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
“Oh, is this the men’s bathroom?” asks a urinating Bijou Phillips when she notices that two men are using the urinals. The actress and daughter of Papa John Phillips is about to go onstage to perform a number of Germs’ tunes with her co-stars of the Darby Crash biopic, What We Do Is Secret by Rodger Grossman. The thespian punk rockers are opening for the real Germs, or at least the three members who didn’t overdose in 1980.
In typically chaotic Germs fashion, no one knows until the day before where and when the show is going to take place. Even with no publicity, word spreads quickly, and the venue is packed. The concert is only five bucks. (If David Bowie shows up, he’ll get in free since his name is optimistically placed on the guest list.) Many lesser rock stars are in attendance including Steve and Jeff McDonald of Redd Kross, the omnipresent Eric Erlandson (better known as Eric From Hole, or EFH), Mike Watt, Howie Pyro and Karen Centerfold.
With actor Lukas Haas as drummer Don Bolles, Phillips in an absurdly teased blond wig as bassist Lorna Doom, a biracial-looking dude named Victor Rasuk as Pat Smear, and actor Shane West attempting to channel the ghost of Darby Crash, the only-in-Hollywood tribute band took the stage.
The movie Germs perform a number of tunes — “Sexboy,” “Forming” “Circle One,” “Lion’s Share” and “Lexicon Devil” — surprisingly well, or at least as well as the original early Germs did. West, who does resemble Crash, even sports a faux rat tail and had his teeth surgically altered to look more Darbyeseque. It’s all sort of like the real thing except that there are a lot more cell-phone cameras taking pictures than there were in the late ’70s.
Die-hard fans test West by yelling bits from Germs live albums; the well-studied actor answers accordingly. In a half-assed punk gesture, an audience member tosses a beer bottle at the pseudo Darby. The real Bolles jumps onstage, and in a three-quarters-assed punk gesture, spits beer toward the crowd, spraying Bijou.
Finally, the real Germs, minus Darby, play. But who is going to sing? According to Bolles, they had hoped it would be Darby’s
10-year-old niece, Angel Crash, whom he insists is the reincarnation of Crash, going so far as to call her the “Darby Lama.” Unfortunately, the Second Coming of Crash is at home, grounded. So, Darby look-alike West performs double duty and fronts the reunited Germs as well, singing “My Tunnel” and “Manimal.” After the group performs “We Must Bleed,” Smear starts the song again with the opening guitar riff. Each time the song ends, Smear starts it again. Considering Doom hasn’t picked up a bass since the Germs’ last show almost a quarter of a century ago, she plays amazingly well.
The movie band jumps back onstage, and the original Germs go back into the crowd, except for Bolles who fucks with the dials on their amps, sings into a drum microphone and throws a cymbal into the air repeatedly, hitting it with a beer bottle on its way down.
As for the movie that prompted this surreal event, it appears that it is in limbo. Anyone seeking work as an extra on the
film is greeted with the message: “You have reached the Germs Hot Line.
“Unfortunately, we are not going through with production at this time. We may be at a later date, but as of right now, we do not need any extras. Please do not leave a message on this machine.
A Patch of Green
On the last Sunday in February, I drove down to Alameda and 41st streets, to the community garden tended by low-income residents on 14 acres of land in the heart of an industrial zone. This was to be the last day of the garden’s life; the land had been rented from the city since 1992 by the Los Angeles Food Bank on behalf of local farmers for a dollar a year, while the city and other agencies tried from time to time to do something else with it.
From the get-go, the community garden was supposed to be temporary — two years was the original estimated life span. The Los Angeles City Harbor bought the land in 1994, but never used it, allowing the nopales cacti, the guava and the papaya trees to mature; the lean-to arbors to acquire a sense of permanence; the gardeners to feel ever more connected not only to their individual patches of earth and the food they produced (not to mention the grocery money they saved), but also to the garden as a community. A decade and some is a long time to till ground. And the garden, the third largest in all of Los Angeles, now represents a living dream to the green community and idealists everywhere. The day before my visit, Dennis Kucinich stopped by and declared that the garden was an example of what should be done in cities all over the United States. Kucinich is right, of course — dead right — but on that day his lovely values seemed to have as much chance of triumphing as his bid for the presidency. For the garden sits on prime industrial real estate, and if there is one thing that it does not do, it does not make anybody (or any municipality) rich. Thus, the acreage was eventually sold to developer Ralph Horowitz, who, despite organized protests, intends to replace the garden with warehouses and soccer fields and ordered the gardeners out. Although, of course, the story is more complicated than that.