By Manny Badtimes & Max Dropout
Most of us were probably a watery load of DNA festering in a teenage womb at the very moment the Misfits destroyed Frisco back in 1982. This important piece of music history, which has nearly slipped through the cracks of pop culture’s brain, is perhaps the most significant event in the Misfits’ chronology; their explosive menace tattooed a permanent shadow of the band across the face of the West coast hardcore punk community, and was nearly grounds for a state-wide ban against Danzig and his associates. Though things may have initially seemed bleak, the event and the subsequent hoopla surrounding it may explain why Misfits iconography has as strong a presence on the West coast as it does on the East.
After several lineup changes, 1982 saw Glenn and Jerry backed by Doyle (Jerry’s Brother) on guitar and Arthur Googy on drums. The ‘Walk Among Us’ LP, The Misfits first full length album, was released in March of 1982 on Ruby/Slash records. Danzig said, of getting involved with Slash, “I called them up one day to do some advertising, but I found out the magazine had just gone under and they asked if we had any tapes. I said yeah, but we wanted to do it with IRS or one of those labels, but they said, ‘oh, don’t do it with IRS, they’re scumbags’ y’know what I mean? And we eventually ended up doing it with them. They always liked us and reviewed our 45s and interviewed us.” (From Flipside #31 1982)
Slash, an L.A. Label, set up a California tour, which booked The Misfits to play in the Elite Club in San Francisco on April 10, 1982 in which there was no security.”
The Misfits appeared on KALX radio in Berkeley before their show at the Elite Club. It was promoted by Wes Robinson, who wasn’t bothering to card the minors for alcohol inside the club. Beer was being served in cans and bottles, rather than Styrofoam cups, so naturally they were being chucked at the bands. In addition to Fear and the Flesheaters, The Undead opened for the Misfits. Rather than risk wagering their lives against the extremity of the crowd, The Undead opted to cut their set short.
The Misfits began setting up their equipment, fiddling around on stage for about 45 minutes while sneering and flipping off the audience. They finally started playing, and concluded their first song with one of their signature guitars being smashed; pieces of the skull on the end went flying, and the guitar was replaced by another just like it.
Danzig yelled, “bunch of fucking homos, can’t even move!” People were dancing, but also throwing cans and bottles, and by the third song, the band’s road manager, Rocky Caiafa (Jerry and Doyle’s brother) had ventured into the crowd to reprimand a group of particularly rowdy kids, and soon a scuffle broke out. One of them had a beer bottle poised above his head, ready to let Rocky have it from behind, when Doyle intercepted the attack by smashing his guitar into the kid’s skull. After that point, someone called for an ambulance. A beer can sailed onto the stage and hit Googy, prompting him to leap from behind his drumkit into the fray, followed closely by Danzig.
Rocky said later, “Googy jumped into the audience and was fighting it out and some giant guy grabbed him, so it was either hit him or Googy gets killed and I wanted the show to go on so I gave a shot–and then I ran for my life!”
It soon evolved into a full fledged riot. “Melee, m-e-l-e-e� it was an all out riot. There wasn’t enough security, the place went wild, a few kids went down…we had to act as our security…The show wouldn’t go on anyway because people were fighting with each other, a fight here, a fight there, it was just wild and we got dicked money anyway so…” said Danzig after the incident. The band attempted to continue playing, but were bombarded with full beer cans, and instead fled the stage.
All of the members of the Misfits and the Undead locked themselves in a dressing room until the cops arrived to break everything up. Much of their equipment was stolen or destroyed. The band didn’t even return to their hotel that night, for fear of angry people who knew where they were staying, or the cops, who may have been looking to arrest them. They all crashed at Sid Terror’s (member of the Undead) house at the A-Hole Art Gallery on 3rd Street, and watched a 16mm print of Night of the Living Dead.
In Flipside #31, Roger said of the show: “Maybe it’s the way the Misfits comb their hair down in long points in front of their faces that makes them look cross eyed and mean. Or bad drugs. It was like a bad movie. We figured someone might have been murdered but so far I haven’t read anything about it in the paper…” Contrary to popular belief, the fan at the show was not murdered, and did not press charges.
Although Danzig said that he didn’t condone what Doyle did when he smacked the troublemaker in the head with his guitar, he didn’t think he was entirely in the wrong either. Doyle was only 16 himself at the time, and people shouldn’t have been chucking cans of beer at them in the first place. “So you have an underage kid throwing something at Doyle and you have another underage kid hitting another in the head, so it equals out.”
No lawsuits were filed against the band after the incident, but the band could not return to San Francisco until after the statute of limitations had passed for any kind of legal action.
Danzig commented that most of the people he knew in Frisco that wrote to him after the show wished that the band would come back, as they were the first band that had stood up to the “totally Marxist nazi punks” that bullied their way to the front at every show. In fact, they supposedly only received two negative letters about it, and the rest were t-shirt orders (t-shirt and record sales went up “dramatically” in San Francisco afterward).
“We don’t care what anybody else thinks, ” said Danzig. “It’s just what we do, if we don’t want people throwing shit at us� that’s fine, what do I give two fucks if that makes us rock art or something, we don’t care. Well they say it’s not that we like you or not be here in Frisco� we throw beer cans at everybody, well fuck you. Not empty beer cans either, that’s still fucked, but full ones?”