You just never know what’ll come boomeranging back at you on the internet

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One of the weird things about the internet. I’m always finding weird bits and pieces of my past boomeranging back at me on the internet. Case in point, this photo. Which I recently stumbled upon on the internet.

Back in 1983, me and my punk rock friend, Mary Mayhem, went down to the Berkeley marina to interview the band Black Flag, who were performing at an outdoor punk rock festival…

During the course of interviewing the lead singer Henry Rollins, I started making jokes about how Henry was gay. I was drunk and a bit of a wise-ass back then. And the whole point of Punk Rock was to get a little extreme and push the bounds of “good taste.” So shoot me.

And Henry was going along with the gay jokes. (At least at first, until suddenly he wasn’t going along with the jokes, and got in my face, literally, and threatened to beat my ass). And at one point, while Henry still seemed to be enjoying my sense of humor at his expense, he walked up to the front of the stage, wearing his cute little blue shorts, and he bent over, wiggled his ass, and said, in a come-hither tone: “Come and get it, boys!!”

But the weird thing to me was. 35 years later. Someone had actually captured that exact moment in time and space in a photograph. And posted it on the internet.

Weird.

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Charles M. Schulz

 

 

I don’t know why. But for some reason I was just thinking about the interview I did with Charles Schulz in 1983. The Peanuts guy.

He invited me up to his studio in Santa Rosa to interview him. I guess I’m just wondering why he would invite a nut like me up to his scene. I was 28 years old at the time. And sort of a hippie punk countercultural underground artist weirdo. And Schulz was Mr Mainstream All-America. Hostess Twinkies and Hallmark Greeting cards and “Good grief Charlie Brown” and “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

So it was an odd meeting of the minds.

I guess he was just bored. And maybe he thought it was a worthwhile way to waste couple of hours with this nut Ace Backwords.

I interviewed him in his studio where he drew his Peanuts comic strip. There was a half–finished Peanuts comic strip on his drawing board. Which was mind-boggling to me. I had grown up as a little kid reading Peanuts. And now I was at the epicenter — the eye of the hurricane — where they were actually created.

We talked back and forth for two or three hours. I was so nervous when I got to the end of my cassette tape that I was interviewing him with — my $30 Sony cassette recorder — I accidentally flipped the cassette over a third time and recorded over 30 minutes of the tape
Completely erased 30 minutes of our immortal conversation (always regret that).

I remember at one point Schulz said he was disappointed with most interviewers. They mostly asked dull questions. I could tell it was a backhanded compliment. I could tell he was enjoying talking with me.
I guess that’s why he talked for 2 or  3 hours.

For me it was like talking to somebody who was my father. Even though we weren’t related. It was like talking to somebody who was my father.

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The Biker’s Bashes

 

Like most things in my life, the Biker’s Bashes started out by accident.

In 1982 I was publishing an underground punk rock newspaper, Twisted Image.  I was also working full-time as a San Francisco bike messenger.  So I always kept a stack of the latest issue of Twisted Image in the basket of my bicycle.  And in between making my deliveries I would drop off copies at all the hip record stores, book stores and rock clubs in San Francisco, in the hopes of drumming up advertisers.  That’s how I ended up talking to Dirk Dirksen inside the legendary On Broadway theater one afternoon.

“Listen,” said Dirksen, taking note of my nifty bike messenger uniform.  “I can’t afford to take out any more ads right now.  But how about this?  Let’s put on a bike messenger show.  We could get bike messenger bands to play.  And you can take all the money at the door.  And I’ll take all the money at the bar.  Then you can write about it in your newspaper.  That way we get publicity and you get money.”

“Sounds interesting,” I said.

Thus began the Biker’s Bashes.  And my unlikely career as a concert promoter.

The first Biker’s Bash turned out pretty good.  A lot of people showed up (bike messengers liked to party).  And the bike messenger rock bands were pretty good.  And there were only a couple of fights. Which wasn’t bad considering the bike messenger scene.  And that savvy Dirk Dirksen made out like a bandit because bike messengers drink like fish (you build up a powerful thirst pedaling up and down the hills of San Francisco 8 hours a day).  The show ended abruptly when the guitarist in the last band got hit on the head with a beer can (sorry, kids, no encore tonight!).  But a good time was had by all.

