Celebrity Skin (band)
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Celebrity Skin were a post-punk, glam influenced, hard rock band from Los Angeles, They were active from the mid-1980s till the early '90s, and known for excellent musicianship, outrageous stage antics, and elaborate costumes.
- Don Bolles (drummer)
- Tim Ferris (bassist)
- Robert Haas (guitarist)
- Gary Jacoby (singer)
- Jason Shapiro (guitarist)
- Celebrity Skin (1990, Triple X Records)
- Good Clean Fun (1991, Triple X Records)
Celebrity Skin had its roots in Los Angeles hardcore band the Germs (band). Following the death of Darby Crash and subsequent breakup of the Germs in 1980, Germs guitarist Pat Smear eventually formed the band Vagina Dentata with former Crash girlfriend Michelle Bell on vocals, bassist Tim Ferris, and drummer Gary Jacoby. Vagina Dentata recorded a version of the song "Golden Boys", reputedly one of the last songs co-written by Darby Crash before his death, and a number that would become a Celebrity Skin staple for many years.
Following the breakup of Vagina Dentata in 1985, Ferris and Jacoby recruited guitarist Robert Haas (formerly of the band Endless Banana) to form Celebrity Skin. Their first gig was reputedly a backyard performance for some graduating Caltech students, and was characterized by multiple costume changes and drum solos to flesh out their 15-minute set. At this point, Celebrity Skin did not have a regular drummer, and instead went through a number of drummers (supposedly 27), including, the "Little Matador" and Cujo. Jazz fusion guitarist John Goodsall of the progressive rock bands Atomic Rooster and Brand X was also briefly a member.
Due to their raucous, prop- and costume-filled live shows, they were eventually banned from every club in Hollywood, and subsequently relocated to San Francisco, at which point former Verbal Abuse (band) guitarist Jason Shapiro joined as second lead guitarist. They experienced similar difficulties in San Francisco, where they again were banned from a number of clubs due to their outrageous stage shows. One infamous show took place at the V.I.S. Club on Divisadero Street a week before Christmas.(Date Needed). Photographer and artist Tony Millionaire created a mechanical sleigh pulled by 4 skinned goat heads. The sleigh had a bull's penis in it and the heads rocked back and forth feigning motion. The show was shut down prematurely by the owner, and the animal parts were callously thrown into the street. The next day the penis and heads were discovered off Hayes Street. Shortly thereafter the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story of "possible ritual animal sacrifice". (SF Chron date needed).
After Cujo left the band they were united with another Germs alumnus, drummer Don Bolles, who had also played with Vox Pop and 45 Grave following the breakup of the Germs. At this point, Celebrity Skin focused on the music and costumes, and toned down the more sensational aspects of their stage act. In 1988 they recorded their cover of "SOS" by ABBA for the SST Records compilation The Melting Plot. By 1989 they were one of LA's top live acts, and stories about the band appeared in the Los Angeles Times and in the hardcore magazine Flipside.
In 1989 the band began negotiations with the German record label LSD Records, which had recently signed the LA retro-alternative bands Thee Fourgiven and the Miracle Workers, to go to Berlin and record an album. Negotiations fell through, however, when the band discovered that the record label had only purchased them one-way plane tickets. At the same time, they were evicted from their apartments and forced to live in "The Celebrity Suites", a suite of offices above a dance studio overlooking Hollywood Boulevard; and adjacent to the offices of Rock City News. However, in April 1989 they were soon evicted from these as well and forced to find other accommodations.
In late 1989–early 1990, Celebrity Skin signed with LA-based record company Triple X Records. Triple X Records, founded in 1986 by Dean Naleway and Peter Heur, had developed a reputation for signing first wave hardcore bands like D.I. and Rhino 39, and had recently achieved much success by releasing Jane's Addiction's first album. It was hoped that Triple X could do for Celebrity Skin what had been done for Jane's Addiction, i.e., to take a highly popular local band and record a debut album that would allow them to reach a larger following, resulting in a major label deal. Celebrity Skin joined a stable of other popular LA live acts, including Liquid Jesus, Inland Empires Funky Junkies, Pigmy Love Circus, the Ultras (formerly the Ultraviolets), on the Triple X label and would do many shows with these other bands.
