|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 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.
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