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Spikes and Studs : Tipping the Scales Against Heavy Metal, Punk

February 21, 1985|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

They are the extreme--the young people for whom punk rock or heavy metal music has become a way of life: Bizarre clothing and hair styles. Drug and alcohol abuse. Satanism. Violence to themselves and others. Rebellion--against all forms of parental and societal authority.

For the uninitiated, the sights and sounds of Orange County and Los Angeles County punkers and heavy metalers speaking on videotape about how they perceive themselves, their values and their life styles was, no doubt, shocking.

But the purpose of showing the videotape at "Spikes and Studs, an all-day conference on heavy metal and punk and their influence on children," was not to shock.

It was shown, according to conference organizers, to help educate the 130 parents, teachers, counselors, probation officers and police officers who turned out for the conference last week at the Hilton at the Park in Anaheim: To show them how to recognize punk and heavy metal music, dress and accessories; to help them understand the problems associated with the punk and heavy metal culture, and to teach them ways to deal more effectively with these youths.

The conference was sponsored by The Back In Control Training Center in Fullerton, which for the past 10 years has offered a system of parenting designed to help parents assert their rights to set and enforce rules of behavior for their children. There now are Back In Control centers also in Riverside, Whittier and Pasadena.

"To a lot of people, punk and heavy metal is a fad, here today and gone tomorrow," said Darlyne Pettinicchio, associate director of The Back In Control Training Center, at the outset of the conference. "For some kids that's true. For other kids, it becomes a way of life that changes their value systems and beliefs."

Greg Bodenhamer, director of The Back In Control Training Center, a former Orange County deputy probation officer and author of "Back In Control: How to Get Your Children to Behave" (Prentice-Hall, 1983), told the audience that "one of the worst problems we work with on a continuing basis is kids in punk or heavy metal."

"It's rare that a week passes that we don't have one or two metalers come in to the center; we see fewer punkers, four or five a month," explained Bodenhamer in an interview. "Over the course of a year, you're looking at dozens and dozens of kids."

Bodenhamer stresses that the majority of young people who listen to punk rock or heavy metal music are not a problem.

"It's when they start to dress it and act it that it becomes a problem," he said. "When the parents reach us, more often than not, their kids have developed serious problems at school: Their grades have dropped; there is chronic tardiness and truancy; they have a real disinterest in school.

Drawing Away

"There's also a very quick drawing away from the family. Once kids becomes part of the (heavy metal or punk) culture, there is an attitude they frequently pass onto the parents: 'I'm going to do what I want; the hell with you, leave me alone.' And with the metalers, in particular, better than 90% are involved with drugs."

The center's focus, he maintained, is not to be anti-punk or anti-heavy metal. "It's the effect on children and families we're concerned about.

"I think that's the real key for having the workshops: To alert people to the problems of punk and heavy metal because most professionals we deal with treat it as though it's just a different musical genre, like the Beatles were different from Elvis Presley, and they don't see the culture that goes with it."

Darlyne Pettinicchio, who has been a deputy probation officer in Orange County more than 10 years and who serves as a "punk and heavy metal consultant" to the California Youth Authority and police and probation departments throughout California, said there isn't any one type of child who gets seriously involved in the punk or heavy metal life styles.

But there are, she told the audience, some commonalities.

In Orange County, "most of the kids involved in punk or heavy metal are Anglo kids; they're usually middle class and upper class. The ones I've talked to usually are of average intelligence and are very capable of doing what they want in whatever they choose to do in life--if they were motivated in that direction."

Pettinicchio, who interviewed current and former punkers and heavy metalers for the videotape shown at the conference, said she also has found that most of them have poor self-images. Sometimes, she said, they're outcasts--the type of kids who aren't in step with their peers.

"All the kids we've dealt with are seeking a place to belong," she said. "The other thing is they're bored and seeking excitement. Heavy metal or punk is exciting. You never know what's going to happen.

Little Parental Control

"The other thing we've found is there is very little parental control. A lot of times their parents really don't know what their kids are involved in. They don't know who they're associating with, and they don't know what they're doing."

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