The young man wearing the dress, smiling and saluting the camera, is named Wayne. He was around 19 when the picture was taken. Earlier that day, he had pulled up in front of the small house I shared with my friend Peter Andrus, driving a green Army jeep and wearing his uniform. He might have had a rifle over his shoulder, though no one can remember for sure. There is no denying he was technically AWOL, since he admits he never asked permission to leave the fort near Monterey where he was stationed, let alone commandeer the jeep. It was something he had done before, so we weren’t really surprised to see him. Amused, but not surprised.
“They thought I was in the barracks the whole time,” Wayne remembers. “I had a friend who would log me in if I left. I would be driving around the base and just think it was a good idea to drive down to your place and get high, and so I would. They never had a clue.”
Wayne was originally from the north end of the San Fernando Valley. After discovering punk rock at a local record store, he met a punkish girl at school who had a car, and they started heading into Hollywood. His first punk show was the Germs, at the seminal Masque club. Soon after that he was kicked out of three high schools in the span of three weeks. Following the expected blowup with his father, Wayne left home at 15 and moved into Hollywood, where he shared an apartment with his friend, future L.A. restaurant icon Fred Eric.
Wayne was laconic and handsome, a punk rock James Dean type with homemade tattoos and a leather jacket. Two years after arriving in Hollywood, burned out on the drugs and debauchery of the scene, Wayne moved back to the Valley and started cooking at a local Bob’s Big Boy, listening exclusively to rockabilly music. Hyped on a newfound sense of Americana and influenced by a particularly effective late-night recruitment commercial, he enlisted in the Army. He was 17 and had blue hair when he arrived at basic training.
“I was recruited in Hollywood and immediately shipped off to Fort Dix in New Jersey,” he says. “I was this L.A. kid who was into the Cramps. It was a real world shift, like jail or something, when you’re forced in with people you wouldn’t normally be around. I mean, I had a roommate that was into Loverboy.”
Wayne spent the following three years in the service, getting stationed in New Jersey, then Kentucky and then Germany before finishing out in Monterey, where he was assigned to drive an old ambulance turned bloodmobile between the base and San Francisco.
“One weekend I took a bunch of the guys to San Francisco to see [L.A. death rock band] 45 Grave,” he says. “We stopped in Santa Cruz and bought some acid. They had never heard or seen anything like that in their lives, and they loved it. There was this guy everyone called ‘Hillbilly’ from West Virginia, and he just went totally ape-shit. I always think most of those guys ended up as drunks or something. But then most people probably think I’m dead or in prison, and here I am sitting in my nice backyard in Mount Washington working on kids video games.”