By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Less predictably, perhaps, he immersed himself in The Decline of the Westby Oswald Spengler, a neo-Hegelian German social theorist with an authoritarian streak who went into permanent hiding after publicly parting with Hitler and the Nazi leadership over the issue of anti-Semitism, especially the so-called Final Solution. (Spengler said he was against the idea of a Jewish god, not the Jewish people themselves.) Later, while Paul claimed to identify with Hitler, he, too, rejected anti-Semitism — sort of. ("There was no reason to kill all those Jews," he said, speaking as Darby Crash in the 1979 interview for No Magazine. "[Hitler should have] just got them to move back to Israel. Fascism is not a philosophy," he continued. "It's a way of life. Fascist is totally extreme right. We're not extreme right. Maybe there's a better word for it that I haven't found yet, but I'm still going to have complete control . . . One day you'll pray to me.")
From Spengler, Darby also picked up such punk-friendly slogans as "Nothing is true" and "Question authority," as well as a philosophical basis for his Circle One symbology. "You know, like, something you've done maybe eight years ago, but all of a sudden it feels like you're at exactly the same place doing the same thing?" he told No Mag, extrapolating on Spengler's contention that Western Civilization, at the end of its cycle, was so far gone it was too late for anybody to do anything about it. "You may not be doing the same thing, it's just that feeling. Everything works in circles. That's why we have circles on our armbands."
Astrid was from a planet blue He spoke of love for me and you He could set your mind ablaze . . . He made a noise that stirred our souls Got us moving out of control . . . On a starry night in mid-December Astrid cried . . .
—Jan Paul Beahm, 1975
When Paul and George openly adopted Charlie Manson as a hero, it freaked out many of the nonCircle One IPS students — which, of course, had been precisely their intention. The two walked around campus like some Rimbaudian version of Columbine trench-coat death angels Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, albeit dressed in white (bed sheets, actually), giggling on acid and bearing copies of Helter Skelter, which they referred to as their Bible. "He's God and I'm Jesus" is how George would approach an introduction. But not everyone was willing to buy into — or shy away from — their antics, and while George grew tall and sinewy and learned to hit back, pint-size Paul was frequently thumped by geek-bashing Neanderthal jocks.
In the seventh grade, George turned Paul on to David Bowie, icon of British glam rock — or "glitter rock," as it was better known locally. ("I was into the New York Dolls, the Stooges, the Ziggy Stardust album and Alice Cooper's 'School's Out,'" said George, as "Pat Smear," in an interview for Bill Bartell's Germs-tribute Web site "A Small Circle of Friends." "Darby was into oldies and '50s rock & roll.") Paul was especially inspired by his new hero's seemingly supernatural ability to change personas. He marveled that some English working-class bloke with an ordinary name like David Jones could reinvent himself so often: David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke. (Later, Paul would likewise adopt a series of pseudonyms. First, for a poem he wrote at the age of 17, he came up with Astrid, a variation on the Ziggy Stardust idea in which a visitor from another planet with a ring in his ear and wild hair becomes an idol and a martyr. Astrid was followed by the English-punk-sounding "Bobby Pyn" when the Germs first formed early in '77. In early 1978, he considered naming himself Richie Dagger, after the Germs song "Richie Dagger's Crime," but opted instead for "Darby Crash.")
Meanwhile, back in the early '70s, Paul had analyzed every word of every lyric Bowie ever wrote. He transformed his bedroom into a religious shrine, complete with a small altar, photos, rare bootleg recordings, posters — all the memorabilia he could bag from the monthly parking-lot swap meet at Capitol Records. To young Jan Paul Beahm, Bowie was God, an infallible rock deity, prophet and mystic.
At Uni High, Paul began to preen around with stoner/surfer-length blue hair (food coloring applied daily with a toothbrush) and told the other kids he was Dean (The Boy With Green Hair) Stockwell's son.
I'm Richie Dagger I can stomp and swagger I can take on all your heroes I'm Richie Dagger I'm young and I'm haggard The boy that nobody owns
—The Germs, "Richie Dagger's Crime"
As far as Paul and his clique were concerned, the timing of L.A.'s '77 punk explosion couldn't have been better. Glam was already passé enough that they had begun to feel like anachronisms. Punk gave them a new outlet, a voice, a context in which to move their little cult of cool uncools off-campus. There was basically nowhere else they could have gone at the time.
Meanwhile, the ripple effect of London punk had opened the sluice gates for a flood of unskilled and semiskilled musicianship and performance. Now anybody — literally anyone off the street — could make a big noise onstage, and there quickly developed in L.A. a folksy community of drug- and alcohol-besotted naifs, a marvelously lascivious, antisocial subgroup, mostly ranging in age from midteens to mid-20s, who partied and had sex with each other every night, and spent the next day gossiping about it.