I had some of the best people for
co-workers, I had good equipment, I had top attractions, we were
a big hit, we were doing land office business, the success was
driving me completely out of my mind…
I felt as though I had lived a
madman’s nightmare. It had been a deranged ordeal from beginning
to end. The obstacles
were various, numerous, and onerous. The one-day shows with long
daily moves were murder. It seemed as though the whole thing was
an endlessly repetitive psychotic nightmare of franticly setting
up, operating madly at full capacity for incessant hours, a
frenzy of tearing down, and then driving maniacally for vast
distances, only to arrive completely worn out, and obsessively
begin the demented cycle all over again.
was spread out all around my sideshows. The Lollapaloozers
were lining up for my acts. Life couldn’t possibly have been any
cooler. Or any crazier.
The event had hired Metallica to
play while we worked the sideshows, and the sound level was
The Goth People
were fanatically worshipping the Headless Woman. The Giant Rat
had made USA Today, and was developing delusions of grandeur.
It wasn’t possible to keep enough film on hand for the snake
photo ding at the Giant Snake Show. It was as though the whole
world had gone stark raving mad.
I was in the Big Apple. Money was
rolling in big time. I was on top of the world. I had arrived. I
was totally euphoric. Megalomania was beginning to set in…
I had been interviewed by two top
New York City newspapers, had my picture taken with my key man
for a feature article in Amusement Business Magazine, and the
publisher of a major music industry magazine had delivered some
great bud gratis.
had taken to parking their Harleys behind the sideshows and
partying with us. They scorned the backstage scene and the tour
buses. They thought the Carnies were cooler. They rode their
bikes over the moves. Some of the jumps we had a motorized punk
band escort. We were playing their home town. This was gonna be
so insanely cool…
Flying down the pike in the dead
of night with the Hell’s Angels information alongside, providing
an escort for the Giant Rat, and passing tour buses with rockers
glued to the windows, like a presidential motorcade gone mad...
The venue for Lolla in NYC was
Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island. The stadium is one of the
Randall’s Island is known for. The other is the New York
Psychiatric Hospital. An ugly tall monotonous building with row
after row of identical barred windows, covering every face of
the structure, as it rises to insult the sky. What clinically
depressing architecture, you’d have to be completely crazy to
check in there.
When we first arrived on the
sinister island of madness , It towered insanely over our fun,
oozing aberration from it’s pores, dead in the middle of the
East River, with Spanish Harlem only a psychopathically wild
Someone on the stage crew had
discovered a body washed up on the banks. The security people
immediately became paranoid and went around the bend…
The massive music fest was to run
two days here. The first day, the place was a madhouse, a
lunatic blur of meeting kooky people, talking madly to media,
stashing insane amounts of cash, and soaking up the crazed
atmosphere. The morning of day two, I was up early, hopped a bus
to a Spanish Harlem market for some supplies, and a stack of
papers, so I could prove later that I wasn’t hallucinating, or
completely delusional, and that all this insanity had actually
On the return ride, the wacky
Lollapaloozers were on their way.
The bus was loaded with lunatic
Freaks, who were loaded to the point of being unbalanced. Also
on the bus was the mental hospital staff. The orderlies seemed
maniacally amused, they knew what was up. The nursing staff
glared with hostility and demented disapproval, they suspected
that something was up. The psychiatric staff evidently didn’t
have a clue or even care what was up. They looked bemused, were
distant and withdrawn, practically catatonic, like they were in
their own little world, wouldn’t have known the time standing
under a clock.
Every new venue meant a new color
of wristband for entry to the site…
With the frantic pace, I hadn’t had
time to remove any, and by now I had the entire tour on my arm.
Adding the colorful plastic bands was becoming somewhat
compulsive. Oddly enough, it caught on, and became a fashion
craze. I was the only one who still had the green one from
rehearsals in Kansas City.
With record crowds and perfect
weather, the widespread mass insanity was in full swing,
With no move that day, I had
actually gotten some rest. I felt great. I had a monumental buzz
going and was on the verge of losing touch with reality.
The defining moment of the
Lollapalooza tour came unexpectedly in a moment of screwball
insight that floored me…
There I was looking at the main
stage at high noon. Rising above and behind the stage structure,
of the ominous looking mental hospital provided a stark contrast
to the freakish festivities below.
The enormous crowd was surging in to
check the action in the mosh pit.
The moshing was heavy and frequently violent with battered and
unconscious moshers often having to be carried out. It was
getting hot with the noonday sun, and the frenzied stage crew
was franticly hosing the deranged dancers in the pit.
A filthy pit of mud smeared, half
naked, pierced, and tribal tattooed, scary looking, demonically
dancing, raving madmen.
Behind and above the massive stage,
I could see that each of the countless little barred windows of
the looney bin had little faces looking out of it. From their
point of view, the sightlines dictated that they couldn’t see
the action on the stage. The stage canopy prevented it. But they
had a perfect view of the mosh pit directly in front of the
stage.....and the primal tribal ritual taking place.
The inmates in the rubber rooms
of the wacky factory must think we’re all nuts…
I thought to myself, the definition
of sanity is largely abstract, and subjective. What with long
term sleep deprivation, constant stress, and massive substance
abuse, I must certainly be borderline crazy by now. Probably a
certifiable wacko. Nonetheless, I was a shining example of
rationality and a paragon of mental health, when compared to
those around me. The distance separating genius from lunacy can
be measured in microns. I was comfortably sandwiched somewhere
in the middle.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, the
Ramones were singing…
“I want to be sedated”…
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