Archive for November 29th, 2008

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RIP Michael Lee

November 29, 2008
Wolfe, Astbury, Lee, Duffy. I had this poster for years.

Wolfe, Astbury, Lee, Duffy. I had this poster for years, along with many others.

Michael Lee died this week. He was 39.

I first heard of him when he drummed for The Cult in 1991-92 on the Ceremony tour. While he didn’t record with the band (Mickey Curry handled drums for the Ceremony album), Michael and bassist Kinley Wolfe joined singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy for the ensuing tour. Their performance was captured for the Live at the Marquee CD set, which came as a giveaway with the Pure Cult VHS video; you can also see them in the Wild Hearted Son video (although they’re really just miming to Curry and Charley Drayton’s studio work).

The Cult being The Cult, he didn’t stay long, but did have his name added to the Spinal Tapness that is The Cult’s drum roster. But he did okay. He then joined Robert Plant’s band for the Fate of Nations album (you see him in the Calling To You video), and stayed on for some of that Page and Plant stuff in the mid-90s.

He was a solid, non-flashy drummer with huge power. What little I heard, I really, really liked; as a drummer, I have a lot of respect for players who know how to stay at the back of the stage and the back of the song. Lee did that, and did it well.

The sad thing is his age. He was younger than I am. I guess that’s a sign of getting older. But two rock heroes of my youth have died this week, and that makes me stop and contemplate for a moment.

Here’s to you, Michael Lee. Thanks for rocking.

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Confessions of a Shopping Mall Santa, Part 3

November 29, 2008

One of the most interesting things about being a mall Santa is the permanence of it. I took off the costume every night, unstrapped the two fake bellies and carefully peeled the beard from my face. But I had spent that day, and the other 50 or so that I was Santa Claus, being photographed, and those photos are still out there.

As you may recall, I took the job as Santa after being laid off from the newspaper where I worked as a reporter. I was recalled the following spring, so the Santa weeks were really just a hiccup in what has otherwise been a long career in journalism.

A couple of holiday seasons after all of this happened, I was sent to someone’s house to interview their daughter, who, if I recall correctly, had earned some kind of amazing scholarship. As I was interviewing the girl and her parents, I noticed a photo on the mantle, smiled, and pointed at it.

“You know,” I said, “that’s me in that photo.”

The dad took it down, squinted at it, squinted at me, back at the photo, back at me, and said “I’ll be damned.”

It was a picture, I should mention, of me and their dog. This mall had a Pets-With-Santa day, where people could bring their animals in. I am very allergic to animals with fur, and not crazy about other kinds, so you can imagine the sneezy, nose-runny day I had, which got worse when someone draped a boa over my shoulders for a photo. But the spirit of Christmas was strong in this one, and I soldiered on.

I guess those photos of me are floating around to this day. There must be hundreds. But one of them, in particular, would pop up in my life again in a far more interesting way.

What happened was I got married. The following Christmas, my new wife and I were unpacking our combined Christmas decorations, and she took out a framed picture of her two daughters with Santa. And, of course, it was me. She didn’t believe me at first, and it took some convincing, but in the end, she got it. So that nifty photo was part of our annual Christmas display during that brief marriage, and maybe it’s still out there. I don’t know.

Ho ho ho.

Part 1, Part 2

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