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It’s a testament to Roecker’s charismatic sway that even Tim Armstrong, who never grants interviews, is willing to talk about him. “You know you either love him or hate him, but you don’t forget him,” Armstrong tells me over lunch at Netty’s one afternoon. “He’s got great ideas, and he’s just really entertaining and fun to be around. And he’s a loyal friend.”
During a snack break (Pringles), I ask Roecker what he says to people who might call him a starfucker. At first, he seems a little wounded, but then he gets all wry and haughty — the way that I remember him from back in his irascible retail days.
“Well, I haven’t fucked ’em yet. I wanna fuck ’em. .?.?. Are you kidding? I wanted to fuck Billie Joe Armstrong and all I got was this damn movie,” he says impishly. “It wasn’t a stalking kind of thing, if that’s what you’re getting at. Look, if I actually got laid by these people, I’d be happy to be called starfucker. I’d wear it as a badge of honor. I mean, c’mon, Tim and Billie are hot. Holy cow.”
A few days later, amid a sea of skull tattoos, studded belts and combat boots at the Freaky DVD release party at the Steve Allen Theater, Rancid and John Doe do an amazing acoustic set after a raucous screening of the film. Well-wishers include No Doubt’s Tony Kanal, the Madden brothers and various cast members — but Exene and Billie Joe are nowhere in sight. The next day, the New York Post’s Page Six manages to make a gossip item out of the latter’s absence, but Roecker says there’s no story there.
“I don’t want to whore out my friends for every fucking opening,” he says defensively. “It’s so tough. Billie did a lot. He did the songs; he did the commentary. I’m not going to be like, ‘Billie, why don’t you fly all the way to L.A. for this premiere?’ I’d feel really guilty. The band had a crazy year, and now he needs a break and some family time.”
Though Roecker admits he hasn’t spoken with the Green Day singer for several months, he insists there was no falling out. He does reveal that he is now, sadly, estranged from old pal Exene, though he refuses to go into any details. Exene declined to comment.
It may be over now, but her partnership with Roecker, based on a mutual love for religious iconography and a nothing’s-sacred DIY aesthetic, was definitely a precursor to Live Freaky’smocking sensibility.
“It’s an obsession with me. I don’t understand how people can give away everything they have to something that may not exist and just blindly follow,” he says. “That’s what we’re run by today. Alcoholic, born-again Christians trying to speed up Armageddon because they think that God’s gonna come and pull them out of their little suits and take them to heaven.”
Freaky opens with the end of the world as we know it, and a wandering nomad finding the book Helter Skelter in the desert. From there follower Hadie (played by the Lunachicks’ Theo Kogan) tells the tale of how, after a bad acid trip, she came to worship and obey Charlie and, along with the other “family members,” ends up killing druggie actress Sharon Hate (and her baby) and going to prison for her crimes. Charlie, played with giddy machismo by Billie Joe (who also wrote and sings a couple of super-catchy, über-campy tunes in the film; available with the DVD package on a bonus soundtrack CD), goes to the slammer too, and, thanks to an overzealous media, becomes somewhat of a rock star.
“I actually came up with the whole idea because every time I went to a thrift store, I’d see copies of Helter Skelter on the shelves,” explains Roecker. “I thought, ‘Oh, my god. This book is going to be around forever.’ You never saw a Bible but you always saw Helter, and I thought when the world is gone they’re going to find this book and they’re going to make this guy Manson the messiah. The person [Vincent Bugliosi] who wrote [Helter Skelter] is this right-wing guy, but he made this madman into the messiah. I loved the irony of the whole thing.”
Of course, rock & roll culture has always been kinda obsessed with Manson as an icon — even before Marilyn — and that wasn’t lost on Roecker, especially since he lived in L.A., where the whole ugly saga came to pass.