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The (original) First Annual End of the World Show 47 years ago...here's how it happened

By TOM D'ANTONI // Seems like a timely idea to re-post my story on the First Annual End of the World Show in 1973

Little did I know that we'd be facing what we're facing in 2020, forty-seven years later.  --- Tom D 3/25/2020

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That's me in 1973 and that was my show. I was standing (although you can't see it) at the end of an uncompleted freeway. Declaring, "I'm getting out," was a plea for escape. If you've ever been to Baltimore, Maryland, you know why. Yes, I know it seemed like I was bravely getting out before the world ended, but upon further review I think I just wanted to get out of Baltimore. It took me 25 years to do that.

Thirty-nine years before the Mayans got famous for predicting the end of the world, we were celebrating it in Baltimore. It may have had something to do with the impending collision between earth and the comet Kahoutek. More likely, we were all sitting around smoking dope and somebody had a good idea.

Mose Allison once wrote:

Ever since the world ended,
I don't go out as much.
People that I once befriended
Just don't bother to stay in touch.
Things that used to seem so splendid
Don't really matter today.
It's just as well the world ended--
It wasn't working anyway.

Appearing at the show:

I know Portlanders like to think of themselves as weird, but consider this lineup:


Headlining was a band called Pooba. Before there was punk, there was Pooba. After Pooba, there was Glam Rock. Pooba didn't fit into either. They didn't fit, period. I scheduled them to headline, and thereby be the last band, because I knew everyone would leave when they started to play.

I had, not long before, been the publisher of the Baltimore's "underground" paper of record named HARRY. I had become fairly notorious and was so scary I couldn't hitchhike alone because no one would pick me up...at a time when hitchhikers always got rides. Perhaps that's evident from the poster.

Michael (From Great Neck) Klahr, one of our writers, wrote a piece on Pooba. In it, he said:

POOBA has captured the excitement of Rock and Roll without the accompanying restrictions of art or music.  This distillation is the most important since scientists isolated the spirochete as the little devil that causes syphilis.

POOBA has captured the noise that is basic to Rock and Roll!  The noise your parents hate.  POOBA's music is an exact recreation of what your parents perceive when they listen to Hard Rock.  Not the sounds that a rock band plays, but the sounds your parents hear.

There was a very wide generational divide at that time, much wider than we have today (to the disgust of today's youngsters).

He goes on:

POOBA is not really a band but a troupe.  There are approximately eight musical members - drums, bass, guitars and vocalist.  They arrive on stage with various costumes with all visible skin painted a shiny silver.  Unleashed they are a berserk toyshop of metallic horrors wound too tightly, exploding into the manic movements of uncontrolled psychotics.

The Poobettes, rumored to be all girls, complement the male musicians....The Poobettes in sexual splendor! Loose and wanton painted women.  With saliva dripping from their mouths they writhe an erotically suggestive palsy that climaxes is frequent she-demonlike shrieks.  Cries originating deep in the sweaty pussies that ceaselessly drip love juices for just one band - POOBA.

Steptoe T(he) Magnificent was the front man for Pooba. On Tuesday, he nearly remembered something about the show:

As for memories of that night..... throwing tampons with "POOBA PLUGS' written on them into the crowd...our "girls' passing out air sickness bags before the set....Wayne throwing up in a bucket he had next to him on stage.... Kraig and Chris Krixer arriving through a packed lobby in drag .......as to playing, it all become verrrryyy hazy.

A young individual was in the audience, now known by the name of Robyn Webb, she has been known by other names (including Dick Hertz), but that's another story. She remembers:

I’m not entirely sure how I learned that the end of the world was imminent, but as I was but a wee tranny at the time, the tender age of 15, I wasn’t going to go quietly into cosmic dust. No. I was going to party.

The show has left me permanently scarred, and the mighty mighty Pooba, brainchild of Baltimore underground rock legend, Steptoe T. Magnificent certainly helped. Earlier that year, at the Read Street festival, I had sent a great purple geyser of Boone’s Farm Mountain Grape wine spewing down the middle of Read Street during Pooba’s set. What a great show! And Pooba was good that day, too.

So, as purple seemed to be the color that defined my relationship with Pooba, I gulped down a couple of hits of purple microdot and headed on down to JHU.

The Chesapeake Retrievers

This was the only "straight" band, although there was a member or two who hadn't been in unaltered consciousness for some time. It was a Bluegrass band. Bluegrass was very popular in clubs at the time, the Mid-Atlantic states being a Bluegrass hotbed.

The band featured a great fiddler by the name of Jon Glik. I used to think of him as the Charlie Parker of the Bluegrass fiddle. He later went with Del McCoury and other such stars. He's still playing.

Their set was an interlude of near-sanity in an otherwise insane evening.

Jeff Berkow

He was a self-styled Rock star. How do we know? Because he wore a shirt with a star on the front all the time. He was a popular singer around town who had lived in Europe for a while, came back with a wife and kid and recorded what I consider to be the worst song in history, "Nancy Negro." Not kidding. He was later a partner in the concert production company Jim Davis (my collaborator on this show) and I launched and was subsequently run out of business by promoter Dickie Klotzman (who subsequently went to jail...although not for that).

He has found much more success operating Ethel and Ramone's, a Baltimore restaurant since 1993.

