Publicist Nonplussed about Sonoma Jazz+

VinSpinPR Headquarters.
VinSpinPR Headquarters.

Apparently self-proclaimed “public relationalist,” Mick Robbins, was nonplussed about last weekend’s Sonoma Jazz Plus event. It wasn’t the thumping and wumping of the live music acts’ amplifiers that rattled the windows of his mobile “PR Unit” (a van parked at Depot Park where he camps with animal rights activist-turned-“adventure-meats”-advocate Paul-Henri Moreau), but the fact that his client, local street musician Nelson Mint, couldn’t get booked. Or, more to the point, Robbins couldn’t get him booked, which led to an acrimonious dissolution of their working agreement at a local tavern Saturday night.

Mint, a fixture of the Historic Sonoma Plaza whose act consists mainly of strumming jazz chords on a five-stringed guitar and yelling insults at passing tourists, contends that Robbins promised him a billing at the annual festival as well as “star treatment.” According to Mint, what he received instead was a citation for disturbing the peace while busking outside the event while atop an empty wine crate Robbins claimed was the “alternative stage.” As for his billing, Mint’s name was scrawled in ball-point pen on the back of a parking ticket envelop with a stick-figure depiction of the musician playing his five-stringed instrument. Paul-Henri Moreau’s signature, twice the size of Mint’s headline, was penned at the bottom.  “This is why I’ve avoided messing with the music industry, man,” spat an indignant Mint, who committed to a 50-percent split with Robbins’ company VinSpin PR. As to what Robbins intended Mint to split with him remains unclear, but thus far it does not include the cost of Mint’s $125 citation.

Robbins, however, claims that Mint is misdirecting his ire, which he suggests should be aimed at Sonoma Jazz Plus who allegedly refused to acknowledge Robbin’s efforts to book his client by refusing to notice the signage posted on the side of his van that read “Musician for Hire, Enquire within.” The fact that Sonoma Jazz Plus is based in Aspen, Colo. notwithstanding, Robbins claims he performed due diligence in promoting Mint’s career. Failing a proper booking, Robbins says he improvised by creating a “fringe festival,” and booked Mint as the headliner.  “Fringe festivals are all the rage right now. Mint should be grateful he got to headline his own gig at the premiere of what will surely become an institution in fringe music festivals,” said Robbins. “Sure, he played on top of a wooden box this year – but at least his box was wood. The guy playing at the fringe-fringe-festival only had a cardboard box.”

Indeed, Henri Moreau, who took umbrage with Robbins’ client after he criticized his poster art, launched his own concurrent fringe festival across the street from Mint in the parking lot of Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall. Contrary to Robbins’ claims, however, Moreau was not performing atop the cardboard box, but rather performing with it in lieu of a more traditional instrument. Impressed with Moreau’s apparent talent for percussion, Robbins briefly explored merging the festivals into a “fringe festival juggernaut that could take on Sonoma Jazz Plus outright,” but could get neither party to agree since Moreau insisted on creating the posters and Mint insisted that he not. The dispute erupted into a verbal confrontation at a local watering hole, though the bar manager suspects the trio’s yelling match was actually meant as a diversion so that they might skip on their tab.

“Anyway, it was a long shot to think that Mint could fit in the lineup of Sonoma Jazz Plus,” said Robbins of the bill, which featured Joe Cocker, Chris Isaak and Ziggy Marley. “I mean, he actually plays jazz.”

Flying High

Ah, the glories of business travel. Having marinated in the Wine Country for the better part of a year (sans the occasional sojourn to SoCal, or is that LowCal?), I am pleased to have run away this week while making a documentary (qua branded-entertainment for a “consumer packaged goods company in the natural foods sector”) on location at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston, Mass. JetBlue apparently had a flight attendant go MIA prior to my flight from the Oakland airport and had to scrape for a replacement, but they made up the hour-and-a-half delay with an extremely smooth flight across the great yawning expanse of the so-called fly-over states (Dear Fly-Over States – I personally believe each of you are citadels of a vibrant and worthy local culture – Did you know Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote?).

Flying has never been one of my superpowers, but, thanks to modern psychopharmaceuticals, I’m convinced there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together. That is, me and pills. At present writing, I’m waiting for the invisibility pills to kick in – at least that’s what I’m going to tell my editor who probably has noticed by now that I’m not at my desk (I’m, in fact, in Santa Barbara waiting for the “I took the wrong return flight back from Boston and am now at the beach pills” to wear off). I blame my doctor, or at least the customer service-bot on that Kanuck website. (Disclaimer: This is satire, not a suggested means of addressing one’s psychopharmacological needs. Woe be unto the sap on the same path as VinSpinPR’s Mick Robbins, who confused his prescriptions on a soul-searching trip to Joshua Tree and became, to coin a phrase, overly Viagravated.)

Anyway, at the airports I’ve visited of late, what I hadn’t expected is the sudden appearance of iPod vending machines. Is this the future of impulse-driven point-of-purchase sales? Luxury items (anything that doesn’t feed you, in my book) marketed as convenience? I should have been tipped off when driving into the Oakland airport, which greets visitors with a vast, rotating iPod sign featuring the ubiquitous silhouette of juxtaposed white earbuds. Am I the only one who perceives violent undertones in the Rorschach-like shadows of these ads? (Google our film “Orange” for the antidote.) Don’t tell me. I’ll get a prescription.

With my iPhone safely set on “Airplane Mode,” I’m already an Apple zombie, so I needn’t feed the machine. Moreover, I had loaded this pocket-sized communication-entertainment system with MP3s of “Mornings in Sonoma with Ken Brown,” on KSVY. Of course, I only downloaded the Friday edition of the show – the one I co-host – to have the pleasure of my own voice soothing me to sleep. Turns out it doesn’t work that way. What happens instead is akin to walking into an aural hall of mirrors wherein every annoying tick, stutter and stammer becomes amplified to the nth degree. I began to wonder whether I actually speak English or some horrid pidgin cobbled together from Dick Cavett reruns. I turned myself off (yeah, try that, Mick Robbins) and sought distraction by timing the exits of the apparently bladder-impaired couple next to me who tag teamed the rear restroom for the duration of the flight. When a steward rolled by peddling beverages, I hissed, “Don’t do it.” He did, and five minutes later they were tap-dancing again at the back of the jet. That’s when I realized I did have a superpower – an infinite bladder. I pledge to use it only for purposes of good, which I suppose means if I’m ever in front of you in the men’s room line at the Fig, you can ask for cuts.

The Hot Sauce Academy’s Ben Schwartz, Adam Pally and Gil Ozeri feel the same, as evidenced in their rather dark parody below.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

To leaven your mood, check out our film “Orange,” Raymond Daigle and I made using similar techniques.

National self-conscious month

Mocktober: Darling Readers, welcome to October – the tenth, formally eighth, month of the year. This fine fall month got knocked down a couple pegs when January and February were introduced by Pope Gregory XIII to account for winter, which was theretofore monthless in the original Roman calendar. Not only was the season an endless sprawl of chilly non-dates leading up to March, it was notably bereft of a Jan. 7, the birth date of Pope Gregory who was born in 1502.  Pope Gregory, decreed the switch to the new “Gregorian” calendar in 1582, thereby granting himself a birthday. Then he died in 1585 at the age of 3. Continue reading “National self-conscious month”

Laborious Day Weekend

Vintage 60s.On Monday, I awoke in the fetal position, swaddled in a purple-stained T-shirt that read: “I attended the 16th Annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction and all I got was a hangover and this stupid T-shirt.” At least metaphorically, that’s how I began Labor Day and literally, pretty much how I ended it. The auction was the cornerstone of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, an epic 72-hour shindig, presented jointly by the Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance. Together, the organizations raised over $1,570,700 for local charities, which is also the precise number of brain cells I personally donated to the cause while fueling my schmooze machine with about a case of locally vinted social lube. Admittedly, efficiency was not worked into my design, hence the high glass-to-mass ratio and, later, photog pal Flash Lely having to drag me by the scruff of the neck from the after-after party at a capacious cottage on the Cline Cellars property. All in a day’s work for your intrepid wine country reporter (though, I’m considering a beat change to obits once I remember how to spell my own name).

• • •

Lucky Duck: Paul-Henri Moreau, the controversial French gastronome, was spotted making an “exploratory” visit to the duck pond on the southwest corner of the Historic Sonoma Plaza last Tuesday. Moreau, who made (then ruined) his name as a spokesperson for the beleaguered fois gras industry, had publicly lamented the lack of fatted duck liver available on Sonoma menus. His appearance at the pond raised as much ire as eyebrows when he began feeding the ducks from a 170 lb. bag of breadcrumbs. When authorities inquired about the nature of Moreau’s “generosity,” he replied, flatly, “It’s good for their livers,” then quickly added that the black truffles, sprinkle of fleur de sel and bottle of sauterne he had also brought were likewise liver-friendly, then proceeded to nervously pour the delicacies into the pond. Moreau was fined for wasting the sauterne.