Poster for another bike messenger party.That first Biker’s Bash generated a bit of excitement.  So we decided we wanted to put on more these Biker’s Bashes.  The whole bike messenger scene was a pretty dynamic and vibrant subculture back then.  1982 for God’s sake.  There were a lot of artists, writers, musicians, poets and film-makers that worked as bike messengers.  So there was a wealth of artistic talent for putting on multi-media shows of all persuasions.  And, unlike so many of the other artsy subcultures in San Francisco at the time — which tended to revolve around the latest trends and fashions — the bike messenger artists were a very unpretentious and down-to-earth lot.  There was a blue collar ethos befitting of people who worked extremely hard, sweating their asses off on a bicycle all day long.

But the problem was, Dirk Dirksen would only give us weekdays at the On Broadway theater.  The weekends were reserved for all the big-name punk rock bands like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys.  But Friday night was when all the bike messengers wanted to party.

So then somebody — probably Jason or Dog Paw or Pete Moss — came up with the bright idea of putting on weekend Biker’s Bashes at this other happening rock venue, the Farm. . . .

I remember that first Farm show.  I remember hanging out alone with Jason inside the empty Farm building an hour before the show was about to start.  Jason was an interesting cat — a black dude with a day-glo Mohawk.  And well-respected amongst the other bike messengers.  But we were both nervous as shit.  We had never really put on a show all by ourselves before.  We weren’t even sure if we knew what we were doing.  So we were worrying, wondering if anyone would even show up.  Or if we would have the bomb of all-time on our hands.

And then Dog Paw and a bunch of other bike messengers came rushing into the Farm carrying case after case of beer.  Which we ended up selling at the make-shift bar in the kitchen area.  And it was like the cavalry charging in to the rescue with fresh supplies.

And at that point I knew we had a party on our hands.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

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Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins getting ready to bend over and strike a “Come and get it, boys!” pose.

In the summer of 1982 I decided to publish my own tabloid.  It was sort of considered a “punk fanzine” back then.  But I saw it more in the tradition of the ’60s underground newspapers.  I envisioned a hipper, cooler, artier version of the alternative weekly newspapers.  Plus, I considered myself sort of an artistic genius back then, so I figured maybe I had that going for me.  The plan was to print up 10,000 copies and distribute them free at all the cooler nightclubs, record stores and bookstores.  So we made an immediate impact.  We started out with a fairly normal format:  band interviews, record reviews, a comics page as the centerspread, and a bunch of artsy columnists.     And to pay for the thing we sold ads.

And we actually made a little money on the first couple of issues.  But I’m a painfully shy person, so it was a nightmare for me to knock on doors and act as ad salesman.  And each issue got progressively weirder, which made it harder for people to figure out what it was, let alone if it was a profitable venue to market their products.

By the 5th issue we decided to do a “Gore and Violence” issue.  My friend Mary Mayhem was really into horror movies and Fangoria magazine, so she came aboard as co-editor.  The issue featured interviews with the punk rocker Henry Rollins, and the underground cartoonist S. Clay Wilson.  And for the centerspread we did a Playboy take-off with truly gory, retouched, nude photos of Mary as the “Gore-Mate of the Month.”  It was so sick the printer refused to print up the next issue. Ha ha.

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https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/c7/89/e3/c789e324fe35c7bcd3e7ab584685ebf6.jpgThe Henry Rollins interview was an interesting experience.  Every summer for a couple of years they had an outdoor punk rock festival, called The Eastern Front, at the Berkeley marina.  Two days, about 10 or 20 bands.  “A Day on the Dirt” was its subtitle and it was referred to as “the punk rock Woodstock.” It was an odd experience to be punk-rockin’ in the middle of the day, under the sun.  The usual mileau was late at night at neon-lit nightclubs.  So it had the feel of the midnight ghouls coming out in the daylight.  All the kids with their mohawks and spikes and sweating like pigs in their studded black leather jacket, but hell if they were gonna’ take em off, even in 80 degree weather.

The headlining band, Black Flag, had a dark and violent image. They regularly used pictures of Charles Manson for their fliers.   And lead singer Henry Rollins had the reputation as a certified psycho back then.  He’d strip naked practically to his underwear, his body covered with sinister tattoos and pouring sweat, and he’d scream and howl and screech for hours at a stretch while the droogies of Black Flag cranked out this jarring, wailing, dischordant wall of sonic explosions behind him.  It wasn’t clear whether you were watching a musical performance or a public exorcism.  And Rollins had the death-wail of a mortally wounded creature.  He seemed deeply, deeply disturbed about something.  Rage and violence seemed to pour out of him. He was one of those hell-bent guys you just knew would be dead before they hit 30.  So it’s somewhat surprising when I see him today on Youtube, and he’s developed a calm thoughtfulness and soulfulness that one would have never guessed he was capable of  back then.  Rollins was famous for getting in fights and beating people up, or being beaten up.  “I had to be taken to the hospital three times after shows,” Henry told me.   It almost seemed part of his live performance.  “And now after this next musical number Henry is going to start the face-bashing portion of the show. . . ”  And Henry Rollins was an imposing man.  Muscle-bound from weight-lifting and a neck bigger than my waist, seemingly.  Not to mention this evil, lasor-like stare that he drilled right into your head, along with this expression of pure contempt and hatred for everything you stood for, as well as a barely-contained but overpowering desire to stomp you into the dirt until you were dead at any moment.  He was a charismatic fellow, Henry Rollins.

Anyways, after Black Flag closed the show, Henry was hanging around in front of the stage, chatting with a big crowd of drunken, buzzed-out fans that had surrounded him.   Mary and I joined the fray with our tape recorder and began peppering Henry with questions.  The first thing I asked him was:  “Did you really pose for a homo magazine?”  The rumor was that he had been featured in Playgirl or Blueboy or one of those kind of gay porno magazines that month.  And I was a bit of a wise-ass back then so I felt like provoking him a little to see how he would react.  Turned out it was just an article about punk rock and not a photo spread.  But Henry seemed to enjoy the gay jokes I was making at his expense. At least at the beginning.  And the crowd of punks and punkettes were shouting and cheering at Henry: “CENTERSPREAD!!”

“Yeah, I’m famous to a bunch of guys who want to grab my ass,” said Henry, playing along, and he turned around and bent over and flashed his ass at us in a come-and-get-it pose.

We continued babbling at Henry for about a half hour.  At one point I confessed that I was baffled at Black Flag’s appeal.  I mean, I was going to punk rock shows back then, but I was more of a closet Paul McCartney fan.  Henry smirked “You seem like an intelligent guy” and helpfully suggested I don’t waste my money going to their shows.  “I get in free,” I said.  “Well then don’t waste the tread on your sneakers wasting your time watching us play,” said Henry.

The interview was starting to wind down, so I asked if anyone in the audience had a question for Henry.

“What do you think of interviewers?” asked one guy.

“I do a lot of interviews and a lot of people get in my face and a lot of people insult me,” said Henry, talking real slow and real sinister.  “AND sometimes I like to get back in other people’s faces.”  Henry suddenly stepped forward and pushed his face right into mine.  All of a sudden it got really hot.  “AND I’M NOT SUCH A SMALL GUY AND I CAN DO A LOT OF DAMAGE TO PEOPLE!” Henry shouted right into my face.  I sort of stiffened for a lo-o-ong moment. It was an odd feeling to suddenly have Henry Rollins’s head pressed against my head, bearing down on me.  Along with that feeling when you suddenly realize you could be  made a big fool of in front of a big crowd of people at any moment.   Or worse.  We had been having such a nice, friendly chat.  How had things  taken this unexpected and ugly turn?? . . . . . After what seemed like a long time Henry finally said “. . . But I don’t cuz’ I’m a nice guy.”  Henry took a big step backwards.  And I breathed a big sigh of relief.

But I couldn’t resist getting in the last word.  So I pushed my face back into Henry’s and said: “HEY, WELL I’M A PRETTY BIG GUY, TOO, SO . . . .” I  paused for just a moment ”  . . . but I’m really a wimp.”  I took a big step back.

