THE VEINS ON HENRY ROLLINS' THICK NECK POP AS HE PUFFS HIMSELF up onstage at Amoeba Music on Sunset like a black-T-shirt-clad god of war. Later, signing autographs and joking with some of the 1,700 fans who've crammed themselves between the CD racks for a free in-store performance by ex-Black Flag'ers Rollins, Chuck Dukowski and Keith Morris, he'll deflate himself into what may be his natural state: a variation on that manic social studies teacher you had in junior high who got you to read George Orwell for the first time. But for the moment at least, he rages through the lyrics of Black Flag's anti-authoritarian anthem “Rise Above,” with most of the crowd chanting along: “We are tired of your abuse/Try to stop us, it's no use.”
The song, with its strident, accusatory tone, is perfect for this evening's stated purpose, a 30-minute promotional set for the recently released benefit CD of the same name. On it are 24 Black Flag songs sung by Ice-T, Corey Taylor, Iggy Pop, Exene Cervenka, Ryan Adams, Lemmy, Dean Ween and more (including, of course, Dukowski, Rollins and Morris). Proceeds from the sale of the album go to the legal defense fund for a trio best known to the world as the West Memphis Three.
Convicted in 1994 of the bizarre murder of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, the young men — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin — are currently sitting out their 20s in Arkansas' medieval prison system, awaiting the results of their various appeals. Echols, who was seen at the time as the wannabe ringleader of a murderous Satanic cult, is on death row. Baldwin's serving life without parole and Misskelley got life plus 40 years.
All of which would be fine if they were indeed guilty. However, charges that they were the scapegoats of a late-20th-century Salem Witch Trial echo loudly to this day. Their case was the subject of not one, but two HBO documentaries, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, which have spawned a nationwide movement demanding the release of the West Memphis Three. A Los Angeles-based Web site, www.wm3.org, serves as cyberspace ground zero for the effort, and numerous entertainment-industry folks have rallied round its digital banner, including Eddie Vedder, South Park co-creator Trey Parker, and the makers of Dawson's Creek, whose characters periodically sport “Free the West Memphis Three” shirts.
Rollins caught the WM3 bug a couple of years ago. His activism reached a frenzied pace this year, culminating in Rise Above, produced by Rollins with the blessing of Black Flag don-of-dons Greg Ginn. The CD has been ecstatically received by the punk community as “almost” a new Black Flag record. Hence the stage-diving, mosh-pit-crazed audience at Amoeba, a crowd so large store management barred the doors in order to keep the 200 persons outside from tempting the fire marshal's wrath.
“I've never done anything like this before,” Rollins says before the show. “But when you see those documentaries, and you see these mulleted, trailer-park-dwelling, gap-toothed rednecks saying, 'I know he did it. I know he drank blood from the boy's penis.' You just wanna walk in and go, 'Gimme the keys. Okay, funboy, it's over with. We're going home now.' And they whine, 'But he's in jail!' And you're like, 'Oh, shut up! And gimme that badge, it's plastic anyway.' Like in that SNL skit where the guys come in to tear down the Star Trek set and Chevy Chase is still trying to put the Vulcan death grip on one of the movers, there's a big element of wanting to do that here.”
Most of the tattooed and pierced punks at Amoeba seem only vaguely familiar with the cause Rollins is espousing. But perhaps that's part of the learning curve. Grove Pashley of the WM3 Web site hands out more than 300 fliers describing the case to concertgoers before he runs out of leaflets. And later Amoeba spokesperson Kara Lane says the store sold 125 copies of Rise Above that night alone. Images of the WM3 are on the album cover, and the liner notes point readers to the documentaries, the Web site, and an exhaustive new book by investigative journalist Mara Leveritt, Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. But will Rollins' advocacy truly inspire activism and awareness amongst admirers?
“Definitely, I think so,” says Sherri Durrell, a Black Flag enthusiast with a hennaed Louise Brooks bob and a large tattoo of St. Michael on her left forearm. “This sort of thing really brings people out, especially a lot of the kids who don't have HBO. I've heard about the case before, but I'll be paying more attention to it now.”
IT'S BEEN TWO YEARS SINCE APPLE Via and Audrey Rose gave their first Monday Night Cachet party at Les Deux Café in Hollywood. Recently, the hostesses marked the occasion with a black-tie affair. “You should have seen how pretty everyone was,” gushes Rose the morning after, over huevos rancheros and a black-eyed shake (standard vanilla with a shot of espresso) at the 101 Coffee Shop.
“It was packed,” she says of the club that regularly attracts the likes of Kirsten Dunst and Tatiana Von Furstenberg. “They made us a beautiful, humongous cake. At midnight, Michelle [Lamy, Les Deux's owner] brought us a bunch of bottles of champagne, we French-kissed and blew out the candles.” “We didn't really French-kiss,” jokes Rose (née Bernstein), an attractive green-eyed former professional snowboarder.
