• Rock Around the Town alerts

Worst in Rock: Busted, Burned & Barefoot in Balboa Park


STEPHEN STILLS August 14, 1970 In late 1970, ex-Byrd David Crosby, former Hollie Graham Nash and Buffalo Springfield singer Stephen Stills were joined by periodic fourth voice Neil Young, as they prepared to promote and possibly tour behind their live LP “4 Way Street.” Stills eponymous first solo had spawned a hit record “Love The One You’re With” and his second solo disc was slated for the following year. Then Stills was arrested one hot August night at a La Jolla motel, reportedly incoherent and combatative with police. He was charged with “possession of dangerous drugs,” cocaine and barbiturates, and released on $ 2,500 bail.

In April 1971, Stills returned to San Diego for his court date. Rolling Stone #83 [5-27-71] said it was “to get his wrist slapped with a $1,000 fine (plus probation) for his not-often-celebrated coke bust.” The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and band manager Elliot Roberts, in the same issue, refuses to elaborate on just how this major legal coup was pulled off. “It’s over now, so we don’t talk about it.”


ROLLING STONES June 13, 1972 Only recently have viewing-copies of Robert Frank’s long-suppressed documentary “C---sucker Blues” surfaced. The movie famously chronicles the Stones’ infamous 1972 tour, timed to promote “Exile On Main Street” [released April 12] and the group’s first time playing North America since the deadly 1969 Altamont concert. In the film, the San Diego International Sports Arena date isn’t so much a scene of decadence as indifference.

Backstage, Mick Jagger can be seen deciding what to wear over his purple jumpsuit – a silver lame’ jacket, black leather coat or raspberry polka dot shirt, his three main sartorial accessories for the tour. He ends up shrugging his shoulders to don a plain denim jacket that looks small even on his thin frame, muttering “I don’t care, it’s only San Diego.” The set was reportedly fair – it’s one of the few occasions they’ve performed “Honky Tonk Woman” live. The real show was happening outside, in the Arena parking lot.

The Bill Graham-produced event had, like the Stones themselves, sold out. Unreserved seating cost $6.50, among the year’s highest ticket prices (even aside from the free parking) in an era when Pink Floyd, Traffic and Chicago tickets cost local patrons $4 - $5. Around three hundred apparently ticketless youths milled around the Arena parking lot as someone, perhaps several someones, worked their way through the crowd, selling dozens of counterfeit tickets for anywhere from $10 to $20 each.

The actual tickets had been imprinted on a beige fiber cardstock with slightly raised ink – the counterfeits were offset printed with thick raised ink, fairly convincing except printed on a yellow-orange cardstock. Had the color been closer to the genuine tickets, most of the counterfeits might have gone unnoticed.

Hapless scam victims were refused admission and soon the crowd of angry, ripped off Stones fans and rowdy ticketless bystanders were moving threateningly en masse for the row of entrances. Guards (one of whom later characterized the scene as “a riot”) were overwhelmed, dozens of people stormed the gates and ran into the hall and police were helpless do anything other than summon medical aid for a handful of mildly injured gatekeepers.

When it was reported that most rioters appeared underage, a Juvenile Delinquency and Crime Commission was set up to investigate whether local rock concerts in general and Stones concerts in particular should be restricted to only adult patrons (no city measure ever materialized). The scene was eerily repeated in July at a Montreal Stones show, where 3,000 victims of ticket forgers rioted in the streets. At the same concert, one of the band’s equipment trucks was dynamited by French separatists, making the San Diego date seem more rowdy than riotous by comparison.

Surviving counterfeit tickets from the Sports Arena show are highly prized collector’s items, sold and traded with certificates of authenticity signed by purported experts in rock and roll memorabilia. One eBay auction in late 2003 for an untorn San Diego 6-13-72 bootleg ticket, “certified authentic” (an authentic counterfeit?), attracted over 3,800 hits, drawing 65 bids and closing at $251.00, plus $7.50 insured shipping.

BRIAN WILSON June 1978 In late 1976, the mercurial Beach Boy was complaining about round-the-clock “treatment” administered by Beverly Hills shrink Dr. Eugene E. Landy, a controversial mental health guru who, with his staff, essentially dictated and controlled his subject’s every move.

