Wednesday, September 30, 2009


By Chuck Miller

Lux Interior was the sort of person who invited the most outlandish rumor and speculation about his personal life. Which is ironic, since he was probably considerably more stable than most of his fans-- this reporter included. I mean, how many people do you know who stay married to the same person for 37 years because they really want to?
I am just now getting around to slogging through everything that has been written about his life and death since February. I just did not have the heart for it through the spring and summer. But there's something about the Fall that makes things easier, or at least more tolerable. It's almost October, and that means Lux's birthday, my birthday and Halloween. Time to buck up and take a look. I discovered, not surprisingly, an early rumor that Lux was a victim of autoerotic asphyxiation. I suppose the heroin overdose he was rumored to have died of in the 1980s was no longer sensational enough. I'm only surprised the rumor mill stopped there. It is fortunate indeed that he didn't live near a horse ranch in Seattle.

I'm a displaced Akronite myself. A little too young to have had firsthand knowledge of the Mad Daddy or Ghoulardi (though I was a huge fan of his successor, the Ghoul), but some of the other cultural (if that's the right word) icons (if that's the right word) that went into the crucible that produced Lux were still there. I actually lived in Cuyahoga Falls, which was right next to Lux's hometown of Stowe. For a few years there, we probably lived within five or six miles of one another.
And I, too, ended up playing in a band that was an homage to my inspirations-- in this case, the Cramps. I did not come up with a stage name, but I had this person in me that only came out on a stage in a club late at night, and it's a damn good thing. This person would do or say absolutely anything. He wasn't me, and yet he was. Possibly he was more me than the one who walked by day.
And I did not consciously invent him. More like I discovered him living down in my basement, so to speak. Which makes sense, when you consider the fact that most of us spend about 90 percent of our time refraining from doing whatever it is we REALLY want to do.
So, you can see that I'm not saying the Lux Interior stage persona was a phony, or even that it was artifice as such. In many ways, I suppose it was the purest distillation of what Erick Lee Purkhiser really was. However, it was a more complex and abstract creation than most people ever realized. Many observers took Lux's stage persona at once too seriously and not seriously enough, without really understanding just what they were seeing, and they got it hopelessly confused with the man behind it. Which it both was and was not.

As with most great fiction, it was closer to the truth than mere reality; it was authentic on a level the "real world" seldom reaches. And it is perfectly consistent with the man who was known and loved by his family and friends.

Now do you understand?

-- Chuck Miller

Sibling recalls Lux Interior, punk icon

Mike Purkhiser remembers artistic, music-loving brother who was a great inspiration

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal music writer

To a couple of generations of music fans, he was Lux Interior, lead singer for campy punk and rockabilly icons the Cramps, seldom seen without his guitarist and wife of 37 years, Poison Ivy.

But to Mike Purkhiser, Lux Interior was just Rick, his older brother by nine years (their eldest brother Ron, 67, lives in Florida) and friend.

Mike Purkhiser, a musician who played with the Action and the Walking Clampetts and is currently sound engineer for Beatles tribute band 1964, remembers the man behind the patent leather pants and mascara. Lux Interior, who was 62, died Feb. 4 of a pre-existing heart condition at a hospital in Glendale, Calif.

Purkhiser remembers the young man who used to watch, listen and absorb the antics of Ernie ''Ghoulardi'' Anderson and Pete ''Mad Daddy'' Myers, the talented artist who always loved music and shared it with his younger sibling, though not always with the most noble intentions.

''He always had a lot of records, and when I was a kid, I was always coming up in his room and I'm sure I was pestering him, so he would make me promise that if I could be quiet for 24 hours, he'd give me a record,'' Purkhiser said.

''And I'd think, 'Man, that's a really good deal, I don't have to say nothing and I'll get a record?' And it didn't dawn on me until years later when I thought 'Damn him, he was just trying to get me to shut up for a day.' I did get a lot of records,'' he said laughing.

Purkhiser says all three brothers shared a dark sense of humor.

''Rick was definitely the one into Ghoulardi and Mad Daddy, and basically what the Cramps became is what he was into his whole life,'' he said.

When Rick left Akron for California in the late '60s, he was still an artist, while Mike was already playing guitar in bands. Mike recalls a letter he received from Rick.

"Basically he said 'I want to do what you're doing, I want to play in a band and make music like you do,' '' he said.

"And I thought that was pretty cool because I always knew him as an artist and as a music lover but not as a musician or performer.''

While in California, Rick met Ivy, and in 1973 the new couple moved back to Akron while deciding what to do with themselves. They worked odd jobs, saw movies and concerts at the Akron Civic Theatre and scoured garage sales and flea markets for rare albums and 45s. They would bring their finds to the family home and excitedly listen to the new vinyl treasures.

