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pogo2posterFINAL2The Last Pogo Jumps Again studies the evolution of Toronto from small town to big city and it’s pop/counter-culture lifestyle during the early and mid-70s.  It centers around the first wave of Toronto punk rock and new-wave music, from the Ramones playing the New Yorker Theatre in ’76 through the police shutting down Teenage Head and causing a riot at the Horseshoe Tavern’s infamous “The Last Pogo” concert in December 1978.

London had the Sex Pistols, New York had the Ramones, but Toronto had a punk movement all it’s own.  The Toronto landscape by the late ’70s was forever changed with the infusion of the DIY/Punk/Alternative Culture(s) movement.  Six years in the making, The Last Pogo Jumps Again successfully explores the whys and wherefores of what was arguably one of the most exciting but misunderstood movements in Toronto’s history.

The DVD contains the 204 minute documentary, plus over a 100 minutes of added material, and a snazzy 24-page booklet.  Check the Shop for details on where you can purchase it.

The Last Pogo (1978) is the documentary that chronicled the last punk rock show at the Horseshoe Tavern when it was run by legendary Toronto promoters The Garys (Topp and Cormier) featuring The Scenics, Cardboard Brains, The Secrets, The Mods, The Ugly, The Viletones and Teenage Head. The Last Pogo was released on DVD in 2008 to great reviews.  Available at the Shop.

The Plane to Hollywood

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Freddy Pompeii, 1978;  Photo courtesy Don Pyle. Watch for Don’s photo book coming soon.

Last weekend, while some of The Last Pogo Jumps Again crew were busy with Danny Fields (see blog below), another contingent were battling a day of rain on a roadtrip to Phillie to interview original Viletones guitarist Freddy Pompeii.

Viletone Chris Haight and his son, LPJA co-director/editor Kire Paputts, guided by the voice of Family Guy’s Stuey on the GPS, made their way to darkest, deepest Philadelphia to spend a couple of days with Freddy and ex-wife (and good pal) Margarita Passion.    Upbeat and candid, Freddy spoke about the origins of The Viletones, how fucking cool it was back in the late-seventies, and his own history of punk, from his days as a Toronto folkie to the The Viletones to The Secrets and finally to the heroin bust in Ottawa that sent him back to the States.  Now retired (punks retire?!) as a painter, Freddy battles his demons with a methadone program but the various trials and tribulations of his life as a rock star haven’t dampened his spirits, and with the Gift of Gab he’s always had, we got some great stuff from the esteemed Mr. Frederick De Pasquale.  And along with the stories, a tape of a never-much-before-seen TV appearance by The SecretsBoners!

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Chris Haight, Margarita Passion and Freddy Pompeii;  photo Kire Paputts.

Along with his awesome musical accomplishments and stories (including learning how to play the electric guitar while a “…guest of the Provincial Government for a few months…”) Freddy and then wife Margarita Passion owned and operated the original Toronto punk clothes and music store New Rose.   Yesterday we went down to the site of New Rose, hooking up with long-lost prodigal son Michael Dent and Dave “Tank” Roberts, the most beloved of all bouncers, and close pal of Punk God Joey Ramone.  Just out of therapy for the new knees he got earlier this year, off the butts for two years now, and losing weight, Tank was the picture of health.  We were hoping for a tour of what once was New Rose.

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Mike Dent across from the site of New Rose.

A TD Bank now takes up the space.  After greeting the Muslim manager with the standard Muslim greeting (“Assalamu alaikum, ,sister”), we told her that this was an historical musical site, and asked for permission to shoot Dave and Michael giving us a tour of what was where back when.  As expected, a call to headquarters was needed, and knowing we wouldn’t get word within an hour,  if at all, we went outside and around the corner to another historical musical site:  the house that Freddy and Margarita lived in in the late seventies. (Update:  we got a call today from the branch manager who gave us the thumbs up to come back and shoot inside.  Amazing!)

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Dave “Tank” Roberts with new knees and pink lungs;  photo courtesy Mike Dent

“Hey, there’s gonna be a brass plaque here one day,” Brunton said to the two guys that walked out of the house after we’d set up the camera.  “This is where Freddy Pompeii and Margarita Passion lived!”   They were impressed.  Not.   “Yeah,” one of them said, “I’ve heard of The Viletones.  I’ll…I’ll google…the other people,” and they were gone.

“Y’know, they’re really should be a plaque here,” said Dave.  And Gary Topp should have an Order of Canada, and The Garys should be on the Canadian Walk of Fame (or whatever it’s called.  Brendan Fraser is there.  I repeat:  Brendan Fraser is on the Canada’s Walk of Fame.  Really!?)  There should be lifetime achievement awards to Teenage Head, a statue of Steven Leckie when he croaks, and tons more but whaddya do.

Dave and Michael told stories about hanging out there with Freddy and Margarita and dozens of others, drinking beer, playing records —  and how ex-Wild Things keyboardist Bill “The Count” Cork used to sleep in a coffin in the backyard, until the local health board told him it wasn’t, y’know, so healthy.

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Kire Paputts with his weapon of choice;  photo courtesy Mike Dent.

After tales of the Freddy & Margarita estate, we set up across the street on the steps of a church to interview Michael Dent, sporting a T-shirt with his image and the word “Asshole” underneath.  But the Parliament and Queen area, having not completely succumbed to developers, gentrification, and a Starbucks and/or fitness centre on every corner, etc., is still refreshingly run down, and so are some of the locals.   We were distracted by a homeless couple who were intrigued by our fancy-ass camera and total tight-shitness.   And they were chatty!  The woman (who we’ll call Mary) explained that her boyfriend (who we’ll call Earl) was too shy to be on camera (Uh, wait a minute?  Are we going to be filming you guys?).  But Mary wasn’t shy.

“I was a straight-A student, I was a model, I was in theatre in school…I wanna get on the plane to Hollywood…”

Frankly, it wasn’t like our agenda for the day was exactly jam-fucking-packed, so why not let them play too?   We told them we’d give them a twenty each if they signed a release form, and that was it.  While Earl played with his kite, Mary tore into a wicked stream-of-consciousness thing, maybe a play, and then started singing The Good Ship Lollipop and other hits and plays and thoughts.  She’d pause only to ask us if we could send her to Hollywood.  And to complain that Earl wouldn’t marry her.

“He’s scared of relationships,” she explained.

She asked us again if we could please just send the plane to Hollywood and why she and Earl were so disappointed at Ontario Place the night before.

“My fucking sister lives in a mansion in Nova Scotia and she couldn’t give us thirteen bucks to go to the show!  She lives in a mansion!”

She shifted into another jittery stream-of-consciousness blur on her old life (straight “A” student;  loved drama in high-school) her new life (mental illness; father in rest home), and what happened in-between (too many jobs; a nervous breakdown; getting meds)   Not wanting to be rude, but y’know, wanting to actually shoot something we could use in our movie, we gently tried to shoo them off.  We gave a five to a guy who was starting to hang out with us, and let another guy take one of our bottled waters.  They finally headed off down the street to a shelter for a meal.  But Mary wasn’t quite done;  she tried one more time.

She asked us again:  “Can you send me the plane to Hollywood?  Can you please send me the plane to Hollywood?”

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View from a plane of the Hollywood sign.

It was heartbreaking and funny and what are you supposed to do? so we pulled out our cell phone, and speed-dialed Our People

Can you send the plane to Hollywood for us? (pause)  Oh. (pause)  Okay, what about a helicopter, then? (pause)  I see.” Mary watched eagerly;  Earl walked his bike and dragged his kite. “Too much cloud cover, eh?” we said to the dial tone.  We broke the news to her.  “Sorry, Mary, but they can’t send the plane to Hollywood today.  Maybe some other time, eh?”

Mary didn’t seem bummed out.  She’d probably already maxed out on let-downs, and she thanked us again for the cash.

“Please show the movie to my Dad.  He’s at that rest home at Main and Danforth.”

Earl finally perked up.  “Hey, wanna see where I lived last winter?!” he asked brightly.  He pulled out a cell phone (yes, homeless people can have cell phones too, don’t freak out) and showed us a picture of a small wooden shelter, about four by six feet, covered in snow.

“It was all really good two-by-fours, it was warm.  I had a TV in it, and a surround sound stereo system, and a punk record on the wall, the one that was shaped like a heart?”

(Yes, homeless people can have surround-sound stereos too… wait a minute, wtf?!)   We finally told them we really had to get to work, and they went to the shelter for a meal.

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The Last Pogo Jumps Again crew travel back in time to when Hollywood was cool.  There was no sighting of the Plane from Hollywood.

After waving goodbye to our new pals, we finally settled in to interview Michael Dent.  After fronting the punk-pioneering (i.e. they started when it all started) The Dents, the lure of cheap and good heroin drew Mike out to the Left Coast, Vancouver in particular, and downtown to be precise.   Three bad moves.    Just like Freddy, Mike eventually tired of the whole thing, enrolled himself in a methadone program, and moved across the Georgia Strait to the city of “the newly wed, and the nearly dead,” Victoria, B.C. Not quite as cool as The Kinks song of the same name, Michael earlier this year fully came to his senses, realized he was actually living in Victoria and packed up his stuff and moved back to Toronto.  He’s been clean for ten years.

Along with spoken word performances, photography, and a near obsession with Facebook, Michael’s gotten back into what he was doing back then: being a stage techy, and he recently re-hooked up with old pal Gary Topp and helped out at the Jonathon Richman show last week. 

Really, if it weren’t for The Garys, I wouldn’t be here today probably,” he said, and Dave Roberts agreed.  “The Garys were the best. Every year on my birthday, Gary Topp phones up and sings Happy Birthday to me.  Or else plays it on his ukelele or whatever.”

In the first days of the “scene” in Toronto, apart from being a regular at Gary Topp’s Original 99 Cent Roxy and New Yorker Theatre and The Horseshoe, he made a living being a stage-tech, and started his band The Sneakers with some buds from high-school.   Booked to open for The Diodes at their Crash ‘n’ Burn club, he was surprised to see that another band called The Dents were actually opening.

“Who the fuck are The Dents?!  I thought we were opening?!” Mike asked Diodes frontman Paul Robinson.

“Well, we didn’t like the name.  So you guys are The Dents now.”

And so it was.   Michael gave a lot of credit to Stephen Davies.

“He taught me how to write a rock ‘n’ roll song.”

Mike did stage duties for friend Nash the Slash, toured the States, went to a bazillion shows, and generally had the time of his life.   The Dents played all the clubs in Toronto:  The Horseshoe, the Crash ‘n’ Burn, David’s, The Turning Point.  The best gig ever?  Playing CBGB’s in NYC, thanks to friend Lydia Lunch.  And like so many kids in Toronto who went on to form their own bands, was at all three of the first Ramones gigs at the New Yorker Theatre, September 24 and 25, 1976.

“I was at Records on Wheels, and by the time I’d heard half of Blitzkrieg Bop, I’d bought the album and tickets to all three shows.”

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