Why Punks and Monsters Are My Friends

“Moldy Ramone” at his Benefit

Bob wrote this very touching story about his good friend Steve, who died in July 2003. It’s  funny, poignant read, and a wonderful tribute.

Growing up in Queens I was a scared kid. At home I hid my eyes when my dad watched monster movies but that only made the scary noises worse. In the city I was scared of the punks, girls with Mohawks, guys with safety pins through their cheeks. They were hardcore. And when we moved from the East Coast to rural Minnesota, I was terrified. Y’all have cows and chickens and shit here.

So it only figured that at high school orientation the upperclassman assigned to me was Moldy.

Moldy was a punk, a big, broad shouldered kid in a leather jacket with a surly attitude who could say more with his middle finger than my Nona could with both hands. He had clearly been roped into orientation duty as punishment for eating puppies… or freshmen. At lunchtime I sat with the new kids and spazzes while Moldy sat with other punks and read “Fangoria,” the gory full-color magazine for monster movie aficionados. Moldy embodied all the things that terrified me the most. When he learned I didn’t like punk rock music and monster movies Moldy shook his head in disgust.

Steve in high school (L)

Seeking to correct my musical failings, Moldy told me to get tickets to see Alice Cooper in concert. I knew very little about Alice Cooper except that he was a man performing under a woman’s name, had very long hair, and wore a lot of eye makeup. Because Moldy was bringing a date I had to as well, so I ended up asking a girl I saw wearing an Alice Cooper T-shirt. And since I was paying she said yes.

Moldy blasted Alice Cooper during the endless ride to the St. Paul Civic Center, and when I suggested he turn the volume down he flipped me the bird. Our seats were in the back of the second balcony, which suited me fine as I was already going deaf before the lights went down. Moldy and MY date departed for the scrum in front of the stage, leaving me with HIS date. So, great, I was sitting in a crowd of drugged up punks with my only protection a skinny senior girl who was trying to letter in marijuana. I mentally began composing a last will.

After hours of utter cacophony Moldy’s date said “What’s that?” and pointed where the crowd was leaping to its feet one after another. As the Wave got closer I said “I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find ou…” And then I couldn’t talk because every orifice on my head began gushing liquid. Through tears and snot we joined the crowd fleeing the tear gas that someone had smuggled into the civic center. When my vision cleared I was standing in a parking lot surrounded by fifteen thousand angry drugged-up punks. I began writing my will on the back of a program.

Moldy had been caught in the thickest part of the cloud. Furious at being tear-gassed and even MORE angry at having his concert cancelled Moldy beat up some poor bastard’s car. He crumpled the side panels, stomped the hood in, smashed the windshield, and crushed the roof. Moldy was a one-man riot. Other punks were backing away from him, hands raised.

Alice Cooper had failed him, but Moldy persisted. To teach me to appreciate horror movies he insisted we go see “Altered States.” Trying to pass a slow-moving pickup with Oklahoma plates I discovered something I had never heard of before, passing gear. My rear-wheel drive RX-7 accelerated so hard that the back wheels passed the front and we slid nose-to-nose past the pickup. For one moment we saw Maw, Paw, and Peggy-Sue Oklahoma, their mouths identical “O’s” of surprise, and then we slid backwards into the ditch.

School Play – Steve in “Mouse Trap”

Looking over my shoulder I saw a telephone pole rushing directly towards us, and I leaned out of my driver’s seat across Moldy’s lap just as an enormous BANG erupted, then everything stopped. Moldy and I looked out the windshield where the telephone pole was standing in our headlights.

“Huh,” I said, “Lucky we missed it!”

Then the pole swayed in a gust of blizzard wind and Moldy fixed me with a stare that promised to do a better job of killing me. My car had gone through the pole, which had fallen straight down on its stump and was now supported only by its own electrical wires. I couldn’t get out my side of the car because there was a four foot chunk of pole where the driver’s seat had been. And that was just ONE accident we were in together.

But the accidents weren’t always MY fault. One day Moldy heard that monster movie star Vincent Price was appearing for free down in the Cities. In his excitement he took a turn too fast and rolled his car into the middle of a cornfield. Finding the farm house empty, he called me from the farmer’s own phone to come give him a ride. Leaving his car upside down in the field, we raced into St. Paul. When he shook Vincent Price’s hand, Moldy still had corn in his hair.

After high school we roomed together in a big, run-down apartment. Moldy filled the dining room with shelves and shelves of hand-painted monster models. The dining room gave me the creeps. Sometimes the monsters almost seemed to move. Actually they DID move, because whenever he was getting it on with one of his many pierced and tattooed girlfriends he would turn up his punk rock music so loud all the monsters danced on their shelves. The blaring music, the monsters, and the screams from his bedroom turned our apartment into a perverse Dracula’s castle.

Eventually I moved in with a girlfriend, while Moldy went on to local notoriety as Moldy Ramone, singing punk rock karaoke and performing with the band ‘The Strappin’ Daddy-Ohs.’ And when Moldy got cancer Ian Rans’ own bartender, Ollie Stench, hosted a punk rock benefit for him at 7th Street Entry. The place was packed wall-to-wall with piercings and leather and music so loud it drove my ear drums into each other in the middle of my head. Everybody was there: Red Vendetta, Plate-o-Shrimp, Bernie the Trailer Park Queen, and many others. And I wasn’t scared at all because all these punks were there for Moldy.

Despite the care of so many people things didn’t go well, and soon I was part of Moldy’s home hospice team. He was weak but his spirits rose when he learned that Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” was going to be showing at one Minnesota theater, way out in Elk River. He was determined to go, and I was the guy who owned a minivan big enough to transport him, his care team, and his wheelchair. Even sick Moldy was a big guy to load into a van, but whenever his wife needed help she made one phone call, to a bouncer at First Avenue. Minutes later this leather-clad giant loomed out of the darkness. He lifted Moldy into the car as gently as a man cradling an infant, and with a nod disappeared back into the night.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I told Moldy as we got going, “I’ll try not to knock down any telephone poles if you promise not to beat the shit out of my car.” Scowling, Moldy flipped me the bird. When we got to Elk River the movie had been cancelled… but when the manager learned of Moldy’s condition he agreed to show the movie himself. A half dozen of us sat alone in the theater with popcorn and beverages and watched this awful, awful movie. Rob Zombie’s ‘House of a Thousand Corpses.’ Moldy was delighted.

Not long after I stood over Moldy in his gurney in his living room. It was 2 am, Moldy had been mostly unresponsive lately, and the end was near. We were surrounded by the same monster models that he’d had in our apartment, plus at least as many more. It was as if Mothra and the Mummy had had children named Pinhead and Alien and Predator and Freddy Krueger. But they didn’t scare me anymore – Frankenstein and Triffids pale by comparison to what cancer does to your oldest friend. They were standing vigil for Moldy with me, but I still didn’t like them.

More to fill the silence than for any other reason I said, “Y’know I still don’t like all these creepy monster models.”

One of his hands, which had been curled on his chest all day moved. Slowly, carefully, and with great eloquence, Moldy flipped me the bird.

Written and performed for “Rockstar Storytellers,” March 2013. Copyright© 2013 Bob Alberti, all rights reserved.