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heroes: to meet or not to meet

Today's debate: the veracity of the saying, "Never meet your heroes." Generally speaking, this is true. I mean the phrase obviously exists for a reason—granted, not all reasons are rooted in reality, but I'll spare the morose existentialism for another sunny day—and there's certainly no short supply of experiences out there to corroborate its generational persistence. The obvious takeaway from all that being mystery and intrigue are almost always better than a glimpse at what really goes on behind the curtain and some things are best left to ones imagination. Especially nowadays in our social media-centric world where direct, unfiltered access to the thoughts and actions of the famous has never been more easy and, consequently, never more disastrous, discouraging, disheartening, disappointing, and many other dis-oriented words.

(All right, Cliver, bring it down a notch and up the levity; or, in other more famous words: "Lighten up, Francis," because this is, after all, just a fucking skateboard blog.)

Okay, so for the sake of a silly example, let's just say I was really let down the third time* I met Glenn Danzig, when Marc McKee and I went to interview him at the American Recordings office in Burbank, CA, circa 1993, for the laughable excuse of our "music department" in Big Brother magazine. Up until that short-lived point in the mag's history, we'd sworn to operate by the half-ass rule of thumb to never interview an artist we genuinely liked; however, Marc and I were both huge Danzig fans and giddy as fuck to get his new release** to play in the World Industries art department, where we routinely drove people batty and/or out of the room through our annoying insistence to play one and only one album all day long on repeat. Compound this by the fact we were also still a bit heady on the high that we could abuse our newfound "journalism credentials" to attain free promotional CDs and concert tickets, and, well, we were more than primed for the inevitable disappointment of sitting in a room alone with Danzig for 45 eternity-spanning minutes.

I should first state that both Marc and I are not the most socially acclimated people. Some might even go so far as to say that is an immensely gross understatement and we're two of the most awkward and uncomfortable people to be around period***. So the very idea of us asking questions to anybody is completely absurd, and the sad fact we were both legitimately in awe of Danzig made it all the more worse. To his credit, Danzig humored our inane questions for the most part, but it eventually became clear that he was well over our shit as the silences between us grew longer and longer until he finally, AKA, mercifully, shut it down… because if he had not there's a damn good chance we'd still be silently sitting in that conference room today.

But get this: at no point during the interview did he totally let me down in the "never meet your heroes" fashion—I mean, Christ, I don't know how he put up with our amateur antics in the first place—and it wasn't until we were in the parking garage below the building that the curtain finally fell away as we watched him get into a black Porshe 944. What. The. Fuck. The Danzig of our imaginations was supposed to drive a hearse. Or at the very least an El Camino with a clap-trap haunted house on the back like a pickup topper. You know, kinda like the Gruesome Twosome's vehicle in Hanna-Barbera's Wacky Races (1968), but no… he was just another Hollywood douche in a Porsche. So devastating.

As we drove back to El Segundo that afternoon, mostly in silence, Marc and I agreed that no one else should or would ever be allowed to listen to the audiotape of the interview lest we become the laughingstocks of the office. Marc alone transcribed and edited the final piece****, ensuring that our egos remain unchecked and no one could get a leg up on us, but we both learned a very important lesson that day: we should never interview anyone ever again and instead only write dumb questions for others to ask.

There are exceptions to the "heroes" rule, of course, and I've had the good fortune of meeting both Robert Pollard and John Waters in more "intimate" settings and they're exactly as you'd ever hope them to be in person. The latter exceedingly so, as we filmed a couple segments with him for jackass number two, circa 2006, and I can't remember ever having a more delightfully depraved dinner conversation. Rarely, if ever, will you meet someone quite so charming and fascinating when it comes to the discussion of debauched behaviors. He truly is in a class of his own.

Here I must admit that whereas most people want to grow up and make their mother proud, me, well, I've always wanted to create at least one thing***** in my lifetime that would make Mr. Waters proud. Honestly, I can't say that the "Bird & Bush" is the one to possibly do it, but he was still an inspirational force behind its kitsch making. Worst case, I can still claim a tangible association to the jackass franchise, which he has referenced and lauded favorably on many a public occasion, so I can at least take that knowledge happily to my grave. —Sean Cliver


* The first time I ran into Danzig was at the Chicago Comic-Con in 1988. He was walking the floor, perusing the back issue boxes, and I was nothing short of star-struck in what would indeed be my first real-life, big-time celebrity moment. I'm still not sure how I mustered up the courage then, but I asked him to sign my sketchbook and he happily obliged [see Fig. A]. My second encounter took place at the Wally Gator's club in Madison, WI, later that same year, where I attended a performance of his first ever tour under the new self-named group. Fortunately this was still months before Danzig was catapulted into the pantheon of Metal Gods, so the venue was small, the crowd was sparse, and meek ole me was still able to gain access to the front of the stage for my very own high-five from his leather-gloved hand. Following the concert, I collected my second signature of his on my yellow Powell-Peralta Mike McGill "Skull & Snake" board, one of only two of my original riders from back in the day that I managed to hold onto (although the signature itself is barely discernible now and just as indecipherable as the one shown here).

** The release was How The Gods Kill, and while it did bear the incredible art mark of H.R. Giger on the cover, the songs within were, sadly, slightly under par to the previous Lucifuge, AKA, Lucy Fudge, harkening to his unfortunate "growth" as an artist—no short pun intended—and the point at which I started to lose interest in his croonier output. So yes, I checked out well before the egregious industrial dance atrocity of Blackaciddevil, making me not a "true fan," as Danzig would likely say, if he was likely to say anything at all, the very notion of which makes me sound absolutely fucking ridiculous, like I would ever float across him dark transom.

*** To be fair, we both became slightly more socially bearable, so to speak, after our stints at the magazine, where we were forced to interact with humans on a more regular basis. Of course several would argue this fact, one being Rick Kosick, whom we did admittedly torture on a road trip to the Pacific-Northwest, circa 1994, and our social ineptitude was ultimately chronicled and captured in the Hulu documentary Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine (2017).

**** To further mask our embarrassment, Marc wrote in the intro: "What followed was nothing less than the best Danzig interview in history. In order to fit the maximum number of [Danzig's] words in this small space, we have kept ours to a minimum, for the most part just letting him expound on various topics." Ha!

***** And with this final footnote I bring this whole shit 'n' kaboodle full circle: My wife Donna and I waited an eon in line to have John sign a copy of his new book Make Trouble, circa 2017, and I intentionally wore my "Glenn of Finland" shirt in hopes of eliciting a response. And he did! Amazingly so, too, because we'd arrived late, the line was down the block, and he looked really, really tired by the time we presented our book to him. "I like your shirt," he said, before signing the book and graciously agreeing to take a photo with us. The End.

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  • ron wright on

    The PP AD was a drag compared to the WI AD?? It seems so. HA!!

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