A disproportionate number of sociopaths and sexual miscreants have found careers as rock and rollers. Sid Vicious. Wendy O. Williams. Keith Moon. Patti Smith. Barry Manilow. As sick fucks go, however, GG Allin was probably the sickest. Whether you think Allin was as demented as advertised or just another pathetic, opportunistic jerk who craved attention and would go to any lengths to get it, you have to admit he worked hard for the money.
Todd Phillips is an NYU film school refugee who first caught Allin's act in 1988. Hearing that the degenerate rock nihilist was on parole in Michigan for an assault charge, in 1992 Phillips sent Allin a one-way bus ticket to New York. Allin jumped at the chance to document his merrymaking for posterity. After 50 arrests and 10 jail terms over the course of his musical career, he wasn't exactly intimidated by the threat of a parole violation. The results of Phillips's handiwork are on display beginning Friday at the Alliance Cinema in Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, a Roger & Me-style shockumentary that succeeds in committing the essential Allin, such as it was, to celluloid.
The notorious underground legends of rock-and-roll lore pale by comparison. Morrison exposing himself? Allin regularly performed completely nude, donning boots and a studded collar when the occasion warranted formal wear. Zappa reportedly defecating on-stage and eating it; Chuck Berry's alleged fondness for golden showers and toilet tricks? Allin had a fun habit of moving his bowels, then eating and rolling in his excrement, smearing his face and body with it, and tossing the leftovers at his loyal followers. Iggy's masochism? Allin sucker-punched, attempted to rape, or was kicked and beaten by fans while performing, slit himself with razor blades and broken glass, and bashed himself about the mouth and forehead with his microphone until he spit teeth and dripped blood. GG Allin made the Sex Pistols look like Frankie and Annette.
Which is not to say that Allin was any nobler than Sid and Johnny, just more extreme. Allin was John Waters's nastiest film come to life; even Divine was no match. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy and Allin formed a cozy little mutual-admiration society.
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There's no way to know for sure whether Allin really believed the romanticized view of himself as the last true rock and roller, the ultimate rebel who, during a spot on Geraldo (the irony of two self-absorbed but media-savvy lost souls who would do anything for publicity lost on both of them), explained his "act": "My body is a rock-and-roll temple, and my flesh, blood, and body fluids are a communion to the people, whether they like it or not." The fact that he would appear on Geraldo should have tipped off those who believed Allin's motives were even mildly altruistic. What he wanted most was to be a star. He knew he wasn't precious enough to make it onto the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a "Corporate rock still sucks" T-shirt, so he chose the role for which he was best suited: gross-out artist.
Hated presents the vile bandleader in all his ignoble glory, ranting, fighting, fucking, sucking, shitting, puking, and getting pissed upon. You get to see him slice himself with a razor, stuff a banana up his ass, smear himself with his own feces, and viciously attack defenseless women. Phillips mercifully paces the carnage with shots of Allin in repose, waxing philosophical from behind a pair of mirrored glasses. Amazingly, Allin does not come off as necessarily the most fucked-up or least likable person in the movie. His brother Merle, who played bass in Allin's ill-fated band ("concerts" usually lasted ten minutes or less and "tours" invariably derailed with stints in jails or hospitals), Murder Junkie drummer Dino (a clueless drug-addled airhead who called his bandleader "God, Jesus Christ, and Satan all rolled into one"), and Allin's obnoxiously glib and superficial former high school classmates are such losers that they make Allin look downright sympathetic by comparison. After all, Merle points out, this is a man whose father often spoke of committing suicide and taking the family with him ("GG" was Merle's childhood mispronunciation of the actual name bestowed upon his older brother by his father -- Jesus Christ). How else could you expect the guy to end up?
Phillips's depiction of Allin is relatively even-handed; he neither condemns nor defends the feculent, self-destructive oaf. As much as possible, he lets Allin's words and actions speak for themselves. A sampling of his song titles is indicative: "Bite It You Scum," "Expose Yourself to Kids," "I Wanna Rape You," "Sleeping in My Piss," and his tasteful pro-AIDS number, "I Kill Everything I Fuck." The source of Allin's all-consuming rage is never pinpointed, but several suspects are illuminated: his deranged father, his cloying, repressive small-town New Hampshire upbringing, his empty-headed teachers and peers. Freudians will no doubt take note of his conspicuously tiny penis, which Allin flaunts whenever possible and which Phillips makes no attempt to conceal. (In this context male frontal nudity is one of the least explicit sights viewers will contend with.)
Fans will come away convinced of Allin's greatness (a bitter former Murder Junkies guitarist laments Allin's failure to realize his full potential as a religious cult leader); detractors will feel justified in their criticism, and anyone with a whit of sense will breathe a sigh of relief that GG Allin no longer walks among the living. He overdosed on heroin on June 28, 1993, in New York City. It was a banal finish for a self-loathing, confrontational endomorph whose reputation was based largely on a threat to shoot his wad in front of an audience. Instead, Allin went out like so many rock stars before him, not with a burst but a dribble. How ironic for a man whose whose greatest notoriety stemmed from his oft-repeated pledge to climax his career by killing himself on-stage: His final act was one of premature ejaculation away from the public eye.