Vista Eye Institute, Toronto - 06/07/97
So let's recap: the bare-handed birth butt-slap, the circumcision snip, my
first unaided potty visit, expulsion from nursery school, singing "You Are
Sixteen Going On Seventeen" solo at age seven, groping Pat Ortner's
budding womanhood, my bar mitzvah, the harrowing Moby Dick Monarch
Note affair, my a cappella Glee Three's high school talent-show victory,
Brown University's acceptance letter, that first taste of Crispy Hunan
Orange Chicken, the fitful loss of my cherry,that bastard Bill Buckner's
World Series error, Rockapella's Tonight Show gig, Bill Clinton's
election, performing hammer-assisted euthanasia on that poor trapped
mouse, the amazing "Evelyn Woods Speed-Marriage 'n' Divorce Combo"
miracle, my first private table dance, the shrink's potted-plant shadow in
the shape of a woman's pump, quitting Rockapella, recording seanDEMOnium, and now... LASIK, the
five-minute laser eye surgery that gave me the gift of sight !
Just 24 hours ago I was legally blind. Without my glasses or
pain-in-the-ass contact lenses, I couldn't pick my nose, much less pick up
a fashion-model wife half my age in a singles bar. In medieval times I
would've been a blind, gutter-bound pencil salesman with no albums, no
royalties, no low-level TV stardom, no prepubescent groupies, no band to
quit, no washer-dryer, no Heinz Ketchup endorsement, no casual sex with
Christy Turlington, no nuthin'! In one painless swoop, modern
ophthalmic technology has lasered my myopia away!
As I gaze out the panoramic window of the Toronto airport I can clearly
see the birds soaring gracefully in the distance; the cotton-candy cloud
formations; the strange cracks in the runway; the luggage handlers
joyously divvying up jewelry, toiletries and prescription medications; the
fine print on the 747 ("Made from 100% recycled aluminum cans. This
beverage contains saccharin which may cause cancer in laboratory rats");
and way off, behind that hangar, I see my pilot with his pants at his
ankles, swigging Smirnoff. Lord of Lords, I can see!!
I've been "visually challenged" (blind as a friggin' blueberry pancake)
for 29 years. If this isn't the happiest morning of my adult life, it's
certainly the first in which I peed before donning eyewear, and I owe it
all to LASIK. Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis is ophthalmology's
latest shining innovation, correcting an array of visual impairments with
a few painless blasts of laser fury. One mere day later, and I have no
side effects except for the lingering odor of burnt eye flesh and a hazy
memory of sexual humiliation at the hands of a zaftig nurse named Irma.
The strangest post-op sensation was putting on my glasses and not
being able to see a damned thing through them, which brings me to my
deliciously entrepreneurial point. As I have no use for my two pairs of
John Lennon-style gold-filled frames and coke-bottle-thick prescription
photo-gray lenses, I've decided to offer them to you, my
memorabilia-starved public. I will now entertain email and snail-mail
bids of no less than $300 for each pair. Each "Sean Spec-Pac" will
contain a signed certificate of authenticity, a signed photo of me wearing
the specs, a ten-minute video of my pre-op preparation and actual surgery,
and the specs in a nice case. Bidding will conclude on September 30th,
1997, which should give you enough time to realize I'm serious, mull over
my shameless opportunism, succumb to temptation, put in a few weeks of
overtime, secure a bank loan, hock some jewelry, divorce your trust-fund
spouse, take a counterfeiting course or rob a Quick-E-Mart. Group bids are
also welcome. Interested? Hell, I almost bid on John Lennon's toilet, so
My eyes adore you,
New York City - Spring, 1997
[Following are excerpts from a phone interview by Jessika Diamond for feature in
the Contemporary A Cappella Newsletter (periodical of CASA, the
Contemporary A Cappella Society of America)
about Sean's decision to quit Rockapella.]
First of all, I want to say that this band is very dear to me and always
has been very dear to me. Iím amazingly proud of what the band has
accomplished and Iím proud of myself for the role that I played in
nurturing it from its roots as a novelty act that appeared on the street
and at bar mitzvahs to its present form, which I believe is one of the
best óif not the best ó vocal band in the world. Iím also proud
of the fact that we have played a pioneering role in the contemporary a
cappella movement. However, over the last several years Iíve viewed
myself more as a songwriter than as a singer/performer. My songwriting
has become increasingly important and it overwhelms the other aspects of
my career and my sense of who I am, to the point where the songs - and
my desire to do the songs my way - has overwhelmed everything else in my
Rockapella, being a democracy, and everyone having a strong ego and a
strong presence... itís natural that not all of my songs are going to be
accepted into the repertoire, nor should they be. Not everything I write
is appropriate for Rockapella, for Rockapellaís audience or maybe even
the a cappella style in general.
I realized that I needed another outlet, but that in order for me to
focus on my material the way I really need to, I wouldnít be able to do
both simultaneously. I had to make a choice, to follow my heart and
devote all my energy to my songs and my vision.
Iím still actively performing with Rockapella while they try to find my
replacement - definitely into April  - and if they find someone
soon then maybe thatíll be it, or maybe Iíll go on a little longer,
depending on how long it takes to work him into the repertoire.
I have several plans [laugh]. But the first order of business for me is
a lot of material that Rockapella has not performed - in fact Rockapella
hasnít even heard most of it - stuff that Iíve already started demo-ing
a cappella. When I write songs, I usually write them on guitar, but my
instinct is to hear them done a cappella. So Iím preparing an album of
Sean a cappella songs, where Iím doing all the voices except for the
vocal percussion. Jeff [Thacher, of Rockapella] is doing almost all the
vocal percussion. Itís going to be an album of about, I donít know, 10
to 15 songs, depending on how much I can get done in time and what
sounds good. This will be all new material; "new" meaning that
Rockapellaís audience hasnít heard it, with the exception of maybe one
song that wasnít released in America. A lot of the material I wrote five
years ago, three years ago, two years ago. Itís material that Rockapella
hasnít performed or recorded, but itís very dear to me.
Iím going to release it under the title
seanDEMOnium, because they
are demos and I donít want to present them as if they are studio product
even though my home studio is pretty good and I think they sound pretty
darned good. Some of them have an excitement that I think will be very
ear-friendly. Iím going to subtitle it "the a cappella demos of Sean
Altman," or something like that. A lot of it sounds somewhat
"Rockapella-ish," because thatís my style of arranging.
I will be also demo-ing these songs with a more traditional rock and
roll instrumentation - guitar, bass and drums - and see what translates
back into its birth form successfully. I think some of the songs are
going to sound great - sort of a contemporary dirty-guitar format.
In Rockapellaís announcement about my departure, I said that I was going
to be pursuing my dream as an aging-but-thin, guitar-based solo
artist... I envision myself doing the singer-songwriter thing... I
aspire to sound as good as people like Amy Mann, Sheryl Crow, Elvis
Costello... Beatles-y kind of stuff... Thereís a bunch of songwriters
out there whom I admire, and a lot of them are women. An artist I adore
is Sam Philips. I love her songwriting, and I love the way her records
are produced. This is the kind of alternative songwriter rock that I
really connect with, and always have. As an aspiring guitar player, and
certainly as someone who writes songs on the guitar, I hear my stuff
done that way. Songs that I think will translate really well are the
rock anthems, like
"Follow Me To Heaven" and
"Come my Way."
Will fans still get to hear you performing music they are familiar
I think a lot of these songs probably wonít have a place in whateverís
next for me. For example, "Zombie Jamboree" is not likely to be a song
Iíll continue performing, even though I love the song, I love what the
song has done for Rockapella, and I still love wearing the Zombie eyes.
In terms of the material Rockapella has recorded, there are seven
Japanese albums, the Carmen Sandiego album and
Primer. Thatís nine albums,
plus assorted cuts on other records, so thereís this huge amount of
material, and Iím proud of all of it. I donít love it all, of course;
some stuff I donít connect with, but I think thatís the case with
everybody. You look back on your earlier work and you wish youíd done it
differently. But just in terms of how much material weíve put out, Iím
really grateful... When I look at all the CDs lined up in a row it makes
me very happy and makes me think that Iíve accomplished something very
important. So in terms of what weíve done as a recording group, Iím
tremendously proud. I think we were innovators too... In 1985 we were
recording sequenced and sampled vocal percussion, before Iíd ever heard
anyone use vocal percussion on an a cappella record.
Iím proud of our role as pioneers of a recording style, but Rockapella
started out singing live, on the street, and I think thatís always been
our strong point - that we were an immensely entertaining live act. That
is probably what Iím going to miss the most about being in Rockapella -
knowing that when I go out on stage, a great time will be had by all and
that weíre going to put on a great show. Rockapella has always given 200
percent, people smile, it makes them happy, and weíve always had a great
time on stage. Thatís something I may never be able to achieve again, at
that high level; the act was so polished and so energetic. And then
Carmen Sandiego - 295 episodes. Iím proud of that legacy. It was
great to be a part of a show that we all liked, and that people
enjoyed... I know that Rockapella will continue to do more TV work, and
Iíll certainly miss that. I hope that thereís TV stuff I can do on my
own, but my opportunities will be limited until I have some solo
How do you feel about the number of covers of your arrangement of
Iím really proud of that. When we started performing, we were
essentially doing all Persuasions arrangements. Imitation is the most
sincere form of flattery, and Iím grateful that people do "Zombie." Iím
glad that something that sprung from my head has been embraced by so
many people, so many groups. I first heard that song when I was a little
kid, and I knew it was a good song. Choreographer Joan Merwyn did a
great job with that song, in particular. I think weíve been doing that
song longer than any other in our repertoire, and a lot of it is because
of the way it looks as much as the way it sounds. "Zombie" gave us our
start, because it got us onto the TV show Spike and Company: Do It A
Cappella, but even before that, we had been performing it on a
number of daytime TV shows...
What surprises you the most?
Rockapella will go on for many years without me, but Iím amazed that
itís been eleven years... Just to make a living in the music business
is a huge achievement, and to record nine albums, and all the concerts
and TV appearances... those are remarkable accomplishments, none of
which I would have predicted.
When Rockapella started out, I had written no songs, and the concept of
songwriting was completely foreign to me. It wasnít like I wanted to be
a songwriter; I never even thought about it. I was a singer and
entertainer. Thatís the most surprising thing that Rockapella helped me
develop - the ability to write songs. And that is the happiest personal
development for me. I get tremendous gratification from writing songs,
as well as a personal catharsis every time I write something new.
Would you consider writing for others?
I would love for other people to consider my material. Iím thrilled when
other groups sing Rockapella songs that are mine, and I would love it if
other groups did my material, not just a cappella groups. Iíve never
written something specifically for another artist but I would like to do
that. My main focus will be myself as a performer, doing my material,
but Iíd be thrilled if other people did my material.
What has the reaction been to the news that you're quitting
My family and friends have all been supportive because they know the
trials and tribulations Iíve been going through for the last couple of
years. Theyíve been supportive, but not without reservations. My family
is concerned that Iíve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle - I live
in a nice apartment and I go out to eat every night, and Rockapella
makes a good living. They and I have to come to grips with the fact that
my income is going to take a huge hit. And of course theyíve all asked
me to explain to them many, many times exactly why Iím doing what Iím
doing. But they understand it and theyíre supportive. My friends have
been universally supportive.
Most people have asked the most important question. Everyone who knows
me and knows Rockapella has zeroed in immediately on the big question:
Why do it now, when the group is so close to having an American record
deal? Arenít your solo ambitions better served by waiting until
Rockapella has some success in the American market, and then youíll have
more leeway and power to pursue your solo ambitions? And that hits the
nail on the head. The fact is that I simply canít wait any longer. My
heart, itís literally... I feel like Iím being dragged by a very
powerful external force. The sensible business thing would be to wait.
But I donít want to hold the group back by entering into an American
record deal when my heart is really somewhere else. My heart is set on
doing my own material in a different style and Iíve just got to go ahead
and do it. Iíve got to do it now, I canít wait any longer.
Rockapellaís fan are upset. I think theyíd be upset if anyone left the
group. And I guess because Iím one of the founders, itís hard to imagine
what the groupís going to be like without me. Believe me, Iím having
trouble fathoming what the groupís going to be like without me, too. But
I think Rockapellaís fansí biggest fears are that Iím going to drop off
the face of the Earth, when in fact I plan to be in an ongoing presence
in their lives both as an a cappella recording artist and in other
formats. Weíve gotten a lot of truly touching letters and email from
people, stuff thatís really tugged at my heartstrings and made me
question my decision to leave. But people have ended their letters with,
"We will support you in your future endeavors," and Iím really grateful
for that. Thatís another thing that Iím going to miss - the people who
come to our shows. A lot of them are friends at this point, and we get a
lot of warm feedback from the audience. Iím going to miss that. I hope
that Rockapellaís fans will look for me and continue to support me.
Do you have any closing thoughts?
Iím doing this because Iím following my heart. If I were following my
wallet, Iíd be in Rockapella right now, working hard. The way I view it,
Iíve got one life, one career, to make myself happy, and to find my
place in the music business and in the world. Everyoneís always
struggling to find their place. I think my place for eleven years has
been perfect: as a member of an important musical group. But now it
doesnít feel right anymore. Something is pulling me to do something
else, to follow a different path.
I know Rockapellaís fans are wondering whatís going to happen with the
group. I have complete confidence that the group will replace me with a
great singer, and that the group will go on to do tremendous things. It
will be different than it was with me, but hopefully it will be better.
Hopefully theyíll get someone who is as focused as the rest of the guys
are on making Rockapella a success, both as a recording group and as TV
personalities. Iím going to continue to support Rockapella and be a fan
of the band.
Iím going to miss the camaraderie of those guys because they are great
people and great performers and great songwriters.
Sean's Final State Of The Band Address
[Before his departure from Rockapella, Sean wrote a final "State of the Band"
column for the groupís fan club newsletter, Rockapella CenterBeat. That
column was never published. Here it is for your delectation.]
||New York City ó
April 27, 1997
Happy 1997, Rockapallbearers! Hugs all around! Any self-respecting New
Year worth its weight in mistletoe should usher in dramatic change, even if
that change wears a seemingly unfriendly face or has the apparent
countenance and impossibly fetid breath of a Sunday morning wino. A famous
songwriter once said "All things must pass," or perhaps it was a
toll-taker, or maybe a gastroenterologist.... No matter -- it's one of
life's few palpable truisms, like the inevitable browning of a bitten
apple, the middle-aged softening of a man's once-granite abs, the
accumulation of lint in a dormant navel, or being checked all too
thoroughly for hernia by a cold-handed physician. Things change, dagnamit!
That brick of lumbering prose was the windup; now here's the pitch: I'm
leaving Rockapella to pursue my ambitions as a solo rocker. The
once-subtle tugs of my creative muse have become undeniable wrenching
pulls, like a master fisherman reeling in his trophy catch. As a founding
eleven-year member, I'm tremendously proud of Rockapella's achievements on
stage, in the recording studio, and on the small screen; and I'm grateful
for the love and support of our wonderful fans. I respect and cherish my
superb bandmates, and I know that Rockapella will continue its fun-filled
frontal assault on the music world with an exciting new face. Expect more
great albums, concerts and TV appearances this very year from history's
greatest vocal band.
My own plans are still being formulated -- bubbling and brewing like some
murky who-knows-how-it'll-taste gumbo surprise. I will release a CD of
new, mostly a cappella material called seanDEMOnium this spring, with more
products to follow, both a cappella and guitar-backed. I hope you'll stay
in touch with me, so that when I do my tour of hippie-staffed,
bong-resin-stained, incense-reeking, termite-gnawed coffee houses, I won't
be playing to just the tripping bartender. My new web site,
www.bigsean.com, will monitor my fitful orbit in the Seanosphere and,
barring an unforeseen scud attack, I should achieve my goals (total oneness
with the Universe, buns of steel, and a fashion-model wife half my age) by
President Gore's inauguration.
To Elliott, Barry, Scott, and Jeff: thanks for years of music, creative
mayhem, and friendship. To our management team: 20% of my happy
belong to you. To Rockapella Center: can I still get discounts on
merchandise? To my inevitably younger, cuter, buffer successor:
congratulations, friend -- you just landed the sweetest gig in the cosmos.
To you, the best fans ever: thanks for your love. Drop by my web site, and
I'll whip up a batch of franks 'n' blankets and martinis. The best is yet
to come for all of us!
