Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

80s Hardcore

Homicidal Tendencies:
A Journey into the Punk Rock Gangs of 1980s L.A.

Written By J. Bennett

Photography by Edward Colver

With Reagan in the White House and the economy in the toilet, early ’80s America was a warzone. Our culture reflected it: Tipper Gore and the PMRC held Congressional hearings in an attempt to get Twisted Sister, Judas Priest and W.A.S.P. to answer for their alleged sins against humanity. Satanic panic and heavy metal hysteria ruled the daytime talk shows, while “Are Your Kids Turning Punk?” campaigns warned parents about the myriad dangers of a music genre. In Los Angeles, the police were cracking skulls at punk shows, deploying riot troops and helicopters to battle the unbridled menace of mohawked teenagers slam-dancing to homegrown bands like Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies and Fear.

punk rock gangs

Olympic Auditorium Slampit 1983 / © Edward Colver

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

But behind the hysterics, there lurked an actual threat that was rarely addressed. Los Angeles punk rock gangs with names like LADS, FFF, Suicidal, Circle One and LMP roamed the Southland looking for action. Frying on acid or rolling deep in smoke-filled caravans from the L.A. ’burbs, they descended upon punk venues in Hollywood, Santa Monica and Long Beach, or wherever punk bands were playing and fights could be had. Keith Morris, former singer of both Black Flag and the Circle Jerks (and currently of the band OFF!) remembers the violence vividly. “I knew a lot of guys from the punk rock gangs, but I did not condone any of that,” he says. “There was enough negativity in what we were singing about, with the music being as volatile as it was. With people jumping around, the occasional elbow flies, a fist comes down and someone gets hit. It could turn into a bloodbath.”

punk rock gangs

Santino, Governor and Frank / © Eddie Eagan

In the middle of that bloodbath was Frank The Shank. As a kid growing up the Los Angeles suburb of La Mirada, Frank was routinely beaten by his alcoholic father—once even landing in the hospital, where nobody asked any questions. Dad worked at a truck yard in Vernon, where the boss was noted L.A. mobster Sam Sciortino. In 1979, Frank caught a hot brainload of Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and the Germs and eventually conned his older half-cousins into taking him to his first show—the band X at the Whisky A Go Go—at age 12.

Just a few months before watching some associates stab a man to death in Hollywood, Frank joined local punk gang La Mirada Punks, or LMP for short. Founded in ’79 by Frank’s older neighbor “Santino”—himself the scion of an established Latino gang figure known as “the Godfather”—LMP spent the next several years on a stomping and stabbing spree that left many a rival punk maimed or in the morgue.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Authors Heath Mattioli and David Spacone tell Frank’s story in the recently published book Disco’s Out… Murder’s In! Spanning the years 1979 to 1985, it’s an ultraviolent tale of beatdowns, shankings and drive-by shootings fueled by drugs, cheap booze and teenage testosterone. Named after some graffiti Frank spotted in “Motel Hell,” an abandoned fleabag off of Hollywood Boulevard where punks would go to party, the book shares its moniker with a song from Suicidal Tendencies’ classic 1990 punk/thrash crossover albumLights… Camera… Revolution. It follows Frank and his cronies—hulking bruisers and hardcore criminals with names like Mad Manny, Pissed Chris and Mongo—as they fight, fuck and kill their way through the L.A. punk landscape. Snapshots from the era help illuminate the boots n’ braces milieu: photos of young thugs and sneering skinheads in bomber jackets and Doc Martens; Frank and his cronies flashing gang signs and brandishing guns.

punk rock gangs

 Mad Manny prison yard gang / Unknown Photographer, Chino State Prison 82-83

Along the way, teenage Frank snorts coke with Munsters actor Butch Patrick, slams chili dogs with funk legend Rick James at bygone Hollywood punk hangout Oki Dog and drives around L.A. in the chopped ’71 Lincoln from the 1977 Jimmy Brolin film The Car. Of course, names, dates and even streets have been changed to protect the guilty—mostly because there’s no statute of limitations on murder. “In Hollywood, we had a license to kill,” Frank says today. “We had a license to do anything. There were no cell phone cameras, no cameras at every intersection. You could commit almost any crime you wanted, get on the freeway and go home.”

