“Never Back Down: No Surrender” (Mandalay/Sony) will be released on June 7th. This fight action film is set in the world of professional MMA (mixed martial arts) and stars Michael Jai White (who also directs), along with myself, Tony Jaa, Esai Morales, Gillian Iliana White, Josh Barnett and Nathan Jones. Fight choreography and stunt coordinating handled by Larnell Stovall. Stay tuned here for more info…
Saturday, May 14, 2016 – Gonna miss the UFC and Bellator tonight. Why? Because I’ll once again be attending the Taurus Stunt Awards at Paramount Studios. Even though I am fine doing my own fight scenes for TV and movies when necessary, I’m hesitant to call myself a stuntman…out of respect – because in my humble opinion the skill set involved to make that claim is far more diverse, and physically demanding, than what I possess as merely being an ‘actor’. No, I am not an expert (or even a qualified novice for that matter) at jumping off buildings, high speed auto and motorcycle driving, crashing through walls or furniture, fire burns, or any or the other complex and occasionally risky techniques that the stunt community employ on a regular basis to make movies come to life when the action begins. So yes, I have the highest regard for the multitude of friends I have in the stunt world, many who I will see tonight. Plus, it’s always a good excuse to wear a suit and to comb my hair… 😉
Sunday, May 8, 2016 – As I sit here, tears rolling down my face, finishing up my binge watching marathon of the inaugural season of HBO’s gut wrenching, and incredible, 1970s rock and roll series “Vinyl”, I realize that I’ll probably never meet my drum idol, Ginger Baker. Yes, this is a stray bullet, random thought, mainly because Baker’s heyday was a few years earlier than when the Vinyl storyline begins. But I digress…
Vinyl is a finely crafted flashback story of a time, the early 1970s, when the record industry was a mishmash of creativity, decadence and wicked corporate exploitation, that morphed it into a powerful and at times manically reckless force. There were stars created and casualties rendered.
Created by Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Rich Cohen, Vinyl is set in New York at American Century Records, a fictitious label that delves in the good, and the bad, of the time. The soundtrack alone (which no doubt was influenced by Scorsese’s directing style of using music as well as visuals to tell the story) features every gem imaginable, both popular and obscure, of the time. The strategic musical placement throughout the show will surely send shivers down the spine of anyone who existed during this nonsensically ripe era.
I’ll be honest, the depiction of drug abuse was harrowing for me. It scared me. I felt like I was watching a psychological horror film sans the monster prosthetics and makeup. The fright was created by the writing and acting. Bobby Cannavale, who first burst onto my radar as Gyp Rosetti in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, goes full ‘Scarface’ emotionally in his role as record company head Richie Finestra. It got to the point where I would get stressed out watching the show. Yet…I kept coming back. Part of it’s deep effect on me surely was a result of my own experiences in ‘the biz’ during that same time. But, with all that being said, I can’t wait for season two..
Sunday, May 1, 2016 – Lazy? Moi? If you consider playing drums for 2 hours lazy, well then…let me be gentle here…f*** off. To me, given what I’ve endured in my artistic pursuits thus far in my short visit here on the planet, that’s the stuff of heroism. I type this today as a free man (cue Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”)…free to make a choice on what I am and what I’ll do/where I’ll go next. So…stay tuned, good things are coming… 😉
“Hey, did you hear about the next big fight? Both competitors are great (or at least that’s what the promoter needs us to believe). So, after watching all the pre-fight analysis (A.K.A. subliminal media control, selective inclusion AND exclusion of fact(s) and/or ‘history’, spin control, brain washing, ignoring of the purpose of rankings, etc.)…I really don’t know whose going to win. But these two REALLY don’t like each other…” And WE fall for it every time, don’t we?
The names may change but the theme remains the same: personal rivalries sell to the non-hardcore fans/masses more than athletic achievement based on competitive dominance. Being that I live a life with one foot in the entertainment industry and one in the fight game, I understand this simple (on the surface) paradox maybe better than most. And trust me, I have felt the pressure from both sides.
So where is the line that separates ‘sport’ from ‘entertainment’? Or does it even matter any more, where the shameless priority is only about the bottom line of Twitter followers and most money spent by consumers on the televised product? I know, I know, “It’s got to be the truth, I saw in on TV (or read it on the internet)!” Yep…and thank “God” that no one has ever seen the movie “Network”, or understood it’s vision of how none of this, like sports as a fickle religion, could ever make our lives so much better…until those we pedestalize (whatever, it’s a word now folks) lose, or…test positive for steroids (…or EPO), or smack their spouses, etc., then “we” can joyfully watch as they self destruct.
…I will be updating this clearing of my throat/mic check throughout the day…and even tomorrow. 😉
A pal of mine, comedian Matt Neal, once passed on some wisdom to me in regards to writing, and it goes like this – “write one shitty page a day“. And, after watching half of the Golden Globes, I feel motivated, yet uninspired. Does that even make sense? Since I’m happy AND in a ‘don’t give a shit’ type of mood, I don’t care if it does or doesn’t. The point is…my fingers, and believe it or not…my brain are moving. Out of the box, I’m usually plotting something anyway. But chasing women or planning ways to take over the entertainment industry sometimes take time. So if I keep swinging, it’s inevitable I will get a base hit, right?
Adding something here is also a way to avoid learning WordPress in a quest at spiffing up my website. Wait, do people even go to ‘websites’ anymore? I mean, I’m an avid Facebooker (partial verb), Tweeter and an occasional Instagramer (that just doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it?). Have those platforms rendered websites obsolete? Hell, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I’m here, and YOU are reading THIS.
But speaking of randomness, it was great to see Sylvester Stallone win a Golden Globe for his acting role in “Creed”, wasn’t it? And I always enjoy the scorched earth digs of host Ricky Gervais, where no celebrity is safe, although this year it seems to have lost a bit of luster somehow. Maybe it’s that I’ve developed a tolerance for seeing others insult each other and need a heavier dose. It happens, doesn’t it? 😉
OK, it’s time for a little free style…
I’m sitting here on a cloudy Saturday, after eating a very late “breakfast”, contemplating the gym (it looks like it’s not going to happen, lol), while organizing my iTunes library. You see, three days ago I auditioned for one of the leads in an Equity play based on the classic western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. And, after I read for the ‘Liberty Valance’ role and swaggered out of the audition room, feeling uber confident in the job I had done, I got into my car, went into my phone to find the song by the same name, and…It wasn’t there! So, having the experience fresh in my mind, I went on an oldies music shopping spree this morning, which for whatever reason, ignited the following chain of emotions/reminders/realizations…
On a good day…I feel unstoppable. Defeat? It happens, and has happened. So what?! On a good day, I can’t be beat…even if I get beat. You understand? I’m the kind of guy who keeps coming back, that’s my history. It may be the next day…or ten years from now, but I will return to receive my just rewards. I will. You see I’ve already lived through when it seemed like everyone I knew, and/or counted on, abandoned me… It has happened several times in my life actually. At first it broke my heart. But eventually I realized this was just life and that forgiveness of others’ humanity is important for inner peace. But it’s also very important to remember those who stood by you, no matter what, through thick and thin. So after I licked my wounds, I stood up, dusted myself off, and focused. That eventual recuperative feeling was an accumulation of a gut mixture between anger, lust, ignorance and self-righteousness. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound too politically correct does it? But I am quite capable of having those thoughts streaming through my head and that energy pulsing through my being. And…I’m proud of those that, and my behavior. The feelings are real, and so am I. I am proud of my humanity. But I’m also in harmony with diplomacy when it’s necessary. The true sign of “wisdom” is knowing when to use an ax (figuratively speaking fool, lol) or a handshake, an ability that unfortunately (for impatient types) only comes with age/experience.
I haven’t always embraced my flux. But my happiness depended on me doing just that, being at peace with the fact that in order to find one’s self and to understand the meaning of life, I had to keep moving forward and to stop caring about what “should” be, and embrace what is.
