Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Late Great Johnny Ace: Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns dig up the facts behind a rock ’n’ roll legend

"Johnny Ace died at 25, allegedly during a game of Russian Roulette. The legend of his death not only obscures his talent but is built upon a misreading of what really happened backstage that Christmas night in 1954."

So reads the teaser for the item posted on Legs McNeil’s vital literary pop culture website, (based on his and Gillian McCain’s classic book), leading into a story that gets to the facts behind the death of Johnny Ace, the R&B dynamo out of Memphis.  Ace’s backstage exit was the first legendary “rock ’n' roll suicide,” and Jeff & Burt may be the first to cut through the mythology:

"As legend has it, Johnny Ace went out in a most romantic way on Christmas Day 1954 — romantic like the love scene between Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter. Johnny Ace died at 25, playing Russian Roulette, the game in which you load a bullet into one chamber of a revolver, spin the cylinder, then pull the trigger while pointing the gun at your head. It’s said to be quite a rush if you only hear click.'

"There’s one small catch to the legend of the late great Johnny Ace...”

Find out what the catch is.  Read the story here.  Then share it!

\There's also a great hidden news item at the end of the story. Burt and Jeff have written a book about performers who died onstage, set to be published in 2019.

And stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The story behind the John Lennon & Chris Montez brawl of 1963! Burt Kearns delivers another exclusive on

Our man Burt Kearns has gotten to the bottom of a fifty-five year-old rock ’n’ roll urban legend with an eyewitness account of the brawl between John Lennon and  Chris Montez in March 1963.

That story is Burt's latest exclusive on the literary rock website  The story focuses on an incident tduring a British concert tour on which Chris and Tommy Roe headlined with the Beatles as their opening act! It includes testimony from Chris and Tommy, and a cameo from Andrew Loog Oldham, who was a publicist on the tour and went on to produce The Rolling Stones.

The story is culled from Burt's long-in-the-works documentary project, El Viaje Musical de Ezekiel Montanez: the Chris Montez Stoy, and includes exclusive video!

Click here to read it  (and learn the secret to the opening of The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There!)

And click here to buy the 20th anniversary edition of Please Kill Me, the definitive oral history of punk by Legs McNeil and Gilliam McCain, and the inspiration for the website.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Bob O’Brien, 1942-2018, a legendary television newsman and one heckuva great friend!

Bob O’Brien died this week. For decades, he was a top street reporter for WNEW-TV’s Ten O’Clock News in New York City.  A legendary, crazy, serious, fun, all-business, wild, family man and good friend to all of us.

We miss him but his spirit will live on.

Here's the obituary that ran in his new hometown in Virginia Beach.  Colorful as it is, it only begins to paint the full picture of this force of nature who influenced so many of us (after he retired from television news, he moved to Oregon and was elected town councilman!).  Thanks for the memory, OB.

Robert Eugene O’Brien Jr., 75, award-winning journalist

Robert Eugene O'Brien Jr.
Robert Eugene O’Brien Jr.

Robert Eugene O’Brien Jr., 75, went to be with the Lord Tuesday, April 24, 2018.

Robert was born Aug. 22, 1942, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the late Robert and Clare O’Brien. He graduated from Xavier University to go on to a full career in broadcast journalism in New York City. It was at Xavier that he met the love of his life, Veronica, whom he lovingly called “Ronnie Rose.”

He is best remembered in his illustrious journalistic career for interviewing numerous presidents and heads of state, as well as celebrated individuals from Groucho Marx to Gerry Adams. He covered the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland; the inaugural flight of the Concord; the passing of Princess Diana; and as a true Irishman, the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade. His formidable career is memorialized by three Emmy awards.

Left to cherish his memory are his loving wife of 51 years, Veronica R. O’Brien; daughter, Samantha; son, Sean, and his wife, Katie; brother, Chris Ischay, and his wife, Linda Wolfson; and a wealth of nieces, nephews and friends he called family.

A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, April 30, at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 5345 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach, immediately followed by a wake at Buoy 44 restaurant, 4536 Ocean View Ave., Virginia Beach.

In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates donations made to Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia at At the end of the 30-day campaign, the family will present Alzheimer’s Association, Southeastern Virginia Chapter, with a check of all proceeds raised in the name of Robert Eugene O’Brien Jr.

Share online condolences with the family at

From 2006

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Chris Montez & Brian Wilson’s 50-year reunion: A clip from Burt Kearns’ Montez documentary is his latest exclusive on

A piece of rock ’n' roll history has been revealed this week, as music legends Brian Wilson and Chris Montez talk about their days at Hawthorne High in their first meeting in fifty years!

The story and video come from Burt Kearns, who's been better known for his documentary and television work the past two decades, but who recently has been exhibiting his writing chops on, his old pal Legs McNeil’s literary and pop culture website (in March, Burt and Jeff Abraham cooked up a much-lauded piece on sixties comedy album star and sexual revolutionary Rusty Warren).

