The Story of Johnny Rotten, Part 2
We return you now to the Aragon Theater in Chicago, August 20, 2003 — where a production assistant is handling logistics for a show by history’s most notorious punk band, the Sex Pistols. Read Part 1 here!
I take Johnny Rotten’s bus driver down to the hotel (The 71, at 71 E. Wacker Dr.) and pick up a couple of Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook. Our drive from downtown to the Aragon was very nice. First thing I said was, “So, did you guys figure rock stars get rides in nice cars, limos? Sorry, guys, today you’re riding in the Green Machine [my own ’94 Aerostar]. The windshield is cracked, the side’s all banged up, and there’s a bunch of junk in the back. But you’ve got me, and you’re in good hands.”
They laughed and Paul said “Get us to the show in one piece and we’re mates.”
En route, Glen asks me “Hey, isn’t there a nice mansion here, close to downtown where we’re staying, where the Cardinal lives?” We were already at Belmont heading north on Lake Shore Drive so I told him we’d passed it but could drive by on the way back after the show. He said, “That’d be perfect, mate, remind me, I’ll forget, I’d love to see that house. Last time we were in town, that house was all over the news. It wasn’t good news, you know the Church, but it looked like a nice house, I’d like to see it.” I said sure, I’ll remind ya later.
Moments later, Glen looks to a butch woman driving an SUV to our right; she’s wearing a paisley cap, a man’s dress shirt, and a tie. He says, “There’s something about women in men’s clothing, isn’t there?” I say You mean it’s kinda hot? He says, “No, it isn’t that at all. I’m sorry mate, if that’s what you like.” I say No, I don’t really get into that, although you sometimes see a woman in man’s clothes in a perfume commercial. Glen says, “No, it isn’t even about sexy or not. There’s something about that, it confuses me. I wonder what’s so bad about being a woman that she wants to dress like a man.” I ask, haven’t a lot of bands done that, though, cross-dressing, gender bending? Glen says “Yeah, mate, but that’s show business!”
Just then, drummer Paul Cook jumps in and says “Sorry to interrupt, but is that worse than a fat woman on a motorcycle?” Sure enough, to our right was a large woman on a motorcycle. Glen said, “The fat woman has a right to use a motorcycle, but women in general wearing men’s clothes? I think I found the strange one. The fat woman, she’s got to get where’s she’s going, the motorbike is a necessity. The one wearing men’s clothes is just looking for attention, she’s got all kinds of issues.”
I decide to interrupt and point out the dog park at Lawrence and Marine where I take my dog. This is where I’d be right now, watching my dog run around where 50 dogs are all trying to hump each other. Glen – the more excitable one – says “Aye mate, you hear that? It’s like a dog orgy in that place! You can see it from here!”” Paul says, “Okay, you win. We’re close to the venue, right?” Yes, we’re almost there.
Backstage before the show. I’m expecting fireworks, British guys throwing chairs at each other, spitting on each other, etc. I get no such excitement. The Sex Pistols are definitely a bunch of crazy dudes, but there’s none of the dressing-room-trashing stuff like you read about. In fact, at the end of the night they left the dressing room as neat and tidy as they found it. Paul Cook is checking his email in the production office and John comes in wearing his stage clothes — beige knickers and a blue plaid Sex Pistols t-shirt with the sleeves cut off — smacks him on the ass with a notebook and shouts “Aaaaaaaaah! Look at yo bome!” (“Bome” = bum, the guy’s got a thick cockney accent.) “You got a little globule on yo bome!” He’s referring to a small stain on the seat of Paul’s pants.
Paul barely acknowledges this, but says, “I’m doin’ the email, mate.” Johnny is in a very festive mood and realizing he isn’t getting Paul’s attention, looks at me and says, “You see his bome? He’s got a little globule on his bome! Aaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahaha! You don’t suppose where that might have come from, eh? Aaaaaaaahahahahahaha! You’ve got to be wary of a guy with a little globule on his bome, don’tcha?” Johnny is laughing hysterically. I’m laughing too, but not as much at his jokes as the vision of Johnny Rotten dressed more like a suburban Sex Pistol fan than a Sex Pistol, with his hair spiked, mouth wide open showing the missing teeth.
He figures I’m down with his comedy and says “Wait, get a load of this!” and runs into the dressing room. Seconds later he returns with a friend, a very short guy who is dressed and made up exactly like he is, even with his teeth blacked out to mirror the ones John is missing — a “Mini-Me” Johnny Rotten. Johnny is very excited about this. He’s laughing so hard that he’s crouched over, saying “What do ya make o that, eh? It’s a bit of a mind f—, i’nt it? Haaaaaaaahahahahahaha!”
The band walked to the stage led by Johnny, holding a plastic gallon of cheap whiskey and singing “Nobody loves us.” They played great. The “Mini-Me” Johnny Rotten made his appearance during the encore of “Anarchy in the U.K.”
After the show I drove Paul and Glen to Excalibur, where they were going to a private party. They asked me how crowded it was at the show; I told them 2,500 people. Paul said “Oh, I thought we coulda had twice that many the last time we were here.” I told them holiday weekends are very tough in Chicago, in addition to the usual holiday exodus this town has a large transplant population, on a major public holiday like this one everyone goes back to where they came from. 2,500 people this weekend is a huge success.
Glen rolls his eyes and says, “Do you suppose we could go to the town hall and get some kind of certificate to commemorate the occasion?”
And with that, we pulled up to Excalibur, shook hands and said goodbye.