ODERUS: “Tell me something personal about me that only a true friend would know.” ADAM: “Um. You… you smell like a bag of dicks.” – HOLLISTON S2, EP 9.
Sunday night March 23rd, 11pm. I was at the ArieScope office watching a movie with my friend Robert Pendergraft (make-up effects artist from just about everything I’ve ever done) when I noticed that I had several missed calls from Laura Ortiz on my phone. I remember thinking “I’ll just call her back tomorrow morning” but there was also a part of my gut that thought “Uh-oh.” In this day and age when someone actually calls late at night, rather than sending a text or an email, it usually tends to be bad news. Then again, my friends all know how much trouble I have sleeping and therefore it’s not really that odd to call me at all hours of the night as chances are about 100% good that I’ll be awake and working anyway. Then a text from Laura came through: “Is it true?” For some reason this actually made me feel slightly better and even a bit amused. With all of the recent rumors I’ve seen on-line about the next season of HOLLISTON (everything from fans claiming to have been told by FEARnet representatives at their local horror convention that “Season 3 is green-lit and coming soon”… to rumors that Season 3 was already filming and that I was trying to keep it a secret from the public until production was totally finished- none of which is true by the way) I figured it was something related to the show in one way or another. Or perhaps it was some other silly gossip about my next film which I have signed onto but not yet announced publicly yet? Maybe even a bullshit rumor that I had split up with my wife or that I was having an affair with some hot young actress? Perhaps it was the same old fan gossip that my co-star Corri English and I were together romantically in real life? I even thought “Ooh, maybe it’s a rumor that I’m dead! Wouldn’t that be a funny one!” Whatever it was, it couldn’t possibly be anything important or anything that Laura didn’t already know the real answer to. She must have just been calling to laugh about it with me. But after a few minutes my curiosity was just too much and I realized that I was not going to be able to concentrate on the movie until I found out what Laura was calling for. I paused the movie and called her back. ”Sorry, Robert. This will only take a quick second.”
In that “quick second” life suddenly changed. Turns out that a Virginia based website called Style Weekly had broken the news that our beloved friend and HOLLISTON co-star Dave Brockie (known to millions all over the world as “Oderus Urungus”, iconic lead singer of the pioneering heavy metal band GWAR) had passed away. The defense mechanism known as “disbelief” kicked right in. ”It can’t be true, Laura. He just called me this morning. It’s a hoax or just a stupid rumor.” But what was most unsettling was that Dave’s life-long friend (oddly enough also named Adam Green) had posted underneath the comments on Facebook confirming the news. ”It’s true. He’s gone.” This couldn’t be a hoax. Even Dave with his incredibly morbid sense of humor wouldn’t do this as a joke. Especially not with GWAR’s guitarist Cory Smoot (“Flattus Maximus”) passing away just 2 years ago. Death was something to be joked about on GWAR’s stage only, not in Dave’s real life. Something was wrong. Something was incredibly wicked fucking wrong.
I called Joe Lynch and within 30 minutes both Joe and Laura were here with me at the ArieScope office sitting around the table (the table where the cast first reads and rehearses each new episode of HOLLISTON) frantically searching the internet for news and calling everyone we could think of that might know what was going on. If Corri English still lived in LA you can bet that she would have been here within minutes, too. It was close to 3am New York time so I just texted her saying “Please call me as soon as you wake up. Don’t look at the internet.” Denial was in full effect and we must have come up with at least 15 different scenarios for why this news was not true, why it was a mistake, or why it was a joke. Around 1am Dave’s touring manager called me back and confirmed the worst. Our brother Dave Brockie was gone. ”Oderus Urungus” had left the building for the final time and returned to his home planet of Scumdoggia. Nothing would ever be the same.
