[laughter] [indistinct chatter] [man] Ladies and gentlemen, Henry Rollins! [cheering, applause]
Thanks for showing up. Hello, hello, hello. Good evening, good evening, good evening. All right. Thanks! Thank you. So… before anything, just a brief explanation as to, obviously, the cameras, you understand. This is being taped. Why? Portland. And this is where you might not believe me. Please strip yourself of your cynicism, which is easy to acquire in 2018. I understand. But if you can sidestep it for just a second, months and months ago they said, “How about a Showtime special?” I went, “Well, yeah. Don’t throw up.” It’s nerve-wracking. And they said, “Well, you have to pick a location.” So you have to pick a location where the audience is kinda sorta already with you. ‘Cause I don’t have the time to win you over. This is not… this is not an anecdotal or comedic arm wrestling match where I make you submit. Like, “All right, all right! I like it!” You just have to kind of dig me already. -[cheering] -Like… right. And so… Location is key. And so they said, “So where do you want to do this?” And this is where you might not believe me. But it’s true. I’ve been doing shows in Portland for literally almost 40 years. -[cheering] -And if I had a bad time, I personally can’t remember it. And that… it’s– and that’s real. Like, “Oh, really?” I’m like– and a lot of time, in the 1880s– 1980s when I was touring, when you’re all young rams at the base of the mountain, there’s a lot of fisticuffs and spit and flying, empty containers of beer and whatever else. But that– I don’t remember any of that hostility coming at me from Portland. So I said, “Well, see if you can get me a stage in Portland.” And they did. And so here we are together. -And so here’s the– -[cheering]
An early memory of Portland, from before you were born, I would come up here to do shows with Black Flag. -[cheering] -And… Black Flag made a live album here… 33 years ago. Ah! That was me and Tutankhamun and Abe Lincoln and Tom Waits were all talking backstage. A fantastic night. Anyway, we actually documented our affection for this city on a live album, which happens to be my personal favorite record of Black Flag, ’cause it was the realest one ’cause it was live. Anyway, here’s the one thing that I found out about Portland. This is an old version of Portland, it’s not… Or maybe it’s how Portland is now. But this is a true fact. I knew a lot of really scary people in Los Angeles. The people around Black Flag, some of them were killers, some of them were drug dealers, some of them were just some really dark, you know, tough people from a scary part of L.A. The “dirty deeds done dirt cheap” types. And they just kind of gravitated to us. They scared the hell out of me ’cause I’m not a tough guy. And some of these people, they just– I said, “So what do you do?” They’re like, “Well, you know, someone needs to be straightened out, and I, uh…” Wow. And these people would have warrants out for them. And you’d– they would disappear from L.A. Like, what happened to that one, that one and that one? Who knows? They might be dead or in prison. And that’s how those days worked. You found out that they were in Portland. Yeah. ‘Cause we’d be up here doing a show, and we’d be here all afternoon in like some parking lot with our miserable, ailing, about to fall over van. And those guys you hadn’t seen for two years would come up like, “Hey, man.” –[gasps] And like, “What are you doing here?” Like, “You know, there’s too much heat in L.A.” So I said, “So why Portland?” Like, “Because you can just kinda get lost here.’ And so Portland was this place I knew where scary L.A. punk rock types came to disappear. And maybe some of you are out there right now. I’m– I’m still scared of you.
And so I wanted to tell you a few stories about shows I’ve done, because I live to tour. I live to be onstage. And I’ve never really physically counted every single show I’ve ever done. They’re all written down. Because I like to keep track of that kind of thing. It’s well over 3,000 shows I’ve done. And that’s not all that difficult to accumulate shows. You just keep doing them and it sure adds up. And– you remember that quote. And so… Charlie Sheen, prostitutes. Anyway… I have seen all kinds of things. 1987, Michigan. It must have been hunting season, or close by. Me and my bandmates are grinding away in front of at least 175 people. And they’re just like… “We don’t like it that much.” They’re not that into it. So we’re just kind of beating this dead horse. And this thing flies through the air and lands next to me onstage. It’s a dead deer’s head. Probably hunted and killed locally. And so the audience is like, “So what are you gonna do about a dead deer’s head?” I will not be bested by an audience. I have– I will not be grossed out by anything anyone can come into a venue and do. No way. And that’s just years of being underpaid. It just gives you this– it gives you this callous, like, “Anything, do it!” And so I pick up the deer’s head. And everyone kind of goes like, “Okay. That’s kind of gross.” So I’m thinking, what can I do with this deer’s head to severely bum out this audience? ‘Cause now they’ve got it coming. They started it. Like, who– “What are you gonna do today?” “I’m gonna get this deer’s head and go see Henry and throw it at him.” “I’m coming along.” And so… And that was probably the draw. It was probably five people paid, and a bunch of people snuck in behind the guy with the deer’s head. So I pick up the deer’s head and I have him, rock with the music for