The new issue of Mondo 2000 asks cyberpunk progenitor William Gibson if he feels more confident with each novel he writes. "No, I don't really," replies Gibson. "It's terrible. I go through really boring, terrible depressions every time I write a book. I go through months of absolute aesthetic despair. My wife has learned to recognize the stages of it: I come out of the basement, and I say, 'Not only is this the worst book I've ever written, but it's the worst book anyone has ever written.' [Laughter]
"And then she says, 'Oh that means you're really close to the end, dear.' "
Surfer on the Loose
Downtown shoppers were treated to another delightful urban theater display on a recent Friday -- a bearded guy waving his arms, walking at top speed down Market, in T-shirt and blue jeans worn in that fashionable diarrhea droop, mopping his red face with a jacket and screaming: "I'm a fucking surfer! I don't give a fuck what anybody thinks! Fuck the cops!"
Blues Below the Belt
"It's the blues, and it's lowdown and dirty!"
The singer looks back at his band on the stage at Biscuits & Blues, puts the Hohner Marine Band harp to his lips, and the John Leslie Blues Band kicks into another raunchy tune:
I'm ready for you ... I hope you're ready for me!
Considering they've had three rehearsals (in Leslie's kitchen) and it's their first gig, the members of this band have their chops together. Guitarist Brian Bisesi used to tour with Muddy Waters. Bassist Johnny Ace has danced on bars in North Beach. Kevin Coggins is no slouch behind the drums, and John Leslie used to play with John Lee Hooker and James Cotton. The others gig regularly; Leslie hasn't performed live in 23 years until tonight.
He's been a little busy.
For the past two decades, John Leslie has been making adult movies, primarily in the Bay Area. In a business that takes its toll on people, he's outlasted most of his peers. Although he has stacked up the awards for acting and directing and could have cashed out long ago, he still cranks out five videos a year from his home/editing suite in Mill Valley. At the adult film awards in Vegas a few years ago, Leslie circulated easily among the goofy circus that is the porn industry, sharply dressed, chatting and shaking hands, a class act among what many imagine to be a world without class. Few dare to push the genre as far as he does. His most recent release, Drop Sex -- Wipe the Floor, is a jarring collage of film textures and angles, done almost entirely without dialogue. So how does he find time to put a band together?
"I just turned the TV off at night," he says.
His wife, Kathleen, sits in the audience, along with his cronies from the old days -- including Annette Haven and Richard Pacheco -- but to most of the crowd, this is just another blues band hitting a groove, with a sharp-dressed singer who does the splits.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., Leslie worked in the steel mills for a few years before going to art school and ending up in New York. There, he fronted a band called the Brooklyn Bluesbusters. They played the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, jammed with some heavyweights, and hung it up in '74, about the time the fledgling X-rated film business was just taking off. And now, after all the films and videos, Leslie figures it's time to have a little fun, get a band together, put it back out on the track.
As the third set rolls around, guest ringers -- guitarist/singer Rusty Zinn, just nominated for best blues artist of the year, and drummer Walter Shufflesworth from the Dynatones among them -- get to the stage. Leslie hopes to snag more gigs in the Bay Area, including at Biscuits & Blues, and says he's still looking for a piano player.
The dance floor fills up to "Come back baby, I wish you would," and in the middle of Biscuits & Blues, shaking it hot and heavy, are a couple straight from a Jim Thompson novel: the pasty guy in a sport coat with wide shirt lapels, and a heavily made-up women with waaaay too much perfume, if you know what I mean.
As Albert King once said, that's what the blues is all about.
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By Jack Boulware