California Dreamin’ – VIDEON

Santa Monica, CA – 1983

I always loved music and films, so at some point, I decided that working in a music store would be better than working at a restaurant. I applied at several around Los Angeles and got an interview with a chain called Music Plus. They sold albums, tapes, videos, and concert tickets. I remember acquiring tickets to see David Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour from there! But that’s another story.

Here’s another author’s memories in regard to Music Plus:

https://www.championnewspapers.com/opinion_and_commentary/chino_memories/article_4d1201f6-23d7-11e8-88aa-9faa52530da0.html

They liked me well enough but told me they didn’t have anything available in their music stores. But they were opening a flagship video store on Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

I knew that VHS and Beta were emerging in the home video market and thought it would be a cool job. Music Plus was a retail chain around LA, and since video was growing they decided to designate a whole store to just videotape sales and rentals.

It was a great idea at the time and the owner was truly a visionary for coming up with the idea. (We all know what happened in the coming years with the arrival of Blockbuster, but this was at the very beginning of the home video craze.)

VCR’s cost over $1500 back then and were the size of old electric typewriters. They weighed a ton and I think Beta was the only format in the beginning. Sony invented Beta and VHS but Beta was the better format. More compact with a simpler mechanism with better sound and video. They sold off the rights to VHS because it was inferior. But more companies bought it up and started making VHS VCRs like crazy. VHS ultimately won out in the format wars simply because more companies manufactured the machines and they were more available to the public. Funny, how the superior format failed to the inferior one simply based on availability. Man-made selection at its best!

I was 20 years old and just happy to not be working in a hot, sweaty kitchen in a bar and grill until midnight every day. This was a cool, clean job in a new industry.

The day manager was this super French guy who was easily well into his forties. He knew a lot about film and especially foreign films so that was cool. In the evenings they had another manager named Renee who was probably around twenty-five. She was short with brown hair and eyes. Kind of cute, but that was ruined by her bitchy personality. She seemed over her head in the position and was always short-tempered and stressed. She was always scheduling me to close with her because she liked me. Even though she was cranky a lot of the time, I knew she dug me. She would always ask me to smoke a joint with her out in the parking lot after work. I obliged because I figured maybe she’d be nicer if I hung out with her.

One night that parking lot smoke turned into a bit more and we ended up back at her place. I was young and didn’t possess the moral compass I have today. (Come on… who am I kidding? You’ve read this blog.)

There was one other girl who worked there most days with me, who was the quintessential 80s girl. (Think one of the members of the band The Go Gos) She was after me as well. Where were all the available men in LA back then? Nothing ever happened between us because I just wasn’t that into her. She seemed weird.

We had a good time working there and it was fun being around all of those movies all day. I learned a lot about film and the video industry working there. The whole store was arranged by studio, not by subject. So we had a section for Warner, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, etc.

The best part was, at lunch you could go in the back and watch a video while dining on your sandwich.

But here’s the interesting part. This was a legit spin-off from a big music store chain. Everything was above board. For the most part.

You won’t believe what the home video experience cost back then. It was a fledgling industry and everything was new, so that means expensive. The machines were a fortune, and the tapes were really pricey as well. Most videotape movies started at $59.95 to purchase. But we did have a rental program. It was $100 to join and to rent a movie it was over $20 and you had to leave a huge deposit on your credit card every time you rented some movies. Isn’t that crazy? It was like renting an automobile!

I remember when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out on videotape. It had made so much money worldwide, they released it for $39.95 on VHS and Beta. This was unheard of. A groundbreaking low price for a blockbuster film.

Next was the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and the music video all in one tape. That was released for only $29.95. The lowest price ever offered for a home videotape ever. We sold the hell out of them.

There were NO Disney titles of any kind on VHS and Beta. I think they were waiting to see what the NEW format would do for their stockholders. (Now they own everything!)

We didn’t have hundreds of copies of popular movies back then. Most of the films available were from the past. So everything in the store was from the 70s and back. New movies were in the theaters and it would be years until they landed on video. But there were plenty of great films to watch. But the only place I could check out titles was during lunch in the back.

But here’s the twist to this upstanding business called VIDEON. We sold the occasional tape to some wealthy people who wanted to own some quality films to show their friends and family.

Home video was in its infancy and it was like the wild west back then. Here’s what they did at VIDEON. Say, someone rents a few films. They watch them and return them after the 3 day allocated time. We take that tape in the back room. There is a table with a spool of shrinkable cellophane on a roll and an industrial blow dryer. We rewind the tape and rewrap it in our own little shrink wrap. We sear the creases on the spool so it seals the wrap. We then hit it with the blow dryer and that shrinks the wrap so that it clings to the original box with the tape in it. Does it look brand new? Does it look like it came from the factory? No. But do the customers know that? No.

So basically they were renting movies all the time and then repackaging them and selling them as new to unsuspecting customers. I wasn’t comfortable with this practice because it just didn’t seem right. People were tricked into thinking they were buying something brand new and paying the top retail price. But in actuality were being sold a used product. That smells like fraud to me. It had to be illegal. But like I said, back then it was the wild west. I was getting a paycheck every week so I never said anything about their diabolical criminal enterprise.

The way to tell was, I knew what the rewrapped shrink wrap looked like, and if you looked through the window on the tape, the tape on the spool was slightly uneven. When they’re new, this is not the case.

I don’t know what happened to that company, but I’m sure they were devoured by Blockbuster some years later. (It was the last job I had before leaving California)

It’s funny how when something’s new, it costs a fortune and feels so exclusive. But in a few years, it’s all cheap and available to everyone. Now, it’s all gone. You can simply stream everything. DVDs aren’t even a thing anymore.

But it was a fun job and a peek at was to come in the world of home video in the future.

I recommend you watch the documentary The Last Blockbuster on Netflix. Very interesting. The best bits are about the business and corporate end of that industry. The rest is just a bunch of self-absorbed clowns talking about their love for Blockbuster and home video.

But I will say this one last thing. I do have some wonderful memories of picking up my little daughter on a Friday night and heading over to the local Blockbuster. We’d pick out some movies, popcorn, and candy for the weekend. It was a fun ritual that just about everyone I know once did together.

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California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 3

Wildwood, NJ – 1984

When I got back to Wildwood, NJ I would write letters and sometimes talk to Ashley on the phone. One night I had been drinking while I was on the phone with her and the conversation turned to sex.

Ashley became enraged, that I was gone from her life and all I wanted to do was talk about how great our sex had been. She yelled at me and told me she never wanted to speak to me again. She was peevish, ex-lover spurned with jealousy and rage.

I was fine with that. I was already seeing someone else by then.

Philadelphia, PA – 2008

25 years later, I’m living in Rittenhouse with my girlfriend, Michelle. One day I go on Facebook, and I have a friend request from Ashley! I was happily surprised to hear from her after so long. Facebook was still pretty new back then and people were reconnecting with all of their old friends from the past. Whether that’s a good idea or not, I don’t know. I’m going to say it’s a good thing. I’ve been able to chat with many of my old friends and it’s nice to see some of them after all of these years.

But after about a week or so, Ashley writes me a message that I’m not being a good Facebook friend and she’s cutting me off. I didn’t understand what that meant. I guess I was supposed to be more attentive on this social media platform. It seemed weird to me at the time, but after all that time I didn’t care. She just seemed crazy. Mental illness is an insidious thing. I’ve met enough crazy people here in Philly, and I just don’t care anymore.

Philadelphia, PA – 2020

Here we go again. We’re all in lockdown due to the global pandemic. Out of the blue, I get a message on Facebook from Ashley. Now it’s been 37 years since I laid eyes on her.

She and I would message each other on Facebook. It was nice to chat with her again after all of these years. We had a shared history from a long time ago when we were young and free in L.A. in the early 80s.

She had been to school and became a chef, married for over 30 years, had no children and had been living in Italy for many years. It was fun to catch up.

But after a short period, I started to notice a very angry tone in her messages. She seemed bitter and preachy about certain subjects. I’ve been around for a long time and have a wealth of life experience. I can pretty much read people through the written word as if I’m listening to them in person. It sounded like when she’d get mean in her messages, she was drunk.

I think she searched my blog looking for some heartfelt story about her and there just wasn’t any. I wrote about a bunch of wild things that happened to me and the boys when we got to LA but never got around to writing about her.

She gave me a really hard time about some of my posts. I felt violated and insulted by how corrosive her words were about my blog. So many cruel, words. It hurt, but I’m accustomed to trolls by now. I’m sure it was just her drunken bitterness coming forth from a life not lived. Just silly, juvenile, embarrassing behavior from a middle-aged woman.

It’s a shame when you find out a person has lived over half a century and hasn’t ever evolved as a person.

I have a low tolerance for drunk people even though I have a high tolerance for alcohol. (Not anymore, thank you) But she seemed drunk and rambled on in some of her messages. It felt uncomfortable and I felt bad for her. When I looked on her Instagram it was just a bunch of pictures of locations where she lived. She seems lonely. That’s the vibe I got. No kids, married for 30 years and has almost no info or photos of her husband.

I suppose what happened to her is that she’d sadly lived a life that’s been unfulfilled. She speaks and acts as though she hasn’t grown as a person or matured as an adult. She was still pissed about me leaving her back in 1983!

We spoke on the phone one morning and it was lovely. But she wanted to chat so much on Facebook messenger that it started to feel like too much. She said, “Promise me we can do this every week.”

Who says that? Promise me? I’m not making any promises to some 60-year-old woman who lives on the other side of the planet. I haven’t seen her in 37 years! Anything we ever were was finished a long time ago.

I also noticed how she would message me on Facebook, and if I didn’t respond, she would delete them all which seemed juvenile and weird. Sadly, Ashley’s never matured as a person and hasn’t evolved through the years. I can’t relate to any of that nonsense.

I think poor Ashley’s bored in her life and where she’s ended up, and has turned to alcohol for solace. But that never works. That’s just a band-aid covering up your real issues.

I spoke to my daughter about it and she said it all seemed kind of weird after all of this time.

I would have been happy to chat with her ocassionally on messenger. That would have been nice. But I don’t want to be in constant touch with someone and have them sending me clips of a bunch of music and songs I have zero interest in. It all seemed juvenile. I guess if you marry too young and don’t live a full life, you kind of get stuck behaving a certain way. I don’t know how her husband has put up with all of this childish behavior for so many years. I’d have divorced this woman/child years ago. But that’s his life, not mine. I don’t know the man.

