Glamorous Youth

Sharon Osbourne put the local kids of Pure Rubbish in front of millions on MTV. Then things fell apart.

On that June evening in Paris last year, it seemed the whole world was at the feet of Pure Rubbish. Only a couple of years before, the Houston band was playing small clubs like the Blue Iguana and Instant Karma. Tonight, they were opening for Offspring and their heroes AC/DC in the Stade de France, where 65,000 screaming French rockers packed three sides of the 80,000-seat stadium. Neither of the two leaders of the group -- the Dunivan brothers, then-14-year-old drummer Evan and 17-year-old singer-guitarist Derek -- was old enough to vote. Bassist Mike McWilliams and rhythm guitarist Jarrett Gardner were barely in their twenties.

"That was excellent. That was awesome," remembers Derek. "To walk out on that stage was just cool, overwhelming. When there's that many people out there, it's almost like you're playing for nobody. It's not like when you're at a small bar and can see faces. It's that there's so many that you don't focus on any one of them."

No Houston rock band had ever come so far so fast. And over the next few months, things kept getting better and better. At Sharon Osbourne's behest, the band toured with Ozzfest, where they shared the stage with many of the country's top hard rock acts. Better still, they went into a studio in L.A. with legendary producer Mike Clink, whose credits include Guns N' Roses' landmark 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction. With Clink, the band recorded Glamorous Youth -- what should have been their debut album.

Le monde at their feet: Pure Rubbish's Mike McWilliams at the Stade de France.
Courtesy Willie Dunivan
Le monde at their feet: Pure Rubbish's Mike McWilliams at the Stade de France.
The boys got their goals from their dad but their hearts from their mom, Tracy Dunivan.
Jeff Fitlow
The boys got their goals from their dad but their hearts from their mom, Tracy Dunivan.

Sharon's star took off like a rocket in December when the MTV reality show The Osbournes premiered, and the Rubbish kids seemed to be along for the ride. Sharon's daughter Kelly tapped them to back her on her televised performance debut, a hard rock rendition of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" that aired on the MTV Video Music Awards show, a spectacle that was viewed by an estimated 35 million people worldwide. In addition to another appearance on MTV, a five-minute interview segment with Kurt Loder, the band also appeared on VH1's Rockshow. Spin called them a "band that mattered." They even got a four-and-a-half-page spread in the hallowed pages of Rolling Stone. It seemed that Houston's rock-and-roll heir apparent to ZZ Top was upon us, and that Destiny's Child would soon have some company as a bold ink act from a town with far too few.

And then, as they say on VH1's Behind the Music, "triumph turned to tragedy." But it wasn't the typical "dark descent into drugs and alcohol" that took the band off its "fast track to fortune and fame." It was a force far outside their control: Priority -- the parent company of Sharon Osbourne's label Divine Recordings -- merged with EMI and subsequently was dissolved. Glamorous Youthwill never be released. And the band has gone from being a major-label act playing national stadia to an unsigned act that doesn't play in public at all.

Cue narrator: So now the young men of Pure Rubbish are facing a crossroads.

They have a shot at returning to the 80,000-seat arenas of the world, but only if they stick with the simple, straight-ahead, powerful hard rock that got them noticed in the first place. Trouble is, Pure Rubbish just isn't interested in that anymore.

"I'm the Earl Woods of rock and roll. If there wasn't no Earl, there wouldn't be no Tiger, but if there wasn't no Tiger, nobody would know who Earl was."

So says Punk Daddy, a.k.a. Willie Dunivan, a 25-year veteran of the Houston rock scene, with stints in bands like Apeshit, Stinkerbell, Personality Crisis, Hip Cat's Alley and the original version of Pure Rubbish to his credit. If you're worried about not being able to pick the elder Dunivan out of a crowd of rank-and-file Houstonians at the West Alabama Ice House, you shouldn't be. He's the guy with the curly, shoulder-length black hair, the shades, and the faded jeans and vintage tongue-and-lips Rolling Stones T-shirt. Over a brace of Heinekens, he talked about his rock dreams, which went largely unfulfilled, and those of his children, which still have every chance in the world of coming true.

He wants all the facts straight. So he presents me with what amounts to the most unusual band bio I've ever seen: four pages of white paper on which Punk Daddy has scrawled the Pure Rubbish story in ballpoint ink on both sides. It's boastful, sure -- all press releases are. But this one is different. Dunivan wasn't paid for any of this, and when he brags about his children's accomplishments, it's no different from the guy in the ball cap and Dockers talking about how many kids his son whiffed in Little League last week.

Willie and his former wife, Tracy, always knew their kids were musical, but they say they never pushed them. Two-year-old Derek begged to see not Barney videos but a Johnny Winter concert film; and future drummer Evan liked to bang on pots and pans. But mainly, their early interests ran toward more typical childhood passions like the WWF and playing with action figures. Both boys excelled at sports, especially basketball and karate. Derek wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up, and Evan -- fascinated by the way sanitation workers rode by on the outside of their trucks -- wanted to be a garbage man.

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