It’s 90 degrees in the offices of KNON, the Voice of the People. On a barstool outside the broadcast booth, a fifteen-year-old boy with a blond mohawk and black leather jacket looks as if he might start crying any second. His parents don’t understand him—they think that because he’s a punk he must be on drugs, breaking the law, and maybe becoming suicidal like all those kids in Plano. Last week, as he stood in the hall outside his parents’ room, he heard them talking about putting him away in some kind of hospital. So tonight, Saturday night, he has come to the ramshackle KNON studio just east of downtown Dallas to be near someone he knows will understand him: Shaggy. Shaggy is older—she’s seventeen—and she picks up stray kids like him all the time. She’s a disc jockey at the community-supported station; her show, The Pajama Party, runs Saturday nights from midnight to 4 a.m., sending out new wave and punk music to people who never hear it anywhere else. Right now Shaggy is on the air, and the kid with the mohawk is waiting to talk to her. So are three people blinking on hold, a couple of guys with the Tokyo dogs in the broadcast booth, and three sweltering punks banging on the locked door downstairs. Midway through The Pajama Party‘s “Un-cool Hour,” Shaggy punches line one.
“Hello, you’re on the air,” she says.
“Um, yeah,” says a girl with a North Dallas Val twang, “I just wanted to say that I think it’s really uncool for your mom to like make you change channels because Suicidal Tendencies is on.”
“Whoa!” Shaggy says. “Somebody wouldn’t let you watch a Suicidal Tendencies video, right?”
“Whoa! Uncool! What could be so terrible about Suicidal Tendencies?”
“I know,” the girl says. “I feel the same way. Totally.”
“Hey, what does your mom think about the new band U2?”
“She hates ‘em.”
“She hates U2. Hey, Charlie,” Shaggy says to a guy who keeps track of her albums, “bring me those lyrics. Hey, go get your mom. I want her to hear this.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah. Turn up the radio real loud, okay?”
“Hey, Mom, are you listening?”
“Yeah, she’s listening.”
“Okay. Mom, this is a quote from a band that was inspired by other European bands. This is evil punk rock we’re talking about here. And this is a line from one of their songs: ‘And it’s true we are immune,/When fact is fiction and TV is reality,/And today the millions cry,/We eat and drink while tomorrow they die./The real battle just begun./To claim the victory Jesus won,/On a Sunday, bloody Sunday.’ And that’s one of these terrible bands, right? Seriously, that’s something I’m kind of into, so if she has any more questions she can call me, and I’d be more than happy to talk to her.”
“Oh, wow,” the girls says. “ Coo-ool!”
“Okay. And I’ll play some Suicidal Tendencies for you sometime.”
Shaggy’s real name is Nancy Moore; her nickname comes from British slang, as in, “I’m all shagged out, tired, bummed out.” She has been doing The Pajama Party on KNON since she volunteered to be a DJ at the station in January 1984, when she was only sixteen.
A year ago this month, just after her seventeenth birthday, Shaggy moved out of her parents’ house in North Dallas, where she’d lived all her life, and into an old Oak Lawn rent house called the Bill House with a bunch of teenage punks. She was becoming a minicelebrity of sorts, but she had a lot in common with her roommates: an exotic, razor-clipped haircut (hers had a dyed-blond mohawk streak down the middle), a passion for loud punk rock, and a thrilling sense of freedom at being on her own, in an all-night carnival where everyone around her was her dearest, closest friend. One of her roommates had moved from Wichita Falls, not known as a mecca for punks, and one was up from her wealthy parents’ home in New Orleans, slumming for kicks with her Audi parked out front. Nearly all of them had had trouble with their parents.
In a way, Shaggy had started her move to the Bill House years before, when she became a punk at age fourteen. Those last three years had been terribly unhappy ones for her; she felt alienated and alone at school (she was one of only two punks at Hillcrest High), and things were worse at home. Her father had Alzheimer’s disease and hadn’t worked since Shaggy was thirteen; her mother suffered from high blood pressure and arthritis and also couldn’t work. The family lived on Social Security and disability checks. Shaggy got her first job when she was just twelve, taking phone orders at Marco’s Pizza at Preston and Royal Lane. She’d worked ever since then and used her own money to buy whatever she needed. Hanging out with other punks—going to new wave concerts, dancing in the parking lot of the Hot Klüb when she was too young to fake her way inside, feeling that she was around interesting people who accepted her—was about the only thing that kept her going during those years. Shaggy, the youngest of four children and the only girl (her brothers were all grown and gone), was growing up in a crumbling, unhappy house with parents who were both in their sixties and who didn’t understand her, who misinterpreted her punk lifestyle as something dangerous and obscene. She had to get out or she’d explode. The month before she left, she was so nervous and tense from trouble at school and home and worrying about her parents that she had to go to a hospital for a stress-related nerve disorder. But once she was in the Bill House, carrying in her stuff and picking out her room, she felt safe. For the first time in years she was in a place that