Proto-punk musician and radio personality Handsome Dick Manitoba (founding member of The Dictators and currently singing with MC5), is a true punk rock godfather and legend. Manitoba recently co-authored the Official Punk Rock Book of Lists with Amy Wallace, but all that creative, crazy energy of his has a domestic turn to it, as well, as he reveals here in PopMatters 20 Questions, where caring for and being with his family are among life’s sweetest pleasures.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Cry at a movie? ... Nah. Reading a book? Nope!(Well, I laughed so hard I cried while reading, Listen You Pencil Neck Geeks, by “Classy” Freddie Blassie ... but what brought HDM to real tears, was an exhibit, at the Museum of the City of New York called, The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957. It made me cry like a baby. It recalled an era when there were three baseball teams in New York City, and people were passionate about all of them.
The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists
Amy Wallace, Handsome Dick Manitoba
Every Day Is Saturday
(Norton; US: 8 Jan 2008)
(Cleopatra; US: 29 Apr 2008)
I cried so much, that my wife Zoe, and at the time, my four-year-old son Jake Koufax, were wondering , “What’s wrong with Richard/Dad?” For me, the exhibit represented the end of an era, a huge cultural change, my relationship with my father and growing up in the Bronx, and now the relationship with my son and the importance of baseball.
It was a death, in many ways, of what used to be, and how much I miss it.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm and James Bond (Sean Connery, of course).
3. The greatest album, ever?
The Rolling Stones, The Singles Collection: The London Years.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Wars, but not a huge fan of either, really.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Hot dogs, hamburgers, veal, and balancing the family budget.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Staying clean and sober for 24 years and working hard and building a successful career out of the ashes of my youth.
Also, working hard to take care of my family and to be a good husband and dad, because at the core, I’m a lazy (expletive) and I wanna hang out at the beach all day.
7. You want to be remembered
Being a great dad, entertaining the (Punk Rock?) masses, cooking like a motherf***er and the fact that “It mattered that I spent some time on this planet”.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Muhammad Ali, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Babe Ruth, The Stones, Beatles, The Brill Building, Phil Spector, Chuck Berry, The Stooges, The MC5, Motown, Stax-Volt, my friend Steve B., the invention known as television, The Abbott and Costello TV Show, AM radio in New York City in the ‘60s, Bill Graham and The Fillmore East, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
The Godfather, parts 1 & 2.
10. Your hidden talents…?
That’s all above board: entertaining people, cooking, philosophizing ... You’ll have to ask my wife about any “hidden talents”. I, as you might have guessed by now, am too humble to discuss that.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Went to a 12-step meeting in 1983, and as a result, got off the hooch and H, and never looked back.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Every time I buy a brand new TV set that is the greatest purchase ever!
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Levis. But occasionally Zoe likes me dressed up ,so I take off the jeans and baseball jersey and I let her dress me fancy. It turns her on!
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Zoe, of course! With Adriana Lima a distant second.
The Handsome man with his Dictators crew
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963, so I could find out exactly what happened!
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I don’t wanna go to jail. Screw the hippie spa and the lack of caloric gratification. And drugs suck—Nancy Reagan was right! Let me lay out at the beach and do nothing.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
I miss cigarettes more than anything I’ve ever been addicted to, but I don’t smoke now, so throw that one out. Vodka’s for chicks, chocolate is good, but I prefer the vanilla flavor, so at the moment, it would be coffee, hands down.
I can’t become human upon awakening without the help of coffee. “Ah, nectar of the gods”, is the line I utter after taking my first sip of the magic brew. All that being said, let me add that baseball, TV, sex, food, and rock ‘n’ roll ain’t bad, either.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Urban: New York City, Madrid, or the beach in South Florida, with all my wonderful old former Italian and Jewish New York neighbors.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Without health, we are nothing. We in America all deserve affordable, good quality health care.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
A record label, a new book (A Handsome Dick Manitoba adventure/ food/ anecdotal/ photo album/ cartoon book), my radio program, making my World Famous Rock and Roll Tavern, Manitoba’s, better and better, and teaching my son to hit a baseball.