‘Death of a Salesman,’ the super grill & getting Stoned

by Chris Aaland

We lost a true American original last week. No, I’m not talking about Michael Jackson (although I did play “Thriller” nonstop the day he died), Farah Fawcett (the undisputable queen of ’70s pin-up girls) or Ed McMahon (I’m still waiting for my American Family Publisher’s sweepstakes check, Ed). I’m talking Billy Mays here.

The bearded pitchman died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack, strangely a day after being hit in the head by a suitcase that fell from an overhead compartment on a rough landing by a U.S. Airways jet in Tampa. Call it “Death of a Salesman.”

But Billy was no Willie Loman. America fell in love with his schmaltz. Billy got his start on the Atlantic City boardwalk, selling Washmatik portable washing devices to passersby. He later worked state fairs and home and auto shows. In 1993, he started hocking Kaboom, Orange Glo and other cleaners on Home Shopping Network. For more than 15 years, he was a fixture on our TVs – a guilty pleasure like “Cinemax after Dark” that you’d never admit to. Getting caught watching Billy pitch Awesome Augers or Fix-It scratch remover was an HD faux pas.

Billy Mays harkened back to simpler times, like Norman Rockwell paintings and Archie comics. It’s fitting we remember him during a week filled with hot dogs, horseshoes and sparklers.

Durango salutes America with a variety of 4th of July events (see the On the Town section for complete details). My favorite is the Kiwanis Club of Durango’s Smokin’ 4th of July family picnic and barbecue contest, which runs from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. in Buckley Park. More than 20 teams will compete in this KC Barbecue Society-sanctioned qualifier for other national competitions. Live music starts at noon with Flat Tire, the Lawn Chair Kings, Fuzzy Killing Machine, A Dub Rock Band, … In a Day, Black Market Electric and the Freeman Social all playing hour-long sets.

After the fireworks, Jaki & the Joysticks, the Lawn Chair Kings and the Freeman Social share a three-band bill at the Summit. The night promises to be quite a workout for Kelly Rogers, who plays lead guitar for the Joysticks and lap steel, rhythm guitar and mandolin for the Kings.

Steamworks also hosts a post-fireworks double feature with the Latin, salsa and rock of Nosotros and ska, reggae and Afro-beat of Liquid Cheese.

Let’s get one thing straight: I love rhubarb pie. We harvested enough for just two pies, though, from our plants. Fortunately, the good folks of Silverton celebrate Independence Day with the International Rhubarb Festival, among other things. I’ve spent many a July 4 gorging myself on rhubarb and strawberry pie at 9,318 feet, then rushing up to the creeks around Howardsville to catch brookies and cutthroats on dry flies. While you’re there, check out the hometown parade, Blue Ribbon Fun Walk, water fight between fire departments, Ducky Derby, Silverton Brass Band concert in the park, matinee performance by A Theatre Group and fireworks booming off the San Juans.

Bayfield’s Fourth of July festivities includes fireworks, a parade and live music in Joe Stephenson Park by such bands as Formula 151, Wild Mountain and Waiting on Trial.

In Pagosa Springs, activities include a parade, fireworks, carnival, arts & crafts fair, quilt fest, Red Ryder Rodeo Roundup and live music by the Hot Strings and  the “Brooks – I” Band.

Greg Koch, CEO and founder of Stone Brewing Co., brings his own arrogant bastard self to Lady Falconburgh’s at 5 p.m. Friday. He’s in town to tour the new Ska Brewing World Headquarters and will drop by Falcs to meet, greet and pour some of his award-winning ales. Stone beer will be on special with pint glasses and other souvenirs available. Falcs will also tap the 2009 Russian Imperial Stout, which is a ridiculously strong seasonal release at 10.8 percent alcohol, as well as Ruination IPA and Levitation Ale. Connoisseurs hail Stone’s Russian Imperial for its notes of anise, black currants, coffee and alcohol. Look for 22-oz. bombers at your favorite liquor store.

Want to start your Independence Day celebration early? Head northwest to Telluride Mountain Village for the free Red White & Blues Concert featuring Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at 4 p.m. Friday in Sunset Plaza. Bonnie Raitt called them “one of the most soulful bands around.” Family-friendly activities start at 2 p.m. with a bungee trampoline, jumpy castle and x-box games.

Tonight (Thursday) features a top-flight funk outfit, Entropy, at the Summit. The Atlanta band blends soul, R&B, hip-hop and super heavy funk that calls upon old school and contemporary influences. They’ve shared the stage with a pantheon of heavyweights, including Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Carlos Washington & Giant People and Sound Tribe Sector Nine.

The StereoFidelics, who play the Summit on Wednesday, blend jazz-influenced improvisation with art rock melodies and extreme instrumental choreography. The duo consists of Chris Padgett (acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, synth bass, live loops and vocal) and Melissa McGinley (electric violin, drums and vocals). Aftergrass opens.

This week’s regular Wednesday installment in the free Telluride Mountain Village Sunset Concert Series is blues singer John Lee Hooker Jr. His latest album, “All Odds against Me,” was nominated for a Grammy. Music starts at 6 p.m. in Sunset Plaza.

I wasn’t going to forget Michael. This week’s Top Shelf list recounts my favorite Jacko songs:

1. “Beat It.” If Michael was cool enough for Eddie Van Halen, he was cool enough for me.

2. “ABC.” One of Motown’s many highlights, it knocked the Beatles’ “Let It Be” from No. 1 on the charts.

3. “Billie Jean.” Ah, the moonwalk.

4. “Thriller.” I actually remember watching MTV’s video premier of this.

5. “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough.” Michael reinvented himself in ’79.

6. “I Want You Back.” The Jackson Five’s Motown debut in 1969.

7. “Black or White.” Nice message. Great guitar hook.

8. “We Are the World.” Michael and Lionel Ritchie wrote it, raising millions for famine. A who’s who of the rock world joined forces as USA for Africa.

9. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.’” I used to hate this song, but it’s so damned catchy.

10. “Remember the Time.” Any video that features Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Iman makes the list. •

Something evil’s lurking in the dark? E-mail me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows