A conversation with Johnny Puke, who was present the night of GG's death.
Art by Brian Walsby
I never paid much attention to GG Allin when he was alive because I thought he was a talentless bottom feeder who'd do anything to get attention. Consequently, I never bothered with his music, and stayed away from reading about him. I mean, compared to my pals in the Ramones, what could Allin possibly have to offer? GG seemed like a spectacular mess who was just taking up space until he killed himself. I didn't really need any more garbage heaps in my life. But after he died, my best friend Tom Hearn told me he'd hung out with GG a few times in New Haven, Connecticut, and that he was a nice guy.
"Really?" I asked Tom, intrigued that I let my preconceived notions keep me from checking Allin out. I love it when my prejudiced ideas get shattered and I have to take another look.
"Yeah," Tom told me, "He was like this incredible asshole on stage, just fighting and screaming and shitting on everyone, but off stage he was really nice. He was kind of like a more violent, fucked-up version of Joey Ramone. Ya know how Joey was so incredibly focused on stage? And then when we were hanging out with him, he was funny as shit? GG was kind of like that …"
Hmm, I thought, Maybe I was wrong about the guy…
When I was doing a reading tour of the south last winter, I became friendly with Johnny Puke, from Charleston, South Carolina, where he books and manages the Tin Roof, a fun, dumpy punk club. Johnny told me that he was with GG the night he died and I thought it would be an interesting story to get on tape. So I asked Johnny if I could interview him some time, Johnny said, "Yes," and last October, just as it was getting really cold outside, I headed back to Charleston to interview Johnny Puke. This is his report.
GG's final mission—which he was trying to accomplish before he went to prison—was that he would do his final performance on Halloween of 1991 and kill himself onstage. So people began making plans to find out where that show was gonna be because all of these people wanted to see GG die onstage or see what was gonna happen. But what happened, of course, was that he was in prison on Halloween for the next couple of years, so that made his promise null and void.
I'd heard of GG long before that, because of Maximum Rocknroll magazine, but they always just said that he was this vile, offensive jerk, not worth your time. And when you're a little kid you took what Maximum Rocknroll said seriously, because they were the last word in punk. But when I got into college, I started thinking outside of the confines of what punk magazines were telling me I was supposed to think.
I started writing to GG, and we got friendly through the mail. I must have written him over a hundred letters. He wasn't particularly living anywhere. He was staying in Chicago with this really cool girl, Sharon Rose, who kept a permanent address for him. He wasn't really playing that much, but then he wrote me that he was coming to New York to play a show and invited me up. It was probably a twelve or thirteen hour drive from West Virginia and I decided, "I'm gonna do it!" because this was really my entrée into punk rock, ya know?
When GG got out of jail, the rumor resumed and everybody was looking forward to seeing GG kill himself. I talked to GG about it a little bit, but he never was really forthcoming with me. Sometimes would give me a vague answer, once he said that fire was gonna be involved. He hinted to me that he might take other people out with him. I'll tell you this, Merle said that when it did come down to that final show, that the Murder Junkies weren't gonna be in on it, because Merle wasn't gonna knowingly play a final show when he knew his brother was gonna kill himself.
By this time, 1992, I was living in New York and I started hanging out with GG and Dee Dee Ramone, who was living at the Chelsea Hotel at the time. Dee Dee was gonna be the guitar player for GG's band, but that lasted about a week, because obviously, it wasn't gonna work out.
The there was the last year of his career. I think all of these people thought, "Maybe tonight is gonna be GG's last night!" Because now he wasn't saying he was gonna kill himself on Halloween—he was saying you get what you deserve; and you'll get it when you deserve it.
He was saying, "I'm not going to do anything based on what you want me to do or when you want me to do it. I'm gonna do it when I wanna do it!"
So that added to excitement of every one of these shows. These people were on a death trip, paying ten dollars a head to see if maybe this guy was gonna kill himself tonight.
