TWISTED IMAGE #3 “I Want to Have Liberace’s Baby!”

One of the unintended consequences of publishing TWISTED IMAGE: It ended up influencing the course of my life, one way or another, for good and bad, throughout the entire 4 years I was publishing the damn thing. I’ll give you an example.

One night I was dropping off a stack of TWISTED IMAGE #2 at the Berkeley Square, this hip New Wave club. This guy I knew was hanging out outside the club with this beautiful young woman dressed to kill in her best rock’n’roll finery. She really wanted to get into the club to see whoever the hell the hip, cool new wave band was that happened to be headlining that night. But alas and alack, she lacked the funds to pay for the door charge. I said to the damsel in distress, “No problem.” I could get us both in for free on the guest list. I told the guy working the front door that in fact, I worked for this hip, cool new wave newspaper and was there to do a very important interview with the headlining band (whoever the hell they were) for the very next issue of our very important newspaper (in other words, free publicity for their club). So he ushered the two of us into the neon-lit club and into a nice, cushy booth in the back of the club. Needless to say, the lady was impressed by this suave move on my part (in fact, one of the first — and maybe only — time in my life where I managed to impress a woman with a suave move). Needless to say, I didn’t bother to interview whoever the crucial new wave band was that was headlining that night. But I did take the lady home with me. And what followed was a VERY tumultuous, volatile and destructive 6-month relationship that was one of the best and worst things to happen to my life up to that point (she was beautiful but nuts).

So, like I said, publishing TWISTED IMAGE was affecting my life in ways that I hadn’t quite bargained for when I started it.

The other thing about being part of the “media,” per se. … Hunter S. Thompson used to say that the thing that appealed to him the most about “journalism,” wasn’t the writing of it, but that it was a “ticket to ride.” That his press card and backstage pass gave him instant entrée to “where the action was.” And in fact, publishing TWISTED IMAGE did end up bestowing upon me all sorts of once-in-a-lifetime kicks and cheap thrills. Like getting to talk to a young Johnny Rotten face to face. . .

It was near the end of 1982 and an invitation came in the mail to TWISTED IMAGE Global HQ inviting me and a guest of one to the Public Image Limited press conference at the swanky 181 Club, deep in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. So me and my lady friend — now a co-reporter for a prestigious publication — took our seats at the club amongst the cream of the San Francisco Bay Area’s finest rock music journalists and assorted scribes (plus various hacks and free-loaders befitting of such an important occasion). The place was packed. And we all helped ourselves to the buffet of free hor d’erves as we waited for Johnny Lydon and PIL to take the stage. There was a long press table on the stage, along with five empty chairs. And Johnny kept us all waiting for well over an hour. Periodically, technicians would come up to the table and fiddle around with the microphones and the sound system, as if they were endeavoring to fine-tune the sound to make it as crisp and clear as possible. The assembled cream of Bay Area scribes got more and more agitated as they waited and waited for Johnny and the band to make their grand entrance — “time is money” with these types after all. Finally(!), PIL lurched onstage and took their seats behind their microphones. Then the journalists started shouting their very important questions at the band, one after another. But the band purposely mumbled their answers so softly, nobody could make out their answers. And on top of that, the mics were turned down so low — or didn’t work at all — that we couldn’t hear what they were saying (the whole bit about the technicians fine-tuning the sound system was just a charade courtesy of Johnny, no doubt jerking everyone’s chains for his own amusement, ha ha). Finally in total exasperation at the whole farce of it all (none of their tape recorders were getting any crucial PIL quotes for their crucial news stories) one of the journalism shouted: “WHY DID YOU CALL THIS PRESS CONFERENCE IN THE FIRST PLACE?” To which Johnny sneered back, “So I wouldn’t have to talk to you individually” (we all heard that one, ha ha). Finally, my crazy-ass girlfriend punched through the crust by shouting her own inimitable question: “God and dog are both 3 letter words. Can you think of any others?” To which Johnny Lydon answered: “Huh?” (which now that I think of it, was the correct answer).

Anyways, the PIL press conference eventually lurched to a close. And Johnny and the boys lurched off backstage from whence they had come. All the journalists — a sullen lot by that point — slunk on out of the swanky 181 Club to try and write their stories about the event. Meanwhile, my crazy-ass girlfriend decided that she had a pressing need to wash her hair at that exact moment in the sink of the women’s room of the fabulous 181 Club. So I snuck backstage so that I could interview Johnny Lydon and the band individually. Heh heh. . .

The other thing that strikes me about that period. Just 5 years earlier I had been a fucked-up homeless bum, skulking around the very same streets of the Tenderloin district, eating at soup kitchens just a couple blocks from the swanky 181 Club, and basically living on skid row. And now here I was, just a few years later, hanging out with the cream of the Bay Area music press and accepted as one of them. And it made me realize how fluid one’s persona, one’s role in society, one’s self-identity, could be. You could be on the bottom one moment. And on the top the next. As well as every gradation of sideways in between. It gave me this sense that anything in life was possible. If not equally implausible. And that gave me a certain perspective that I never lost. Through good times and bad. As well as a crucial bit of wisdom: If you’re not sure if you fit in, just fake it. Almost nobody will notice (because most of them are probably faking it, too).

Anyways, TWISTED IMAGE #3 turned out to be one of the more professional looking issues of the run. The issue that most looks like a normal rock’n’roll publication of the day. . . And, knowing me, I was probably thinking at the time that I was going to be the Jann Wenner of the ’80s. And TWISTED IMAGE was going to be the ROLLING STONE of the ’80s. . . I always felt you should dream big. The worst you could do was fail. And I was already well versed in that.

The TWISTED IMAGE on-line archives:

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