a second. And find one of Sim Cain’s broken drum sticks, with which I gouge the deer’s eyeball out. And everyone’s like, “Ah! Oh!” And it’s really hard. The eyes are really attached. And so… there’s good stuff in there. And so… kssh! I rip this eye out. And I go, “Well…” [makes chewing noises] And it tasted awful. It tasted awful. And my mission was not to swallow it. I wanted to give it back. So, like, chew– And it exploded in my mouth releasing this… really bitter juice. And see, we’re like three minutes into the show. You’re not going anywhere. And like what I’m looking at looks like a comedy class in planes of the future. You’re like, you’re in 22… Y. You’re not going anywhere! I’ve got ya! Anyway, I’m chewing on the eyeball. And it starts to kind of become a jelly-ish thing. Perfect for spitting. And so I go… [spits] And this like bloody, awful thing goes out. And everyone in the first three rows got some. They’re like, “Oh!” [groaning] I went, “Anyone else?” They’re like, “No, we…” And they all… they all completely submitted. They’re like, “You win. You deer-eyeball-eating bastard.” -Just… -[cheering] Have I– It’s like… [grunts] So like I’ve said, I’ve seen quite a bit. And I’ve been able to tame audiences. 1984, Halloween night, Miami, at a place called Flynn’s. The size of your living room. The audience, we would play there all the time. They’re angry, we’re angry. Everyone’s broke. So I took a plastic cup. I said, “Fill this full of money, no pennies, and I’ll do something really gross.” The cup is taken away from me. It fills up with money. At least $4.75, as I remember. It bought me an omelet at Denny’s later. And so I took my shoes off and I took my socks I was wearing, my tube socks, and I wrung out the sweat. And it filled up the entire, like, eight-ounce glass. And I’ll never forget, I said, “Salud.” And there’s people going, “No, no! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Keep the money, don’t do it! Don’t! Oh!” [babbling] And I drank it. And it tasted like socks, ass, but mine. So it’s… it’s okay. It’s like, so that’s what I taste like. Glub, glub, glub, glub. I’m like, ah! They went, “You win. That’s… You’ve beaten the entire audience. We submit. Play another one of your 12-minute songs.” And so I’ve seen quite a bit. The dumbest show I ever booked, and it’s nothing but my fault… On the 2016 tour, I had this idea. I will play my hometown of Washington, D.C. at the beautiful Lincoln Theatre on the night of the presidential election. It will be memorable. And so I go out in front of all these people. And I start talking, and I’m many months into the tour. I’m just talking away. And I notice the audience is doing something I have never seen an audience do before. They’re looking at me with this look of concern on their face, like… “What… Am I okay?” And then they would look at me for a minute, like, “Did I lock my door of my house? Is my dog okay?” And then look down at their crotch, as you do. And like, they’d look back up at me, kind of like, “What did you say?” And I’m up there telling these stories at a high rate of speed, thinking, “I’m bombing. I mean, these stories are good. I like these stories. Why don’t you like these stories? And what is it about your crotch?” And as the show goes on, it just turns into this dying animal on the side of a road. Like someone hits a deer, and you see it three– three cars later, it’s like kicking. You’re like, “Oh! Just shoot it! Kill it! Make it stop!” This is agony. I had this massive lump in my throat. I go staggering downstairs to this dressing room mirror, like, “What did I do?! How did I bomb?” And I don’t think I’m unable to bomb. Anyone can bomb. But I seem to have bombed with every single thing I said. And I’m back there talking to this woman I know. I said, “What– what did I just do?” She said, “Nothing. Look at the news.” And as I was onstage, Donald Trump was becoming the president-elect. And these people probably paid way too much for those tickets. And they were doing their level best, “This is kind of funny, I’m enjoying this.” [screams] “Babysitter, parking, I’m having a good time.” [screams] It was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had for being onstage. It was a perfect bummer. And so after the show, I’m just, you know, a little shook up about this whole thing. And I get on the Bon Jovi Mobile, the Def Leppard Express, my tour bus. It’s a rental. And I’m sitting there unable to sleep. Just because my America has changed and it’s going to be… Well, it’s going to be interesting. And so I sat up until about 5:30 in the morning, East Coast time, watching the different news carriers roll out the information. It’s the same information. But different news carriers have different postures. So I watched Fox News, which was the funnest. ‘Cause they’re super happy. There’s champagne corks flying across the set. Most of the people are topless. Lines of cocaine are being snorted off the chests of 13-year-old strippers. I mean, it’s a celebratory environment. Like, “Hooray, we won.” It’s fun to win, I get it. And so I switched to MSNBC to see all those brave, young pundits. And they’re just trying to not be emo. Like, “Well, none of us… [sobbing] thought this was gonna happen, but… So we have a new president. And… [sobs]” And then I went to CNN, which is just dependably… [hums tone] “I’m Wolf Blitzer… I’m levitating.” I realized that this guy is going to turn American democracy at its very most benevolent, just inefficient. At its worst, predatory and divisive. And so we are now on our own.
