©2022 By Legs McNeil, as told to by Johnny Puke. Art by Brian Walsby
I never paid much attention to G.G. Allin when he was alive because I thought he was a talentless bottom feeder who’d do anything to get attention. Consequently, I never bothered with his music, and stayed away from reading about him. I mean, compared to my pals in the Ramones, what could G.G. Allin possibly have to offer? G.G. seemed like a spectacular mess who was just taking up space until he killed himself. I didn’t really need any more garbage heaps in my life. But after he died, my best friend Tom Hearn told me he’d hung out with G.G. a few times in New Haven, Connecticut, and that he was a nice guy.
“Really?” I asked Tom, intrigued that I let my preconceived notions keep me from checking Allin out. I love it when my prejudiced ideas get shattered and I have to take another look.
“Yeah,” Tom told me, “He was like this incredible asshole on stage, just fighting and screaming and shitting on everyone, but off stage he was really nice. He was kind of like a more violent, fucked-up version of Joey Ramone. Ya know how Joey was so incredibly focused on stage? And then when we were hanging out with him, he was funny as shit? G.G. was kind of like that.”
Hmm, I thought, Maybe I was wrong about the guy…
When I was doing a reading tour of the south last winter, I became friendly with Johnny Puke, from Charleston, South Carolina, where he books and manages the Tin Roof, a fun, dumpy punk club. Johnny told me that he was with G.G. the night he died and I thought it would be an interesting story to get on tape. So I asked Johnny if I could interview him some time, Johnny said, “Yes,” and last October, just as it was getting really cold outside, I headed back to Charleston to interview Johnny Puke. This is his report:
The Last Word in Punk
Johnny Puke: I heard about G.G. Allin through Spin magazine in 1986 when I was just a kid in college, probably 19 years old. I found out about two great bands in this one issue—“Squirrel Bait”– who I fell in love with, and right above the picture of “Squirrel Bait,” was a picture of G.G. Allin that described his live shows– and it enthralled me.
Now I heard G.G. long before that, because of Maximum Rock & Roll magazine, but they always just said that he was this vile, offensive jerk– not worth your time. And when you’re a little kid you took what Maximum Rock & Roll said seriously– because they were the last word in punk. So when I got into college, I started thinking outside of the confines of what punk magazines were telling me I was supposed to think…
See, I was hearing everything second hand, which makes everything that much more exciting. My imagination was much more interesting than reality. I mean, part of the reason why I got into punk rock, was this sort of dangerous, scary aspect to it. Especially, as a kid from West Virginia, listening to Fear or even The Dead Kennedy’s– they kinda scared me because they were so intense and serious. I would see pictures of their shows and it looked like horrible violence could break out at any moment. I think there was a danger-junkie element to it– and the G.G. thing hit me right at the right age when I really wanted to get off on it.
So I started writing letters to G.G., because I was this kid that got off on writing to strange people to see if they would write me back. At the same time that I started writing to G.G., I was also writing to serial killers John Wayne Gacy, and Charles Manson, as well as Henry Rollins.
Manson never answered my letters, but John Wayne Gacy would! He would send me lists of his paintings he did in prison, mostly of clowns and they were cheap as shit! They were like $30 or $40 for small ones and a $150 for a big one. And Henry Rollins always wrote back to me too, he’s really a nice guy.
So I started writing to G.G.—and we got friendly through the mail– I must have written him over a hundred letters– and then he invited me up to New York to see a show! He wasn’t particularly living anywhere, he was staying in Chicago with this really cool girl, Sharon Rose, and he wasn’t really playing that much. But then he wrote me that he was coming to New York to play a show and invited me up. It was probably a twelve or thirteen hour drive from West Virginia and I decided, “I’m gonna do it!” because this was really my entrée into punk rock, ya know?
So I drove to New York and met G.G. and he was nice because he knew who I was. But, he was fucked up! See, when he got to New York and everybody just gave him a bunch of drugs—all of it heroin. And he was so fucked up I don’t think he played a note that night. He fell down the stairs, ya know, just like Johnny Thunders used to.
