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Surely, one of the great tragedies of the last four decades is the demise of dramatic radio. Before television arrived to poison and dull the soul of this great nation, radio presented a thinking person's medium, a theatre of the imagination.

It was the beauty of simple words and sound effects flowing through a speaker, messages that allowed each person to create his or her own visual imagery. But now, in a world filled with brainless amusements like CD-ROM and IMAX screens, where can one turn for a bit of honest, stimulating entertainment?

The worthy artisans at Penthouse magazine have now provided the answer in the form of Penthouse Forum Live, Volumes One and Two.

That's right. The only sex magazine to achieve that difficult level of class and smut, somewhere between Playboy and Hustler, is offering dramatic readings of "the greatest letters from the pages of Forum." Of course, Forum has long been a favorite of men and women alike (hey, ladies--it's a couples thing!), allowing "real" people to astound and titillate others with "real" tales of their personal sexual high jinks.

And beyond mere entertainment, let us not forget the now-commonplace terminology that Forum has introduced into the vernacular: "helmeted bohemian love dart," "sopping love tunnel," and, of course, "veiny, nine-inch chorizo." Perhaps more than just a slice of Americana, someday these letters from simple citizens will be categorized properly as true folk art.

In the two volumes, you will encounter a host of jes' plain folk: an aerobics instructor, an air-conditioning repairman, a flight attendant, college students, an ice cream man--people like you or me.

Thrill as the husky-voiced lass with a thick German accent reveals that "about once a month I get a craving to go through the whole humiliation routine" in Volume One's "Spank Me." Let your imagination soar as a zealous Ron Howard sound-alike gushes about an on-the-job encounter in "The Ice Cream Man Cometh": "She pulled one of my chest hairs and said, 'I wanna ring your bell.'" Or, if your tastes run to the exotic (it's 1994--can't we finally just relax?), dare yourself to indulge in the shocking story of two men and a foxy amputee in "A Leg Man, NOT!"

Kicks just keep getting harder to find in this fast-paced age, but Penthouse takes us to a sublime state of entertainment, a place that arrives in a plain, brown wrapper, and the setting could not be more intimate: your very own brain.

@body:Do You Believe in Magic? If you know anything about Penn and Teller, you probably know them as the big, loud guy and the silent, little guy who wear gray suits and once dumped a hatful of live cockroaches on David Letterman's desk. Well, what more do you need to know? Maybe just this: There is nothing like a Penn and Teller show, which--and I write from experience--is a statement more true than trite. They'll be here on Sunday, May 15, at Gammage Auditorium, taking the stage at 8 p.m. But now, here they are, by phone from a hotel in L.A. Screed: You're in show business, you know how things work behind the scenes. Who writes the letters to Penthouse?

Penn: I don't know. But I actually wrote a letter to Penthouse Forum. It was one of my life's goals. And I wrote a cover letter that said, "I know you have a team of writers who write those things, my name is Penn Jillette with Penn and Teller, I had this great sex experience" . . . I got a letter back, very offended, that said, "We do not have staff writers who do those letters, they are real letters, but we did like yours." They sent me a couple tee shirts that said "My Letter Got Printed in Penthouse," but I don't read Penthouse so I never saw it. Penthouse and Playboy are not my style.

S: What is?
Penn: If I'm going to read smut, I'm going to read Screw or something real.
S: What music are you listening to these days?

Penn: I just got a promo of NRBQ doing "Spampinato" live, and it's great. It's music to make Satan dance with delight. I like the new Elvis Costello, and Gavin Bryers' "Jesus' Blood Hasn't Failed Me Yet," that'll kill you. It's like 45 seconds of a bum singing this unknown hymn, and this guy Bryers looped it so it's an hour long and added symphony arrangements and a chorus and Tom Waits.

S: It seems you guys and David Copperfield are in some sort of pissing match; he called you the Beavis and Butt-head of magic in TV Guide. Penn: I had nothing to do with it. I don't know, Copperfield's gotten really weird in the past year, he just doesn't seem to have a clue. It's almost like he thinks there's something real [the feud between the magicians] going on. I'm just bowing out. . . . It'll be a cold day in hell the day I bristle being compared to Mike Judge [creator of Beavis and Butt-head].

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Peter Gilstrap
Contact: Peter Gilstrap