Monday, March 28, 2011

Films That I Love #1-->ZARDOZ

John Boorman's wildly entertaining 1974 dystopian tale begins with this line, "The gun is good, the penis is evil...go forth and Kill!"

Zardoz is set in a future where a population of elites are immortal, and the rest of Humanity have been made into beasts of burden, within this outer world there is a "privileged" subset called the Exterminators who lord over the rest, and cull the population by murder. Sean Connery is one of the Exterminators, and once he gains entrance into the world of the immortals (the Vortex) he begins to unravel their dreary existence of conformity and sterilty (they have even give up reproducing) the fit and furry Connery naturally exudes testosterone, and he is perfect as the animalistic, sexy "monster" Zed (representing the "natural world", and it's vitality.) 

I saw this Movie in '74 when it came out, and have loved it since. Cable had it on the other night, and I was happy to note that I still find it a fine movie, and I am even more impressed by it's themes--as an atheist I certainly responded to it's thesis of religion (Zardoz is a giant flying stone God head) being used to manipulate  human-beings against their best interest, (Boorman was educated in Catholic School, BTW, a fact that I find not insignificant) not to mention the way Boorman portrayed a future society where no one dies (dreary, and limp, with little difference between genders--all women are slim and small busted, all men have been stripped of masculinity, it has also become a society where "crimes" (usually someone bucking conformity, & the pervasive groupthink) are punished harshly (at least by this societal standard) by aging, which was a timely theme in the '70's youthquake atmosphere, but remains just as significant today as youth remains fetishistized. 

Despite eternal youth, what the Immortals really desire is sweet, sweet death (which Zed is happy to provide), and I like what Boorman suggests about the enervating effects of a deathless eternal youth. Add to all this the secret of what "Zardoz" means---which turns out to be a camp hoot, and yes, I find the film deliciously amusing.

In the end, a natural life force, with it's implicit vitality giving parameters of birth and death (not to mention more traditional standards of gender), is restored by the once savage Zed who manages to give one of the former immortals a proper humping that results in a natural born child.  (Cue the pretentious drivel of a student critic, and quote Jean Jacques Rousseau?---nah!) 

Someone made a genius 10 min breakdown of the movie:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Top 10 Concerts

Of course I saw many memorable concerts in my gig going days, including odd, but enchanting experiences like seeing a purely by chance concert with the somewhat obscure '70's band Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks when my sister and I chanced upon a Country Fair on a trip through Topanga Canyon one day; Led Zeppelin, The Jam, Blondie, Patti Smith, etc., we saw many of the most significant bands of the era, But the gigs that remain encased in the amber of my memory are as follows, presented in approx chronological order:

1. David Bowie, The Long Beach Arena, March 10 '73

This concert was March '73, and was a continuation of the Ziggy Stardust tour begun in late '72. The gig was memorable because it was my first big concert, I was 17 at the time, and I wrote about it in my high school newspaper,

"the evening started with a fantastic light show...Bowie then came out wearing a gleaming (space age) outfit that tore away to reveal a slinky white pants suit, in this guise he belted out "Hang on to Yourself", and "Ziggy Stardust." ...Highlights of the evening include the ...eerie..."My Death" (the Jacques Brel tune) two stunning encore numbers, "Jean Genie" an outstanding rocker...and the hauntingly beautiful "Rock n Roll Suicide."

David Bowie is one of the great geniuses in popular music, IMO, and Bowie's distinguished 4 decade long catalog has only solidified my opinion of his genius.

2.. Iggy and the Stooges, Whiskey, '73

The Stooges played 5 nights at the Whiskey in June/73, (they also came back in Sept. for another 5 nights) on the strength of Raw Power, my sister and I went the first night, and suffice to say that I thought that the Stooges were incredible enough that I made sure that Joan and I went each night they played. I found this clip, sound only, for the 6/16/73 Whisky show,

3. The New York Dolls, Whiskey '73

Loud, sloppy, and fantastic--I loved the Dolls. The way they dressed knocked my socks off, sure Bowie had worn women's clothing, but had he ever worn 4" spike heeled drag queen sized pumps onstage like David Johansen? I loved the way that Syl posed right at the edge of the stage, and, the way David spoke at the beginning of a song, "When I say I'm in Love, you better believe I'm in love, L.U.V!" Some music you love from your teenage years can sound terribly dated decades later, but not The Dolls, if anything, I love their tunes even more now. A clip of the Dolls doing "Vietnamese Baby" at one of the Whiskey gigs has been found--my sister and I can be seen bobbing to the music on the left side of the clip in front of Syl,

4. Slade The Hollywood Palladium '74

Clearly Working class, and traditionally masculine despite the clownish glam outfits, Slade were certainly not elegant like Bowie, or Bryan Ferry, their music was aggressively heavy in a way that seemed out of step with the popular glam bands of the time, apparently Noddy Holder and Co. had been part of a late 60's skin head scene (I have no idea if this incarnation was Nationalistic or whatever, but there are photos of the boys with shaved heads circa 1969 out there) Slade was a natural precursor to punk, not to mention that they kicked ass in concert.

