Echoes and Reverberations: Liza Richardson's Infinite Axis of Influence

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Life has a way of dragging us off the charted path and into rather randomly obtuse trajectories. Sometimes you just feel like you're everywhere, all the time. Like you've got the whole world in the palm of your hand.

It often comes down to an intangible law of attraction: Many of us have that one person in their life that acts as a sort of magnetic avatar; a charismatic personality who radiates a sense of possibility and importance. Not necessarily a lover or mentor, but more of a spiritual companion in circumstance.

During the mid-80's, Liza Richardson debuted on the Dallas radio airwaves with her first program, The Mad Doll show on KNON. It aired on Thursday nights from 2 to 5 a.m., and the playlist included everything from the Butthole Surfers to Bob Marley.

An SMU student who actually ventured outside the University Park bubble, Richardson's circle of close friends included Elizabeth Wurtzel, the self- declared pharmaceutical lab rat and author of the novel Prozac Nation. Many of Wurtzel's X-ploits in Deep Ellum during this time period were documented in the book, and later in a straight-to-DVD film starring Christina Ricci.

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After graduating from SMU, Richardson moved into the basement of an old church on Haskell Avenue called "Moon Mansion". It was a hippie commune owned by iconic Dallas artist Ashley Bellamy--the building still exists in the shadow of the Cityplace office monstrosity.

Liza was in good company then; New Bohemians drummer Brandon Aly lived upstairs in the bell tower and former Trees GM "Big Steve" Shein had an apartment in the basement, right next door to hers. New Bo bassist Brad Houser lived in an adjacent property directly across the street, and I lived in an apartment upstairs above his place.

We all had our hopes and dreams and things we wanted to do. The New Bohemians were about to sign with Geffen Records and our local music scene was baggin' props in the national media. Life was all about art and music and creative inspiration. Sunlight was our kryptonite. Most of us slept during the daytime. We spent a lot of time underneath the stars and a metal geodesic dome that had been constructed on the roof of my building. Deep Ellum was a five-minute drive from the compound. 

"After I graduated from SMU, I wanted to be an actress or a dancer," Richardson confesses these days. "You were the one who got me into DJing!"

(Please. Me?)

"No joke! You had a radio show on KNON and I figured if I could get a radio show, too, then I'd be able to get into all of the shows down in Deep Ellum for free!" 

Well, she was certainly right about that. In the blink of an eye she was a star in the fledging arts community.

The Mad Doll came on right after my show, Life Is Hard. I still have a cassette copy of an air check from her very first show in a box somewhere out in my garage. It was immediately apparent that she was a natural on the airwaves. Her taste in music was varied and intelligent. It didn't take long for people to recognize her aesthetic dexterity as a DJ and on-air personality. 

Some people just have it. Liza Richardson is one of those people.

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In 1987, she was swooped up by former KERA program director Chris Douridas (pictured right), who gave her the late night time slot on that station. (Remember when KERA actually played great music all night?) Then, in 1991, Douridas packed up his record collection and moved to Los Angeles to take a similar gig at the more music-driven NPR-affiliate KCRW. A year later, he brought in Richardson out to LA to do a weekly show at the station.

In fact, a lot people from Dallas seemed to be relocating to Los Angeles that year.


"Terrell Moore [a former Expo Park-based painter] and I moved to LA at almost the same time," recalls Liza. "So did Carty Talkington [director of the film Love and a .45] and [writer/actor] Grey Palmer." 


The three Texas expats stayed tight as they began the process of acclimating to the new environment. After Liza settled in at her new gig KCRW, she began hosting a late night program called The Man In The Moon. She started to take an interest in mixing components of random spoken word material against various instrumental backdrops. In fact, it was Liza who encouraged me to ditch the idea of being a hip-hop MC in Decadent Dub Team, and instead focus primarily on becoming a serious writer and monologist. That's how I started doing Cottonmouth, Texas.


What goes around comes around, huh?

The first time I ever performed as a spoken word artist was at a one-of-a-kind event in Santa Monica called The Man in the Moon Poetry Chorus. The project featured nine other writers, including Grey Palmer and an unknown poet named Viggo Mortensen. Liza conceived and promoted the event, as well DJing and supervising the music that was used in the program. Smokey Hormel (Beck's guitarist) performed with us as well.

The concept was a sort of Greek Chorus of writers and poets, each reading excerpts of their work, set against a musical backdrop that Liza improvised on the spot. It was quite the successful endeavor; standing room only, with a large gathering of people out on the sidewalk watching through the front windows.

Not long after that, Liza went on to conceive and host a radio program that was picked up for syndication by MTV for college radio stations all over the country. She consulted on The United States of Poetry project for PBS. Her show on KCRW had given dozens of writers an extraordinary venue to share their work.  

