Tag Archives: 1970s

LA’s Epic Rock & Roll, Fashion & Art Party: Interview with Author Nora Novak

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Whenever she’s asked why so many Millennials and Generation Z men, women and teens continue flocking to the music and style of the 1960s and 1970s, Los Feliz Confidential author Nora Novak has a ready answer: “I think Millennials are recognizing a sense of excitement and freewheeling attitude of that era by listening to classic rock, and streaming movies and documentaries that portray the ‘good times’ they find appealing in a way not found in today’s device-dependent, stressful and more violent world,” she says. “I think the boomers, the internet and the media have had a hand in this, unlike previous generations.”

Nora, who grew up in and currently lives in Newport Beach, is the author of one of the finest scenester memoirs in years, and winner of a 2017 Southern California Book Festival Award. Los Feliz Confidential takes us right inside the classic home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz where Nora and her boyfriend hosted some of LA’s wildest parties of the 1970s and early 1980s. But their wildness was classed up by the fetching, willowy blonde hostess, whose elegance, glamour, style and love of music turned these parties into something extravagant. With her visual descriptions and deeply honest portrayal of her own feelings, goals and hopes, Nora lures us into a narrative so rhythmic and rich that you can practically hear the songs of the period spinning on her turntable — and the lyrics weaving in and out of the narrator’s heart. If you can’t remember the titles of these memory markers, no worries: she lists them in a back, a clever piece of “soundtracking” the book.

But Los Feliz Confidential is much more than a musical all-nighter put to words. Nora takes us through her rich, complex world that she creates on the fly, as a trendsetting scenester and traveler completely in touch with her native Flemish roots. The fact she was born in Belgium, grew up in the U.S. with her Old World parents but never lost her connection to Flemish culture (but rather dove into and celebrated it), adds to both the perspective and depth of the book. She takes us around the world on her fascinating (and sometimes wild) adventures, one of which she shares in the interview. She also takes us into the crazy all-hours fun of 1970s Los Angeles, and into the glam rock, punk rock, hard rock and early New Wave worlds that she made part of her own. We meet her friends, and again throw ourselves on Sunset Boulevard and into the clubs and scenes that many look back on with deep reverence, while younger generations seek to know more about this time period where freedom, platform shoes, liberation, shoulder pads, creativity, long hair, imagination, art, style, and great music prevailed.

Los Feliz Confidential and Art Damaged Author Nora Novak.

Turning all these experiences and elements into a treasure trove of a memoir was no easy task, but Novak has the chops to pull it off. She’s a fine artist, designer of her fashion line (Noraluxe Loungewear), art gallerist, actress, model, and also the author of the novel Art Damaged. She comes from a very talented family as well. Her mother, Emma Albertina Bogaerts, a lifelong storyteller, is the 105-year-old (not kidding!) newly published author of Emmy: Memoir of a Flemish Immigrant, now available in English and being shopped to publishers in Europe. Nora’s brother, Mark Leysen, is an award-winning art director and fine artist, as well as the author of Klown, his third novel (Traveling Shoes Press) about a late-night talk show host who runs for President. It definitely echoes the present state of the world.

We caught up with Nora recently. To get your Black Friday book shopping chops going, here is what she says about life, L.A., making scenes, and Los Feliz Confidential.

Word Journeys: Los Feliz Confidential is an epic scenester read – the incredible LA music-fashion-art scene and how you and others showcased and helped define it in your travels and daily lives. Could you talk about the amazing chemistry that exists between music, fashion and art, and why it was so definitive of a generation? And still is?

NN: Because that generation (talkin about my ge- generation) experienced an explosive time of cultural change, social mores, pop art and particularly British rock that spawned new looks in fashion as a lifestyle. There was an innovative and artistic energy that changed the way people dressed. The 70’s rock-infused fashion had an element of sensuality and glamour with an edge that I certainly favored and is still being recycled today. Innovative new artists, designers, bands and clubs emerged in L.A. and provided a more artistic expression in fashion. It all played out with the music creating a dazzling decade that many look back on for inspiration today.

A good example is Stephen Spouse collaborating with Debbie Harry in the 80’s and Jeff Koons collaborating with the new Louis Vuitton line today. Music blasts at every fashion collection. I think music, fashion and art have always had an evolving synergy.

WJ: Take us through your writing process for Los Feliz. How did you pare down your countless experiences into a tightly written 200-page book? What themes and points did you emphasize? And tell us about your decision to basically “soundtrack” the book, with songs listed for each chapter.

