Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.”
It is the laugh.
“Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.”
It is the other laugh.
I’m laughing, too. I can’t help myself.
We are cruising now, cachinnating like brilliant idiots, Hyena Kings screaming up the coast into Hell, formerly known as Malibu, Calif. The land of aqua and canary is bright orange and black this late October evening, just in time for Halloween, only there are no jack-o’-lanterns and crepe-noir hobgoblins, only fire.
“Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.”
“Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.”
Malibu is burning, 14,000 prime acres of the most expensive crap homes you’ve ever seen, crackling like tinder, spitting 50-foot flames into a sienna sky. And we’re driving right into it. Or more specifically, I’m driving, because I’m the only person in the vehicle with a driver’s license. They may be the biggest stars in the Known Universe right now, with their own complex of bungalows on the Paramount lot, with their pictures next to the cash registers of Spago, Formosa Cafe, Chinois on Main, with their own private booth at the XXXX Video on Hollywood Boulevard, but they are, after all, only 14.
“Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, ” Butt-Head says.
“Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh,” Beavis says.
The Jeep we’re riding in was a gift from Sherry Lansing, head of Paramount Pictures and, right now, Happy, Happy Girl. These two boys, these two beautiful ugly little boys, are going to make her $100 million, before foreign and video. She would hug them if not for what happened the last time. Instead: this Jeep — not some cheap Cherokee but a real Jeep, the kind that GI Joe drives, thick olive-green plastic shell custom-built onto Humvee guts. They could have had the Humvee or a Lamborghini, twin Ferraris, but they knew what they wanted. Beavis said the tires were wrong, damn it, and so back it went, and now we’re doing 90 up the Pacific Coast Highway on hard black plastic with iron-rod suspension over asphalt already buckled from the heat. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
“Huh-heh, huh-heh, huh-heh, huh-heh,” Butt-Head and Beavis say.
Haw-haw, haw-haw. My teeth are dry from laughing, but also because there is no windshield. The juiceless Santa Ana winds fire hot salt into my eyes, and I’m crying, or maybe it’s just that I’m so damn happy. I look into the seat next to me, and there, nestled together like the kind of lovers only adolescent males can be, kicking and punching and laughing, smacking and cracking up, is a billion dollars’ worth of boys. Beavis and Butt-Head are Tom and Huck, towhead and brunette, blood-and-snot brothers riding their 350-horsepower raft into the heart of stardom.
Butt-Head turns to me. His smile glows orange, the setting sun reflecting off his braces; his eyes alight with the fire in the hills. He is, in that moment, a boy god.
“Uh,” he says. “Let me drive.”
The emergency room at the Malibu Medical Center is filled with guest stars. Tonight’s featured casualties: an actor from, I think, Lou Grant on a gurney wrapped in gauze, second- and third-degree burns on his torso and face received while trying to save his Japanese teahouse; a woman who died on Marcus Welby, M.D. holding in her lap a cackling bichon frisé, which she claims is suffering from smoke inhalation; a rock star of some sort who has managed to cut off a toe. And us, Beavis and Butt-Head and Boswell, who just totaled a $102,000 plastic toy Jeep across the street from Pia Zadora’s house.
Butt-Head, it turns out, doesn’t know how to drive. The boys are perched on opposite edges of an examination table, cheeks to cheeks, stripped to the waist and below only in briefs, probably white originally. Two nurses — one old, the other large — minister to burns, cuts and abrasions, feigning obliviousness to the supercelebrity of the limbs they are mending.
“Um, er,” Beavis says to the old one, “so now you have to, like, take off your top.”
“Huh-huh,” Butt-Head says to the large one as she mercurochromes a gash on his upper thigh, “you missed a spot.”
The nurses say nothing but are furiously making mental notes. Hard Copy pays very well.
In the deep reality of the neon-on-pistachio E.R., Beavis and Butt-Head appear both smaller and larger than life. Their bodies are smaller; their heads are larger. It has always been thus with Real Stars: Eastwood, Brando, Leno, all bigheaded. Humphrey Bogart had a massive, ruggedly handsome head — otherwise, shrimp and bones. Clark Gable’s head was so large that there are shots in The Misfits, his last film, in which you can distinctly see a black-gloved hand propping it up in back. Many people believe, based on the size of his head, that Sylvester Stallone is 6-feet tall. If cranial mass alone determines stardom, Beavis and Butt-Head are going to be big, big, big — bigger even than Abraham Lincoln.
But Beavis and Butt-Head are going to be much bigger than that.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, their first major motion picture, doesn’t open until Dec. 20, and even now, lines are forming at some 2,000 theaters nationwide, the huddled masses of an entire degeneration laid waste by Beavis and Butt-Head’s MTV show. Nearly 200 episodes of their real-life adventures have been broadcast in 71 countries and condemned in five different languages. The modestly budgeted $10 million movie has yet to take in B.O. Dollar 1, and already there is talk of signing Beavis and Butt-Head up to do America all over again. “There’s no question we’re going to be working with them again,” says David Geffen, whose Geffen Pictures co-produced B&BDA. “We’re already talking to them about a sequel.”
In early test screenings, audiences have agreed, rating the movie an 85 on a scale on which, for example, Forrest Gump scored an 83. (“It’s testing Forrest Gump level,” appears to be the studio’s marketing sutra.) The reason, according to Abby Terkuhle, MTV’s creative director and the movie’s producer: “Beavis and Butt-Head are double the Gump.”
Beavis and Butt-Head could also have become legends of another sort tonight, two more celebrity traffic fatalities, embryonic stars who burned too hot, too fast; tragic teen idols on the precipice of the pinnacle; James Dean and Sal Mineo for the new millennium; a fin de siècle Morrison and Hendrix. “They’re hot, they’re funny, they’re dead.” One minute doing Letterman and Leno, hanging out with new buddies like Pamela Anderson Lee and Rob Zombie — and then, in the next, wrapped around Pia’s mailbox. But Apollo, god of supernovas, swooped down in his golden chariot at that mortal moment, took them in the palm of his hand and threw them clear. I was not so lucky: sprained ankle, 22 stitches and, down the road, plastic surgery. The Hollywood gods, everyone knows, do not watch over writers.
Out in the parking lot, Beavis hands me a dollar. “It’s the green one,” he says. I look at him. “The Jeep, ass munch,” he says. “I gave you a dollar; now go get it.”
“Beavis, you dumbass,” Butt-Head says. “The car is, like, uh …”
“Huh-huh,” Butt-Head interrupts himself, “huh-huh, huh-huh.”
Beavis scratches under a bandage on his forehead.
“Er, oh, yeah,” Beavis says. He goes, “Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.”
Leslee Dart, PMK Public Relations: Here are the ground rules: no questions about money; no questions about their personal lives; don’t talk about Jenny McCarthy, even if they bring her up. We’re giving you a lot of access here that, for example, we’re not giving to Details. That’s not a threat; I’m just saying.
The first time I saw Beavis, he was sitting on that rat-red couch, picking his nose. The second time, he was on that rat-red couch, picking his nose. This time, perhaps the hundredth, and all is as it must be: the couch, depository of myriad memories and fluids, with Beavis, bolt upright, knees together like a good Catholic girl, doing the nasal academy salute, right forefinger twirling counterclockwise to the beat of some inner-demon drummer. This is the classic Beavis, the Beavis burned into the rods and cones of millions of teenagers; the only difference is that this time, instead of broken plaster behind his head, there is a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean.
Beavis eats it, as naturally as a baby plays in his diaper; he is a young man of simple tastes.
This house in Malibu is anything but, an immense concrete and glass faux Bauhaus that cost Paramount a wasted fortune. Beavis and Butt-Head have no use for this much space; the beach bunker is bare but for the essentials: In the center of the 600-square-foot living room sits the tiny rat-red couch (which I later learn is a $15,000 replica), a 20-inch Sony Trinitron television with VCR and the lone big-star indulgence, a movie-theater-style nacho machine. It abuts the couch; three extension cords snake out from it, around the television twice and to a distant outlet.
Outside, firefighters are working around the clock to control scattered blazes, fearing that the weekend Santa Anas will kick them up all over again.
“Er,” Beavis says, finger twirling.