It’s a weekday morning in January, and we’re sitting across from Frank in the back room of the HMS Bounty on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Mattioli and Spacone sit beside us. All three are understandably wary of this meeting. Though the authors have done several interviews to promote their book, this is the first time Frank has agreed to speak with the press. During our email exchange to set up the meeting, Mattioli and Spacone indicated they’d be bringing a lawyer along. At some point, they decided not to. Still, the implication is that certain questions just won’t be answered. When we ask Frank if he knows what became of any of his victims, he says, “No—a lot of times not,” before Mattioli cuts him off: “I wouldn’t get too much into that.”

As of this writing, the trio says they have not been contacted by law enforcement—at least not that they can confirm. “We’ve been getting questionable friend requests through our Facebook page, and the LAPD has been known to come at you this way,” Spacone says. “Photos of sexy women with very little profile, trying to chat us up. ‘Oh, we love Frank! Where’s Mad Manny?’ So there’s people sniffing around. But we’re not gonna fall for it.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

punk rock gangs

© Edward Colver 82-83

Today, Frank is 48 years old. At about 6’1” and roughly 220 pounds, he cuts an imposing figure. Wearing a scally cap, a long black coat and a Native American-style necklace made by his old drive-by partner Mad Manny, he’s almost preternaturally soft-spoken. After getting arrested for attempted murder shortly after his 18th birthday in 1985, Frank walked out of jail and left gang life forever. Today he’s the father of two sons, ages 25 and 18, and he works at a private Christian university in Southern California. All of which raises the question: Why tell his story at all? Surely he has more to lose than gain by participating in a public recounting of his criminal past.

“It’s a lost chapter of L.A.’s history,” he replies. “And like anything else, you have the good history and the bad history. You can’t not include the bad history, even though it’s something that everyone would like to forget or write off. It just had to be told.”

In Frank’s view, you can separate the punk bands from the punk gangs but ultimately all the players occupy the same blood-stained corner of L.A.’s rich cultural tapestry. “No one’s told it from this side,” Mattioli ventures. “No one’s told it from the trenches. We felt it was just as important a presence as the music was.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

 

Read the Rest of the feature HERE!

This Feature was pinched from Playboy.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Written By

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. American

    January 19, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    It was scary times being high and in places where gang fights and gratuitous violence broke out for no good reason. People were afraid to go to many of these places and now they know they were scared for good reason. They could easily be assaulted, robbed, and even murdered with the perpetrators simply leaving the scene and getting away scot free.

    People did not have cell phones and portable video cameras. There were no traffic cameras. The code of silence was real in those days, even among the general population. The only video game was pong and that was hooked up to a television set. People were using primitive computing. The Internet hadn’t been invented yet. When you went out, all you had was yourself and anyone along with you. Only contact for help would be to hoof it to a pay phone if you lived long enough to get there and actually call the police. The place and times were ultra-violent and it was dangerous. Not everyone made it.

  2. Scott Dan Dan

    April 30, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I’m gonna get this book.

  3. Kuba Tramecourt

    April 30, 2016 at 4:17 am

    Alexandra Zwara

  4. Scout wells

    April 29, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Faggots. We ate their fuckin lunch. Culver Cithy Sui. Remember, bitches? The Civic?

  5. Joseph Guzman

    April 29, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    I have the book. I really enjoyed it. It’s a great read.

  6. Ty Black

    April 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Jake Stuart-Smith

  7. Jack Thompson

    April 29, 2016 at 9:57 am

    And people complain that shows now are “too violent”

  8. Jose Maria Carrasco

    April 29, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Oriol Rosell

  9. Pablo Vargas Jr.

    April 29, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Circle One is one of the most underrated Punk bands ever. Listen to Patters Of Force asap if ya haven’t.

  10. Rory James

    April 29, 2016 at 12:09 am

    STx13

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement
Advertisement
Relapse Monolord
FITM
FXCK RXP
Sentient 112217
Advertisement

You May Also Like

Film

One scene that’s overlooked in Los Angeles is the Paisley Underground, which gave the world bands like the Rain Parade, The Dream Syndicate, The...

Hip-Hop

Yo Drakeo, I want you to know that I know you were the illest MC to come out of LA in the last decade!...

Music

There’s something about shoegaze done well that’s like a spoonful of honey helping the razorblade of reality slide down your throat. And as soon...

Art

As the pandemic aftershocks continue to shake up our societies, people are coming together to create the underground they want to be a part...