Thursday, April 19, 2012

Death By Misadventure: El Duce

Eldon Hoke shouldn't be remembered for anything, much less as an integral piece  to the Kurt Cobain murder conspiracy puzzle.  If not for an interview British film maker Nick Broomfield conducted with Eldon Hoke in 1997, the entire Courtney Love  murdered Kurt Cobain theory  would have died a well deserved death. That without a doubt, would have pleased Courtney to no end. Broomfield's interview and documentary ignited an eternal flame  forever fueled by nutcase conspiracy theorists.

Eldon Hoke is best remembered as El Duce, a low rent version of GG Allin (which is quite low by any standard) Although, compared to El Duce, GG Allin almost had some redeemable qualities. El Duce was the axis that his schlock rock band The Mentors swirled around. Born and raised in Seattle, Hoke was involved in that city's punk rock music scene from the start (1975) as a member of The Screamers (then known as The Tupperwares)

The Screamers' front men Tomata du Plenty (David Harrigan) and Tommy Gear  relocated to Los Angeles (over threats of a lawsuit from container manufacturer Tupperware, they had changed their name) while the rest of the band members stayed behind in Seattle. In 1978 Eldon Hoke teamed up with guitarist, Sickie Wifebeater (not his real name) and Dr. Heathen Scum (not a real doctor) to form The Mentors. 

With Eldon Hoke playing drums and singing (that's a liberal description of what he did) The Mentors belched and drank their way to relative notoriety around Seattle.  The Mentors worked with political incorrectness the way Siegfried and Roy worked with lions and tigers. In both cases, the only thing that kept the animals at bay, was bravado and bluster. To this end Hoke proudly proclaimed that the music they played was "rape rock"

This unchecked stupidity couldn't go unnoticed.  Once The Mentors took their act to the big city (Los Angeles) all the sleaziest of television producers started calling.  El Duce made a controversial appearance on Hot Seat with Wally George during which he claimed  that "The Mentors and their fans  want rape rock!" This was followed by a totally staged "outrageous" appearance on Jerry Springer's show.

 El Duce became a regular on Hot Seat, during which he would espouse his worldly views such as "I can tell when women want to get raped by the look in their eyes", invariably this would lead to Wally George calling for security to forcibly remove El Duce from the set, which was usually accompanied by hissing and booing from the studio audience.  Bad publicity is better than no publicity and  The Mentors took whatever they could get.
As musicians The Mentors were an abysmal failure. Eldon beat on the drums while croaking out the "lyrics" Eric Carlson (Sickie Wifebeater) played slash and burn guitar and Steve Broy (Dr. Heathen Scum) thumped along on bass. Eventually, Hoke moved out from behind his drum kit. The move was necessitated by the his worsening alcoholism, which made it hard for him to sing and drum at the same time. (it's hard to drum and hold a beer bottle) Moosedick took over the battery, to ease the load on El Duce.

 As performance artists they fared a little better, their trademark black KKK hoods quickly drew plenty of attention. One clueless journalist even went so far as to summarize that the band's provocative lyrics made hiding their real identities necessary. While the band's songs ran the lyrical gamut from violence  to anal sex, it was all sophomoric bullshit. Probably no worse than what you would hear in a typical frat house on a Saturday night.  

In 1985 the U.S. Senate famously decided to hold hearings on the proliferation of "obscene" lyrics in rock and rap music.  This led to the surreal scene of the Rev. Jeff Ling reciting the lyrics to The Mentors song, "Golden Shower", "Bend up and smell my anal vapor/Your face is my toilet paper" (probably not the first time that was uttered on the Senate floor) An angry Frank Zappa (to whom Ling had recited the lyrics) promptly declared the hearings a farce.
The U.S. Senate reached a new level of bizarre when Tipper Gore quoted the same song, "Listen, you little slut, do as you are told, come with daddy for me to pour the gold." If you wish to have your sensitive sensibilities assailed, just stick around. "All through my excrement you shall roam" Tipper continued "On your face I leave a shit tower, golden shower."  The Mentors operated under one basic principal: If you wish to be offended, we will offend you.

The joke was on Congress, the music by itself did not matter. Much like the ropes around a wrestling ring, it was just another prop. Band members came and went (Jack Shit, El Rapo etc.) and even legendary guitarist Scott "Wino"  Weinrich (The Obsessed) played bass for the band (anonymously) After El Duce's untimely demise he was replaced by Mad Dog Duce  (Marc Deleon) However,  that's enough of this crap! let's get to the meat of the story.

Like I said previously, these assholes would be lost in the ozone along with scores of dead brain cells, if not for the now infamous Nick Broomfield interview. The gist of this sordid episode begins with El Duce being approached by Courtney Love outside The Rock Shop (a Hollywood record store) in December of 1993.  the following conversation is alleged to have taken place:

C Love: "El, I need a favor of you. My old man's been a real asshole lately, I need you to blow his fucking head off."
El Duce: "Are you serious"?
C Love: "Yeah, I'll give you $50,000 to blow his fucking head off."
El Duce: "I'm serious if you are".
CLove: "Where can I reach you"?
El Duce: "You can reach me here".