Oh, I can be a coward, and I have been before. But more times than not I have stepped up, gladly accepted a challenge where the odds were against me. It has happened. But if I was pissed enough, I did not care. Or to put it in Shakespearean terms – I don’t give a f*ck. When I reach that threshold I experience a confidence that I wish I could control and whip out on command. But sometimes my emotions think for themselves. Oh, don’t me wrong, I tend to be both cunning and calculating, and very rarely, if ever, blinded by emotion. But when I really let go, I really start living. Like…right now! 😉
Have a GREAT day!
Since Los Angeles hasn’t had an (American rules) football team for over 20 years, I haven’t watched the game much. But my father just sent me this today and it REALLY put a smile on my face! How about you? 😉
Monday, January 4, 2016 – I have avoided this moment for a while now, years actually. Anyone who really knows me, knows how much I love music, especially drums. Playing drums is something I was more or less born to do, or at least one of the things… My other personal manifestations/vocations materialized out of the necessity to survive in life when at various times my drumming ability left me.
And believe it or not the following is the short version of my musical odyssey. Why abbreviate you say? Well, we all know that most people online usually don’t like to READ, unless it’s something that contains insults, controversy, or lurid sexual tales (no comment). So I left out the parts about me getting my ass handed to me in a high school drum battle, and when one of my bands partied with, and were then threatened by Phil Spector in his mansion in LA, or when I was at the top of the LA musical food chain, on the radio, etc., when I met Buddy Rich, how I excelled in the martial arts fight world, started doing movies and TV shows, and so much more.
But let’s go back to the beginning – I started playing drums in 1969 in Salinas, California when I was half way through high school. I was on my way to becoming your typical stoner/loser at the time. But I was inspired by rhythm, especially two memorable drum solos – Ron Bushy‘s marching band inspired opus in the song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (Iron Butterfly), and Ginger Baker‘s towering, technical rhythmic masterpiece “Toad” on Cream‘s “Wheels of Fire” album. I actually heard both or those songs back-to-back one Sunday night on my shitty little transistor radio – you know, the kind with one dial for on/off/volume, and one dial for tuning in stations (AM only, there was no FM radio back then) – while I was in my room supposedly doing my homework. At the point when both pieces concluded, I sat there stunned…at the age of 16 I suddenly saw my life’s path in my mind, I HAD to get a drumset. And I did…which is another long story about bad grades suddenly becoming good.
Once I got my hands on the sticks, I got good quick and within a few years rose to the top of Salinas’s limited music scene. After one of my early hotshot bands (Convulsion) broke up, I was discouraged and moved back to the town of my birth, Santa Cruz, California. I got a job as a bellboy at the Holiday Inn (special thanks to my step-father George Vomvolakis) and started to pull my life back together. Soon I started playing in a few local bands. But I wanted to play hard rock and Santa Cruz was mostly hippy music and fairly mellow country rock. So when my former Convulsion bandmate Mark Etienne (R.I.P.) called and invited me to come down to Los Angeles and jam, I jumped at the opportunity. He and I were on the same page musically. We both wanted to be in a band like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, Queen, Cream, Black Sabbath, etc. And after that one jam, I immediately went back to SC, packed my bags and moved to LA. It was 1975.
Mark, bassist Tim Richardson and I formed the group “Orange”. But we needed a singer. We were in luck because another Salinas transplant, Patrick Mata (Kommunity FK, Sativa Luv Box), was now in LA and available. Pat wasn’t just any singer, he was an absolute virtuoso and a cutting edge performer, a cross between Ian Gillian, Steve Perry, Mick Jagger and Johnny Rotten, with a strong sense of outrageousness. Orange got close, playing all the best clubs in town: The Whisky A Go Go, The Starwood, The KROQ Cabaret, catching the eye of super producers Ken Scott (David Bowie, Supertramp, Jeff Beck, Kansas) and Roy Thomas Baker (The Rolling Stones, Santana, The Who), and opening for Van Halen and Ray Manzarek (The Doors). But, as would happen so often in rock and roll, just when things were getting good…we broke up.
