Sunday, April 20, 2014

HOLLYWOOD AFTER-HOURS: THE ZERO ZERO GALLERY



The Brainiacs 1982 "Drunk With Funk" EP cover: me  with Zero Zero proprietor Wayzata De Camerone; shot in the Zero Zero on Gardener Street, Hollywood, 1982  by Vito "Jack" Codini & K.K. Barrett of The Screamers


From the early-to-mid 1980's, one of the wildest clubs in Hollywood was an after-hours speakeasy called the Zero Zero Gallery. Though it actually did exhibit art (showcasing work by the likes of punk-adjacent artists like Raymond Pettibon, Gary Panter, "Mad" Marc Rude, and Bob Zoell, to name just a few) the non-stop inebriated decadence- taking place every night until the sun came up- was the main attraction. The place was run by an eccentric pair: bon vivant John Pochna and artist/musician Mark Boyd, lead singer and sax player of art-funk band The Brainiacs, then known by the moniker Wayzata De Camerone.

The club’s first location was on Cahuenga Boulevard north of Franklin, in a small-whitewashed loft  space dominated by a  vintage jukebox, furnished with a few crummy brocade couches that had been dragged in from the trash. Since all the clubs and bars in LA closed  at 2:00 am , the  Zero’s  patrons would already be a few sheets to the wind, coming from  various other nightspots such as Cathay De Grande, Club Lingerie or The Hong Kong Cafe. You’d pay your five bucks at the door  to become a "member" of this "private club", then join the seventy or eighty other scenesters inside, getting  absolutely  trashed until the sun came up. Since the whole thing wasn't legal anyway, there were no ID checks or door-searches, and everyone’s pockets clanked with smuggled booze-bottles, plus an assortment of pipes,  joints, pills and powders. Everybody was fucked up beyond belief- that, after all, was the point. But this was no callow underage crowd; the Zero Zero attracted a boho elite of artists, photographers, actors, models, writers, filmmakers, club bookers, Euro-trash, intellectuals, and of course, musicians. There was even a Board Of Directors, though it's doubtful they ever met anywhere besides the club itself. Just some of the board members were  John Doe and Exene from X, Tito Larriva from the Plugz and  members of Los Lobos and The Blasters.

Larry Fishburne at C.A.S.H. by Gary Leonard
 Zero regulars included ex-Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov, members of The Go-Go's, Cramps, Levi & The Rockats, Wall Of Voodoo, The Joneses, Tex & The Horseheads, Thelonious Monster, Fear, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ice T’s Body Count. There were also local luminaries like Ruben Blue, who ran the popular scene 'zine Scratch, Limey Dave of Tupelo Chainsex, photographers Gary Leonard and Moshe Brakha, Donnie "Two Beers" Popejoy, New Wave Theater founder/director David Jove, pianist Zachary, and actor Larry Fishburne, who was then the doorman at C.A.S.H., Janet Cunningham's space next door, before becoming famous as Cowboy Curtis on PeeWee’s Playhouse.

Punk Rock It Girls abounded, such as performer Jane Cantillion, Texacala Jones of Tex and The Horseheads, Iris Berry,  and  platinum blonde bombshell Alice Miller  who  managed the popular rockabilly combo Jimmy & The Mustangs. The ubiquitous scene-maker  Tequila Mockingbird was ever-present, and  once scared the living hell out of  the Blasters’ drummer  Bill “Buster”Bateman. She was sitting on his lap; he was stroking her long hair…and it came off in his hand. He was too wasted to realize it was a wig and screamed bloody murder!

 The late Brendan Mullen, founder of Hollywood’s first punk enclave The Masque,  deejay Ron Miller and former Screamers’ drummer   K.K. Barrett would spin the latest in weird-ass, cutting-edge funk. George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" was a perennial favorite. Carlos Guitarlos, guitarist  of  Top Jimmy  & The Rhythm Pigs usually was on the door. El Duce , founder of  what was perhaps  the most politically-incorrect band on earth, The Mentors, and blues singer  Top Jimmy ( who was the namesake of the  popular Van Halen song) were the  club’s janitors, cleaning up for free so they could imbibe all the high school beers set down by the drunken revelers, and maybe- if they were lucky- find someone's stash on the floor.
David Lee Roth with Top Jimmy, Cathay De Grande, 1981

Speaking of Van Halen, then-lead singer David Lee Roth in particular took a shine to The Zero and it was rumored that he was an investor. Whatever the case, he could always be found holding court in the notorious Back Room. You had access to that inner circle only if you were super-duper hip , had a lot of blow to share or were a  good looking nubile girl.  The  Back Room  was also the place the door-money was stashed in case the cops came to bust the place, which happened once in a while. Usually the place was just shut down and fined, but because of these raids, the club changed locations a few times, once to a basement on Gardner Street, then to a loft above Playmates Of Hollywood at the corner of Hollywood & Wilcox, yet again to a loft on Vine Street. The loft on Vine street was particularly dangerous for two reasons: the steep wooden stairs mixed with the  utterly inebriated condition of the patrons were literally an accident waiting to happen…and  then, there was Danielle The Doorman.

Danielle himself was an accident waiting to happen. Nowadays, he’d probably be described as  bi-polar; and certainly the elephantine amounts of speed he did on a regular basis only enhanced his incendiary mental and emotional predilections.  Danielle was the craziest thing to come out of Puerto Rico since  Sister Bertrille, and he proudly referred to himself  as The Tweekin’ ‘Rican. Danielle’s  accent was almost indecipherable  when he was sober- and even  more so if he was   wasted…which was an every day occurance.  Danielle was always extremely sweet to me and my Discgraceland  roommate Iris Berry, but we’d both seen him turn on a dime. The dark clouds and impending storm of anger were easily read on his face just before he’d explode, but that was another problem altogether:  it was  difficult to see his face.  Danielle’s customary doorman uniform consisted of a full suit of  high-impact plastic football player body armor which he had spray-painted  metallic silver. A large plastic toy stegosaurus also painted silver was mounted at the crest of each shoulder pad, and he always wore a matching metallic  hockey mask to complete his ensemble.

Me & then-husband Levi Dexter at The Zero on Cahuenga Blvd., 1981by Gary Leonard
The bar at any of the  Zero’s locations was always a makeshift plywood affair, and was almost always  tended by the afore-mentioned Iris Berry Alice Miller, and myself. Our bartending consisted of opening the  flrip-tops of the only drinks the Zero served, cans of Burgie and Lucky Lager, doing the drugs that were often left as our  tips, and flirting shamelessly with the regulars. There were always fun people to party and/or go home with, and since we weren’t above flashing our bras to solicit our gratuities, we got all the action. Frequently during the course of every night night, we'd count out and divide the contents of the tip jar, stuffing the bills into our fishnet stockings, and  brining the cash-stash from the beer sales  to the Back Room to hide it in case the cops came. On many occasions I'd take a cab home  the next day from wherever  after-party had been, and pay my fare with   plastic Solo cups full of quarters. Usually, the after-parties would blend into the next afternoon or evening, and we probably could've made a killing selling cheap sunglasses at the bar too, 'cause everyone always needed them! We'd always be getting home when other people were going to work or church.
 
The Cahuenga Blvd. Zero Zero,  circa 1982 as seen from behind the bar by Gary Leonard
The Zero went on for  quite a long time, and it's hard to really describe in detail all the sordid fun, crazy, zoned-out intellectual conversations, brainstorms and sheer madness that went on there. It was the on-going after hours hub of the 1980’s Hollywood Punk/New Wave/New  Romantic/Goth/Cow Punk  scene.  What started as a semi-private enclave for just a few people  wound up getting so popular that it’s exclusivity and anonymity were threatened by the sheer volume of people-mostly clueless idiots- who wanted to soak up the  hip atmosphere. Eventually, they contributed to the club’s demise.
Like all golden eras, The Zero Zero came to an end, but damn, was it great while it lasted! So great, in fact, that like the old adage about the Sixties, one could describe the Zero in this way: If you say you remember it, you probably weren't there!

Luckily, when I came home   from bartending at The Zero wired out of my gourd the next day, I had nothing better to do than write about the previous night's escapades in my diary, before passing out and waking up to start the partying all over again.

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If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to read of my memoirs from the 1980’s punk scene and beyond,  my latest book “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road”( Punk Hostage Press) is available here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm

Thursday, April 17, 2014

HARVEY REDUX






Are you The Easter Bunny?

