September 3, 2008

The document you are about to read was originally written over a two year period during 1991-93. Though it was privately published and next to nobody ever saw it, to the best of my knowledge it is the first biography of Darby Crash.

I had long been what could be termed an aficianado of punk music, and the Germs were one of my favorite bands; not only was the music suitably aggressive, but Darby Crash’s lyrics were nothing short of the most primal, inspired poetry I had ever read. Like most of us involved in the American hardcore scene of the early to mid 1980s, I was exposed to the mythology of Darby Crash and was pretty sure the picture it painted of a Sid Vicious-esque buffoon barreling to an inevitably surly demise was untrue. It seemed to me than such a person was not capable of expressing the poignancy and insight of the best of Darby’s lyrics at any age, let alone as the adolescent Darby had been when he wrote most of them. So as I approached my graduation from college I decided I would do something that nobody else had done, that I knew of, up to that point. I would try to write a properly researched and vetted biography of a mysterious, long-deceased cult hero about whom very little was publicly known.

I was as surprised as anyone when I achieved a modicum of success. I interviewed Darby’s mother and Pat Smear, both of whom have contributed their memories and blessings to other researchers during the intervening years between then and now. Where my take on Darby’s life diverges slightly from other accounts is that my list of sources included some not present elsewhere, including Christine Smith, Darby’s oldest sister and the person within the family who was first notified when he died; and the late Drew Blood, a member of the Riverside, CA contingent which included Bill Bartell (whom Darby dispatched to kick Don Bolles out of the Germs) and more notably, a certain well-hung, sweet teenage boy named Donnie Rose who by all accounts was Darby’s only true love. I also interviewed Regi Mentle, a friend of Darby’s imprisoned for life on a murder rap; the detective who responded to the scene of Darby’s suicide, and briefly, to the mother of Casey Cola, whose first words to me were that she ‘always thought Darby was gay.’ Indeed, at the time of the manuscript’s writing, it was not publicly known that Darby Crash was, in fact, gay, and that this closely guarded secret factored into his ultimate decision to kill himself.

Ultimately, I finished the manuscript in 1993, attempted to find a publisher, failed, sold the manuscript myself in the back of Maximum Rock N’Roll, and that was pretty much the proverbial that. I was thrilled that feedback I received from those who had been there, including Brendan Mullen, was highly complimentary, and even more so to eventually receive a credit in “Lexicon Devil,” the authoritative oral history of Darby’s life which was later compiled by Brendan and ex-Germs drummer Don Bolles.

I was aware that a movie about Darby was in the works. This last film project, which I remember hearing about in the middle to late 90s, was not the first one. When I began sniffing around Darby’s story, I was met with much resistance from his Hollywood friends not only because I was an outsider, being 12 years old and living in the Midwest when Darby killed himself, but also because my arrival coincided with the unceremonious departure of a name Hollywood director who was determined to make a movie about him – as it was told to me, a fictionalized piece of tripe centered around a non-existent, heterosexual Romeo and Juliet type relationship between Darby and Casey Cola, the girl with whom he overdosed on December 7, 1980. Thankfully, this movie was never made. Equally thankfully, the film that eventually was made, while taking certain liberties of a dubious nature, gives a sense of the mayhem and madness surrounding the Germs; Shane West’s performance as Darby is nothing short of remarkable. For that reason alone, if you haven’t seen “What We Do Is Secret,” do it now. You will never see West in the same light again.

Viewed from the perspective of the 21st century, the overwhelming legacy of Jan Paul Beahm, the writer, is one of tantalizing talent, never to be fulfilled. Darby could turn a phrase, utilized a gripping vocabulary (which, if John Doe is to be believed, was culled at least partially from the liberal use of thesauri), and had an innate sense of rhythm that made him ideal as a lyricist for a punk rock band. But he was never able to develop a vision of himself beyond that of a cult hero with a cult following, and his writing was similarly limited. He clearly viewed himself as a messianic figure and used his lyrics almost as propaganda to further the Circle One agenda. Later, after he returned from England without a band, without a scene, without his friends, and embarked upon the final year of his life, his lyrics lost their polysyllabic power and became blasts of confusion, torment, and pain. From the unreleased “Beyond Hurt/Beyond Help”, Darby wrote: “No caring where there’s cared for/No seeing what I’ve sought/I’m singing through the ashes/Of the ruins for which I fought/Beyond hurt, beyond help/Beyond here there’s no one else/No one else.” Darby seemed to feel that he had nothing more to offer once it became clear that his schtick had its limits. He was unable to secure the affections of the men he loved (Donnie Rose, Rob Henley); aside from a cadre of female admirers he was, in the end, unable to fashion himself as the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard (at least, not at age 22). He was faced with the fact that he was a mortal man and not a god, that some of his dreams, at least, were not becoming reality. With the impatience of the teenager that he was, he decided to say ‘fuck it’ and pack it in.

If you aren’t one of the ten people who bought my book in 1993, here it is. I hope you like it, and your comments are appreciated – especially any corrections or clarifications.

Lori Weiner

Chicago, IL 2008


September 3, 2008


Faith Baker and Christine Smith

Drew Blood (RIP)

Pat Smear

Bill Bartell

Regi Mentle




It is very clear that we

Cannot understand God’s wisdom, you see

For it was by his almighty call

That began the final trip for Paul.

He has no longer to suffer now

For this God will not allow

Paul’s music reached out to many

But his needs weren’t truly met by any

Paul’s throngs knew him as Crash

And often, he did things a bit rash

Yet he was able to give his heart to others

Because of the love learned through his mother.

