JUST ENOUGH STUFF: THE SAGA OF MARGARET DOLL ROD I
As told to Jimmy McDonough
Reading time 66 Minutes
If one could wave a magic wand bringing past, present and future together to somehow stick Little Richard, Charlie Feathers, Bo Diddley, Hasil Atkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Link Wray in the same room with Margaret Dollrod, I’m certain that within five minutes the boys would be deferring to Margaret on the setlist. That’s how powerful this dame is. Margaret is a bona-fide rocker, the kind they just don’t make anymore. And she’s back out there doing her thing with a hot new three-piece band that may be her greatest - Heartthrob Chassis.
From 1994 to 2007, Margaret was the driving force behind the late, lamented Demolition Doll Rods, a three-piece band featuring ace guitarslinger/singer Danny Kroha and Margaret’s sister Christine (a.k.a. Thumpurr) on drums. This was a band that played wild, primitive rock & roll with (quite literally) naked abandon. They wore strategically placed plungers, hupcaps and doll heads--and little else. The Doll Rods managed to be thrilling, funny and spiritual all at the same time, with each and every show an unguarded, unpredictable spectacle. It was exhilarating to experience.
Margaret has never really discussed in detail the demons that sometimes lurked under the hood. Her motivation for sharing her songs (not to mention her soul) pretty much in the buff may surprise and even move you—it did me.
Anything more I might write would wilt next to Margaret’s action-packed way of telling things, so let’s have her tell the tale. Straight, no chaser.
Immerse yourself in the wild, wondrous and way-out world of…
YOUNG MARGARET OF ROCKWOOD: A NUTBUCKET IS BORN
I grew up in a place where there were dirt roads and chickens in the yard. Far away from any city--you had to drive a long ways to go to a party store. Rockwood is always the same, it doesn’t change. Whenever I go back I expect the guy from The Twilight Zone to be standing in the middle of the road saying, “You are about to enter another dimension…” It’s surrounded by nature, there’s dirt roads and car engines hanging from trees, and people at their picnic tables with cans of Pabst. Now and then maybe a crazy local will come by on his snowmobile when there’s no snow.
People hunted and grew stuff. Most every house out back had a dip net for turtle trappin’. My aunt was a turtle trapper--you’d put the net down, and once you got the turtle, you’d hold out a metal rod and the turtle would bite at that rod and break its jaw. Once it’s clamped on that rod, you’d club it over the head and throw it in the boat. That’s how you kill a turtle. I never went turtle or muskrat trapping. Our garage ceiling was covered in pelts of muskrat. My brother had a job selling pelts. My Dad took me fishing once. I was a chatty little girl who liked to sing and talk. I sang “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and I was poking my finger in my brother Joe’s mouth and he clamped down on “E-I-E-I-O.” That got me banned from fishing forever.
Mom and Dad: Ralph and Joanne Gomoll. They were older when they had me. There were four kids—Tony, me, Christine and Joe. My dad worked at Firestone, I’m not sure of his position. Dad worked almost everyday and was 100% into overtime. Mom would make fun of how he was famous at his job for going into the bathroom and reading books. Work was where he could get away from it all. He was an amazing guy. I get my fashion sense mostly from my Dad. When he was at home, he was a jeans and t-shirt person, but if he went anywhere, he was a super-fancy dresser. Mom too, but Dad was the real peacock.
They closed the Firestone plant four years before my Dad’s retirement so he lost pretty much everything. Our clothes were hand-me-downs from neighbors and Sears Surplus, or this place Mulias & Elias in Trenton. We couldn’t afford the upstairs of Mulias & Elias so we shopped in the basement. Mom would take our discounted clothes home and embroider something on the collar, these doily-like ruffles. She would make me outfits that were way beyond what was going on in real kids’ worlds, like this amazing purple pinstripe zoot-suit-looking outfit. The long-sleeved shirt was very Copa Cabana with long puffy sleeves and ruffles. In wintertime all the kids were wearing regular boots and my Mom bought me a pair of wedged, knee-high boots that were similar to something Foxy Brown would wear. They were super cool. I still have them.
On Saturdays we would go chop wood, and when we had to go get welfare food, Mom would give us the face and a little kick on the ankle to say, “Cry and look hungry.” Two years of powdered milk that she’d mix in plastic jugs and put in the freezer and bright orange cheese that came in a block from the government. I learned how to cut everyone’s hair. My dad loved that greaser ducktail hairstyle, the Elvis one. My brother Joe had the best punk rock Flock of Seagulls hairstyle that you could ever dream of. Tony resembled John Bonham. And Christine looked like she just popped outta the movie The Outsiders. Christine was born legally blind with her feet going the wrong way. Everything was a challenge for her.
I was Christine’s seeing-eye dog. For most of her childhood years she didn’t like me. I was the older sister who had to take care of her, take her to the bathroom wherever we were. I loved her so much, but she didn’t want me touching her or coming near. She was always pinching me and pushing me away. When we were kids she used to eat my Flavor Savors lip gloss. Christine would tattle on us before the event ever even happened. She didn’t even have to be near you, she had supersonic hearing. It was like she was in your mind. We had to share a room, she liked stuffed animals, I hated them. On my side of the room was nothing! Absolutely nothing. I’d tell her, “This is the line, leave all your crap on your side.” We didn’t become friends until the Doll Rods.
I remember being at the bus stop and there was this girl that was picking on Christine because Christine couldn’t see. She was saying terrible things about my sister. And our brother Joe looked at me and said, ‘Well, you better hit her, because I’m a guy. I can’t.’ And so I beat the crap out of her. I was very protective of my baby sister. Still am. Joe was two years younger than me, a really cool kid, very sweet. When we played baseball they put Joe in the outfield and the ball would just go by while he was looking at the butterflies. Joe was just a very la-la-la kind of person. And so my Mom was really, really hard on him.
