BLAZO!! Friend of The Different – author James Campion probes mysterious cyber loons

Aquarian Weekly 7/26/00 REALITY CHECK

FRIEND OF THE DIFFERENT – The Horrible Truth About BLAZO!!

At the tip of Northern Jersey sits a rustic castle with streams of ivy climbing up its thick, stone walls. Ghosts of shifty A & R men and their java-soaked secretaries chasing unsuspecting child singers reverberate through its cavernous halls. The demons and vampires that slither along the corridors of network television are shunned here. This is the place where the entertainment world, as we know it, has come to die.

Deep in its bowels, sitting in a multi-colored room behind a giant oak desk is the mysterious Mighty Chief Wonka, a man who has graced this space and many songs and stories of some repute. His is an imposing shadow looming over an operation that has seen fit to carve a slice of the Internet pie with little regard for things like press announcements and pedantic fanfare. I had been summoned to this strange joint to get a handle of what is going on at the main hub of BLAZO!!, the “web company” which bravely acts as publisher for my second book, Fear No Art – Observations on the Death of the American Century. Of course, after several meetings with legitimate publishers, I began to realize how brave this publication truly is for printing this blather every week, and how insane the Chief had become since our initial meeting in a back booth at Kenny’s Castaways in the West Village last Christmas.

That night the Chief sat across from me, flanked by two rather large Russian men wearing fluorescent Tiaras, pounding the table with a thin wooden cane and chipping the surface with its gold handle. “You’re a genius Campion!” he bellowed above the blaring music. “We want to put out your ramblings with a healthy advance check.” I heard nothing else for the entire night, but the words “advance check” floating in the smoky air, and something about meeting a Kaptain Von Karl who was BLAZO!!’s “Minister of Propaganda” sometime in early February in an abandoned warehouse in Bayonne.

The Chief trickled out cryptic clues about what the hell he was doing in his castle on the banks of the roaring Hudson River, but I knew it couldn’t be anything resembling real. There was something cartoonish, but lovable, about the Chief when he began roaring on about the “broken concepts of freedom” and a manifesto I should write that would explain what it is to “praise the child in you and allow for the brat to flourish and the imp to sing the high notes!”

But it served nothing in the way of preparing me for Kaptain Von Karl, a bizarre combination of Alice Cooper and Henny Youngman wrapped up in a diminutive package of trembling lunacy. When I met him in the “abandoned warehouse”, which was more like a vacuous playhouse carpeted in plush orange shag with deep blue walls, he was pacing beneath a naked light bulb and running a stream-of-consciousness rant worthy of Kerouac. He unnerved my signing of the contract with the occasional blurt and twist of his syntax, pondering ways to “spread the disease” and “join the new religion” while incessantly repeating “Do!” to no one in particular. But I’d come for a check, and as the good Chief explained earlier between several cocktails at Kenny’s, the Kaptain was a guru of promotion and once convinced a full convent of nuns to join him in a mosh pit at the old L’Amours rock club in Brooklyn.

But, alas, I deviate from the late afternoon visit to the BLAZO!! castle. Chief Wonka’s bearded dwarves met me at the huge oak doors offering a glass of Pessac-Leognan. Before I had accepted, the two of them had rifled through my jacket for proof that I was a “journalist friend” and not just another “cheap hood” from the Wall Street Journal come to perform anal audits on everything BLAZO!! when all they wanted was “a good time.” The Chief apologized for their behavior, citing the shock treatments they’d been “enjoying during lengthy lunch breaks in the dungeon.”

“Everyone needs his or her brains melted once in a while,” he smirked. But I was distracted by his unusually tall, lavender stovepipe hat that perched precariously on his long mane of black hair.

Once in his office, the Chief plunged into a sizable brown, leather chair behind his desk and let out a thunderous sigh. “What do you need to know from us that Simon & Schuster wasn’t willing to tell you?” he began. “I have yet to speak to the boys and girls at The Aquarian, but from what I gather from that twisted Reality Check gibberish you pen weekly, they have a rather long rope in which to hang themselves.”

“Exactly how do you mean?” I asked.

“I’m a fan of your work, but I also hate your work,” he said.

Strangely, I had dreamed of hearing such duplicity from a publisher. But there was no kidding in the Chief’s voice. He was damn serious.

And so, apparently, was the vice president of BLAZO!!, a rather ornery soul called Bart Francis. Seemingly, his one job was to sit on the phone all day and confuse telemarketers and advertising agents who pummel the BLAZO!! comfort zone by the minute. “Go!” he screamed into the receiver seconds after answering the ring, and then looked quizzically toward the dial tone wafting from the speaker. “Damn lightweights don’t know a thing about negotiations,” he whispered to himself. “Haven’t you ever see a man so in control of his karma that it hurts?” he asked.

And then Chief Wonka explained things.


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