Victor the Beefcake

Victor the Beefcake visualized with lyric

“Victor the Beefcake” is the second song on Bachelors Anonymous’ unreleased second album, In the Land of Nod, remastered and released digitally. Bachelor David Hughes tells the story behind the song.


I think the lyrics first had life as a silly poem. As I wrote in my review of Martin Aston’s book Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out, “I distinctly remember being gobsmacked by [Bessie] Smith’s ‘Give Me a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer’ the first time I heard it.” I don’t recall being aware that both Smith and her mentor Ma Rainey had been same-sexers (not necessarily together, as Aston points out), but I lifted Smith’s muscular line and went camping.

Is that the Victor?

Victor, of the title, was Victor B., who I’d met in Denver through a mutual friend while visiting my home state of Colorado one Christmas. Some time after we’d performed the song, he was introduced to our friends who had heard it. “Is that the Victor?” they’d ask. Victor collaborated with us onstage and off. He took an old papier mâché Day of the Dead calavera mask that we used in “The Bells of La Brea” (subject of a forthcoming blog post) and would do a walk-on wearing the mask, revealing at the last minute another mask: his face painted as a second, stylized calavera. This was Victor the effortless artist. Later, with considerably more effort but less effect, he designed the leaflet and poster for our 1987 “Think Pink” May Day show at Club Lingerie.

I never read the dictionary definition of beefcake. Victor’s own musculature was not well defined; in fact it reminds me today of fishcake, the Japanese variety known as kamaboko, the white style looking soft as a baby’s behind. (Victor was virtually hairless.) Kamaboko, like a culinary godhead, has multiple manifestations, and I suppose Victor did also: artist, aesthete, progeny of a vague aristocracy, collector, salesman, waif, love-er. He’d express his craving for the Corniche, a coupe I swear he attributed to Alfa Romeo, but perhaps I wasn’t listening. Victor died in 2017 on January 8, a feast day celebrating Mary, and her Son’s circumcision, an important demonstration of Christ’s mortality. (Victor sometimes attended Mass in the vernacular at St. Peter’s Italian Church on the north edge of Chinatown.) A month and a half earlier he’d posted on Facebook that he’d been diagnosed with “a tumour behind my eye and merca [sic] in my sinus.” And: “This is my fifth go round with Old Man Death but not throwing in the towel.” Years earlier he’d told me he’d been poisoned by black mold that had infested his living quarters, debilitating him severely. At the time of Victor’s death, Bachelor Rob Berg asked me whether we should post an obituary. Though I didn’t tell Rob at the time, I thought an obituary might be the cruelest tribute to a man who was a poser, if not a poseur. And yet, here we are.

The Recording

I must have pulled my poem out of a folder, Rob brewing a bohemian broth with bass, brass, organ/calliope, and tick-tock guitar. Del Mar Richardson hit the coffeehouse kit while Carrah (Macy) Wright provided backup vocals, “Soup’s on!” and the suspicious spouse. We recorded at the home studio of Clive Wright, a guitarist friend of Rob’s who had contributed blazing guitar to “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” and also to “The Bells of La Brea” in this same collection.

During the mastering session I told Rob that the song’s instrumental break culminated in a cadence that reminded me of Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow.” Listening to the latter now, I’ll admit it’s similar, but what’s weird: the cadence in question comes in Donovan’s own instrumental break (midway) and both his and ours feature brass and high-five party sounds. It’s as if we’d done a “My Sweet Lord”–”He’s So Fine” number. Fabulously unwitting. But, for the record (oof!), during mixing we told engineer Adrian Alvarado we were going for the mood set by Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women.”

Lyrics

Give me a pigfoot and a cuticle pusher
Emery boards and a Princess phone
And a Princess phone, and a Princess phone
To call Victor the Beefcake
Victor the Beefcake

Check the oil? Under the hood
Trick or treat? Mmm, wish he would
Like Pavlov’s dog, I been cursed
I want seconds when I ain’t had firsts
Want Victor the Beefcake
Victor the Beefcake

I want a pigfoot and the World Weekly News
I read about Bigfoot, but I still got the blues
There’s a rumble in my tummy that won’t go away
Soup’s on! Let’s call it a day
Victor the Beefcake
Victor the Beefcake

Gimme a clubfoot and a social disease
It’ll take more ’n that t’ stop me doin’ as I please
Pass the pickled knuckles and a slab of head cheese
Gotta build up my strength to get down on my knees
For Victor the Beefcake
Victor the Beefcake

Lyrics Reprinted by Permission

Credits

See album credits

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