Monday, February 13, 2006

Neck Or Nothing*
Happy Birthday Henry Rollins

I've been thinking about necks this morning. You see, it's Henry Rollins' birthday, and he certainly stands out as one of the great bulletheads of our age. Born Henry Garfield, Henry is originally from Washington, D.C. though his current residence is Los Angeles. It's hard to label Rollins as he fills so many roles: musician, stand-up comic, poet, author, publisher (his company is called 2.13.61 after his birthday), spoken word artist and premiere scowler.

"I cannot believe they are out of Almond Hazelnut Swirl."

As a young man, Henry worked in the local Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop. With a regimen of weightlifting and anger, Rollins transformed himself from a 98-pound weakling into a burly muscleman with a Mack truck body. Over the years, tattoos have been added (he has a thick set of bars tattooed across the back of his neck), and he has been perceived as intimidating visually as well as he is vocally.

Henry became involved with punk music through his close friendship with Ian MacKaye, the frontman for local discord artists, Fugazi, and he performed with the band State of Alert for one record before disbanding. When the hardcord punk band Black Flag came to D.C. in 1981, Henry jumped up on stage and sang with them. History was made that night, because the group reshuffled it's lineup, and he became their new lead singer. From that point he evolved from being Henry Garfield into Henry Rollins, "Rollins" being his gruff nickname. Henry has had a successful film career, invariably playing the "heavy," and he seems on constant tour with his work as a spoken word performer.

"I call this piece, Duck. Duck. Goose."

Speaking of movies, when I started thinking about Rollins' distinctive neck, it reminded me of this very obscure little movie that Lee Marvin made called Shack Out On 101 (1955.) Directed by Edward Dein this noir lite flick is set in a beach dive propped up against the water and Highway 101 in California. In the greasy spoon are George, the owner, The Slob (played by Lee Marvin), Kotty (played by Howard Hughes' secret wife Terry Moore), and Kotty's nuclear research scientist boyfriend, Professor Sam. The Slob, Lee Marvin, is stealing secrets from the lab and selling them to the Commies, but the real hoot in the movie, in my opinion, is this strange bodybuilding scene going on in the shack between Lee Marvin and George (Keenan Wynn.)

"Show me your nuclear secrets or else!"

In one particularly oddball exhibition, Wynn and Marvin are exercising, bare-chested, in the diner's eating area. The two check out each other's flabby pecs, and the effect is oddly homoerotic, pointedly so when Kooty (the waitress) walks in and the men bolt for cover, as though she caught them in flagrante. - Big Red - Build Your Neck!

I remember The Slob (Marvin) spitting out this one line to Wynn, "I wanna have a really BIG NECK cause that's what shows when you're dressed!" Words to live by. Here are some words from Henry, "I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone." Happy birthday Mr. Rollins.

Drawing by Nathan Ota

*Neck or nothing is a horse racing term which means to win by a neck or to win nothing. It's idiom is "to risk everything."


Anonymous Wrethcat said...

Oooooh! I know a certain someone who just LOVES Mr. Rollins! I know it is His Birthday, but she has put in an order to have him delivered to her tied up in a Big Red bow.

By the by, How many year does one get for kidnapping a celebrity and keeping them chained to a bed in the basement?

>^, ,^<

12:08 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

I thought of her while I was writing this piece, Wrethy.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As far as blogging, I think it's great. Perhaps it'll teach Americans how to write, and form a sentence. And I think having an opinion is a very healthy thing and blogging gives people a chance to articulate without impacting much else on someone else's life." Henry Rollins, Online chat, Washington Post, 1/12/06

Not surprisingly, Mr. Rollins is a fan of blogging. Wouldn't it be nice to know that he reads this blog, Cube?


12:33 PM  
Blogger always write said...

He was an idol for the alternateen scene when I was in high school. Thanks for writing this :)

12:45 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I am still confused by his "stand up comic" label. I've heard him speak plenty of time, and he seems slightly more jovial than his appearance would indicate, I still cannot visualize him doing "stand-up".

1:18 PM  
Blogger Rhinestone Cowgirl said...

One of my classmates at GU is a friend since childhood of Henry Rollins. My classmate brought in pics of his kid's christening one day, and lo and behold - Mr. Rollins was the godfather.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Rob Lowe said...

The world needs more guys like him. Legit good bad boys are hard to come by.


1:34 PM  
Anonymous DRFS/Sue said...

Once upon a time...I went to SXSW. And there in a crush of people, Henry Rollins stepped on me. He felt like a brick wall. Of yummy goodness. I had to contain myself from hugging him and never letting go. Or at least...not letting go for awhile. He apologized...I stuttered "that's perfectly fine" and the moment passed. I heart angry 40 somethings who can bench press 250.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

K: Rollins has early on been a supporter of writing in all of it's formats. I would doubt that he sees this. My little blog flies pretty low under the big guns radar.