Fuji's Navy

Not an offshoot of Pooba, but close friends, somewhat led by Bill Blankenship. I'm not sure exactly what they were, but they were loud and left a cover of glitter on the stage, and in the first few rows of the audience, so much of it that when the Johns Hopkins Board of Directors met there the following morning, a shitstorm of approbation hit the Chaplain's Office, who had co-promoted the show with us.

Jim Davis remembers:

Fuji's Navy played the opening theme from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" - where he trips over the ottoman coming into the room - on the Hooverphone - an amplified vacuum cleaner.  The guy playing the vacuum cleaner was doing a better job holding the melody and line than the guys playing actual instruments.

Robyn continues:

As the live acts hit the stage, things became sort of blurry….a glorious cacophony from Fuji’s Navy, and then, as Steptoe, the Poobettes and the rest of his band of merry miscreants took the stage and began to create their own special brand of pandemonium, the acid started coming on strong. As the colors of the cosmos swirled around me, I thought to myself “Surely, this is the end of the world.” Suddenly, people in the crowd began to shout. At first, I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Eventually, through the hallucinogenic haze, I could tell they were all shouting “Egg Lady!!! Egg Lady!!!!”

I turned around to see a royal entourage enter the hall, and there, descending the aisle, was the Egg Lady herself. The late, great Edith Massey. After much hoopla surrounding her grand entrance, she came over toward me. “Anyone sittin’ here honey?” And she plopped herself down in the seat next to me. She reached into her handbag and pulled out a pint of Chevas Regal, handed it to me “Would you please open this, honey”….Dumbfounded, I complied and handed her the bottle. The colors swirled and swirled. We commenced to kill the bottle together and I had one of the most surreal evenings of my life.

John Waters' "The Diane Linkletter Story"

I had written the first, or one of the first reviews of "Pink Flamingos," and we had named John "Man of the year, in one of HARRY's final issues.

Jim Davis says:

I recall that Divine made a guest appearance at the show and took questions from the audience.  One of the questions was, "How does dog shit taste?"

"About like it smells," she said without batting either of her fabulously made-up eyes.

The film was based on the real-life story of the daughter of "Kids Say the Darndest Things" TV star Art Linkletter. Diane had jumped off a roof and killed herself while on acid. Linkletter was furiously anti-drug before this happened. What better fodder for parody, we all thought at the time.

This is what comes of being born with Baltimore DNA...although I must say the theme and consciousness caught on very quickly around the world as Mr. Waters' films gained popularity

The Legendary Cowboy Foulke

He was an old coot. Had been seen briefly "Pink Flamingos" but wasn't really part of the Waters crowd. He was a "Country and Hawaiian" lap guitar player who had been with Wild West and Hawaiian shows in the distant past. He still could play up a storm though.

Listen to a self-made audio cassette of his:

I took an interest and got him a few gigs in bars. He wanted hula girls. I got him hula girls. He make leis for them and taught them a time-step. He had gigs a couple times a year in bars in Ohio and not long after I met him, was in an auto accident and got his guitars smashed.

When he got home, in addition to driving him around to some bogus doctor's appointments (to collect insurance), I found him a triple-neck Gibson table-model guitar, which he used for the rest of his life.

He made his own wine (undrinkable), grew his own dope (didn't share) and showed his penis to the hula girls in the dressing room.

I got him a gig at the Cellar Door in D.C. shortly before I left to take a job in Los Angeles in 1977. He had three hula girls and opened for the New Riders of the Purple Sage. There he was, playing in the big time again. A few weeks after I settled in L.A., he died. But he died having his last gig be a big one for him.

As the show progressed:

Jim reports:

Goucher College girls were coming in, getting disgusted in about three minutes and leaving in a huff.  A couple of them complained to me on the way out that "this wasn't what we expected".  I asked what they thought the end of the world would look like, if not this?

Lew Rudner

As the show approached we ran out of money. We thought we'd have to cancel. All of a sudden this guy Lew Rudner showed up, literally fresh off the boat...a merchant marine. He'd put up the money if he could sing on the show.

Welcome to show biz, Lew.

"Love is Hard To Get, " a film and "Wendel Wilke on Parade," another film

Billed on the poster as being a "Firesign Theater" movie, it was actually by Firesign's Peter Bergman. It was made in 1973, and except for a few mentions in web searches, remains elusive and obscure. I think "Wendel Wilke on Parade" was a campaign film but nobody remembers anything about it.

And so....

It was a wild night. Don't even ask about the party at my place afterwards.

Robyn says:

Edith and I remained friends for years after that. I also remain friends with Steptoe, and this D’Antoni fellow, whose underground newspaper Harry I hold singularly responsible for corrupting me in my youth, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I consider myself to be a proud survivor of the first end of the world. So, if Friday, December 21 is supposed to be the next end of the world, my only question would be this. Who’s got the purple microdot?

As for me, I'm still trying to get out. Maybe today. One can only hope. Maybe I'll throw the 40th Annual End of the World Show in Portland next year...unless the world ends today.

Or as Mose says:

Ever since the world ended,
There's no more black or white.
Ever since we all got blended,
there's no more reason to fuss and fight.
Dogmas that we once defended
no longer seem worthwhile.
Ever since the world ended,
I face the future--
With a smile.

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