“I’m a girl impersonating a guy who dressed kind of like a girl.” And so it begins with Diana Death, a local guitarist and club deejay who also fronts what is possibly the only Johnny Thunders tribute outfit in town, a band named Chinese Rocks. “I dress like him, I play all his guitar licks, I sing like him, and I have an entire wardrobe that is only Johnny Thunders–style clothes.” This, after I ask whether Chinese Rocks is a full-on Thunders tribute band or a punk band inspired by the late New York Dolls guitarist. “Apparently, there’s a new one. Some other guy somewhere [not local, she says] started a Thunders tribute band. There’s only 20 ‘likes’ on Facebook.” She giggles softly. Death says the gender-bending part of having her in the role of Thunders makes for interesting conversation. “The fact that I’m a girl kind of makes it okay for guys to admit their guy-crushes on Johnny.”
- Monday, November 17, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
3936 30th Street,
Born John Genzale, in Queens, New York, in 1952, Johnny Thunders (he was also Johnny Volume) made significant amounts of guitar sounds during the 1970s with the glam-punk New York Dolls that would be copied by many. “He’s hung influence on a lot of people who came after,” Death says (she prefers not to use her given name). “Guns ’N Roses, Aerosmith, any band that wears leather pants and has long hair and plays bluesy rock and roll, that’s Johnny Thunders. He was the template for badass.”
Post Dolls, he started a band named the Heartbreakers a year before Tom Petty, where he also proved to be the template for spectacular overindulgence. “I think he tried to cover a lot of his troubles.” Did she ever seen him live? “No. I was just a kid when he died in 1991.” Thunders was only 38 and learning jazz in New Orleans at the time. “I’m doing all of this post mortem.”