On a foggy November evening three weeks before White Trash Wins Lotto returns for its second run at the Roxy Theater, Prieboy meets me on the street in front of his rustic Silver Lake house looking, in silhouette, like an avatar of '80s rock. He wears a double-breasted black Carnaby Street jacket, the kind that flares slightly above the knee, and his pencil-thin, straight black slacks end in cubed-heel boots. He styles his dark brown hair in a spiky shag, which would give his amiably puckish good looks a little toughness if his demeanor didn't undo it. He is enormously gracious and self-deprecating, apologetic at every possible slight and concerned about his words. "I just woke up," he says as he leads me through a woodsy grotto behind a tall redwood fence into his studio. "You'll clean it up if I sound inarticulate, right?" In the studio are two dogs, a German shepherd mix named Puppy-Boy and the tiniest of dachshunds, Dinky. Prieboy picks up Dinky and nuzzles her face, but puts her down almost instantly. "Eeeew, you've been in the cat box!" On top of the piano, which occupies a full quarter of the room, is a CD of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, a number of artifacts from gigs gone by, and an empty ashtray. Rita D'Albert, former guitarist for the Pandoras and Prieboy's partner in both life and work, has just phoned Pink Dot for another pack of Prieboy's beloved Camel straights and a slice of pizza. D'Albert, who accentuates her olive-skinned beauty by bleaching her hair white, is tiny, scrappy and serious about business. The two give the impression of having risen above poverty, but not all of its customs. When Pink Dot arrives, Prieboy digs deep into his pocket and comes up with a wad of ones.
White Trash Wins Lotto was developed over a three-year period at Largo on Fairfax, where Prieboy and D'Albert had what they call a "residency," performing a cabaret show -- "a rock show in a concert setting," as Prieboy describes it -- twice a month with Estefan Bravo and Katy Conroy. But the idea germinated by accident in his studio back in 1994, inspired by two strangers who lived in a house directly above it. "I was down here writing my typically caffeine-driven, nicotine-fueled suicidal rock ballads, getting absolutely fuckin' nowhere," Prieboy remembers, "and these two guys were up there writing musicals. They were always at it, and I think they were, in their career, right about where I was in my rock & roll career. They were writing musicals, and could only get gigs doing children's theater."
Prieboy's career, as he tells it now, was "dead." After having replaced Stan Ridgway in Wall of Voodoo, the arty, Johnny CashmeetsEnnio Morricone rock band, Prieboy had embarked on a respectable solo career that yielded three LPs and a hit song, a grim AIDS ballad, "Tomorrow Wendy," which made the charts when it was covered by Concrete Blonde. But the moderate success ended abruptly in 1995 when Sins of Our Fathers, his last record on the Mushroom Records label, ended up gathering dust in the bins. Where it might have sold, it wasn't available: Prieboy and D'Albert toured Australia to standing ovations, D'Albert recalls, "but the record company hadn't put the record in the stores."