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CATHOUSE LIVE! 20 Years Later: A Commentary By KNAC.COM's JUNKMAN

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Saturday, August 29, 2015 @ 9:18 AM


"Let's pretend it never left"

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A number of years ago, I guess around 1986 a couple of guys had a great idea. They went to a JUDAS PRIEST/ DOKKENshow in Maryland or Virginia, I forget, and armed with a video camera, decided to interview attendees of the show, to get a vibe about the whole scene in general from the street level; the fans of the bands and the whole genre, from the fashion and the attitude, the cars they drove, etc. What happened was, just like a time capsule, the video surfaced years later and became the underground hit film Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, around the same time that was filmed, club promotors Riki Rachtman and B>Taime Downe had been running a very successful once a week club that catered to the same glam band rock scene that was going on in town at the time. The fact that most of the bands that were part of that whole scene actually lived nearby and attended the club made it so special. The whole "Hair Band" genre of rock was actually spurned right then and there, and the "Cathouse" was the epicenter of that scene. Anything goes, it was. Lots of decadence, sex, groupies, posers, outrageous dress and copious amounts of drugs and booze were what fueled it. Of course, having long hair was key. It was your calling card and badge of honor back then, for both women and especially guys. Hairspray and a stripper girlfriend were essential needs. Being in a band that played in Sunset Strip clubs like Gazzari's and the Roxy and the Whisky A Go Go was an even bigger upgrade. Didn't matter if your band was awful. If you had the look and the following, if you passed out the right amount of flyers on the Strip on any given night, you were in.

For awhile there in Hollywood, it was a constant party and the scene thrived. people from all over moved there just to be part of it. Riki became an MTV VJ host of Headbangers Ball, a very popular TV show at the time, and even became a DJ on Los Angeles beloved KNAC radio station. Some of the bands became superstars. Most didn't. Many parlayed their success into bigger and better things over the years. Most didn't. Some continued to age gracefully and start families and careers. Again though, most didn't. Then, like the shaking of an "Etch-A Sketch", it was erased. The 1990's happened and the whole scene completely died even faster than it arose. Many survived it. Most didn't. What was left was the memories, at least for the ones that had sobered up enough to remember. That and the music which, due to record stores and a new thing called the internet, kept that scene alive for many. The clothing was found in boxes in storage units and attics, and "Vintage Clothing' shops. Most of the clubs that supported the whole scene, (including the Cathouse) closed and never came back.

Then, a funny thing happened. A number of years ago, a parody of the whole scene, a band called METAL SHOP started playing around Hollywood, playing the songs of that genre, and people started to come out in droves. Many of the same people, who had spent all their time being part of the original scene in the 80's finally had a place to go and relive their memories, once a week. Eventually it got pretty big, and METAL SHOP became STEEL PANTHER and brought the whole attitude to a new generation of kids who had never experienced it, but had heard their parents describe what a wonderful and fun part of their lives it was. The band became the biggest draw the Sunset Strip had ever had. Satellite radio and the resurrected KNAC.COM supported the music and gave an outlet to the listening audience. Suddenly it was cool again, to like bands like MOTLEY CRUE, SCORPIONS and WHITESNAKE, wear your hair long and drive a Camaro.

Riki Rachtman, by now living on the east coast and working in various areas of the entertainment business, had a noble idea. To put on a big party featuring a bunch of the bands that brought the soundtrack to that long gone era, and celebrate 20 years since the Cathouse had started. Many were skeptical. Many were thrilled, many more like myself, were intrigued. I headed out to Irvine Meadows Ampitheater, the scene of so many concerts by those same bands I had attended in the 80's, (and which is soon to be bulldozed to make way for houses and condominiums-in the name of progress) and decided to take in the whole scene.

Upon arrival, it was fun to note that the Camaro's had now been replaced by Prius's and mini-vans. The tailgate parties now included coconut water and vape pipes. Many of the performers were parking in the regular lots (many with handicap signs I noted), and being shuttled to the staging area in golf carts. In other words it was now Heavy Metal Parking Lot 2K-The Senior Years, Grey, Dyed and Thinning.

The fact that it was a 100 degree day with virtually no shade would make you think that it would be sensible to dress accordingly-shorts, light t-shirt, sundress for the ladies perhaps. Not this crowd. Many sported the "official metal fan" uniform of black jeans, black shirt and black boots. Even saw some leather jackets, and lots of girls in tight mini-dresses and high heels with lots of makeup that, naturally was melting throughout the day.

This of course, kept the Medi-Vac teams busy all day. The combination of the heat, too much clothing, and too much alcohol consumption had people dropping like flies. I watched one guy with a very bloody head be led through the media tent swathed in bandages, who had no doubt fallen and couldn't get up and was attended to by the paramedics. Leather hats off to them!

Speaking of clothing, if you didn't have enough black band T-shirts in your collection already, then there were plenty of booths that offered them for sale. Cathouse Live shirts were selling briskly and at $10 bucks, pretty cheap too. There was even an appearance by the "Cherry Pie Girl", former model Bobbie Brown, at one booth to entice the sales, and maybe get an autograph. Other brands like "Dirtbag Clothing" and "Metal Sludge" were moving lots of product as well.

Riki Rachtman, who like myself, is a licensed Reverend, actually performed not one, but two wedding ceremonies during the day, in addition to his commitment as official party host. Riki was everywhere, naturally, giving interviews, greeting friends, answering questions, directing people and of course trying to actually enjoy the music and the party at the same time. I would imagine he slept well later that night.

Oh yeah, and there was music. Not just music, but they were able to wrangle together 23 acts, which included some of the most popular and beloved bands (or what's left of them) from the afore-mentioned "Glam Band" or "Hair Band" scene of the mid 1980's. Think of it like an old stripper convention. Many of them have been enhanced, not just with make-up, hair spray, and plastic surgery, but with new band members that can actually hit the high notes that singers USED to be able to hit so often, way back when this stuff had it's heyday. Not only that, but technology has been a huge lift to many of these bands. Pre-recorded backing tracks are to these bands what a face lift and "boob job" are to a 45 year old groupie.

Naturally there were lots of highlights, throughout the day onstage and off. When you have this many egos together in one place, something will happen. Good or bad it will be like a powder keg waiting to go off. I got there early, so as not to miss anything. I didn't get to see it all but I will tell you what I found interesting.

BULLETBOYS (or actually Marc Torien and hired guns) were on early and rocked the fuck out of their 5 song set to maybe a couple of hundred people on the main stage. Drummer Shawn Duncan is a heavy hitter, and combined with Torien's big mouthed wail, it was a sonic wake up for the few of us that experienced it.

TUFF, fronted by Metal Sludge CEO Stevie Rachelle, had a fun but brief set on the "Festival Stage" and ended it by performing their tongue in cheek anthem for the day, "American Hair Band", a parody of the KID ROCK hit "American Bad Ass". This song sums up the whole day, by bringing yesterday's thoughts into today's format. And just like STEEL PANTHR, it's a fuckin' PARODY. That's the best part.

Also on the festival stage, LITTLE CAESAR, the least "hair bandy" band of the day, nailed a 5 song set of bluesy, straight ahead rock that was delivered directly and void of ANY make up or Aquanet hairspray on any band member's road case. One "Spinal Tap Moment" though, was a broken bass string and a search for a substitute bass, which resulted in the loss of being able to perform one of their songs due to time restraints. Still one of my favorite sets of the day.

I skipped a few of the sets that I had no interest in. TRIXTER? Be serious. PRETTY BOY FLOYD? Gimme a break. So I took one. Chugged some water and chilled in the press tent. Next up, JUNKYARD put on a solid set although they were plagued by a bad sound mix. Their song "Hollywood" was another of the anthems of the day. BLACK 'N' BLUE were fun. I still don't think singer Jaime St. James has changed his clothes or ever present bandana since 1986 or so. Hold on to 18, indeed. AUTOGRAPH had the first real crowd sing-along of the day with their closing song "Turn Up The Radio".

Speaking of radio, for a minute or so some of the air staff from the beloved Los Angeles radio station KNAC 105.5 came onstage and took a bow and a few "selfies". The late KNAC DJ Tawn Mastrey was and still is missed, and I just know that she would have loved to be at this event, especially as a "hostess". If it wasn't for her encouragement way back when, I would have never had what it takes to do my job at KNAC.COM. If anything was truly worth bringing back, for me it would have been hearing her voice over the PA system.