My older brother Tony was a huge influence on me—that whole attitude of not taking any crap, “I don’t care, I’m doing what I’m doing and going where I’m going.” A lot of the wildness in me comes from him. Anthony Rojas--Tony Red. He was ten years older, listened to the cool music and could toss us around. Tony was super-wild, happy, never listened to anybody. He made everything really, really fun. He’d pick me up in my parent’s station wagon from school and turn the corner so fast he’d get the station wagon up on two wheels. Tony was a national duck-plucking champion. He wrestled a bear. Plus he was a Figure-8 racer, which is really hard to do. And he played the drums. I loved watching him and his friends play in the garage. The walls would vibrate and things would fall and my Mom would yell. And he’d just laugh.
I’m not really sure what I was like as a kid…I blacked out most of my childhood memories. I was molested as a kid and because of that I block out so much stuff. I was pretty young, five or six. I’m pretty sure it was a relative but I don’t know for absolute certain. This person would play Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” all the time. On a reel-to-reel deck. It was like a frickin’ anthem. You know how many times I listened to “My Ding-a-Ling”?
My mind is very protective. I only remember some of it. After those things happened I would sleep for hours outside. I think I was given something that made me sleepy. I found pictures of myself at that time and I look incredibly disheveled. With a strange look on my face that normal kids don’t have. There’s a look in the face of people that this happens to. You can tell.
I knew what was happening to me as a young person was wrong. It was very confusing, and I went to my Mom and told her what was happening. And she called me a liar and told me I wasn’t to bring it up again. Growing up in a Catholic family I didn’t even know what any of that stuff was--my parents didn’t even kiss or hold hands. How could I make this stuff up in my young head? When I would get upset, Mom would tell me I was a whore--I didn’t know what a whore was until they told us how to use a dictionary at school. I looked it up. And thought, “I never did any of those things!”
Mom did take me to the family doctor. It was in one big room, with the examination table. I remember going in there and having to have an examination I’d never had before. He was looking in there, probing around...looking at me. Much later I went back to that doctor to get my files. They told me they were gone.
The hard part about this was you start to think that’s what human contact is. You already have a feel for this at a super young age--that it’s something that feels good, you want to do more, but you’re not supposed to talk about that or do anything like that again, and you become almost desperate, ‘cause that’s something you equate with what love is. You grow up and realize that has nothing at all to do with it. Back then you never talked about this stuff. It was before Oprah. Seriously, Oprah saved my ass. Before she came along, nobody said or did anything in a place like Rockwood. You were supposed to beat the crap out of your kid. There was a whole new world after Oprah…you’re not supposed to tell your kids to shut up, you’re supposed to listen and get them help!
I never blame Mom. I don’t think her life was so sparkly special. Rumor has it my Mom’s first husband was a Mexican pimp. And her father was a member of the Purple Gang, a notorious group of Detroit hoodlums. On rare occasions she’d take me to the city, we’d drive the boulevard where she lived and it was like she went into another world. Once Dean Martin asked my Mom out. She’d get a twinkle in her eye and talk about those days...how she counted how many drinks she’d had by the cherry stems in her pocket so she’d remember in case she threw up.
She was the only child, and her father for sure wanted a boy. Her mother was put in a mental institution, and my Mom had to become an emancipated adult to save her mother from shock therapy. She always wanted love from her father but didn’t really get it. I was super cute and got love from everyone. I don’t think it was so great for her, so things got tough for me. When the kids came, she just turned into the Mom from Carrie.
Her way of making sure kids didn’t go upstairs was to put rubber snakes on the steps. She always had this insane thing with snakes, she would kill them when I was a kid. Kill them, smash them with shovels. Many snake killings.
My mom loves me and now she gives me affection, but growing up there was not even a hug. She didn’t know what love was until I learned it outside of my own home and brought it back there. No matter how hard it was I kept trying to hug her. Eventually she saw it was good for her, and now she shows it to her grandchildren.
I wanted to be close to my Dad, but my Mom didn’t like that relationship. She’d give my Dad a list of things I did wrong when I hadn’t done any of it. Then she’d call me a liar, give me smack, and yell at my Dad cause he never disciplined me. In his eyes I could do no wrong, no matter what. I think I was everything to my Dad. Up until the day he died.
I was a quick learner, faster than other kids, and good at getting into trouble. And at leaving. I liked to be away. Even when I was little…there’s a picture of me getting ready to leave at two. I’d go to neighbor’s houses that weren’t home, lock myself inside and my Mom would go insane looking for me. Then the family would come home and call my parents. I kept doing it as I got older. Climb out the window and leave. I always felt something was wrong with me, even though I was the only one getting all A’s. I couldn’t do anything good enough.
We saw very few movies. Peter Pan. My mom took me to see it live onstage when Sandy Duncan starred in it. That made a very big impression. C’mon, she’s a girl, but she plays a boy and she flies? It was like, “Do I wanna be a boy or do I wanna be a girl? Maybe if I’m a boy, I’ll fly!” You’re never gonna grow up--this is supported by every parent you’re surrounded by in the audience? This is acceptable?!? Peter Pan was very fucking magical.
We didn’t have TV cause my brother Tony was having difficulty reading. He mispronounced the word “Spaniard” at school and a letter came home. That was it--no more TV. Then it broke. It sat in the living room, this weird thing we kept trying with fiddle with. The tiny white light would start to expand like it was gonna happen…and then it would die. When I could escape my parents’ attention I would sneak off and spy on TV through the neighbors’ window. American Bandstand. It would come on early afternoon. I could hear it come on at our house, and I’d run over to their front door and peer into their dark living room and there were the…Bay City Rollers!
