In the late '80s and early 90's, the Kater Litho warehouse in Hollywood was a halfway house for wayward junkies and fading rock stars. Freezing in winter and sweltering in summer, the warehouse itself was a cavernous building near the corner of Highland and Santa Monica, where just about anyone with a pair of hands could earn minimum wage ($4.25) while collating, stapling and shipping black-and-white ad slicks for any number of sub-par movies. There was a lot of downtime waiting for those ad slicks to roll off the presses, which created a lot of "interesting" moments. The employees would start up impromptu gladiator-style baseball or football games by crafting balls and helmets out of kraft paper and shipping tape, or mummify their fellow employees with shrink-wrap and drop them off with the pushers and prostitutes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Sometimes management would emerge from the office and stalk the warehouse with BB guns, just to make sure we were on our toes. The junkies created makeshift cardboard huts in the back of the shop and slept off the shakes, hoping to avoid both the oversized city rats and the sting of the BB pellet.
The streets outside weren't any better. The severed head of a transvestite was found in the dumpster behind Barb & Lou's Quickie Grill, a greasy spoon frequented by Hal Smith, better known as Otis The Drunk of The Andy Griffith Show fame. Donut Time (pictured above) was the place where hookers convened after being released from the Hollywood police station. It's now Trejo's Coffee and Donuts, the building repainted in garish pink donut frosting. Assaults and muggings were frequent, you really didn't want to be walking home alone at night. When the LA riots hit in '92, we watched from the warehouse door as the building fires came closer and closer from the south, like so many random smoke signals. Eventually we all grew nervous and headed home, returning the next day to see the 7-Eleven one block over basically reduced to smoldering rubble. At the Korean liquor store where we purchased our mid-day snacks and sodas, the cashier was double-holstered.
It was in this environment that I got to know Mad Marc Rude. Before this time we'd cross paths on the Hollywood club scene, when he was working the door at The Scream and I was a struggling lead guitarist. But he mostly seemed unapproachable. "Sure ya can get in fer free, now keep movin'." It wasn't until I started working at Kater that we really hit it off. Then again, with Marc it was hard to tell if you were really on his good side or not. Fiery, belligerent, and ready to drop gloves and start brawling at the drop of a hat, he was a hard dude to get a grasp on. But damn was he a brilliant artist.
Of course I knew about Marc when I started at Kater, everyone on the scene did. He was a local legend who created iconic punk artwork for The Misfits, The Offspring, The Little Kings, the list goes on. The Kater warehouse was very much a "Lord Of The Flies" affair, and Marc was sort of our honorary chieftain. The crew was a "who's who" of LA alt-rock talent, including Wino from St. Vitus, Top Jimmy (never worked a lick, only drank), Pig from Pygmy Love Circus, Bryan from The Hangmen, Roach from Junkyard, Axxel from The Gears, Nick from The Little Kings, and Mad Marc himself. Covered neck-to-knuckles with jailhouse tats at a time when they were still a social taboo, Marc was every bit a punk rock Uruk Hai. His demeanor and social status dictated that he could pretty much boss everyone around without ever doing any actual work, but I didn't care about that. I wanted to know more about this man and the amazing artwork he was able to create, seemingly without effort.
Marc was always involved in freelance illustration projects, and soon I was looking over his shoulder asking him about this technique and that. He advised me to go out a buy a set of Rapidograph pens and some Bristol board if I really wanted to learn, not an easy proposition for someone earning minimum wage! I ponied up the $110, and soon I was sitting alongside him cranking out my own efforts. I'd ask for feedback, which would usually illicit some sort of "Nah, Wood, yer doin' it all wrong"-type response in his bawdy Noo Yawk accent. True to his nature, Marc illustrated with a hyper-aggressive technique called stippling, where he would use the smallest gauge pen and repeatedly hammer out dots to create tone and texture. Needless to say, stippling did not bode well for the life of the Rapidograph, I ended up burning through my first set of pens in just over a year. I swallowed hard and immediately ponied up another $110.
In any case, I stuck with it and managed to learn a thing or two, even if I couldn't come close to Marc's mastery of the style. Soon he was turning me on to MC Escher and Robt. Williams, inviting me to exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We'd take trips to Arons Records to pick up dozens of cheap CDs to plow through, or we'd take trips to Golden Apple on Melrose to pick up dozens of cheap comics to peruse through. We once went to a seafood restaurant and got a total attitude from the waiter, we were cordial enough and had plenty of money but presumably were too disheveled for this not-so-upscale dining establishment. We left a one cent tip.
When I wasn't learning illustration techniques from Marc, we'd discuss music, comic books, or our newest mutual semi-passion, hockey. I got the impression he was never much of a sports fan, but the ultra-violence of the NHL seemed like a natural fit. We even bought jerseys, I got a Sharks jersey and he got a Devils jersey (naturally). But mostly we talked about music, which is to say he talked about music and I listened. Marc had a great passion for the underground scene and was always hitting the clubs looking for new bands to rave about. I'll never forget when a mutual friend of ours turned me on to Nirvana's latest album, Nevermind. I was raving to Marc about how great this awesome "new" band was but he simply frowned. He'd seen 'em in a coffee shop a year ago and was over it already. He told me stories of seeing The Clash in San Diego, spitting at them and calling them sellouts because they were opening for The Who. For Marc, it seemed like the less people knew about a band, the better they were. I remember him raving about a band called Helios Creed. I never got it.
When Marc wasn't drawing or discussing music, he was engaging in his other favorite pastime; fighting. Win or lose, Marc didn't seem to care. Although he was in his thirties and already worn around the edges, Marc subscribed to Henry Rollins' theory of "punch first and ask questions later". I once saw him get in an all-out bloody brawl with a fellow employee over which cassette were going to listen to next. I watched him manhandle aggressive bums and wrestle them out of the warehouse. A shelving unit full of metal rails once collapsed on him, tearing his forehead wide open. Covered in blood, he muttered a few angry expletives then headed to the local hospital for stitches. He was ready to punch the daylights out of anyone, but most people wanted nothing to do with a fight with Mad Marc Rude. His favorite saying was, "Take your best shot... then run." He was half-joking, but I never took him as anything other than serious. Better safe than sorry with Marc.
Eventually, I was able to parlay my crappy warehouse job at Kater Litho into a lucrative Union prepress position within the company, where I worked for nearly two decades. I can only assume that Marc went on to pursue more artistic and pugilistic endeavors. I only ran into him once in the post-Kater days, he was walking down Highland Avenue as I was driving by. I hopped out of my car, we chatted for a few moments then went our separate ways. It wasn't long after that I heard he died. In true Mad Marc fashion, even the circumstances surrounding his death were shrouded in tough guy ethos. Someone told me he went back to New York to avenge the death of this sister, who had recently been murdered. With Marc I never knew exactly what to believe, but it all seemed credible enough. Rest in peace Marc, and thanks for the lessons.
- BW 1/20/19
MY ATTEMPT AT COPPING
MARC's STYLE CIRCA 1992
Welcome to my blog, where I’ll mostly ramble on about some of my favorite things. It could be an unsung rock band, a defunct pro wrestling promotion, or anything else that comes to mind. Enjoy!
©2021 Bill Wood.
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