IN THIS HOUSE THAT HE CALLED HOME: REMEMBERING JACK MARQUETTE
Host of the floating parties Brave Dog, Theoretical, Phenomena and the Anti-Club
BY STEVEN MIKULAN
Who says the 1980s were terrible? Long before downtown L.A.’s transformation into a hipster playground of luxury lofts and concept bars, Jack Marquette and a hardy band of pioneers sandblasted and jerry-wired their own vision of Xanadu from industrial L.A.’s steel-and-concrete wilderness. Exiles from art schools and academia, these settlers playfully embraced their forbidding surroundings, regarding the ceaseless cacophony of freight cars and sirens as their own soundtrack.
Marquette, who began a long-term job in 1980 working at California Apparel News,came from a Hollywood family (his father producedAttack of the 50 Foot Woman)and trained as an architect and urban designer at USC. But he would find his true calling as the Warhol-like inaugurator of a brief but exhilarating party carnival in Los Angeles, seeding it with $25,000 he received from the sale of a family Tiffany lamp. Brave Dog, Theoretical, Phenomena and the Anti-Club were the names of clubs that weren’t so much brick-and-mortar addresses as nomadic happenings and floating parties, put on with Marquette’s late collaborator, Jim Van Tyne. In doing so, the two men would change the way the city’s art community socialized — and the expectations that Angelenos would have of nightclubs.
I cannot remember a dull or embarrassing moment at Marquette’s venues — even when penniless you could somehow gain admission and leave fashionably wasted. No one in those amicable haunts put on an attitude to intimidate or belittle others in the room. Perhaps this is what most separates Marquette’s ’80s downtown, with its dime-a-square-foot lofts, unmedicated neighbors and viral street crime, from the image-obsessed nightmare that would follow soon enough. Although it describes a countercultural reality different from Marquette’s world of gay-art damage, X’s song “In This House That I Call Home” captured that period’s anarchic spirit: “Nobody knows the party rules gotta get in but there’s no room ...”
There was one other thing about Marquette’s energy and his clubs: They both seemed never-ending. The clubs did close, however, and on June 17, Marquette died at the age of 60 from liver disease.
Last Saturday, many of Marquette’s friends packed out his funky hillside home in Highland Park to pay their respects. Guests carefully picked their way among the jungle of plants shading the house, holding in their hands two things they hadn’t at the Anti-Club — cell phones and bottles of water. Just as the potluck fare ranged from dolmades to KFC, so did the alumni of Marquette’s clubs reflect a wide horizon of backgrounds. Performance diva Johanna Went was there, along with endurance artistSkip Arnold, KXLU DJ Stella, ’80s alter-rockers John Talley-Jones andPierre Smith, painter Anthony Ausgang and former Al’s Bar bartender icon Ellen Vinitsky. The list, in fact, might have been a copy of a theoretical guest list, circa 1983. Marquette’s partner of the past few years, Frederick Ascher, recalled how, toward the end, the two would spend quiet evenings watching reruns of I Love Lucy. Ethan Port, formerly of Savage Republic, expressed the shocked dismay of many, who had no idea of Marquette’s declining health. Port rattled off the names of bands, from the Party Boys and Nervous Gender to Tank Burial, to whom Marquette had given venues.
“Constant inventing and reinventing and pushing,” Port marveled. “Jack was always there to say, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’”
For all his goofy charm, his kindness to strangers and animals alike, and his fondness for orange jump suits, Marquette had a shrewd sense of talent, time and place. His booking and promotion of up-and-coming bands like Psi Com (which would one day become Jane’s Addiction) suggests he could have become a kind of punk Bill Graham. Instead, Marquette remained the generous enabler of good times for a crowd of spirits, gay and straight, who came together for a decade of conversation, music and laughter. Later, real estate speculators would see gold in L.A.’s warehouse and factory districts — once their ancient buildings had been demolished and the neighborhoods’ poorest citizens evicted. Marquette saw in downtown only a faded beauty and a place to bring together a town of strangers. A place we once called home.
It wasn't "we the people..."
From Ethan Port
Here's a few more thoughts on Jack Marquette - RIP
1948 - 2008
Jack Marquette passed away this week (June 17). Jack was a very humble, quiet, often "behind the scenes" icon in the Los Angeles art-punk community. In fact, Jack was sick for quite awhile and I did not know anything about it. So I was sucker punched in the gut earlier this week to learn of Jack's passing.
Jack was one of the masterminds behind the infamous 1980's Los Angeles art-damage club the Anti-Club. Before the Anti-Club he ran the Brave Dog, and later ran roaming Theoretical parties at random venues around Los Angeles, including parking lots around downtown's Skid Row. Jack was an amazing, positive spirit in the center of the spinning vortex that was the early Los Angeles punk/new-wave/no-wave/whatever scene. Jack booked so many crazy artists, who often seemed like they had nothing in common with each other beyond just all being different and weird and pushing limits.
Decades later, many may not remember Jack. But Jack was a prime mover and the genuine article. But Jack's influence and impact on so many of us who were there in the cyclone of the early 80s LA punk scene can not be measured. Jack was one of the most important and influential people in my life.
Jack was a community builder and a good friend. He did so much to avoid labeling and dividing, which seems so common in this modern world. He completely understood the fundamental from the gut passion and instinct for what all of us considered "punk" in 1980s Los Angeles.
