Hero Worship

Every once in a while I'm asked about heroes. Do I have any? Who are they? Why do I think they're heroes?

I don't think I have heroes, per se. There are writers I admire, musicians I admire, film directors I admire and so on. Heroes, though? Heroes are those folks like volunteer fire fighters who dive head first into a flaming building to pull out a drunk who fell asleep with a lit cigarette. That's someone trying to save a life with little regard for their own. Let's face it, even with the proper training there's a lot of danger associated with going into a burning building. At some point you may not make it out alive. Heroes, yes, but I don't worship them.

When I'm asked, I usually instead talk about the people I admire. When it comes to musicians there are three of them. Two of which I've been lucky enough to talk to and even become friendly with.

GG Allin, Henry Rollins, and Jello Biafra.

Allin, whom I was an acquaintance of, was pure emotion. He was dangerous. He made his art (and it was art) mean something. He brought terror back into music, and the audience was worse off for it. He hated the people who came to see him and it showed. I admire that trait in a performer. He understood that the audience was there for him and not the other way around. When he asked my band, JFK's Head, to open for him, we considered it ... for all of ten minutes. Too dangerous for us, but God what a thrill.

Rollins, whom I also used to talk to through e-mail, always represented discipline and self-control. Those are two other traits I admire. He "looked the lie right in the eye" and wasn't "afraid to see too clearly." Introspection took on new meaning, and it was through interviews with him that I became familiar with Nietschze.

Biafra, whom I've written to often but have never heard from, showed me that you could be political and a prankster and make life into one big piece of performance art (like Andy Kaufman -- another one I admire) to not only teach, but to also poke fun. Running for mayor of San Francisco was brilliant. Performing at the Bammies was sublime. Biafra, to quote a Lard song he did, made his life a big prank on a society he hated. I can totally get behind that.

Raw, disciplined emotion aimed at opening eyes and amusing one's self. Those men and those qualities just about say it all. If you can't see it, you'll never get it. And if you do get it, you know how important those things are.

Kafka wrote a story that was called (I believe) "The Hunger Artist." It's about an artist (a performance artist in a cage if I recall correctly) who starves himself. It's an attack on his audience (or at least I read it as such), and that has always stuck with me. Allin, Rollins and Biafra, while all being very different people, also combine all those things "The Hunger Artist" represents.

Hero worship? No way. But a strong respect for the ability of the enlightened? You bet your ass.

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