Making people blush is a big part of Stevie Starlite's "X-rated" rock show. And for some twisted reason, it's also a big part of his appeal. If you've ever wondered why some people enjoy being scared to death on amusement park rides, you're probably equally perplexed by folks who love being heckled, insulted and grossed out by the extremely vulgar Starlite.
But the entertainer has more than just a casual following in the Chicago area, particularly on his native South Side. Amid wonderfully viscous North Sider jokes, Stevie pokes fun at gays, Irishmen, Harold Washington and "those little girls from Mother McAuley High School." And he's more than happy to ream anyone who dares to protest. You might say he's rock's answer to Don Rickles.
Unlike Rickles though, Steve Pacelli (as he is known in "real life") is more than just a cutup-he's a talented musician as well. Backed by the Padre Pio Trio (which is really just two guys, Gordon Patriarca "on bass and pimento" and Jack Cook "on drums and flared nostrils," according to the credits on the cover of the record), he cranks out energetic rock dominated by a raw guitar sound.
Many of songs are primitive standards such as a medley of surf tunes or the tune "Suspicion." He encourages audience participation, often yielding hilarious results.
In keeping with the vintage sound, Pacelli uses the basics of musical equipment. He doesn't use a sound man or fancy mixing board. In an age when many bands tour with truckloads of expensive public address systems, he blares out through a pair of Bose speakers, and it sounds fine.
Pacelli has used this same approach for 15 years as a professional musician. Before Stevie Starlite (a "group" which has undergone countless personnel changes,) he was half of a duo called "One Pound Round," another act known for its raunchy humor.
As Stevie Starlite, he has released several self-produced records on the Snorko Records label. The first was an album called "Don't You Dare Touch My D.A." and next came a four-song E.P. called "Fuzzy-Dice," which curiously became a hit in Holland. Pacelli admits this really isn't all that strange. While working for the Ampeg Company, he was sent to Europe to promote Ampeg products and used the opportunity to promote his record.
Offstage, Pacelli is the friendliest guy you'd ever want to meet, and even when performing, he always gives the impression that his barbs are strictly in jest. Though he uses every four-letter word imaginable, he's careful not to incense anyone.
He says it has been a challenge to find and keep musicians who can tolerate his ad-libbing, but says "my current bass player is just as demented as I am, so it works out great."
It takes a fair amount of dementia, and a very tolerate attitude to appreciate the humor of Stevie Starlite. If you're easily offended by profanity, be forewarned. The guy is dirty. But in his words, "Hey, at least I'm different."