So, at one point she sends me a message about how it’s been great talking to me and hopes I have a nice life. I saw it and didn’t respond. I could tell it was just an attempt to get my attention. But I simply don’t care. I feel nothing for this person.

There were a few more drunken messages that were later deleted. I’m assuming she writes a bunch of wild things when she’s half in the bag, and then the next morning when she’s sober, takes them down.

I figured she’d wait until the end of December of last year. If she hadn’t heard from me, she’d cut me off for the third time.

Had she just reached out to chat and behaved like an adult, we could have remained friends, but she hasn’t the ability to do that. I’m thinking possible bipolar and alcoholism at this point. But I’m not spending any time thinking about it at all. I’m too busy.

I was promoting some of my stuff on Facebook the other day, and I noticed the message chain from her was gone. I thought, “This is it.”

I searched for her on Facebook. She didn’t cut me off or block me, but she had unfriended me. So silly.

So, 3 strikes and it looks like I’m out.

But… like I always say. No matter what happens, good or bad… at least I got a story out of it…

 

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California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 2

Los Angeles, CA – 1983

One day I somehow acquired tickets to a David Bowie concert out in Anaheim. (It may have been the Glass Spider tour) We were on our way to the show when my van suddenly stalled. I had never had any problems with it before, but this was the worst thing that could have happened at the very worst time. I remember a truck full of Mexicans was kind enough to push my disabled vehicle off the highway.

We missed the show, but I got the van running again. Ashley was incredibly disappointed so I made it up to her. I took her to a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was the very first time I tasted veal.

On another occasion, we were out partying in a bar somewhere and were on our way to her house. I was on the freeway when the cops pulled me over. They said I was swerving, but I know that I wasn’t. I think they saw the New Jersey tags on an old 1969 VW minibus and decided to stop me.

They took me through a sobriety test which I passed, but when I blew into the breathalyzer, I failed. I remember Ashley telling me that while this was happening, one of the officers was hitting on her. “What’s a nice pretty girl like you doing with a loser like him?” the cop said.

So, they arrested me and took me to jail. They photographed and fingerprinted me and tossed me in a cell with a couple of drunk guys. I remember sharing a cigarette with one of them. It was a rare bonding moment with another inmate. Odd thing was, I wasn’t even scared at all. I was only 21 years old when all of this happened.

I guess one of the cops took Ashley home and they left me in the can to chill. I got my one phone call and spoke with my roommate. I told him where I had some cash hidden in the apartment. He hopped in a cab and came to bail me out.

The cops told us where the van was impounded, but said not to get it and drive it because I could be stopped again. Which would make my current infraction even worse. We agreed and left the precinct.

We immediately went to the impound lot and got my van out. I drove my roommate and me home and we were fine.

Bad night.

I called my father and told him what happened. He was cool about it and was just glad I was okay. I had left a grand in my bank account back in Wildwood, NJ in case of emergency. This was that emergency.

I had to go to court, plead no contest, pay the fine, and attend classes. (All of it seemed like fee income for the city of LA and a waste of my time.) After all of the negative experiences in LA and the feeling that it didn’t matter where you were in the world, it really came down to who you were at that given time in your life.

No matter where you run to in this world… there you are. You make or break the place where you live. I was fed up with all of the phoniness of LA and didn’t see any point in staying out there anymore. I wasn’t going to become the next heavy metal god and was really feeling despondent about my life there. It had all become very mundane. (I’ll write about the deeper parts of this decision in some future post)

My roommate and I eventually decided to pack it in and return to New Jersey. I was tired of LA and missed my family and friends. I was just done with the whole scene out there.

Of course, Ashley was heartbroken that I was leaving, but I had to go. There was nothing I could do. I wasn’t staying out there. She was, and our relationship was over.

I guess that’s how I was back then. My whole existence was about survival and dealing with my anxiety and depression. But I thought nothing of just doing what I needed to do to survive. I know now that I broke some young hearts back then. I never intended to hurt anyone intentionally, I just kept moving. But I see now I was running in circles.

More tomorrow!

 

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California Dreamin’ – Ashley – 3 Strikes – Part 1

Santa Monica, CA – 1982

When I first got to Los Angeles in 1982, I got a job as a busboy at a local restaurant in Santa Monica called Cafe Casino. It was located in the Wilshire Pallisades building down by the beachfront. Someone had come up with the idea of serving French cuisine in a cafeteria model. People would enter the restaurant, grab a tray and get in line for their meal. They would point to the things they wanted, and there were a couple of girls that would serve them. It was like an expensive high school lunchroom experience. We had a fun crew of people working there and we had a good time.

I had become friends with one of the girls who worked there named Kellie Lawson. She was from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She was one of a million people who had migrated to Los Angeles to become an actor. Most people that you met out there back then all wanted the same thing. Every person in the service industry was waiting for the big break that would never come. Every waitress was either an actress, singer, model, or dancer. Most of the men you met were actors, musicians, or screenwriters. None of them working in the industry, but waiting…

Kelly had got on a greyhound bus to escape the grinding boredom of her hometown in an attempt to make it big in Hollywood. A classic scenario seen a thousand times out there. We had started dating and would frequently fool around at her apartment. We sort of grew out of touch after I left that job to work at Merlin McFly’s down near Venice.

One afternoon, we’re at the restaurant and the guys and I were hanging outside the dining room by the doors. The lunch rush was over and the two glass doors swung open. Who comes rolling in with his squad but Heisman Trophy champion, O.J. Simpson!

