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October 9, 2023 26 mins

As host of New Wave Theater, Peter Ivers found himself in the middle of the LA punk scene. From police raids, DIY-venues, and the outsiders it attracted, we explore punk music and the LA underground. 

– 

This episode features information and audio from the following sources:

Decline of Western Civilization Part I

In Heaven Everything is Fine by Josh Frank

New Wave Theater

Over the edge: The incredible life and mysterious death of Peter Ivers

Unraveling the Mystery of Peter Ivers

Rediscovering Peter Ivers, a punk-rock Zelig with a glittering résumé and mysterious demise

Starting from the Zero

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, it's Alan Sachs. I'm wanting you. Don't imitate actions
or attitudes you hear in this show. Listen to discretion advised.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
On almost every episode of New Wave Theater, to almost
every band, Peter Ivers asked the same question.

Speaker 3 (00:19):
What's the meaning of life?

Speaker 2 (00:20):
When your heart is broken? What's the meaning of life?

Speaker 1 (00:22):
Manal?

Speaker 2 (00:23):
What's the meaning of life?

Speaker 1 (00:24):
Levin Don what's the meaning of life?

Speaker 2 (00:27):
For New Waivers or Los Angeles. It was an obnoxious
thing to ask, and it pissed the bands off.

Speaker 3 (00:35):
They didn't like it. They didn't like they would like
their mother asking him what the meaning of life was.

Speaker 1 (00:40):
The band might twant him pick on him. They had
never met anybody like Peter and didn't like it.

Speaker 2 (00:47):
They wanted to throw the microphone down and say fuck
you at the end, but Peter never stopped. He just
kept asking what's the meaning of LIVEI?

Speaker 4 (00:56):
Hey, I don't know the meaning life?

Speaker 1 (00:57):
He tell me? What do you mean by life? By me?

Speaker 2 (01:02):
Most TV show hosts try to charm their guests, but
Peter didn't seem to care. As a result, Peter made
a lot of enemies among the bands in the scene.
A lot of them showed just extreme.

Speaker 3 (01:15):
I said to the police, you're going to have to
look at every new wave theater and see how the
bands react to what he's saying to him, to see
who might have a motive, because I can't pick one.

Speaker 2 (01:33):
Even though they all performed on it. A lot of
punk bands hated New wave theater, and by extension, Peter Ivers.
They thought it was embarrassing, a cringy attempt to rip
off a music culture he didn't even participate in. How
did this guy who was clearly not a punk end

(01:53):
up hosting a TV show all about punk? The first
part of the story you already know. Teen eighty, Peter
was on a real downer. He had flunked out of
two record deals, he was growing apart from his girlfriend
Lucy Fisher, and he was mixed up in a Hollywood
party scene that would later claim the life of his

(02:13):
friend Doug Kenny. But elsewhere in town there was a
guy who, on the surface seemed a lot like Peter,
an outsider who was also looking for a break in
a place notorious for chewing people up and spitting them out.
His name was David Jove, and in the spring of
nineteen eighty, the lives of Peter Ivers and David Jove

(02:37):
were about to intersect with dramatic consequences for both of them,
and it was all thanks to punk rock. That's where
the next part of our story begins. Today, a brief
history of LA punk and how two dudes in the
right place at the right time saw a chance to

(02:59):
ride the punk waved to success. I'm Penelope Spherris and
this is Peter and the Acid King. Punk came to

(03:21):
LA a little later than New York and London, but
no matter where it exploded into existence, punk always appealed
to the rejects. Normal people back then were listening to disco,
Barry Manilow and crap like that. But if you were
an angry teenager, if you were someone like Nicole Panther,
you needed music that was more pissed off and aggressive.

Speaker 4 (03:48):
I had to hitchhike to Los Angeles at thirteen to
see a rock and roll show.

Speaker 2 (03:53):
Nicole was from Palm Springs and she would just come
here to escape.

Speaker 4 (03:57):
My parents often were so distracted with each other that
nobody noticed that the girl that they didn't like wasn't there.
I eventually ran off.

Speaker 2 (04:13):
Nicole found punk through its flashier cousin glam rock.

Speaker 4 (04:20):
When Hippie started, I was a little too young to
run off and join that, and I kind of didn't
feel that exactly because I grew up in this violent household,
so I knew that love and peace was a lie.
What glam had was it had sexual ambiguity that was appealing.

(04:41):
Glam was a rebellion. Look at the New York Dolls.
They were boys who dressed like boys with the accouterment
of female stuff, middrift tops and lipstick, and so that
was something that had never really been seen.

