Here’s what the announcement said:
ON DECEMBER 6th ONE OF THE WORLD’S BIGGEST ROCK BANDS WILL REUNITE
IN THEIR HOME SWEET HOME FOR A MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT & PERFORMANCE
MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2004
Intrigued? By now you’ve probably heard that the band in question
is Mötley Crüe, who’ve decided to kiss and make up. They made the
announcement at an old-fashioned Hollywood pile-in-the-press conference at a
“secret location” revealed only once your press credentials became
After a colleague fished the announcement from the recycling bin
and handed it to me, I pictured the scene from Gimme Shelter where a
female journalist asked Mick Jagger, “Are you still not satisfied?,”
to which he delivered a cheeky answer in a room full of press people. This would
be my chance to go down in heavy metal history by putting on my best Joanne
Journalist voice and provoking Nikki, Vince, Tommy or Mick to give the best
sound bite of the whole event. Should it be “Are you still ‘Too Fast for
Love’?” or “When was the last time you saw ‘Dr. Feelgood’?”
The media has come from Las Vegas, England, Germany and beyond
for the press conference at the Hollywood Palladium: Metal Edge, Rock Hard,
Heavy Rock, Classic Rock (who knew?), Metal Hammer, Metal Hammer (Germany),
Las Vegas Rock City News, Skinny Magazine (what the hell?), plus every
major news outfit in town. A helicopter with the Red, White and Mötley
Crüe logo — a naked chick against the U.S. flag — circles in the evening
sky above Sunset and Argyle.
The Palladium balcony is full of camera crews, plus chairs for
reporters, with their publication’s name taped to the back, though the L.A.
Weekly sign must have been overlooked. Rock journalists are somewhere between
chemists and Arrowhead Water deliverymen on the attractiveness scale, and the
guys are almost never over 5’7″. In this setting, “Same Old Song and
Dance” is given an entirely new context, and sounds like a song as indispensable
to rock history as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Pamela Anderson byproducts
are everywhere — gorgeous blond women who must have studied the former Mrs.
Lee’s every cosmetic and fashion move. The mood, all arranged by the publicity
experts at BWR, is best described as “professionally cool anticipation,”
but I have to wonder if the reporters from Rolling Stone and The Wall
Street Journal have any Mötley Crüe CDs in their car amid the
Interpol and Radiohead.
Just when we thought the helicopter had landed, the band pulls
up in a hearse. We would later learn that a fire marshal had pulled the permit
at the last minute, so they had to resort to Plan B. Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and
Vince Neil look more or less the same as they did on their infamous VH1 Behind
the Music, but guitarist Mick Mars literally looks like an extra from The
Nightmare Before Christmas. We’re told he recently had hip replacement surgery,
but is this world tour a good idea for a man whose complexion is nearly transparent?
A panel of five serious white guys — agents and promotional people
— tell us how Mötley Crüe “is clearly one of the most influential
bands in rock.” The phrase “This is worldwide, baby” is uttered
without sarcasm. The VH1 guy says, “We at VH1 were hoping this day would
come for a long time.” Of course he does, the Behind the Music special
is a classic of every sin and vice we want from our heavy metal heroes.
The band’s new video, “If I Die Tomorrow,” is screened,
raising the question: Does the world really need another power ballad? That
query hangs in the air as the dirge-ish tidal wave of riffage trudges on. Don’t
ask me how the song is; it was forgotten before the screen went blank — though
several whooping “woo-hoos” were heard from the press corps.
Finally, the four members sit down for a brief Q&A session.
Tommy Lee, looking a bit distracted and aloof, mutters, “This one’s for
the fans.” Sixx, the only one who bothered to break out the mousse, does
most of the talking. One kind reporter asks Mars how his health might affect
the tour, to which the mötley ghoul answers, “I’m gonna kick your
fucking ass,” without the exclamation mark. Neil sincerely offers, “We
want to show we’re still mötley.” As a show of solidarity, all four
collectively flip off the fire marshal — an “asshole on a power trip,”
according to Sixx — and they leave to take the stage.
