Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Interview with Billy Stark (Blessed) Part 6

ME: What are your most memorable experiences that you want share from the Blessed days?

BILLY: Do you mean in general or specifically to Blessed shows? Well from a show point of view of course the whole ‘21’ club was about as bizarre as it gets –lol Apparently the son of the Ambassador to Belgium under then Pres. Jimmy Carter was a fan of ours (yes I know it still sounds bizarre to me too) and hired us to play there for his 21st B’day party. Oh wow I just got that 21 @ 21 –lol. Now for those unfamiliar w/ the ‘21’ club-it’s the denizen of Manhattan’s wealthiest ‘movers and shakers’-Politicians- C.E.O’S etc., Jacket and Tie required etc. You can check out the movie ‘Sweet smell of success”. Anyhow we also brought a few of our friends along including Cheetah Chrome and his then girlfriend Gyda Gash.

At first we saw all these relatively young men. Well, they weren’t senior citizens lets just say that all wearing hearing aids!! We couldn’t figure out why there were so many deaf people there-WERE WE THAT BAD ??!!—lol Then someone mentioned to us ‘You idiots, those are the Secret Service” because the Host had invited Chip Carter to the party among his guests and Carter was currently the President. There was some story about Chip wanting to get high and figuring since we were Musicians and all that he was practically begging us for drugs. But we wanted no part of THAT—lol

So during our set they had shut off the power. Cheetah came up and we chanted F*CK THE 21 CLUB for about 20 mins. I then climbed on top of the P.A . and spit in no particular direction but it landed on this Maitre D’s hand. He wouldn’t wipe it off. He kept pointing at it and me and motioned he was going to throw me through the second floor window. Suffice to say we made a hasty retreat out through the employees entrance( exit) and that was that.

A couple of other amusing things that happened that night. It took forever for dinner to arrive (yes we had dinner before we played) so I went to Mcdonalds in Times Square to get some fries and was eating them on the way back to the club and the doormen told me “ No in and out and stay upstairs and no eating in the lobby’ Heh I can just picture this ‘undesirable’ type (me) standing in the Lobby of ‘21’ eating Mcdonalds-SACRE BLEU!!

Finally when dinner arrived and someone clanged a glass to make a toast and it got silent Cheetah said ‘ HEY, WHAT HAPPENED ??SOMEONE CUT ONE??? Then comes the soup (which spoon for soup please?) and it was Vichyssoise and Brad takes one taste and yells out ‘HEY! MY SOUP IS COLD!!”--Lastly not long after we played there I read or heard that Carter had issued a memo to the top record Co. Heads NOT to sign so-called Punk Bands this may be when they decided NEW WAVE sounded better…I’ve always wondered if we had anything to do w/ getting PUNK ROCK banned in the U.S.??!!

Here are other things that come to mind. The first time I ever got REALLY DRUNK was hanging w/ Stiv Bators (RIP) a @ some girls apt he was staying at. He was really sweet helping me downstairs to find a cab, making sure the driver had my address, and if I had enough money for the cab etc..-despite his onstage image he was a really nice guy.

Another one is getting a triple take from Divine (he of John waters Films fame) Before Hurrahs started having bands-Divine was doing an Off B’way Show Called ‘Women behind bars’ or something there and we were invited to see it. Then we were invited to take a look around @ the space. The play was due to close in a week or so and then be transformed into a venue for bands. I guess we were the first if not one of the first to play there. So we walk in one afternoon and Divine is @ the bar getting ready for rehearsal or something. He was in his undies and bra and had a nylon skull cap on before he put his wig on and was putting on his make-up. We walk in and he gives us not one not two but a triple take stare-lol. Now I don’t know if this is a compliment or insulting but all things Divine Has seen AND done on film and WE rank a triple stare-lol

Another one is going to a Blondie party @ the Copacabana w/ Nick.Blondies’ record co. was presenting them w/ their first gold albums I think from Australia or someplace and a Teenage Brooke Shields was there. Nick decided to use as an Ice breaker whether or not she had attended the same school that I had. She was polite but you could see her nose rising upward. I thought it was rather amusing Nick trying to pick up Brooke.

Another is when I had Appendicitis and was in the hospital and Anna Sui and ‘Fiorucci Linda(we called her that because she always shopped there) had visited me and also took pix! Incidentally Linda is supposedly the baby the KKK took away-(Ramones song reference) It was funny because I was still a minor and in the pediatric section with all these Disney and Nursery Rhyme motifs on the walls and everything. This was also the only time we cancelled a show and we had our Friends ‘The Misfits’ Fill in that night. More??!!

Having Francesco Scavullo take Eileen, Howie and I to Studio 54 when it was still in its heyday. Going to the V.V.V.IP rooms-I remember one was decorated in a camouflage motif.

Also @ our debut gig before we did Flagellation Rock for the first time I dedicated it To ‘Lux Interior of The Cramps’ having no idea he and the whole band were actually there. Apparently he was thrilled and used to chat w/ him and Ivy on occasions both very nice people, as was Bryan Gregory (RIP) who was always very polite and well mannered. I should mention our friendship and fun we had w/ The Student Teachers-The Fast-The Speedies-The Misfits-The Stimulators the Senders-the Contortions (if I’ve forgotten anyone I apologize)

Another outstanding memory is all that crap people used to throw at us. Not really spitting that was more of a London thing but everything else would come flying up-French fries-Pitchers of beer and water-Bottle caps-Lit cigarettes –half eaten Hamburgers (why anyone would order a Hamburger pay for it then throw it at us is beyond me). One show in particular is when Broken chairs and a Friggin table comes crashing onstage, that was most interesting –lol.