Speaker 2 (04:55):
Before, even though they were a glam band from the
other side the country. The Dolls come up all the
time when you talk to La punks. Music journalist Stephanie
Mendez think she knows why.

Speaker 5 (05:09):
The New York Dolls came during this very perfect time
where the old bands, the old rock and roll bands
were fizzling out, the scene in general was fizzling out,
and then suddenly here came the New York Dolls. They
had their own crazy rock and roll sound that ended
up influencing the bands to come. People saw the New
York Dolls dressed in platforms and women's clothing, and they

(05:32):
were wild on stage. They were flamboyant, and they were fun,
and they made really cool rock and roll music.

Speaker 2 (05:37):
The New York Dolls were a band that bridged the
gap between the excesses of seventies glam and what came
next punk rock, where glam was flamboyant and theatrical punk
was ragged and aggressive. It spoke to kids like Nicole
Panter who felt forgotten and pushed aside.

Speaker 4 (05:56):
No happy child ever became a punk.

Speaker 2 (05:59):
Yeah, that's the understatement of the century.

Speaker 5 (06:02):
Punk rock inherently is hardcore. It's aggressive, it's fast paced,
drum beats, it's rock and roll based, but it has
a different edge from like a regular rock and roll band.

Speaker 2 (06:15):
No band epitomized the sound and the attitude of early
la punk more than the Germs. They got together in
nineteen seventy six.

Speaker 5 (06:26):
The Germs are fast, they're loud, they're raw, they're pretty,
they're singing about sex and drugs and like nihilism. When
you listen to Blondie and you listen to the Germs,
those are two very different sounds. Blondie's pop happy new
wave like melodic music. It's very pop based, and Blondie's
not singing about doing speed.

Speaker 2 (06:47):
The Germs front man was Darby Crash, whose real name
was Jan Paul Beam. He embodied the purer chaos of
the scene back then. Here's Stephanie Mendez again.

Speaker 5 (06:58):
Darby Krash had this all the followers and it just
kicked off this brand new scene in La. So that
happens around seventy six seventy seven, and at first, you know,
they start to play like traditional venues like the Orpheum,
the Whiskey, the star Wood in La.

Speaker 2 (07:18):
The bands were often destructive, volatile, hard and fast. Some performers,
like Darby and the Germs seemed to almost self destruct
while you were watching them perform.

Speaker 4 (07:32):
If a train wreck is a brilliant performance, then he
was a brilliant performer.

Speaker 2 (07:37):
That's Nicole Panther again. She managed the Germs.

Speaker 4 (07:41):
She was one of those people who didn't really have
an off switch when it came.

Speaker 2 (07:44):
To drugs or alcohol.

Speaker 4 (07:46):
It was just whatever someone put in his hand he
would go into his mouth and so by the time
he hit the stage he was often fucked up. We
did these performances that were you kind of watched him
and went, is he going to overdo while he's up
there on stage? Because he is so fucked up.

Speaker 2 (08:05):
I filmed the Germs for my movie The Decline of
Western Civilization, and in one of the scenes you can
see Darby in his kitchen. He asked me to bring
over breakfast because he had a bad hangover.

Speaker 6 (08:16):
Why he gets a loaded perform that way, handle a
few nuts of.

Speaker 1 (08:21):
Getting her as scary out there, No, it's so scared
like because when we play, we're right down there in
the audience and there's lots of creeps out there, and
there's lots of people red grudges against us.

Speaker 7 (08:30):
Now too, i'till begging the loaded. I'll be able to
do it.

Speaker 2 (08:35):
For those of you who have never seen the film,
you see Darby strutting the stage, black sharpie lines all
over his face, jumping from speaker to speaker's begging everybody
in the crowd for a bea Somebody, give me a
be up, find me a fucking meal. Darby went to
London and when he came back it was the first

(08:56):
time I ever saw a mohawk. Anyway, there was a
point where the Germs couldn't play at any of the clubs.
They were banned from the clubs on Strip. I think
it was as a result of some terrible show that
happened at the star Wood.

Speaker 5 (09:09):
They're playing these venues and they're really trashing the places.
They're destroying venues. So what happens is DIY emerges do
it yourself, that ethos of like creating our own spaces
because these venues won't let us play, so hey, why
don't we make our own spaces to play? And that

(09:31):
really happens in nineteen seventy seven with The Mask, so
Brendan Mullen, he gets a hold of this basement underneath
the Pussycat Theater right in the middle of Hollywood, and
eventually it becomes a DIY space full of graffiti and
it's people bring in their own alcohol, their own drugs.
It's like a really really grimy place where these bands

(09:53):
start to kind of congregate and play shows there.

