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Godzilla's was a bowling alley/nightclub-cum-gig-space in the San Fernando valley. In late 1981 and early 1982 it booked a number of punk gigs under the auspices of the BYO, and the organization handled every aspect of the music angle--the security, the booking, the promotion. When the club was shut down by the fire marshall for not having an live entertainment permit, BYO organized several benefit gigs to pay for the legal fees. BYO's relationship with Godzilla soured when the owner spent the money on redecorating, rather than permits, and the last straw came when the owner became involved with the people who ran the Starwood ballroom...BYO pulled out and returned to promoting shows at whatever halls they could rent for the night.
Much of this info comes from xeroxed newspaper clippings, and alot of it isn't attributed...
By PAT WARK
SUN VALLEY -- The crowd explodes.
Incited by the machine gun attack of guitars and the rough, urgent growl of singer Kat, dancers take over the floor, slamming into each other and caroming off bystanders trying to jump out of the way.
The air is tense, the electric atmosphere heightened by dim lights against grimy blue walls. Graffiti provides the only relief to the stark walls. The scrawl of slogans, epithets and the names of bands like Sham 69, Youth Brigade and TSOL outdoes the New York subway.
"Punks don't fight--Save the club," in black spraypaint adorns one wall, the ubiquitous smiling face on buttons and bumper stickers of the 1970s is painted on another wall, but with swastikas for eyes.
What was once a Latin bar and a bowling alley, is now in its latest incarnation a bastion of punk in Los Angeles.
This is Godzilla's.
Located near the intersection of San Fernando Road and Vineland, punk rockers have adopted Godzilla's as their own club in the month since it has opened. They come from as far away as Oxnard and Orange County.
"Godzilla's is for the kids and run by the kids. That's why it's so good," said Rodney S., 21, a Cal Arts student.
Mark Stern is a case in point. The 20-year-old manages the club and plays in a band called Youth Brigade.
"There's no other club tee this in Los Angeles. A lot of kids have been looking and waiting for something like Godzilla's. The 50's had one thing. The 60's had its thing. The 70's had disco and now in the 80's you've got the punks. It's a generational thing. Punk is a lifestyle for most people," he explained.
Million-selling rock bands like Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Styx are dinosaurs to Stern, relics of the sterile 70s.
"Most rock bands are old men," he said. "Rock and roll is supposed to be for kids. Kids should run it. The record companies made a big business out of rock. We try to cut the business out of it and bring it bade to basics."
Legal Weapon and Channel 3 played for free Saturday night to help the club raise enough money to buy a dancehall permit. The Los Angeles Fire Department threatened to shut down Godzilla's unless it got the license.
The future of the club is up in the air. Stern has big shows planned for the future, but can't book any acts until the permit problems are solved.
Godzilla's is vital to the punk scene in Los Angeles, according to the club's patrons. Most clubs that book punk acts have been closed because of complaints from neighbors, revocation of conditional use permits and conflicts between punks and police. Others have blacklisted punk acts.
"This is the last resort, it really is. The city fathers and the Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles police and fire departments have pushed us out of one venue or another," said Jeffrey Burkholder, 24, a plumber's helper who lives in Thousand Oaks.
"If they shot this club down, they are going to shut the whole scene down," he said, "Anarchy just means thinking for yourself. I think there always should be someooe to question the establishment."
"It's going to be another Hollywood here if the punks don't f--- it up, it might last a couple of months," said Dave Rosan, 20, of Ventura, lead singer of a band called "Vital Attack."
Jello Biafra, the lead singer of the Dead Keftnedys, who recently ran for mayor of San Francisco, said his band would like to play at Godzilla's. Biafra was visiting Los Angeles to work on a compilation album of American punk bands.
"Godzilla's is important. It gives new people trying to express themselves a chance to play and talk and meet other people and hash out their vtews," he said.
A handful of punks formed the outer limits of the rock scene in Los Angeles four years ago. Now, thousands of spike-haired, bryl-creamed, or mohawked heads weekly pack the dance floors of the few clubs in Los Angeles that will have them.
Some punk bands, like X, Black Flag, the now-defunct Germs, have won critical acclaim and mass followings. Yet punk is an underground music ignored for the most part by radio stations and record companies.
"Punk is not a fad. Every time they shut down a club, another one is going to pop up," Stern said.
Punk does not deserve its violent image, according to Stern. The mass media portray punks as ghoulish, raging youth out of control. But the punks, their ages spanning from 14 to 24, come to Godzilla's to have fun.
"There's really not a lot of trouble here," he said.
Though "slam" dancing looks dangerous, the punks take care not to hurt each otter. If one goes down, the others help him up, put a friendly arm around his shoulders, and continue dancing wildly, arms flailin, bodies crashing.
"This is amazing," said Bill Gerstel, 27, a New York rock musician visiting Godzilla's for the first time. "It's way beyond music. It's almost like a ritual."
"The slamming is incredible. I saw them bang against each other, then put their arms around each other and smile. Some in the crowd are completely involved. Others are like the living dead, not even tapping a foot."
One girl told Gerstel he looked like her high school English teacker.
"I feel pretty old," he said.
Godzilla's, in the northeast comer of the San Fernando Valley, is the perfect punk playground. The former bowling alley's five large rooms, which can accommodate up to 1,500 fans, are aggressively stark, and in the coffee shop area (rechristened "Godzilla's Grill") and the huge music room, the cold concrete surroundings are punctuated by lengths of chain-link fencing.
Saturday, punks of all persuasions, from skinhead beach kids to style-mongers with hair waxed into outlandish shapes, circulated easily through the spacious rooms, adding graffiti to the walls, sprawling in dark comers, even indulging in a bit of free-for-all handball against one of the high walls.
Godzilla's is the latest in a long line of attempts to establish an ongoing punk center. L.A.'s punk saga is littered with the remains of previous efforts, from the Starwood to the Cuckoo's Nest to VEX to Bard's Apollo. The common pattern: rowdiness leads to neighborhood residents' complaints, resulting in political pressure and the closure of the venues.
"We're in pretty good with the people in the area. We let them in free," said Godzilla's operator Mark Stern, "and so far none of the kids have caused any trouble or done any damage. I think they know this could be their last chance."
GODZILLA'S, Sun Valley: This huge new punk club opened on December 4 and things are off to a bustling and relatively peaceful start. Godzilla's proprietor is Frank Reed, who first started punk bookings at Devonshire Downs early last year. When he finally found this barn-like structure, he hired Sean and Mark Stern to coordinate booking and security. There have been no problems with the police or punk fans, thanks to the peer security force made up of teenage punkers from Oxnard, Huntington Beach, Hollywood and the Valley. This way, the security staff should be able to relate to anyone involved in a potential ruckus, thereby preventing circumstances that could blow up out of the club's control. The plan has worked to perfection so far, as a TSOL show drew almost 1200 people without incident. However, the Fire Department did make a visit and found some wiring problems and the lack of an occupancy permit, which cancelled a Dec 18 show featuring the Crowd. Those problems have already been alleviated, so things should be back to normal by the time you read this. Goodzilla's is planning on booking the best of British punk in the future, like Angelic Upstarts.
"Better Youth Organization" are no longer involved with Godzilla's after a falling out with the management there. Stern says Godzilla's has upped its prices and hired the usual bloodthirsty jock bouncers.
Anyway, the BYO is holding a concert at the Palladium that sounds like the punk event of the month. Headlined by TSOL, who recently toured the country, the show also features the reformed Adolescents, though singer Tony is not included (much to his chagrin), and it's not yet certain if former chief Adolescent Rikk Agnew (now of Christian Death) will be part of the group.
...The Better Youth Organization (B.Y.O.) no longer is handling shows at the Valley's punk emporium, Godzilla's. Instead, the B.Y.O. will be holding a series of shows at the Palladium in Hollywood. The first is set for Thrusday, and features TSOL, the Adolescents (with new lead singer), Wasted Youth, Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, Blades and AKA. call 654-7472 for more information.
All of you know by now that we have lost yet another venue for our music. Godzillas. No matter what you think about the place, or have heard about it's management or whatever, you have to admit
l) it started out being a fun place to go
2) it gave a lot of nobody bands a place to play, hang out, and publicize themselves.
And last and most important--it was our club. I won't even go into the BYO and "youthful idealogy vs business reality' cause that's not the point. The point is we all lost our cause when Godzillas closed. It's almost the same story with the Nest--the "forces that be" were much stronger than us. Who knows if the Sun Valley city council used the victory of Costa Mesa over the Nest as the battle plan. You lost your freedom and "big brother" government is a step closer. Ok, so Frank (owner of Godz.) was hassled by
1) the Police--they arrested many of you while the Jack in the Box down the street was being held up. And you know how unfairly you were treated.
2) The Fire Dept. and all the bullshit "codes" for--fire exits, false ceiling, occupant capacity, fire walls etc...
3) the city council for bullshit about "dance hall permits"--saying the large room wasn't part of the rest of the building,, taking away the liquor license, getting the railroad people involved and all the other hassles.
There was even a City Councilman who took it personally to close Godzillas. This isn't only a case of one club closing, it's opression of the entire punk community. These people are killing us and we didn't do anything about it!!!!!! They fucking hate us and think they can do what ever their power lets them do, But FUCK THEM!!! Frank is ready to take them on again, but he needs a new location--hopefully with a dance hall permit and liquor license, if you know of a place give him a call (213-781-7333). The only way to fight this thing is to keep doing it, and someday we'll get it right!
"Fight them, not us--destroy power-NOT PEOPLE!!!!!"
From Flipside 31
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