Spike Lee Talks Summer of Sam & Punk Rock with Furious George

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:22

    "Firsthe tells me to fuck off, then he calls me a pussy," Adrien Brody says toSpike Lee, as we stand outside a location on Rivington St. where we're shootinga scene for Spike's new film, Summer of Sam. "It'sokay," says Spike, calmly, "I'll handle this."

    "Mycharacter, Ritchie, is abused throughout the whole film, you know," continuesAdrien, "and his band should be his salvation."

    "Theway I see it," I explain to Adrien, Spike and a nice woman who is the on-setacting coach, "is that in this scene Adrien, I mean Ritchie, whatever,is late for rehearsal, and I'm supposed to act accordingly."

    "Bysaying, 'Fuck you,' and calling me a pussy?" Adrien asks.

    "He,"I say, pointing to Spike, "asked for improv, and for it to be realistic,"I explain to the star of the film, who seems genuinely concerned.

    "Buthe insults me in front of my onscreen girlfriend, Ruby," says Brody, ofhis costar Jennifer Esposito.

    "Lookdude," I say to the spiky-haired actor, "I'm supposed to act likewe've been waiting around for you and you're late. That's why I call you a pussyand shit. That's why our drummer, Michael, I mean Ray-Gun, made the jerking-offsignal with his hand.""Butit's not fair," whines Adrien.

    I startto feel really bad for the guy. His character Ritchie is this punk singer whofronts our band and gets accused of being the Son of Sam.

    "Okay,Adrien," says Spike, "we'll change the dialogue. Now why don't yourun around the corner and have lunch. We have a lot to shoot."

    "Thanks,"says Adrien, and pats Spike on the shoulder, smiles at the acting coach andwalks away.

    I beginto follow him. Lunch. Yummy.

    "George,"says Spike, "can I have a word with you?"

    My heartstarts beating like crazy. I just know I'm gonna get yelled at. Spike's goingto tell me I was being a jerk, can't act for shit, and fire me. My career asan actor is over. All those future years on Broadway wiped out with a singleblackball from Spike Lee. He'll tell everyone I was harder to work with thanRobert Downey Jr. I'll end up waiting tables in Village cafes for another 20years.Then I rememberI'm not an actor. Phew.

    "What'sup, Spike?" I say to the director in the red Yankees hat with the Summerof Sam logo on it.

    "Listen,about what Adrien just said," says Spike.


    "Don'tchange a fucking word," Spike says.

    "Yeah,"says the acting coach, "it's perfect!"

    I smile.

    One dayearly last summer I got a call from Louise at CBGB. Louise who books the bands.She left a message on my answering machine saying to call her back at the club.

    When I heardthe message I figured she wanted one of two things. Either she wanted my bandto play the club, which was highly unlikely, since I would usually bethe one to beg her for gigs, or she wanted a phone number. She knew I had a"punk rock Rolodex" and was able reach lots of people who had addressesthat changed every other week.

    So I calledher back.

    "Oh,hey George," says Louise, "Hilly wants to talk to you, hang on."

    Hilly? HillyKristal? The owner of the club? Why did he want to talk to me? Did one of mystupid friends do something dumb again like light the stage on fire? Rip outanother urinal? Actually draw more than 12 people to their gig?

    Hilly comeson with his very deep and gruff voice. "Listen, Spike Lee was just in hereand he's looking for some bands for his new movie he's gonna shoot in a fewweeks. Punk rock bands."

    "Uh-huh,"I say to the ex-manager of the Dead Boys, the greatest band that ever walkedthe face of the Earth next to the Ramones. "Do you have any idea who theywant?"

    "Well,"starts Hilly, and then my mind races ahead. I think he's gonna tell me thatthe Ramones are re-forming for the film. Or the Dead Boys. That Stiv Batorsactually crawled out of his grave. Or that Spike is putting together an all-starlineup and he needed a phone number. But never in my wildest dreams could Ihave imagined what he said next.

