By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Upon his return to L.A., newly reinvented "Ant person" Darby found himself ridiculed by fans, friends and other supporters, who took one look at his feathered Boy of London outfit and told him he looked a right jerk. Fanzine editorials chastised him for being a follower of fashion rather than the leader he once had been. (The Darby-inspired Oki Dog skate-punk look carries on into the present day.) Even worse, the word along the Hollywood-to-O.C. suburban-punk grapevine was that Darby Crash was washed up, a has-been. He was 21 years old.
Just when the timing seemed like it couldn't get any worse, Darby was pressured into forming the Darby Crash Band after Amber, who'd already announced she was managing his solo career, committed him to a date at the Starwood on August 27, 1980. There was not nearly enough time to pull something worthwhile together. Darby called Pat in at the last minute as "temporary" guitarist, and with Bosco (a.k.a. David Davenport) on bass and Circle Jerks drummer Lucky Lehrer, the band came together — during sound check, for the first time — for a run-through of a few new tunes and some Germs covers.
The reception at the Starwood was tepid. The kids wanted the Germs. They wanted onstage self-mutilation. They were also alienated and confused by the new image, the "weird" getup. Shortly after the Starwood gig, when the "professional" relationship with Amber had ended, Darby glommed onto yet another socially estranged woman with a car and sufficient income to cover his expenses and provide a rent-free crib. Enter Casey Cola.
Well now you know that your Cat has nine lives Nine lives to itself But you only got one And a dog's life ain't fun
—John Lennon, "Crippled Inside"
Darby had talked about killing himself so many times before, since at least 1977, that nobody took it seriously anymore. "He said, 'I'm going to kill myself before I get old, I'm gonna do it at a time when it takes everybody by surprise, and I want a statue erected of me for people to go to,'" according to Nicole Panter.
"He used to say it regularly," says Philomena Winstanley. "He talked about death and bleak depressive states of utter hopelessness in his lyrics," which made frightening sense on the page but were incomprehensible during his unpredictable live performances, where he would snarl or drool, as often as not off-mike, such peppy, life-affirming lines as "I'm heading for the center of destruction" or "I want out now, I want out now, I want out now now now now now now now now."
Photo by Jill Ash
Judith Bell tells how she and Chris Desjardins met with John Doe and Exene Cervenka to discuss what to do after Darby told John he wanted to kill himself. It was right after the final Germs reunion show at the Starwood, on December 3, 1980, just days before Darby's death. "'He looks up to you,'" Bell says Lorna had told Doe over the phone. "'Maybe he'll listen to you.'
"Despite our repeated assurances, Darby told John he was petrified of being outed," says Bell. "He thought that Fear [a pseudo-macho punk-metal hybrid from the Valley whose satirical between-song patter inevitably included a round or two of fag baiting] might beat him up, and that Claude Bessy would throw a fit or something."
Before they could figure out a plan of action, Darby was gone…
"WE'D BOUGHT GRAPEFRUIT JUICE AND 100-PROOF vodka, and we talked about how easy it would be to die — what we'd have to do and how much money we had," Casey said in an interview with a former roommate, Kari Leuschner (a.k.a. Ella Black), about two years later.
"Darby and I had been doing consistent drugs for a month and a half. We'd really been trying to put our lives together. Everything was fucking up with our plan for this great house we were living in. He was supposed to be writing [but] he hadn't done anything, and he was supposed to be recording in January…
"We looked around the courtyard of the Hong Kong and said, 'Man, fuck it, let's do it. Fuck this shit, it's not gonna ever change, it's not gonna get better. It's going to go on and on, we're going to be doing this same shit next year.'"
Darby suggested going to Casey's mom's place, out back in the guesthouse. "We talked about whether we could get enough drugs, and that if he hit me up it would be murder — I can't do myself, because I have a manual-dexterity problem. We were each asking, 'Are you sure? Are you sure?' He didn't coerce me, and I didn't talk him into it. We never talked each other into anything. I didn't make Darby die…
"I got water and a spoon. He wrote a note, which he didn't show me, but which I think said, 'My life, my leather, my love goes to Bosco.' He hit me up first and said, 'Are you okay?' and I said, 'Um, yeah.' He put his hand at the small of my back and he said, 'Just hold it, just stay there, just wait for me, okay? Just wait for me.' He held me up for a second, then he hit a vein and laid himself against the wall and pulled me to him. It was almost like he forgot what we were doing, and he goes, 'Wait a minute.' And then he kissed me and said, 'Well, 'bye.'"