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Remembering John Mahoney

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Remembering John Mahoney

While filming his 1989 debut, Say Anything…, director Cameron Crowe found himself working with esteemed character actor John Mahoney. Mahoney, who died February 4th, 2018, was a formidable stage performer before portraying Jim Court, the divorced father of Diane (Iona Skye) who becomes embroiled in an IRS investigation while simultaneously trying to deter his daughter’s budding romance with Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack).

While the role ostensibly made Mahoney the film’s antagonist, Crowe tells Rolling Stone that the actor arrived on set “with a bounce in his step and a twinkle in his eye” and “brought joy to every scene and every take.” Most of all, the director remembered the actor’s brilliant laugh, which rang out long after they finished shooting one of the film’s most intense and emotional scenes.

John Mahoney came into our Say Anything… world with a bounce in his step and a twinkle in his eye. He had mighty Chicago cred too. He’d come from the esteemed Steppenwolf acting troupe, was already friends with John Cusack and had just performed in John Guare’s House of Blue Leaves on the Broadway stage. Mahoney brought joy to every scene and every take. The more dramatic and powerful the performance, the louder his unmistakable laugh as soon as I called “cut.”

You see, John Mahoney’s laugh wasn’t just a laugh. It was a two-note foghorn; a call to arms that said, “That’s right, when it’s good, it’s fun!”   The biggest Mahoney laugh might have been when we shot the scene in which Lloyd (Cusack) visits Jim Court on the prison yard, bringing him a final letter from his daughter Diane (Ione Skye). The scene was fraught with tension. We discussed many different tonal versions, deciding on a quiet one. We stood out by the barbed prison fence. Action.

“How you doing?” Lloyd asks Jim Court, almost tenderly. Mahoney then used all the character frustration and love and pain he’d been building for the entire shoot of the movie and just yelled: “I’M INCARCERATED, LLOYD!” That moment and John Cusack’s reaction is one of those moments I’ll be forever grateful for. They sure made a young director feel good. And when the take was over, you know what happened. The Laugh. And it was loud.

A few months later, I ran into John Mahoney again. I was in my neighborhood McDonald’s and felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around. It was Mahoney. He saw the curious look on my face. This consummate actor, born for the stage, just standing waiting for a Big Mac. The laugh was unforgettable. With skill and hilarity and soul and pain and a dash of mystery, John Mahoney always did make unforgettable look easy. I hope this made you laugh, John, wherever you are, feeling all this love from so many. Bravo, my friend.

Courtesy of Rolling Stone – Cameron Crowe – February 6, 2018

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Feb 24, 2018

Saying Farewell to Walter Becker of Steely Dan

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Sad day today as we’ve lost another great musician and human. Our best to Walter’s family, Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan community. They were, in their own particular and wickedly subversive way, the Coen Brothers of Rock. Here is Cameron’s ’77 story about Steely Dan.

Steely Dan Springs Back: The Second Coming

Their new album, held throughout product-glutted summer for just the right moment, accidentally came out the same afternoon as the new Rolling Stones LP. Their first tour in three years was canceled. They haven’t had a hit single since 1974’s “Rikki Don’t Lost That Number.” And still, their sixth and most esoteric effort yet, Aja, is one of the season’s hottest albums and by far Steely Dan’s fastest-selling ever. Suddenly, against all the odds, it’s Steely Dan fever.

They are the unlikeliest super-group – perhaps because there is no group. Two blurry character named Walter Becker and Donald Fagen write and construct the songs, then hire highly skilled studio musicians to execute the parts. They even play themselves, but less and less, it seems, each album. (“It wouldn’t bother me at all,” says Becker, “not to play on my own album.”) The infrequent product of their labors is labeled a Steely Dan album. Any further details are subject to Becker’s and Fagen’s notorious distaste for facts.

Read the rest of this post

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Sep 3, 2017

Glenn Frey Tribute

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Eagles (November, 1972) (L-R) Frey, Meisner, Henley & Leadon. Photo by Gary Elam.

Cameron shared his thoughts with Rolling Stone in a new tribute to late Glenn Frey. We will share an excerpt below, but please check out Rolling Stone for the entire story.

It was 1972, and “Take It Easy” was still on the charts. The Eagles came to San Diego, and I was working for a small local underground paper.   I grabbed my photographer buddy Gary from high-school and made a plan. We were going to sneak backstage and grab an interview with this new group. I loved their harmonies, and the confident style that charged their first hit-single.

Glenn Frey introduced the band. “We’re the Eagles from Southern California.”

They were explosive, right off the top, opening with their acapella rendition of “Seven Bridges Road.” Then, with utter confidence, this new band, filled with piss and vinegar, launched immediately into their hit.   There was nothing “laid-back,” about them.   No “saving the hit for last.” This was a band with confidence. They were a lean-and-mean American group, strong on vocals and stronger on attitude. Gary and I talked our way backstage with ease, found the band’s road-manager, and he threw us all into a small dressing room where drummer-singer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner, and guitarist Bernie Leadon took us through the story of the band.   Every other sentence began with “And then Glenn… “ Glenn Frey was the only guy not in the room.

After about a half-hour, the door whipped open and Frey walked in. He had a Detroit swagger, a memorable drawl and a patter like a baseball player who’d just been called up to the majors. He was part musician, part tactician and part stand-up comic. It was immediately obvious, Glenn had his eye on the big picture. He’d studied other bands, and how they broke up or went creatively dry. He had a plan laid out.   He even used that first interview to promote his friends – Jackson Browne, John David Souther , Ned Doheny and San Diego songwriter Jack Tempchin.   His laugh and demeanor was infectious. Immediately, you wanted to be in his club.   At the end of the interview, I asked them all to pose together. The photo is one of my favorites. It captures one of their earliest, happiest, freest moments… a band that would later brawl memorably, was giddy and happy that night, arms wrapped around each other. Glenn’s look is priceless – this is my band, and we’re on our way.

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Jan 25, 2016

George Harrison Tribute

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Peter Frampton paid homage to the late George Harrison at a concert he organized and Cameron also donated signed items from Almost Famous for charity silent auction to raise money for the Sept. 11 relief fund. During an encore last Sunday night, the British guitarist played an emotional version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as a tribute to Harrison, who died of cancer on Nov. 29 at age 58.

In Vanilla Sky, Cruise’s character David Aames describes lead guitarist George as his favorite Beatle. In the movie, Tom says, “I always liked George.” Crowe and Cruise considered scrapping the line, but decided against it. “We were both so sad. Tom and I kept saying, ‘Can you believe he’s dead?’ We decided it would be too late to change the line now and how it’s almost more meaningful now.”

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Dec 10, 2001


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