They then went inside to discuss the matter in a more private setting.  Shop owner Karush Sepedjian said he overheard Love saying, "Can you handle doing this? Can you get this done? What do you want for it"? Hoke would later tell Sepedjian that Courtney  offered him $50,000 and a blow job on the spot, which he turned down.  Hoke gave Love a business card and she left.  For his part, Eldon brushed it off as just some crazy shit from a crazy bitch.

In March of 1994, Sepedjian received a call from Love asking for El Duce. The band was on tour and when he informed Courtney, she started screaming ""That son of a bitch, we made an agreement. What am I going to do"? Karush told her " "I don't know, I've got a business to run. Goodbye."  he would later describe her state of mind as frantic.  Love did not call back and Sepedjian did not relay the message to Eldon Hoke. 

Ten days later Kurt Cobain did indeed blow his head off... allegedly? Sepedjian: "I was like Whoa! I wonder if she actually did pay some sucker to blow off his head"? El Duce would add: "Maybe she got somebody else. I think Kurt was getting ready to divorce her for adultery charges. She had to have him whacked right away so she could get the money."  Three years would pass, before El Duce's interview with Broomfield.

After the interview, Eldon agreed to take a polygraph test. When asked "Did Courtney Love ask you to kill Kurt Cobain?" his respond fell into the category of "beyond possibility of deception" when asked "Were you offered $50k by Courtney Love to kill Kurt Cobain?" the result was nearly the same. Hoke stated that although  he wasn't interested in the offer,  he had passed the information on to an associate named Alan.

The reliability of polygraph tests ranks right up there with bullshit detectors, so it all has to be taken with a grain salt. On April 17th, 1997, Eldon Hoke showed up at the home of Drew Gallagher, he asked how he could get a fake driver's license. When queried by Gallagher, Hoke responded "People get buried in cornfields, people get lost in swamps"  when Gallagher asked what he meant by that, Hoke hinted that he may have killed Kurt Cobain.

After his final performance on  April 18, 1997 at Al's Bar in Los Angeles.  El Duce proceeded on one of his customary drinking binges.  The following evening he showed up in the company of a man he claimed to have met that day.  Just one week had passed since his interview with Broomfield and Eldon Hoke was exhibiting signs of extreme paranoia. The two men shuffled off into the night to continue their debauchery.

The following day, Hoke's mangled body was discovered on the railroad tracks in Riverside, Ca.  I won't dwell on the irony of a man called El Duce being killed by a train that ran on time. Hoke had either  fallen asleep on the tracks, drunkenly stumbled or been pushed in front of an oncoming train by the mysterious stranger. The conclusion you draw depends on whether you subscribe to the Cobain murder conspiracy theories or not.

What do I think happened? Sure as Elvis is dead, Kurt Cobain blew his head off and there's nobody that could ever convince me that Courtney Love or El Duce could have written Cobain's masterful suicide letter. This case is closed and all the asshole conspiracy buffs can move on to Tupac  or Michael Jackson. The coroner's office declared that Eldon Hoke's death was due to "misadventure" thus earning him a spot in my hall of shame.

Scene, Broomfield is taken to meet El Duce at his abode in Riverside, L.A. by Divine Brown's pimp, who is a close personal friend of El Duce.

Pimp: "There he is, El Duce."
Broomfield: "Where? Oh yes."
Pimp: "There he is right there. This is him, El Duce."
El Duce: "Yaaargh. Where's the booze?"
Pimp: "He's just perverted!"
El Duce: "Yeah, a warped er, intoxicator, most of the time."
Broomfield: "So you er, did some deal with Courtney right?"
El Duce: "Yes."
Here Broomfield interjects the interview explaining that under British Libel Laws he was forced to cut these allegations. It was impossible to substantiate any of El Duce's allegations.
Broomfield: "That's a fact is it?"
El Duce: (laughs.)
Broomfield: "People might think that you are not the most reliable witness."
El Duce: "Well, that's too bad. You may not be the reliable witness your own self, now think about that!" (laughs.)

Broomfield again interjects with: "El Duce, I found out was well known in the L.A. music scene. A wild man with a strong following. He claims to have known Courtney over the years and that she came to the Rock Shop and made him an offer. Unfortunately it is this offer we were unable to substantiate. An offer that El Duce claims was very extreme. And that there was no way that it could be reproduced without having hard evidence that it was true. And under British libel laws as they stand today, that would be impossible."

El Duce: "I just didn't think she was serious. (laughing.)
Broomfield jumps in with: "Unfortunately he was just a bit too wild and brilliant for the English libel laws.But she didn't say anything about making."
El Duce: cuts him off with, "Make it look like a suicide."
Broomfield: "Well, yeah, but if you just blew his brains out like you said, it wouldn't look like a suicide, it would look like you blew his brains out."
El Duce: "Right, but er, I told Alan, (looks up sheepishly towards Divine Brown's pimp)- I mean er, my friend who (starts laughing) aah, I'll let the FBI catch him, but er, (laughs, that's just the way it's done. End of Story (laughs again). Hey 50 grand does a lot of talking. You buy me a beer I might do some more talking, (laughs, looks into the camera, and after a short pause) Yaaaaargh!"
Broomfield: "and that seemed to be the end of the interview. I didn't know quite what to think. El Duce had passed a polygraph test, even though his main witness (Sepedjian,) had nodded off before its completion."