The question was screamed at me top volume from about thirty feet away as I sat at an outdoor café on LA’s trendy Vermont Avenue, sipping a latte. The person inquiring was of indeterminate sex and laboriously pushing a creaking, rusty, overloaded shopping cart.  The enquirer also had dead leaves scattered through it’s hair and also suffered a cleft palate or some similar speech impediment, so it took me a few pointed hollers to realize that the query was, in fact, if I was The Easter Bunny.

Phonetically, the question sounded like this:

“AAAH NYEW NEE EADOR BAAAAHNNEE?”

In my “Flashdance” style cut-off sweatshirt and fresh-from-dance-class sweats, hair piled on top of my head in a sloppy bun and men’s aviator shades, I really didn’t look anything like The Easter Bunny, or the other patrons of the café… who were beginning to stare at me, wondering what my answer was going to be. It was perfectly clear to everyone within earshot that this question was being hollered directly to me.

I’m not sure exactly what it is about me that invites attention from the mentally unstable, but whatever it is, I’ve got it in spades. Luridly made-up bag ladies routinely cross busy streets just to strike up a conversation with me; blackout drunks at Mardi Gras stagger blindly through police lines to gift me with beads, and I’ve been the subject of plenty of unsolicited amorous attention from colorful individuals whom law enforcement officers would probably classify as  The Criminally Insane. In the two most memorable cases, this, for some reason, has something to do with Easter.

The question was screamed at me again, this time with an urgent note of utter desperation.

 Are you The Easter Bunny?

Having now attracted the attention of passers-by as well as all of the other café patrons, I figured I might as well answer.

“Um, no… I’m sorry, I’m not The Easter Bunny,”

 I said sheepishly, regretting having inadvertently disturbed everyone’s tranquil spring afternoon. Somehow, this didn’t daunt my inquisitor. The person continued, 

“But do you have an Easter Bunny costume?”

It was now clearly too late not to engage in this bizarre exchange, since the whole block now seemed to be waiting breathlessly for me answer.  Grandstanding for a moment, I yelled back,

“Well, as a matter of fact, I do!”

“With bunny ears?”

“Uh, yes, of course with ears.”, I replied, wondering just what the hell this was leading up to.

Because of my affirmative answer, the person broke into a manic, jubilant grin revealing many missing teeth and yelled,

“YOU MEET HE HERE ON EASTER MORNING- AND BRING A BASKET WITH CHOCLATE EGGS!”

“Okay,” I managed weakly, hoping that it wouldn’t shatter the dream when I didn’t show up as promised.

Not too long after that, I was walking along Hollywood Boulevard minding my own business, when something similar occurred.

“Hey Pretty Lady, Pretty Lady! Hey can I ask you a question, Pretty Lady?”

 Again, there I was out in public, looking like- for lack of a better description- ten pounds of shit in a five-pound sack. I blithely ignored the smooth playah cadence of this pick-up artist’s voice and kept walking quickly hoping to ditch him, but to no avail. Pretty soon, the dude got into step right beside me. Even though my eyes were focused straight ahead, I could tell he was tall and slowing his pace to match mine.

“Hey Pretty Lady! Are you single, do you have a boyfriend? Are you married? You sooo pretty, Pretty Lady!”

This went on for at least a block. Persistent motherfucker, I thought to myself. Hopefully he’ll see some slutty tourist with a fake tan and a tube top and forget about me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught glimpse of his leg as he strode alongside me. He was wearing tuxedo trousers with a satin stripe down the sides and black jazz oxfords…but they were totally filthy, caked with mud.

“Hey Pretty Lady! Wanna have some coffee with me, Pretty Lady?”

He wasn’t relenting so, as with the previous situation, I figured I should just stop and confront him.

“Pretty Lady! Let’s have some coffee and talk about our future, Pretty Lady!”

I halted dead in my tracks and before turning to look at him I yelled,

“I’m married!”

“Oh, Pretty Laaaaady,” he sighed dejectedly.

He was indeed tall. Like, Los Angeles Lakers tall. He was a striking African American man wearing a tuxedo…but the suit was so completely rumpled and covered with caked-on mud, it looked like he’d been run over by a tractor.

He also had on a pair of brand new white plush bunny ears with pink satin lining, and he was sporting a child’s white plastic “Phantom of The Opera” mask!

