From The Valley to Silverlake: X Years of Making the Scene: Interview with Kim Lipot Ochoa

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“Who’s been doing your hair?”—Shampoo

“Who’s been doing your hair?”—Blow

Gazing beneath Los Angeles glitz, the obvious and overt in ‘n’ out of favor flavors, one can encounter a creative arts underground.  The scene shifts, trends tire, still the beat goes on.  At the core are the anonymous denizens of the in-crowd who give these punk rock artists a name.  Fan the fame.  Kim Lipot Ochoa cues their look.

Outlasting those who overdosed, and the poseurs who “did it for the fashion,” for more than four decades Kim has maintained her personal impact by creating a unique image for others.  In the salon or social swirl, the Kim constellation embodies the two or three degrees of separation that edge the brazen and beautiful of Hollywood’s underworld.

What follows are fragments of cocktail-fueled conversations about what it means to be undeniably cool and almost famous in the land of La Di Da.

Valley Girl

“Fuck you.  Fuck off for sure, like totally.”—Valley Girl

What’s the difference between punk rock life in hip Hollywood and a prefab existence in my so-called vacuous Valley?

RANDY
This is the real world.  It’s not fresh and clean like a television show . . . We’re ourselves . . . you’re all fucking programmed.

JULIE
So, what does it take to be so free?
RANDY

That’s a good question.

For one Valley girl, the answer equaled X.

Kim Lipot graduated from Kennedy High School class of 1980—smart, shy, and sixteen years old.  Nixing the “Oh, I’ll just hang out plans,” Kim’s suburbanite mother arranged for her daughter’s entrance into the material world of 9 to 5.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: A friend of mine has a bit part in Valley Girl.  He says that’s what you do growing up in L.A.  Leave the long boulevards in the dry hot summers and go to the beach.  Get cast as an extra in movies.

Kim:  My friends and I went to Zeroes beach, up the coast from Zuma.  I had a white Volkswagen campervan and a license a 22 year old had left at my drive-thru bank teller window.  She never came back for it.  On the weekend, we would buy liquor at Alpha Beta and drive around to house parties.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: So how did you get into punk rock?

Kim:  My prom date lent me his X album.

The Starwood

“Days change to night/Change in an instant.”—Los Angeles

Kim:  I found out X was playing at The Starwood.  My girlfriend and I put black roux rinse in our blond surfer girl hair so we wouldn’t stand out.  It turned steel metal gray.  We went anyway.  The scene was great.  The Odyssey, The Seven Seas, Club Lingerie . . . crowded hardcore shows with twenty-five guys to every girl.  New Wave Music, The Go-Go’s, B52’s .

Boogie Nights

“I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie.”—WAR

Spinning around in Kim’s hair chair.  With equal concentration, she expertly mixes colors and listens to the salon buzz as we discuss P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights.

Kim:  I used to go dancing at the movie’s club, “Hot Traxx.”  It was an all ages club on Sherman Way—called The Reseda Country Club.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: The scene between Amber Waves and Rollergirl is cocaine classic.  Making plans, yet never leaving the room.

Kim:  We’ve all had that conversation.

Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

“Punk rock.  That’s stupid.  I just think of it as rock and roll ‘cause that’s what it is. . . . It’s for real . . .There’s no rock stars.”—Eugene, Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

Penelope Spheeris documentary explores anarchic behavior in the context of L.A. punk rock.  The attraction to rebellion, the insightful music—intoxicating to the tightly wound and aimless ramblers alike.  Black Flag lyrics express why the fury needs its sound.  With no outlet, the consequences of unreleased tension and boredom may be fatal.  “Depression—it’s gonna kill me.  It’s gonna kill you too.”

Spheeris casts a grim shadow over this scene—point of fact John Doe tells her:  “Reality is dark.”  Twenty-five years later, Brendan Mullen and Mark Spitz proclaim in Spin, “SoCal punk has always been about anger.”

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: What about the angst?

Kim:  Punk rock has always had its dark side.  Everyone felt like an outsider, yet we knew we were involved in something unique.  I found my place.  Where I fit in.

At nineteen Kim enrolled in beauty school.  Classes were from 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Quite conducive to the clubbing lifestyle.  Glam-o-rama.

