Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Butcher Babies: The Day The Plasmatics Incinerated Pier 62

There will never be another Wendy O. Williams.

On the 18th anniversary of her passing, I'd like to share this story that former Plasmatics guitarist Richie Stotts told me back in 2002 about the band's legendary performance at New York City's Pier 62 in the fall of 1980. (Video appears at the bottom of this feature.) This story is part of an extensive oral history of the band by Richie that appears in my 2010 book, From Satan to Sabbath:The METAL Interviews 2000-2009

Here's Richie:

“We got a permit from New York City to film a movie, and we were gonna do it on the Pier. We built a stage out there. A real freakin’ stage. It was five feet high and made of plywood, which cost a lot of money. Then we built all phony stage amps and stuff. Even the guitars we played were not really real. Then we went to the studio and recorded the songs we were gonna play. The recorded them without the vocals, because Wendy was gonna sing live. Then we had to get a PA system out there to play the music. Then we had a ramp going off the stage, and behind the stage was the end of the pier and the Hudson River.

In the meantime, we didn’t tell New York City that we put posters all around saying that there was going to be a free concert by the Plasmatics. Then we invited Chuck Scarborough and those characters from ABC, NBC, CBS to come down. We did a press release.

So we built the stage a couple days before. I built part of that stage, hammering the freakin’ shit in. We built a drum riser, got a cheap drum set, threw it up there. The plan was for us to do the songs, and Wendy would go to the front of the pier, get in the Cadillac, drive the car at us and go up the ramp. Then we’d jump off the stage, everything would explode and the car would hit this barrier in the back. It was a real Cadillac, and we wanted to use that for our next show. We buy these cars, and then we’d drive them to the show and blow them up.

Later on, we got a great pyro guy named 'Pyro Pete,' but before him we had a guy named Rob. We didn’t know much about pyro, but Swenson thought Rob was taking care of it. And all Rob did was have 10-gallon tanks cut in half under the stage, and he just poured gasoline in them. This was not what we expected. If the fire department had seen that, it would have been all off. There was a tiff before the show, because we were all nervous.

It was wild, because so many people came. My parents actually came to this thing. We rented a helicopter, so we’d come down in the helicopter. We came down and it looked like Woodstock. It was just jam-packed. The police department was there; the fire department was there. It was really exciting, and really exciting because we didn’t really have to worry about playing because it was already taped. (laughs)

We went down there, and we played these songs and it was great. Wendy goes and gets the car, drives the car up the stage, jumps out and everybody’s fine. The car goes up the ramp, but doesn’t go up the ramp the way we thought it would. The whole stage blew up, the gasoline tanks worked…but the car just kept going and went right into the river.

The whole thing was great!”


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