Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers on Churchill's "It's One of the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Bars That's Ever Been"
For all of the diverse and wonderfully weird artists that South Florida has spawned over the years, our music scene is not one that necessarily encourages longevity. It's no secret that, for serious musicians, South Florida's musical landscape can be an inhospitable one. However, for Steven Toth -- better known as Mr. Entertainment, a moniker bestowed upon the former (literally) juggling stalwart of South Florida's music scene -- roots run deep, and time invested in South Florida has lead Toth to the conclusion that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.
Toth's band, Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers, are releasing a single today titled Tropical Diseases. The song is being released on Toth and Wife Tina's home-spun label, Hotown and was recorded at the Hollywood residence Toth has called his own Graceland. Between the lyrical content of the song itself, and the B-side cover of underground classic, "The Little Black Egg", the album is rife with fingerprints from the area.
Never at a loss for words, we spoke with Toth about his history in South Florida's rock 'n' roll scene, why he loves this place so much, and passing on a love for local music.
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New Times:: How long has the Pookiesmackers been a band now?
I'm guessing '98 or '99? Brandon (Samdahl) and I were in previous bands, and the guy who played saxophone with us -- we started in '94 with the One Eyed Kings and ended up in a few things between that. I was Mr. Entertainment -- even back in the One Eyed Kings -- oddly enough because I did juggling and all this shit. I didn't even play guitar at that time. I played in a band with Boise Bob shortly called Lee County Oswald, the guy from the Eat was in that band, Brandon was on the recording, but we only played a few gigs. Then we turned into a band called Faberge' Dildo. My favorite about that is, once I told my grandmother what the name of the band was and she said "what's Faberge'?"
So, like '99 is when we started. We have had probably 15 members over the years, Brandon being the only constant, and Mark Zeletsky who played with us for like the last dozen, but he just moved away. John Mahoney's been in the band since about 2004. Mike Vullo's been in our band for the past 5 or 6 years. When John Frusciante had quit the Red Hot Chilli Peppers the first time, Vullo was one of the people that went and auditioned for the band an he was in like, the top 20 on the chalkboard as a guitarist!
Tell us about the single you're releasing today.
"Tropical Diseases" is a single from something I'll have done by the end of the year, and then we'll have an EP, but it has one song that needs to be mixed and stuff. Actually, after (Dan) Hosker passed away, we used to record a lot of other bands and I had decided that it was time I finished everything we have recorded and record all of the new songs I have written because you never know when your fuckin' last day is going to be. I love helping out other bands, but it was about time that we started doing shit for ourselves.
It is apparent that you and the Pookiesmackers take a lot of pride in being a South Florida band. What is it about this place that you love?
I got in a band when I wasn't so young, and I was married, so it was never about pussy or making it big or any of those things for me. From the beginning, I was a fan. I didn't get into a band until I was close to 30, so I never cared about leaving the town and trying to make it big or any of those illusions. I mean, we've played South by Southwest before, but, going out of town or getting signed to a label, me and my wife have paid for every single thing my band has put out. I don't want anybody to give me fuckin' money, I don't want to owe anybody shit for anything! So, that type of attitude has made it very easy to stay at home, and fall in love with South Florida.
So, what about the droves of people that move to places like New York City to be in bands? How have you avoided the bug to leave?
When I was younger and a teenager, I loved New York City. I went and traveled there, and my wife and I fell in love with New Orleans in the '90s, but I've only lived in three places. My parents live in the same house they came home to when I was born. My mom was born in Hollywood -- she grew up on a farm down here. I've had two phone numbers in my life and if you still called either of them, that's still where you can get me at!
I've come to try to figure out what it is to like about this place instead of what to hate about this place. Maybe it's not so friendly to music, but I'll tell you, there are more places to fuckin' play now than there ever were in the late '80s and the early '90s, and as much as everyone wants to dog Churchill's, it's one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bars that's ever been, and you can still play there any night of the week!
Part of the reason why people want to move away from South Florida is not just because South Florida sucks, it's because they've just done the same shit forever, they need to find something different. My band has been my family for the last 20 years. There's not a lot of pressure, there's not a lot of ego.
Having been involved for so long down here, is there any advice you have for the younger bands?
I've been attached to Open Books and Records, and Blue Note, and Radio-Active Records. There was a point, before I got into a band, that I decided I was interested in local music. And then once I got in a band, it became important for me -- because everyone seems to hate Florida so much -- to find what's interesting about it. To gather some historic knowledge about this place to pass on to somebody else.
I was told long ago by Boise Bob that the most important thing of a music scene is to pass it on to somebody else. Instead of just worrying about your own shit, get interested in what the younger people were doing. It was a blessing when Mikey and Richard asked me to work at the old Radio-Active Records because I was probably done with meeting old bands and that gave me the opportunity to meet a shitload of younger bands and continue paying it forward.
Beach Day and Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers. 7 p.m., Saturday, June 29, at Hollywood Beach Bandshell, Johnson St. and the Broadwalk, 314 Hollywood. Event is free. Call 954-921-3404.
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