STIV: No Compromise No Regrets: Film Review

PART 1 - Of The Life of Stiv Bators

CBGB The Dead Boys| The Dead Boys New York City| Stiv Bators No Regrets No Compromise Film Review| Punk Rock 1977 | Hilly Kristal |Hot Metro Finds Detroit New York

DETROIT - The '70s brought a lot of hidden rock and roll talent out into the forefront. The gutter appeal of Iggy Pop proved to be a big influence over many up and coming bands. The documentary film "Stiv" No Compromise No Regrets" looks into the life of one of Rock's most original personalities - Stiv Bators. The movie starts with a quote from Charles M. Young from Rolling Stone Magazine “If he wasn’t the last true rock star, he was one of the most colorful warriors in that rare tribe of artists who forged their values before the Reagan era and refused to change as greed and fear infected the world around them.” This film, directed by Danny Garcia, (Sad Vacation) looks into the bizarre and troubled life of rock star Stiv Bators from his days in The Dead Boys to his untimely end.

The narrative starts from the end of the Stiv Bators legend and retraces his steps from where he died in Paris. Musician Herve' De Wallenberg relates why Stiv moved from the United States to live in Paris. Bators had fallen madly in love with a musician named Caroline. Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats relates how the two kindred souls were made for one another, (she would read Edgar Allen Poe to him by flashlight). The film narration is interjected with snippets of musicians who knew Stiv best and archival footage. Bators looks at the camera whole holding onto his girlfriend and offers advice "When you love someone you can love yourself".

CBGB The Dead Boys| The Dead Boys New York City| Stiv Bators No Regrets No Compromise Film Review| Punk Rock 1977 | Hilly Kristal |Hot Metro Finds Detroit New York

Stiv's death was unexpected. He died while crossing the street and was struck by a cab. By the time of his death, age 40, Stiv had lived the life of ten men. He had been a scenester, a leader, and pioneered a style that would live on through bands after his demise. Stiv had the uncanny ability to infiltrate any scene and make an impression. Musician Ray Hanson, (Thee Hypnotics, The Whores Of Babylon) explains that he felt like he had known Stiv for a very long time. Stiv reached a point of sincere peace in his life and had moved away from the violent punk scene and was forming a new supergroup.

The new rock group would be redux of his old band the Lords of the New Church. This time it would feature an all-star roster with Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders from the New York Dolls. But there was trouble in paradise and a fight broke out between Dee Dee and Thunders. This escalated to the point where Dee Dee Ramone would pour bleach all over one of Johnny's prized guitars and all over his clothes. Fearing the worst Thunders ran out of Stiv's apartment and left the project. Stiv was inspired by the French Punk Rock bands such as Jad Wio and the "Priscilla" video. Stiv was attracted to the strange fishnets, leather, and black knee-high boots and would incorporate this fashion into his new look.

The film then jumps back to the very early days of Stiv in 1949, Cleaveland, Ohio. Stiv grew up in a suburb called Girard. This was an industrial steel town and his father Steve Bators was an accomplished musician frontman in a polka band. His parents were polar opposites and Stiv got a sense of humor from his father as well as musical ability. The story of his early years is told by his girlfriend Cynthia Ross, Jimmy Zero from the Dead Boys, and Dave Tregunna from The Lords.

CBGB The Dead Boys| The Dead Boys New York City| Stiv Bators No Regrets No Compromise Film Review| Punk Rock 1977 | Hilly Kristal |Hot Metro Finds Detroit New York

Stiv gets involved with music and while unable to play an instrument he mock plays a harmonica using his hands and a microphone. His early band, Mother Goose, pomps up the style and flash while delivering hard rock from Iggy Pop, The Rolling Stones, and The Sonics. They play high schools and later change the name to The Rotten Tomatoes. Bators would have a revelation while watching Iggy Pop perform in Detroit. He would later comment that rock and roll had nothing to do with music but instead it was all style and stage presence.

Stiv believes in himself and meets up with future Dead Boys, Cheetah, and Jimmy Zero while playing in The Atomic Bums. Stiv is living out of his car but makes sure he looks the part of playing the rock star. The new incarnation of the band returns with the name Frankenstein and they take the theatrics to a new level with fake blood and whip cream. The audience loves the insane performance. One night while driving 70 MPH down the freeway Stiv moons the car next to him and it is Joey Ramone. A friendship is made and Joey invites Stiv and his band to play the Sunday night slot in New York City's famous CBGB's.

The band is a hit with the audience and is renamed The Dead Boys. They kick up a bit of attention in the media and bar sales go up. Bators does bizarre things on stage like cut himself, eat on stage using his hands, and punching himself in the face. Bar manager Hilly Kristal takes an interest and decides to manage the band and get them into a studio to cut a demo for an album. The Dead Boys are booked into Electric Lady studios on 52 West. The band insists on getting drunk and high while cutting the finished album and Hilly complies. A truck filled with Schlitz beer and Jack Daniels is sent out from CBGB's every four hours while recording "Young, Loud and Snotty".

CBGB The Dead Boys| The Dead Boys New York City| Stiv Bators No Regrets No Compromise Film Review| Punk Rock 1977 | Hilly Kristal |Hot Metro Finds Detroit New York

There is a strange altercation while recording the album. Guitarist Jimmy Zero grabs rocker Peter Frampton who was recording next door and gives him a drunken bear hug. This turns off Frampton and he quickly vacates the studio. Leaving his state of the art guitar system behind the Dead Boys snatch it up and use it without permission to record their first album.

The loud and obnoxious stage shows that followed the release of the album are legendary. Always the showman, Stiv Bators unleashes a box of grasshoppers into the crowd for shock value. The album is panned by the rock critics and not given any serious attention. Stiv gives a sincere interview to the press that Punk Rock is healthy and a way to get aggression out. He explains, that kids can do it themselves or that by coming to a Dead Boys show Stiv can do it for them.

Now the Dead Boys are under a contract and have to deliver a second album. The project is rushed and a new producer enters the picture, Felix Pappalaro, and he cuts the guitars which infuriate the band. Fights break out freely, and the recording sessions don't go as planned. By this time Stiv and his girlfriend Cynthia Ross, (B Girls) move into the Chelsea Hotel for three months. Their neighbors are the famous Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. They do a special cable TV show two weeks before she is found murdered.

Stiv, Jimmy Zero and Sid Vicious had purchased some 007 switchblade knives in Chelsea, New York. They originally buy them for protection against the violent drug people that surround the area. There is an episode with Johnny Blitz, (shown in the film CBGB) where he gets cut up really bad and gets put into the hospital. Hilly Kristal comes to the rescue with a three-day fundraising benefit to help with medical expenses. On May 5,6, 15 1978 three shows are held featuring The Ramones, Suicide, Dictators, Student Teachers, Steel Tips, Sic Fucks, Jerry Nolan from the New York Dolls, Criminal and the Dead Boys.

The Dead Boys kick up a lot of fuss and heavy hitter people start coming around to talk about business projects. Keith Richards enters their scene along with an attorney from Pink Floyd. The problem comes when guitarist Cheetah refuses to give up his drugs. When Stiv tells him to choose between his drugs or the Dead Boys Cheetah responds with "Fuck You!". This is where the Dead Boys end and Stiv is relieved. He tires of the Punk Rock scene citing he didn't like the way the people looked. By 1980 he reaches out to an old friend Frank Secich to start The Lords of the New Church.

This is just half of the story. The film runs for 90+ minutes and is filled with insights, and rare stories about the Punk movement. Any fan will find this documentary fascinating and a thrill to watch. The live performances are very good and the sound quality is excellent.




CBGB The Dead Boys| The Dead Boys New York City| Stiv Bators No Regrets No Compromise Film Review| Punk Rock 1977 | Hilly Kristal |Hot Metro Finds Detroit New York

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