    "Igave him your number. I think your band would be good. I hope that's okay."

    "Okay?It's fucking great! Thanks so much, Hilly!"

    "Don'tthank me yet. It's the movie business. You never know how these things are gonnago."

    A week laterI got The Callback from Karen Gilman, Spike's casting director. Furious Georgehad already gone up to the Summer of Sam office in Tribeca and had ourpictures taken with a Polaroid, then answered some questions in front of a videocamera. As we left, I gave Karen and her assistant Furious George t-shirts,stickers and records. I told her to pass some of the stuff on to Spike. I guessshe did.

    "Spikewants to meet you and the band. Is that okay?"

    We arrivedat the office again a couple of days later, and again I made the band wear allblack, and their leather jackets, even though it was like 90 degrees out. Theywhined and bitched about that, but I told them to straighten up and start acting like men, not pussies. When we arrived we saw another band that was asked toaudition for the film. The L.E.S. Stitches. I was in shock.

    Here wewere, all friends, and for all we knew, competing for the same part. None ofus had seen the script, so it was very awkward. But in a nice way. The L.E.S.Stitches were called in to see Spike before us, and we wished them good luckand everything. They then said the same thing to us. The way we all figuredit was that at least one of us would probably make it into the film, and thatwas good. That a good band would be in the movie representing our scene, insteadof some lame-ass glam pussies.Finallythe L.E.S. Stitches left via another exit and we were called in to meet themighty Spike Lee.

    Now I haveto tell you, I've been a fan of Spike for years. I saw She's Gotta Have Itwhen it first came out with my old girlfriend, Allison. I remember she gotso turned on by the "please baby, please baby, baby, baby please"we went home and fucked for hours. Spike was responsible for giving me someof my best sex. Ever.

    So we walkinto Spike Lee's office and there he is, in a baseball cap and those glasses,behind a desk. He asks us to stand against the far wall in front of a videocamera as he talks to us. First he tells us that he really likes the FuriousGeorge Goes Ape CD, and that he thinks the whole concept of the bandis really funny. I have to bite my tongue not to tell him that Curious Georgedoesn't think it's so funny and has me in court.He asksus to talk about ourselves.

    "I'mEvan, I play bass in the band and I'm from Norwood, NJ," explains Evan."I love punk rock and being in this band."

    "I'mMichael," says our drummer, "and I'm from Michigan, and I play drums."

    "Uh-huh,"says Spike Lee.

    "I'mFurious George, um, George Tabb, the singer and guitar player," I say,"and I'm from Brooklyn fuckin' New York."Spike raisesan eyebrow so I go with it.

    "Iwas born in fuckin' Brooklyn, and my grandfathers both lived there until thedays they died. I moved to fucking Greenwich Cunt-Etiquette at about seven,and was beaten up every day for many years of my life for being a Jew. They'dcall me 'kike,' 'hooknose' and 'dirty Jew.' But fuck them pussies. I'm fromBrooklyn and I coulda fucking killed them." Spike Leelaughed.

    We talkedfor quite a while about punk rock. Spike thanked us for coming to meet him andshook our hands. He gave me a sheet of paper with some words typed on it. Heexplained they were words David Berkowitz had written to Jimmy Breslin beforehe was caught. He asked us if we could maybe make the words into a song forthe movie. We told him we'd try.

    Of course,the minute we left the meeting Michael and I ran back to my apartment and beganwriting the song. We figured the L.E.S. Stitches had been asked to do the samething, and fuck if we weren't gonna write the best song, ever.

    Three dayslater, we found ourselves in a real recording studio recording our version ofDavey Berkowitz's wonderful poem, which we titled "Hello From the Gutters."We made it sound real, real Dead Boys, with a touch of Furious George throwninto the mix just for the hell of it.