Though constantly raising my hand like Horshack to get the attention
of the microphone-wielder, I never got to ask my question, though if any Mötley
Crüe member wants to call, I’ll gladly play Nina Blackwood and pose this:
“Libby Molyneaux, L.A. Weekly. So, how do you predict your backstage
antics will compare to the ’80s on this new tour?”
Nudie Cuties and Beyond
As the fourth Shock-a-Go-Go festival of bizarre cinema
unleashed its 36-hour onslaught against taste and common sense Friday night
at Hollywood Boulevard’s Vine Theater, film fanatics staked their claims with
sleeping bags and pillowed beds protected by the repulsive sorcery of “I
think someone got sick on that seat, man.”
The malfunctioning cinematic code of the weekend’s films: Nothing
is certain, strange things end up badly, and the sound is too loud. Much like
fastidious rock fans or antique-book hoarders, grindhouse cinema fans — whose
singularity of vision drives their eyes toward subjects other than the proscribed
or recommended — are passionate to various faults and rabidly supportive of
a world that most people rarely see.
Two films in, nearly-blind-and-deaf producer David F. Friedman
regaled the assembled with tales of his years making exploitation films. Now
almost completely removed from the integral parts of motion pictures, Friedman
instead maintains what films often replace: memory. He lamented the lost sense
of satisfaction at seeing customers emerge from one of his many “nudie
cuties” at one of his Pussycat Theaters and disgustedly hurl popcorn in
the manager’s face. He then revealed the hucksterism of the campfire storyteller:
“Under 18 — you wouldn’t understand it! Over 85 — you wouldn’t be able
to stand it!”
As bleary-eyed festival producer Eric Eichelberger juggled nudie
loops and the manager’s ever-watchful curiosity, evangelicals outside dragged
wooden crucifixes along the boulevard sidewalk, and feckless children handed
out soup to the grindhouse faithful.
“Are you a believer in Christ Jesus?”
“No, I’m Jewish.”
Back inside, the cavalcade of films continued to unspool: Street
Trash, with its hyperkinetic late-1980s meditation on survival among the dissolute
and the dissolved by way of immediately toxic Tenafly Viper liquor; She-Freak,
with its exposé of carny life and the seedy perils of angering human
oddities unto messy endings; and the duality of sordid Italian gut-munching
nihilism/optimism in Burial Ground and The Man From Deep River.
The experience of spending days immersed in these films is a bit
like a man shut into an all-yellow room. Its totality of experience means madness
at the sight of the indelible sun or other lightstruck manifestations of mainstream
cinema. As the night stretched into a chorus of snores, the amount of respect
the audience had for one’s personal space was impressive — one could easily
run out for a smoke break without fearing one’s chocolate-chip bundt cakes would
Early Saturday morning, on her way past the Vine, a woman with
fried hair and hoop earrings stood utterly transfixed before the eye-clenching
posters for Swedish Wildcats while the pall of cigarette haze blossomed around
her. Presently, quixotic news wafted along the floating curls of carcinogens
that the Mission Drive-In Theater in Montclair is due to be re-launched as the
Tiki Drive-In, offering slasher films and hot-rod fare to the gods of the ozone.
Through the afternoon, Mary Woronov, gracefully statuesque and
cordial, signed memorabilia inside the lobby of the Vine for true believers
as Rock ’n’ Roll High School screened — her presence a stark contrast with the
deaths of three out of four Ramones. A strange and walloping emptiness overcame
me as I watched her walk unrecognized down the Boulevard when she finished.
When Roger Corman appeared, several fans flung themselves prostrate
upon their prostates before him in rapt worship of their low-budget liege. He
spoke of his Poe adaptations; about cameos for Francis Ford Coppola; about Tom
Cruise remaking Death Race 2000, Paul Bartel’s violent schadenfreude-laden future
vision of NASCAR; the falling dollar recapturing foreign-filmed movies; and
the diminishing returns that come with graphic mutilation.
