On the liner notes for Hot Chick Beach the album’s producer is named only as Brian. I’ve been asked a thousand times, in person and in the press: “Brian who?” Here at last is that mystery explained.
Jonesy had indeed drawn a name from a hat to choose the actress who would play opposite him and that was how Jackie came to play Tara. Jackie was a new age free spirit from San Francisco, quite the opposite of Lizaveta, and she and Jonesy became very chummy, and so as we began filming we were all in fresh and fledgling romances with our respective leading ladies.
Less than a month after the Venice Beach slaughter, just a couple weeks removed from escaping incitement charges only by the grace of a fortuitous piece of film showing clear police consent for the concert, Desmond finagled a permit for us to film on the same beach by seducing a councilwoman. He then rewrote the script to incorporate the footage of the Hell’s Angels massacre by simply inserting it immediately before the battle of the bands. The film implied that the girls were fighting the bikers as much for self protection as to clear the beach and hear the bands play; and in their performances following the mayhem the bands were driven by the bravery of their beloved women to inspired heights of musicianship.
Between the film and our romance Tzarina and I were together most of the next few weeks, and became intimately acquainted. She was from Piscataway, had gotten bored and took off on her motorcycle to look around the country and find herself. She had spent a year in New Orleans, so we had much common ground there for conversation. While in New Orleans the carefree flamboyance and the colorful local characters and all the parties and the parades had inspired her interest in fashion, and she meandered west on her motorcycle, through Texas, Vegas and finally to Los Angeles.
Acting came to her naturally, and she had been practicing the craft since childhood, but she was not passionate about it. It was the oddest thing—while most women were in LA supporting themselves by any variety of menial means to try and break into acting, Tzarina planned to use her acting abilities to support herself while she pursued her dreams in the fashion world.
When she had gained employment in the café her owner and boss became another star struck fan, and offered her use of a beach bungalow (another reason she didn’t want to give up her job at the café quite yet). It wasn’t far from where we were shooting the film, and we ended up spending most of our time there.
One night we were sitting on the bamboo bench before the bungalow watching the sunset when we suddenly heard a guitar strum and a familiar voice sing: “I’m sweet on you like the morning dew on the blooming flowers, I want to drip into your slip, and bloom your bloomers with a shower. The way you’re guarding your garden is so hard on me, And if I’m being too forward beg pardon me. Tzarina…is the queen of…my heart….”
“Hi Brian!” Tzarina said over her shoulder when he finished his song.
“Brian?” I asked.
The bamboo bench was situated across from a hammock chair that depended from a tree by a single rope. The singer emerged from the dark carrying a guitar. He sat down in the hammock chair and I recognized him at once: it was Brian Wilson!
“Good evening, Tzarina. Nice to finally meet you Deak.” He swung forward and shook my hand.
“Brian Wilson!” the fan in me exclaimed. Then I recalled the lyrics he’d just been singing to my girl, my heart flared with jealousy and I immediately tempered my enthusiasm with jealous suspicion.
“How do you two know each other?” Tzarina innocently asked.
“Brian Wilson is the musical brain of the Beach Boys,” I said.
“Why didn’t you tell me that?” Tzarina asked Brian.
“Because you didn’t seem to recognize me and I wanted you to like me for me, for the real me, not the face smiling at you from an album cover,” Brian explained.
“I was actually wondering why you weren’t famous already, since your songs are so catchy and you sing so well,” Tzarina observed.
“Songs?” I asked as a general question for either to answer.
“I met Brian when I first arrived here a couple months ago,” Tzarina explained. “He lives nearby and walks this beach all the time. And then when I started working at the café I found out he likes to go there too. He was one of the first friends I made here.”
“She inspires me,” he said, then strummed and sang: “Tzarina is the queen of my heart…Tzarina is a beautiful work of art.” Then he stopped playing and said: “See? I just made that up.”
“That was beautiful, Brian,” she said. “All your songs are beautiful. You’re the Beach Boys, now it all makes sense.”
He directed his attention to me and said: “I’ve been hanging around the beach while you’ve been filming. I’ve heard the songs and I got hold of a copy of the script which I read. Would you like to hear my thoughts?”
“Of course I’d like to know your thoughts,” I replied to him.
