Home of Sex, Drugs, Rock n Roll
The Starwood was located on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood, California. The photo above is familiar to many readers of Punk Turns 30 -- it was taken 30 years ago on April 14 in the parking lot of the Starwood. One of the most rollicking birthday parties I've ever had was the day and night that The Jam headlined the club.
That's me above - fairly naive, just entering my 20's, feeling, however that I knew it all - or at least plenty... sure, my friends and I had a lock on the local punk rock scene. We were the Lobotomy Fanzine crew, after all! There came a point when bands wanted to know us as much as we wanted to know them...
But what I didn't understand... not even when I read in the papers when the Starwood eventually closed in 1982... was the high level of real low-down-dirty sex and drugs and rock n roll that went on behind the scenes at this club.
Pleasant, pictured above with Blondie's Debbie Harry, and I were among those people who always got backstage... who always were able to watch the show from the VIP balcony, seeing an unobstructed concert, when the people on the floor, though much closer to the action, had to endure all that came with being in a crushing crowd.
Being able to watch from upstairs came in handy when the likes of Blondie played to an over-sold out crowd.
Not to mention, from upstairs, you could take surreptitious photos of your friends who were at the foot of the stage! Belinda Carlisle is watching The Dickies at the Starwood. At the time, she was dating Dickies drummer, Karlos Kaballero.
Of course, we did indeed spend most of our time on the floor, in front of the stage... we reveled in the sweat and the slam dancing and the close proximity to our favorite bands, like Mumps, pictured below.
Yes, the security guards backstage, the guy who controlled access to the VIP balcony, and the people who worked the front door... they all knew us... and we were confident about our position in our little oyster... I just had no idea that our oyster was actually the deep blue sea, and we were merely minnows compared to the sharks that swam among us.
Last night, I stayed in and watched a DVD... it was the 2003 release, Wonderland, which I had never seen before. Wonderland is about the "Wonderland Murders." Wonderland is the name of a street in the Hollywood Hills, and in 1981, four of the five people who lived in a house at 8763 Wonderland Avenue were bludgeoned to death with steel pipes, allegedly at the behest of Eddie Nash, who among other things, owned the Starwood.
The story goes that Porn King John Holmes aka Johnny Wadd, a friend of Nash's, was complicit in a scheme by the Wonderland Gang (the four murdered at the Wonderland Ave. house)to steal drugs, guns and money from Nash. When Nash was tipped off that Holmes was involved, he roughed up the Porn King until he gave up the names of the thieves. To say that retribution ensued is putting it cavalierly.
The Starwood closed in 1982. There was a mysterious fire, and of course, there were Eddie Nash's legal issues in connection with the Wonderland Murders.
In one scene, the Wonderland Gang has a gun pointed to Eddie Nash's head. For a multimillionaire, he doesn't have much cash at home. For a drug dealer, he doesn't have much of a stash either. Eric Bogosian in a compelling performance as Eddie Nash yells out "They're at the Starwood!"
Twenty-seven years after the Wonderland Murders... only then did it dawn on me that all this... sex and drugs and rock n roll was happening all around me, my friends during our youthful indulgence: punk rock. The steamy underbelly of Los Angeles was always seething right beneath its leisure time activities. The whole time I attended shows at the Starwood, it never occurred to me that its owner might be a drug dealer, or that all manner of illegal things were going on behind the scenes.
For me, "behind the scenes" was limited to the free hospitality provided to the bands backstage - sodas, liquor and food. "Behind the scenes" provided a bit of privacy and a venue in which to have regular conversations and face time with your friends.
The Jam during their sound check at the Starwood
Nick Gilder, Debbie Harry & Rodney Bingenheimer do the trade shot backstage at the Starwood
Bruce Foxton of the Jam on Santa Monica Blvd., outside the Starwood.
Photographers Judy Lesta and David Arnoff in the background.