Jack Terricloth, Punk Rocker With a Cabaret Air, Dies at 50


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To old friends who met him backstage, he was Pete Ventantonio, a punk rocker from Bridgewater, New Jersey. On his records he sometimes preferred bizarre credits such as Marcello DiTerriclothia or Favorite Singer who goes with everything.

But to the fans who raved about his concerts, he was Jack Terricloth: the singing, roaring, devilishly smarmy singer and ringleader of the World / Inferno Friendship Society, a band with a constantly changing line-up that defies punk with the decadent theatrics of Weimar merged with cabaret.

For more than 20 years, the group built an iconic following with a rock sound embellished by piano, violin, and a brass section. His live shows – with Jack Terricloth in a dark suit and combed hair like a 1930s dandy – were key to the rise of the so-called punk cabaret movement in the mid-2000s, which included Gogol Bordello and the Dresden Puppen .

While Brooklyn-based World / Inferno is largely ignored by the mainstream music industry, it has made its way into one of Jack Terricloth’s key projects with major art institutions such as the Public Theater in New York and the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, SC: an exploration of the life of Peter Lorre, known for actors like “Casablanca” and “M.” well-known character actor with glasses eyes.

“I find Peter Lorre an oddly charismatic, extremely creepy person who I think most punk rockers can relate to,” he said in a 2009 interview with the New York Times. He’s the outsider, the outsider. “

For fans and fellow musicians, Jack Terricloth was an inspiring, albeit distant, personality who preached what he saw as the central philosophical doctrine of rock’n’roll: the freedom to reject society’s programming and reinvent yourself.

He was found dead Wednesday at his home in Ridgewood, Queens. He was 50 years old. His sister Lisa Castano said the cause was hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

He was born Peter James Ventantonio on June 11, 1970 and grew up in Bridgewater. His father, James Ventantonio, was a lawyer and local judge; his mother Anita (Winkler) Ventantonio was a primary school teacher.

As a teenager, he took inspiration from punk rock and stars like David Bowie creating their own roles, said Mike Cavallaro, a childhood friend who played with him in Sticks and Stones in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the mid-90s, when punk became mainstream, Peter began conceiving a genre offshoot that would include theater performances and a charismatic, world-weary frontman character. The World / Inferno Friendship Society’s first album, “The True Story of the Bridgewater Astral League,” musical style, was released in 1997.

“We’re a punk rock band and we play punk rock shows, but our music couldn’t be more different,” he told the Times. “Children see us and think, ‘Boys in suits and makeup on a hardcore show? Come on.’ But we always have them on the third song and then they have to accept something that affects the punk rock scene and the world. We have now entered the great dialogue that is our culture. “

The album “Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre’s 20th Century” (2007) became the band’s greatest moment. It has been converted into a self-described “punk song game” of the same title that has been performed in rock clubs and in high profile art series such as Peak Performances at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

After their concerts, the group often mingled with their fans – who called themselves Infernites. Performances, such as the lavishly staged annual Halloween shows, were viewed as shared rituals by both the audience and other musicians.

“He made you feel like you were part of a secret society,” said Franz Nicolay, who played keyboard in the band in the 2000s, in an interview.

In addition to his sister, Jack Terricloth survived his partner Gina Rodriguez.

The group’s self-mythologization sometimes clouded their history. Even the name Jack Terricloth has various apocryphal origins. Mr. Cavallaro remembered that his friend had bought it from an old friend. Others said he took the name to distinguish himself from another Pete in his early days in the New Jersey punk demimonde.

The ultimate reason seemed less important than the act of self-invention, and its audience was there.

At the beginning of last year the World / Inferno Friendship Society released an album entitled “All borders are porous for cats” and, like artists everywhere, was founded by the pandemic. But Jack Terricloth was determined to find a way to keep his Halloween tradition alive for his biggest fans, said Bill Cashman, his friend and manager of the group.

So the band developed a scavenger hunt, with clues to the location of an outdoor performance scattered across Brooklyn. Roughly 50 to 60 fans reached the show on the roof of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

“It meant a lot to us to do this, even if we did it for a small number of people,” said Cashman. “Just to do our thing.”



Robert Dunfee