Loose Pucks

It's the end of the world as we know it, and Puck is master of ceremonies

I'm not one of those millennial fear mongers who believes that some artificial calendar calculation is reason to start panicking. Basically, the year 2000 holds no special meaning to me, aside from that it's an Olympic year and all the guys from Hanson should hit puberty by then.

But if you're looking for proof that we're living in the end times, I've got some for you. Consider the upcoming End of the World Show at Gibson's on Monday, December 8. It features a strong musical lineup, headlined by powerhouse heavy-funksters Fred Green, and including the up-and-coming Cousins of the Wize and Left of Center. No worrisome signs of the apocalypse there.

The only problem concerns the show's host, David Rainey, known to North America as "Puck," the most obnoxious member (and that's saying a bundle) of MTV's six-year-old series of illusory verite, The Real World. Yes, three long years after his Real World stint, Puck actually gets gigs hosting shows around the country, bringing his inimitable brand of loud 'n' stupid charmlessness to unsuspecting rock audiences. How can any of us long survive in a world where Puck is actually considered "entertaining" or "talented"? In light of such doomsday questions, his presence at the End of the World Party might make sense after all.

In a Thanksgiving-eve interview last week from his Sherman Oaks, California, home, Puck revealed that his party-hosting gigs come often enough these days to have allowed him to retire from his old bike-messenger job.

"I've got a lot of friends that I left back in that world, but I just can't do it," he says. "There's no medical benefits. If you lose your teeth, you've lost your teeth. There were nine cars that physically really taxed me good, and another 100 accidents that don't even count."

From the first moment he monopolized airtime on The Real World, Puck seemed a King of Comedy prophecy come to life, ultimate proof of the Jerry Springerization of America in the '90s. The Pucks of the world remind us that the race no longer goes to the smart or talented or even virtuous, but to those most determined to make a shameless spectacle of themselves, without a shred of wit behind it.

MTV consciously tried to fashion Puck into a star, giving him disproportionate airtime, yet carefully editing out his most objectionable acts, such as wearing a swastika around the house, or making particularly hostile gay-bashing jokes at the expense of AIDS-stricken co-star Pedro Zamora. During our interview, completely unprovoked, Puck critiqued the now-deceased Zamora for what he considers to be a wimpy death, "withering on camera." Though MTV clearly wanted Puck to be a lovable antihero, a Dada freak with a heart of gold, the leather jacket never seemed to fit. Even so, he remains the show's best-known alumnus, and attracts unlikely fans.

"I have a weird Q-rating," he says. "It's really wide. Like I was at breakfast with my girlfriend the other day, and this old lady came by. She was like 60, dude. She said, 'You're my favorite character on that show, and you're a gutsy kid,' which is about the best compliment you could pay me. So I was taken aback by that."

Throughout Puck's tenure on the show, one's feeling was that Puck never really conversed with anyone in the cast, but instead spoke at them, to make the maximum TV impression. He willingly admits he mapped out his persona beforehand.

"The director told me what the angle of the show was," he says. "Plus, I already knew about that show, 'cause it had already been done twice, and the guy on the first show, Eric Niess, I dated his sister in San Francisco for three and a half years. I watched him get that show, talked directly with him while he was doing it, and I knew what the parameters that he got out of it were: He got an MTV job."

Puck claims he wanted an MTV-job offer, just so he could turn it down, yet brags that he did sign a nonexclusive contract with the network. He calls MTV video jocks "big pussies" for locking themselves into exclusive contracts, but for all his talk of freedom to work for any network, it's hard to think of any high-profile non-MTV gigs Puck has landed on television.

The strange thing about the off-air Puck is that he's actually kinda generous, albeit in a wacked-out way (offering me porno magazines, with the question: "What are you into? Big asses?"), and makes pained efforts to bond ("My dog is named Gilbert"). A product of the San Francisco free-love scene (describing his parents as "motorcycle hippies"), Puck names as his personal hero Jefferson Airplane/Starship guitarist Paul Kantner, of all people. He says he never speaks to his old Real World cast mates, dismissing them with the ultimate Puck-off: "They are not Paul Kantner."

If Puck's image as a harmless, hygiene-challenged rebel has taken any serious hits in the last couple of years, it happened during a 1996 reunion gathering of Real World cast members, where even Puck sympathizers became so annoyed by his stupidity that he was verbally booted out of the studio.

"I'd like to say I was drug-induced," he says by way of explanation. "I was on four hits of acid all day. I took four hits of LSD, woke up, shaved my head bald like a fucking skinhead, put a hat on, put a fake beard on, and went on and did the show. Nobody else can do it, dude."

He calls the current Real World "a piece of shit," and brags that when cast members from other cities call him, he has no time for them. "They think they're like alumnists or something, and I shoot 'em down. I say, 'Don't call me, I don't know you.'"

His End of the World Party duties will include raffling off bikes and bike parts he's collected, as well as samples from the previously mentioned boxes of porno he's accumulated. But, considering the show's End of the World theme, what I wanted to know was, what would this decade's most crass pop-culture icon do if the planet was really approaching midnight. Not surprisingly, Puck has an answer prepared.

"I would just get on the fastest motorcycle I have, I'd go as fast as I could, and I'd go right into a brick wall, and I'd be like frozen dog shit. You could scrape me up with a fuckin' squeegee. I don't wanna go halfway. Just nude at 170 into a wall. Phhht!"

Hmmm. All this apocalyptic talk is starting to sound good.

Who's in town: The obvious big show of the week is a visit from a reunited Jane's Addiction--with Flea on bass for Eric Avery. This band mixed dark, decadent chic with heroic classic-rock naivete, often creating the self-indulgent feel of L.A. forebears the Doors, but with a lot more musical power behind it. The band will be at Mesa Amphitheatre on Thursday, December 4, but the show's long been sold out.

One act to watch is new Mercury signing Mary Cutrufello, a Houston country rocker with Pete Anderson fret skills and Tanya Tucker pipes. She may also be the first major black country-based performer since Charlie Pride's "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" heyday. Cutrufello is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 5, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe, along with the Low Watts, and Dead Hot Workshop.

--Gilbert Garcia

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