Speaker 2 (09:56):
In the Mask, you had to go into an hour,
walked down these skinny little stairs into a basement and
it was broken bottles everywhere, so you had to be
careful you didn't cut feet up, and then there was
a lot of puke around, and then there were different
little rooms where who knows what was going on, but

(10:19):
that was the cool place to be, was the Mask.

Speaker 5 (10:22):
Bands like the Germs, the Bags, the Weirdos. They played there,
like all of these iconic first wave bands that really
helped birth punk rock in LA.

Speaker 2 (10:36):
The first wave of La punk only lasted three years.
I documented one of those years, from nineteen seventy nine
to nineteen eighty.

Speaker 5 (10:45):
Nineteen seventy nine was another big year for punk rock.
In nineteen seventy nine, Germs record their debut album GI,
and that was produced by Jon Jed.

Speaker 2 (10:55):
The album was incredible.

Speaker 5 (10:57):
Today when people talk about punk rock, when they talk
about what is the album that really made like helly
punk rock big or that put La on the map,
and people will say GERMSGI. But that was really the
most powerful, the most iconic album to come out. When
you listen to their album GI Germs Incognito, all of

(11:18):
the songs are fast. Darby's like screaming and warbling, you know,
like he's nonsensical sometimes, but that's the nature of punk.
It's meant to be nonsensical. It's aggressive and it's loud.

Speaker 2 (11:31):
Looking back, it's kind of the perfect album for that
time period in LA. But those times were about to
come to an end. The Masks shut down in seventy nine,
Nicole Panther quit the Germs in March nineteen eighty. She
was twenty four years old. Darby crash overdosed in December

(11:54):
nineteen eighty he was twenty two. For a brief period
of time, there were diy venues everywhere, cool late night
hangout sprung up all over La. One of those places

(12:15):
was the Zero zero Club. The Zero wasn't a music venue.
It was an after hours private club. It was run
by this man about town named John Pogno. Here's a
clip of John talking at the Zero. You can barely
hear him because people are yelling and screaming in the background. Yeah,
that was the Zero.

Speaker 8 (12:37):
Here here.

Speaker 1 (12:38):
When did that start?

Speaker 3 (12:39):
It started August of eighty.

Speaker 2 (12:43):
Now, this place started about a year ago.

Speaker 3 (12:46):
One tell me avant gard gallery run by Republican.

Speaker 2 (12:51):
It was disgusting in there. There were beer covered floors
and these funky, super dirty couches, truly gross. At the Zero,
the bar was usually a shaky, makeshift plywood piece of
crap that looked like a lemonade stand. Here's Iris Berry,
the cutest punk check around, and a bartender at the Zero.

(13:12):
She's talking to Alan Sachs, who you can hear in
the background of this interview, that.

Speaker 7 (13:17):
Was the best job I've ever had.

Speaker 2 (13:19):
Iris's shift didn't start until one in the morning. She'd
play a show, go see a show, go to a
house party, and then afterwards, like everyone else, Iris would
head to the Zero although she was working.

Speaker 7 (13:32):
I'd go in at one in the morning and come
out at like four or five with like about four
hundred dollars on tips. Because you couldn't get booze anywhere else.
We said it was a booze. It was old Milwaukee,
and we had a box of vodka or a bottle
of a Plane Rep vodka and a bottle of Plane
Rep whiskey.

Speaker 2 (13:51):
Fact is, we were also toasted that it didn't matter
what we drank as long as it got you a
little more drunker. And one night, his dude with he's
six foot three or four, He's got dyed black hair
and real blue eyes. Cool looking dude. He walks up
to me and he goes, do you want to go
up on the roof and sit down? And I said, yeah,

(14:14):
for sure. So I go up on the roof with
John James and we sort of fall in love up
on the roof at the Zero. He was the guy
that's a bass player in the Joneses. And if you
look at Motley Crue back in the day and even
now look at Tommy Lee, that is John James. John
was the one that created that look and NICKI stole

(14:36):
it for the band. My opinion, yeah, I'd be walking
down the street with John James and then people will
yell out Motley Crue, Motley Crue. We were together for
like six years and then I couldn't dig the heroin
habit anymore, so I had to say goodbye, and I
felt really bad because man, I dream about him all

(14:56):
the time. John James, he was cool. Shit went down
at the Zero everything from Romance drug Deals. It was
a lonely hearts club with barf on the floor. One
time the cops swooped in and busted the place and

(15:20):
seemingly everybody was there, including Alan Soachs and Peter Ivers.

