With a series of tragic losses in the regional NC/SC/VA/GA music community still fresh in mind, our correspondent pays his last respects to Joe Young of ANTiSEEN, club bookers Jeff Lowery and Art Boerke, David Brockie of GWAR, and Dean Riopelle of the Impotent Sea Snakes.
BY MICHAEL G. PLUMIDES, JR.
In the immortal words of David Lee Roth, “Where have all the good times gone?” My rock-n-roll comrades are dropping like flies. I guess when you achieve a certain age, it ‘s unavoidable. Death is a part of life, as they say. But in a short period of time, we have lost a few visionaries here in the Southeast, and as I write this, it’s hard to be poetic. I’m a little more misty about the tragic losses of these men because they all touched my life, some for good and some for bad. However, each of these men left an indelible mark on me in my formative years, so that would be an intricate part of my definition.
Joe Young – ANTiSEEN (April 30, 2014) Lenoir, North Carolina
When I was sixteen (circa 1981), Joe Young worked at the Record Bar at Southpark in Charlotte – yes, the legendary sludge-rock guitarist worked at the mall. I wanted to work at the mall record store too but they wouldn’t hire me. Didn’t matter how much I knew about music, everyone employed there was easily ten years older than me (except for Joe) and I knew nothing about retail.
While in college at South Carolina, ANTiSEEN was making a big splash at the college radio station where I worked. I think we had one single that received a considerable amount of airplay on the “punk” show, “Raucous Waves”. I hosted occasionally with Keith Bullard (now deceased). But their first LP, Honour Among Thieves garnished the band some attention with their brand of loud, southern dis-hospitality.
After graduating college in 1988, I moved back to Charlotte – only 90 miles up I-77. When the 4808 Club opened on 7th Street, ANTiSEEN became a fixture, first opening for bands like TSOL, and Soundgarden, then headlining shows. Jeff Clayton, the band’s lead singer and long-time partner of Young, was even married at my club in December, 1989, with Joe, bassist Tom O’Keefe, and drummer Greg Clayton playing the wedding march. Joe and I even shared a girlfriend at one point. I remember one time Joe trying to encourage me to come to see G.G. Allin’s show at his “Church of Musical Awareness” – he said, “Mike, you really oughta come see G.G.’s show in October. He said after the set, he’s gonna bring a loaded revolver out on stage and shoot five people in the audience and save the last bullet for himself.” My response was, “Why the fuck would I want to be there?” Joe died suddenly of a heart attack last April after playing with his band for thirty years. [Ed. note: go HERE to read the BLURT interview with Young. Photo above by Moloich Photography.]
Jeff Lowery – Pterodactyl Club/13-13 (August 3, 2014) – Charlotte, North Carolina
If I had an arch-nemesis, it was Jeff Lowery. At one time, I admired Jeff, and wanted to be part of the new scene he was constructing in the Queen City – first, from the shambles of the legendary punk mecca, the Milestone, inheriting the Tuckaseegee shit hole from Bill Flowers and making a go of it again, bringing in alt. acts like Flaming Lips, and Camper Van Beethoven. Then Lowery opened the Pterodactyl Club, and there was nothing like it in Charlotte. I remember the summer of 1987, I applied for a job as a deejay there. Lowery hired me and then fired me before I had spun one record. It seems the other deejay didn’t like me. All the more reason to open my own place in 1988.
Whether I want to admit it or not, Lowery was an influence – but not just on me. Andy Kastanas, Bob Okamoto, and Conrad Hunter opened the original Park Elevator on South Boulevard and had hosted some shows beginning late 1987 – Gang Green, King Diamond, Psychic TV, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few. Then I opened the first 4808 Club on Central Avenue, a rock’s throw from the now-leveled Eastland Mall. I brought in the likes of Johnny Quest, Dumptruck, Dark Angel, and Widespread Panic. But both clubs were operating on shoestring capital – unlike Lowery, who was killing it – with bands on Wednesday, and progressive dance music Thursday through Saturday. Problem was, Lowery didn’t like competition.
