Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Loud Mouth

By Claire Nettleton

FEBRUARY 1, 1999:  If a person's strength is also his greatest weakness, Henry Rollins' biggest vice and virtue is the fact that he is brutally honest. Charmingly offensive, Rollins' "keepin' it real" attitude attracted hundreds of fans to the Hiland Theater Sunday, Jan.17 for a spoken word performance. After Rollins' Los Angeles-based band Black Flag broke up in 1986, the Rollins Band was formed. Since the early '80s, Rollins has maintained a balance between being an on-stage speaker and an on-stage screamer through his careers as a punk rock vocalist and a public speaker. The Spoken Word Tour falls somewhere in between a comedy act, a poetry slam and an Oprah Winfrey morality special.

Dressed in black slacks and a T-shirt, Rollins seemed to perfectly reflect the audience's black leather jackets and provocative air. However, Rollins believes that he is losing his tough exterior with age. "I thought I would never even say the word slacks, let alone wear them," said Rollins, amazed at his new found maturity. Pondering his upcoming 38th birthday, Rollins discussed his life's quest for maturity and truth.

"Life is full of choices--if you have the guts to go for them," Rollins said. And although the brawny, tattooed artist may not appear to be your typical existentialist, his penchant for risk-taking has shaped his inspirational attitude. Gearing his life toward failure, Henry Rollins is ready and willing to take on any challenge.

Rollins captivated his audience by relating his journeys through various countries and through life, from which he has gained insight and humor. The funniest story was about the moment that Rollins realized, "I was 10 percent as cool as I thought I was." This realization occurred while shooting a nude scene for an upcoming film. He soon discovered that dire machismo can often lead to extreme humiliation.

Other humorous stories touched on Rollins' tours, his experiences picking up women, his birthplace and being cast for various films such as Heat and Jack Frost.

Rollins was born in Washington, DC, where he endured many social challenges, including being one of the few white kids in his school. Because he was often taunted for his race--even beaten up to the tune of the Jackson Five's "ABC"--Rollins detests racism. In a contemporary context, Rollins has been appalled to discover that America is more preoccupied with President Clinton's "Rod Stewart bullshit" than the country's racial ignorance. He claims that the Clinton affair is similar to the president "patting a cobra and asking why'd he bite me." Corruption in politics, according to Rollins, should be of little shock and of little importance.

Rollins, perhaps, has gained his cynicism from his travels and fascination with other cultures. The crowed laughed appreciatively as he shared his obsession with Russian prostitutes and even louder as Rollins expressed the way in which Americans have prostituted the English language with the use of the words "like" and "dude." Yet although Rollins is seemingly articulate, he still managed to use the word "fuck" in almost every sentence.

For a person who claimed to know nothing about religion and ethics, his words were surprisingly preachy. Rollins seemed to sermonize against the spreading of religion when it becomes judgmental or destructive of individual cultures. Rollins' view of the pyramids in Cairo gave him insight into ancient devotion, and an internal conversation with a Buddha statue in Thailand allowed Rollins to realize the importance of forgiveness. However, Rollins prefers to learn more from people than from landmarks, and his observations have allowed him to mimic barbarian flight attendants, insane Egyptian cab drivers and intellectually superior German radio hosts.

Despite Rollins' love for thinking, he despises pseudo-intellectuals, putting them on the same level as models and golfers. Though inspired by Henry Miller and Dostoyevsky, Rollins never bragged about his talents; he only emphasized the importance of thought in a sterile world. By the end of the extremely long evening, Rollins revealed himself to be more complex than his macho cover. After all, it takes a real man to hike up his pants, raise his voice and make fun of his '70s-era teenage years.

So although Rollins' disgust for politicians, boob jobs and bureaucracy may be controversial, he is utterly truthful when he insists that, "I'm a pain in your ass, but admit it. You like me!"


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