He has a sometimes shy, almost self-effacing manner. A strong man. Muscular arms, with tattoos running the length of them. His raw power comes partly from the associations he has had over the years and partly from an enthusiasm for a life reclaimed.
His name is Michael Page. A San Diegan by birth and by preference, he grew up in the 1950s, an era of black bands and of singers like Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 1964, along with most of America, he watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show and he wanted to go there. The British Invasion transformed American music. The New York Dolls were an early proponent of glitter/glam rock, along with David Bowie and Alice Cooper. The Velvet Underground was sponsored by Andy Warhol. Iggy Pop and the Stooges became the forerunners of punk rock in the late ’60s. And soon, the Ramones, Talking Heads, and Blondie were playing in New York City at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB.
Michael Page formed his own bands in San Diego — the Diplomats, and Ruby and the Snakes— and was a member of the Fly People and the King Biscuit Blues Band He went to New York City and entered the underground music scene; he toured with Iggy Pop and Chubby Checker.
About Michael Page, Iggy Pop made the following comments in the June 1980 issue of Creem magazine: “I met Michael when he was mowing lawns in La Jolla, California, seven years ago, and he said, ‘Jim, I’m going to be in the music business,’ and I said,‘Ahhhhhhh.’ But he was a workaholic and I just hired him. Unbeknownst to me, the other guys do these things for me, I’m not much of a musician. They hired him, and you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Michael’s just done an African tour with Chubby Checker. Michael’s one of the most unusual men I’ve ever met.... Michael, as you can see, is just.. .show him your shoes! [pointed, pony-skin shoes] Michael is a love figure. I mean, we had sex symbols in the 70s. In the ’80s, if there is to be a love figure in my life, it’s Michael Page.”
Michael Page played a part in rock and roll history and lived to tell about it. Here is his story.
I was born on September 8, 1950, near 42nd Street in San Diego. The place I was born was called Hillside Hospital. I like to say that I was born on 42nd Street, because that fooled them all in New York. They asked me where I came from, and I’d tell them 42nd Street.
I grew up in the area around 42nd Street, near Highland and Landis. It was near the Kensington area of San Diego, but farther south. I went to Hamilton Elementary, and then when I was in second grade, we moved to Keamy Mesa. Then I went to Beall Elementary, Montgomery Junior High School, Kearny High, and Mesa College. I went to Mesa College to get out of Vietnam.
My dad worked at Juvenile Hall, and it wasn’t real easy to have a dad who worked there. He was a very structured person, a foster child who had walked in and found his real father dead from alcohol poisoning at a time when there was bathtub gin. It killed him because it was poisonous alcohol. My dad then went to different foster homes around San Diego. He showed me a big estate where he had lived in Point Loma. He was whisked off to a lot of places. I don’t know if he was a real well mannered kid. Whatever. He didn’t tell us why, but he went from foster home to foster home. I don’t know where he was born, because he was pretty secretive and didn’t tell us very much about his childhood. I was interested many times, too, and wanted to know. My father passed away about five years ago. His name was Howard Leroy Page. My middle name is Guy. I have two brothers. One brother is Mark Jeffrey Page, and for my youngest brother, my parents took both of our middle names and named him Guy Jeffrey Page.
My mother, whose first name was Bernice, passed away of natural causes before my father did. She was a secretary for a bunch of San Diego firms. One was Piggly Wiggly. She worked over at El Cajon Boulevard and Park, where the Piggly Wiggly store was. It’s where Buddha Head is now. Uncle Russ had a cartoon show in San Diego and broadcasted at that location. We’d watch him on cartoons and think, wow, he’s a movie star. We knew that when we picked my mom up from work that Uncle Russ’s place was right there. And we just ! admired it, thinking that, wow, that’s where Uncle Russ is. Being a kid, the big guys to me were Uncle Russ and Johnny Downs.
I come from a middle-class, conventional family, on the borderline of strict. My dad was surrounded by juvenile delinquents all day, so he’s watching me, and I couldn’t get away with anything. A big thing he stressed was not to lie. He’d say that he was with kids who were professional liars all day long. He had us tricked into thinking that he could hold us at a certain particular place and feel our pulse, and he’d always be able to tell if we were lying. So it was, like... well, he worked with kids, and this is what he did, so we didn’t question it.
We would socialize mainly with my father’s friends, who were either cops or sheriffs. Those were the people who brought in the Juvenile delinquents, and my dad would lock them up. He once worked at a place that was located in Mission Valley, at a time when there were still farms there. The place was called Anthony Home, and it was located down where 163 and I-8 intersect. I remember when I could still see the building standing. It was just a building with a cyclone-fenced yard, and that’s where they brought juvenile delinquents in those days. I think there was a hospital near there, or some facility. It was real interesting. The place had a heritage but also had a negative connotation, which I couldn’t put my finger on.
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