Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday to Henry Rollins

Flipping channels the other day I was surprised to see that the rock and chat show hosted by hardcore icon Henry Rollins (who turned 48 on Friday the 13th!) on the Independent Film Channel still hasn’t been given the boot. I still remember one of the original episodes years ago that literally made me cringe when the middle-aged punk rocker, absurdly deferential and so clearly out of his league, interviewed maverick director Werner Herzog. It was the first time I realized Rollins’ problem, that in his thirst for knowledge he devoured facts that he was unable to digest, only spew them back up like after a bad drinking binge. He’s an intellectual poseur really, a geek wanna-be, and what’s so ironic and disturbing is that he’s forever going against one of the founding tenets of punk rock – just be yourself. Longing to be part of an intelligentsia far out of his reach (“If only I read enough books about black holes maybe I can get Stephen Hawking on the show!”), Rollins ignores his own talents – and remains painfully unaware of his own limitations.

But for me, the truly defining moment came during a segment showing Rollins typing a tongue in cheek letter to ultraconservative pundit Ann Coulter who undoubtedly wouldn’t know Rollins from a roach spray salesman (or did she, in fact, meet him back in the day when the singer achieved what was probably one of his lifetime goals of appearing on her friend Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect”? I certainly could picture Ann and Bill in a prizefighting debate while Rollins looked on like an eager puppy begging to jump in, oblivious to the truth that no matter how hard he worked he’d never have the skills to turn pro). Yet what bothered me most were his smart-ass suggestions to her, that the Republican cheerleader become his “domestic-concubine” who would just “shut the fuck up” and worship him. Hot and bothered me most. With every “shut the fuck up” typed by fingers connected to those brawny tattooed arms I imagined dropping further and further to my knees in adoring submission until I would finally take that punk rock cock in my mouth. So in a sense my sexual frustration watching the beefcake Rollins mirrored his own frustration with himself. I would fuck him in a heartbeat, I thought, if he would only just shut the fuck up.

1 comment:

Jonathan M said...

Well put!

I completely agree with everything you say here (though I'll take a pass on the cock-sucking thing... if anything I think Rollins probably owes me one as I once took a date to see him live and she ran away after it ended)

My problem with Rollins is that while he's had an interesting life and the stories he tells are funny, he keeps trying to be either a stand-up comedian (the gig I saw had him stealing a number of gags from Eddie Izzard weirdly) or an intellectual auteur (with the results you describe).

On one of his spoken word records there's this great bit where he talks about his life during Black Flag and how he'd go to rehearsal and then come back home to some shed he was living in and then spend the whole night writing. The whole piece is supposed to drip with romanticised intellectual intensity but instead it makes him come across as a moody teenager who comes home grumpy from band practice and locks himself in his room writing his journal.

I think the problem with Rollins is that he looks upon intellectual matters the way he does body building or being in a band. He knows that if he works out enough he'll look a certain way and if he's intense enough on stage then he'll overcome his lack of real musical genius. But I don't think you can keep writing or keep reading and suddenly make yourself into an intellectual.

Being an intellectual's a manifestation of personality, not of intensity. And Rollins keeps trying to crack the nut of his own limitations using the intensity he brings to everything else.

Excellent work Lauren :-)