NN: First of all, I wrote what I could remember! I could have added many more stories, but I chose to keep it moving like the fast pace I was living at the time. I wanted to emphasize the difference of how immigrating here made me feel and my fearless sense of adventure. I tried to be give my stories a visual sense of the fashion and look of things, the easiness of life at that time. Everything I wrote about had music running through my mind, reflecting the time, so I naturally made many musical references. When I finished I was compelled to write a Playlist for each chapter, which I really enjoyed doing.

WJ: What are three of your favorite tales that you share in the book? And the funniest?

NN: Well (spoiler alert!), I do share an interesting story about my relationship with a Jordanian arms dealer and his Ambassador brother. There’s a tale about my first skiing experience – which also proved to be my last – and a humorous girl/girl story. I think the story about an ENT treatment given by my boyfriend’s surgeon dad is hilarious but for me it all seems humorous now. I’m still laughing!

Nora Novak’s fine collage work includes “The Girl from Antwerp”

Cinema Verite at Cannes? It’s red carpet time.

WJ: You are the daughter of a very take-charge, dominant father and a warm, artistic mother. How did that parent combination shape you as both a person and an artist?

NN: My father, although a stern and unpleasant man, instilled a strong sense of discipline and a somewhat sardonic outlook. However, he was responsible for my love of art and photography, for which I am grateful. My mother, on the other hand, emanated femininity, graciousness, a pleasant demeanor and sense of humor. The combination definitely shaped me as an individual and shows up in my work as an artist, as I generally incorporate female photographic images in my glossy mixed-media collages.

WJ: What struck me about your journey is how you took part in the lifestyle and excesses of the day, yet you always seemed to have a sense of who you were and what you wanted. How did you maintain that compass, if you will, of how to go forward?

NN: I readily enjoyed the excess and decadence of the times; it was a Bacchanalian era for rock ’n’ roll. Everything seemed so glamorous and indulgent, and was completely accepted in the L.A. that I knew. I did have goals though, like a working schedule and a sense of enough discipline that probably prevented me from becoming another Hollywood fatality. Many didn’t make it.

WJ: You write of your affinity for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. What was it about his voice, music, lyrics, and presence that captivated you? What do you feel musicians today can learn from their predecessors in terms of delivering from heart and soul vs. making a hit?

NN: Bryan Ferry evoked a sultry, seductive kind of singing unique from other rock stars. Not to mention his suave, good looks, elegant style, sophistication and harmonica playing that simply resonated in a big way for me. I thought his music and lyrics quite beautiful and loved his sexy album covers. It seems like everyone can sing today with a huge range and big powerhouse voices, but at the end of the day, it’s generally the more unique voice with soul and a great tune that becomes the hit. The late Amy Winehouse comes to mind.

WJ: You’ve also been creating works of art. Tell us about those.

Nora Novak’s “Nico”, honoring the late New York scenester and Velvet Underground singer. Part of her Femme Fatale collection.

NN: I started a new series, my “Femme Fatale” collection. I just finished three mixed-media collages, that can be seen on my website noranovak.com and will be exhibited soon. I’m thinking about starting another book next year, possibly a sequel to Los Feliz Confidential, picking up where it left off moving into the crazy 80’s.

WJ: Lightning Round: Who are your five favorite authors? Musicians or bands? Artists? Fashion designers?

NN: My favorite authors? When I was young, I would say John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac. I that progressed to Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski, and more recently Irvine Welsh and Edward St. Aubyn. Musicians: It’s still Bryan Ferry, Iggy and the Stones and Amy Winehouse, miss her. Artists: Jan Van Eyck, Kees Van Dongen, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel to name a few. As for designers, Dries Van Noten, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana, love the vintage Halston — and my own Noraluxe Loungewear line, of course!

WJ: Final question: If a musician came up to you and said, “Hey girl, I want to play you one song that speaks to who you are,” what would that song be? And who would be playing it?

NN: Well, I would love it if that musician was Bryan Ferry. I’d request his cover version of Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, but wait; can I get one with Iggy on vocals, Mick on harmonica and Keith on guitar, and they can play whatever they want?

WJ: Let us cue it up! Thanks so much, Nora, for a fun and enlightening look into an era so wonderfully captured in Los Feliz Confidential.

