I Wanna Disconnect Myself: A Thing About the First Time I Met Henry Rollins

The second time I met Henry Rollins was embarrassing, but only in retrospect. At the time, I was brimming with confidence (which is part of what makes it embarrassing).

I went with my buddy Owen to see Rollins Band in Cincinnati on the Get Some Go Again (2000) tour, and afterward, we hung around the bus because I wanted to give him a copy of a collection of poems I’d put together. My writing style back then was very much influenced by his writing style back then, and I put the book together during a time of relative depression in my life. Writing everything down helped me get it out and feel more normal, but in hindsight, I really wish I hadn’t given out so many copies so freely.

Aside from the writing itself, what made my giving Rollins a copy so retrospectively embarrassing was my decision to include a note inside, encouraging him to contact me with any thoughts or feedback he might have. The only part of the entire experience that does not currently embarrass me is the fact that he liked the title (All Aboard the Joel Train), which, as it happens, is the only part of the entire collection that I am not currently embarrassed about.

The first time I met Henry Rollins, though…that was embarrassing then and now, but it’s also pretty hilarious, and that’s what we’re gathered here today to discuss…
A whole mess of us (myself, along with Travis, Darin, Casey, and maybe Casey’s cousin) drove up to Indianapolis to see Rollins Band on the tour for 1997’s Come in and Burn (an album that I don’t listen to often, but which I still feel is underrated). The band was amazing (Melvin Gibbs’ bass is still causing my insides to jiggle), and the crowd was amazing, and everything was amazing, and then then show ended, and everyone (excluding Travis and myself) wanted to hang around the bus and meet everyone.
I should point out that it’s not like we didn’t want to meet Henry Rollins; it was just that as voracious readers of his self-published writings, we knew that he wasn’t into the whole shaking hands/small talk thing (Which I totally get – small talk is the fucking worst!), and he wished that people would/could be happy with the band pouring their hearts and souls and guts out all over the stage, and we didn’t want to come off as some of those people who seemingly couldn’t understand that. In short, we thought we were very cool.
Anyway, we’re all hanging around the bus, along with some other like-minded fans, and the entire band comes out (sans Rollins), and they’re extremely friendly and more than happy to chat with us for a bit (I told Melvin he was a “bass god”, which seemed to embarrass him, but I stand by that assertion). They all signed stuff for us, and it was cool, and then Rollins came out and began to make the rounds.
I remember Casey showing him his driver’s license, which indicated that they have the same birthday, and Rollins saying something like “cool, are you a genius too?” Then everybody else talked to him, and I spent the entire time trying to think of something cool and memorable to say to the man who was, at the time, one of my idols.
It finally comes down to me – Go Time. “Don’t be nervous, just say something cool”, I said to myself. Instead, the following exchange took place:
Me (sweating profusely): That was a really great show.
Rollins: Thanks very much, I appreciate that.
Me: I really loved your part in The Chase. That’s like the greatest movie of all time.
Rollins (dumbfounded): Oh, wow. You really should see more movies. Maybe check out A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s a lot better than The Chase.
Me (sweating even more): Um…yeah…um…
And it just ended there, which was probably for the best.
I didn’t think The Chase was the greatest movie of all time, or even “like” the greatest movie of all time! Why did I tell Henry Rollins I thought that?! Why did that come out of my mouth?! What the hell was wrong with me?!?!
In case you are unfamiliar with The Chase, here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia: “The Chase is a 1994 American action film directed by Adam Rifkin and starring Charlie Sheen and Kristy Swanson, depicting a wrongfully-convicted man who kidnaps a wealthy heiress and leads police on a lengthy car chase in an attempt to escape prison. It features Henry Rollins, Josh Mostel, and Ray Wise in supporting roles, with cameo appearances by pornographic film actor Ron Jeremy and Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
Rollins and Mostel play the cops who are in primary pursuit throughout the titular chase, and they have a Cops-style camera crew in the car with them. Rollins enthusiastically plays the role of Over-the-Top Asshole Tough Guy Cop, and is easily the most consistently entertaining part of the entire movie, which I have to say again, I have never once considered to be the greatest movie of all time, even though I told Henry Rollins I thought that.
If The Chase sounds like it could be a pretty fun and/or probably really dumb movie, that’s because it is in fact both, but I have to make sure I’m being crystal clear about something: as much I used to enjoy watching The Chase, and as much as I thoroughly enjoyed Henry Rollins’ performance as an over-the-top asshole cop, I have never once even considered considering The Chase to be anywhere near even the bottom of any list of “Greatest Movies of All Time”, past or present, even though I told Henry Rollins I thought that.
Travis probably talked to him about John Coltrane or something cool like that, but Henry Rollins definitely left that encounter thinking I was some kind of idiot, and I can’t say that he was wrong to think that.