Good Days

Chris Isaak tours the road so often (about 80 percent of the time), that when he went to sleep in his own house in San Francisco recently, he woke up and dialed “0” thinking he would get room service.

“I picked up the phone and said, ‘Can I get scrambled eggs, bacon and dry toast?’ ” Isaak tells me. The woman on the other end of the phone said, “Sir … this is the operator.”

Isaak said, ” ‘Put me through’ … and I was about to say ‘the kitchen.’ And my eyes, by that time, are open. And I just started laughing.”

Isaak is on the road right this second. He sings at The Orleans today, Saturday and Sunday. But he’s also working on a new album, “Mr. Lucky.” He has been acting for upcoming films. And he’s got a new TV show, “The Chris Isaak Hour,” where he interviews other musicians, starting Feb. 26 on the Bio Channel.

Isaak is so busy, he has compiled a lot of newsworthy information for your reading pleasure today. (He told me about his warning the late actor Brad Renfro that he was on a druggie death march; check out my last Tuesday column for that story.)

For Isaak’s TV show, one of his interviews is with Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, the often-assumed recluse star of the 1970s (“Wild World,” “Peace Train,” “Moon Shadow,” “Morning Has Broken”).

Stevens was vilified years ago after he was misquoted regarding a fatwa against “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie. Isaak puts to rest the assumption Stevens “isn’t doing interviews.”

“His people knew I was a big fan. Not only did he come on” for a TV interview, “he let me sing with him. And I even got him to sing one of his old songs, ‘I Love My Dog.’ “

There are a lot of misconceptions about Cat Stevens, Isaak says, because people don’t get to hear from him much.

“It wasn’t like he was weird. There wasn’t a vibe that he wouldn’t laugh or joke. He laughs and jokes. He’s got a sense of humor.”

Isaak says he’s trying to delve into interviews deeper than you see on other talk shows. Usually, musicians go on a talk show, tell short stories you may have already heard, then say goodnight.

He thinks viewers will come away with different views of musicians. For instance, some people think Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins is strange or eclectic. But Isaak found him to just be “a smart guy with logic. He’s funny, and he’s smart.”

He interviewed Stevie Nicks. Isaak says Nicks normally gets marginalized in interviews by being asked things like, “Hey Stevie, are you really playing the Fun Festival? Do you really never ‘stop thinking about tomorrow?’ OK, we’re out of time.” But Isaak sat with Nicks for two-plus hours.

Isaak found out from Nicks’ manager she visits hospitalized military vets. More than that, she has given them iPods. Isaak is impressed that unlike other celebrities, Nicks did all the legwork herself. She didn’t get an assistant to do it. She didn’t cut a deal with Apple.

“She got her credit card, went down to the store, and bought all the iPods. She took them home, laid them out on the kitchen table, filled them with music, and handed them to the guys. And none of this was in the press.”

Well, until now.

Isaak already was familiar with the “genuine” musicians from Fleetwood Mac. When he first went to Paris years ago, he bumped into Fleetwood’s Christine McVie. She asked how he liked Paris. He said he had been too busy to check it out. “She says, ‘Get in the car.’

“I got in the backseat of a limo with Christine McVie. We drove all over Paris. And she’d roll down the window and say, ‘That’s the such-and-such cathedral.’ And she just showed me all the sights.”

A lot of famous people are nice, he says. But Isaak also enjoys being around mean celebrities, “because they’re such jerks, sometimes it’s hilarious!”

He tells me the story about a famous older actor who, every morning on the set of a movie, would have breakfast delivered to him: “And two minutes later, he just throws his plate out the door.

“I love it when a star turns out like that,” simply for the fun factor of the story, he says. “I always liked stories about Frank Sinatra wrestling a waiter, or whatever.”

Now and then, as a famous person, Isaak feels like doing something crazy, but he holds back.

“Me — I always figured I’d end up in jail” if he did something nutso in public.

But Isaak also doesn’t have a good reason to be upset enough to throw food out of his trailer. Even when he was a boxer before he was a musician, he never got in street fights, he says.

“I don’t have that much anger. I didn’t get raped as a child. Nobody burnt me with a cigarette. I’m not carrying around something that goes, ‘I hate,’ ” he says. “When I get my brother on the phone, he says, ‘What are you doing for fun today?’

“There are so many people that wake up, and they’ve got psychological dramas, and family problems and money problems,” he says. “I wake up, and to me it’s wonderful. It’s a picnic.

“And I know it can change,” he says. “My brother says, ‘Everybody dies of something.’ You know it’s in the cards. You know someday, something’s gonna getcha. But right now, I’ve had a long streak of good days.”

What do you think about all this? Write your thoughts on my blog (reviewjournal.com/elfman) or e-mail me (delfman@reviewjournal.com), and I’ll post them. My column runs Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. See you then.

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