Villain or Victim?

'Villian or Victim' was written by Michael McKenzie, co-host of The People and Efrom Allen, and was printed in New Wave Music in December 1978.

Part One: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa is a nice place if you have nothing to do and you want to keep it that way. Fortunately for me, it had snowed that day so, at least, I could sniper the people on the street with iceballs from the roof of the Howard Johnson's where I was staying. Unfortunately, I didn't have gloves so I had to stop after half an hour 'cause my hands felt like they were being donated to science. So I did the only thing that was left - I hung around the bar until the Sex Pistols opened up at Caine's Ballroom.

Sid leads the Pistols out and he's a great routine - black leather badboy with a Frankenstein walk. The Pistols do their standard great show. Rotten is a hard core star but, to my own surprise, Vicious is the more interesting of the two.

About two thirds of the way through the set, an outrageous piece of ass - blond, green-eyes, hot bodied and dressed like a stripper - swaggers into Caine's and deposits herself at the foot of the stage midway between Rotten and Vicious. She looks up at Sid but he turns and spits at the audience, scrunging up his lips to the shape of a crushed beer can. The chick thinks this is the ultimate and shakes her ass over to Vicious. He remains firm in ignoring the broad, who is obviously reacting to the stuffiness of Caine's by opening up a few buttons of her low-cut blouse. Vicious takes notice and in one motion: 1. winks, 2. mouths "backstage", 3. nods in that direction and 4. picks up the broad.

After the show there was a mad rush of press people towards Rotten and a couple of people to each of the other Pistols. I instantaneously noticed three things: The broad was with Sid, she was no ordinary fox, and she was a he! I introduce myself to Sid who responds with the expected. "So fucking what?"

Fuck 'em, I figured. People should always have to pay for their mistakes. So I whip out a couple of cameras and start shooting. Sid mugs a couple, then gets bored and screams. What the hell are you taking so many millions of pictures of me for? Amused, I reply, "'cause you're with my sister."


Part Two: A Vicious TV Show

I had been co-hosting a cable television show in New York, The Efrom Allen Show. We'd had Blondie, The Ramones and Divine on the show and I figured Vicious was a natural. I approached him one night at Max's and asked him if he'd like to be on with Stiv Bators, Sunday at midnight, LIVE. I told him there was no censorship and that the television audience would call in with questions to which he could supply answers, laugh at, hang up on or handle any other way he saw fit. "Sounds like fun," said Sidney, quite friendly, actually, and we set the date. Sid then went back into his coma, hunched in a chair like a great boxer who had just been defeated. I took two photographs and left. It depressed me to see him so down, especially since I remembered him as the most outgoing Pistol.

I have to admit that I didn't expect him to show. On my way over to the studio, I begin inventing a song and dance act to fill in the one hour time spot. There are many things you can accuse Sid of, but being reliable certainly isn't one of them.

I entered the studio to find Sid and Nancy Vicious along with Bators and Cynthia of the B-Girls seated at the guest table. I tried to act like I wasn't in the least bit surprised. Efrom Allen hastily handed me a microphone and the show was on the air before I even had a chance to take a piss.

Efrom and I do our little "What's Happening Around Town" rap and then Efrom introduces Sid by playing his single, 'My Way', as serviceable a personality portrait as any one song could be. All six of us are laughing our asses off and Sidney, of course, is laughing the hardest as he noted, "It's really fuckin' great, ain't it?"

I give my "pocket guide to punk" so the T.V. audience can have a little food for thought before Efrom opens the show to two-way television, where the audience becomes the interviewer by calling us on the phone.

Rrr... ring... ring. All the lines are lit up like Christmas lights and the first caller addresses himself generally to the six of us in one of those highbrow, college professor voices: "In the '60s, it seems that all our rock stars were freaks. But now, in the '70s, it seems the thing to be is a monster. What..." Sid cuts the guy off with a vengeance, "Speak for yourself, you jerk off. Hang up, you fucking cunt."

That answers that.

The next question comes from a more lowbrow listener and is directed to Efrom and myself: "Why do you have creeps like this on your show? What..." Again Sidney pounces back with the answer. "Speak for yourself, you pervert!!!" Sid lets out a belch that probably registered more decibels than the Concorde, then he sits back, either straightens or messes up his hair and proceeds to make a series of distorted faces as the camera zooms in on him. Sid was loose now. The initial tension that began the show was buried (the guy who runs the station had put these tacky plastic flowers in front of us and Sid wanted them out. The TV guy said, in his asshole way. "They're getting dry, aren't they?" So Sid doused them with the water pitcher.)

The show stayed on this pitch for the entire hour, people calling with insults or ridiculous questions, Sid chucking back vicious answers. You probably missed the show, so let me give you the highlights.


A girl, about mid-twenties, calls. She has a giddy, dumb-blonde voice:

Caller: My girlfriend and I think Sid is sexy. (The camera goes on Sid who rises from his seat and starts to bellydance). We think he's real cute and he should be in a movie, like 'Naked Lunch'...

Sid: (Falling down to his seat and answering in a bored, disgusted voice). And what should I be, a salami?


This caller is around 45, probably a semi-successful businessman, much too "intelligent?" for this rock 'n'roll stuff.

Caller: What's all this skunk rock about? (Sid cracks up laughing) That is what you call it, right, skunk rock...?

Stiv Bators: Nah. that's your breath.

Caller: Maybe so, but I'm not picking my nose (getting a bit louder, a little outraged) or dribbling spit in front of thousands and thousands of people.

Sid: No, but I bet you'd like to be.


The next caller, finally, seems to know something about what's happening.

Caller: Did you really spit blood back in the face of the girl who punched you in the mouth in Dallas?

Sid: Of course.

Caller: I'd like to congratulate you on that.

Sid: (Swallowing a laugh) I am rather far out, aren't I?


Caller: Are you playing anywhere in the near future?

Nancy: Sid will be at Max's next week, then in Boston.

Sid: You shouldn't have told 'em! Now I'll have all these assholes at my gigs.


Caller: Hi. I work for a record company in L.A. and I wonder if you'd be interested in doing a few tracks on Ron Wood's album?

Sid: (totally pissed) Do me a favor. I ain't gonna play with that cunt.


Caller: Why isn't punk bigger in America?

Sid: Because you assholes listen to the Grateful Dead, that's why.


When the show is over, Stiv Bators and I look at each other and laugh. I ask Sid if he'd like to go somewhere and have a drink. He maintains his arrogant profile, snorting, "No, but you can take us all out for dinner." I look at him and laugh. Some people don’t even know which players are on their teams. Even though Sid rarely drops his guard, and even then for moments at a time, these glimpses are enough to assure you that somewhere inside him is an intelligent human being trapped inside an image he created. I wouldn't want to have to live up to his name.


Part Three: A Backstage Vicious Rap

I called Sid up to set up another interview, a few questions I thought he might answer reasonably. As usual, this had to be cleared with his 'manager', Nancy Vicious. It seemed like a bad trip to have someone like Sid, a guy with leadership qualities (indeed, Neo-Nazi dictator leadership!) being yes-and-noed into a coma by some Philadelphian bleached blond with a put on British accent. As a friend of mine put it, "Sid's like a bull being led around by a ring through his nose." Still, Sidney interests me in spite of his depressing condition. He interests me because what he has going for him is beyond talent: Sid is a unique character living a movie with a plot he knows nothing about.

So we decided to meet at Max's on Thursday night as Sid was gigging with The Idols there. It was a situation I didn't care much for in that I figured that he probably scheduled all the press for one night, that there'd be a ton of budding reporters crammed into the dressing room and they'd all have to (try to) interview him at once. I came on Friday night and, as it turns out, my paranoia was well founded. "You should 'ave seen this place last night", the guitarist marvels, "nothing but journalists in the front. Writin' and writin', even during the show. And photographers? The place was full of 'em." Fortunately, I had the run of the place this night and planted myself on the right side of the stage to tape the show and take some pix. Sid was last to make it to the stage. He was white as a methadone cup, holding his stomach with both hands and showing a pained expression that made him look like an exaggerated poster for dangerous drugs. Despite whatever chemical disadvantage Vicious began from he managed to pull himself together for a fairly good set, after which I scrambled up to the dressing room to interview Sid.