“Henry we gotta’ go,” called out a roadie.

“Hey, thanks a lot for talking,” I said.

Henry turned to leave and then said over his shoulder. “Like I said, tonight you should go home and ask yourself some questions.”

“I have a lot I ask myself,” I said.  “Every day.”   I always have to get in the last word.  Ha ha.

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Mary and I walked back to her haunted house on Hearst Street.  We hung out all night blasting out records on her stereo at top volume (I remember Fang was a particular favorite, the one where Sammy sings about having sex with Brook Shields).   We were feeling very triumphant.  We knew we had scored a great feature for the next issue.  And with each Budweiser we guzzled down we felt even more triumphant.  I remember the two of us screaming along to the AC/DC song “She Got the Jack” over and over, well into midnight.   “SHE GOT THE JACKKKKKKK!!” It was one of the happiest moments of my life.  I could have died and gone to heaven right then.

The only thing I kind of regret is that I didn’t actually get into a physical fight with Henry Rollins.  Even if I had gotten my ass beat, it would have made for a better story when I’m an old fart sitting around on my easy chair.

 

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Mabuhay Gardens

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The Mabuhay Gardens. The Fab Mab . . . I put on a show at the Mab in 1983. It was a benefit to raise money for a zine I was publishing at the time. In a way it was just another show. Five bands. Kwikway. Slug Lords. Teenage Warning or Teenage something or other. I forget. Nothing really memorable. But it was a strange feeling. Like you were a small part of history. Even today, I was watching a Youtube video of Jim Carroll at the Mab. And I’ll look at the stage and think: I stood up on that very same stage. And its like stepping into a legend. Or a very strange, heavily symbolic dream. With all these secret meanings and mysterious histories. Lotta’ ghosts in that room. I’m proud to have been a small part of it.

“As we all age, those memories are very special,” wrote Kareem K. on the Mab Facebook page.  “To hear recordings from those times and shows, especially with some background talking, really transports me back.”10562546_10152807108703994_5202043241092406302_o.jpg

The first time I went to the Mabuhay was on the night John Lennon got shot in December of 1980.  I was out of my head on LSD and looking for a candle-light memorial that was supposedly taking place somewhere on the San Francisco marina, but I was in no shape to find it.  So I went to the Mabuhay as a way to have my own private memorial at the rocknroll church.

The place was surprisingly small for such a legendary venue.  It could maybe fit a couple of hundred people.  And the stage was only a couple feet off the ground, you could step right up on it.  I always liked those small club stages, because it was so cramped you could get all four band members in one camera shot.  Really gave the feel of the band as one unified entity.  I like that about the old ’60s concerts, too.  Where you could see all four Beatles at the same time standing on stage.  Nowadays at these live shows, the venues are so huge, its like the lead guitarist is playing on one side of the stage, and the bass player is off somewhere else in another part of the building.
Anyways, there was always something dark and decadent and even dangerous about the Mabuhay.  This eerie, haunted vibe almost.  You half expected Joel Grey to hit the stage at any moment in leering white-face, belting out “Life is a cabaret, my friend!!”  And it was located right in the middle of all the strip clubs on Broadway and Columbus.   Carol Doda-land.   So when you walked to and from the club, you were right in the middle of the non-stop barkers wars in front of all the clubs.  “Hey pal-zy!  Come on in!! Check it out! Check it out!  We got the real thing in here! Come on in and take a quick look-see, buddy ole’ boy!!”  When you were buzzing around the streets of that neon circus around 1 in the morning, you really had that feeling that you had stepped into the Fast Lane.  Whatever fantasies you had about Sex and Drugs and Rocknroll, you were definitely flirting with that danger every time you stepped into the Mab’s mileau.  And many, many people would step onto that neon merry-go-round over the years, and keep spinning around faster and faster until they had spun right off the face of the earth.  “Hey, did you hear about Johnny Raven?”  Another one bites the dust.

To me, the Bay Area punk scene had two distinct periods.  The first one was from about 1977 to 1981.  It was mostly an older scene then.  The first wave of punks.  Mostly inspired by the English bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash.

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The Fab Mab.