I was still officially living in Dallas at the time, but Liza often encouraged me to relocate to the Los Angeles area. The possibilities were limitless; opportunity was everywhere. Creative people with ties to North Texas were earning a great deal of respect from our West Coast peers: Mike Judge had an MTV hit with Beavis and Butthead; Reverend Horton Heat and the Toadies had signed with Interscope; MC 900 Ft. Jesus had captured the imagination of the subversive music crowd.

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Later, in June of 1994, Broose Dickinson (pictured right) of the Dallas band Pop Poppins had just finished his first solo record. It was time for a road trip; Dickinson and I drove out to Los Angeles to take meetings with record label A&R scouts, and also to perform on Liza's radio show. She was living in the Brentwood area at the time and offered us a temporary place to crash while we were in town.

"We went out there together for a couple weeks. You had already planned to go out there and asked if I wanted to come along. You were going out there to promote some Deep Ellum bands, " Dickinson recalls of my time in LA. "We rented a mustard colored Volvo." 

Oh God. I forgot about that.  

"Do you remember seeing Rick Rubin in a Rolls Royce at that stoplight? You said I should get out and go give him a CD; I was too timid, so you got out of the car, knocked on his window and handed him one."

I was either very brave or very stupid. People get shot in LA just for driving around in a mustard-colored Volvo. Never mind the part about me climbing out of the car and dodging traffic to harass a record producer. Yes, as I've so vividly demonstrated on dozens of precarious occasions, I am often prone to bizarre acts of idiocy.

(There. I said it. So you don't have to.)

Still, you have to imagine that happens to Rubin at least a dozen times a day.

Liza Richardson had really amazing parties at her old place in Brentwood. This was the case on the night legendary bassist Mike Watt sat cross-legged on the floor of her guest room and shed real tears while telling us all what it was like to be on the road with D. Boon of the Minutemen.

It was a sad and beautiful experience. His eyes were glazed over and his heart was somewhere else. One could see that almost 10 years after the fact, Watt was still really grieving over Boon's tragic death.

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In the kitchen, the mood was much lighter; a gathering of female Dallas expats were dishin' up the spicy shit. Elizabeth Wurtzel (pictured left) was there, along with Christina "Sita" de Limur, the elegant former general manager of the Starck Club in Dallas during the mid-'80s.

"That party was actually for Shermakaye Bass, who was in town visiting at the time," recalls Liza. (Bass was an influential music and art critic for the Dallas Morning News during the '90s; she now lives in Austin.) "I remember we made gumbo that night. Viggo Mortensen was there; he was a bud and a poet and frequent guest on Man In The Moon. Smokey Hormel and [Brokeback Mountain score composer] Gustavo Santaolalla were also there that night. And Pat Smear [Nirvana/Foo Fighters guitarist] was there! How cool was that?"

During a quieter moment that evening, I slipped out onto Liza's third floor balcony to smoke a joint. A regular-looking guy was already out there sitting by himself, and I casually asked if he would be interested in getting high.

"Oh, I might take one or two hits, but that's it, " he said. He humbly introduced himself as "John" and we sat there shooting the shit for 20 minutes while the party went on inside. After lots of small talk about God-knows-what, I finally got around to asking him what he did for a living.

John: "Well, I've been a musician pretty much my whole life."

Me: "Really? What instrument do you play?"

John: "Drums, mostly."

Me: "Are you in a band here in town?"

John: "Yeah, I was the drummer for a band called The Doors."

I then realized that I had been telling John Densmore all about having to scrape together enough money to get the oil changed in my car. I might have even told him that I was homeless. At least he had been really cool about it and didn't pull that LA "Don't you know who I am?" bullshit.

He thought the whole thing was pretty funny.

Not so funny was what happened a couple of days later.

"I remember Liza's place didn't have cable TV and I really wanted to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs," remembers Dickinson. "She suggested Mezzaluna, a restaurant that was right around the corner."

Broose walked a couple of block over to the Mezzaluna Trattoria, and I joined him a few minutes after that. The place was almost empty so we sat at the bar and parked ourselves in front of the TV to watch a playoff game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils.

As I grabbed a stool at the bar, a waiter came by and asked us if I wanted to see a menu. He and Broose already seemed to be hitting it off, so much so that I remember making a joke that the guy might have a crush on him. During the two hours that we were there, this waiter came by and spoke with Broose three or four different times, feigning interest in the score of the game and asking us what we were up to later.

