By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
All the money Duane earned as a pro skateboarder wound up supporting his habit—a habit that lasted much of his adult life (he's been clean for just four years). "Once you start popping the needle in your arm, it's completely evil. You see after about 10 or 15 years that it doesn't work—if you don't die first or end up in prison." And oh, did Duane do prison! "Probably about six or seven years all together," he admits, either on possession or trafficking charges. "That's how I used to clean up." When Duane was using, he didn't just cause trouble: he attracted trouble. He points out a part of his hand where he's lost all feeling—an eternal reminder of the time he tried jumping a fence when he was running from some Santa Ana cops. He's broken his collar bone 16 times, all of his toes, all his fingers, a leg, both his arms and both his elbows. Yeah, some of those battle scars are from skateboarding mishaps, but others came from getting beat down by the police and assorted DUI car and motorcycle wrecks—like the time he decided to pop a fistful of pills and go speeding through the streets of OC. Hey, Duane, what's up with that? "Me and some friends were at this keg party, experimenting with Quaaludes, and no one could drive, so I went, 'I'll fuckin' drive! I drive like I skate!' We were flying down Balboa going 85 miles an hour. I bent down to pick up my hat, looked up, and there were all these parked cars, but I thought they were all moving. So I got in my lane, but they weren't going anywhere, and I hit four parked cars. I had to pay that back, or I was going to jail at 18."
That's a good, solid 15-year-run of substance abuse, one that stretched into his mid-30s. Trisha helped Duane kick his bad habits. "I was living in Long Beach for a while, and not in a good part. I figured if I lived in the ghetto, I could write more shit. But every day, the gangs were hanging shoes above my power line, marking my house because I was doing shit like walking to the store in my underwear, pissed and drunk on Captain Morgan, yelling at everybody and making a scene. I was at a gas station, and a lot of gangbangers were there, so I started giving them shit. They were gonna take me out, but Trisha jumped in front of them, crying, begging for my life. And I noticed that somebody loved me—my chick. I just kind of fucking woke up one morning and said, 'I gotta get off this shit.' Now I've been with her for over four years."
Duane got off heroin by getting on alcohol—which was fun until his liver started leaking bile into his bloodstream. "My skin would start to burn, and I wouldn't know what to do, so I just kept drinking. Then someone took me to a doctor, and he told me I had about three months of good drinking left before it was all over. By then, I was just a nightmare drunk. Even my bar friends weren't digging me—that's when I knew something was wrong. So I swore to Trisha that I'd get clean and get off the booze, too."
Other than the relapse following Chuck Briggs' death, Duane has been on his best behavior. It's as if he's found a whole new drug, he'll tell you. "It's like being high all over again—like when you're a kid. I've been so hammered all my life that now I can't get enough work done because there's not enough time in the day. I've got more anger in me than ever, but I'm more on top of my shit. It's supposed to clear up more and more, I guess. I can remember what I did yesterday, and that's pretty cool. I've gotten into cooking and shit like that—casseroles, fish, chicken and Stubbs Barbecue sauce. Barbecue and hot sauces, I love it."
Between all the drugging and drinking, there was punking. Duane helped form the U.S. Bombs in 1994 with guitarist Kerry Martinez from the remains of the Exploding Fuck Dolls, which had, well, exploded. They became known as a blue-collar, '77-era punk band full of dirty, street-smart, scowling, vitriol-spewing toughs with an instinct for political and social messages—a reminder that this music was actually exciting, even revolutionary, once. Sometimes dangerous, too, especially when Duane launches himself into one of his self-abuse extravaganzas that he picked up from skateboarding. He'll do wild falls and backflips midsong.
"It's pretty harsh the way he abuses his body," says Hunns guitarist Rob Milucky. "I've seen him take 10-foot falls onto concrete floors, and then jump right back up again like nothing happened. At the Warped Tour, I saw him take a 30-foot fall down a scaffold, hitting hard metal all the way down. He really is the Evel Knievel of punk rock."
"He's bumpy all over, and things are out of place," says his wife-to-be.