The Monks of Mayhem

I already told you about how Iving Azoff—the most powerful person in the music industry—got his start as Bob Nutt’s associate at Blytham, Ltd., in Urbana, Illinois, in 1967.  (And thanks to an original Blytham business card sent-in by Guy Maynard, we now know Irv had a short-lived predecessor in that role named Dan Dailey.)

Gary Pini is another important character in this story, and he too would eventually rise to great heights in the record industry, producing dance music singles and early rap records. The photo shows Gary on the Quad at the University of Illinois. In the background you can see the round building we used to sneak into via the Steam Tunnels that ran underneath the entire University campus (see my book, 1966). Gary is the one who took me to see the John Cage installation at the Stock Pavilion.

Gary was going out with Caroline, who lived in a house at 1003 South Third Street with three other girls (Paula, Elke and Claudia), one of whom was an occasional lover of Jim Cole’s, which is why Cole spent a lot of time at that house.

John McNaughton

Cole’s brother had an immaculate used Cadillac with minor issues parked in the driveway. After a few beers, Cole’d go into Destructo-Mania and jump out the second floor window onto the hood or roof or trunk, inflicting as much damage as possible with his booted feet. A sledge hammer often played a role in this game and the car was soon transformed into a worthless pile of junk. Bob Brandel removed the dashboard for use in an art class but flunked that project. “Why are you in school?” asked his professor. John McNaughton had a similar art class and the moldy mattress he pulled out of the Boneyard Creek so disgusted his professor that McNaughton flunked his assignment. But those two practically unknown masterpieces now constitute perhaps the finest examples of the short-lived Destructo-Mania Art Movement and would probably sells for millions at Sotheby’s if anyone could find them.

Bob Brandel

Destructo-Mania had to end, however, since that particular lifestyle is not really sustainable. But it sure went out in a blaze of glory. A bunch of people were tripping and drinking beer late one night when Tony Byrnes sat in a chair and it broke accidentally, spilling him onto the floor. Everyone froze for a second and then broke into laughter and couldn’t stop. This accident had a somewhat inspirational impact on Cole, who pretty soon smashed the nearest object with his foot. Of course, this produced gales more laughter and it sort of escalated out-of-control from there. In order to keep the laughter going, objects were ceremoniously brought into the center of the room and ritualistically sacrificed. This was Destructo-Mania of the highest and most spiritual power. No object was spared by these Destructo Monks. The girls ran around in a frenzy, moving their sacred pieces into rooms under their control, trying to save whatever they could. Small things like cups and dishes went quickly, obviously, but then even the largest pieces of furniture were eventually stomped into submission by the Monks of Mayhem. And before you knew it, virtually everything in the house was turned into a broken pile of junk on the living room carpet! At this point the Grandmaster of Mayhem himself, Jim Cole stood atop this glorious pile of destruction, armed with a jack-knife and matches delivering the final coup-de-grace, some by sword, others by fire. By this time, however, dawn was breaking and the girls were teary-eyed, so weary were they from trying to hold back the Monks. No longer could they feed this sacred fire of destruction, as there was nothing left to destroy. So they decided to help clean-up the mess they’d created and dragged the carpet with all the junk out the kitchen door and into the backyard.

Jim Cole and his chopper.

This house was surrounded on all sides by the most clean-cut fraternities and sororities. In fact, the backyard was really a huge park used by fraternities for touch football games and frisbee throwing. The carpet was dragged to the center of this immaculate field where Cole set the mess on fire. I don’t know if the Fire Department ever arrived, but I’m sure the neighbors must have wondered where that huge smouldering pile of junk came from when they woke up hours later. The next weekend, I’d kick an empty beer bottle, trying to set off another round of Destructo-Mania, but the girls threw me up against the wall, threatened to punch me out, and announced the next person who tried to break anything was getting tossed out permanently. It was the end of Destructo-Mania.

