BODY COUNT: LIFE AND TIMES OF HUSTLA’ LOLLAPALOOZA SAN FRANCISCO 1991
Whoever said hustlin’ ain’t easy never met Ernie C.
Back in 1991 I was working for Jello Biafra at Alternative Tentacles Records in San Francisco. It was that year, or maybe the year before, that Ice-T’s heavy metal band Body Count had released an album that opened with a sample of one of Jello’s spoken word recordings. Ice was a big fan of Dead Kennedys and Biafra.
When Ice-T took Body Count out for their inaugural tour as a part of the first Lollapalooza fest, he invited Jello to come out and say hello.
Biafra, myself and the rest of the small A.T. staff had been planning to go to the festival anyway because our friends in Nine Inch Nails were playing, and even if they hadn’t been, we had peeps at Bill Graham Presents who always got us into shows out at the Shoreline Amphitheater in the suburbs near San Francisco where Lollapalooza would soon be happening.
Jello let Ice know he’d be there. Luckily, I’d be there too.
Yeah, I was waaaay cool back then.
The festival was fun, totally sunny, tons of people, great bands, we got backstage, ate good food, I met some of the rockstars milling about, and ate way too many Jell-o shots.
It just struck me… I don’t remember Jello having any Jell-o shots…
Each of the acts playing the fest had their own set of mobile-classroom type backstage trailers. We found Body Count’s trailers and stopped by to visit. The guys were hanging out, looking very cool, very Gangsta. They were all super nice, Ice-T was as friendly and down-to-earth a man as you could hope to meet, and it was all very pleasant.
We had been chatting for while when the band’s lead guitarist Ernie C., who had been absent until now, entered the scene carrying an empty duffle bag, looking amused and more than a little bit pleased with himself.
Ernie C. (who Ice would later introduce from the stage colorfully as “…the ignorant lil’ n-gga on lead guitar…”) explained to everyone where he had been. He told us he was outside in the parking lot of the venue selling Body Count T-shirts directly to fans as a way of circumventing having to give Bill Graham Presents the 20% cut they took off the top from the legitimate merchandise stands run by their staff inside the place.
Security had busted Ernie in the parking lot and refused to believe he was in the band, which is not an unreasonable assumption for them to have made, after all: why would a rockstar be out in the parking lot standing in the hot sun selling his band’s t-shirts from a duffle bag?
You can’t really blame the security for not knowing that the reason this was happening was because this particular rockstar happened to be a CERTIFIED HUSTLA’ off the streets of South Central Los Angeles by the name of ERNIE C.!
Ernie smooth talked, shrugged off, and ultimately convinced security he was legit without having to give up one dollar of the fat stack of cash he’d earned out there.
Score one for Ernie C.!
Later as we left, Biafra mentioned to Ice-T how much he admired the oversized, black, padded jackets the band was wearing. The ones with the embroidered Body Count Logo on the back that was a take off on the famous Oakland Raiders logo. Ice asked if he wanted one and Biafra said he did.
As soon as Jello expressed his wish, Ice told one of his entourage to “give the man your jacket”. Much to the apparent chagrin of the big dude wearing the jacket in question I might add.
The A.T. guys and I protested that it wouldn’t be right and it was far too kind to give Jello the jacket off the guy’s back. Biafra thought it was okay however and that the guy could always get a new one and so it was that Biafra took the jacket and put it on along with his new Body Count stocking hat.
The only thing missing from his ensemble were the dark, wrap around shades.
Score one for Biafra.
Body Count photo from the web.