No. 5, August 2007
Made to Order
by Dick Laurey
When I hit Hollywood as a musician in the mid-60's, it was a crazy, colorful time in the American pop music culture. Every band wanted to do something unusual to attract the attention of both fans and record producers. Drummers also did what they could to be highly visible.
One drummer, down in the club district of LaCienega Blvd., actually had a shock-mounted movie camera inside of his bass drum, which projected films through a wide angle lens onto the backside of the front bass drum head, which was actually a back-lit movie screen. Can you picture it? The front of his bass drum actually showed movies to the audience!! They were not always nice movies and, of course, the bass drum sounded like hell, but the effect was very cool, to say the least.
One guy had the front of his bass drum covered with very expensive mink fur. You get the idea. It was a crazy time. Not to be outdone, I decided that I would have a stuffed cat on top of my bass drum with a rhinestone collar and chain that attached to one of the cymbal stands.
I went down to the animal pound in North Hollywood, where I was living at the time, to see what they had. I asked the attendant if I could see the cats. He showed me a large selection of cute kittens, teenage cats, etc., and asked "Do you see anything that you like?"
"Well, there's a problem," I replied.
"What's that?" He said.
"All of the cats that you have shown me are alive."
You should have seen the expression on his face. Priceless. He asked me if I wanted a dead cat. When I said yes, he shrugged his shoulders and told me to follow him.
We went into the walk-in freezer and he proceeded to pick up different frozen cats to see if there was anything that particularly struck my fancy. It was almost comical the way he picked them up by the tails and the bodies would stick straight out, as if defying gravity. I didn't see anything I liked.
On the way out we passed some cages and there was a huge orange Tom in the peak of health. I commented, “Boy this guy would be perfect except he's alive.” The attendant, eager to please said, “Hold it! We can fix that!” I asked him what he planned to do. He said, “Put him in the decompression chamber for a few minutes.”
”Hold On!”, I said, “I don't want to have you destroy this beautiful animal, just because I want a dead cat!!” He told me these cages were for cats who were headed for the chamber because they had been in the shelter too long and nobody had adopted them.
I had a quick internal emotional and moral battle and then said "OK do it!"
He had to hunt down a box to put the cat in. That took longer than anything else!
I took the dead cat to my house. My wife was still at work, so I brought the body into the kitchen and put the box on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, because it is wicked hot in a California July, and we can all picture the consequences of the cat not being in the refrigerator.
I sat at the kitchen table and proceeded to call the local taxidermy shops to get a price on doing my cat.
I was appalled! I was mortified! I was downright pissed to discover that (at the time) most would not do domestic animals! The ones that would, wanted $125.00, a king’s ransom to a starving musician in the mid-60's. Also, it would take about 3 months before they could even get to it! Gigantic bummer!
I had always been spoiled rotten and was heavily into instant gratification, so these revelations were, to put it mildly, un-acceptable. I went into the garage to pout and sulk and almost made up my mind to mow the back lawn, when there came from the kitchen, the (inevitable) scream.
I rushed inside. My wife had returned from work and had, of course, discovered the cat. That is "the story of my life."
I will not lengthen this story even more by discussing the heated conversation between my wife and myself, following her discovery. Consequently, I was on my way back to the pound with the cat. I went in and the same attendant who had previously helped me in my quest was at the counter. I said, “I'm bringing this cat back. I can't use it after all, but thanks for all your help.” You should have seen that second priceless look on his face - almost as shocked as the first one.
I went back home and sulked as usual, like a 2 year old, not speaking to my wife and casting hateful glances at my plain old un-adorned bass drum.
This story would be much more pithy had I included the extensive dialogue between my wife and myself, following "the discovery," and also the continued search for something unique for the bass drum, and what I ended
up with (to the dismay of the club owner.) But I don't have time to set that (true) story down in proper and complete form, let alone the gaggle of musician-related escapades from that twisted part of my moldy past.
Dick Laurey copyright 2007
Dick Laurey is a professional musician. He is also the owner of his own company, an electronics assembly firm in Oregon. Dick began his musical career as a drummer in the 1950’s for Utica’s well-known and well-loved Plaids, and played as well with the Bel Aires and the Montereys. After a stint in the military, he worked as a studio musician for Capitol Records, taught and played rock, jazz and dinner theater in Southern California, Hawaii and Las Vegas and then settled down in Oregon with his wife some years ago to raise two daughters. His are all true stories ”They are bizarre enough that I don't have to make anything up.”