The Fetish Club

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

I remember when I first heard about Hanoi Rocks it was in 1984 or early 1985. I was in my post-punk phase, hair grew out a bit, and clothes, kind of looked like I robbed a gypsy (or rolled a bum). Anyway, I was out on a date with a punk girl from Pasadena named Meredith. And she decides we should go downtown (Los Angeles) to a place called the Fetish Club. I’ve been to a lot of rat holes in my time, but this place really was one of the worst places I had ever been to. We paid to get in, and I excuse myself to go to the bathroom, I go in, and the bathroom has no doors, and the stalls have no doors. Basically, everybody in the club can see you. So, I’m standing at the urinal doing my business when I hear “Oh my god, look at these sexy men!” I turn my head to see a six-foot 4-inch black transvestite in a blonde wig. He . . . or she comes running over to get a better look so I turn as much as I can, and when he gets too close I stick my leg out to keep him at bay and he says “I like them feisty.” I finish up and leave the bathroom for the night. I meet up with my date and explain what I just went through, and she just laughed and said: “This is the Fetish club.”

So, we hang out a bit, and discover one of the rooms in this place is a rundown bar with a wall-sized video screen that was showing all the stuff that I normally didn’t see on MTV, like Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Bauhaus (you know, “Undead, Undead”), and Hanoi Rocks. The first video on was Hanoi’s cover of Up Around The Bend, corny video, but cool song. I remember saying to the girl I was with “I wish I had seen these guys live.”

Another weird part of the evening is when we entered the “video room” is over in the corner was a guy I went to High School with, I didn’t know his name, dressed in a Misfits-type style complete with the “Devil-lock.” Which is fine, but in school, I remembered in Polo shirts. I did a double take when I saw him, and he ends up giving me the casual “What’s up” nod. How cool.

After an hour, or so we stepped outside to smoke a clove or two, in the 1980’s this was still cool, and a block or two down I heard what sounded like a brick go through a window, then an alarm going off. About three minutes later a black guy comes running up to me with an armful of dresses, and asked me if I “Wanted to buy a dress for my woman?” I thanked him for his great offer, but I passed.

A year or two later, my friend Chris, from around the block, comes by to tell me that some of the remaining members of Hanoi are going to be playing up the street from us, did I want to go? Definitely. Somehow, Poison was headlining the show, they didn’t have an album out at the time, but they had a decent following in Los Angeles. Cherry Bombz had their album out, and were reasonably established – but they opened. Anyway, we get there and the place is full of the type of people you would see in Decline of Western Civilization II. After sitting through an opening act that I can’t remember I pushed my way up front to check out the Hanoi boys, this is where things get bad, I’m amped and the band comes out and. . . nothing. No energy, no charisma, nothing. The guys just stood there doing Pete Townshend poses. Most of the show there was no movement, then at the end of their set they did Loverboy’s Hot Girls In Love, and then they exploded, jumping all around, running from one part of the stage to the other, freaking bizarre. I was heartbroken; I figured with this line-up how could you go wrong?

– Last One To Die, 2011

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Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Ray Campi

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

In 1979 I was enrolled in Columbus Junior High, I was thirteen or fourteen. I was enrolled in the eighth grade in the middle of the bussing situation that was sweeping through the Los Angeles Unified School District.

My mom had just gone back to work, and they wanted to bus me to Crenshaw, and I wasn’t going to be home until after 6:00 pm every night. So, my Mom sought out other ways to keep me closer.

One night we attended an anti-bussing rally at Pierce College. The people rallied against our lack of choices for “our children.” Really, there were no solutions, mainly whining. As we were leaving there was a guy outside the Pierce football stadium, passing out anti-black literature, dressed in full Nazi uniform. My jaw dropped, other than a few war movies on TV, I didn’t know that Nazis were real. Most people just ignored him, whereas, nowadays in this Jerry Springer culture – man, woman, and child would’ve assaulted him.

After researching some schools my mom found that Columbus Junior High wasn’t bussing out. They had been doing a voluntary bussing program for years, kids from downtown would be shuttled in daily in such numbers that the “white” student body was less than 10% of the whole student enrollment.