I knew him more from the Hertz commercials, but the other guys all cheered when the athlete entered the restaurant. He was a good-looking guy and said hello to us all. When I shook the hand of this man, who could realize that 10 years later he’d be famous for something else.

One of the girls who worked there that I befriended was a charming beauty named Joelle. She was a part-time model and her boyfriend worked at Disney studios.

Here’s her modeling photo card. Beautiful!

A lovely girl. She was not only beautiful but full of sass. She’d laugh at all my jokes and seemed to find me amusing. I liked working with her and having her as a friend back then.

One day, I came to work and she was standing there with another girl. She was 19 years old, cute, and Joelle told me she was her cousin from Philadelphia. I chatted with her and thought she was cool. Since I was originally from Philly we had a small connection.

She was new to California, and I told her we should hang out. She gave me her number and we made plans to do something together.

Eventually, we started dating and things became romantic. I had already been out there for over a year and was pretty jaded. But Ashley was new and was a fun, sweet girl to spend time with. Sometimes we’d just drive around LA in my van and end up down by the beach. We’d make out in the VW minibus and it was a romantic hot time.

We went on several dates. We went to see, ET: The Extraterrestrial, (I cried like a baby) The Dark Crystal, (A bunch of muppets with David Bowie), and Flashdance. (Chick-flick, but the great soundtrack.)

Sometimes we’d just hang out at my apartment, but many times I’d finish work and come visit her at her cousin’s house out in Culver City. It was fun to hang out in her room and watch TV and make out. We were just a couple of teenagers enjoying life and our youth together. We were a couple of kids on the loose in LA. She loved Richard Gere and I loved Farrah Fawcett.

One night I stayed over there late. We stayed up all night as young people do. When I came out to get in my van to go home, I saw that the driver’s side door was standing wide open.

My minibus had been broken into, and the thieves had stolen my entire stereo system. This was heartbreaking to me because I loved my van and listening to my tunes. They even took the boom box that I used to listen to on the beach back in Wildwood, NJ. I felt so violated by that incident, I was reluctant to go back to her neighborhood again. It was a planned professional job. They had hit several cars on the street that night.

The more Ashley and I spent time together the closer we became. She would stay over at my apartment in Mar Vista on the weekends. That eventually turned into our first intimate encounters. I don’t think I realized at the time that I was Ashley’s first.

But after that, it was really fun to be together, and fooling around became part of our relationship. It was a natural progression back then. You can only make out in my van for so long before the bigger things start happening.

One night while we were in my apartment fooling around someone broke into the apartment next door and robbed the place. My neighbor was in Greece at the time with her boyfriend so nobody was home. The thieves ransacked the place and I suppose stole anything valuable.  I later heard from one of my neighbord that they saw some guys listening next to my window to see if anybody was home. But I guess hearing our laughter they moved on to next door and ripped off my neighbor’s place instead of robbing us. Crazy!

My neighbor moved out shortly after that and I moved into her apartment. It was bigger and installed a waterbed I had gotten from a chef I worked with at McFlys who had back problems. That waterbed only cost me $120 and was awesome! It was so cool having a waterbed. I remember one night the thermostat in the unit went off and the whole side of my body was cold when I woke up. I thought I was half dead! I had a lot of wild times on that waterbed.

More tomorrow!

 

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Tales of Rock – How Sunset Strip Shaped Glam Rock and the 1980’s

The west coast of America has been a hotbed of hard rock talent over the years – many of whom were hellbent on self-destruction. Classic Rock takes a walk on the wild side with Van Halen, Poison, Mötley Crüe, and more.

Loosely translated, Los Angeles means the City Of Angels. But it’s been called many things in its time: a city of dreams; a city of destruction; Guns N’ Roses even famously immortalized it as Paradise City. And all these descriptions are entirely apt to one degree or another.

Over the years Los Angeles has seen its fair share of both angels and devils, and many of them with a shared passion for rock’n’roll. It’s a city without a center, a fragmented place held together by freeways and thruways, full of misfits and larger-than-life characters.

It’s the way it’s always been. And probably the way it always will be.

From the early 50s scene of surf bands that eventually morphed into the heady music that The Doors’ Jim Morrison turned into an art form in the 60s, LA’s Sunset Boulevard has always appeared on the radar as the ultimate place for misbehaving rock stars to congregate.

Fondly (or sometimes not so fondly) referred to as Sunset Strip, it’s the mile and a half of avenue that links Hollywood with the moneyed, upmarket neighborhood of Beverly Hills. If you’re looking for a definition, the Strip’s unofficial boundaries run to Crescent Heights Boulevard (to the east) and Doheny Drive (to the west). But what’s so special about this little corner of Paradise City?

Well, this section of wide-avenued west coast America houses a huge percentage of the famous rock clubs you’ve ever heard or read about in rock folklore: The Whisky A Go-Go, The Cathouse, The Roxy… It’s also the home of Sunset Strip Tattoo, the place where any self-respecting established (or wannabe) rocker goes to get some serious ink into their skin. They’ve all gone under the needle there, from Mötley Cruë to Guns N’ Roses to Billy Idol to nouveau wannabe bad boy Robbie Williams.