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GREAT Back Stories about the Movie ‘Big Wednesday’

All week, I’ve been blogging about the importance of knowing and sharing back stories to help readers or audiences see the full context of the work – or present a different, deeper perspective.big wed-poster

On Friday night, got to witness the great benefit of this first-hand. My long-time friend, 1976 world surfing champion Peter Townend, gave about 100 people at Bird’s Surf Shed in San Diego a wonderful trip down memory lane, telling some fantastic behind-the-scenes story about the classic Hollywood surf movie, “Big Wednesday,” on the 35th anniversary year of its theatrical showing.

REMINISCING ABOUT THE HEYDAY OF NEWSPAPERS: LINK TO NEW 366WRITING BLOG

Besides being forever emblazoned in surf history as the sport’s first professional world champion, PT is also one of the sport’s greatest and most important ambassadors. He reminds me directly of another friend, Bill Rodgers, who dominated the world marathon scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s (winning the Boston and New York marathons four times each), but continues to do everything possible to educate the masses and advance running globally. In my opinion, based on 35 years of watching these two and having worked with both of them, PT and Billy are the two greatest ambassadors of their sports/lifestyles. And they both religiously continue to hit the water and roads, respectively.

So, everyone from old-timers to young kids turned out at Bird’s, and watched the movie. What a back story treat we received! While I won’t share all of PT’s stories, since he has other plans for them, I will share a couple of great tales from the “Big Wednesday” set that made most of us shake our heads.

The movie starred Jan Michael Vincent, Gary Busey and William Katt. All went on to enjoy strong careers in film, TV, or both. Since they were friends, Vincent wanted PT to be his surfing double for the wave-riding scenes. PT, then the reigning world champion from Coolongatta, Australia, was stoked to take a leave from the then-fledgling pro tour – “I made $1,000 a week on the movie, for a year; while I got free surf trunks for being on tour,” he quipped – and take the money and exposure Hollywood had to offer. It changed his life; he’s called California home since.

However, when director John Milius walked in the room and saw PT sitting next to Katt, he decided otherwise. For good reason. “We looked like brothers back then,” PT said of he and Katt. Billy Hamilton, the father of mega-big wave superstar Laird Hamilton, and Malibu great Jay Riddle shared duties as Vincent’s double, while great Australian surfer Ian Cairns handled Busey’s water scenes. Katt and Vincent “were actually pretty competent surfers,” PT recalled, “but Busey didn’t surf at all.”

big wed-sunsetNow for the fun stuff – and the reason why we love back stories. During the epic final act, the “Great Swell,” they shot at Sunset Beach, Hawaii for two months, holding out for … well, a great swell. They got it – thunderous 10-12 foot waves with some faces topping 18 feet. If you’ve been to Sunset Beach, you know that on 10-12 foot surf, the waves break as much as a half-mile from shore, and enough water moves to flood a small town … on each set. It’s a heavy scene, and no one wants to deal with a wipeout, especially when you take off deep, at the center of the wave.

But, Hollywood and movie fans love wipeouts. For starters, PT recalled, Australian pro Bruce Raymond was paid $200 per day – a month’s rent on the North Shore in 1977 – to “eat shit,” he said to loud laughter. He paddled out on boards partially sawed through. Every time he dropped in and set up his bottom turn, Raymond felt the board snap in half beneath him. So, while Raymond was tumbling in the world’s gnarliest washing machine, dealing with hold-downs that could last up to a minute, the board was washing to shore. An interesting way to earn money …

PT had his turns, too. His surfing scenes are among the greatest in the movie, with his beautiful soul arches and sharp, smooth maneuvers a generation of wave-riders can picture just by closing their eyes. However, during the heavy Sunset days, Milius instructed him to speed down the line of the set waves – and pitch himself over the nose of the board. Eight times. I can feel every reader who’s surfed Sunset right now, cringing when they read this. Great water photographers Dan Merkel and George Greenough captured the resulting thrashing sustained by PT and another well-known surfer of the time, Jackie Dunn.

big wed-bear“Big Wednesday” depicted a story of three Malibu locals, one a local surf legend, and their wiser, older surfboard shaper friend, Bear (played by Sam Melville). Here comes some more back story, and Hollywood magic: “Malibu” was actually reconstructed at The Ranch, a famous and well-protected stretch of beach between Santa Barbara and Point Conception, while surf scenes were filmed in El Salvador (then basically unsurfed), The Ranch and Sunset Beach. Milius also reversed the footage of Banzai Pipeline.

