Rest In Peace, Lux

Scene & Heard: Bad News For Bad People 

Rest In Peace, Lux

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Cramps singer Lux Interior died February 4 in California, succumbing to an infection that followed treatment for a heart condition. Born Erick Purkhiser in Stow in 1946, and known to his friends as "Rick," Lux was one of the ultimate rock 'n' roll cult figures. The band's web page describes the lithe psychobilly pioneer as "the psycho-sexual Elvis/werewolf hybrid from hell. [He] and guitar-slinging soul-mate Poison Ivy … cut their teeth on the stages of CBGB and Max's Kansas City and recorded their first record at Sam Phillips' legendary Sun Studios."

The British invasion, '50s pinup Bettie Page and '60s Cleveland TV horror host Ghoulardi had profound effects on Lux. He left Ohio in 1967, ended up in art school and met Ivy hitchhiking. The couple returned to the Rubber City in 1973, hatched the idea for a band and headed to New York City to join the punk revolution.

Decked out in fishnets and gold lame, the Cramps set the stage for Hot Topic and goth aesthetics. The group was one of the first acts to sign with college-rock foundry IRS Records, releasing their debut EP in 1979. Their high-energy stage show made headliners like labelmates the Police look anemic, and the group continued touring and recording until shortly before Lux died.

"They never phoned it in, even when the crowds were lame or the P.A. sucked on any given night," testifies Alternative Press Editor in Chief Jason Pettigrew. "My buddy Bill Slam met him at a show at the old 9:30 Club in D.C. He casually asked Lux about where a big guy like him got such dainty ladies footwear, and Lux matter-of-factly started telling him about the world of transgender-transvestite supply catalogs. These days, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to opening my mail and quoting the line from 'Garbageman' - 'You ain't no punk, you punk' - with frequency."

Over the years, a rotating Cramps lineup featured Ohio-bred musicians like drummer Miriam Linna and Pagans guitarist Mike Metoff, as well as bigger names like White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult.

"To speak of Lux, I must also speak of Ivy, as they will always be one," says Yseult. "Getting to know them was amazing - two of the most knowledgeable, fascinating and thoughtful people I've ever met. Backstage, we would drink wine and discuss Dadaism, Liz Renay, unsolved murders, you name it. They are experts on everything artistic and counterculture." Lux's survivors include brother Mike Purkhiser, an Akron musician and sound engineer whose credits include the Walking Clampetts. He says that the record collector who left Ohio and the guy known as Lux Interior - Latin for "interior light" - were pretty much the same.

"He was always cutting his own path," says Purkhiser. "He was very down to earth if you would see him in an interview or talk to him. He was just a cool guy." - D.X Ferris

WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

In early 1976, one of the several Cleveland "booster" organizations of that era named Friday, February 13, "I Love Cleveland Day" - and said it would be a "good luck" day for Cleveland.

You can't make these things up.

Of course, they had nothing planned outside of some kind of rah-rah rally in the Terminal Tower lobby. We heard about it at WMMS and suggested having Murray Saul do his weekly Friday night "Get Down" live from that site at 6 p.m., carry it live on the air and provide the organization substantial advance promotion of their event.

Since no one else contacted the group, they accepted our proposal. The organization (wish I could remember their name) expected, at best, a couple of hundred people to show for the event. Instead, nearly a thousand showed on that cold, slushy evening. All were young and ready to rock. Right on cue, at 6 p.m., Murray delivered a nonstop, 11-minute, 45-second "Get Down," which touched upon every element of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. Since Valentine's Day was the following day, its contents were fairly explicit. The audience screamed and applauded throughout the entire sermon. The live broadcast came off without a glitch and it went down in WMMS history as one of Murray's best.

A few weeks ago, former WMMS salesperson Joel Frensdorf, who worked at the station throughout most of the '70s to the early '80s, found a cassette recording he had made of that broadcast and sent it my way.

Since February 13, 2009, is also Friday the 13th, I felt it was time to give Cleveland and the world a repeat performance of that 1976 "Get Down." I am posting the complete broadcast on the Buzzard Blog (buzzardbook.wordpress.com) for this Friday the 13th. - John Gorman Editor's note: Gorman will sign copies of his book The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio at Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Ave., 216.961.0084, visiblevoicebooks.com) on February 13, 7 p.m. On February 14, Visible Voice will host "An Evening of Eroticism," featuring author Neve Black, reading excerpts from her new novel Sex Through the Zodiac, and artist Brian Pierce, exhibiting drawings from The Garden of Erotic Delights. The event begins at 7:30 p.m.

NAUTI BITS

The cash-strapped Plain Dealer has ended its naming-rights deal with the concert pavilion that anchors the Nautica Entertainment Complex on the West Bank of the Flats. All parties involved - the PD, concert promoter Live Nation and owner Jacobs Investments Management Company, Inc. - declined to explain the split. The 5,000-capacity venue has reverted to Nautica Pavilion, the name it had before Scene's previous owners shelled out a reported quarter-million for a five-year naming-rights contract in 2003, then pulled out after the '05 season.

The once-storied hot spot opened in 1987. The nearby riverfront amphitheater at Tower City (currently Time Warner Cable Amphitheater) opened in 2001 and has been controlled by Live Nation in recent years. In response, Jacobs Investment and House of Blues renovated the Nautica facility for a reported $5 million in 2002. For a minute, Nautica Pavilion looked like it would become a frontline in the turf war between then-rivals Clear Channel and HOB. But not much happened. And since '03, the Pavilion has hosted fewer and more lackluster shows each summer, with only occasional gems (Norah Jones in '03, Devo in '05, the Pixies in '06). More typically, it's been home to glorified local concerts and rib fests. Since Clear Channel/Live Nation purchased House of Blues in 2006, Tower City shows have far outnumbered concerts at Nautica. Chicago and Widespread Panic were the highlights of Nautica's 2008 season, while buzz-generating acts like Robert Plant & Alison Kraus, Boys Like Girls, Good Charlotte and Paramore played Tower City. One source told Scene that Live Nation receives a bigger cut of concessions at Tower City events. Live Nation declined to confirm the arrangement.

"You've got two places that are basically the same capacity," says Michael Belkin, president of Live Nation's Cleveland office. "If you could combine the two, you'd have a pretty rockin' little venue." - Ferris

GOTTA BUILD SOME MORE SHELVES

Cleveland-based Telarc/Heads Up International scored three Grammys at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 8.

Cleveland engineer Michael Bishop and producer Robert Woods won Best Surround Sound Album for Paavo J...rvi & Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Mussorgsky: Pictures At An Exhibition; Night On Bald Mountain; Prelude To Khovanshchina. Ladysmith Black Mambazo took home Best Traditional World Music Album for Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu. Pianist Gloria Cheng took Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) for Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky and Lutoslawski.

Since 1980, Telarc has won 57 Grammys. This year, the label had 19 nominations, including nods in pop, jazz, classical, Latin, blues, world, classical and gospel categories. - Ferris

LOCAL DIRT SNACK SIZE

On Monday, Brooklyn's mayor, Ken Patton, abruptly ditched his office at City Hall after nine years to "get his personal issues resolved." Northeast Ohio tradition holds that mayors hold onto their positions of power with a death grip (see Akron's mayor-for-life Don Plusquellic) unless they become a target of a criminal investigation (see Mike White) or have a problem with the bottle (see Tom Coyne). Word on Patton is that it's the booze - The Plain Dealer pointed out that a former staffer complained that he kept a fridge stocked with beer and alcohol in the service garage. If we had known he was such a fun guy, we might have voted for him. - James Renner

SO WHAT'S WITH THE ALPACAS?

Michael R. White coulda been a contender. As a young politician from Glenville, he had it all, rising to power as Cleveland's second black mayor in 1990. During his reign, Cleveland experienced a boom of public-works projects - Browns Stadium, an airport expansion - that injected millions into the coffers of the construction companies that supported White's campaigns. One of White's closest confidants was Forest City exec Sam Miller, with whom he reportedly spoke every single morning.

In 1998, White won an unprecedented third term and was considered a shoo-in for a fourth in 2002. But then he surprised everyone by withdrawing his name and retreating to an alpaca farm in rural Newcomerstown called Seven Pines. Many believe his self-imposed exile was related to an FBI investigation; Nate Gray, White's close friend, was sent to prison for his role in bribing local public officials. Gray, however, has never admitted being White's bagman.

What the reclusive White does with his time now is anyone's guess. For the record, the new comic strip that now appears at the bottom of this page is not based on actual events. Any similarities to actual people or alpacas should be considered entirely coincidental. - James Renner

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