That year my mom had taken my sister and I to the hair salon for the first time. I had really long one-length hair that I was extremely happy with. And my Mom made us get shags. I got a long shag, Christine got a short shag. It was horrible. And my hand-me-down pants could be very short. Legs--that’s what grew first on me, if I hadn’t smoked I probably would grown very tall. And when I looked in at the neighbors doing and saw a bunch of boys with short pants and fucked-up haircuts singing “Saturday Night” with guitars, I was so excited. This was a little glimpse of a life I dreamt of: there was rhythm, with shouting music. There were others like me. There were more!
SEASONS OF THE SUN vs. GOOD DAY, SUNSHINE
Music was something that didn’t get to happen so often ‘cause my Mom didn’t want it in the house. Ours was a very controlled environment. Though one way to hear music was through our neighbors. The neighbor next door would sit on his roof with his amp and try to howl and sing. This guy was a trucker, rockabilly greaser, missing most his teeth. Fireball Kellis. He actually put out a 45 I’ve never heard.
The guy who lived on the other side of us listened to Bob Seger while he was washing his Trans Am. That was huge. Stuff like “Turn the Page,” not Bob’s heavy music. A little later I realized Bob Seger did do cool songs. “Her Strut” really caught my ear —“Oh they do respect her but/They love to watch her strut.” That was kind of a motto. My mom would be yelling at me that I was the spawn of Satan, then I’d hear that and think, “Yes, I do respect your butt. And I would like to see you strut.” All you could do where I grew up was fish and hunt and walk on dirt roads and see the nature, so that was a nice chant to have for a nutbucket like me.
I remember praying for Bob Seger ‘cause he had cancer (because somebody said he had it).
That was the closest I had to any music and I was afraid it might be gone.
I was permitted to listen to music when I was practicing my dance routine. Starting at five I went to dance school all the time. Dance class was really exciting at first. After about three years I thought, “This sucks, you have to practice everyday!” Then I hated it and didn’t wanna do it anymore. It was very important to my Mom. She had always dreamed of having dance lessons as a kid. She’d come with us to the class, write everything down, and tape our songs on one of those little tape players that they use in grade school with the five buttons and flip case. A fuzzy version of “Good Day Sunshine.” Hearing that was like Pavlov’s dog singing. I fucking hated “Good Day Sunshine.”
Then there were the shows. Recitals at schools, and then Mom set up little shows at old age homes. I was on an old-age tour every frickin’ holiday. She also involved my brother in this. Joe would dance to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”— he did it really fast, it had nothing to do with the music at all. Joe had an amazing imagination-land that he could tap into and never be a part of what was happening. I never got that gift. I was able to block out things, but not because of an imagination. It was survival.
For the longest time, our record player was my sister’s Braille record player. They’d send you a big catalog and Christine could pick out story records they’d send in the mail. My brother had some albums he left when he went in the service. Zeppelin, Ted Nugent--there’s only so many times you can listen to “Cat Scratch Fever,” although I still like “Dog Eat Dog.” I loved “Seasons of the Sun” by Terry Jacks. “Goodbye to you, my trusted friend…” And the guitar--“Maw, maw, maw….” I don’t know what pedal or effect that was, but I loved that sound. The tragedy expressed in that whole song was frickin’ great. On the very few car rides alone with my Dad he’d play country music on the radio. He really liked Johnny Cash And Elvis.
Other than all that, it was church music. I asked for a record player and got a Holly Hobbie record player. It was denim with a jeans pocket under the cover, this seventies thing. Fuckin’ Holly Hobbie was a nightmare. She had a bonnet on her head. I don’t think that record player called to me. I was kind of sad that this feeling inside me was growing--and it wasn’t matching the stuff that was outside of me. That thing turned off every desire I had to listen to records.
PUBERTY NUN WAR
Was I a rebel? Well, when I was really little, if I didn’t wanna eat something, I’d look at my parents, hold my head and tell them that I couldn’t because I had a headache. They told me my approach was very sophisticated. You go through that period where the cuteness wears off and you start lookin’ kind of funky. I had big teeth, a mouth that was very horse-like. Looking at myself in the mirror it was, “What the fuck, I was really cute a year ago!” The cuteness wore off, and I think it wore off for my parents as well. Getting me to do anything was impossible.
Grade school was all-Catholic, all the time. 24/7 Catholic. The nuns were a nightmare. When you’re a kid, you’re not so thrilled about going to church all the time. The crazy thing about our family, we were musical--my brother played a full drum kit in the Saturday night mass and I played guitar. I played in the church choir for years. That was the part of church I liked--playing music. I loved--and still love--a lot of the spiritual songs.
I think I was eight when I started playing guitar. Folkie lessons with the nuns. That song “One Tin Soldier.” For birthdays they’d give me money, and my Mom had me save that to buy a classical guitar. I wasn’t really thrilled about this type of guitar action, ‘cause I wanted to be more like Elvis. But the teacher at the music store was Mr. Good-Looking. That made me like classical guitar. Then Mom sent me to the horrible classical guitar lady who was fat, had a bad haircut and a big nose. She was mean and made me cut my fingernails a good 2mm below the flesh--and made me play duets with her daughter. This teacher brought out a metronome, which is like a crucifix to a vampire to me. I stopped playing for a very, very long time.
The nuns had a big problem with me because I was attractive. I had matured and developed and looked like a voluptuous young lady. I had an amazing figure and big boobs. And my clothes were too small. The sisters would pull me in front of the class and tell the entire class they were taking me to the bathroom to scrub the makeup off my face. I didn’t wear make-up, owned no make-up and had none on. Even so, they’d take me to the restroom so I could wash the invisible make-up off my face with one of those big, stupid, white Ivory bars. Then I had to go back and stand in front of the class—“This is what will happen to you!” Even my nun guitar teacher began to have a hard time with me. I couldn’t stand next to her at church. Before I had played and sang in front of the church and now I was in the back of a hallway. With my big boobs and faded clothes. It was really upsetting.
Every nun I had contact with left the convent. I ran into the two sisters that were really bad to me m a few years ago at a golf course brunch. I said, “Hello Sister Judith and Sister Rita.” And they said, “Oh, we’re not nuns anymore.” They were together!!!!! I think that my young, sexy-looking figure was too much for them. I drove them from the church.
When I graduated they had a little dance at school. I raided my parent’s closet and filled a shampoo bottle with samples of every liquor they had. I drank all of it and the people at the dance were like, “Something is wrong with her.” I was crying, laughing, and dancing with my dress over my head--a signature Margaret move. The nuns brought me to the upstairs office to this big round table and called my parents. They were interrogating me and yelling at me, which I was used to. My Mom and Dad walked in as I was telling the nuns that they were all just jealous of me ‘cause down deep they were all sluts. My Dad was ready to hit me and my mom said, “NO! Not here!”
After that I would drink any way I could get it. Drinking started very early for me. I spent a lot of time drinking and vomiting. I couldn’t understand moderation. There was a place that everyone would party. We didn’t really like the jocks and stoners. Everyone went there to drink. We’d collect bottles and that would be our reefer money.
I was the only kid in grade school to get all As, and this was when my dad had lost his job, so the priest offered to pay for my continuing Catholic education. I gave him the “I’ll stab you” look. I actually went to the priest and said, “Don’t do this, I can’t take anymore.” He backed out of his offer, so I had to go to public school for the last four years. Which was my dream!
HOT CHILD IN THE CITY
I was the different girl at public school. The school mostly consisted of preppie people or stoner people. I was a bit more like a punk rock kid and there weren’t any at my school. I noticed my brother Joe had friends that were listening to other music and had different hairstyles. So I went and cut my own hair into a sort of Mohawk. More like a long mullet--short sides and a stuck up middle section. I was never Miss Popular because I felt strange compared to other kids, always. I was never okay in my own skin.
Being in amazing shape from going to dance school and being a little different, I was attracting attention from the stoner boys. Some of them wanted to hang out with me, and I think that was too much for the stoner girls. The older stoner girls acted like they were gonna beat me up. Since I had this dance background, I did these super high whip kicks and karate noises and they’d leave me alone.
Fighting wasn’t my thing. The only time I fought back was if someone attacked me first--except this one time. This one girl came in to school with a hickey, and I knew she’d gotten it from my boyfriend. I’ve always had a tight sixth sense. I said she’d gotten the hickey from him out loud and she started to run--which confirmed it. I whipped the crap outta her. She went to another girl and they came back that same day and my brother Joe yelled to me that they were coming to beat me up. He shouted out, “Hey! She’s coming--and she has chains!!”
I told the girl, “You throw the first punch, after that you’re done.” In the end this teacher had to pull me off this girl. My finger was stuck inside of her eyeball. They had to pull it out of her socket. Because I had been through so many physical things that weren’t normal, I had an energy inside of me that conveyed it wasn’t a good idea to mess with me. I wasn’t able to control it after it happened. It was an explosion.
I’d sit in class paying attention to the cute boys who had Rolling Stones haircuts. My parents were extremely protective. There was a boy that was cute and I lost my virginity to him. I thought to myself, “This is the worst. I never wanna do this ever again.” But that was a lie. I did it again. I broke up with him and he tried to commit suicide by hanging himself. He survived, with scars on his neck.
I found another boyfriend who looked like Chewbacca. Then I met an older guy recently let out of prison. He was missing teeth and I thought he was the most amazing person in the world. I was so in love with him. I don’t know if it was the missing teeth or just that he was so strange looking. He had a blonde alien kind of look and drove a black car with steering wheel made out of a chain…Of course, I wasn’t allowed to see him ‘cause he was older. I was already stealing cars left and right. That boy was a car thief.
My mom had an injunction put against him, and the only way I’d be allowed to see him is if he went in the service. So he did! My parents were slick--they told me that I could either have my driver’s license or see him, since he was now in the service. Like an idiot I visited him.
While my boyfriend was in service I started meeting other people. I found I could have friendships with boys. I liked making guy friends that were just friends. My boyfriend got a dishonorable discharge, and when he got out he was really upset I found these friendships. By this point the feeling for him had gone away, but I was still trying to be with him. Now I had my driver’s license. I saw him at a red light and was excited to see him. But he was so unexcited to see me he got out of his car and started beating mine with a baseball bat. That kind of sealed it for me. I was cute and starting to realize people were liking me for who I was. And letting me drive their cars! I was sixteen or seventeen…
I started running away for real at fifteen. I went to college at seventeen and that’s when I moved out of home for good. Now, the only way in the entire world I even knew of a college was because I was working at the mall and a cute boy talked about going to the University of Detroit. I wrote down that college on my SAT scores, which were exceptionally high. So I went. Free meals, room and board. I thought, “I’m gonna clean up my act in school and try!” The counselors kept trying to get me to be a weather person. They said, “You have to pick a major and a minor. I thought, “I don’t wanna be serious. Minor, I can dance. Major--helping people, that’s good!”
So I have a master’s degree in social work. I took all these women just out of prison to the ballet, it was either Alvin Ailey or Joffrey. When the men in tights started flying through the air they stood up and started punching their fists in the air and going, “Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!” like a bunch of guys at a baseball game. I had to teach them an elegant handclap. I worked at the Detroit Receiving Hospital in the HIV and tuberculosis wards. And with orphans at an orphanage that isn’t in existence, St. Francis Home for Boys. It was something I sincerely wanted to do, but the system wasn’t for me. I didn’t think it was working.