Also since no one asked but You might wonder how come I wasn’t @ the Sid Vicious (RIP)Thing? Why I’ll tell you-actually both Eileen and Howie called me saying ‘Come on there’s a party @ Michelle’s tonight for Sid (who just gotten out of Rikers-infamous jail in NYC) but I declined. I knew it was a bad scene and probably more trouble than not and didn’t want to be bothered. Turned out I was right I guess.

Another thing that I find rather amusing-in retrospect is Eileen ‘Retiring” as our manager. When she left I took over –Booking the clubs-dealing with our stage crew and roadies in addition to -performing –dealing w/ this crazy band I was in .–What I’m only 17??!!-lol(play the youth card when necessary) But Eileen had dated Dee Dee Ramone(RIP) of which that craziness is chronicled elsewhere-she dated Arthur Kane (RIP)during HIS crazy period- chronicled elsewhere and she was at the epicenter of all the Sid Vicious Craziness-again chronicled elsewhere- But managing The Blessed??!!-no, that got way too crazy and out of hand and too much too handle-lol But having spoken w/ her in recent years there was a lot of sordid drama behind the scenes that I shan’t go into-use your imagination but was enough reason for any sane person to bail. I would like to say that Eileen did contribute an ENOURMOUS amount to whatever we achieved and without her I doubt we would have done even a quarter of the things we did. She was an integral and very important contribution to all that we did and very instrumental (ok pun intended) in a lot of our success-however you want to define it- and I appreciate all that she did. She literally was the perfect Mama Bear watching out for her cubs!

Heres a good one-one time and only once we encored w/ a song called ‘SHORT SHORT SHORT” which was just that-3 seconds long- just BAM-BAM-BAM- we came back on stage-fumbled a bit –maybe pretend to tune up and then I sang (1-2-3-) “SHORT SHORT SHORT” The band played for 3 seconds and we walked off-lol A true exercise in obnoxiousness. In fact, more times than not we would ‘Dress’ the stage. I’ve always believed that every show should be an ‘event’ as if every show would be possibly the only and perhaps the last one you would ever see-going through the so-called motions seemed unfathomable to me. In short, a show we did on ‘Mothers Day” had a huge white backdrop w/ flowers strewn about the stage. On our 1st Anniversary Show we had streamers and balloons and some kids party backdrop. One show we T.P.’ ed the stage (Toilet papered) I remember as a kid in Connecticut the day after Halloween Neighborhoods would be completely festooned w/ Toilet paper hanging everywhere-from the trees etc, so one show we festooned the stage and equip in that manner.

There are other things we things we did as they are mentioned throughout this interview (the XXX film shown beforehand etc.,) and of course The Puberty Ball @ the Mudd Club. I didn’t mention the Blitz benefit did I? Of course I’m referring to the infamous Blitz Benefit shows that were to help Johnny Blitz (Dead Boys) when he was seriously injured. We were supposed to play but one of us having something to do or other with a fire being started @ CB’s( no not Mr.Pyro-lol) or whatever got us ‘Punished ‘ by not being allowed to play @ CB’ s for a month- 86’ed or 98’ed or something it was called. But this Punishment month fell during the Blitz Benefit shows and despite the Dead Boys intervening and asking that our ‘Month’ be the next one-CB’s would not relent. Personally, I always thought the ‘Real Reason’ was that on the ubiquitous Blitz Benefit t-shirts that were everywhere –all the bands that were playing were listed alphabetically. So we would have been first-ahead of Blondie -Even ahead of Blitz!! But I’m sorry we couldn’t have played –just to show our support- even though but we did go and see the shows anyway .

There are so many others that this is turning into ‘War and peace w/ The Blessed’ There was our aborted Cable TV show-(Nick Era) we were thrown out of the studio. Some college students or aspiring filmmakers wanted to do a half hour show on us for Cable TV so we went to the TV studio. First they interviewed Eileen. Then we played a couple of songs and then we sat down to be interviewed. One of us –Nick I think- had a can of beer and the studio manger a no nonsense Sgt. Type told us in no uncertain terms “ If you open that can of beer on camera I’m shutting the whole thing down.” So, naturally once the cameras were rolling, the can of beer was shook up vigorously and when it was opened sprayed everywhere. Needless to say that stage manager shut everything down and threw us out. I must give him credit-He kept his word and meant what he said-lol. This tape has been unseen for about 30 years now and would probably include the earliest known footage of The Blessed that exists (or existed) and we are fervently trying to track down a copy.

July 4th 1980-we had another ‘New’ Guitarist’ (name? who cares) who went AWOL before sound check so Howie played Guitar the first set- and Johnny Thunders (RIP) played the second set. One show w/ Rico and Charlie where our Bass player didn’t show up (got into trouble on the way –not arrested but something or other) so we went on just Guitar-Drums and I It sounded great and got a great reaction. I have recently spoken w/ Rico and we talked about that show and we both laughed and agreed that maybe we should have gone ahead like that It was in the mid 80’s predating all that White Stripes-YeahYeahYeah’s stripped down type of set up. Hindsight and all…..

There’s also amusing stuff about RCA and I think London records coming to see us live and in rehearsal- way early on’78 (Nick Era) There’s probably more that others would/could recall but to me those are the ones that stand out and come to mind first.


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