What is it with Milwaukee and famous arrests for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure? There was the time George Carlin was busted for performing his infamous “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” routine at Summerfest in 1972. There was the time Plasmatics singer Wendy O. Williams was booked (and roughed up) after a provocative show in 1981. There was the time the one and only GG Allin tossed poop at a Milwaukee crowd in 1989, much to the displeasure of the Milwaukee Police Department.
And, of course, there was the time Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was arrested for the most heinous of junior high offenses: mooning a crowd at the MECCA Milwaukee Auditorium.
Yes, on Tuesday, November 21, 1995, the then-23-year-old Armstrong played an hour-long set with his band, apparently got pissed, mooned the crowd of 6,000, was taken downtown and charged with indecent exposure, and coughed up $141.85 in bail. MTV reported on the Insomniac-era incident back in ’95:
Billie Joe Armstrong pulled a Jim Morrison on Tuesday (Nov. 21) and exposed himself to 6000 or so fans at the Mecca Auditorium, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That was, of course, Armstrong’s clever way of letting Green Day fans who understand Green Day-ese know that the Mecca was a mediocre show. Armstrong told ATN during an interview on Halloween that he only drops trou at so-so shows. Unfortunately, this time mooning the crowd, if you’ll excuse the expression, backfired. After Green Day finished their hour long set, police officers took Armstrong to the Milwaukee police station, where he was cited for indecent exposure. After he paid the bail of $141.85, he was released.
“Mr. Armstrong dropped his pants to his knees and exposed his buttocks to the crowd,” said Milwaukee Police spokesman Thomas Christopher at the time. “After the concert, Mr. Armstrong was taken into custody, given a city citation for indecent exposure. He posted a bail and was released.”
Thomas went on to stress that the arrest wasn’t an actual arrest, and that police apprehended Armstrong after the show in order to avoid a riot. Armstrong, apparently, was on his way to a limo when he was nabbed. Per a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece from the time:
Witnesses said Billie Joe Armstrong, 23, was arrested after leaving the Arena’s State Street exit about a half hour after the band’s show.
“He was getting into a car with a whole bunch of people when about seven police officers surrounded the car with lights and prevented him from leaving,” said Jeremy Prach of Milwaukee, who was waiting near the exit after his back-stage pass was rejected.
“It was pretty exciting, everyone was pushing and shoving,” Prach said.
Prach, who took photographs of the arrest, said officers attempted to take his camera away.
So, c’mon, what was the big deal? Dude only flashed his butt, and Insomniac, though not the big seller like Dookie before it or Nimrod after it, was still pretty good. Christopher laid it out for MTV: “The problem was he exposed himself to a crowd of about 6,000 people, including people as young as ten. That was our main reason for taking the action.”
Oh well. At least Armstrong seems to have a sense of humor about it.