After I came and went in a very talented band named Pod out of Long Beach, which was half prog/half new wave, with a touch of glam(?), I found a new group when browsing in The Recycler classified newspaper that was based in Arcadia. The band was called SNOW and featured Carlos Cavazo on guitar, Tony Cavazo on bass and Doug Ellison on lead vocals. I will never forget the magic being immediate when we first jammed together in that barn-like garage on California street. I dropped everything and moved from the infamous Canterbury apartments where I had been living, which was in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Hollywood, into the house in Arcadia with the band. It was 1978.
SNOW had a plan and we gained a huge following, eventually selling out the Starwood, The Whisky and headlining the Pasadena and Santa Monica Civic Auditoriums. But we couldn’t get signed to a record deal to save our lives. The labels were only interested in punk or new wave acts at that time. So we released our own record, a 5 song vinyl EP, which got some airplay on KROQ (thank you Chuck Randall & Jed “The Fish”) and KLOS. But eventually, after pounding the scene for 3 years, SNOW ran out of steam. Tony and I joined together with gifted singer/songwriter Gar Robertson in Dangerface, while Carlos joined Quiet Riot, who roared to the top of the charts.
Because of Carlos’s success with QR, we potentially had opportunities. He had mentioned that he wanted us to open for them on tour. But…I got a nasty case of tendonitis in my right wrist and arm, right as Dangerface were about to record our own independent record. I started seeing doctors and the bills piled up. I eventually ran out of money and had to get my hair cut and get a job. It appeared my music days were over. It was 1983.
To my astonishment I was able to return to playing drums again a few years later. But overcoming the heartbreak of being forced to stop drumming while all my musical cohorts were ‘making it’, had caused me to focus on a new love, acting, which I was just starting to make a little headway with. I decided to stay with acting and not pursue drumming. I’m not going to lie, I was afraid, thinking that if I had returned to drumming and my tendonitis were to return, I would have truly suffered mentally and emotionally.
But I continued to play drums intermittently over the years, recording a single with The Butchers (Tom Bolema), a record with The Sacred Cowboys, which included actor W. Earl Brown and Academy Award nominated director Peter Spirer, and an album with JT Curtis‘s band 7th Sun called “From The Beginning” (iTunes). I also did gigs with Joe Blow, Marcus Singletary and most recently with Bryan Senatore. Then…SNOW planned a reunion gig at The Key Club on Sunset, which was the old Gazaarri’s nightclub, where the who’s who of ANYBODY had played or gotten their start (Van Halen, Motley Crue, Tina Turner, Gun ‘N Roses, etc.)! I was SO excited. Doug was displaced now in Florida, so we used hotshot vocalist Andrew Freeman as our frontman, who at the time was playing with Tony (Cavazo) in Hurricane.
So we started to practice. And then shortly into our rehearsals at Nightingale Studios…my left wrist and arm started to give me problems. What…The…Fuck! It got worse and worse. Unlike my previous time with tendonitis in 1983, I had some money because of the success I had enjoyed as a fight commentator (Showtime Networks, UFC “Undisputed 3” Video Game, Pride Fighting Championships, etc.). So I started seeing doctors and specialists. It got worse. I was fearful of being onstage and playing like shit, etc. But…the gig miraculously was a success. It was December 2011.
My wrist, arm, thumb, whatever continued to deteriorate when I would try to play. I saw orthopedic doctors including some of the best at the world famous Kerlan-Jobe clinic (Lakers, Dodgers, Kings, Ducks, etc.). I saw acupuncturists, chiropractors. I had injections, including even (don’t laugh) botox (yeah, I’ve got the youngest looking left arm in town/don’t hate). I even saw a couple of different shrinks. I spent a lot of money. So, I can truly say with an open heart…I TRIED EVERYTHING to cure this bullshit. And sadly, none of it worked. And the ridiculous thing was I could still punch and do martial arts at a fairly accomplished level. But throwing a punch and manipulating a drumstick are two entirely different moves.
