Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beautiful Bert: Rest In Peace


You will be missed
Originally uploaded by V'ron
The bulletin on myspace from the BB Slags, Beautiful Bert's latest band, was basic enough: "Beautiful Bert found dead today." The message went on to say that the BB Slags are no more and that he would be missed. A few phone calls later and a few more myspace bulletins, and yes, it's not some kind of awful joke. It's true. The King of KenoCore is gone. I don't know the details yet, and I'm not sure I want/need to.

Oh, how does one begin to write an obit about a guy who she first saw at Trash Fest some 15 years ago, unscheduled, walking into Club Garibaldi seeking out Voot Warnings (then the ringmaster) and saying, with all earnestness, "Hi. I'm Beautiful Bert and this is my band, the Crotch Crickets. We would like to know if we could play your Trash Fest."

"Are you ready to play NOW?" Voot asked.

"Shore 'nuff." And Voot motioned to the stage, they plugged in and within five minutes, a crowd that had thought they'd seen everything admitted that maybe not as every mouth in the room dropped to the floor. Within 10 minutes, Bert had dropped trou, and was proceeding to do things with a salami that Old Man Usinger had never envisioned.

But that's not what I hope everybody remembers about Bert, because as I have written and written and written about him, if you took away the salami (and other objects he ostensibly put up his butt -- get real, they only made it past the crack), if he lost 200 pounds, if he didn't TRY to be gross, you would still be left with a master punk showman, a commanding stage presence, and one of the best, tightest, hands down ass-kicking hardcore punk bands it was ever my pleasure to mosh to in the Great Lakes area.

Off stage, Bert was a good guy with a heart of gold. Yes, he could be a dick sometimes, but he wasn't the first person whose stage persona bled into his real life. And I've never met an entertainer who wasn't a dick sometimes. But really, Bert could actually be sweet. And as proof of that, know that not only did he influence a whole scene of great punksters in SE Wisconsin, but he was downright loved by that scene. I know of two bands that wrote songs about Beautiful Bert, and I'm sure there's more. I would venture to guess there's a lot of people who picked up guitars because of Beautiful Bert. (What they did with them after they picked them up is a different story, I'm sure.)

As word spreads, there will be a lot of people who will be at first, taken aback, and then admit they're not surprised. Bert lived hard and played hard, but he won't be forgotten. I've always believed that a person's life is defined by the stories he left, and Bert left enough stories for all of us to tell for many years to come. We'll laugh over many of the stories, and in his passing, we'll tell them with a note of sadness. And maybe we'll wonder in our own minds if some of those laughs were at his expense. We'll wonder if he knew how much he was appreciated. We'll wonder if he realized that after the initial shock, we all knew he was a great punk artist, going down as we suspect all great punks do.

Rest in peace, Bert. You will indeed be missed, but certainly not forgotten, and to a punk musician, that's the finest eulogy I can give.

2 comments:

steven edward streight said...

I loved that name of his band "The Crotch Crickets". I made a blog for The Skabs and Gabby Skab did a tribute to Bert, in which I added some photos.

The Skabs blog

V'ron said...

I got another commen that I accidentally deleted, but at least it was forwarded to my email, so I'll re-post it here:


MY NAME IS DESIREE JOHNSON ...I GREW UP AROUND BERT AND IM SHOCKED AND SAID AT THE SAME TIME...HE WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF MY DAD CARL JOHNSON WHO ALSO PASSED AWAY IN MARCH OF LAST YEAR..IM SURE HE IS IN A BETTER PLACE NOW AND MAY HE REST IN PEACE I THANK HIM FOR ALL THE WONDERFULL MEMORIES.

Thanks, Desiree. I'm sorry for your loss of both your friend Bert as well as your dad.