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Warm Jello

Photo by Kevin Scanlon

Photo by Kevin Scanlon

“I didn’t come here to be a rock star,” Bill Manspeaker, lead singer of seminal kook rockers Green Jello, says inside his legendary loft in Thai Town. “I came here ’cause it’s warm.”

Manspeaker, who founded Green Jello in 1981, brought the troupe to Los Angeles in 1987 from Buffalo, New York, after answering an ad for Gong Show acts. “My girlfriend and I packed up my car and made the five-day trip, then spent the next four months living on the floor underneath a kitchen table at a friend’s apartment. We got on the Gong Show and got gonged. I won Lee Press-On Nails and some Turtle Wax, but I was on TV within a couple of months of moving here. It was the greatest thing in the world.”

Five years later, Manspeaker and his gelatin squad — who by this time had become known for their outlandish foam-and-papier-mâché costumes — signed a deal with Zoo Entertainment as “the world’s first video-only band.” In their classic Cereal Killer video album (and later audio soundtrack), they took the quaint nursery rhyme about three little pigs and converted their troubles with the big bad wolf into a terrifying rock bash with all the cuteness of a cement mixer. The song was an MTV hit, and soon Manspeaker was hanging gold records on his wall and attracting the attention of the makers of Jell-O, who filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit leading the band to change its name to Green Jellÿ.

In 1994, Manspeaker — a.k.a. Moronic Dictator, Shitman, and Marshall “Duh” Staxx onstage — took the money he made and started a music-video production company on Sunset Boulevard called Green Jellÿ Studios. Then he took the money from that and opened the club Qtopia, which has been a huge success. More recently, Manspeaker sold out his interest in the club, bought a beach house, and is going into film production. But he’s kept his Hollywood party loft.

“I don’t like doing things over and over — I just want to do things once and move on to the next thing. Green Jello was a fun thing — they were like my baseball team, but I never expected to be in the World Series. I didn’t come to Hollywood to become famous or be successful. I figured I’d be poor, but I’d be warm. People come here and put up these hopes and time-limits for success and when it doesn’t happen fast enough they leave. I didn’t have any hope or time-limit. I was having fun, and I was warm.”