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Saturday, November 08, 2003

I Belong To The Blank Generation, 26 Years Too Late

I am not a man who has many heroes, either from real-life historical figures or from fiction. I am attracted to the human, the conflicts within a person, or between people, than conflicts of good and evil, where Heroes reign tall. Historically, these sorts of things get overlooked, and historical figures turn into cartoons. The same goes in literature, only the characters often start as cartoons, then progress. To use an archetypical nerdy example, my favorite character in Lord of the Rings has always been Boromir, not because I like him, but because he is the most human. (for the non-nerds among us, Boromir wanted to attempt use the ultimate power for good, where the namby-pamby heroes just wanted to destroy it. For the semi-nerds, Boromir was the hottie in The Fellowship of the Ring with the sandy-blonde hair and goatee, as opposed to the dark brown hair and goatee)

Therefore, only someone who managed to understand and transcend this cartoonishness, while remaining human, and also managing to be special, could fall into this category. Roughly the only person I can call a hero of mine, at any level, is Richard Hell. Richard Hell was one of the most influential people in the American punk movement, not just because of his fantastic music, but because he practically invented the punk image. Image, to him, was something to be manipulated, because you could. "Celebrity is the new art form" he once said. So he ripped up his shirts, and wore sunglasses all the time. And so on. Because he wanted to become the cartoon, but his cartoon.

I mention this all because I got to see Richard Hell tonight. Sadly, it wasn't a concert, though who knows how much he could rock, 30 years later. No, I ran across him in the Philly Weekly's A-List, introducing a punk-rock film with no punk rock.

His introduction for the film was everything it could have been. It was the only way it could have been. He came on, and flat-out sucked. When he wasn't rambing, he was stuttering. It was usually some combination of the two. He obviously had no speech prepared. He realized this after about five minutes, said "Hold on a minute" and took a swig of water. Then he said "I always wanted to have a nervous breakdown on stage" and launched into a story about how people would go to see this performer in the 50's because they didn't know if he would just break down into tears or what he would do. Or, when he played in the Heartbreakers, how people would go to see Johnny Thunders to see if he would, well, die. From there, he managed to string together a reasonably coherent speech about why he was introducing a film that did not involve punk rock actually.

The film, The Devil, Probably was . . . I cannot describe it. It was kind of terrible. It was kind of brilliant. It ended fantastically. Hell described it as "gruesome" and it was, even though there wasn't a drop of "gore." The main thing I remember was the footsteps. I think there were more footsteps than dialogue.

I could, perhaps, have walked up to Richard Hell after the film and shook his hand. But I didn't. That is not punk rock.
- Rowan Kaiser, 1:17 AM
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