But after that, G.G.’s letters took on an even friendlier tone.
A Creepy, Ominous Feeling Every Single Night
Shortly after I met G.G. in New York, was when I started helping him with stuff. Ya know, putting him in touch with people that could help him, “Oh, I know somebody with a label, and they’ll probably do a record with you…”
I was running a kind of booking agency from my place in West Virginia, because I’d been in a band, “Let’s Patrol,” and once you go out on a tour, you develop a little notebook of contacts and then you swap those with other bands. When a band came to stay at my house, I’d trade books with them, like, “Now I have someone in Montana, now I have someone in Kansas…”
I had a pretty good three-ring binder going. So I would book friends band’s to help them out and, and that’s when I started helping G.G. with bookings. It wasn’t hard to book him, because it was mostly shitty little places, like the Underground Railroad in Morgantown, West Virginia– the Ice Pit in Richmond, ya know, dumpy punk places. And he would do these shows, but he would usually get arrested and never be able to finish the gig. Some of these shows would last two or three songs– that would be it.
G.G. did attract a lot of hot women, yeah, stripper-junkie chicks. There were girls willing to do anything for G.G. in any town we went to. And sometimes it was fun to see how far he could push it, ya know? In the later years, strippers would just come to shows and say, “We’ll dance for you….”
And there was no money being exchanged, it wasn’t pre- arranged. They would just show up– knowing that he wasn’t going to say no. G.G. was a really charismatic guy, with this whole mysterious aura around him, which just attracted a rabid fan-base.
But most of these people were genuine fuck-ups and psychopaths and criminals and junkies. Any town G.G. was performing in, the 100 or 200 people that would be there, would be the cream of the crop of bad people in that town.
You would be doing that town a favor if you just blew the place up right then and there. The worst criminal element of St. Louis or Richmond or wherever he was playing– would be completely eliminated by just blowing up the club the night of his show.
That’s why I remained interested in G.G. because there was a creepy, ominous feeling every single night, that maybe the earth was going to open up and swallow us whole. Ya know, that something cataclysmically bad very well may happen tonight.
I was becoming closer to G.G. as we worked together through the late 1980’s and our, and then he went to prison from 1991 to 1993. See, he had been on tour, somewhere in Michigan, and G.G. and his band, “The Murder Junkies,” stayed with this crazy girl for three days. And the whole band was getting drunk and partying and doing sex stuff to this girl. Ya know, she liked to be abused, so they were burning her with cigarettes and stuff like that. So the cops came several times during those three days, on noise complaints, but everytime the girl would answer the door and say, “Oh we’re fine, we’ll keep it down…” And she sent them away.
So the band leaves after staying with her for a few days. No problem. Later, the girl gets G.G. on the phone and asks him to marry her. Of course, G.G. was not interested in that at all and tells the girl. So shortly after, charges were filed for rape, for those three days she was partying with the band and being abused—but these charges didn’t come to the surface until a year later when G.G. was on tour in Austin, Texas.
Well, the gig in Austin was a typically, violent G.G. Allin show—and the cops came in and break it up—and then they run G.G. for priors– and all these outstanding warrants from Michigan came back. So they throw him in jail in Austin, and now he has to be extradited.
At that point, we didn’t know what was going to happen to him, we just knew he was in jail in Austin– but they sent him back to Michigan, and he went to trial and was sentenced to prison for a couple years. He went to two different prisons, the first one was in Plymouth, Michigan and they made him wear an orange prison uniform. That’s where he called me from every Saturday. But they finally moved him to Jackson, Mississippi– and there, he was allowed to wear some of his street stuff.
G.G. called me after they moved him and said, “They just moved me and now I can have some of my own clothes, so I need some stuff…”
I said, “What do you need?”
He says, “I need some t-shirts and some socks…”
So I went out and got him some socks. I had been doing some spoken word stuff for about a year and had been touring around– so I had three or four different Johnny Puke Spoken Word t-shirts, so I mailed those to him too. That was all he had for about two or three months and G.G. told me the guards would come in at night and say, “How are you doing in there, Johnny Puke?”
So G.G. was generally okay in prison. About that time, my band starts touring and we find ourselves playing in Detroit and Kalamazoo, Michigan. So we take a day off to go to prison to visit G.G. in Jackson. Now there’s two things in Jackson– a prison, and Ted Nugent’s big retail ponderosa ranch.
The prison thing was interesting, man– you had to take all of your stuff out and put it in a locker– but you were allowed to bring one thing in. Each member of the band– there was five of us– and each person could bring G.G. a roll of quarters, which is ten bucks, and a pack or two of cigarettes. Not all of us smoked, but ya know, that’s money in prison. So each of us brought him the maximum amount.
So we wait a little bit at a picnic table in the yard, and here comes G.G. and he’s wearing a Richard Ramirez t-shirt, ha-ha! So we sit at this picnic table, smoke cigarettes, and just talk and catch up for about two or three hours.
G.G. was big. This was the biggest I’d ever seen him, cause he was eating so well. He really bulked up in prison, and he was happy, ya know? He was focused. He was ready to get outta there. And he was planning for what would be his last tour.
And then, when we were leaving and we were like, “Here are all these cigarettes and here is fifty bucks in quarters…”
But G.G. goes, “No, you guys are on tour, you keep it….”
We knew this is money for him to eat treats and stuff. I mean, fuck, he was in prison! But G.G. says, “I’m getting three meals a day, you guys are on tour…”
So he didn’t even take the money or the cigarettes we offered.
Now what prisoner in a state prison would do that?
That was a really good comment on G.G.’s character. We were on our rock mission, and he was waiting to get on his rock mission—but he was more interested in furthering our little rock mission, than his own.
I thought that was very cool of G.G., ya know?
They Said, “Hey, Is Dee Dee Home?”
When G.G. got out of jail and he came straight to New York City and started playing with his brother Myrle. Yeah, G.G. and Myrle were really close– and Myrle was essential to how G.G. could get out of prison and have a band ready to go in New York. See, when G.G. was in prison, he wrote all these songs and mailed them out to Myrle, so the band was ready to go on tour and record—they were ready to go into Don Perry’s place knock out an album and then, BAM, go on tour.
By this time—1992– I was living in New York and I started hanging out with G.G. and Dee Dee Ramone, who was living at the Chelsea Hotel at the time. Dee Dee was gonna be the guitar player for G.G.’s band, but that lasted about a week, because obviously, it wasn’t gonna work out, ha, ha, ha!
If you watch the G.G. Allin documentary, you can see a little bit of that one week when Dee Dee was playing guitar and rehearsing with them. But Dee Dee didn’t even know the name of the band. In the movie, Dee Dee says, “Well I guess I’m gonna go out with the G.G Allin band…”
And the filmmaker goes, “The Murder Junkies?”
Dee Dee says, “Oh, that’s what it’s called? I just thought it was the G.G. Allin band?”
I was hanging out with them in some bars, and it was really crazy. I don’t know if Dee Dee was doing dope, but G.G. and him were getting drunk a lot. Dee Dee was pretty out of it, I mean he whipped his pants off two nights in a row. I think both G.G. and Dee Dee were trying to impress girls—and Dee Dee exposed himself a bunch. I don’t know if that was “Drunk Dee Dee Behavior,” or “Doped-Up Dee Dee Behavior,” but, yeah, the wang came out, ha, ha, ha!
Myrle lived in this nice building, with an elevator and a doorman on Mulberry Street, and G.G. was staying with him. And I can’t imagine G.G. coming and going from there, with Dee Dee, ya know?
Like, would the doorman buzz up, and say, “Mr. G.G. and Mr. Dee Dee are in the lobby….
