Billy Boloby's Last Stand? West Palm Musician Battles Crippling Disease | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Talking Shit

Billy Boloby's Last Stand? West Palm Musician Battles Crippling Disease

I really hate battles of the bands. I mean, besides the fact that my bands never won, it's just a reminder that we're all doing this shit for selfish reasons, despite what anyone says. Yet for some reason I always ended up competing. I just wish my final performance wasn't another losing battle. Then again, it's an apt metaphor, considering it was my battle with disease that sidelined me in the first place.

On August 29, 2008, my band Pots 'N' Pans competed in a battle at the North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art. We didn't win, nor did we deserve to after my mediocre performance. For anyone not familiar, I was the frontman for several bands throughout the years: The Happy Accidents and Mute-Ants in the '90s, and Billy Boloby, the Bittercups and Pots 'N' Pans in the aughts. My shtick was being very physical, like Olivia Newton John (well, maybe not, though I did wear leotards for a couple of Mute-Ants shows, unfortunately). But at the MOCA battle, I wasn't at 100 percent physically, or even psychologically. 

Two weeks earlier, something happened that I'd been dreading for years: I had my first Crohn's disease flare-up. I was diagnosed in 1999, following months of tests and procedures, after learning that my liver enzymes were sky high. It was discovered that I have a disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). I was told that it would eventually cause my liver to fail, and I'd need a transplant. At the time, I couldn't believe any of this. I mean, I felt fine. I never got sick, even when everyone around me was. And as far as Crohn's, I didn't have any symptoms, and it remained that way until that fateful August four years ago. 

You've seen the commercial, the one about how we're always looking for the bathroom? That pretty much nails it. After my first flare-up, which lasted more than a week, the thought of traveling from West Palm to Miami, performing, and then traveling back, had my nerves rattled. I was afraid to eat because I didn't know if it would cause me pain or go right through me, or both. My self-confidence took a nose-dive. Onstage, I was nervous, but it wasn't stage fright. All I could think of was how much longer I'd have to be there, wanting to get it over with so I could get home. Safe. Well, I managed to get through the show without any problems, but that was a problem itself - I didn't really enjoy any of it. 

Performing was my favorite thing in the world. It was like a religious ritual for me. The stage is the one place where I feel totally alive, like I can do anything at all and am not restricted by social norms. It's the one place where I'm allowed - nay, expected - to be a weirdo. Over the years my bands have done some wacky stuff onstage, and it was mostly the band that bore my name. We've been kidnapped by a mad scientist and replaced with his robot. Opening for the SuicideGirls burlesque show, we became an end-times cult that solicited audience members' money and offered Kool-Aid before offing ourselves. We changed our name to Vanilla Friendship Bracelet, donned black metal garb, made some noise and got into a sword fight. We changed our identities so much, it confused even us; at one show, we wore masks of each other and switched instruments. We did lots of parodies as well: Billi Vanilli, Billy and the Cruisers, the Out-of-Style Council, and our first stage production, The Billy Boloby Christmas Carol

Pots 'N' Pans carried on that tradition when we could, though I was more focused on songwriting. So when I started flaring, I wasn't too worried. We had recently begun recording a full-length album and had a rough mix of the tracks. I thought it sounded awesome - possibly the best recording of any of my bands. This was going to put us on the map. It had to. After 15 years of toiling on the fringes of the punk and garage scenes, I was ready to get some recognition for my studio work. I designed a few composite album covers and started putting together some liner notes. I wanted this to be huge, my greatest achievement to date. And then we broke up.

- Billy Boloby

Come back tomorrow for the second part of Billy Boloby's story.