December 9th, 2006
One of the great blessings of this gig is that, with the generous support of our viewers, I get to meet some of the cultural icons of my beloved Bay Area. Last season I had the pleasure of chatting with former punk impresario Dirk Dirksen, who -- to hear him (and others) tell it -- was one of the most perverse emcees in the history of American popular music. (You can watch that episode -- which also featured the great musician Penelope Houston, whose old band, the Avengers, used to headline for Dirk -- by going to our "Watch" page and searching for "Dirksen.") Dirk recently died in his sleep, at the age of 69.
Coming to the Bay Area in '87, I arrived too late to catch Dirk presiding over shows at his legendary club, the Mabuhay Gardens. Which was clearly my loss, based on the recollections of his many friends. Here's a little snippet from Joel Selvin's lovely appreciation in the Chronicle:
"He was a man in a penis nose telling us it was better to throw popcorn than beer bottles," said his friend Ron Jones. "Dirk knew everybody had a place on the stage of life -- as long as you went on and off on time. You had to remember there were other acts waiting, even if they suck."
I remember meeting Dirk when he came to our studios. Even though I'm a huge fan of punk, I still tend to have a nerdish nervousness around its practitioners. Leaping up from the greenroom couch and grasping my hand, Dirk -- a cheerful, elfin figure with a combover -- instantly put me at ease. Could this sweet guy really have once been the "pope of punk"? Yep -- and he had the war stories to prove it.
After the taping, Dirk and I talked some more about performers we both admired -- both musical and theatrical -- and he offered to send me a bunch of rare concert videos that his company had made. Sure enough, a pile of great tapes arrived a couple of days later.
We don't necessarily connect "punk" in our minds with such qualities as "grace" or "generosity of spirit." Spending some time with Dirk reminded me that we should. I'm sorry I missed the chance to throw popcorn at him at the Fab Mab, and I'm very sad to see him go.
Rock on, Dirk.
Entry Filed under: let's digress