I don’t think there’s ever been a more interesting or better time to live in this country. Why? ‘Cause everything matters now. Your words matter now. Your attitude matters now. How hard you stand up for LGBT folks, and brown folks, and women folks, and reproductive health rights, et cetera, et cetera. -It all matters now. -[cheering, applause] It all matters. Where before, it was just kind of this splashy ocean of doing good. But now you stand in sharp contrast to your strange uncle who comes with xenophobic rants every Thanksgiving or so, thanks to vodka. And you will never talk him down from his ledge. But you can outlive him. And I’m not saying that, let’s push these people into an early grave. I’m just saying that very, very soon, in your lifetime, like really soon, there will be no one left alive to watch Fox News. -They… -[cheering] And I am in no way saying, “Hurry up and die.” I’m just saying everyone dies eventually. Except for Mick and Keith. Everyone else is going to go! And there’s a topic I’m not… It’s not like I can tell you anything about it that you don’t know. But when these brave women are standing up and saying, “He molested me, he harassed me,” and when anybody has the temerity to say, “What took you so long…” If you ever hear anybody, usually a male, “What took you 25 years to finally say it, now that the guy’s rich and famous? You’re just after his money.” No, you idiot. It’s a long time to suck up your humiliation and your fear and finally stand up and say, “He did that to me.” Why didn’t you say anything before? “I don’t wanna lose my job, I don’t wanna lose my family, I don’t wanna lose my social standing, I don’t wanna be judged by people like you telling me I’m something.” And so when these women stand up, they should all be given Nobel Peace Prizes for the sheer guts. -So… -[cheering, applause]
I have tried… on multiple live me plus audience experiences to articulate this idea. And it has bombed every single time. And I know it’s good, I just don’t know how to roll it out. So stunted as it is, I’m going to try one more time. Since the beginning of humankind, recorded history at least, we have done everything one way, where men run everything. Everything. And so the world we live in is a man’s world. I’m not saying good or bad. I’m just saying that is what we’ve been doing since your parents’ parents’ parents’ parents’ parents. It has been one way and one way only. Like there’s sunspots on the sun. There’s been little things here and there, Roe v. Wade, pay disparity being addressed, women standing up and saying “me too” or “enough is enough.” So little sunspots, but not substantive change that I want. ‘Cause I have no attention span, I’m incredibly impatient, and I want everything right now. So, what I want, at least in America, since we lead the world, apparently, I want a new ratio of power. And I want it Monday. Easy to wish for. I want 75/25 women running things. Now… and I’m not trying to get in your good graces, ladies. Because Jefferson instructs me that anyone with power will be corrupted by it. And if you think a person with a vagina can’t turn into an authoritarian psychopath, give them a few generations of power and they will do it. However, won’t it be a great experiment to see, with women running things, would there be less war? There’s only one way to find out. What would healthcare be like if women ran it? People who give birth. What would that be like for women’s reproductive health rights, kids with physical challenges? What would education be like if women are running the show, going, “I’m not training these kids to become soldiers. ‘Cause I don’t want my kid going to a foreign war and dying.”
So how do you establish 75/25 power share in America by Monday? Not peacefully. And this is the part of the discussion -which I can never… -[applause] I can’t get it to work because a lot of men are going to have to die. -[laughter, cheering] -And… certainly, I don’t wanna. So if any of you women go on a killing spree, remember it was kinda my idea. And I’m one of the cool ones. And so… So what do you do? And I’m just thinking out loud here. You know, just an idea. But like NASCAR, there’ll be a NASCAR event and all of these men will be looking like, “Where did the women go? Where did the women go? My hand– I had my hand up one and she left. It was my daughter or your daughter. I forget. Where’d they go? What’s that overhead?” [explosion sound] “It’s an air strike and I’m burning.” And so… this is… This is why I think these thoughts.
What is the most detrimental thing to progress in our fine United States? It’s not weak borders, it’s not gays wanting to have equal rights, it’s not those brown people, it’s not Al Qaeda, it’s not Islam. It’s white men. It’s white men. -[applause] -And of course… But what about the cool ones? Yeah! I’d like to think I’m one. -[laughter] -We’ll see, right? “I’m sorry, Henry.” A machete. [grunting] And my– if one of you women kills me with a machete, I promise you my dying words will be, “Cool.” Because… not boring! Not boring. And so obviously you can’t slaughter millions of Caucasian men. And so we’re going to have to do some evolution. And so how do you do that? You just keep pushing people off balance. Keep standing up, and those who have the bravery to stand up, you stand up next to them and say, “You’re not alone. I got you.” Like all those amazing young people who marched the other day to save their own lives, thankfully a lot of people who weren’t young got in line and got on those streets with them saying, “I’ve got you. You are the future. I am your fan. You’ll never know who I am. But I’ve got your back in ways you don’t even know. I’ve been waiting for you. I can’t wait! So stay brave, and always know that I am right behind you.” And as a man hurtling towards 60, I reckon my job is to clear the lane so these people can get through. What you’re going to see in this century, in your lifetime, in the next several years, is a generational shift. And that’s why these people are so angry. Because they know, without a doubt in their mind, that the earth is shifting underneath their feet. And when you see a completely awful thing, like what happened at that school in Florida recently, then you see what happens afterwards. And you see these amazing young people, -and it is part and parcel… -[cheering] …of the age we live in. Where you have this completely awful thing happen, yet you have these cool, articulate, well-meaning young people who are not only quite sure of where they’re going, but did you notice this? They’re camera ready. And that’s one of the upsides of everyone being in front, like, selfie, “Okay, you go, skate down those stairs, hit the rail, and then bounce off that car.” Ev– they’re all ready for their close-up. And when you see these kids going down the barrel of national news cameras, wiping away the tears as they speak, making more sense than their candy-ass representatives will ever make, then you realize… [cheering] You realize every good thing that you did and will do matters. ‘Cause if anything, you have to be there for them. I am 57. It all hurts now. I am high on aspirin, just to stand up straight. And so if these kids who say, “Come march with us,” I’m like, “No. No. I’m just gonna– I’m gonna sit, actually. And I’m gonna clap twice, lie down, get up to some graham crackers and a juice box. ‘Cause I don’t– I’m with you! But I can’t do the miles. So hopefully I’ve been looking out so you can happen. And so now you’ll be looking out so I can happen until I die.”