Early Sunday morning, still hours before sunrise, the rock band
Mucus imploded due to a cut set; many middle fingers were extended, and the
manager was mortified. Rain fell. It didn’t wash away the scum on the streets,
but instead bestowed a glimmering sheen to its tawny coat as the grindhouse
groundhogs scurried away into the night when the doors finally closed.
Wearing Your Cause on Your Artfully Torn Sleeve
“Are they launching a new line?”
This is what the fashion editor asked me when I invited her to
TreePeople’s Thursday-night fashion show at the Knitting Factory.
“Then is it a fund-raiser?” she asked when I told her
I didn’t think the environmental group was going into the fashion business.
“It’s free,” I said.
She declined the offer — something about plans to congratulate
Marco of MarcoMarco on his first year in business — but made me promise to report
back. “If it’s a new line, I should know about it. Otherwise, why is TreePeople
having a fashion show?”
Fair question. Fashion in the developed world depends on people
(women, mostly) throwing things out before they wear them out. So it’s doubtful
an organization with a 31-year track record of conservationist conversion would
get itself tangled up in fashion.
Officially, the event was to launch a “green is the new black”
ad campaign sponsored by AdZoo, a branch of the American Advertising Federation,
and LA.com that each year helps a nonprofit organization get its message out
through billboards. TreePeople was chosen this year from 30 applicants for the
distinction, and the resulting “Environmental Makeover” campaign shows
high-fashion models in runway attire wielding spades and shovels and slogans
like “support the environment that supports you” and “time to
dig deeper within yourself.”
The whole idea, says TreePeople’s public-education director, Laurie
Kaufman, is to hip the 20-to-35-year-old set — people she calls the “Lost
Generation” — to environmentalism in a campaign low on shame and big on
style and humor.
The strategy is radically all-inclusive: Placement for the ads
has been donated by both Viacom and Clear Channel, and Kaufman, who tends to
smile a lot anyway, is unreservedly thrilled to have them on her side: “I
can hardly contain myself,” she told me at the party. “These corporations
get such a bad rap from the media.”
At the door of the party was a table laid out with T-shirts produced
by anti-sweatshop American Apparel, stamped with TreePeople’s oblique logo.
Other tables around the room had been loaded with fruit, hummus and olives and
vegetables, most of it from Whole Foods, which also sprung for the free wine.
Some in the crowd looked endearingly enviro, sporting sensibly flat Mary Janes
with a sparkly skirt, or, in one instance, Chaco sandals with a fringe dress;
others may well have spent the day outdoors digging holes on a hill. But when
the fashion show actually got started, and a young woman with cascades of brown
hair and a superhumanly smooth belly announced it was time “to show you
don’t have to compromise style when you’re saving the planet,” all that
faded into the ambient mist: The models who strode onstage, like the MC, were,
in a word, hot. Not hippie-green-looks-kinda-cute-with-a-hole-in-her-sweater
hot. I mean, like shiny, fiery, slithery you-wanna-know-what-they-smell-like
hot. Almost too hot.
Sawana wore tight jeans and a TreePeople shirt sliced off just
above the waist. Citizen forester Tina, who had “spent the day leading
a tree planting,” came out in a TreePeople T-shirt decorated with frills
and a fake zipper across the shoulder. Hannah’s TreePeople T-shirt was cut off
and fringed, and had something about a pelican written on it. Jeremy, who took
extra care to drop his asymmetrical hair style just so over his smoldering gaze,
had diamond-shaped shreds cut up each side of his TreePeople tank.
“So, is this your new line?” I asked Kaufman.
“Yes!” she laughed, and pointed to a woman wearing a
different-colored T-shirt, still bearing the club’s logo, gathered and ruffled
at the neck and hip. “And that was our old line!”