I’ll leave the rest to PT to bring out later. What fun it was, though, to watch the movie, and then have PT pop in with behind-the-scenes stories over the soundtrack. “Big Wednesday” is a true classic, and the fact younger surfers love it just as much as those of us reliving our younger years through it speaks to what PT described as “the real message: that surfers are community, and that just about every surf spot has groups of friends, as well as a ‘Bear’ who shows them some of the ropes.”

What a way to spend a Friday night – and to close a week of blogging on back story.

Now, for those of you in California, paddle out … surf is up big-time this weekend! Have yourselves a Big Weekend.

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Dropping into The Next Best Thing Blog Tour with Author August McLaughlin

THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

Welcome to TNBT blog hop!

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way that readers can discover new authors, because with bookstores closing and publishers not promoting new authors as much, we need to find a way to introduce readers to authors they may not see in their local bookstore.

Here, you’ll have the chance to find many new authors. Here you’ll find information about August McLaughlin and her psychological thriller, IN HER SHADOW, David Freed, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the Cordell Logan mystery series, calls: “A dark, crackingly good psychological thriller that grabs you by the throat on page one and never lets up.”

Also, see links below to five other authors you might like to check out.

I’d like to thank fellow author August McLaughlin for tagging me to participate.

Click the links below to find out about August’s novel.

Website: http://www.augustmclaughlin.com

Blog: http:augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16138453-in-her-shadow

In this particular hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions.

1: What is the working title of your book? 

Voice Lessons

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I first got the idea while working with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member, Jefferson Airplane/Starship lead vocalist Marty Balin, on his memoir, “Full Flight,” about 10 years ago. When Jefferson Airplane formed, he was known in San Francisco as “The Voice” because of his beautiful high tenor. Knowing his story, I imagined, ‘What would happen if a legendary band completely sat it out for 20 years — no recording, no performing — and came back to play one encore tour in today’s musical scene?’ I added some spice to that question, and here we are.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Commercial fiction, with a distinctly musical twist.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Tom Timoreaux –   Jeff  Bridges or Kurt Russell

Megan Timoreaux – Joan Allen

Christine Timoreaux – Dakota Fanning or Evan Rachel Wood

Chester Craven – Sam Elliott

Analisa – Sonia Braga

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A touring novel of music, superstardom, father-daughter relationship and redemption, about a music superstar who reluctantly leads his band on a one-off reunion tour after 20 years of retirement, only to watch his new backup singer, his daughter, emerge as a superstar in her own right as their strained relationship mends — and to receive his long-lost love child back into his life after he’d thought her dead or missing for over 40 years, and after she’d seen a webcast of his first reunion concert.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Currently in the process of being marketed through an agency.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One year. One year of writing prose that weaves through the past 60 years of popular music in America, the roots that made it happen, and the cities and states where you will find the fans of great music.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

“Never Mind Nirvana,” “Anything Goes”

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I spent seven years writing album and concert reviews for newspapers and magazines, during which I interviewed many bands. I have also worked with several musicians on their books. Coupled with a lifelong love of rock, classical, folk and the blues, as well as a fascination of the history of American popular music, I thought it was time to write a really good, character-based story with music at its core. What is more exciting than touring with a big-time rock and roll band? Not much. I toured with the reformed Jefferson Starship for awhile in 2000, and it’s the best. Then I thought about how difficult, fluid and emotionally taxing — and enriching and deeply loving — relationships are between fathers and strong-minded daughters, and wanted to write about that. So I put the two together, put The Fever on the road … and the book wrote itself from there.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Rather than borrow from hits of other bands (and deal with the rights clearances and fees), I wrote 80 songs in the protagonists’ persona and voices — 40 for Tom Timoreaux, and 40 for Christine Timoreaux. These serve to create the band’s set list for its massive one-off tour; the lyrics are both in the book and the website that will soon go up, http://www.voicecentral.com. Also, I wove the recent history of American music into every bit of this book, so you will find more than 150 anecdotes and band or song references throughout … like a “Where’s Waldo?” for die-hard music fans. What a lot of people don’t realize about the older rock stars (especially Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney) is that they all carry encyclopedic knowledge of and deep reverence towards the history of blues, folk and rock — not to mention making a few contributions of their own. I celebrate that, especially through the character of Chester Craven, the lead guitarist.

