“Driving While Weird”

by Dan Kapelovitz

On April 4, 2007, Don Bolles, the once and current drummer of the Germs, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. The substance? Dr. Bronner’s Soap. Peppermint, to be exact. Bolles, 50, was driving himself and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Cat Scandal, through the clean streets of Newport Beach to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when he was pulled over for “a faulty tail-light.”

When the cops discovered a bottle of organic liquid soap, they separated Don and his girlfriend and asked them independently what the product was. They both said it was soap. Unconvinced, the police performed a field test on the substance, and it tested positive for the so-called date-rape drug GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid).

Many people who know Bolles and his personal hygiene habits (or lack thereof) couldn’t believe that he actually used soap, much less carried it on his person at all times.

“I don’t bathe that often,” Bolles admits, “but when I do, I use Dr. Bronner’s. I’ve been using it for 35 years. I brush my teeth with it, I do my laundry it, and wash my face with it.”

Bolles spent four days in various Orange County detention facilities.

“I got thrown into a cell with a guy who smelled like the most evil barf,” recalls Bolles. “He was a porcupine of evil barf smell, just spewing these barbs of evil barf.”

Bolles was also charged with contempt of court and for violating a protective/stay away order.

Bolles claims that he and Cat have an “amicable restraining order” where the two can see each other if they so please. “In this post-O. J. world, everyone has to sign a restraining order,” says Bolles. “We have a full-contact restraining order. It’s full-service. We get to live together, get to have sodomy of all different sorts and varieties. We can do any kind of hideous evil sex act to each other–animals, things alive and dead of all descriptions and some with none, and certain nuns too. We just can’t annoy, harass or date-rape each other with GHB.”

The contempt of court charge was based on the felony drug charge itself; if Don actually had been possessing GHB, then he would have been in violation of his probation.

Nora Keyes, a band member with Don in the Fancy Space People, organized a web campaign via MySpace to raise bail, and Giddle Partridge, a former Bolles bandmate, called Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps headquarters and contacted Michael Bronner, Vice-President and grandson of the original Dr. Bronner. Bronner offered to post bail, but by that time, enough small donations had been raised to bail Bolles out of jail.

Bronner then offered to pay Bolles’s legal fees and hired Bolles an attorney.

Of the field tests, a lawyer working on the case said, “I don’t think a test that is that inaccurate should be used by the police, who are taking people’s liberties away.”

When the authorities tested the soap in a real lab, it tested negative for GHB. An Orange County DA spokesperson has said that all charges have been dropped, but according a public defender familiar with the case, the DA wants to test the soap yet another time.

Bolles believes he was pulled over and subsequently searched for “driving while weird.”

The public defender agrees: “If you look out of the norm, especially if you are somewhere in Orange County, you get profiled, unfortunately. If it were me in my suit, driving my decent car, I highly doubt they ever would have tested soap in my purse. The sad thing is that things like this happen all of the time. His case just happened to get some attention because of his musical background.”

Attention it has gotten. Bolles’s arrest started a mini-media frenzy. Don was quoted extensively in the press as crediting the soap with giving him the complexion of a 15-year-old girl, an assertion mocked by Jimmy Kimmel on national television.

“He is actually a pretty good spokesperson,” says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s.

Bolles visited Dr. Bronner’s distribution center in Escondido, where he learned that Internet sales have skyrocketed since his arrest. He was asked by Dr. Bronner’s employees to sign bottles of the soap. “They were in a real lather about it,” punned Bolles.

The Bronners bought drug-test kits of the kind used on Bolles’s soap and tried it on various other soaps, including Neutrogena and Tom’s of Maine, which also tested positive for GHB.

Either something’s amiss with these police field drug-testing kits or someone is trying to date-rape America by dosing our soap supply.

There is talk of a possible civil suit, and Dr. Bronner’s is considering sponsoring some of Don’s artistic endeavors. Don may actually profit from his misfortune. But when it is suggested that this may be the best thing that ever happened to him, Bolles responds, “If this is the best thing that ever happened to me, I’ve had a pretty shitty life.”

If you or someone you care about has been arrested for possession of soap or with some other absurd charge, call the Radical Law Center today!