Wrecking Crew “The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates”
By
J. Gordon
10/4/2005 3:27:57 PM

What are the ingredients for happiness? Sometimes it’s not all that clear. But in the book, Wrecking Crew (subtitled, “The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates”) [Scribner] author John Albert and his cast of characters—a group of former punk rock stars, actors, convicts, junkies and former junkies with substitute addictions—grasp at and occasionally even touch on happiness through the game of baseball.

Albert, who co-founded the seminal punk band, Christian Death, and also played drums for Bad Religion, soaks this book with his love for the city of Los Angeles, as well as his love for the game and the guys playing it. Interestingly, there isn’t much love for music written here—only the vapid, blood-sucking, dream-squashing reality of the music industry. The highest points are in those moments of clarity: what really matters, what makes life worth living—and they’re best illustrated in scenes like a glorious practice in the mud. Likewise, the god-honest scenes of truth: the hollow pursuit of porn, fighting off Hepatitis C, the all-consuming desire for a fix, gambling, the purchase and maintenance of call-girls, and the quiet secret of cross-dressing will shock, touch, sadden and break your heart.

Baseball, however, not only builds camaraderie among this group of isolated, lonely under-achievers, it also plants seeds of hope, self-confidence, dreams and a long-forgotten sense of pride.

Having come right out of reading Whores: an oral biography of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction [Da Capo Press. See the Nighttimes.com review], it was kind of funny to pick up Wrecking Crew and continue on with some of the same real-life characters like Dave and (mostly) Johnny Navarro, Roz Williams, and others of the 1980s-90s Hollywood drug and music scene.

The book, Wrecking Crew originally stemmed from an article that Albert wrote for the LA Weekly, and Albert’s journalistic tone is still there; a little detached, never judging, never getting too sentimental or emotional, even over his own personal suffering. Albert remains the observer, and his narration is at times omniscient as he tells the individual stories among the bigger story that’s really just the framework holding them all together. It’s clear that he’s actually interviewed some of the characters to get their side of things, word for word, in some cases, without projecting his own perspective.

And that’s the only thing lacking in Wrecking Crew--it might have been nice to see a bit more of Albert’s own perspective. He’s painted his cohorts with such glorious, heavy-handed color and energy and left himself a tad muted in comparison. But then, not knowing Albert personally, maybe he is that mellow, quiet and peripheral; while at the same time being a catalyst, a support, and a loyal enough friend to start up and commit to a baseball team that changes lives.

 

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