One For The Road – Carol Clerk Gets Banned From Israel With Hanoi Rocks

To get banned from a drinking establishment takes practice; to get banned from a whole country requires a different kind of dedication. Our friend Clerkie looks back to a session that nearly ended in a two year prison sentence.

It was 25 years ago, that week I spent in Tel Aviv with Hanoi Rocks, the one that ended in a blur of police cars, threats of imprisonment and shock-horror headlines in the newspapers. I still have those newspapers; must get them translated one day.

Looking back, it’s obvious there was going to be trouble. It was Passover, which meant that the citizens were banned from selling or consuming anything containing yeast. So, bad news for beer drinkers. . . except for us. Band manager Richard Bishop had cunningly struck a deal with the promoters that entitled the entire entourage to unlimited free drinks, round the clock, for the duration of the visit.

The other thing was that Israel had only started promoting rock gigs a year earlier and had never been confronted with anything like Hanoi Rocks, wild in the streets in their make-up, dresses, scarves, jewellery and hats, pissed to hell and up for anything in the holy week.

The inevitable culture clashes became more outrageous as our drinking careered out of control, turning regular life into some sort of surreal dream. Of course we should’ve been a little more sensitive to local custom and tradition, should at least have kept the noise down in the small hours, encouraged the sound guy to sleep in his hotel room rather than outside it, maybe even advised guitarist Andy McCoy against staggering round the corridors with a bottle, wearing only a towel, at normal people’s breakfast time. But it wasn’t all one-sided.

The hotel manager was so offended by the look of Hanoi Rocks that he refused to talk to us – except to snap that we mustn’t think of entering the restaurant until the other guests had left. Wherever we went, we met with the same scowls of disapproval, even from the camels. On a trip to Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall, the five band members were surrounded by yelling, hostile crowds ready to rip their heads off because they were “women”, and women weren’t allowed in the sacred men’s enclosure. Admittedly, when it came to glam, Hanoi Rocks out- eightied the eighties. Singer Michael Monroe had the biggest, blondest hair ever, the most-mascara’d blue eyes, the brightest lipstick and the silkiest frocks. He fronted a black-haired gang with riotous back-combing and rainbow-coloured gladrags – McCoy, bassist Sami Yaffa, rhythm guitarist Nasty Suicide (jumping around on crutches, having broken his ankle) and Brit drummer Razzle, the only non-Finn.

But for all their overt femininity, there was something macho about Hanoi Rocks too. They were bad boys, especially in their rock & roll. In Tel Aviv, playing five nights at the Kolnoa Dan club, they were right at the top of their game, untamed, spontaneous and so explosively exciting that my heart kept leaping into my throat, big enough to squeeze. Everyone else (apart from a London punkette called Snotgrot and a mad Israeli freak in a bodysuit) stood immobile, stone-cold sober, wearing earplugs one and all, just… watching. Each night, Hanoi Rocks tried harder, more passionately, to elicit some reaction, and by the final climactic gig – one I would so much love to relive – they were on fire, blazing, defiant, simply transcendent. But still no reaction.

That’s when they lost it. Finishing the set, they jumped offstage and ran amok among the spectators, shaking up bottles of lager and spraying them into random faces. “You’re reptiles!” screamed Justin, the photographer. “Boring!” bellowed Mick, the sound guy. Only two brave men responded to this extraordinary attack by a band on its own audience. One of them flung a bottle at my leg. And the other bit my arm. I still don’t know why. Much later in Razzle’s sixth-floor hotel room, as dawn was breaking and as more empty bottles hit the waste bin, Hanoi Rocks’ frustration boiled over. Suddenly, Nasty chucked a table out of the window, on to the roof of a passing taxi. And then the furniture, the furnishings, everything in the room was being ripped up, thrown out, smashed into pieces. There was glass all over the floor.

The hotel manager let himself in with a pass key as we sat considering the damage, and I commented that it was rude of him not to knock. “You journalist woman… shut up!” he screamed. Nasty hopped across the room on one leg and bashed him with a crutch. And soon the police came. Our personal details and passport numbers were circulated to every official exit point from Israel. We couldn’t leave. We were going to court, and we could each expect a two-year jail sentence. But at the last minute, the taxi driver accepted a meagre settlement of £50 and a bottle of Scotch, and we were sent back to London with orders not to come back.

Subsequently, Hanoi Rocks became my favourite drinking buddies. But that’s another adventure or two.

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