Predictably, I waited in the room for about 40 minutes until Sid made his appearance. All of the Idols, their girlfriends, Sid's girl, a few friends, groupies and some employees of Max's gathered around as I began to ask questions. I felt like I had come to marry the chief's daughter. Somebody asks Sid a question and he says. "Shut up. I’m givin' an interview." Sid then assumes the posture that he is to maintain for the entire rap - slouched in a chair with his head hung down. I ask Sid how he likes America and he half mumbles, "It’s alright, much better than England. Everybody just sits around complaining in England." As for staying in America. Sid yawns, "Yeah... maybe. I hope to", then slouches a bit further. The Idols have about the same reaction to Sid as he to them, a temporary situation - "chump change" as drummer Jerry Nolan calls it. "The only people I have to play with at the moment", is Sidney's rendition. And as to what recording the future might bring, your guess is as good as Sid's in that he hasn't got much material and isn't writing much either. Perhaps Sid is interested in something besides music, the Pistols do after all have a movie coming out. "I'll never do anything besides rock 'n' roll", swears Sidney.

Sid, for reasons unbeknown to me perks up a bit at this point. His answers are sharper, more loudly vocalized and generally brief. Sort of one liners. Something like this...


McKenzie: Do you go to movies much?

Sid: No. It's too far to walk.

McKenzie: Have you seen much of the other Pistols?

Sid: If I see Steve or Paul I might pass time with them. I don't talk to John Rotten. I was so glad when that band broke up just to tell him what I really thought of him.

McKenzie: Do you have any hobbies?

Sid: Yeah. Fucking.

McKenzie: You should have been an American.

Sid: (Sid gets very up here, joking and bragging. He is most animated when talking about his sexual prowess.) American girls are alright. I picked up a sex change in Dallas. She was really good.

McKenzie: I remember her. That was Tulsa. She was a he, I knew that much.

Sid: I wasn't sure until I got it home.

McKenzie: What did she do, model?

Sid: (With an "are you kidding!" expression) I don't know. I didn't ask any questions. (Sid does a little Shakespeare act) Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies.

McKenzie: Or less lies. What's your ambition?

Sid: To have fun.

McKenzie: Was it your idea to do 'My Way'?

Sid: It was somebody else's idea to do it but it was my idea to do it my way.

McKenzie: Did they have any objections?

Sid: Yeah, plenty. I overruled them.

McKenzie: Did you ever like Lou Reed?

Sid: Yeah, I always liked Lou Reed. The Velvets came out when I was 10 and I loved that stuff. (Sid turns to the Idols and shouts across the room, "Hey, let s do 'Waitin' For My Man' tomorrow night.") And you know what I love is in 'Sister Ray' where he mixes it so you can't quite hear what's going on.

McKenzie: Yeah, he does that in 'Kicks' too.

Sid: (Nodding) I like that song.


Aftermath

Sid and I sat up in the office of Max's Kansas City talking about various rock artists we liked - Bowie, Eno and, mostly, Lou Reed. We talked about the possibility of hooking Sid up with Lou Reed and letting them talk about the history of rock or whatever. Sid thought it was a great idea ("I'd love to talk to Lou Reed. There's a lot of things I'd like to ask him.") and Lou was in town so I tried to set it up. I shouldn't have done it, tried to give Sid a script, because Sid is a character living in a movie whose plot he must know nothing about. And now the movie has a suicide or a murder in it. But Sidney Vicious created himself out of the boutique manager John Simon Ritchie and, as his mother put it, "Sid Vicious? It was all a joke at the start. There was nothing vicious about him. He just got a lot of fun out of being outrageous... (but) he began to believe all the publicity about himself." So the plot thickens but still, Sid Vicious knows nothing about plots.

Suddenly every rock writer in New York becomes an investigative reporter. And crack young journalists see their careers opening before their eyes... "His face pale and scratched, the dazed looking Vicious muttered curses and "I'll smash your cameras" as he was led from the hotel where the body of Nancy Laura Spungen, 20, clad in blood-soaked black lace bra and panties, was found crumbled under the bathroom sink." Thank the New York Post for that account. Yeah, I thought it was Mickey Spillane too. So Malcolm McLaren, after checking with the American Stock Exchange, jets onto the scene and the next thing you know Sid is out on bail, living with his mother in The Seville Hotel where prostitutes are prostitutes (not dancers) and dealers are dealers (not artists). That's about the difference between it and the Chelsea. True to form. Sid tries to commit suicide but, alas fails.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody's got the hot scoop and the bigger the publication the 'insidier' the gossip. But what they don't understand is that Sid is a guy who gave a taxi driver his guitar because he forgot his wallet. Sid is a guy who cut his wrists, poured his blood on his cereal and ate it just to heavy out a cowboy in some hick town. And Sid has moulded himself that way, into a movie without a plot where he is the star.


© Michael McKenzie/New Wave Music