"Daisy Simone" -- Truth or Stription?
||New Orleans ó
"...And the 1997 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award for Best Original
Song goes to... "Daisy Simone!" All right, so it was actually a tie
between "Daisy" and some other ditty, but the fact remains that I slopped
the sordid details of my former trenchcoated nightlife down on the
community table for all to dissect... and I got an award for it!
Vindication? Hell, yeah! Not only have I been spiritually pardoned for
every drooling $10 private table dance I ever wallowed in, but they're
retroactively tax deductible to boot ("research")! So now, with my
winner's certificate hot off the xerox machine, I will ooze the tale of my
ongoing dalliance with lust, and explain how I morphed my bottom-feeder
hobby into a prize-winning composition.
The roots of my infatuation with the female form are traceable to a
magazine subscription I got at age ten. Not Highlights, not Boys'
Life, not Reader's
Digest, not even Mad Magazine, but the holy grail... yes, friends...
Let the syllables tumble luxuriously across your lips and tongue:
was an erotic linguistic exercise, but now the fun's over: what in damnation was
year-old doing with Hugh Hefner's smorgasbord of skin? Granted, America was
buzzing in the incense
afterglow of the free-lovin' '60s, but the tooth fairy and Little Annie Fanny
unlikely playmates. I
theorize that my divorced Mom believed, in the wake of my appreciation of the
nude scene in
the musical "Hair," that the skinned cat was already out of the bag. "My
wee Seanalie's seen it in person on the Broadway stage; what's the big
deal about a magazine?" Perhaps she also believed that a monthly
injection of hormonal vice would nurture my blossoming heterosexuality.
(Why not Penthouse, too, Mom? Hell, let's add Hustler, Screw
Jugs to make a
real cowboy out of me!) To Hef's credit, he did garnish the vaseline-lensed
feast with political
cartoons and interviews with
world leaders. I recall a seminal conversation in which I asked my mom
about Nixon's China policy and NASA's floundering Apollo space program
and, oh -- by the way, Mom, what does "cunnilingus" mean?
Of course, a ten-year-old armed with a girly mag is the de facto king of
the kiddie roost; and I packed other artillery as well. While other
sleep-away campers pondered the subtle differences between Drake's Ring
Dings and Hostess Ding Dongs, I held court with a clan of saucer-eyed wet
dreamers hovering over my beat-up copy of "Everything You Wanted To Know
About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask." Which isn't to say that I was getting
any. On the contrary, my first bare-loined experience wasn't until eighth
grade when, with "Kung Fu Fighting" playing on her bedroom hi-fi, Pat
Ortner tentatively checked me for hernia.
By the time I lost my virginity at age eighteen, I was fluent in all forms
of sex-speak, from dry, clinical jargon ("mammary gland") to colorful
gutter vernacular ("sweater meat"). For a Bronx teenager with his first
driver's license, Manhattan was a carnival of sleaze, exploding with
triple- X theaters, carnivorous hookers, 25-cent peep shows, and zany
gadget emporiums. No beer party truly hit its stride until the obligatory
multi-orificed blow-up doll was inflated and batted around like a beach
ball at Yankee Stadium.
Most tantalizing, however, were the strip joints, where a tall teen could
ogle the goods at sniffing distance for a mere G-string-placed dollar.
Even a gangly bespectacled dork on an allowance (like me) could be a chick
magnet if he flashed the cash. Twenty individually disseminated single
bills could garner twenty brief occurrences of intense womanly attention
from a stage goddess: targeted bumping, thrusting, bawdy shimmying,
lick-lipped air-kisses, and lots of lascivious back arching. For the
wealthy, $10 bought 180 moist seconds (one pop song's worth) of
personalized beam-me-up-Scotty bliss administered by the undulating lovely
of your choice: the elite "private table dance."
The strip-joint clientele was strangely upscale and mostly married -- a
melange of Wall Street suits, ad agency yuppies and Japanese tourists,
with the occasional diamond-district Hasid thrown in for ethnic
diversity's sake. One iron-clad rule: no touching above the calves.. I
still find this ironic, in that a woman's well-toned calf is one of her
most delightful assets.
By my junior year at Brown University, the occasional strip joint foray
was as commonplace as mall shopping or antiquing -- it was just another
mundane form of Rhode Island entertainment. My Blind Dates bandmate Jason
and I would typically kill time between soundcheck and the gig at
Providence's seedy Foxy Lady Lounge. The experience was about much more
than looking at naked chicks; it was an concentrated sociological study of
man as lustful animal. Watching the limp-jawed cretin-patrons gape at the
nudies was as wacky as watching the nudies themselves. There is nothing
funnier than observing a clip-on-tied, cheap-suited Neanderthal sucking in
his five-o'clock-shadowed cheeks and trying to look cool as a girl dangles
her boobs in his face. I had discovered a timeless, forbidden funhouse,
where the balance of power between the sexes could shift in a New York
second with Richter-scale ferocity.
New York City's recent preponderance of posh strip clubs is
incontrovertible evidence of a growing backlash against political
correctness. Millions of company-card dollars are spent wooing giddy
clients in the Corinthian-leathered darkness of the nation's hoity-toity
topless bars. I preferred the downscale sleaze-holes -- no cover charge,
nicer bouncers, cheaper drinks, fewer expense-account stockbrokers, and
normal, uninflated women.
Daisy is a nightly dancer, and at the club she's called Simone,
Where in occasional fits of lonely, I got occasion to make my home.
New York Dolls is the mirror-ball dive where I stumbled upon the spirited
redhead who inspired "Daisy Simone." An exotic dancer's late shift goes
from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., making her leisure time a bizarre 1 to 6 p.m. No
wonder, then, that Daisy, like many of the dancers, saw my headful of
braids and pegged me as the guy from "Carmen Sandiego," the cute show
which aired during her 5 p.m. lunch break. Even the club's gruff mobster
manager was a fan; his three-year-old loved the Carmen theme song. When
my pal Jason and I occasionally showed up, we were given a celebrity
hero's welcome by the entire staff. The dancers loved us -- we were
funny, attentive, relaxed, and eager to hear their war stories about
Sting's frequent indiscretions. (Next time you hear Sting preaching about
the rain forest or some obscure political cause, just picture him in the
shady recesses of New York Dolls, asking offended dancers to do to him
what Pat Ortner did to me in eighth grade.)
Daisy does a thing to Zeppelin, will make the pain drain from your soul.
Maybe her grandaddy was a fireman, taught her the tricks on the silver pole.
I was immediately drawn to Daisy. Her classical-dance training artfully
affected her silver-pole gymnastics, while her peaches-and-cream beauty
belied her brazen sensuality. I was smitten, but she had a boyfriend.
What's a loser to do? I set out to write a "Fliptop Twister"-inflected
tribute song, immortalizing the mercurial stripper/strippee relationship.
And if you think you're special, blink -- she's gone to the next one,
Extinguishing your drunken dream (it ain't the money but the fun).
The ancient Jewish proverb still reverberates in my hangover-swollen head:
"Money is honey, my little sonny, and a rich man's joke is always funny."
Nightclub striptease, like bond-trading, politics, and even a cappella
singing, is a mercenary art. Daisy regularly paid just as much attention
to me as was required to separate me from a week's salary before kissing
my forehead and scurrying off to the next victim. Still, she inspired
Daisy, Daisy, can I call you Simone?
Can a caballero suck the marrow, lips to the bone?
Would you terribly mind one of my kind, rise up from the tomb?
Daisy, Daisy, plenty of room in my garden...
The melody came to me during my Hawaiian honeymoon in 1993; I finished the
demo months later in my room at the Luxor Hotel in Vegas. I gave Daisy a
copy, with a post-it note attached saying "I hope you enjoy this. My band
likes it, and it may end up on a record some day." Soon she got a real
dance gig and was gone from the strip scene forever.
Two years and myriad fruitless crushes later, Eugene, the Russian-emigre
bouncer, rested his hand on my shoulder and gave me the advice I've
henceforth followed: "Sean... what you doing? Why you come here again?
This is not place to meet girl."
And if you think you're Don Quixote and she's ripe for rescue,
Extinguishing your wishful thinking is the best you'll ever do --
Atlanta & New York City - February 26, 1997
Although rock lore dictates that there are but fifty ways to leave your
lover, I'm living proof that there are an infinite number of ways to leave
your band. On 1/9/97, I employed the daring "9AM-footsie- pajama-
conference-call-bombshell- forsake-income- for-utopian- art/ego-
pipe-dream- w/no-pot2P-in- receding- hairline- gut-hangs-over-belt-
yet-takin'-my-bat'n'ball- I- know-U-R-but-what-am-I?- synapse- misfire,"
otherwise known in chess circles as the famed "Shmucksky Maneuver."
Crazy? Perhaps. But in the words of Angus "Booger-Fingers" Holstein,
histrionic head barbecue chef at NYC's celebrated Eat-At-The-Y Steakhouse,
"What's done is done -- no refunds, no exchanges!" And now it's our
collective mission to sift through the charred carnage and find reason
amidst the rubble.
If the notion of my leaving Rockapella to
better focus on my own material and to fulfill my Pollyanna-ish solo
dreams seems implausible, I offer you several alternate explanations:
1. Seek Birth Parents.
uncovered a snapshot of me in diapers with a handsome couple I believe to be my
true birth parents: two wild coyotes. I have little resemblance to my human so-
called "parents," and I'm prone to excess inner ear hair growth, genital
scratching, table-leg abuse, and shoving my nose and tongue in dishonorable
places. I'll not rest 'til I find those betraying varmints and smack 'em around
with a rolled- up newspaper for my lifetime of tsuris and depilatory
2. Witness Protection Program.
had been chowing L.A.-style at Mezzaluna with Ron and Nicole. She split without
her sunglasses, Ron accidentally took mine to return to her, and I
followed him in my car with the real Nicole glasses. As I pulled up
behind the white Bronco, I heard the screams, heard the dog barking, saw the
blood glistening on the sidewalk and saw the killer's gnarled right hand
pistoning up and down with military precision. The hunched figure threw
the murder weapon onto the street, where I hastily retrieved it. Yes,
friends, it's true... I have the bloody #2 pencil used by Bob Dole! I'll
soon be enjoying a new identity, courtesy of the well-heeled Republican
Party. Radical plastic surgery will render me unrecognizable to all but
my most intimate lady friends, and I'm through with that nunnery anyway.
I'll be stuffed so full of collagen, halogen, oxygen, estrogen, Auntie Gin
and bathtub gin that one pin prick will send me howling into serpentine
orbit. I'll likely be relocated to South America, where friends of
totalitarianism and fugitives live side by side in peace. I hope to enjoy
many lazy afternoons by the pool, sipping Margaritas with the Mengeles.
3. Alien Scout.
I am Seanthar,
honey-throated messenger of doom from the alternate- evil-universe planet of
Taint, where wrong is right, down is up, ketchup is blood, men cuddle after sex,
and "bitch" is a loving nickname. I was sent to Earth eleven years ago to scout
locations for our forthcoming intergalactic theme park, Dingyland. My
work is now done, as I've discovered the perfect vast wasteland called
4.A Gut Feeling.
My years of
indiscriminate sex have finally caught up with me. The swelling in my abdomen
that I assumed was thirty-something male-pattern beer gut turns out to be a
living, growing, human being! That's right, friends...I'm pregnant! I'm not
sure who the mother is, or from what girl scout troop, but mark my words...that
hussy had best fess up or there'll be one messy maternity suit. No matter,
though: I'm enjoying my healthy glow, D-cup figure and hormone buzz; and,
as I told my Dad when he started lecturing me: "Papa, don't preach! I
made up my mind, I'm keepin' my baby!" I've chosen the names "Chutney"
for a boy, and "Tabouli" for a girl.
5.The Seantanic Verses.
One of my
more blasphemous web postcards was accidentally forwarded to the afterlife
spirit of Ayatollah Khomeini (the Internet is amazing), and boy is that
ghost pissed! Apparently my "EZ-Backwards Fun with Thai Songs" ditty entitled
Halla" got him hot under the turban, and now I'm on the run from a sandy
posse of heavily armed terrorists with God on their side to boot! I've
been voraciously praying to my own Jew God for protection, but my years of
paganism make me a lousy candidate for a miracle. Help me, Cat Stevens!
This is my final postcard on Rockapella's web site, sweet friends, as well
as the premier "Seanecdote" on my spanking new site: www.bigsean.com! So come visit, enter
the Seanosphere and gorge yourselves on heaping loosemeat piles of Sean,
more Sean, still more Sean, and nothing but Sean. It's all-Sean
all-the-time, and the Sean just keeps on comin'! Imagine, a clean,
friendly, family-fun adventure-land where every made-from-scratch,
preservative-free, pH-balanced, pepper-crusted, free- range,
balsamic-vinaigretted, frozen-fresh, child-safe, acid-free, batter-dipped
teardrop of joy is cold- filtered through my own wholesome sensibility
into American-made oak barrels, where it ferments lovingly until it
reflects my down-home honest-to-goodness good-and-good-FOR- you values and
is certified Sean-approved for mass consumption. I'll leave a light on
for ya! Oh, and don't forget to bring a silver stake.
My Eternal Love,
Schmuck & Mirrors
February 5, 1997
Greetings, investors! I have a unique financial-growth
opportunity for friends of the band Rockapella. For a limited
time only, you -- yes, you, my well-heeled Rockapollyannas --
can purchase your very own supporting girder on the fabled
gateway to Manhattan: the legendary Brooklyn Bridge! What's
more, the entire island is up for grabs...IF you've got the
Now let me get this straight...you really fell for the absurd
"Sean Quit" charade?!! You honestly believed that I would
nurture Rockapella from its nickel-in-the-hat street-corner
infancy to its present-day off-shore island tax shelter
"Jeeves, fetch another pail of caviar for the bath" glory, and
then matter-of-factly ditch my brainchild on graduation day?!!
You actually swallowed the notion that a ravenous man would
spend eleven years of his strapping youth paying unimaginably
cruel dues (to the tune of "Hound Dog": "You ain't only just an
ointment, Preparation H! You ain't only a suppository,
Preparation H! Got a brand new cream and a tight hold on
first place!") and then, just as the waiter is slathering the
prime rib with Bernaise sauce, stroll away, naked,
disenfranchised, and hungrier than ever?!! You bought the
malarkey that someone frugal enough to reuse dental floss,
hoard KFC ketchup packets and nurse a roll of one-ply TP for an
entire leap year would toss away his winning lottery ticket on
payday?!! If so, then I've got some gator-infested property
and a baggie-full of braids to sell you, my gullible faithful!
Don'tcha see?!! It was all a hoax! A gag! A whopping
knee-slapper prank! A mercenary stunt! A devious promotional
stratagem concocted by our stable of managers, lawyers,
accountants, PR snakes, stylists, dietitians, fitness trainers,
shrinks, rabbis, swamis, dry-cleaners and fluffers. My toddler
nephew Kevin thought the idea was bogus, but he's not on salary
and was shouted down at the strategy meeting. Damn...if we knew
you'd fall so heavy for this marketing ploy, we would have
opted for the risky but ingenious "fake-the-whole-band's-death"
routine. Heck, it worked for Elvis, Holly, Jimi, Lennon,
Skynyrd, and Tupac; why not Rockapella? It's a simple P.T.
Barnum equation: Intrigue + Angst = Commerce; and dagnamit, we
worked it $tunningly!
Our four recent Bottom Line concerts sold out in a flash, CD
sales quadrupled, every tchochke with my face on it is suddenly
a collector's item, and we parlayed our Presidential
Inauguration gig into a night of romance and bawdily purrfect
splendor with that passion-puss, Socks, in the Lincoln Bedroom.
I'm not one to pet 'n' tell, but the First Feline is a
fire-blooded dervish of sensuality -- those scratches on my
back may be permanent. In sum, we trolled a lure with the
words "your lip here" stenciled right on the hook, you gobbled
the sum'bitch with a boat-rockin' fury, and paid cash for the
privilege, to boot!