The plan was that my Family (my mom, brother and I) would move from Reseda to Canoga Park to live with my mom’s friend Linda so that we would be within Columbus’ district. Right as we prepared to make this move (even if it was just temporary) Linda’s husband, Don, committed suicide. Don was a great guy, always good to my family, and me, but he suffered from problems relating to alcohol. I believe it was the first funeral, I ever attended.

I started Columbus a week or so later. Because of the turmoil at Linda’s home, we stayed in our place in Reseda, but used her address, and commuted to Canoga Park everyday.

It was one rough-ass school. The racial tensions were overwhelming. Every day during PE my name was “honky,” for a whole year. It was at this school that I learned the significance of the golf cap. Depending on how many golf club pins you had on your cap dictated which street you represented, three pins, you were from Eighty-Third Street, etc.

The two cool things about going to this school were meeting a fellow punk, Linda “Ziggy” D., and seeing a bonafide music celebrity.

One of the teachers was rockabilly legend, Ray Campi. I don’t know if he was a regular teacher or a substitute, but I saw him for the bulk of the year. I think Rodney Bingenheimer used to play him sometimes. I never approached Mr. Campi, I viewed him as too much of a star (hey, I was thirteen).

Eighth grade was by far my worst school year, but as with most things, there were some good memories too.

– Last One To Die, 2011

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Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Von Dutch

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

I was driving through Northridge with my wife and son some time back and as I was heading down Nordhoff, I saw two young guys, about ten years old, on skateboards. Nothing out of the ordinary, but what really got to me was that one of them was wearing a Misfits shirt with their “Crimson Ghost” design on it. That really got me thinking.

Back when I got their Slash Records release of Walk Among Us — in the early part of the 80s—I wouldn’t have been able to casually walk down the street wearing a Misfits shirt without people yelling stuff out of their cars at me, or occasionally throwing stuff at me. On one hand, I’m happy that this music has caught on. But on the other, I feel like the way people from the 60s must’ve felt: “Just leave our icons alone.” When I hear about people enjoying a comment that Henry Rollins has said on his IFC show, it makes me want to say, “Back off.” Henry was my generation’s Jim Morrison, in a weird sort of way.

In the mid-1960’s my father met Jim Morrison at a party up in Topanga Canyon. My dad walked in and the host of the party came up to him and said, “Hey, Tom. There’s someone I want you to meet.” My dad followed him around a corner and through a doorway and, lying on the floor of an unfurnished room, with his head propped on the base of the wall, was the Lizard King himself. Morrison reached out his hand and said “Hey Man, nice to meet you.” And that was it.

Over the years, I’d asked my father to repeat that story a few times and it made me think: Will my son ask me about Henry? Better yet, will the kids on the skateboards want to know what it was like the first time my brother and I met Glenn Danzig—or was it just a cool shirt to buy?

Another trend that throws me is people wearing the Von Dutch logo on their clothing. My father told me about a time he’d been up to visit Von up at his place in Topanga Canyon and Steve McQueen had come by and asked Von to paint his motorcycle. McQueen went into great detail about how he wanted the job done, Von nods his head in agreement all the while. My dad left but went back a few days later, just as McQueen was pulling up in a truck to pick up his bike. They went into the garage, and there was McQueen’s ride, freshly painted, but nothing like McQueen had requested. They all looked back and forth at each other, and then McQueen shrugged his shoulders and paid Von.

A few months later, my father went back up into the canyon for a visit. There was a little get-together going on, everybody drinking, and in the middle of it all Von heard a helicopter flying by. He ran into the bedroom and came running back out with a shotgun. Most of the people scattered, but my father followed Von and watched as he began shooting into the sky, trying to down the helicopter. I guess that happened once too often because the local law eventually asked him to leave the area. Von relocated to Compton.

What’s the point to all this? It’s “Do you know what you’re wearing, or is it just a great design?”

– Last One To Die, 2011

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Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Fear & Loathing Under The Golden Arches

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Back in 2007, my wife, son and I moved into an old two-bedroom house in Valley Glen, just outside of Sherman Oaks, CA. I think it was built back in the 1920’s or so. The floors were all wood or marble, and the ceiling and doorways were all rounded. Where we were located, we were closer to the crappy neighborhoods than we were the fancy shops in Sherman Oaks. So, to make things easier on myself I would go into the heart of Van Nuys to do my errands.