I told Kaufman that I was grateful for her organization’s perennial
enthusiasm, and how they have a knack for refining language about environmentalism
for maximum influence. “We need less antagonism in opposition movements
these days,” I offered.
Kaufman cleared her throat; the enthusiasm flickered. “We’re
not,” she said solemnly, “an opposition movement. For us, it’s not
about the fist in the air; it’s about the hand across the table.”
“That’s good!” I said.
“Yeah? I just made it up.”
Look, Ma, No Hands!
“I’m so nervous about my mom being here tonight.”
Charlotte Caffey, lead guitarist for the Go-Go’s, has invited
her mother to a staged reading at the Hayworth Theater of the still-in-workshop
musical Lovelace, based on the life of late Deep Throat star Linda
Lovelace and featuring music co-written by Caffey. Now she’s having second thoughts.
“There’s so much swearing and dirty stuff in it,” Caffey
says. “I’m afraid she’ll be freaked out.”
Consider that Lovelace’s showstopper number is the hoedownish
“My Cock,” an ode to porn star Harry Reem’s famous member.
The show was first workshopped last year, then got a head-to-toe
rewrite. It’s now tighter and better-paced, with Heather Reid (formerly Grody)
of the bands Murmurs and Gush taking over the lead role, at least temporarily,
from Tina Yothers, once of Family Ties. It’s also less reliant on blow
job–based double entendres. But the show’s narrator, John Waters’ favorite Mink
Stole, still has plenty to do.
After all was said and sung, Caffey’s mother didn’t storm out
in horror. Indeed, as the show’s cast and audience — including former Danzig/D-Generation
bassist Howie Pyro and ex–Redd Kross front man Jeff McDonald (Caffey’s husband)
— mingled in the sparse front room of the elegant MacArthur Park theater, Mrs.
Caffey had only one complaint: She felt that the famous fellatrice’s character
could have been more developed.
“Excuse me, brother . . .”
In my periphery I can see the matted hair, mud-soaked clothing
and ripped black garbage bag. It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and my job interview
is a few more blocks down Santa Monica Boulevard. Dressed in the dark brown
suit my mother shipped me from home and the spit-shined black dress shoes my
grandma sent me money to buy, I look like I might have some money.
Jesus, please don’t ask me. I really don’t wanna deal with
this right now.
I’ve been walking for well over an hour now in order to get to
this job interview. I couldn’t afford car fare and I haven’t eaten and don’t
expect to eat until I get back to my buddy’s house where I’m crashing for the
next day or so. I have 10 cents in my pocket and no money coming in from anything
“Sir? Sir, excuse me.”
Now I’m pissed. I’m not angry with this man for being homeless
or poor. I’m angry at the whole damn system and the way things work in our world
and the fact that I don’t have any money to give this guy.
“I’m sorry, but . . .”
As I turn towards him, I am at once aware of how broken and bankrupt
his life seems. He probably hears “No” at least as many times as I
have to say it. And how close to his life am I? I could be on the streets in
a heartbeat. All it would take is for a few people to turn me away the same
way I want to turn from this man. I want to tell him that his life, his story,
his dilemma is less than mine and that I just really don’t have time for him
right now. I can’t tell him the truth — that I don’t have any money. Why would
he believe that? How many people walk around in $500 suits with no money in
their pockets? He’s gonna think that I’m being cheap. And in the midst of this
season of joy and brotherhood and fellowship, I’m about to make a homeless man
feel more alone and unhappy.
But things are rarely what they seem.
“Hey man . . .“
He cuts me off before I can begin to disappoint him.
“I just got out of the hospital for diabetes and this woman
gave me all these.”
He opens up the plastic bag to reveal about a dozen or so Twix
bars shining in gold wrappers.
“I can’t eat ’em,” he says as he hands me the bag and
smiles. “Happy holidays, brother.”
—Khristian E. Leslie