So now what? Do we withdraw my resignation announcement,
sheepishly return the barrelsful of ill-gotten dough, unprint
the screaming tabloid headlines, unbook the farewell gigs,
unscrew the anguished groupies, and tell Bill & Hillary that
Socks' lovelorn sullen malaise is all for naught? No can do,
friends. We're in so deep that Jacques Cousteau himself is
clamoring for a commemorative set of "Sean" flippers. Our
team of $350-an-hour, fancy-shmancy attorneys informs us that
if I fess up and unquit, Rockapella will be summarily pokied-up
for life on multiple fraud charges. Of the five of us, it's a
safe bet that only the mighty Barry -- with his leviathan
stature, voice of doom, and knowledge of blues chords -- could
survive the Big House; Jeff's too pretty, El and Scott are too
short, and I may as well have "Prison Wife" tattooed on my tuchas.
By unanimous vote then, we've decided that I, for the sake of the
organization and our individual freedom from invasive and
unseemly acts of prison violence, must remain, officially and
Oh, how we miscalculated! But mourn not, Rockapallbearers; the
band and I will continue to lead prosperous, if separate,
lives. My own domain, bigsean.com, will be operative shortly
and -- to keep the spirit of Seandom alive -- the band has
agreed that my replacement will be forever known as
"Sean Altman's Younger, Cuter, Lesser Successor." With proper
tutoring, cheekbone implants and orthotic lifts, he'll be
virtually indistinguishable from the real me, especially when
he loses the turban.
Ain't the rule of law a funny thang? Ain't Lady Liberty a
cold, calculating bitch? Ain't the scales of justice rigged
with the invisible thumb of "The Man"? I tried to be a good
team player and ended up the fall guy! It's suddenly all very
clear: Oliver North was a hero! Rosemary Woods was just
doing her job (and she was one sassy old broad, too)!
Buttafuoco or bust! Robert Bork was robbed! Clarence Thomas
was kidding! George Bush was from 27 states! Dukakis looked
dashing in that tank! Tonya Harding just wanted it REAL BAD!
The Menendez brothers were served runny eggs by their
parents! The Unabomber was one of Santa's estranged elves!
People, there ain't no justice, no rest for the wicked, no
sunshine when she's gone, no cure for the summertime blues, and
I plainly can't get no satisfaction. Happiness is indeed a warm
gun, which is why I shot the sheriff (but not the deputy),
gave her the gun (I shot her!) and fought the law (and the law
won). Rest assured, you won't have Sean Altman to kick around
any more! God bless you all, and God bless America!
The defense rests; the rest of us do the stairmaster.
Gone But Not Farblondjet
Farblondjet: Pronounced far-BLAWN-
jit, to rhyme with "car LAWN kit."
Slavic: "wander" or "roam." Lost, mixed up, wandering
about without any idea where you are.
- from "The Joys of Yiddish" by Leo Rosten
||New York City,
January 18, 1997
My Dearest Friends:
Your outpouring of affection is a wet soul kiss planted
smack on my achy heart muscle. Let me assure you that
the eye of the storm I've whipped up is weeping pell-mell.
I'll explain more about my decision shortly, but rest
assured that I shan't disappear -- just the opposite, in
fact! I know where you live, where you work, where you
shop, where you eat, where you sweat, and your net worth.
You'll never escape the long arm and beckoning, bony
finger of the mighty Big Sean Music promo machine. I'll
be in your face so deep that you'll be counting the plugs
from my hair transplant. I'll be popping by for free
dinners so often that you'll need a separate fridge just
for mango chutney and Yoohoo. Your phone, fax, email,
snailmail, all five senses, and every brain synapse and
nerve ending will be bombarded with insidious Seanagrams
hawking absurd products bearing my name and ghastly
likeness. Unscrew your deodorant cap and behold my
slathered, manic face on the roll-on ball. Pour your
Lucky Charms and ponder the hearts, moons, stars,
clovers... and Seans. In your grocer's produce section,
squeeze the new genetically engineered "Sean's Head"
cabbages, "Sean's Face" cauliflower and "Sean's Wish"
cucumbers. You'll be happily evacuating, Seanzine in hand,
and you'll suddenly detect an eerie presence; look down,
friends, it'll be me in your toilet bowl hawking
two-ply Seanie-Wipes. A year from now, there'll be chat
rooms and support groups entitled "Quit Sean Through
Hypnosis," "How to Secure Your Home Against the Invasive
Sean," and "Geez, How Do We Ditch This Sycophantic Putz."
In the meantime, I'll keep postcarding until the management
revokes my web privileges, cancels my security clearance,
orders me to turn in my badge, confiscates my pitchpipe,
cuffs me, clubs me silly and escorts me kicking and
screaming from Rockapella Center. By then you'll be asking
yourselves "Damn...is that dude still hanging around?"
PS - Remember, this isn't nearly as big as when they
replaced Darren on "Bewitched."
Miami - New Year's Day, 1997
Happy New Year, Rockapotamuses! Thanks to my effective use of
pre-bedtime hangover damage-control techniques (aspirin, water,
Alka-Seltzer, nude mantra recitation and a Yoo-Hoo colonic) I
am able to greet you and the New Year with equal vigor.
Here's a recap of our five-day Miami Orange Bowl stint:
The parade sponsors outfitted us in Miami-style white suits and
Tony Manero-style prom shirts for our CBS-televised lip sync of
"Falling Over You" on the Port of Miami float. As the video
shows, the suits were in need of major alterations if not
cremation, and TV commentator Pat O'Brien (a renowned style
maven) gibed that we were "probably the only five people in
this country wearing white suits." We got to keep them,
however, which will prove useful when the Hustle comes back
Get Me To The Church On Time
Our hotel was a mere five blocks from the parade route, but we
fell victim to a chaotic conspiracy of street closures,
parade-buzzed crowds and Gestapo cops. Our two-minute van ride
to the broadcast area thus mutated into a 75-minute surf of
Logistical Hell's most towering waves, ending with the five of
us ignoring the Miami police, leaping the curb barriers and
sprinting several blocks in our "Night Fever" finery.
