When I first started this blog I made a list of some of the men I had dated like bank robber but I carelessly omitted an important title – Rock Star. OK, when I met Dave Brockie, during our first year in Art School at Virginia Commonwealth University, he was not a rock star nor did his preppy button down Oxford shirt looks indicate that he might ever be one. But I, along with a collection of other arts students, punk rockers and club kids got to witness his transformation into his alter ego, Odurus Urungus, that lead the “punk” band GWAR to enough fame to go on world tours and garner two Grammy nominations.
It must have been the summer of 1984…or maybe ’85. The dates are irrelevant. It was Richmond, Virginia and it was as hot and muggy as a Bikram class with 100 people. We were both in our early twenties and crackling with hard bodied sexuality. Most of our friends had left town for other adventures or at least the respite of air-conditioning in their parent’s comfortable homes in whatever suburbs from which they originated leaving us to discover each other with little notice by our social circle.
Brockie was already known in the local music scene due to his involvement with a band called Death Piggy which played local bars and Schaefer Court at VCU and was about to envision Odurus during a drug induced splurge of creativity. By the next summer he and the original GWAR members would be squaters in the Milk Bottle Building carving the first character costumes out of foam.
I was a fixture on the dance club circuit, marking my weeks by what club I was in rather than the actual day. (If I was at the Bus Stop it must be Wednesday.) My wardrobe gleaned from almost daily visits to fan area Thrift Stores where store owners simply gave up selling stuff to me and lent dresses, shoes, jewelry and bags for the night with the understanding that I would pass out business cards to anyone who asked about my outfit.
I fail to recall how we became involved. We already knew each other so there was not a moment of spotting each other from across a crowded room or anything as charming as that to mark the beginning of our little affair but there was an undeniable, tractor beam of physical attraction between us that resulted in insatiable, power-full sexual encounters. We could barely be alone for ten seconds before garments were ripping from flesh and raw animal passion engulfed us. I think many women may have had this experience of Dave, but I swear there was something different about the two of us. Some primal connection from a past life, maybe, but definitely something.
At any rate, we did stuff other couples did at the time, like talk on the phone, go to the movies and eat in restaurants. But anyone who knew Dave Brockie will tell you that he was intense, expressive and intensely expressive. There was just something unique going on in that oversized head of his, a world that intrigued me but that I was pretty sure I did not want to dwell in. He could be so endearingly sweet yet equally crass and thoughtless. And, ohmygod, the violence in his art. His paintings at the time were filled with sex and violence, blood and gore. Cartoon like but raw. I often thought it would be amazing to be in his head for about 20 minutes but any time over that would be too much.
I remember one time we were out with my cousin, another woman close to our age, and she expressed an interest in him. I told Dave that if he liked her I would be OK with them having a tryst and he became super indignant. I asked him to explain why he was so angry and he just couldn’t and he stormed off. We never agreed on that but we did make up only to end the relationship soon after.
Dave wanted to give me a painting and so we made a date for me to come to his apartment to pick one out. When I arrived he was surprised (he was already stoned or tripping) we greeted each other in our own special way then he said he had promised some of his friends to drop some acid and break into the National and did I want to come along. I said, “No” and expressed some dismay regarding the change in plans. Dave said he really wanted to go with this friends but I could wait for him. I said “No” again and left. That was the end of our summer fling but not the end of our attraction.
A few years later, after I was married and had become a mother, my then husband and I went to the 930 Club in DC to see a GWAR show as a break from early parenting. I went to the green room to see Dave and Don Draculitch (who was another VCU pal). Dave was chatting with some major reporter from the Post or somewhere. It was as though he could telepathically sense me because once I was fully in the room he stopped talking to the reporter, turned around and made a bee line to hug and kiss me. “Mary Burruss, ” he beamed. I introduced him to my husband then Dave sidled up a little closer and looking down into my eyes, a mischievous grin forming across his face, asked, in all sincerity, If I would come back after the show and go back to the hotel with him. I laughed as if he were joking but he really wasn’t. And to be honest, it took a great deal of restraint to ignore his request but I behaved and at the end of the show went home with my husband. There were other incidents over the years were we would run into each other and I would detect that same twinkle in his eye and he in mine- not memory but gleeful possibility.
But of course it was impossible. I could not cross the line into the kind of life Dave had chosen though I applaud him for making a living out of truly doing and being what he loved.
I was oddly touched when he died of a heroin overdose on March 23rd of this year. I hadn’t seen him for four or five years though I had toyed with asking him for that painting.In a profound way it was the perfect time for Brockie to check out. He embodied youth and child-like wonder so at age 50, the precipice in time when our lives transition from youth to undeniable adulthood and pending limitation, it was right for him to leave quietly. I like to think he simply left his body as part of his drug trip, got distracted by something and forgot to jump back into his skin.
I cried rivers for the loss of my own youth that Dave symbolized but I didn’t cry for him. He had an excellent ride, performing for crowds all over the world, making art, living his perverse dreams. What more could anyone ask for?
Three days after his death, he visited me in a dream to tell me he loved me and give me some advice -which I have now forgotten.
I don’t know if I will ever experience that kind of carnal chemistry with another human being again in this lifetime but maybe one summer with Dave Brockie for a lover sufficiently filled that quota.