Jonathan W.C. Mills' film WE WERE FEARED features vintage and/or modern interviews with the likes of Rikk Agnew, Tony Alva, Duane Peters, Steve Soto, Jello Biafra, Rodney Bingenheimer, Tony Cadena, Chuck Dukowski, Joe Escalante, Jack Grisham, Casey Royer and many, many more. Beyond belonging in an Orange County time capsule, We Were Feared is just a solid documentary on a sliver of time that deserves more recognition from an American Idol-dominated music industry.

The doco chronicles the rise and fall of the club that used to share a Placentia Avenue parking lot in the late 1970s and early '80s with the dearly departed country-and-western joint Zubies. There were often confrontations with the punks from the Cuckoos Nest and the cowboys from Zubies, which shared a parking lot. The mayhem that would ensue when both clubs emptied was immortalized in the Vandals' songs "Pat Brown" and "Urban Struggle."

Original members of the Vandals were snot-nosed brats who picked up instruments, pounded on them a bit, and then carried their rage onstage at the Nest. Among the many, many others who played there were Fear, TSOL, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop, the Ramones and the Dead Kennedys.

You'll see performance clips and images by nationally known acts from that time such as Iggy Pop, the Ramones and the New York Dolls. You'll meet the possible inventor of the mosh pit (then and now) and the real Pat Brown immortalized by the Vandals. And you'll glimpse then-budding Orange County and South Bay groups like that one and TSOL, the Adolescents, Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. The Cuckoo's Nest may not have been the birthplace of punk rock, but you can make the argument it was an incubator for hardcore punk.

There is some debate over whether the Cuckoo's Nest was the birthplace of slam-dancing (now called moshing), but the surf, skate and extreme-sports culture of today certainly originated there (among other key SoCal locations).

And there is absolutely no doubt who lorded over the Nest: its irascible owner, Jerry Roach.

We Were Feared and music-industry heavyweights interviewed on film set out to give Roach his historical due. As Roach will readily tell anyone, he deserves it. And he does. But controversy has always dogged him, whether it was from the bands who claimed he exploited them financially, cops and city officials who tried to shut him down, or the cameraman who shot footage for the Urban Struggle documentary of '83 he claims the club owner stole from him.

Roach—who had a tumultuous relationship with cops, city leaders and neighboring businesses—also clashed with bands who accused him of screwing them over. Some dubbed the club “The Roach Motel.”


We Were Feared, which was produced by actor/pro snowboarder York Shackleton, recounts these disputes. But, by the end of the flick, local punk legends such as D.I.’s Casey Royer, the Adolescents’ Steve Soto, the Vandals’ Joe Escalante, skater-turned-vocalist Duane Peters, and TSOL’s Mike Roche and Greg Kuehn praise Roach for having stuck up for them back in the day.

“I was a punk-rock martyr,” Roach chuckled into his cell phone from his son’s home in Santa Ana.

Roach also claimed to have bankrolled Urban Struggle, whose end credits list him as co-producer and Young as director, producer, writer and editor.

“I was the director more than he was,” Roach said. “The only thing he directed was a re-enacted scene. But I didn’t want any credit. It would have been all me: directed by me, produced by me, starring me. That’s why I didn’t mind heaping all the credit on him.”

Roach said he wanted someone to film police harassment at his club, so he went to Orange Coast College and talked with the director of the film program. Young, a student then, was enlisted to show up at the Nest with a camera in exchange for class credit, according to Roach. When cops didn’t show, the club owner had the fledgling filmmaker turn his lens on the musicians and punks who called the Nest home before deciding to make a documentary out of the footage Roach claims he purchased.

Young, who is now a Los Angeles-based writer and curator, called Roach’s recollection “a lie.” He claimed he was already in the Nest shooting the Weirdos when Roach saw a kid with a camera and suggested they make a documentary together. Young called the shooting-for-credit claim “absurd.”

Both agreed that Young was given total access to the club and that he did all the editing and post-production while enrolled at USC, where he transferred after OCC. Young sent the Weekly a yellowing, Nov. 18, 1983, Daily Trojan article that reports Urban Struggle “was financed entirely by Young and producer John [sic] Roach, the owner of the club, at a cost of several thousand dollars.”

But the director told the Weekly his parents actually paid for everything—and that he has the receipts to prove it. “He never paid for anything,” Young said of Roach, who received a co-producer credit and print of the film in exchange for the access the filmmaker was granted.

Urban Struggle footage has since turned up in the 2006 documentary American Hardcore and four MTV programs, according to Roach, who said the music-television network paid him for it. He wonders why Young never sued MTV, the American Hardcore producers or record stores that hawk crude Urban Struggle bootlegs.

Young, meanwhile, wonders why he is in sole possession of the Urban Struggle negative if Roach owns the film. “If he believes it is his,” Young asked, “why has he not come after me to get it? He does not have a case.”


'We Were Feared' Official Teaser

Report on the premiere of the doco at the Newport Film Festival.

Teaser for 'Urban Struggle'


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