Beatniks in Striped Shirts and Troll Dolls with Children
During rehearsals (OK, during shows too), I often do an impression of Julie Andrews singing to “My Favorite Things” over the John Coltrane arrangement of the song. And ever since I’ve been given this assignment, I can’t really get out of my head her voice singing, “When the dog bites / When the bee stings / When I’m feeling saaaaaaaaaad.” So, here is a list of my favorite things—I don’t think any of them can fit over the arrangement of the song… but as soon as I am done typing this up, I am going to try it.
1) Striped Shirts
My version of beatnik rebels growing up all wore stripped shirts: the Flintstones when they met Ann-Margrock; the Gilligan’s Island crew when they rocked as the hut as the Mosquitoes; and the Ramones wore them under their leather coats.
2) The Monkees
When I was growing up, they used to play back-to-back Monkees episodes for an hour every day on Channel 56 when I got home from school. They lived in a beatnik colony in Malibu. Davey wore striped shirts on the beach and strummed the porpoise song on his guitar by the fire. My parents hated them. They would try to tell me they were not real and a rip-off of some band called the Beatles.
3) Brill Building songwriters
Leiber and Stoller; King and Goffin; Bacharach & David; Neil Diamond. They wrote songs for the Monkees. Mike Stoller was a beatnik—he wore stripped shirts.
4) Double Americanos at St. Helens in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn Forget that taster’s choice. Forget the evil empire. Whitney Houston has her addictions, and these are mine.
5) Ernie Kovacs I wish stuff like this was ever on television in my lifetime. Go to the Museum of Television and Radio and watch this show. You will not be sorry! It is completely out there. People drinking martinis and dressed as gorillas playing at prime time? It’s a bit like a brilliant cable access show. Ernie Kovacs was also in one of my favorite movies: Bell, Book and Candle. It takes place in beatnik Greenwich Village. Jack Lemon plays a warlock bongo player, Kim Novak is a witch, and Ernie is the drunk author writing about it. They all hang at a secret underground club called the Zodiac listening to jazz daddy-o.
Pat Kiernan reads the papers every morning so you don’t have to. They repeat the same stories over and over and over and over again. I find the constant repetition familiar, comforting… like I’ve seen this before.
7) Hot Dogs
I don’t want to know what’s in them! Please don’t tell me!
8) Sick days/Natural Disaster Days when you are not sick and the disaster is not big
Staying home from school/work when nothing is too bad is the perfect way to slow the day down and the closest thing to found time. During the 2003 Blackout in New York City, I walked home over the bridge and drank wine all night at a local outdoor bar. People from the neighborhood spontaneously brought their instruments and it was an instant happening. If there is power and you are just waiting for a plow to clear the street, it is a perfect time to watch TV guilt free: the Monkees; the Jazz Singer staring Neil Diamond; A Star Is Born; The Ernie Kovacs Show; anything on the Superstation or Lifetime.
9) Yoko Ono
I love anyone who does not have to participate in reality—which, let’s face it, can be a real bummer sometimes. I have on video episodes where Yoko and John hosted The Mike Douglas Show for a week. It’s incredible. In one happening, John, Yoko, and Mike call people to tell them they love them. They are doing this to spread love around Philadelphia.
10) My Bike
I found my bike in the trash when I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s a black three-speed stuck in the third gear. It is the perfect NYC bicycle because no one wants to steal it.
11) Annie Hall
This is one of my all time favorite movies. I used to want to be Annie Hall… drive around NYC in a Volkswagen Beatle, wearing a floppy hat, shrieking at the site of lobsters; la de da.
As seen on TV. I have never ordered anything, but I always want to. Just think of all the great stuff! Epil-Stop! The Buttoneer! The Pocket Fisherman! The BeDazzler! Ginsu Knives! The Flowbee!
13) Educational films from the ‘50s and ‘60s
I have a set of DVDs of educational films from the 1950s and ‘60s on sex and drugs. My favorite is one about LSD. The girl in the film wears a far out outfit and goes to a beatnik party. She gets in with the wrong crowd and takes some acid. She goes to a hot dog stand and suddenly—the hot dog turns into a troll doll. The troll doll begs her not to eat him. He pleads, saying he has a wife and four kids.
14) Wandering Around Aimlessly
I like days without plans. I think this is one of the nicest things about NYC. It is a walking city. And it will always amaze me how, in a city so large, so often you can just bump into someone you know and go have coffee.
I can’t pick just a CD or even my top 10 CDs. Music is my favorite thing. I am the type of person who always has music on. I used to have a bike radio when I was a kid. It was an AM radio attached to the handle bars with a horn and headlights. So, I can’t pick just a song or a record, but I can pick by decade and genre: ‘50s jazz; ‘60s pop; ‘70s AM radio, singer-songwriter, country, and R&B; ‘80s new wave; ‘70s-‘80s punk; ‘90s indie rock; ‘00s to be determined… OK, I am already getting worried that I am leaving favorite stuff off. I have to stop—Epil-Stop—and go put on a striped shirt (OK, I already have one on), watch bad TV, and then go get a double americano and walk around the neighborhood a bit.
Maybe I will bump into Yoko.
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Marykate O’Neil is a singer-songwriter of the indie-pop persuasion who lives in New York City. Her songs have been featured in the Sundance Award Winning Film Stephanie Dailey and covered by Japanese pop icon Tomoyo Harada. Her new record, 1-800-Bankrupt is out this spring on Nettwerk Records [multiple songs on official site]
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