Greetings to our new readers:
This may be the first of my Newsletters you’ve received.
You were added to our mailing list when you signed up at a recent Four Preps performance.
I’m delighted to welcome you and let you know that all these tales are excerpts from my up-coming book: “My Adventures with the ICONS, IDOLS and IDIOTS of Show Biz”
… from Ozzie and Harriet to Elvis
…Sinatra to the Beatles
… George Burns to Woody Allen
If you’d like to catch up on more of my escapades over 6 decades in the entertainment world, you can click on the URL below and check out previous newsletters about celebs from Ozzie Nelson to Sinatra and Annette to Zsa Zsa.
Plus a fair share of fools.
Click here to access our Newsletter Archive
You’re joining a few thousand other readers with whom I share these on-going excerpts from time to time.
Again – welcome!
Glad you could join us.
With best regards,
The Four Preps
January 30, 2018
Been missing you.
I hope all of you enjoyed terrific Holidays and are ready to take on the new year. ‘Cause, ready or not… here’s 2018! (Which, by the way, is the 82nd year of my absurdly lucky life.)
The Holidays kept me from working on the book for far too long… a month and a half.
Tomorrow, I head down to my man cave, hit the keyboard and try to live up to the support and encouragement all of you keep giving me.
Knowing that you’re out there anxiously anticipating the book gives me the impetus I need.
The Four Preps are idle right now, which is probably for the best since I’m trying to make a Spring release of “My Adventures with The ICONS, IDOLS and IDIOTS of Show Biz” (which I’m beginning to refer to as “the 3 i’s”).
BTW – I’ll be recording an oral version once the printed one comes out.
To further whet your appetite for all that, I’d like to share an excerpt about one of the Four Preps very early and rather jarring adventures.
It shows just how green and naive we were in the beginning.
After all, at the time the Four Preps consisted of: a Preacher’s son, 2 Mormons, and a bashful jock.
But we were about to get a worldly education.
(Note: The “Mel” I refer to is MEL SHAUER, our esteemed and all-knowing Manager. Mel was profoundly wise in the ways of show biz, having been a distinguished member of the Hollywood Community for decades managing radio stars like Fibber McGee and Molly, recording greats like Les Paul and Mary Ford, and T.V performers like Barbara Hale (Perry Mason) and Bill Williams (Kit Carson).
It was Mel who took our demo tape to Capitol and got us a contract.)
Incidentally, all my adventures in Capitol’s round building on Vine are fully covered in the “3 i’s.”
Amazing events in that landmark tower… like running into Nat “King” Cole in the elevator, admiring Sinatra’s exotic Dual Ghia in the parking lot and sharing a cup of coffee in the commissary with Dean Martin. (that’s absolutely true—coffee!)
O.K. enough of that.
Here’s another excerpt...
TITLE: “There’s No Bus ness like Show Bus ness”
With our career heating up as ”26 Miles” climbs the charts, Mel is dead set against our ever doing what the industry calls “a “laundry list show.”
That’s a concert tour in which five or six Acts appear on the same bill—each doing 3 numbers and then closing with their hit. Nobody is really the star, since all the Acts receive exactly the same billing, and Mel, who insists on thinking big for the Preps, just doesn’t like the idea.
However, we get an offer to participate in a quick laundry list tour (which the promoter prefers to call an “All Star Review”) just before we head back to New York for our first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
The lineup will feature Roy Hamilton (“Unchained Melody”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On”), Bobby Helms (“My Special Angel”), The Silhouettes (“Get a Job”) and The Four Preps (“26 Miles”).
Mel, who is always right, is skeptical about the whole enterprise from day one.
But we are totally stoked about the chance to be part of a genuine rock and roll All Star tour, and share the stage with performers we idolize.
At this point, Roy Hamilton is the hottest romantic baritone around with a simply amazing voice. And Jerry Lee Lewis… well he always tears things up with his wide open, kickass rock ‘n roll. Bobby Helms… not the greatest singer in the world, but he’s enjoying a humongous hit on a powerful new ballad the Preps will ultimately cover.
Finally, four starry-eyed and head strong young men convince Mel that we really want the experience.
He gives in and we sign for the tour… 5 cities… 3 on the West Coast and then Phoenix and Albuquerque.
We’ll be out on the road with big stars performing their monster hits and we’ll get to hang out with them.
“Stoked” doesn’t even begin to capture how excited we are.
Our first show will be in Sacramento, and transportation from L.A. is optional.
Some decide to drive their own cars.
But the four of us are really jazzed about riding with, and getting to know, all those hip performers and we unanimously vote to head North on the bus with our fellow hit makers.
It won’t be the smartest decision we ever make.
We’re instructed to rendezvous in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant in Southeast L.A. at 2:00 A.M. on Friday for the drive north to our kick off show that evening in Sacramento.
When we arrive in the car with my Dad behind the wheel, there are all kinds of funky people milling around in the jam-packed parking lot. It’s a sullen, tough-looking bunch of hard-core, hard-bitten, world-weary road rats—veterans of these kinds of tours who’ve seen it all.
Most of them are black and have had their share of hard scrabble trips through the racist South, with public bathrooms for “Whites Only” and cops who pull you over for DWB—“driving while black.”
By now these guys know how to stay cool no matter what goes down.
They’re laid back, detached, distant and prefer to keep to themselves...
We four very blond and virginal young men, excitedly exit the car and greet everyone effusively as we work our way through the crowd and over to the bus.
Not one person acknowledges us.
We climb on board, stow our stuff in the overhead bin and take our seats, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our fellow headliners.
“I wonder where Jerry Lee is gonna sit?”
Then the bus slowly starts to fill up and it begins to dawn on us. It looks like this bus may only be for the third rung underlings, musicians, roadies, stage managers, tech crew and hangers on.
So far, no Jerry Lee, or Roy Hamilton or Bobby Helms.
Well, we assure each other, the big shots probably get on board at the last minute to avoid the riff raff.
The bus gradually loads up until every seat is filled.
Not one of our idols is on board.
The massive bus door swings shut, and as the driver warms up the motor with a roar, a Sheriff’s car screams up with lights flashing. Deputies jump out, climb on board and remove four individuals.
No one bats an eye… except the four of us of course.
Finally, things calm down and the bus eases out of the parking lot and heads North.
Soon, it’s noisy and hot and starting to reek with the stench of booze from the flasks which nearly every guy is carrying.
I also detect a strange, sweet, smoky scent drifting out from the rest room at the rear.
And here sit the four milk-fed, WASP innocents, embarking on their first “real, true rock ‘n roll tour.”
Be careful what you wish for.
As we head up the highway into the night, one drama after another unfolds.
At the midway point of the trip, around 4:00 A.M., the bus pulls into a rest area and the driver jumps out and makes a phone call.
Most of us are trying to sleep and pretty much unaware of what’s going on.
But, I sit up, trying to focus on the scene at hand.
What I witness makes me wonder if I’m still asleep and this is just a nightmare.
Paramedics arrive, climb on board and extricate an unconscious man from the bus’s bathroom. They haul his limp—obviously dead—body up the aisle, out the door and over to a hearse, which slowly drives off as the bus moves back on to the highway.
No one utters a word.
I sit back in my miserably cramped seat and try to forget what I’ve just seen.
(I’m later told the poor wretched guy died in the latrine of a drug overdose.)
Meanwhile, rumor has it the four fellows whom deputies removed in L.A. were The Silhouettes whose blockbuster “Get a Job” is to be one of the highlights of the show.
A back up plan is quickly hatched, and as we drive on into the wee hours, we’re serenaded by four musicians in the rear who are slapping together an impromptu version of “Get a Job.”
I realize the crafty tour promoter has instructed the band to put together a faux foursome that can perform tonight as The Silhouettes if the genuine group doesn’t show up for the show.
Good plan. But there’s a slight complication...
When the promoter arrives at the auditorium in Sacramento, just ahead of our bus, he’s handed a telegram from the manager of the authentic Silhouettes warning him that if he fraudulently introduces an imposter group as “The Silhouettes” tonight, he will be sued for every penny he has.
Sold out house. One Star attraction hasn’t shown up. Major legal issues if he tries to fool the audience.
The promoter pockets the telegram and angrily disappears into a phone booth.
Sound check is a total fiasco. Multiple acts… too little time. A tone deaf soundman with an attitude.
And things keep getting weirder by the minute.
One member of the band owns a cross-eyed monkey which he stations on a perch just off stage, so it can masturbate in time to the music.
Of course, the monkey is partial to up tempo songs—his particular favorite being “Great Balls of Fire,” and he displays amazing endurance.
However, if anyone stares at him for too long, he stops what he’s doing, flips them the finger and then resumes his rhythmical activity.
You can’t make this stuff up!
Then there’s one performer who travels with his teenage girlfriend and spends most of the first night trying to convince Glen to come up to his hotel room, hide in the closet and watch him have sex with his chickie...
Glen declines time and again, but the guy persists in making the offer night after night in the hope that Glen will finally give in and stowaway in the closet for some peekaboo thrills.
Promptly at 7:00, the auditorium doors open and the clamoring crowd piles in.
By 8:00, the place is packed and the raucous audience is in high spirits.
The promoter paces backstage trying to figure out some way to present a counterfeit group that will satisfy the ticket buyers without getting his ass sued off.
We watch with keen interest as the Silhouettes time slot approaches.
The fake group is standing in the wings waiting for their introduction.
Suddenly, the promoter snaps his fingers with an idea, and whispers something to the M.C., a local D.J. who then steps to the mic to hype up the crowd.
“Are you having a good time with all these great stars?”
“Yessss!” they roar in a deafening response.
“Are you ready for the final hit makers of the evening?”
They explode with whoops and hollers.
“Well, O.K. then,” he bellows, “Here’s the group you’ve all been waiting for… with their smash, number one hit—please welcome those “Get A Job Boys!”
The phonies hit the stage, the crowd goes wild with no inkling of the deception.
(As a great sage of show biz once said, “It ain’t what’s true that matters. It’s what folks think is true!”)
It’s our first exposure to a rock and roll tour and experiences that range from four arrests before we even leave L.A., to a drug overdose half way to Sacramento and a threatened law suit when we arrive.
Then there’s the monkey.
And the exhibitionist rock star.
I guess I must have at least met the other headliners ‘cause here we are in a picture together...
Gosh, you’d think Jerry Lee could at least call me now and then.
It takes that one trip to convince us that we’ll never again do a bus tour.
And we never do.
We phone Mel in L.A. and a brand new, gleaming, 8 passenger Plymouth station wagon with luggage rack and all the extras is delivered to our hotel the next morning.
(Mel can move mountains when he has to.)
For the rest of the tour, we drive behind the bus in our gorgeous new wheels.
Until, at one point, while maneuvering through a snowy mountain pass in New Mexico, Ed hits the brakes, the wheels lock and we slide helplessly down an icy incline and plow into the back of the bus.
No one is hurt… physically that is, and our brand new station wagon is still drivable, but it’s no longer sparkling and new.
Our egos are seriously deflated for the rest of the tour with our crumpled hood being secured to the front bumper by a bungee cord.
Welcome to life on the road.
O.K. There we are with yet another tale in the life of “b.b. boy singer.”
Hope you enjoyed it.
That’s all for now.
Take good care of yourself and each other until we’re in touch again.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an Apple waiting for me… and I don’t mean the kind you eat.
All the best,