Reviews & suggestions for punk rock fans.

Stiv: No Compromise No Regrets – Documentary to Watch

Documentary on the Dead Boys Frontman, Stiv Bators, ft. Interviews by Jimmy Zero, Slim Jim Phantom, and John Holmstrom

Van surfing, dick-tuck fend, prank calling, infiltrator, intellectual, crazed frontman – Stiv Bators – received a documentary called Stiv: No Compromises No Regrets allowing him one last chance to put on a good show. Directed by Danny Garcia (who did Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders and Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy), the film grasps the complexity of Stiv’s life, showing you what he did for the genre of punk while sharing the darker side of the human most have never seen. Let’s sum it up.

The film Stiv: No Compromises No Regrets opens like most, at the end or at least in the city where the frontman died in an unusual way. Here you find out Stiv was happy in the remaining days of his life. There is the discussion of love, as he is in Paris with Caroline, the love of his life. And he is recording his last solo album, and for those who don’t know this is when Dee Dee Ramone throws a bit of a tantrum by trashing Stiv and Johnny Thunder’s equipment and clothing while working on a project together. You discover the year is 1990 and then the screen goes black.

Next, you are in Ohio, Stiv’s home state, and the beginning of the crazy man’s life. Where you discover his parents who Jimmy Zero, guitarist for the Dead Boys, describes as “His parents were like total opposites, you didn’t know what attracted them to each other. And they really represented Stiv’s kind of bad side and good side.” Two sides playing tug-of-war for this young man who idealized the Three Stooges and enjoyed the theatrics of Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. You see the influence of the aforementioned TV show and music personalities through footage of Stiv’s performance in his early bands like Mother Goose and The Rockin’ Tomatoes who would play the Youngstown scene in Ohio. Eventually, he sing for the band Frankenstein that was formed once a guitarist you might know by the name of Cheetah Chrome joined the group.

As the story goes, Stiv would infiltrate the CBGBs scene by showing his a** to Joey Ramone from a moving car. The Ramones tell Stiv he can get them a gig at CBGBs. With no band in tow, Stiv would call his former bandmates of Frankenstein and encourage them to join up and play in New York. Thus, the Dead Boys were created with Stiv at the helm, Cheetah Chrome on lead guitar, Jimmy Zero on rhythm guitar, Johnny Blitz on drums, and Jeff Magnum on bass. Traveling back and forth from Cleveland to New York became a bit of a drag, opening a door for Hilly Kristal (owner of CBGBs) to manage the group and help them release their first record, Young, Loud and Snotty. Unfortunately, The Dead Boy’s initial record would be their peak, and they would dismember once Stiv gives an ultimatum to Cheetah Chrome between the Dead Boys and heroin. Cheetah Chrome chose heroin, sad to say.

The rise and fall of the Dead Boys was most likely my favorite part of the film and will give any punk rock fan a reason to drool. The inter-splicing of live performances at CBGBs was stellar to witness. One part, in particular, was a quote from Stiv I thought I’d share. Here it goes:

“What we are doing on stage is releasing a lot of energy and frustration … where is it best to do it? Here, or out in the streets, you know? So, that’s how most of the kids get it out, you know. They watch TV, and they see the violence there, and they get it out of them that way. But that’s not full like you can here. Here, you can break a bottle, or jump around, or something like that, or just watch us get it out for you. So really … what we’re doing is really healthy.”

Stiv Bators in Stiv: No Compromises No Regrets

Punk rock is a complex thing. No single definition can describe everything that it encompasses, however, Stiv nails one particular arm of the punk rock monster. Venting frustration. We’re angry. Angry about the state of the world, the government, how society treats humans – animals – the environment – all of it. Punk allows us to express ourselves as a community, and to see one of the best understand this – well, it will cause a punk (such as you) to believe they have a heart.

Moving on, the film continues Stiv’s music journey when he heads across the pond to join the band the Wanderers (comprised of Sham 69 players). After creating an album with them, he soon would form The Lords of the New Church. The film begins hinting at Stiv’s battle of depression, and that he is starting to get burnt out. This would eventually lead up to Stiv’s departure from The Lords of the New Church in true dramatic fashion as only he would know how to do. You see, while Stiv was getting tired of music, so his band The Lords of the New Church was becoming tired of him. The band actually put out a wanted ad to replace Stiv without telling him. On their last show, he wore a white shirt and with black Sharpie wrote the ad on the shirt. The best way to end a career if you ask me.

And that’s when you journey back to Paris, France to discover the bizarre tale of the last moments of Stiv’s life when he appears the happiest. A taxi would hit the rock star causing a traumatic brain injury, one that would eventually kill him while he was sleeping with the love his life – Caroline. There are worse ways to go, I suppose. After you get the details of his death, you hear the praise of one of punk rock’s greatest frontman from the various few selected to be interviewed for the film (Jimmy Zero, John Holmstrom, Cynthia Ross, etc), and understand the power and impact he left behind that so few choose to see. Oh, and you learn that his friends snorted his ashes – HA!

I’ll leave you with two things to wrap this up. One) beware of the dick-tucks. There are a lot. Two) The quote below which sums up the power of Stiv and opens the movie Stiv: No Compromises No Regrets:

“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.”

Charles M. Young in Stiv: No Compromises No Regrets
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