But this RSN entry is actually about my own relationship to Mr. Rollins. First, a little rumor mill grist to get us started. When I came upon the DC scene from Corpus Christi by way of Atlanta in the fall of 1983, I had heard of nothing of the bands or the personalities that roamed the barren streets of 1983 Washington, an urban wasteland that was barely a city, with only two neighborhoods not rolling up come dark, Georgetown and Adams Morgan, but our story takes place between 7th & E Street NW and 9th & G Street, NW, downtown. Although about five years older than most of the charismatic leaders of the underground scene, I had only decided to infiltrate the punk dominion the past year or so. So, although I had the gay and new wave dance scenes of Corpus Christi and the punk and gay scenes in Atlanta under my belt, I knew I had a lot of studying and many bands to experience before I knew how to navigate among the characters I would face in the coming years, plot the topography, and maybe, just maybe, escape with my life if not my dignity. There was great music ahead. There was crap music to whack past as well. And while I had already throttled deaf ears among the Yippies of Atlanta, I knew I'd run into another hard wall sooner of later in DC. Knowing my instincts for self-regard and whatever it is about my whacked sense of social pecking order (none) that attracts trouble, it wouldn't take long. True to the purposeful soldier spirit in me, it didn't.
Never a sycophant but quite commonly a fierce defender of whatever line of equality or truth it is that I think is right among equal citizens, underground or otherwise, it never takes long before someone else with a different opinion strikes a blow metaphorically or otherwise.The Four Horsemen of my own experiential apocalypse, a battleground also known as DC Space and the 9:30 Club would be artists and musicians Rene the Fist, Jared Hendrickson, Bruce Merkle and our muscle of the hour—Henry Rollins, all excellent artists, all formidable agitators, all friends first before they became foes.
I can't say that we were ever friends. I was introduced to him by Jack who insisted at a WUST show during the Mustard Years, followed by a quick handshake, a submissive grimace and probably a lingering brow standoff. By this era I was already in the beginning stages of beer bloat, and everyone in the hall that night knew that Righteous Rollins just didn't roll that way.
I spent my first year in my new city, my new scene buying up copies of Maximum Rock & Roll, Flipside, Truly Needy, and any smaller local street fanzines I could get into my hands. I even created my own street zine called SAMPLEX, but it was decidedly more bent to the socially-tainted word and image than any emphasis on local or national punk bands.
But my first confrontation with Henry Rollins had begun back in the Skinny Years on a packed house night at DC Space (written in lower case in reality, I prefer to adhere to most standard English renderings because I usually can). This was a spoken word event. In fact I have never seen Rollins perform on stage, and frankly I do not think this small omission of fan authenticity makes me a bad person. As I write this now, I somewhat regret not ever having seen Rollins in Black Flag. No doubt he was a monster on the stage. I don't specifically recall that I blew any opportunity to buy a ticket for Black Flag during those years, but I probably did.I had read, of course, much glitter about the Henry Rollins version of punishing high octane energy on stage in belting out the lyrics to such punk classics as My War and Rise Above. I'd also read in various street zines and rags that he was also a nasty player in public in choosing to make a point of stepping into family restaurants and other lukewarm venues which always somehow included snarling at anyone who dare commit the unpardonable sin of staring and whispering among each other or in stunned silence at his buff tattooed uber self with a perfunctory, "What the fuck are YOU looking at?" or something similar to nuclear flash and blind. Not polite to stare? How about not polite to bellow at strangers? Giving as good as he got? Hardly. He wasn't the only punk rocker who delighted in this type of public rebellion, but I always found that type of behavior stupid and unjustified, and felt it MY duty to draw the ire of these types to myself, bonehead to bonehead, so to speak.
To be continued...
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