Sad news as Brendan Mullen, founder of LA’s pioneering punk rock cub The Masque, passed away earlier today from a stroke. Here’s what Variety had to say about this absolutely essential Angeleno (by way of Scotland):
Mullen emigrated from London to Los Angeles in 1973. He created the Masque—a dank, soon graffiti-scarred 10,000-foot space at 1655 N. Cherokee, behind and beneath the Pussycat adult theater on Hollywood Boulevard—in June 1977 as a low-rent rehearsal space for local musicians. (Mullen himself played drums in his own punk lounge act, the Satintones.)
It quickly morphed into the principal performance venue for the city’s then-nascent punk scene, mounting its first show by the Skulls on Aug. 18, 1977. It served as a stage and a hangout for an honor roll of first-generation punk groups: the Germs, X, the Go-Go’s, the Screamers, the Flesh Eaters, the Weirdos, the Alleycats, the Plugz, the Bags.
The freewheeling Masque, where the charming and oft-acerbic Mullen hosted the proceedings, was a magnet for the antipathy of local merchants and daily scrutiny by police, fire, and licensing officials, and was soon cited by city authorities for various licensing violations.
Closed and reopened more than once, it moved to another space on Santa Monica Boulevard before shuttering permanently in February 1979.
Mullen is seen in the abandoned Cherokee Avenue club in W.T. Morgan’s 1986 documentary about X, “The Unheard Music.”
From 1981-92, Mullen booked shows at the Sunset Boulevard bar Club Lingerie. His diverse shows included sets by talent ranging from veteran R&B, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll acts to hip-hoppers and avant garde rockers. He also mounted dates at the downtown Variety Arts Center in the late ‘80s, and stage managed some of the L.A. Weekly’s music awards shows.
In recent years, Mullen prolifically chronicled the history of L.A. punk, and, not incidentally, his own role in the scene.
His books included “We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk” (2001, with Marc Spitz); “Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs” (2002, with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey); and the photo history “Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley” (2007). He also authored the Jane’s Addiction oral history “Whores” (2005).
Mullen is survived by his longtime companion Kateri Butler.
Beyond the above clip from The Decline of Western Civilization, there’s not much of Mullen online, but, as a nod to his significance, there’s probably no better day than today to share as well my second favorite video of all time (after this one). It’s from The Unheard Music. In it, X rips through The Doors’ Soul Kitchen with some onstage help from Ray Manzarek.
Whatever your thoughts may be on Manzarek and The Doors (and believe me, my own thoughts on the matter have ranged wildly over the years), I return to this “torch-passing” clip over and over again. Sure, it reminds me that no matter how many times I saw X as a kid, it was still never enough—could never be enough.
But it also tethers me to a moment in LA time I was privileged enough to have witnessed up close (too close, sometimes, depending on the act and the stage).
A moment that felt, in clips like this one, intensely connected to some larger arc of history. Even on our most receptive days, those moments of connection to a place and time can be a hard thing to muster. Indirectly or not, Mr. Mullen provided me with some of mine.
My thoughts are with Kateri Butler and the family of Brendan Mullen.
Bonus: The Weirdos do Helium Bar
In Variety: Club Promoter Brendan Mullen Dies
(with thanks to Ian Raikow)