“As you know we have been kings of the beach for over twenty years—since you were a child—and we should have the opportunity to defend our realm,” he cryptically said.
“Your realm?” I answered. “The beach?”
“That’s right,” he said. “As it is you’re somewhat of an imitator riding my coattails—we created the beach sound.”
“An imitator?” I indignantly responded. “No more than yourself. I’m an innovator inspired by what came before me. Music I’ve absorbed influences me just as it does you. It all comes through us from the ether—you know that better than anyone. What are you getting at anyway?”
“We want to be in the battle of the bands finale of the film,” he said.
“The Beach Boys!” I exclaimed. ‘Great idea! We could definitely work in a clip of you doing one of your songs!”
“That is a great idea,” Tzarina agreed.
I then realized something rather important, and said to Brian: “You do understand that according to the script the best I could offer you is to finish runner up.”
“About that,” Brian replied. He paused and strummed a short progression. “That was one of my thoughts. When you rewrite the Beach Boys into the script change the ending so we have a real battle of the bands decided by the audience. To make it as realistic as possible, let’s keep it real. We can compete for Tzarina’s hand.”
I took Tzarina’s hand up and kissed it, then held it and replied: “This hand?”
He strummed and sang his response. “As your name is not Nancy you’re just a passing fancy.”
“I really do like Deak a lot, Brian,” Tzarina said.
“You’ve liked others in the past and you’ll like others in the future—I like to see myself in that future,” Brian optimistically stated. She remained curiously silent. Brian looked at me and coldly challenged: “You’re not chicken, are you?”
“It’s not a matter of bravado, it’s a matter of our making a film about our band culminating in the ending that we have already written which glorifies our band,” I explained. “There are roles in the film for the bands that finish second, third, fourth and fifth but we are the predetermined winner. That’s the point of having a script.”
“And scripts are rewritten,” Brian rejoined. “It happens all day every day everywhere in Hollywood.”
“And ours was just rewritten and we are happy with the result which is finalized and what we are shooting,” I said. “Would you write a film about the Beach Boys where they finished second to me in a battle of the bands? If you’d like a role in a movie, I’m happy to offer you runner up in Hot Chick Beach. If you want something otherwise, that’s for another time and place.”
“Just as I thought,” Brian ponderously replied. “Let me show you something else. Your theme song is lacking.”
“’Hot Chick Beach’?” I answered. “That theme is tight—simple, catchy and rocking.”
“There’s an entire melodic underpinning missing, a couple planks out of place in the bridge and the chorus is hollow. What you need to do is get a copy of ‘Be My Baby,’ by the Ronettes and play it one hundred times in a row. I’m serious, go in your room, lay in the dark and play that record back one hundred times and you will hear what I can only try to explain with words.”
“If you say so,” I skeptically replied.
Brian got to his feet and held his guitar. “You think about the things I said,” he said to me. “The lovely Tzarina’s not going to stay with a man who wilts in the face of a little heat, a man whose macho words precede the actions of a coward. When she realizes all that and bores with you, me and my songs are waiting here on the beach.” Then he turned to Tzarina. “And good night to you, dear Tzarina. When that sweet hand is free again mine is here waiting to take it. I’m off now. I get around, but to get around you’ve got to be around.”
“Bye Brian!” Tzarina replied to him. “Have a great night! We’ll probably see you tomorrow.”
“That was odd,” I said.
“He’s so sweet,” she replied, then hastened to reassure me. “He’s too old for me anyway and right now I’m not interested in any men not named Deak and you’re the only one I know.”
We kissed and passionately made up for a fight we’d never had, then retired early to rise up early to film. As we lay in the dark Brian’s words nagged at my restless mind. ‘Hot Chick Beach,’ was a great song—the perfect theme. What was he talking about? I asked myself.
Several of Tzarina’s admirers at the café brought her a number of cassettes and a player, and she had a copy of the song in the bungalow. We decided to do as Brian had said, and spent the next five hours playing ‘Be My Baby’ one hundred times. It was a great song but not very complicated, and after several listens I had it memorized and was waiting for some mysterious epiphany. I was skeptical, as was Tzarina, but we plodded on through listens thirty, forty, fifty…and at 5:06 in the morning we cued the song for the one hundredth time.