Speaker 1 (15:27):
And the cops run up the steps. They have I
don't know how many patrol cars outside and they run in,
guns out. Pretty scary, and they throw us all up
against the wall, hands on the wall with the gun
in the squat position with the guns out. And that's

(15:49):
pretty scary because they could make a mistake, and I'm
standing next to Peter on one side, and I feel
Peter's leg shaking, you know, like real, you know, going
like like I'm doing now, you know, But I mean
he made him nervous, and that made me nervous. He
was getting nervous. And then the cops lay everybody down

(16:12):
on the floor, and as they're doing that, there were
little jugs being thrown out, you know, little bindles of
blow and joints and whatnot is flying onto the floor.
Nobody wanted to be holding any drugs. And when that
was going on, and so the cops lay everybody down,
they walk around, they walk over us, and that was it.

(16:36):
You know, it's kind of fun, get you something to
talk about the next day.

Speaker 2 (16:44):
Despite the raid, the Zero didn't get shut down. It
just kept raging night after night after that. On YouTube,
you can find this two hour film that's just rolling
footage of the Zero. To call it a documentary might
be a stretch because there's no narrative there. It's mostly

(17:05):
footage of people just hanging out on Beyonce. Admission was
five bucks, and Peter Ivers was actually one of the
only people who ever paid to get in. Here's a
clip of John Poganan talking about Peter from that Crappy documentary.
So do you know whoe, Yes, he was a wonderful guy.

Speaker 3 (17:25):
He was the first club member to actually buy a
membership car, and that's the Zero Peter.

Speaker 2 (17:31):
Ivers and you know why because he supported the arts.

Speaker 1 (17:34):
You have a lie.

Speaker 2 (17:36):
But not everyone was as willing to pay that entrance
fee as Peter was. Here's Iris Berry again.

Speaker 7 (17:42):
There was this one spot where peop would sneak and
they'd like placet themselves up this pole and it got
you into the roof and into a window and into
another window.

Speaker 8 (17:49):
Entered the Zero.

Speaker 2 (17:50):
So they painted the pole red and he.

Speaker 7 (17:53):
Got in and he had this red streak. You know,
he was just covered in red paint.

Speaker 2 (17:56):
It was like busted. So you know, you might end
up with red paint smeared all over you, or you
might end up sipping an old Milwaukee next to David
Lee Roth in the back room, or you might fall
in love on the roof if you're lucky. But that
much fun never lasts too long. As the era of

(18:17):
the Zero and the Mask faded into oblivion like so
much beer on the floor, a shinier option arose. Club Lingerie.
It was booked by the same guy who started The Mask.

Speaker 1 (18:30):
First of all, the name itself was a sexy name.

Speaker 2 (18:33):
That's Alan Sachs again, he's the one who's been looking
for Peter's killer all these years.

Speaker 1 (18:39):
So Lingerie had like a lot of beautiful women. It
was a party and it was very welcoming, and it
was the Club Lingerie where all the bands came and played.
I like the party of it. I love going out
to start the evening at the earliest ten o'clock at night,

(19:00):
standing next to Bruce Springstand. You know he'd be watching,
you know, Jack Mack in The Heart Attack.

Speaker 2 (19:05):
Club Laingerie and The Mask were very, very different, just
because the Mask was such a shithole and Club Laingerie
was sort of redone and nice. Inside usually had a
bunch of full dress Harley's outside. You walk in, get
past the door, dude, and on the left side there's
a long bar totally packed three people deep trying to

(19:29):
get drinks.

Speaker 1 (19:30):
Sometimes I'd walk in and see Peter and they'd be
this crowd around him listening to him talk. He was
a real reconnoisseur.

Speaker 2 (19:37):
On any given night at Club Laingerie on sunset you
might see legends of the La punk scene perform like Fear,
the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, the Plugs, X forty five, Grave,
the Gun Club, the Go Gos, El Duce and the Mentors, Top,
Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs, the Gears, the Screamers, the Weirdos,

(20:01):
the Blasters, and many others. But the Lingerie didn't just
have punk bands. They booked performance artists like Johanna went So.

Speaker 8 (20:10):
I went around and went to all the clubs and
tried to get people to get to book me. And
I got musicians and started playing music with them and
singing on the stage and throwing my stuff around. And
my show was aggressive, and it was you know, fast paced,
it was messy, it was loud. It was something that

(20:33):
they were happy to embrace. And I never felt like
it made me a punk rocker. I felt like I
was lucky to be able to perform in those venues
in the punk scene.