In early 1990 Celebrity Skin recorded a four-song self-titled EP which was produced by producer and former Sparks guitarist Earle Mankey, who had previously produced albums by The Runaways, The Dickies, and The Three O'Clock. The EP was recorded in Mankey's Thousand Oaks house and was released in April 1990. Throughout 1990 the band played a number of gigs at LA clubs the Roxy Theatre (West Hollywood) and the Whisky a Go Go with such other acts as Liquid Jesus, L.A.P.D. (aka KORN), the Ultraviolets, Haunted Garage, Tender Fury, the Miracle Workers, Thelonious Monster, Steel Pole Bath Tub, and Babes In Toyland (band). Celebrity Skin toured the US in 1990 as the opening band for Psychic TV.
In early 1991, the band recorded their first long-playing album, entitled Good Clean Fun, in Hollywood, which was released in April 1991. The album was produced by long-time punk producer Geza X (who had produced albums by Germs (band), the Weirdos, Black Flag (band) and the Dead Kennedys). The album showcased the band's progressively greater pop direction but didn't sell well.
The members of Celebrity Skin typically dressed either in female drag or in elaborate costumes that included body paint, platform shoes, wigs, furs, crowns, lederhosen, feather boas, glitter, longjohns, cheerleader outfits, spacesuits, and tuxedos. Theme shows were a feature of Celebrity Skin's performances. They included a gig for which each member of the band dressed as a different cast member of The Wizard of Oz. Bassist Tim Ferris had long blond (occasionally green) dreadlocks and singer Gary Jacoby at times sported two different hair colors. The musicians would often take on different fictional personalities both on stage as well as off. Bassist Ferris took this to the extreme, and he would transform himself for days. Memorable Tim Ferris alter-egos were; "Fred McMercury" (a strange combination of Fred MacMurray and Freddie Mercury), "Polyester-Man" (a 70's sleeze-ball complete with three piece suit and disco hair), and "Mountain-Man" (a rough and tumble fella from the Ozarks with a Coon-Skin hat, and buck-skin coat, pants, and boots). Gary Jacoby was known to have shown up for a gig dressed as Pinocchio.
In 1990, Celebrity Skin were playing in New York, touring with former 45 Grave bassist Rob Graves (who was helping them out on the road), when he was discovered dead of an overdose in the back of the tour van.
Throughout 1991, Celebrity Skin continued to play local gigs in support of their album, playing at such clubs as Club Lingerie, Gazzarri's, and the Roxy in Los Angeles; the Kennel Club in San Francisco; and Bogart's in Long Beach, with such supporting acts as Tad (band), L7 (band), Helmet (band), Tiny Tim (musician), Green Jello, the Dickies, Theater Carnivale, Ethyl Meatplow, Shonen Knife, Permanent Green Light, the Muffs, and the Ultras.
On August 24, 1991 they played the Splattering of Tribes Festival in the desert outside Indio, California, with such acts as Lead Corpse, the Rails, Liquid Jesus, Sort of Quartet, Pigmy Love Circus, Haunted Garage, the Stains, DC3, Suplex Slam, Porno Sponges, and Dead Corpse.
On December 4, 1991 Celebrity Skin played a show at the Shark Club in Hollywood with Pigmy Love Circus and the Saddletramps, 10 days after the death of Queen (band) vocalist Freddie Mercury. The gig would turn out to be their final one, and the next week the band's breakup due to internal tensions was announced in the LA Weekly.