The coming together of Rose and Via was one of those things that made perfect sense, at least to Via, a Pisces, who spent her formative years living with her bohemian artist parents in an ashram in Ventura County run by the guru Maharaji. The adorable 31-year-old blond, who left the ashram at age 6, recalls the day Rose asked her to partner up two years ago. “I didn't even think about it. I just knew. It was like 'Yes.'”
At the time, Via, a fine artist and poet in her own right, had just lost a series of children's books she had nearly completed when the car she was driving to Canada “exploded.”
“I was devastated,” she explains, picking at her egg-white scramble. “I was like, 'Forget it. It's a sign.' I resigned to what was there for me — and that was Audrey.”
Meanwhile, Rose, a onetime Sonic Youth album-cover girl, who got her professional name (inspired by the '70s horror flick) while working and living with photographer-filmmaker Richard Kern (“We were married, well, sort of married“), had come to town from New York to throw one of her then-famous karaoke nights at the Derby in Los Feliz. The party went so well that she decided to stay.
The two had met a few months prior when Via, head of promotions for a wireless guide called Modo, contacted Rose about throwing the launch party. When the financing finally fell out for Modo, they lunched instead, and it just clicked.
Since then, they have produced a steady string of successful soirees: a Levi's party for Phantom Planet at the downtown Standard, Jerry Stahl's book signing, and shindigs for Dazed and Confused, Robbie Williams, the sneaker shop Undefeated in conjunction with artist Barry McGee's Nike-sponsored billboard, and, of course, Monday Night's Cachet, still going strong.
“So many people have been coming since the first week,” says Via, dressed in a Grey Ant striped skirt, mismatched X-Elle striped shirt and Converse All-Stars. “Just noticing all the changes they've been through, how they developed their careers. Watching them grow as people.”
“Like the Phantom Planet kids, they were there the first week.”
“Like Vincent Gallo,” adds Rose jokingly. “He was like living in the streets two years ago. And now he's doing really well.”
The secret to the event planners' success has as much to do with the group of hip New York transplants and L.A. kids who cross-pollinate consistently at their events as it does with their laid-back approach.
“I hate the idea of us being promoters. We don't have enough cell phones and beepers to be promoters,” says Rose, who seems to have always had a knack for bringing the right people together.
“I was having parties all the time,” she says of her early days in N.Y. “I had a birthday party, and it turned into a big thing and the owner asked me to keep doing it. It was at ENO, a little restaurant. Nell Campbell's husband owned it.”
For Rose, who now lives in Silver Lake (“Where, as my friend likes to say, all the New Yorkers like to go“), location plays a big role.
“I think Les Deux just makes you feel special,” she muses. Rose is wearing sneakers, jeans, a Paul Smith T-shirt, a vintage corduroy blazer and “fancy underwear.”
Another key ingredient is their guest DJs. Last night's celebration had seven. “Sean Patrick, Sam Spiegel, Savannah Buffet, Kelly Cole, D.V. DeVincentis [the writer], Shannyn Sossamon [the actress], and Matthew, our DJ from the very beginning.”
And don't forget Andrew the doorman.
“What about Andrew!!?” blurts Via.
“What about Andrew?” asks Rose. “We want him with us at all times, 'cause he's the best. He knows everybody!”
“And he's friendly and loving toward people. He's a drug counselor during the day and works the door at all of our events,” adds Via, who walked to breakfast this morning with her boyfriend . . . Wolf.
Apple and Audrey are currently looking forward to branching out, working with nonprofits, producing benefits.
“Not that what we do is unimportant — creating an environment where people feel inspired and supported — but there is so much more we can do with it,” says Rose.
Until then, they have their sassily manicured hands full.
“We had an event Friday night, Monday night, Thursday night and this coming Saturday,” says Via. “It's a bit much.”
THE SIMS ONLINE (TSO) TEST SITE IS now up and running, with thousands of volunteers inhabiting a choice of several cities at no charge until TSO's official launch on December 17. During this test period, wipeouts (full erasures of data) are conducted sporadically to remove bugs and upgrade the system. In these wipes, Sims lose everything — their homes, their skills, their friends, their identities . . . hours of online labor. At 11 a.m. PST on Nov. 26, 2002, the city of Alphaville was wiped. Many fled into Blazing Falls, only to find that it, too, would be wiped the following day. Found in the rubble after the second Apocalypse was the following letter from an actual player using an assumed name:
Dear Tim Ruston (if that's your real name),
I hope this note finds you. Though we only knew each other a couple of hours, I was moved by your invitation to be your roomie.
