Stevie Starlite
Still Crazy After All These Years

By Anthony Caciopo

       It's just about show time at Haywires in suburban Burbank and a buzz runs through the crowd as the South Side's premier musical madcap takes the stage. After a few quick verbal pokes at hapless bystanders, Steve Starlite suddenly turns all business: "We're gonna give you some rock 'n' roll and hope you can understand it," he growls, then spins into an escape-velocity version of his own instrumental, Jetstar 88. He climaxes the number by squeezing rapidly ascending and descending harmonic squeals from his butterscotch 'n' black Fender Telecaster guitar.

       Call Stevie Starlite's act "X-rated rock" and he'll likely give you a slight shake of the head and a soft sigh. "It's not that. It's not like I'm strippin' onstage. What I do is nothing more than say what's said (between friends), person-to-person. It's always been so natural. My reputation precedes me. They say 'Oh, you're that dirty guy. I hear you strip down to a g-string.' Well, they've heard wrong."

       So what, in fact, is Stevie Starlite? For starters, he's a clever businessman who, by his own admission, earns a respectable living by actually having people pay to witness his wacky world of raunch 'n' roll. But he's also the leader of a damn good three piece rock band ("any more than that would confuse the hell outta me") and everything else - the insults, the sexual cracks - is all icing on his cake.

       Easily approachable, instantly likable and remarkably levelheaded about the silliness and seriousness of rock 'n' roll, Stevie Starlite knows precisely what he wants as an entertainer and knows what others want from him.

       Unpretentious, but also unapologetic, he deliberately keeps his musical style simple yet snappy. Listen to him burn through Link Wray's Rumble, The Chantays' Pipeline, and Walk Don't Run by The Ventures and the virtues of that old cliché "less is more" become readily apparent. "It's almost hard to be simple," Starlite laments, "especially in finding people (sidemen) I can stay with that aren't over-educated band-wise. I go through drummers like I change my shorts."

       With a flourish Stevie and the band warm things up with a couple of well-received oldies and then lurch into the chugga-chugga boom-boom sound of Baby Are You Stanky. Other it-could-only-be-Stevie Starlite crowd favorites include Fuzzy Dice, I know What You Want, Top Of Your Head, and Tonight I'm Gonna Take You Home. His lyrical content - which runs the gamut from oral sex to deviate sex to I-gotta-get-me-some-more-sex is, in a way, quite refreshing as he places tongue firmly in cheek and tosses the all-too typical self-important rock star attitude into a cocked hat. "The Stevie Starlite thing is almost eight years old. And it's always been the same kind of nuttyness," he says. "I like what I do."

       A smarmy, devilish act like Stevie Starlite doesn't hatch overnight and the man behind the name originally began airing his considerable libido back in 1970 with a two man band he called One Pound Round. He's also made a few recordings over the years of which the most recent, Old Brown Eye Is Back was inspired, at least title-wise, by Frank Sinatra. Starlite remembers growing sick of hearing references about Sinatra as "Old Blue Eyes" during one of the superstar singer's rare and much publicized concert appearances. "I just figured 'now it's my turn!,'" he laughs.

       Music lovers uninitiated to the Stevie Starlite assault are often surprised at the cat-calling that takes place at his shows. But the real kicker is that, for the most part, Starlite's the one on the receiving end. He loves it. Encourages it. Even orchestrates it, fer cryin' out loud! Ask him about it and he'll say it's not only good clean fun, but that it's therapeutic as well. But he's quick to add "the more people give, the more I can give. Whatever they throw at me they get right back."

       It's still early in the show and Stevie's already laid waste to a couple of blushing young ladies, The Chicago White Sox, the fans of the Chicago Cubs and his own bass player. Those arriving a bit late need not worry - there's plenty of music, jibes, general insanity and words we can't print here still to come. It's gotta be a great life--playing guitar, speaking your mind, no boss, no ties, or polished shoes--but just what would Stevie Starlite do with his life if not this? "I'd be a practicing gynecologist. I'd do it free, just for the exposure."

       We should've guessed.