Besides Dee Dee, it was interesting all the top cats that wanted to play with G.G.– J. Mascis sang and played drums with him for awhile. Joe Queer was the guitar player for G.G for a time. The photographer, Richard Kern played guitar for him. Ya know, G.G. was a great drummer– before he became the G.G. Allin we all know, and by then, he didn’t play drums anymore.
In the beginning, G.G. had some great songs, the early G.G. stuff was pop punk– the earliest, earliest songs. G.G. and his first band from New Hampshire and Boston, Jabber, was incredible stuff; very memorable, poppy songs with hooks. That was actually some great music. But as time went on, he got more and more violent and focused on the performance side of things. The songs got less poppy and memorable– and more brutal and violent and rough sounding. I liked G.G.’s last album, I sang back-up’s on that ‘cause his lyrics are so great, but it’s very rough. It’s called “Brutality and Bloodshed Girl,” but you can’t top that early shit. It’s up there with the Buzzcocks.
See, as G.G. became more and more infamous, it became more about hype than music.
G.G.’s final mission– which he was trying to accomplish before he went to prison– was that he would do his final performance on Halloween of 1991 and he was going to kill himself onstage. So people began making plans to find out where that show was gonna be– because all of these people wanted to see G.G. die onstage or see what was gonna happen. But what happened, of course, was that he was in prison on Halloween for the next couple of years, so that made his promise null and void.
So when he got out of jail—that rumor resumed and everybody was looking forward to seeing G.G. kill himself and that became the big draw.
I talked to G.G. about it a little bit, but he never was really forthcoming with me. Sometimes would give me a vague answer, once he said that fire was gonna be involved. He hinted to me that he might take other people out with him. I’ll tell you this, Myrle said that when it did come down to that final show, that the Murder Junkies weren’t gonna be in on it, because Myrle wasn’t gonna knowingly play a final show when he knew his brother was gonna kill himself.
But that ratcheted up that last year of his career– because I think all of these people thought, “Maybe tonight is gonna be G.G.’s last night!” Because now he wasn’t saying he was gonna kill himself on Halloween—he was saying you get what you deserve; and you’ll get it when you deserve it.
He was saying, “I’m not going to do anything based on what you want me to do or when you want me to do it. I’m gonna do it when I wanna do it!”
So that added to the whole excitement of every one of these shows. These people were on a death trip– paying ten dollars a head to see if maybe this guy is gonna kill himself tonight.
The Final Show
The final show, though we didn’t know it was the final show, was booked at the Gas Station in the East Village, which was this sort of a sculpture place directly across the street from my apartment on Avenue B and 2nd Street. I lived there with my girlfriend, and G.G. was in town with his girlfriend, a young girl named Liz, a pretty cool chick, who was following him around. When he first got back to New York, he tried to stay with Myrle, but Myrle was getting sick of him. So he and Liz had checked in to the St. Mark’s Hotel, that’s where he was staying.
So G.G. says to me, “Tomorrow we’ll come over to your place before the sound check. We’ll sort of use your place like a dressing room and then we’ll go do the show and we’ll hang out later…”
The next day, G.G. comes over real early, like noon or one o’clock, and the whole band was there– and Richard Kern comes by to take photographs, and people were coming and going all day. So the band was hanging out, and we don’t have anything to do, cause the sound check kept getting pushed back, later and later.
I was like, “I’m bored, let’s get some coke!”
So I go to one of those little deli places that sells coke, across the street. You know how that goes– now every forty-five minutes I’m going back across the street for another bag of blow. So we’re drinking beer and listening to music, and actually having a really good afternoon. By this point, G.G. is getting really wired, we’re all getting wired, but he gets super-wired before a show. G.G. had an internal process he went through where he just ratchets himself up to be ten foot tall and ruthless, so he can perform.
And the coke was adding to that. We went over to do the sound check around five or six, and then it was time to do the show. A bunch of bands had played, but we’d been over in my apartment, doing coke and missed them.