When Mike Purkhiser thinks of his brother, he says he thinks of both Rick and Lux, because Erick Lee Purkhiser and Kristy Wallace were Lux Interior and Poison Ivy for so long and the personas were so strong, most folks probably think the pair went grocery shopping in leather pants and 6-inch stilettos, or slept hanging upside-down like vampire bats. But though they wrote kitschy, provocative songs such as All Women Are Bad and Beat Out My Love, the couple's love for each other was more storybook romance than horror movie.

''They seemed very much like soulmates,'' Purkhiser said. ''They just loved each other, they were always seen together and they might have had disputes between the two of them, but I never heard them say a bad word about each other the way some couples do.''

During that transitional time, the pair started the Cramps, and Purkhiser recalls watching early rehearsals with drummer Miriam Linna shortly before they moved to New York and joined the punk scene centered around CBGB's. Though Purkhiser doesn't remember the first time he saw the Cramps onstage, he fondly recalls his band, the Action, playing a few gigs with them at the fabled club in 1977. Interior's wild stage antics managed to shock even the hardened NYC punk crowd, though Purkhiser was less surprised.

''It was so Ghoulardi, so Mad Daddy, it was that whole kind of schtick and I knew that was what Rick was all about and Ivy, too. So that didn't surprise me. The music surprised me because it was so raw, and I was the Beatles fan and he was the Stones fan, he liked the raw stuff. But later I realized what it was all about — it was about the feeling and the emotion just like those early records were. They weren't really doing anything too different than the early rockabilly or blues records, they just put their own twist on it,'' he said.

Mike Purkhiser said his brother and sister-in-law never aspired to be rock stars but were wholly dedicated to the rockin' beast they created.

''I think if they never got any notoriety out of it and they were just bound to play basements the rest of their lives, they would have been happy doing that. It wasn't about the money or about the fame. They just wanted to play rock 'n' roll.''

Purkhiser says it's hard to believe his big brother is actually gone.

''I was his first fan. He was pretty much preaching the rock 'n' roll gospel at a young age, like 'listen to this record' or 'listen to that record,' and I just always looked up to him,'' he said.

''I just thought he was the greatest, he was so inspiring and so alive. It's hard to think of him as dead right now because he was so alive. It just seems like he was somewhere else right now. And it's the same with Ivy, I swear I never heard those two down,'' he said.

Purkhiser said Rick and Lux were two sides of the same coin, and he has found some comfort in reading the many comments online praising his brother and the band for touching fans' lives. But while he knows the most indelible images of his brother will always be Lux Interior writhing on the floor in black leather briefs or hopping like a bunny on speed while singing to mental patients at Marin County Hospital (a popular video on YouTube) while Ivy bangs out three-chord rock, he also hopes people realize that underneath all the makeup, leather and B-movie schtick were two real people.

Purkhiser said that when he would take friends to meet Lux and Ivy, they would usually assume they were going to step into a horror-movie funhouse where the pair would play the creepy hosts. But unfailingly, those folks would come back and tell Purkhiser how surprised they were that the two were so ''normal.''

''They were so kind and so down to earth, and you'd expected that when you went to see them it would be some kind of horror show or they would act real creepy. But they were just very, very genuine people.''

1997 CRAMPS interview- free MP3 download:

Erick Lee Purkhiser (October 21, 1946 – February 4, 2009), better known as Lux Interior, was an American singer and a founding member of the legendary garage punk band The Cramps from 1976 until his death in February 2009. Born in Akron, Ohio, he grew up in the Akron and Stow, Ohio area. He met his wife Kristy Wallace, better known as Poison Ivy, a.k.a. Ivy Rorschach, in Sacramento in 1972, allegedly while she was hitchhiking. The couple founded the band and moved from California to Ohio in 1973 and then to New York in 1975 where they became part of the flourishing punk scene. Lux Interior's name came "from an old car commercial", having previously flirted with the names Vip Vop and Raven Beauty, while his wife's name change was inspired by "a vision she received in a dream". The couple called their musical style psychobilly, originally claiming it to have been inspired by a Johnny Cash song, and later saying that they were just using the phrase as "carny terms to drum up business." Lux Interior died at 4:30 a.m. on February 4, 2009, in Glendale, California. The cause of death was aortic dissection. He is survived by his wife Ivy and two brothers, Michael Purkhiser and Ronald "Skip" Purkhiser. The memorial service for Lux was held on February 21st at the Windmill Chapel of the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. This was a very private ceremony but a report of it, agreed to by Ivy, has been posted for fans of Lux by long time friend Jonny Whiteside. Lux's brother, Mike, also provided insight into his relationship with Lux in a newspaper article. (Wikipedia)

Aortic dissection is a tear in the wall of the aorta that causes blood to flow between the layers of the wall of the aorta and force the layers apart. Aortic dissection is a medical emergency and can quickly lead to death, even with optimal treatment. If the dissection tears the aorta completely open (through all three layers), massive and rapid blood loss occurs. Aortic dissections resulting in rupture have an 80% mortality rate, and 50% of patients die before they even reach the hospital. If the dissection reaches 6 cm, the patient must be taken for emergency surgery.

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