By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Passionate bright young things Takes him away to war — don't fake it Sadden glissando strings Uh-h-h-uh-h-uh — you'll make it Who will love Aladdin Sane?
—David Bowie, "Aladdin Sane"
Back in 1978, Darby had been disconsolate when Donnie Rose, the boy he loved, suggested they move on in their relationship into a permanent best-buds platonic zone. Darby had met and seduced Donnie when the latter was only 15. Now, at 16, Donnie was developing bisexual tendencies.
"I didn't think about whether Darby was gay," says Nicole Panter, "and I wasn't shocked to learn that he had crushes on boys, though I didn't find out until after he died." Twenty years after his death, Philomena Winstanley, another former editor at Slash, says, "I didn't even know that he was gay."
Most people thought of Darby as asexual, since in public — and very much in keeping with the "No Feeling" punk ethos — he carefully avoided emitting any perceptible sexual energy. Gay punks from the Old Guard have pointed to the homophobia rampant within the Hollywood-O.C. scene as the motive for Darby's secrecy.
"I think homophobia was part of the fascist façade of a lot of the punk mentality," says Slash contributing photographer Kerry Colonna, "especially the hardcore aesthetic as it began to evolve from mid-1979 on." When asked about this issue in a 1986 interview, Claude Bessy commented, "[The band] Fear was homophobic. X was homophobic. I was homophobic. Fuck, basically we were all homophobic."
Untrue, says former scenester Judith Bell: "I clearly remember John Doe making a specific point of reassuring Darby it was okay to be gay around us. I even remember John saying, 'We'll support you. We'll stand by you if you go public.'"
Still, Tony the Hustler tells how, in early 1980, Darby refused to be filmed anywhere near him during the shooting of Penelope Spheeris' oh-so-Spenglerian documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, because he didn't want to be seen with anyone looking so unambiguously homo. It was Tony who suggested calling in one of Darby's old Uni High female chums, Michelle Baer, to front as his current roommate; hence the film's cozy domestic egg-frying display in the kitchen of Tony's apartment, complete with live tarantula.
Meanwhile, Darby was sinking deeper into narcotics and alcohol abuse. Before taking off for London in the summer of 1980, he had confided to friends that he felt unappreciated and abandoned. Many people from the old Hollywood scene had parted company with him over his exponentially accelerated drug use.
Following the release of G.I. in 1979, when the Germs were asked by soundtrack composer, producer and music supervisor Jack Nitzsche to contribute five songs to director William Friedkin's Al Pacino vehicle Cruising, Bob Biggs, president of Slash, said, "I was over the moon. Here was the perfect way to ease Darby back into creative work mode without pressuring him for the G.I. follow-up. I thought, 'Thank God, a solution.'" However, the Germs showed up completely unprepared, and Nitzsche demanded brand-new original songs, no quickie remakes or covers.
According to Donnie Rose, this task now became a daunting nightmare for Darby: "It was the most creative pressure I'd ever seen him under. He seemed totally lost and out of it." Up till now, says Donnie, Darby had been accustomed to creating at his own nonprolific speed, and had been coasting for some time on previously written material. Darby disappeared from the studio in terror, started drinking even more and using tons of drugs, thus causing considerable alarm to the band, before he eventually returned several days later…and delivered the goods pretty much on schedule: five new songs, as well as Lorna Doom's only known composition, "Now I Hear the Laughter." (Darby himself certainly "heard the laughter" when Friedkin ended up using just one excerpt from one song — titled, ironically enough, "Lion's Share.")
By the winter of '79, hardcore drugs and hardcore hostility had cast a shadow over the entire punk scene. The exhilarating, freewheelin' days of innocent fun and games (as we liked to think of it) were over. My poor old, dear old Masque was gone forever, and I was secretly heartbroken while pretending to be stoical about it. The Canterbury Apartments up the street on Cherokee Avenue were shuttered after the final punk squatters had been evicted at gunpoint by thugs who'd taken control of the building.
Livin‚ in a fury life's kinda blurry dyin' in a hurry story's kinda lurid . . .
—The Germs, "Not All Right," circa 1979
Sometime, then, in the midsummer of 1980, Darby announced that he was taking off on an extended open-return ticket to London with his new girlfriend and would-be manager, Amber, who picked up the tab. He instructed Lorna and Pat to teach Rob, his latest squeeze, to play drums so that they could resume as the Germs, sans Don Bolles, upon Darby's return.
Pat and Lorna had spent three years honing their chops, and resented being asked to revert to their primitive garage-thrash beginnings. After attempting to teach the unwelcome newcomer some rudiments, the two concluded that the situation was hopeless: Their young charge had absolutely no musical talent whatsoever. Lorna quit in disgust, and Pat followed, thus ending the Germs as a band while Darby and Amber were still in London.
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