Blink and you miss it, but you’ll find it nestling among hotels across the road from the famous Hyatt House Hotel – the place nicknamed The Riot House in the 70s for all the right reasons. The Hyatt House was the place where all the rock stars would gather when they passed through town – everyone from Led Zeppelin to The Who.

Televisions got thrown through its windows; motorcycles were be ridden indoors; inappropriate acts took place around the pool. Little Richard lived there full-time. Blasting out and causing all sorts of chaos in the late 70s, Van Halen was the ultimate home-town heroes, arguably the first in a rash of party-hard rockin’ rollers that spawned the LA scene of the 80s. Four guys who lived life to the max.

 

Although Van Halen frontman, David Lee Roth was a transplanted New Yorker, he soon morphed into the ultimate California boy – the male equivalent of the good-time party girls he sang about with such enthusiasm in the Beach Boys song he co-opted in later years, California Girls.

Arriving in Los Angeles in the mid-70s, ostensibly to go to college, Roth soon hooked up with brothers Alex and Edward Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. And upon the release of their debut record in 1978, things kicked off. And Los Angeles was always the starting point.

“It’s like, anything you desire you can find here – whatever your vice, whatever your sexual ideals. Whatever somebody else can’t do in his nine-to-five job, I can do in rock’n’roll,” a delighted David Lee Roth told Rolling Stone years ago. “I guess what I’m saying, man, is that I’m proud of the way we live. Not so much because of the records we sell or the money we make, but because of the party we’re going to have afterward to celebrate all that.”

Parties were on everyone’s agenda back then. It was all down to who could throw the wildest, most out-of-control bash. This was long before rock musicians got wise and healthy and had nothing stronger than mineral water and fresh fruit on their backstage tour rider. And Van Halen’s parties were known to be among the best in the business.

To that end, David Lee Roth was the first rock star to enlist the help of a full-time ‘Entertainment Officer’ while his band was out on the road. The parties were huge, with no shortage of beer, Jack Daniel’s, and girls. And for Roth girls were the most important ingredient.

“Most of what I do is because of girls. If girls didn’t exist I wouldn’t have this job, I wouldn’t bother with music. I wouldn’t even bother with breakfast,” Dave told Classic Rock. “My fantasies were always the girl next door. We started to see evidence of the professional groupie in the early eighties and, alarmingly, these girls bore a striking resemblance to Mötley Crüe. For me, the best groupies were the homecoming queens who were out on a lark; the preacher’s daughters out for a wild night.”

The wild nights were coming thick and fast. Roth and the rest would have their fill of girls, drink, and dope, and go on to play another day.

While the main ingredients of Van Halen’s parties of the late 70s and early 80 consisted of mostly booze and girls, other musicians were arriving in Los Angeles hell-bent on a far more destructive journey.

Steven Adler had lived in Los Angeles since he was 12 years old. By the early 80s he was still at school, but realizing that his ambitions were leaning towards music. Adler was a drummer, and one of his friends at school was a misfit kid, born in England. His name was Saul Hudson. Today we know him as Slash.

“We’d dip school nearly every day,” Adler told Classic Rock’s Mick Wall. “Me and Slash would walk up and down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, and each day we had this thing where we’d take a different type of alcohol and we’d walk up and down, up and down, and what we’d be talking about was how we’d be living when we were rock stars.

“It was like this dream that I always knew would come true. We’d go out and meet older women, who would take us back to their Beverly Hill’s homes. They’d give us booze, coke, they’d feed us, really.”

Slash and Adler lived the street urchin life until they got it together enough to team up with some friends to form a band. They hooked up with a band called Hollywood Rose, which had a frontman called Axl. The rest, as they say…

Another band that seemed to personify the hedonistic glamour of 80s Los Angeles was Poison. Four larger-than-life characters who were transplanted from the east coast – all big hair, Day-Glo clothing, and big songs about girls, sunshine, and parties.

“We didn’t want to be anything other than ourselves. We wanted it all – the cars, the girls, the fame, the money… Music had kind of sucked. It had no energy. But we were young and we were into the whole rock star ideal, and that’s what we pursued,” frontman Bret Michaels recalled in 2001.

“And in LA, the girls are amazing looking, you know,” Michaels continued. “If you were from Pennsylvania, it was just amazing! It was hot, and there were all these guys trying to get their thing going too. I mean, we’d have our flyers and we’d be handing them out on the street, and Axl Rose would be there too, and he’d be like, ‘Hey come and check us out, we’re called Hollywood Rose…’ It was just a great time, really.”

It seemed that all the bands plying their trade on Sunset Strip were somehow inextricably linked; it’s possible to play a twisted version of Six Degrees Of Separation – the parlor game that seeks to prove that any two people can be linked through various means, however nebulous – with any recognizable LA band.

But for the LA set, the links are solid. Just consider a few of them: GN’R’s Slash nearly ended up in Poison; Tracii Guns of LA Guns played with Axl, and gave his surname to Axl’s new band when Hollywood Rose imploded; Mötley Crüe and GN’R are linked thanks to a feud; Nikki Sixx played with Tracii Guns in Brides Of Destruction.

The link between Mötley Crüe and Ratt is stained with blood and steeped in tragedy. Both bands began their rise to the top at around the same time. Both bands had nailed the Hollywood bad-boy image – all tattoos, ripped jeans, preposterously big hair, and a snarling air of danger that seemed to precede everywhere they ended up. Crüe bassist, godfather, and spiritual leader Nikki Sixx seems to embody the idea of the quintessential LA rocker.

