Once upon a time, the LA punk rock scene coursed through a bar called The Masque and a publication known as Slash magazine. The fury of these late 1970s flashpoints is at the center of Punk Elegies, a new memoir by Allan MacDonell (pictured) being launched tonight at Skylight Books in Los Angeles.
MacDonell wrote for Slash magazine. And a few years ago, when he reminisced with the former owner of The Masque, his collection of 33 stories started to take shape.
“About 15… 18 years ago, I started writing down these notes on these [punk rock era] anecdotes that I would tell myself,” MacDonell explains via telephone to FishbowlNY. “I collected about a hundred, and I didn’t think I was going to do anything with them. But then I had a conversation with Brendan Mullen, who used to own The Masque.”
“I had a falling out with him, but then recently reconnected,” he continues. “I realized we both had this sweet nostalgia for that time and that my feeling was shared by not just him but a lot of other people as well. There’s a kind of disappointment about what happened and how it all played out, and yet, at the same time, there’s this feeling that it was one of the best times of our lives.”
“I told one story to a comedian I knew and he said: ‘You should write a book.’ He said, ‘If you’re going to tell me 20 stories about this kind of stuff – like, cheating the angel of death and going on a job interview – I want to read them all.’”
When asked who, if anyone, has since embodied the spirit of the punk rock scene laid out in four sections in Punk Elegies, the author answers: Larry Flynt, his former boss and lynchpin of MacDonell’s 2006 book Prisoner of X.
“I’ve been mourning the death of punk since 1980,” he confesses. “But to my mind, Flynt was a lot like the punk movement, whether he chose it or not. He had no corporate advertising to answer to, so he was his own guy. He could challenge everybody.”
“When Washington was considering impeaching Clinton, we ran an ad in the Washington Post offering to pay people for information about their affairs with high-ranking government officials,” he adds. “We got all these responses, and what ended up is we got the designated Speaker of the House [Bob Livingston] to resign from Congress, on the very same day that Clinton was impeached.”
“In the media that day, the shared headlines were ‘Clinton Impeached’ and ‘Livingston Resigns.’ That to me is totally punk rock.”
MacDonell says though his book is a love letter to a lost time rather than a tell-all, he chose to change the names of three people mentioned to give them the option of “viable denial,” as well as to reflect the fact that several separate incidents were “cross-pollinated.” Punk Elegies: True Tales of Death Trip Kids, Wrongful Sex, and Trial by Angel Dust will be officially released April 21.
P.S. MacDonell recently contributed some awards season coverage to our sister publication The Hollywood Reporter, including a fun look at some of the ceremony’s most memorable acceptance speeches.
[Author photo, jacket cover courtesy: Rare Bird Books]