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Ep 63 DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II with Bret Berg
Hosts Paco Romane and George Chen are joined by Alamo Drafthouse LA programmer Bret Berg to discuss The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988, Penelope Spheeris). As a programmer for Alamo Drafthouse’s upcoming Los Angeles location, Bret produces and hosts Alamo’s preliminary pop-up screenings in town. As well, through his service to the American Genre Film Archive (Alamo’s non-profit sister organization), Bret works with indie theaters across the country to introduce new audiences to genre film classics.A lifelong Angeleno, Bret is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University’s film production program, was previously the Programming Director for Cinefamily, and held a decade-long weekly DJ post at L.A. public radio station KXLU 88.9fm.
The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a documentary film directed by Penelope Spheeris about the Los Angeles heavy metal scene from 1986 to 1988. It is the second film of a trilogy by Spheeris depicting life in Los Angeles at various points in time.
The film features concert footage and interviews of legendary heavy metal and hard rock bands and artists such as Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Megadeth, Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne and W.A.S.P.. The film premiered at The Wiltern Theatre and featured David F. Castagno, Publisher/Editor of Screamer Magazine as the master of ceremony.
The film has been released for Region 3 (Southeast Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau) on DVD only. Shout! Factory released this film as part of a Blu-ray box set with the other films in June 2015 for Region A.
The documentary follows the heavy metal scene in Los Angeles, with particular emphasis on the glam metal subgenre. Spheeris explores the more famous musicians, including Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Mustaine and Paul Stanley. She then explores unknown bands, such as London, Odin and Seduce. The film also features interviews with members of Poison, Tuff, Vixen, Faster Pussycat, W.A.S.P. and more. Serious issues such as drug usage, alcohol abuse, and censorship are tackled, as well as vanity issues like celebrity and sales.
The film is well known for its many scenes featuring rock star excess. The scenes include:
- Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P. is interviewed in a swimming pool beside his mother while extremely intoxicated. He stumbles through the interview, proclaiming himself “a full-blown alcoholic” and “a piece of crap” while pouring a fifth of vodka both in his mouth and on his head. It was later claimed the bottle of vodka that Holmes poured onto himself was actually water.
- Randy “O”, the lead singer of unsigned band Odin, insists the band will become millionaires and more famous than The Doors.
- An interview with club owner Bill Gazzarri, who at the time organized a ‘sexy rock and roll’ dance contest, which was presented as being sleazy and sexist, at his club, Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip.
- Discussions with various musicians about the way women in general, and groupies in particular, are treated badly in the metal scene.
- Riki Rachtman and Taime Downe, then owners of the Cathouse club in L.A., discuss how girls get entry to the club faster if they dress “sleazy.”
- Paul Stanley of Kiss is interviewed in a bed while surrounded from head to toe with girls.
- Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith talk about spending millions of dollars on drugs and compares the band’s style to masturbation.
- As Ozzy Osbourne cooks eggs in a kitchen, he spills orange juice all over the table, apparently due to uncontrollable shakes. This was later claimed to have been faked. Spheeris also interviews him about sobriety, to which Ozzy replies, “It fucking sucks.”
- Candid and sobering interviews from various artists about drug use, abuse and dying (or nearly dying) from overdoses.
- Lastly, Spheeris takes her cameras to Sunset Strip to film the nightlife in 1980s Los Angeles.