The Self-Made Man: The Story of Steve Corbin
When TSB asked me to write a column about self-made men, I thought: it’s about time. Finally, the world can learn about this important distinction of manhood from its purest source, a cat-owning bachelor who spends the better portion of his day writing humor columns in his underwear.
But what is a self-made man, exactly? I mean, the only man who existed completely on his own in recent memory was the Unabomber, and he’s not what you’d call an ambitious young go-getter. Hell, even Thoreau had relatives bringing him food. How does one reconcile the archetype of the self-made man with the reality that no man is an island, that our achievements are at least somewhat connected to the generations before us and the communities around us?
The answer to all those questions, I think, is to define a self-made man as someone who takes whatever footballs life throws him and runs them as far and fast as he can. In essence, this kind of man is someone with both a strong work ethic and an eye for opportunity. That said, the best person to start with is Steve Corbin, aka “Mugger.”
Corbin was a teenage runaway who, while homeless, lived on dog food rolled up in white bread before joining up with seminal hardcore punk band Black Flag as their roadie, driver, publicist, and all-around grunt worker. If there was a job to be done, chances were good that Mugger would be doing it.
It’s a testament to Mugger that he stuck with Black Flag for three years, because their neverending grind of a touring schedule was often too much for everyone else; Black Flag’s line-up was notoriously unstable. Henry Rollins, whose book Get In the Van covers his stint as Black Flag’s fourth and final singer, wrote at length about flyering towns with Mugger, living on a $5/day food allowance and suffering constant police harassment, both on tour and in their home base of Los Angeles.
Mugger also did the accounting for SST Records, an independent record label owned by Black Flag guitarist and founder Greg Ginn. After Black Flag broke up, Mugger continued to work at SST Records, and was given a 25% stake in the company. He put his money to work studying economics at UCLA, and when his share in SST was bought out by Ginn and co-owner Chuck Dukowski after a few creative disagreements, Mugger invested the money. Wisely, as it turned out, because as of this writing he’s a computer industry bigwig, and a millionaire to boot.
Most recently, he was interviewed for the American Hardcore documentary, where he’s shown drinking wine in his gated community home in California, happy as a clam. Other than that, he’s kept a pretty low profile, and who can blame him? The guy’s definitely earned some peace and quiet.
It’s tempting to dismiss Mugger’s story as an outlier, but at the end of the day he was a kid from an abusive home who combined hard work, luck, and an almost occult knack for engaging opportunity to become what he is now, and we here at TSB think it’s more productive to hold him up as an inspiration rather than a fluke.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.