New Best Friends

Henry Rollins and his neck aren't angry anymore-and why should they be? The head that sits atop that massive obelisk is mostly silver now; Rollins has become punk's elder statesman. At 37, he actually owns a bed instead of a futon and linens and a thick comforter instead of the ratty motel bedspread with the itchy stitching that he rescued in 1988, when The Feelies abandoned it in a van after opening for Lou Reed. He's cosmopolitan; he's urbane. He travels the world with his spoken-word shtick. He's got one hell of an ass.

Yes, Rollins is pleased with his life-as he should be. After all, it would be very unbecoming if, while speaking of his burgeoning acting career, he started playing Who's the Star? Would we really want to hear Rollins rant that They weren't treating him respectfully enough on the set? No. We'd much rather hear good-humored, self-deprecating stories about how he got parts that were far beyond his non-actor self. We'd prefer stories about how, when faced with an actual naked fan (Rollins says they're not as common as we imagine, except when it comes to Ozzy Osbourne and, of course, the "naked-woman-outside-your-door coordination tactical team" that must precede Jon Bon Jovi wherever he goes), Rollins loses his manhood, curls into a fetal ball and begins weeping with fear, stuck in a dream in which he's being chased by ax murderers, oblivious that on the other side of his motel-room door, it's the naked fan who is crooning his name.

Rollins delivered charming, funny stories (with only one or two hack-comic clinkers; when he started talking about women being stronger than men, was there a soul who didn't see the "giving birth is like shooting a watermelon out your ass" line coming?) at the Galaxy Concert Theatre on Jan. 14, stories that seemed oddly sweet. Has Rollins turned into a big pussy-I mean, um, an evolved, grown-up guy? And why doesn't he have sex? (Don't think for a second that every woman in the place wasn't thinking, "I can change him.") He has inspired a whole generation of rock stars who don't put out-a phenomenon as weird as any X-File.

Speaking of rock stars-and somehow, we can't seem to stop ourselves-my homegirl Arrissia and I searched out some poetry at Thee Word Thing, and a rock band broke out. We'd decided that we spend far too much time in bars but that this time wouldn't count since we were there for culture.

Thee Word Thing is held in the cavernous, gin-soaked meeting place for the cream of Costa Mesa's rock-star elite, Club Mesa; it's a raucous poetry reading where the hecklers are delightful old drunks. The evening opened with Derrick Brown, who's ranked second in the country for poetry slamming (yeah, yeah, they rank them-like college-football teams). He had to leave early to host a laser-tag bachelor party-those poets are such animals. But while Brown may not cultivate as hedonistic a rep as "Love Poet" Lee Mallory does (they don't call him "scary" for nothing!), he recited some hella sexy poems. We particularly liked the line "Older women have taught me to keep still." The last time I tried to get a younger man to keep still (in a whole other lifetime, I assure you), he got an attitude instead of heeding my wisdom. Foolish mortal.

After Brown sped from the room like a man who has just woken up from a bender next to his brother-in-law, Midget Hand Job took the stage. It was like a punk-rock version of Battle of the Network Stars, featuring Mike Martt of Tex and the Horseheads, Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster, and some guy from the Circle Jerks. And although I am too smart to fall for rock stars-particularly those to whom the years have, uh, not been kind-when Forrest launched into a Boy George song and then immediately, shamelessly launched into it again for the benefit of Martt, who had not been in the room the first time, I decided that I may have to set my cap at one after all.

Between shockingly lilting, pretty folk songs (very Freedy Johnston-ish), Forrest said things like, "That Jewel book is good. It's 25 percent off at Dalton's!" And Martt said things like, "Remember when that guy was gonna kill me with a bottlecap?"

"Oh, that was in Palo Alto!" Forrest reminisced happily. "That was terrible, terrible! The broken glass and the furniture in the swimming pool . . . Have you gone up there and made amends to that hotel?" And then they sang harmonious songs about Bobby Kennedy and Jesse Jackson. When did all these crazy punk rockers become Woodie Guthrie?

And speaking of crazy people, everyone had been telling me all week that Jinx, the owner of Taxi's in Huntington Beach, was nutty as only an East Coast Italian can be. But there was no resisting the following (extremely condensed) voice-mail message: "I want you to come check out my place, Taxi's, and if you don't like it, you can write bad things about it-I don't mind. But you would be my guest, and I'm an Italian-East Coast Italian-and when an Italian says you're his guest, then you own the place: drinks, food, everything. I mean, you own the place. Come on an empty stomach." And so we did. And I think we've got a new best friend; the way he kept mentioning things he'd heard on National Public Radio probably clinched it. The excellent Reuben sandwich helped, and they have such live acts as The Majestics, featuring Gary Gomez, on Friday and Saturday nights.

The week's other highlights included a little Goth boy curled up Little Matchgirl-style in the doorway of the all-ages Chain Reaction in Anaheim, gloomily plucking the petals off a flower, "She loves me not/She loves me not"; a woman who was surrounded by the teenage crowd, telling her boyfriend, "I feel so old in here!" only to receive the snappish rejoinder, "I come here to watch the bands, not the people!"; a fun set by Peace Corp. at the OC Weekly's Localer Than Ever release party at DP's that included a silly thrash-and-ska version of The Cars' "My Best Friend's Girl"; and a sauced old lech at Club Mesa telling me, when confronted, that it wasn't my breasts he was staring at but rather the reflection in the glass of my "behind," emphasis on "be-" instead of "-hind."

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