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“Lester Bangs attended Grossmont College from 1966 to 1968,” says English professor Raul Sandelin of the late rock critic for Rolling Stone, Creem, and the Village Voice. “The school is honoring its former alum with a posthumous Walk of Fame–style bronze star plaque, which we’re dedicating in a ceremony on Friday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m. in the Grossmont ­Quad.”

Sandelin heads up the Lester Bangs Grossmont Archive. “It’s an ongoing online collection that features articles by and about [Bangs]; related MP3s, photos, interviews, audio, video, and other materials are always coming ­in.”

Born at Escondido Community Hospital in December 1948, Leslie Bangs attended Lincoln School before moving with his mom through several apartments around El Cajon. By the time he was living on Lexington Avenue and attending El Cajon Valley High School, where he graduated in 1966, he had already changed his name from Leslie to ­Lester.

“I came from a spic suburb full of Mexicans that eat tacos all the time,” Bangs is quoted saying in the book Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs. The albums that fired his interest in music, most notably by Miles Davis, were purchased in El Cajon from the record bin of a Thrifty ­drugstore.

In 1968, Bangs was still attending teen dances at the old Moose Hall and reading his poetry at a La Mesa coffeehouse, Land of Odin. After crashing for a while near Mount Helix with several musician friends, he moved back into his mom’s two-bedroom apartment on First Street. Friends say he spent his time getting high and grooving on the Velvet Underground, until taking a job at Streicher’s shoe store in Mission ­Valley.

He got fired from the shoe biz in 1969, but by then he’d already spotted an ad in Rolling Stone, inviting prospective writers to submit album reviews for possible ­publication.

Bangs (portrayed in Almost Famous by Philip Seymour Hoffman) died of a multidrug overdose in April 1982. According to The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists, he was listening to the Human League album Dare when he ­died.

Professor Sandelin says, “We’re still looking for writings about Lester and testimonials by people who knew ­him.”

Not everyone who knew Bangs would praise the caustic critic. Who singer Roger Daltrey was once quoted saying, “When I see Lester Bangs, I’m gonna set him on fire and piss on ­him.”

Lou Reed was even more succinct: “I wouldn’t shit in Lester’s ­nose.”

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zsazsazsa May 20, 2010 @ 10:53 p.m.

“I came from a spic suburb full of Mexicans that eat tacos all the time,” WTF?? Why is this in here?? How does that relate to the story.


Jay Allen Sanford May 21, 2010 @ 9:07 a.m.

There is so much story behind Bangs' local-centric history that it was a daunting challenge to distill into a 300 word Blurt. As such, the choices of what to include were deliberate and considered at length -

Bangs himself and his contemporaries and associates have literally written books' worth of material about his Diego dayz. My challenge was to distill into a handful of words demonstrating to both the uninitiated and those in the know just how epically stream-of-consciousness he was, in the way he spoke, wrote, and lived.

With only space for a couple of quotes, and only one of them from Bangs himself, the quote I chose seemed to best reflect his often-aberrant and brutal way of expressing himself. The story is about Bangs growing up in SD, and that's exactly how Bangs felt about his adoptive hometown - tho dead all these years, the self-revealing way he spoke still clearly pisses people off.

Yet more evidence of how great a writer he really was ---


David Dodd May 21, 2010 @ 9:22 a.m.

I thought it was appropriate. Bangs was a very "in your face" writer on purpose, that quote was indicative of his style. A lot of people thought he was an a-hole, but really, it was a case of proving that he wasn't a kiss-ass. He probably wrote more negative reviews in Rolling Stone in the few years he worked for them than anyone in the history of the magazine.


CuddleFish May 21, 2010 @ 9:29 a.m.

You must be new here, zsazsazsa. Standard practice for the Reader. Cute, huh? Oh, wait, no -- engaging.


missy May 21, 2010 @ 11:49 a.m.

A better quote is found in Bangs' description of Grossmont College: "High school with cigarettes." So great.


Jay Allen Sanford May 21, 2010 @ 12:05 p.m.

That IS a good quote! About his junior college days, anyway - I was more interested in what he said about the neighborhood where he grew up. For anyone interested in further reading, I highly recommend this 7-13-2000 Reader cover feature, My High School Days with Lester Bangs -- http://www.jimdero.com/Bangs/Bangs%20Houghton.htm


zsazsazsa May 21, 2010 @ 4:09 p.m.

Gee, I wonder what Bangs would have said if he came from a black neighborhood? Would his aberrant quotes be included in this article as well?? It's not Lester Bangs that pisses me off, it's reading a publication that I've read on a regular basis for years (and have been featured in as well)and seeing an article that referred to Mexicans as spics. Am I missing something??


CuddleFish May 21, 2010 @ 4:15 p.m.

Nothing, including decency, supersedes the Reader's need to engage. Engagement means money. Money makes the Reader world go round. Thems the facts.


Jay Allen Sanford May 21, 2010 @ 5:25 p.m.

As a fan of zsazsazsa's music (assuming his screen name stems from his album title), and as the guy who wrote one of the Reader features about him (if my assumption is correct), AND as someone of (mixed)Mexican blood myself, I'd respectfully point out that the article does NOT refer to Mexicans as spics. Lester Bangs did.

Fault me if you wish for choosing that quote - if slaying the messenger is your wont - but I maintain that I found the quote to best sum up how Bangs felt about his childhood neighborhood, in the most succinct and direct way, in the fewest possible words.


JeronimoSmith May 21, 2010 @ 6:38 p.m.

If you read the Jim Derogatis book Let It Blurt, page 94, you find out the Bangs was doing a Lenny Bruce imitation when he made that comment about El Cajon. Now, if I was imitating Sarah Palin and said "Drill, baby, drill," I wouldn't want people to think that was my personal opinion. If I was imitating Richard Nixon and said "We must bomb Cambodia," I wouldn't want people to think that was my opinion. Let It Blurt is online if anybody wants to see the actual context of the quote. But, the real focus of the article was the event at Grossmont. Did anybody go? Did the Reader send a writer? I heard that Jerry Raney from the Beat Farmers, Jack Butler from Private Domain, and Jack Pinney from the original Iron Butterfly were going to be there. They all went to El Cajon High with Bangs and jammed with him in Thee Dark Ages.


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