Despite their enormous popularity in the LA alternative club scene, Celebrity Skin never managed to achieve mainstream success. Their glam, '70s-influenced look, melodic hooks, and feel-good lyrics set them apart from the then-popular grunge movement, which emphasized stripped-down attire (typically jeans and flannel shirts), heavy and frequently atonal music, and angry lyrics. In addition, because of their glam look and sound, they were frequently lumped in with 80s glam metal bands such as Poison and Warrant despite having little musically in common with these acts. A description of their travails can be found on the web site Sleazegrinder:
The mullets of the fly-over states were manifestly unprepared to cope with the 'Skins. These poor saps automatically all hadda buy every record they saw s'long as the doods on the cover were rank lookin' longhairs with nose rings and they all bought the e.p. only to feel infuriated, ashamed, and ripped-off by how un-macho Celebrity Skin was--and their Geza X-produced full-length on Triple X records confused the heartland's bleached denim-wearers even more. These were the days when Jane's Addiction still elicited violent reactions from the farm towns, and Celebrity Skin's waggish and whimsical art-trash was just well beyond the Def Leppard and Bon Jovi weened, sheltered, programmed, milk-fed frames of reference. The Celebrity's still unforgivable androgyny and bizarre sense of humour was even lost on many of my own stonewashed bros from way out, who just never fully appreciated that whole whacky, zany, west coast silly joke-rock vibe, a la the Dickies. A lot of people don't need their rock to be funny. Especially not rural Metal Church enthusiasts.
Following the breakup of Celebrity Skin, the various members moved on to other music-related pursuits. According to AllMusic, guitarist Jason Shapiro formed the band Threeway (still in existence as of late 2011) also currently playing with Redd Kross, and bassist Tim Ferris formed Big Baby, and later reputedly joined the Cramps. Lead singer Gary Jacoby released a second CD as a member of the Death Folk with former Germ Pat Smear, and a solo album under the name of Gary Celebrity, Diary of a Monster, which contained the former Celebrity Skin songs "Fairies To London", "Golden Boys", "Gods", "Hobos", and "Life's a Gas". Drummer Don Bolles was a disc jockey for the Los Angeles radio station KDLD, where he had a regular and long-running show called The All-Night Truck Driver's Show and played in the occasional 45 Grave reunion show. In 2006, in answer to the favorable response to the Germs biopic What We Do Is Secret (film), Bolles, guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Lorna Doom reunited the LA hardcore band the Germs with the actor who played deceased singer Darby Crash, Shane West, taking over on vocals. Bolles currently[when?] plays with the group Fancy Space People.
In August 2005, Celebrity Skin posted a page on the MySpace web site and as of April 2010 had 962 friends. On October 6, 2007, all five members of Celebrity Skin reunited for the second annual LA Weekly Detour Music Festival in downtown Los Angeles and were enthusiastically received by the crowd; a number of videos of this performance (as well as a few from their heyday) are available on YouTube. As of August 2008 they have posted no information regarding future shows.
Sound and image
Celebrity Skin's musical style is a combination of glam rock and punk rock, i.e., it consists of pop hooks and strong melodies played with a rough, loud, feedback-laden edge. Similar to their contemporaries Redd Kross, Celebrity Skin celebrated 70s musical and fashion styles. Their most relevant musical antecedents were the so-called "glitter" bands of mid-70s pre-punk Los Angeles, including Sparks (band), Zolar X and the Quick, as well as the early Los Angeles glitter-influenced punk bands the Germs (band), the Weirdos, the Skulls (American band), and the Dickies. Their music also had elements of such first wave glam bands as Slade, David Bowie, T. Rex (band), and the New York Dolls; an early review by the LA Weekly stated that Celebrity Skin was "the only band in Hollywood to take seriously the music and styles of the original wave of glam rockers like Bowie Sparks, Gary Glitter, T. Rex, etc." Another obvious musical antecedent was Redd Kross, one of the first L.A. bands to embrace the sound, themes, and images of 70's trash culture and combine them with the harder edge of punk rock.