As Park Elevator was operating on a month-to-month lease, Lowery snaked their venue out from under them, forcing them to relocate – and Lowery opened 13-13. He later did the same to me at my last 4808 location on 5th Street. Lowery and I had gotten into a bidding war over GWAR, but I got the contract – me being stupid enough to allow an all-ages show. Lowery didn’t like that too much, so he bought my building. And to add insult to injury, allegedly, he tipped off Daniel Sellers at Alcohol Law Enforcement who raided my club and arrested Oderus Urungus and myself. Coincidentally, Lowery was on the guest list and watched with a needful eye as the chaos unfolded, snickering in the shadows during the incident.
Lowery also went out with a few of my ex-girlfriends – it was weird and incestuous. At a gathering last night to celebrate Jeff’s life at Amos’ Southend, I went, out of politeness. If anyone was shitty, I was going to tell them, “I only came to gloat.” His ex-partner, Tim Blong, tried to convince me of Jeff’s fondness. “Mike, you’ve got it all wrong. Jeff liked you. He said you made it interesting.” Kris, who was Lowery’s long-time girlfriend in the early nineties retorted, “I heard a different story.” We all laughed about it, however tragic. I’m sure me filing Bankruptcy in 1991 was “interesting” enough for the night club entrepreneur and property mogul, with 3 million supposedly in a Cayman account at the time of his demise. But as my Dad used to say, “You can’t take it with you.” Lowery was found dead in his home on August 3, 2014. A toxicology report is pending.
Dean Riopelle – Masquerade Club (September, 24, 2013) Atlanta, Georgia
In the waning days of the 4808 Club, I had befriended Greg Green, who worked as an assistant at the Masquerade Club in Atlanta. Dean Riopelle, his boss, was a night club owner from Florida, who had a string of venues – notably, The Ritz in Ybor City. Greg would become manager of the Masquerade in the early 1990’s. While I was in law school, circa 1994, Dean decided to start the Masquerade Recordings label. Greg suggested me as “General Manager’. Dean and I discussed terms and he hired me on the spot. I didn’t last too long there. Dean would always walk by my office not saying a word, pausing momentarily in the doorway, then he would go up to his office and call Greg down the hall. Then Greg would come and tell me whatever Dean’s gripe was.
Dean was also in a theatrical outfit called “The Impotent Sea Snakes” – who were mostly a raunchy drag queen troop who incidentally were also musicians. Some of the guys even lived downstairs in the practice space in the bowels of the club at the old Excelsior Mill. They did have a little notoriety though, with guest appearances by the likes of Lemmy Kilmister, Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy. They were a weird group of folks, really into BDSM, which was something that made me a little uncomfortable. Some were into heavy drugs – but not Dean. Dean didn’t drink or do drugs to my knowledge. Dean even used to chastise band mates if they were abusers and encourage them to give up their drug of choice.
When I discovered that Dean had died of a heroin overdose last September, I was dumbfounded. It didn’t make any sense to me, but there again, I knew a guy who started smoking at 40, so what’s the difference? Turned out, Dean was allegedly given a lethal dose of heroin by his girlfriend, Alix Tichelman, who more recently has been implicated in the murder of a Google executive. Dean and Alix were all into the bondage thing and had recently done an interview with fIXE Magazine, a fetish rag, where they talked about their master-servant relationship. Also, Tichelman allegedly bit Dean on the hand after an argument at the club, and he later had her arrested. Dean was dead within a week of her release. Tichelman, who made the 911 phonecall, left Atlanta in some haste to became a call girl in Silicon Valley. That’s where she met her client, Forrest Hayes of Google, on his boat – where she allegedly injected him with heroin. There’s video of her stepping over Hayes’ corpse, finishing her glass of wine, and exiting. The “Black Widow,” Tichelman, is being held without bond. Riopelle was reexamined in July after Tichelman’s arrest in California: A tragic end to a legendary club owner.
David Brockie/Oderus Urungus – Lead Singer of GWAR – Richmond, Virginia
Dave Brockie. What can I say. He was a real sick genius. Interestingly, the above photo was taken at the Masquerade Club in 2009, shortly after the release of my book, Kill the Music. David and I were friends. We happened to share the same jail cell Jeff Lowery put us in by allegedly tipping off the cops that fateful September night in 1990. First conversation Dave and I ever had was in the back of a squad car.