Tattooed, street-smart, and effortlessly exuding cool. Nonetheless, he is not without his battle scars – after all, on one fateful night in 1987 in LA (where else?) Nikki died. Upon returning from a fraught tour of Japan with the Crüe, Nikki chose to stop by his heroin dealer (the same guy who also dealt to Robbin Crosby of Ratt); having narrowly avoided being thrown into a Japanese jail following a bottle-throwing incident that took place on Japan’s world-famous Bullet Train, he needed to cut loose.

But what happened to Nikki on that dealer-visiting night isn’t exactly what he had in mind. Getting high is one thing, killing yourself is another, as Nikki recalls in the band’s infamous autobiography The Dirt.

Nikki: “He rolled up my sleeve, tied off my arm, and plunged the Persian into my veins. The heroin raced to my heart exploded all over my body, and in an instant I was blue. I lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes everything was a blur of light, color, and motion. I was on my back, moving through some kind of corridor. Sounds wooshed in and out my ears, unrecognizable at first until a voice slowly emerged out of the white noise: ‘We’re losing him, we’re losing him,’ it said.

“Above me, everything was bright white. I looked down and realized that I had left my body. Nikki Sixx – or the filthy, tattooed container that had once held him – was lying covered face-to-toe with a sheet on a gurney being pushed by medics into an ambulance.”

Nikki ‘died’ for two minutes but remarkably lived to tell the tale.

It wasn’t just the drink and the hard drugs that Mötley Crüe enjoyed. Unsurprisingly, girls played a big part in their formative years (and also much later); their documented on-the-road groupie shenanigans are nothing short of outrageous.

Nowadays they might all be married/attached and ‘responsible’, but for a long time, it was almost the polar opposite of that. For their huge MTV hit Girls Girls Girls, the Crüe employed some of the Strip’s finest, er, strippers to add a certain je ne sais quoi to the video that was shot to accompany the track.

“We’ve always liked underdogs, as human beings. Strippers are some of the hugest underdogs in the country,” Sixx explains – as if any explanation is necessary. “They have beautiful bodies, they’re a guilty pleasure. Husbands say to their wives: ‘I would never go…’ But the stripper business is worth billions per year. We always loved them.

“It was the ultimate place to go and hang out with beautiful women, drink and do drugs. That was the perfect evening. We’d start off at Tommy’s place, have a couple of shots of Jack, and off we’d go. It was sort of a free time.

“And the video represents that sense of freedom and youthfulness. The great thing is, that song will always be played as long as there are strip joints, man.”

With all the bands that were hanging out in the small clubs that littered Sunset Strip, there were always petty rivalries and worse ready to rear their ugly heads, and they often did.

The most infamous of all is the spat that developed between Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. It’s a case that still hasn’t been resolved to any great degree today. And yes, it involved a girl. Vince’s wife, in fact.

The story goes that Crüe singer Vince Neil’s wife Sharise had been hanging out in a club, and GN’R guitarist Izzy Stradlin started hitting on her. Things escalated and ended with Neil punching out Stradlin backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards. That’s how the feud began.

Subsequently, a vicious war of words between the two factions raged in the pages of rock magazines, culminating in an invitation from Axl to Vince to meet for a fistfight in the parking lot of Tower Records on Sunset. The showdown never happened. But, according to Neil, the offer is still on the table.

“After Axl chickened out a half-dozen times,” Vince stated, “I went on MTV with a message for him. I said that if Axl wanted to fight me then he should do it in front of the whole world. We’d go three rounds, and then the world would see who the pussy was. But I never heard from Axl. Not that day, not that month, not that year, not that century.”

Bitter feuds were not limited to inter-band rivalry, either. Fights were beginning to break out within bands, usually triggered an excess of one substance or another.

Before their 1999 re-formation, Poison was well on their way to self-destruction, as Bret Michaels confessed to Classic Rock. “CC [DeVille, guitarist] was getting fucked-up and I was drinking,” he said. “He’s high, but I’m drunk. We were having rows, he slammed me, I slammed him. I ended up in a fistfight with my best friend – this was my best friend. We kept having really stupid arguments – stuff like his guitar was too loud for me to hear myself sing.”

While Poison has managed to iron out their internal difficulties, the camaraderie that might have existed in the past between fellow Los Angeles bands is not present anymore, as a posting by Nikki Sixx on the Brides Of Destruction website made clear when it was hypothesized that Brides would join a Kiss tour that Poison was currently on.

“No way in fucking hell would we [Brides Of Destruction or Mötley Crüe] ever, ever tour with a fucking band like Poison.” Sixx wrote. “We have had talks with Kiss and I told them very clearly that we would not do the tour if they used Poison. That would be the death of us. I will not be attached to that kind of fake bullshit.”

Of all the LA bands that have suffered, though, Ratt really picked up the bum hand when life’s cards were dealt. For much of this century, two versions of the band have existed, playing the retro circuit of America, but the excesses of the 80s have taken their toll. The various factions have been in and out of court, and in 2002 guitarist Robbin Crosby succumbed to Aids.

But now, twenty years into a supposedly sanitized new millennium, it’s come full-circle, with Guns N’ Roses returning to the stage and Motley Crue booking a huge reunion tour in the wake of the success of the movie version of The Dirt. Hell, GN’R might even release a new album.