“But what about Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard? He lost his arm and was able to come back?” And if I was a millionaire in a band with international hit records I’d be able to figure something out too. But I’m not. And honestly, it would have actually been easier if my arm had been ripped off too, rather than trying/hoping/praying/working for years to bring it back to life with some kind of miracle.
And I would still try to practice drums – 146 days in 2015. Yep, I kept track. I was going to go down swinging. I had to alter the way I held the stick. I tried wearing gloves. I bought a Dynabee. But it just wasn’t happening. It hurt when I played. I’d have to warm up for at least 30-60 minutes to play half way decent. And even then faster tempo songs saw me lose muscle control and the stick would fly out of my hand. One time a guy on live asked me how my arm was doing, when I’d play again? I sent him a video clip from the horror movie “Evil Dead 2” where lead actor Bruce Campbell’s arm becomes possessed and starts attacking and punching him, and he eventually has to cut it off with a chainsaw.
So on Friday, January 1st, 2016, after I tried to play and could only stand it for less than 20 minutes, I just snapped and came face-to-face with the realization…it was over. It would no longer be healthy for me to invest my time, energy, lust, desire, heart and/or soul into the thing I thought I was put on the planet to do, play drums. Was I sad? Not really.There were no tears. That had already happened, plenty of times. If anything, I was angry. But the anger passed instantly as I knew I had to end this chapter of my life…before it ended me. Moments after that resignation I was actually relieved, because I was finally free. The gloves were off. I could now invest my life, my entire being, into something that I knew in my heart of hearts I could be a success at.
So now, I can say with a smile on my face, and the rallying of my entire spirit, that…I am an actor, and I’m ready to go. Watch me now (and yes, that’s me playing drums on the video clip ‘soundtrack’)…
Thanks for reading this. It wasn’t too long, was it? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! And don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from… 😉
Sunday, January 3, 2016 – I bought my Playstation 3 on April 13, 2009. I had just gotten a big income tax return and wanted to buy the best blu-ray player possible. Video games? I didn’t give two shits about video games. But I figured I’d buy a couple just for laughs. So after some research I sprung for “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of Patriots” (the best game I’ve ever played) and “Grand Theft Auto 4“. The actual PS3 console came with the phenomenal “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune“.
When I first started playing Uncharted I was so unbelievably terrible that I thought, “Fuck video games!” And stopped…for a while. I decided about a few months later to try again, but this time with Grand Theft Auto 4. But I could barely keep the damn car on the road. I was a total newbie. I sucked. But the game was so politically incorrect (it follows the life of crime of Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic) that I thought it was fantastically funny, so I kept playing.
Soon I reached the typical ‘Stephen behavior’…obsessed. I joined (for a fee) IGN.com and GameSpot.com, two of the best gaming sites, which had plenty of how-to instructionals on basically how NOT to suck at video gaming. So if I had a problem beating a mission on a game, I’d run to one, or both of those. I got to where I was playing with the speakers blasting, all the lights off to keep as much realism as possible. It was a blast.
Since then I played all 3 (so far) Uncharted Games, Grand Theft Auto 5, all 3 Dead Space games (phenomenal sci-fi horror), Resistance: Fall of Man, Streetfighter 4, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 & 3, Call of Duty: Back Ops, Killzone 3, Bioshock 1 & 2, Battlefield 1, 2 & 3, God of War Collection, Red Dead Redemption, Metal Gear Solid Collection, Resident Evil 5, Max Payne 3, Borderlands 1 & 2, etc. I went in deep. I even bought a Playstation portable! Not good…
But then a few years ago, I thought, “What am I doing? How much time am I wasting on this? How does this effect my relationship(s)? Is this some kind of escape from reality? Is this influencing me socially? Am I living a youth that I never had?” Yes, guilty as charged! Hahaha. And so, I paired it way down. I stopped buying games and now I play more for relaxation. It’s like ultra-violent interactive meditation. I know, that doesn’t sound entirely healthy, but it IS fun. Ironically, I, The Fight Professor, don’t like fighting games – go figure…
So I guess the question is: should I get a PS4 for the upcoming release of Uncharted 4? HAHAHA!