A conversation with: Johnny Escobedo, LA’s #1 Butcher.
FC: How did you sleep last night?
Johnny: A little rough, a little rough. It was my day off, and I was BBQ-ing and drinking beer all day. I went to sleep a little buzzed last night, so I tossed and turned.
FC: What is your go-to drink?
Johnny: I drink beer and Jägermeister. That’s my drink. My everyday beer is a Budweiser. But, I like them all: Imports, IPAs: you name it, I’ll drink it.
FC: How many hours of sleep do you usually get per night?
Johnny: I get about 6 hours. I start getting tired around 10-11pm. I actually set an alarm for 4am, but I always wake up 5 minutes before it goes off.
FC: That happens to me all the time! Do you have any recurring dreams?
Johnny: The other night, I had a weird one: I had leased this 3-story house, but the landlord told me I couldn’t go up to the top floor. I could only access the bottom two- So, I went up to the third floor anyway, just to check it out- I guess I was just watching too much TV, because that witch from The Conjuring was in there. So anyway, I closed the door up there and went downstairs to water the grass. The water kept turning off, and I got super pissed. So I ran back upstairs, and everyone was like “Don’t go up there, don’t go up there” but I went up there. And I ended up grabbing this witch by the neck. I was like, “Cut it out now! Enough!” So, in the dream, I get thrown across the room, and the door closes. And that was the last I saw of that witch. I woke up, and I was like, what the hell was that?
FC: Are you a horror movie guy?
Johnny: I like a good movie. Whether it’s horror, drama suspense. I like a good movie. I just saw Straight out of Compton. I thought it was a good storyline, it showed a lot of different things. I grew up in that time era, I had a lot of friends that were involved with that type of stuff, and it seemed realistic to me.
FC: Where did you grow up?
Johnny: I grew up in a town called La Puente - off by West Covina area, and went to school in LA. I grew up with a bunch of punk rockers and skinheads. When I was 16 years old, I started a band, and my house became the party house. I had all these different types of people at my house. I had people that were Cholos, people that were disco, people that were skinheads. I had Punk rockers there. I had a few Crips from the local Crip’s gang. I had all these people at my house. We would all party, drink beers, smoke weed, do whatever, and everybody got along. After ’89 it was different. Nobody got along anymore. Everyone wanted to kill each other and it was just different. But, I still talk to some of them, some of them are gone, but they always remember my garage and us playing.
FC: What was the name of your band?
Johnny: We called ourselves FOD. “Fuck Off and Die”. We were a small punk band. Just raising hell, as kids. I played bass. I still play every so often. We had some good times back then. We all got together, and we did our thing. When ’89 came around, I left the neighborhood, moved on and raised my kids, and everybody started doing different things. Gangs were clashing, and different things like that, so everybody just got away from each other. So I left, raised my kids in Ontario, left from there, and ran a supermarket in Wrightwood for about 7 years. And I left there, in 2007, came down here, and started cutting meat again. From there, I started getting labeled the #1 Butcher in Los Angeles. Good stuff.
FC: When did you start cutting meat?
Johnny: I started cutting meat when I was 15 years old. Well, I worked at the butcher shop when I was 15 years old, but I actually got the chance to cut meat when I was 17 years old. A friend worked at the local meat market and said it was a great place to work. Now, I had long hair at the time. I went in to talk to the guy in charge, and he said “I’m gonna tell you the truth, you don’t fit this place, but I’ll try you out” and sure enough, I ended up staying there, and it worked, (I ended up cutting my hair off.)
FC: What’s your favorite cut of meat?
Johnny: I’m a Porterhouse guy. Rare. I like to taste the meat.
The next place I worked, in Montclair, they ran a full-on processing plant. I started working with the USDA- I was going to become a USDA federal inspector, passed my tests for all that- I really got into it. I ended up leaving there, to go run that supermarket in Wrightwood. But I got tired of the politics, and went back to cutting meat, which landed me here, at Huntington’s.