The final show, though we didn't know it was the final show, was booked at the Gas Station in the East Village, which was this sort of a sculpture place directly across the street from my apartment on Avenue B and 2nd Street. I lived there with my girlfriend, and GG was in town with his girlfriend, a young girl named Liz, a pretty cool chick, who was following him around. When he first got back to New York, he tried to stay with Merle, but Merle was getting sick of him. So he and Liz had checked in to the St. Mark's Hotel, that's where he was staying.
So GG says to me, "Tomorrow we'll come over to your place before the sound check. We'll sort of use your place like a dressing room and then we'll go do the show and we'll hang out later." The next day, GG came over real early, like noon or one o'clock, and the whole band was there, and Richard Kern came by to take photographs. People were coming and going all day. So the band was hanging out, and we don't have anything to do, cause the sound check kept getting pushed back, later and later.
I was like, "I'm bored, let's get some coke!"
So I go to one of those little deli places that sells coke, across the street. You know how that goes—now every forty-five minutes I'm going back across the street for another bag of blow. So we're drinking beer and listening to music, and actually having a really good afternoon. By this point, GG is getting really wired, we're all getting wired, but he gets super-wired before a show. GG had an internal process he went through where he just ratcheted himself up to be ten-foot-tall and ruthless, so he could perform.
And the coke was adding to that. We went over to do the sound check around five or six, and then it was time to do the show. A bunch of bands had played, but we'd been over in my apartment, doing coke and missed them.
Anyway, GG gets onstage and immediately breaks a microphone. So the sound guy says, "Shows over, I'm not gonna do this!" There's all these people there and GG's furious. He started yelling at the sound guy and threatening him. So the sound guy and his dog barricaded themselves in the sound booth behind this steel gate and GG's throwing mics at him and calling him a pussy and trying to call him out.
Somehow GG got another mic and the show went on for a little while. It was a three-song show and GG was on fire. He punched out a couple people and then he shit on himself and smeared it all over everything, and then was throwing shit at people!
There were about two hundred people there and right after the show started they all ran for the courtyard. So there were only about ten people left watching the show.
Somebody got punched out and there was a scuffle and now GG doesn't have a mic. He was frustrated that he's not even gonna be able to perform this show that he has ratcheted himself up for, so he starts taking it out on the crowd. He chases people out to the courtyard yelling, "They won't even let me finish my show!"
GG was trying to attack anyone that's close, so the crowd got angry, mad that they waited all afternoon and didn't even get to see the headliner. They were out in the courtyard, where there was a recycling container full of bottles—and they staredt throwing the bottles. It's was raining Molotov cocktails and we were having to duck and try to figure out how the fuck we were gonna get outta there.
So GG chased the crowd out of the courtyard and onto the street, which became a riot of crazy people screaming and yelling. There were like 75 to 100 people out on the street, flipping out. GG was wearing Liz's short skirt, no underwear, and these combat boots, covered in blood and shit. Then GG lay down in front of the city bus on Avenue B, and the bus couldn't pass.
Everybody was running around like crazy. GG was laying in the street. And by now we can hear the cops coming.
GG tried to get away, but he wasn't super New York savvy, ya know, and he was having trouble trying to find his way back to the St. Mark's Hotel. The whole crowd as following him. And then the police were following him. And he's wearing a skirt with no underwear, covered in shit.
GG was trying to walk down Avenue B and there was a kind of march that he's leading. But GG didn't wanna be leading a march, he wanted to get away.
He yelled, "Quit following me! Quit following me!" But they didn't stop following him. He hailed a cab in front of a bank, gets in, and the cabbie freaked out. The cabbie was just skeeved-out and he wouldn't go, so they had to get out of that cab. Meanwhile, there were people on all four corners of the block, screaming and yelling, while the cops were looking for who's causing this ruckus.
Finally, GG hailed another cab safely made it back to the St. Mark's Hotel.
Me, my girlfriend, and the band, went out to eat at this BBQ place right on Houston, and I was gonna catch up with GG later. The promoter of the show had given GG a bundle of heroin, which is ten little bags, so GG had the dope and he told me, "I'll find you later and we'll go back to your house and we'll party!"
