What We Do Is Secret


“Why am I a punk? Because I wasn’t anything before, except different. And now it’s like I’m different, but with a vengeance.”

It’s been months since the suicide of Darby Crash, L.A. punk rock icon and lead singer of the Germs. He checked out on the same day John Lennon was shot: December 8, 1980. But for Rockets Redglare, it feels like yesterday. Darby was the hot-as-sun center of Rockets’s world. Part ringleader, part god, and all charismatic manipulator, Darby was as close ...

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What We Do Is Secret

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“Why am I a punk? Because I wasn’t anything before, except different. And now it’s like I’m different, but with a vengeance.”

It’s been months since the suicide of Darby Crash, L.A. punk rock icon and lead singer of the Germs. He checked out on the same day John Lennon was shot: December 8, 1980. But for Rockets Redglare, it feels like yesterday. Darby was the hot-as-sun center of Rockets’s world. Part ringleader, part god, and all charismatic manipulator, Darby was as close to family as a hustler and street kid like Rockets might ever get.

Now, as Rockets amps up for another night looking for tricks and scrounging a meal, Sex Pistols and X lyrics on repeat in his head, he knows he’s come to a turning point–the scene is changing, and nothing’s as easy as it was when Darby brought him into the fold.

From the underground clubs to the back of the giant “H” in the Hollywood sign, Rockets and his crew of friends spend the night burning bridges, building new ones, tripping and talking and searching for answers. As the dark gives way to early morning, the punks and the cops engage in their ritual standoff–and Rockets faces the ultimate choice: Should he stay or should he go?

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Sex, drugs and self-awareness amid the 1980s punk scene, in an idiosyncratic second novel from Hillsbery (War Boy, 2000). Abandoned by junkie parents, Rockets trades the custodial embrace of the state for homelessness and hustling in Hollywood even before he hits puberty. He finally feels a sense of belonging in the L.A. punk scene that produced X, Flipper, The Circle Jerks and The Germs. Indeed, the story gets its title from a Germs single and its impetus from the 1980 suicide of the band's front man, Darby Crash. It may be morning in Reagan's America, but it's always dark in underground L.A., and Rockets' existence is a nightmare-enlightened only occasionally by fragments of sweet dreams-until he's saved one golden California morning by lesbian folksinger Phranc. The author mostly refrains from easy pathos in depicting his almost-30 protagonist, but he fails to bring Rockets to life, in part because the boy's history remains mostly obscured, and in part because the narrative voice is thoroughly unconvincing. Hillsbery's prose ranges from cutely opaque to merely cute, and it never seems to match the language available or likely to be compelling to a punk-rock kid 20 years ago. Instead, Rockets talks like a biker or a beatnik or a Tin Pan Alley songsmith. His stream-of-consciousness is unintended kitsch-and immensely wearying. Hillsbery achieves his only moment of real beauty or truth in his opening pages when Rockets offers a list of everything he hates. In the midst of this childishly nihilistic-and, therefore, truly punk-catechism, Rockets exclaims that he detests poseurs, which is to say that he is disgusted when external presentation fails to match inner reality. That being the case,it's difficult to imagine that he would have any use for What We Do Is Secret. May have some ethnographic value as a name-dropping record of early L.A. punk, but overly clever and utterly unpersuasive as a novel.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812973099
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/12/2005
  • Pages: 346
  • Sales rank: 1,509,429
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
This is supposed to be about Darby
Crash, but I don’t think it’s going to be. All my so-called life it seems it’s this boy here and that girl there and once they see my Germs burn and hear it’s real they know what they want as in word on the old-school LA punk scene and they know how to get it as in Tell it, Rockets, but now that I’m at their service sitting down to let my fingers do the talking the first clue card on the table says the only secrets I’m spilling are mine all mine alone, which sounds like here comes trouble if missing in traction from slippage in the spillage are the bleedall-
about-it excess-clusives that all those jacks and all those jills are pitching pretty pennies to read.
Like with yours coolly for instance, door number one there’s the sex stuff that’s nothing to do with punk at all, and door number two there’s stuff like what happened that night at the Nast Western that’s punk as fuckety-fuck, cross my cold cold heart and hope to cry baby cry, but still I’m not proud of,
how could I be. And I try to be all, No Fear and No Regrets but there’s one kind of fear you can’t exactly high-five with and make it all better now, that fear of who you really are,
ocean deep inside.
And I’ve had it for a while. Though not long enough to get over it, which I guess I will someday. So maybe what I should do right now is just say Shine, and go back to the Jell-O factory and wait bloody wait on someday bloody someday.
But I hate waiting.
I hate lots of things. I hate poseurs and trendoids and especially
I hate vals and especially especially that Valley hesher hang called Rock Corporation where all these clueless Germettes who didn’t know who I was picked me out for a pounding,
and when I defended myself these dumb buff surf boys from Seamy Valley jumped in screaming, “Don’t hit a girl, faggot.”
I hate the Bible and J. D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut. I
hate anything to do with fifties-based rock. I hate the Frito
Bandito. I hate Exene because she lied to me, once, and Hellin
Killer because she didn’t, twice. I hate that kid Elliot Mess because he’s dirty, he’s like so dirty he’s contagious, and I think of him with Darby and it makes me want to puke.
I hate every single waitress at the IHOP on Sunset across from Hollywood High. I hate picture postcards with jackalopes and Jake the Alligator Man. I hate that chicken game where you throw the knife between your fingers. I hate retarded punk names like Donna Rhia and Adam Bomb and
Dinah Cancer. I hate Aleister Crowley and Jimmy Page. I hate
Alice Cooper because he plays golf and I hate Avon Products too, Darby’s mom had a serious case of collection infection,
you had to juggle rubber duckies just to close the bathroom door.
I hate the Dils, they’re fakes, they’re not Communists. I
hate Farrah Fawcett-Majors. I hate sniffing spot remover. I
hate Rod Stewart haircuts. I hate that stuff that comes in a can,
Party Slime or whatever, I hate when you get it in your hair. I
hate all those loser chicks, the Crash Trash. I hate Spock ears.
I hate Gerber because when someone passes out at a party she’ll take a straw and blow vodka down their throat, and the idea is they’ll wake up puking, but sometimes they puke without waking and that’s how Jimi Hendrix died. I hate the way
Darby comes in too soon on “No God,” on Lexicon Devil, after the instrumental part, and ruins it.
I hate telemarketing and phone sex and maps to the homes of the oh my stars. I hate that dude who nails himself to the
Volkswagen. I hate the Greeks and the Romans and all that shit about how every advanced civilization is basically homosexual.
I hate that sick fuck chickenhawk Tar. I hate all the HB
bands with their fake English accents. I hate people who say
G.I. means Germs Incognito when it’s Guerrilla Insurgency,
and I hate the Doors. I hate heroin. I hate Amber. I hate Casey
Cola. I hate dry hits. I hate the fuckin tarantula that’s in The
. I hate all those little punk trashettes where you walk all over them in your boots in Daddy’s living room and to them it’s “having sex.” I hate Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace and I hate people who say Mohawk when they mean Mohican.
I hate that Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust.” And I
hate Scientology, oh I hate it wicked bad, Darby said there were twenty-six meanings for the word the and he liked to know exactly what they meant, he learned that from Scientology.
I love one thing in all LA, I love the purple sky at night.

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