Another Goodbye to Another Good Friend (Gary Russell — guitarist in Killer Pussy)

Posted: April 25, 2017 in Addictions, Humor, Livin' in the USA, Music
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

by Zeke Teflon

My longtime friend Gary Lee Russell, best known as the guitarist and songwriter for the punk/new wave band Killer Pussy, died yesterday. I knew him for over 45 years. He was a really nice, funny, talented guy.

We first met in Phoenix in the early 1970s via mutual friends, and were soon involved in various types of drug- and alcohol-fueled insanity. One version of that insanity was KDIL (“The Big 16” — “Getting it said for Satan!”), a pirate radio station that took its name from a paperback book one of the DJs found at a book sale, “Dildo Torture.”  After a period of gathering equipment, we were on the air in early 1972. (One polluted late night shift a few days after we went on the air — I don’t remember a thing about this, but my brother swears it’s true — Bob the Gimp and I read the entirety of “Dildo Torture” aloud over the air.)

Tunein.com has a good description of KDIL, using phraseology from the station itself.

KDIL’s studio high atop the Satanic Tabernacle of Wickenburg

“KDIL is a pirate broadcaster from the 1970’s in Phoenix and Tempe, AZ. A religious broadcaster, the legacy broadcast originates from the Satanic Tabernacle in Wickenburg, AZ. KDIL features Rock, Rap, Dance, Swedish Blues and the inspiring German vocals of Heino. The KDIL DJ talent lineup includes Buster Hymen, Roger B. Protection, Ellis Dee, Harley Farley, Hal Murray, Eddie Satan, Dick Nixon, Rollo Sabatello, and The Countess. [Gary, among his other DJ monikers, was “Richard Nixon”: “This is Dick, sticking it to you.”]

“KDIL has run many great contests, including the ‘Acid Swarm Phone Ripoff’ and the ‘Off the Pigs Weekend’ with big prizes. KDIL’s sponsors include Mr. Rory’s Hyena Tripe drive-thru restaurants, Cactus Patch Citizens Band World, and Zorba’s Adult Books in Scottsdale, AZ.”

Of these “sponsors,” Zorba’s is the only one that actually existed. Gary worked there around the time KDIL was on the air, and we would often hang around after the place closed smoking dope surrounded by skin mags, dildos, and autosucks.

One evening, for lack of anything better to do, we decided to pay a visit to John Sage during his evening talk show. Sage was the local equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, and broadcast on, as I recall, KPHX. The studio was a tiny glass booth in the middle of a mall on Central Avenue, and the place was entirely deserted in the evening except for Sage ensconced in his booth.

To prepare for the visit, we looked through the skin mags at Zorba’s searching for the most disgusting, most explicit ones we could find, and finally settled on a gay fist-fucking mag and one titled “Truckin’ Mamas,” featuring 400-pounders.

That evening we drove with our pal Harley Farley in his pink Cadillac from Zorba’s on Scottsdale Road over to the KPHX booth on Central. Once there, we carefully removed the centerfolds from “Truckin’ Mamas” and the fist-fucking mag and taped them up on the glass booth, at eye height, directly in front of Sage. He was the only one there, so he had to either avert his eyes or look at the photos at least until the next commercial break. (This was well before surveillance cameras were the norm, so we didn’t even try to disguise ourselves when we taped up the photos.)

At the time, in addition to DJing on KDIL, working at Zorba’s (and previously, along with yours truly, at The Back Door Theater — “Parking and entrance in the rear, for your privacy”), Gary was playing guitar in funk bands. The one I remember best was 30 Weight, in part because one evening I saw them playing at Fridays & Saturdays, a sleazy rock joint (black popcorn ceiling, red velvet on the walls, shag carpeting, tiny little tables, half-clad waitresses in slit skirts) on the river bottom between Scottsdale and Tempe. That evening, their drummer got loaded on reds and passed out, slumped over his drum kit in the middle of a set.

30 Weight were a popular band, and in 1971 or 1972 Gary told me that they got hired to play the Miss Watts Festival in L.A. He told me that he was the only white guy there out of five or ten thousand people.

In 1974, I escaped from Phoenix, and saw Gary only sporadically over the coming decade, usually when I made my once-a-year obligatory holiday trek to visit my parents over xmas.

Toward the beginning of the 1980s, Gary had his nearest brush with fame, as guitarist and songwriter for the very much tongue-in-cheek Killer Pussy. They were part of the early ’80s Phoenix punk scene, along with The Meat Puppets and The Feederz (biggest hit, “Jesus Enters from the Rear”), and were quite popular. Not enough so that any of them didn’t have to have day jobs, but popular nonetheless. Among other things, they toured California and appeared on “New Wave Theater” on the USA Network.

Around the last time I saw Gary in the ’80s, Killer Pussy had their biggest hit, “Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage” (1982), which subsequently was packaged by Rhino Records as part of its “worst records ever recorded” CDs. Shortly after the release of “Enema Nurses,” the band disintegrated, largely because of people quitting and because of the death of the band’s drummer and Gary’s good friend, John E. Precious (another nice, talented guy who died far too young).

After the band expired, Gary went into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse (crack, meth, tobacco), and ended up on the street for the better part of a decade. The drug/alcohol abuse and depression were due, in part, to his musical dreams crashing; he had always thought he’d make it as a musician, never developed any job skills, and ended up working awful, low-paying jobs. When he worked, he work as a cabbie and later, when he could no longer do that, as a dispatcher.

To avoid jail, because of DUIs, he eventually left Phoenix and moved to San Diego to be near to his sister.

In the early 2000s he pulled himself out of his nosedive, got on SSD, and quit drinking and doing drugs for several years, while living in a trailer park in Lemon Grove. During those years I talked with him on the phone on a regular basis, mostly joking around, talking about old friends, and shooting the shit about music. He even got it together to record two self-produced CDs, as the Turquoise Orchestra, which never went anywhere.

Then things went to hell. About five years ago he started drinking again, and was soon drinking heavily (cheap whiskey and malt liquor). He continued to smoke heavily, and two years ago got rid of his phone so that he’d have more money for cigarettes and Steel Reserve.

I never spoke with him again. There was no way to reach him, and he never called me (or any of his other old friends).

Last year Gary could no longer care for himself and went into custodial care.

He died yesterday.

What a damn tragedy.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. Its protagonist, “Kel Turner,” is based, in part, on Gary Russell.

Free Radicals front cover

 

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