    About aweek later we were told that Spike loved the song and I met with Alex Steyermark,the music guy for the movie. He was so fucking cool it wasn't funny and everythingjust sort of fell into place. The next thing we knew we had been cast as THEBAND in the movie. The band was to be called "The Rabies," but theythen changed the name to "The Snot Boogers" before again changingit to "Late Term Abortion." Whatever. Our pals the L.E.S. Stitcheswere cast as themselves in the movie. Sewage, another local band, was also cast.

    As the daysticked by, second by second, we got closer and closer to our first filming day.We were actually gonna be in a movie directed by Spike Lee, with Adrien Brodyplaying our singer and Jennifer Esposito (that hot chick from Spin City)singing with us, too. Also in the film were John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino.Mira walked in on us one day at wardrobe out at Forty Acres and a Mule, SpikeLee's movie company in Brooklyn. We were in our underwear, as was she. But Ididn't know who she was and kinda asked her to get me more clothes to try on.


    During thefilming, there were picnics, softball games and lots and lots of spit at CBGB.I think that's when Spike and I bonded the most. While we were onstage at CBGBand the morons in the audience were stage-diving.

    And it wassupposed to be 1977.And thathadn't been invented yet.

    It got tothe point where I just grabbed the mic and yelled at the crowd that they werea bunch of pussies and that they should pogo, not stage-dive. It was then Ithink Spike really knew that I wasn't "acting" in the film, I wasjust being myself. A punk rocker.

    I got tomeet with Spike last week for this interview at the Regency Hotel, the day aftera private screening of Summer of Sam at 666 5th Ave. Fitting address,I suppose.

    Okay, Igot this SAG card from being in your movie.

    You gota SAG for the movie? Congratulations!

    I also gotthis MetroCard for the New York transit system. My stepfather, Nick, would sayat least one gets me on the subway. What do I do with the other one besidestry to impress waiters?(laughs)

    Well, another great thing with the SAG card is when the cabinet period comesup, you get to go see movies for free.

    Shit, really?

    Yes. SAGmembers during the cabinet period get into screenings for free.

    You thinkI could get laid with this thing?(laughs)

    I dunno about that. I think your guitar might help you with that more than yourSAG card.

    I just sawthe movie, and it was fucking great. But my lines seemed to have all but vanished.Now you can tell me the truth, it wasn't my great acting that was in question,it was that Disney didn't want me saying "pussy" and "fuck"every other word, right?

    No. You'retalking about the scene we had where we had you guys talking in the dressingroom, right?

    Yeah, andthe rehearsal scene.

    Yeah, wellthose scenes will come back one day when we do the DVD/Directors Cut. The filmis 2:20 now as it is, so we had to compress a lot of stuff. But it had nothingto do with your acting. Nor the profanity.

    You wouldsay then that my acting is pretty great, right?

    Oh yeah,you're a natural.

    That's whatI wanna hear! Okay, speaking of Disney, I got something that really bothersme about them, they kinda ruined 42nd St. They cleaned it up and-

    They weren'tthe only ones. They got the theater and the store, but Warner Bros. is in therenow, and you got the Ford Theater. That's really Giuliani more than Disney.

    Oh, we'llget to him, believe me.(laughs)


    But nowI have nowhere to go look at naked women while hiding in small dark places-Imean, besides my hot neighbor's closet. Any suggestions?

    I wouldn'tknow. I just feel Giuliani has done a disservice to New York City as a whole.There was nothing wrong with having this one area in New York City, where ifyou were in need, or whatever ya wanna do, you go to that one area. New YorkCity is not Disneyland. Or middle America. I think they're just trying to makeit too antiseptic.

    Well, besidesDisney, who I really don't think are that bad because I do like Bambi,I loved it, it made me cry as a kid when my mom took me-(laughs)

    That's why I said I didn't want to put the total blame on Disney.