Anyway, G.G. gets onstage and immediately breaks a microphone.
So the sound guy says, “Shows over, I’m not gonna do this!”
There’s all these people there and G.G.’s furious.
He starts yelling at the sound guy and threatening him. So the sound guy and his dog barricade themselves in the sound booth behind this steel gate and G.G.’s throwing mics at him and calling him a pussy and trying to call him out.
But the sound guy wouldn’t come out of his little cage.
Somehow G.G. got another mic and the show went on for a little while. It was a three song show and G.G. was on fire—literally– he punched out a couple people and then he shit on himself and smeared it all over everything– and then was throwing shit at people!
There were about two hundred people there– and right after the show started– they all ran for the courtyard. So there were only about ten people left watching the show.
Somebody got punched out and there was a scuffle and now G.G. doesn’t have a mic. He was frustrated that he’s not even gonna be able to perform this show that he has ratched himself up for– so he starts taking it out on the crowd. He chases people out to the courtyard and he’s yelling, “They won’t even let me finish my show!”
G.G. was trying to attack anyone that’s close, so the crowd gets angry– they’re mad that they waited all afternoon and didn’t even get to see the headline band. They were out in the courtyard, where, unfortunately, there was a recycling container full of bottles—and they start throwing the bottles—it’s like raining Molotov cocktails– and we were having to duck and try to figure out how the fuck we’re gonna get outta there.
So G.G. chases the crowd out of the courtyard on to the street, which becomes a riot of crazy people just yelling and screaming. There’s like seventy-five to a hundred people out on the street, flipping out. G.G. was wearing Liz’s short skirt, no underwear, and these combat boots, covered in blood and shit. Then G.G. lays down in front of the city bus on Avenue B, and the bus can’t pass.
Everybody’s running around crazy.
G.G.’s lying in the street.
And by now we can hear the cops coming.
G.G. tries to get away. but he’s not super New York savvy, ya know, but he’s trying to find his way back to St. Mark’s.
Now the whole crowd is following him.
Now the police are following him.
And he’s wearing a skirt with no underwear, covered in shit.
G.G. was trying to walk down Avenue B– a huge crowd was following him– and it turns into a kind of march that G.G. is leading.
But G.G. doesn’t wanna be leading a march, he wants to get away.
He yells, “Quit following me! quit following me!”
But they won’t quit following him. He hails a cab in front of a bank, gets into the cab with Liz– and the cabbie freaks out. The cabbie was just skeaved out and he won’t go. So they have to get out of that cab. Meanwhile, there’s people on all four corners of the block the cops were looking for what the ruckus is. G.G. has to get out of this one cab and gets into another cab and gets safely home to the St. Mark’s Hotel.
Me, my girlfriend, and the band, we go out to eat at this BBQ place right on Houston, and I was gonna catch up with G.G. later. The promoter of the show had given G.G. a bundle of heroin. Which is ten little bags. So G.G. has the dope and he told me, “I’ll find you later and we’ll go back to your house and we’ll party!”
So I go back to the St. Mark’s by myself and collect him and Liz. I walk up to St. Mark’s and he’s with Bobby Ebbs from Genocide, who was a G.G. nut and a real hanger-on, who just wanted to be around G.G., hoping he’d buy drugs for him and his girlfriend.
So G.G. was real happy to see me walk up, and he says, “Let’s get outta here right now!”
Posing With the Corpse
At about 11: 30, we took a cab and go back to my apartment, and start partying. It was just me, my girlfriend, G.G. and Liz. And G.G.’s got all this dope from the promoter and we started snorting it. I think G.G. would have preferred to shoot it, but I didn’t do that. I was phobic of needles. So he knew I was just a big snorter. And we are drinking Jim Beam, and I was running across the street to get more beers.
So it was a good night.
We were talking about arranging a spoken word tour of Europe for both of us– because neither G.G. or I had never been to Europe, and this tour would be an excuse to go there and cause trouble. We probably stayed up, partying until two or three in the morning, but G.G. was the first to fall asleep, probably around one o’clock.
He was asleep on the floor and he’s snoring. It’s a little apartment and he’s super snoring. Liz and Duande and I stay up talking at least another hour. We are talking and listening to him snore for another hour. Finally, we set Liz up on the futon, and me and my girlfriend go to sleep on the bed, which is only feet away.
We went to sleep to the sound of G.G. snoring, so I had no need to be alarmed that anything was wrong. He wasn’t blue. He didn’t vomit. He was just snoring.
In the morning, at about nine o’clock, Liz wakes me up and says, “I think there’s something wrong with G.G….”
I go over to where G.G. was laying and he was wearing a cut-off jean jacket, Liz’s skirt, those boots, and a silver Nazi helmet that he loved. It was his most prized possession In fact; he left the Nazi helmet at my house before the show, because he loved it so much and didn’t want to lose it.
So I go to him and he’s cold and he’s stiff..
G.G. was very dead on my floor.
I was still a little high from the night before, so I was very confused, but I’m really good in a crisis. I can focus on what has to be done. Little things drive me nuts. If I lose my keys, I go nuts, but if my grandfather dies, suddenly I’m gonna organize everything and pay for it later.
The first thing I do, before anything, was grab the remaining dope and run up to my roof and hide it– because I know what’s gonna happen next.
Then I call Myrle and tell him and then I have to call the police and tell them. I told the cops, “I think we have an OD here, I think we have a death here…,” but I don’t know if I ever admitted to the police that I was doing dope too.
I wasn’t afraid that the cops would charge me with murder, I was more afraid of getting busted for drugs, ya know? G.G. obviously was my really good friend, and there were more than a few people to say that I had no reason to kill him, so I wasn’t really afraid of that.
So they sent a cop over who determined that G.G. was dead.
So all the cops came over to my little apartment and there was a cop standing outside my door for a couple hours. Finally, they put G.G. in a body bag—it was a fifth-floor walk-up– and they carried him down the stairs. It took a couple guys, because G.G. was a big fellow. They carried him down to the street and put him the wagon and drove him to the morgue.
One thing that I hadn’t thought about, that looked really weird and suspicious, was after G.G. fell asleep and he was snoring in that Nazi helmet, in that skirt, in that denim thing– Liz, my girlfriend, and I all took Polaroid’s of us laying next to G.G. that we were gonna show him in morning.
We were cuddling with him and smiling in the photos.
Well, the police found the Polaroid’s and confiscated them. And then we all had to go down to the 9th Precinct to tell our version of the story, and, at first they were very suspicious of us. The cops were like, “What kind of fucking person lies down with a corpse and smiles and waves?”
We had to explain, that although he was in the exact same position, he was not dead– that he was snoring. But boy did that look not too good for us.
Now I can kinda get a kick outta that, but at the time it seemed like, “Fuck! That’s really sick!”
Anyway, when all of this was over– they found that none of us did anything criminal. And I tried very hard, for weeks, to get those Polaroid’s back. But the cops just refused and I don’t know what ever happened to them. I’m sure there in a folder somewhere at the 9th Precinct.
I think G.G. would have thought that was funny. I think he would have loved that story.
He’d be like, “The police thought that Johnny was posing with my corpse!”
INTRODUCTION TO MY COURSE:
ZEN AND THE ART OF THE NARRATIVE ORAL HISTORY
©2021-2022 by Legs McNeil (Based on the techniques developed by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain)
Too long has the Oral History format been thought of as the bastard child of literature; assumed to be a “cut and paste” job for hack writers looking to make an easy buck. In other words, the bottom of the prose barrel. But when the art of the narrative oral history is mastered, it can transform the written spoken word by primary subjects—people who were in the room when the event occurred—into actually experiencing the event being described, with all the human emotion, even more so than the traditional omnipotent narrator.