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Fashion : A SPECIAL REPORT: SPRING INTO FALL : Personal Style : Red Hot Chili Peppers: Rockin', Rollin'. . . and Swingin' : Sportswear: All work and no play can make a rock band a dull bunch. So this L.A. group relaxes on the golf course.

May 02, 1990|MAUREEN SAJBEL

"Golf is an extraordinarily suave sport," says Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a funk/punk/rock 'n' roll band from Los Angeles, and avid practitioner of the very clean-cut sport.

After seven years underground, the Chili Peppers are basking in mainstream success and recognition. Their latest album, "Mother's Milk," just went gold, with sales of more than 500,000 copies, and their song "Show Me Your Soul" made the soundtrack of the feature film "Pretty Woman."

"When we're not playing music, we like to get suave on the course," Kiedis says. "It's nice to get out on the course, look up and see the Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood Hills around you. You just have to say life's not so bad."

"Even when you're hitting a triple bogey," adds Chad Smith, the band's drummer. (Non-golfers take note: a bogey is bad news.)

The Chili Peppers have just played a round, and now sit in the clubhouse, in stark contrast to other players dressed in pastel polyester.

They admire a waitress's Technicolor eye makeup, sign an autograph, and are taken a bit off-guard when a golf pro, Paul Hooker, offers them free passes to have their golf swings analyzed. "You're not serving any warrants, are you?" asks Kiedis suspiciously.

Flea, who plays bass, is delayed for a few minutes while buying a sand wedge in the pro shop. He, Kiedis and Smith, all 27, have played golf for several years. In the clubhouse, they are joined by the non-golfing fourth member, guitarist John Frusciante, 20.

Chili Pepper golf attire would draw attention at even the most liberal public course. And it might get these rock putters removed from a private one. Flea wears a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, which matches his Hendrix tattoo, and a pair of Holstein-patterned shorts. Kiedis, the most stylish of the group, wears a plaid blazer and matching shorts. The Peppers also don T-shirts and kilts when they go to the greens.

At the moment they are all wearing shirts but, as on stage, they are inclined to remove them on the links.

"We're the epitome," says Kiedis, "of low fashion."

"I saw one guy today who out-styled all of us," Flea chimes in. "He was dressed all in black--black knickers, black socks, a baggy black shirt and a big black stovepipe hat. He had white hair. I've never seen anyone so stylish on the course before. We salute that person."

The Chili Peppers are a mass of contradictions. While exceedingly polite during conversations, they are known for a crude, high-energy show that appeals to slam dancers. They're also known for stripping down to their socks on stage--and the socks are not on their feet.

They love listening to Tom Jones, Public Enemy and Jimi Hendrix but live for the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, one song on "Mother's Milk" is titled "Magic Johnson."

And they mix hard-driving music with the world's most bucolic sport. But rock 'n' roll and golf are not all that unusual. Heavy-metal artist Alice Cooper as well as the more mellow Huey Lewis and the Doobie Brothers are also avid golfers.

For the Chili Peppers, the appeal of the sport mirrors a concern they have written and sung about. "The environment is a part of life I can't ignore," says Kiedis, the band's lyricist. "I feel very closely tied to nature. When it's being destroyed, I have to write about it. It bothers me."

Drug abuse is another subject the band explores. They lost their original guitarist, Hillel Slovak, in 1988 to a fatal heroin overdose.

"Obviously, on a personal level, we lost a beautiful person and friend," Kiedis says. "It changes your perspective on mortality. That idea shows up in our song 'Knock Me Down.' "

The Peppers can't sit still once they realize that if they're going to make the start of a televised Knicks game and stop at Pink's for a hotdog, they'd better get going. They head into the sunny afternoon, golf bags over their shoulders.

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