• • •

Spin the Bottle: VinSpin PR maven Mick Robbins continues his apparent descent into career annihilation with a negociant wine label allegedly targeted at teens. The product, “VinoTeen Xtreme,” not only boasts the slogan “21, schmenty-one” but also claims to “treat acne.” Robbins denies that the wine is being marketed to underage drinkers, insisting that the “teen” reference in the product’s name is actually the wine’s vintage. When it was pointed out that the wine was released in 2008 – five years before the next possible “teen” year of 2013, Robbins claimed that’s when the wine will be appropriately aged. “Everyone knows that wine has to be the right age,” stated Robbins, “but a wine with a pro-youth message like VinoTeen Xtreme can be both mature and immature simultaneously. It’s called cognitive dissonance, man. It’s a Zen koan. I mean, ask yourself, how old is the fountain of youth? Think about it.” An investigation of Robbins is pending with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

• • •

Wool in the eyes: FilmArt3’s Raymond Scott Daigle returned from a week of cultic revel at the annual desert soiree known as Burning Man on Tuesday. During the week, Daigle procured a Bantha, a lumbering elephant-like creature first seen in the film “Star Wars.” Daigle claims to have won the Bantha in a card game with a Tusken Raider and Boba Fett and later brought it to the FilmArt3 studios for a screen test. When photographer Flash Lely pointed out to Daigle that there was no Bantha, only some apparent Burning Man residue fogging the filmmaker’s mind, Daigle chided the photog for his “lack of faith,” who in turn suggested Daigle call his imaginary pet “Snuffleupagus.”

Flash ‘Stache

Wanna ride?Congrats are in order to the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, which successfully morphed into a clone of Studio 54 last Saturday – but without all the pesky celebrities. That is, unless one counts Sun photog Flash Lely’s new mustache, which made a much-anticipated entrance at a fashionably late 9:15 p.m. and was greeted by a hurricane of air-kisses and well-wishing. The mustache, a self-styled hybrid of a Fu Manchu and a traditional handlebar, had received heavy spin in the local news cycle when first discussed on the Friday edition of Mornings in Sonoma on KSVY 91.3. Local gossip blogs and blurry cell phone photos of Lely’s facial hair fueled interest and by Friday evening, my own follicle folly (in the form of a modified Van Dyke meant to disguise me as my evil twin Dartagnon Howell) had been eclipsed in the public sphere. Observers have noted that music maven J.M. Berry and councilman Ken Brown have also entered the battle of the beards. Berry is in the midst of growing a goatee to replace the one he lost last week in an unfortunate shaving accident, whereas Brown’s salt and pepper contender is likely the result of a sudden lack of razors.

• • •

Reptile rebuffed: Since there were only two candidates for the two seats up for grabs at the Sonoma City Council, incumbent Mayor Joanne Sanders and Laurie Gallian will go unchallenged. A third candidate, a California newt, was disqualified when the council successfully argued that the newt was not indigenous to an area within the city limits. The newt, whose natural habitat is throughout Sonoma County, but not specifically in Sonoma, was nonplussed and swore vengeance before being scooped into a jar and let loose in Maxwell Park.

• • •

Comic Caper: Mick Robbins, the beleaguered head of wine-soaked public relations firm VinSpin, has riled legal representatives of comic book juggernaut DC Comics after he made statements in court regarding “Mxyzptlk,” a mercurial, trans-dimensional rival of Superman. Robbins, who is being tried for an alleged graffiti spree at Casey Hill Cellars, received a cease and desist order after stating on public record that the purple-derby-clad trickster’s arrival in his life accounted for his recent legal foibles. As Robbins attested, “When that little dude showed up is when everything went wrong.” When prosecuting attorney Lance Fishburn countered that Mxyzptlk is a fictional character, Robbins became incensed and lambasted Fishburn for falling for one of the comic book character’s “many tricks.” Mxyzptlk was introduced to comic fans in 1944 by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and has made sporadic appearances throughout the DC Comics oeuvre as a foil for a variety of characters. According to statements made by Robbins, the diminutive evildoer can only be vanquished when tricked into saying his own name backwards, which sends him back to his “source reality” in the fifth dimension. “You try saying ‘Mxyzptlk’ backwards,” said Robbins. “I can’t even say it forwards. How about some sympathy, people?” DC Comics could not be reached for comment.

• • •

The so-called “Petaluma Pipeline,” 14.4-mile underground aqueduct engineered to pump Sonoma Valley wine to a new bottling plant near Lakeville Highway in Petaluma, is nearly completed. A recent test run made the pipeline only the second such conduit attempted in recorded history to successfully deliver wine. Its predecessor, the Roman Vinoduct, moved wine from ancient Rome to the harbor city of Ostia, but was capped when it later became apparent that the wine was being diverted downstream to the “party town” of Lucia (the root of our contemporary term “lush”). Engineers hope to avoid a similar fate and have not disclosed the location of the Petaluma Pipeline, though the recent spike in divining rod sales in nearby El Verano have some officials concerned.