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NIGHT LIFE

Philadelphia Sends Its Young to Party for an Aging Lady : The Hooters may not be hot in the States, but it's a different story in Europe. They play Saturday at Ventura Theatre celebration.

September 23, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

So the old bag is gonna be 65? At last! Quick now, ship her off to the Bored 2 Tears Rest Home & Funeral Parlor, sign her up for Medicare, rent her a wheelchair and a month of cable TV, then change the phone number. Common practice, but not in this case.

The lady in question is none other than the venerable Ventura Theatre, still stylish and full of life after all these years. Built in 1928 for $400,000 by Charles B. Corcoran, the theatre is now primarily a music venue. But on Aug. 16, 1928, a now-forgettable and not even in the movie book movie, "Excess Baggage" was the opening night feature. Admission was 50 cents.

The venue's 65th anniversary celebration Saturday night will be a flash from the past with some vintage short comedies, plus some live comedians, followed by Philadelphia's finest, the Hooters. The admission has risen substantially in 65 years to 10 bucks. Wait'll you get old; you'll probably want a raise too.

The Hooters started off on a rock 'n' roll roll: their debut album, "Nervous Night," went platinum in 1985 and yielded a bunch of hit singles, among them, "All You Zombies," "And We Danced" and "Day By Day." The next album, "One Way Home," went gold. Unfortunately, the third one, "Zig Zag," went lead and now the Hooters are on a new label. Their new release is called "Out of Body."

The band has had some impressive gigs over the years from Live Aid in 1985, the Amnesty International concert the next year, and "The Wall" show in 1990. The main songwriters, Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, have mastered the hook-filled pop song and, as usual, just about every song on their new one sounds radio ready.

Momentarily interrupting his prayers for the Phillies, Hyman discussed his favorite band recently.

Hooters. Owls?

Neither one; it's strictly a musical reference. It's our nickname for a musical instrument we use, a melodica.

How is "Out of Body" different than what came before?

It has a little more of a live feel to it because more than half of it is based on home demos. We're basically a live band, anyway.

To record "Out of Body" you guys went from Philadelphia to Nashville, then to Tulsa and L. A. What is this, National Geographic, or do you guys just have too much money?

Too much spare time. Actually, we had friends in all those cities, and we just stayed with people we knew and hooked up with some different writers.

So how's the album doing? Are you guys rich rock stars now?

Well, in Europe, it's doing great. In the States, it could be a little better. We're a live band and we'll be touring through Christmas. We've toured Europe four times opening for people like Sting, Midnight Oil and Prince. We just opened for Prince in Zurich and then we caught him at a club gig. He just shows up and plays, no production, just the musicians. It's even better than his stadium extravaganzas.

What was it like playing "The Wall" gig?

It was amazing and great. Roger Waters had seen us a couple of times at different gigs, and he wanted us for that concert. One of my heroes, Van Morrison was backstage, so I was sort of flipping out. He's very reclusive and a hard guy to get a hold of. The concert itself was a major production, right next to the Wall with something like 400,000 people. We played in no man's land, a piece of land that hadn't been used since 1945. The historical importance of it all humbled me out.

Does the popularity of all these grunge bands detract from the success of a band like the Hooters who have obvious pop influences and can actually sing and write real songs?

No, because if anything, kids seem to like our sound. I think a lot of the grungy stuff and the whole unplugged stuff is real new to a lot of people. I don't know if kids just watch MTV then go see U2, then that's their music for the year. Most American kids don't have a clue about music. In Europe, they appreciate anything American. They know so much about American music and it is truly revered. We've toured there every year since 1987.

What's the secret of life on the road?

We just let it out. If things are building up in the band, and they do, then we just let it out. But we also get along and enjoy playing together. We started playing in 1980 and we've played over 1,300 nights.

Describe Hooters' music.

That's tough. Well, Eric Bazilian and I have been writing and singing together for a long time. There's some Celtic stuff and some Cajun stuff, but we're pretty easy to figure out. What you see is what you get. There's not a lot of magic tricks.

Has it been tough trying to live up to the success of your first album?

Yes, because the debut album was so successful. In the long run, that wasn't the best course musically. It's like, where do you go from there?

My favorite Philadelphia story comes from Vin Scully who said Phillies fans once booed Santa Claus. Tough town or what?

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