The punk era at the Cuckoo’s Nest was short-lived, an approximately three- year period during which punk flourished above-ground behind the Orange Curtain. The Cuckoo’s Nest drew some of the best bands the national and international punk phenomenon had to offer. In this sense, the Cuckoo’s Nest must have played an important role in inspiring local punk scenes, as these live performances were the raw material for the Orange County punks to emulate, appropriate, and transform into their own version of punk. Perhaps more importantly, the Cuckoo’s Nest offered its stage to the second- wave Southern California punks from Los Angeles’ suburbs—the bands from the South Bay and Orange County that created hardcore and established the domain of punk as the suburban wastelands instead of the bohemian urban enclaves. The Cuckoo’s Nest invited the newly formed suburban Southern Californian bands to perform during a time when it was extremely difficult for punk bands to book shows. At the same time, the Cuckoo’s Nest was a space for Orange County punks to experience punk that was probably more readily accessible than underground shows in backyards, garages, warehouses, and squats. The Cuckoo’s Nest also offered the Orange County punks a place to congregate, to assemble as punks. Considered in this light, the Cuckoo’s Nest played an important role in the emergence of punk in Southern California.Punks also fashioned the identity of Orange County punk through experiences specifically tied to the Cuckoo’s Nest. The brawling with Zubie’s urban cowboys, Pat Brown’s escapade, harassment at the hands of police, slam dancing at the Cuckoo’s Nest, the shows and their associated troublemaking within the vicinity of the venue, and the City of Costa Mesa’s forcible closure of the Cuckoo’s Nest are all important elements of the constitution of Orange County punk.
The City of Costa Mesa and the local businesses would also provide Orange County punk with its ultimate justification—they constructed punk as a real threat to the social order necessitating the mobilization of the City bureaucracy, police, and local government against the Cuckoo’s Nest to suppress punk. The Orange County punks imagined themselves as anti- authority, and the authorities validated the punks’ self-perception by actually making punk a public enemy. Therefore, Orange County punk’s enemies were instrumental in legitimating and realizing punk’s self- representation. What’s more, the City Establishment treated the punk threat seriously: punk was ungovernable, such that the only way the City could deal with it was to outlaw punk by proxy. Besides the authorities’ heartfelt belief in the threat posed by punk, the authorities were also motivated by at least two other concerns in attacking the Cuckoo’s Nest. Punk was generating unfavorable media attention for the City of Costa Mesa, which directly threatened the City’s image as a quiet, pleasant, blight- free suburb. Considered in this light, the City’s attack on the Cuckoo’s Nest was a type of “brand” preservation, a defensive action to preserve its self- representation. In addition, the police and the City bureaucrats regarded punk as a source of juvenile delinquency. In true paternalistic fashion, the authorities believed that by eradicating punk, they were actually protecting local youth.
The anti-punk crusaders sincerely believed the portrayals of punk they propounded. Primarily, the anti-punk crusaders represented Orange County punk as fundamentally criminal and lawless. Punk manifested itself in widespread juvenile delinquency, vandalism, and even attempted murder of a police officer. This coincided with other media representations of punk as a hostile, anti-social phenomenon. Second, some authorities attempted to characterize punk as something mostly foreign to Costa Mesa—an invocation of the old “outside agitator” trope. Interestingly, the authorities did not blame the punk blight on Hollywood, but rather youth from surrounding and north Orange County cities. It was the most parochial of NIMBY-ism. Third, the authorities represented punk as an identifiable community; the punks formed a “crowd.” Fourth, the police and top-level City bureaucrats thought this punk crowd was bound to explode into violence—i.e., riot. Violence was a defining element of punk, from its “slam dancing,” self-mutilation, brawls with Zubie’s customers, and its antagonistic relation to police. Fifth, the authorities identified punk as primarily a youth movement. Noticeably absent from the Costa Mesa authorities’ understanding was any sympathy for the punks. The anti-punk crusaders saw nothing redeeming about punk; it was purely deviant, unrecuperable youth revolt.
It is hoped that this zine will further the understanding of Orange County punk. Various studies, oral histories, and documentaries have made great strides in preserving Orange County punk history as well as elucidating its importance in a social, historical, cultural, and musical sense. But these works have, by and large, privileged the perspective of the punk and worse —the former punk. Without a doubt, those perspectives are absolutely critical and probably should be front and center. Suburban Struggle, however, contends that we have much to learn about Orange County punk from those who were hostile to it. Rather than dismiss the Establishment’s crusade against punk in Costa Mesa as the product of backward fuddy duddies, it should be regarded as the calculated exercise of state-private power, aimed at a target that was rationally perceived as a threat to the suburban peace and social order. Orange County punk’s enemies’ understandings of punk, as well as various power structures’ attempts to suppress or even co-opt punk, are just as much a part of the story of punk in Orange County as any scene or band history. Punk’s enemies shaped the history of punk in Orange County.