Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obituary - Brendan Mullen

On Monday 12th October 2009, Brendan Mullen, founder of the legendary Hollywood Punk club The Masque, died at Ventura County Medical Centre. His death was the result of a massive stroke he suffered two days earlier. He was with his partner of 16 years, Kateri Butler, with whom he was travelling through Santa Barbara and Ventura in celebration of his 60th birthday. In a statement from Butler, Mullen is said to have shown no indication that he was a likely stroke victim.
The importance of The Masque in terms of Punk’s own history cannot be understated. It acted as the lynchpin for the early Los Angeles Punk scene and Mullen himself is often credited as being the first promoter of Punk Rock in Hollywood.
Mullen was born in Paisley, Scotland on 9th October 1949 and grew up in Manchester, England prior to his move to America. In his photo book, Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley, he describes himself as a, "dirty, hapless schmuck from Scotland" who was looking for a place to live and bang his drums (Mullen played drums in his own Punk-lounge act, the SATINTONES.). In June 1977 he, "tumbled into the basement of the Hollywood Center Building." This space became The Masque.
The Masque was a 10,000-foot space located behind the Pussycat adult theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Initially, Mullen rented out the space he didn’t use as a rehearsal room, “at such rock-bottom monthly prices, even Punk bands could afford them. Within a month or so, the basement morphed into a performance space.” On 18th August 1977, The Masque staged its first show hosting both THE SKULLS and THE CONTROLLERS.
From there, the club became a haven for those alienated from the mainstream, frustrated by regularity and addicted to the pulsating and assaultive sounds of the new beat that we know as Punk Rock. Regularly bands as infamous as THE GERMS, THE WEIRDOS, THE DILS and THE SCREAMERS would perform their earliest shows at the club. The club became the pantheon of Los Angeles Punk as X, THE DICKIES, THE GO-GOS, THE BAGS, THE FLESHEATERS and more all made the club their spiritual home. Mullen usually hosted the events (which went onto include San Fran Punks DEAD KENNEDYS and AVENGERS and fledgling performances by USHC legends BLACK FLAG) and is often described as both charming and acerbic.
As with every club since, The Masque soon came to the attention of police, fire and licensing officials while also facing hostilities from local businesses. Such scrutiny lead the club to closing and reopening on several occasions. It even moved to another space on Santa Monica Boulevard before closing its doors for good in 1979.
After the closure of The Masque, Mullen fell on hard times finding himself broke and homeless after a spell as an independent Punk Rock promoter. This spell of inactivity was to end in 1981 with a residency at the Club Lingerie.
Situated on Sunset Boulevard, Club Lingerie provided an outlet for Mullen’s skills for over a decade. He was the club’s in-house booker arranging eclectic shows ranging from R&B, Punk, Pop, Jazz and, most significantly, Hip-Hop.
While Mullen will first and foremost be credited with ties to Punk Rock, it should also be noted that he lays claim to have staged Southern California’s, “first full-spectrum, New York-style Hip-Hop event including MCs, DJs, graffiti writers, and b-boy breakers, all of ‘em flown out specifically from the South Bronx.” The bill included Grandmixer D.ST, Afrika Islam, Crazy Legs and others. In attendance was 17-year-old Andre Williams who had slipped past security. Today, Williams is more widely known as one Dr. Dre.
While booking at Club Lingerie, Mullen simultaneously booked at the Variety Arts Center during the late 80s and aided Johnny Depp and his partners in opening the Viper Room in 1993.
In recent years, Mullen has vigorously chronicled the history of L.A. Punk, which in turn documented his own role in the scene. These books, which include We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk (2001, with Marc Spitz), Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs (2002, with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey), and the previously mentioned photo history Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley (2007), have brought Mullen to the attention of a whole new generation of Punks eager for first-hand knowledge on this influential and pivotal era. He also authored the JANE’S ADDICTION oral history Whores (2005). For the last year prior to his passing, he had been working with Red Hot Chili Peppers on a book about the band’s career, according to the band’s bassist, Flea.
In addition to Butler, Mullen is survived by three sisters: Pauline Mullen, Una Earley and Nuala Rainford.