With the song echoing in my ears and etched into my brain I didn’t know what magical effect to expect, and the skeptic in me expected nothing, but as the music started and the Ronettes’ vocals kicked in a musical tapestry unfolded in my mind. I was hearing two songs at once in stereo: in my left ear was ‘Hot Chick Beach’ and in my right ‘Be My Baby.’ Then my inner ears merged the two songs into one and I heard exactly what Brian had described: the melodic underpinnings, the half finished bridge and the hollow chorus. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I was enthralled and aglow with inspiration, and immediately seized a guitar, sat out front of the bungalow and rewrote the theme song as the sun began to banish the night. Tzarina sat and listened and offered a couple of suggestions and in twenty minutes the revamped version of ‘Hot Chick Beach’ was born. With the new melodies, the bolstered bridge and the effusive chorus of one hundred women the revised version was now a sure fire hit.
I played it first thing for Desmond and Jonesy when I saw them on set and they agreed that it was much improved. Tzarina was there beside me, and remained silent when I failed to explain specifically who had inspired the changes in the song. As we played all day in the sand with cameras rolling I looked around for Brian in the crowds and passersby; and recalling my own experiences, had my eyes out for him in disguise, but I never noticed him.
After a long fabulous day of fun in the sun, Tzarina and I repaired to her bungalow for the evening. I wondered if Brian would show up again, which made me a bundle of conflicted emotions. I was jealous of him as a rival but his contribution to our song was significant enough to warrant credit as collaborator.
We purposely sat out front of Tzarina’s bungalow to watch the sunset as we had the night before and déjà vu—just after dark Brian started singing from the shadows. Tzarina’s smile at Brian’s voice made my heart flare. I reminded myself that she smiled at everyone, and quietly listened to his song.
When he finished he again seated himself in the hammock chair. He remembered meeting me from the night before, but aside from that he repeated our conversation about putting the Beach Boys in the battle of the bands as if we were having it for the first time.
“He does sometimes repeat certain things,” Tzarina softly said to me.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I went along with it exactly as I had the night before. The dialogue was virtually verbatim until he reached the point where he gave his thoughts on our songs, and I said: “I have to tell you, we took your advice and listened to ‘Be My Baby’ one hundred times and you were absolutely right. May I?” I motioned to his guitar, which he handed to me. I played him the new version of the theme song; he just smiled and nodded his head as he listened.
“That’s it, you got it,” he said. “I love people who listen.”
“What else?” I asked.
“Your song ‘Boardwalk Boogaloo’ is lacking in several places. You’re missing a fill between the second chorus and the bridge, there are a number of places where a chorus could supply some backing vocals, and as a whole the song is lacking a certain syncopated oomph.”
“Should I listen to the Ronettes again?” I sincerely asked.
“Not for this song. Phil Spector produced the Ronettes and you should listen to Phil for everything, but ‘Boardwalk Boogaloo’ cries Gershwin. ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ of course, and ‘I Loves You Porgy’ and a few other standards are mandatory, but I would think eight hours of any Gershwin will be enough for you to figure it out.”
“Eight hours, you say?” I replied. “I must confess myself ignorant of all things Gershwin.”
“Then you’re in for a real treat,” he said, rising to leave. “And remember what I said about that battle of the bands. You may win a battle of the bands in the little fantasy world of your film, but you can never call yourselves kings of the beach until you’ve dethroned the ones currently perched on the throne. Let’s go head to head on stage with Tzarina’s sweet hand the stakes.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled: “It’s not my decision to make. I mentioned it to the director and the other guys and they’re thinking it over.”
“Just don’t take the coward’s way out,” he answered, then disappeared into the night.
Tzarina was equally as interested as I to hear what eight hours of Gershwin might do to ‘Boardwalk Boogaloo,’ and since she didn’t have a note in her bungalow while I had a couple of old Gershwin albums back at Easytown, we decided to spent the night back at my place. There were quite a few people hanging out, including Desmond and Jonesy, and Lola and Jackie and several others from the set. We briefly said hello, fetched my two George Gershwin recordings from the wall of albums and repaired to my room and commenced to listening to them over and over all night. At some point in the early morning my brain went voila! I raced downstairs pulling Tzarina by the hand, we sat down at the piano and rewrote the song. While incapable of playing a note, she nevertheless provided several invaluable suggestions.
