[This is what we in the blosophere like to call a “guest post.” Andrew Krucoff, of — well, Krucoff fame — proposed a five-blog tour all about the new Dr. Frank book and offered to write the post himself. While perusing his intriguing proposal, and noting audiophile Kruc’s references to everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Stephin Merritt, I agreed it was a fine fit for Stereogum. Plus, it’s always fun to get some fresh blood upon on this screen, lest I make another Steely Dan post. So take it away Andy. -Ed]
BY ANDREW KRUCOFF
Frank Portman (Dr. Frank of the Mr. T Experience) has written a book called King Dork that’s an indictment on the Catcher In The Rye generation(s) and involves “at least half a dozen mysteries, plus dead people, naked people, fake people, teen sex, weird sex, drugs, ESP, Satanism, books, blood, bubblegum, guitars, monks, faith, love, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, a war, a secret code, a head injury, the Crusades, some crimes, mispronunciation skills, a mystery woman, a devil head, a blow job, and rock and roll.” Early reviews are here and here. Welcome to his blog book tour.
Now for some Q&A:
Green Day once posed the musical refrain “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” and Screeching Weasel responded “I Wrote Holden Caulfield.” What exactly have YOU done to Holden Caulfield with King Dork?
Well, I guess if Tom Henderson [the main character in the book] were to join that hallowed tradition, his answer song would be something like “I Chopped Off Holden Caulfield’s Head and Placed it on a Spike in Center Court as a Warning to All the Normal People of the World.”
There is a song in the book called “Losers Like You,” the chorus of which goes “Catcher in the Rye is for losers…” So maybe there’s the answer song. You should hear it; it’s pretty funny.
You’ve been writing pop punk songs about goofball guys and girls since the mid-80’s. Talk about the origin of this book: When did you decide to write it? Was the storyline something you kicked around in your head for the last 20 years?
I decided to write it around two years ago. It’s more like I was talked into writing it by a literary agent who knew my songs and thought I might be able to write a book. I was skeptical, but I gave it a shot, and to my surprise I ended up doing it. (People who know me know I rarely finish anything, so there were surprises all around.) Ben Weasel also egged me on a bit near the beginning.
The story sort of developed on its own. I had no idea what it was going to be when I started. I have heard writers say that they let their characters determine the story, that they get up every morning looking forward to typing just so they can find out what’s going to happen. It always has sounded pretty corny and pretentious to me, but in fact that’s kind of how it was. You start “channelling” the character and then it kind of goes. Sorry to sound like a hippie, there: believe me, I am as surprised by that as you are.
You make several references in the book how it would be difficult to translate the story to the big screen but let’s be serious, this would make a great movie and you would jump on Joe Strummer’s grave at the chance. Suspending time and disbelief, who’s in your “King Dork” dream cast? (If you want to pair the 15 year old Matt Dillon with the 14 year old Lindsay Lohan, feel free. You may even go as far as casting the current Drew Barrymore as Tom’s mom AND the 11 year old Drew Barrymore as his sister.)
Yeah, I do think it would make a pretty good movie. Let’s see, how about:
Amanda Henderson: Tina Majorino
Mom: Laura Dern
Little Big Tom: Dustin Hoffman
Sam Hellerman: Michael Cera
Celeste Fletcher: Elisha Cuthbert
Tom Henderson: Jesse Eisenberg
Mr. Teone: Danny Aiello
Mr. Schtuppe: Bud Cort
Deanna Schumacher: Linda Blair circa the Born Innocent years
Shinefield: Jonathan Bennett
While we’re on the topic of a film version, please tease out some of the back-and-forth dialogue for the scene where Tom and Sam are walking around the track in PE class and discussing whether Count Bishops or Slade had more influence on the sound of the first wave of British punk rock.
The problem with that kind of discussion is that by the time you’ve finished arguing about how to define your terms (punk rock, pub rock,
bubblegum, glam, bubbleglam, roots rock, new wave, etc.) 2nd period is already almost over.
Tom would like to see punk rock as a break from gutterglam rather than a continuation of it, mainly because he doesn’t like the idea of associating his beloved Slade with anything as ephemeral as “punk.” Sam Hellerman would take the counterpoint, arguing that the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the Adverts and the Buzzcocks had way more in common with glitter rock than they did with the Stiff/Chiswick roots-wave trend.
I usually have a bit of sympathy for Tom’s point of view, but in this case I have to say I think Sam Hellerman is right.
And while you’re at it, please expand on Sam’s theory that the meeting of Brian Eno and David Bowie was one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century.
You know what, I actually have no idea what he’s talking about there. I think he’s probably just trying to bug Tom. I suppose if you prefer the glam Bowie to the artsy Bowie you might blame Eno for a bit of it. But many people forget that Bowie was a mime from the very beginning, so it’s not all Eno’s fault.
Lastly, non-book related, what are your thoughts on the comparison between you and Stephin Merritt, and maybe more importantly, what do you think Cole Porter would have to say about it?
It’s a really sweet essay. Merritt gets it all the time, I’m sure, but I’m not too used to people looking at my songwriting seriously so it’s a nice novelty in that sense.
I guess I have to admit I’m maybe a bit jealous of that guy’s ready-made credibility as a songwriter among the hipsters. He is on some kind of credibility easy street. But that’s not to say I don’t like his songs. I think Lawrence Kay is right in that what songwriter-y stuff in my tunes is often missed because it can sound like it’s supposed to be missed. Merritt and I are clearly both strongly under the influence of the thirties, so we have that in common. And it’s probably true that it’s a greater leap for me than it is for him.
As for Cole Porter, I imagine he’d run from the room screaming if he ever heard me sing anything.
That concludes the formal Q&A. Now Frank will perform a previously unreleased song from the book: