Monsters Ball

I did not see even one of this year's Oscar™-winning pictures. Not Training Day. Not A Beautiful Mind. Not even Gosford ParkorMoulin Rouge. I spent my entertainment dollars more productively: on booze and the occasional lap dance. And when I think of Monster's Ball, it's not Halle Berry who sashays to mind but rather the death-rock club Release the Bats, held every fourth Friday at Long Beach's Que Sera.

As rain drizzled appropriately last Friday, we pushed our way into the small club packed with yesteryear's Goths (and the new generation of barely of-age eyelinered boys) to see a performance by the long-clomping Frankenstein.

As far as Southern California subcultures go, why do I find Goths so much less annoying than rockabilly hepcats? They're both equally posing and equally into clothes and hair as the ne plus ultra of artistic expression. Perhaps it's because Goths and death rockers are too glum and itchily insecure to think they're cool, whereas "cool" is the whole reason for the preening 'billy way of life. Perhaps I like Goths better because of the boys' androgyny, whereas greasers are all about men being muscly and girls being cheesecake (though Goth girls don't slouch either when it comes to hoisting their breasts to their throats). But I probably just like Goths better because they were always getting beat up in high school.

Before Frankenstein took the stage, there was dancing under black lights (whee!) with bad fake spider webs and good fake shrunken heads suspended from the spoooooky ceiling. The girls were extravagantly pretty, in their slutty fetishwear and their fresh, vibrant dye jobs of teal and violet and flame that hadn't had even a day to fade. They weren't just stunning for death rockers; they were gorgeous by any elite SoCal standard. The young boys were seven feet tall and Kate Moss-thin. One man had sad-clown black lips smeared across half his face; his hair stuck out like Carrot Top's, but funnier. And when Siouxsie Sioux came over the speakers, they seemed to swim onto the dance floor, where they twitched in that way peculiar to Goths and death rockers. It took me a while to place their gyrations before it whomped me upside the head: they were all dancing like they were mimes. Look! I'm pulling a rope! Oh, no! I'm trapped in a box! Heeeelp meeee!

Dave Grave is the green man at the front of Frankenstein. For decades, he has held court at the Thousand Oaks Denny's, which at one time was a pilgrimage every Valley punk made; when I was coming up, it was every night of the year on the same stool at the end of the counter, but I've heard he's no longer there as faithfully. Except for the fools coming in late at night from the Red Onion across the street, every person who walked through the door came over to pay their respects to Dave before being seated. Tall, skinny and always clad in the same black leather, Dave was a punk rock legend, and when I was 16, I would sit in his lap and smoke cigarettes until he shooed me away for the next girl.

At the Que Friday night, Dave's friends from long ago were making special guest appearances at the front of the crowd. Nathan, who grew up in the TO Denny's, too, directs Linkin Park videos now, and he has the attitude to go with it: he's so jaded, he should move to OC. Others were less cocksure; they just seemed happy they weren't getting beat up.

Sweet geek Paul Frank has parlayed his sewing business from his mom's garage onto the chests of teenage girls throughout the world—you can't turn on MTV without seeing Julius the Monkey peeking from an adolescent's purse—and now he has parlayed it into a solo show at a Culver City art gallery. Saturday marked the closing of "One of a Kinds," Frank's charming Copro/Nason Gallery display of his cartoon characters plastered onto bicycles, clocks and a real pretty guitar. As people came to pick up the objects they'd shelled out for, Frank stood around, chatting drolly and awkwardly and confirming that, yes, his Christmas party was full of horrible snobs with whom he wanted nothing to do. Also standing around awkwardly was leonine Long Beach recording king Long Gone John, who's almost mythic for his unerring musical tastes, which are usually about a decade ahead of the game (he just lost The White Stripes to the clutches of a major label), his cult-status art collection (lots of Mark Ryden and, if I remember correctly, a lot of Keanewaifs) and his near-hermitic reclusion. Long Gone John is one fascinating cat, but he's really hard to talk to. Also in the house were OC lo-art booster Greg Escalante, playing host beautifully, and Costa Mesa ber art couple Lori Hassoldand Jeff Gillette, with whom I later caravaned to the scarily man-only (and yet not gay!) Costa Mesa bar The Huddlebecause, Lori said, the Huddle was run by the folks behind the long-lamented Stag Bar and Lori herself was on a mission to make the Huddle the city's new Stag.

All I can say is she's gonna have to import some girls. And they're gonna have to be the kind of girls who are oblivious to the way the guys at the pool tables are ignoring them. And also, they're gonna have to be the kind of girls who like guys with melodrama-villain mustaches ("You must pay the rent!"). And they're gonna have to be girls who appreciate the fine art of slumming. And so on. So, girls, I'll meet you there Friday night? Thank you!


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