For an insane moment, I briefly considered taking a cell-phone picture with him and maybe even going out to coffee to see what, exactly, his get-up was all about, but then I got a hold of myself, mainly because he smelled so horrible.

Before skipping away from him as quickly as possible, I yelled as loudly as I could manage,

Are you The Easter Bunny?



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 Happy Easter!
 The story you've just read is from my book "Showgirl Confidential" ( Punk Hostage Press) available on Amazon.com; for a signed copy, please visit princessfarhana.com

Sunday, April 13, 2014

KING OF THE URBAN JUNGLE


 
  Appetite For Destruction:  Nutter says "Welcome To The Jungle"



  I have a stalker.

 He stands outside my house lying in wait, biding his time until I step outside. Sometimes, if I leave my door open, he barges into my house, demanding attention.  His behavior is alarming and aggressive…but I think might be in love with him.

My stalker’s name is Nutter; he’s a tame squirrel that lives in the ancient ficus tree that canopies my yard. He’s from a multigenerational family of tame-or nearly so- squirrels that have lived in my tree for nearly a decade,  His great-great-great-great grandpa was Leonard, the pioneer  who decided my  Unlike Nutter, Leonard wasn’t brash enough to actually come into my house…though he could’ve if he wanted to! Leonard and his pregnant common-law wife set up housekeeping in my yard, making a huge nest in the ficus tree, padded with the innards of a cloth  Halloween dummy that was out on display.  For years, Leonard's  progeny has kept  my neighbors and me  highly entertained, but Nutter is my special friend.

In most major cities, wildlife is something to be seen in a zoo- unless you’re counting pigeons, rats and cockroaches. But in Los Angeles, it’s different:  the wealth of stubbornly wild flora and fauna is proof that that nature prevails even in the most urban areas.  Mountain lions prowl through Griffith Park, close to the densely populated Hollywood Hills where I live. One time, directly above my driveway, a hawk soaring over my head with a snake held in its talons.  Not two weeks after that, I was sitting on my porch and a hawk - possibly the same one- dive-bombed into my garden, picking up   a hapless mouse that I hadn’t even noticed, and flew off before I could even gasp. There are flocks of feral parrots in nearby Silver Lake.  Evidently, back in the 1930’s, a few Macaws got loose from a “Tarzan” movie shoot and took up residence all over East Hollywood.  It’s not an urban legend- I’ve seen them. I was alerted by a raucous screeching from above and stared in disbelief at the riot of giant birds in psychedelic tropical colors filled the sky. I've spotted deer grazing in yards not   300 feet from where someone who was out for a good time could purchase both crack and a hooker.  A neighbor recently had a peaceful encounter with a bobcat.

The abundance of creatures living among us in LA gives new meaning to the term “urban jungle”.  Sometimes our city-slicker animals are dismissed as vermin ridden, disease-carrying pests who destroy gardens and knock over garbage cans.  Though that is true, I don’t care about those things; I believe it’s the right of those animals.  Unfortunately, a good number of the “Lost Pet” flyers dotting the Los Angeles canyons can be attributed to the coyotes who come down in packs looking for food and prey on our domestic animals. They rule the streets so pervasively that Neighborhood Watch groups have formed because of them, posting  “coyote sighting” notices on the street and the Internet. I’m a cat owner and once lost a beloved kitty to a coyote, but I grudgingly believe it is actually us- not them- who are the intruders. They wouldn’t be attacking our pets if we hadn’t displaced them from their habitat.  

Aside from the coyotes, I love all the animals that share my neighborhood. I live in a canyon situated mere blocks from Hollywood Boulevard in a Craftsman bungalow built in 1917, with a spectacularly over-grown courtyard. Our three cats Sphinxie, Tab, and Ni-Ni love their home, sharing it with strays from the ‘hood. There’s Dr. Spookus, a sway-backed feral tabby tomcat who’s lived in my yard for almost two years. He lords over his domain, lounging on a weather-beaten picnic table, in between days-long forays to hunt. Two fluffy black cats drop in on a regular basis to get fed. There are also opossums, a family of skunks and many species of birds. “Our” skunks are so used to humans that they amble by casually while we’re sitting outside, not even bothering to raise their tails in a warning display.  They know the sound of the wheels of my rolling gig-bag, as I come home at night and just amble along nonchalantly out of my way. My yard is also home to three socialized – and very large-raccoons, all the progeny of Norman, and their granddaddy. They routinely come up and bang on our door or windows demanding food.  I had two baby possums  that lived in the house- I  found one in my bookshelf once! I’m  absolutely tickled that these critters all live here and use the yard as a nursery. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Everyone tells me I’m like a real life  version of Snow White.


 Oh, and of course there’s my new boyfriend, Nutter.  My boyfriend spoils him even more than I do, buying packages of organic almonds to entice him. Nutter shoves them into his mouth, the first batch of  nuts going  directly into his pouches. The second two almonds   are held in his teeth, like torpedoes about to be launched from a submarine. H scampers down the tree trunk to bury them, and has hidden so many in the yard that I have no doubt we’ll have an almond grove growing there soon.

Watching Nutter’s hoarding display, my boyfriend  shakes his head, muttering  affectionately,

“Look… He’s exhibiting Addictive Behavior!”

Nutter is so adorable and omnipresent, I’m obsessed with him.  I take pleasure in keeping him happy and seeing that he’s well fed. Taking care of Nutter reminds me of the time I had twin hummingbird babies.


A couple of years ago, a humming bird made a nest outside my door. The size of a shot-glass, it was marvelously constructed, but the branch housing it hung dangerously low, directly in the middle of a well-traveled concrete path leading from the street to my house and the back units of my courtyard. When my boyfriend and I discovered the two light blue jelly-bean-sized eggs, we melted and our protective instincts kicked in.

 The landlord cringed at the makeshift barrier we constructed to protect the nest- a tower of dilapidated lawn chairs from Target topped by an upside down trashcan. Situated directly under the nest, it kept our cats at bay and ensured that no one walking by would bump into it. We posted a sign in toddler-level broken Spanish for our gardeners:

MUCHO PRECAUCION POR FAVOR: ARRIBA ES LA CASA DE LA CHUPAROSA…CON HUEVOS!!!

The dutiful mother nested around the clock and it was all so tiny and perfect, it didn’t look real - more a fantasy scene in a sugar Easter Egg or like a decoration from China bought at a 99 Cent Store to hang from your rearview mirror. Mama didn’t budge during a storm  when rain and wind tossed her nest around, when the nearby 1920’s era garage was torn down, or when everyone started photographing her  family  non-stop with their smart phones.

Everyone in the courtyard was jubilant when the eggs hatched…and like the neurotic relatives we’d all become, we fretted over the fuzzy gray babies, small as insects. Days went by and the fledglings grew, their down becoming irridescent feathers, their tiny beaks lengthening. They were so fat and healthy they barely fit in the nest.  Our hearts were bursting.

 Suddenly, after days of devotion, Mom vanished; we were beside ourselves with worry, fearing abandonment. My boyfriend wanted to feed the tiny infants himself.   He was beside himself, practically sobbing, calling the mother hummingbird horrible names.
Desperate, I cruised the Project Wildlife website for info on feeding.  Happily, I discovered that everything was going on schedule: the babies no longer needed Mom to regulate their body temperatures, and she was out on a mission, meticulously gathering fruit flies to feed to them.  All of us, even the gardeners, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The head gardener even said in broken English,

"The babies...soon, they will go!"

Everyone watched in delight as the tiny fledglings took their first tentative, Disney cartoon-like attempts at flight. After a couple of hours, they’d gotten the hang of it.

Then they were gone.

They didn’t return to the nest that day, or the next morning.  By that evening, I phoned my boyfriend to tell him the great news- our babies had grown up, healthy against all odds, mission accomplished!

There was silence on the other end of the line.

Finally, voice breaking, he choked,

“They’re gone? That is… so… fucked up!”

I gently explained that nature took its course, and we should be happy.

“I know,” he said,  “ It’s wonderful. But I’m still sad.”

As I dismantled the tower of lawn chairs and trashcans, I felt my own pangs of severe empty nest syndrome.

Kids, I thought, shaking my head, they grow up so fast

 But now I have Nutter. And as long as keep a supply of almonds on hand, I don’t think he’s going anywhere any time soon!


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 The story you’ve just read is an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir, “Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere”, due out in September 2014 on Punk Hostage Press.

 My latest book, “Showgirl Confidential” is available here: