From the Producer... The Last Straw (1 Viewer)

I want to thank MJP for maintaining this forum; it has been extremely useful in helping to get the word out about our two new DVDs of Hank's last two readings.

Here's the story behind the Redondo Beach reading:

I lived in Venice from the late sixties and only knew of Charles Bukowski from his Notes of a Dirty Old Man columns in Open City and later in the Los Angeles Free Press. Also, friends of mine had gone to see his poetry reading at the Troubadour in Hollywood. But, it wasn't until early 1980 that I came face to face with the full Bukowski experience.

I was general manager of Takoma Records (John Fahey, Leo Kottke, George Winston, Mike Bloomfield), which had just been bought by Chrysalis Records (Pat Benetar, Blondie, Huey Lewis, Billy Idol). Denny Bruce, the new president of Takoma, was given complete artistic control about what to release on the label, and plugging into the various departments of Chrysalis for sales, marketing, and PR support.

The first new album Denny released on Takoma was by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It was a big hit with the press and serious musicians, and achieved an unexpected level of sales, instantly becoming one of Takoma's biggest sellers. A major LA critic called it one of the top 10 albums of the decade.

The next album Denny proposed was more controversial: a re-issue of a Charles Bukowski LP of a poetry reading he gave in San Francisco six years earlier. It was eclectic even by Takoma standards, and the staff at Chrysalis didn't know what to make of it. We commissioned a new cover designed by John Van Hamersveld, and planned a press event luncheon and a new live poetry reading to promote the album.

Invitations were sent to a select group of critics, writers and guests to join us a Scandia's, a high-end Sunset Strip eatery left over from Hollywood of the 50s. Having heard the recording of the near-riot at the SF reading, I was apprehensive about what a lunch at Scandia (with an open bar tab) was going to produce. I envisioned an older, more practiced, Billy Idol smashing glasses and yelling at the staff.

After innumerable bottles of mostly white wine, the gathering exceed my worst fears; Bukowski goading the other guests to throw glasses at the paintings on the wall, throwing food at the waiters, and finally spilling out onto Sunset Boulevard in the late afternoon, dodging cars, and staggering towards the Chrysalis offices. I ran ahead to find a place to park them till they sobered up enough to go home (and out of sight of the Chrysalis Executives). As I herded them into the unoccupied corner office of the VP of Finance, I alternately kept an eye out for people coming our way, and kept a waste paper basket handy in case of vomiting. Luckily, nobody did either.

A few days later was the time for the poetry reading; to be held at a small folk rock club in Redondo Beach. I didn't know what to expect, but based on the lunch, it was probably going to be wild. I took my semi-pro video camera and equipment, which I was hauling around town at the time, mostly video taping 80s acts like John Hiatt, The Blasters, King Bees, The Go Go's, Onigo Boingo (Danny Elfman's original group), as well as Chrysalis acts that came to town, like Rory Gallagher, and the Specials.

I set up in the back of the room, plugged into the sound board for the audio, and settled in for a stormy night. After the opening act (a guitar band that was pleasant enough, but the crowd didn't come for them), Bukowski took the stage. It was obvious he had a head start on the drinking - it was a red wine night. At first he looked like a business man settling in at his office desk to put in a day's work, except he poured himself a water glass full of wine, and lit an Indian cigarette that looked like a joint. Then it began: a full assault on the audience, who gave it right back.

Bukowski challenged members of the audience to a fight, at another point he pulled out a knife and baited a heckler to keep it up. He laughed at a woman who complained she paid to get in. The last poem was about giving a poetry reading, and in a eerie, synchronistic way was especially fitting, since it was to be the very last reading Bukowski ever gave, even though he lived for another 14 years.

A few months after the reading, I was introduced to Barbet Schroder, who was doing research for Barfly. He said it was the best live footage of Bukowski ever - and it turned out to be his last. The video tape sat in my collection for 25 years, only coming occasionally; once to have it digitized, to preserve the full color and sound. It's presented here, for the first time to the public. Technically raw, but fitting for the material.
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"The law is wrong; I am right"
A very interesting story! What a luncheon that was. A true Bukowski event - lol! Thank God you taped the Redondo Beach reading so all of us Buk nuts can watch it now! It's just so fucking great! Thanks...
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Founding member
yes, yes, much thanks are needed to be sent your way. you've found a way to bring us all to the reading with you.

thank you good sir.

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
I'm still waiting for my DVDs.. So reading all of this just builds it all up. I hope you don't oversell it.
Even mexican americans say San Peedro. They could be just messin' with us.
This is a cross post from "Riot"

It seemed to Dennis and I that it took forever to get the two DVDs ready for production and distribution.

Dennis and I were brought together by Linda Bukowski, who knew we both had 25 year old videos that we wanted to release - as we were both seeking her permission to create the DVDs. That this happened at the same time, after both Dennis and I kept our videos on the shelf for over 25 years, was shear coincidence.

At first we were almost adversarial - as Dennis had started to promote his Vancouver video as, "the last Bukowski reading" and I knew that the Redondo reading was six months later. Linda suggested that we work together; she knew I was in the business and could help Dennis finalize his production and possibly get him distribution.

After dancing around a bit, Dennis and I found that we could work well together, and in fact, by working together we could creating something very special for Bukowski fans.

Dennis already had another company create a Vancouver reading DVD, but it had some quality problems and seemed incomplete. I had the video tools to do sound processing and color correction to enhance the original video - and Dennis seemed pleased with the test results.

We eventually made a deal where my company, mondayMEDIA, would re-master his tapes, create new menus and extras, and seek a distribution deal for both of our DVDs.

During a visit to Linda, Dennis and Linda were poking around the racks of the books, but I was looking through stacks of video tape - and found what turned out to be the Vancouver master (or possibly a long forgotten 3/4" copy of the original master). At any rate, when I got back to my office and digitized it, I found it was much higher quality than what had been used to create the initial Vancouver DVD.

I think it was on this trip that I had a very nice dinner with MJP, Dennis, and Linda.

As we prepared the final versions of each reading, we discussed what to do about the 6 poems that were in both reading. It seemed the best thing would be to cut 3 poems from each reading - thereby making the two DVDs totally unique. I created a preview DVD with both versions of each poem, and in a viewing session with Dennis and Linda, we choose which poem would go with which reading.

While all the final color corrections, audio enhancements, editing, and menu creation was going on, I started to reach out to distributors to find a deal. Although there was good interest from some major companies, none of them could guarantee enough royalties to make the deal interesting, as opposed to our releasing them ourselves. We also didn't want to give up any creative or marketing control. It seemed like they were eager to get the titles for their catalogs, but the return to us was minimal. Even if we only sold out our first pressing of 1,000 copies of each, we would be better off by far.

So, Dennis and I revised our original deal and decided to release both DVDs through my mondayMEDIA label and sell direct to Bukowski fans.

Both Dennis and I feel honored that we were allowed to document, preserve, and release the last two readings Bukowski ever gave. He really did not like to do them - they took a terrible toll on his health and work. If you listen very carefully at the end of the Vancouver reading, you can hear him say that it was last reading he would give. Luckily for me, he did one more, in Redondo, as part of the promotion of "Bukowski Reads His Poety" LP released on Takoma Records. The last poem on Redondo reading is prophetic, as if he was certain that this would be the very last reading, and concludes with "... this reading is over."


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the only good poet

One retreat after another without peace.
thank you for the background info. i'm sure i'm not alone in wanting to thank you for your efforts in preserving those readings...


"The law is wrong; I am right"
That's for sure! It's so great to finally be able to watch Bukowski read (for those of us who never saw him read)! Thank you!
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Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
Thank you Jon Monday and Anna Monday.
My DVDs came in this mornings mail, and I was e-mailed from the Mondays on Wednesday that I would be receiving them and sorry for the delay. It is refreshing to get such sincere and personal service. I will always remember the care and kindness they have shown to me. It must be the little town in which they reside that brings forth such love. Thank you, you sweet people of Fallbrook.
I just purchased this today, CAN NOT wait for it to arrive. I'll be buying three bottles of wine and attempting to drink w/ the man that night.

Thanks for producing these, saving these, and allowing us to relive these moments that others before us lived.


"The law is wrong; I am right"
That's great, Dennis. Remember to get the other Bukowski DVD from Monday Media too. It's called, "There's gonna be a god damn riot in here!" Enjoy...
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I'm confused. I have The Last Straw. Was that not in the Last Straw? Because I have heard that clip mentioned. Unless I was so out of it, I thought I heard it. I'm not gonna lie, I was very intoxicated in the midst of this dvd ...
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"The law is wrong; I am right"
I'm confused. I have The Last Straw. Was that not in the Last Straw? Because I have heard that clip mentioned. Unless I was so out of it, I thought I heard it. I'm not gonna lie, I was very intoxicated in the midst of this dvd ...

Maybe I'm the confused one. Now I can't remember which of the two DVD's has that clip. I'll have to check...:o

That line is also at the begining of 'Born Into This'.CRB

Right! Maybe that's the DVD I was thinking of...:o
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Watched both DVDs.

It's a "must have" for every Buk fan.

Really enjoyed "There's Gonna Be a God Damn Riot in Here!" because of the intense, wild, insulting communication with audience.

"The Last Straw" seems to be not so wild but also is a DVD that I'll watch over and over again.

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