So I go to the St. Mark's Hotel to collect GG and Liz—but he's with Bobby Ebbs from Genocide, who was a GG Allin nut and a real hanger-on, who just wanted to be around GG, hoping he'd buy drugs for him and his girlfriend.
GG was real happy to see me walk up, and said, "Let's get the fuck outta here right now!"
At about 11: 30, we took a cab and went back to my apartment to start partying. It was just me, my girlfriend, GG, and Liz. And GG's got all this dope from the promoter and we started snorting it. I think GG would have preferred to shoot it, but I didn't do that. I was phobic of needles. So he knew I was just a big snort-er. And we were drinking Jim Beam and running across the street to get more beers. It was a good night.
We were talking about arranging a spoken word tour of Europe for both of us. Neither GG nor I had ever been to Europe, and this tour would be an excuse to go there and cause trouble. We probably stayed up, partying until two or three in the morning, but GG was the first to fall asleep, probably around one.
He was asleep on the floor, and this was a little apartment and he was snoring super loud. Liz, me, and my girlfriend stayed up talking and listening to him snore for another hour. Finally, we set Liz up on the futon, and me and my girlfriend went to sleep on the bed, which is only a few feet away.
We went to sleep to the sound of GG snoring, so I had no need to be alarmed. He wasn't blue. He didn't vomit. He was just snoring.
In the morning, at about nine o'clock, Liz wakes me up and says, "I think there's something wrong with GG."
I went over to where GG was laying and he was wearing a cut-off jean jacket, Liz's skirt, those boots, and a silver Nazi helmet that he loved. It was his most prized possession He'd left the Nazi helmet at my house before the show, because he loved it so much and didn't want to loose it.
So I go to him and he's cold and he's stiff—and very dead on my floor.
I was still a little high from the night before, so I was confused, but I'm good in a crisis. I can focus on what has to be done. Little things drive me nuts. If I lose my keys, I go nuts, but if my grandfather dies, suddenly I'm gonna organize everything and pay for it later.
The first thing I did, before anything, was grab the remaining dope and run up to my roof to hide it, because I knew what's gonna happen next. Then I called Merle and told him, and called the police to tell them. I told the cops, "I think we have an OD here, I think we have a death here," but I don't know if I ever admitted to the police that I was doing dope too.
I wasn't afraid that the cops would charge me with murder, I was more afraid of getting busted for drugs, ya know? GG obviously was my really good friend, and there were more than a few people to say I had no reason to kill him, so I wasn't really afraid of that.
So they sent a cop over who determined that GG was dead. Then all the cops flooded my little apartment and there was a cop standing outside my door for a couple hours. Finally, they put GG in a body bag—it was a fifth floor walk-up—and carried him down the stairs. It took a couple guys, because GG was a big fellow. They carried him down to the street and put him the wagon and drove him to the morgue.
One thing that I hadn't thought about that looked really weird and suspicious was that after GG fell asleep, Liz, my girlfriend, and I all took Polaroid's of us laying next to GG that we were gonna show him in morning. We were cuddling with him and smiling in the photos.
Well, the police found the Polaroids and confiscated them. And then we all had to go down to the 9th Precinct to tell our version of the story. At first they were very suspicious of us. The cops were like, "What kind of fucking person lies down with a corpse and smiles and waves?"
We had to explain, that although he was in the exact same position, he wasn't dead, that he was snoring. But boy, did that look not too good for us.
Now I can kinda get a kick outta it, but at the time it seemed like, "Fuck! That's really sick!"
Anyway, when all of this was over they found that none of us did anything criminal. I tried for weeks to get those Polaroids back, but the cops just refused and I don't know what ever happened to them. I'm sure there in a folder somewhere at the 9th Precinct.
I think GG would have thought that was funny. I think he would have loved that story.
He'd be like, "The police thought that Johnny Puke was posing with my corpse!"