A ramshackle trashy late 80’z rock band from HollyWeird that ceased to exist by 1992, Celebrity Skin played quirky, too clever for their own good, glittering glam punk. They were the height of ridiculousness, perhaps poking fun at their more serious hair metal counterparts on the Sunset Strip, Celebrity Skin were inventing a type of metal that would get you thrown out the Cathouse or Gazzarri’s. Their onstage outfits oft were custom made to look like they were possibly dumpster dived, a mix of ostentatious outlandish and devilish derelict, a bit of gaudy glitter pirate meets tossed out space muppet.
The band was more New York Dolls than slick Hollywood radio rock stereotype, and unfortunately this was not as commercial a concept as their Sunset Strip rocking cohorts Jane’s Addiction, with the ticket selling traction that could sustain such a chameleon-esque commedia dell’arte project.
Like every Sunset Strip band of that era, the Celeb Skins were striving and pining to “be signed”, and were surviving on foodstamps & fruit loops, the kindness of stranger’s girlfriends and oft sleeping on floors on tour while opening for bands like Psychic TV.
Bassist Tim Ferris told Mark Lidell of a London based magazine called Riff-Raff when promoting their first and only album a few months after this video was shot : “We’re definitely not a Glam band, we hate that shit on Sunset Strip, y’know, black stretched jeans and all the fuckin’ tattoos and the bullshit…Don’t get me wrong. But if you were in LA you’d know what I was talking about. It’s the worst state rock has ever been in. It’s sexist, it’s prejudiced, it’s homophobic. It’s like everything rock’s not about. “Glam” always had bad connotations for us and then when we went to Germany, last year, everyone was saying that, just the way we used it. They liked it. So we learned through that, that we don’t really care what people call us. We just do what we do. We definitely consider ourselves glamorous, not glam!”
In 1988, Celebrity Skin’s over the top heavy metalized chaotic cheese whiz cover of “S.O.S.” ,originally by Swedish studio wunderkinds ABBA, was recorded and slated for the SST Records compilation put together by Dave Markey called The Melting Plot. The compilation LP featured some of the hottest underground bands around doing classic rock & top 40 covers and was ostensibly the soundtrack to a low budget indie movie that few if anyone ever saw. Click the button to hear a snippet of the studio version…
A website called Sleazegrinder has since surmised Celebrity Skin’s sensibility flew over the heads of the “not in on the joke” flannel wearin’ grunge and metal enthusiasts that were their potential demographic.
“The Celebrity’s still unforgivable androgyny and bizarre sense of humour was even lost on many of my own stonewashed bros from way out, who just never fully appreciated that whole whacky, zany, west coast silly joke-rock vibe, a la the Dickies. A lot of people don’t need their rock to be funny. Especially not rural Metal Church enthusiasts. “
The members of the band were an amalgam of not-so stereotypical rockers, neurotics, egomaniacs, misanthropes and of course, the oddball beat master Don Bolles of The Germs. Guitarist Jason Shapiro, who’d moved to California from Boston apparently once played in an early Verbal Abuse lineup, and is still making music these days as a member of the revitalized Redd Kross. As for the rest of the Celebrity Skin members, they seem to have flittered off the face of Planet Rock.
I last saw singer Gary Celebrity (née Jacoby) touring via Greyhound bus, performing solo sets in bars to promote his Triple XXX label solo album in Sonoma county and that was over 25 years ago… There was apparently a one-off reunion in 2007 for an outdoor festival in LA but since then, most of the the band members have not made any TMZ headlines since, which actually might be a good thing. I wish they’d all made a final trip up to the SF Bay Area for their reunion a decade ago, as they still have some enthusiastic lingering fans from their hedonist glory days that woulda all loved to see them.
Thanx for the memories Celebrity Skin, glad I got a few minutes of video of you at the peak of your powers on tape that I can share for posterity at least!