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Gonzo Report: North Park’s Full Contact Rock-N-Roll wants your two-headed frog

A sideshow feel with a circus spirit

Magnetic mannequin mayhem at Full Contact Rock-N-Roll
Magnetic mannequin mayhem at Full Contact Rock-N-Roll

When Full Contact Rock-N-Roll owner Davit Buck tells me that KISS guitarist Ace Frehley once came into the store and asked if they carried any albums by his former band, I could feel my inner fanboy start to flex my KISS tattoo. Buck’s recounting is brief, but still longer than his encounter with the Spaceman. It seems Frehley was on the phone throughout his visit, except to ask Buck about the records and to tell him he would bring some by. He did not bring the records.

Place

Full Contact Rock-N-Roll

2834 North Park Way, San Diego

Frehley was likely drawn to the North Park store for the same reason I was: a storefront full of mannequins, or sometimes just pieces of them, wearing wigs that you lock down onto the wooden heads in order to deter theft. Also a vintage rocking horse and handmade signage, all of which give the store’s exterior a sideshow feel. The interior upholds that circus spirit; it hawks colorful vintage shirts, musical instruments, vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, but also...curiosities.

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I ask Buck about his weirdest acquisition, and he tells me about purchasing a preserved two-headed frog from a woman. When the woman’s husband burst into the store yelling “That’s my frog!” Buck gave it back to him at no charge. Some things are more important than money. Then he shows me an item that confounds both of us: it’s the sleeve of Venom’s Welcome to Hell album, but sans vinyl. He picked it up as part of a collection. The sleeve’s former owner cut out the band shot on its back...and inserted a vintage photo of Rush.

The store is crowded, and the deeper into it I go, the less organized it is, thanks in part to the constantly shifting inventory. The home media section appears in disarray, and my eyes bounce all over as they register one of hundreds of Nosferatu versions that once came with a t-shirt, and a Rod Stewart VHS that I grab to see if local guitar hero Stevie Salas is on it. Then I’m distracted from that by a set of B-movie monster videotapes. To the left is a used record section, and in the free-for-all very back of the shop, there’s a treasure trove of shirts that I would love to dive into — but I have dinner plans and want to chat with Buck a bit more. The stuff does some talking of its own, but he’s the architect here.

As the singer of The Homeless Sexuals, Buck was infamous for performing naked and making out with women in the audience. He tells me he is now invisible to women, even audience members, and so none approach him. I don’t get the chance to ask him if he still breaks equipment or plays the drummer’s cymbals with his penis (activities that prompted several members to quit), because now he’s showing me materials from local bands like Coda Reactor, who shared both a mutual admiration and a performance style with Buck, and Se Vende, whose long history with Buck includes living with him.

Realizing I need a few more photos, I return to the shop with my friends after dinner at the nearby Crazee Burger. Industrial metal is blaring from the shop. “He’s never heard Ministry,” explains Buck, pointing at a man named Hector. I give the proprietor props for showing him heavy Ministry as opposed to early house-party Ministry. The compliment confuses Hector, so Buck plays a little of the early stuff. Hector is a regular, having frequented the shop for the seven years it’s been open.

In the video section, I get the attention of a man named Rob who’s wearing a battle vest replete with punk patches. He tells me he’s looking for DVDs for his girlfriend, and I flash back to my first brief foray into the shop, a night when I failed to tell my wife I was mixing our date night with an assignment to visit a venue called Part-Time Lover. My amends to her included watching several Melrose Place DVDs purchased right here.

Buck is apologetic when I remind him of my wife’s annoyance, and I laugh. Out on the street after my visit, DVD customer Rob is not laughing. He bums a smoke and laments the high price of Social Distortion tickets, asking how anyone in the punk scene is supposed to afford them. I suggest buying fewer DVDs, and he becomes exasperated, telling me I don’t understand: he must keep his girlfriend happy. Rob, if you’re reading this, know that I — the guy who purchased and still owns a set of Melrose Place DVDs — do understand.

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Magnetic mannequin mayhem at Full Contact Rock-N-Roll
Magnetic mannequin mayhem at Full Contact Rock-N-Roll

When Full Contact Rock-N-Roll owner Davit Buck tells me that KISS guitarist Ace Frehley once came into the store and asked if they carried any albums by his former band, I could feel my inner fanboy start to flex my KISS tattoo. Buck’s recounting is brief, but still longer than his encounter with the Spaceman. It seems Frehley was on the phone throughout his visit, except to ask Buck about the records and to tell him he would bring some by. He did not bring the records.

Place

Full Contact Rock-N-Roll

2834 North Park Way, San Diego

Frehley was likely drawn to the North Park store for the same reason I was: a storefront full of mannequins, or sometimes just pieces of them, wearing wigs that you lock down onto the wooden heads in order to deter theft. Also a vintage rocking horse and handmade signage, all of which give the store’s exterior a sideshow feel. The interior upholds that circus spirit; it hawks colorful vintage shirts, musical instruments, vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, but also...curiosities.

Sponsored
Sponsored

I ask Buck about his weirdest acquisition, and he tells me about purchasing a preserved two-headed frog from a woman. When the woman’s husband burst into the store yelling “That’s my frog!” Buck gave it back to him at no charge. Some things are more important than money. Then he shows me an item that confounds both of us: it’s the sleeve of Venom’s Welcome to Hell album, but sans vinyl. He picked it up as part of a collection. The sleeve’s former owner cut out the band shot on its back...and inserted a vintage photo of Rush.

The store is crowded, and the deeper into it I go, the less organized it is, thanks in part to the constantly shifting inventory. The home media section appears in disarray, and my eyes bounce all over as they register one of hundreds of Nosferatu versions that once came with a t-shirt, and a Rod Stewart VHS that I grab to see if local guitar hero Stevie Salas is on it. Then I’m distracted from that by a set of B-movie monster videotapes. To the left is a used record section, and in the free-for-all very back of the shop, there’s a treasure trove of shirts that I would love to dive into — but I have dinner plans and want to chat with Buck a bit more. The stuff does some talking of its own, but he’s the architect here.

As the singer of The Homeless Sexuals, Buck was infamous for performing naked and making out with women in the audience. He tells me he is now invisible to women, even audience members, and so none approach him. I don’t get the chance to ask him if he still breaks equipment or plays the drummer’s cymbals with his penis (activities that prompted several members to quit), because now he’s showing me materials from local bands like Coda Reactor, who shared both a mutual admiration and a performance style with Buck, and Se Vende, whose long history with Buck includes living with him.

Realizing I need a few more photos, I return to the shop with my friends after dinner at the nearby Crazee Burger. Industrial metal is blaring from the shop. “He’s never heard Ministry,” explains Buck, pointing at a man named Hector. I give the proprietor props for showing him heavy Ministry as opposed to early house-party Ministry. The compliment confuses Hector, so Buck plays a little of the early stuff. Hector is a regular, having frequented the shop for the seven years it’s been open.

In the video section, I get the attention of a man named Rob who’s wearing a battle vest replete with punk patches. He tells me he’s looking for DVDs for his girlfriend, and I flash back to my first brief foray into the shop, a night when I failed to tell my wife I was mixing our date night with an assignment to visit a venue called Part-Time Lover. My amends to her included watching several Melrose Place DVDs purchased right here.

Buck is apologetic when I remind him of my wife’s annoyance, and I laugh. Out on the street after my visit, DVD customer Rob is not laughing. He bums a smoke and laments the high price of Social Distortion tickets, asking how anyone in the punk scene is supposed to afford them. I suggest buying fewer DVDs, and he becomes exasperated, telling me I don’t understand: he must keep his girlfriend happy. Rob, if you’re reading this, know that I — the guy who purchased and still owns a set of Melrose Place DVDs — do understand.

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