But there were also plenty of  oldsters who were  inspired just as much by old-school punks like Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.  There were a lot of former long-haired hippie rocknroll types who had just cut their hair and donned skinny ties, eager to be part of an exciting new modern movement.  Plenty of art-damage types, too; college art-school drop-outs and bohemian hipsters.  And, of course, plenty of the nightclub scenesters and lounge lizards, too.

The second period, from 1982 to 1984, was mostly made up of suburban high school punkers that sort of overwhelmed the scene.  They were mostly inspired by California hardcore bands like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and MDC.

It all seems like a strange dream when I look back on it now.  Like a barely-remembered movie with some other person playing the role of me.

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Bike Messenger Days 1983

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Pull up a chair and let ol’ Uncle Ace tell you a story about the Good Old Days back in 1983….1546381_814545661896312_2100578201_n.jpg

It was 1983 and I was deep into my career as a fabulous San Francisco bike messenger. Now, bike messengers are a breed apart. They’re a lot like street people, with the crucial difference that bike messengers are still young and strong, and they pay their rent BEFORE they buy their drugs. And many of them would indeed have fabulous careers waiting for them as homeless street people as soon as they ran out of energy, or got drunk and stoned one time too many.

But Friday evenings were fabulous times on the bike messenger circuit. We all got paid on Friday night. So generally we’d all cash our checks at Honorable Harvey Woo’s grocery store on 5th and Folsom and pound down big meat-and-cheese sandwiches and drink a beer or 12 in the back parking lot. One of the great things about the bike messenger job was, you could eat 5 meals a day and not gain a pound because you burn off so many calories. The job was the closest I’ve ever come to being a professional athlete. It was a lot like running a high-speed marathon and an obstacle course 10 hours a day, with the added excitement of dodging Muni buses which will squash you like a bug if you’re not very careful. And you got paid by the delivery — which is why messengers rode their bikes like madmen through red lights and down one-way streets and across the foreheads of pedestrian’s heads. So there was a lot of competition amongst us as to who was the fastest bike-rider and the most skilled bike rider and the number one Gravy Dog. We took a lot of pride in our expertise on our bikes. We were the wild men, the freaks, the Evel Knievels of the Financial District. And all the secretaries and three-piece-suits envied us (in between fearing us and despising us) because we were big kids who got paid to play on our bikes all day long, while they had to work.

 

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Anyway, we were kicking back in the parking lot that Friday night, a big gang of us, drinking beer and smoking pot. Among the crowd were Jimbo and Fred. Jimbo was one of the coolest guys I knew, and greatly respected amongst all the messengers as the top Gravy Dog at Special T Messenger. He was a cocky guy with a swagger, but very cool about it.  He had an “I’m-okay-you’re-okay” ambiance that made you enjoy his cockiness. He just dug his life; was very into it. (Later he would achieve acclaim as an illustrator and animated cartoonist). On every social scene I’ve been on, there’s usually only one or two people whose company I seek out. And Jimbo was the one, of all the messengers. He looked a lot like the actor Kevin Bacon, with his pug-nose and tousled hair. (In fact, later that year, Kevin Bacon himself would come to San Francisco to star in a Hollywood film about the bike messenger scene. We were all excited about it, and there was big talk about some of the bike messengers being hired as Hollywood extras or consultants. But it turned out that the movie was typical Hollywood bullshit. They came up with some hokey plot-line about how the bike messenger (Bacon) accidentally gets ahold of some kind of top-secret spy material and gets in the middle of an international espionage ring or some such crap (car chases with bicycles up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco — you can imagine). Which is weird that they have to come up with such contrived plot lines, because in truth there were about a million amazing real-life stories amongst the bike messenger scene. So you wonder why Hollywood has to retread the same old dull phony pabulum. But maybe it’s like the premise of this column: that what’s interesting and funny in real life often doesn’t translate into art.)  (Though I’m sticking with my first theory that Hollywood is just lame.)

