Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins

Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, FL • January 23, 1999

“Isn’t it nice to be in such an upscale venue,” Henry Rollins joked as he took the stage at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center for one of the first stops on his latest spoken word tour. Just back in the US a few days, Rollins looked a little out of place in the Center’s posh Playhouse, but nonetheless held court for a little over three hours’ worth of wry observations and anecdotes.

Reading that, you might wonder how anyone could sit still for that long while someone talks at them, but I’d have happily sat for another three hours, provided they were as entertaining as the first three. Considering the fact that 95% of what Rollins talks about is himself and his experiences, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment – on anyone else, it would seem self-absorbed and narcissistic.

Highlights of the evening included Rollins’ description of his idea of Hell, where he’s sure he’s going if the Christians are right (“an eternal tongue kiss from Ronald Reagan”), discussion of comparative religions (of which Buddhism gets a favorable nod, because Buddha seems like an understanding god. “‘Buddha, I touch my dick.’ ‘Of course you do…'”), trips to Russia and Israel (after watching the faithful back away from Mecca, not turning their backs, he says “next time I see Ozzy Osbourne, that’s how I’m going to leave”), and the making of his upcoming film, Morgan’s Ferry , in which he has a nude scene (“‘That scene where the wind blew, and you shriveled up? The camera loved that!'”).

The story that really stood out above and beyond the rest of the monologue, though, involved selected anecdotes about Black Sabbath, with whom Rollins spent time while they rehearsed for the gigs captured on their current Reunion album. He mentioned helping push “the Dark Lord of Metal,” Tony Iommi’s truck out of the mud, which he figures will pay off in the afterlife. He relates his vision of showing up and being welcomed by Cameron Diaz, and escorted to the Green Room to hang out with the Rat Pack for eternity. In confusion, he asks why he’s not “in a vat of boiling urine,” to which Diaz replies, “Remember when you helped push Tony Iommi’s truck out of the ditch? Well…you know…Satan, Tony…Tony, Satan…Hell’s going to be pretty good to you.”

All in all, it was a memorable evening, and my wife and I have spent the weeks since cracking each other up with snippets of Rollins’ stories. You may hear some naysayers gripe that he doesn’t talk about as many serious topics as he used to (which is true), but I don’t think anyone could honestly say they didn’t enjoy every minute.

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