Speaker 2 (20:47):
And a couple of times the Lingerie hosted Peter's rock
opera called Vitamin Pink Fantasy Review. Here's Violet Ramis, She's
Harold and Anne's daughter.

Speaker 9 (21:00):
Pink was like a musical review kind of there was
maybe a loose storyline, but it was sort of a
collection of songs with amazing visuals and costumes. So I
was very young at the time Vitamin Pink happened, I

(21:21):
believe in nineteen eighty two, so I was five years old.
It just felt like the coolest thing. The costume fittings,
the rehearsals, like lights and big sounds, and like lots
of drama and intensity. I mean, performance art was probably
not on a lot of children's radar at the time,

(21:41):
but it was online, so I just felt like, yes,
I'm finally I'm in it.

Speaker 2 (21:46):
One of Vitamin Pink's songs was called My Dissonant Mother's
Been Thrown out of Russia.

Speaker 9 (21:52):
It was kind of like Mydismo been thrown Rush Madismoth
been thrown and there was harmonies and it was like,
you know, just like sort of ramped up to this
climactic moment. And maybe it was at that time in
the show when I sort of was born through this

(22:13):
plastic tunnel which you sort of get in any toy store. Now,
I crawled through. I was wearing a white silk turban
with a feather in it. I don't know what exactly
the character was, but some kind of baby goddess.

Speaker 2 (22:34):
Club Lingerie was an interesting evolution for the punk scene
in La. It was legit. Brendan welcomed punks with open
arms when many other venues had told them to take
a hike. Peter Ivers was there many nights. His theatrical
shenanigans rubbed up against the punks each shit attitude. Maybe
that's what made him wonder what's the meaning of life?

(23:11):
The punk scene changed me. These bands, this culture, it
was so remarkable. I felt compelled to try to capture
it before it all faded away. That's why I made
the Decline. After I made the movie, other people started
to show up at clubs with video cameras too. At

(23:31):
one point, this new guy hit the scene. He was
a scrawny, skitchy, dark haired dude.

Speaker 1 (23:38):
It was short but intense eyes like a null or
some sort of gargoyle.

Speaker 2 (23:45):
They were like shark eyes that would flash.

Speaker 1 (23:48):
When he looked deeply into me with his eyes. It
scared the hell out of me.

Speaker 3 (23:53):
He was like looking at your brain through your eyes.
It was incredibly intense.

Speaker 2 (23:58):
His name was David Jove, and for whatever reason, he
takes it upon himself to start videotaping the bands at
the clubs. Apparently he got the idea after talking to
Ed Oaks, the former music editor of Billboard.

Speaker 6 (24:15):
Well, I just said, you know, you know, why don't
you need something to do? Why don't you get a
camera and shoot all these groups. Go to the clubs
and shoot footage of them, and then show them what
you've shot and work with them. And then about two
weeks later I got a call and he said, Ed,
I bought a camera. What should I do with it?

(24:36):
And that's when I told him go to the clubs
and shoot. And then he told me he did that.
He got thrown out of a couple of clubs when
he tried to do that. And then he said, you
know it's really not working. I have footage, but I
don't know what to do with it. I said, well,
then start a television show that on me edit it.

(24:56):
He said, what should I call it? I said, call
it new Wave theater.

Speaker 2 (25:00):
David Jove had the footage, and he had his big idea,
and the only other thing he needed was to find
a host. That's next time on Peter and the Acid King.
Peter and the Acid King is based on interviews recorded

(25:20):
and researched by Alan Sachs. It's produced by Imagine Audio,
Alan Sachs Productions and Awfully Nice for iHeartMedia, I'm Your
Host Penelope Speerris. The series is written by Caitlin Fontana
Peter and the Acid King is produced by Amber von Schassen.

(25:41):
The senior producer is Caitlin Fontana and the supervising producer
is John Assanti. Our project manager is Katie Hodges. Our
executive producers are Ron Howard, Brian Grazerkara Welker, Nathan Kloke,
Alan Sachs, Jesse Burton and Katie Hodges. The associate producers

(26:04):
are Laura Schwartz, Dylan Cainrich and Chris Statue. Co producer
on behalf of Shout Studios Bob Emmer. Sound design and
mix by Evan Arnette, fact checking by Katherine Barner. Original
music composed by Alloy Tracks, Music clearances by Barbara Hall,

(26:28):
voiceover recording by Voice Tracks. West Show artwork by Michael Dare.
Special thanks to Annette van Duren. Thank you for listening.
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