He talked not enough of his troubles and woes

Only with his sister Faith did he discuss any of those

Though he loved dearly his sisters and mother

He needed much more to hold him together

So from the results of the tragedy that occurred

I know he left behind a message that needs to be heard

To have many friends is definitely OK

But more is required to survive any day

The family’s love must be gathered very near

For this can make life easier, with less fear.

But even with all of these things going for us

We all need someone to talk with, trust, and love enough.


Poem written by friend of Baker family and read at the funeral of Darby Crash, 12/12/80


September 3, 2008

When he was sixteen months old, Jan Paul Beahm took a cross-country trip with his family. Including him, they numbered five; mother Faith, brother Bobby and sisters Christine and Faith Jr. They were headed to the home of his maternal grandmother in New Jersey. Upon seeing the infant Paul for the first time, Faith Beahm’s mother immediately volunteered to adopt him and raise him as her own. Faith already had her hands full with the older children, and she didn’t have a husband; Hal Beahm, a drunkard prone to violent outbursts, had recently been driven away by a knife-wielding Faith after he threatneed to kidnap their only biological child, Faith Jr. And as for the new arrival, he wasn’t Beahm’s son anyway; Paul was the product of an affair between his mother and a Swedish sailor named Bill Bjorklund. When she informed him of the pregnancy, Bjorklund vowed to obtain permanent custody of the unborn baby; in response, Faith broke off the relationship and disappeared from the sailor’s life, never to see him again.

The infant was born on September 26, 1958, weighing eight and a half pounds; Faith was in labor for a full 24 hours. He received his first name after the son of a neighbor, who had died of a congenital heart defect. As Faith loved the name Paul, she selected this as his middle name, and throughout his life, this is what family and close friends would call him. He was her fourth child by three different men; her eldest children, Bobby and Christine, had been fathered by first husband, inventor Brainard Lucas, while the unfortunate Hal Beahm was Faith Jr’s dad.

It was 1960, and single motherhood was hardly the ubiquitous reality it became in later years; her daughter’s life was already hard enough. Paul’s grandmother would be thrilled to take him. But the elder Faith would have none of her mother’s well-intended interference. She loved her baby and wanted her family whole, so the entire brood piled back into the car for the long journey home to West Los Angeles. When they returned, Faith went back to work as the bookkeeper of a local pizzeria. By the time her youngest son celebrated his first birthday, she was partner in a restaurant of her own. It was here that Paul would learn, as a boy, how to cook.

Later, when Paul was six, his mother married for the final time. Bob Baker was the only father Paul would ever know, and he was taken with the kind-hearted man from the beginning; upon returning Faith to her door after an early date, Paul asked Baker if he would come live with them and be his new daddy. The resulting union, when it occurred, created the traditional American family unit expected of the era. Baker took his stepchildren camping and fishing – even after he adopted the stage name Darby Crash, Paul retained a love of fishing. By all accounts, his early years were idyllic and happy.

Bright and verbal from an early age, Paul was always encouraged to read and express himself. His intellectual curiosity was vast; when in grade school, he won a set of encyclopedias and was so excited, he toted them home himself on the bus rather than wait for Faith to get off work and drive him, and the encyclopedias, home. At around the same time, he was endowed with one of his most characteristic features when one of Faith Jr.’s friends mistakenly struck him in the face with a rock, resulting in a chipped front tooth which was never repaired, as money was tight around the Baker home.

The tide began to turn when he was eleven.

His older brother Bobby, whom Paul idolized, was himself a troubled soul. Like many young people, he became caught up in the drug use rampant in the late 1960s. He wound up addicted to heroin, but went to a halfway house and cleaned up, working steadily as a tool-and-die maker. He met and married Kathy Farrell, the sister of actor Mike Farrell. Bobby felt his life was finally going in the right direction, but his marriage soured after he was discovered in the arms of another woman. Kathy kicked him out, and a despondent Bobby threw himself back into his heroin addiction. His binge ended when he overdosed in the back seat of a car in Venice Beach. He was revived by police, who threatened him with a long prison sentence for drug possession. The only way Bobby could save himself, the officers told him, was to divulge the name of the dealer who sold him the heroin. Bobby provided the information and received a 90 day sentence.

When he got out, Bobby returned to Venice Beach, bought heroin, overdosed, and died. The family believes that the drugs Bobby purchased were deliberately more potent than normal, to ensure that he would OD in retaliation for ratting out his dealer. He was 27 years old. The Bakers’ grief was compounded by the insensitivity of his wife Kathy; her family’s position was that since Bobby never converted to their Catholic faith, they weren’t responsible for his funeral expenses. In the end, the Bakers buried Bobby themselves.

Two years later, when Paul was thirteen, Bob Baker died at age 39 from a heart attack.

Afterwards, Paul was partnered with an older boy from the Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization. It is suspected, but not proven, that Paul’s Big Brother may have molested him.

And later that same year, during an argument with his sister Faith Jr., Paul learned that he was illegitimate. He was stunned – he had always believed that his father was Hal Beahm. He was also furious when he learned that his mother and siblings had deliberately kept the truth from him his entire life. He became obsessed with finding Bill Bjorklund, the sailor who wanted to raise him, only to be barred from his life completely. Eventually, Paul’s research returned a sobering fact; this father, too, was deceased.

The tremendous upheaval caused by the deaths of Bobby Lucas and Bob Baker sent the family reeling. To escape the ghosts, Faith, Paul and Faith Jr. – Christine was married with a family of her own – moved a short distance away, to a friendly, tree-lined street in West LA, adjoining the town of Santa Monica. This small, cozy home was where Paul entered his high school years.