By this time I was doing acid. LSD was how I wanted things to look! I thought, “This is the way life should be all the time”--and was for a couple of years. I did it as often as I could. And I found a bar right around the corner from my school. Bookie’s was a famous punk rock bar owned by George Clinton. Bookie’s was so great. Fifty-cent weenies, cheap beer. They had a DJ that played psychedelic music--I’d never heard of such a thing. “2000 Light Years from Home,” “Lucifer Sam,” Lust for Life, Heroes… I thought, “This is the music I love.”
And then I met Dan.
The first time I met Danny Kroha he was in my dorm room. I was supposed to share a room with his sister, Muffy. She decided something different for her life and I had the dorm room alone for a while. Dan came to pick her up at the university, saw my room and was intrigued. When I came home I found him going through my clothes.
I liked having pictures of girls in my room. Sixties and seventies Playboy posters were all over the wall. Pin-ups, centerfolds of hot babes. It was a small room, so it was just centerfolds plus a mess of clothes. And they were clothes that would’ve gone perfectly on the hot babes on the wall.
I was dating somebody, and later I told him about this guy who was going through my clothes. And he said, “Oh, I know who that is! He plays in this band called the Gories, I think you’d like them, you should go see them play.” Eventually I did. I thought the Gories were amazing, I loved their tribal, primitive beat. At that time, there was hard-core punk scene in Detroit and there were just a couple garage bands, but they sounded exactly like the records and that wasn’t as fun. The Gories were a little more nitty-gritty.
Dan was a pretty cool guy. As far as Detroit guys went, he was a really good one. I thought the things he did were amazing--and I still do! I really wanted to date him. Dan seemed angelic—maybe because he was so white. He was tall and gentle in his mannerisms and he resembled my Dad—he had a big nose, dressed from the sixties and had a lot of my Dad’s mannerisms.
Dan’s parents were pretty Catholic. He went to an all-boys Catholic school; mine was boys and girls. The Krohas were different from us. They were Detroit yacht club kind of people. My family was very down-home--Dad was a roll-your-cigarettes-in-your-sleeve greaser who’d been in the service with Elvis. Danny’s Dad had his own factory, people who worked for him making filters for cars. They had a sailboat, we had a little aluminum fishing boat. My parents were more on the wild side. I mean, we called my sister Thump. Dan’s sister was named Muffy. (And I love her.)
At that time Dan was like Mr. Mod. Ultra-mod. He had this funny Prince Valiant hairstyle and I remember the first time I went to his house, I had to wait for him to blow-dry his hair. And he came down the stairs saying, “If there were justice in the world, there’d be a different girl for every one of my outfits.” I thought it was funny that someone with that hairstyle thought so much of themselves.
We started hanging out all the time. I remember I bought this crazy dress with a big floppy hat and seventies Stepford Wives miniskirt with white chunky shoes. I convinced Dan to take acid with me and we went to church, a little chapel at my university where they played folk guitar. We had to pick Muffy up from the airport, and we were all dressed up in our Easter duds, Dan like Captain Mod and me like Psychedelic Susie. They’d just put in moving sidewalks at the airport, and we’re tripping on acid…
I moved into the house Dan shared with his brother and another guy. I had my own room, ‘cause he was trying to date other people, but he always seemed to be gravitating back to me. It was hard to tell what was going on. I was very confused by it. He did tours with the Gories, but wrote me while he was gone. I thought, “Hmmm…maybe he does like me.”
It seemed like Dan and I were clicking, but looking back I think he always had that “If there were any justice in this world….” mindset. I was just the only girl around at the time. We dated in some fashion, but it never really worked. We were way better friends. Like brother and sister. When you’re in love, the girl isn’t always paying for and buying everything. That’s what your older sister does. In girlfriend/boyfriend land, that’s not usually how it is, but with Dan…
Formed in 1986, The Gories were a critically acclaimed garage rock band that put out three albums, House Rockin’ (1989), I Know You Fine, But How You Doin’ (1990), and Outta Here (1992). They broke up after a European tour in ’92, only to finally reunite starting in 2009. The three-piece band consists of Danny Kroha (guitar, vocals), Mick Collins (guitar, vocals) and Peggy O’Neill (drums).
A VERY GORIE TIME
The Gories very rarely had practice and didn’t hang out. I got the impression that their drummer Peg O’Neill and Dan used to date, and that now she was trying to date other people. So I didn’t understand why we were going to this one guy’s house--until I figured out what we were really doing was going to this guy’s house to see what Peg was doing.
Right from the get-go, Peg and I clashed in this very strange way. I never understood why there was this rivalry, I didn’t get it. She was upset with me all the time. I’d call Dan and Peg would be at his house. And she’d say, “Oh, Dan can’t come to the phone right now, he’s naked and getting out of the shower.” I’d say, “Okay, can I talk to him anyways, even if he is wet and naked?” She thought, “This girl should be upset with me.” But I wasn’t. As far as Peg went, once she marked her territory, it was hers forever.
This started before the Gories went anywhere. There was a Gories show here in Detroit at a street fair, I was at Dan’s, and Peg was expecting Dan to go to the show with her, but he said, “No, I’m gonna go with Margaret.” She had a fit, threw her drums in the street and quit. Dan’s roommate had to play drums that night. That was how she worked it—“If you don’t do what I want you to do, then I’m gonna quit.” Well, Dan wasn’t ready to get rid of me.
I got along pretty good with Mick. I sewed his pants. He was really funny, I really liked him. Sometimes on tour I’d carry their equipment. At a Gories show in New York during my alcoholic days I danced half-naked, I think I peed in front of their stage. I was writhing around so badly I cut myself—and I didn’t even know who Iggy Pop was in those days, I was just drunk and having a good time. Peg was really upset by all these shenanigans and wanted to kick my ass. I just laughed at her.