Enjoyed a fun set by ENUFF Z'NUFF. Actually it was Chip Znuff, sporting his trademark floppy hat and huge round glasses, and some hired guns. A nice cover of PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS' "Jet" was a highlight of their set, as well as the neo-psychedelic pop "New Thing", which was always a favorite of mine from way back when. Tracii Guns and his band, featuring bassist Rudy Sarzo, who has played with everybody, played a bunch of cover material as did Gilby Clarke, which was disappointing, but their fans seemed to be having fun in the blazing heat. So much so that I joked that there would be plenty of skull brands on people's skin from being burned by over heated wallet chains.

On the main stage I witnessed probably the tightest set of the day brought on by LA GUNS. Long time members Phil Lewis and Steve Riley deserve kudos for lasting so long in the sun despite being the palest people in the county. Guitarist Michael Grant just makes everything fall into place. He has the look (of course soooo important in this genre) and the guitar chops to keep even the casual listener interested. Just a great set all around. I don't think I will ever tire of their song "Never Enough". How profound.

FASTER PUSSYCAT were never my favorite band. They still aren't. But singer Taime Downe is one of the Cathouse founders and the band was the house band there, so that has to stand for some kind of importance. I noticed how many people were onstage when they were playing and how many of them were sporting their once-popular police hats, tilted at just the right angle, so as to emphasize the teased hair-do. There were also stripper poles on either side of the stage, of course with strippers who bumped and grinded throughout the sets. I also noticed more than one sneer coming from what may have been a former stripper, but now fifty something woman standing behind the pole platform, no doubt saying to herself, "she's not so hot. Back in the day, they ALL wanted me". Just an observation, but I'm pretty good at catching facial expressions. Comedy, and lots of it all day and night. I'm STILL chuckling.

Stephen Pearcy from RATT was down right awful, trying to croak out the RATT hits but totally off key. His band wasn't too bad, and from that, the crowd seemed to bypass the bad vocals. A highlight of the set for me was watching a couple of trashed patrons get into a chick-fight, or "Cat Fight at the Cathouse Live". Always fun to watch. Now that I think of it, it was like two train wrecks going on at the same time.

DOKKEN appeared afterwards, surprising many as they pulled the "the old switcheroo" with Sebastion Bach's scheduled time slot. Just as well, as I watched Don Dokken spend most of the set screaming at the monitor guy and yelling at the stage manager. Again, very entertaining to see. Not much has changed with Don, although he actually sounded and looked slightly better than the last few times I have seen him. The front of house sound guy obviously knew what he was doing. Drummer "Wild" Mick Brown was rock steady behind the kit and guitarist Jon Levin has had the George Lynch riff down to a science for years. The songs do hold up after all these years, but the voices many times don't. That has been the case with this band and so many others, unfortunately.

Sebastian Bach, love him or hate him, is still a lot of fun. A huge dude with an even bigger presence, he owns a stage. It took him about 3 songs or so before he found his vocal range, but the majority of crowd didn't care. To most it's a visual and the fact that this guy looks exactly like a slightly pudgy version of the way he did back in the 80's satisfied most of the worshippers, including amongst others, legendary porn star Ron Jeremy, seated on a perch above the side stage.

As for the songs, "I Remember You" complete with the now customary cell phone raised high salute, (as lighters for the most part are passe') went over well as did the rest of the SKID ROW catalogue, especially "18 And Life" in which, as if on cue, Bach dragged a shy Riki Rachtman onstage as he sang the words "Riki was a young boy, he had a heart of stone". A true Headbangers Ball moment. Really makes you miss your fringed leather jacket, your IROC-Z and your LA Gear high tops, doesn't it?

A big highlight of the day was CINDERELLA front man Tom Keifer and his band. They played a very bluesy set that of course included many of the classic CINDERELLA songs like "Somebody Save Me" and "Shake Me", which although they sounded great, really made me miss the CINDERELLA patented "guitar flips" of which they were the first and best at doing. Nobody even came close in terms of consistency and performance in that particular act as what Keifer and his former band mates used to do on a nightly basis, although many tried and failed. One of my favorite "wait for it" moments back in the day was watching some guitar player attempt the "Guitar Flip" and fail miserably, his ego forever broken.

