Original Misfits Official Merchandise (Copyright)
At Least I’m Not Danzig
By Paul Juser
I’m going to be dead honest. I would not have gone to see the Misfits if Dr. Filth hadn’t bought the ticket for me. He called when tickets went on sale at 10am, and by the time he was able to get past the robots he took the closest tickets he could get. These were across the stadium from the stage, nearly in the top row He didn’t tell me how much they cost, he just said, “It was worth it.”
Back in the day, there was nothing but the Misfits for us. We were young punks with new old cars loaded to the brim with kids in black clothes driving all over New York state to scream along anywhere the Misfits were playing. I knew there was nothing 62 year old Danzig could ever do that would compare to 21 year old Graves.
When Glenn and Jerry reunited for the first time in 2016, I did not watch the videos. When I searched it on YouTube, I found instead a video from my very first Misfits show in 1997, at the Showplace Theater in Buffalo. American Psycho was no more than two months old. I always assumed I'd confabulated an hour-and-a-half set, because I never saw them play that long again, even at the Showplace. I watched that whole video, confirming not only was it as long as I remembered, but even on VHS to digital, it was no less awesome than I remembered. I’m pretty sure I saw me and Dr. Filth in the front row, stage left in front of Doyle. We picked that spot as soon as soon as the doors opened, and we stood there all night through the shitty openers and Marky Ramone’s Whatever Band until the Misfits went on. I still haven’t watched any of the Riot Fest videos, and I don’t care to.
By 2003 the Misfits drama had descended into soap opera. Only a few years before I kept the entire discography from ‘Static Age’ to ‘Famous Monsters’ permanently in the car for every drive. I didn't buy any albums after Graves set out on poorly advised and poorly conducted solo career. Danzig stubbornly refused to reunite with Jerry, Graves refused to wipe off that silly skull makeup, Samhain refused to be Son of Sam instead, AFI refused to stop selling records to let Davey Havok write a second Son of Sam record, and Jerry Only refused to let the Misfits be anything but comic relief.
Jerry wrung every dollar he could from that cow, with endless Misfits T-shirts, hoodies, skate shoes, skateboards, lunchboxes, backpacks, toys, underwear, and anything else he could slap on a Fiend-skull. There was even a Misfits professional wrestler. It was absurd. Meanwhile, the music they were making was unlistenable. After cycling through a few singers, Jerry Only took over vocals. Danzig had a voice. Graves had a voice. Jerry did not have a voice.
My only exposure to the Official (trademarked) Misfits Featuring Jerry Only in the last ten years was walking in a cabin in 'Friday the 13th: the Game.' I instantly recognized Jerry’s lawnmower voice on the radio, and vaguely remembered a poster with the Crimson Ghost face done up as a hockey mask. Even though this would help Jason kill me, I turned the radio off.
I met Doc across the street from the arena at a brewpub in Newark for beers before the show. I wasn’t paying $12 for half-filled plastic cups of yellow water, so we might as well get drunk now. The dining room was a sea of black T-shirts and white screen printed skulls. Misfits fans were never afraid to be THAT GUY wearing the shirt of the band they came to see, and all variety of Fiend adventure was represented. Fiends haunted castles, lurked in forests, and rode skeletal horses, stalking terrified victims. I was not clad in official gear, but I was wearing the same leather jacket I wore to every single Misfits/Danzig/Graves show I ever attended.
The jacket was a “Chanooky Present” when I first became punk, from a friend that didn’t want to be punk anymore. After that first show at the Showplace I paid $20 for another friend to paint a rib cage on the back, inspired by the glow-in-the-dark, long sleeve rib cage Misfits shirt I bought at the show. That painter is now a very successful Fantasy artist, and he was surprised to see his work on my jacket still looks as fresh as the day he returned it. That paint job survived more pits than I will ever remember, and no amount of sweat ever dulled the bones. It was an honor for this jacket to finally see Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only on stage together with not only Doyle Wolfgangvonblahblahblah but Slayer’s Dave Lombardo as well!
As excited as I was to see the show, I still don’t like Glenn Danzig at all. In every interview you ever read or watch he comes off as a pretentious jerk, and he treats his fans like garbage. If the Misfits reunion had happened fifteen years ago, it would have been the most epic music event I could imagine, but Danzig had spurned fans, insisting he never would set foot on stage with Jerry, continuing instead with his horror/porno comics and a string of revolving door Danzig records. When I first became a fan, he had just dumped the classic Danzig/Samhain lineup that had carried him since ‘85. His voice was already destroyed and scratchy, and that was the biggest reason, over his silly lyrics and boring music, that I didn’t want to listen to new Danzig.
The first thing we saw was a trailer and a giant sign reading: ORIGINAL MISFITS OFFICIAL MERCHANDISE and a very long line. Dr. Filth wanted a T-shirt, but all my discretionary money had been better spent on beer. I could justify spending a few bucks on a sticker, but I didn’t want to actively contribute to Glenn Danzig having a good life.
When I think horror parody, I think Glenn Danzig, but I never felt like Danzig was joking. When he stared into the camera and told stories about idolizing werewolves, I didn’t detect any hint of play. Even long-time friend Henry Rollins confirms, “Glenn, I don’t think, has a real wide berth for humor.” He's tried to play this off with comedic appearances in "Portlandia," "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," and "The Prophecy 2," but his performances are stiff and awkward, like he's approximating mirth that he saw other people doing. Any time I felt bad, I tell myself, “At least I’m not Danzig.”
By the time we reached the front of the line, the trailer was out of most everything. There were no more shirts of any design in size XXXL, which is all Dr. Filth can squeeze his body into. “Try inside,” said the girl at the register. “We’ve been open since noon, they only opened at 6.” She then added a little spitefully, “That’s a popular size.”
Before we went inside, we had to go through the Yondr station to have our phones locked. This is a service requested by the artist, who pays for it as well. Your phone is inserted in a neoprene condom and sealed with a magnetic lock so you can’t take pictures with your phone during the show. Curmudgeons agree this makes for a much better experience because they struggle to take their eyes off another person’s cell phone to enjoy the show happening in front of them. I’m told Yondr prison is not required at shows for the other versions of the Misfits.
Dr. Filth is the kind of person to always keep a razor blade in his wallet, because you never know when a razor blade could come in handy. First thing we did after we had our tickets scanned was to go in the bathroom and slice our phones free. I still didn’t take any pictures during the show, but I still felt good knowing Danzig wouldn’t get his $.05 deposit back. Late in the show, Danzig yelled at someone who had done the same. "We don't mind you taking a few photographs, but don't make a career out of it!" Now you tell me, asshole.
Murphy’s Law was on stage when we got inside. Glenn’s mom set a strict curfew of 11:30, so this show had to start on time. I never listened to Murphy’s Law. I never knew anything about them. I used to work with a dude who played guitar in the band for a while, and he said it was awful. Dr. Filth had set them up with a show in our hometown and they showed up hours late after hanging out at a 24-hour Canadian strip club. I stayed for one song.
The sound in the arena was just as bad as in the shitty dive bar where I saw Murphy’s Law last. I couldn’t hear a thing, so I still couldn’t tell you if I like the music or not. Best part of their set was when a little kid was getting crushed by the pit at the barricade, and Jimmy Gestapo brought the child on stage to watch the show from a safer spot.
Murphy’s Law finished and crew took to dismantling the equipment and setting up for Suicidal Tendencies. I’d also never listened to more than one or two Suicidal songs, but Doc was a big fan. Dr. Filth has played music for years, and was surprised to see a soundcheck being done on every amp and instrument as it was being set up. This is commonplace for bars and basements, but arena shows do sound checks in the afternoon or evening and program the settings, before the band is about to walk on stage.
During soundcheck, a couple sat down before us, older Metal dude and his slightly-too-old-to-strip blonde girlfriend. This is the same couple that always sits in front of me at every arena show I ever go to. They sat front of me when I saw Tool, they sat in front of me when I saw Def Leppard, and they sat in front of me when I saw Buckcherry, and they were sitting in front of me now. It was going to be like every other show. He was going to blow their rent money on beer, and they were going to fight. Only hope is this will boil over before the Misfits came on stage.
I don’t know any Suicidal songs, and and the sound was a wall of mud to my ears that have rang since 1995, but I enjoyed having them as background music to the drama unfolding before me. Metal dude LOVED Suicidal, and he wasn’t afraid to show it. He’d stand up every few songs and yell the words with his arms waving around. I was sitting now, and he completely obscured the band. He was much shorter than me, so I’d be able to see over him when the time came.