We finished the rewrite of the song just as Pierre was rising to start the morning. In the midst of our creative fervor we played it for him; he loved it and continued to hum it as he went about his morning chores. Jonesy and Desmond came downstairs with Jackie and Lola, and we played it for them.
“They are great, but where are you getting all these new ideas for our songs?” Desmond asked. I intended to demure again, but then Larry walked in. I had been planning to speak with him that day, and there he was, so I asked him: “What do you know about Brian Wilson? I’m not referring to the Beach Boys. Where does he live? What is up with him these days?”
“He lives in the nearby hills with his live in therapist, a guy named Eugene Landy,” Larry replied. “He’s had a lot of bouts with alcohol and drugs and mental health and breakdowns over the years. From what I hear Wilson’s house is like a rehab center with a live in counselor, but I couldn’t attest to anything specific. I just know the hearsay. Why?”
With everyone present I confessed to what had been going on with Brian Wilson at Tzarina’s bungalow, and how Brian’s unpredictable musical suggestions were the true source of the changes I had been making that had been elevating the songs to new heights, completing them. Then I explained how he had twice challenged us to be in a real battle of the bands, and I didn’t know what to do. It was nothing short of muse intervention that was bringing Brian’s suggestions to our songs, but the blessing of that locked me into a no win bind. If we did go through with a battle of the bands and for some reason the Beach Boys did win it would sink the film; and if we did go through with it and defeated the Beach Boys on stage, it would have been using songs Brian could claim to have co written.
We filmed on Venice beach for almost two weeks. I never once noticed Brian on or near the set, but every night he came round the bungalow singing to Tzarina, challenging me to a legitimate battle of the bands while then improving our songs by sending me on musical journey that stretched across centuries. The main theme for the song ‘Drag Strip’ came from one of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, which Brian had me listen to for twelve hours. He sent me to the record shops scouring the racks in search of obscure surf records, and Mississippi blues, contemporary pop hits and old composers. ‘Hot Rod Annie,’ for example, drew vocal ideas from the Archies and a chorus based on the chord progression of a Mozart piano concerto. I never knew where he was going to send me with any particular song, but if anyone ever deserved a ‘producer’ credit without having set foot in the studio, it was Brian Wilson on the Hot Chick Beach album.
As he stopped by the bungalow every night to sing to Tzarina and to give me ideas to shape the next song on the record he also reiterated his challenge to a legitimate battle of the bands. Tzarina explained that he occasionally repeated himself and was forgetful, but the idea was clearly fixed in his mind. Tzarina reassured me repeatedly that she was not interested in Brian’s romantic advances, but that she also enjoyed his friendship and did not want to damage it by hurting his feelings.
Finally one night near the end of the second week of filming, Brian was emphatic about being included in the battle of the bands, which he knew to be up coming. He had dropped by the bungalow at the usual time to sing to Tzarina, and shortly after he sat down she excused herself for a few moments to refresh herself.
Brian pounced upon the moments alone with me and boldly said: “I know you’re almost done filming, and I want this resolved. Tzarina is not going to stay with you forever, and we both know it. I like girls a lot, and there are lots of girls, but right now my eye is still sweet on Tzarina. Are you going to compete with us in a real battle of the bands with the very real prize of a lady’s hand? Or are you going to take the coward’s path and stick to your own script?”
“I’ve mentioned it and received mixed response,” I lied, then immediately told the truth. “I promise to discuss it with Desmond, Jonesy, the director and all the decision makers involved first thing in the morning, and I will guarantee you a definitive answer tomorrow night.”
Tzarina returned and Brian went on to bring up my song ‘Drag Strip,’ for which I needed to spend a night listening to any fifty different car songs and both New York Dolls albums. Tzarina and I did just that later that night and were not surprised when I rewrote a new and improved model of the song.
