Crossing Borders: Okie Dokies and In-Gadda-Da-Vida

Cue The Camels, Chapter 6: Rucksack Essentials: La Musica

The passenger window is tinted yellow from years of cigarette smoke with a vertical crack in the shape of lighting running down the middle of the pane. The crack was probably formed either in the sport of shadow boxing or someone was having a really bad day of  frustration. The window is stuck midway up allowing for a blast of hot air with the familiar smells of diesel and earth filling the cab. I am in a good stare as the terrain charges by wondering which biblical figures walked here and which battles from the Old Testament were fought. But it is difficult to ponder these questions when my Israeli driver Ya’akov’s radio and cassette player screams with Anthony Newley’s torch song “What Kind of Fool am I.“ With both hands on the wheel and the ever present Marlboro dangling from his lips, Ya’akov belts out the song over-enunciating each lyric in his karaoke sing-along. Ya'akov-Driving-Sepia-Blog

What’s in a name? Everything apparently, Ya’akov  for us none Jews  “Jacob” literally means heel-catcher or supplanter- a person who “lies in wait” for a situation to develop in order to take advantage of it. In Genesis of the Old Testament,  Ya’akov is described as the person who wrestles with a mysterious man who turns out to be God Himself. That account perfectly describes the man sitting next to me singing off-key with Anthony Newley. A man of small stature, Ya’akov is  built like a brick house with hands like baseball gloves. His eyes are blue and clear in spite of all that he has seen and experienced.  But it is also through these eyes that Ya’akov is constantly searching the horizon for opportunities. For some, pop music is the demise of western civilization but for Ya’akov it was a blessing.Ya’akov embraced western pop music by teaching himself English off of Billboard’s Hot 100 music chart. That is why he strains so hard to pronounce each lyric. His accent is definitely Israeli but it switches to a bad Elvis impersonation when he curses out loud as the undercarriage of his truck scrapes the limestone rocks in the road. He still has difficulty with slang,  like walkie talkies which we use on location. Ya’akov consistently would call the walkie talkies “okie dokies”. For the benefit of Ya’akov I have also taken to calling them  “okie dokies” .Ya'akov-&-Okie-Dokie-Blog 

A veteran of the Six-Day war, Ya’akov has witnessed Israel’s history from the front-lines. At the end of the war he applied his  military skills and knowledge of the back roads of Israel as a driver and guide for news and documentary crews. Ya’akov also has a side business of selling cartons of Marlboro cigarettes and Fanta Orange sodas to the Bediouns that camp in the Judaean Wilderness. Ya'akov-and-me-Sepia-Blog

Somewhere on an old dirt road off  Highway 79 near Nazareth in Northern Israel. Ya’akov maneuvers around bombshell-size potholes in his mini truck which is full of camera gear and is swaying almost rhythmically to the music from his cassette player. The goal is to find a location to film in the Israeli outback without power lines or any evidence of the 21th century. Ya’akov finds a good location to shoot from, pulls over and true to our tradition he proceeds to make us coffee on a small backpack stove. With the strong aroma of coffee filling the air we sit on the back tailgate sipping the black brew smoking cigarettes.

“Ya’akov” I said,

“Yes Da’vid” Ya’akov replies.

“How about another song?” I ask.

Without blinking Ya’akov jumps up and walks to the middle of the scarres and battered road and bellows out,“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey don’t you know that I love you? In-a-gadda-da-vida, baby Don’t you know that I’ll always be true?” As he

Jesus, Iron Butterfly, I think to myself, the song came out in May of 1968, right after the dust settled from the Six-Day War a perfect time for Ya’akov to start learning English. As the sunsets and Ya’akov keeps rolling out the hits, there is nowhere I’d rather be. “Hey, Ya’akov hand me your  okie dokies, I’ll change the batteries for you. “

Cue-The-CamelsCue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 

Cue The Camels: Ancient Spores and Kim Kardishian

I slid my right boot then my left boot into the hole leading to the tomb’s tunnel. There was the soft, muffed sound of my pants sliding against the rough stone as my feet fell into the tomb. My knees passed and my thighs followed – which was as far as I got. I was stuck between two worlds. My companions started laughing before cheering me on. “Push! Push, Dave”. There was a scraping noise as my 34 waist and belt buckle tried to shimmy. I’ve been told in the past, during romantic endeavors, that I have ‘a booty like a black man’ – something I’ve always thought of as an attractive asset, but which, in this instance, was a real liability. ‘I think I’m too big, guys,’ I told my audience, ‘I’m wedged in!’ as giggles grew louder and escaped from the darkness of the tomb. I too began to chuckle, which was uncomfortable considering the added pressure of stone against my waist.

