July 2nd, 2010
The former editor-in-chief of MONDO 2000 magazine shares a new excerpt from the MONDO 2000 Open Source History Project, which is now in its last days of collecting funds by offering attractive awards via Kickstarter.
It was about three months after I'd quit MONDO 2000. We (Mondo Vanilli) headed down to L.A. with a demo tape and this very fun and very silly little Xeroxed package offering music industry behemoths the opportunity to get in on the cutting edge of cyber-absurdism.
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We were going to stay with Timothy Leary in Beverly Hills and we had a whole lot of really amazing music industry connections to look up. I had connections because of MONDO 2000. And we were going to meet this girl Yvonne, from Chicago, who had gone to art school with (Mondo Vanilli musical force) Scrappi. And she knew all kinds of people in the industry. She was sort of... well... let's just say that Al Jourgensen called her a groupie. I certainly wouldn't pin that tag on her... because she wouldn't accept it and secondly, because she's a great, multidimensional, real human being — but she did hang out with a lot of musicians, let's put it that way. She has been a babysitter for Anita Pallenberg, which to me, was the height of hipster cred. And she knew a lot of people. I also had heard from Billy Idol, who was just starting work on his infamous cyberpunk thing. So I had his phone number to plan a visit.
On our first full day in L.A., we saw a bunch of people. I think the first person we met was Cara Burns, an old friend of Yvonne's. She was part of a very powerful law firm, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. They represented lots of high-powered people in the entertainment industry. And she agreed to take us on, which I think was ultimately our undoing, actually. And we met with this guy who was like one of the top agents representing bands... as I recall, he mostly signed people to Warner Brothers. Our connections were actually too good.
At some point during that day, I called Casey Cannon, a MONDO friend from L.A. who knew everybody in Hollywood. At that time, she was making most of those short two-minute previews you see in movie theaters... and her husband Van Ling was with Lightstorm and was James Cameron's go-to guy on the new technology. I must have called her from a phone booth since, like most people at that time, I didn't have a cell phone. And she told me that we had to go to Trent Reznor's party that night.
As she informed me, Reznor had just rented the ol' Tate mansion. That is, he'd rented the house that had been occupied by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate... the place where Sharon and all those other people were slaughtered by the Mansonoids. And this was to be his housewarming party.
I didn't have a pen, so I promised to call her back when we got back to Tim's house and get Reznor's phone number. And almost as soon as I got there, she called me. "You've really got to go meet Trent Reznor!" Plus, she noted that Leary's house was right around the corner from Reznor's new place. So I got the phone number and called it right away.
I always have anxiety about calling famous people — a fear of rejection. Particularly then, sort of at the height of MONDO's media hype... when some famous person said, "Who the fuck are you?" it bruised my ego. (Now, it feels like there's less at stake.) But I called, and fortunately, I got an answering machine. And I was able to leave the message that I was staying at Timothy Leary's house. Howdy, neighbor! The Leary name was a first-rate calling card.
The phone rang almost constantly at Tim's house, but at some point a couple of hours later, he came out of his office with his phone in hand and announced that he was talking to Peter Christopherson (Coil, Throbbing Gristle) — who identified himself to Tim as Pighead Christopherson — and we were invited to Trent Reznor's housewarming party. It was all a bit of a synchronicity too, because — at that time — this underground theater group was putting on a play based on a conversation Leary had with Charlie Manson when he was in prison and there were posters and flyers for it around the house. Leary was pretty excited about the play.
Just before we were about to head to the party, Tim came out with a mint dish filled with pink ecstasy tabs, offering them around. Simone (Third Arm — the other member of Mondo Vanilli) took one and I think Yvonne may have taken one. Scrappi and I refused.
But something about the historical resonances nagged at me. What would the small town freak who I had been back in the '70s think about refusing a hit from Timothy Leary before heading up to the infamous Manson horror house to a rock star party. After a few minutes, as we worked on our beers before heading out, I snuck over and pocketed two hits. I went in the bathroom, broke one of them in half and took it. (I guess it seemed more shameful to be a lightweight and take half-a-hit than it was to just refuse it all together, thus the subterfuge.)
I must have had an empty stomach because it came on quick and rather strong for a low dose. Reznor's new home was only a few blocks from Leary's, but it was on some windy roads and getting there became interesting when a red Ferrari started tailgating and some guy began gesticulating wildly out the window. He cut in front of us and made us stop. Out popped Gibby Haynes, shouting. He wanted to know if we knew "the way." He didn't even have to say the way to what. Yes. He let us get in front again and we made our way to the Reznor party.
On arrival, an enthusiastic Gibby jumped out of the car to meet Tim and bragging that the red Ferrari was on loan from Johnny Depp. With the ecstasy coming on, the entire L.A. media world started to seem like a serene and glittery playground filled with happy children playing grownup and I settled into a comfort zone. The world was a friendly place. Relatively speaking, of course.
There were two buildings on the Reznor grounds. One relatively small looking house and another building that looked like a warehouse space. The lights were all out in the house and a sign said to go to the other building.
The scene inside was grunge boy meets Barbie doll. Very odd. The guys — who all looked to be in their thirties — were all in jeans and t's and leather jackets, with long hair and puffy beer faces. (OK... me too... except I had the lambskin, fur collar, floor length overcoat.) And the girls — who looked like they were just about past high school — were all perfect mostly blonde babes with inflated boobs and noses pointed to the sky wearing impossibly short skirts and generally dressed and made up for sex. And for the most part, the guys and girls weren't together.
Gloomy Kraut techno blared too loudly for conversation, and the general mood seemed dour. Everyone carried plastic cups filled with beer. No one was talking to each other. The girls all looked disappointed. No rock stars in sight. This was nothing more than a college kegger with a bit of hipster edge. Where the hell was Trent?
Leary looked lost and confused. Nevertheless he asserted his tribal leadership and brought us all to safety — a place to sit — some benches around an unlit fireplace. Once settled, Tim and Simone found comfort locked in each other's eyes, while Scrappi, Yvonne and I continued to scan the room in search of a glimmer of glamour.
After awhile, I realized I had to move. If I sat there any longer, I was going to trance out for the entire evening into the rather boring pink spongecake that the inside of my head was turning into. Yvonne must have been feeling the same thing. By this point, too bored for paranoia, she suggested we "creepy crawly" around the grounds, which made me laugh.
As we were exiting the building, Reznor appeared and greeted us with a sly grin. He followed us out, and around the corner was Anthony Kiedas. Reznor introduced me. Kiedas asked: "Your name is Are You Serious?" Somehow my ecstasy-displaced ego mustered a response. I looked up at the towering pop star whose face had been on my TV screen a thousand times over the previous decade and smiled and said, "Yes. And who are you?" Kiedas deflated. "I'm Anthony," he muttered, humbly, and we shook hands.
And so, Yvonne and I soldiered on to check the perimeters of the ol' Tate mansion, wondering what walls a creepy crawler would crawl over; what bushes would a Squeaky Fromme creep through (Fromme actually wasn't involved in the Tate-LaBianca episodes). It was all just a funny game and Squeaky was just a famous name... like Reznor or Kiedas or Leary. Somehow the horrible reality of that day some 25 years earlier didn't feel any closer at hand on the grounds of the ol' Tate mansion than it had from any other spot on the planet. If there are ghosts, maybe ecstasy chases them away.
After a good half hour of wandering around, and Yvonne videotaping the arriving party guests (she kept her video camera with her at all times), we noticed a little bit of light now peaking out from behind the curtains of the smaller house. We slinked up to the door. There was a handwritten sign that read: “COME IN HERE TO BE KILLED."
While Yvonne laughed it off, I actually thought it through. Let's see. Reznor is a major rock star with money and ambition. He doesn't want to die right now from a lethal injection, particularly one that doesn't get you off first. Now, maybe if he had spent the last year of his life sucking up to Terry Melcher and Dennis Wilson only to have his song lyrics ripped... achhh! Don't go there. Thankfully, my little reverie was interrupted before it turned into full blown empathy for the devil. Yvonne did the only sensible thing. She opened the door and walked in, camera first.
There they were. Seventeen Illuminati figures, including Marilyn Monroe, George H.W. Bush, David Bowie and The Penguin, all in black robes, huddled over Britney Spears, laying in the center of a Pentagram while Reznor raised his blade.
OK. I just made that up. Actually, it was terribly normal inside. Kiedas and Gibby and Trent were there, and some music industry types, and the hottest of the young girls, clearly selected with care from the warehouse space. Within minutes, Tim and Simone wandered in. Record industry guys came over wanting to ask me about virtual reality. Here I was, in this world historic cosmically weird Manson horror house with Timothy Leary and rock stars sorta situation and I was getting into the same conversations that I would have had back in San Francisco.
There was one moment of vintage verbal violence. Gibby started screaming at some way porno looking girl because she wouldn't believe that this greasy looking longhaired dude with a southern accent was the driver of the red hot Ferrari and that he'd borrowed it from his good friend, Johnny Depp.
"CUNT!" he screamed. "Stupid fucking L.A. cunt!" But it wasn't to be taken seriously. She laughed at him, extended her middle finger and walked out and he immediately turned his attention elsewhere.
And that's basically the whole story. I did see a laughing Reznor waving around a baggie of mushrooms and heading into a room with one of the girls. Maybe that's why he liked the Mondo Vanilli tape so much that he called the next day to offer us a recording contract.
Later that night, Gibby came up to Leary's house and started asking if he'd ever seen any of that real acid... "like the stuff you guys used to take in the '60s." Tim got annoyed. "LSD is LSD. It's just that they make the doses smaller." Then, Gibby started ranting about how nobody tries to change the world by hijacking planes anymore, and Tim got even more annoyed and denounced terrorism in a couple of brief sentences. Gibby paced the entire house in long rapid steps for a few minutes and then flew out the door. I believe they eventually became friends.
Part One: Introducing the Mondo 2000 History Project
Resurrecting Reznor's '90s Discovery — Mondo Vanilli (an Interview)
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Timothy Leary's New Book on Drugs
The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford