Back in the late '70s my family lived in Philadelphia and I used to go to New York with a lot with friends for shows, sometimes just hanging out etc. I moved to California (LA) in July of '81. About a week before I left, some pals and I were at (I think) a Cramps show in Trenton, New Jersey where we saw an ad for a Thunders show in NY at Irving Plaza. The show was scheduled for the day before I was to fly to LA. Of course we had to go for old times' sake. I called a friend in NY who got us tickets and we met him that afternoon at his girlfriend's brownstone in mid-town somewhere. We got to the the club early, around midnight, but still had to wait for the opening band. Around 2:30 a.m. Johnny and his band, Billy Rodgers on drums, Fat Tony C on bass and Luigi on guitar, stumbled out. Johnny asked the by-then usual question, " I think somebody slipped something into my drink. How many of you kids were here the last time we played ?... I gotta tellya, I was dosed on PCP, STP and Y-O-U. But tonight, we're gonna kick ass like you never seen." This time, he wasn't kidding.
. The show was sold out, the crowd was pushing against the stage, screaming out requests, songs and otherwise, as Johnny soaked it all up. He started up "Pipeline" and the audience surged even more. I was right up front, off to the right of the stage where Johnny usually was. He was standing almost right in front of me, eyes closed strumming the chords at the middle pause before going back to the lead when a girl standing next to me reached out and grabbed his ankle. Without even opening his eyes or showing any sign that he even noticed, he just cocked his leg back and, WHAM! kicked her right in the face without even looking! She fell against me and when Johnny opened his eyes and looked down at us I think he thought I grabbed his ankle or that she was my girlfriend or something, but he seemed convinced I was somehow to blame. Not wanting a boot in the face myself I gestured frantically to make him understand it wasn't me. Then the girl went for him again so he made eye contact with me and gave me a nod as if to say, "Ok, it wasn't you. You're ok." Then he kicked her again and luckily she lost interest in getting his attention.
The show was awesome, a fitting end to my east coast stay. Johnny and band played till about 4 a.m., and included a lot of our favorites, "Memory", "MIA", "Chatterbox", "London Boys", "Subway Train" and more. We were so hopped up after the show we drove straight through back to Philly, talking about the show the whole way. Johnny didn't play in Philadelphia too often so even with our frequent Big Apple trips we hadn't seen him as much as we would have liked. That would be the end of the story except that, unbelievably, a couple years later, through a friend in LA, I got a tape of that show! The quality was good so I had a nice memento of the last time I would see Johnny in New York. I saw every show he played in the vicinity of LA and met him several times out here. But that's another story.