When I returned to the States and the Tonight Show, I shared my big ass adventure with one of the comedy writers for the show, Larry Jacobson. We both had a good chuckle when Larry added. “You know Dave, if you were Kim Kardashian you’d still be stuck in that tomb.

Dave Banks Demo Reel

Cue The Camels, Chapter 5: Jerusalem Bed Sheets:

“I’m not hopeful – either for peace in the Middle East or for peace in the Holy Sepulcher,”– Father Jerome Murphy O’Connor is a professor at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem

In old city of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulcher belonged to five different Christian groups: the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics (Franciscans), Armenians, Coptics, and Ethiopians. This makes for complicated arrangements; disputes are common, particularly over who has the authority to carry out repairs. There’s a wooden ladder on a ledge just above the main entrance that’s been left there since the nineteenth century, because no one can agree who has the right to take it down. It’s not unusual to see fights between monks from different sects in the Sepulchre. Passions run high, particularly on important holy days. All it takes is a monk in the wrong place at the wrong time in a religious procession and it’s SmackDown. Fists fly, holy water’s thrown, beards pulled and even candlesticks used to ram groups of opposing monks. Peace on this Holy holiday whatever your belief.  

Jay Leno says, “Within these pages Dave has written gung-ho, self-deprecating, wildly engaging accounts of his exploits, with all the behind-the-scene high-jinks that go into shooting news and documentaries across the world.” In Cue the Camels, Dave shares his misadventures in a comedic style that is sure to entertain.

Vroman’s Bookstore Link: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/local629

 Cue The Camels available atwww.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 , Amazon Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Cue-Camels-three-time-award-winning-film-maker-ebook/dp/B00IA10Z88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403461103&sr=1-1&keywords=cue+the+camels

 

Cue The Camels Book Signing at Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, California

Part One

Dave Banks discusses and signs Cue the Camels
Jay Leno says, “Within these pages Dave has written gung-ho, self-deprecating, wildly engaging accounts of his exploits, with all the behind-the-scene high-jinks that go into shooting news and documentaries across the world.” In Cue the Camels, Dave shares his misadventures in a comedic style that is sure to entertain.

Vroman’s Bookstore Link: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/local629

 Cue The Camels available atwww.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 , Amazon Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Cue-Camels-three-time-award-winning-film-maker-ebook/dp/B00IA10Z88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403461103&sr=1-1&keywords=cue+the+camels

 

Cue The Camels: Jimi Hendrix, Osama bin Laden & Moving Penises

Link to Jimi’s All Along The Watchtower on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY?list=PLjts4JMIwgQxcEwLBmDvkRE2Hx3QHGUU3

Chapter Two, Al Minya, Bed Bugs and Sex

Jimi Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was blasting out from Mark Hufnail’s BMW stereo, fueling our adrenalin and chest-beating machismo. During Jimi’s solos, I strummed the invisible strings of my air guitar and glanced over at Mark, catching him head-banging to the beat. Two middle-aged white guys, reminiscing about hippie living and experimental drug days, we were now living on the highs adventure brought. Potential ‘fixes’ dangled from the grueling schedule before us to shoot three documentaries throughout Middle Egypt, along the Nile. All three documentaries to be shot simultaneously in sixteen days, to produce seven hours of programming.
Body Guard-13