Another detail completely missing in all ’60s films and docs: many of us were riding the new super-cheap Jap bikes. You could get a used 50cc model for $50. Here’s Cole (above) with his chopper. Larry and I had similar bikes, as did a few others in our scene.


30 Replies to “The Monks of Mayhem”

  1. That was Cole’s brother’s Cadillac. A beauty.
    I think it was in near running condition until I needed to remove the entire dashboard to use in a sculpture piece I was working on. It seems like it sat in the driveway for months, abused constantly, until towed away with a dead rodent stuck on the hood as a new ornament.

  2. Actually, there were a total of 4 girls living at 1003 S. Third – Caroline, Paula, Elke, and me (Claudia). Thanks for the memories – keep ’em coming!

  3. Different professor, same fate. Mine looked at the Cadillac dashboard (with the lifesize resin head of a bald fat businessman sticking out of the steering column) that I had dragged to the middle of his classroom, turned to me and said. “Why are you in school”?

  4. I wuz there, at Caroline’s, being “destructo….” probably the dude who broke the chair, haha! love to all….TONY

  5. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    A man named Brice Creighton says how do to all you other old farts! Hi Guy Maynard ! My lord!

  6. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    Jim Cole asked me in high school if I had heard of a guy named Bob Dialin… We figured it out later. Another time, some of us slid off of I-57 taking some exit in the snow.., Seeds of Doubt/Love…..The Seeds. The old Tiger’s Den was our spawning grounds. My band the Rapids noticed some kids younger than us starting to play over in the house right behind our drummer’s house. That kid (drummer) in their first band died suddenly of a heart virus. Will someone who knows please give him his due and tell us his name? I know it started with “C” but I never even knew him. I became friends with Jim Spencer and Craig Stevens’ brother (Can’t pull the name again) who sang too. Remember the Finchly Boys? Larry Tabling blew me away when he was the only person I ever tried to show anything on an instrument. (One bass lesson) and I was later at a Finchlys gig at the Catholic church teen dance place for an hour or so, before I noticed Larry Tabling was laying it down onstage. Cool as hell. Brice

  7. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    So I am now living in northern California. Steven Hager, man I don’t know if we were acquainted but do you know me? And do you live in Nor Cal too? email me. brice

  8. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    the comment about the cheap Jap bikes got me too……, I eventually became manager of The Honda Shop, 901 south Neil. Having started years before delivering pianos for CV Loyds 102 s. Neil . I think Blythm was 105-7 S. Neil, wasn’t it? David Lewis played in my band The Rapids, went on to become a Champaign cop, a quite successful Radio personality in Kansas City winning awards for his producing and writing talents, and is currently an outstanding author. Great story teller. You can find his books and audio books at, or on Amazon under David R Lewis. Fantastic to find this site Seven!

  9. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    Jim Cole, Guy Maynard, you guys must blow up my email. Damn!!

  10. Yes, highly pissed is an accurate description, tears of rage maybe. But where’d you get those pictures, they’re great!

  11. This is a great story on its own, Monks of Mayhem…….here’s another piece of it that involves, Marty and Gerry from the Seeds of Doubt…. I think Destructo Mania actually started, I think, with an art project, of mine, a “happening,” that was staged with Marty and Jerry’s musical accompaniment…Bongo drums and a Peruvian flute. .Basically I destroyed a large wood and papier mache mock up of a Greek statue of the discus thrower, in the halls of the Kranert building. There were gobs of plaster and paint on the school house walls, that day. Anybody remember that? Was kind of a buzz before Cole, Bird, and JM pulled off their incredible madness shortly following. What a spectacular semester….the art school never was the same after that wrecking crew….Brandel’s sculpture of the fathead oozing out of the center of the steering wheel was seriously off the charts. I wonder if he still has it? Or any pictures? That would be a piece for the history books, I think.

    JM’s rusty springs, from the muddy bottom of the boneyard , looks like something I saw at Satchi’s, London many years later! God, John was way ahead of his time, way too gone for that art school….. I wonder if JM has any photos of that? I am sure some were taken….