5. Roxy Music, The Hollywood Palladium '74

I loved Roxy Music although in a way they are an outlier band for me--I sort of hate some of the more effete glam bands from the era like Sparks for example. Anyway, Roxy Music were great, they were wearing Khaki military uniforms as I recall, all the kids from Rodney's were there too. Already wheezing, in a year or so, with Rodney's closed, and Bowie moving on to funk and other musical influences, the glam scene would breathe it's last...

6.. The Damned the Starwood April '77

The Damned were the first exposure that LA had to British Punk in the flesh, and this concert and their first album remain in my top favorite punk efforts ever! From the gig I remember Capt Sensible in the buff with all of his pink bits hanging out, and Jake Riviera ranting onstage that all Americans were too fat! Musically I thought that the band sounded tight, and since I had practically worn the grooves off of Damned Damned Damned I knew their tunes, so all and all the gig was extremely rewarding, and cemented my taste for punk.

7. The Weirdos, The Starwood '77

The Weirdos always struck me as a tight band with great songs, when I saw them Nicky had already joined as drummer. I wrote about those first gigs for "/ The Fanzine fo the Blank Generation";

"The Weirdos are simply the best thing to emerge from the dull LA scene since the Stooges lived and worked here...Visually The Weirdos play it straight New Wave replete with Johnny Rotten hairdos, & plastic and paint splattered clothes...the most distinct member of the group is...John Denny who is a study in dementia. Denny's performance can only be likened to a controlled nervous breakdown..."

8. The Ramones, The Whiskey, '77

I remember a hot sweaty night on the small dance floor in front of the stage when The Ramones played The Whiskey, the audience moved as one in wild enthusiasm. The band was tight, the tunes fast---as I later wrote to a pen pal, "The Ramones are the Coolest live."

9. Elvis Costello at Hollywood High, June, 1978

EC was already on his way to becoming a commercially successful rock artist, so even then this unlikely booking was a treat. As I recall my friend James, who had gone to Hollywood High, procured the tickets for the lot of us. Costello was skinny, and wearing a natty suit for the occasion. All of the Hollywood Punks were in attendance, so the gig was a big social scene. Costello and band sounded great of course, one of my strong memories is getting a drink in the Lobby, & chatting with James while "Pump it Up" throbbed in the background.

10. The Weirdos, Variety Arts Center, Los Angeles, 1988

The perfect book-end to my best concert going experiences--over a decade after first seeing the Weirdos I went to see them one more time. The thing with me is that, right or wrong, I prefer not to see bands once they start getting older, I tend to think that once bands get to the "reunion tour" stage that they really aren't the same band if you know what I mean. At any rate, we, I went with my friend Meredith, and my companion--we were all in our 30's when we went to this show, and so were the band--but the Weirdos still sounded great, and the tunes held up. Rhino 39 and The Dead Boys played this gig too, but weren't memorable to me. Rather hilariously, to me and my companion, is that as staid adults, we had elected to take in the concert from the balcony, but Meredith, rather bravely since the pit had long since become comprised of mostly males playing it rough, made straight for the mosh pit, and we didn't see her again until the end of the thing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In My Beginning there was..Rodney's...More Tales of '70's Hollywood

In 1972 my sister Joan overhead a girl talking about Rodney's in class, that classmate was 15 year Lynn Kornsacher (sic?) who later become known as "Queenie", and along with Sabel Star and Lori Mattox, would be one of the original Rodney's groupies. We were as to why...nearly 40 years later, I struggle to understand since we had been up to then intensely interested in surfing, surf music, and, of course, surfers, LOL. I loved John Mayall, and the Allman Brothers, and in fact, along with a couple of High School pals, had been trying to put a band together that would play traditional Blues ala Muddy Waters with me doing my best imitation of Big Mama Thornton (it didn't help that all my friends wanted to do at "rehearsal" was chug Jack Daniels, but I digress). So now, I am like WTF? But...

I think that I always felt at odds with what was considered the "norm", I wasn't interested in typical High School life with its, to me, deadly dull football games, typical vapid teen-age speak, and the jockeying for position with other girls to score points with the BMOC. Surfing was an ironic sub-culture at my dusty San Fernando Valley High School which was an hour's drive away from any beach, but I gravitated toward the scene even though at that time, Surfers, almost all guys, didn't respect women, nor beyond the obvious--sex, were they interested in what a woman had to say--clearly a fatal flaw for a girl who even then was highly opinionated, not to mention that I didn't in the least resemble the prototypical surfer chick.

I do believe that I was typical of the kids that later became the Hollywood Punks, in that I was yearning for something to fill a void left by my High School experience, and like almost all the punks, I was a bright kid, but academically lazy, and unchallenged by the standardized curricula at my school. On the other hand, books & movies did shape my intellectual, and cultural, development, I loved all the British Kitchen Sink flicks that played on late night TV in LA, and then the wild 60's run of movies like "Morgan" (later, when my friend Meredith and I spotted David Warner late one night in a Hollywood 7-11 we dissolved into giggly fan girls so enamoured of that movie were we), Blow-up, Privilege, and the ultimate film for me, "IF..." and its subversive condemnation of the hypocritical English Public School system with it's rigid adherence to centuries old ideas of duty, honor, and what it defined as the "norm".

