What?! Can this be right? Actual, literal Q & A with R * O * G * E * R H * E * D * G * E * C * O * C * K, who you thought would rather lose his dingus than submit to another, ulp, ordeal by newsprint??? Yup, that’s right: not a bluff, nor ploy, nor “yellow journalistic” slight of copy. Your eyes, and this newssheet, deceive you not. The real “thing,” daddy-o!
So get settled, get comfy, crack open a beer, an ale, fix yourself a whiskey (or vodka) (or gin) (or etcet.) and mixer, or a freshly squeezed citrus beverage or hot steamy mug of your favorite caffeinated poison, fetch that pretzel box or cookie tin you’ve been hiding or hoarding for uninvited creepos or children, shoes off, socks, feet up, phone disconnected ... some mighty good reading ahead! But first, please, well don’t skip directly to the voluminous Q’s, the voluminous A’s, the clearly labeled “Rog,’ Verbatim” section beginning on page 17, not just yet. As readers it is certainly your prerogative — shucks — your good ol’ American freedom, but please, um, let a good ol’ author call the shots for a change, the readerly shots, let’s wind this thing out in sequence....
Next to God, people are what life is all about.
— Paul Johnson, liner notes to the Belairs’ The Origins of Surf Music 1960-63
There’s this not uninteresting person, see, a semi not uninteresting guy who for lunch one day goes to this trendy restaurant, where upon entering he tells the hostess “No smoking” and she says “There’ll be a five-minute wait, may I please have your name?” and he’s so pissed that she doesn’t RECOGNIZE HIM he coldly snaps ''We’ll take smoking’’ — boy is he peed off!
A self-involved guy, an occasionally interesting self-involved guy who in fact on occasion can be mildly entertaining, the party in question is also capable of keeping an incredibly straight face, revealing little except by design, allowing few stray gestures (even when talking on the phone), smiling principally to indicate nail-on-the- head “glee” and nothing more subtle (or casual) than that, and is thus hardly, in spite of a longstanding partytime rep, the most damn fun in the world.
“Self-involved guy?” I’m a self-involved guy. Takes one to know one? Possibly. This other self-involved guy, meantime, was once your mayor. Not mine, though. I’m from elsewhere.
From elsewhere to your town by rail and motorcar. Travel time: three hours.
An out-of-town hit man? An out-of-town patsy? Dunno. (I’m still figuring.)
And why me? Why have I been chosen? Again, dunno, not exactly, but I do know by whom I’ve been chosen. I’ve been chosen by Thomas K. Arnold.
Tom Arnold — “T.K.” to his friends — that wildcrazyyoungprolific musicwriter (politicswriter) (anythingwriter) from your midst; give him a dime, he’ll write about... anything. The young are like that. (Was young once, twice myself and can relate.) Fast food, Barry Manilow recitals, the price of 90-watt bulbs in Pacific Beach — you name it, dangle a token three-or-four-figure carrot, and this boy will write it. It takes a few carrots to service the BMW. Hey, only kidding — his stuff is good. Good stuff and plenty of it, on all subjects but one, make that two. He’s never written on the life and times of Hosiah Famputter (1819-1904), inventor of the first mass-market pork laxative (“Hoglax”), not a word on the s.o.b. And he’s never written, not to my knowledge, ’bout the soul, the psyche, the life behind the eyes of his partytime cohort, musical collaborator, and close personal friend, Roger Hedgecock.
You don’t write about close personal friends. Well I do, I’ve done it — yeah, ha, it’s tricky/sticky — but T.K. Arnold, no. Not this one. For this one he wants me. Me, I’m guessing, because Lester Bangs has been a pile of dust since ’82. You couldn’t be deader. Once, howe’er, he lived, swallowed like candy the cotton strips inside Benzedrex and Vicks inhalers, prolifically wrote, was prolifically published, and served as role model number one (first; foremost) for an even wilderyoungercrazier Thomas K. Arnold. When one is dust, you go for two (second; secondary). Two in this case was/is me.
To live ... that I, less than Lester, might write up some young gaga’s drinking pal. It was not initially appealing. “You’ll love Roger,” the gaga’s AT&T crackle assured me. Love, huh? I could hear my crackly mind-voice retorting. I hear it's a many- splendored thing. Somebody once 'assured' me Id love golf. “Every reporter,” the phone voice continued, “has gotten him wrong. A bunch of total wimps. I really think you’re the one who can do it right.” Well, gee, thanks, us #2 ’s aim to please.
And what he told Roger, let’s assume, was “You’ll love Richard. He’s my favorite all-time pulp scribbler after this other one who’s dead .” That and the fact that I wasn't one of these prick reporters, one of these vested-interest poison-pen you knows who were at least X-percent responsible for his fabled Undoing. An undoing ’bout which, detail wise, I knew dick. Less than dick. I hardly knew Roger from Shinola, his “saga” from that of the Grand Coulee Dam. And that other dam, Oroville, no, Glen Canyon, no. Hoover, um, Nancy — I can’t say I knew her from, dunno, my ass. That Italian fellow, Gary something, Jerry? Didn’t know him from a bucket of Viennese phlegm. A bunch of names, you read the paper, some of them carry across town lines, county lines, mid to back pages, if you’re lucky you see ’em.
I was lucky at the time of Tom-boy’s offer to even recognize the name Hedgecock. But I didn’t know his face; nor those of the “others.” If you don’t know the eyes, ears, and noses that go with the names, if you don’t know the words, the deeds, that accompany these names, these features, in their local “permanent records,” it’s kind of hard to imagine getting it up for a round of “Why’d you do it?” — "Did you do it?” — any of that, especially when you’re not even terribly sure what it, as either historical datum or point of regional relevance, happens to, y’know, be. I didn’t know such shit, nor did I care. With no axe to grind — not even a pen knife! — I was a shoo-in. Roger said yes to Tom-boy, yes to me. But would I say yes to these two fuggaloonies?