He always had a grasp of popular culture. As a child, he wore his hair past his shoulders and sported a leather choker; he actively opposed the Viet Nam war. The deaths of his stepfather and brother, plus the revelations about his true parentage, combined with the dissolution of the optimism of the sixties amid the growing skepticism of the early seventies, cast a pall over him. Instead of a hopeful sunshine, a dark angry void was staring Paul Beahm in the face, daring him to master it.


September 3, 2008

The clatter of skateboards announced the arrival of 13 year old Paul Beahm and his cohort, 12 year old Georg Ruthenberg. Webster Junior High had never seen anything like them. Paul was a fair skinned, blue eyed boy with a mane of blonde hair; Georg was wiry, with dark hair and eyes and a smoldering charisma. With his sharp wit and bizarre sense of humor, Paul amazed, intrigued and charmed peers and teachers alike. Georg was a perfect partner for Paul, the brother he never had.

Georg was one of the first young teens to discover glam rock; his favorites were David Bowie and Queen. Initially resistant and preferring the 50s low-rider music his sister’s boyfriends liked, Paul was slowly sucked in. The two spent hours listening to records and, as always, plotting mischief.

When the Runaways formed in 1975, Paul and Georg decided they, too, could form a band. If five teenage girls plucked from the halls of LA’s high schools could do it, anyone could, they reasoned.

At the same time Paul and Georg decided to be in a rock band, the British punk explosion blew the hinges off popular music. This was the logical, concentrated expression of malaise and energy best typified in the early 70s by America’s New York dolls and Iggy Pop. By 1975, groundbreaking artists like Patti Smith had wooed, and won, the art school set. But this was something else again. British punk rock was about disaffected, angry youth, teenagers and young adults, betrayed by the broken promises of their parents, left with nothing. Punk tore down the traditional boundaries of the music business, but it also tore down the boundaries of young people’s minds. For many kids trained to think just like everyone else, the advent of punk rock was the first time they began to think for themselves.

Paul Beahm had been thinking for himself for a long time; he was encouraged to do so by upbringing and unable to do anything else by temperament. Even if he had wanted someone to tell him what to do, his mother was working almost all of the time; his older brother, stepfather, and biological father were dead; and his older sister was married with a life of her own. The raw music of the punks, coupled with its theatrics (English punks dyed their hair blue and green, and wore torn t-shirts, bondage bracelets and big black jackboots with motorcycle jackets), were all inspired by the trappings of glam rock in general and specifically, the English rock star he most idolized, David Bowie. His mind was made up – he and Georg would form a punk band and become famous.

He began writing songs. One of the earliest was called ‘Astrid’ and described its title character, a messianic creature, derived from Ziggy Stardust, who descends to Earth to spread a message of peace and love to the world. Some of its lyrics would later reappear in the Germs song “Richie Dagger’s Crime.”

But music wasn’t all that was on Paul’s mind. He wanted to become a legend. He began delving heavily into religion, taking part in the activities of a church youth group sponsored by his sister Christine. He went so far as to flirt with joining the church of Scientology – his mother Faith remembers driving him to their meetings. He would later reject Scientology, along with all organized religion, as a “rip-off” while holding himself out as a deity to his followers in the LA punk scene.

Paul was a brilliant, eager learner, but he had as little respecrt for traditional education as he did for religion. He sought out lessons of his own making, perusing the dictionary and memorizing new words, then showing off his increasingly voluminous vocabulary in his songs. Paul and Georg were among the first to sign up for an experimental high school program at University “Uni” High. Known as IPS for Innovative Program School, the instructors were world reknowned experts in their fields – Pat Smear remembers that their math instructor was one of the highest ranking mathematicians in the country. Students were expected to obey their teachers’ orders unquestioningly, and kids had to obtain special permission from their parents to enter. Once permission was granted, prospective students withstood a harangue of unspeakable insults. If, after all this, the student still wanted to be in the program, they were accepted.

Georg and Paul both survived and attended IPS. But while Paul would experiment with virtually anything for whatever amusement it brought him, he could never stand to be told what to do by anyone. Already a master of manipulation, he and Georg carried copies of the pulp paperback “Helter Skelter” as if it were a Bible, insisted that Georg was Jesus and Paul was God, and told whoever would listen that IPS was “bullshit.” Little by little, the pair succeeded in turning practically every IPS student against the program.

Ultimately, Paul was named as the ringleader of the would-be coup, and for his insubordination he was brought before a review board of students (including Lucky Lehrer, who would later play drums in both the Circle Jerks and the short-lived Darby Crash Band). He was expelled – with diploma in hand, a year early.

With high school behind him, sixteen year old Paul declared his intent to become a professional entertainer. He enrolled at nearby Santa Monica City College, where he took courses in tap dancing, music, and acting. He discovered a talent for making jewelry and sold some of the pieces he made for spending money.

He never received a college degree. Instead he and Georg formed the Germs.


September 3, 2008

In 1977 one of the hottest rock acts in the world was Queen. Their LP, News of the World, had spawned a Number One hit, We Are The Champions. Paul and Georg had been fans way before this burst of success, and when Queen arrived in LA for a performance, they decided to introduce themselves to their heroes.

Belinda Carlisle and Teresa ‘Terry’ Ryan had the same idea. Former cheerleaders turned hard rockers, they stunned their placid Thousand Oaks, CA high school with their transformation. They could think of no better way to enjoy themselves than to party with Queen, if they could figure out which hotel they were staying in.

Georg, Paul, Belinda and terry had never met before that day, and at the time it seemed they would never meet again. The foursome enjoyed a riotous evening at Queen’s hotel, even banging repeatedly on Freddie Mercury’s door, before finally giving up. The boys gave the girls a ride home to the Valley without exchanging phone numbers.

The boys posted flyers on the walls of Licorice Pizza, the hip Sunset Strip record store of the time, looking to form a band with two “untalented girls.” Much to the boys’ surprise, they received a response from none other than the two girls with whom they’d stalked Queen. They were extremely pleased with having found two girls they’d hung out with before, who were into the same music, equally inexperienced, and ready for anything.

Georg, Paul and friends Michelle and Dinky had once joked about forming a punk band called Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens. This ‘joke band’ never had any intentions of playing. Once the original quartet – the two boys and two girls – were officially assembled, they considered the name again, only to discover that 33 letters were difficult to fit onto a t-shirt. As a compromise, Paul offered an alternative name – the Germs – “because it was supposed to be like the germ of an idea,” remembered Pat Smear.

In keeping with the tradition begun by the Sex Pistols, which boasted Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, everybody adopted a punk name: Paul became Bobby Pyn, Georg selected Pat Smear, Belinda chose Dottie Danger, and Terry, Lorna Doom. Lorna decided to play bass, Dottie drums. Pat appropriated the guitar Faith Baker had purchased once it became apparent that he had a natural ear for the instrument, and Bobby sang. Bobby and Pat quickly formed a songwriting alliance, with Pat writing the music to accompany Bobby’s increasingly poetic lyrics.

When Dottie came down with mono, she steered her friend, Becky Barton, into the group. Becky, whose stage name became Donna Rhia, conned her grandmother into purchasing drums and a bass by feigning a terminal case of leukemia.

The Germs were ready for their close-up, just as the LA punk scene was beginning, slowly and noisily, to gather momentum. The Germs were the youngest of the first wave of punks, high school age when they formed. The tiny scene was dominated by older, art school students; the Weirdoes and Screamers were the best known local bands in 1977. Quickly they were followed by X, the Bags, and others.

It was the Weirdoes who discovered the Orpheum Theater, talked its owner into allowing a punk rock show, and plucked the virginal Germs, who had never played in front of an audience,as their opening act.


September 3, 2008

When Bobby Pyn saw the Germs’ name on the Orpheum marquee, he panicked. Once onstage for their first performance, he caked himself in licorice whips and sliced himself with broken glass as Pat and Lorna banged noisily on their instruments, without a clue as to how to actually play them; Donna was hopeless on the drums. Amazingly, the performance earned the Germs a healthy dose of respect. The Germs would soon boast a reputation as the most unpredictable, insane band in town – a band that had to be seen to be believed, a band that couldn’t play.

During their first year of existence, the Germs beat all their contemporaries in the race to produce the scene’s first vinyl document. What? Records released “Forming”/”Sex Boy,” both Bobby Pyn/Pat Smear compositions. The A side was recorded in Pat’s garage, and the B side was recorded live as the Germs auditioned for a band scene in the Cheech & Chong film, “Up In Smoke.” Their instructions were to perform so poorly that Cheech & Chong, masquerading as musicians, win a talent show. The Germs did not appear in the movie, but the cassette recording of “Sex Boy”, including shocked observers screaming ‘oh shit!’ as Bobby smears himself with peanut butter and runs through the audience – was nothing short of legendary.

Donna Rhia departed in 1977 by mutual agreement, and the Germs embarked upon the time-old tradition of burning through drummers. DJ Bonebrake of X and the Eyes recorded two songs with the band, a cover of “Round & Round” a la Bowie bootleg arrangement and a newer version of “Forming”, neither of which were released during the group’s existence. When DJ could not be persuaded to leave the Eyes, Bobby, Pat and Lorna recruited Weirdoes drummer Nicky Beat, who became an honorary Germ in 1978 to perform live and record the “Lexicon Devil” ep, the very first release for the nascent Slash Records label.

With experience, they became better musicians, gained confidence. By 1978 there was nothing comical about the Germs. Pat and Lorna formed a tight unit, churning out the perfect accompaniment to Bobby’s dramatic and intense lyrics, Pat spraying leads in an oddly perfect cacaphony, Lorna standing and smiling, Bobby growling, pacing, prancing and falling, a dynamic performer capable of holding the audience enthralled. He was the kind of lead singer who commanded the total attention of everyone in the club, and he had undergone a veritable transformation. No longer was he a self-conscious, precocious, bratty teenager. He was becoming cocky and self-assured, the center of the clique that had formed around the Germs, a clique he dubbed Circle One. His lyrics were darker, stronger, brilliantly illustrative, taking the themes of renewal, triumph, tragedy and redemption he had first discovered through the Ziggy Stardust album and tilting them through his own particular lens. He began to portray himself as the leader of not just a band, but a cult that would do anything he asked. And he had once again changed his name. He was now Darby Crash.

The A side of the ep recorded with Nicky Beat indicated the new direction the Germs were taking. Alongside a catchy riff punctuated by staccato drumming, Darby’s newly commanding voice proclaims: “I’m a lexicon devil/with a battered brain/searching for a future./the world’s my aim/so gimme gimme your hands/gimme gimme your minds…”

There were two songs on the B side. “No God” begins with Pat ripping the lead from Yes’ “Roundabout” and erupts into a furious diatribe drawing on Darby’s teenage exploration of religion, with Darby declaring that there is “no god bigger than I/no god frightening me.” And “Circle One” introduced the world at large to Paul Beahm’s new alter ego, as he explains that he is “Darby Crash/your Mecca’s gash/Chaotic master.”

There was still the matter of finding a reliable drummer willing to commit to the band. Help would come from an unlikely suspect.

Jimmie Giorsetti and his pal Rob Ritter were new transplants to LA from Phoenix, having traveled specifically so Jimmie could audition for the drum seat he had heard was available with the Germs.Lanky with long hair, Jimmie hardly looked like a punk. When he arrived at the audition, he was asked to set up his kit in the men’s room of the Masque. He fumbled around, sounding hopelessly sophomoric, until Nicky Beat taught him a Weirdoes song, “Life of Crime.” According to Pat Smear, “in five minutes he was great.” Jimmie was hired. He changed his name to Don Bolles and officially became a Germ.

The Germs contingent included the band members and a tight circle of friends, most of whom had known the band members for years. Pat and Darby, particularly Darby, were the leaders. The ‘Germs Burn’ – a circular cigarette burn given on the inside of the wrist – was a coveted mark of initiation into the exclusive clique. Once marked, one could then mark others. As the group’s popularity increased, more and more hangers-on attempted to gain access to the center of the circle swirling around Darby Crash, the charismatic leader who would be king of the scene.

Closest to Darby were a series of women he seemed to replace with the seasons, female fans of his music who served as his drivers, his bankers, and his sycophants. Always, he found a girl to mother him, to provide for him. He was never known to hold a day job, instead living off his meager Germs earnings and the generosity of the girls he, and they, called “Crash Trash.” A disturbing side of Darby’s personality emerged, one which seemed to have no qualm about using his female friends for as much as they could give him, then discarding them without a second thought. His relationships seemed shallow to observers, even penurious.

And as 1978 wore on, it became apparent that Darby was one of a number of LA punks becoming more and more involved with heroin.

He had always loved drugs; he met Pat Smear when both patronized the same speed dealer as post-pubescents. Over the years he drank as much alcohol as his stomach could hold, smoked angel dust, took Quaaludes – he was an indiscriminate connoseur of substances. It was perhaps, inevitable that Darby would try heroin – it was in his nature to experiment, to go out on the edge further than anyone else. Though the drug had killed his brother, and perhaps in spite of the tragedy that it brought to his family, Darby found this high was one he enjoyed more than any other. He became a glutton for it.

1978 was also the year Darby fell in love.

Donnie Rose lived in Riverside, a valley community an hour away from Hollywood. Darby met the curly-haired fifteen year old boy at a Riverside punk club. Darby was instantly smitten, and despite Donnie’s reservations, Darby successfully seduced him. Rose, who is now deceased, has stated that although he cared a great deal for Darby as a person, he was not gay and therefore, couildn’t give his friend the emotional commitment he seemed to want. The relationship lasted for a year or so, after which Donnie politely extricated himself from what was becoming a more and more uncomfortable situation. They remained friends, although it is unclear whether Darby ever really got over the loss.

Meanwhile, as 1979 began the Germs were continuing to gain momentum .Darby had the type of charisma usually associated with religious and political leaders, and he became the idol of a burgeoning beach scene that would eventually march across the continental USA as “hardcore” punk during the middle to late 1980s. His hairstyle, his clothing, and his hard-living ways were emulated by hundreds, if not thousands, of teenagers. It became a badge of status to claim to “know” Darby, and many who had never met him made such statements, if only to bolster their own standing among their circle of friends.

Ironically, just as Darby was beginning to actually achieve some of the lofty aims which so infatuated him, he began descending more and more into a morass of drugs and depression. He spoke to nobody about his conflicted sexual identity, since he lived in an era where homosexuality was considered anathema – although many of the early Hollywood punks were also gay or lesbian, few were out of the closet. For someone who was, in most other areas of his life, a confident trendsetter, Darby’s attitudes were quite the opposite when it came to his sexuality. He seemed ashamed of it, and was mortified by the thought that the growing throngs of admirers who came to his shows, and aped his every move, would somehow learn of his secret. It may not be a coincidence, then, that Darby’s heroin use rapidly accelerated as his old friends, many of whom were either gay or female, left the scene and his relationship with Rose ended. Heroin, a notorious soother of anxiety, may have helped Darby feel more comfortable in a skin that was growing increasingly constricting, yet nearly impossible to shed.

As the original Hollywood punks started slowly drifting away from the scene, disenchanted with the influx of heroin and oafish thugs from South Beach who packed every show, the Germs reached the apex of their existence when they recorded their only LP, “Germs (GI)”, once again for Slash Records. The album stands even thirty years later as a defining document of its time, capturing the ferocity of the band and the whirlwind possession of its singer better than any live show. Even mainstream critics got into the act, with LA Times critic and rock cognoscenti Richard Meltzer comparing Darby to Jim Morrison and declaring the album to be “the most important release to come out of LA since the Doors’ ‘LA Woman.'” Joan Jett’s production perfectly matched the spitting, hissing intensity of the band, and they delivered the tightest, most frenetic music they had ever made. It was hard to believe that just two years earlier, four giggling teenagers with a fondness for Quaaludes and glam rock first took a stage without knowing how to play their instruments, instead relying on gags and gimmicks to get through a ten minute set.

If the public Darby Crash portrayed himself as a magnetic idol with a bulletproof exterior, the private Paul Beahm remained, to his family, insightful, sensitive, and keenly aware of his growing fame. In private moments he seemed to relish shedding the image and just being Paul, the little brother he had always been. He was quiet and even shy outside of the Hollywood scene. He laughed about his success with his sisters and mother, appreciating the respite his family provided.

Things had changed for the Baker family while Darby was discovering himself as a vocalist and lyricist. His mother was working long hours cleaning planes at LAX airport, while his elder sister Christine moved an hour and a half away to San Pedro with her husband and their three kids. The eldest went bythe nickname “Chris Crash” and bragged about being Darby’s nephew, though he was only four years younger than his famous relative. His other sister, Faith, with whom he had always been closest, had two small boys of her own.

They were aware that he was becoming more and more involved with heroin, but nobody confronted him. He never expressed a desire to quit, and he always resented any interference in his life, even the most well-intentioned.”We never saw him loaded,” says his sister Christine, adding that she was shocked, surprised, and saddened when she saw “The Decline of Western Civilization” after Darby’s death. “That person was not my brother,” she said of the scenes depicting Darby as an incoherent drunk, stumbling and falling across the stage.

By 1979, the tight-knit scene which had nurtured the Germs was all but gone, replaced by ass-kicking teenage boys from the suburbs. There were fights and all-out riots when any punk band played, and Germs concerts became reknowned for being the most violent events of all. As a result, it became virtually impossible for the band to perform; no club was willing to risk it. It was the Germs’ de facto manager, Nicole Panter, who suggested the group play gigs under the name GI; it stood for Germs Incognito and was the only way they could book into unsuspecting venues. The idea may have originally come from the Sex Pistols, who in similar circumstances played shows under the acronym SPOTS (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly).

Darby’s onstage persona had changed dramatically from the days of peanut butter and slicing himself with broken glass. Now that his audience was composed of impatient gang-banging kids, itching for a fight, he was less comfortable. He was unable to perform without being loaded, getting so fucked up on alcohol and whatever drugs were available that he could barely walk, let alone sing. He had trouble remembering his lyrics even when sober; loaded, he slurred them unintelligibly, moaning and screaming like a wounded animal more often than not. The beach kids ate it up; to them, this was punk rock, exactly like what they saw on the news. But Darby’s old friends were saddened and discouraged. He was surrounding himself with sycophants instead of the people who truly knew and loved him; in particular, Darby had a sugar mama, Amber, who kept him well stupefied with heroin. Slowly, he drifted further and further into addiction and desperation.

There is some evidence that Darby himself recognized his predicament, and may have decided that the only way out was suicide.

As a boy, Paul Beahm explored the nuances of religion with the intensity of a scholar. He studied Scientology, EST, and the traditional Christianity of his birth. He rejected all of them, but continued to search for something higher than human existence. As he got older, he became more interested in Buddhism, and he told his sister Christine that he believed firmly in reincarnation, that he would be born again when he died.

He was not particularly close to Christine, since she was twelve years older than him and had moved out of the house when he was just four years old. Suddenly, though, he began to call her regularly. With every conversation, he managed to change the subject to that of life after death, wanting her opinion, debating its merits. He also quizzed her about his biological father, Bill Bjorklund, wanting to know what she remembered about him.

Back in Hollywood, producer Jack Nietzche, who had worked with the Rolling Stones and coordinated dozens of soundtracks, wanted the Germs to provide songs for a new film he was working on. Titled “Cruising,” the movie starred Al Pacino as a detective investigating a serial killer targeting – ironically – the gay leather community. Six songs were recorded, and one appeared on the soundtrack album. The session represented the last recording the Germs would ever make.

The Germs continued to have problems finding bookings. The situation was so bad that when Penelope Spherris approached the band wanting to include them in her documentary of the LA scene, “The Decline of Western Civilization,” she had to rent a space and throw a by-invitation-only show. The Cherrywood Rehearsal Studios played host to the Germs as well as Black Flag, another band plagued by violence at their shows. During the filming, stage hands exhorted the first-generation Hollywood folk to “dance more radical, slam into each other!” The scenesters looked at each other and shrugged. Penny Spherris was a first-generation Hollywood punk herself – she knew they didn’t slam dance!

The Cherrywood gig took place on January 3, 1980. In less than a year Darby would be dead, but at the time his future looked bright. The attention from Hollywood power broker Jack Nietzsche, the rave reviews their album had received, and the band’s already legendary reputation apperared to ensure the same fame on a national, if not worldwide, level. More and more punks were born each day, bringing more fans, more ticket sales, more record and t-shirt sales. Life looked good on the outside, but on the inside it was beginning to fall apart for the Germs.

Darby never spoke much about his problems, not even to Pat Smear, his best friend. “He never said anything to me,” Pat has said. “It wasn’t that kind of relationship.” But turmoil was clearly building. In the spring of 1980, the band’s manager, Nicole, quit along with their bassist, Lorna Doom. The reason was Darby’s shocking decision to dismiss drummer Don Bolles and replace him with Rob Henley, Darby’s new on-again, off-again lover. Bolles had an eccentric, strong personality that grated with Darby’s authoritarian designs. Don wouldn’t fall into line the way Darby expected him to, and as supreme leader of the Germs, Darby cast him out of the kingdom. If Henley had been a talented drummer, it wouldn’t have mattered as much, but unfortunately Henley made their first drummer, Donna Rhia, sound professional by comparison. He was beyond terrible, and without a drummer or bassist the Germs broke up, just as Darby left to visit England with his sugar mama, Amber.

In May 1980, while Darby and Amber were in England, Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis committed suicide. Grief-stricken fans sent the group’s new single, “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” to the Number One chart position, where it remained for the duration of Darby’s visit. Curtis’ death may well have provided Darby with a macabre preview of his own suicide and the ripple effect it would likely have for the band he would leave behind. Darby was a lifelong student of people and their reactions to events, and it does not seem terribly far-fetched to surmise that an already depressed Darby might have observed the furor caused by Curtis’ suicide, and finally committed himself to his own plans in order to be “reborn” into the Godlike status he so wanted.

It wasn’t until summer that Darby and Amber returned to LA.. The Darby Crash who came back from England wasn’t the same Darby Crash who left LA. Taking a cue from Adam Ant, who was just beginning his career and whom Darby had met while overseas, he shaved his hair into a Mohawk. He is widely regarded as the first American punk to wear the hairstyle, which he foppishly called a “Mohican” – he would correct anyone who dared refer to it as a Mohawk. He was newly decked out in expensive Boy of London gear, wore war paint on his face, and trailed feathers behind him wherever he went. It was an odd look that would never have caught on – except that he was Darby Crash. Within weeks, dozens of pint-sized Mohicans, with makeshift bondage wear and war paint, cropped up in LA.

Now that the Germs were no more, Darby assembled a new group called the Darby Crash Band. Another love interest of Darby’s, the late Bosco, played bass; the stalwart Pat Smear remained on guitar, ostensibly as a temporary measure until Darby found someone permanent; and Darby sang as per usual. There was never a permanent drummer, and old friend Lucky Lehrer, who once voted to kick Darby out of IPS, played the only live shows the group would ever do. There were two, one in San Francisco and one in LA. Darby wrote two new songs which alluded to his increasingly desperate frame of mind, “Out of Time” and “Beyond Hurt/Beyond Help,” which fell far short of the standard he had set for himself with the Germs. The band was not well received and quickly faded into obscurity. Several songs from their San Francisco performance would later appear on a Flip Side video compilation in 1981.

At around this time Amber began to slowly fade from the picture, and Darby began spending time with a new girl. Casey Hopkins was known as Casey Cola on the scene. Little is known about her, except that she was disliked and distrusted by Darby’s Hollywood friends – Pat Smear remembers her as being “ugly, looking like an old lady.” Even less is known about exactly how Darby met her and how he came to choose her as a partner in the suicide scenario that would unfold at the beginning of December.

Darby decided to reunite the Germs, including his nemesis Don Bolles, for a final show. Publicly, he said the new members of the punk scene needed a “sense of history.” Privately, he said that he needed money to buy the drugs he would need to kill himself.

It was now Thanksgiving 1980. Darby spent the day with his family, joining them at Christine’s house in San Pedro for a delicious meal. Originally Darby planned to invite Pat, but Christine wanted the celebration to include only the family, so he demurred to her wishes.

While there, he autographed a copy of the Slash album for his sister. The family kidded him about being a big star, and Darby – still Paul to these familiar loved one, half-seriously complained that “(I) do this all the time” and to knock it off.

He was in good spirits and showed no signs of depression.


September 3, 2008

In southern California, December 1980 began with torrential rain. It was still raining on December 3, 1980, when the Germs – Pat, Lorna, Don and Darby – took the stage for the last time at the Starwood, the area’s largest venue for punk gigs.

Darby was relaxed, asking “did anyone LEARN anything tonight?” and, when Lorna and Don playfully broke into the main riff from the brand new Queen single “Another One Bites The Dust,” offhandedly remarked “another crowd bites the dust.”

The Oki Dogs hot dog stand was a favorite after show hangout for the punks who mobbed Starwood shows. As the gig ended, Darby told the crowd to meet him at Oki Dogs. Two of his Riverside friends, Drew Blood and Bill Bartell, showed up, along with a few fans. But the turnout was disappointing considering the number of people at the show, probably due to the terrible weather. Darby was visibly upset. He stayed a short while before leaving.

On the night of December 6, 1980, Darby and Casey Hopkins – they had moved in together – attended a party. Early in the morning of December 7, they left, reportedly telling another guest that they were “going home to kill themselves.”

Early in the afternoon of December 7, 1980, Christine Smith heard the phone ring in her half-renovated home. When she answered, a female voice asked her if she was “Darby’s” sister.

Christine replied that yes, she was Paul Beahm’s sister.

The caller told Christine that her baby brother was dead.


September 3, 2008

Casey Hopkins did not expect to wake up that morning. Darby and she had an agreement; their plan had been set into motion the night before, when they picked up nearly four hundred dollars worth of heroin. He cooked it up, injected them both. Then she nodded out for what she thought was the last time.

But now she was awake, and Darby was next to her, as he had been last night. He was still and cold, not breathing.

She screamed.

Casey’s cries awakened her mother, who had been sleeping in the main house just a few hundred yards from the coach house where Darby and Casey spent the night. She called the paramedics, and they arrived at 12:30 PM along with the police.

Detective Tommy Takahashi reported the incident as follows:

“Decedent, 22 year old male, was the boyfriend of Casey Hopkins who resided at the address of the incident in the rear house. It was learned later that the two lived together at (address deleted) until three weeks ago when they moved out and took up residence with three friends at 312 N Oxford, LA. Last night they had a party at the Oxford address, drinking and smoking (the decedent also has track marks on both arms). The two decided to return to the (address deleted) and arrived there at approximately 0330 hours. this date. The girlfriend’s mother who resides at the residence in the family house had no knowledge of the two being in the back house until Casey’s friends came to the house.

At approximately 1230 hours this date, Casey awoke to find (Darby) not breathing and cold to the touch. She started sobbing and when her three friends walked in, they observed her over the decedent and crying. Casey’s mother, Jacqueline Garrett, was contacted and she called the paramedics…who pronounced death at 1250 hours.

Decedent was observed supine (laying flat on back) on the floor dressed in street clothes. He was in a supine position. Over his head on the wall was a note with a heading to “Bosco” who is decedent’s close friend and lives in New York.

Decedent is also reported to have been a heavy drinker, sometimes or at spells he would get drunk daily.

Identification was established by girlfriend and photo on driver’s license.”

Takahashi remembered that somebody had covered Darby’s body with a blanket, and that the scene seemed unnatural to him. But the presence of a suicide note precluded an investigation, and with that, the police’s interest in Darby Crash’s death ended. It was officially classified a suicide, and his body was taken for an autopsy to determine exactly what had killed him.

At the time of his death, Darby was 5’8″ and weighed 133 pounds. His hair was dyed black and “appears to be similar to Mohawk Indians”.There were three piercings in his left ear and none in his right. Both arms had old and recent track marks, and a tattoo of a panther and circle was prominent on his upper left arm. He was dressed in a shirt, jeans, socks and boots with a chain.

The autopsy report notes “superficial lineal scars” of 2 to 5 inches in length running across Darby’s chest – the remnants of Bobby Pyn’s slicing himself with broken glass during the Germs’ earliest performances along with newer self-inflicted injuries. His brain weighed 1,300 grams. At the age of 22, he already had a “moderately enlarged” liver and spleen, most likely the result of his prodigious alcohol and drug ingestion over the years. The lymph nodes in his liver were also markedly enlarged. His lungs were described as “voluminous and heavy”, with the right weighing 420 grams and the left, 350 grams; they revealed a “markedly edematous and congested” appearance upon dissection.

After receiving word of her brother’s death, Christine, whose first thought was “how horrible to have to live through this all over again,” called Faith Jr., who broke down sobbing. The two sisters went to Darby’s Oxford room to collect his belongings, though someone beat them to his leather jacket and skateboard – they were never found. They then went to their mother’s house to tell Faith Sr. the terrible news. She was beside herself, and Christine handled the arrangements for Darby’s funeral.

News of the suicide spread quickly through the punk scene. Christine’s son and Darby’s nephew, Shawn, learned of his uncle’s death when it was announced by Rodney Bingenheimer on KROQ. The overwhelming feeling was one of shock. He had threatened suicide so often over the years that nobody thought he would actually do it.

Pat Smear and Faith Jr. picked out the clothes that Darby was buried in – Christine told the funeral director not to “dare even trying to put him in a suit.” At first the family was concerned about having an open casket funeral, fearing his fans would cause a riot, but in the end, Darby’s casket was open and the many mourners joining the family were “quiet and respectful.” Ruefully, Christine recalled the process of selecting her brother’s coffin. “They were trying to sell us these very expensive caskets made of redwood, and in the end we settled on the cheapest one, a plain black casket. After all, black WAS his color!”

Darby was buried on December 12, 1980. But he had one last surprise for his mother. Unbeknownst to her, in the spring of 1980, he signed a deal with Bug Music for his publishing rights. He instructed them to “take care of my mother”, and authorized a document naming her the executrix of his estate several months prior to his death. As a result of Darby’s foresight, Faith Sr receives regular income from continued sales of Germs merchandise, and has done so since her son’s death. Even today, she exclaims with wonder, “What twenty-two year old would have thought of all that?”

The day of his interment, the first of two death certificates was issued, with a cause of death left pending while specimens from Darby’s kidneys and liver were analyzed. On January 26, 1981, the final death certificate was issued. Darby died as a result of consuming massive quantites of heroin and alcohol.

After the funeral, Christine Smith had a dream, the same dream she had after the death of her oldest brother Bobby, also from a heroin overdose. Paul stood by the side of her bed, smiling. “It’s all right, I’m OK,” he told her. Then he disappeared.

Nationally, the murder of John Lennon on Monday, December 8, overshadowed mention of the death of LA’s most infamous punk rocker. When Darby’s death was finally announced, it was erroneously reported that he had overdosed on sleeping pills.

Casey Hopkins was initially perceived as the villain and, by some, the instigator in the chain of events that led to Darby’s death. Angry friends pointed to her own troubled psychiatric history and her suicide attempts, insisting that Darby would never have acted on his own. These grief-stricken loved ones evidently were unaware that Darby shared his suicide scenario with at least one person as early as 1979; he had even gone to the trouble of outlining it on paper. The plan called for a staged double suicide that would end with Darby’s death and a lone survivor.

As for Casey, she has been in and out of mental hospitals since Darby died.


August 25, 2008

The aftermath of Darby’s death was swift and sharp. The LA scene, which had been evolving into a beach scene since about 1978, became the sole property of the brawling teens. Many of Darby’s Hollywood friends left the scene altogether, becoming recluses and establishing new lives, marrying, having children. Others sank into deepening addiction themselves; ex-Bags and 45 Grave guitarist Rob Ritter, who in 1978 traveled to LA from Phoenix with a young Jimmie Giorsetti so the latter could audtiion for the vacant Germs drum stool, died of a heroin OD in 1991.

The punk scene divided into warring factions as the 80s began. The hardcore punks, who further refined Darby’s end-stage look of Mohican, leather jacket and combat boots, dominated, while the Goth scene was springing from the ruins of the Hollywood scene. Some key members of the former Germs contingent, including Don Bolles and Mary Sims (aka Dinah Cancer), formed 45 Grave and spearheaded the developing movement.

The class of 77, including the Germs, has gone around in a big blue circle and closed. In the age of MTV, it is easy to forget that there was a time when music was urgent, when culture was something you created, not copied. Darby Crash and the Germs defined an earlier time, and without them and their contemporaries there would have been no Nirvana, no Pearl Jam. Punk rock really did change the world, but not in the way its progenitors thought or intended. It changed the way people listen to music, the way bands relate to their audiences, even the way the industry treats its product (not that this ever was, or is now, anything to praise). Some scream that punk is dead, but the argument can be made that punk accomplished its goals and then was assimilated. It initiated and nurtured change. The spirit of punk might not be found today in the countless numbers of mediocre bands playing guitar, bass, and drums, but it’s out there, lurking in new places. In keeping with the spirit of change, rebellion constantly changes its guise.

It’s a circular rhythm Darby Crash would have understood.


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