Always A heavy reader, I count Sylvia Plath, D.H. Lawrence, Anais Nin, F.Scott Fitzgerald, & Raymond Chandler as favorites. My taste in music was as varied as it was for most of my generation, The Beatles of course, and the whole of the British Invasion, later Cream, Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, then The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Dick Dale--all the surf guys, most of whose music was used in the films like The Endless Summer, and Five Summer Stories, films that played on Friday nights in my San Fernando Valley High School's Gym. I also read all the music mags such as Creem, Circus, and my favorite, Rock Scene.

By 1973 I was getting tired of Surf music, and was veering more toward heavy metal, and the new bands I was reading about in Creem, etc. My formal intro into British Glam rock was seeing David Bowie's '73 Ziggy Stardust Tour when he played the Long Beach Arena--I won't lie, it freaked me out, I went dressed in black velvet with a smear of white face makeup, and a bit of stardust in my hair, but I wasn't really sure about this glitter stuff, Bowie and his Band looked as alien to me as the painted and be-feathered Native Americans must have looked to the first explorers who landed in North America--by the end of the concert I had wiped off the face make-up, and brushed off the stardust--at that moment I felt that I had fallen into the bizarro world of "Carnival of Souls" (another favorite late night flick.) My sister loved glam however, so much so that she, at 16 years old boarded a Grey-Hound bus bound for NYC, the center of the Universe for us at that time (influenced highly by watching Lance Loud and his beautiful friend, Kristian Hoffman, move there in "An American Family"--the PBS series that we watched religiously when it aired in 1973. From there we got into Warhol, his Factory people, and his superstars, the glamorous Females, and she-males who dazzled me--I have never lost interest in that scene even decades later.) Fortunately, NYC Port Authority? officers picked Joan up at the bus station, and shipped her back to CA toot suite. In any event I snapped out of my apprehension regarding Bowie soon enough, and wrote a rave review of the concert for the April '73 edition of my High School newspaper, The Source, not to mention chopping off my hair into a rooster 'do replete with cock's comb, and silver streaks, a move that clearly did not endear me to some of the pod people that I went to school with--I learned a couple of years later after graduating (also known as the happiest day in my life) out of that shit-hole that they privately called me, and my sister "The Monsters" & I would like to say a belated fuck-you to all of them.

One of the perks of living in LA in the early 70's was being able to go to tapings of the Rock shows on TV  including The Midnight Special, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, and In Concert--it was at these tapings that we were able to see T.Rex, & The New York Dolls for free (we also saw acts like the great James Brown, along with unknown quantities of hideous acts popular then including the ubiquitous hybrid metal-hill-billy band, Black Oak Arkansas who endlessly performed their one big hit, the annoying "Jim Dandy to the Rescue" both as an opening act for groups like Slade, and at these tapings) It was also at these tapings that we would run into the ultimate fan boy, the late Kevin Dubrow later lead singer of the Slade rip-off band, Quiet Riot--who, along with his friends, acted as moistly worshipful of their rock gods as any teenage girl with aspirations to groupiedom, hovering around the stage holding out hand-made T-Shirts for their band heroes to sign (but enough of that, I'm tempted to go on a rant about how bands treated their male fans, as opposed to their female fans who weren't groupies in those days, but I will refrain.) And of course, since I was collecting records, and reading all the mags, and fanzines too, we saw Iggy & the Stooges for 5 nights, and the New York Dolls, who I also believe played multiple nights, at the Whiskey in the Summer/Fall of '73.

Anyway, Despite hearing about how great Rodney's was, and being primed to make the scene by knowing at least some of the music, and perusing STAR magazine--we knew about the groupie thing--It was only after a few passes by the club with its crowds of sparkling denizens crowding the door, and sitting on the concrete barriers of the parking lot next door, that Joan and I finally mustered up the courage to actually go into Rodney's, but after we did we became hooked. To say that I was an innocent rube to the varieties of sexual orientation is an understatement, and I was agog at the boys dressed partially in female garb, & the boys who did not look like boys dressed entirely in female drag, not to mention the knowing little girls dressed in tiny lame shorts looking for the sort of "trouble" that still remained vague to me--as for what "gay" meant I was hardly aware, but would soon become enlightened.

We kept mostly to ourselves at first, but it wasn't until we met the outgoing Pearl Harbour, then called Lori Duple, in March of '74 at an assembly held at North Hollywood High, that our solitariness changed as she met people in the club and we overcame our shyness; soon we had a posse, Jamie, Meredith, Pearl, Joan and I traveled as a unit, we also had "satellite" members such Casey Duke, "Krazy" Keith Gouverneur, and Michael Sanchez. I'd never drank much or taken drugs, but that changed too--before going into Rodney's, we would park on a darkened residential street near the club and drink cans of "Green Death", Rainer Ale by its proper name, it smelt just like cat piss, but it got us blind drunk. One side effect of being a roving pack of thoroughly soused teenagers was that it fixed Rodney's eye firmly upon us, and he didn't like what he saw, but to his credit, he never 86'd us even when he thought for some reason that I had stolen records from the DJ booth, or when Jamie dropped a giant bottle of jug wine at the front door sending a flood of cheap wine, and glass which, in an unhappy coincidence, happened to wash over Rodney standing there in his fancy satin suit, my sister, upon hearing bystanders murmur in shock, "what is wrong with him", let loose with one of her dry bon mots, "Maybe he's having a seizure".

Beyond attracting the young and fabulous, some of whom, like regular Dennis Crosby, grandson of Bing, and various child Stars, Shaun Cassidy, Stefan Arngrim, among others, had tenuous ties with "Hollywood" (Los Angeles was then, and remains, "a company town"), Rodney's also had its share of peculiar denizens, including the ancient WW2 Vet (hell, the guy could have fought in WW1) who had decided to make Rodney's his neighborhood watering hole--on any given night he'd be enjoying a tipple at the bar--his white hair, and wizened features a stark contrast to the extreme youth of the typical patron. Then there was the guy everyone called "Icky" Danny who seemed really Old to us, but who was probably only around 30 or so, who came in to hit on the really young girls---ugh.

Michael Doll
Rodney's also attracted all sorts of completely out of the mainstream types, people who weren't slumming as weekend freak shows, but the real deal ya know, such as our friend Michael Doll, a tall teenager who worked as a she-male street walker to make ends meet, and who sometimes came to Rodney's in full drag (eventually we met a host of his drag queen friends, most of whom were habitués of the rough and tumble Drag bar, Daniel's off of Hollywood Blvd). Michael somehow managed to meet, and party with the New York Dolls when they played the Whiskey, and he took Pearl with him to their hotel, sadly, when Pearl died nearly a decade ago, she took her memories with her. At any rate, I credit Michael with inspiring my interest in vintage clothing (the selling of which eventually became my vocation) since he collected it, and artfully displayed it, in his tiny Hollywood Apartment--I started wearing vintage, died my hair blue black, began wearing the palest face make-up, and wore Revlon's Blackberry lipstick, a shade the color of arterial blood, this antique Vampire look became my signature, LOL.

That Michael had had a "challenging" childhood was a given--it was made even clearer to me when I met his Mother, a nurse, who had moved her son, daughter, and "nephew"--a small boy of around 7 or 8 (I now have reason to wonder who this kid really was), to Hollywood from Texas some years before. The mother seemed half-cracked to me at the time, but how nuts she was became much clearer a short time later when she murdered a pregnant friend, and cut out her unborn infant to claim as her own--Michael's mother was the notorious 1970's Los Angeles murderess, Norma Armistead, and her crime was the first child snatching by murder that most people had ever heard of--as an aside, Norma once threatened to kill me when I had a cat-fight with her 6 foot--even taller--in platforms, dress wearing, "baby boy." I still get shivers when I think about it.

Although there has been much talk about the famous rockers who visited Rodney's I never saw any really famous, as in commercially successful, musicians there that I recall at least, unless you count Bowie clone Jobriath, or those guys from "The Babys" (whose singer, John Waite went on to greater fame in the '80's with his single, "Missing You"), although god knows that there were legit rock gods aplenty for sighting in other locations nearby like the Hyatt House further west on Sunset where we spotted Jeff Beck going into the Lobby one night, and Mick Jagger hop out of a limo on another--the closest my friends and I got to any crazy British rockers was a ride in Led Zeppelin's tour bus (our friend Casey Duke somehow knew their Road Manager and scored us a ride down Sunset) We did know Iggy Pop, as I wrote in a previous blog, and I have enough colorful stories on him alone to wax nostalgic about rubbing elbows with the famous. One such occasion was the night of his notorious in-drag "performance" at Rodney's after which he needed a ride home along with his date, a rather tall and skinny drag queen--Iggy was wearing, as I recall it, a length of colorful fabric tied around his waist sarong style, and as the lot of us walked to my car, Iggy lagging due to being fucked up off his ass, not to mention smooching with the "bootie call" now and again, the "skirt" slipped revealing an impressively large, especially for such a small man, and very stiff unit--hoo-boy, if I hadn't felt like Alice down the rabbit hole before...

Down the street from Rodney's was our after-hours hang-out, a hip joint called "Denny's" (yep, that Denny's); the coffee shop would be full of young freaks after Rodney's closed, and it was at Denny's that another amusing Iggy story takes place. As my friend Meredith recalls, "Iggy (got) down on his knees in the middle of an aisle...blocking the progress of a long-suffering and very waspish old waitress named Louise while singing to her...wild thing, you make my dick sing." Oh Iggy, it is incredible that he survived the insanity of those years.

Come to think of it, I sometimes marvel at how any of us survived them; there was the time when, drunk as usual, I took a nasty fall during a party at Tom Ayres' (Rodney's partner in the Club) snug California Craftsman style house down the block from the club where a few of us had congregated after hours to hang out. I hit my head on the bath tub, and my sister, who had no driver's license, and barely knew how to drive,  drove me drunk, flailing, and bleeding profusely from the head to the UCLA Medical center where she unceremoniously rolled me out of the car at the emergency entrance and tore off (since I had repeatedly tried to leap from the car, with only my friend Jamie restraining me from doing so, Joan had had enough, and I don't blame her). The next morning, stitched up, shoeless, all in black, and blinking like a Vampire caught in the merciless California sun I attempted to hitch a ride back to Ayres house--I wasn't having much luck (who could blame the drivers whizzing by on Sunset only to see this dead white freak, barefoot and in all black, with a hugely bandaged head, with her thumb out?) At any rate, I was standing by a bus stop where numerous young Mexican House Maids were waiting to board the bus home to East LA after wiping the asses (figuratively speaking of course) of their tanned and toned Masters who lived in the jaw-droppingly huge Mansions in the area with roof-tops barely glimpsed in the forest of trees, and tall iron gates that surrounded them. A group of these women, none of whom spoke English, saw me, and pooled their change so that I could get on the bus, and for that I am eternally grateful--thank you ladies!

On another occasion, my friend Pearl, and another friend, Kat, a young runaway from Oklahoma working as a hooker, had hitched a ride from some guy who threatened to rape, and do other damage to them, the guy let Pearl go after Kat calmly told him that she "would take care of it." Still, Pearl came rushing into Rodney's screaming that Kat was about to be murdered and worse--to which the glittery Rodney's D.J, Chucky Starr calmly replied, "Oh well, just another Hollywood Story!" and went back to spinning Mudd, or whatever--hell yeah we were cynical already, but our brains must really been pickled to even consider hitch-hiking in Los Angeles during the period of spectacular, and brutal murders endemic in the 1970's--the culmination of which was the murder, by The Hillside Strangler, of Hollywood scenester, Jane King, whom I, and a couple of my friends, worked beside as extras in "Up In Smoke," a mere 3 years later.

To be truthful, nearly 40 years later, I tend to down play my Rodney's experiences so vivid are the memories of punk in my life, but meditating on the experience in preparation for this blog brings the importance of Rodney's to my cultural development, not to mention it's importance to the Los Angeles music scene, into sharp relief. It was also because of Rodney's that I was exposed to great music that I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise, and as a consequence, I saw many great bands live: Roxy Music, and Slade at the Hollywood Palladium, The Stooges and The Dolls at the Whiskey, David Bowie on both his Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs tours, The Sweet, Rod Stewart with The Faces before he became a hack willing to cash in on the Disco craze, and many more lost in the fog of my personal History. I know that I became an infinitely more open-minded because I made so many gay friends, so many unconventional friends, at Rodney's--I like to think that I became a kinder, and more open minded person precisely because I ended up rejecting the societal "norm", the Club, and the Hollywood experience helped me realize that "normal" is a subjective term used frequently to batter and shame those who are unique. Anyway, I wrote the following which was published as part of Rock Scene's "Rock Back" Column:
My memory takes me back to 1972 when named Rodney Bingenheimer opened his now famous English Disco. In those days we wore glitter to cover our acne..and  6 inch platforms to elevate our juvenile height. It was at Rodney's that we first rocked out to the electric vibrations of Sweet, Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, and the reigning King himself--David Bowie. It was at Rodney's that we popped our first Quaalude, and met our first popstar...It was at Rodney's where we, the generation of glitter babes, found a place where we belonged....Rodney's RIP"--Rock Scene, March 1976.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Love Letter to The Masque--33+ years later

If eating sustains life biologically, storytelling sustains it culturally; a story gives a person a second, fourth, fifth life.--M.F.K. Fisher

Nearly 34 years later, it still amazes me that the original LA punks, without social media or even cell phones, found one another. But to begin with, by the mid 70's rock music had become bloated, and corporatized, and Disco, country rock, and Prog Rock had reared their hideous heads. Bored LA kids started hearing about the scenes in NYC and London and it peeked our interest. I was amazed and intrigued by the photos of The Sex Pistols that I saw in Rock Scene, and other music magazines, but I had no venue in which to hear the music until KROQ gave Rodney Bingenheimer a show and he started spinning records from the NYC and UK scenes, and other places too, including the remarkable "Stranded" by The Saints--these kids who were working in isolation in remote Australia. Oddly enough, I had been in London in August of '76, but other than reading a piece on the SEX shop in Harper's and Queen's magazine, I had little inkling of the youthquake then happening there. But actually hearing the music--it spoke to me, and touched something primal.

Punk bands started coming West in early '77: Blondie and the Ramones in February, then in April the Damned played the Starwood, usually there was not much to do after the concerts, although there were private parties of course, Dee Dee and Joey Ramone showed up après their  Whiskey gig at Belinda, and Lorna's apartment off Sunset, and stood around silent and oddly watchful as these newly hatched baby punks drunkenly swirled around them; the Tropicana was party central for a while with lively gatherings of the tribe celebrating Blondie, and The Mumps among others, but the cops soon broke up such gatherings, and that is why the Masque was so important to us--being underground meant that the bands could play loud, and that punks could drink and make mischief in relative comfort without the cops coming around--at least at first.

