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- Posted on Dec 7th 2010 3:45PM by David Chiu
Gary Leonard, Corbis
"He would always say that he had the five-year plan before the group started," Germs drummer Don Bolles tells Spinner on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Crash's death. "He was gonna start this band, get known and then he was going to go out in a blaze of glory."
Crash, born Jan Paul Beahm, was a unique character whose stage antics included cutting himself and spreading peanut butter on his body. "A combo of natural instinct and shock value," says Germs bassist Lorna Doom on what fueled Crash at their shows, "and later, drugs."
Bolles was the last to join Crash, Doom and guitarist Pat Smear as a member of the Germs. The Los Angeles-band released an album, 'GI,' which was produced by Joan Jett. "Darby was so great," remembers Bolles. "He could just give you a look and you knew everything he was thinking -- all these complex, hilarious things." Doom adds this about Crash: "Overall, he was really fun and funny to be around."
Before being the Go-Go's lead singer, Belinda Carlisle was the Germs' first drummer under the pseudonym of Dottie Danger. "To me, he was like a goofy kid," she says. "I have memories of him being kind of nerdy and funny and super, super smart -- smart as a whip. He really was a genius when it came to songwriting and poetry."
Crash was also beloved by those in the punk community, according to his friends. "People really revered him as an iconic god of some sort -- and justifiably too," says Bolles. "His lyrics were the only thing happening. If you read his stuff -- and you had to read it -- you never understood a word he said. You could never really listen to anything else the same way again."
Aside from delivering intense punk music, the Germs' gigs were scenes of wild behavior, which made it harder for them to get future shows. "We weren't allowed to play basically," Bolles says. "If we had a show and there was any press that got out about it, the cops would call the venue and threaten them to cancel the show or shut the venue down. We were blacklisted. [Darby] did this thing sometimes where he would empty these pills out, and he'd go to clubs and say 'Give me a drink of your beer.' He would have all these pills and would throw them in his mouth. People would go 'Whoa,' and he would drink them down with his beer. He was very aware of his image."
Eventually, Crash kicked Bolles out of the group. He went to England and returned to form the Darby Crash Band. Subsequently, Crash regrouped the other members of the Germs -- including Bolles -- to do the Starwood gig.
"Darby would joke about the show," says Bolles. "He would say at practice, 'So you know, we're only doing this show so I can get a bunch of money, buy a bunch of heroin and kill myself.' Pat was like, 'Yeah, right, Darby.'" Doom says that in retrospect, Crash left signs of what he was planning to do, but not on the night of the show.
And then, on Dec. 7, 1980, Crash committed suicide. Bolles heard about the news through a phone call. "We got calls all the time about Darby being dead," he says. "We didn't really believe it at first, but then it turned out to be true."
The Germs story didn't end there. A band biopic, 'What We Do Is Secret,' was released in 2008 and starred Shane West as Crash. West later united with the surviving members of the Germs to perform and record.
Doom acknowledges that there is a part of Crash that is still with her. Asked if the memory of when she first heard about his death from 30 years ago still lingers, she says: "Yes always -- every anniversary."
"I'm pretty glad to have aided and abetted his indescribable, focused trip," says Bolles. "I don't know what he was trying to do, I don't care. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was the right thing. He didn't die, he was reborn. He's reborn all the time."