Butt-Head is in the bathroom. We don’t expect him back for a while. Beavis just sits there, keeping to his side, nostril-spelunking. It’s as if I’m not even in the room, or maybe that he is not even in the room. I had been told that he could be a difficult interview, that he had that Richard Gere thing, but this is something more than that. It is almost as if, when Butt-Head is not in the room, Beavis is turned off.
“Um, er,” Beavis says, finally, “would you like some nachos with that?” This may be as talkative as he gets.
Paul Petersen, the former teen actor, has observed that “fame is a dangerous drug and should be kept out of the reach of children.” Do you agree?
Beavis: Er, just say no. No. No. No, damn it.
You think you can do that? Just say no to fame?
Beavis: Er, um, no. Fame is cool.
Beavis: Yeah. Because, like, when you’re famous, and you have to, like, poop, you can just go into any restaurant and, like, poop without being a customer.
And the downside?
Beavis: Er, well, like if you forget to flush, then they might try to sell it. You know, like, “Today’s special: Beavis’ poop.” Heh-heh. That would, like, suck, because it’s my poop, and I should be able to sell it. “Poop of the Stars.” Heh-heh. “Get your star poop!”
Beavis is riffing now, weaving comic jazz out of the stuff of classic satire: scatological scat. He is Jonathan Swift, he is Robin Williams; he is, for one brilliant minute, Beavis without Butt-Head.
“What are you talking about, dillhole?” Butt-Head asks, fastening his shorts as he ambles in. “The cool thing about being famous is you get to score.”
Beavis, who had been bobbing up and down, sinks back into place.
“Er, yeah, that’s cool, too,” Beavis supplicates.
“Except you can’t score with chicks if you talk about your poop all the time,” Butt-Head says. “Unless you’re, like, really famous or something. And you’re not that famous, Beavis.”
“Er, yeah,” Beavis replies. “I guess you’re right.”
Butt-Head sits down next to Beavis, taking his rightful place on the couch. Beavis twirls nervously; Butt-Head reaches behind himself and makes a small wriggling motion. They are once again Beavis and Butt-Head, as they always have been, and, as I now realize, they always will be. And, it also hits me: It’s not a couch at all; it’s a love seat.
“Beavis,” Butt-Head says, “get me some nachos.”
Richard Linklater, the director of Slacker and Dazed and Confused: We tried to get them to do a cameo in my next movie, Suburbia, but I don’t know if they got our offer, they’re so surrounded with people these days. They used to return my calls. I cut them out of Slacker, so maybe this was their way of getting back at me.
Beavis and Butt-Head were born 14 years ago in a small town in Texas to no father and different mothers. Highland is much as it was then, only a little smaller, and is no different from most small towns, in that it is dying. Until very recently, the town’s oldest and most successful business was Larry’s Gun Range Cocktail Lounge. As I walk through the streets, it’s amazing how many people I recognize, not just from the MTV series but from the daytime talk shows. There’s Coach Buzzcut, who threatened to kill Beavis and Butt-Head on several occasions, and there’s Talia, whose mother dresses like a slut. On every corner, it seems, is another Beavis and Butt-Head landmark: the BurgerWorld where they worked and dreamed; the Kwik Mart where they microwaved burritos; the trailer park where they almost scored that one time; the high school where they were occasionally sighted. All of these are clearly marked. For that is the irony of Highland: The town that Beavis and Butt-Head destroyed, they may now save. Every third shop, it seems, sells Beavis souvenirs and Butt-Headabilia: Skull and Death Rock T-shirts, Beavis-Head snow globes, red shorts claimed to have actually been worn by Butt-Head (there is, in fact, only one pair). The BurgerWorld sells Beavis’ Fries ‘n’ Flies; the nachos at Kwik Mart come on a souvenir paper plate and cost $7.
Cater-cornered to the Burger World is Tom Anderson’s house. Beavis and Butt-Head once washed his dog at a Laundromat; they sawed down his trees, filled his swimming pool with cement, destroyed his toolshed and sold all his war medals at a yard sale. But the retired veteran, who has a small part in the movie, seems to have made his peace. He is sitting in a lawn chair, a crudely lettered billboard at his side: “What Those Boys Did to Me. Tour $5.”
“I always said those boys would end up dead or in jail,” Anderson tells me in a high, nasal drawl. “Well, now they’re in Hollywood, which as far as I’m concerned is just as good.”