        1. Hi Steve,

          \I don’t know if these friends are still living, but I am, and I remember them so fondly…Carolyn, Gary P., Jim C., Nancy T., Paula, Elke, …………………….et al

          Jim liked visiting me, and JMCNaught, in the studio halls of the artUI school. So incredibly divine the lessons were…the visions remain indelible. The models, were all colors and sexe3s. Nude.

          BirdBrandel was down the hall in the Graphics Studio….conjuring godknowswhat? but it was just pre fuckin Warhore. I say Warhol got it from Bird. I saw it early on happen, in the press. Bird’s influence upon Andy W. is real.

          Actually…he had no influence, unfortunately.

          Or what would the Soul Assassin say…? I am still lost…..

          The next semester I was in fucking jail and lockdown in Joliet. Bummer.

  12. That was my art project. Titled “The Self-Destructive Man.” It was kind of a group effort with hang out dudes from Caroline and Gary’s place on S. Third, across the stret from Bromely Hall.
    So my sculpture was supposed to self-destruct slowly to the winding rhythms of Gerry’s flute. Marty’s bongo beat crescendoed and all too soon the sculpture self destructed. It just blew the fuckin’ up….in the hallways of the art building on campus. champaign.
    “Destructomania” squirted forth, that insane day in the ’60’s….that very weekend in the parlor of 1003 S. Third Street, Cole, Bird, and McNaughton took it beyond the stratosphere! God it was crazy-good. Mad, insane drunkenness and intellectuality all rolled up in one giant sploogie.
    Some of us never came back from that night. What happened to Barney?

  13. So…I reflect on this inglorious past, I see JMcNaught, BirdBrandel, and JCole. These Monks. These brothers, I suppose, in the friar snse….

    Cole was the maniac brother some of us are very lucky not to have had….I mean, gawd, his own bro’s cadillalalac? Yet, he made it seem so normal. Siblings often give and take…..

    Wha th’ eff…?
    But what a thoroughly charming Dude that Monk of Mayhem is / was/ be. He was / is / the bomb. Wherever you are, Jim…..

    Steve, when I start to think about it, I start to write poetry, for there truly is a terrible beauty about it all, n’est ce pas?

    Let’s make a movie about it…..

  14. Just saying for the record, Steve….
    Other sculptures of note, I remember, were two John McNaughton pieces. The first was a carved wood drumlike evocation that employed a chain of rolling and rotating vertical plexiglass rods. When the drum rotated, the rods rolled around in obeyance to the central motion of the core, while they were lighted from the machines inner hub… Much like a ballerina wind up box, this much larger piece had optics that were attractive and bright. Much reminiscent of the magic lantern carousels of the 1880’s…..

    Hello, John McNaughton!

    The other sculpture was as powerful as any political speech I heard from that era. I heard ALL of them. So when John created this diorama, out of silhouetted plywood pieces, to resemble an endless train passing in the window frame; the windowframe that a seated woman peered out of…….it was dw Griffiths in the 5th dimension. so really cool, y’all….I could actually sketch it for you from memory, if you would like……

    During that time I created only 2 works but none ever compared to JM and Brandell’s audacity…

    1. and, with this rolly-polly light he (JM) created, his carousel projected spectral twirling refractions on a close wall….just to see he almost perfected this before Bell&Howell….
      And, for my next story, he outd-id the great Light Shows of the year….good story that…

      I mean it, Steve. He is a Genius.
      They are both genius.
      Actually, both those dudes. Bird and Naught.

  15. Steve, lest I forget, there were some really geat paintings from that crew, I remember. Especially Birdbrandel “blob-o-licious” radioactive lava lamp 5′ x 5′ canvas and acrylic. Art students and teachers couldn’t make out what the fuck it was supposed to “be.”

    It was, pure and simple, gorgeous. Does your fellow Soul Assassin still have it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.