Only in Hollywood, eh?

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Who Do I Look Like?

We just finished a gig at The Troubadour. I put my guitar in its case and locked it in the backroom behind the stage. The band sort of spread out through the club as if they needed to go network, but we were all there for the obvious. Sex, drugs, booze, and Rock and Roll.

I run into this gorgeous blonde. Like a baby Farrah Fawcett.

“I like that song you played about the bombshell. Who’s that about?”

“Farrah. I wrote it when I was sixteen. I love Farrah.”

The earliest warning sign should have been her next opening line. Jabbing me with her finger, she pointed at her own face and said: “Who do I look like?” I had no idea. The answer she was looking for apparently, was Heather Locklear.

A few hours later and we’re walking back to her place. It’s beginning to spit with rain.

Things started fine. Pretty much like most tipsy post-show hookups back then. As things began to escalate, she made an excuse to go to the bathroom. It took a few minutes to decide on the appropriate level of nakedness to be in on her return but after 10 minutes I thought I should probably check if she’s Okay.

When I got to the bathroom, the door was locked. The light, on. I knocked: no answer. I returned to the bedroom, put some clothes back on. Looked out the window. The rain was now torrential. The home was 20 minutes away. Do I call a taxi? Faced with an impossible situation, I took an incredibly ungentlemanly decision.

“Hope you’re okay. Unlock the door and I’ll get you some water.” I wrote it on a piece of paper found on the girl’s desk, slipped it under the bathroom door, and waited a few minutes. When the door stayed locked, I went to her room, got into bed, and fell asleep.

A few hours later I’m awakened by the door opening. It’s her. I make a move to get up but she pins me down with a surprising level of strength, strips me completely and the most excruciating 20 minutes of my life began. To this day I’ve never met anyone else who has a “don’t touch me with your hands or mouth below my waist” policy. It was bizarre and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It was just a bronco cowgirl ride to the finish.

When it was over, I got up to leave but she grabbed my arm and said no. She pulled me back into bed, only to roll over and go back to sleep within minutes. Awkwardly, I lay there a bit longer, trying to figure out whether it was worth staying. Eventually, I tried to leave again. This time she said no but I ignored her. Besides, it had stopped raining now.

As an act of goodwill, I wrote my phone number on a pad on her desk. She asked what I was doing and then laughed when I told her.

Two weeks later, my band is back at the Troubadour. I’m out back having a smoke out back chatting to some friends when over my shoulder I hear it again.

“Who do I look like?”

Poor guy.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Crazy Eyes

Here we were living in Santa Monica, and living the dream. Just a bunch of poor musicians having the time of our lives.

I was at a party at a friend’s place. One of his friends had been flirting with me all night, but it wasn’t normal flirting — she wouldn’t say a word to me. She’d only touch me and giggle as I walked by. Towards the end of the party, she took my hand and quietly led me to her room, which has a bed and just a bunch of clothes everywhere. Less than sixty seconds into making out, she started to go down on me. Which I accepted. I realized how creepy and weird the situation had been to that point, but it was head. What nineteen year-old dude turns down oral?

She finished up, and put her head on my chest to rest. At that point, I was thinking this girl was loony tunes, but I didn’t want to be an ass, so I began to reciprocate. But she grabbed my hand and stopped me, and said, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.” I looked at her totally dumbstruck. She must have misinterpreted my dropped jaw to mean that I was hurt, because she immediately came back with, “But it was really nice sucking your cock.” These were the first words she’d said to me all night.

So we were both quite high, we decided to head back to my place. Everything seemed normal. She finally decides to get it on with me. Sex was good and then we got to talking. Since we’re both high, we started talking about death and what happens to your body after you die and she asks me whether I have ever thought about killing anyone. I could sense a creepy story coming my way and just shook my head.

She then proceeded to narrate how she has always thought about killing someone by suffocating them, with a pillow. And since we were on the bed, there were 2 pillows around us and of course, I was majorly creeped out. She was looking at me with the crazy eyes and I was so confident that I wouldn’t see the sun rise the next day. I turned around and pretended to sleep. After a couple of hours, she left without saying a thing.”

 

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California Dreamin’ -1982 to 1984 – Dariella – Into Darkness

Let me preface this by saying that I’m no prince charming, but even I have limits. I met Dariella one night after a show at Madam Wong’s West in Santa Monica, and she seemed interesting and metal. Naturally I wanted to see her again.

The First Date:

I found out she doesn’t drive, which isn’t a problem. I also found out that she lived down in Long Beach, not great, but I wanted to spend time with her so I took the drive to pick her up. When I arrived I also found out she lived with her parents, and was unemployed, again, see seemed great so I decided it wasn’t a big deal. We went to one of the local haunts to get some food and get to know one another better. That’s when I found out she was a part time Dom in a local dungeon. Okay to each their own, people have different tastes. Everything else during the date went smoothly. She was hot and exotic. The night ended and I drove her home.

The Second Date:

She wanted to go to this great bar that she knew about. I was all for it, something new. It turned out to be a really seedy dive bar. It was like something out of a movie. Everybody knew her, and she even had some family there. She proceeded to get wasted while I took in the sights and got to know the people. There was an old Hell’s Angel that told me about his youth, and how he was the king of the skating rink back in the day. I got to see a midget line dance to Copper Head Road. My date ran into a friend she’d met in county lockup. (Nice) All in all, it wasn’t too bad. I really enjoyed the place more than spending time with her though. She ran up a HUGE bar tab while we were there and expected me to pay which wasn’t really cool.

