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THIRTY CELEBS REVEAL “WHAT I LIKE ABOUT SAN DIEGO”

For around 10 years, almost every time I interviewed a celebrity coming to town, I asked them about San Diego. I wanted to elicit their memories of the city, find out about any local connections, query their opinions about San Diegans, and find out what places they like to visit while in town.

A few quotes ended up in various articles through the years, but the majority of celeb comments about San Diego have never been seen outside my interview transcripts. While archiving a bunch of old files to disc recently, I compiled some of the most pithy, pointed, and/or jes’ plain bewildering quotes concerning our fine city…

cb2 TIM BURTON, of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones said "San Diego's cool, there was a lot of Ska happening there for awhile. When we first started doing gigs on the west coast, people looked at our clothes and horns and thought we were totally from outer space. But in San Diego, they seemed to get it right away. We never felt like we had to break down any barriers or that we had something to prove. What else? Oh yeah, best fish tacos I ever had! Gave me the worst runs I ever had, but it was worth it."

cb3 MARKY RAMONE of the Ramones told me “You know what place I really liked that was close was Iguanas, the one in Mexico. I tell you, kids were jumping off the rafters, about 20 feet down on the crowd. A guy lands on your head…and they kept doing it.”

cb5 NOEL REDDING of the Jimi Hendrix Experience noticed “I see all these Irish pubs, but how can you have a genuine Irish pub in a place like San Diego? You can’t even get real Irish liquor…and all the people who crowd in there for St. Patrick’s Day, none of them even know who St. Patrick was or what he did. I live in County Cork [Ireland], and I’m playing in real pubs all the time. Nobody there wants to try and copy American bars.”

cb7 GENE SIMMONS said to Paul Stanley, during a record signing at Tower Records, “Hey, what do you think of when you think of Tower Records? Like in L.A., a place the size of a stadium. Huge, glittery, bigger than life…I was thinking, ‘San Diego, Tower, big city, big store.’ Nope.”

cb8 LESLIE WEST ranted after a Mountain gig at Banx, “This place is a f-ing sh-thole. A g-damn-d outhouse full of yuppies. The guy who booked this gig, he was the biggest a-hole, and then some guy here was an even bigger a-hole. As soon as I walked in and saw the waiters in their little vests and ties, I knew thing was gonna suck. How the hell did I end up here, anyway? People actually pay money to come here? No wonder so many people think rock and roll is f-ing dead. They have to come to a place like this to see it.”

cb9 RANDY CALIFORNIA of Spirit told me backstage at La Paloma “There’s one radio station that actually plays our stuff, Magic something. We played a private party for them at, um, the Bacchanal. I see the same ten guys or so every time we play down there, the same guys for, like, twenty years. I’ve watched them grow older, and now they bring their wives and kinds to the show sometimes too…I think we get paid a little less than the local cover bands when we do clubs. That’s one of the reasons we can’t go down there too often. It’s got the worst [pay] rates I can think of. [Doors tribute band] Wild Child gets more than us to play San Diego.”

cb10 PHIL GARRIS, the Grateful Dead album cover artist, said “I like the beach community there. It’s very much like the ‘60s still…In L.A., it’s like there’s a wavelength that fuzzes up the mind or distracts you…I go to San Diego to get back in touch with what I’m supposed to be doing sometimes.”

cb11 T LAVITZ of the Dixie Dregs told me “I lived in southern California for 15 years. I go down a few times a year. I just visited Legoland with my six year-old daughter…she had a blast. She was, like, whoa, it’s bright and clear and new and shiny. Isn’t that an REM song? And I have friends in La Jolla, so we went down there and spent the night. The Dregs in the old days would play Montezuma Hall and we’d play the Bacchanal, and then Sound FX. I’ve played the Belly Up, like, five times. I like that there’s an awareness about music. People are open minded and receptive there.”

cb13 RICK DANKO of the Band noted “Not exactly a blues town, huh? What do they say? ‘Nice place to visit…’ I’d rather be somewhere where there’s still some woods to walk around in.”

cb20 DICKIE BETTS of the Allman Brothers insisted “I don’t understand why you’d want to live somewhere that’s bound to fall into the ocean any day now. Same with living in Tornado Alley, or in one of those flood plains where your house floats away every couple of years. You actually live there? Okay, I’ve been to the zoo. We all took a double-decker bus all over the place, and I got birdsh-t on my hat. At least there’s never been an earthquake when I was there. Just birdsh-t.”

c1 DAVE MATTHEWS remembered the time Jason Mraz drove a pickup truck from San Diego to Seattle, just to open for Matthews’ band. “That was the first day we met, his album had just come out or was about to,” says Matthews. “I caught his set from the sidelines…he was really good, and I ended up inviting him on tour the next year. I don’t think he ever got paid that day, he did it for free. That’s how he got the gig.”

I mentioned Mraz had recently had sold a baseball jersey on eBay that he was wearing that day, along with a Poloroid of their meeting which was published in Rolling Stone, for $800. “D-mn,” said Matthews. “He ended up making more than I did!”

c5 OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN recalled the time she was scheduled to appear at the Mission Bay Roller Coaster (July 13, 1998) to perform a few songs live on Star 100.7 radio. “They wanted me there at 8 a.m. but my daughter was here and I was taking her to the airport, and I didn’t end up being able to get there until late, so they did their morning show at night.” This was in the midst of the 20th anniversary re-release of Grease and, of the three songs to be performed, “You’re the One That I Want” was among them. “I decided I’d do a duet with one of the DJs [Little Tommy Sablan] and, wow, was that scary! He kept trying to shake his shoulders and swallow the mike, and he was really scaring me there for a minute. I thought he was going to, I don’t know, either fall over or lick my face or something!”

c8 Singer/songwriter JACK WILLIAMS once wrote a song about a San Diego venue, though it’s only been performed once. In 2002, after playing the vegetarian nook Big Kitchen on Grape Street (known for SRO Sunday breakfasts and ex-employee Whoopie Goldberg), Williams said “I liked the place so much that I ending up writing a song about it. I went down there the next day and told the woman who runs the place, Judy, and she brought everything in the room to a halt. They were packed for breakfast but she made everybody quit eating and sit and said ‘listen’ and I sat up on the counter with my guitar and played ‘I’m Goin’ Down To The Big Kitchen.’” Asked about lyrics, he said “Hold on while I check my guitar case” - a moment later, he was back on the phone, singing:

“Ah’m a-goin’ down to the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen, the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen, the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen, ah’m a-gonna play for Judy, the Beauty, on Duty, she’s a-workin’ down at the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen…” He laughed and stopped.

“It’s a sing-a-long, sort of a funky southern styled thing, I just improvised about the food they serve, kind of reading it off the menu and into the song. If I were to play it again, well, someone might have to get a hold of the menu again for me to pull it off.”

c7 TERRI NUNN of Berlin enjoys San Diego’s cow-free cuisine. “I’ve been a vegetarian since 1979,” she said, “and one of the hardest things about touring is getting fresh fruit and things like that on the road. In San Diego, there’s so many vegetarian restaurants. It’s about the only place in the world besides India where I can go into a place and order absolutely anything on the menu!”

c9 LIZ PHAIR likes a good parking spot. “Back in ’98 I think, my dad was gonna be able to catch me either [playing] in San Diego or L.A….when he asked me which city was best, I said San Diego, not ‘cuz I wanted us to go to the zoo or Sea World or anything but because I knew at least his car would be safe in the parking lot.”

c10 MIKE NESS OF SOCIAL DISTORTION said he doesn’t have to go to the beach or a strip club to see lots of skin in our city. “People down there always show me their ink [tattoos]. See, the band and San Diego have the same initials, right, and guys have these cinderblock ‘SD’ tats…I don’t know if they’re big fans of the group, or just showing a lot of civic pride, you know what I mean?”

c6 LITTLE RICHARD thought San Diego was “Too darned pretty! You heard me! Everywhere you look out there, everything’s just too dang pretty! I’m usually the prettiest thing! I swear that city wants to compete with me or upstage me or something [laughter]! So I gots to show her I AM the prettiest, don’t I? Well? Don’t I?”

c11 ERIC BLOOM of BLUE ÖYSTER CULT recalled a show nearly 25 years ago, when the band tried to sneak into San Diego under a “top-secret” pseudonym. “We were coming straight off of [playing] stadiums and we agreed to this little club date, the Bacchanal [December 9, 1984], but all the publicity listed the band as ‘Soft White Underbelly’ [BOC’s original pre-LP name]. The idea was that only real hardcore fans would even be aware of our history with that name, and even then they’d probably think it was some other band, not Blue Oyster Cult. One of your local radio stations blew it the day before the show, I forget which one, whichever one wasn’t promoting the show [KGB with Fahn & Silva produced] but there were tons of people showing up and a lot of angry cops, I remember that much. Kind of a failed experiment. Tell San Diego we’re sorry we tried to fool them.”

c4 ART GARFUNKEL credited San Diegan Stephen Bishop as one of his favorite songwriters. “A woman singer friend of mine gave me one of his demo tapes and I picked two of his songs to record [“Looking For The Right One,” “The Same Old Tears on a New Background”]. My first reaction was, ‘Here's a real good songwriter who's real commercial...a great combination.' I thought, 'I'm going to be watching this guy go through an interesting transition to success. Maybe I can even play a part in this.’” Garfunkel ended up lending Bishop the money to start a song publishing company.

c12 BRET MICHAELS, about to perform at ‘Canes, was happy to hear the venue is a short walk from the beach. “Man, San Diego girls drive me crazy. All those hot ladies in their thongs…dude, I may just walk up and down the boardwalk before the show and round up a few honeys to come to wiggle around onstage. It’s not illegal there to have drunk girls onstage [wearing] thongs, is it? I’ll check their IDs first.”

c14 BILLY IDOL, after performing at Viejas, observed of the audience “You guys really don’t dress for the occasion, do you…this is the only place in the world where people come in off the street in sandals and $100 sunglasses and start a mosh pit.”

c16 KERRY KING, guitarist for Huntington Beach headbangers Slayer, said “Last time we were down there, it was sick, guys were coming up to us with ‘Slayer’ carved onto their arm by a friend with a busted beer bottle…someone followed us to a hotel and he ended up wrecking the place. Or maybe that was me. I play sober but I get sh--faced drunk after the show’s over.”

c17 DAVY JONES shared fond memories of San Diego going all the way back to when Don Kirshner first made a Monkee out of him. “I was a jockey, so of course Del Mar was a big part of that life…when you see that ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ video, I mean in the [Monkees] TV show, that’s really Del Mar the train goes to, not Clarksville. On the day before the first show came on [September 11 1966], they had this big publicity train ride from L.A. down to Del Mar with 400 kids, they won a radio contest, and when they got there we [the Monkees] met them and rode the train back to LA with them. They called Del Mar ‘Clarksville' for the day, because that was the first single, see…it was really grand fun, even though nobody had really heard of us yet.”

c18 JOAN OSBORNE frequently plays the Belly Up (“They invite me every year, I love that club”), but it was her Street Scene performance in September, 2002, that she wanted to talk about. “I was doing a song ‘Mean Woman Blues’ and there were a bunch of tough looking biker chicks up front, flexing their muscles and showing their tattoos…they came right up onstage during the medley and it was like an impromptu fashion show, it probably looked like we planned it but they were just there and being great.”

c19 TIM ARMSTRONG, guitarist for RANCID, described the first time the Oakland-based punk band played San Diego. “I think we might have hit TJ first, but then we went back down and played this dinky little skate park the YMCA was running [5-1-94]. It was wild because it was all twelve year old kids and cotton candy and all these parental units in Bermuda shorts…and then the very next night, we’re playing a Déjà vu strip club in Ventura, with naked women hanging off the amps and lap dances between sets! We’d play anywhere they let us, man. We kinda still do.”

c20 REGGIE SCANLAN, bassist with the Radiators for over a quarter century, can still recall the first time the New Orleans boogie band played San Diego. “That was a wild west city then [circa late ‘70s], I remember wall to wall tattoo parlors and porn shops. We played a hotel ballroom right downtown and everyone was dressed nice, had lots of money…I was wondering where they came from or parked because everything else downtown was like Times Square, or maybe Bangkok.”

c23 B.B. KING, asked about other blues singers he likes, mentioned Candye Kane. “She has that big, brassy voice, [it] has a lot of authority and sass, the kind of thing that men like because it’s seductive and women like because it’s powerful. You put her with a player like, oh, say Walter Trout, you might have a real big thing going, hit records and everything.”

c3 JIMMY BUFFETT: “I remember fishing off a pier in San Diego in the late 70s and having this really vivid hallucination of pirates coming into the harbor and I could see myself jumping into the ocean and swimming out to meet them…I always wanted to be a pirate. When everybody else was studying generals and American war heroes, Jean Lafitte was my hero.”

c24 STEVE POLTZ’s self-written news column at www.poltz.com often makes cryptic pronouncements like “Ramona is the next Seattle” (and once “Seattle is the next Ramona”). Poltz says he was once recognized by a female nurse preparing him for a testicular ultrasound exam. “She told me to lay down and spread my legs apart and she proceed to put this warm lotion all over my testes…she started running the ultrasound thingymajig all over my privates and I felt helpless…she said ‘My son is a big fan of your music. He's eight years old and we saw you play at Jingle Ball’…she then proceeded to tell me her son’s favorite song was ‘Monkeys Coming Out Of Yer Ass.’ Then she asked if I would sign something for him. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.”

c2 TONY BENNETT told NPR’s Terry Gross in 1998 “I used to play around when I did ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco’ and substitute the name of the city I was [performing] in, which I thought would get a great reaction from the locals. But just the opposite happened. For some reason if you sing ‘I Left My Heart In San Diego,’ people walk away feeling robbed.” (www.npr.org)>

c26 SHANIA TWAIN: “San Diego? Is that near Sacramento?”




Like this blog? Here are some related links:

OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/

FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/

SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic

JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford

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