As a fellow refugee from the 11 a.m. wipeout of Alphaville, you knew the pain of having your house, possessions and carefully maintained Friendship Web zapped in one ghoulish mid-morning. I do miss my building, the Dakota, but that's history now.
Unlike others I met here so far, Tim Ruston, you were not put off by my appearance — floppy red Santa cap and bushy white beard, nor did you ridicule my shiny pink tuxedo. You seemed to intuit that what I look like on the outside might not reflect who I am on the inside. For that I am grateful. Other Sims (an ageist society, I might add) chose to ignore my friendly waves and catcalls. A Spice Girl clone even said: “Ewww, gross!” and shimmied away from me — into the arms of a Ken. (Here I step back and add parenthetically that it never ceases to confound me that out of the 186 heads and 171 bodies you can choose for yourself — if you choose to be male — almost everybody opts to be a Tiger Beat raver. If you choose to be female, the choices are even wider — 234 heads and 226 bodies. And yet, I keep seeing hot chicks in bikinis and sarongs.)
I want to apologize for messing up your terra cotta flooring when I tried retiling our patio. You know how slippery these mouse buttons can be. I know you politely muttered: “No prob. We all die tmrw.” Still, I could sense your secret resentment at having to room with a clumsy old geezer like me. Were you hoping for a pliant Barbie? So, after you left to play Code Breaker elsewhere (I was jealous, I admit), I sold your piñata and bought a giant teddy bear, an egg chair, a couple of tiki paintings and redid the exterior walls in polka dots. Oh, and I also sold the gas range stove. I couldn't wait to see the look on your “face.”
When it dawned on me that you might not return before tomorrow's wipe, I headed out. Fellowship's in our DNA — if we don't talk to enough strangers, our Social Level goes down and we collapse, remember? I'd hate to expire ahead of Doomsday.
I tried to get a quick fix at someplace called Nocturnal Dating Service but no one was in. Nor could I enter Hookers Hangout or Make-Out Junction. Had everyone already fled? Finally, though, I found a humongous pad called Lesbian Lodge. There were seven gals there with blue streaks in their hair, all of them grimly discussing the impending doom. I tried to cheer them up by yelling: “Any of you li'l missies wanna sit on Grampa's knee?” but they ignored me. I ended up doing the Robot by myself on their dance floor. Such unfriendly people! (Oh well, they'll all be gone in the wipe . . .)
After a quick pit stop in their bathroom, I set off. In Angels Beach, an estate with disco, pool, spa, gym, the works, I found owner Bergrar standing all alone, staring vacantly at his Venetian tiles. He'd built the place over 55 days and tomorrow everything'll be history. While he moped, solemnly repeating the words “Snowcrash . . . Snowcrash . . .,” I swam in his fantastic Moorish-style pool. (I didn't realize I wore pink Speedos, but I do!) Afterward, I watched cartoons on his TV (funny how the image on it never moves) and helped myself to his punch bowl. Did you ever notice that drinking punch replenishes both Hunger and Comfort levels?
At Emergency Med Svcs, I found a Middle Eastern couple making out on their leather couch. I think they wanted to experience the wipe entwined but didn't have the money for the coveted vibrating bed that would let them make love. Poor things will die virgins. I sat on a chair across from them and hoped they'd include me in some sort of pre-Apocalyptic bacchanal. But they kept giggling to each other: “Santa's a watcher! Santa's a watcher!” I got embarrassed and left.
Eventually, I found solace at AndyWC's Lunacy Lodge, a homey, ramshackle log cabin built over seven days by a nice couple, AndyWC and Jesi, facing ruin with Zen calm. “Everyone's bummed out about the wipe, so they're mean,” explained Jesi, while AndyWC tried repairing their broken refrigerator. Minutes later, AndyWC stopped and said: “Don't know why I'm even bothering with this since we're all dead tomorrow anyways.”
Jesi invited me to dance disco with her. It was my last waltz and therefore surprisingly moving. As we danced, I asked AndyWC his true feelings about the wipe. “I hated it at first,” he said, “but now I'm looking forward to it.” He wasn't even bitter, which was odd. Stranger still, I agreed with him. The wipe will end all the loneliness, hunger, poverty and discomfort of being here. It's so painful just living, just keeping alive. Yes, yes, the wipe will come as a relief. Release from the little things that have begun annoying me — especially Sims who use emoticons ( J ) and say “lol.” They're so not “in the moment.”
I guess what I really wanted to say, Tim Ruston, is that your hospitality will never be forgotten. Your taste in furniture was immaculate. Your pizza was delish. My father always told me there was a world beyond the one we know. Maybe I'll see you there. I'll be calling myself “Rob Schneider.” Come find me.