"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Topics: Entertainment News
Big news: There’s a video involving the San Francisco 49ers and people actually want to watch it.
You’ve probably heard about the tape public relations director Kirk Reynolds made as a training tool to help players learn how to deal with the media and avoid the kinds of mistakes that can become distractions and embarrassments, such as running back Garrison Hearst’s “faggot” comments in 2002.
“Embrace diversity,” Reynolds says at one point. This is during a part of the tape where he’s pretending to preside over a lesbian marriage at a strip club, just before the happy and partially clothed couple drops to the floor in an NC-17 grope.
That scene comes after one in which a Chinese man — played by trainer George Chung — with thick glasses and buck teeth, who identifies himself as “Suck Hung,” talks in a stereotypical, Jerry Lewis at his unfunniest accent about 49ers quarterback “Tim Latte” (Rattay) and President Bush’s “erection” last November.
“What you do is not only a reflection of yourself. It’s a reflection of the San Francisco 49ers,” Reynolds says near the end of the 15-minute tape. He’s naked at this point but for a towel, and about to be embraced by three topless women.
Did I mention that throughout the tape, Reynolds is supposed to be impersonating San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom? Or that it also includes a profanity-laced scene about interacting with the public, and scenes where the mayor takes bribes, eats expensively “on the taxpayers,” tells an arrested player not to drop the soap and asks a beggar why he doesn’t go out and get a job?
Or that part of the tape was shot in Newsom’s office, with the real mayor’s permission, but not his knowledge of what the tape would contain?
The mayor’s not happy. The 49ers — a fairly progressive organization that has taken sensitivity training seriously since the Hearst incident and that offers domestic partner benefits to employees — are not happy. Reynolds is out of work.
You can see the tape yourself on the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story of its existence. Be warned: The tape sounds funnier and more titillating than it is. Also, the Chronicle blurred out the nudity, so there’s not even that, though the profanity remains.
So what else is there to say about this sensitivity training video that’s a walking definition of irony, a perfect example of the very things it’s supposed to be teaching its viewers to avoid?
I like nudity, profanity and general offensiveness as much as the next guy, but it’s beyond obvious that a training tape in a professional environment, in one of the highest-profile professions around, wasn’t the place for any of those things.
As Reynolds himself says — not quite accurately, as soccer fans would point out — on the tape, “Remember, the National Football League is the most highly visible sport on the planet. Everything you do and say is covered by the media, so be careful of what you say and what you do. You do something controversial, say something controversial, it will have an impact on this team … So remember, be mindful of your actions.”
Reynolds has apologized and has tried to defend himself only minimally, saying that he was trying to get a message across in a format that would connect with the locker-room culture, but that he obviously screwed up in the attempt.
“The ideas of the tape are appropriate for the locker room,” Reynolds told the Chronicle, “though some of the subjects were inappropriate for the values of this organization, and mine frankly.”
It’s a screw-up a 20-year-old R.A. in a college dorm shouldn’t make, never mind a trained media professional in one of the most progressive cities in the country. It’s distressing that this sort of thing still isn’t decades behind us. We can accept Reynolds’ apology or not, but either way there’s no excuse.
I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that what was really happening in the tape was Reynolds displaying hostility to the ideas he claimed on camera and claims now to believe in. But if what he says about wanting to connect to the players on their level is true, what does that say about his opinion of the players?
At least some of them reportedly thought the tape was funny. Maybe all of them did. I probably would have too if I knew Reynolds. It’s usually funny to see people you know make idiots of themselves.
But did Reynolds really believe that he had to go against all norms of professionalism to reach these guys? He must really think they’re stupid.
The usual smattering of whines about political correctness run rampant aside, reasonable people seem to agree that the video was so far out of line there’s just no way to justify it. It’s sad. It’s sad that this kind of neanderthal nonsense still happens.
And it’s sad that we’ll never get to see the rest of Reynolds’ trilogy, “Bitches and Ho’s: Don’t Rape ‘Em” and “Our Friends, the Whiny Little Dipshits Who Buy Tickets.”
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Waltonism of the night [PERMALINK]
Bill Walton’s summing up of the Suns-Spurs series after San Antonio clinched it with a 101-95 win in Game 5 Wednesday night:
“How about the fact that in this series you had not a single player telling you they’re the greatest player in the world? You had not either coach saying, ‘I’m going somewhere else next year.’
“This was such a fun and exhilarating series. A sense of true class and dignity, and the pride these guys have and the respect they have for the opposition, it just makes you feel good. Not only about basketball, not only about the NBA, but about life in general. This is the way it should be.”
Me eyes! I can see!
Here’s a runner-up Waltonism, since he’s through as a color analyst for the season. It’s a little more in the classic style.
As the second half began, sideline reporter Jim Gray reported that Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, his team up by one at the break, had told his team they were playing much too cautiously and had to run more and keep shooting 3-pointers.
“What a fantastic attitude by Mike D’Antoni!” Walton enthused. “We’re playing too conservative. Shoot more! Run faster! Try something harder! Thank goodness for Mike D’Antoni.”
That’s Walton in a nutshell: “Keep attacking!”
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ESPN’s “I Love the ’80s” [PERMALINK]
Who’s picking the music for ESPN’s NBA telecasts, Martha Quinn?
For weeks now, the network has peppered its coverage of this hippest of hip-hop sports with the Phil Collins ’80s prom-favorite “In the Air Tonight.”
On Wednesday night, it used Tom Petty’s 1985 chestnut “Don’t Come Around Here No More” as the soundtrack for a highlight sequence showing Amare Stoudemire’s game-saving block of a Tim Duncan shot in Game 4. Get it? Don’t come around here.
Gee, kids, 23 skiddoo! Too bad the Western Conference finals are over. I hear ESPN had a great feature with Ralph Macchio talking about how the Spurs’ defense is as hard to solve as a Rubik’s Cube.
Previous column: Larry Brown’s non-denial
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Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)