The old man laughs, but it’s a Bob Dole laugh. Then his eye twitches like Herbert Lom’s in the later Pink Panthers. “I can’t tell you no more unless you take the tour,” Anderson says.
“I have all the tapes,” I say. “Oh,” he says, “those boys did lots of things you could never show on the TV.” He laughs, twitches. “Or in the movies even. Lots.”
I ask Anderson where Beavis’ or Butt-Head’s houses are; he says he doesn’t know. No one in town seems to; the police say the boys’ files are sealed and will be destroyed when the two turn 18. No one can even tell me if the most famous living room in America is in Beavis’ house or Butt-Head’s house, or somewhere else. There is a replica in the Highland Wax Museum and Candle Nook, but it has clearly been copied off the television. Beavis’ and Butt-Head’s mothers prove elusive, too; they were always “here a minute ago” or “just left with some guy.” No one has any idea who their fathers (or father) are. Beavis and Butt-Head are the boys with no surname; everybody in Highland knows what the boys have done, but nobody knows who they are.
I am standing in a vacant lot, and I can’t believe my good fortune. It was on this brown grass and yellow dirt patch one fine day in 1991 that Beavis and Butt-Head laughed, and Mike Judge, a part-time musician and wanna-be filmmaker, heard them from nearly a block away. He pulled out his new Bolex, bought for $200, and ran to this lot, where he came upon two preteen boys playing a game they called frog baseball (the rules are simple), just batting around the old frogskin and laughing. And laughing.
“I will never forget that laugh,” Mike Judge says.
Pamela Anderson Lee: Geniuses? I guess so. It’s a subtle kind of genius, though.
So you’d work with them again?
Anderson Lee: That would be selfish.
Mike Judge is holding his head, fingers splayed. His brain is not exploding at this very moment, but he knows it must eventually, and when it does, he wants a nice, controlled explosion.
“That’s not what we did,” Judge says. “That wacka-wacka was not there.”
On the big screen, a recreational vehicle is shaking. Moments before, Beavis had stepped inside clutching a photo of a woman; he can now be clearly heard on the soundtrack: wacka-wacka, wacka-wacka, wacka-wacka.
The Motion Picture Association of America had felt this was a bit much — on top of the bare-assed spanking of a high school principal, the frequent references to scoring, the assorted scatology — and had slapped an early cut of the movie with an R rating, meaning much of the movie’s intended teen audience would be unable to see it without a parent or guardian, or without lying, and Judge didn’t want that.
“So far, we’ve cut about three seconds of him whacking off,” Judge says, “but the studio is not sure that’s going to be enough.”
The director stares at the screen, lips pursed, head barely contained.
“Can we lose the wacka-wacka?” he asks. “For the MPAA?” (It will not be enough; later, the MPAA will ask Judge to also remove the word off in every use of the phrase beginning with whacking.)
Here we are on Gilligan’s Island Avenue, Stage R of a CBS back lot. Gilliganer and Gilliganest are elsewhere, enjoying the fruits of their incipient stardom while the Skipper does the grunt work. This is the billionth sound mix, and not the final one, and after this it’s back over the Hollywood Hills to Paramount to look at it fresh and make a million final fixes.
“When all this started,” Judge says, “I kind of planned on this being twice as much work per minute of movie as the show, maybe even three times, and it ended up being, really, 10, 11 times the work.”
After kicking the idea of a movie around for almost three years, Judge had a fairly laid-back attitude when Paramount finally gave the go-ahead, in September 1995. Judge had this idea — inspired, he says, by some combination of the neo-noir Red Rock West, Neil Simon’s The Out-of-Towners, and “Cheech and Chong, if I have to be honest” — which he hammered into an outline with veteran Beavis and Butt-Head writer Joe Stillman. Judge figured that if the script turned out badly, maybe he wouldn’t have to take too many more meetings before they decided to shelve it. But “it became clear after we started writing it that they were going to do it, no matter how badly the script sucked,” he says. “That’s when it got scary.”