To begin with, Hollywood Blvd in 1977 was clearly in decline; dirty, populated by hustlers, drag queens, prostitutes, and junkies, it was not the sort of place that nice middle-class suburban young people should have been hanging out in, but of course, I loved it. For one thing, there was the insta-photo booth which I and my friends frequently repaired to after a night of drinking at either Rodney's (till it closed), or, The Rainbow, which was a pathetic excuse of a club IMO--it was a place were celebrities such as Gene Simmons (in full KISS make-up once!) flexed their considerable egos at pliant young women--ugh. Then, in the afternoon (being Los Angeles, this could be any time of the year), as the heat thickly shimmered off the Hollywood Hills and the sidewalks sizzled, we would go to The World Theater which sat at the far east end of Hollywood Blvd proper--in air-conditioned splendor, an afternoon of soft core porn could be had for $1.25--another plus was the interactive audience which was mostly black, and the comments they made back to the screen were hilarious.

It was in this atmosphere of lost souls, and relentless grime, that The Masque surprisingly came to life in the Summer of '77. I have wracked my brain trying to remember who took us into the Masque one afternoon before it opened as a club, but I cannot recall who (it might have been Nickey Beat, but whoever, I am thinking that it was someone Joan and I met at one of the afternoon rock shows that played the Whiskey at the time.) Anyway, we descended into the bowels of this old building, the entrance to the basement being set off from a narrow alley that was bordered by N Cherokee, on one side, and a block and half away lie a "residential" area, Selma Ave, where squat, run down California Bungalows shared street space with desperate young rent boys (Cue the Jobriath tune, "Street Corner Love" which paid homage to Selma, and the trade plied there.)

Down a steep concrete staircase lie a rabbit warren of small rooms to one side, the rehearsal spaces, and one central larger space where the bands would play, adjacent to that was another largish room that had a staircase to nowhere with a cement ceiling at one end, and along the sides were these arched semi private "chambers" where some dirty deeds were done no doubt. Every sub-culture has its physical epicenter; think of The Cavern, CBGB's, The Hacienda, The Roxy, The Mabuhay Gardens--The Masque was our meeting ground, it was the place where our tribe confabbed, and unlike those other places, The Masque was more like a private hang out rather than an actual functioning business enterprise. Most of us had already met in other venues, and we had organically come together with the surprise of recognition--"here is my kind". Of course, all the important local, and San Francisco bands played there, but frankly, most of all, it was the scene that mattered. On any given night, to the beat of our own frantic sound-track, people would fuck or fight, kids would dance and get high; in retrospect, the "drugs" of choice were so innocent initially, alcohol, speed, quaaludes primarily, the deaths had not started yet--tragedy was waiting patiently bidding his time.

This is not to suggest that there was not any assholishness, there was plenty of that--"hippies" (any guy with long hair) were not made welcome, eventually a sign went up next to the front door which read something like, "Admission: normal people, $2.50, hippies, $5.00, and Nicky Beat FREE." I remember the constant teasing of a girl who looked like a refuge from Gazzaris--the "right look" was de rigueur, those who refused to conform (ironically) paid the price. Suffice to say, the original 50 or so Hollywood Punks had usually been the outsider, the freak, the outlier at their high school, and suddenly they became the popular kids--it was a super-power with a potential to be cruel that was hard to resist, and most of us did not. That said, usually we came together, and had FUN.

As I've said, plenty of live punk music was to be had before The Masque (a journal I kept at the time shows that Fall '77 through Winter '78 had weekend after weekend of great shows at the Whiskey and Starwood, not to mention the various SLASH benefits), so it was the social scene at the club that was most important to me, although I saw many a memorable gig, and the thin divide between musician, and fan was never so obvious as when standing nearly eye level with the band who were propped up on a short stage. This inherent egalitarianism was proven when "famous" punks like Steve Jones and Paul Cook showed up at the Masque, they lounged around, unmolested by "fans", like the rest of us.

Presiding over the madness, was Brendan Mullen (it seemed to me that he was usually hanging out in his office near the front steps.) I did not get to know Brendan very well, but my friends and I once spent hours with him at an emergency room after a junk-yard dog down the alley gave him a severe bite one night--I think that in a drunken stupor he tried to pet the beast, which as I recall was snarling and lunging at the cage in which it was kept.

Other times the action inside almost had a Marx Brothers comedy aspect to it, I recollect an evening when my close friend Pearl Harbour kept drunkenly harassing our mutual friend Meredith, now Meredith by nature is not a violent chick, but enough was enough, and she cold cocked Pearl so hard that she flew against a wall and sunk to the floor in slo-mo while various punks started applauding. A lot of the action of the night would spill out into the street as people escaped from the fetid atmosphere of the basement, and hung out in the alley and parking lot with a can of beer in their hand. After a while, the cops took notice, and responded by raiding the joint, and attempting to clear the streets; thus, I spent New Year's Eve 1977 in an empty walk-in dumpster behind The Masque splitting a bottle of cheap pink champagne with Meredith, Claude Bessy, and Phast Phreddie rather than clear off as the Po-Po would have us do--snug in our malodorant capsule we could hear the cops hassling kids, and chasing people off, so staying put in that dumpster and continuing our New Year's celebration was a flip of a finger to LA's finest.