L to R: Joe Lynch, Laura Ortiz, Me, Corri English, Dave Brockie – Entertainment Weekly 2012
It’s important to note that I don’t use the word “brother” lightly. It’s not a term thrown around like those guys who annoyingly call everyone “bro” in conversation or who refer to you as “brother” affectionately in emails and texts. This cast is truly a family that reaches far beyond just performing together. Many artists (both in front of and behind the camera) form strong bonds through working together creatively, but very few carry that very same bond into their real lives when the cameras are put away and the sets are dismantled and locked away in storage. To put it into perspective, if I ever needed an organ transplant my castmates would undoubtedly be on the front line saying “here, just take mine”.
Having confirmation of the terrible news, I shot off a few emails and texts to HOLLISTON’s producers and of course, to our other brother in the cast Dee Snider. It was going to be a bad morning for a lot of people when they woke up. I still can’t even imagine what Dave’s bandmates are going through. Brad, Mike, Todd, Brent and the Slave Pit crew, some of whom have loyally been a part of GWAR for three decades now. Not to mention the millions of Bohabs (GWAR fans) worldwide who are all hearing the news this week, the staff at Metal Blade records, GWAR’s management… all wonderful people that I have gotten to know since first officially casting Dave in HOLLISTON back in 2010. Dave’s incredible personality, insane art, and enormous beating heart touched millions of people and I am certainly not the only one to have had such a special connection to him. It has been incredible to watch not only the metal music world but the entire entertainment world acknowledge this enormous loss and hear so many people come forward with such respectful and sincere words about who Dave really was and what he meant for our entertainment culture as a whole. There are many “one of a kind” people out there, but there was and only ever will be one Dave Brockie.
Beavis and Butthead weep.
At the time of this writing there is still no cause of death known. Of course it only took about 48 hours before on-line reports about Dave’s death began using the phrase “possibly drug related” even though the toxicology report could take 6 weeks or more to actually come back… and I can’t tell you how much that angers me to read. I wasn’t there with him. I can’t tell you anything that isn’t already in the press and no, I don’t have some kind of inside information that I’m holding back. All I can do is speak to Dave’s character. I spent an enormous amount of time with him. Not only working on HOLLISTON but also backstage at GWAR concerts, sitting him with him on the tour bus, in hotels where we were appearing to promote HOLLISTON… and countless hours, hours, and hours on the phone. Dave was an early riser and he would call me extremely early in the morning on a regular basis just to talk. He knew that chances were good that if he called me at 7am his time (4am my time)… I’d already be awake and around to talk. He also called from the road to check in constantly, not so much to tell me about how he was doing but to see how I was doing. Though I’ve known Dave on a fan-level for 25 years, in the 4+ years that I have been incredibly close with Dave on a personal level, never once did I see him use or even speak of hard drugs. I encourage everyone to listen to Dave’s appearance on THE MOVIE CRYPT podcast last summer at San Diego Comic-Con where we spoke about his life and career. You can listen to it here. In this interview he was incredibly honest and candid about everything, including his stance on drugs. It’s probably the most comprehensive and revealing showcase available in terms of who Dave really was and what his personal journey was like. By the end of that two hour podcast you’ll feel like you really knew him, too. I know that it’s difficult to believe that the lead singer of the world’s most outrageous heavy metal band was not a hardcore drug user, but he was not. I can’t tell you what the medical examiner’s report will say, but I can tell you that my friend Dave Brockie did not live his life like some rock star cliche. Out of all of the possible reasons for Dave’s death that have crossed my mourning mind these past few days, a drug overdose is absolutely not one of them. That was one of the most beautiful things about Dave Brockie. He didn’t need mind-altering substances to be crazier than you. He just was.
Dave Brockie / “Oderus Urungus” … 1963 – 2014
This past August Dave turned 50. While we sat in an IHOP together eating incredibly and unhealthy greasy food he excitedly boasted about his recent comprehensive physical exam and how his health was absolutely perfect - the irony of which is of course not lost on me. Dave may have dressed up like a giant space alien, he may have written and performed heavy metal music, he may have sprayed down his audience with all kinds of over the top fake blood in concert, he may have had long hair (sometimes) and tattoos, he may have made incredibly funny and offensive satirical jokes when in the “Oderus Urungus” character… but beneath all of that was a brilliant mind, a true artist, a terrific musician, a walking encyclopedia of history knowledge, a die-hard Redskins fan, a novelist, a painter, a poet, a comedian, a storyteller, a lover of cinema, a business man, a generous soul, an inspiration, an entertainer to millions, a cultural icon, and a loyal friend.
