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But the afterglow of that achievement -to say nothing of the glorious gig at the Loose Moose and the music-industry reps who swarmed them after the show-is wiped away in one dramatic mood swing. The Travel All has begun wobbling as Stanky shifts his attention into the cloudy rear-view mirror, determined to make eye contact with the reporter who has touched a nerve with an unfortunately phrased question about the Pocket Clowns' humble hometown. "You want to call Stanton nondescript, man, that's on you," Stanky says loudly, as the Orco Block Company, the Venus Bar and a succession of modern fast-food franchises and old auto-court style motels with names like Tahiti and Villa and Starlight pass by the Travel All's windows. Stanky's voice is starting to wobble, too, as though on the verge of a cough or a chuckle . . . or . . . could it be . . . tears? He's scratching the back of his head rapidly, the way he always does when he's struggling to control his emotions. "Maybe what that really means is you're just not very good at describing shit."
A moment of dead silence follows until Y.N. breaks the tension. "If you need to describe shit, man, get the Offspring," he scats. "They're the dudes from Garden Grove." There is an explosion of laughter -from everybody but Stanky.
"Yah, hello, Meesta Dexta!" says Hewitt, exaggerating his own German accent and grabbing his crotch. "I got yoah 'Preety Fly' right heeah!"
Stanky can't help but relinquish a half-smile now, pleased that his long-burning contempt for Garden Grove has become a core value of his band. Not that the Pocket Clowns hold any specific disdain for the Offspring, whom they seem destined to surpass as Orange County music superstars. In fact, Stanky and Ginger L. and the gang could probably learn something about the music business from Dexter and Noodles and the boys. While the Offspring's fifth album is soaring on major-label wings, the Pocket Clowns haven't sold so much as one CD. They haven't even recorded an album because they haven't signed with a record company. They haven't committed to an agent, hired a manager or retained a publicist. They did pick out a fan-club president, but now they're having second thoughts about keeping her. Ditto with the songs they put on their demo, although it's too late to cancel that decision.
Meanwhile, the array of can't-miss options for the Pocket Clowns just keeps stacking up on their answering machine, all encouraging the band to make the move-a move, any move-that will truly set their career in motion.
"I got their demo from Tiger Woods and realized right away that this group is totally amazing-fantastically innovative yet appealing to the masses," says Wron G, the savvy, muscled former Marine who has overseen the rise of Warren G from a street-corner rapper in Long Beach to a multiplatinum superstar with a sprawling home in Laguna Niguel and his own record company, G-Funk: The New Millennium. "Warren really likes this group because it fits what he's been looking for: a gritty ghetto band that wasn't just ghetto, that was a little more Beverly Hills-meets-Compton Swap Meet.
"The only thing I'm afraid of is getting into a bidding war," he continues. "I don't want to shout out any numbers, but the Pocket Clowns can probably ask for a signing bonus in the seven-figure range, and I don't think we really want to put out that kind of money right now."
Not when major record companies-even richer as a result of their recent spate of mergers-come a-calling with their checkbooks open. "Tim Devine, the vice president of A&R at Columbia-the guy who signed Zebrahead-has been calling me persistently about the Pocket Clowns," says Cash. "I help as much as I can, but basically that boils down to a phone number. This isn't your typical band starved for fame and riches. They can write their own ticket, but they don't seem to be in any hurry to do so."
The Pocket Clowns get together every night to listen to the industry pitches on the answering machine. Hewitt says he's saving the tapes, hoping to sample them into song on the Pocket Clowns' debut album.
But the band has yet to return any phone calls. "It's just hype and pressure, which are exactly the things that kill what we're doing," says Stanky. "It's everything except what we're about, which is making music."
That's what the Pocket Clowns are on their way to do right now, and as the creative process begins, Stanky gets stoic again. "It kills him that we have to leave Stanton to do this," Ginger L. confides quietly as the Travel All passes the Lucky John's cocktail lounge, Southern Hills miniature golf course and a couple of mobile-home dealerships-everything closed now, of course, as it's the middle of the night. "Especially since we have to go into Garden Grove," Ginger L. continues. "But really, that's where this all started. All kids from Stanton have to go there because we don't have a high school in our city. That's where the shitty high-and-mighties at Pacifica and Rancho Santiago used to call us that name-pocket clowns-because they think we're from such a crazy little place."