Friday, May 31, 2013

Call Me Pigtail 20/20

Okay folks, this here is number 20 out of 20. That means that we've come to the end of the first part, which was going to be the only part, but now I have a bunch more stories and kind-of true events to talk about, so now we need a second part. I guess that'll start with 21/40 at some point.

Before we start the second part, I intend to put all of the first 20 bits together, along with some extra weirdness like lyrics and secret bits, and make it into a book you can read on your Kindle and Kindle-type luxury reading device. So the next time I post will be to tell you more about that.

For now, though, here's the last bit of the first part: Motel 666!

We’re home, still covered in New York grime and glitter, not even unpacked, and already our sick brains are boiling with a new obsession — we absolutely, no question, right now need a video for our hit song “Motel 666.” This is the 1990’s, and people still watch videos of bands doing songs, and we’re excited to get the sparkling, sputtering, rip-roaring NDI madness forever committed to whatever it is you record videos on. So where do you start?
Fortunately, right about this time we get a call from a group of sharp young video people who had seen the NDI in full effect at a gig at Lounge Axe and were already chomping at the bit. They want us to make a video with them for free! This is for purposes of promotion of their video business. As usual, the NDI had fallen face-first into a sweet situation.
We put together a sophisticated high-concept plan for the video: since the song is about us sneaking our entire band and crew into one motel room, the video will be about sneaking our entire band and crew into one motel room. Only we’ll take it a step or two further: we’ll sneak an entire gig into one motel room. Gear, crowd, mayhem — everything into one cramped trashy little room. And then at the end, when the cranky manager comes to bust down the door and kick us out, all he’ll find is Skipper, chilling on the bed and watching TV. Ok? Ok! Let’s record our video!
First, though, we need a good place to film this monster. Being good Chicago boys, we immediately think of the strip of amazing tacky motels along Lincoln Avenue. This road, also known as highway 41, used to be the main route from Chicago to Milwaukee, and all kinds of little funky-butt businesses popped up to cater to the traveling salesmen and families in Ramblers. Then the big ugly Edens expressway opened up, and this slice of Americana withered on the vine. There are only a few of the cool old places left, but one of them, the Spa Motel, is still in business, and still as tacky as one of Goodtime’s suitcoats. We scout out the location, as the movie-types say, talk to the cooperative desk girl, and set up a day to shoot our video.
To fully re-create the NDI live experience, we start by calling various fans and freaks to crawl in through a window into the room and join the party. Ultimately we get about thirty people to commit. But we still need a grumpy old guy to be the front-desk dude. Where will we find a patient, funny, yet age-appropriate actor? The answer: Skipper’s dad! He’s perfect for the role, a born actor, and funny as hell. Once Mr. Zwakinov is on board, the project shifts into high gear.
What do the good people staying at the Spa Motel on the night of the NDI “Motel 666” video shoot think is going on in room 144? We don’t know, but no one complains. As the filming picks up steam we add more and more people to the chaos. They’re jumping on the bed, pounding the floor and the ceiling, shouting, wrestling. Monk the Wand’Ring Wizard, a genuinely strange cat who has begun opening shows for us, is dressed up as the devil and is producing flames from his fingertips, so the place is smoky and smells like burning sulfur. We also have a gorilla, a girl from the “Addicted to Love” video, a clown, a witch, an old lady, and lots of other people even we don’t know who they are. The ending, when Skipper’s dad comes to investigate the noisy guests at his hotel and bursts in, expecting to find a party, is my favorite moment in our existence so far. The song ends, ka-pow!, and he unlocks the door, and there’s Skipper (his kid, remember), lounging peacefully on the bed in tux coat and snazzy shoes, watching “I Dream of Jeannie.” Skipper’s dad backs out of the room and rubs his chin, “hmm, that’s strange, I coulda sworn there was a party in there,” he’s thinking. He cruises, and then the camera moves into the room to show me and GT hiding behind the wall. It’s funny because it’s true! Plenty of times we had to hide from hotel managers coming to try to bust us for having too many people in one room. “Defrauding an Innkeeper,” it’s called, and it’s a misdemeanor, and we’re guilty of that crime in pretty much every state in union. 
The video-maker people intercut, all of this motel mayhem with scenes from a recent show we did at Metro, one of the best places in Chicago to play. We sold it out, 1200 people, and this time we didn’t need the googoo dolls to help us. Between the mess in motel room and the rock scene at Metro, we have a pretty sharp little video, and we proudly send it everywhere we can think of, along with a few broken TV’s and handfuls of confetti. It gets pretty decent airplay, including late-night MTV and other outlets. To this day the “Motel 666” video will put a smile on your face.


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