Ex-W.A.S.P. Guitarist CHRIS HOLMES Shoots Down Claim He Wasn't Drinking Real Vodka In 'The Decline Of Western Civilization' Movie
May 2, 2021
Former W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes is perhaps best known for the infamous scene in the 1988 movie "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" in which he was interviewed while floating in a swimming pool, fully clothed and visibly quite intoxicated while his mother sat poolside. The interview stood out in stark contrast to the more light-hearted and humorous interviews conducted by director Penelope Spheeris, which mostly portrayed rockers as good-natured, though often dimwitted or deluded, party animals. During the interview, Holmes smiled drunkenly at the camera, deeming himself "a full-blown alcoholic" and "a piece of crap" despite his band's success, and punctuated his remarks by guzzling from three bottles of vodka. At the end of the interview, Holmes upends a full bottle of Smirnoff over his head as he rolls out of his inflatable chair and into the water.
Asked in a new interview with Full In Bloom if that was "real vodka" he was pouring all over his face in the movie, Holmes said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Yeah. If you look at the footage, it burns my eyes. I have seen other interviews where Penelope, she's told somebody it wasn't, and it blows my mind. Why would I pour pool water down my throat? That'll make you barf; it has chlorine in it.
"I'm not the kind of person to really do too much fake," he added. "I'm sure you've probably noticed that by [my recently released] documentary. It's the way my mom raised me."
A few years ago, Spheeris spoke to Goldmine magazine about the Holmes scene in "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years". She said: "When I shot Chris Holmes, you know, I thought we didn't get the interview. I remember saying, 'We're going to have to reshoot this.' Because we didn't get anything. The guy's just sitting there screwing off and we didn't get anything. And then I saw Jon and Val [Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris], who are the producers, and I told them, we're going to have to reshoot that interview with Chris Holmes. And they said, 'Well, too bad, because we don't have enough money to reshoot it.' So I tried to cut something together and include it. I would never have imagined it would be the most talked about and kind of most memorable moment of the movie."
Asked what happened in the five or ten minutes after she finished the interview with Holmes, Spheeris said: "I think I was so stunned… You know how when you're in shock and you don't remember what happened? I don't remember! I don't remember him afterwards. Because I was just horrified that I didn't get an interview. I'm sure somebody must've given him a towel and… you know, most of that, [Penelope's daughter] Anna [Fox, who was instrumental in assembling the bevy of extras for the elegant box for the recently released 'The Decline Of Western Civilization' trilogy], when she put the DVD extras together, she pasted together all of the interviews from beginning to end. And so you can see in there the entire progression — or I should say digression — of his interview. And most of that clear liquid was pool water, by the way."
Spheeris offered more details about how the scene was shot during a separate interview with Rolling Stone. She said: "I don't remember if the pool was my idea or Chris's idea, but it was my idea to have his mom come down, 'cause I knew Sandy [Holmes]. She looks like she knows how far she can go with what she says to him. Like, she can't be too critical or he's just gonna go off on her.
"I didn't know he was going to be as drunk as he was. When we finished the interview, I took [cinematographer Jeff] Zimmerman behind a tree and said, 'I don't got this interview. We're gonna have to film him again.' But the great thing about doing documentaries is you just have to let them lead you. It turned out to be the most memorable thing.
"What I liked about the scene is you had all these younger kids talking about how they were gonna make it, but Chris was sort of an example of, 'Okay, I made it. Are you sure you want this?' That's why I liked it just from a filmmaker's standpoint. It counterbalanced all those crazy dreams that those kids had that were not gonna happen. It was a reality check.
"By the way, the first half of the bottle of vodka was real, and after that he was filling it up with pool water."
In a 2014 interview with Metallväktarna, Holmes stated about his appearance in "The Decline Of Western Civilization": "I get a lot [of questions] about that. [People wanna know], 'Was it alcohol? Were you drunk?' Or whatever. Yeah, I was drunk. I'm not known to be a liar. In fact, I was real drunk; I couldn't even talk. So a lot of people ask me, 'How do you feel about that being on TV?' or whatever. The only thing I don't like is where some kid will come up to me and go, 'Man, that's the coolest! I wanna live like that.' And, to me, personally, that's, like, me going down the tubes. And why would somebody wanna live like that?"
STEEL PANTHER singer Michael Starr told The Verge that the Holmes scene in "The Metal Years" "shaped my whole career, to be quite honest with you. At that point, heavy metal was at its peak. It was awesome to be drunk, floating in a pool. You knew you had a disease and you were going to kill yourself eventually, but that was cool back then. People just looked at that and said, 'Wow, this guy knows how to party. Everybody knows how to party.'"
Holmes joined W.A.S.P. in 1982 and remained with the group until 1990. In 1996, Holmes rejoined W.A.S.P. and stayed with the band until 2001. Holmes has not played with W.A.S.P. since.
"The Decline Of Western Civilization" received a deluxe box set release in June 2015 from Shout! Factory. The four-disc set was made available in both Blu-ray and DVD formats, and contains Penelope Spheeris's "The Decline Of Western Civilization" (1980),"The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" (1988) and "The Decline Of Western Civilization Part III" (1998),a 40-page book containing an essay written by rock historian Domenic Priore ("Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock 'N' Roll's Last Stand In Hollywood"),rare stills, and bonus features, including extended interviews, a commentary recorded by Dave Grohl in February 2015, and more. This was the first-ever official Blu-ray or DVD release of the films.