Peg’s boyfriend had bought her this cool car, I think it was a Gran Torino. She thought she was queen of the world ‘cause she got this car. I bought one that was three times bigger and way faster! Once she was in that car, mad at me and thought she’d show me something by peeling out and taking off. I thought, “You call that peeling out?” I knew how to peel out WAY better than she did---“You’re from Ferndale, I’m from Rockwood. You will never have that much dirt under your nails, ever. Give it all you got, honey.”
At some point she wanted to fight. Once again my rule of thumb was, “You throw the first punch, ‘cause whatever I do to you, that’s that.” She was with these guys, one she was dating, they were brothers, and they could tell immediately—“Don’t let this happen because it’ll be really bad.” So they took her away. And the only way she could go home with the boyfriend that bought her the cool car was to send us home with her car. And me and Mick and Dan had to drive her car home, her really cool car! It was just hard for Peg, all the time. And I don’t know why. I thought Peg was an amazing drummer, I thought she was an amazing everything. She’s a Leo and I’m a Leo, that might have had something to do with it. I dunno, she’s always saying astrological things…I never said anything astrological until I met her.
The Gories went to Europe and I went and worked their t-shirt stand. There were a lot of beautiful girls on that tour--I still remember some of them. But certain people on that tour acted like I was the big sex bomb. I had just gotten out of college and was covered in pimples, a little overweight, had an asymmetrical bob and a serious drinking problem. I wasn’t like, “Ooh la la!” Why this big deal to focus on me?!? I wasn’t some go-go girl! I took my turtleneck off one night because it was hot, and underneath I had a tube top that had fringe on it and Peg quit playing. If she wouldn’t have been so weird about what I wore or did, then I probably wouldn’t have been so driven to expose myself. She said, “You behave or I’m gonna quit.” Oh yeah? Watch this--I don’t have to behave ever again. I’m never behaving for the rest of my life.
That tour was just not nice. It could’ve been fun--and should’ve been. It was a lot of verbal abuse, yelling, threatening to quit all the time. I was blamed the most, but that doesn’t mean Dan wasn’t blamed or Mick, either. The Gories finally ended for good with Peg quitting. I don’t remember where or when, I just forget the details of unpleasant stuff.
I don’t wanna fuel the fire over what happened with the Gories. I really want to move on and be done with it.
YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND, PT.1
Dan was devastated when the Gories broke up. I saw the depression. So my first suggestion was, “Why don’t you try your other friend’s band?” And he did, and didn’t like it. He would come home and be sad ‘cause he didn’t like the other bands he was in. When you’re a friend you help people realize their dreams and fantasies…you want stuff to be fun for your friends, magical and sparkly for the people you’re around. That’s when I realized I was his friend, not his girlfriend.
We were living together and Detroit is a very incestuous place. Everybody in Detroit at the time was trying to find a way to sleep with each other and that was supposed to be understood. And I was like, “Well, that’s understood if you want an infection. If that’s what you wanna try, go for it, but then we’re not doing it anymore. We can live in the same place, but I don’t wanna do it anymore, ‘cause I don’t want more infections.” That was right away, not long after the break-up of the Gories. I said, “We can live together and just hang out.”
Dan thought I was a fun person. I think it’s hard for him to have fun and he was having a good time. I had a different kind of classic car that was always kept in top-notch condition. Me and my Dad were always souping up cars and Dan loved being around my family.
And I was crazy and wild. I saw Screamin’ Jay Hawkins at the Majestic in Detroit. Well, I had never seen anything like this cute black man with a cape!!! I had on a leopard-spotted bathing suit, and I took everything off except my boots and stockings and jumped onstage to chase Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. He got scared! He was up against the back wall of the stage in his cape, with his horror-filled face, holding his little cane, looking like a scared girl. His eyes were huge, and he was screaming for real. I was like, “I love you!!!” His wife had me carried out into the alley.
WE’RE THE DOLL RODS
The idea of having a band started when I was out with the Gories and got the flavor of being on the road. I thought, “I love traveling around, looking out the window, hearing music every night. This is fun. This music is cool…it can’t be that hard. It’s got a little ungawa, some booga-booga.” Now there’s a big difference between “Cumbaya, Sweet Jesus” and “Ungawa.” But I figured it out.
By then I had totally forgot how to play guitar and hadn’t played in years. Alex Chilton had been hanging around the Gories and he was at our house. I had my old guitar in the living room in case Dan wanted to play. Alex said, “This guitar is really beautiful, it looks as though it’s rarely been played!” I told him how classical guitar lessons had put me off guitar.
Alex was like, “Really? A bad experience is gonna ruin a good time for the rest of your life?” I thought, “That’s a good point! Why would I let a bad experience keep me from having a good time the rest of my life?” Because of that I started playing again. And when the Doll Rods started playing, we proudly showed him a video and he laughed and said, “Oh my God, you guys are a noise band!” I was a heavy alcoholic at the time and I said, “And you’re a pretentious asshole.” He thought it was funny. We remained friends. He ran my car onto a curb and into a fire hydrant and paid to have it fixed. I really liked Alex.
I really never had any desire to be in a band or have one, I was happy in my little world of Playboy centerfolds. I thought it would be cool if those girls came to life to have them around or if I could find other ones that looked like that. And I did see other ones on the Gories tour, I was like, “Oh my gosh, they are here. In other countries. They look just like the girls that are on the wall!”