    Right, sowhat I wanted to tell you is that Giuliani is on my shitlist. He's closing downall the punk clubs, as you know, and he's encouraging the police to act likethe Gestapo against citizens. He's a real fucker.

    Exactly.And he's throwing squatters out of buildings on the Lower East Side.

    So don'tyou want to punch that toupee-wearing fuck in the head?

    I can'tsay that I want to do that to Mr. Giuliani, but what I would do, which is evenmore effective, is I will not vote for him. I will vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.I'll do whatever I can for Mrs. Clinton. I know that Giuliani's ultimate goalis to become president of the United States, and the best way to get rid ofthat is don't let him become senator for New York state.

    Don't youthink he wants to be like Hitler?

    I'm notgoing to use the word Hitler, but he definitely has some Il Duce tendencies.(laughs)

    Okay, backto the movie and the controversy. And I do love that word "controversy."I don't know if you know this but I'm in a legal battle with Houghton-Mifflin...

    About FuriousGeorge?

    Yeah, CuriousGeorge versus Furious George, we're in court fighting these people and- BecauseI'm in a punk rock band and I make hardly any money and they think that my bandis going to ruin their children's book. It's twodifferent universes. Plus, they can afford the lawyers more than you can, right?

    Right. Itblows dog dick. I'm spending all my time in court fighting these assholes. Youmust have to face this kind of shit sometimes.

    That's anuisance suit. Those things are the worst. Where's it at now?

    Well, theyjust went and got an order of protection against me. I guess they're afraidof me. Well, my monkey could kick their monkey's ass.(laughs)

    Maybe they need an order of protection. You must have said something to makethem think that.

    Their monkeyis a pussy.

    You didn'tsend "Big Louie" after them, did you?

    No Big Louie,but I'll get King Kong to smash that pussy monkey. This is a picture of my dog,Scooter. You met him at one of those picnics/softball games we had during theshoot. I swear he talks to me all the time. He says stuff like, "I wannago out," "I wanna poop" and the dreaded "I wanna hump yourleg." I understand him. Does this make me a potential serial killer?

    No. Becausehuman beings talk to animals all the time. I think what made the differencewith David Berkowitz was that he said that Harvey, a 2000-year-old black labowned by Sam, told him to go out and kill people. I think that's a big difference.

    In themovie we do this song "Hello from the Gutters," based on the letterBerkowitz wrote to Breslin. It has great lyrics like "Hello, good-bye,this summer you die." But I heard it's not on the soundtrack CD. I waswondering if that was because people would be afraid that he could make moneyoff of it, even though there's the "Son of Sam" law that prohibitshim from doing so.

    Well, thething was that we just put songs on the soundtrack from that period. Not necessarilystuff we created for the film. But you have the right to put it out.

    Oh? We do?


    I have theright to put it out?

    Yeah. (laughs)



    You saidit! That's great. That comes straight from the top. From Spike. Thank you. Sincethey appear in the film, let me ask you which Yankee team was your favorite?Which year? Mine was 1972.

    '72? Theysucked in '72. (laughs)

    ThurmanMunson was at his best in '72.

    You're sayingthat was his best year?

    I thinkso.

    Where'sThe Sporting News and Baseball Digest? I don't think '72 was ThurmanMunson's best year.

    I thoughthe was great. I was a kid and we used to go out to the games and get near himand yell, "Bozo! Bozo!"

    When I wasgrowing up we were Met fans and we used to call him "Herman Munster."(laughs)

    Did he yellat you too? He used to really yell at us.

    Oh yeah,he was a real hard-ass.

    My parentswould plug my ears up when he yelled back at us because he could really letout a string of obscenities. "You fucking little brats, you fucking shutthe fuck up!"(laughs)

    My favorite team, um, I mean, I loved last year's team, but the team that cameback....that was down two games-zip to the Braves...what was that?


    Yeah. Andthe '78 Yankees. Down 14 games in August to the hated Boston Red Sox.

    Boston sucks.

