The Automatic Pilot story - part 2

Talented Butt, Extremely Tasteless
The community nurtured us even as we scandalized them.

.) The chorus was getting ready for the first tour fundraiser. - billed as "the chorus as you've NEVER seen them." "When You Wish Upon A Star" was held at the Japan Town (Kabuki) Theater on Nov 23, 1980. The program included Automatic Pilot, now augmented by Tony Kramedas, Mickey Martin and Bill Schade and sporting up to 5 part harmony, doing Bobbing for Apples and Sit On My Face. This was very controversial, with tour co-chairman and show producer Gerald Pearson wanting us to do it, and Perry George against. The Mock Mixed Chorus sang PDQ Bach's "The Queen To Me a Royal Pain Doth Give" I was an alto, the only drag role I have taken on in my life although I often sing alto now, as a man in the Golden Gate Men's Chorus. Data-Boy, a free San Francisco gay magazine, carried a column "Ramblings" by C. David Kulman, better known by his business name David the Matchmater (with two t's, no k.) Kulman's column of Dec 12, 1980 contained a review of the Kabuki performance: From the sublime to the sublime. Saw the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, "When You Wish Upon A Star." This is a preview of their national tour... Armistead Maupin was the emcee and did his usual great job... The choral selections were marvelous. Perry George in "No One Loves a Fairy When She's Forty" was very funny, among other performers. However there was one number I didn't think was in the best of taste, expecially (sic) as there were several straights in the audience. It's a punk type rock group called Automatic Pilot. They were talented for that genre, but one of their numbers was extremely tasteless, and belonged on Broadway (San Francisco's Broadway) and not at the elegant Japan Center Theater. Their number was called "Sit On My Face." 'Nuff said. On the whole, the evening was splendid and the Chorus will do a lot to overcome the negative vibes of the Moral Majority nationally. Good luck, kids! On Nov 28. Automatic Pilot appeared at another tour benefit "Belch and Boogie" at the I-Beam. The first independent gig was Dec 27 at Henrietta's at Haight and Fillmore repeating our short set alternating with solo improvisations by local avant-garde jazz pianist Jim Washington.

Mickey and Bill left Automatic Pilot but stayed with the chorus and remained friends. Steve McDowell joined on sax and vocals. On Mar 4 we played at the Bette Rhino Revue benefit for Theatre Rhinoceros at the Goodman Building. Playwright C.D. Arnold was Tony and Steve's housemate. Theater Rhinoceros associate artistic director Chuck Solomon (whose life is profiled in "Coming of Age") came to our performances, and took notes like he did when directing a play. His biggest criticism: "Must you end every song with a SCREAM???!!"

We played another tour benefit, Fabulous Follies of 1981 at Nourse Auditorium, which was officially part of the SFGMC spring 1981 season. The program billed us as playing "Queenie was a Rocker" but our surprise encore "Killer Purses" was the hit of the show.

On May 29 we played at the tour album release party at Dreamland, then we had our first recording session at Mobius Music in June shortly before the tour. The results revealed both our promise and our rough edges, which sent us back to the rehearsal studio, first at Steve and John's house, later at Studio Instrument Rentals. We were determined to develop a body of work worthy of our conceit: queer music with both substance and attitude. We performed once more that year, in November at the Palms on Polk St. The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus gave Automatic Pilot its first public stage opportunity. We sang "Sit On My Face" at a chorus benefit at the Japan Center Theater, and drew a review as "extremly tasteless". The Chorus responded by featuring us at three more official events over the next six months including the "Fabulous Follies of 1981" Even after the singers left the Chorus to concentrate fully on Automatic Pilot, the chorus invited us back for "Fabulous Follies of 1982"

We also developed an affiliation with Theater Rhinoceros; one of Tony's housemates was playwright C.D. Arnold, whose works such as "King of the Crystal Palace" "Bookstore" and "The Blonde in 20-B" were staged by Rhino. We were invited to perform in the Bette Rhino Revue at the Theater's original homein the historic Goodman Building. Asssociate artistic director Chuck Solomon (whose life is profiled in "Coming of Age") came to our performances, and took notes like he did when directing a play. His biggest criticism: "Must you end every song with a SCREAM???!!"

Steve MacDowell, Steve Graham, John Orlando join

next history page:
Erotic jazz wave

Automatic Pilot history index

Automatic Pilot homepage