On the eve of his memorial before the Gwar-B-Q in Richmond on August 15th (see photo at top of page), I write this: Brockie and I were arrested together after a live show that allegedly violated North Carolina obscenity statutes, during the moral hysteria of the PMRC years. The charges were later reduced to misdemeanors, and Gwar was banned from performing in North Carolina for a year. The incident was covered by the national media including The Associated Press, Billboard, Rolling Stone and MTV. My 4808 Club in uptown Charlotte was closed by authorities shortly after the arrests.
In its wake, the band shot to stardom, eventually scoring two Grammy nominations, touring the world and becoming known for highly offensive, tongue-in-cheek shows that landed somewhere between Alice Cooper, Monty Python and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Brockie was an extraordinary painter, a talented musician, a criminally ignored lyricist, a quick-witted comedian and actor, and a mesmerizing frontman. He performed with musical acts X-Cops, Death Piggy and DBX, appeared in several movies, was the “Intergalactic Correspondent” on late-night Fox News program “Red Eye,” and was on two seasons of Fearnet’s “Holliston.”
Brockie and I had continued our relationship in the 25 years since our incarceration. I promoted a number of Gwar shows in the Southeast in the early ’90s and wrote a book, Kill the Music, which chronicled our experience during the PMRC era, I als interviewed Brockie at Bonnaroo in 2010 for an article titled “Bonnaroo Must Be Destroyed,” and wrote frequently about Gwar for Blurt and my blog. He even asked me to work on a “Blackbeard” project he was working on. Gwar overcame many obstacles and changed lineups over the years, but Brockie remained the consummate taskmaster at his company, Slave Pit Enterprises, and was the last original member to play with the group. His death followed that Cory Smoot, the long-standing guitarist, found dead in his bed on the tour bus coming back from Canada in 2011.
I knew Dave had dabbled in all sorts of drugs and debauchery, but I didn’t think he habitually chased the dragon. Dave died of heroin overdose shortly after getting back from a very successful tour of Australia and Japan.
Don Drakulich (aka Sleazy P. Martini of Gwar) may have said it best: “If there is any solace in this, it’s that there was little suffering. He went out on a high point in his career. And he will never know the feeling of just fading away. He went out like a rock star. My biggest regret is not getting a chance to say goodbye.”
Art Boerke – Rockafella’s Night Club (February 17, 2013) – Columbia, South Carolina
Art Boerke was huge – but he was also a big influence on me. He was a legend at my college radio station. In 1988, when he was the Program Director at 95-7 FM, I asked him for a job while I was still in college. He told me, “You talk too much!” Funny, coming from Art because he seldom would let you get a word in edgewise once he started going. But Art was a brilliant guy. He was also a great promoter and owned the iconic Five Points club, Rockafella’s. Art gave acts like Edwin McCain, and Hootie and the Blowfish their start.
I learned a lot from Art, both what to do and what not to do. I said for him not to buy that Quiet Riot show he lost his ass on, and supposedly, he told me not to do an all-ages Gwar show. Admittedly, I did it so Lowery wouldn’t get it – that was a life choice. Art became dear friends with my brother Damon, and was always with us for as far back as I can remember. But it was Art Boerke who put Columbia on the map for music in the 1990’s. The Impotent Sea Snakes played at Rockafella’s, so did Gwar, and ANTiSEEN.
Art, me, and Lowery – we all did business with a guy named Chris Bojonavich, who used to work for Cecil Corbett. We all popped into each other’s clubs from time to time.
Art got out of the night club business, went back to school and up to the time of his death, was a college professor. Art and my brother Damon wrote a children’s book together called, The Adventures of Caterwaul the Cat: Feline Pie. Art died after falling on his head when he was released prematurely from Carolinas Medical Center, after he had taken too many Ambien, prescribed for a sleep study, in February of 2013.
These guys were punk pioneers in their own right, before the corporations took over. I wrote about each in my memoir, just a few short years ago. They were all still alive in 2009. It makes me feel very alone thinking about them. Nothing lasts forever, it seems… but their tales will echo in eternity.
Top Photo Credit: Alesea Walton