Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

September 19, 2000

'Almost Famous': Lester Bangs rises from the dead

By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

It pleases me to see that the entertainment industry has recently come up with a whole new genre: movies and books about me.

Well, OK, I can't really say that Cameron Crowe's new movie, "Almost Famous," is about me. And I can't even say it's about my late, lamented friend, Lester Bangs, the legendary rock critic. But the acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Magnolia," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") does appear in the film as Lester (under his true name), serving as a kind of Jiminy Cricket to the tale's teenage writer protagonist. And Lester was - did I mention this? - a close pal of mine, so it's almost as though the film is about me.

To tell you the truth, it’s a little disorienting to see Hoffman rapping on the phone in the midst of some very Lester-like domestic disarray: torn album covers, a battered stereo system, food wrappers, torn album covers, spilled ashtrays, torn album covers, stained upholstery and a mass of distressed vinyl. If anything, though, the movie tones the disarray way down, presumably so as not to completely alienate members of the audience who subscribe to that cleanliness-Godliness thing.

Lester, who died of an inadvertent drug overdose in 1982, age 33 - that is, he didn't mean to die, although he certainly did mean to take the drugs - is enjoying some very strange afterlife karma. First, a collection of his take-no-prisoners cultural writings was published in 1987 by no less prestigious a publisher than Alfred A. Knopf under the title "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung." Then, earlier this year, the Chicago Sun-Times rock critic Jim DeRogatis published a bio titled "Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic."

Having served as a source for DeRogatis' volume, I am listed in its index with several page references after my name, quite as though Lester were T.S. Eliot and I were Ezra Pound, or maybe one of Eliot's underachieving boyhood pals from his days in St. Louis.

But the bio and the film don't even exhaust the matter of Lester's presence in current culture. The digital reference program that came with my PC includes several "familiar quotes" by him, and late-breaking word arrives that Lester's "Carburetor Dung" title (he dreamed it up before he died) has been tagged for inclusion in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

And now Crowe, the extraordinarily successful film director ("Jerry Maguire") who started out as a 15-year-old protégé of Lester's back in the early '70s, unveils his autobiographical movie "Almost Famous," and there my old pal is front and center and projecting attitude like crazy.

Lester and I met in junior high school, a few months, as I recall, before the Cuban missile crisis, and were close friends in high school and beyond, lending each other moral support in our efforts to spend all our time reading the novels of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs while listening to the musical stylings of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Charles Mingus, as opposed to studying or working.

At around age 20, Lester got a start writing for the brand-new publication Rolling Stone, went on to serve as an editor at Creem ("America's Only Rock'n'Roll Magazine," as it billed itself) in Detroit, and the rest - much to my present surprise - is, quite literally, history.

It's even possible that some filmmaker will conceive an interest in making a movie based on DeRogatis' biography. Who knows? If that happens, I might actually get a chance to see myself - portrayed, no doubt, by some dweeby little guy in glasses - the context of a major motion picture, or least a minor motion picture. It’s enough to make a person feel almost famous.

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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