"Goldman was working and very talkative because the register was right next to where I was sitting at the bar, " recalls Dickinson. "One of our topics we discussed was the fact the restaurant sold a Texas beer called Celis Golden, which was my favorite beer at the time. He was very energetic and slightly effeminate. I actually still have the receipt somewhere in my scrapbook."

Who could ever imagine that within 24 hours our waiter would be one of the victims of the most publicized and polarizing crime in the history of our country?

Liza's apartment was located directly between the restaurant and Nicole Brown Simpson's condominium. We were right down the street when it happened.

"During the timeframe of the actual murder, I was doing laundry on the bottom floor of Liza's building which required going outside to gain access to washers and driers," recalls Dickinson. "I still have a drawing that I drew of the laundry room that night while waiting for my clothes to dry."

That next morning, the sky above Brentwood was buzzing with police helicopters. Liza's neighbor from next door knocked on her front door. She was still sleeping at the time, so I answered.

Without even introducing herself, the older woman said to me, "Well, he did finally did it."

Me: "Who? Did what?"

Her: "That animal O.J. Simpson. He killed his wife last night. He always said he was going to do it! Oh, lord..."

Apparently, many people in the neighborhood had previously seen Simpson chasing Nicole down the street on multiple occasions, often threatening to kill her. To Liza's neighbor, it was only a matter of time before it actually happened for real. The next morning, I dodged all of the news trucks and dish-on-a-sticks and walked to a 7-11 to buy a copy of the LA Times. When I got back to Liza's place, Dickinson and I were astonished to see the photograph of the other body that was found at the crime scene.

"Oh my God! Look who it was!" I said, nodding at the color photograph of Goldman at the bottom of the front page. My heart skipped a beat. This was too weird.

"We were both pretty freaked out," remembers Dickinson. "At that point, the media hadn't officially named O.J. as a suspect."

Parasitic gawkers and gangsta paparazzi invaded Liza's neighborhood. At first, word on the street was that Simpson had apparently fled to Chicago in an attempt to cover his tracks. 

As the story unfolded, it captured the imagination of the entire country. People everywhere were glued to the television during the infamous low-speed chase with the LAPD. Simpson's trial polarized the race dynamic and dominated the network news cycle every night. Nicole Brown's condominium became a national tourist destination, turning Liza's normally placid neighborhood into mad gathering of parasitic freaks. Traffic was rerouted in opposite directions to dissuade the rubbernecks and amateur photographers.A few years ago, developers finally tore down the crime scene and built a new apartment building from scratch. 

Things eventually returned to normal in the neighborhood. Only took a decade or so.

These days, Liza Richardson maintains her prime time Saturday night slot on KCRW, and spends most days surfing. She's also holding down her gig as the music supervisor on the Texas-based NBC program Friday Night Lights.

"We used Reverend Horton Heat's music in an episode last season," says Richardson, a tireless supporter of artists from North Texas. "I'm so grateful for the time that I spent on the air at KNON and KERA because I learned so much about all of the Texas-based songwriters; folk, rock, music from Deep Ellum, polka, you name it."

You've seen the fingerprints of her musical taste everywhere: Liza worked with skateboarder Tony Alva on the soundtrack to the film Dogtown; she was the music supervisor for the film Y Tu Mama Tambien; and she also contributed songs to the Jack Black film Nacho Libre.

Maybe you've seen one of the iPod TV ads that featuring the dancing silhouettes. Liza placed songs by Jet and Black Eyed Peas in those spots, too.

Besides Friday Night Lights, Richardson is currently supervising the music for three new TV programs; two for Fox and one for ABC. In addition, Liza was a music supervisor for two upcoming films, Push, and Assassination of a High School President. She also just remixed a new track for Femi Kuti, the son of legendary African bandleader Fela Kuti.

Liza Richardson has turned a late-night radio show on a tiny Dallas community radio station into an astounding resume of accomplishments and achievements.

In fact, a lot of things seem to have come full circle.

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In the aftermath of the Simpson trial verdict, race relations in America were damaged and raw; now we have an African-American president and a new sense of unity. Viggo Mortensen is now an A-list actor. Chris Douridas, besides taking an executive gig at iTunes, was the music supervisor on the film American Beauty. Rick Rubin is producing acts the Dixie Chicks and Neil Diamond. Terrell Moore has sold a number of paintings to collectors like Dennis Hopper and Malcom McDowell, and his work has appeared in the film Iron Man and numerous times on the HBO hit Entourage. Elizabeth Wurtzel is a corporate lawyer in New York City, and Broose Dickinson is now living in Manhattan as well.


Lastly, 14 years after the fact, the long arm of karma has caught up with the Butcher of Brentwood: O.J. Simpson is finally going to prison. --Jeffrey Liles



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