Being the new kid on the block every other year can really shape a person's character. Generally I've noticed that the tendency is to either do everything and anything to fit in or do what I wound up doing-the exact and literal opposite of that.
There I was in 10th grade at Comsewogue High School on Long Island-I had the black combat boots because I couldn't afford the Doc Martens; I had the fake leather jacket because I couldn't afford a real one but I assure you, there was nothing second rate about my shaved head. This was rebellion at it's finest. In the eighties on Long Island, it was day-glo and Frankie says Relax; and it was coiffed and sprayed hair helmets. The fact that I had white-out painted obscure and inflammatory band names on my jacket (Agnostic Front, Crumbsuckers, Cro-mags) left me open to all kinds of daily abuse. The thing I hated most of all was the jocks calling me Agnostic Frog. Every teenager secretly longs to look like a heart throb or Johnny Thunders or something...anything other than a frog. But that's what they called me.
At this point in time Agnostic Front's "Victim In Pain", D.R.I's "Dealing With It" and Suicidal Tendencies' famed debut records were all just released and the greatest demos on earth were circulating. Cro-mags' "Age of Quarrel " and Crumbsuckers "From The Crumbsucker Cave" were definitely two of the hottest.
I was utterly obsessed with the New York Hardcore scene and every weekend I'd take the LIRR to Penn and make my way over to the Lower East Side to Bleeker Bob's for records and T-shirts and then CBGB for the Sunday Matinee. I have so many strange and wonderful memories from that small piece of real estate at 315 Bowery. Hanging out with Peter Steele who I swear was seven feet tall. The time Vinnie Stigma pulled me out of the path of a fast moving car when I forgot that cars actually used that road. The Cro-mags record release party where they had a free buffet of vegetarian krishna food, getting my picture taken with Harley and then actually hanging with Harley's mom when she told me how Harley's first instrument was the drums
As a fifteen year old, there was always a 50/50 chance of getting tossed out of the club because at that age, I looked like I was about 12. I hated it but I could still hear the band outside so that was how I got to see Suicidal Tendencies, PTL Club and a few others.
I got the idea to start a fanzine and because of that I got access to Vinnie Stigma's (Agnostic Front) home phone number and Gary Meskil's (Crumbsuckers) number. Gary's number was at the Buy Rite liquor store in Baldwin, NY where he was a manager at the tender age of eighteen.
The fanzine actually never wound up materializing but now I had the ability to talk to two of the top level dude's in the NY hardcore scene whenever I wanted.
Believe it or not, they were very patient as I told to them my woes of being picked on everyday, the troubles i had keeping my band (Angry Youth) together at that age...just about anything.
I got my hands on another demo from a band that started doing matinee's. They were called Krakdown from Huntington, Long Island. The singer was a guy named Chris Notaro and his voice was otherworldly. It contained all the anger, emotion, negativity and fearlessness I longed for. Nobody and nothing else sounded like him. Krakdown didn't really have any real great songs but they had two cool ones and I listened to them over and over because of that voice.
One day when I was on the phone--as usual--with Gary Meskil, he was telling me that their singer Dave Brady was too strung out to really be any kind of effective front man for The Crumbsuckers anymore. He said Chris Notaro came over and sang all the songs perfectly and sounded great. I couldn't believe that my favorite singer was about to start singing for one of my favorite bands.
"Give him a call," Gary suggested, "He's a really nice guy"
So I did. After telling him my whole life story he offered to drive from Huntington to Port Jeff Station to pick me up and take me to a Crumbsucker rehearsal at Gary's house in Baldwin. I couldn't believe it. I got to spend the whole day with him.
Within months, the SOD album "Speak English or Die" was released and all these record companies who were considering signing the cream of the crop in New York Hardcore bands, became a lot more aggressive. Bands like the Crumbsuckers and The Cro-mags and Agnostic Front were being courted and fought over from competing companies and everyone who was able to headline a matinee was holding out for the best deal possible.
Simultaneously, I was not only talking to Notaro every other day, we were hanging out more and more. You got to imagine, this guy was my hero. When they played CBGB, you couldn't even get within 100 yards of the stage and there he was on Saturday night driving from Huntington in his brand new Monte SS to pick ME up and take me to the village where we would spend the night doing the most ridiculous things. No drugs, no alcohol...just strange esoteric weirdness: Japanese restaurants, tea rooms, clove cigarettes, and wacky dive bars and then he'd be dropping me off around 4am...which was cool because we were both scheduled to work our respective jobs two or three hours later.
The Crumbsuckers were getting bigger and bigger. Tours, interviews, you name it. Then Notaro was invited to be on a panel on The Phil Donahue show with Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy's Law, Gestapo's Hollywood girlfriend and this dufus who wrote an awful article about the hardcore scene from The New Yorker.
I assumed that was it. He was a great guy but after that notoriety I was most certainly going to take a backseat as he climbed his way up the ladder of celebrity.
But that Friday night the phone call came..."YOUNG BILL!!!! Are we going to the city????"
At this point, thirty years later, I haven't heard from Chris Notaro in over a decade but I will never forget how worthwhile he made me feel at a time when it seemed like so many were so invested in making me feel the exact opposite.
And no matter what anyone's opinion of the hardcore scene might've been, I thank God for the Vinnie Stigma's, the Gary Meskil's and most especially the Chris Notaro's who had so many other things they could've been doing when this irrational, emotional adolescent called them in the middle of the day to complain about his life.
Vinnie, Gary and Chris were as different from each other as three people could be; but collectively they all understood the responsibility of being somebodies hero.