I think feeling dark and resentful toward others in high school had a lot to do with the fact that it was a post 9/11 commuter town, which became a guarded, close-minded place more and more with each passing day. The town I grew up in was right on what many consider to be the border of Northern and Southern New Jersey. We see it as the border of Central and Southern NJ, but many deny the existence of central New Jersey altogether. If you live equidistant from Philadelphia and New York City, my friend, you are a Central New Jerseyan.
Many are surprised when I tell them about a kind of culture that exists in NJ, where in more-rural areas, you can find head-to-toe Realtree print and Confederate flags. Yup. Strange but true that the same town with a pretty solid expat community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, would also have a sizable community of heroin addicts on welfare (with multiple young children), who are into hunting, and still live at home with their parents. Basically, New Jersey is flipping strange. But for the longest time, I felt like the strange one.
I left the 'burbs pretty much the minute I could, yet when I look back at photos for #TBT, I am always shocked at how angry I looked. I felt caged up and held back; as far as I can remember, I was always two steps ahead of most people my age.
In some ways, I'm glad I went through a bit of a dark time when I was younger and more resilient. The darkness was a protective layer, shielding my very sensitive heart from the pain I was so accustomed to feeling. Pain from my peers, pain from my family, and pain from society, and I needed to show it--with eyeliner.
As a young teen I was very into ska music, and that of course led to punk, hardcore, and metal. I went to Warped tours and Skate and Surf Festival (the festival Bamboozle was born from) and all manner of VFW, Elks Lodge, Freemason Temple, and all-ages shows in between.
But the band that stole my little black heart, was AFI, also known as A Fire Inside. Oh boy, I still hear their songs and get the chills (and get made fun of for liking them) to this day. I sat with a table of band dudes and lunch-table philosophers, and they taught me about AFI's favorite band, the Misfits.
At that time, the Misfits were a very, very cheesy incarnation of one or two original members, but we knew what it meant to say you listened to the Misfits, the 1982 Misfits, the Italian dudes from North Jersey. The punx. Admitting you listened to any "new" Misfits tunes was a big no-no, and the music really sucked (and still does), in my opinion anyway.
The lost member, Glenn Danzig, a.k.a. Glen Anzalone, went on to more awesome side projects such as Samhain and Danzig, which were a bit more metal. In the interim, Jerry Only, one of the remaining members, went forward with licensing for Misfits merchandise, claiming to be independent of Danzig. Only those two knew what really went down, but this, some 32 years after the dissolving of the original lineup, is pretty interesting: Danzig is suing Jerry Only for those licensing dollaz.
The way the original Misfits wore their makeup and hair inspired countless generations of punx to wear all-black eyes with the signature "devilock." I love me an artful devilock; it's a time-honored, traditional, fashion-punk hairstyle. My own hair was decidedly more Ashlee Simpson-Wentz than Glenn Danzig, but my eye makeup was pure Fiend Club.
I used everything I could get my hands on to black out my tiny little eyes. Black eyeshadow applied with a wet brush was my first experiment, and boy was that stuff messy. Before the days of Internet beauty tips, I had to wing it. With no eyeshadow primer, my greasy hooded lids annihilated the powder, turning it into a slick, creased mess.
I searched far and wide for a better way to create this Davey-Havok-by-way-of-Fiend-Club face. I was in love with him, so I wanted to wear my eye makeup like him. (Makes perfect sense.) I remember listening to AFI's Black Sails in the Sunset on the school bus, psyching myself up for another day of being surrounded by intolerable a-holes. The joke was on me, though, because I was one of those assholes. We all were! Teenagers are generally jerks.
A trip to the city got me a new friend, kajal! I was able to quickly apply this stuff to my eyes and not feel like they were watery or dry from days-old makeup crust. Admittedly, kajal on its own was not the solid coverage that I would have wanted, but it sunk into the skin and worked with the greasy lids to make a kind of glossy smoky eye.
I liked this look, and again, would wake up every morning and slather on another layer of kajal, drawing a sloppy ring around my entire eye and then smudging it into a gray-black cloud. This look earned me the title Dani Havok from my history teacher, a New Jersey Hardcore legend in his own right who knew the members of AFI personally. Obviously this thrilled me. Mr. R was such a radical teacher--my friends and I still talk about how awesome he was.
The look became my thing so much so that my BFF Dara dressed up as me one Halloween. Everyone knew what her costume was supposed to be.
But right around the time of my senior portrait, I underwent something of a transformation. I took one look and said, "Hmm. Not ugly...." and began to tone everything down.
Today, you can find my eyes generally bare of any liner or mascara, save for going out or special events. Once I realized that my small, hooded eyes looked even smaller and more hooded with all that black soot, I wiped it off for good. I also realized that the world is a scary and painful place, but we were put here with the power to change it, and I found reasons to show off my post-orthodontic smile.
I feel like Glenn Danzig, who woke up one morning and discovered that something he started, and music that he wrote, brought in tons of revenue that he might, perhaps, be entitled to. One can grow from a Misfit into a Mogul, and still retain his or her punk sensibility. This transition takes time, wisdom, and eye makeup remover, but it can be done.
Maybe someday in the future Danzig and Danizig will be penthouse neighbors. But until then, I'll be evolving without forgetting where I came from--or what I am capable of. Sometimes you have to turn it down to turn up.
What was your look in high school? Was it inspired by anyone?
Photos by Darnell Scott