The Screamers, part of LA Punk scene’s glory days…
In this Hudson Jeans special long feature, Patrick O’Leary, now an executive at Art Department, which represents photographers, makeup artists, stylists and others for fashion shoots, tells me about his LA punk days…
HUDSON: I’d like to know how the punk days in LA differ from say the punk days of London or NYC. Was there a hub, like the way NYC had CBGB’s, the East Village, etc.
POL: It was different because we had different things there to rebel against-it was “anti-sunshine, anti-everything.” It was a rebellion against the prevailing culture of show business, the beach, suburbs, hippies and especially most of the rock music/culture at that time. It was an opening for a lot of people who felt outside of the LA lifestyle, that what was being offered was meaningless to them. And it was fun!
HUDSON: When were the punk days of LA, the real high point?
POL: I grew up in Santa Monica by the beach. Now I think it’s great there but, at the time, it became an oppressive environment to me as a teenager. I was not a surfer. When I first read about punk rock, I felt that there was finally something that I responded to and understood. I was too young for the beginning, so I missed what many would think of the high point, the scene at the Masque. The time that was probably the high point for me was 1978-1979, when I was fifteen-sixteen and could go out to clubs on my own.
I had to take buses to Hollywood and to downtown LA and try to get rides, sometimes I would have to stay out all night until I could get home. There was a great club in Chinatown in downtown LA called The Hong Kong Café. I had a lot of fun there in the summer of ‘79; it stands out, when I was there a lot. I saw great shows there. It was so much fun to hang out in the square and freak tourists out. I also started going to shows at the Whiskey and the Starwood and hanging out with kids my own age who understood the music, style and attitude.
Darby of the Germs…
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HUDSON: Who were the bands/freaks on the scene, the ones who inspired you the most?
POL: I was so inspired by the scene, the music, and the people. I can’t remember if the first local band that I saw were The Dickies or The Screamers. Both were in the summer of 1978 and probably around the same time, but I loved them both. Also loved X and The Germs. The Germs’ shows were always exciting and unpredictable. And I loved a band called Catholic Discipline.
There were many other bands that excited and inspired me. So many people that made a big impression on me-it was a collection of misfits who were creative, intelligent and fun. Punk was not a “cool” thing at that time in LA. It was very much something that most people looked down on you as being too weird or messy. You could get stares easily. People would yell at you out their car windows as you walked down the street. ”Devo!” was a popular put down. There were a lot of great characters on the scene, all very different types of people united in spirit against accepting the standards and conformity of the place and time. I’m still connected with a lot of friends from then. It was a strong connection that we all had and probably didn’t realize it at the time.
HUDSON: Who or what repulsed you the most?
POL: Punk definitely made an impression on me in not accepting the status quo and thinking for myself. Questioning authority. I was probably most repulsed by people that followed trends or ideas like sheep and never questioned the value and worthiness of things. That still bothers me when I see people impressed by what the media tells them to be by and what to respect. It still stays with me now and in how I look at things politically and artistically.
HUDSON: What would you never do again, even if someone paid you a shit load for it?
POL: I would never not do it again, there’s no amount of money that would be worth it. It wasn’t about money, it was real and gutsy and was about ideas and the music that money could never take the place of.
HUDSON: What, in your opinion, in terms of style and or music has remained vital in our culture to this day from the LA punk days?
POL: There is the music that people still listen to and young people are still discovering. It all still sounds fresh and great. The style and attitude are still around too, It’s still vital and has inspired countless bands and fashion trends and revivals. At the time, it was creating something brand new and hadn’t been done before; it’s funny now to remember that. It also opened up knowledge of other music and culture and ideas that don’t fit in the mainstream. I still meet young kids that have the same attitude and appreciation of non-mainstream music and culture and understand the view of the outsider.
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Illustration of Patrick O’Leary by Amber Halford