Celebrity Skin's sound evolved over their career, with earlier songs like "Long Black Yak" and "Rat Fink" having a rougher, more punk/hardcore quality while later songs like "Evicted" showing off more of their pop side, with lusher harmonies and more melodic guitar. In recorded work, their sound was considerably more polished than their live sound,[according to whom?] and was augmented by keyboards,and sound effects. Their lyrics often focused on themes such as glamor, celebrity, stardom, etc.
Written descriptions of their music emphasized their musical range. A 1990 article in BAM described their sound as having "the quirkiness and strange time signatures of Sparks", "the multi-lead guitars of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Wishbone Ash", "the sheer punk rock energy/white noise of the Germs", and "a knack for hooks worthy of ABBA or KC and the Sunshine Band"; an article from BAM later in 1990 emphasized their "trademark Sparks-meet-Dickies-meet-Oingo Boingo sound". An LA Weekly article from 1990 mentioned "distorted sounds of 70's pop washed over with raw punk and gushes of feedback", and an article from 1991 describes their sound as "stringing Queen crunch-chords and Josie & the Pussycats harmonies and the strip-joint doorman's come-on of Alice Cooper". Finally, a review in the rock trade publication Music Connection from 1989 described Celebrity Skin's musical style as follows:
Celebrity Skin is certainly like nothing you’ve ever heard before or likely will hear again. At times, the band's songs transport you to a crowded beer hall in Düsseldorf, Germany, with packs of unruly Germans singing drunken anthems. Then they whisk you off to England for an eye and an earful of campy glam humor and drag-rock fashion. And then whoosh, its [sic] back to the States for a screeching thrash that coud [sic] only emanate from a decidedly American intellect.
Celebrity Skin covered a broad range of songs by other artists. Among their most popular songs[according to whom?] was a cover of "SOS" by Swedish pop group ABBA, which they recorded twice, once on the "Melting Plot" compilation for SST Records and once on their eponymous Triple X EP. Their covers of "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" by Sparks and "All the Young Dudes" by Mott the Hoople were never recorded but were also extremely popular show closers in their live shows. They also covered "Celluloid Heroes" by the Kinks, "Godstar" by Psychic TV, "Elo Kiddies" by Cheap Trick, and "To Sir With Love" by Lulu (singer).
Celebrity Skin's live shows were renowned[by whom?] for their raucousness and entertainment value, and mimicked the image and theatrics of 70s glam artists like Alice Cooper, Gary Glitter, Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, and Slade. Moreover, they frequently played shows with other groups, such as Theatre Carnivale, Green Jello, and Gwar, that had elaborate stage shows and interactive theatrics.
Celebrity Skin was named after a pornographic magazine of the time.
Courtney Love was a big fan of Celebrity Skin's and was often spotted at their Hollywood shows. She also toured with the group at one point (as a non-musician). She is alleged to have later bought the rights to the name Celebrity Skin from the band, which she apparently used for her band Hole's album by the same name.
Those who knew them often joked that they were a band of Leos as this was the star sign of at least four members of the band (Bolles, Ferris and Jacoby).
Throughout their entire tenure, Don Bolles had a bumper sticker on his drum kit that said, "pure crystal, powered by God". It is not known what this meant.
In 1990 Celebrity Skin appeared in an episode of the television drama thirtysomething (TV series) playing at the downtown Los Angeles venue Al's Bar.
In 1991 the band appeared in the movie Rich Girl but their music did not appear on the soundtrack.
During their heyday, it was not unusual to see many members of other popular LA alternative bands at their shows, including Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, Steven McDonald of Redd Kross, Donita Sparks of L7 (band), Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster, Dukey Flyswatter of Haunted Garage, and Duchess De Sade.
Former Adz member Bruce Duff was the president of the Celebrity Skin fan club in 1991.
Celebrity Skin was managed by Rick Van Santen, former co-president of the punk rock promotional company Goldenvoice.
Celebrity Skin opened for a number of older, more established punk and glam acts, including Jayne County, the Weirdos, Johnny Thunders, the Dickies, Legal Weapon, and Iggy Pop. They also played with a number of larger profile contemporary alternative bands such as Jane's Addiction, Shonen Knife, L.A. Guns, and the Muffs.
Celebrity Skin played gigs with 1970s novelty acts Tiny Tim and the Cowsills. Celebrity Skin had a following of models, actresses, and strippers, many of whom would dress in authentic 70s fashions for their shows.
Formed in Los Angeles; first gig reputedly a backyard party at Caltech
Soon banned from clubs in LA; move to San Francisco
Move back to LA
Spring/Fall 1988 Cooperage, UCLA show with Legal Weapon
December 1988—Probe club show with Ultras/Ultraviolets
12/03/88 Raji's show with Liquid Jesus and Haircuts That Kill
04/25/89 Article in LA Times by Rob Winfield, mentions gig 04/25/89 at John Anson Ford Theater, Hollywood, opening for Jane's Addiction; mentions negotiations with "European record company"; mentions UCLA gig previous year
07/13/89—Whisky a go-go show with Pigmy Love Circus and Groovie Ghoulies
07/26/89 Anaheim Convention Center supporting The Damned (medieval fantasy theme)
Mid summer 1989—Cover and article in Flipside Magazine by Sarah Hackett; mentions "recent Raji's show"
09/04/89 Review of Whisky show in Music Connection
09/04/89—Article in Music Connection Magazine by Eric Niles
10/28/89 Limbo Lounge/Speak No Evil Christmas In Hell show
11/22/89 Whisky a go-go show with the Miracle Workers
11/28/89 Westwood Plaza show, UCLA
12/31/89 Club Lingerie show with L7 and Imperial Butt Wizards
Early 1990—Europe tour
USA tour opening up for Psychic TV
04//09/90 Review in LA Weekly by Johnny Angel of Palace show with Trulio Disgracias and Thelonious Monster
April 1990 Release of EP "Celebrity Skin" on Triple X Records, produced by Earle Mankey 04/09/90 Mention in LA Weekly of episode of "thirtysomething" filming at Al's Bar
04/13/90 Roxy show with Clyde, Liquid Jesus and the Weirdos
04/27/90 Helter Skelter show with the Warlock Pinchers, Ultraviolets and Fudge Factory
08/10/90 Article in BAM by Scotto Morrow
08/18/90 Whisky a go-go show with Haunted Garage and Pygmy Love Circus
09/01/90 Bogart's show in Long Beach with Tender Fury
09/07/90 Review of Whisky a go-go show in BAM by Bill Holdship; mention that it is their first appearance "in several months"; mention that it was done in costume as characters from The Wizard of Oz
October 1990 Camarillo State Hospital show
10/27/90 Roxy show with the Miracle Workers, Babes In Toyland and Steel Pole Bathtub
10/30/90 Picture and review of "pre-Halloween party" show at Roxy in the Daily Trojan newspaper by Sean Doles; mention that it is their final performance for next six months
11/02/90 Review of Roxy show in LA Weekly by Lorraine Ali
11/16/90 Review of 10/27/90 review by Johnny Angel in BAM magazine of show at Roxy with Miracle Workers & Babes In Toyland
02/22/91 Article in BAM magazine announcing their record release party April 8
03/01/91 Club Lingerie show with Tad, L7, and Helmet
04/07/91 Article in Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar Supplement by Steve Appleford.
04/10/91 Kennel Club show in San Francisco with Tiny Tim, Green Jello, the Dickies
04/13/91 Hollywood High show with Tiny Tim, Green Jello, the Dickies
04/22/91 Release date for LP, "Good Clean Fun"
04/23/91 Record Release party at Hong Kong Café
05/18/91 Bogart's show in Long Beach
07/18/91 Gazarri's show with Theater Carnivale, Ethyl Meatplow
08/11/91 Roxy show with Shonen Knife, the Cowsills, Psycho Sisters, Permanent Green Light
08/17/91 Bogart's show in Long Beach, with Muffs and Ultras
08/24/91 Splattering of Tribes Festival with Lead Corpse, The Rails, Liquid Jesus, Sort of Quartet, Pigmy Love Circus, Haunted Garage, The Stains, DC3, Suplex Slam, Porno Sponges, and Dead Corpse, Indio, California
08/26/91 Club With No Name
10/08/91-10/31/91 U.S. tour opening for L.A. Guns: 10/08/91 Toad's Palace, New Haven CT 10/09/91 CITI, Boston, Massachusetts 10/10/91 Derringers ??? 10/12/91 Hammerjack's, Baltimore, Maryland 10/13/91 Shirley Acrews, Inwood, West Virginia 10/15/91 Bayou, Washington, D.C. 10/16/91 Character's, Greenville, South Carolina 10/17/91 Illusions, North Charlston, South Carolina 10/19/91 Cadillacs, Hickory, North Carolina 10/20/91 Masquerade, Atlanta, Georgia 10/21/91 Beacham Theatre, Orlando FL 10/23/91 Button South, Hallendale, Florida 10/25/91 Club Lavela, Panama City, Florida 10/26/91 TBA, New Orleans, Louisiana 10/31/91 Universal Amphitheater, Universal City, California
12/04/91 Shark Club show with Pigmy Love Circus, Saddletramps
12/13/91 Breakup announced in LA Weekly
- Unknown author, Early Warnings of Fun. BAM, February 22, 1991. [pg. 32].
- Ali, Lorraine. Celebrity Skin at the Roxy (review). LA Weekly, November 2-November 8, 1990. [pg. 87].
- Angel, Johnny. Trulio Disgracias, Celebrity Skin, Thelonious Monster at the Palace (review). LA Weekly February 9-February 15, 1990.
- Angel, Johnny. Celebrity Skin, The Miracle Workers, Babes in Toyland (review). BAM, November 16, 1990. [pg. 78].
- Appleford, Steve. Celebrity Skin Sheds Obscurity. Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar, April 7, 1991. [pg. 92-93].
- Doles, Sean. Celebrity Skin Celebrates the 70's. Daily Trojan, October 30, 1990. [pg 9].
- Gehman, Pleasant. More Boys-In-A-Box. LA Weekly, February 9-February 15, 1990. [pg. 150].
- Gehman, Pleasant. Send in the Clowns. LA Weekly, December 13-December 19, 1991. [pg. 165].
- Hackett, Sarah. Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Out of the House . . . Celebrity Skin. Flipside magazine, #61, Mid-Summer Issue, 1989.
- Holdship, Bill. Hello Yellow Brick Road? BAM, September 7, 1990. [pg. 54].
- Holdship, Bill. Rock N’ Roll Disgrace: A Joke Band Defies Detractors to become Essential Listening. Only in LA. Spin magazine, 1991.
- Morrow, Scott. "Flying High Over LA's Cuckoo Nest With Celebrity Skin." BAM, August 10, 1990. [pg. 20-21].
- Niles, Eric. Celebrity Skin, the Whisky. Music Connection, September 4-September 17, 1989.
- Smith, RJ. Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: You Too Can Be Like Celebrity Skin. LA Weekly, June 28-July 4, 1991. [pg. 40, 42-43]. Winfield, Rob. Self-Made Rockers Celebrity Skin Play Ford Theatre. Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1989. [pg. 19, 22].
- Raw footage of Celebrity Skin performing 'Rat Fink' 
- Raw footage of Celebrity Skin in the '80s performing 'Golden Boys' 
- Celebrity Skin entry on AMG 
- Review of Celebrity Skin EP on AMG 
- Review of Good Clean Fun on AMG 
- Celebrity Skin MySpace page 
- Sleazegrinder entry for Celebrity Skin 
- Flipside commentary on an early Celebrity Skin show