Don’t go try renting videos from Mondo–the Los Angeles establishment closed its doors forever on Halloween night, in a spectacle of destruction, drunken rage, costumes, outsider artistry, dementia, and strobe lighting.
Things started off with the proprietor, Colonel Rob, pulling a giant U-Haul in front of the store, cursing loudly about broken ribs and police brutality (both of which had recently afflicted him).
Then, inside the store, it was a free-for-all, as patrons dressed in ghoulish attire parsed through Mondo’s collection of videos to make a last purchase before the good ones were all gone. It was “everything must go” time, including posters, DVDs, head-shots, and a bunch of other decadent and/or pornographic stuff. Videos whose late fees had probably cost me hundreds of dollars over the last decade now cost $10 a piece or less, so my gal pal and I made a big grab bag (mostly of Hammer Horror films), stashed what we could in my car out on the street, then returned to the tumultuous throng.
First up for the night’s entertainment was Ronald Vaughn, a middle-aged man in a space suit of his own making (for sale!, he announced later) who told us he’d been in the Rodney Bingenheimer documentary–too bad I was drunk when I watched it, because I don’t remember him at all. But he sang novelty songs of his own making about Jennifer Love Hewitt and having an orgy with the Runaways, backed up by a CD of instrumental music by members of the Pandoras and the Sterilles!!!! I need to learn this dude’s backstory quick, because he is delightfully batshit insane! Imagine a crazy sci-fi Harvey Sid Fischer, or a Daniel Johnston who has none of the insight, just a fondness for famous young women.
Then it was Fancy Space People’s turn. Somehow I was assigned strobe light duty, so I couldn’t see them full on and had to watch from the wings as I moved the strobe around on the band and the crowd. But the music was groovy (and made me feel happy, like an old time movie).
For those who’ve never seen Nora Keyes in the Centimeters or solo, she’s got a “memorable” voice that people either love or hate at first hearing. For years, she was the bluejay of despair, singing Jaques Brel tunes in a throaty warble while dressed like the debutante spinsters whose vanity records she so admired. She’s been working hard at her craft in recent years, though, and has taken her voice from being merely tremolotuistic and grating (in the most wonderful, punk-rock way, mind you) to honestly melodious, even ethereal.
But until recently, she had eschewed rock and roll accompaniment for folk guitar and her own brand of gothic Frankenstein organ. I guess collaborating with Don Bolles for all these years has paid off, because he’s finally corralled her into a band where she can use her voice (not unlike Klaus Nomi) to bring a elven opera tinge to an otherwise somewhat standard rock ensemble. Don’s good about adding glam to things–I loved the way he put double bass drums on Lily Marlene’s sound not so long ago–and he does a bang-up job here. The addition of a keyboardist rounded out the sound as well, as did Dave Arnson (an Insect Surfer, no less!) on guitar. With more layers came more psychedelic trippiness, so that the band reached some kind of anthemic Eno-esque level of awesome that the previous four-piece incarnation of the band I’d witnessed just couldn’t have done. The songs got better and better, until each one was a spiritual Valkerie ride through space at the behest of little green men and their bat-winged Illiminated entourages! Or something like that.
Anyway, as always, the end of the night became a bit of a blur. And in my post-birthday coma, I think I’ll defer to pictures to describe the visuals of this oddly sweet goodbye tribute to Mondo.