Um, just a quick story about perception. Because these days, with the internet and things being what they are, all of a sudden, someone has an opinion of you without ever meeting you or talking to you. And quite often the facts are not exactly correct. And sometimes it’s awful. And sometimes it’s really funny. And so a funny thing happened to me several months ago. Well, it started many years ago. Many years ago, in the 1990s, I was living in New York City. And my bandmates lived there, so I defaulted and became an East Village resident, which was nothing but fun. It was fantastic. And so one day, I’m– in 1994 or 5… 5, maybe, uh, I was walking to band practice for like a noon band practice, I got there, at, like, 11:45. ‘Cause I put the “punk” in “punctual.” I’m always on time. I’ve never said that line before. Anyway… I’m milling around in the front lounge of the practice place waiting on my band members to drag themselves out of their small East Village apartments. And I’m alone in the front lounge, except for a very handsome man. Light-skinned African American man, no hair, wearing a suit, open-toed sandals, if I remember. He looks like a male model. And I’m impressed ’cause I don’t wear fancy clothes. I’m like, wow, he wears them and he wears them well. And the man nods at me, and I nod back, as man are wont to do. And then he gets up and he just keeps… I’m like, wow, you are really tall. But everyone’s tall to me ’cause I’m short. I’m like, wow, that’s… you’re impressive. And he walks over and looks down and I look up. And he said, “You’re Henry Rollins.” I said, “Yes, sir, I am.” He said, “I’m a fan of yours.” I said, “Oh, well, thank you.” Like, you know, shake the tall guy’s hand so he doesn’t like, you know, beat you to death. So I said, “Oh, thank you, sir.” He said, “My name is RuPaul.” -And… -[cheering] I didn’t recognize him without his fighting gear on. Like, the whole outfit. But if you look at the cheekbones and the eyes, that– you’re like, “You are RuPaul! Damn! I’m such a fan of yours!”
And that’s one of the difficulties I have. I’m a fan of a lot of people and I don’t have a very good filter. Like, I– my tail doesn’t wag a little. It literally wags off my body. And when I see bands I know, and they will give me a moment of their time, I’m unnerving to be around. Like, “Did you hear that bootleg seven-inch that came out of your last tour? It’s got two songs, one’s recorded really badly, but the other one’s recorded really well. I have a different version of that from a different tape, so if you ever want to hear a different version of it, and it came out in canary yellow vinyl, there’s a red vinyl version, and on eBay, I battled a guy for a clear and red version, it cost me $348, but what the hell? I have it and he doesn’t. ‘Cause there’s nothing I like more than beating another adult man who lives with his parents on something on eBay. I feel– I feel defeated and crushed when I lose, but I feel like a damn Viking when I win.” And the guy in the band’s like, -“Okay.” -[cheering, applause] And he’ll say something nice, like, “My dad liked your music,” as he’s trying to leave. And whenever I see J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., a band I love, there’s no bad records, there’s no bad songs, I really try some restraint whenever I’m around J. I’m like, this time I’m gonna be cool. I’m gonna say, “Hey, J. Good to see you.” And J will say, “Yeah…” And whenever I see him, I’m like, “J! Oh, damn, man! The last album is so good! It is so good! It’s better than ever! You are better than ever! How are you doing?!” “Oh, all right.” I’m like… And he must like see me and like, “Where can I go?” He wants to run, ’cause I’m a maniac.
So I’m standing with RuPaul. And I’m looking up at this man, and I said, “Damn, man! I like the cut of your jib. I like when you’re in your fighting gear. I think you’re amazing. I think you think outside the box. You’re amazing. Do you remember, 1985, Atlanta, Georgia, the fanzine Neighborhood Threat, named after the Iggy Pop song. It was like a newspaper folded. A picture of you above the fold, of course. And you’re holding like a torch, you got some paint on your face, and like a grass skirt, and it says, ‘RuPaul, sex freak.’ And underneath the fold is a photo of me looking like I’m wired on Thorazine, like… It says, ‘Henry Rollins, hex creep.'” He said, “I remember that.” I said, “You have a copy of it?” He said, “I don’t think so.” I said, “I have three.” In… in an acid-free Mylar archival environment. And he said, “Wow, you’re really intense.” I said, “You have no idea, man!” And so I just liked him immediately. You know when you have those experiences, you meet someone and you just like them. I just liked RuPaul. ‘Cause, you know, I think when the history book gets written on this century, RuPaul’s gonna be much more than a tall, handsome guy in a dress. RuPaul keeps people alive. ‘Cause there’s LGBT people all over the world and they get told, “You’re awful, you’re not my brother, you’re not my son, you’re not my daughter, you’re awful, get out of here.” And sometimes they kill themselves. Sometimes they hurt themselves. They spend their whole life not feeling right. And then they see RuPaul, like in his fighting gear, like just up there going, “Yeah, I’m in a dress and a wig and I look good and I’m getting paid. -And I’m here!” -[cheering] And… I mean, this is Portland, and you’re all groovy and smart and literate. But imagine being gay in one of the Dakotas. Imagine being gay in Oklahoma. That might be a really heavy lift. That might be damn impossible. And RuPaul gives strength to people like that. I know he does. And so he’s not only an entertainer type and an entrepreneur, but he– to me, he’s a fantastic civil rights activist. And he’s brave. And he thinks outside the box. I mean, he just came up with this idea, you know, he didn’t invent drag, of course. But he took it to levels, like he– You’ll never get him out of the American conversation. He is in there like death and taxes. He is in there. And he’s given a lot of people room to move. So I will always be a fan and defend him down to my last breath. And I kind of said all that to him in my inarticulate way many years ago, and he kind of went, “Wow. You’re talking a lot, a lot of spit