It got scarier when the script turned out not to suck and Paramount noticed that the most recent Beavis and Butt-Head book, This Sucks, Change It!, was on the best-seller list. “I told them, ‘Yeah, so were the last two,’ “Judge says. “I don’t think Paramount had any idea how popular Beavis and Butt-Head were.” So Paramount got really excited, deciding in November that it wanted the movie for Christmas ’96, which, aside from the fact that the script wasn’t done, that the animation alone would take longer than that and that it was, in fact, impossible, wasn’t a problem.
“It got into this very intense situation in December,” Judge says. “We had to start recording parts of the script that were ready while still writing the rest of it and storyboarding at the same time.” By January the script was finished, and so, just to make his life really miserable, Judge also started working on King of the Hill, an animated half-hour that Fox soon decided it wanted for January 1997. All this he did when he wasn’t flying from Austin, Texas, to New York to supervise story-boards or to Los Angeles to meet with Fox and/or Paramount, or to London to record dialogue. “Just been more and more pressure … just this mad burst to finish everything; it was just …” Judge says, holding his head again. “Jeez, I don’t know how we did this.”
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America still needs a final score, credits top and bottom, a new ending, of course, but what’s up there flickering off the wall of Studio R this second to last week of October is what today’s audiences recognize as a movie: chases, crashes, gunplay, cleavage and music videos disguised as montages. (The Las Vegas sequence, a k a the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ remake of the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster,” began buzzing MTV in October.) There’s an eclectic, hit-striving soundtrack (Isaac Hayes does the opening theme; White Zombie provide psychotic mood music for a Rat Fink-meets-Hieronymous Bosch hallucination-meets-video at midpoint; over the closing credits, Engelbert Humperdinck sings “Lesbian Seagull.”) In addition, there are cameos by Eric Bogosian and Richard Linklater, and uncredited appearances by not only Greg Kinnear but also Two Really Big Stars (Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, though the studio will not officially confirm it). In a scene in which Beavis and Butt-Head encounter a former Motley Crue roadie who may or may not be their father, the role is credited to Earl Hofert, which happens to be the name David Letterman used in Cabin Boy.
There are also many large explosions and lots of fire.
“This is a movie,” Sherry Lansing reportedly said after an early screening, a high compliment but also perhaps an expression of shock.
The biggest surprises are Beavis and Butt-Head. They give remarkably natural and assured performances, all the more amazing given that their only acting experience prior to the film came from allowing Judge to follow them around with a camera. “I tricked them into thinking it was real,” the director explains. “We made them think they really were going to score, to get a natural performance out of them.” (David Geffen, who had earlier warned Judge against letting Beavis and Butt-Head play themselves, graciously acknowledged, “I think Mike made the right decision. You couldn’t have done this movie with real actors.”)
So, I ask, what were Beavis and Butt-Head like to work with?
“On the record?” Judge asks.
He looks like the most exhausted man there ever was. He pinches his upper lip.
“Listen, I’m kind of busy here.”
Patrick Stewart, the Shakespearean actor best known as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard: What I envision — and if we could make this work, I would be so thrilled — would be to include them in the new Star Trek movie. In all science fiction, there is a point when you meet the true controllers of the universe, the true power behind everything, and I think to embody that power in Beavis and Butt-Head would be incredible.
Beavis and Butt-Head are late. They have always been late, but they seem to be getting later, as if they are gradually adjusting to Celebrity Standard Time. I’m a little pissed, of course, but I wait, of course. They are Beavis and Butt-Head, after all.
An hour and 35 minutes. They stroll in, laughing.
“Huh-huh,” Butt-Head says, “this place is called the Palm. Huh-huh, huh.”
“Hey, Butt-Head, look!” Beavis says, pointing at the walls of the West Hollywood power eatery, every inch of which is covered with celebrity caricatures.
“Whoa,” Butt-Head says, “this place has graffiti on the inside.”
I ask them if they had trouble finding the place.
“Benji, huh-huh, huh,” Butt-Head responds, looking at the wall, “he’s a dog.”
Eduardo recites the specials. Butt-Head keeps his eyes on the wall; Beavis picks and grins until Eduardo gets to the pasta of the day: “That’s the penne, a nice tomato sauce, covered with cheese …”
“Cheese!” Beavis exclaims, finishing his appetizer. “Can I have that?”
“Very good …” says Eduardo.
“Only, like, instead of pennies, can you put it on nacho chips?” Beavis asks. “And, um, no tomato sauce.”
I’m thinking, “It didn’t take him very long to learn that trick.”
“Uh, I want that, only bigger than his,” Butt-Head adds, running a finger along Farrah Fawcett. “And, uh, can you get me some Magic Markers?”
Eduardo dutifully nods and backs away.
“I have to poop,” Beavis announces, getting up from the table.
I’m glad to have Butt-Head alone because I have some questions to ask, and he’s more likely to answer in prose than poetry. I’ve heard things, ugly stories about him sexually harassing his personal assistant (“We were just lucky,” says a set insider, “that her last job was working for Don Simpson, so she didn’t even seem to notice”), of day after day of filming ending up on the blooper reel, of mysterious fires that closed down production at least a half-dozen times. But Butt-Head’s concentration is otherwise occupied.
“Huh, look, John Denver,” he says. “He’s, like, high.”
I also have information that the movie would have come in under budget if not for the obscene amount of money spent on towel service for their trailer.
“O.J. Simpson!” Butt-Head shouts, and everybody turns. He’s pointing to the cartoon, high up on the far wall. “He’s cool. He had this show where he killed people. Only you never saw him kill anybody, just people talking about it. So that sort of sucked.”
The nachos arrive; Beavis has yet to return.
“Uh, they should put our faces up here,” Butt-Head says. “That way, chicks would know what we look like, so they would know they’re supposed to do it with us.”
He quickly polishes off his nachos and then Beavis’.
Beavis returns from the bathroom. “Poop,” he says. “Heh-heh, Star Poop.”
“Uh,” Butt-Head says. “Let’s go.”
He gets up and walks out the door; Beavis follows.
David Gale, executive producer of B&BDA: “They are already spoiled by their success. That’s what makes them so successful.”
Maybe I should get the vegetarian hot dog,” Mike Judge is saying, “and not get fat.”
Astro Burger has many appealing qualities, not the least of which is the eclectic menu — Mexican, Greek, soy — but the primary draw is that it is open late and is only a block from the Paramount lot, where Judge right now feels like he is going to spend the rest of his life.
“This is what every day has been like: nonstop,” he says, eating on Formica yet again. “Day after day of working to midnight. Is there no end to this shit?”
Judge pulls open the paper around his gyro, half-smirks. He begins plucking out sour-cream-coated disks.
“I hate tomatoes,” he says.
Judge is not in the most magical mood. He had told some Paramount marketing guy that he didn’t like the trailer, only to have the man suggest that Judge was being too much of a perfectionist. Then Sherry Lansing, through an intermediary, wanted to know what was up with the new ending, and Judge came close to losing his temper. “Hey, when you’re scoring 85’s, why fuck with it?” he had asked in a mock tantrum — the closest Judge ever gets to being a petulant artist is doing an impression of one — and then dutifully buckled down to hammer out not one but five possible new endings. (Though it seems unlikely that Paramount will approve the one in which Beavis calls his co-star fuckhead, to which Butt-Head responds, “Beavis, that is the coolest thing you’ve ever said.”)
Tomorrow, Judge flies to Austin for his daughter’s birthday; then he flies to London to record the score with an 80-piece orchestra, then back to New York to record scripts for the seventh season of the series, then to Los Angeles to oversee the final edit and mix on the movie. Then, promotion and premieres, and sometime in January, a vacation, maybe.
And after that, he’ll start working again — with neither Beavis nor Butt-Head.
“Well, if the right project comes along, I don’t know,” Judge says wearily. “There’d be a whole lot of things we’d have to get into the contract the next time around. Maybe a project where I could just collect the money and not have to see them.” He shakes that idea off: “Now that I’ve had a taste of working with real stars, professional actors and actresses, I’d like to set Beavis and Butt-Head loose … to explore …”
He trails off, exhausted, relieved. “Whatever it is they want,” he says.
Michael Rotenberg, talent manager, 3 Arts Entertainment: They’re hoping to do some dramatic work now. Beavis especially, I think. He’s got that young, angry, Sean Penn thing. Butt-Head’s a unique individual, so it’s harder for people to get a handle on him. They can still do comedy, too. There’s a lot of pathos to their comedy.
Beavis and Butt-Head are the biggest celebrities at the Viper Room tonight. They are also the only celebrities — it’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday Valley night at the Viper — but for some reason, it isn’t helping.
