Unlike other writers' retrospectives, Tom Wictor's Ghosts doesn't just feature the most interesting insider tidbits from a long career in the music-journalism trenches; included is the exorcism of the personal demons that informed the stories in the first place. The result is funny, revealing, and worth reading.

    -- Bryan Beller

    Bassist, composer, writer, and official replacement hands for Thomas Wictor


    Sick guy; good book!

    -- Kevin Johnson

    First Assistant to the Under Secretary of Torpidity


    Those of the American persuasion may find this torrent of sex, bad manners, and famous people I have known, as they say, uplifting. Personally, I felt my breakfast kipper uplifting toward the buccal egress. Ballyhoo indeed.  This Wictor wallah deserves a good hard rogering, and I'm sure there are legions of responsible and high-toned critics polishing the blue steel of their bayonets at this very moment for that very purpose.

    Never apologise, never explain. You ninny.

    -- a gentleman


    Ghosts and Ballyhoo: Memoirs of a Failed L.A. Music Journalist chronicles Thomas Wictor's ten insane years in the Los Angeles music industry and his quest to free himself from the past. Ostensibly a memoir, Ghosts also asks--and possibly answers--provocative questions about fate, destiny, and life after death. Central to the story is the issue of how the author is to continue on after the loss of the Cardinal Ghost, the woman he recognized and remembered the first time he met her.

    The book is structured as a collection of anthologies rather than a continuous narrative; the seven anthologies detailing Wictor's failed career are separated by six interludes with the Collateral Ghost, one of the most brilliant yet unsuccessful musicians who ever played--former Frank Zappa bassist Scott Thunes.

    Thomas Wictor's experiences include multiple failures across multiple spectra; a spontaneous recovery from total liver failure; adopting a reincarnated cat; narrowly avoiding a terrorist bomb; losing much of his eyesight and the ability to play the bass guitar; purchasing a painting of the Cardinal Ghost done by an artist who never met her; learning that Scott Thunes played a role in his life years before Wictor even heard of him; turning the tables on a vicious stalker; a miraculous escape from an attempted murder; contracting an incurable illness that will eventually cost him his hearing; discovering a life-saving poet; experiencing the suicide of his best friend; and a near-death experience complete with tunnel, bright light, and vision of what lies beyond.

    Throughout his life, Wictor also benefited from an endless series of coincidences that always returned him to the notion that there is a Plan. Losing nearly everything he loved gave the author clarity, enabling him to see patterns of guidance and sustenance visible everywhere once he was no longer blinded by rage and negativity.

    Clarity un-haunted Thomas Wictor and brought him peace of mind, which allowed him to transform the anger over what he lost into gratitude for what he once had. Written with profane humor and no self-pity, Ghosts and Ballyhoo includes previously unpublished articles, excerpts from interview transcripts and personal correspondence, photo inserts, a bibliography, and index.




    Anthology One: Prelude to Essence. 1962-1985

    Interlude with Scott Thunes: Zappa

    Anthology Two: First Light. 1985-1991

    Interlude with Scott Thunes: Music

    Anthology Three: Beginnings and Annihilation. 1992-1995

    Interlude with Scott Thunes: Rock

    Anthology Four: Summit. 1996-1997

    Interlude with Scott Thunes: Bass

    Anthology Five: Wasteland. 1998-2003

    Interlude with Scott Thunes: Communication

    Anthology Six: Abyss. 2003-2011

    Interlude with Scott Thunes: Happiness

    Anthology Seven: The Great Un-haunting. 2012

    Lessons Learned







    Since Bass Player had never written anything about Gene Simmons, I pitched him to Jim Roberts. Jim agreed, telling me it would be another feature article, my third. I contacted Simmons's publicist, who asked if Gene would get the cover. That decision was out of my hands. Jim said he never made deals and had to see the interview first. The publicist and I called back and forth a few times until I threatened to move on to another project.

    Simmons himself called me without warning a few days later and wanted to do a phoner, which I refused. The point for me was to meet him and hone my chops. He abruptly hung up, called the next day, and asked if I could meet him in half an hour. When that didn't work, I cleared my schedule and waited until he called a third time and we worked out a deal to talk at the studio where Kiss put the final touches on their new album. I interviewed Simmons on January 28, 1996.

