Bob Forrest fronts the hard partyin’ Hollywood post-punkers Thelonious Monster in “Try”

By on March 7, 2019

We thought we’d take another hard look at Night Flight’s “Take Off to L.A. Rock,” a specially-curated collection of music videos by ’80s-era L.A.-area bands, which includes hard partyin’ Hollywood post-punkers Thelonious Monster’s video for “Try.”

This classic Night Flight episode — which originally aired on May 9, 1987, and also features videos by Oingo Boingo, the Untouchables, Concrete Blonde, Suicidal Tendencies, among others — is available to view on Night Flight Plus.

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Thelonious Monster’s original lineup was Bob Forrest (lead vocals); Bill Stobaugh, Chris Handsome, K.K. Barrett and Dix Denney (all on guitar); Jon Huck (bass) and Pete Weiss (drums, later replaced by Pete Haskell).

K.K. and Denney had been members of the Screamers and the Weirdos, respectively, and Forrest had roadied for Red Hot Chili Peppers (the “Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem” are also featured in this episode).

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Considering they’re from Hollywood, it shouldn’t really surprise any of us that most of the band member’s day jobs were in the film biz: K.K. was a set decorator and a production designer; Huck was as a soundman on video and film; Haskell was an art director; and Stobaugh worked in motion-controlled photography.

According to Bob Forrest — who writes about the band’s early days in his 2013 co-authored memoir, Running with Monsters — Huck’s girlfriend, Sosie Hublitz (who later became Bob Forrest’s second wife) was also an art director, and Forrest writes that she helped him keep busy working as a production assistant and set dresser on films and music videos.

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Author Jeff Apter, in his book Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Story — the two bands frequently shared bills together in the L.A. club scene, as well as touring together — describes Thelonious Monster as “a loose-knit, heavy-drinking, hard-drugging outfit with a revolving door policy when it came to band members.”

Their lineup over the years has also featured Rob Graves, Mike Martt, Dallas Don Burnet, Zander Schloss, and many others.

Guitarist John Frusciante was even in Thelonious Monster briefly before joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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Beloved by their fans, this post punk-infused collective had quite a reputation around the L.A. club scene for not not taking themselves too seriously, particularly their charismatic frontman Bob Forrest.

They created quite a buzz whenever they played, never hesitating to please their fans with their trademark medley which included the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image” and the Germs‘ “Shutdown.”

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Many rock critics were actually pretty surprised when they first heard the Monster’s 1986 debut Baby…You’re Bummin’ My Life Out in a Supreme Fashion, particularly those in the local L.A. area, favorably comparing the album to the Rolling StonesExile on Main Street, Bob Dylan‘s Blonde on Blonde, and the New York DollsToo Much Too Soon.

The album — featuring cover art by “Fab 5 Freddy” (!) — was released on Brett Gurewitz’s then-fledgling Epitaph Records, who had given Thelonious Monster one hundred hours of studio time to record it.

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Thelonious Monster’s “Try” video was shot on grainy Super-8mm and directed and edited by Jane Simpson, who also directed Concrete Blonde’s video for “Still in Hollywood,” also seen in this episode.

Read more about Thelonious Monster’s Bob Forrest below.

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Bob Forrest grew up in Palm Springs, where his alcoholic father (actually his grandfather, it turned out) was buddies with professional golfers Lee Trevino and Julius Boros, who gave young Bob golf lessons.

By the time he was in high school, he was one of the top-ranked amateur golfers in California.

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Forrest eventually left sports and the high desert behind in order to get high in Hollywood. He deejayed at the Cathay de Grande punk club and was soon befriending the guys in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and Fishbone, among other bands.

He eventually started his own group — they originally called themselves Thelonious Monster Mellancamp — in 1984.

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During Thelonious Monster’s life as a band — and for decades afterwards with the band The Bicycle Thief and as a solo artist signed to RCA — the often ill-tempered frontman led what was by all accounts a very troubled life. He struggled with his various addictions to both drugs and alcohol, and frequently got into fist-fights with fellow bandmates and fans at their shows.

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Pete Weiss, Chris Handsome, Bob Forrest, Dix Denney, Mike Martt

In the late ’80s, Forrest — one of the last people to see actor River Phoenix alive the night he died from a drug overdose on the sidewalk outside the West Hollywood nightclub the Viper Room — became a fucked-up semi-regular on syndicated radio talk show host Dr. Drew Pinsky’s KROQ talk radio show “Loveline” (later an MTV series).

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It took twenty-four attempts at rehab before Forrest finally became clean and sober, finally turning his life around.

After getting certified as an addiction specialist and counselor in 2003, Forrest began working alongside Dr. Drew as the Chemical Dependency Program Director at Las Encinas Hospital.

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Forrest later suggested to Pinsky that they do a reality TV show together, countering the clichés about addiction counseling. That led to them launching VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab,” which was filmed at the Pasadena Recovery Center, the first episode airing on January 10, 2008 (it ended in 2012).

Forrest was also featured on the “Rehab” spin-off series, “Sober House,” which lasted just one season.

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In 2010, Forrest and co-founder Shelly Sprague launched Hollywood Recovery Services, located very near where a homeless Forrest once lived on the street.

Forrest was the subject of the 2011 documentary, Bob and the Monster.

Watch Night Flight’s “Take Off to L.A. Rock” on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.