Personally, Jack did so much to help me and so many others as an artist when I was a confused, depressed, scruffy high school art punk, and to create a community I could relate to, exist and grow up in. He put on most of the Savage Republic shows in Los Angeles in the 1980s at his various venues and roaming parties, as well as countless ever changing bands, performance groups and collectives with so many of us. Jack was always willing to book whatever crazy experimental project I had going. [iframe]d the recent How to Destroy the Universe festivals as a direct copy of Jack's principles and aesthetic from his Theoretical parties.
I have such great memories of those evenings in the "incubator", like Skip Arnold hanging naked from a tri-pod, lung collapsing, just before White House cleared out the Anti-Club, with Helen - the bar owner, pulling cables at the sound board and Jack in his white coveralls calmly playing defense so Russell could reconnect the cables, so the band could keep going for that much longer. Or one of Brad Laner's band-of-the-week projects constantly pissing off Helen. And so many other amazing performances, like Aphodic Culture, Nervous Gender, Strong Silent Types, Black Flag or whatever other SST band of the week was there, Minutemen, Characters like Don Bolles and Tony Pony in so many bands, Brad Laner and friends in even more projects, the Party Boys, Tank Burial, God and the State, and the roster goes on and on and on. So many one-off experiments that would never find a venue then.
Constant inventing and re-inventing and pushing. And Jack was always there to say YES, LET'S DO IT!!!
I miss him so much...
Solstice - 21 June, 2008
from Sherry & Brett Kucera-
Words cannot express how much I love and miss you.
I will never forget:
Your humor, sarcasm and unique take on life. Our similar interest in art and how we loved to discuss art over dinner. Punk music, politics, computers, life in the 80's, theoretical.com and bad television shows were just a few of the topics we'd discuss, debate, and laugh about.
Taking our four dogs; Perry, Sybil, Jalen and Zelda to the reservoir for hikes on a hot L.A. Saturday afternoon.
Our frequent trips down the hill to Villa Sombrero (we had to drag Brett. He hated that place!) for "Vino Blanco", margaritas and Mexican food, or jazz and steaks at Columbo's, or Italian delights at Gale's, and the perpetual search for good restaurants in Highland Park and Pasadena.
Our mutual crush on the Aztec God Guillermo.
Our distaste for Catherine (yet we still helped her when she flooded her house. We went over at 7 am and she was still such a witch to me!)
We always dressed up on Halloween and gave candy to the kids. (I was Tony Cliffton, Brett was a fat Hillbilly singer and you were an escaped mental patient!)
You helped me with my yard, taught me to have a green thumb. You would be so proud of me!
Movies at Paseo Colorado when it first opened. You, me and Brett felt like we owned the place.
We put in our adjoining fence and we laughed and laughed about it. It just isn't done. We so enjoyed spending time together. We could pop over whenever, but we always called first! We respected each other so much. We seemed, at times, like an old married couple. (How many times did I clean your house?)
The sleepovers when Jennifer dragged Brett out of town and I was lonely.
Your unconditional love, kindness and acceptance of us.
How you introduced us to your friends and shared your life with us. You shared so many stories of friends you lost, your father, your siblings. We even met your brothers. We spent time with your Mom. She loved you so much. You opened up my life to another world, another side of theism.
We had so many laughs together Jack, and so many tears (we watched "The Joy Luck Club" twice together.) You were a very dear friend to me and I will never forget you. You accepted me for who I am and you saw right through to my soul. You are my family. You will forever stay in my heart.
Brett and I pray you're happy and know how much you are loved and missed.
Sherry and Brett Kucera
June 27, 2008
from Reed Roles
I have an inkling
but I don't know what it is.
the clearing in the forest
the silence in the night
the sound of freeways
the flashing days
of children's wings and paper in my mind.
One more breath
the string was cut
the line let go
so the song was sung
and for the want of breath
I breathed and time shrank
the evening gone
the morning sun.
One day too slow
another too fast
a stone is passed
from palm to palm
till smooth and round
now golden orbs
in hands now old
the evening's gone
and gone again.
from maw shein -
*for jack ...
i like to tell friends that i grew up at the anti-club. (though "grew up" wouldn't be entirely accurate as i have more than a few fuzzy memories of regrettable behaviors.)
jack and jim and russell were the ultimate punk rock art damage bookers. 100 flowers, leaving trains, savage republic, saccharine trust, johanna went, sonic youth, countless minutemen shows ... my roommates mark and adrian and i would drive from long beach to our second home on melrose at the very least three to four times a week. like i said, i grew up at the anti-club.
one of my fave anti-club memories is performing with ethan port, carol canada, adrian de la pena and brad laner. we were called turds from space, (a name that i think i must credit ethan with). this evening was leading up to the evil helen phase. she was yelling at adrian who was wearing a red skirt on his head, "get off the stage you crazy nut!" brad made a loop of it and played it super loud throughout the room while ethan was banging some metal on metal. helen was not happy.
i remember jack walking around during those late nights in his off-white coveralls, glasses slightly down his nose, every once in a while breaking a smile. once i was a bit irked at those guys because i had a benefit scheduled for lemon fingers emerge (a poetry and art zine i used to copy on my dad's xerox machine) and they had forgotten to tell me the club was closed down that night. i freaked out and moved the show to a friend's loft in downtown l.a. leaving a flyer on the door of the club. jack arrived at the loft with a rose and a sweet apology. i was touched.
thanks for those years jack. you will be missed.
Do you have a memory you can share?: eMail... jack
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