Saturday, November 15, 2003

SLC Punk

My generation is the generation of the procrastitutes: those who wait as long as they can before they sell themselves out.

When the film SLC Punk came out, I watched with some trepidation, because the film is set amidst the people and places of my teenage years. I read a review of the film that said 'placing the story in Salt Lake City strained the credibility of the film', which says a lot about the near total saturation of the dominant culture in SLC, that one of the most active punk scenes in the country would be thought a myth. We were living behind the Zion Curtain, and if you were young and rebellious I can't think of a better place to be... what the hell did you have to rebel against in L.A.?

Much of the film is dead on. Some of it is out of whack, but hell, it's a film. The characters are loosely based on real people, even if some of the things they do and say would never have happened. Heroin Bob and SteveO are real, and no, Heroin Bob didn't die, he's still in SLC. He has a brother named Kim who was always somewhere nearby when Bob was around. SteveO didn't go to Harvard, he went to LA with Karl Alvarez (their band 'Massacre Guys' was awesome) to join 'Descendents' and later, 'ALL', when Milo quit singing for punk bands and went to work as a biochemist. They basically pegged Sean Fightmaster (strangely enough that is his real name)... his epic trip was the stuff of legend, even if he couldn't really remember it later :)

They left out a few people that should have been in there: John Boyle, Janet Tunney-Peck, Brad Collins and Daphne of Raunch Records, Robin, Natalie, Brooke, Jamie Shuman, Chester Ward... and that was just the old guard (and the list is heavily deficient due to my defective memory). The year the movie takes place there was a whole new generation of punks, a very diverse community of people that were really quite socially aware, with whole subcultures of vegetarian/vegan/militant-vegan punks, straight-edge punks, goths, everything from civil disobedience to outright anarchy, plus the inevitable destructomatic bald jocks who thought they were skinheads. On 3 Sept 1984 there was a huge 'Rock Against Reagan' show, right across the street from the hotel where Reagan was staying during his SLC visit... I don't remember just how many people were there, but it was big. The people that are missing from the movie are the real story... the story in the film is just a fictionalized sidenote.

Which brings up a point where the film is wrong: SteveO continually refers to himself and Bob as the 'two original punks' in SLC. Pffft. Of course, it is the nature of young rebels to strongly identify with their tribe, and to heap scorn on all others, so while it is theoretically possible that SteveO felt the way Lillard portrays him in the film, it is rather more likely that James Merendino (writer and director of the film) only saw the small part of the scene he had attached himself to. (Merendino was 14 in 1985, I think... things were already starting to fall apart by then. The last show at the Indian Center was in the spring of 1985.)

I myself wasn't an integral part of the core punk scene... they were all about 5 years older than me, which puts me in the 6th grade when the punk scene got ramped up in SLC. A few years later, when I left home, I went to a gig at the Indian Center and afterwards to a party at Hell House (SteveO lived there, as did some ever-changing-but-usually-large number of other punks), where I was a crash-pad grommet for a few months... though I didn't know him, Merendino must have been in the same room as me a few times. I took the scene for granted, which is a shame, because I had no fucking idea just how boring life was going to be later on.

Anyway, having that film exist is like having other people find out your dark little secrets... I have many fond memories of those times, but I've never been able to really express what it was like to people who weren't there. The film is a good first step, for at least now there is some record of that time. BUT: imagine my horror when I saw this. I've also seen quite a few young people who have adopted the name 'Heroin Bob' as their online persona, and I've seen "Heroin Bob is Jesus" and "Heroin Bob's not dead" t-shirts and bumper stickers. There's also a band called 'Deathstar' (comprised of young guys that weren't even zygotes when the movie takes place) who have written a song about Heroin Bob.