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10/12/2009

Brendan Mullen, L.A. punk promoter

October 12, 2009 |  4:56 pm

Brendan Mullen, the founder of the Masque punk rock club in Hollywood that helped launch that vibrantly anarchic music scene on the West Coast in the late 1970s, died Monday after suffering a massive stroke two days earlier. He was 60.

Mullen died at Ventura County Medical Center, his companion of 16 years, Kateri Butler, said Monday. The couple had been traveling through Santa Barbara and Ventura celebrating his 60th birthday, which was Friday. "The doctors are completely perplexed," Butler said. "They can't figure out why he had a stroke -- he had none of the indicators, his cholesterol was perfect. One of the neurologists summed it up best when he said, 'Sometimes, your number is just up.' "

At the Masque, Mullen created an underground space that served as a crucible for the musicians and fans who felt alienated from mainstream society. Anger, frustration and self-deprecating humor flowered in the assaulting music that had been roiling in New York and London as L.A. bands including the Weirdos, the Germs, the Dils and the Screamers turned up regularly at the Masque for some of their earliest performances.

"He was the first promoter of punk rock in this town," veteran promoter Paul Tollett of Goldenvoice said Monday. "Everything started with him."

Once those seeds had been planted, other bands quickly followed, and the Masque became home to X, the Go-Go's, the Dickies, the Plugz, the Flesh Eaters and many more.

"Many bands existed before June '77, when I moved into the space and got a free month's rent to clear out 15 years of debris from the Don Martin School of Radio Broadcasting, the last business which operated in the basement," Mullen wrote in his book "Live At the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley," published in 2007 on the 30th anniversary of the short-lived club that closed in 1979. "For the record, I never claimed to have 'started punk in L.A.'…I'd prefer the Masque epitaph to be 'Where the SoCal scene originally came together.' "

--Randy Lewis

Note: We'll have a full obit in Tuesday's print edition and later here.

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