His lady was having no part of this. She sat with knees crossed, drinking her beer, giving him sideways glances and scowls. Still, she bought him another beer when he finished the first, and that can make these guys a little punchy. As he got more drunk and excited, she threatened to take the car and go home without him. He said he would have more fun without her. I worried he’d become our friend if she did leave. She went as far as to stand up twice, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back.
This was not a comfortable moment, but the dude calmed down after this and she continued to scowl right until the moment Glenn, Jerry, and Doyle came on stage, and everyone in front stood up, everyone behind stood up, we stood up, Metal dude stood up, and she continued sitting, and I stopped caring about their situation. She sat during the entire performance.
There they were together. Giant pumpkins and coffins adorned the stage. A huge lighted sign flashed with Fiend skulls and Misfits logos in garish neon colors. Jerry and Doyle wore their signature Misfits garb, black leather and the Misfits-signature 'Devilock' hairstyle. Danzig wore a girdle. They started immediately with “Death Comes Ripping,” and then ran through a solid classic setlist with many more from Earth AD than I was expecting.
Danzig was awful. He was like a winded old lady hacking his way through every song and taking breathers between. He panted and told quick anecdotes about the early Misfits days. He ranted was about musicians that lip sync on stage. Glenn insisted that if he were at a show and he found out the musicians on stage were not actually performing, he would follow them backstage and beat the shit out of them. Everyone in the room had already seen the video of what happens when Danzig goes backstage to fight a band.
From Danzig, this was too little, too late. I’m not willing to forgive. Dr. Filth was right though, the show was easily one of the greatest Misfits shows I've ever seen. Danzig's reconciliation with the Fiend seems like nothing but a paycheck conveniently timed after Slash and Axl made a lot of money doing the very same thing. It was Jerry Only that made that night special for me.
I’d been mad at Jerry for a long time. He’d marketed my favorite band into a joke. At the same time as he was squeezing those kids for an extra dollar, he was giving it back. The Misfits never stopped touring. Jerry was out there on stage, sweating, doing the hard work. The last time I saw the Misfits was 2001 in Albany, the only time Dr. Filth wasn't with me. I talked to Jerry after the show. I was just some guy hanging out by the dividers, he didn't know me. Jerry made me a promise he was going to get the original band back together. I told him I saw Glenn at the same club two weeks before, and Graves was much better. Graves rage-quit for the last time a couple months later, and I never listened to the Misfits much after that.
The Caiafa's were turned up all the way in Newark. Jerry Only and his brother Doyle ran just as hard across the stage as they did that last time I saw them at least fifteen years before. Even from as far away as I stood across the arena, I could see the smile on Jerry's face that said his life's dream was to come back to New Jersey and powerslide across a stage in front of thousands of people. This was the moment Jerry had been working for since the day he and Glenn set up a pair of amps in Glenn's mom's exercise room.
While Danzig was just an old man collecting his legal due on a property he probably did create without much help from Jerry in the beginning, Jerry Only was living the dream, and he continued to give back just as hard as he took. Danzig probably broke a sweat that night, but only because the stage was longer than the distance to his toilet. Jerry Only's sweat shown in the nosebleed seats.
The air in the arena was sharp with excitement, everyone was singing, everyone was cheering, and even Glenn Danzig broke his miserable farce to clap Jerry a victorious high-five. Then Jerry and Doyle walked Glenn off stage. Glenn called his mom and begged permission for one encore. This cost him his past-10pm privileges for the next week, but it was worth it. With that I hope they will put the last nail in the coffin of this Misfits and lower it into the cold, cold ground. Everyone walked out happy that night, including me and Dr. Filth.
I’m glad to know Jerry Only will continue on. He will be out there on the road with the Crimson Ghost, and the Misfits name, and legally it will be the same band that recorded 'Walk Among Us' in ‘83, even though some guy from Black Flag is on guitar, and there is a Ramone behind the drums, or whatever all-star lineup is playing classic punk covers that night. Jerry Only is still doing the real work, and I can't stay mad at him for that. I ain’t no goddamn sonofabitch. You’d better think about it, baby.