We’re trying to attain more sales…there are times when I’ve been out and a random kid will tell me how much the brand has inspired them, and that’s a success. I know there have been times over the years that people have been appreciative of what I’ve been involved in, there’s success that way, but monetarily we’re trying to be more successful—not because we want Ferraris or anything, but you know, it would be nice to buy my own apartment in Brooklyn. Just to have money not to struggle.
JG2: So how do you move forward on that?
GR: We’re trying to work on greater distribution. Our stores aren’t all in great retail areas. Our Brooklyn store is on the south side of Williamsburg, there’s nothing else around it, really, and our [California stores] are in up and coming [areas] but maybe aren’t on the best streets. Mishka has an extreme and dedicated fan base, but we need that to translate to sales…without violating the integrity of the brand.
JG2: And what’s something that might violate integrity of the brand?
GR: The only thing that could effect our brand is…oversaturation? I hear about some stores ordering fifty-thousand units of one hat, and that’s a lot hats, you know? That’s a lot of people wearing it, but if everyone’s wearing it how unique is it?
pictured: Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint in a Mishka eyeball jacket.
JG2: And that’s Mishka’s signature. Standing out from other brands.
GR: Yeah, but to be honest we’re still kinda figuring out who we are.
JG2: You don’t have an answer for that by now? Well, I guess it’s not easy to define exactly.
GR: We ask people, “What is Mishka?” and what we’ve come up with basically is that we’re the weirdos, the kids who never fit in.
JG2: Your Brooklyn store, the first store, has been open for five years. Does it feel like five years?
GR: We’ve been in that space seven years, actually. At first it was just our office and warehouse. But…you know, we’ve been doing brand for eleven years total, and it definitely doesn’t feel like yesterday.
JG2: You’re not shy about expressing your frustrations with running Mishka on Twitter. I guess since you’re a co-founder there isn’t much blowback on that? Or has it affected things inside the company from time to time?
GR: It has. I’ve been told by my partner to cool off, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that employees aren’t cool with it. I’ve really been conscious lately not to vent about the company because I don’t want people to think I’m not appreciative of Mishka’s success or think I’m some constant grump. But also, it’s not uncommon to see that on Twitter, you know? You see artists and singers and stuff doing it all the time. With Twitter, part of being on there is that you’re always looking for a reaction. But yeah, but I’ve definitely deleted tweets, I’ve tried to censor myself.
JG2: Do you worry about how you’re perceived?
GR: Sometimes. I just don’t want people to think I’m not positive and happy. I am.
JG2: To be fair, I’m only presenting half the picture here. You do plenty of Mishka boosting on Twitter as well, obviously. You definitely seem at times like the company’s biggest fan.
GR: Yeah, yeah. Still, I was thinking about making a shirt that says “Ask me about my depressing tweets.”
JG2: I’d buy that. Switching gears a little, you’re renowned for your Mr. T fandom—or rather, your Mr. T collection, the homemade dolls and mass produced trinkets and such. How has your appreciation of T evolved over the years? Is the passion still the same?
GR: I was talking to someone about this last night. The fact that, when I moved [to New York] in 2002 and started with Mishka ’03, when someone would ask me what I did, the last thing I would mention was Mishka. [mumbling] “Oh yeah, I help my friend with these t-shirts.” It was more about the [Mr. T] collection. Right now…Mr. T is not as important a thing in my life anymore. I’m actually doing another gallery show with the collection in Tokyo soon and I’m gonna sell a bunch of stuff there. Not the dolls, but all the other stuff. I don’t need to own the world’s largest Mr. T collection anymore. I had the goal when I was younger to have it, and it was fulfilled. I’m okay being that guy, but I’m also ready to not be that guy.
Greg amongst his his Mr. T dolls, all made by different people from the same do-it-yourself pattern.
JG2: When you say you’re ready to “not be that guy” do you really mean you’re feeling irritated with still being the Mr. T guy, or do you just mean you’re at peace with letting it go?
GR: I’ve just got more dynamic things in my life now. It’s not to say I’m embarrassed at all, it’s just I’ve got Mishka, and that’s more of an accomplishment.
JG2: Wasn’t there going to be a book about your Mr. T collection? You know, with your partner in T collecting, Mike Essl, showing off all your stuff combined?
GR: Yeah, it still might happen, I’ve actually got to e-mail Mike and see where he’s at…he became a tenured professor at Cooper, and he has a wife and kid, and he got really caught up in all the, y’know, the tuition debates about keeping Cooper a free school…so it just never lined up. And Mike never wanted to do a regular collecting book, like you see with people taking their own pictures that turn out shitty, just to pump out a book on collecting. Mike’s friends with Chip Kidd, who did that Batman Collected book…that book changed the way [collecting books] could be made, like very artistic and [with] fanciful design. So Mike wanted to take the time to make sure our Mr. T collection book was awesome like that.
JG2: So you don’t self-actualize through your collection anymore. On a personal level, is meeting Mr. T still important to you?
GR: Um…yes and no. I think it would be shame if I never did get to meet him…[but] as I’ve gotten older it would be more to just shake his hand and maybe get an autograph. I would not even go there about my collection. I have no desire to meet him to brag about my collection…and it’s important to note that I’m not some obsessed freak focused solely on Mr. T. I was obsessed with the idea of collecting something, and that something happened to be related to Mr. T, who I always enjoyed.
JG2: Do you see yourself being involved with Mishka for the rest of your life? Do you think it’s something you could ever walk away from or sell or take a back seat on?
GR: Well, Mishka’s afforded me a lot of things I never thought I’d have, it’s allowed me to meet people I never thought I’d meet…it’s put me in world where I can do things I can’t do otherwise. If I can make money and be comfortable, I would stay [in this role] forever. If the opportunity to sell the company for enough money to quote-unquote not have to work again came along, I might take it. But, you know, by now I hope it’s clear [Mikhail] and I are in Mishka for long haul. We were there at the beginning and we’ll be there at end. There have been times I’ve wanted to quit, where I thought, “I can’t do this anymore,” but I think I’m past that. I’ve figured out a way to have my own time, doing my own art and painting.
JG2: There aren’t any interests or endeavors you think about where you could only do them if you were completely divorced from Mishka?
GR: No. I can do Mishka and other things.
JG2: What was the last Bad Ronald-type movie you saw? The last thing that really tripped you out.
GR: The last thing I saw that tripped me out was Tourist Trap. Have you seen that?
JG2: No. What’s deal with it?
GR: It’s a ’70s campy thrasher film, the concept being…tourist traps [laughs], which I think even at this film’s release in 1979 were a dying trend. The tourist trap was already becoming thing of past by then. You know, the ads give you all these promises about great stuff and you get there and it’s people just peddling junk. The twist in the movie is this guy turns people into human mannequins.
JG2: What’s the most disappointed you’ve been with a real roadside attraction? I feel like you’ve been to hundreds.
GR: I don’t know, I don’t feel I’ve been to enough. I haven’t done a whole lot of traveling within the States like that. In fact, the first time I went to South of The Border was that time we went [in 2005]…I think.
JG2: Really? That surprises me. I’d been there before as a kid, and we went it was like…well, like a lot of other things you think are so big and magical when you’re a kid.
GR: I went to one of those “risque cafes” once, where they serve you topless. That wasn’t great.
JG2: What wasn’t great? Like, were the girls too—
GR: The coffee was bad. The coffee could have been better. [laughs]
JG2: What about Mystery Fun House? I know you went there a bunch of times before it closed. Ah, but I guess that wasn’t really “roadside,” couched in all that I-Drive shit.
GR: Yeah, not really…but the first time I went to Mystery Fun House was in 1985 with my family. I was six. This is when we still lived in Connecticut and we took a trip to Florida for Disney. I remember I saw one of those huge pamphlet stands—you know, the big wooden displays where all the area attractions have their pamphlets. Those are still around, sort of, but before the Internet they were major, that was the only way you knew about that kind of stuff. So I saw the Mystery Fun House pamphlet during that Disney trip and I begged my brother to take me. We went, and I cried the whole time. I was scared.
JG2: Of the wizard. Right?
GR: No, the wizard was the one thing that calmed me. I don’t know if you remember, but Mystery Fun House was pretty scary. It had, like, goblins and demons…and it was really dark, there was one room with some kind of Last Supper with all these monsters…it was scary, but at the end they showed a video with the wizard where he said he was there to protect you, he wouldn’t let anything harm you.
JG2: Oh, so he was a good wizard. I honestly didn’t remember.
GR: Yeah, I trusted that wizard.