08/14/2012 05:52 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rock 'N' Roll Pantheon Keeps It Real

The minute my Smart Phone announced that '60s pop music legend Lesley Gore -- the fabulous singer of "It's My Party," Judy's Turn To Cry," "You Don't Own Me" and other classic tales of teenagery -- had entered the Rock 'N' Roll Pantheon, I Tweeted and Facebooked the welcome news to friends and followers.

Seconds later, an eruption of anxiety. I'd never heard of the Pantheon, and I feared that maybe I was passing along information about a figment of some fan's fertile (or delusional!) imagination.

Then, a flood of relief. A friend confirmed that Ms. Gore's induction was conducted by an actual human, and not just any human, but the inimitable music industry vet Bob Merlis, the man who put the "elation" in public relations.

Now comes word that The Turtles featuring Flo and Eddie -- another brilliant '60s act who, like Ms. Gore, haven't (yet) been invited into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- have attained Pantheonicity. The stirring voice of writer Gene "Geno" Sculatti (widely known as "The Sultan of Cool") at the virtual lectern added to my confidence that the RNRP was authentic.

But doubt still gnawed. Let's face it: the age of quantum flux, artificial intelligence, simulated universes and Wikipedia makes it hard to believe in anything except, perhaps, our own ignorance.

Nevertheless, I needed to find out whether the Rock 'N' Roll Pantheon is "for real," whatever that phrase has come to mean.

Here's what I've learned, much of which I believe to be true: "The Panth," as it's known to a small but mighty cadre of devotees, emerged fully-formed from the febrile forehead of music writer Jim Bessman -- in much the same way that Athena sprang from Zeus's forehead. If you don't know about Jim, you should. He's important enough to have inspired the catchphrase, "Bessman -- Because It's Important."

Reaching the peripatetic Bessman at first seemed a quixotic quest I wouldn't have wished on Jann Wenner. But thanks to a new maps/app, I was able to peer into a tiny kitchen in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, where Jim was chugging a monster mugful of rancid black coffee. Perhaps it was the caffeine talking, but the normally phlegmatic scribe was willing to speak passionately -- and extraordinarily rapidly -- about the RNRP.

Bessman -- who refused to reveal the identities of the men, women and 14-year-olds behind the nascent outfit -- began with the basics: "The Rock 'n' Roll Pantheon is a place for deserving rock artists who are not in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

He then fielded my specific questions via a string of negatives. How is membership decided? "There are no discussions, no meetings, no research, no committees, no objective criteria and no votes." What's the business/administrative structure? "There are no offices, no business plan, no budget and no donors." PR and event planning? "There will be no $1,500-a-plate gala award dinners, no trophies, no branding, no interactive website and no jam sessions. And there will be no Pantheon Museum. Not in Cleveland. Not anywhere."

I had no reason to believe Bessman wasn't sincere. And yet, and yet ... I still worried that the Panth was more hall of mirrors than anti-Hall of Fame.

Then the journalist's dream -- independent confirmation from two reliable sources -- fell into my inbox. I saw with my own eyes that Mark Volman (Flo) had texted, "Thanks, Jim. Honored to be in" and Howard Kaylan (Eddie) chimed in with, "Thanks, Jim. You're the best...And the wisest."

So now I can say with certainty that the Rock 'N' Roll Pantheon exists. It exists first and foremost because Bessman decided it did; then he assured its growth by leveraging his e-list, his platform at, his blog and his impressive social network.

Other members of the RNRP include David Johansen and the New York Dolls, the Monkees, Kiss and Joan Jett and the Runaways, the legendary girl group Jett fronted before going solo.

The choice of the transgressive evangelical country thrush Tammy Faye Starlite to usher in Joan and the Runaways was inspired. Starlite is a character created by a sensational singer named Tammy Lang, a former Yeshiva student who, from time to time, also inhabits the persona of '60s Warhol superstar Nico. And here's the beauty part: she plays the role of Joan Jett in the Stay-At-Homes, the Runaway covers band. Really.

Bessman says that initial response to the Panth provides hope that the entity can thrive. Especially encouraging is the fact that, "Not all the comments have been negative."

Friedrich Nietzsche, who has been called the original rock star kept it real when he said, "The world is the will to power -- and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power -- and nothing besides!" Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the story of the Rock 'n' Roll Pantheon, willed into existence by a lone writer armed only with a wing, a prayer and, yes, a Smart Phone.