Beer, Cigarettes and Has-Beens

Stumbling through 48 hours in Hollywood

The only conceivable way to continue to pursue such an unrealistic existence is to shut off all doubts, all qualms and compromises. Otherwise, you realize everything is a meaningless pile of shit and you want to kill yourself. That, or you spend the rest of your days floundering, staring at the past with no viable options for the future because you've spent your life developing a skill or a craft that offers little or no monetary payoff. A career in pop sets you up like a bowling pin.

Thinking about this brings to mind the guy from the band Kix, last seen aboard a scaffold in Burbank painting ad images onto a sun-baked billboard on VH1's Where Are They Now?. Kix recorded six records for Atlantic, toured the world countless times and had a string of hit singles. His hair was still feathered, and bracelets still dangled from his wrist, but his arms kept time with the rhythm of a blue-collar man.

The debut album from current hard-rock harbingers Buckcherry -- a band whose singer shows fiscal foresight by casting himself prominently in glossy magazine ads -- has barely gone gold. In keeping with the here-today-gone-today pop theorem, one inspired by legions of ADD-shriveled consumer minds, I'll wager Buckcherry's members will in two years' time be working for their old man's construction company, or living off a stripper's tips.

What price Hollywood?
What price Hollywood?

Sometimes you can luck out and still manage scads of life-sustaining dough and not sell any records. If done correctly, a record company and music publisher can be had for huge, totally absurd advances. I have had plenty of friends do this.

One who's mastered the art of nil record sales with no suffering time is Rick Parker. During the '80s, Parker -- his mom, Lara Parker, played Angelique, the babe on '60s drama Dark Shadows -- fronted a band called Lions and Ghosts. Lions and Ghosts made two worthy, T. Rexish-sounding records on EMI that eventually sold less than most local bands with a decent following. EMI booted Lions and Ghosts from its roster and the group dissolved shortly thereafter, like so many other countless bands.

Later, Parker got a solo deal with Geffen and a publishing deal with New Envoy Music. Geffen paid for everything, the recording, touring, promotion, video, etc. Parker pocketed nearly $200,000 in advances from the publishing deal. His record, of course, flopped. A few years ago, Parker soaked another label for a tidy sum when Sparkler, his new combo, signed to Revolution. Upon the record's release, it promptly went south and the label sank. Rick Parker, again, made out. But he's one of those rare breeds in rock 'n' roll, a lucky bastard.

Anywhere Jim Morrison has puked is a good place. And if any bar can be romantic enough to uphold rock myths, particularly that of an overvalued Morrison, it's an even better place.

I remember snagging a Ramones bootleg recorded at the Whisky when I was 14. In old Rock Scene magazines, I studied pictures of the New York Dolls when they first played here. And everybody I adore, from the Germs to Joan Jett to the Plimsouls, played here when I was a kid.

The capacity of the Whisky is around 400. The interior is black and open like a small warehouse. A balcony is off to one side above the stage.

The Whisky is packed when we go on. Eager faces and teens are crammed to the front of the stage. Pop geeks stand against the back wall, arms folded, colored stage lights turning their glasses to speculums. We blast through our allotted 20 minutes in a littering of sour bass notes, off-key singing, skewered tempos and busted guitar strings. Mike stands break in half, full beers topple over and drunken torsos leap about.

It is a rock show.

When we finish, the kids -- most of whom were there to see Mr. T Experience -- are on our side. That's all you can ask for.

After us comes the criminally underappreciated pop of Martin Luther Lennon. The band is led by Tony Perkins, a brainy-looking pop songsmith with round shoulders, a shaved head and thick glasses who's been kicking around this town for 15 years. The group's new record, Escape to Paradox Island (Not Lame), is the best pop album of the year. Pushed by Perkins' voice, a springy mix of Nick Gilder and Mick Jones, the melancholy-soaked songs shimmer and punch and bounce around your skull for days.

The following band called Starjet looks like it's posing for the cover of Spin, so we decide to bolt for a new club next door.

The Cat Club sits adjacent to the Whisky. It features slick black booths, leopard-print seats and leopard fixtures. No cover to get in and no one is checking IDs, which is good. Not everyone in our entourage is of drinking age. The bar is at the back of the first level, and there's also a kitchen. Seven-dollar beers offset the unpretentious air of the club. If you don't tip well, your second drink will take forever to arrive. We stumble in and guzzle round after round for nearly the rest of the night.

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