    The whole'77 and '78 teams. Nettles, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, Johnson, Randolph, Chambliss,Reggie Jackson.

    You hadReggie in the movie. Was that a thrill to work with him?

    Yeah. Actually,that day we shot we also brought back Williams and Randolph and Chambliss becausethey're coaches with the Yankees. They had to get cut out, but we kept ReggieJackson in. That was fun.

    Okay, thanksSpike, finally I want to say-

    What paperis this for again?


    We're the anti-Village Voice.

    You're wherethey used to be. Another thing, George, other than working with Alex [Steyermark],I've never really been into punk rock, so that's one of the things I reallyneeded Alex's help for, doing the research. And even though I passed CBGB a million times, to and from the Manhattan Bridge going into Brooklyn, I neverset foot into CBGB until we shot there. I was quite surprised when the audiencestarted spitting on you guys. (laughs) While the performance was going on!

    When I wasplaying in that scene, I had my mouth open and some fucker spit a huge gob andit landed in my mouth. I sure hope it was from a cute girl.(laughs)

    Does that usually happen when Furious George plays?

    Sure. It'sfun.

    Eeew. Yick.

    Listen,Spike, it's better than them throwing piss-filled water balloons at us.

    They didthat?

    Yeah. Lasttime we played in Berkeley. Also dead animals and rotten food.


    Yeah. Itwas kinda gross. But funny. What's thepoint of that? I thinkjust to piss off the band and piss off the audience. The whole provocative thing.

    They didn'twant to be moved by the band? They didn't want to like the band? They wantedto hate the band?

    They lovethe band. It's a love/hate thing.

    So how doyou show your love for the band by throwing piss-filled balloons at them? (laughs)

    Well, they'rereacting to you. At least they are reacting to you. They're not standing therewith their fucking arms crossed. That's an insult. If they're throwing somethingat you or spitting, that means they love you. Or at least they care.

    So you preferto have piss-filled balloons thrown at you than to just have people stand there?

    Absolutely.I'd rather have them puke on my head than just stand there.

    Oh, eww.Don't say that!

    I'll callthe audience a bunch of pussies, motherfuckers and every other name in the bookuntil they start reacting toward the band. To me, that's what punk rock is about.Getting the reaction.

    What wasthe band's name that we cut out of the movie?


    Yeah, weare very sorry about that. Because it was just for time. But we were able toget in, um-

    The L.E.S.Stitches.

    Yeah. Niceguys. What's the guy's name? The lead singer?


    He was rolling around on the stage. He has a lot of energy.

    Actually,the guitar player, Curt, was telling me he's afraid you hate him. He was drunkat the barbecue and he's like, "Oh no, Spike hates me 'cause I was fuckin'drunk!"

    No, no.Get drunk at the barbecue. We didn't care. That's why we had the beer there.

    So you couldsay for the record that you are not mad at Curt. He's a sensitive guy.

    No, I'mnot mad at him. I think their scene in the film was great. Skull Grenade! SkullGrenade! I mean, I never had seen any of you guys perform and I was really impressedby your energy. I'm just glad you wanted to be part of my film. And we hope that whatever help you gain from the film boosts your careers.


    Furious George, as currently seen in Summer of Sam! Go ahead, I don'tcare. (laughs)

    So, wait,I can have that tape back and play that song?

    Yeah, getit from Alex.

    So if Iwent on the radio and played it you wouldn't care?

    I wouldn'tcare.

    What ifI went on Howard Stern and played it?(long pause)

    Me and him don't really get along. I mean, you guys should perform that song.

    I know.But I want to bring a tape to Stern and say, "Hey, play this on the radio!"Will that be okay with you? I know I'm putting you on the spot.

    Any placebut Howard Stern.(laughs)

    Okay. Finally, the last and most important question.


    Is thereanyway you can fix me up on a date with Mira Sorvino?

    She's here.She's in the hotel. Go interview her!