Why hello there, scariest, most devilish, and deviant Filthy Dreams ghosties, ghouls, goblins, and Goths! You know what time of year it is…the scariest time of the year…ELECTION SEASON! *shudder* Ok, ok, it’s also Halloween, but really, is there anything else to do other than sit in your box of an apartment waiting, calculating various electoral college possibilities? Sure, you could get all dressed up like the fly on Mike Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate or unhinged conservative camp maven Kimberly Guilfoyle to go out, smooshing together to drink out of a plastic cup with the Grim Reaper in the hopes that you too could Make COVID-19 Great Again!
But, on the other hand, you gotta live to see what happens! That doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy serving of our World Famous Pumpkin Punch! And I know, I know. I can’t drink like I used to either after COVID or I get rapid heartbeat. Bum BUM Bum BUM! Talk about a nightmare! And Trump told me COVID wasn’t a big deal!
If you’re like me, you’re fantasizing about using that extra booze money for black lipstick, Manic Panic dye, maybe an eyebrow piercing, and copious amounts of black eyeliner to revert to your teenage Goth years! Many of you, dearest Filthy Dreams readers, don’t even know that I used to actually work in the temple–the shrine to mall Goths everywhere–Hot Topic! Yes, I feed off your envy. Sometimes, I wonder why I ever even left! To do what? THIS?!!!
On these chilly days of the pandemic, I’d love to cozy up in a giant pair of JNCO jeans and an oversized Nine Inch Nails T-shirt right about now. I guess I could put on my KoRn face mask and dream of painting the town…or myself…red.
While the Goth aesthetic never quite went away, the later years of the 20th century saw that particular style at its height. Not only because of the accessibility and popularity of stores like Hot Topic bringing a lamer version of the vanguard punk style of Manhattan’s Trash & Vaudeville to God’s country, but because Goths, at the time, became a social flashpoint, representing the diminishing American family values as boys wore makeup (no!), girls shaved their heads or gave themselves mohawks (No!), and teenagers snarled against society and all those normies (NO!). And they ALL had piercings and tattoos (NOOO!). Goths became an perfect scare tactic for Middle America. And in particular, tasteless daytime talk shows knew exactly how to take advantage, providing Hollywood sets haunted by the ghosts of adolescent rebellion!
And who knows? Maybe you still have time to upset your parents! It’s never too late to get a new look! Why not try teasing a nest-like crown of black hair up like The Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, paired with his Big Daddy Ed Roth T-shirt that reads, “I hate every cop in this town. A good cop is a dead cop”? Perfect for outfit for looting! Or how about not only bringing back JNCOs, but those plaid bondage pants that would get stuck on high school cafeteria chairs. Nobody can see you falling when you’re quarantining alone in your apartment!
So this Halloween, settle in for some nostalgic escapism as we time-travel back to the 1980s and 1990s, a time when Marilyn Manson seemed scarier than Donald Trump (or at least, just as scary), when you could take photographs of roadkill without losing all your Instagram followers, and when Bernie startled Goths skulking around the mall:
1. “Mom, You Think I Look Like A Sideshow Freak, But Chill Out, Cuz I Look Cool !” on The Ricki Lake Show
“Oh, Ricki, it’s AWFUL! You should see my daughter, she looks like a real FREAK!” cries DeeDee, delivering these lines with the conviction of one of the neuters from John Waters’ A Dirty Shame. What’s Dee Dee’s problem? Her bubbly blue-haired baby Miquie who announces that she dyes her hair every week because “I like to have FUN!” Me too, Miquie, me too! Naturally, we need to start our grim and garish Goth list with a classic of the talk show Goth appearances: horrified parents dragging their freakish children on daytime talk shows all in the name of…checks notes…propriety? Because when I consider how to teach my children manners, I think of bringing them on the sideshow of daytime television. While Miquie seems like enough of a blast, she pales in comparison to the entrances of the subsequent caped Gianna, Alan Jr. whose “rebellion against society” takes the form of looking exactly like Marilyn Manson (lunchbox and all), and Andrea, a hospital worker who looks like she bathed in blood. Though these Goths do a good enough job of riling up parents, the real hero is Stevie, the mother FREAK! Stevie makes her grand appearance, to her daughter’s dismay, looking like if the tarted-up version of Grease’s Sandra Dee grew up to work the peep show booths in the Golden Age of Times Square sleaze! Oh, Mama!
2. Marilyn Manson on The Phil Donahue Show (1995)
Speaking of which, whatever happened to Marilyn Manson? Watching his most recent video “DON’T CHASE THE DEAD,” both Marion and I mistakenly thought we were watching Nicolas Cage in drag! I guess he’s become burned out and bloated like the rest of us. Ho-hum! We’re right there with you, Brian! But, some of you, dour Filthy Dreams demons, may remember the gay 90s when Manson was the apex of suburban terror. Even more so than Joe Biden and the racist scare tactics Trump implies by by frightening all those poor suburban white women. I have a distinct memory of Manson’s Antichrist Superstar tour in which rosary-clutchers protested outside the concerts. Talk about good promotion! Now that’s showbiz! Maybe it was the ripping up Bibles while blowing kisses to the audience, staggering around on stilts screeching “Kinderfeld” (which I always thought was a performance ripe for a drag send-off), or penning his memoir about sex, drugs, and partying with Satanist Anton LaVey, but boy, Manson knew how to intimidate Middle America. And sure, his music was never beyond parody. But even lyrics like “I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers” seemed to shake the religious right to its core. Not so much nowadays when the President does his best disco Antichrist Superstar impression at every super-spreader rally. Anyhoo–to reminisce about this era, here’s Manson and the lunchbox-toting gang on Phil Donahue, who is trying to rustle up some fear-mongering about every mother’s night terror: moshing. Boo!!
3. “Makeover My Outrageous Teen” on The Jenny Jones Show
Did you think we’d be satisfied with just one exploitative teen Goth daytime talk show? Of course not! While Ricki Lake complimented the freakazoids (naturally, since she’s beloved by our preeminent filth elder John Waters!), Jenny Jones isn’t having it with these weirdos wearing Charlie Manson T-shirts, shaving their heads, and piercing themselves with thumbtacks. Yuck! So Jenny takes things into her own hands and makes over these juvenile delinquents into…models from a JC Penney catalogue as their parents fall all over themselves that their babies finally look like “girls”! Gender normativity is the Halloween monster! THE HORROR!!!
4. “Hay Punk Lose The Funk!” on The Jenny Jones Show
Did you think we’d be satisfied with just TWO exploitative teen Goth daytime talk shows? Of course not! While helium-voiced Kim and deliciously salty and queeny Patrick cut quite an image (to the dismay of their friends and relatives), the most striking vision is pipe cleaner-adorned, wand-wielding bizarro Tinkerbell, Mya. I want to wish upon HER star! Want to know more about Mya? Me too! Like what are her hobbies? Well, as she tells Jenny, “I photograph roadkill. I have a passion with life and death.” *gasp* What is she expressing with her look? “I am the Lizard King. I can do anything!” *swoon* I’d follow her anywhere!
5. Nick Cave and Clint Ruin on Videowave (1983)
Nick Cave has always bristled at the Goth label. But, that’s kind of what happens when you write a song at the height of the London 1980s Goth scene called “Release the Bats”! Sure, the song is actually deliciously perverse, filled with hollers of “sticky wings” and “horror bat, sex vampire, cool machine.” But, it’s called “Release the Bats” nonetheless. But, Nick never let this stop him from antagonizing those journalists who would be so unlucky as to try to slot his creative output into that particular junkyard. Case in point: this interview on Videowave in 1983, on the occasion of the short-lived but mythologized Immaculate Consumptive performances, featuring Nick, Clint Ruin, Lydia Lunch, and Marc Almond. While Lydia’s interview is also wonderfully combative, Nick and Clint (who mostly just giggles) look as if they were raised from the dead, or at least a drug-driven nod. Gripping a bottle and a pack of cigarettes (Where’s the party, Nick!), Nick deadpan answers Merle Ginsberg’s comment about his “very dramatic, very dark” music by correcting that it’s “fairly undramatic and quite light.” Yes, because Nick’s songs from 1983 like the homicidal “Deep in the Woods” or the howling dope-sick fall from grace in “Mutiny in Heaven” are just such fun-filled romps.
6. Outspoken punks and their parents on Twin Cities Live (1985)
Nick can try to run from Goth, but he can’t hide from his clear influence on some of the looks of these 1980s Minnesota teens on this delightfully low-budget local news talk show.
7. Bernie Sanders’ interview with mall Goths (1988)
I know. I know. There’s a good percentage of people who would like to never have to see good ole yelly Bernard ever again, whether you’re a DNC plant or salty that Bernie wasn’t really a pinko commie after all. I get it–I was one of you! Up until the moment I discovered this bizarre clip on YouTube of Bernie loitering around the mall in Burlington, VT instead of doing work at City Hall. Why is he harassing passersby like a mothball-scented sportscoat-wearing Billy Eichner? To speak to THE PEOPLE?! To stick it to THE MAN? To find his revolution near the Orange Julius? Who knows, but what I do know is he discovered the underground icons of Vermont: two mall Goths who make their spooky appearance at about 14:20. Who knew they had Goths in Vermont? Isn’t everyone law-bound to wear Eddie Bauer at all times up there? While Bern likes to posture himself as some revolutionary, these two Goths are the real radicals. As one says, “To heck with society!…I don’t like how society’s run!” Me neither, honey! If only Bernie had these two as his campaign managers, we may have a different Democratic candidate on the ballot. Or forget Bernie…I want a Goth for president! Down with the plastics!