“Awww put your clothes back on, faggot!”
A handful of skinheads swirled around the pit, shielding their eyes from my nakedness. For some reason we were playing in Aberdeen, Washington. The promoter was a chubby kid with a floppy green Mohawk named Phil. Phil seemed to have mild Down’s syndrome and he spoke with a stutter.
“Ther…ther… ther…are no real skinheads in America. The… the only real skinheads are in England.”
The Aberdeen skinhead crew didn’t take kindly to Phil’s remark and piled on him throwing wild punches. A couple security guards pulled the cueballs off of Phil. He rose and dusted himself off.
“You…you guys hit like a bunch of girls,” he smirked. A few of the skins charged again and the security guards chucked them out of the front door.
About half the skins were outside and half were still inside the hardwood floored community hall. I went up to Phil and asked him if he was okay. The remaining skins began eying me and sizing me up. I was a teenage beanpole with a footlong green liberty spike Mohawk. For the occasion, I had donned my sleeveless denim punk vest, my mom’s old Gap jean jacket that I hacked the sleeves off of. My Grandma sewed on some patches of local punk bands like Bristle and The Rickets. All the kids from my town who were into cool music wore high top Chuck Taylor’s and mine were navy blue.
My high school punk band was playing with The River Rats, a greasy garage punk band from Seattle and The Turn Offs, a surfy-garage band from Eastern Washington. Their reverb-soaked hit was called “Taking the Impala to Walla Walla.”
It was our turn to take the stage. We tuned up and I instantly tore into the skinheads. I taunted them from the mic.
“You guys are real tough jumping a guy 10 to 1. You’re real big men.”
Some middle fingers went in the air and like a mound of red ants they began to swirl around a little bit.
“Why don’t you guys come up front? If you don’t get up here, I’m gonna get naked.”
I don’t know why, but at the time my thing was stripping down to my boxer shorts or completely naked. I knew it would piss off the homophobic skinheads.
The skins weren’t into our music and I followed through with my threat, stripping down nude.
“Awww, fuckin’ faggot,” the skinheads yelled.
One of them threw a bottle and like a skilled English footballer I butted it with my head. The glass bottle shattered on the floor and the security guards threw the remaining skinheads out of the show.
Someone warned me that the skinheads were waiting for me outside.
“We’re gonna kill the naked guy,” was the apparent threat.
The older Seattle greaser punks told me, “We got your back Mo Cheeks.”
My nickname at the time was “Mo Cheeks,” a pseudonym I had borrowed from a 70s basketball player, Maurice Cheeks of the Philly 76ers who was a teammate of legendary star forward Dr. J. Along with the Doctor, I was a fan of classic basketball stars like Pistol Pete Maravich and Magic Johnson. At the time the Seattle Supersonics reigned with their triple All Star lineup of Sean Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf. It wasn’t very punk to like basketball, so I kept my fanaticism for the Seattle Supersonics under wraps, at least around suave older punks.
As we loaded up I had leather jacketed, slicked-back-hair Fonzie lookalikes around me sporting cymbal stands and hard shell guitar cases as weapons. “Let’s roll, Mo Cheeks,” they said.
My heart pounded as we carried the gear down the stairs ready to fight. Waiting outside the hall was the skinheads, dressed identically in their uniforms of thin red suspenders, rolled up faded jeans and Doc Martens. There was about ten of us and twenty of them.
They didn’t seem to recognize me even though I had a foot long green liberty spike Mohawk. I heard them muttering about “the naked guy.” One of the greasers patted me on the back and chuckled. We had outsmarted them without even trying.
It began to rain and we packed all of the gear haphazardly into the River Rats van. My band climbed into our bassist’s beat-up baby blue ’66 Ford Mustang. Strewn on the ripped-up leather of the back seat were hamburger wrappers, cans of purple Aquanet Hairspray and a half rack of warm beer. We cracked some cans of Ranier in celebration. As the sun set and the rain pounded down on the roof of the Thunderbird we made our way to the house where we were all sleeping.
Between towering cedar trees was our Bates Motel. It was a dilapidated two-story house on a heavily forested rural side street. We drank cans of Olympia Beer and the older boys teased each other about some girls they had slept with. I was still a virgin at 15, but I laughed along as if I knew exactly what they were talking about. We staked out sleeping spots and threw sleeping bags into dark rooms.
And in walked three skinheads.
Photo: Dan Halligan