Every Saturday and Sunday for as long as I can remember my son and I have had breakfast together at McDonald’s. And once we moved to Valley Glen we went every weekend to the McDonald’s on Victory and Kester. The neighborhood is fair, and we’re usually one of the only two people speaking English.

So why would I keep going back to this McDonald’s? Several reasons. First, the staff is always great to us, they remember us and they remember our order without us having to say it. And the primary reason is the personality of the place.

Let me explain. Every time I walk into the place there is an older Asian man with long gray hair, which should’ve been cut six months back, and dirty clothes, who just sits with his coffee and stares. Sometimes at the wide-screen TV on the wall, sometimes at me. But in his, almost, comatose state, I don’t think he knows that he’s staring. He has become a fixture, a given just like the furniture.

For the last year and a half, there has also been an older white man, I never caught his name, but he has snow white haircut like Moe of the three stooges, and a flattened nose, like an ex-boxer. My son doesn’t like him because he always threatens to take his toys. And God forbid, you walk in with a woman. The old man will rush over and start telling jokes, then launch into a tap-dancing routine. Anything to win her over. Unfortunately, this old guy has been M.I.A. for the last month, hopefully, he hasn’t passed.

Two weeks ago, my son and I got our money’s worth. As I’m walking up, there was a, somewhat, overweight guy standing outside drinking a soda. As I walk by he says “Hi.” I do a double-take and realize it’s a former employee, Bob or Bruce, who had quit a month or two earlier due to stress. I didn’t recognize him, I think he had suffered a breakdown and became homeless. I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and he just stared through me. I asked him what he was up to, and he said he needed a job. I nodded and said times were hard. He said he wanted to work in the McDonald’s parking lot as an attorney. I said what? He said he could walk around the lot and find things that were potential lawsuits, things that people could slip on, etc. I look at him for a few seconds and wished him good luck with that, and he yelled back “Looking for a job!”

When I ordered our food that morning I mentioned to the cashier that I was talking to their former co-worker out front, and the cashier just shook his head and said: “He’s changed.” Yeah, he sure did.

Midway through our meal, I watched as a Hispanic family walked in, about four or five of them and following up the rear was a little boy wearing a white men’s full-length T-shirt. Probably used as pajamas. It’s not uncommon to see kids stroll in with their folks on the weekend in the previous evening’s sleepwear.

About twenty minutes later, as I am finishing up my breakfast, I hear a very high-pitched shrieking, almost pained. I look over and the boy with the white T-shirt is shrieking at the family at the table behind us. And while shrieking he has his shirt hiked up to his neck revealing that. . . he is wearing nothing under the shirt. Now, if that isn’t weird enough, I normally would not have looked over, but the screaming startled me. So, I look over and physically the kid was neither male nor female. It freaked me out. I turned away as if I witnessed a mob hit.

It disturbed me for the rest of the day. But all in all, this has become our breakfast home. It has far more personality than any place in Sherman Oaks would.

In November of 2008, we moved to Lake Balboa, and the Kester McDonald’s is still our weekend spot. No flashers have interrupted our breakfast before or since, knock on wood.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

 

 

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Moby

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Once every blue moon, or once every decade, or so, whichever comes first, I meet someone that really makes me reevaluate the way I see things.

Back in 1996, when my daughter was two years old I took her to Burger King on Reseda Blvd and Vanowen Ave in Reseda. It’s not there anymore, I think it’s a Starbucks or a Jack in the Box . . . isn’t everything a Starbucks?

Anyway, she was two, she needed to eat, and play and this particular Burger King had a massive outdoor play area, so we went. She nibbled for a bit, and when she was finished, she was ready to hit the playground.

Now, any of you that have kids know that one of the worst things about taking your kids to play at parks, playgrounds, or the mall, is the piece-of-shit kids that hang around these places for the sole purpose of fucking with your kids. Complete lack of love and attention has turned these future OZ inmates into complete sociopaths. So, while their massively obese parents sit over to the side, messing with their cell phones, and sweating gravy, you are forced to discipline their degenerate wastes of sperm.