So I thought I’d do an all-girl thing, there wouldn’t be weird jealousy stuff and it’d all be cool. I wasn’t considering a band with Dan at all. For a minute we were gonna do a project with Mick, but Dan didn’t want to ‘cause he was tired of picking Mick up. Mick lived not even a half mile from Dan’s house. I wanted to do it, ‘cause there were two people who were sad who I could’ve made happy. I loved Mick and still do. But Dan was tired of the drive.
So when it didn’t work out for Dan with these other bands I told him my idea for an all-girl band. I said, “ I don’t think it’s gonna work for you, ‘cause you’re not a girl. It’s very important to me that it’s a girl band.” But I knew Dan liked being a girl—he was always going on about his fantasies and ideas of being a girl. So I kept the stipulation of being a girl.
Dan really liked my clothes. He’d tell me, “When I was younger, I used to put my hair behind my ear, wrap a towel around myself and pretend that I was a mermaid.” And adults would tell him not to do it. Anytime anybody says to me, “They told me not to do it,” I’m a big supporter of, “Oh, I think you should definitely do it.”
I was gettin’ the feeling that this guy wanted to dress up like a girl. He never once said, “I don’t want to dress up like a girl any more.” When he did his own costumes, they weren’t very girly--they were more like somebody that came off some other planet. Or it was cape time. He kind of morphed into whatever he wanted to be. And he never said that he needed to be a girl, but he was always quite feminine. Dan was just open to it, there was an openness. There was a time in his life when Dan was asking me to tell him what to do. He was very submissive—“ I don’t know what to do, you tell me what to do.” “All right, I can do that!”
I think people felt that the leader of the Doll Rods was me. Once I have an idea, I’m pretty driven on making it happen. I feel something and speak it. I believe the name Demolition Doll Rods came to me on the Gories tour. Touring was so hard with them, I’d just go into my own imaginary world and start writing stuff.
The first show Doll Rods was at a bar called Paycheck’s Lounge. We opened for the Trash Brats. I was really excited. We hadn’t been together that long, I don’t think we had so many original songs. That was with our first drummer, Karen Brown, who played a gigantic, enormous drum kit with like, a hundred drums. I think she played only one of them. With one hand and a drink in the other.
I remember events in general by what I wore…it would’ve been so much easier to remember stuff in history class if people would’ve just dressed up. I had on a beautiful velvet gown that had a rhinestone-studded exclamation point above my boobs. Underneath the gown I had taped myself a beautiful bikini, so by the third song that’s all I was wearing. I had been wearing duct tape everywhere, ‘cause finding a top that fit me was awful. So I was making them out of tape.
I had lent Dan a patent leather skirt—well, pleather, actually. He wore that with a motorcycle jacket, fishnets, jackboots and Fruit of the Loom underpants. He’d bend way down low, extend his crotch forward to do this great poodle-humping move and it was just full-on Fruit of the Loom white underwear. I still remember the faces of the people at Paycheck’s. The place smelled like a combo of beer and pee and it was just magic.
I think Karen was in the band for six months. She was this person continually coming around me who was very drunk and high always trying to make out with me. She had a boyfriend and she said, “You can come over to my house and practice.” We tried it. I really love Karen and she’s a super-fun gal, but it was a nightmare. I think the first recordings were a cover of “I Want You” by the Troggs, an extremely primitive version of “Psycho Kitty,” and our version of “Spoonful.” Playing “Spoonful” with Karen was really hard, and it’s a three-chord song. When we started gettin’ shows, and people asking us to do stuff out of town, everything just started happenin’, she got arrested. Once you get arrested, you can’t go anywhere.
She was a serious heroin addict. Karen got put in jail—right after she and my roommate stole my car to go get drugs. I got out of the shower to go to work and my car was gone. I got a call from her from jail saying, “I just wanna let you know where your car is. We got arrested outside this drug house, I told them not to tow it, if you have an extra set of keys, you can go get it.” So Dan friend and I had to go down to Cracktown, USA and get my car. And that was the end of Karen’s Doll Rod career.
“African Lipstick” was an early song that just came out of my skull. It was inspired by Rhonda, this beautiful black girl that roadied for us. She had these gigantic lips and crazy, crazy teeth. Most girls hold lipstick all dainty--Rhonda would just grab her purple lipstick in the middle of her fist and make big circles. When I began doing shows, people started coming at me and I wasn’t used to that action, so it was--Help me, Rhonda! She was like my bodyguard and helper.
We left her one time at a truck stop while Dan was driving and I was sleeping. I woke up and asked, “Where’s Rhonda?” It was a five-hour drive to go back and get her. When we got back there she was, sitting on the curb at the truck stop with her silver bikini top, cut-off shorts and no shoes.
Rhonda overdosed. Our friend Joe who did photos for the Doll Rods worked at the morgue, and he’d be called to the scene when they found a body to take the pictures. There she was in an abandoned building with a needle in her arm. It’s a bummer for all the people that didn’t get to meet Rhonda, ‘cause she was a really, really fun time. I loved something about that girl.
That’s what inspired the song “I Wanna OD.” Our friends were dying left and right…like we really thought we were gonna lose Karen. We thought, “We can’t talk to our friends about this, they don’t listen, so why don’t we make a song that makes fun of it, and set it to the music of the Honeycomb commercial with all the kids singing?”
THUMPURR HOPS IN
My sister Christine had bought an RV or Winnebago and had gone to New Orleans to panhandle with a friend. She ended up alone on the streets…it was a tough situation and she had to call home. I knew her only option was living with my parents for a while. I don’t think I was her favorite person in the world at the time, but dealing with me was probably easier than Mom, especially after you fucked up. I told Christine if she wanted she could come live with me.
After she moved into Danny’s we started having a really, really hard time. Christine was doing a lot of cough syrup stuff. Anything you could get your hands on to get you high, she was abusing it. I was telling Dan, “Don’t do this. Don’t get wasted with my sister.” I was working, paying for everything. I’d come home and they’d be talking like angels from another planet. It was really getting bad. I said, “Okay, that’s it, we’re moving out, Christine and I.”