Colleen:  I was fourteen and in high school.  Kim would cut my hair at the beauty school.  I became her hair model for salon interviews.  Growing up, Kim and I lived catty corner to me and my two older sisters, Kathleen and Eileen.  Kathleen was a “girlfriend” of The Bay City Rollers and John Waite—among others.  She claimed “Missing You” was written about her.  She and John Waite had the same color auburn hair.  That was their connection.  Kathleen ran away at sixteen.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: Rock and roll fantasyland.

Colleen:  Eileen and another friend of Kim’s, Nora Edison, all hung out and I tagged along.  Nora dated Louie, a drummer for DC3, and I lived in Venice Beach.  Punk rockers and poets.  Skateboarders like Tony Alva.  That’s where I met Eugene.  His claim to fame was the Penelope Spheeris documentary.  He took me out to dinner dressed in a 1960s retro suit.  He asked me to be his girlfriend.  When I said, “No,” he accused me of slumming it.  I wasn’t slumming it—I just thought it was too much for a freshman.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: Fast times at Kennedy High.

Kim:  I went up to Oakland with Louie and the band.  DC3 had a gig at The Covered Wagon in San Francisco.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: I saw my brother-in-law’s cousin, Nate Kato of Urge Overkill, at The Covered Wagon.  Before they covered Neil Diamond for Pulp Fiction.  Before Blackie’s heroin addiction.  Whatever became of Louie?

Kim:  Overdose.

Sex.  Drugs.  Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Make the Music Go Bang!

“The strong bond between bands and audiences was helped by the fact that the majority of these groups were not on the ego-tripping “We’re rock stars” excursion.  The members were fairly accessible and friendly—they would hang out and drink with the people who came to see them, and this helped break down the barriers created by all the “mega-stars.”—Keith Morris

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: How did you go from fanland to “I’m with the band?”

Kim:  A girlfriend I hadn’t seen for awhile came into the beauty school.  She invited me to a Judas Priest concert at the Long Beach Arena.  Greg Hetson, guitarist for the Circle Jerks, came with us.  We started dating almost right away and were together for the next seven years.  Keith Clark, the Circle Jerk’s drummer, and I would count the money after every show.  Count it, divide it, pay it out.  Now Keith’s my accountant, and Greg and I are Facebook friends.  He recently reminded me about feeding the baby giraffe at the zoo. 

It’s hands off nowadays for L.A. Zoo’s Giraffa camelopardalis subspecies tippelskirchii.

Repo Man

Repo Man featured the Circle Jerks, heightening the fantasy/reality aesthetic of the film.  Humor stops the theme of alienation short of annihilation.

Punk
I blame society.  Society made me what I am.

Otto
That’s bullshit.  You’re a white suburban punk just like me.

Kim:  The coolest people in the scene lived in nice suburban houses with their parents.  Yeah, there were some that lived on the streets—but they really didn’t want to be there.  Who would?

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: A mutual acquaintance was just telling me about her racing down Lankershim w/Corey Haim in the wee morning hours, Bret Easton Ellis scene style.

X Man

“I head for the Roxy, where X is playing. . . . they’re going to be singing “Sex and Dying in High Society” any minute now . . .”—Less Than Zero

Kim:  Greg, Keith Morris, John Doe, and I drove down to San Diego for a spoken-word performance.  Greg played acoustic guitar—which he never liked to do.  We drank beer and were bored for five hours.  When it came time to go, Keith was too drunk and Greg too tired to drive.  I hate driving.  John Doe stepped into the driver’s seat, looked at me, and said, “Baby, that’s what I’m here for.”  I sat up front and listened to Joh Doe the entire ride home.  Transfixed.  From then on, whenever we would see each other at a show, he would always say, “Hello.”

Reality Bites

And then it was Nirvana and the 90s.  Punk became pop flavor.  Kim and Greg parted ways.  New decade.  New boyfriends.  Always new hairstyles.

Kurt and Courtney

“Fame is a process of isolation.”—Kurt and Courtney

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: I loved the Kurt and Courtney documentary.  Ridiculous and enormously entertaining.  Nick Broomfield with his British accent—never veering from his serious “journalist” façade makes it almost believable.

Kim:  Anyone who’s been in L.A. for a length of time knows Courtney Love.  Before Kurt, she was a stripper married to a friend of mine.  A writer for the L.A. Weekly.  A transvestite who . . .

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: Lest we forget what happened to El Duce, keep the rest of your story L.A. confidential.  Just in case Courtney is a killer.