Tzarina and I discussed it, the following morning I explained everything to Jonesy and Desmond and the director and all the girls and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the guys who were playing Cletis Diesel and the Truckstops, and we put our heads together and devised a plan. That was Wednesday, and the filming of the battle of the bands was scheduled for Friday. Red Hot Chili Peppers were to be given a full song, and then for the other bands we had scratched together a few Sunset Strip musicians to play the musicians in the losing bands.
The plan was to stage two separate battles of the bands. The first one would take place earlier in the afternoon, and would be the actual finale of the film. The second one would be toward evening, to satisfy Brian. When he came around Tzarina’s bungalow that night I explained the details.
“After many long discussions this afternoon, here is how the battle of the bands is going to work,” I explained as he, Tzarina and I sat before her bungalow. “We’re going to film late in the afternoon to capture the ambience of the twilight and the grandeur of the sunset. The Beach Boys, or whatever collection of musicians you bring, will perform last, after Desmond, Jonesy and I. Also, the producer is particularly fond of your songs ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘California Girls,’ and has insisted that you use those two to conclude your set.”
“Those are the terms?” he replied, laughing. “I take the stage last and have to play two of my best songs? That’s like starting a football game with a thirty point lead, or giving me the first ten moves in a chess match. What gives? Is this alright with you?” he asked Tzarina.
“It sounds like fun,” she replied. “I’ll go on a date with you if you win.”
He smiled, then looked thoughtful…suspicious. “Who is judging? audience applause?”
“We’ll form a panel of judges by having each band choose two girls from the crowd,” I explained. “We’ll start by measuring decibels of applause, and if that’s a tie we’ll resort to the panel. Can you be there ready to play about five?”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” Brian cried, jumping out of the hammock chair and grasping his guitar. “I’ll see you both tomorrow, and I’ll see you Saturday night too,” he added to Tzarina.
The following day was the final day of filming; we started early and shot the final take of the last scene around three. We then got everyone to stick around for the staged battle of the bands by throwing a party.
Brian arrived promptly at five with one of his brothers and several other musicians. He presented Tzarina with a bouquet of flowers then excitedly busied himself with preparations for their performance. The party had been roaring all day, so the huge crowd was in great spirits when the bands took the stage and the ‘battle’ commenced.
The band of ragtag musicians warmed up Cletis Diesel and the Truckstops, who warmed up Red Hot Chili Peppers, who warmed up for us, who warmed up Brian’s configuration of the Beach Boys. Brian played with great confidence, constantly glancing and smiling and waving at Tzarina where she stood holding hands with me in the front row. The moment Brian launched into ‘Good Vibrations’ we launched our plan. Flea strapped on his bass, I my guitar, Jonesy slipped his saxophone over his neck, Anthony Kiedis and Desmond grabbed tambourines and we invaded the stage, entirely uninvited, and joined in the song. As we played Desmond and Kiedis marched along the front of the stage dancing and banging their tambourines and stirring up the women in the crowd, and the moment Brian started singing ‘California Girls’ the Sexadactyl made an inimitable leap onto the stage. Throughout the afternoon we had made specific arrangements with a number of beautiful women to surround Brian as he sang one of his signature songs.
When that song finished the stage was packed with willing musicians and a hundred women screaming for dance music and so we played a couple more songs that became a three hour encore.
The whole affair turned into one of those spontaneous parties that achieves legendary status and is fondly recalled for many years after. At one point a while after the music had stopped Tzarina and I were hiding in the shadow of some trees making out when Brian approached. “That was a great gig!” he said. “Great fun…great, great fun. But we never decided a winner.” I put my hands up and shrugged. “I guess that was the idea.”
“Everyone there was a winner!” Tzarina optimistically said. “It was a great night!”
“But you were the prize and you’re with Deak,” Brian said to her.
“Brian, you know what it’s like to have lots of fans,” Tzarina gently said. “On a smaller scale in a different way I do too. But out of the many I can only choose one, and for now that one is Deak. You do understand?” She squeezed my hand and looked at me adoringly.
“Of course,” Brian replied nonchalantly. “You California girls come and go. I learned that a long time ago. You’ll inspire a couple songs about heartache and heartbreak and then tomorrow is a new girl.”
“There you are,” an attractive young woman said to Brian as she approached us.
“I’ve met one already,” Brian said. “Tzarina, Deak, meet my new friend Rhonda.”