At that point in my life I’d become pretty straight-laced. We were drinking beers and smoking reefer and all that stuff pretty heavily at first, and then Christine and I both cut that out. I think we got really bored with it.
I tried smack once and couldn’t walk. I fell in a snow bank and rolled around until they picked me up and got me in the car. I went to sleep on the couch and dreamt about fruit. “This is what you people are doing everyday?? If I’m gonna dream about something, it’s not gonna be fucking fruit!” Cocaine, I left the van parked in the street in front of the police station because the red light didn’t change fast enough and I zoomed home. Christine was like, “Where’s the van?” “In the street ‘cause the red light didn’t change fast enough.” You just feel agitated. That was enough of that.
Stopping drinking was not a decision I made. The doctors told me, “You have liver failure” and had me sign a paper saying that I’d been informed on the condition of my liver and that if anything happened to me it’s not because they didn’t tell me. So it was up to me to do a 12-step program, which I never did. I just knew I had to stop. I went from drinking the whole bottle of Wild Turkey to just brown beer.
I was able to quit drinking pretty quickly. I was able to convince myself that “This is gonna be good, I’m gonna probably remember things, I’m gonna know the guy’s name the next day.” Danny was a big part of it. He kept saying things to me like, “You don’t have to be drunk to do these crazy things, ‘cause you are already crazy!” He convinced me that being crazy was a good, fun thing.
The only way to heal my liver was to rejuvenate it, and they started me out on a macrobiotic diet. The doctor gave me packets of Spirulina…if I drank, I had to take these packets to try and keep things alive. I had to change my eating habits…back then a meal was Mountain Dew and Snickers. Or Mountain Dew and Twinkies. Or Mountain Dew and Newports. It’s been so long since I had a Mountain Dew. When I think about it I can still smell the Dew.
Later on the Doll Rods began eating healthy and somehow I tripped upon just eating raw foods. Then I started foraging. When we were out on the road people would take us to a steak restaurant--just to piss me off, I think. I’d go, “Okay, well, enjoy your dinner, I’m gonna go outside and pick something. Watch this, I just ate a dandelion!” I was eating a lot of dandelions and getting wasted. I couldn’t get high or drink any more. For me, I just feel very high when I eat that way. Really high. That’s why I still do it.
Back to Christine and I. Dan had to get his own place for the first time, and Christine and I got an apartment on the outskirts of this super chi-chi area, the edge of fancy-schmancy, it was like the perfect location to film Stepford Wives 3. That’s really when the Doll Rods started, when we moved out.
The Doll Rods had this offer for an upcoming show. I told Christine, “I can offer you a chance to travel and eat. I don’t know if we’re getting paid, or if we’ll go shopping, but if you want, you can do this.” She said, “Sure, I’ll do it” and that was it. She was into it! We’d have practices in the living room with Christine beating a phonebook and we’d try to make up songs. We were loving Christine a lot. I never really knew her before this.
Christine is an amazingly creative, fun person and her ideas are beautifully wacked out! She has an out-there mind. Christine had a way of saying things that was just epic. Other girls would talk about not liking their figures and she’d put her hand on her hip and say, “It ain’t nothin’ but the stuffin’!” Christine was tough, too, a really tough girl. But she never, ever used it in a way that was gonna harm anybody. Pure strength and pure insanity, that’s very rare. It’s very rare to find somebody that precious.
When you’re doing stuff with people, they’re not always ready to go into the full realm of insanity. For the most part Christine will always take it a step further. And remember--Christine couldn’t see! She couldn’t see half the shit going on! She’d be onstage and smoke would be rising ‘cause she put her coat on a light before they turned the stagelights on. Or she’d completely walk right off the stage ‘cause she didn’t know where it was gonna end.
Dan and I were still having heated arguments all the time. What would we fight about? It’s easier to say what we didn’t fight about. I grew up in a home with a lot of fighting, it was a sign of affection--“Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out” was like saying “I love you very much!” And I don’t think Dan was used to that. It was painful, just hurt feelings all the time. Maybe that’s what made it so fun, I don’t know.
The Stepford Wives apartment had one of those old gas stoves, and once I turned the gas on before we started fighting. When I got off the phone I was in such a tither that I just went back, lit the stove and my head caught on fire. Christine was so brave--she came to me with a little towel and patted my flaming head out. Fortunately I had my hair in a ponytail, but that was the start of false eyelashes and penciled-in eyebrows.
A few days later came the other fire. Danny had bought me a cool old 7-UP clock, the 7 on it said 7-UP, it was amazing, although it made for huge electrical bills. I remember looking at it thinking, “Gosh, I don’t know what I would ever do if anything ever happened to this clock!” Then Danny and I had another one of our arguments, and I had left a light on in the wardrobe closet that I had made in the attic and forgot about it. The whole upstairs caught on fire and all the clothing shrunk down to Barbie doll size and all that was left of the 7-Up clock was a tiny, plastic melted ball…For some reason when I would get upset, things would catch on fire.
I had to find Christine and I another house. The one I found was in bad shape. The windows were falling out, the door was in the backyard, but we were like, “We can live here.” It wasn’t long before Dan moved into the basement. He was helping me fix stuff to pay for his rent and we were excited about all of us being here together. Once we had the house, Dan and I still fought, but somehow it wasn’t as bad. We were always on the road--we just came back to work out new songs, change our wardrobe, and get back in the van. We hardly ever stayed in Detroit. I’ve always loved being away from home.
End of Part One…
PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE MARGARET DOLL ROD COLLECTION
Most Doll Rod Photographs taken by the Great Joe Sopkowicz