Always: His fan base seems to cross a lot of lines in terms of age groups and interests. One of my friends (in her twenties) has a huge crush on him.

Phil: For a while, he was doing Catskills type routines in his spoken word performances. Maybe he was channeling Shecky Greene & Henny Youngman at that time. Take my anger...please.

Rhinestone: It seems like everyone in D.C. has a good Henry story. He gets back into this area quite a bit. I'm always hearing of sightings. I do know he is (or was) an avid collector of old records.

Rob: Women love the bad boys. I hear men complain about this a lot saying, "I'm a nice guy, but women always want the men who are trouble."

Drfs/Sue: I secretly think he's a pussycat underneath that scowl. Still waters run deep and all that.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Wrethcat said...

Can I be that kitty on his shoulder? I bet I would never need catnip

>^, ,^<

3:12 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Wrethy? You are...incorrigible. You have handsome Mr. Joe. Don't be greedy.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I share a birthday with Henry Rollins???? Wow. I don't think I've ever felt quite this cool.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

How about that, Reya? ;)

4:31 PM  
Blogger Blue Dog Art said...

As always, very informative. Thanks. (See I did survive the Super Bowl). :-)

4:38 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Blue Dog!!! Where ya been? :D

4:41 PM  
Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

He does keep an online journal of sorts...dispatches.

I wonder if he's still angry. I liked him when he was angry.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I loved Henry Rollins starting in 8th grade. My friend's brother was all about Black Flag. I still have a search and destroy t-shirt somewhere. I should dig that out.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Lord C: I think he's the kind of person who will always be lashing out at injustices.

Momentary: Dig it out and sell it on eBay. ;)

8:14 PM  
Blogger mysterygirl! said...

This was awesome. Henry Rollins is interesting-- and I always love your captions.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Mystery: Thank you. I always try to read your blog every day. So we've got some mutual admiration thing going, right? ;)

8:54 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I never heard of Henry Rollins. How did I miss out on this guy?

10:23 PM  
Anonymous drew said...

Interesting reading on a sort-of hometown boy, Ms. Cube! I read that he is yearning to move back to the area, too. I can't say that it would displease me to have the voice of angry reason expressed without fear of no one missing the outspoken!

And, Reya? Happy birthday! To think, we knew you back when.... (no we didn't, but it sounded poetic, and yanno... I went with it)

11:14 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Barbara: For only listen to classical music. :x Teasing, Barbara.

Drew: Oh he appeals to your angry bad boy. I knew that.

11:30 PM  
Blogger cuff said...

A few details (one of which I can't believe you didn't mention):
1. the thick bars on his neck are the black flag insignia.
2. At the time Ian MacKaye was dischord yes, but more importantly minor threat (pre fugazi).
3. Rollins can be spotted during the summer at Fort Reno shows. It's a good time and last time I saw him there he was digging through a stack of pizza boxes looking for a slice.
4. to his resume you could add children's show cast member -- he has appeared in a local DC kids show called "Pancake Mountain," a show that basically overlaps with the dischord crowd and brings in national acts (e.g. arcade fire) for "dance parties" with kids.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Mass: I thought about mentioning the black flag insignia/black bars thing, and I let it ride. You're right, though, in mentioning it. I should have gone back and added it. As for his music history. When I started thinking back of all the little time lines and crossovers, I felt like I was getting too bogged (blogged?) down and away from where I was going because he's so active. I did not know about the children's show(s), so thanks for that piece of information. As to him being seen at Ft. Reno et al? I am constantly hearing, "I saw Henry Rollins (fill in the blank where.)" For someone who doesn't live here anymore, he's highly visible and present. I have a girl friend who has a whomping big crush on him. When she saw this piece late last night, she said, "Of course, you wrote that for me." Well...of course, I did. Again, my sympathy for the loss of your mother-in-law.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

They were just showing him on Armed Forces Network over here wishing him a Happy Birthday.

Even though he's not a big Bush fan, he's been to Iraq and supports the troops.

Plus, his back tattoo is THE COOLEST EVER.


1:59 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Mr. Jinxy: I saw photographs of him in Iraq, so I knew he had been there. I read an interview with Henry recently, and the interviewer was grilling him about the tattoos. He deflected it, saying they had been done in the pass for personal reasons, and he viewed them as nothing more than part of himself, and an older, aging part of himself. In other words, there's nothing to see here folks...move on.

4:31 PM  
Blogger elvira black said...

Ach, another great post from the Cube! I love the quote about reinventing yourself--so true. He is freakin' awesome, isn't he? And the Lee Marvin leitmotif--mwah! (That's a kiss of "perfecto" to you)!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Rollins!!!

5:08 PM  

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