Of course with no real money behind it, and without the proper permits and licenses, The Masque was destined to live fast, die young, and leave a well mourned corpse. The last Masque function I went to was in February '78 when 20 odd bands played the Elk's Lodge down town across the street from MacArthur Park. Obviously this venue later became the scene of a punk riot provoked by an over-zealous LAPD, but at the time, punks were just coming into sharp focus on the cop's radar. To be honest, I had seen most of the bands featured, X, The Weirdos, The Dickies, etc. dozens of times by then, and each band had a limited time to play anyway, which led me to note, in my last edition of Generation X, that, "The big problem with the Masque benefit was too many bands in too short of time, consequently, a good portion of the audience spent more time getting drunk then passing out on the huge staircase that led up to the Concert Hall than listening to the bands."

Part of the problem as I see it was that large scale "official" concerts lacked the intimacy of the crumbling graffitied basement we had made our home, but then, of course, by the time of the Elk's Lodge gig punk would naturally have growth pains, and in the way of the World, change was coming. As for the Cops, the coming crack down was presaged for me when a few punks-- Rod Donahue, Robert Lopez, Joel, this quiet kid with sad crazy eyes whose last name I do not recall, Meredith and I went across the street to drink at a picnic table in the huge old park, a once Grande Dame fallen into a decrepit seediness--we were only there for a few minutes when PD came up and started hassling us, and insisted on taking only the boy's photos, and looking at their IDs, in case they "needed to identify the bodies." Assholes. Not long after this, I stepped away from punk for various reasons and decades passed as they always sadly do....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Adventures in Iggyland--

My sister and I got into the Stooges after we learned of David Bowie's interest in them. I bought Raw Power, then the first Stooges album, then Funhouse. When it was announced that the Stooges would play 5 nights at the Whiskey in June '73, I sold some records and other possessions so that we could go every night. Needless to say the shows were insane--Iggy ran onstage half naked in knee high black leather boots, and glittery blue briefs with a fringed scarf tied around his narrow hips, whether the band slammed into the opening cords of "Raw Power" straight away or not I don't recall--but whoosh, we were off! Iggy was the first stage diver, he leapt into the audience nightly and let the fans man-handle him; male/female it didn't matter, inevitably someone would stick their tongue down his throat, or cop a lusty feel. The gig was electrifying, and it changed my life--I dived wholeheartedly into freakdom and didn't look back.

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, the group was disintegrating, and Iggy moved into a small dingy apartment in the Hollywood flats, and started hanging out at Rodney's which is where my sister and I met him in 1974. I remember running up to him and asserting that "Not Right" was written about ME (LOL), to which Iggy replied with a bit of a smirk, "I thought that I wrote it about myself."

The first thing I noticed about Iggy was that he wasn't kidding when he wrote 5'1, the second thing was that he wasn't an asshole--he was nice to his fans--even giggly 17 and 18 year olds. At any rate, Iggy did not have a car, so I drove him home when he needed a ride, in turn, he used to buy booze for us, since he was in his mid-20's and I and my gang were all minors. At the time I drove a mid-60's American made station wagon, and Iggy would invariably claim that he would ride "shot-gun," so off we went--my gang, and the Ig. Sometimes Iggy had an, er, "friend" go home with him, frequently of the "she-male" variety, however, as we had already been hanging around with a drag-queen, a Rodney's habitué named Michael Doll, and had met some of his friends, Miss BJ, Leilani, to name 2, we were like, whatever. I also met James Williamson at the time, and he was a nice guy--I once bought him dinner at Ben Franklin's on Sunset since The Stooges had no money, and he was hungry--I wish that I could remember our conversation, but alas, I can not (we did however, have a lively conversation about Keith Richard's relative merits as a guitar player in the bar of The Rainbow a little later...).

Around this time I rented an apartment in Hollywood--a one room bachelor pad with a stained Murphy bed in a rundown part of town--East of Highland above Hollywood Blvd, that cost $105.a month. I was 18, my sister 17, and we were ready to party. Iggy showed up one day; at the time he was completely, and seemingly, hopelessly addicted to heroin. The following was written about 3 years after the fact, and published in the June '77 SLASH magazine as a letter (sadly I wish that I had kept a copy of the original manuscript since Slash cut stuff out.):

"There has been a lot of criticism recently of Iggy's performance at the Civic (note: Iggy played The Santa Monica Civic as a solo artist in '77, and he had been working with David Bowie rather intensely at this time which did change the sort of music he wrote--it became slicker as it veered away from the raw power of The Stooges)...The critics are probably right. No band, no performer can ever live up to the spectacle--the sheer energy, the guttural violence of the Stooges '73/'74 tours...I'd never been close to such anger expressed in raw musical terms before, or since...It was like something black and rotten had exploded inside Pop's brain, and we, the audience, just happened to see the explosion.

...I finally met Iggy in the summer of '74. My roommates brought him home one morning...he looked awful...his formerly silver hair had been cropped short, and was haphazardly dyed red. He was fucked up (I later learned that he had made a stop at his dealer's before coming over). I turned on my tape recorder and let him start talking. It was sad. He sang "Crystal Ship" and cried on the part, "the days are bright and filled with pain..." He tried to piss in one of our ashtrays, but the piss wouldn't come...he passed out before he could make it to the front door. Later he was busted on Hollywood Blvd, he was on his way to a recording session (note: he was walking down the street with Pearl, my sister, and a friend of ours from Rodney's, a prostitute named Kat. He was obviously intoxicated and drew the attention of the cops--he did instruct the girls to call Danny Sugerman before the cops drove him away--which they did, and Sugerman bailed him out.)..later he was beaten up at one of Bowie's concerts at The Amphitheater..."

