The Impact Of American Pop Culture On My Life by Rick London c2016

I can remember what was probably my first, or one of my first record players (turntables), and playing my favorite records all the way back to age 5, though I had it several years before that, and I remember playing it, the details are not as clear.

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It was a brown standalone on a metal table about the size of a night table with one big gold and brown speaker mounted in the front.

I continuously played Elvis’ “Return To Sender”, “Honeycomb”, “Purple People Eater” any Alvin And The Chipmunks song and several others.  I didn’t often dance around the room or get a hairbrush and sing in the mirror as so many kids did, but watched the records continuously spin (as so many with Asperger’s/Autistics tend to do.  I watched in fascination for hours.

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I spent a great deal of time listening very closely to the singers and guitarists and wondering just how they “came to be”.  Some records I played all day.  When I taught myself to play the guitar in my teens, I could play a number of those songs (and later the Beatles, Stones etc.), of course nowhere as well, but I could not read music either.  I’d played the records so many times, to keep my mind occupied.

Of course many know I had un-diagnosed autism, lived segregated from my family in an attic; so had plenty of time to listen to music and grew to love it.

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Autism is a difficult condition to describe to others not familiar with it as it is a developmental condition. It is not a disease. It is not “a bad thing”, it is simply a different type of wiring with which science and education is just evolving to understand.

I was later blessed to have and play some beautiful guitars made by Martin (D28 and D35) and a Mossman, which was dual-backed and sounded every bit as good as my Martins but it was apparently a small indie firm which went under.   I now play the beautiful Crafter my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London gave me as a gift several years back.  It’s a long but fun story how she came to choose that gift and I’ll tell it one day if you’ve not heard it.

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As I grew into an adult, (as many Asperger’s are prone to do), I found a topic I liked and stuck with it.  Asperger’s often don’t care if the topic is a pragmatic shrewd moneymaker or not, and my choice of “American Culture” was most definitely not.  I spent nothing less than a fortune buying music, celebrity, rock and roll, and you name it memorabilia.

My favorite was music, including rock and roll, especially from my various eras; mainly the 60s, but also the 70s-the 90s.

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From age seven until age twenty-one or so, I guess I lived for, or to be like, the Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and a host of other (mostly British Invasion Groups).  Later of course David Bowie and Al Stewart.  Ironically, it was the British Invasion that seemed to influence America with the most impact.

Upon hearing interviews with many of them however, it was (mostly) the Mississsippi blues and rock artists such as BB King, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis and the usual suspects that made them tremble at the knees.  Nashville’s Roy Orbison was also at the to of their list; not to mention Tupelo’s Elvis.   Life is funny that way.

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The type things I wanted to collect did not exist; that is cartoons or caricatures of the famous musicians and sometimes actors featured and engineered onto gifts and tees.

I first came up with the idea of “Panel Hollywood” and created about 200 of them (cartoons only).  I sent each one to the actual celeb, business or rock star and asked for feedback or a review. Only a very few were resistant and/or threatened to sue, but the majority were tickled pink I was “keeping their name alive”.

Some of the most appreciative were the Roy Orbison Family, Mayo Hospital, Bo Derek and several others.  It was quite a surprise.

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So I got to work on creating fun memorabilia to keep all their fans happy.  Roy O.’s widow Barbara, who sadly died several years ago, used our cartoon of his as their annual Christmas Card and it is now featured in the Roy Orbison Archives.  Mayo Clinic features two of them on their library wall.

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To see some of the gift ideas I designed, please visit my “Celebrity Shop” at CafePress and first click on “Music And Musicians” and then try “Celebrities And Other Famous People”.  Throughout the store there are well-known American icons that are enjoyable and make fun memorable gifts.  They are also considered collectibles; and since they are affordable, continue to rise in price the moment they are purchased.

At the end of the day (a term I never use), I’d decided I wanted to be a “culture collector” like Andy Warhol; so I’d be sort of like an “Andy Warhol Lite”.   I never got even close to that elevation. However I do own some authentic Campbell’s Tomato Soups in the can for guests.  Lee and I don’t touch (or illustrate them).

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for the launching of Google #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts, Londons Times.  He is married to nature/ wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London.  They are active in environmental, animal and Autistic causes.  Rick’s entire humor gift shop can be seen at Cafepress.

 

 

 

 

 

I Miss David Bowie And My Brush With Fame, Fame, Fame, Fame…..

By Rick London

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As the years go by, we all have stories of our favorite artists; and our occasional brushes with fame. One of my favorites in my life is that of whom I considered one of the greatest recording artists of my lifetime, David Bowie.

I was in Los Angeles taking screenwriting courses and selling magazine advertising.  I had written two screenplays and gotten my foot in the door of a few large studios but no luck yet.

I got out early in the day and spent most of it pounding the pavement.  I stopped at a little restaurant (cedar wood) but can’t remember the name of it. It was mainly for breakfast and was just north of Beverly Hills and Studio City on Santa Monica Blvd.  My guess is it is still there as it was one of those old “local family establishments” when I was there for breakfast that morning in 1994.

It was several months after the Rodney King Riots, and several months before the Northridge Earthquake.

I walked in with a few friends and to my left at a large table full of people was David Bowie. There was no mistaking him.  I had run into numerous “stars” while living out there, so that was not a big deal. I can remember though the only other time I started shaking was when I met Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo).

I found myself staring at David Bowie as was everyone else in the restaurant.  He suddenly blew out a lot of candles atop a birthday cake in front of him and his table all applauded.  I said to myself, “You’re either going to meet my favorite artist now, or probably never.  I walked over and wished him happy birthday.  The rumors I’d always heard was that he was cold and aloof. Not the case at all. He smiled a big smile and said, “Have a seat. It’s my birthday. Here, have some cake”.  I took the slice and found myself not saying a word.

He said, “I’m 51…and we’re celebrating and now you are too.  Welcome to our celebration.”  He asked my name and I told him “Rick” and he introduced me to his friends.

I finally conjured enough courage to ask him about his 51 years and he started talking (from as far back as he could remember); mostly stories of concerts and being on the road.

I told him that though I love most of his songs if not all, “Ziggy Stardust” probably was my all-time favorite.  There was a slight pause. I thought he was angry.  Not so. He smiled and said, “Mine too”.

I tried to think of something funny to say and I blurted out, “Bet you’ve been through a lot of ch-ch-ch-ch changes.”

He laughed aloud and asked me to sit down and have breakfast.  I did.

For the first few minutes I was quiet for the most part, just to see what kind of group of friends this was. They clearly were not his band members and it had been years since he’d had his “Spiders From Mars” band; and had been working with studio bands when he recorded.

They were just regular guys (and women) who were his friends.  No big Hollywood glam, just regular everyday people.  That felt comfortable.  All were very friendly to me as was David.

I was truly curious and wondered “what drove” David and asked (not as a journalist but as a curious fan.  He expressed that he’d wanted to “do something different” since he was a little kid, and the more crystalized vision of what different was manifested when he was about 14 or 15.  He was not sure if that drove him, but he constantly wanted to do better and loved anything to do with the arts; in fact acting in films was every bit as fun to him as music.

I got him to talk about his travels and concerts. Well actually I didn’t get him to do anything.  I asked and he was generously open and told me a lot of “his oddities” (No pun intended) that had occurred on the road.  It had all been exciting but he didn’t truly enjoy it until he cleaned up his personal life.  That made sense to me.

About an hour later they all decided it was time to leave.  The waitress left us all separate checks.  Before I could look down to pick it up, David had grabbed it and by the time I could put my hand out to take it back, he’d already taken it to the register to pay it.

We all convened in the parking lot (which was a big spread of gravel) and stood there a few minutes talking about the weather, music, and such. He patted me on the back and shook my hand and told me how wonderful it was to meet me.  Aside from The Beatles, he probably was my favorite original musician I’d remembered for many years.

I went home and told a few friends what had happened.  My Los Angeles friends were not very shocked given that running into such fame was fairly common there, and David had been known to be very caring and nurturing.  But when I told friends and/or relatives back home nobody believed it.

I wrote that incident down and put it in my “creative box”.  My creative box was a large shoebox that had literally thousands of ideas that I would one day put into a film, a cartoon, or whatever it was I was going to do later in my life.  I was/am a late bloomer.

When I sat down 5 years later to begin creating Londons Times Cartoons, I did a series called “Panel Hollywood” which included my brushes with fame.

I realized I had looked at David as one who helped “keep us afloat” no matter what.  He was not about money or fame or all the trappings he had.  He was about helping those struggling to make it.

Hence my cartoon, “David Buoy” came to be.    RIP David Bowie. I’ll never forget your music and films; and most importantly the morning we had breakfast on Santa Monica Blvd.

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer.  He is best known for his offbeat cartoons and funny gifts, Londons Times Cartoons which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005. London launched the project from a tin shed in 1997.  London has designed cartoon David Bowie tees and gifts that make wonderful collectibles.