FC: How do you like it here, at Huntington’s?
Johnny: I’ve been here since 2007. It’s all lot more laid back here. I wear shorts now, and my facial hair is growing out. I like being one-on-one with the customers. We can talk shit with each other. John Carpenter’s wife, Sandra Carpenter, comes in here a lot, and we’re really good friends now. She actually designed this tattoo on my arm for me. It’s from one of the comic books that she made. She sent me the image, and I put it on my arm. We talk a lot about family. I know a lot about her family, and she knows a lot about my family.
FC: That’s cool; I bet you meet all sorts of people here.
Johnny: Yeah, I really like this place. It’s a different world than working out in the valley or something. Everybody comes here. You get weirdos, you get chefs, and you get regular people… everybody comes here. It’s so great.
FC: You have a lot of tattoos. How old were you when you got your first tattoo?
Johnny: I was 14 years old when I got my first tattoo. And now, both my arms are pretty much done. I’ve got a full Japanese back piece, you know—like: a dragon and a samurai warrior. I still have another 6 hours left to do on that. It gets expensive, but luckily, I got a guy that does tattoos. He grew up with me, back in my garage: He was the drummer of my band back in the day. His name is Rob Drigenberg. He’s got his own shop in San Diego now. He’s been tattooing as long as I’ve been cutting meat. He started doing a tattoo on my back. He was doing it with a guitar string and a motor from a Walkman. I was supposed to wait until I was 18 to get a tattoo. But I figured, we made the tattoo gun, so we might as well try it! We were also drinking 40 ounces of Mickey’s (Malt Liquor) at the time. My mom walked into the room while it was going down. She asked what was going on. I threw my shirt back on, and said “nothing!” She just shook her head, and said, wait until I get a hold of your dad.
Anyway, Rob whipped out this skull with a banner on my back. In fact, that’s where the whole Japanese back tattoo came up—it actually became a cover-up. I also had to cover up my ex-wife’s name here on my chest. And I got a couple of skulls with my grandkids names. I have 2 kids, and 3 grandkids. Well, actually 4 grandkids if you count my girlfriend’s grand kid.
FC: Were you close with your dad?
Johnny: My dad took off when I was young. He thought he wanted a better life. So he wasn’t around much.
FC: How old are you now?
Johnny: I’m 46 years old. For what I’ve done in life, I’m glad I look like this, even if it’s semi-ok. I had a drug addiction too, back in the day. I did meth for 15 straight years. I was an active addict. I used to use an eight ball a day. (3.7 grams) and I would drink beer, and do my USDA work on the computer, and cut meat all day, made sure my kids were doing their homework and fed, made sure the house was good. Like I said, I was an active addict. I wouldn’t just sit there and look out the windows or any of that shit. I was fully coherent. When it was time to get out of it, I got out of it. I am going 17 years clean now. I like talking about it a lot, because it helps me get through it. The first couple of years were hard, mostly I think because I stopped cold turkey.
FC: What made you stop?
Johnny: Well, I was going to get in trouble. They were going to come raid me. I was coaching football up in Ontario at the time. Some of the kids’ parents were part of the Ontario Police Department. And they told me my address kept coming up in their system- so I came clean with them. I told them about the Meth, and they advised me to stop, and to get out of there. So, l took their advice and I got out. I had to stop cold turkey because I didn’t have a choice. I had to get away from there, and from all the people I was associated with that lifestyle. I had my kids to worry about, and I wasn’t going to let them go.
FC: Was the Meth very expensive?
Johnny: Yeah, it cost a lot. I started buying on quantity, trying to keep up the habit, and it put me in a hole even though I was making good money through all those years.
FC: What helped you beat the habit?
Johnny: I was really into my work, my kids were my first priority, and at the same time, I was getting heavily involved with Satanism.
FC: When did you first learn about Satanism?
