Johnny Rotten saved my soul

Rating: NNNNNDear Johnny Rotten, NHi. Um, you don't know me, but I've been a fan of yours since 1977. A couple.

Rating: NNNNN

Dear Johnny Rotten, NHi. Um, you don’t know me, but I’ve been a fan of yours since 1977. A couple of weeks ago, I shuffled down to the local rep cinema to see The Filth And The Fury. Like you, I’m now middle-aged, 38, and reeling from having lived so long. It’s like standing on the other side of a raging, wild river and looking back, drenched and shaken.

You rescued a lot of kids, Johnny. You rescued my friends and me. We grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Like you, my pals and I were poor — me not so poor. I had two parents who both worked to support our large family. My mates lived in lower NDG, Ville St. Pierre and Verdun, most from single-parent families. I liked their mums they were good providers. Some families were on welfare, some kids felt embarrassed. That’s where you came in. You were the answer to the anger and rage and hurt we felt. You gave us pride and self-respect.

We found skinny pants, cheap jackets — you name it — at church rummage sales. We shoved safety pins in our ears and cheeks, closed the holes in our pants with them. The mooks at school who shoved me against the lockers and felt me up when I was 14 quit hassling me a year later. Instead, they called me a freak. Thanks, Johnny! We pogoed and slammed at the Iroquois, Oxygen, Fou Foune Electrique. Man, we were happy.

But then you went away. The scene splintered. Some of us went the way of ska, and the others got into hardcore. They started shaving their heads. They’d lost their sense of humour. One day someone called them “skinheads.” They were skinheads. I didn’t want to be a skinhead.

You said you hate anyone who gets into heroin. I know what you mean. I couldn’t hang out with my friend Pishnot any more. She thought I was a suck for passing up smack in favour of booze. It just seemed less of a hassle. You cried when you talked about Sid. Yeah, I loved Colleen, too. She’s been dead about five years. Pretty vacant. Pretty fucking vacant, huh?

So, here we are, Johnny. How old would you be now? 44? 45? Bowie might be the Thin White Duke, but you’re the Thin White Puke. God, you’re gorgeous. You’re still my hero.

On behalf of all kids who’ve been called “white trash,” of little kids diddled by perverts, of runaways everywhere — thank you.

This Carolyn Bennett is not a Toronto MP

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