flying.” And so RuPaul does something that I can’t do, ’cause I’m uptight and weird. He will write me out of the blue, “Hey, Henry, it’s RuPaul. Thinking of you. Hope you’re having a good day.” I don’t know what to do about that. ‘Cause I’m not a mean person, I’m just really screwed up. I don’t do that with people ’cause I’m afraid they’ll write back and then you write back and then they write back and… It’s just I don’t wanna… I don’t… just no. And so I don’t know how to answer this completely benevolent well wish. And I look at the email and pace in my office staring at it. How do I reply? “Dear RuPaul, I was just about to write you.” That’s a lie! That’s a lie. Not that I don’t wanna write the guy, I just don’t have anything to say. And to me saying like, “I was just thinking about you,” I would expect him to write back, “When?” And– like was it 1027 hours, 1423 hours? What were you doing? What were you wearing? What were you eating? Like, prove it! And I don’t want to have to like, “Uh…” And so I will just stare at it and I’ll write back in this kind of uptight, clinical way, “Dear RuPaul, thank you so much for your letter and your inquiry as to my life and health. By– just by the nature of the fact that I’m responding to you means that I am in a semi-operational state. I appreciate your interest and help and wisdom over the years. Yours forever…” I don’t know what to do. I’m just like dialing it in from some Hallmark greeting card. And so every once in a while he’ll write me, “Hey, be a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Which was interesting, be the only serious judge on the show. In that everyone’s having a really good time but me. I have a notepad out. [mumbles] “The pirouette was very circular. Never wrote the word ‘pirouette’ before. I give the pirouette a seven five. Why? I have never given a numerical assessment of a pirouette. I’ve never used ‘pirouette’ in a sentence. Why am I here?” But I’m taking it very seriously. And– at lunchtime, I said, “RuPaul, I don’t know. We’re gonna have to kick one of the drag queens off RuPaul’s Drag Race. I don’t know.” And I have like five pages of steno notes. And he said, “You take everything really seriously, don’t you?” I’m like… “What do you mean?” Meanwhile, completely firm in the knowledge that I’m a heterosexual male. Which means nothing when you’re 57. It means nothing. Like, “I’m heterosexual.” Be like, “Oh, you’re so cute. Oh, that’s darling. He’s heterosexual. Oh! Well, you… you go have fun with that.” And so I’m sitting with all these people who are having a really good time. Not me. I’m studying ’cause we have to kick one drag queen off RuPaul’s Drag Race by the end of the show, and damn it, I wanna make the right decision. Meanwhile, these men see that I’m the only one giving them my undivided attention, so they in kind give me their undivided attention. And so now all the drag queens are like looking at you. [hums song] And I’m like, “Me?” And they’re like, “Yes.” And I can feel the four drops of blood that remain in my lizard-like body starting to move to the center of my body. And I’m like, “Oh, no, no, no! No, no, no! No, no. No, no. No.” And it’s not like, “Eww, it’s a man.” It’s like, no, it’s a false flag operation. It’s a fool’s errand. I mean, there will be no ecstatic result. And so I like… [imitates static] “Mayday, mayday. Please call off the blood flow.” [static] And then like three minutes later, they’re like… [hums song] Because obviously I’m not as evolved as I thought I was. I’m just a tadpole. And what turns me on? Apparently, any human looking at me smiling in a short skirt. I’m like, “I’m in! -Hooray!” Which… -[cheering] …might make the rest of my life pretty easy. Just close my eyes, open my mouth, stick my tongue out and walk into the party. [cheering] And the first thing that goes… [makes gulping sound] You go home and… that’s the weekend. Anyway, after I do RuPaul’s Drag Race, and after many well-wishing letters out of nowhere, which I can’t thank the man enough for, he makes me a better person. At one point, he wrote and he said, “Hey. I’ve got this show that I do where I put people in my car, I put a camera on ’em and a microphone, and we drive around L.A. and we do their errands, and I interview them and I cut it together, and it’s a show! You wanna be on it?” I went, “Yeah.” He said, “When?” I said, “Tomorrow?” He said, “10?” I said, “Yeah.” So the next day, he picks me up and we get into his like 900-year-old Fiat. And GoPro on me, GoPro on him, microphones. And we’re going down the driveway. I said, “Okay. So we’re starting the errand run. We’re gonna go down to the… the end of the street, we’re gonna make a left. But then after that, it’s a series of right turns.” He said, “You took me seriously about running errands?” He said… “Do you know who you’re sitting in a car with?” I said, “It is a fantastic errands run. It’s all right turns into parking lots. I made a dry run at 0330 hours this morning. It’s fantastic.” And so he’s like, “Okay.” And– and I have this list of things to do. And so finally we get to the end and we did all of the things on the to-do list. And he’s like, “Wow, that was really efficient.” I said, “Fantastic. We could have picked up a few more minutes. But, you know, it’s okay.” Because, well, you know, I’m gonna be dead soon. Time, time, time. Everything’s important to me. And so we get to the end. He said, “Okay. You’ve been a very good guest. How about free lunch?” It’s like the two best words in the English language put together: “free,” what’s it gonna be? “Lunch,” yes! It’s… food tastes better when it’s free. Even if it’s awful. You’re like… “No, it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s a deer’s eye, but it’s okay.” And so he said, “I know this great place in West L.A. Japanese place, let’s go.” I said, “Let’s go.” And so I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Los Angeles. Please come and visit. Bring the gas mask and Kevlar. You know, we’re Second Amendment happy. And… and there’s part of L.A. called West L.A. Otherwise known as gay L.A. And that’s not putting the part of town down. Rainbow flags fly proudly on the perfectly manicured lawn that separates eastbound and westbound traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard. The shops are beautiful, the smells coming out of the restaurants are fantastic, the people on the street are the epitome of Southern Californian healthy living. Like old men and women yoga bodies, flexible, good-looking when they’re half naked. And everyone’s like showing a lot of… a lot of flesh, fantastic hair, interesting glasses, bright… bright white teeth, they’re just like… [grunts] Like, “How old are you?” “88.” Like… Well, wow! “Yeah!” Just like… ‘Cause, you know, the night is young. And so we… we are in the depths of West L.A. And we park in this massive parking garage. And RuPaul and I emerge onto Santa Monica Boulevard. Which is teeming with human traffic. Both of us are recognized almost immediately. And people are so happy. The wave of joy that we unleashed on Santa Monica Boulevard, they’re still talking about it right now. At first people looked like they’d seen a ghost. They’re like… “Yes!” [imitates slap] “I told you, I told you.” And people are like hugging each other. “Yes, yes, yes! Power couple!” -[laughs] -[applause] And I’m like sneaking glances over at people like… I’m like, “Thanks. But it’s not what you think.” Like, “Oh, please, let it be. Let it be.” And of course, in this modern age… [imitates camera click] And I said, “RuPaul? I think we’re an item.” And I forget what he said. And so we cross the street, we eat in the restaurant, and it was really good. And we had a great conversation, as always, he’s brilliant. And he drops me off at my place. A few hours later, in come the email. When people write me, you started it, and if you’re gonna be an idiot, I get to play with you as much as I want. You’re the mouse, I’m the cat. And this is going to take a while. Especially when your first email to me is, “Dude, I’m a young man in the American Midwest. Dude, totally freaking out in my small room, pacing back and forth. Dude, tell me you are not dating RuPaul. Dude, I’ve got all your records out, I’m ready to take them to the record store and trade them in. I’m not homophobic, but this is just a lot for me to handle, dude. Like you gotta hit me back ASAP. ‘Cause I am totally freaking out.” Do I write him back? Yes. Five hours later. Just let him just… just spin over the fire. What I want is for him to take out all those records and play them one last time, looking for the gay inferences… that no doubt wait like Easter eggs, and now that I’m dating RuPaul, all shall be revealed. It’s like, “Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Damaged I and Damaged II. All right, he’s damaged ’cause he’s gay. It’s just he’s gay, there’s an encore, part two. Whoo! Like, okay. Right? My War. My gay war. Right? ‘Cause they don’t like me and I don’t like them. Eh! I’m gonna give it to them. Okay, yeah. I got it, I got it. Oh! Ah! Ah! Oh, no. No! Slip It In. No! Oh, no! [cheering] I sang that song so many times! Ah! Ahh! Ah!” And so let him do that. And then finally, I write him back, like hours later. “Dear young person in the Midwest, RuPaul and I? Well, I wouldn’t call it dating. But I would say that last weekend left a mark.” [imitates explosion] ‘Cause he’s now going to go to whatever social platform he goes to… “Ah! Oh, no!” Please do that. Do it a lot. A whole lot. Have your friends multiply it. Like, all of a sudden, all across the world, “Henry Rollins is dating RuPaul. Oh, no!” And there’s gonna be a lot of people like, “So what? That’s cool. They’re adults. They’re both old. They’ll have fun together. They can sit in parks and watch pigeons. They’re in their fifties. They won’t get up to much without medication. They’ll be fine.” And maybe it starts a conversation. Like, “Well, if he is gay, then why do you have a problem with that? If you like the music he made or the things he says onstage, why would his orientation make a difference?” “I… uh!” And maybe some person overcomes a hurdle they didn’t know that was there to be jumped over. I don’t know. I just like creating trouble here and there because you can go through your life, “I’m balancing, I’m perfectly balanced, I’m going to the cubicle, then I’m going home, and I’m going to have the same dinner.” And all of a sudden, bonk! Henry’s making with a six-foot-something male model black guy. [mumbles] And all of a sudden, we’re awake again. And so I sent this young man off on a tizzy. And I got a similar letter, you know, the next day, like, “Tell me it’s not true.” And so I wanted to crank it up. And so I wrote back, “Dear young person, um, fisting. Gets a bad rap. I think ’cause so many people saw the film Caligula. -Where… -[audience cheering] It was an assault. Certainly not the way I’d like to be woken up. However, with proper relaxation and preparation, and a hi sign, it can…” [imitates explosion] And so far, these two people have not written me back.
Two quick stories about ego. One, from many years ago. I was at a festival, and– with my bandmates and I, big European festivals… [whispers] No one liked us that much. Well, no, it’s– I’m fine. I’m fine. But thank you. I… your empathy is noted. So we were always like one of the first bands on. Like, “10am, get ’em on, get ’em off.” By 10:45, we’re done. No one saw us. There’s like two kids riding out the last of their ketamine from the night before when this muddy field was a rave. They kind of wake up in mud like, “Hey!” [grunts] And all you can hear between songs like, [static] “Bad band is almost offstage. Bad band is almost offstage.” And so we’d be offstage, showered and done for the day by around 11:00, but you can’t leave. ‘Cause all the other bands have now come onto the grounds, with like eight busses, five trucks, they’re gonna build a live volcano for The Verve, you know, and they’re hurling volcanic soil onto the stage. There’s like a 90-ton thing and they’re gonna feed four fans into the mouth of the volcano. Well, they signed up for it. Anyway, so I am trapped, and the rest of the day all I hear is like, “Hey, it’s good to be back in Holland.” [roars] Like, a field of people like 30,000 people, “Yay!” I’m like, wow, that’s so not me. That’s just not my life. And you just have to suck it up and take it. You’ll always be on the sideline, third string. And so I’m standing there like, you know, hearing some guy over the PA, “This is our new single.” “Yeah!” Never gonna be me.