That being said, Keifer and his band, which included his wife on background vocals, were terrific. Great songs like the acoustic driven "Shelter Me" (my personal favorite) and "Coming Home", as well a wonderful version of THE BEATLES' classic "With A Little Help From My Friends" done ala Joe Cocker style that brought the house to its feet. "Gypsy Road", which closed the set, always makes me think back to my days as a DJ in nightclubs back in the 80's and watching so many girls bumping and grinding to that song as I sat back in my DJ booth and thanked my lucky stars for being able to supply the fuel for that urge.

EXTREME was the last of the bands that performed. Name act with a few hit singles, but not really what would be considered a "glam band" in any way, and they hail from Boston, not Hollywood. But, for the most part, people stuck around as they played an extra long set. Singer Gary Cherone is quite the dynamic front man and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt doesn't look like he has aged a day in the last 20 years or so that this band was relevant. Their performance of the acoustic ballad "More Than Words" was ruined at my vantage point by the guy behind me who bellowed out the words like a wounded moose and half a step behind, along with his girlfriend, who's singing voice reminded me of Olive Oyl from the old Popeye cartoons.

EXTREME's set was followed by what has become the standard for multi band performances in Los Angeles-the "All Star Jam". This is also known as a "Wankfest". It is when you gather as many rock stars (or mostly former ones) onstage as you can and let them attempt to bash out their favorite LED ZEPPELIN, AC/DC and KISS songs. Drummers and bassists mostly play within the songs guidelines, but singers and especially guitarists seem to try and pack every riff they know into every note. This has become a weekly ritual in Los Angeles and Las Vegas because that is where many of these former rock stars reside.

Tonight's list of "jammers" included many of the people who performed throughout the day, as well as BIOHAZARD bassist Evan Seinfeld, STEEL PANTHER singer Michael Starr, and...wait for it.. original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, who I literally bumped into backstage as he was waiting to go on. Why these guys insist on wearing sunglasses at night is beyond my comprehension.

Another, and probably best "Spinal Tap Moment" of the day, and there were many, happened on the last song, a version of the KISS classic "Deuce", which featured Frehley on guitar and Sebastian Bach on vocals. Picture this. The band is rocking out, the crowd is going wild, the backstage is packed with friends, musicians, groupies, posers, roadies, publicists, managers, porn stars, strippers, old strippers, children and grand children of strippers and right in the middle of the song, the revolving stage turns around and the band finishes the song facing the backstage loading dock. Seems they went slightly over the 11:30 curfew, and well, rules are rules. In spite of that, the old rebels finished the song, and I laughed like I hadn't laughed in weeks. I wish I could have had a picture of the looks on peoples faces, but, I'm sure if you troll YouTube long enough, you will find a shaky cell phone video or two capturing the moment. The perfect way to end an already memorable day.

So what is next for the "Hair Nation" crowd? Where will they go? Many of them live in the San Fernando valley, and have the Rainbow in Hollywood to call home base. Or you can catch them in the theaters at any number of Indian Gaming casino's that have popped up all over the Southern California region, wearing their latest rock star clothes, freshly dyed long hair, and sporting their precious VIP laminates. Las Vegas has, in the past few years embraced this genre. Many of the musicians have moved there, enticed by lots of places to perform for adoring crowds trying to relive yesteryear as well as the chance to party all night and sleep all day.

Many more do "flyout dates", AKA weekend gigs around the nation, mainly the mid-west which loves it's 80's "classic rock" and hopefully always will. This is a musicians bread and butter. Good for the ones that can still pull it off. But for how long? I'm guessing in about 10 years or so Branson, Missouri will come calling, and many of what's left will go the route of the Osmond Brothers or Kenny Rogers and end up there, playing to the ladies with blue hair. LIGHT blue hair that is, not the streaked royal blue hue that is so rock n roll to many. The "Brett Michaels from Poison Good Time Theater" has a good ring to it, doesn't it?

A huge thank you to Riki Rachtman for putting on a great party, and hopefully it's a farewell party for the "hair band" in Los Angeles. I would love to see these bands age gracefully, and not embarrass themselves like an old athlete. Pass the torch to a new generation and enjoy the memories of what you created way back when. The music will always be there, that you can be sure of. As Neil Young once said, "Rust Never Sleeps". As Sebastion Bach once sang, "I remember you". Let's keep it that way. Now go and enjoy your AARP discounts.


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