Johnny Rotten

johnny rotten

I met Johnny Rotten once, and that was an accident. It was a summer evening in 1993. The irascible Sex Pistol was at the King’s Head, a pub favored by homesick British expats in Santa Monica, when I walked in with a buddy. The place was packed, apart from an empty table conveniently next to where Johnny was sitting with two pals. My buddy and I bought beers, headed over to the table and chatted amongst ourselves. I soon caught Rotten’s eye and we talked amiably about beer. He then introduced himself, as “John,” and his cronies. One of them was his brother, “Martin Rotten.” I pretended not to know who he was, and I think he enjoyed the anonymity of being another Englishman out for a pint.


But it was all too much for me. This was a guy I’d worshiped in high school during the early ’80s, long after the Sex Pistols first broke up. And now we’re talking about beer. So when I excitedly blew cover, the conversation took some weird turns. Rotten said he didn’t like me (cool!) and accused me of being gay (not so cool). He launched into a diatribe about how he didn’t want to be linked to any movement, including punk, and revealed for some reason that he’d just received a pair of free Nikes.

I would have followed up, but a big-breasted woman (his wife?) came over and they buggered off. Martin tried to take his glass out of the pub, but the bouncer hauled him back inside and the party milled sheepishly around at the door while he finished his drink. Rotten had wisely left his half-full Guinness at the table and I finished it off like I was drinking a magic potion. All I got was a bad cold a few days later. I did interview Rotten on the phone a few times in later years, but there was no way I was going to bring up that story.


NOTE: This is an edited excerpt from my gossipy rock anthology, Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, available here. For more info, go to

Copyright © 2015 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING

Dean Goodman