One of the most memorable, infamous, and unsettling scenes in rockumentary history is the swimming pool interview with former W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes in Penelope Spheeris’s 1988 celluloid chronicle of hard-rock Hollywood, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. During the drunken, squirmingly uncomfortable interview (which took place on an inflatable pool floaty, until Holmes lost his balance and toppled into the water), the rocker described himself as “a full-blown alcoholic” and “piece of crap” while guzzling and/or dousing himself with a big bottle of Smirnoff — and while his mother, sitting poolside, observed him in silence.
But three decades later, Duke TV has shot a sequel pool interview (conducted by Holmes’s wife, Sarah) with the now-sober, 58-year-old musician. The interview includes many of the same questions he was asked in Decline II — but this time, his answers are very different. Most notable is when Sarah asks him about his drinking habits these days. Compare and contrast Holmes’s 1988 and 2017 pool interviews here.
“You’ve got to drink something to stay alive — I drink Diet Pepsi, Gatorade, Powerade. I hate the water out of the tap. But I like Sparkletts. If you’re asking about alcohol, no, I don’t drink alcohol anymore. [I stopped] Feb. 6 of ’96,” Holmes reveals, as he reclines on a pool raft in the 2017 interview. “Why do I not drink anymore? After six DUIs, they throw you in jail, and it’s really hard to drink in jail. And they’ll make you quit, the government, or they’ll lock you up… I’ve learned when somebody’s drunk, they don’t do really too much that’s really constructive; they have a fun time, but they’re not that smart. Drinking turns you into an idiot. A lot of people like to be idiots — I used to be one, probably the biggest one there was — but as you get older, things change. When I stopped drinking, I’d see all my friends drinking and they’d just turn into idiots. I was the one leading the pack, anyway, so I’m not one to talk about being an idiot and drinking.”
Two years ago, Decline director Spheeris told Goldmine that she had been “horrified” by Holmes’s original interview and had actually deemed the footage unusable at first. “When I shot Chris Holmes, you know, I thought we didn’t get the interview,” she recalled. “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 then I saw [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… By the way, the first half of the bottle of vodka was real, and after that he was filling it up with pool water.”