Landy was fired by band management in December 1976 after it was discovered the doctor’s $90 hourly/$10,000 monthly salary had doubled. However, Wilson's new therapist Steve Schwartz was soon killed in a rock-climbing accident and before long the songwriter’s delicate mental and emotional equilibrium was, as Landy might say, “disharmonious.”

Wilson, without telling his wife or fellow bandmembers, inexplicably decided to escape his life entirely and hitchhike to Mexico. He wound up in San Diego a few days later, according to Steven Gaines’ biography “Heroes And Villains,” which describes a mentally fogged pop star millionaire wandering around the city for days, “barefoot and unwashed.”

“He was on a binge," according to Stephen Love, brother of Beach Boy Mike Love and sometime-band manager (he kept getting fired and rehired). Wilson’s wife since 1965, Marilyn Rovell, referred to the incident in later divorce papers as the beginning of their marriage dissolution, saying “He told me he wanted to know what it feels like to be a bum…[he was] playing for drinks in San Diego bars.”

Someone from a local recording studio recognized Wilson and attempted to get him to record a track, apparently unaware that Wilson was at the time basically living under a tree near the entrance of the Laurel Street Bridge in Balboa Park. That’s where he was discovered one afternoon, passed out and nearly comatose.

"The cops found him in Balboa Park under a tree with no shoes on, his white pants filthy, obviously a vagrant, with no wallet, no money," according to another Love brother, Stanley. Wilson was taken by ambulance to nearby Alvarado Hospital and a doctor called Mrs. Wilson to inform that her husband was being treated for alcohol poisoning. She had already approved sending a private detective to San Diego to search for her missing husband, after a phone call from someone at the local recording studio who called CBS, the Beach Boys’ one-time label, with news of Wilson’s vagrancy.

Marilyn, with Stephen and Stanley Love, came to San Diego to take Wilson home but decided to leave him at the hospital a few extra days for treatment. Wilson’s mental and physical health was precarious and the Beach Boys were scheduled to begin sessions for a new album in Florida soon. Wilson flew to meet rest of the band straight from treatment, to record the group’s debut for Caribou Records at Florida's Criteria Studios. He was quickly supplanted as producer by Bruce Johnston when it became evident that Wilson was incapable – or unwilling – to do the job.

Wilson and his wife filed for legal separation in LA Superior Court July 15. Alvarado Hospital is also where, in August 1999, Brian’s daughter Carnie Wilson underwent her highly publicized laparoscopic gastric bypass (weight reduction) surgery, performed live on TV and the internet.


FRANK ZAPPA FANS December 13, 1979 Tickets for Zappa’s first eighties appearance in his one-time hometown [April 4, 1980] weren’t even on sale yet when several people were arrested for larceny, drugs, vandalism and indecent behavior. On the night before seats were due be released at 10am, about a hundred people were camped out on the pavement in sprawling lines, all leading to the Sports Arena ticket windows, Zappa fans (and a few scalpers) wholly intent on getting the best seats for this highly anticipated performance.

I was among the throng with apparently little to do besides napping in lawn chairs, playing Zappa bootlegs on car stereos and passing around joints with other likeminded layabouts all night long. Some friends and I talked others into holding our spots in line while we snuck into the nearby Midway Drive-In to see the new Star Trek movie. Returning to the Arena parking lot, we were amazed to see silver beer kegs lined up on each of the ticket window shelves, all tapped and flowing!

Everyone was standing around, filling plastic cups, passing them out – partytime, excellent! More kegs were being wheeled out of the wide-open Sports Arena doors and down the steps on handcarts, while other people were coming out of the building with gigantic bags of pre-cooked popcorn and garbage cans full of other snack bar goodies.

I never was clear on who first used a coathanger to pull the leverage bar inward from the other side of a set of glass Arena doors, opening the place up to be invaded by anyone brave enough to enter (which included most of us – er, them). This was only the beginning of the bacchanalia. Everyone lined up at the pay phones to call friends and invite them down to what was quickly becoming a drunken overnight orgy and eventually about three hundred people were there – amazingly, no cops showed up. At least not yet.

The ticket clerks who threw open the windows of their booths at 10AM were greeted by the sight of precariously balanced (and completely emptied) beer kegs on the window shelves, a mountain of plastic cups and snack bar trash littering the parking lot and a subdued crowd of hungover young adults barely ambulatory enough to stumble up to the windows and pull out our wallets to mumble “gimme yer best seats.” The windows promptly closed and, instead of being sold tickets, we were quickly surrounded by what seemed like every police officer in southern California.

Various suspicious types and presumably frequent offenders were pulled from the crowd and questioned but I never heard about anyone being arrested for actually breaking into the Arena. One guy was busted for attempted larceny, for trying to pry open a ticket window gate, and a hippie looking guy who made a chair of one of the empty kegs was cited for possession of stolen property.

Several others were handcuffed and hauled away for being intoxicated or in possession of drugs (one guy had weed out in the open, another was passed out with a cocaine-covered mirror next to him when police approached).

A willowy redheaded girl, still inebriated, got into trouble by refusing to put anything on over her see-through panties and bra and the cops took her way. She’d been very popular all night, performing oral sex on several guys who shared cocaine with her, usually in full view of everyone in line and sometimes earning cheers from nearby voyeurs for her efforts, though she blew a couple of guys under blankets.

I heard they tried to charge her with public indecency but most of us found her pretty decent and I can find no account of her actually being charged in any newspapers. Everyone I know looked for her at the concert itself (we were eventually allowed to buy our tickets) but subsequent sightings of the cokehead-redhead-who-loves-head are unconfirmed and remain the stuff of local urban legend.


GRATEFUL DEAD July 1, 1980 Dead fans, however believable their addled faculties may be, usually cite the band’s 1980 album “Go To Heaven” as the nadir of their recording career, though "Alabama Getaway" and "Don't Ease Me In" became later concert staples. That year’s tour still managed to bring out the tie-dyed and squinty-eyed in big numbers for an appearance at the Sports Arena. Advance press reports made it clear that local police were “on guard” for the expected influx of illicit drugs and illegal activity in the parking lot and audience seats.

Even before the show started, several people were arrested for smoking pot. One bust was witnessed from alongside the stage by Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and band manager Danny Rifkin.

The trio tried to intervene, cajoling onlookers to join them in separating the young potsmoker from police offers trying to effect the arrest. Cops pulled out additional handcuffs and arrested Weir, Hart and Rifkin for “suspicion of inciting a riot.” The three defendants had to return to San Diego several weeks later to face charges.

Their offense was reduced to a low grade misdemeanor, fines were paid and everyone walked out of the courtroom with a grudge against the SDPD that lingers to this day. “We couldn’t believe what fascists they are down there,” Weir told Golden Scarab, a Dead fanzine, in 1999. “We almost never went further south than Irvine after that. We didn’t wanna set the kids up to be busted by a bunch of gorillas with no education, who hate rock and roll music.”

SKELETONES 1998 4th & B Based in Riverside, ska band the Skeletones have been around since 1986, earning frequent spins on 91X (who called them "the #1 ska band in California and perhaps the world") and steady gigs at Soma and elsewhere around town. On the occasion they played 4th & B, the band just about blew up the place, and that’s not a euphemism for a strong performance.

“The way 4th & B is, being a licensed establishment,” explains security guard Joel Meriwether, who’d worked at the club since its inception, “you can’t take liquor outside in open containers. So we told them ‘You can’t walk outside with your beer.’ It was one guy [he’s unclear whether a bandmember or roadie] and as they got their van loaded up, as they were leaving, I was at the back door where I usually am. I got called in to break up a fight, and so [co-owner] Bob [Speth]’s wife went to the back door to spot me while I was inside."

"The guy that was being a dick opened up the [van] window and threw what we thought was a cherry bomb at her. It hit the wall and exploded, kaboom, it echoed off the building. Right as he did that, a cop was sitting up the street at 3rd and B and he looks over and sees the flash and everything and stops the van.”

“He’d actually thrown an M80. They called out the bomb squad, roped off the whole parking lot, the customers’ cars; they [the band] couldn’t leave. They had tweezers out there and were picking the stuff up for hours.” Meriwether says he recalls an arrest being made but can offer no further details. “I think he did some time. He was already on probation for some other stunt.”


SNOOP DOGG June 16, 2001 The opening night of Snoop Dogg’s “Puff, Puff, Pass” tour ended early as the rapper left the Coors Amphitheatre stage after only 45 minutes. When he pulled the plug, Dogg had already been hit in the chest with a thrown red visor and members of his entourage standing onstage were being pelted with bottles and other debris. Someone from the audience tried to climb onstage and alleged gangmembers were pulling speakers from the stage and trashing them.

According to witnesses, it had nothing to do with the music - the people onstage were wearing blue colors. Offending/offended audience members were wearing red.

Suddenly it was Dr. Suess with tattoos as starbellied sneeches and barebellied sneeches threatened to go head to head in a violent confrontation. According to the Union-Tribune, a security guard suffered a minor injury after being struck by an unidentified object during the “disturbance” but no arrests were made other than a woman under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As Dogg left the stage and house lights came up, the sound of microphones being slammed to the ground while still amplified was mistaken by some to be gunshots and a minor panic ensued. Chula Vista Police took the stage in what police Lt. Dan Linney called a “skirmish line,” as a show of force, but audience members quickly regained their calm and left the venue compound peaceably.

After the concert, Snoop’s tour bus was pulled over in Temecula. The police smelled marijuana smoke, searched the bus and found 300 grams of pot. A member of Snoop's entourage claimed possession of the herb, was cited for misdemeanor possession and released.

On October 19, two of the rapper’s tour busses were pulled over again, this time in Cleveland, for speeding, and six more bags of weed weighing 200 grams were found. Snoop and two fellow passengers were arrested for misdemeanor possession, making the “Puff, Puff, Pass” tour one of the most aptly named in recent memory.

ANTHONY KIEDIS June 26, 2001 The 38-year old singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was “rescued” by lifeguards at La Jolla cove, along with the lead actress from “Felicity,” 25-year old Keri Russell. Lt Rick Wurts, spokesman for San Diego County Lifeguard Service, told San Diego AP that lifeguards responded to a call about six people in the water who were “in distress and caught in a rip current” and four of them were “pulled to safety.”

Kiedis denies that he and his companions were in any danger. “Those [lifeguards] down there think they’re rock stars or something. Four or five of us were swimming not too far out [from shore] and this lifeguard comes cruising up on a surfboard and says ‘there’s a riptide, it’s gonna be really hard to swim back in.’ We were in absolutely no danger but he had us grab his board and pulled us in and then the beach was full of these Baywatch wannabees and reporters were calling me and it became a big deal that made all the papers.”

Russell’s publicist told reporters her client and Kiedis were in San Diego “visiting friends.”

In an interview posted at TV Guide online, Russell also accused the lifeguards of overreacting. "There was no drowning. I'm actually a fabulous swimmer…[we all] could have swam back in.” She took the press to task for post-rescue insinuations that she and Kiedis were some kind of item. "He was just a friend of someone who was there," she says. "He's not my friend ... I think he has a girlfriend."

RICKIE LEE JONES, lyrics from “Drunk On The Striped Table”

“I abandon the old way when I first got to San Diego.

I f----ed anybody I wanted to.

I was, however, gang raped by a blues band in an old school bus.

That was pretty horrible. There were only three of them.

I can't remember if I got the third one off me.

I think I did. I was so ashamed.”

(Thanks to Bart Mendoza for several of the leads in above writeup)


I've done a few Famous Former Neighbors comic strips about well-known cartoonists who've called San Diego home, including Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie), and Jim Lee (Marvel artist and Image Comics co-founder).

There are more I plan to get to.


"LuAnn" creator Greg Evans and his wife Betty live in San Carlos. The comic was launched in 1987 and today is one of the most widely syndicated of U.S. strips. Last September, Evans debuted "Luann: Scenes From a Teen's Life," a musical that premiered at the California Center for the Arts.


Pete Hansen, creator of "Lolly," is from Denmark, but has been living in the U.S. since he was two. He was a Disney animator from 1938 to 1941, but he’s best known for his newspaper comics; “Flapdoodles” (1950-1953) and “Lolly” (1955-1983).


Gus Arriola spent several years living in La Jolla. His Hispanic-themed “Gordo” comic was hugely influential (and a personal fave of yours truly), but he got his start in animation. He spent a year at Screen Gems doing Krazy Kat cartoons, before joining MGM’s cartoon department to do story sketches for the Academy Award winning Tom and Jerry series. “Gordo” was launched in 1941.


"Matthew Alice" artist Rick Geary is actually pretty well-known outside our fine city. His work has graced many issues of National Lampoon, Heavy Metal and countless other newsstand mags, plus he's earned acclaim in the comic book field for distinctive, inventive graphic novels like his true-life "Treasury Of Victorian Murder." He also drew for a locally-produced horror comic book adapting classic stories by Larry Niven, Robert Bloch, and others, called "Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology." The comic - which I wrote and edited - was the brainchild of original Twilight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson.


Scott Shaw! (the exclamation point is part of his legal name) is a longtime local, familiar to anyone who's attended his annual wacky cover slideshows at San Diego Comic-Cons, dating back to its earliest humble incarnation at the El Cortez. He began doing “funny animal” comic books like “Wild Kingdom” for local publisher Pacific Comics, but went on to animated cartoons, winning an Emmy for his work on “Muppet Babies.” He’s also the guy behind around a hundred cartoon cereal commercials for Fruity Pebbles and Alpha-Bits.


“Rocketeer” creator and renowned pin-up artist Dave Stevens was based locally, at least until the Village Voice called his Rocketeer comic “The greatest comic book of all time.” The Rocketeer began in the pages of locally-produced comic books from Pacific Comics, based off Miramar Road. Though the movie based on his comic wasn’t a huge hit, he’s become one of the most sought-after “good girl” artists since Playboy’s legendary Vargas retired.


Wesley "Gene" Hazelton moved to Lake Murray around 1975, three blocks from the summit of Cowles Mountain, and was frequently seen walking along the Lake. From 1939 to 1942, he was a Disney animator and gag writer who worked on Pinocchio (1940), and Fantasia (1940), and he did early character design work for The Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan (1953).

He spent many years at MGM doing animated cartoon layouts and character designs for both Tex Avery and Hanna-Barbera. He animated the original I Love Lucy segment bumpers, and for years drew the Flintstones and Yogi Bear comic strips. He created Pebbles and Bamm Bamm for the Flintstones TV show (Bamm was based on his son).

Hazelton was a supporter of "Canine Companions" and a lifelong dog lover. He golfed all over San Diego, and he gave talks to local elementary schools where he drew and read for school kids. He was an early mentor to Scott Shaw!


Much as it pains me to say, one can no longer stock their entire wardrobe at K-Mart and the occasional Gap without being mocked every time you go out in public. And, unless you're still high school age or below, Hot Topic is clearly outta the question. So here are some 'round town sartorial suggestions, for us working and wanna-be-hip-as-we-used-to-be adults.

Buffalo Exchange (Hillcrest) lives up to its name by inviting patrons to bring in fur apparel and accessories for exchange, as part of its “Coats For Cubs” program. “The furs are used as bedding to comfort orphaned and injured wildlife,” informs their website. The proffered “exchange” is tax deduction paperwork from the Humane Society, not to mention that smug Samaritan glow that comes with doing something cool for critters. That, and knowing you’re safe from PETA throwing red paint on you. www.buffaloexchange.com

Buzz Clothing is “a men’s lifestyle boutique and online retailer specializing in exclusive and up-and-coming national and international designers,” according to its virtual sales pitch. At this writing, online specials include tropical Boardies beach shorts ($70), wool Fila warmup jackets styled for the gym but priced for the VIP lounge ($225 to $250) and several styles of Frank Dandy men’s undershorts, including a pair with side panels decorated in pink paisley flowers ($29) which, if it’s not available in break-away style, really should be. www.buzzclothing.com

The Enchantress Boutique (Old Town) is all about romance, so its erotic sleepwear is perfectly suited for two upstairs bedrooms of the old Victorian Burton House on Heritage Row. Available sizes from 30AAA to 52DDD make the Boutique a utilitarian – and affordable - source for real world women, as opposed to the limited selection of supermodel-sized, sugar-daddy priced inventory available at some…many…at most lingerie specialty shops. Owner operated, and patrons can visit the tea room on the bottom floor, which is also available for wedding parties, baby showers and photo shoots rated G through R.

