By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Wild Don Lewis|
ThatBillyIdol,he’s a heck of a mumbler. Sitting with his band at Tower Records, wearing fancy red leather pants, a leather jacket, and macho biker-bling on his fingers, Idol leans over whatever object he’s autographing — poster, LP, CD, leg — and gargles marbles. Possibly, he’s saving his voice. Makes you wonder: What would Billy Idol’s inner monologue sound like, and would “Flesh!” pop up much? God, I hope so, for everyone’s sake. “Eggs andtoast. . . headache. . . Flesh! . . . BurtBacharach. . .”
It’s 7 p.m. on a Friday, and we’re going on Hour Six of Billy Idol Day here in Hollywood — which began with an afternoon appearance on Jonesy’sJukeboxon Indie 103 and will end tonight with a fans-only show at the Roxy. And right now I must admit something: While I was ordering a carrot/penis smoothie at the Hustler store (strictly for parking validation) down the street from Tower Records, some woman apparently whipped out her huge boobs for Billy Idol, and he practiced his snarl on them while the paparazzi snapped it up. Hey, rock & roll comebacks are not pretty.
Billy Idol, 49, looks like himself these days . . . and not. The Mick Jagger influence is heavier now — say, Mick at 39. When Idol smiles, it overtakes his face, and what’s left crinkles up like a Shar-Pei. It all supports the theory that rock stars are the world’s biggest fans: Idol once absorbed Elvis’ sneer and Morrison’s shriek; why not throw in Jagger’s grin? (Heck, on his new record, Devil’sPlayground,he cops a Johnny Cash vibe as well as some convincing Neil Diamond/Bang Records handclap-tambourine love.)
For more than two hours, with a J. Lo video playing silently on a TV screen and 50 Cent posters on the wall, Billy Idol sits and carefully signs his name, and whatever messages fans have requested: ToKevinandJulio...FuckYou.About 500 fans are here, including middle-aged ex–hair babes, three 15-year-old girls from North Hollywood High who’re Generation X fans (“We’re hip to the jive,” one says), and 7-year-old Ed, from Anaheim, who listens to “Dancing With Myself” before every Little League game. (No, he doesn’t know what it’s about, says his father, Dan, 34.)
About 20 years ago, Idol did his first L.A. in-store, for RebelYell.As his publicist recalls, one of Elvis’ former bodyguards hooked him up with an Elvis groupie. “They stayed up for three days — she kept giving him drugs,” she recalls. “Then she had a dream. She told Billy that Elvis had spoken to her, and said Billy was supposed to carry on his mission. And that’s when he went, Oh shit . . . She’s crazy.”
Some might say crazy; others might say, Duh. Billy Idol was self-made to play Vegas, and play it cool. He’s always been a pretty boy, with an inherent sense of humor, presentation and popsmanship. Yes, that can look cartoonish up close, under fluorescent lighting, at almost 50. At Tower, when the TVGuidereporter asks Idol to recite some text for the camera, he flubs it, talking about his “book signing,” but ends the take with a carefully timed snarl, raised eyebrow, and fist. Idol knows what people want, and he’s happy to give it. What they want is someone he wants to be, too.
And yeah, there’s a lot of Elvis in there, via Morrison. It’s all revealed an hour later at the Roxy show. His voice is occasionally strong but generally ragged after a long day. What hasn’t changed, and comes on slowly, is his ability to turn people on with the oldest, most sacred/cheap tricks in the book. During the new song “Scream,” he reaches down to fans, singing to them directly; on “Flesh for Fantasy,” he thrusts his hips for some imaginary girl on her knees — it’s ridiculous, and actually pretty sexy. He cracks an imaginary whip, too — but then, midgesture, reaches up to scratch his eye with his other hand. “White Wedding” is his shining moment, though. His voice is switched on, the band is alive — and maybe you’d have to know Idol spent more than a decade as a has-been crack and heroin addict, but the lyrics are really holding up. Thereisnothin’fairinthisworld...Thereisnothin’safeinthisworld...(And don’t we all know it, Billy — if we didn’t know it back in 1984. No wonder he’s got a T-shirt that reads, “Protect yourself from Hollywood.”) Thereisnothingsureinthisworld,andthere’snothingpureinthisworld...And still, he raises his fist to the sky and howls . . . It’sanicedaytostartagain!
Underthefirststreetbridgedowntown, blood is being drawn. A bare corner of wet pavement between two concrete pillars supporting the overpass swarms with a ragtag circle of more than 150 liquor-fueled skaters, artists and alterna-dorks. Rowdy cheers, screams and boos assault the air as the contestants duel in a gladiator pit in the middle of the crowd. Practically obscured is DJ Dolphin Force, whose aggressive beats sustain the crowd’s tension.
This is the third annual Rock, Paper, Scissors Rumble, a double-fisted love child of FightCluband the WWE-heavytheatrics of KaijuBigBattel,with every spectator having a favorite fighter, and every fighter bringing a larger-than-life persona.
Pothead, a skinny rocker who literally has a cooking pot on his head, is up against Jim Henson, a mid-20s ringer for the Muppet master, complete with brown beard, corduroy coat and a hand up Kermit’s keister. The Weezer-esque referee, whose slapdash uniform makes him look like he’s AWOL from Foot Locker, releases the hungry opponents’ hands for an intense round of “Roe-Sham-Boe.”
“One, Two, Three . . . Shoot!” Two fists dance on three beats and the shooters make split-second decisions on what to throw. Paper seems to serve the same purpose as the “C” bubble on the SATs, with panicked fighters often resorting to its understated appeal. Henson is aware of this tendency though, his deft artillery quickly putting Pothead to rest by winning three rounds of the best of five. The boastful winner is lustily booed for running victory circles with Kermit’s tiny hand held up for high-fives.
Cheap thrills go best with cheap drinks. Keeping the swelling party properly lubed is a bar adjacent to the circle of death, asking for only a donation in exchange for cold beer and strong screwdrivers. Hand-made fashions and leather goods, courtesy of local independent designers, are available for those who can apparently shop anywhere. Skooby’s, known for having the most punk chili dogs in Hollywood, has set up its Skooby’s mobile to distribute free dogs for the blood-hungry throng.
Edging the event ever closer to a cockfight is the bookie who takes sporadic bets on the action, a minuscule wad of singles held in his clutches. Behind the dogged fighters, video of last year’s event is psychedelically projected on a bare pillar, which, combined with the announcer’s propulsive commentary, adds sensory overload to an already chaotic happening. Caine, an Abercrombie-tinted vision of kung-fu calm, has just defeated Chunky Highlights, who moves her colorfully tattooed legs out of the Thunderdome.
By the time Jim Henson stands across from Caine for the 2005 championship, the ring girl can do nothing but stagger, tear off her wig and jump into the middle of the circle until someone drags her out. Impromptu break dancing keeps busting out and a Ron Burgundy look-alike has entered the fray, soliciting comments from the battle-weary with an outdated mic and camera.
Caine easily wins the final cash prize — leaving Henson with only his frog puppet and a good buzz to go home with. After a short intro film, last year’s champ, Rubek’s Cubed, emerges from the shadows to confront the new champion. Donning an old-school Nintendo Power Glove with its own tech-support team, Rubek’s launches into a new-school robot dance that would put TheMatrix’sAgent Smith to shame. He then proceeds to get his hubris-heavy butt kicked by the humble Caine in a near shutout.
“It would have been great, if I had known I’d actually won! You know, it was pretty confusing,” says a modest Caine of the chaotic victory, who promises his winnings will go direct to the Shaolin Temple brotherhood. “No doubt.”