“Uh” — to a blonde at the bar — “I’m Butt-Head.”
“Yes,” she replies, “you are.”
A very large man in a white T-shirt stands in the corner, eyeing Beavis and Butt-Head and whispering into the mouthpiece of his cordless headset.
Yeah, he knows who they are.
“They’re always setting things on fire, calling the women ‘bitches,’ ” he tells me. “I just throw them out. One time a band was onstage, and Beavis went up on the stage and mooned everybody, and Butt-Head says, ‘Huh-huh, that’s cool.’ So I threw ’em out. I’ve thrown them out maybe four times.”
A bottle redhead in a green leather dress spreads out the fingers of her right hand, places them over Beavis’ face and pushes him slowly away.
The bouncer chuckles deeply. “They never score,” he says. “I always throw them out before they get a chance to score, but I’m doing them a favor ’cause they never really had a chance.”
An even more mountainous man who is smoking a cigar the size of a baby’s arm appears over my shoulder. He reaches down and, with a swipe of his paw, tears the pages from my notebook.
“You can’t be asking these questions,” he says.
I try to explain. Beavis and Butt-Head are …
“I’m sorry,” he says. “We don’t talk about the clientele. Company policy.”
I can’t argue; it seems like a reasonable policy for a place where the clientele sometimes ends up dead on the sidewalk out front.
I stand on Sunset Boulevard for an hour and 45 minutes before Butt-Head deigns to make an appearance.
“Huh-huh,” he says, “they threw you out.”
I’m so mad I can’t speak. I want to say, “Listen, you little punk, I’m here to do a story. I’m not your chauffeur or your minion, or your one-man entourage or whatever it is you think I am. Got it?”
Instead: “You guys going to be long in there?”
“Uh,” Butt-Head says, “I need a hundred dollars.”
Beavis and Butt-Head never seem to have any money. But they got paid a lot to do the movie, right?
Mike Judge: Let me put it this way: They have the same deal that “Suge” Knight gives all his rappers.
At Bob’s classy lady, everybody knows their names. “They’re in here three, four times a week,” says Michael Sanders, a manager. “They get loud and stuff, but they’re no worse than usual. They kind of monopolize the Foosball table.”
We’re north of Ventura Boulevard in a strip joint at the back of an industrial park for no better reason than I answered my phone at midnight on a Sunday. Butt-Head had an idea: What would make my article cool, he said, would be to show them scoring with some chicks; I should come pick them up right away. In my half-awake state, it made some kind of sense: If they’re going to score, I should be there. Beavis knew the way by heart. I, of course, paid their entrance fees.
They’re not going to score.
“Not many people do,” Sanders says. “But they’re probably more unlucky than the average human being.”
Shane, a colossal-breasted 23-year-old, peeks out from backstage and sees the two pomped heads barely visible above the rim of the dance platform.
“I would say about six or seven times a week, every day, they’re in here,” she says glumly. Beavis and Butt-Head are apparently not very popular with the dancers. It’s not that the two don’t tip at all; it’s just that it’s “a quarter, maybe,” Shane says. “There’s nowhere to put it.”
Beavis and Butt-Head are sitting with Ron Jeremy, their new best friend. Jeremy, the actor-director of such films as Maddams Family and Frankenpenis, is something of a porn concierge to the stars, a friend to rock bands like Guns n’ Roses and a colleague of many women named Amber. Jeremy met Beavis and Butt-Head, he says, at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, where he rescued them when Jani Lane from Warrant “wanted to beat the crap out of them because of some shit they said on their show. The Nelson brothers were there and offered to hold them down. It’s a good thing I knew some bodyguards.”
Right now, Jeremy is letting his protégés in on the Secret.
“You want to get chicks?” Jeremy asks.
They do. “The secret is: You can be ugly, short, fat, thin,” says Jeremy. “No matter what, girls love you when you’re famous.”
Butt-Head’s eyes are agape: “Uh, we’re famous.”
Tool’s “Intolerance” blares from the speakers, and Shane sashays out, covered only in a thin cotton robe. Beavis begins to claw at the railing, trying to pull himself up; Jeremy pulls him back down. Shane works the other end of the platform for a while, but Beavis is making a high-pitched squeal that cannot be denied. Shane reluctantly swivels in the boys’ direction. They hoot instructions. Halfheartedly, she flips open one side of her robe, disclosing a mammoth gland.
Butt-Head hands her a quarter.
Shane rolls her eyes. She licks the quarter like a bad stamp and slaps it atop her teat, where it stays.
Butt-Head goes: “Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.”
Beavis opens his mouth, and no sound comes out.
Backstage, Shane peels off the quarter and clinks it into a plastic bucket in the corner. It is nearly full. “I think they’re gay,” she says. “I think they’re repressing sexual feelings about one another.”
When I walk back out into the main room, Beavis and Butt-Head are no longer at their seats. They are off to the side, furiously going at each other on the Foosball table.
Look, I’m going to just come right out and ask. Are you guys gay?
Butt-Head: Beavis is.
Butt-Head: C’mon, Beavis. You know it’s OK to be a homo-American.
Beavis: Well, er, yeah. They’re OK, even though they’re, like, different.
Butt-Head: Beavis, you’re different.
The phone rings. I look at the clock: 3 a.m.
“Uh,” says the voice, “we’re, uh, at that place.”
“Tell Shane I said hi,” I say. I’ve had enough. “Good night.”
“No, we’re at that other place.”
“I’m not allowed in the Viper Room anymore,” I say, growing snappish. “So you’re on your own.”
“No, uh” — he sounds almost emotive — “the place with the nurses.”
Beavis is in the intensive care unit in a burn tent. His skin is blistered, curlicued like an over-roasted chicken; his body is covered with a runny, yellowish pus or, I hope, some sort of unguent.
Butt-Head is unhelpful. “Huh-huh, huh,” he says. “That was cool. Until it, like, sucked.”
The nurses have pieced together this: Beavis and Butt-Head ran out of nacho chips and in the resulting discussion decided it would be cool to make “human nachos.” Naturally, when Butt-Head poured the molten cheese on a prone, naked Beavis, he leapt to his feet, shrieking, ran in circles and eventually through the bay window. Then to the rocks below. He is in critical condition.
This ending was already written, wasn’t it? Two children hopped up on a dangerous drug, tripping on fame, dead on a sidewalk, found sleeping in someone else’s bed, arrested for armed robbery, on a Malibu beach covered in melted cheese. It’s the same story.
I swear it was only a week ago that we were all laughing. Butt-Head and Beavis standing on the seat of that Jeep, steering together like kids playing captains, me working the pedals, descending into the Pacific Coast Inferno and thinking it was so fucking cool.
“Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.”
“Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.”
“Haw-haw, haw-haw, haw-haw.”
The green plastic dash began to sweat from the heat, and we laughed at that. A burning ember landed in Beavis’ hair, and for a few moments, he was a sparkler screaming in the Malibu night, and we laughed at that. Even those seconds when I thought we were all going to die, when for some insane reason, Beavis yanked the wheel and sent us right into a flaming gully, seem funny and innocent now.
We sat by the side of the road, waiting for the ambulance, and Beavis and Butt-Head huddled close together, watching the Jeep burn to a gooey ooze, an orange-purple flame lapping at our feet.
“Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh,” Butt-Head said.
“Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh,” Beavis said.
Beavis was looking straight into the fire. The fire was there, in his eyes, dancing. I remember thinking: “Those are the eyes of a child.”
Something’s gone wrong. Doctors and nurses are running around the ICU; they won’t let me in, but I can see through the glass: The line on the EEG is straight, a flat line. There is no brain function.
Injections. The paddles. Check the monitors. Repeat. A woman in pistachio scrubs, she looks no older than 18, lowers her mask. Time: 4:52 a.m.
Butt-Head and I stand over a dead 14-year-old boy.
Butt-Head reaches down and touches Beavis’ chest with his forefinger. He traces a slow circle around the heart.
He scoops up a dollop of cheese and sucks it into his mouth. “Huh-huh, huh,” Butt-Head goes. “Huh-huh, huh-huh, huh-huh.”
And then: “Heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh, heh-heh.” The dead boy’s eyes open. “Heh-heh,” he says, “I’m nachos.”
The line on the machine remains flat. There is no brain function.