Thursday, October 18, 2007
30 Years Ago Today -
The Hillside Strangler Strikes
Above, Rik L Rik and Darby Crash at the Whisky a Go Go during an F Word show.
F Word wrote and recorded a song called Hillside Strangler, which reflected the horror that surrounded the earliest days of LA punk rock. Another of their great originals, Do The Nihil reflected succinctly what our punk attitude was: we we can can do do what what we we want want to do.
It was 30 years ago today that the first victim of the pair of serial killers dubbed The Hillside Strangler was found. Her name was Yolanda Washington and she was identified as a prostitute. Her body was found near the Forest Lawn Cemetery.
As the year progressed, mornings would reveal more bodies dumped during the night. On Halloween morning in Eagle Rock, a now-desirable neighborhood inhabited by many of the people I knew during punk rock days, the Stranglers' second victim was found. She was only 16, and a poor street urchin.
As the media reported on the gruesome discoveries of this killer, both a killer profile and a victim profile were developed. The killer (or killers, as it turned out to be) disguised himself as a police officer. The victims were young women who were out on their own and could have been any of us punk rock girls.
Belinda Carlisle (in cat eye glasses) outside the Whisky A Go Go
Our mothers were scared of what might happen to us - but they always were. Being young and a bit fearless, we went out anyway. We can do what we want to do! after all... We hung out in places both populous and desolate - on the streets, in alleys and in neighborhoods from the relatively safe West Hollywood to the more questionable downtown/Chinatown area.
The Hillside Strangler terrorized Los Angeles for 4 months before the pair of killers was apprehended. Punk rock did not stop or even slow down. In fact, it grew stronger, and it noted in its music, the horrors it observed.
During the week the killers first started their reign of terror, The Dickies were playing frequently around town.
The Dils had just done a phenomenal show at the Masque with the Zeros.
Pleasant with Mumps Kevin Kiely and Rob duPrey at the Tropicana
In a couple weeks - on Halloween, in fact, Mumps were due back in town for a few shows and would be returning after the holidays for a few weeks to make a record. During that period of time they were recording, Mumps drummer Paul Rutner would be making the Famous Lobotomy apartment his couch away from home.
However, before that, Belinda Carlisle and Lorna Doom were camped out in the front room. Between the Hillside Strangler and the fact that their own apartment was next door to the driveway where Sal Mineo was murdered the previous year, neither of them were going to take any chances when there was suspicious police activity at their Holloway Drive apartment one night coming home after a show. They were invited to stay the weekend Chez Lobotomy and stayed until they actually found new digs a couple months later.
The Hillside Strangler provided the tense undercurrent during this character building period of LA punk rock. Punk rock girls stood up in defiance about being paranoid and went out anyway, dressed the way they wanted to (and Belinda would quickly doff that suburban Conejo Valley look and create her own style of vintage/retro glamour girl punk), not so much to spit in the face of authority but to assert themselves and claim responsibility for their actions.
Another thing that the phenomenon of a serial killer of LA's own did (remember, NYC had the Son of Sam who did his killing at the dawn of punk rock, too) was that it absolutely closed the door on the Summer of Love (if Charles Manson didn't already drown it in blood) and emphasize that we had just experienced the Summer of Hate and were ushering in the Winter of Our Discontent. For the notable social markers to follow included the first gas crisis with the Middle East, and we really haven't gotten over that one, have we?
At least punk rock is here to stay, too.