Flashbacks (Hillcrest) has a surfboard-shaped sign out front so psychedelic, it looks like a kaleidoscope threw up on it. So it shouldn’t surprise that their retread threads are a total 8-track flashback. Whether you’re building a Brady Bunch or boogieing nights away with Donna Summer all winter until you fall, they’ve probably got everything you need, no matter how funkadelic your parliament; Platforms, go-go boots, jumpsuits, Angel Flight jeans, and hip-huggers with bellbottoms wide enough for Arlo Guthrie to smuggle two or three keys into Los Angel-eeze with.

Frock You Vintage (University Heights) declares on their website “We eat, drink and sleep old clothes,” but one assumes they wash ‘em before selling to you. Their cottage-like retail locale offers everything from red carpet staples like Yves Saint Laurent vests and jackets to more bohemian blouses, vintage shoes, oh-so-chic tees and billowy pajama-style lounge pants. If you like fighting for your frocks, selected wares are frequently auctioned on eBay. www.myspace.com/frockyouvintage, www.frockyouvintage.com

Jep Boutique (La Jolla) offers recent store arrivals for the ladies, like super-snug Serfontaine Rocksteady jeans and a L.A.M.B. winged blazer - in leopard print - with a formidably large golden buckle that interlocks across the navel like fortress gates protecting your valuable belly piercings. Other items said to be hot include Trovata crew shirts (a fave at Barneys NYC) and a variety of hoodies, including several with large round “rudder” zippers resembling door knockers which – on ladies anyways – possibly serve the same function (“knock knock, pardon me, may I enter your hoodie for a nip?”).

Off 5th (Mission Valley) is a discount outlet for the blue-chip Saks chain. Discounts average 25%, though more than a few fashion bloggers have waxed digital about finding stuff up to 75% off during periodic clearance sales that reportedly pack ’em in like the homely little sister who puts out for burritos instead of lobsters (which is what Off 5th is to big-sistah Saks, after all). All the bling slingers are here - Prada, Armani, gold-and-sequin pumps by BCBG – in a folksy shop that belies its mallrat locale, and also offers a tasteful selection of picture frames and fine china.

Steady Boutique (Little Italy) invites passersby with attention-grabbing orange bucket seats out front that just scream “hang out with me.” This is the place to go if you like your designer labels to read “organic cotton,” said to make for more environmentally friendly manufacture and disposal. Organic cotton jeans by Loomstate can cost upwards of $175, but there’s a variety of denims available from Japanese designers that’ll leave a few shekels in the pockets of your transcontinental trousers. www.steadyboutique.com

Wear it Again Sam (Hillcrest) is the kind of timeless second-hander where you’d expect the ladies from the B52s and the cast of Anne Rice’s novels to shop, with frock-of-ages gear representative of the nineteenth century through the fifties. Attention to condition is almost archival, making them hard to sell to (only mint items will do) and pricey, but an excellent source of authentic and intact fashions of yesteryear. In addition to pre-worn dresses, pre-donned hats and pre-handled gloves, there’s usually a good selection of pre-disposed sunglasses that have gone in and out of style at least two or three dozen times since the date of their likely manufacture.


Arline Fisch designs jewelry influenced and inspired by historical events. “Exalt the wearer" is her mantra, which she explains at length in her 1975 book Textile Techniques in Metal for Jewelers, wherein her singular metal-knitting style is the subject of a definitive tutorial. An SDSU professor since 1961, works of hers are on display at Rome’s Vatican Museum, Boston’s Museum Of Fine Arts, the Smithstonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and locally at the San Diego Historical Society.

Wearhaus is the co-operative effort of five locals; Krystina Grammatica (Grammatique), Sally Smith (Sally Bee designs), Carman Stalker (Stalker Designs), Vanessa Salazar (Alterwear, Vichi designs), and Julie Anstedt (Rambunctious Designs). According to their website, “The goal of Wearhaus is to develop a network of local San Diego designers who can learn, create and prosper together as a community.” Why not? Beats being a Crip or a Blood. www.wearhouse.org

  • Rock Around the Town alerts


Sign in to comment