|Photo by Wild Don Lewis|
That Billy Idol, 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 and toast . . . headache . . . Flesh! . .
. Burt Bacharach . . .”
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’s Jukebox
on 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’s Playground, 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: To Kevin and Julio
. . . Fuck You. 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,
About 20 years ago, Idol did his first L.A. in-store, for Rebel Yell.
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 TV Guide
reporter 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. There is nothin’ fair in this
world . . . There is nothin’
safe in this world . . .
(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.”)
There is nothing sure in this world,
and there’s nothing pure in this
world . . . And still, he raises his fist
to the sky and howls . . . It’s a nice day to
Under the first street bridge
downtown, 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 Fight Club and the WWE-heavy theatrics of Kaiju
Big Battel, 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 The Matrix’s
Agent 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.”
Very Vero Beach