'Etiquette for Outlaws': A Subculture Guide
The do's and don'ts of picking a dominatrix and other rather questionable
By REED JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Jumbo's Clown Room is a fine destination if you're into drinking Bud Lite
and ogling pretty young women in their underwear. But the legendary
Hollywood topless bar has never quite gotten its due as an underground
literary hangout, a place where you once might've spotted Charles Bukowski
dispensing slurry epiphanies.
So when Rob Cohen and David Wollock threw a May 10 coming-out party at
Jumbo's for their new book, "Etiquette for Outlaws," they were
stunned at the turnout. Three hundred people showed up, including several
exotic dancers and a Channel 9 TV crew.
"It was a madhouse," says Cohen. "We weren't even able to get
drunk at our
own party," Wollock laments. Talk about a faux pas.
Correcting such heinous lapses in social protocol is part of the raison
d'être behind "Etiquette for Outlaws" (HarperCollins), a 302-page
illustrated tome that one month ago hit No. 4 on The Times' Southern
California Bestseller List for paperback nonfiction.
In their book, the Valley-bred authors try to set down some basic do's and
don'ts for these behaviorally troubled times. Their advice, however, has
little to do with arranging salad forks or picking the right gift for your
second cousin's third marriage.
A how-to catalog of verboten pleasures, the book charts a course that
roughly proceeds from peccadilloes to misdemeanors to felonies. Broken into
bite-size copy blocks and sidebars, it covers tattoos, graffiti tagging,
motorcycles, low riders, alternative sex, strip clubs and jailhouse
fighting, among other NC-17-rated topics.
Attending your first rave? "Be a sport and share your water with anyone who
asks," the authors counsel, "unless they have visible mouth
a fetish party complete with 6-inch stiletto heels, leather corsets and
riding crops? "S/M is risky business, and we don't recommend you try this
stuff at home without the supervision of an expert or without inviting us
over to watch."
Written in a breezy but authoritative tone, in elevated, mock-Emily Post
language, "Etiquette for Outlaws" isn't for the irony-challenged.
it simply a gag book. Instead, Cohen and Wollock say, they wanted to write a
well-researched and thought-out manual of correct conduct across a wide
range of subcultures and lifestyles that are rapidly moving from the margins
to the mainstream.
By neither condoning nor condemning the activities they describe, the
authors hope to offer sound practical advice on gambling, cigar smoking,
choosing a good dominatrix, and negotiating Havana sex bazaars and Amsterdam
Additional chapters abound in helpful hints such as how to survive when a
mosh pit turns ugly and how to avoid getting killed in prison ("Never steal
anyone's drugs"). Chapter headings quote Friedrich Nietzsche, the Old
Testament, Woody Allen and Gene Simmons of KISS.
"You could boil our book down to three basic rules," says Wollock, 35,
kicking back with Cohen, 31, over cocktails at Jumbo's last week. "Don't be
a [jerk]-show respect; don't be a poseur, don't come into a subculture and
pretend you know about something you don't; and the third thing is: Tip. Buy
people things, and they love you."
OK, so it's not the Ten Commandments. But their book has a conscience, the
authors say. It belongs to a new class of uncensored self-help books,
Internet oracles and explicit sex-advice columnists like Dan Savage
Love"), a primer for an age with few moral absolutes. "Dude, if I had
book when I was 14, I would've solved, like, four anxieties a month," Cohen
says. "Send it to my Hebrew Studies teacher."
Journalists and ad men by trade, Cohen and Wollock began scoping out their
book four years ago after they met while working for retail giant Wherehouse
Music. Their field research involved many long hours of interviewing
rappers, taggers, bookies, adult film actors, bikers, rock groupies, fetish
club owners and the occasional celebrity such as Ice-T or-better sit down
for this one-Pat Boone.
To promote their wayward opus, the men cold-called magazines and radio
stations, arm-twisted journalist friends, wrote press releases, set up a Web
and created 20,000 promotional matchbooks
imprinted with the philosophical teaser, "Do You Tip a Hooker?"
(The answer, according to Wollock, is "yes, based on the quality and
duration of the service, especially if you plan to be a repeat customer.")
Gonzo cultural arbiters "Kevin & Bean" of KROQ have praised the
book on air,
and Playboy and a few alternative weeklies also have given it thumbs up.
"We both come from a very indie background, a very do-it-yourself
background," says Cohen, a UC Santa Barbara religious studies major who
previously created and published the alternative arts journal Caffeine and
now works as Wherehouse's art director.
Wollock's résumé includes founding and editing the hip-hop magazine Rap
Sheet, freelancing gigs with the Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety and L.A.
New Times and his current job writing "trite yet award-winning ad
Despite their impeccable middle-class credentials, the duo insist their book
is a sincere appreciation not intended solely to titillate yuppie voyeurs.
"We try to be genuine," Cohen says. "Whether we're part of that
or not, we're not there to exploit them."
Sure, they acknowledge, the book is very frat-boy- and WWF-friendly. Every
generation gets the "Animal House" it deserves. But with
readers conditioned by Howard Stern, "The Simpsons" and the Spice
sense and satirical sensibility have become joined at the hip.
"We're two nerdy guys from the Valley," Wollock says. "We're not
don't feel like we need to be hardcore street. I have a job. I drive a Saab.
We're so not outlaws. We don't want to be outlaws, but we like hanging with
Not that there weren't some sticky moments. Take the time Wollock went to
research a swinger party as a nonparticipant. "It was in the Valley, in a
quiet suburban block. Very normal looking. Did you see 'Eyes Wide Shut'? It
was like that. In the whole process it was the only time I felt
uncomfortable. I felt ridiculous watching this going on, and I felt rude."
Eventually he compromised by jumping in a hot tub. (His date didn't join
To their surprise, the men also found the experience of practicing shooting
guns (as research for their unfazed but cautiously worded chapter on weapons
use) "strangely exhilarating" in a Libertarian kind of way. "I
really felt I
got the sense of the juice people feel when they hold guns," Wollock says.
"And the power."
Ultimately, the book suggests that tolerance, open-mindedness and common
decency can make up for all but the most egregious indiscretions. Some
reviewers have even criticized it for not including in-depth chapters on
drug-use rules of thumb.
"We would've really liked a whole section on, 'When you're chopping up your
blow [cocaine], who gets the first line?'" Wollock says. The men had to
their battles carefully with wary editors, they say, though they later
sneaked back in some of the more extreme material.
"This is the most PC book of sin and vice you'll ever find," Wollock
with a laugh. "I would love to think some of these people, entering these
dens of iniquity, they'll do so with a little more grace and decorum."
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him,
as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.
The Dhammapada (c. B.C. 300)