As his legend grew throughout the 80s, Allin, like so many rock 'n' roll greats before him, would tour the country solo, almost continuously, riding Greyhounds from town to town. At each stop, it was up to the club owner to pull together a backup band for him. The band would practice a few times, learn a few of his songs, then wait for him to show up. They never had to practice too hard, given that during the show, GG rarely finished an entire song, and the sets themselves rarely ran longer than 20 minutes, if they happened at all.
GG played once?in '85 or '86 this was?at O'Cayz Corral in Madison. As the show progressed, the club owner stood in the back with a checklist. Every time GG broke something, or shit on the carpeted stage, the owner would check it off on his list, deducting the repair/replacement/cleaning costs from Allin's guarantee. By the time the show was over, Allin owed O'Cayz something like $300 (which, of course, he didn't pay).
Anyway, he was booked to play O'Cayz again the following year. Around 1 o'clock the day of the show, the local musicians who'd been pulled together to be the band met at the club and waited for GG, in the hopes that there'd be time for at least one quick rehearsal before the show began at 10.
After they waited for him for about three hours, the front door finally swung open and GG walked in. Without a word, he flipped the bird at the band, walked to the back of the club, out the back door, and was never seen again.
I always respected him for that.
At the other end of the spectrum?someone who wants to be?or at least has pretended he wants to be?GG Allin, but never will be?you have that Marilyn Manson youngster. Have I told this story already?
Back in '92 or '93, not long after I started working for New York Press, I was asked to be on a panel discussion at the New Music Seminar, back when it was still the New Music Seminar. I'm still not exactly sure why I was asked to be there, but I was. I'm still not exactly sure why I agreed, either, but I did. I sat on a panel with the Church of Satan's Peter Gilmore?a very pleasant and intelligent man?a couple of skinheaded youngsters from the Church of the Creator, a Pakistani pop star from England, the editor of a rap magazine, a couple of rap stars and Marilyn Manson, long before anyone knew who the hell Marilyn Manson was.
In the green room beforehand, we were all sitting around a big table, most of these people generally uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in the same room with most of the other people there. Skinheads talked to skinheads, rappers talked to rappers?just like in real life.
I was talking to Mr. Gilmore, and Mr. Manson was sitting there with us. Well, once Mr. Manson figured out that Mr. Gilmore was from the Church of Satan, he was on him like a bad smell, pulling out a handful of CDs and forcing them on him, asking Gilmore to pass them along to Dr. LaVey.
I found the whole scene profoundly embarrassing, the way I find most grotesque and clumsy stabs at blatant self-promotion embarrassing. But Mr. Gilmore took it all with patient good humor, informing Mr. Manson that Dr. LaVey wasn't really interested in "that" kind if music.
"Well, could you give them to him anyway?" Manson persisted.
He struck me at the time as nothing more than a swishy little kid in swishy clothes and nail polish and jewelry, desperate, hopeless and more than a little stupid.
But I guess time has proven me wrong about that. At least partly. In fact, not long before Dr. LaVey's death, Manson was finally granted a long-sought audience with him. Even had his picture taken with him, and went on to write the introduction to LaVey's last book.
Recently, I was talking with Mr. Gilmore again about that whole scene, and he assures me that Manson isn't nearly so profoundly stupid as I first imagined him. He's a youngster who knows what he wants, and knows what he has to do to get it. He understood the tenets of the church very well, and has become a master manipulator of the media in a good Satanic way. I guess I can't argue with that.
Even if nobody bought that last record of his.
Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on him. There was a time when I, too, was obligated to become a suck-ass wonderboy in the service of vain self-promotion. So I guess I'm no better.
My publisher had told me it was time I get a hold of a few people?famous people?to write blurbs for my book. Things like that always make me uncomfortable and queasy. Still, I was obligated to give it a shot.
One of the people on my list was Harry Crews. I'd interviewed him a few weeks prior, and we'd gotten along fine then, I thought. I still had his phone number lying around. At the same time, I knew he was working hard on his new book, trying to finish it up. Hit him at a bad time, ask too much of him in the wrong way, and I could kiss that possibility goodbye.
It took me a while to screw up my courage. I kept dumping the beer down, gobbling the pills, while constructing the perfect answering machine message in my head. After a few days, I finally had it. I knew I'd get a machine, so I composed the perfect 45-second message to leave, letting him know what was going on, what I was after, leaving him the option to call me or not call me. Simple as that. If he didn't call, I wouldn't worry about it. It's easier this way for everyone involved.
I picked up the phone half a dozen times before setting it back down in the cradle.
Goddamn, but I hate doing things like this.
Finally, casting all doubt and thought to the wind, I looked at his number again and dialed. The phone rang twice.
"Harry Crews," a craggy voice barked from the other end.
Oh, shit. What do I do now? In true and honest fashion, I stammered.
"Well I'll be, there you are, sir," I said. "This...this is, uh..." I went on to reintroduce myself, eventually, and remind him about when we last spoke.
There was a long silence from his end of the phone.
"I'm in a lot of pain," he said, finally. My timing was flawless as ever.
"My God, I'm sorry?"
"I'm having these back spasms in my lower back. I feel like I'm gonna die," he continued. "I mean, it's not life-threatening at all...but it sure as hell feels like it. I just got back from the doctor's. They gave me a couple shots and all kinds of pills to take. None of it's kicked in yet."
"I'm so sorry," I told him. "Look, I'll just try back another time."
"No, no...we can still do the interview."
"We, uh, sir, actually already did the interview."
"Oh. We did?"
"Yeah. Yup. Couple weeks ago."
Here was my out. Mind spinning like a insane merry-go-round, I took another tack.
"So you haven't seen the interview yet?"
"Well, I sent one to your woman at Simon & Schuster to forward to you. If you haven't gotten it, I'll be more than happy to send you one." I offered this knowing full well that he had already told me that he'd stopped reading his press clippings years ago.
"Yeah, that would be great," he winced through the pain, "You got my address?"
"Nosir, I don't."
"Well, I'll give it to you."
Things were working out after all, in a way. He gave me his address.
"I'll also send you some of the nice mail we got about the interview, if you'd like."
"That'd be great, yeah, sure. Yeah." That was enough. I wasn't going to push it. I'd just ask him for some blurbage in the note I sent along.
"Well, Mr. Crews, I'm gonna let you go now. I don't want to bother you at a moment like this. I hope you're feeling much better sometime soon."
"Well, we'll talk to you again soon. God bless you, sir."
"You too, Mr. Crews."
I hung up the phone, realizing that, the way my week had been going, there was no other way it could've turned out.
I never did get that blurb from him. But that's okay.