With some security concerns, we drove from Mark’s Burbank office to a kosher Italian restaurant on the west side of Los Angeles, this was our last advisory meeting about security with the only Muslim we knew, Attallah Shabazz. Ms. Shabazz is the eldest daughter of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, the powerful civil rights activist of the ‘60s. Mark and Attallah have worked together on several television productions and have become very good friends over the years, to the point that Mark’s daughter, Megan, refers to Ms. Shabazz as ‘Aunty Attallah’. Mark set the stage to our trip, telling Attallah that we would be the first American crew to travel by vehicle through Middle Egypt in ten years, that according to our fixer in Egypt. Our security was our foremost concern; we’d be two unmistakably-American white guys shooting at various locations along the Nile. When we went into preproduction for the three documentaries – on February 23, 1998 – Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a ‘fatwa’. This called on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies, saying it was their duty. The declaration was made seven months prior to our scheduled departure to Egypt. I’d also read somewhere that Osama and Zawahiri hated Americans so much that they wouldn’t even drink a Pepsi. On top of all that, there was rumored to be a bounty of $16,000 for every American’s head in Egypt. I found this a bit insulting: why couldn’t they round it out? I thought I was worth at least $20,000.

Attallah interrupted Mark. ‘You know, I don’t thing you have anything to worry about, traveling through Middle Egypt,’ she reassured us. ‘The Egyptian government cannot afford another massacre, it would be devastating to their economy. You will Dave on location #2-2be well protected. Think of it as an adventure, don’t let the threat of a small group of extremists hold you hostage.’

We placed our orders for our meal and our conversation turned to shop talk and a bucket full of scuttlebutt. It’s traditional amongst our staff and crew to collect the best pithy quotes during production which we then use as a catchphrase during shooting when things get a little too heated. Over our kosher pasta with meatless sauce, we told Attallah that we’d collected three favorite quotes for the History Channel’s documentary, the ‘History of Sex’:

‘Does the composer actually see the show he’s composing?’

‘Regardless of their academic achievement and expertise, try not to use any male or female archeologist over forty years of age’.

imagesBut the killer quote, and my favorite when shooting ancient Egyptian statues, was: ‘You can shoot as Dave-Desertmany penises as you want, as long as they don’t move’.

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

–  Bob Dylan, 1967

Cue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385

Life in the City of Angels: Jesus of Hollywood

Jesus of Hollywood

Kevin Short, aka West Hollywood Jesus died December 13, 2017, at age 57. Kevin was a mainstay up and down Hollywood Boulevard, and famously posed for pics with countless tourists over the years. He had a positive effect on anyone who came in contact with him. Rest In Peace Kevin.

Life in the City of Angels: Jesus of Hollywood originally posted October, 2009. 

It is the Mecca of their religion with 10 million followers annually making the pilgrimage to this sacred site. This is the biggest religion in America. No spiritual following receives more airtime and print space. It is Celebritism. And the holy of holies even has an address: 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California.There you will find an archeological site full of artifacts – a temple, footprints, hand impressions and a sequence of letters, words and symbols etched in concrete. Beyond the grid of this archeological site is a walk-way that the locals refer to as the “Walk of Fame.”  It is a three-and-a-half-mile (5.6 km) round-trip journey much akin to  the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem.

Blind-FaithAbove the strata is rock art embedded with more than 2,000 stars featuring the names of not only human celebrities but also fictional characters  and even animals. Each emblem is a pink terrazzo five-pointed star rimmed with bronze and inlaid into a charcoal square. Inside it you’ll find a revered name inlaid in bronze, below which is a round emblem indicating the category for which the honoree received the star. Even those of blind faith cherish these artifacts.  Touching-the-Star-WebThe first sacrament dates back to 1960. Who was that lucky first beneficiary?  Paul Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward. (I don’t care if it rains or blows hard – as long as I’ve seen the star of Joanne Woodward). It was on the Walk of Fame that I found Jesus. He was sitting in Baja Fresh, a popular Mexican fast food chain, deep in conversation with a fellow patron.

Jesus-in-Baja-FreshJesus was listening intently while nursing a Starbuck’s Espresso Frapuccino Grande. After finishing his taco – I could only speculate it wasn’t pork – he stepped onto the Walk and I began to follow Him.

Immediately, pilgrims of all nationalities and tongues followed Him with their eyes but none were so bold as to either approach him or engage him, so I decided to take the plunge.“Jesus, are you homeless and forced to work as an historical character here in Hollywood to survive ?” He responded by reaching into his plain linen robe and pulling out a set of keys, “No man” he said, “ I drive a Mercedes and I have an apartment.” Many of the pilgrims would smile at Him and point but it seemed as if only the elderly were captivated by the Son of God and would seek his attention. And, as expected, He would listen patiently.

Jesus-Listening-to-Elder-WebThere were impassioned voices calling from passing cars, “Jesus, Jesus”. But interestingly enough I didn’t hear a peep calling for the attention of the other faux celebrities that congregated at the Temple. Waiting-for-Tourist-WebAs far as historians can tell, Jesus first appeared on celluloid in 1903, just a few years after the birth of moving pictures.  French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere produced “La Vie et la Passion du Jesus Christ,” a 44-minute silent film which was one of the earliest feature-length movie and every frame was painstakingly hand painted for color. Riding high on respectability for over one hundred years the subject of Jesus came crashing down in 2001 with the release of “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” – a second coming musical complete with kung-fu action. Need I say more?

Located east of the main temple is a second, smaller shrine on the Walk of Fame. This location is for the most devout believers where for $12.95 you can dwell for hours in worship, adoration and photo opportunities. Eerie wax figures of living and dead celebrity  are dressed up in costumes so that followers can relive their favorite moments of their deity. In April of 2009, Hollywood auction house Profiles in History sold off  “retiring figures.” More than 200 figures were sold online, including the Last Supper and the Beatles. Jesus and His 12 Disciples brought in more than $15,000. The Beatles brought in a mere $13,000. Sorry John, but Jesus is more popular than the Beatles.

Forgive Me For This Self Promotion Of Cue The Camels

Even though Cue The Camels has not officially been released in the US, my friends in the Los Angeles area can now purchase the book at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. Vroman’s is located at 695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA. 91101, Tel: 626.449.5320

Cue The Camels: Chapter 3, Ancient Spores

I stopped recording when I reached the crux of the tight squeeze, my progress somewhat hampered by my bubble butt. Handing the camera to Jeremy, I pushed and pulled, finally letting out a loud ‘Aarrgghh!’ as I felt my ass pop like a cork from a champagne bottle when I passed the apex. Finally, I was clear of the aperture. Through into a relatively spacious area, I stood upright for the first time and stretched my back. I gave Dr. Ikram my spiel: ‘Okay, let’s start on this side of the aperture. I’ll start on you, as you explain who, what, where and how. I’ll then pan over to see Mo enter the aperture and follow him through. You continue to describe the tunnel as we make our way to the exit. I’ll continue to roll tape, so don’t stop. If you have to stop, just start from the top of your description, and in post-production we’ll edit snippets of you walking and talking and we can also add in the B-roll footage.’

Cue The Camels book available at:  www.oodlebooks.com  & www.cuethecamels.com

Life in the City of Angels: Pay-Phones, Superman and Toilets

Phone Home-34Recalling an era not so long ago, the cha-ching of quarters feeding the public phone, the chirps and tones of buttons dispatching the number you want to call or the interactions with the operator when your minutes are up. As the old pay-phones fade away and disappear from our urban landscape, where in the world is the mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent to dash to change into his Superman tights or where the bad boy can go to call home on Mother’s Day.
Today it is estimated that out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones leaving the outdated phone box to a bygone era. What’s interesting is that only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets. That right, more people have cell phones than toilets.
But wait, there’s still life for the old pay-phones. American Mark Thomas started the Payphone Project, by  amassing a database with thousands of public pay phone numbers around the world.  Mark, invites us to  use the old analog pay-phone for out amusement, “I invite people to pick up the phone and call to see who answered and maybe have a laugh.” These phone numbers can be found on his website at: www.payphone-project.com. So, in spite of the pay-phones reputation as a germ repository there are opportunities to “Reach out and touch someone” you maybe just surprised who answers. For those in Hollywood on last count there are 27 pay-phones located on Hollywood Boulevard.

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