So anyway, we’re all sitting there relaxing on a Friday evening with our paychecks in our pockets,  in this big, deserted parking lot South of Market, drinking our beer, smoking our pot, and feeling no pain. Eventually, it started getting dark, so we started organizing ourselves for the trip back to Jimbo’s place in the Haight-Ashbury to continue the party. One of Jimbo’s friends had a pick-up truck, so he offered to give us a ride, which was certainly appreciated since it was a 20 minute bike-ride to Jimbo’s, all up-hill. So we threw our bikes in the back of the pick-up. Jimbo, cocky bastard that he was, said: “Watch this!”

Jimbo leaned a thin, narrow board from the back of the pick-up truck like a ramp. Then he hopped on his bike and pedaled around the outskirts of the parking lot at blazing speed. When his lap had come full-circle, he rode his bike right up the plank at top speed, blasted right up there, and into the back of the truck, stopped on a dime, and hopped off his bike with aplomb, like a rodeo star dismounting from his horse. We all burst into applause at his impressive stunt of dare-deviltry.

Ace Backwords's photo.

Fred said: “Oh yeah?! Well watch THIS!” Fred jumped onto his bike. He was going to top Jimbo’s stunt.

Now let me tell you a bit about Fred. He was a good guy. But somehow he had been stamped Loser by the gods. Like he was always fated to be on the short end of God’s cosmic practical jokes. Fred was stocky and well-built, and looked sort of like Fred Flintstone with a duh-uh demeanor. A nice guy, but a fuck-up. A typical Fred stunt was: Once all the bike messengers got invited to the Boss’s house for his daughter’s wedding party. Fred got drunk and walked right through the Boss’s glass door. Fred’s paycheck was docked for the next 6 months before he finally paid it off. That was the kind of luck he had.

Another night we were at Jimbo’s apartment for a big Friday night poker game. Now poker’s an interesting game, because the results are totally reflective of a person’s basic personality (You can guess what happened to Fred). Now, we mostly played poker for fun, for small stakes; usually at most somebody would win or lose $20. We were only making, if memory serves me right, about $100 to $150 a week (depending on the messenger’s speed, agility, and street savvy). So a $20 loss was substantial enough. This night, SOMEHOW, Fred managed to lose $250, the equivalent of two weeks salary. It was the most unbelievable streak of bad luck I’d ever seen. He kept losing hand after hand, even when he had good cards. At one point, near the end of the game, Fred finally got a great hand, I forget what it was, three Kings and a pair of Jacks, or something like that, the kind of hand where you just COULDN’T lose. So he bet everything he could on this hand in the hopes of somehow salvaging the evening, as the pot built up higher and higher. Double or nothing. Triple or nothing. . . .  Finally, Fred triumphantly flipped his cards over. Only to have Jimbo beat him with an even MORE unbelievable hand; 3 Aces and a pair of Queens, or something like that. We couldn’t believe it. It was so stunning we were rolling around the floor busting our guts in laughter. We couldn’t help laughing, even as we felt guilty about wiping Fred out (though not guilty enough to give him his money back). That was just the kind of luck Fred had.

So anyways, on this one particular Friday night, Fred was going to top Jimbo’s stunt with an even more impressive display of bike-riding virtuosity.  “Oh YEAH??  Watch THIS!!”  So he placed the plank back on the back of the pick-up truck, hopped on his bike, and sped around the parking lot at top speed. We’re all standing there, watching in anticipation. Fred’s stocky little legs are pumping and churning like pistons at top-speed like Fred Flintstone in his go-cart. But before Fred even makes it half-way around the parking lot, before he even gets NEAR the truck, he wipes out on the third turn. Just wipes out. His bike skids in a cloud of dust and Fred goes flying over the handlebars with a loud “WOOOOO!!” scream, and his bike, and Fred, go rolling and cart-wheeling and bouncing across the parking lot in a big huge cloud of dust. We’re all stunned at first, because it was such a spectacular wipe-out. Fred picks himself up from the ground, slowly, groaning and moaning and rubbing his left arm. “OH, MA-AN!” And we all just burst out laughing. Because it was so funny. I mean, here he was going to show off with this incredible, impressive feat of bike-riding, and he wipes out just riding his bike in a simple circle, before he even GETS to the stunt.

But we’re also concerned because he’s in pain. “Are you alright, Fred?”