    The interview began with him actually taking my tape recorder out of my hands and cradling it in his lap as he sat on the sofa with his legs stretched out on the coffee table. He went into his standard interview, which I let him do for a while, and then I started in with questions I'd never heard anyone ask him before. I don't know how I figured this out, but with someone as famous as he is, it's a complicated dynamic: You can't be too deferential, or they get bored because everyone kisses their rumps all the time, but you also can't be too familiar, because then you're disrespecting their hard-earned position in society. The key is to simply be perceptive. I took my cues from my interview subjects; they always let me know exactly how to interact with them.

    When speaking to Simmons, I remembered a story I'd read about the actress Ethel Barrymore, who was a legend in her day. At a party, a stranger kept addressing her as "Ethel." Finally, she shouted, "Ethel, hell! Just call me 'Cuddles'!" So you have to show that you're not a sycophant, but you're also not in any way taking liberties. I can tell you the exact moment I won him over: I referred to myself as an insignificant insect, and he whistled the way you do when you witness a terrible disaster or something you simply can't believe. At that point he knew I was camping it up for him, and he knew that I knew he was camping it up for me, and everything was going to be okay. It was something neither of us acknowledged, of course; if I'd punched him on the arm and said, "Aw, ya nut!" he would've rightfully cut me off at the knees.

    Initially, the Gene Simmons interview was the most difficult balancing act I performed in my career. When I asked him my most combative questions, I actually got out of my chair and sat cross legged on the floor at his feet, like an acolyte. From this position, I could then really challenge him. An extremely intelligent man, he knew exactly what I was doing and appreciated my strategy. All was well, as long as I didn't overstep my bounds by acknowledging the art we created together. That would've been boorish and disrespectful, and would've shown unearned familiarity. It also would've put me at the center of the story. My goal was to telegraph to Simmons that he was entirely the focus; he'd set the agenda; and I'd make him shine by playing the straight man. He got it--understanding that in no way was it manipulation--and ran with it. I always shudder at interviews I read, thinking, No, no! Why'd you ask him that?

    Though the interview was originally supposed to last no more than an hour, he gave me two. We had a huge, shouting fight over tone when I told him I could tell different brands of bass by the sound, and he said I was full of it. The fight wasn't real, but we had to pretend it was. It's very hard to be deferential while yelling at someone, but it can be done. I told him that he was full of it because the tone of the bass in his songs changed and so did his instruments. If it didn't matter, he wouldn't have changed tone or basses. He eventually admitted that tone is important, but he refused to tell me a thing about his equipment, settings, or anything technical. At least twice in the interview he said he needed to be on the cover; what I did to allay his concern was to present him ever more opportunities to say outrageous, entertaining things. It was up to him.


    You’re not a failure until you’re dead.

    And even then, you aren’t. Apparently. Unless you fail at dying. So it’s a win-win, no matter what.

    Plus, destiny and free will coexist. They work together seamlessly. You're in the driver's seat, traveling an infinite network of roads that the Planner built. The very act of driving creates more roads out of thin air. Poof, and there they are.

    Finally, you can acheive happiness by converting your anger over loss into gratitude for what you once had. They key to everything is gratitude. If you're grateful, you'll be happy. It's axiomatic. Conversely, there's no such thing as a happy ingrate.

    Oh, and good luck trying to get the complete, full-sized photo of my current girlfriend and me to appear on your screen. I think you can do it if you put your cursor in the upper left corner of the thumb and then use the scroll feature on your mouse.

    My Website designers were Brazilian. Communicating with them was simply not possible. Since this was my third attempt at getting a Website done, I simply gave up and accepted this utterly inexplicable, madness-inducing approach to providing an enlarged view.

    My idea was from the Stone Age: Click the thumbnail, and a bigger version of the image appears in the middle of the screen, centered and stationary.

    "Ha! It is to laugh! Now we dance!"

    And my ADMIN panel is in Portuguese. To edit my site, I have to open a second tab and use Google Translate.

    Qual é o ponto do meu livro? Você não é um fracasso até que você esteja morto. E mesmo assim, você não é. Aparentemente. A menos que você falhar em morrendo. Portanto, é um ganha-ganha, não importa o quê.


    Here are three supplements to Ghosts and Ballyhoo.

    They'll give you an idea of what the book is about and what I have planned for the Website that has yet to materialize.

    Please don't misunderstand: This is material not in the book. It's additional.

    Appetizers or dessert, depending on whether or not you've read Ghosts.

    Click each title to read.

    "Two Weeks to do Whatever I Wanted." "The Fate Block." "It's All Good."

    Click the logos to buy the book.

    And listen to my friend Scott Thunes's rendition of a fugue from Paul Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis. It's what I hear in my head all the time.