Beer, Cigarettes and Has-Beens

Stumbling through 48 hours in Hollywood

Comedian Andy Dick is hanging around, as are starlets and an accumulation of rock-star dinosaurs. Frank Infante from Blondie, L.A. Guns' Tracii Guns (who tells me that earlier in the day he joined Poison in place of C.C. Deville . . . joy), those types.

Tonight, Michael Des Barres is fronting a cover band that plays here weekly. The bar's owner, former Stray Cat Slim Jim Phantom, beats the kit in the band. Des Barres' first group, Silverhead, made two brilliant records in the early '70s. Later he fronted Power Station. His face should be familiar to most as he's had acting roles in everything from To Sir With Love to Miami Vice.

The members of the five-piece wear darkish suits and run through a set of mostly R&B and rock 'n' roll standards; "Route 66," "Bang a Gong," "Starfucker," etc. The band is closer to a revved-up version of Murph and the Magic Tones than some star-crossed cover band. And more tragic somehow.

What price Hollywood?
What price Hollywood?

Before the band goes on, Des Barres hits on my girlfriend, exercising gratuitous amounts of smarminess in the process. My girlfriend, who met up with us earlier in the evening after renting a car and driving out from Phoenix, was totally aghast. She thinks he's just some drunken, gym-assisted geezer with scalp-revealing gray hair and a suspicious tan. She has no idea who he is, or cares. She reads books, listens to jazz and studies art. Every time I've played a Silverhead record in the past, she would get up and leave the room.

Afterward, I went up to Des Barres and drunkenly gush, "Dude, you're Michael Des Barres. You helped define rock 'n' roll as we know it. Dude, you're a rock 'n' roll star."

He winks, of course. His girlfriend is Rosanna Arquette. She is sitting behind him, exalted-looking in Frankie B hip-huggers, blond mane and lovely face. She blinks drunken lids and appears generally unmoved. Does he just want to reinforce his relevance in her world? What's she doing with him?

We leave the Cat Club, collect our gear and pile into the band's rented Plymouth Grand Caravan. We wind up at Robert Mitchum's old fave drunken din, Bordener's in Hollywood. Adult video star Tony Tedeschi is drinking with two porno blondes, cartoonish parodies of female sexuality. Tedeschi says he has been doing two and three scenes per day during the last week and a half. That's a hell of a demand on a man when your worth is solely based on how well your penis performs. Two and three times a day. He looks tired.

Back at the hotel around 2:30 a.m., Brooks, who is commandeering the van, negotiates a narrow turn in the hotel parking garage. A concrete pole gets in the way. The lower side of the rented van's sliding door side is mashed in.

The van was rented with no insurance, of course, in Moore's name. I can't remember finding my room and going to bed.

When I wake up the next day, the rest of the band is en route back to Phoenix, all except Taver.

The night's Poptopia show is at Spaceland in Silverlake. When my girlfriend, Taver and I enter, one of the event's promoters, Jennifer Tefft, hands us 50 bucks. The money was unexpected pay for the previous night's set at the Whisky. The money comes in handy. In less than a half-hour it will be sitting in the bartender's till.

Onstage is a worthy pop band called Sissybar, fronted by a neo-hippieish girl with a Nico-sounding voice. She is full of natural sexuality, down-dressed in baggy jeans and a tee shirt. She awes the boys and girls in the crowd. The band includes a guy playing, among other things, a banjo. Their songs are good, too; singsongy, New Wave-ish -- Rickie Lee Jones meets the Byrds.

The band of the night, and possibly the year, is Magnified from San Francisco. They come on and demonstrate strength in their ability to sound relevant regardless of the fact they are a two-guitar, bass and drums combo playing standard rock 'n' roll. Magnified transcends the get-in-a-van alterno nonsense with a compassion for songcraft and sing-alongs. They are loud and big without having to resort to macho pretenses. The girls liked 'em, too. Always a good sign.

We wind up at Coconut Teazser on Sunset at 1:30 a.m., just in time to see Poptopia faves Tuuli. And in my inebriation, they were godhead. Three snotty, flirtatious Barbie-doll punk chicks and one dude, all from Toronto, playing self-penned three-chord chestnuts, plus the Vibrators' "Baby, Baby" and a de-tuned send-up of the Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls." The latter makes perfect sense; a cock-free Strip farce.

Not much later, I start feeling like my beer had been laced with mescaline. I don't remember leaving the Teazser.

When you come to wearing all your previous night's clothes including shoes and coat, it was either a night worthy of cherished, lifelong memories, or one that spurs you to pick up the phone and start calling in apologies to those with whom you remember having any sort of hazy contact.

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