“MAN OH MAN! That HURT like a motherfucker!” And he’s dusting himself off and groaning and his pants are torn and his bike is kind of bent out of shape. So we can’t help laughing.

Fred stiffly throws his bike into the back of the truck and we all pile into the cab up front. As we rode up to the Haight, Fred would grimace in pain every minute or so. “O-o-oh!”

“Are you alright, Fred?”

“Man, I think I broke my arm!” And he would groan, and we’d all burst out laughing. We couldn’t help it, it was so funny. We were biting our lips to keep from laughing. It was like when somebody farts in church and you have to bite your lip to keep from laughing. I mean, he was really hurting, so we felt bad about laughing at him. But then Fred would groan again and rub his arm: “Oh, ma-a-an!” And we’d all burst out laughing again. (In fact, his arm WAS broken. But the good news was that Fred would later tell the boss that he had hurt his arm on the job earlier that day, so he filed for Workman’s Comp and collected a full salary for doing nothing for the next 4 weeks while his arm was in a sling.  So the story has a happy ending.) But for that whole ride back to Jimbo’s, we kept trying to keep from laughing as we’re all squeezed into the front seat of that truck. But then Fred would groan again: “O-o-o-HH!” And we’d all burst into laughter again. And it was like that the whole ride back, and the whole night at Jimbo’s. Suddenly someone would remember the whole image of Fred flying in the air over his bike and bouncing across the parking lot in a big cloud of dust. “Man, when Fred made that second turn — ” And we’d all burst into laughter again and again. Just gut-wrenching, bust-a-gut, fits of hysterical laughter. And it was one of the funniest things that I’ve ever experienced.

But when I TELL people about it, when I tell people the STORY about what happened to Fred in that parking lot back in 1983, it’s never funny.

See? I told you so.

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Dead Kennedys say: “Nuclear Power Bad”

That startling observation was just one of the controversial beliefs expounded by the Dead Kennedys in an interview backstage at Ruthie’s Inn at 3 in the morning sometime in 1983.’                

 

 TWISTED IMAGE: What kind of bands do you like?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAY: (sarcastically) One that has bass, drums, guitar, and singers, and sometimes keyboards.

TI: You guys are very specific.

KLAUS: Well, you give us specific questions, we’ll give you specific answers.

T.I.: Ahh, I’m a bike messenger during the day and I’ve been working REAL hard all day (various moans- no sympathy)… I’m not exactly in the sharpest form.

RAY: What’s the political reason you’re a bike messenger?

T.I.: ‘Cuz I’m broke and it’s probably the only job I could get.

RAY: You’d give up your political principles just because you’re broke?

T.I.: I don’t have any political beliefs.

RAY: Gee-ziz!

T.I.: I deliver packages to Bechtel, to Bank of America. What the hell; I’m just a good Nazi.

RAY: What do you feel about nuclear war? (Hey, who’s supposed to be doing the interviewing, huh?)

T.I.: Well, if we all blew up it’d get me outta my own pain.

RAY: You could do that yourself without blowing the rest of us up.

T.I.: I’m too lazy. It’s too lonely to do it yourself. Nuclear power is basically planetary suicide, ‘cuz we’re all afraid to kill ourselves by ourselves, so we’ll do it together.

RAY: Last resort of a coward.

T.I.: What do you think of nuclear power?

KLAUS: I think it’s real powerful.

RAY: I think it’s bad.

T.I.: Can I quote you on that?

KLAUS: Dead Kennedys say: “Nuclear power is bad.”

T.I.: You guys are RADICAL! (Laughter)

KLAUS: Baby seals are good. Nuclear power is bad.

T.I.: Go with that thought… Is Jello against nuclear power?

KLAUS: Geez I dunno, I never asked him.

JELLO: (making scene) I’m not gonna do an interview tonight. I can’t talk.T.I.: That’s O.K. These guys are giving me good stuff. They actually went out on a limb and said the Dead Kennedys come out against nuclear power.

JELLO: I grew up right near a nuclear warhead plant, so maybe I’m bionic.

T.I.: Whaddaya’ think of fan-zines?

