Sunday, November 8, 2009


Peter Parlegreco is a very talented young filmmaker and animator about whom you soon will be hearing a lot. And that’s not just because I’m gonna be tootin’ his horn for him. He’s got the goods, with nary a trace of bads. You can see what I mean by watching the splendid Late Music sampler video he created.

Fresh out of animation school, Peter is making a handsome noise worldwide with his senior project, a captivating animated piece called “Rescued.” It’s a wild little film, kind of a sideways slice of Yellow Submarine meets Krazy Kat. It awoke napping memories of indelible dreams that tickled my weirdo bone as my psyche was teething when I was a toddler. It’s not wholly nightmarish but it is startlingly stark and colorfully playful and, like I said before, captivating. There will be parts of you that won’t ever quite be the same again once you’ve invested the 8 or so minutes. Watch it. If you dare.

And please listen. I humbly add that the racket you’ll hear in “Rescued” was provided by my very own Nun Bett-R Productions. I collaborated with my gifted chum Chris Bolger and we went to task, employing my studio Baldwin organ, a 1984 Roland Juno 106 synthesizer, Chris’ beloved Celtic Star Irish Bouzouki, his Schecter 8-string bass, a Danelectro baritone guitar, a Breedlove 12-string guitar, the Casio SK-1, Mattel’s Magical Musical Thing, a piano banjo and a Pearl concert tom that found its way to my basement from an adjunct drum kit on the ‘07 Who tour. The drinks of choice during this endeavor were Redbreast and Johnny Walker Black. Straight.

We worked in a shroud of secrecy, never allowing the animator to hear what the heck we were doing until it was done. I guess he trusted us. Then we all met at Johnny’s Tavern in Clifton, NJ one dark night in November 2008 and slipped Peter the disc that contained our concoction. A quaff or two later, we shook hands bid each other “good luck.” The next day, the phone rang and Peter spoke in quavering tones, confessing that his spirit tingled when he matched up the sound to the film. A good job, in other words. We did our best because he gave us his best.

Parlegreco speaks: “”Rescued” took over a year to produce, from conception to finished movie. Nine months were spent hunched over a light-box, drawing the thousands of pieces of animation that make up the 8-minute film. I wanted to create something that felt handcrafted, yet at the same time maintained a very simplistic visual style.”

In March of ’09, Bolger, my wife Donna and I joined Mr. Parlegreco, his lovely bride Kethley and her mom Carolyn to catch “Rescued” on a screen that was considerably larger than our PC and Mac monitors when the film ran at the Duo Theater on East 4th Street in NYC during the 5th NYC Downtown Short Film Festival: Audience Choice Screenings. It was a gas! And here’s the kicker: this was the very room where a young Vito Corleone first encountered “The Black Hand” in the famous operetta scene in “The Godfather 2”

From Melbourne to LA, from London to Carbondale, prestigious film festivals are grabbing up “Rescued.” But one need only click away from wherever in the world they may be to see it. The link can be found below.

If you should run into the unassuming Parlegreco at the Park Tavern in East Rutherford or Charlie Blood’s in Garfield (both in New Jersey), hand him a hearty “atta boy” for his accomplishments, past, present and yet to come. And buy him an ice cold Yuengling so you can say you did so when you knew him when.

Here’s where you could also have seen “Rescued”

• Melbourne International Animation Festival, Australia (Melbourne)

• 31st Big Muddy Film Festival, Illinois (Carbondale)

• 4th Kent Film Festival, Connecticut (Kent)

• Kent Summer Film Series: Featuring the Winners from 2009, Connecticut (Kent)

• Australian International Animation Festival, Australia (This is part of a traveling show, which began in Wagga Wagga, Australia)

• London International Animation Festival, England

• Sydney International Animation festival, Australia

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I don't feel bad at all (Father's Day 1967)

In 1967, my best buddy was my new neighbor Gary. He had recently moved into the cool modern house behind my childhood abode in Carteret, NJ. We were both 10 years old and had a ball riding our bikes, building model car kits, and listening to records together. Virtually every summer day that year would be spent in my family’s pool. But first, we celebrated the end of the school year by “camping out” in a tent in Gary’s back yard.

