In the Christmas edition of the De Pasquale’s Dozen I wanted to highlight the new Christmas EP (available here) by lead singer and guitarist of The Smithereens, Pat DiNizio and libertarian activist and jazz soloist, Christian Josi.
DiNizio formed The Smithereens in 1980 with other band members, releasing several albums with the band, three solo albums and gaining a loyal following. Like the other entertainers I’ve profiled, DiNizio is not shy about voicing his political views. He describes himself as an “independent conservative with a nationalistic streak.”
In a 2010 interview with Parcbench, he said, “The Tea Party is really Middle America, hard-working taxpayers who feel underrepresentation from their elected public officials. They want the people they voted into office to respond to what they want. They are certainly unhappy with the Obama regime because they feel he surrounded himself with too many “Czars” who are accountable to no one but him in the White House, most of whom have socialist/Marxist leanings. They can smell it and they don’t like it.”
I first met Josi when he was executive director of a conservative organization in D.C. and have since worked with him on several projects over the years. In addition to releasing several solo jazz albums, he’s a columnist for The Huffington Post and vice president at a prominent crisis communications firm in D.C. He has been a mentor for me over the years and it has been a thrill to see his many sides.
Josi and DiNizio met on a set in L.A. when Josi was co-producing a TV show and DiNizio was filming the Smithereens’ video for “House We Used to Live In.” I asked Josi what led to the collaboration, over 20 years later. “Pat and I have been talking forever about doing some bossa-nova style duets, as we are both huge fans of an album that Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim did together in the '60's in that style. I had just quit drinking in the Fall which used to take up a lot of my time. So I happened to have time on my hands, and Pat happened to call about doing Christmas songs. A week later, I was in a studio in VA and he was in one in NJ and we cranked it out fast. I haven't actually seen Mr. DiNizio in many years, so that may well not be him on the record. Technology is something, isn't it?”
Each week the De Pasquale's Dozen asks political figures and free market-minded writers and entertainers to take a break from politics and talk about their pop culture obsessions.
1. What one thing would you do as President "just because you could"?
DINIZIO: I would allow the millions of Americans who are in foreclosure to stay in their homes. I would also use my presidential influence to put The Smithereens in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
JOSI: Dispatch Special Forces to bring me Kate Moss.
2. Tell me about your favorite teacher and how he or she influenced your life.
DINIZIO: During my senior year at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High school, 1973, my business math teacher, Mr. McGoohan, was a thoughtful, devoted teacher, was kind and patient with his students, and not only talked the talk, but walked the walk, by using his influence to get me my first decent after-school job, working at the local bakery.
JOSI: I can't recall ever having a teacher who I was that fond of, except for my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Chambers. And I was only fond of her because she was pretty. I was a shallow boy.
3. If you could be paid to do anything besides your current job, what would it be?
JOSI: Curator at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
4. Tell me about a public or private moment when you thought to yourself, "This is what Elvis felt like every day.”
DINIZIO: I just completed a year-long solo headlining residency at the legendary Riviera Hotel Casino in Las Vegas called "Confessions of a Rock Star", and lived in a suite in the hotel. For six nights a week for an entire year, I took the elevator nine floors down to the showroom at 11:00 pm, did my show, then went back immediately to my suite, and never left the room until it was time to do the next show, just like Elvis Presley must have done during his Las Vegas period!
5. What's your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
DINIZIO: "The Walking Dead" on AMC
JOSI: “COPS.” Forever.
6. What’s the best Christmas present you ever received as a child?
DINIZIO: Christmas 1965, the James Bond 007 Attaché Case toy
7. What’s the best Christmas present you ever gave?
DINIZIO: The Smithereens recording of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
8. What advice do you remember your mother or father giving you? Did you take it?
DINIZIO: When I was a child, my mother, after watching and listening to me scream and vent my anger at one of my school friends during an argument, said to me "Son, make a speech in anger, and it'll be the sorriest speech you ever gave". Her words of sunk in, and her advice taught me to control my anger and choose my words carefully.
JOSI:Probably something about not being afraid to go your own way. I think I took it, yes.
9. What's your favorite Christmas song [song and artist's version]?
DINIZIO: "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby
JOSI: A Winter's Tale by Queen. It was the last song Freddie Mercury completed before he died. It's magnificent. It wasn't meant to be a "Christmas song" but it is to me. I don't really like "Christmas songs."
10. What books are on your reading list?
DINIZIO: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain
"The Consolations of Philosophy" by Alain de Botton
"Winter Journal" by Paul Auster
JOSI: Right now I'm reading a memoir of Picasso by Fernande Olivier and Salman Rushdie's memoir. I like memoirs.
11. What would you like tomorrow's headline to say?
DINIZIO: WAR IS OVER
JOSI: KANYE QUITS!
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to be more vocal about your political beliefs.
DINIZIO: The day my daughter was born.
JOSI: I've been politically vocal my whole life. Over the last few years I've become decidedly less so and that suits me. It's become far too ugly and I don't do ugly very well. Life's too short.