The Third Date:

Back to the bar! This time I brought the guys from the band and a few of my friends along. Everyone loved the place. Crazy group of people that looked like, rockers, punks, goths, hookers, bikers, and hippies. It was nuts. But things took an odd turn on the way to the van to drop off my date and her cousin. Her cousin stops and makes a comment about having just about the right amount of people for an orgy. My date replied that it wouldn’t be the first time. What did her cousin think she did at all those parties she went to? The level of crazy just went way up. Her cousin was smokin’ hot too, so we went back in the bar and put it to the group. Everybody was down, so off we went back to somebody’s house.

Sadly, phicklephilly is a dating blog, not a sex blog so I can’t go into all of the details of the orgy back at her cousin’s house. But it was insane and my first one!

Here’s and excerpt of a conversation I later had with my buddy, bassist, Frank.

Me: “That shit was crazy, right?”

Frank: “Fuck sake, mate. Remember the one I was with?”

Me: “Dariella’s hot cousin or that chick with that Bow Wow Wow Mohawk?”

Frank: “Mohawk.”

Me: “Okay.”

Frank: “After I gave it to her she said she’d been smoking meth with her boyfriend earlier that day.”

Me: “That’s fucked up.”

Frank: “And she said how she hoped she wasn’t pregnant!”

Me: “By you or her boyfriend?”

Frank: Fuck sake, I wore a sweater with her, thank fuck!” (condom) But that’s not the worst part.”

Me: “What?”

Frank: “She stole like $80 out of my wallet!”

Me: “I told you that chick was a hooker!”

 

Sadly, that was the last time I went out with Dariella. I think the band was all to weirded out by what had happened.

I miss that bar though.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Attempted Kidnapping

“One night me and the guys in the band were out at a party at a friend’s place in Venice. It was right after I’d had a fight with my then-girlfriend Clio and I was drinking kind of heavily (I’ve always been able to hold my own, but I was drinking a lot and fast).

This one girl was constantly around me all night and I was warned by a couple people that she was going to hit on me. Whatever, I can deal with it. She was flirting with me a little bit and I made sure to add in my girlfriend to the conversation topic so there was no misunderstanding. Didn’t matter. Every time I went to talk to someone else I would feel a small butt grab, and when I looked around she was backing up giggling. Once it started getting not-so-lightly I straight up told her to stop, I had a girlfriend. (See? even back then I was loyal!)

Anyway, later in the night when I was significantly drunk I was sitting down on a chair while most people were off in another room doing something else. Well she comes in and I guess decides this is the perfect chance. She sits on my lap and starts trying to kiss me and every time I move away she bites my neck. She starts to grab at my crotch too, and even after I hit her hand away it goes right back (remember I’m significantly drunk so not all my coordination is all there).

The last thing I remember is trying to get up to get her off my lap and then I wake up the next morning in a friend of mine’s room on the floor (one of the hosts). I walk out and ask her what happened and she told me the girl was trying to walk me out of the door, telling the others she was just taking me back to ‘take care of me’ at her apartment. My friend said no dice and locked me in her room (while checking on me relatively often) so that the girl couldn’t sneak in and try anything. The girl apparently got very upset when this happened and stormed out.

It’s always nice when your friends have got your back.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Celia – Entitled

“I was going to have a second date with this girl Celia. She knew of three parties happening on the same night, so she suggested that we hit all three. Sounded good to me, so off we go.

At party one, her best friend from college is there that she hasn’t seen in four years. They immediately run off together, and I’m left with the friend’s boyfriend having a drink. I think to myself, this is no big deal. She hasn’t seen her friend in a long time, and the night has a lot more to go. She comes back after a while and suggests we head on to the other party. Great!

Arrive at second party. My date immediately runs off with some other friends. Like, “Tim, oh my god, how are you doing,” and dashes across the party to find him. I slowly follow behind, but then they keep scurrying on to talk to other people without the girl making it clear that she wanted me to come. I feel really awkward because she doesn’t introduce me or say anything about me. I’m just an awkward guy there that no one knows. I get tired of that and go to the bathroom, where I find that the door has been ripped off its hinges. I find a screwdriver and fix the door before using the bathroom. Fast forward 30 minutes, my date finds me and suggests we go to the final party. But this time, her friend Tim is going to join us. Okay…

Arrive at third party. As soon as we walk in the door, Tim says he needs cigarettes, and the girl and Tim run out for cigarettes and leave me at this new party with all these other people I don’t know. They are gone for 45 minutes, by which time I decide that this date isn’t working out and I should just go home. When my date comes back with cigarettes, I tell her I’m leaving and she FLIPS OUT. She starts screaming at me in front of everyone about how she was going to have sex with me later and how I ruined everything. Then she proceeds to scream, “you’re not leaving me; I’m leaving you,” after which she bolts out and slams the door.

Then everyone at this other party, whom I don’t know, is staring at me while my date, who brought me there, has abandoned me.

Someone eventually comes and offers me a drink. I stay for another hour and laugh it off with the people at the party. I ended up having a pretty good time!

 

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