Peter Zizzo songwriter

Peter Zizzo is an Emmy winning producer/songwriter whose songs have been recorded over the years by artists like Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Howie Day, Donna Summer and many others.  One of his more recent productions is the outstanding album Water in a Whale by singer/songwriter Jillette Johnson, which was released in 2013 on Wind-Up Records.  Zizzo was also instrumental in the early artist development of Vanessa Carlton and Avril Lavigne.

I met Peter twenty years ago when I was managing singer Billy Porter.  During the intervening years I have learned so much from Peter—he has some of the best pop ears I’ve ever encountered—so it was a particular pleasure to feature him in this installment of “20 Questions.” [My personal comments are in brackets.]


1.  Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

“Blackjack.”  I was 12. It was a rocker; really just a hook I walked around singing with my guitar. I just liked the word and thought it sounded edgy and serious—had no idea what it was.

2.  Was there a defining moment you knew you’d broken through or “made it?”

Seeing my song “Whispers” by Corina, debut on the Billboard Hot 100.


3.  What was the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?

It was that same song! Hot 97 one sunny afternoon. I knew they’d added it and waited by my radio all day.  Absolutely stopped time for me when it came on.

4.  What’s the first record you ever bought?

Elton John’s Rock of the Westies— “Island Girl!” [#1, 1975]


5.  What’s your favorite Burt Bacharach song?

Hard to say. Maybe “Raindrops” or “I Say a Little Prayer.”

[Here is a great vintage clip of "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin performing "I Say a Little Prayer" dating from October 1970. Notwithstanding her hat, which looks like nothing as much as a woven silver trashcan from a dowager's bathroom, this performance is perfect in every way.]

[15 more questions with Peter after the jump.]


Tilda Swinton make up

Tilda Swinton photographed by Dave Piper

 “I loved this challenge.  I want to raise awareness of these films, and if anybody seeks them out that would be rocking.”

In March 2014, Tilda Swinton, who won the 2007 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her stunning performance in Michael Clayton, shared 8 of her favorite underrated films with Entertainment Weekly. The resulting list provided an all to rare highbrowish moment for the snarky, disaffected, and increasingly millenial-toned magazine, and a welcome respite from its slavish sucking up to studio tentpoles,  franchises, and CGD crap. (“franchise” and “tentpole” are two marketing words that I despise in relation to film—and I bet Tilda does too).

Here is her list along with her comments.


1.  Peter Ibbetson (1935), Directed by Henry Hathaway

“A fetish film for surrealists with the great Gary Cooper.  It’s a love story of two children who get parted, meet as adults, get parted again, and then meet in dreams.”

2.  A Canterbury Tale (1949), Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

“It’s about England and pride in national history and is almost a piece of propaganda but the most poetic and elegant propaganda you could imagine.”

3.  Twenty-Four Eyes, (1954), Directe by Keisuke Kinoshita

“A young primary school teacher on a small island off Japan.  Some of her boys grow up and go away to the war.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.”

4.  Britannia Hospital, (1983), Directed by Lindsay Anderson

“A satire about the National Health Service.  It’s sick, sick, sick funny and super political.  Lindsay Anderson is a great master of English filmmaking.”

5.  Ginger and Fred, (1986), Directed by Federico Fellini

“It’s about Ginger and Fred impersonators who are invited to a TV studio to take part in some terrible variety shows.  When I first saw it I thought it was the most extreme satire.  Now it [seems like] a documentary.”

6.  Barking Dogs Never Bite, (2000), Directed by Bong Joon-Ho

“The first film by my friend whom I’m proud to say I’m doing a film with [Snowpiercer].  It’s a pretty black comedy about eating dogs in Korea.”

7.  Idiocracy, (2006), Directed by Mike Judge

“God it’s so good.  The performances are fantastic, and it’s incredibly witty, and look out for the President of the United States is all I can say.”

8.  Gentleman Broncos, (2009), Directed by Jared Hess

“By the Napoleon Dynamite director.  It’s kind of insane.  It’s about a writer whose work is plagiarized, and it’s really, really, silly.  Just go and find it.”

Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton:


You may also enjoy:

John Waters 10 Favorite Overlooked Movies

On Peter Bogdanovich—Plus His List of the Top American Films of 1939

William Wyler’s 10 Greatest Films of All Time

Laurel Canyon Vintage, Deidre Schoo

Photo by Deidre Schoo

Laurel Canyon Vintage was a clothing store dedicated to the music, spirit, and style of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The unisex shop celebrated the sense of community and connection that existed briefly in the Los Angeles community that still bears its name. Located at 63 Thompson Street in New York’s Soho, my dear friend Elisa Casas had operated a vintage clothing store called Chelsea Girl at that address for many years.  When she moved to another space around the corner, she generously gave me the change to conceptualize and execute Laurel Canyon; or, to put it in the words of writer Cintra Wilson in a 2009 New York Times Critical Shopper piece on the store, “Mr. Munk went on an ecstatic design bender.”  Guilty as charged.

Laurel Canyon 1970s

 “Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you…”

From the start, I knew exactly what I wanted to do because I had been dreaming of a boutique of this sort for years and there was nothing like it in New York.  We specialized in cowboy boots, denim, vintage belts, dresses, blouses, and period furnishings. I was lucky to find an able side-kick in musician Sam Ford who was an expert in all of these things as well as the biggest Neil Young fan I ever met.  I learned a great deal from him, including everything I needed to know about boots in order to buy and sell them with confidence (he was also an invaluable barometer as to the taste and buying habits of straight men; should it have come as a surprise to learn they are, sartorially speaking, far more restrained than I am?)

Laurel Canyon 1960s

Laurel Canyon was borne of passion and, to some extent, creative necessity. After the record industry collapsed in the mid aughts and I found work scarce, I pounced on the creation of the store with the same passion I used to feel making records and managing songwriters.  A natural extension of my interests in vintage clothing and design, as well as an abiding, lifelong passion for the California pop music scene, making the store was even better than making records because I had more control over the creative process; there was no committee, just me and Elisa.

[More photos and the rest of the Laurel Canyon boutique's story after the jump]