After watching The Hollywood Palace (on a tiny TV with a long extension cord), horsing around, eating pork & beans, and telling jokes, I don’t think we got very much shuteye that Saturday night. Not being the Boy Scout type, I felt less than comfortable spending the night “in the wild.”

I half-woke around 6:30am on Sunday (Father’s Day) to the pungent aroma of earth, grass and canvas. Gary was sound asleep. The sun was rising, slicing through the early morning mist. My house was mere yards away but I wasn’t about to cut my suburban safari short. What’s more, I wasn’t about to pass up a rare opportunity to skip church! I fumbled about, switched on my transistor radio, put it to my ear and kept the volume on the tinny speaker way low.

Although I had long pledged my allegiance to 77 WABC’s “All American” deejays (Dan Ingram was my fave), I tuned in to 57 WMCA (home of “The Good Guys”), the NYC station that routinely dug deeper and presented platters that one may not hear elsewhere. The spring of ’67 yielded a bumper crop of terrific singles and I trusted my bleary state would be jolted by one of the new, mind-blowing sounds that I counted on hearing nearly every day.

“I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder was up. Too much! I was already nuts about this record and never got tired of hearing it (still don’t).

In solemn stillness I lay, drifting in and out of consciousness when the air was pierced by a swirling organ, gently-bashing drums and a regal voice chanting oblique lyrics. From what galaxy did this land? While my folks celebrated Mass a mile away I was having my own religious experience as I first encountered “Whiter Shade Of Pale,” the maiden single by some new British group called Procol Harum. A holier moment than this I had not yet known. Maybe I was still asleep. Was this all some real cool dream?

Then the next pick of the week came on. Out of nowhere, the intro swiftly swelled into a tight, charging fist of controlled chaos. I knew I was awake now. Wow. I think I recognized it to be The Who pretty quickly. I’d bought “Happy Jack” about a month before and was hip to their sound. This was tougher, really ballsy. Yet it was melodic and told some kind of story (mind you, it took me a few years to figure it out) and it sported those high harmonies that reminded me of The Beach Boys. I never heard a guitar sound like this before. I never heard anything like “Pictures Of Lily” before. It gave me a feeling I never had before!

The drummer really spoke to me. He sounded wild, even crazy, but everything he did made some kind of sense and totally enhanced the song. I’d been teaching myself to play drums on coffee cans with plastic lids for five years already but it would be another six months until I would get my first kit. I soon added Keith Moon to the expanding list of drum heroes that included Ringo, the Motown sticksmen, Johnny Barbata, Dino Danelli, Hal Blaine and many others.

My world would never be the same after that morning of June 18, 1967, though I may not have realized it at that moment. I’m not kidding when I say that those of us who were digging music in the ‘60s had our minds routinely blown on a semi-daily basis. But I knew that this “new sound” was something I wanted in my life in a big way. Somehow, someday, I wanted to create it.

I wouldn’t actually own “Pictures Of Lily” until I got a copy of Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy a few years later. My miniscule allowance and my folks’ tight budget made for lots of frustration for a music-starved kid. But indeed, I kept my eyes and ears on The Who.

Fast-forward to September 1971. Entering Carteret High meant that I would connect with a larger student body and, hopefully, I would meet other musicians who were into the same noise as me. I desperately needed to “find a new place where the kids are hip.” I figured that if a fella could play “I Can’t Explain,” then he “got it.” The going was tough ‘til that point, let me tell you.

It was first period of day one. First row, seat one. A guy opens up his looseleaf and plastered inside the notebook are full-color pictures of The Who from Hit Parader magazine.

Thirty five years ago, during the first week or our high school careers, Jimmy Babjak and I began a lifelong friendship and created the nucleus of The Smithereens.

Thank you, Pete, John, Roger…and especially Keith.