I kept that tape for years until my sister's asshole husband stole it apparently--pity that. I do remember that he kept pointing at our friend James, then known as Jamie, and telling him emphatically to "look at me!", heard in the back-ground was Pearl whimpering "please look at him Jamie!") Iggy also kept telling us to call his dad, James Osterberg Sr. in Michigan.

Soon Iggy's situation improved, and he moved to a better part of town to a nicer place on Sunset Blvd across the street from the Mondrian (then an apartment building where my friend Meredith lived.) One of the last times I saw him, he invited me and Joan up to this apartment to hear some tunes he had been working on--alas, as I noted in my journal, he couldn't find the lyrics, and we never knew which songs they were which provided a bittersweet finish to my dealings with Iggy Pop as he spiraled up toward commercial success, and away from hanging out with Hollywood Club kids

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Night I kicked Madame X's Ass--a tale from Punk Rock LA

The story begins at The Starwood Damned concert in April '77, my friends and I were backstage when my friend Natasha spotted an apparently abandoned tape cartridge on a sofa & grabbed it--now to be fair, I damn well knew whose it was, and roughly what the content was--it was the infamous Farrah Fawcett-Minor of "she had to leave...LOS ANGELES!" fame, who was chatting up Capt Sensible and recording the chat--and, although I didn't know her by name then, I did see her recording their conversation. At any rate, Natasha took the tape, and I didn't stop her--that is my sin in the matter. At the time I was writing for a fanzine, "/ for the Blank Generation," and I borrowed the tape from Natasha, and transcribed part of the chat; in my preface to the "interview" I described Farrah as a Dumb Blonde Groupie, and was generally dismissive of her, hehe. When the piece was published, the shit hit the fan and a prolonged war was on until the day I gave Exene, lead singer of X, a couple of karate chops, and Zandra hit her over the head with her heavy purse!

First of all, the core X people, not Don Bonebrake the drummer I must add, but the others, were prone to trouble, I remember one time at a Dictators gig at the Whiskey sitting at the upstairs bar when a major ruckus broke out, and I looked over and saw The Dictators, their Girlfriends, John Doe, Exene and a couple of other people trading punches--so that is who these people were back then.

Anyway, after the dumb blonde groupie article, I caught this skinny chick with a dirty blonde shag hissing and spitting at me at a SLASH benefit--one of those held at Larchmont Hall I believe, after that Farrah, Exene, and even John Doe to a certain extent, started bothering me, glaring at me, etc--basic High School shit even though all of us were 2-3 years out of High School. Finally at this gig, I was standing near the stage when I felt a drink being poured over my head--I looked around, and the only person I saw was Exene, so I assumed she did it, in retrospect, maybe it wasn't her, nevertheless the time had come for a showdown, words were exchanged, and I snapped, grabbed her by the hair, and did a few karate chops to her neck. etc., Zandra got into the rumble with the aforementioned shoulder-bag.

Amazingly enough, although none of Exene's close cohorts were around, there were a bunch of guys standing there including Claude Bessy, and they let me beat on her for a few minutes, LOL. Later Bessy reported the incident in SLASH (why didn't I keep my Slashes?)

Although Exene is tiny, and I am nearly 5'8, I didn't take her down, but after I left the gig I noticed that I had a hank of her hair caught in my ring. As often happens in such cases of bullying, she and her friends left me and Zandra alone after that...

The article that started it all:

"/ The Fanzine For The Blank Generation" issue #3 May 1977

And Still More Damned

by Jade Zebest

The Damned are fucking amazing! With seemingly unlimited energy, they have copped Iggy's old stance. Search and Destroy? More like Gimme Danger. What are these bad boys like, I asked myself. Being the curious type, I strolled back-stage (at the Starwood, April '77) and set up observation. I am happy to report that the Damned live up to their "I don't give a fuck" image. First, Rat Scabies threw a drink in Runaway Joan Jett's face, then Guitarist Brian James kicked a well known groupie in the ass (this could have been Sable Starr) Finally, they threw everyone out of the dressing room. The Damned ended their engagement in LA by staging a food fight in the ledgendary deli, Cantor's, on Fairfax--Don't you just love it?

The following interview took place between Capt Sensible (CS), and some dumb, blonde groupie (DBG):

DBG: That was fantastic! Your set was really fun.

CS: The whole thing about our group is...I don't know what I mean...maybe the audience misses the point, we are not stars, we are anti-stars. We're just proving that ordinary kids can get out on the stage and do it. We're really not the greatest musicians in the world.

DBG: But you're also real fun.

CS: We play, react differently, to each audience. Like in New York, the audience wasn't that good...well...they were great right, but not as good as here. This is the best audience that we've had in America.

DBG: Is that right?

CS: Oh yeah, they are fantastic. They are standing up. They make noise whether they like you or not. Some cheer, and some boo. In New York, it is polite applause. I hate to be rotten about American people, but they miss the point with us, they don't understand.

DBG: You don't think that I understand?

CS: Probably not.