Southland Tales: Von Dutch

Southland Tales

Photo by: Michael Essington

I was driving through Northridge with my wife and son some time back and as I was heading down Nordhoff, I saw two young guys, about ten years old, on skateboards. Nothing out of the ordinary, but what really got to me was that one of them was wearing a Misfits t-shirt with their “Crimson Ghost” design on it. That really got me thinking.

Back when I got their Slash Records release of Walk Among Us—in the early part of the 80s—I wouldn’t have been able to casually walk down the street wearing a Misfits shirt without people yelling stuff out of their cars at me, or occasionally throwing stuff at me. On one hand, I’m happy that this music has caught on. But on the other, I feel like the way people from the 60s must’ve felt: “Just leave our icons alone.” When I hear about people enjoying a comment that Henry Rollins has said on his IFC show, it makes me want to say, “Back-off.” Henry was my generation’s Jim Morrison, in a weird sort of way.

In the mid-1960’s my father met Jim Morrison at a party up in Topanga Canyon. My dad walked in and the host of the party came up to him and said, “Hey, Tom. There’s someone I want you to meet.” My dad followed him around a corner and through a doorway and, lying on the floor of an unfurnished room, with his head propped on the base of the wall, was the Lizard King himself. Morrison reached out his hand and said “Hey Man, nice to meet you.” And that was it.

Over the years, I’d asked my father to repeat that story a few times and it made me think: Will my son ask me about Henry? Better yet, will the kids on the skateboards want to know what it was like the first time my brother and I met Glenn Danzig—or was it just a cool shirt to buy?

Another trend that throws me is people wearing the Von Dutch logo on their clothing. My father told me about a time he’d been up to visit Von up at his place in Topanga Canyon and Steve McQueen had come by and asked Von to paint his motorcycle. McQueen went into great detail about how he wanted the job done, Von nodding his head in agreement all the while. My dad left but went back a few days later, just as McQueen was pulling up in a truck to pick up his bike. They went into the garage, and there was McQueen’s ride, freshly painted, but nothing like McQueen had requested. They all looked back and forth at each other, then McQueen shrugged his shoulders and paid Von.

A few months later my father went back up into the canyon for a visit. There was a little get-together going on, everybody drinking, and in the middle of it all Von heard a helicopter flying by. He ran into the bedroom and came running back out with a shotgun. Most of the people scattered, but my father followed Von and watched as he began shooting into the sky, trying to down the helicopter. I guess that happened once too often, because the local law eventually asked him to leave the area. Von relocated to Compton.

What’s the point to all this? It’s “Do you know what you’re wearing, or is it just a great design?”

Michael Essington

About Michael Essington

Michael Essington is an American author and poet, most famous for his Mike Check column. Over the years Essington has done dozens of celebrity interviews, as well as hundreds of music reviews. The weekly Mike Check column, which appears on Strange Reaction, has also been printed in The Los Angeles Beat and the very popular Deep Red Magazine. Essington's column is read weekly by thousands of fans from Los Angeles to Denmark. Essington has been writing since his high school days. He is married to wife, Elizabeth, and has two children, daughter, Breana & son Lucas. And has a dog, Max, that Essington suspects may have a learning disability or a general lack of life goals.
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4 Responses to Southland Tales: Von Dutch

  1. Eddie Cook says:

    Great story, sounds like your dad lived a wild life too~

  2. What a fun story! Your dad sounds cool. I liked your writing style too. I hope you don’t mind, but I reblogged your piece on

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