David Bowie walks by me. And like you, I love those records. There’s not one thing wrong with those records. The more you play them, the better they get. And so he looks fantastic. Hair perfect. Suit perfect. I go rigid. Officer on deck. And so I just stand there, silent as can be, ’cause I don’t want to be like the thing that makes David Bowie fly away like a rare bird. Like if I– if I go like… [coughs, fluttering sound] People are like, “Why’d you do that to David Bowie? He’s rarer than the snowy egret in Chincoteague in October. Like, why did you do that?” And so I’m like, [whispers] “David Bowie’s walking by me. I am such a fan. This is all I need. Twenty years later, I’ll be standing on a stage with cameras rolling saying, ‘David Bowie walked by me, and I was fine.’ So I don’t need to meet him. I just like to be near him. I’m fine.” So I’m standing there like, “Wow. That’s– I like the cut of his jib. Good posture.” And he’s walking by me, from like me, you know, to like ten rows back. And he stops and looks to his left. And points at me, and says, “Rollins!” I go running at David Bowie… with my right hand extended like a lance. Not know what I’m going to say when I get there. Like if I said, “Ah! Bowie!” That’s like two professors greeting each other down the long hallways of academia. “Good morning, Plato.” “Hello, Socrates.” [makes slapping sound] No! And so I ran up to him and I stuck my hand out and I think I went, “Ahhh…” ‘Cause these people, their records aren’t just something to me, they saved me. You know? These records saved your ass. And so… [cheering, applause] Whenever I see Iggy Pop, I’m like, “Hey!” He’s like, “Hey, Henry, how are you, man?” I’m like, “That’s my name! Ahh!” I can’t stand it. Anyway, I walk up to David Bowie, or as our band members affectionately called him, the Bow, and I think I went… [mumbles] And he shook my hand, and before I could say anything, he said, “Henry, you said something in an interview in a magazine last month that I found very interesting.” And proceeded to quote me back to me. [cheering] I went numb. I’m like, “You read an interview of mine?” And he kind of blew me off. Said, “Are you kidding? I read all your interviews. You’re very interesting. Now, last year in a magazine in Germany, you said this.” And he proceeds to quote me from something he translated from German from a year ago. I’m like, “I did say that. Sure sounds better when you say it.” All I wanted was a highway and a truck. Just like, kill me, ’cause my life is never getting better than this. -And so… -[cheering, applause] He said, “Have you had lunch yet?” I went, “No.” He said, “Well, let’s go have lunch.” I go, “Let me check my day planner. Okay.” And so we go into the catering tent, which has like hundreds of people in it. And everyone stops because David freaking Bowie walks into the tent. And like large Viking roadie men have like half a deer going towards their mouth. And like… And he played it perfectly. “Good afternoon. I don’t want to disturb anyone’s meal. Please carry on.” He got a standing– Like, “Oh, that was… that was so beautiful. That was better than “Red Sails” on Lodger. Oh!” And so we get some food and we sit down and we’re eating and we’re talking about everything, you know, from his friend Lou Reed, his friend Iggy Pop, and on and on. And the entire mess hall is listening to our conversation. ‘Cause it’s David Bowie. My bandmates find out who I’m eating lunch with. They come running in. And they all run up, “Henry,” big smiles on their faces, pretending they like me, like, “Introduce us to your friend.” So I said, “David, meet Dopey, Sleepy…” And so to each one of them, he said, “How do you do? I’m David.” Like they don’t know. And– and they all kind of… [makes banging sound] And we all just sat around him and watched him eat. Like… We’re all grown men. And the way you masticate is so dreamy. And he starts looking at us like, “I’m at a table full of weirdos.” And so he said, “Um, I’ve gotta go get ready to play.” We’re like… And as cynical as my bandmates were, ’cause I’m a fanboy of everybody, we meet some band like, “Wow, that was so cool!” They’re like, “Henry, they’re just people in a band.” I’m like, “Not to me. Saved my life too many times just to be somebody in a band.” But even those guys sitting on the tour bus later that night after we watched Mr. Bowie play, the most cynical one said, “I hate to admit this, but that was really cool.” I went, “Ah! See? You’re not dead yet.”
Many years ago, I was at the practice place, same place where I met RuPaul all those years ago. Struggling with my band members, trying to make some music. It wasn’t going very well. We’re just– it’s not– We’re having a bad month. Year. And so we’re grinding away and someone comes in from the front lounge, where the phone is. “Ozzy Osbourne‘s people just called. And they want you to open a couple of shows for Ozzy in Florida, what do you say?” I said yes so fast I sprained my face. “Yeah! Ah! Oh!” I’ve loved that guy since I was 12. My band members were far less enthusiastic. They’re like, and one of them said, “But Henry, he’s rock.” I was like, “Oh! Oh, am I gonna pull rank right now. You– you salaried band member. You will start learning the set ’cause in three weeks, we are opening for Ozzy Osbourne.” And they just had to take it ’cause I’m El Jefe. And so we get all practiced up. We’ve got the set ready. And we fly down to Florida. And we overnight in Florida, then we’re taken to the megadome, some huge place. And we’re put on a golf cart and sent, you know, miles below the earth’s surface to one of those really scary utilitarian dressing rooms or locker rooms that hold like 55 naked men after they’ve bashed each other’s brains in. And they have those showers for all the men to use at once, with the really bad feeling water that comes like, “Ow, ow!” It all hurts. And I walked into this like massive hallway of spigots thinking, “Could I stand naked with a bunch of other men, snapping towels and dropping soap?” And I realized that… no. Not at all. Way too uptight! And so we’re looking at the amenities that we’ve been given in our like wooden bench, fluorescent light dressing room. now that we are in the big time. We had a can of Coke, an apple, and a coffee mug with nothing in it. That’s it. And we kind went, “Well, that’s the big time.” The door bursts open. It’s Ozzy Osbourne. He has a cigar. “Which one of you guys is Henry, man?” I said, “I am.” “Hey, Henry, my name is Ozzy, man! Thank you for coming on the tour, man! We have a PA, it’s really loud. Play it as loud as you want! If you want to blow it up, blow it up! Have a really good time! Ah!” And he leaves. Total time, 11 seconds. It was fantastic. My bandmates were duly impressed. Like, “That was… that was pretty amazing.” He like swept in, swept out, and there’s an ash. And so we do opening for the big rock act soundcheck. You get on stage. Deh! “All right, thank you.” “But… no, I was just plugging in.” “You’re the opening band. That’s all the soundcheck you get. We can hear your instruments. Go.” Back on the golf cart… [whirring sound] So I say to the band members, I said, “Look. No one’s gonna want to see us play. Okay? That’s the downside of this show. They only want one guy, one guy only. And it’s none of us, it’s Ozzy. So if you see a laser dot on your shirt, that’s a sniper. Keep playing, but run in an evasive zigzag pattern while you play.” I said to our drummer, “If you see the laser dot, you’re kind of stuck with your seat. You’re a drummer. You can take anything. So just, you know, suck it up and get shot for the cause.” I said, “If you see any toothless wonders with a meth lab at home, with a brick or hatchet, or a Motley Crue eight-track to bash you over the head with, just run, but keep playing as long as possible.” I’m just trying to give them every nightmare scenario so they’re ready. And so, “Okay, your time.” And we get on the golf cart. [whirring sound] And we jump out on the stage with thousands of people. And I said, “Hey, uh… we’re the Rollins Band.” [soft roar] Like, damn! I’m Freddie Mercury at Wembley! Like… no, you can hear them roar! And the whole band’s like, “Damn! Okay.” So we play the first song like… [drum sounds] It comes to an end. [soft roar] I’m like, yeah! I did things that day that I have never done before in my life. Things that punk rock instruct me to never do! You never address an audience by the city or the state, like, “Hey, Florida!” Don’t do it. Don’t do it. If I walked out and was like, “Hey, what’s up, Portland? Ow!” I mean, it’s just disingenuous and patronizing. I don’t do it. It came out of me. ‘Cause when you see 20,000 people going… [soft roar] It just, Heimlich, like, “All right, Florida!” [soft roar] I started working the stage. If you’ve noticed, I’ve been standing stock still ’cause I’m concentrating. You think this is easy, it’s not. And so I started working the stage. Which is nauseating just to say that. But I’m like… And I’m thinking like, “What am I– what am I doing? What– what is this chicken thing I’m doing?” And like people are digging it. [soft roar] And then as the songs go on, I’m coming up with this dumb stuff to say. “That’s our bass player over there playing bass! Yeah!” [soft roar] “All right! Our drummer!” [soft roar] We can do no wrong. So we finish the show. I think we call came out to the front of the stage, ala The Scorpions, like… And I said something awful like, “Next time we’re gonna come back and [high-pitched] rock you! Yeah!” And we get back on the golf cart hearing… [soft roar] [whirring sound] We can barely get our heads into the dressing room, knowing that next time we come back to Florida, that is our audience. We’ve got ’em! And so I shower up alone. “Fellas, don’t come in, I’ll be naked.” I run up the top side, ’cause I wanna watch Ozzy play. The band is onstage. Ozzy’s standing right there facing the stage. Audience, band, Ozzy on stage right, your left. He’s like this. And I walk up and go, “Hey, Ozzy. How are you?” “Oh, hey, man! Is there anyone out there?” I went, “It’s like 19,000 people. You smell the WD40? That’s how they got the last 3,000 in.” He’s like, “Oh. I always worry that no one’s gonna show up.” I went, “Ozzy, when have you not sold out a place? Like since 1968?” “I don’t know, man. But in the afternoons, I get really nervous and depressed that no one will show up, man.” I went, “Uh, they’re here.” And just to hear him say that, that he has trepidation about no one showing up, I’m like, wow. That’s impressive. So he kind of goes back to this… Like I’m not there. Sharon Osbourne appears out of nowhere. All of a sudden, she’s there. She gets right behind Ozzy, “Ozzy!” And I was like, “Ah!” And she just… And he goes out like, “Ah!” He runs out onstage. And this– this switch is flipped. And suddenly, “Ah! Let’s go crazy!” And you hear the sound of the sky being ripped in half. It’s like a 747 taking off in your mind. [roaring] And that’s 20,000 people on their feet cheering. And that’s when you realize… [soft roar] …is the sound of 20,000 people all going like, “How many more songs do they have? Can I have some of that?” [inhales] “God! The Rollins Band, they suck!” [grunts] “Oh, this song… what’s he doing like…?” [coughs] “Oh, this is the worst crap I’ve ever seen.” And that’s what… [soft roar] is. And it was such a humbling lesson. And I do my best to never forget that moment. Because I’m always coming from that microscopic, little… [soft roar] …lest I lose the plot. Have a great weekend. Good night, thanks. [cheering, applause] Thanks. Couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you, good night.