The reunion took place during the filming of El Viaje Musicial de Ezekiel Montanez: The Chris Montez Story, the documentary that has shown up in a “preview form” at film festivals around the country.  The story on tells the story of the still-in-progress film work, what led to the reunion -- and even includes a cameo from Gary Busey.

Most impressive however, is the reunion film clip.

You can click here to see it on the Please Kill Me site.

(By the way,  'Please Kill Me’ is the name of the punk oral history written by Legs and Gillian McCain, which was recently released in a 20th anniversary edition and has been recognized and awarded as a modern literary classic.

Brian Wilson (second from left) onstage at Hawthorne High
Chris Montez returns to Hawthorne High with a film crew

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Burt Kearns & Jeff Abraham interviewed ‘Knockers Up Gal’ Rusty Warren for Legs McNeil’s

Burt Kearns and Jeff Abraham interviewed legendary musician, comedian, and leader of the sexual revolution Rusty Warren a few weeks ago in southern California.  Today, their time with the famed ‘Knockers Up Gal’ of the Fifties and Sixties has been turned into a long article posted on, the rock, pop culture and literary website based on Please Kill Me, the definitive punk rock history book penned by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.

Burt, as you know, wrote Tabloid Baby.  Jeff is Hollywood’s leading comedy historian.  The pair collaborated on a book we can’t tell you about just yet.  Their piece on Rusty unearths many anecdotes about her life and career, and brings to the forefront for the first time the sisterhood alliance among the top female comedians of the era.

Here’s a sample, as Rusty Warren looks back at the heyday of Las Vegas:

   “In Vegas, you’d always have three comics, myself and two other people,” Rusty recalled. “We’d trade off. The men were all dressed to go onstage, except they’d pull their pants down and the gals came over and gave them blowjobs. And then: ‘Now, ladies and gentlemen… dadadadada…’ Up… Zip! Pull up, out and get out to go on. My room was right next to theirs.”
   Whether working the lounges or the big rooms, the male performers went their own way, she said, kissing up to the mobsters running the casinos or hoping to pal around with big stars like Milton Berle or that prick Jerry Lewis. The women supported each other.
   “Joan Rivers was always nice to me, even when she was working the main room,” recalls Rusty. “Phyllis Diller gave me her house when she was gone. I was there three times a year and she let me use it. Totie Fields, she was younger. Her house was nearby, she’d come round. She made it big, but she came to me as a friend because I was one who didn’t go on (in the main room) where she goes. She’d ask, ‘What should I do with so and so?’ She was very nice. It was a nice combination of friends. 
   “Las Vegas was different then. I don’t go to Vegas today.”

Read the entire article by clicking here.

(Burt and Legs go back forty years.  In the late Eighties, Legs was Burt’s editor at Spin magazine.)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ray Richmond’s TRANSITION is named one of the Top Ten Theatrical Productions of 2017

Congratulations are in order for Ray Richmond and the team behind the Obama-Trump comedic play TRANSITION, as the first theatrical response to the unfolding Trump era has been named one of  2017’s Top Ten Los Angeles Theatrical Productions.

The influential celeb-centric Huffington Post placed the small-theatre production alongside -- and  even above -- multi-million dollar productions at the Ahmanson Theatre (three in total) and Geffen Playhouse!

The HuffPo raves:

"Using the headline 'Democracy is a terrible thing to waste,' Ray Richmond’s hilarious reimagining of Obama turning over the White House to Trump in a private meeting is uproarious. Harry Murphy has an easy target in an orange-haired despot but it is Joshua Wolf Coleman who completely nails Obama’s speech patterns, authority and his patience.The audience delightedly finally gets to see the latter blown out of the water.

The one-act TRANSITION was a prescient imagining of what went on during the first private Oval office meeting between President Barack Obama and the unexpected President-Elect. Harry S. Murphy inhabited a Donald Trump that went far beyond the usual parody.  Joshua Wolf Coleman slipped uncannily into the Obama suit.  The play had a successful run in March and April at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood, returning in June as a hit of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.   

Additional productions of TRANSITION are expected to be presented in cities around the country. 

Meanwhile, Richmond and Coleman have teamed up for a series of Internet shorts called The Obama Monologues.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Chris Bearde June 18, 1936 - April 23, 2017

Chris Bearde was our pal.  He was one of the greatest comedic talents in television history, with a rapier-sharp wit and young man’s rage against injustice.  

Chris created The Gong Show, produced The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and wrote the television special Elvis, also known as the 68 Comeback. 

One of Chris’ last Facebook posts

Up until this weekend, he continued to stand up against Donald Trump and his thugs with Facebook posts that were often hilarious, always full of righteous anger and disbelief that this country he’d arrived in from Australia had come to this!  Eighty is a good run, but Chris, like Joan Rivers when she died, was so youthful, energetic and passionate right up until the moment it stopped, that the shock is real.

We’ll miss Chris Bearde.

Chris’ Facebook post last week

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Democracy is a Terrible Thing to Waste! Don’t waste time, get your tickets to TRANSITION!

“A democracy is a terrible thing to waste!”

Now there’s a tagline!  And it’s all explained in Ray Richmond’s new play, TRANSITION, which opens March 11 at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood.

TRANSITION enacts what could have gone on during that momentous Oval Office meeting between Oresident Barack Obama and President-Elect Donald Trump two days after Trump's improbable victory.

It’s funny, it's scary -- it gets tense!

There are previews on March 9 and 10… then it's on to the world premiere engagment of the first theatrical reaction to the Trump era.

Written by Ray Richmond.  Directed by Lee Costello.  Starring Harry S. Murphy and Joshua Wolf Coleman.

TRANSITION will run for five weekends and 16 performances, through April 9 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood. 

Get your tickets at

Ray has reserved two pairs each for Presidents Trump and Obama.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ray Richmond’s TRANSITION, the first theatrical work of the Trump era, premieres March 11 in Hollywood

 Lots of our pals sank into hopelessness when Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016.

Ray Richmond, our pal the journalist, critic, and “conscience of the entertainment industry” was no different.  Until he became very different and turned his outrage into a theatrical production.

TRANSITION is the name of the play. It’s about that first Oval Office meeting between President Barack Obama and president-elect Donald Trump on November 10, 2016, and has its world premiere on March 11 at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood.The 90-minute production is described as “an imagined, dramatic recreation of the historic sitdown that took place on November 10, 2016 (two days after Trump's shocking victory in the Presidential election)... a compelling drama with comedic elements woven throughout. 

"The meeting evolves into a chess match between a man who's spent years building a legacy, and an outsider moving in to tear it all down. The play touches on issues including immigration, gun control, health care, sexism and nuclear war.”

TRANSITION stars Joshua Wolf Coleman as President Barack Obama and Harry S. Murphy as Donald Trump, and is directed by Lee Costello.

Coleman is a veteran of Guthrie Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse who's played the title role in Macbeth and Puddn'head Wilson and appeared in television series including Grey's Anatomy, House, and The West Wing.  

Joshua Wolf Coleman in Hidalgo
Murphy is a writer-performer alumnus of Second City in Chicago whose credits include Charlie Wilson’s War, Evan Almighty, Reefer Madness – The Movie Musical, Scandal, and  Curb Your Enthusiasm. 

Harry S. Murphy with Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 3 Episode 6
Director Lee Costello is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. She's directed countless plays in New York and Los Angeles regional theatre including last year’s Waiting for Grace at The Odyssey Theatre, which was chosen by The Huffington Post as one of the Top Ten theatre productions in Los Angeles in 2016.  

TRANSITION is the first theatrical effort directly inspired by the Trump Era.   It’s also the first play by Ray, who’s well-known as an entertainment critic, columnist, reporter and blogger for publications including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and the Los Angeles Times, and who's written four books.

"After the election, I was as devastated as everyone else by the fact our country was about to go to hell," Richmond says. “But when President Obama invited Trump to the Oval Office for a meeting, it struck me as a perfect construct for a two-man stage play. Writing it lifted me from my funk, driven by equal parts fear and inspiration.”

TRANSITION will run for five weekends and 16 performances, through April 9 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood. Tickets are available at

Ray has reserved two pairs each for Presidents Trump and Obama.

Hollywood hijinks hauled out as Time presents Celebrities on Trial on Reelz!

Time Presents: Celebrities On Trial premieres this Wednesday, March 1st  -- tomorrow! -- on Reelz.  

The show presents a rogue's gallery of stars who broke the law and had to face the music in court.  Drugs, assault, thievery, divorce, drunk driving, domestic abuse, murder and general bad behaviour are just some of the reasons celebrities have wound up in hot water -- and worse.

Lindsay Lohan, Bill Cosby, Charlie Sheen, Phil Spector, Mel Gibson, Robery Downey Jr., Winona Ryder and, yes Fatty Arbuckle, are only some of the celebs who are in the docket in this one.

And Michael Jackson.  The folks at  P&L Media, who produced the show for the folks in the big Time Inc. building in lower Manhattan, have already made headlines by revealing why the dead King of Pop wore pajamas to court one day.

Peter Brennan, Lisa Lew, (the P&L) and our pal Burt Kearns are executive producers.

 Watch this if only for the unbelieveable, seemingly never-ending celebrity mug shot montages.  See if your favorite star made the grade.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Reelz special 'Time Presents Milestones 2016: A Tribute to the Stars We’ve Lost' is also a tribute to Sgt. Pepper!

Time Presents: Milestones 2016 - A Tribute to the Stars We’ve Lost premieres Wednesday, December 21st on Reelz.  Editors at Time talk about some of the major losses in film, television, music and politics in a very lively special that focuses on celebrity accomplishments rather than their deaths.

Produced by P&L Media, the show’s executive producers are Peter Brennan, Lisa Lew, (the P&L) and our pal Burt Kearns, who was, as we recall involved with a not dissimilar Sgt. Pepper’s parody.