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Let’s Keep Book Signings Enjoyable

On Saturday, I walked into one of my greatest pet peeves in the book world: a signing at which the customers were treated like second-rate citizens. This happened at Barnes & Noble in Oceanside, where I entered the fray a willing participant and walked out feeling like I was part of a cattle drive.

The occasion was an appearance and signing by Ace Frehley, the lead guitarist of KISS. After seeing a sign advertising the event a few days prior, I called my friend Robert Munger, the webmaster of RockChoice.com and a much more ardent KISS fan than me, and we decided to meet up at the signing.

I haven’t listened to a KISS song in 30 years, but they were a major part of my teenage years. I saw them twice in concert, and I always felt a sort of affinity for “The Spaceman,” Frehley’s costumed alter ego. As a huge music fan and saluter of high achievers in general, I like commiserating with musicians known to be nice, engaging and creative people. I also like taking an occasional ride down memory lane (or reclaiming lost memories, to be more accurate in this case) by reading memoirs from people who helped make those times.

When my lady, her son and I arrived 40 minutes early, the line already queued 100 feet from the table where Ace would sign. Already, my first hope was dashed: that Ace would give a talk about his memoir, “No Regrets,” and then sign. I bought a book for a friend’s Christmas gift, and stood near the front of the line with Robert until the signing started, at which time I moved to the back and prepared to stand for the next 60 to 90 minutes. No problem. The line was filled with excited fans sharing KISS stories and concert memories. Always a fun line to join.

A half-hour after the signing started, I was twenty feet from the signing table. That was fast: I was probably #240 of the 250 or so people on hand. How could Ace sign so many books so quickly, and banter with his fans?

The answer: store management didn’t really let him banter. When I got close to the table, two B & N employees and three security guards were on hand. “Open your book to the page you want him to sign,” one of the employees said. “No, he won’t personalize for anyone.”

With that, the man took my book and planted it on the table, behind two other books. Clearly uncomfortable with the arrangement, Ace made sure to shake everyone’s hand and chat with them for a second, and take in whatever they had to say — usually, favorite KISS concert moments delivered in the 10 or 15 seconds they had before being moved on. As I said, he was very engaging, just as friendly as I would have expected, and clearly delighted to meet long-time fans. I respected and appreciated him not only because of his music, but because of his continuing desire to create new music and his commitment to sober living — which, if you know anything about his past, is quite an achievement. So when I got up there, I shook his hand and said, “Thanks for the music and keeping your creative force alive.”

“Along with the rest of me,” he quipped.

We had a quick exchange, and then I was moved out of there by the book signing posse.

A moment on that. The B & N crew, hell-bent on efficiently running people by the table as quickly as possible, created a countercurrent to Ace’s obvious desire to interact with his fans and readers. As an author who loves to talk with people who read my books, and as one who’s purchased hundreds of books from B & N stores nationwide (and had books on their shelves for years), I couldn’t sit silently and watch this. I turned to one employee and said, “You know, we’ve already purchased our books, and this man might not have been someone you looked up to, but he was that person to a lot of people here. How ironic that the dude who quit KISS because the band became more about profit than music is subject to the way you’re doing this book signing.”

Naturally, my comments fell on deaf ears. Ten minutes later, just 50 minutes after it began, the signing was over. B & N was happy — in and out in less than an hour. Another item checked off the to-do list. Efficient.

But no way to run a book signing. Part of the reason to get a book signed is to share a moment with the author, connect with the person whose book you’re about to read. I guarantee you, that is what everyone had in mind when they arrived. Thankfully, the author did everything he could to accommodate them, even though he was flanked by a personal assistant on one side (of course) and two security people moving people away from the table (totally unnecessary).

As an author, educator and one who works on behalf of many authors, and has been to much bigger B & N signings (when I saw Tom Robbins in New York in 2004, nearly 1,000 people showed up. The employees couldn’t have been more supportive), I felt perturbed by the scene. What made it more irritating was that the featured author wanted to talk with each of his fans as he signed their books, but they kept moving the line. By my rough count, 250 people stood in line with books they’d just purchased for $26. That’s $6,500 that would not have happened without Ace Frehley’s presence.

One would think the booksellers would be a little more appreciative of that fact. I know one thing: had this signing taken place at an independent bookseller, the result would have been much different.

Let’s start remembering why you’re so massive, Barnes & Noble: Because of we, the readers.

 

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