Well, now that I got that out of the way . . . here’s what happened. We walk outside, there is an eight-year-old boy hiding underneath the slide, a three or four-year-old boy comes sliding down, the eight-year-old grabs the kid from the bottom of the slide, and throws him to the ground. I look around, and there is only one other parent out in the play area. So, I ask him nicely, “Is this your fucking kid.” While asking him I couldn’t help but notice how much he looked like Moby. Anyway, he shakes his head, and says” “No.” The kid that was thrown to the ground was his. So, I say: “Whose kid is he?” Moby just shrugs.

So, my daughter headed to the top of the playground’s tunnels and was about to come down the slide. Right, then I saw the eight-year-old excrement position himself under the slide so that he could tackle my little girl. Well, I wasn’t going to allow that. So, I get up, walk over, and lift him up by the back of his collar, walk into the Burger King, and say, “Who does this little fucker belong to?” Not a freaking sound. If this was a movie, all you would hear would be crickets. Nobody looks up, and nobody speaks. I put the kid down, he runs screaming, and I go back out. My daughter and the other kid are running through the tunnels, sliding, laughing, and having a great time.

I sit down, and then Moby asks me what I do for a living, I tell him I’m a graphic designer, and then ask him the same question. He says, “This.” I ask him to explain. He says, “Watch my kid live, and have fun.” So, I think to myself, I just got finished getting rid of some a-hole kid, and now I have to deal with this whack-job.

Then, he starts his story; turns out he was a big time lawyer, with no time for his family. He was diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. He quit his job, bought a guitar, taught himself to play, and just started enjoying life for the first time since he was a kid.

As we spoke, he said he beat cancer, and in a few weeks he was going to do a solo gig at a bar on Ventura Blvd. I wished him luck and thought about this guy often over the years.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

 

 

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Waiting For Something

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

On October 31, 2009, I took my son to breakfast at McDonald’s on Vanowen and Balboa. It was empty, quiet and the playground was open for him.

As a regular breakfast consumer of McDonald’s I get used to people panhandling. If I eat deeper into Van Nuys, most people bypass me, thinking I don’t know Spanish, so they walk on.

I give change, or, on occasion, they just want my coffee cup before it’s thrown away.

On this particular day, a Sunday, I saw a guy walk in; he looked like the mountain man from The Oak Ridge Boys: a little roughed up, but not dirty. Boots seemed clean. He didn’t seem to order; he placed his travel roll in a booth, and kind of walking around.

At that point my son had finished his food, and wanted to play outside. So, we went to play.

After about a half an hour my son was done, and wanted to head home. Right as I was starting to stand-up, the bearded Mountain Man came walking into the play area. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a dollar, but before I could hand it over, the Man spoke:

“I want you to have these,” he said and proceed to give me two coupons for a free cup of coffee, one coupon for a free breakfast sandwich, and a gift card that he said “might only have forty cents on it, but use it to buy your little one an ice cream.”

I told him I couldn’t accept it, that he should keep it. Use it for tomorrow’s breakfast.

“You keep it,” he said. “I’m fine.”

I pocketed my dollar, his coupons, and the gift card. Before I could look up, he was making his way out the driveway, pulling his travel roll.

“Let me drive you somewhere,” I call out to him.

“No,” he said and reiterated that he was fine then pointed to the bus stop

“There are things I want to see,” he said.

Turned left out of the driveway, and looked at him waiting for the bus, puzzled.

He stood looking up at the sky smiling.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

 

 

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Mayor Tom Bradley

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

FROM LAST ONE TO DIE

I have always loved living in Los Angeles—the good, the bad and the smog. I’ll probably always live here. Whether it’s running out of gas in the middle of Compton or getting punched in the back of the head by a homeless man in the middle of a psychotic breakdown, L.A. has always had interesting adventures for me. Throughout high school, I would venture further and further into L.A. for no other reason than to see what was out there.

My father used to work in City Hall, and back when I was a kid, he took me downtown to the jewelry district. We found an alley to park in and as we were leaving the car, I heard a real loud ruckus down another alley. As we walked by I saw an old homeless man standing by a dumpster and throwing trash, screaming “And don’t come around here again, motherfucker!” I looked up and down the alley . . . and saw he was alone. I looked up at my dad, and he said, “Walk in front of me and keep moving.” I was in shock: I saw a man having a very intense fight with . . . no one and my dad was unfazed. As the weeks and months went by, the more fascinated I became with the incident. Anyone living in L.A. now would probably be unmoved by the incident, with the homeless situation what it is these days (something like this probably happened in your backyard this morning) but in the early, to mid 70s this was wild stuff.

About five or six years later, my father, brother and I were in downtown L.A. to attend the annual “Street Scene” festival (summer of 81, think). It was slightly overcast, so I used that as an excuse to wear my leather jacket. So, as we’re walking along, Street Scene workers kept handing us leaflets, maps, and coupons. All the while I’m stuffing them into the inside pocket of my leather jacket. After an hour or two of walking around, we noticed people lining up along the sidewalks, preparing for a small parade. We stood to the side as then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley came walking up the street flanked by two huge bodyguards (with short Jheri-Curls). Around this time my brother asked where we should go next. Just as the Mayor was passing right in front of us, I reached into my jacket to get the map. By the time I looked up I was being accosted (and damn-near leveled) by the Mayor’s bodyguards. After being shaken down for about a minute, my dad starts yelling, “Tom, it’s my son!” My father’s job in City Hall was as Head of the Street Tree Division, so he had dealt with Bradley on occasion. Finally, they let me go, and the Mayor walked over and patted my head and said “Good boy” and walked away.

Apparently, the bodyguards thought I was reaching for a gun.

It’s funny how as time passes the culture gives way to acceptance: once upon a time simply wearing a leather jacket made me look like a sniper, this past July, at the Comic-Con, in San Diego, I counted at least twenty-five Mohawks in the crowd, without anyone batting an eye.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

 

 

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell

Caddyshack

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

I remember reading an article about ten plus years back about how the majority of all American men use the movies Caddyshack and The Godfather as a basis in which to bond. The article went on to explain that by trading certain lines back and forth you show that you are “one of them.” For example, someone says, “Do you take drugs, Danny?” You would have to reply back with: “Everyday.” Obviously, this banter could go on and on depending on how deep you went into this movie. But you get the gist.

It reminded me of an insurance company I worked for during the early nineties, one afternoon I got invited to lunch with a bunch of manager trainees, you know the type – prim and proper at work then at night they become college frat boys – anyway, they start discussing this new procedure that they’re trying change and how upper management is trying to stop them, so this guy, Frank, says, “It’s time to go to the mattresses.” I let out a chuckle, and Frank says, “Yeah, Essington knows what I’m talking about,” and he gives me a thumbs-up. I nodded. Now, did I chuckle as part of this “bonding process” over a Godfather quote? No, actually I stifled a laugh because I always found it funny that certain people equated their job to war or mafia-type violence.

I had a boss, years ago, that had a hardcover edition of the Art of War on his desk, really dude?

Regardless of my intention, Frank and I had bonded because I understood his quote.

The one flaw with this bonding theory is that these movies are so old now that unless you belong to my generation you won’t get these references. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re at a party yell out, “Hey, did somebody step on a duck?” And watch how everybody looks at you like you’re a leper.

This is why I couldn’t ever date somebody more than three or so years younger than me. All my conversations tend to have pop culture references. And if you don’t get the references, well don’t expect me to sit around and ramble about how nifty those Kardashian broads are, Klunky is my favorite Kardashian though.

I had a young girl send me a friend request a few weeks ago, then she jumps on the chat and told me how much she loved Last One to Die (aw, shucks) and how much she related to it. I thanked her and thought nothing of it. Then later in the conversation, she asked me to watch a video of her band on YouTube. Decent band, but the vocal syncing was off a bit. So, she said, “Did you notice my vocals were out of sync?” So, I gave a smart-ass reply, I said, “It looked like an episode of Lancelot Link.” She replied with a “LOL,” and then, “Who’s he?” This made me scratch my head, “How old are you?” She said “20.” OK, fine, whatever, but that lead to my most important question, “If you’re twenty, how is it that you relate to my book? All the places I mention are gone and most of the people are dead.” She replied back, “I just do.”

Fucking kids.

#michaelessington #misconceptionsofhell

 

 

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell