At the height of his fame as a Seattle DJ, Marco Collins had one rule: be in bed by noon. That would give him enough time to rest after nights of drinking and drugs to be ready for his evening radio show.
Collins was a DJ for 107.7 The End, the city’s leading alternative music station in the 90s. A new documentary called, “The Glamour and the Squalor,” tells his story.
His radio show helped to popularize bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Weezer and Foo Fighters. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for breaking hit after hit. But there was a dark side to that success.
"I just remember thinking if people are going to identify with my show, I need to live the lifestyle," Collins told KUOW's Bill Radke. "I need to be not just going to the shows. I need to be hanging out with the bands. I need to be partying with the bands. I need to be doing whatever the bands are."
That meant doing a lot of cocaine.
Collins described watching Nirvana's first appearance on Saturday Night Live with members of Mudhoney and other grunge-era musicians. It was at the small Capitol Hill apartment of Nils Bernstein, founder of the Nirvana Fan Club.
"I watched his apartment get filled with fan mail from all over the world," Collins said. "We would have parties and dive into stacks of fan mail that were 3-feet-high. His mail man hated him."
Collins looked around the room and thought, "I am standing with the bands that all the world is talking about right now." And he was partying with them. He said despite the crazy party, you could have heard a pin drop among the crappy couches and beer stained wood floors when Nirvana took the stage.
"Punk rockers and just crazy, maniacal fools, and they're all just shutting up and looking at the T.V. like they just saw one of the most important moments in pop culture history. And that's what it was," Collins said.
Living that rock star lifestyle cost Collins dearly. He said he drinking and drug use blew up his career. It ruined his relationships.
"Some people in the scene didn't make it out. Some people overdosed and some people ended up taking their own lives. Because of whatever pressures were going on and whatever sort of drugs they were putting into their body," Collins said. "That part was rough."
But he also said there is a weird kind of beauty in the destructive nature of that kind of living.
"There's an element of pushing the boundaries," he said. "That to me was fun."
But the biggest regret Collins has from his DJ days was not coming out as gay. He was scared his fans wouldn't accept him. In 1996, he finally decided to come out in Out magazine.
"I was so nervous to come out to the world. And then I realized only gay people read Out magazine," Collins said laughing.
But he wished he had come out sooner. He has received emails from fans who said growing up gay would have been easier if they had known Collins was gay.
"I just was not comfortable then, and I regret that,” he said.
These days, Collins doesn't have a radio show. But he’s still searching for new music, looking for the next big band. He doesn't plan on resting anytime soon.
"The moment I rest and stop pursuing those new bands is the moment that you can just put me to bed. You could put me in the retirement home," he said. "I'll be done at that point."