When I was fourteen years old I got my first summer job working as a bag boy at a Cape Cod supermarket. I was already a full-blown metal head by that point having started out on bands like Twisted Sister, KISS, Alice Cooper, Guns N Roses, and anything glam metal. I had just started to include thrash metal like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax in my regular listening diet. Sometimes I’d bag groceries behind a cashier named Eric who was an older and musically wiser individual. Upon mentioning to him how much I loved Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” record he simply replied, “No, dude. GWAR. Listen to GWAR. They’ll change your life.” He let me borrow his cassette tape of GWAR’s “Hell-o” and well… he was right. It changed my life. Only I couldn’t have possibly conceived then just how much GWAR would indeed change my life in the long run. I spent my next paycheck on GWAR’s more recent record “Scumdogs Of The Universe” and I was enamored. I couldn’t believe there was a heavy metal band that dressed up like giant alien monsters and who sang the absolutely most offensive and hilarious songs I had ever heard. (Hey, when you’re a 14 year old boy nothing impresses you more musically than a song like “The Salaminizer” where the singer says the word “fuck” about 8,000 times in just only 3 minutes and 35 seconds.) I was obsessed with GWAR and as soon as I got back to school that Fall I introduced my friends in Vigilante (my high school band that was about as good as the name sounds) to GWAR and we quickly learned how to play “Sick Of You”. It was the very first song we learned how to cover. Yes, all three magical chords of it. I tried the best any 14 year old boy could to model my singing voice after Oderus’ voice since we had a similar range and over the next two decades (starting once I was old enough to go) I made it a priority to always see GWAR perform whenever they came through whatever city I was living in or at least a city that was within a few hours drive.
I could go on and on about my experiences seeing GWAR concerts, my favorite songs from each album, and what a huge fan I have always been of Dave’s and of the band’s, but there are thousands and thousands of fans just like me saying and feeling the same way right now. What I’d rather offer up is just how much GWAR helped shape my sense of humor and my ability to laugh at everything from popular culture figures to political leaders and just how influential Dave’s wit was to becoming an even more accepting and tolerant human being. While an outsider who never “got” GWAR might view the band as offensive or even outright blasphemous, us Bohabs always appreciated the next level humor, the social statements, and the outrageous creativity that GWAR exuded. One of the most genius things about Dave/”Oderus” was that he could literally say anything and get away with it. Whether it was calling-out a public figure on their own bullshit or simply purposely saying the most ridiculous thing possible for no other reason than to push people’s buttons… what was someone going to do? Argue with a rubber alien? You kind of just had to laugh with him or risk looking like a complete fool.
Dave accomplished so much in his fifty years on this planet. Forget about GWAR’s many successes as both a band and as worldwide cultural icons for 30 years (how many other bands can say that?), but Dave’s unique mind and artistic skills were truly transcendent. Whether he was writing about football for a sports outlet, acting as an “intergalactic reporter” for FOX News (the ultimate irony if you knew him), painting some of the most unique art out there, publishing an epic horror novel steeped in historical events (WHARGOUL), or acting in a TV sitcom… he was so much more than just a guy who portrayed a foul mouth talking alien that fronted an incredible heavy metal band. Just try and compare him to another human being, living or dead. You can’t. It’s also important to note that when Dave passed away he was at a point in his career where everything was firing at full blast. GWAR had just finished touring Australia and Japan mere days before he passed away. GWAR’s latest album “Battle Maximus” was easily one of the band’s best records ever. HOLLISTON Season 2 was just about to come out on Blu-Ray and he was building legions of new fans every day. He was completely happy with where he was at in life and he had so many new ideas and projects he was excited to start on. He didn’t have to go through the painful process of becoming irrelevant, having the world stop appreciating his art, or having to get a dreaded day job working day in and day out simply to make a living but not out of passion. We should all be so lucky.
“Oderus” gives me life advice. From Season 1 of HOLLISTON.
HOLLISTON was a life-long dream project of mine. To date, I love it more than any other project I’ve ever created. There’s enough information out there as to how the show came to fruition (and how obscenely long it took me to actually get it made) but ever since the concept of my character having an imaginary alien best friend who lived in his closet and served as a guardian angel of sorts came into the picture… Dave/”Oderus” was who I dreamed of in the role. When I found myself backstage at House of Blues pitching him the concept of HOLLISTON it took less than 3 seconds for him to say “I’m in.” Not “how much money are you offering?” Not “well, you’ll have to talk to my management first.” Not even “I’ll need to see a script first.” Sure it helped that he had already seen my movies, but Dave (like any true artist) was about doing what he was excited about doing and what he was passionate about. GWAR is the perfect example. If you think the guys in GWAR spent the past 30 years rolling in money and throwing away millions on fancy cars and mansions in the Hollywood Hills… think again. They were a working class band who always did things on their terms and because they loved doing it. If you could only see how humble they all actually are. Underneath those larger than life costumes are 5 regular guys who travel from city to city together cramped into one bus and playing their asses off night after night. And this is no average traveling band, mind you. The amount of work that goes into a GWAR concert is like nothing you can imagine. The “slaves” who handle everything from the behind the scenes mechanics to playing characters in the show itself had me in awe the first time I watched a full concert from backstage. Bob Gorman in particular who has been with the band for the run of their career (and who GWAR fans would know as the “skateboarder” who meets “Sleazy P. Martini” at the start of their grammy award winning movie PHALLUS IN WONDERLAND) not only works harder and faster than anything I’ve ever seen, but he even had to pick up Joe Lynch (who is easily twice his size) at the end of a show and feed him to the band’s on-stage “meat grinder” simply because Dave asked him to. I couldn’t lift up Joe over my shoulder and carry him across the stage, and even I am a bigger guy than Bob. These guys are simply incredible and they have never done it for any kind of fortune and glory other than having the opportunity to do their thing. So with that mentality, of course Dave agreed to play my imaginary alien friend on HOLLISTON and thus began an amazing real-life friendship where the lines between Dave being my guardian angel on the show and my guardian angel of sorts in real life quickly became blurred.
Backstage at House of Blues – November 5, 2011
If the 14 year old me could only have known what Eric the supermarket cashier meant when he handed me that cassette tape and said “This will change your life.” My life has been blessed like that and I never, ever forget it or take it for granted. And I don’t just mean that I’ve somehow found myself becoming genuine friends with many of the artists that I grew up idolizing. It’s that people like Dave Brockie and the countless other “celebrities” that I created impossible expectations for in my childhood head have all not just lived up to those expectations but surpassed them in every way. As Dave says on the podcast that I posted earlier in this blog, he attributes all of that to my own personality and my ability to invest in and put together such amazing groups of people that are willing to drink my creative Kool Aid and believe not only in me and my various passion projects, but also in each other. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. It’s very hard for me to tell being this close to all of it. But Dave truly, truly loved every single person he worked with on HOLLISTON. Not just the cast who he worked with most closely, but every crew member who was there each day working hard to make the show happen against incredibly hard odds. He was always polite. He was always in a good mood. He was always gracious to be there and thankful for the opportunity. Most of all, he never failed to let everyone know just how much he loved them and how much he enjoyed every moment he had with them. And I think that’s one of the greatest successes of Dave Brockie’s life. That even leaving us suddenly and without a chance to say goodbye… everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in his life knows how much he loved and appreciated them. We could all only be so lucky to have nothing left unsaid when it’s our time to go. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s not just to remember to tell the people you care about that you love them… but to do it every moment that you get the chance. I never got a single voice mail from Dave where he didn’t sign off with “I love you.” For most men like myself, there’s just something uncomfortable in doing that. You kind of feel stupid or embarrassed to say “I love you” to someone else save for your parents, your wife, or you children if you are lucky enough to have children. Then again, Dave spent his entire life half-naked on stage’s worldwide wearing a thong with his ass hanging out. Nothing… and I mean NOTHING… was ever going to embarrass Dave Brockie. And he was a better man because of that.
Rock and Shock – Worcester, MA – 2011
Lynch and I will be doing a podcast episode dedicated to Dave soon. We’re just waiting until we are a little bit better prepared for it. Fans who listen to THE MOVIE CRYPT religiously will notice in some of the upcoming episodes that we dance around it a bit and force ourselves to focus on the guest at hand. I know that there are people waiting to hear words from each of us in the HOLLISTON cast and as a fan myself I understand it completely. Whenever an artist I admired has passed on, I am always anxious to hear from the other artists around him or her. Somehow it helps. So I didn’t want to wait another day to post something about what Dave meant to me, and a written blog was the best way to get it out without stammering on and on through a wide array of emotions. I am grateful to say that I’m just not very experienced with grief like this and a lot of what I am personally feeling is completely new to me. I’ll find myself overcome with tears one minute, laughing the next, and then angry a minute later. I have spent a lot of time these past few days talking to Dave on the various HOLLISTON posters hanging on the walls here at ArieScope, which I suppose in the grand scheme of things isn’t that much weirder than the show itself where he lives in my closet and only I can see him. Only this is real life. I am anxiously awaiting the point in the grieving process where I can celebrate his life rather than wallow in tears because he is gone or stand before his image and yell at him for leaving when we still had so much to do together. Fans of the show are starting to ask what my plan is for potential future seasons of HOLLISTON and how I’ll creatively handle the situation. All I can say is that the show’s future is the least of my priorities at this very moment. Would Dave have wanted the show to go on? Of course. He’d kick my ass if I had the opportunity to make more seasons of the show and walked away because he is gone. For now though, I can’t even think about it. What I can say is that the fans have absolutely overwhelmed all of us with their unimaginable outpouring of support and love. There are more letters, messages, and comments than I can possibly read. But I am reading all of them. I’ve found great strength in witnessing the sheer magnitude of how much Dave meant to people and I can’t stress enough just how much everyone in the world of HOLLISTON appreciates and loves you all.
HOLLISTON fan art.
I wish I could end this eulogy blog or whatever it is with a proper goodbye to my friend Dave. But I suppose I don’t really know how to do that just yet. Instead I’ll offer my total and unwavering condolences, my heart, and my prayers to everyone else who is grieving right now. To the HOLLISTON cast and crew, I hope you celebrate the times you had with Dave and all of the incredible laughter and positive energy he brought into our lives, To my friends in GWAR, your loss is insurmountable and we all grieve with you. I wish you all tremendous strength in the coming days, weeks, months, and years and I know without a doubt that whatever you each do next as artists will be something I love. But to the fans of HOLLISTON, of GWAR, of everything Dave Brockie… my heart goes out to you the most. For all of the love and admiration you had for Dave/”Oderus” so few of you actually got the chance to meet him in person or to spend the kind of precious time knowing him and creating with him that the rest of us were blessed with. For that I am truly sorry. But as you grieve, remember that without YOU there would have been no “Dave Brockie the entertainer”. You gave him the opportunity to live the life he lived through your loyalty, support, and appreciation. You weren’t just a huge part of Dave’s life… you made Dave’s life the amazing life that it was. Never forget that.
In closing, I leave you with the last voice mail that Dave left for me. Some might say that it’s an odd choice to share such a personal thing so publicly, but I have been listening to this voice mail over and over and over again since Sunday night and I think that it so perfectly encapsulates everything I have said above and who he really was. A sweet, loving, wonderful, and passionate man. He didn’t just change my life, he made my life better.
By the way… I love you too, Dave Brockie.
UPDATED 3/7/14: HOLLISTON Dave Brockie Tribute Video