Al’s Bar + Spaceland

“There are people possessive of the early punk scene.  They try to hold on to it, but years go by all by themselves.  There’s still a scene.  It’s a bit modified, but any night of the week you can hear the music.”—Craig Ochoa

In 1996 Kim married musician Craig Ochoa.  His band, Gasoline, often played at Al’s Bar.  Instant electricity.  Impromptu drive-thru wedding.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: Reception venue?

Kim:  Spaceland.  I’ve known the owner, Mitchell, and all the bartenders for years.  We had the place from two ‘til eight.

Craig:  It was like watching a train full of people zoom by.  Zillion miles per hour.  Tippling.  Celebrating.  We had a western swing revival band—The Lucky Stars.  Tex Williams’ style.

Spaceland transformed into Weddingland.

The week before Kim and Craig’s fifth wedding anniversary, they attend a Circle Jerks reunion concert at Spaceland as VIPs.  Play catch-up with their crowd.  Afterwards, Greg Hetson (now of Bad Religion) gives them a lift home.

Garden Party

“I’m a loser baby.  So why don’t you kill me?”—Beck

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: I read an article about Gus Hudson in the music issue of Glue, and a little piece of my heart breaks.  I have no clue who he is, but I find it distressing that former protégé Beck has blown this unassuming Flipside Records producer off:  “It’s hard for us in the punk rock crowd to deal with bands that make it big. . . . We want the same relationship that we had before.  And somehow that ends.”

The next day, I go to a party at Kim and Craig’s.  Gus Hudson is there, wearing the same red shirt as his photo in the article.  As if he just stepped off the page into the backyard barbeque.  I have officially entered Kim’s own twilight zone.

Greek Theater

“We would talk every day for hours/We belong to the deadbeat club.”—B52’s

It’s a hot August night at the Greek Theater.  On the bill are the Go-Go’s, b52’s, and The Psychedelic Furs.  The Go-Go’s Behind the Music is in VH1 rotation.  Talk of who’s who and old school.  Kim and Craig meet and greet acquaintances.  Artists and critics.  We chat about Allison Anders and Kurt Voss’ Sugar Town.

Kim:  I’ll see anything with John Doe in it.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: And that’s how I learned about John Doe, Exene, and the scene.

Almost Famous

“Every picture tells a story,”—Faces

Kim and Craig see Almost Famous.  Coming out of the theater, a kid points to Craig’s bleached blond hair and shouts, “Eminem.”

Kim:  Kate Hudson’s dad played at my sixth-grade graduation.  The Hudson Brothers headlined Busch Gardens in The Valley.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: Do you think Cameron Crowe’s film glams the rock ‘n’ roll film genre?

Kim:  Definitely.  The “Band-Aids” were too clean.  Penny Lane had too many cute outfits.  But what went on backstage—the bus ramming the fence, band on the run—that kind of thing did happen.  Happened all the time.

Behind the Music

“The whole thing was about being yourself.”—Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten, The Filth and the Fury

Everything old is new again.  Kim styles longtime client Billy Idol’s hair for his VH1 Behind the Music episode.  Her eighteen-year-old assistant is in awe.

🆆[🅱🆃]🅻: Well, you are a part of L.A. punk rock history.

Kim:  Yes, that’s probably true.

(Billy Idol update:  TBD)

Kim’s newest clients are not always punk, but they do rock.  She creates hairstyles for band members Beautiful Creatures before they rejoin the Ozzfest tour.  Rock and Roll never forgets.

Silver Lake

“Stake her claim in Silverlake . . . chalking it all up to fate.”—Michael Penn

From atop costume stylist Houston Sam’s deck on Micheltorena—the same street that boasts silent screen star Antonion Moreno’s restored mansion The Paramour—Kim co-hosts a wedding shindig for close friends.  It looks like the opening scene of Austin Powers.  Eclectic collection of guests.  Hair by Kim.  Kim’s raucous laughter belies a cool reserve.  A contradiction in terms, much like the music that changed her days to nights so many odd years ago.  She holds her son, Aristotle.  His mini tee forewarns:  “Future Punk Rocker.”  Shifting the baby from one hip to another, Kim casts a glance over the celluloid skyline.  Balancing the dynamics of static and change in her ruby red go-go boots.

Postscript:  After Kim, Craig, and Aristotle and their guardian angel, Felix, resided in one of Walt Disney’s former homes in Los Feliz, they purchased their current home in Eagle Rock, the day the city appeared on the cover of the Los Angeles Times as the latest in L.A. trendy real estate.

It’s a small world after all.

The author in the 80s.

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