Claude “Kick Boy” Bessy, in “Decline of the Western Civilization,” Part 1, directed by Penelope Spheeris, reads a letter to the editor of Slash Magazine, his role at that pioneering punk fanzine. He relates the tale wherein the writer is complaining about people who threw themselves onto the back bumper of the car and held on as the car drove away. The irony is Claude was one of the people hanging onto the car. I will never forget being at Club 88, 11788 Pico Boulevard, in West Los Angeles.
I was outside with Claude and a couple other guys. The car came to a stop at the intersection of Pico and Granville. Claude ran out, grabbed the back bumper and held on for dear life as the car attempted to drive away. I was laughing, screaming, jumping up and down while clapping my hands. I’d never seen anything like it.
Club 88 was one of the few venues where I hung out and did not bring my camera. Like the Masque, it had a low stage set close on the ground with kids ferociously dancing. That made it very difficult for me to photograph without crowds. I have this thing of not wanting crowds in my photos. I want just the performers, not backs of heads. Plus I saw local bands at the intimate Club 88, whom I could photograph from a better vantage point at the Whisky or the Starwood.
I rarely ventured out to West LA except if X playing or some other favorite band. All I have in my memories. But I laughed with delight when I heard and saw Claude in Decline during LACMA’s showing of Decline April 18, 2014. I was there for the viewing and the actual incident!
May 14, 2014 was yet another unreasonably hot dry day approaching 100°. My apartment faces the west and holds the heat. It was stifling and I had no energy. After the sun set, I went out for a walk, looking for the full moon, which was taking its time rising above the city’s buildings. A couple miles later, I was standing on the corner of Granville and Pico. I faced the crosswalk and lovingly saw Claude again holding onto the back of a car bumper.
I thought about the fact that it is very hard for me to pass by some places without being transported back in time and space. It is particularly difficult when I am either driving or riding down Sunset Boulevard and Palm Ave, across from where former legendary Tower Records resided. I lived at the intersection of Sunset and Holloway. What memories! Plus driving down Fountain or Franklin is eery for me. I can point to so many places where we had parties, shows and sex and drugs and rock ’n roll. I always see and feel ghosts, so many memories.
A couple years ago I attended an antique book fair at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I started telling some booksellers, who were about my age and from England, that a few feet from their booth I stood and photographed the Clash. The Civic had a floor on some kind of hydraulics or system which could lower the floor so people could dance or sit beneath the stage. At regular events, the floor was as high as the stage. The curtain and the delineation of where the stage began and ended was very clear. I stood near the curtain and pointed to the front of the stage where Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer were playing. I pointed a bit north to where Topper’s drum kit would be on the riser.
I turned around to see people intently listening their eyes gleaming and smiling. It was a wonderful memory to share. Especially because now the Santa Monica Civic is shuttered. Due to changing tastes and structural issues, Santa Monica can’t decide what to do with this building, with its great rock ’n roll history. Academy Awards, many art and cultural events came to life a couple blocks from the beach. May 1976, I sat in the audience Bob Marley. That summer I saw Bruce Springsteen. Later punk shows, like Iggy (with David Bowie on piano) and Blondie, April 15, 1977. Runaways opening for Ramones, January 27, 1978. I attended many other punk shows, art and photo events, bead and mineral exhibits, and more. But nothing was ever as thrilling as being on stage for the Clash, March 3, 1980.
I will share many other stories and photos of these venues and more, most long gone. I wonder if I will ever be able to go back to West Hollywood and Hollywood without summoning up so many ghosts, so alive, as it it were yesterday or I were on my way to yet another show, a party, a man, fun times.