A Creem editor remembers …

Jan 23, 2008 at 12:00 am

An excerpt from the new CREEM anthology book, America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine

There are loads of CREEM stories to tell, such as the time I answered the editorial phone and Billy Joel was on the other end, angry about a caption ("Dating a moron? Why I am!") that had appeared under a photo of future bride Christie Brinkley. "When you start making fun of my girlfriend, them's fightin' words!" the irate star told me. (Actually, Billy, I tried to explain even back then, the caption was making fun of you, since Christie was the only one in the photo ...) But at least half my favorite stories would involve John Kordosh. We'd become constant companions, even before new owner Arnold Levitt moved us to L.A. in '87 and threw us into an apartment together for three months. John would interview anyone for CREEM, didn't matter who (just as John would talk to anyone anywhere anytime). He's one of the funniest people I've ever known, especially if a few drinks are involved. So hanging with him — whether he was interviewing Blackie Lawless in Detroit or we were getting thrown out of an L.A. radio station after appearing on air with our faves, the Replacements — was always immensely entertaining.

John could spot bullshit across a crowded room — "Bill, why are these people we don't know kissing us all the time?" he deadpanned several weeks after we'd arrived in L.A. — and there are a ton of Kordosh stories to tell as a result. But the classic one is probably the day Arnold flew the three of us to New York, shortly before DiMartino left CREEM, because the new publisher wanted Dave to meet some of our longtime Manhattan scribes. The meeting was a late afternoon affair at a pizza and beer joint owned by Arnold's friend. I'm allergic to beer, but John, Dave and the half-dozen writers who showed up were feeling little pain by the time we left for an Arista Records press party at, I believe, a club called Stringfellows, which we figured we could crash before our midnight flight back to Detroit. We met even more NYC writers and longtime phone buddies at the shindig, and drinks were flowing freely enough that I was now feeling no pain ... when suddenly, the walls closed around us, electronically, like something out of a James Bond movie. We literally appeared to be trapped in this room with no visible means of escape. And suddenly, there, standing behind a podium, bathed in spotlight, was Clive Davis himself. "The last time we did this, you, the tastemakers of our industry, helped to make Whitney Houston a star ..." he began. God knows how many words later, he finally told us why we were there ... to hear "the next great rock supergroup" — none other than GTR!

We then had to sit (or stand) through the entire GTR album. Afterwards, Clive was at the podium again. He wanted to make sure we "tastemakers of America" really "got it" ... We then had to suffer through a 30-minute (it seemed like hours) "Making of GTR" documentary. Did I forget to mention that all drinks had been cut off when Clive began his presentation? It was a rule, someone told me. No one eats or drinks when Clive's talking. After the video, Clive announced he was going to play the ungodly album for us again. Just to make sure we tastemakers had absorbed it. One. More. Time ...

"John is going to say something," I suggested to Dave. "No, no, he won't." I always wondered if it was wishful thinking on Dave's part. Because within seconds, from the back of the room, came the roar, slowly and deliberately: "Clive, shut the fuck up! You're boring me!" John's walking down the stairs now, dressed in a black T-shirt with an empty beer bottle (for too long!) in hand, incredulously imploring the tastemakers himself this time: "What's wrong with you people? Why are you putting up with this?" Clive points up the stairway, with an expression on his face not unlike Otis Day's in Animal House when the white kids show up at the black club: "I don't know who that gentleman is — but he's ruining it for everyone!" Someone grabs me, absolute terror in their eyes: "Omigod! You just can't do that to Clive ..." It remains one of the more surreal moments of my life. Seconds later, a bemused Arista publicist quickly escorted the three of us (and several CREEM writers) to what must have been the only secret exit in Stringfellows ... and we tastemakers of America disappeared down several flights of stairs and into the Manhattan night.