Buoyed by Crumb’s accolades for Honolulu Babylon, Rollo Invited me to come back to Hawaii and stay with him to made another Babylon. Winter to Albany, New York or Oahu? I didn’t have enough money to fly all the way back, so I bought a one-way Greyhound bus ticket from New York City to San Francisco, then flew from S.F. to Hawaii. It was one of those fares that was good as long you you were continuing away from your destination so it took me a week because I got off in Chicago for a day, then spent a couple in Salt Lake City with Hellenbrand.
I left the day after distributing the final issue of the Albany Lark, the one with a cartoon of a bullseye over President-elect Reagan’s face and the X-mas spoofing “Only 43 more assasination days until the inauguration.” The Secret Service was all over that in a couple days, but I was out of pocket like a motherfucker. It was big news back in Albany, especially since the feds couldn’t find me for a week. But my dad just had to take me to the Secret Service office in Honolulu when I got home and they questioned me for a couple hours and that was the last I’d heard about it.
The third issue went okay and I was back in Albany in March ’81. In the meantime, Rollo had started a t-shirt and tattoo flash business, but couldn’t find anyone to run it with any energy, so he offered me the job. My first assignment was manning the booth at the Tattoo ’82 Expo on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. This was to be a landmark gathering, with Ed Hardy and his two business partners, presenting tattooing as an art form first and a cash business second. They brought in the Japanese tattoo master Kazuo Oguri and programmed lectures and films. Rollo’s shirts and flash kept me busy all weekend.
I had an idea to do a spoof of those religious magazines like the Watchtower. We’d call it “Witness” and give it kind of a straight look for the cover, but then it would get into pretty debauched Babylon-type stuff. No longer Yikes! and Rollo, we were Fred and Stan. The set-up was all very flat. But after he designed the cover, Rollo kinda lost interest. He was into pushing the t-shirt business, which was starting to take off nationally through advertising in biker magazines. Harley Davidson dropped any kind of skulls or cool biker imagery from their t-shirts and started going for more All-American themes of freedom and family, but Rollo went all the way in the other direction. He was throwing out the meanest, badass designs, based on popular tattoo motifs like the Grim Reaper and readers of Easyriders and Iron Horse were ordering shirts like crazy.
I’d spent over an hour a day going to the Chinatown post office and waiting in line and singing each shirt first class. In Hawaii, bulk mail sits on the dock until the ship is full, which could take weeks, so we had to ship each one individually, which was a pain. We were getting bored with Hawaii anyway. Rollo had bought and fixed up a 1958 Chevy and wanted to drive that baby more than 15 minutes, which is a long drive in Hawaii. One day I got a postcard from my old Hollywood friend Andrella, who went off with Bryan Gregory of the Cramps and did lights on the tour. She raved about a show they’d just played at a club in Austin, Texas. of all places, called Raul’s. The same day, Rollo got something in the mail from his friend from New York, the drummer Travis Holland, who was then living in Austin. Boom! That’s it, let’s move to the middle of the country for our t-shirt business and let’s see what trouble we can get into in the capital of Texas. I was 28 when we arrived in Austin in April 1984.