What Floats My Boat
The float itself was a technicolor paper-mache extravaganza
which could only have been hallucinated via one of Al Pacino's
twitchy nasal membranes in "Scarface": laughing dolphins;
suggestive, splayed Georgia O'Keeffe blossoms and enough
red-lipped jail-bait bathing beauties to give any horny Don
Johnson wannabe a reason to visit the can. We mimed a recording
of "Falling Over You" while underage, befeathered nubiles
frollicked through "West Side Story"-inspired gyrations. Hawk,
the nimble cameraman, was diligent in capturing my wanton,
wandering gaze as the San Quentin quail crisscrossed in front of
us. Of course the number required an incongruous visual payoff
"button," so the choreographer arranged for a wet-suited, masked
frogman to pirouette into the scene's final moments.
Who Are Those Guys, And Will They Sell Me A Creamsicle?
When the song ended, we bowed and then leapt to our stations at
the four corners of the floating orgasm, with Scott conveniently
situated beside the scantily clad and amply endowed Miss Teen
Cuban-American. The plan was for us to lip sync the song on the
lumbering beast for the remaining half-mile of the parade route.
Here's where the technical nightmare began. The audio playback
equipment on our float was inoperable; NO SOUND emerged for us
to lip sync to! I'd never been on a parade float before, but I
quickly surmised that -- in the absence of a ditty to mime -- my
primary mission was to grin and wave a la Queen Elizabeth, the
Pope or a deplaning Ronald Reagan. This sounds easy, fun and
even inspirational, doesn't it? But as the float inched further
away from the broadcast zone, fewer and fewer of the curb-scrunched
spectators had witnessed Rockapella's performance and -- with us
not singing and at separate corners of the float -- I soon
perceived a dangerous case of Zero Rockapella Recognition.
For forty bizarre minutes I was a waving, sheepishly grinning,
disco-suited schmuck on a float. People did cheer, but their
attention was surely focused on Miss Teen Cuban-American's
explosive physique, not my superb waving technique. It's a
strange and somewhat fetal-position-inducing sensation to
observe the furrowed brows, vacuous stares and confused,
slack-jawed mouths of thousands of parade-goers, all with a single,
common thought: "Who are those Good Humor men flanking that Cuban
chick in the one-piece?"
Seventeen Will Get You Twenty
Our parade ordeal finally over, we enjoyed two days off, during
which I took advantage of Miami's Latin charms while doing what I
do best -- eating 'til dizzy, swilling beer 'til vulgar, shopping
'til insolvent and viewing flicks 'til drool-sopped. Rice and
beans form a complete protein, as you know, and I've always been
fond of organic compounds laden with amino acids, and not just
because "protein" is homophonous with "pro-teen." Speaking of
teens, our hotel was bubbling with hundreds of fuchsia-skirted
cheerleaders, pert half-time tumblers, sassy baton manipulators
and other sparsely-attired, fife-blowing cuties.
Hey, Let's Sing Hatikvah Instead!
New Year's Eve day landed us in the Orange Bowl parking lot,
screaming through nine songs for two thousand well-beered
Virginia Tech groupies. We then proceeded to the stadium to
sing the Star-Spangled Banner which, sadly, wasn't televised
(CBS stands for "Cut Before Song"). As we approached the two
mic stands at the forty-yard line, I asked my band mates how
much money they'd give me to do a whopper pratfall in front of
60,000 people. Scott offered $20, and I tried unsuccessfully to
wheedle him up to $50, which I still assert is a bargain. We
sang the song brilliantly, handily negotiating the disconcerting
two-second stadium sound lag and the anthem's turbulent
roller-coaster melody. In honor of Francis Scott Key's
long-denied Hispanic roots, I sang the alternate lyric, "Jose, can
you see by the dawn's early light..." We walked proudly from the
field amid thunderous applause seemingly directed at us, but
wouldn't you know it...there was buxom Miss Teen Cuban-American
filching our thunder once again.
The Great Escape
Although I am an avid pro-sports fan and a retired aspiring
high-school jock, the lure of collegiate football has forever
eluded me; so I ditched my pricey end-zone seats, scarfed a sixer
from the dressing room and made a beeline for the nearest movie
theater. At midnight, some of us toasted the gurgling Baby '97
at a Cuban joint where we ate ourselves swollen and pondered the
obvious virtues of a Castro-Marxist regime that produces such
dazzling specimens of young womanhood.
"The pageant began a half-century ago as an
honest parade, Main Street entertainment for little children and tourists.
But with the ascension of television the event grew and
changed character. Gradually it became an elaborate
instrument of self-promotion, deliberately staged to show
the rest of the United States (suffering through winter) a
sunny, scenic and sexy sanctuary. The idea was to make
everybody drop their snow shovels and hop the next jumbo
jet for Florida. To this end, the Orange Bowl Parade was
as meticulously orchestrated as a nuclear strike. Those
who would appear were carefully selected: high school bands
from Bumf**k, Iowa, awe shining from their sunburned faces
as they bugled down Biscayne Boulevard; a sprinkling of
Caribbean blacks and South American Hispanics, evidence of
Miami's exotic but closely supervised cultural mix; and the
most innocuous of TV celebrities, delighted to shill for the
tourist board in exchange for comped rooms at the Fountainebleau."
- from "Tourist Season" by Carl Hiaasen
Last updated: November 8, 1999
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