Pin It

Mondo 1995 

Mondo 2000 nailed the emerging cybersexcomputerdrug Zeitgeist with its first issue in 1989, making media mavens out of its founders, Queen Mu and R.U. Sirius. But the trippy, fractious family that was Mondo began to implode in 1993, torn asunder by inter

Wednesday, Oct 11 1995
Comments
The night air swooshes through a 20-foot door into Bart Nagel's Emeryville warehouse/studio space, where almost a dozen people are busy shooting a promotional video for a new book -- Cyberpunk Handbook: The Real Cyberpunk Fakebook -- that takes the cyberhip clichŽ to task with an ironic smirk.

It's only fitting that the book's authors -- St. Jude, R.U. Sirius, and Nagel -- are sending up the concept, seeing as they were the ones who foisted cyberpunk mania upon the world with the slick quarterly Mondo 2000. Begun six years ago as a shared hallucination in the Berkeley hills, Mondo melded computers, psychedelic drugs, sex, and art into an organic whole.

Published and financed by minor heiress Queen Mu, Mondo found a nationwide audience in the hip computer culture and titillated the talk show bookers with stories about virtual sex, smart drugs, cryptology, and nanocyborgs. By 1993, Mondo was on the cover of Time magazine, promoting the editors' best-selling book from HarperCollins.

But in 1995, with cyberpunk now reduced to trite Hollywood formula, this trio from the Mondo brain trust are happy to record the movement's obituary with the snide video. As Nagel puts his "star," former Mondo writer Chris Hudak, through his paces, R.U. Sirius and St. Jude offer directorial suggestions. Hudak, decked out in black leather -- his bullet belt bristling with a Taser, laser pointer, and Star Trek communicator -- re-creates his tongue-in-cheek role from the Mondo spoof "R U a Cyberpunk?" in issue No. 10.

Nagel's Fisher-Price video camera pans across Hudak's gear as he recites, perhaps a tad earnestly, from a color PowerBook:

"The term 'cyberpunk' has been used to describe music, lifestyles, and artistic sensibilities, but it really describes one narrow school of science-fiction writers," Hudak says. "God, it was a good word ... poetic, efficient, and romantic. Distance and passion. Machine and man. Technology and attitude. Cyberpunk. Great fuckin' word. And what the hell; we stole it."

After several takes a break is called and the crew sips brew and chatters. Slouched against the refrigerator, R.U. compliments Hudak's performance and adds, "Boy, am I working hard!"

When did cyberpunk die? I ask.
"1993," smirks somebody. "The release of the Billy Idol record."
Although the crew continues to gab, they avoid discussing the magazine that brought them together in the first place. It's no secret they've all fallen out with Queen Mu, and haven't worked on the publication as a group for several issues. I understand their reticence, having survived a few San Francisco magazine wars myself. Since the newsstand hasn't seen a new issue of Mondo in seven months, many readers assume that it is as dead as the cyberpunk concept, so I volunteer what appears to be the obvious:

"Isn't it a shame about Mondo?" I say.
The silence that falls on the room informs me immediately that I've broached a horribly touchy topic. The seasoned smartasses avoid my gaze to stare at the floor. An uncomfortable dramatic pause says I might as well have mentioned the name of somebody's family member who died in a violent accident. After a couple of vague, sad remarks, the subject is changed and chatter picks up again. Without further comment, we return to the video shoot.

As it turns out, Mondo isn't dead: In late September, Queen Mu produced Issue 14 and placed it on newsstands. What did expire some time ago was Mondo's bragging rights, its role as the undisputed arbiter of technohip. Having nailed the new Zeitgeist with the very first issue in 1989, the Mondo crew isn't keen on acknowledging that a South of Market competitor fat with consumer ads, subscribers, a commercial Web division, and an infusion of cash from CondŽ Nast has displaced it as the magazine of the '90s digital mind-meld.

Examined at close range, Mondo's history reads as if fabricated on another planet, spewed forth by a sweaty cyberpunk novelist tripping on nasal-ingested DMT. Yet the story is true. In its absurd journey from Marin to San Francisco to Berkeley, Mondo changed its name three times to avoid detection. Its staff consumed vast quantities of designer psychedelics; was plagued by vehicular accidents, some of them fatal; experienced office break-ins; suffered publicity-starved celebrities; indulged in media pranks; watched the skies during suspicious helicopter flyovers; engaged in cross-dressing; enjoyed the temporary rush of depleting inheritances; and generated conspiracy theories about the Mormons taking over the world.

And it all began at a 1984 equinox birthday party for an archdruid named Stephan Abbott in Berkeley. Ken Goffman (by this time already adopting the Dadaist persona of "R.U. Sirius") arrived with newsprint copies of the premiere issue of High Frontiers under his arm. Subtitled "Psychedelics, Science, Human Potential, Irreverence & Modern Art" and published by a dubious organization called the Marin Mutants, High Frontiers consisted primarily of long, unedited interviews with acid veterans like Albert Hofmann, Timothy Leary, and Terence McKenna, the margins filled in with weird jokes and short items.

That night, Sirius met a woman named Alison Kennedy.
"She was talking about how she had been irradiated over in Germany, because she was living right next door to the Russian Embassy," says Sirius, who turned 43 this year. "She'd been irradiated and poisoned, she was sick and dying, and she was smiling from ear to ear. I immediately fell in love with her because she was so strange. She was also the prettiest woman at the party. I said, 'Let's go take some drugs,' and it went from there."

The long-haired, gap-toothed Sirius was a self-described "street rat" and ex-yippie musician from New York. Kennedy was the faculty wife of an Eastern religion professor at UC Berkeley, and the daughter of a wealthy Palo Alto family that claimed Noah Webster in its lineage. Her friends included the late Aldous Huxley and Ken Kesey.

Despite its small print run of 1,500, High Frontiers No. 1 was well-received. The back room of Mill Valley's Flashback Pizza became the unofficial hangout of Sirius and other characters who worked on the magazine: "Somerset Mau Mau," "Amalgam X," and new Art Director "Lord Nose." There, Sirius began plotting the second issue of this party-on-paper. Timeliness was not an issue.

About The Author

Jack Boulware

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular