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Hangin' Out With Rock's Rude Boys

Blink-182--a band that can make Jay Leno's jaw drop--likes its humor on the crude side. But it has legions of fans. And that's nothing to laugh at.

May 11, 2000|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You're a young musician and your rock band has been booked on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," a gig that promises a national audience and a tiny slice of TV history. You travel to NBC's Burbank studios, walk past Tom Brokaw's parking space and the Milton Berle mural and take your place at rehearsals. How cool is this? And, wow, look here comes Mr. Leno himself to welcome you.

So what are your first words to him?

"Uh, you see these nine dudes here?" (You point to your nearby bandmates, publicist, tour manager, etc.) "Out of these nine dudes, eight of them have seen my naked penis. How gnarly is that? Isn't that funny?"

Well, now, that depends. But if you're Mark Hoppus, one of the class clowns in Blink-182, that's very funny and very in character.

The multi-platinum-selling band is one Bart Simpson would love--there's a lot of loud, punky guitar and a fascination with body functions. Parents cringe and critics wince, but Blink's music and mien are so loopy, so unabashed, there's a temptation to call the band a breath of fresh air. But what can you say about a band whose name is a reference to the number of times Al Pacino's character says a certain obscenity in "Scarface"?

Put simply, this is a band that likes to potty--and they're confused when others don't play along. "Was that bad . . . the penis thing?" Hoppus asks after Leno has quickly retreated to the company of adults. "Do you think he walked off because I said that?"

The bassist, who at times resembles actor Johnny Depp, furrows his brow like a dejected schoolboy. But in the span of a few puppy dog heartbeats, the 27-year-old grins and yanks his jeans up to his rib cage. The self-inflicted wedgie creates an, uh, unusual celebrity profile. "Want to play a few rounds of 'Guess which side it's on'?"

With hits such as "What's My Age Again?" and "All the Small Things," the group's latest album, "Enema of the State," is just north of 3.1 million copies in U.S. sales. ("Not bad for moron music for kids, right?" cracks Jerry Finn, the album's producer.) Now the group is primed to launch its latest tour, which includes a Friday show at the Great Western Forum, ensuring a steady dose of Blinkmania for the summer. What better time to tag along with the trio for a few hours to probe their thoughts as they bring their Shemp rock to Leno's mainstream America couch?

10 a.m.: Blink-182 fans, many tattooed and clutching CDs, posters and T-shirts, are already scurrying on and around the vast NBC lot. The less-than-stellar lineup of guests scheduled for the show (those British matrons who posed nude for a calendar and a supporting actress from "Sex and the City") ensures that the crowd will be largely Blink devotees and unsuspecting Midwestern tourists who would probably prefer Shania Twain.

10:20: The morning is not going well. According to the taping schedule, the three men of Blink--Hoppus, guitarist Tom DeLonge and drummer Travis Barker--are supposed to be ready and waiting at the Burbank sound stage. DeLonge has driven himself from his home in Encinitas. But the cars sent to pick up Hoppus and Barker never show at their homes in Rancho Bernardo and Chino Hills, respectively, and now the whole affair is more than an hour behind schedule before it starts.

10:45: DeLonge, idly strumming his Stratocaster, is hanging out with the band's gear in a breezeway adjacent to Studio 3, home of "The Tonight Show." A few fans approach gingerly to ask for autographs, and the lanky, long-faced star gives one of them a graphic dissertation on tattoo infection and how to avoid it. He says later that after the band was greeted with near-riots in Italy, it's nice to hang out with low-key fans. "Milan was crazy, there was like 5,000 screaming kids in the street and these riot cops with machine guns. . . . We kept trying to yell to the kids, 'Hey, we're just stupid idiots,' but they didn't understand because, y'know, they're Italian."

11:00: Eric Stein, a publicist for MCA Records, tells DeLonge about a bizarre Blink-related trend: A medical professional group has recently tracked a twofold increase in the number of young people receiving colonics nationwide. "There's some thought that 'Enema of the State' might be one of the factors," Stein says. The conversation soon shifts to the recent eBay sale (for $32) of a half-eaten Pop Tart that Hoppus tossed into the crowd at a recent show. It's not clear how these topics are connected or whether either report is, in fact, remotely true.

11:20: Still no Hoppus, still no Barker. The group's tour manager, Alex Macleod, gives a nonchalant shrug and says he's not worried, but he says it with a wide-eyed intensity. Later, it becomes apparent that this is his typical expression after years in the business, including a stint shepherding Nirvana from crisis to crisis. "I'm an architect of order," he offers. "This is a hectic start, but things will get better."

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