Bar mourns the old days, when heads were banged

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Bar mourns the old days, when heads were banged

So I was all set to go to the Marilyn Manson concert Wednesday, but backed out at the last minute when I realized I wasn’t in the mood to be shocked. Also, I recalled the one time I’d seen Manson perform; it was in 1999, in Italy, and he spent much of the show engaged in what could adequately be described as a kind of auto-sodomy.
Evidently, he was on better behavior this week, at his show at Olympic Hall in Jamsil. According to Wohn Dong-hee, a JoongAng Daily staff writer who was there, Marilyn kept his hands in view at all times. And he didn’t drink gerbil blood or anything. So it wasn’t that bad.
Years ago, the Korean government used to block shock artists like Manson from coming here. Back then, if you lived in Korea and needed shocking, the place to go was Heavy Metal, a bar in the heart of Itaewon that has since changed its name to Bald Eagle.
In its heyday, Heavy Metal would be bursting with shock value on the weekends, and some weeknights as well. You’d have packs of long-haired Korean rockers and their glammed-up girls, jerking around as if practicing for a synchronized head-banging competition. You’d have GIs on the stage, slamming each other into black and blue oblivion.
But those days are gone, and the Bald Eagle is now in danger of extinction. Blame Hongdae, blame hip-hop, blame the curfew that has GIs fearing midnight like buzzcut Cinderellas.
Owner Kim Jung-soon is worried. “If this slow business continues, we may have to close,” she said recently. “The curfew is killing us. We only get crowds on the weekends, but they’re not that good.”
Ms. Kim and her brother, Kim Hyun-jun, started running the bar in 1992, two years after their younger sister bought it, and about 12 years after it first opened.
The younger sister, incidentally, bought the bar because she wanted to move to the United States and thought it was a good way to prepare.
Ms. Kim now finds herself in charge of a bar on the decline. So she’s open to suggestions to bring back the crowds. One customer recommended making Bald Eagle a hip-hop bar, and renaming it Little Detroit. But Ms. Kim would have none of that.
“This bar has been here for 24 years, for people who like hard rock, so we can’t just change it,” she said. “This is a special place, and I want to keep it that way.”
Another customer suggested that Ms. Kim take the heavy metal theme to the extreme. “Change the name back,” he said. “Then have the staff dress up like heavy metal stars from the ’80s. And take down the American flags and put up pictures of Ozzy Osbourne.”
He also said the bar should play only pre-1985 hard rock. “That would mean Led Zeppelin and no Limp Bizkit; Joan Jett and no Avril Lavigne; Alice Cooper and no Marilyn Manson.” Banning Manson, at least, is probably a good idea.


by Mike Ferrin
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