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Nightclubbing | Dead Kennedys

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library. Today, they look back on the N.Y.C. debut of the Dead Kennedys.

ngt-DK's JelloEmily Armstrong Jello Biafra

For die-hard NYC punks, the West Coast seemed a little daunting. It was so bright! But in the fall of 1979, we went to Los Angeles to be on a panel at an early MTV music video conference. We stayed at the Tropicana Hotel, which was the preferred accommodation for traveling rockers. Jim Morrison and Tom Waits had lived there – on this trip, it was Nina Hagen and The Slits hanging at the pool.

ngt-dead kennedys pat&paulEmily Armstrong Dead Kennedys luggage

After L.A., we headed up to San Francisco to do a Nightclubbing video screening at the Mabuhay Gardens. The club was right in the middle of San Francisco’s red-light district, and our hotel, the Sam Wong, was across the street from Carol Doda’s strip club. The only people who stayed at the Sam Wong were old Chinese men and punk rockers. We paid $21 for a threadbare room that overlooked Carol’s flashing neon breasts.

ngt tropicana

The next night, we caught The Offs and The Nuns at the club, and stayed up all night to catch a 6 a.m. flight home. At airport security, we met the Dead Kennedys as they headed east for their first N.Y.C. show. Airport security was nothing like it is today, but they did have a metal detector and they weren’t letting lead singer Jello Biafra off easy. He drew a crowd as he emptied his chains, rings, studded belt, boots, dog collar, and other metal into a plastic bin. We had found some new friends. Read more…