My Sunbums glory year was over by 1976. There were a couple bad years after that. I wrote for a cheezy tourist rag called “Hotlines Hawaii” and had my first real fling with the art director Pam Baxter, who had lots of cool stories about living with photographer Bob Gruen. (Another namedrop: Pam started seeing Neil Abercrombie, now the governor of Hawaii, after me.)
One night, about five or six months after we broke up, Pam showed up at my front door with someone she introduced as a friend from her years as an anti-war demonstrator. He was a Canadian who, instead of renting a car, bought a Corvette upon arrival. He had a problem, Pam explained. The Canadian’s brother was a marijuana wholesaler who’d been popped overseas for some reason or other, and he had pounds of weed to sell, but he didn’t know anybody. Could I help him out?
We spent an entire night snipping buds from pot plants that were hanging upside down to dry in one of two timeshares his brother owned. Pam and the Canadian lived in the other one. He gave me two pounds to try to move and I saw dollar signs. I did some math and figured that, at the rock bottom prices he was selling to me, if I sold all the weed I’d walk away with about $2,000. I’d never had more than $200 in my bank account my whole life.
But the dope wasn’t very high calibre. The guys I was counting on turned it down and I ended up giving the paper bag back to Pam’s new boyfriend. Then she called. The weight was light and the Canadian was livid. “He said you owe him a couple hundred dollars,” she said. Then she told me something else. He wasn’t an old friend, in fact they’d just met a few days before she brought him to my place. He had just gotten out of prison and was in the Canadian mob. I tried to explain to her that I hadn’t stolen any weed or kept any money after sales. He bagged up the pot when it was damp and I returned it dry. The weight must’ve been water weight.
So, anyway, I had just gotten a financial aid check for $200 after re-enrolling at the University of Hawaii, but instead of going to school, I bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. I didn’t want to give that psycho a shot at me. When we were airborne, I felt a great deal of relief.
Kate Hellenbrand, then a tattooist at Tattooland in East L.A., picked me up at the airport and took me to her studio apartment in Pico Rivera. I was all up in the L.A. punk scene, taking the two-hour bus ride to Hollywood three or four times a week, it seemed. The last bus to Pico was at midnight from Sixth and Hill Streets, so when I saw punk shows I’d stay out all night and take the 5:30 a.m. bus home. I needed a punk rock name. One morning Kate threw open the curtains and the sun was so bright she just yelled “Yikes!” And I said, ‘that’s it, Yikes! Crawford. That’s my new writing name.'”
L.A.’s Slash magazine and all the fanzines, like Youth Party and No Mag were really influential, so when I moved back to Honolulu after the coast was clear, about five months later, I decided to put out my own fanzine. Jim Wood, the singer for the Honolulu Doggs, a great blues band, had the same idea, so we joined forces for what was originally going to be called the Oahu Lie. Jim did the cover- a close-up of a military man sweating profusely- but then left town for San Francisco, leaving me to finish it. I never liked that title, so I changed it to Honolulu Babylon. Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon” was my favorite reading material on those long bus rides from Pico.
I slid the first issue, 12 xeroed pages, under the door of Mike Malone’s China Seas Tattoo on Smith Street. I was always around Chinatown, so I ran into Malone a few days later and he was raving and ready to take the Babylon to higher creative ground. The first issue didn’t have any visual sense, but Malone loved the attitude of stories like “The Ten Biggest Dildos in Hawaii.”
He went to work on the second issue, which he always referred to as the debut issue, right away and drew that beautiful cover of a hula dancer in bondage. I went over Rollo and his girlfriend Kandi Everett’s house one day and we pretty much cranked it out then and there. There was some heavily libelous stuff in there so Malone went by Rollo Banks. We made up a punk band called Moke Bait and wrote a big article about ourselves and our first single “The Karen Quinlan Shuffle.” Kandi was hesitant to be part of it at first, but it turned out that her cartoon strip was one of the best things in the issue. We did a third (or second) issue pretty soon after that and then I was off to New York City with the first absolute love of my life, Donna Belchou. It was 1979. I was 23 and thought I was going to really set NYC ablaze as I had done with Rollo in Honolulu.