JELLO: I like fan-zines that are off-beat, twisted and fun, but can still put an intelligent point of view across. Meaning, certain people are lying through their teeth when they call themselves a “fan-zine” when all they do is put down other people through the whole fucking issue. Nya! Nya! Nya! Nya! “So-and-so is a commie!” “Boycott this band!” etc. That’s totally juvenile. Then turn around and say: “Unite the scene under my fat boot!” Some of us have to laugh.

T.I.: TWISTED IMAGE isn’t a fan-zine, ‘cuz I’m not a fan-boy. This is the first time I’ve seen you guys.

JELLO: Yea, I noticed that.

RAY: I got some gossip for you. Jello came over to my house for rehearsal, he gets into my kitchen and eats all my cookies!

T.I.: Oh my God!

KLAUS: A cookie fiend! (Shrieks!)

T.I.: Circumstantial evidence.

JELLO: (defending himself) Years later, after we can’t rehearse in Ray’s garage anymore ‘cuz of the Oakland police, he comes over to my house and wonders if we have any cookies!

T.I.: Now we gotta’ fued going.

JELLO: O.K. get ready. Dead Kennedys have started a new trend to make up your scoop: “Cookie Edge.” (Laughter)

KLAUS: This is getting too hot and heavy for me. (Leaving) You can write half of it yourself and attribute it to us.JELLO: Cookie edge rules!

T.I.: So how’d you guys get started? I guess I first saw you when you were running for mayor of San Francisco.

JELLO: Yea. We’d been around a year by that time. I just moved here, wanted to do a band, met them through an ad at Aquarius Records, and started rehearsing. Made our debut after practicing for a week, at the Mabuhay opening for the Offs & Negative Trend, July ’78. So we are first generation San Francisco punks.

T.I.: You must have seen the scene go through a lot of changes.

JELLO: YEP! (Laughs)

T.I.: On a political level do you think you can have a positive impact? Is that what you’re trying to do?

JELLO: We’re cracking open the heads of closed minds. They may not like what we say, but they’re forced to decide how it applies to them. And if it doesn’t – what does?

T.I.: This 17-year-old friend of mine says for a while there was a real anti-Dead Kennedys feeling at school – like when you jump into the crowd it was, “Let’s beat the shit outta’ him!” Do you feel any of that?

JELLO: We still get that from time to time.

T.I.: “Cuz it seemed real gentle out there tonight.

JELLO: Depends on the show. Like the Elite Club will sometimes bring out the people who want our asses. And a lot of it had to do with the “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” song. Some people, it touched exactly the raw nerve we hoped it would. (Ironic laugh) And the results being they wanted our ass. I have been threatened in the past couple of months by the singers in two different prominent bands to beat the fuck out of me if they ever see me again. Again, mainly for the stands we take.

T.I.: Well, it’s pretty courageous- it’s easy to tell Reagan of fuck off ‘cuz he’s not listening, but to —

GUARD: Let’s go. Getting ready to lock up.

JELLO: O.K. We’ll be out in a minute. Part of the original reason I got into punk was because it was confrontational. It questioned things. It was people who weren’t afraid to look you in the eye and say, “Why do you do the things you do?” And we’ve continued that, even if it means confronting the punk audience themselves when they start to take on the very traits that the whole thing was formed to fight. We’re caught in a bind on that. Like, places like this are the most fun. But we can’t leave shit-loads of people outside the Tool & Die every time we play, even though that’s a fun place to play. And thus you get the Elite Club, which can take on a real ugly Colosium rock atmosphere unless you put a stop to it. Sometimes we’ve succeeded at that, sometimes we haven’t.

T.I.: So you don’t feel you have a lotta’ control over the audience?

JELLO: Well, it’s not our place to go around controlling people or telling them what to do – which we get accused of at least once a day. What we do is say what we think, and if people don’t like it they should have something better to say to back it up. And maybe we, Dead Kennedys, can learn something from them.

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(Originally printed in TWISTED IMAGE #4,  the “Special Punk Fan-Zine Issue,” sometime in early 1983 . . .  Which also featured interviews with the editors of MaximumRocknRoll, Flipside, Punk Globe, Ripper, Sick Teen, Baboon Dooley and John Holmstrom.  A bit of a classic issue, boy.)