Johnny: I guess I was about 14, and my uncle passed away from a heart attack. I grew up in a real Catholic family: The kind of family that believed that God and believed that miracles were everything. After my uncle died, I got really pissed off, and started lashing out. I’d scream “Fuck God” or “I’m going to kill God” or whatever. So, my mom sent me to a head shrink, but he actually seemed crazier than I seemed. So I quit going to him, and I started reading about Satanism, I guess because I was mad at God. The more I read about Satanism, the more I started to understand things. I just felt like I fit in with their whole philosophy. So, I kept up with it. And as time went on, I got more and more involved.
It actually helped me quit drugs cold turkey. In Satanism, they don’t condone drug abuse. So that also helped me kick the habit.
FC: What do you think is the biggest misconception about Satanism?
Johnny: Well, we are branched off Paganism, and there are rituals and what not, but what people don’t understand is how much of a realist religion it is. They ain’t gonna tell you that.
It used to be that God is everything, and God has been superior for years, but as time went on, I think there are a lot of people besides me that have just kind of questioned it. People going to school now, they get into science and religion- and start thinking about things. And you start seeing different religions as the same thing. Just re-worded. So, with Satanism, it’s more of a realist type of religion. Where, you know, it’s you. You are your own god and you’re your own devil. You are your own advisory. I thought that was pretty good. That helped me to never look back, and never to strive for anything less than the best. I don’t do rituals. If I could, I maybe would, but I don’t have the time for it. Believe it or not, my girlfriend is a full on Catholic, too. Any my first wife was a big Catholic too.
FC: What about your kids?
Johnny: My kids, they lean more towards the Satanism because it’s just a more realistic lifestyle than following what’s basically a corporate entity for years and years.
FC: Do you celebrate Christmas?
Johnny: I don’t celebrate Christmas, but it happens in my house.
FC: Do you read books on Satanism?
Johnny: I read a lot of Anton LaVey. And I read stuff on Paganism. And how Anton LaVey kind of modernized it. He just wanted people to be educated. He had quite the career also—San Fran police department, and forensics… Actually in April this year, his church celebrated their 50th year. In Michigan, they actually got a big Baphomet statue next to the city hall. I think it’s starting to spread.
Johnny: It’s a satanic symbol.
FC: Do you believe in the devil?
Johnny: I don’t now… But if you do believe in the devil, you gotta believe in the god. I don’t think there is a spiritual super hero to take care of you. As you read, and get more educated, you can understand the only thing that’s really out there, is yourself.
FC: What about “Everything happens for a reason?” Do you believe in that?
Johnny: I think my book has been written, and I think it’s been written for a long time. I don’t believe that a God wrote it. I believe in evolution and life after death, reoccurring lives, and I feel like an old soul sometimes. I feel like I’ve been here, I always catch myself thinking I’ve done that before, or I met this person before. It’s kind of weird, but that’s just the way I feel. I think a lot of that has to do with rotation of the earth. Time catches up with itself. And that’s why you’ve got déjà vu. Because everything is a dimension. The way I look at it, life is like, the 5th dimension, and there are a couple of dimensions before death. Death is like, the 7th dimension and there are supposed to be like, 25 more. That’s just what I got from reading different philosophers. I do believe in coming back, I believe in Karma. I think Karma is basically if you do something, even if you don’t feel anything or don’t care about what you did, in the back of your head, deep down, you do remember that shit. Being a Satanist, we give everybody the biggest respect there is. We don’t care.
Check this out: My dad is a Christian Deacon. So, when my dad does his thing at church, my dad plays in a Christian band, and he does some speaking, so every once in a while, I’ll pop in at the church and go see my dad. All the people in the church, they all know how I am. So, when I go in there, mouths drop, it gets quiet, and I kind of laugh about it. I sit in the back, and I watch my dad do his thing. And the head pastor there, he’ll be like, “Hey, we got a special guest here…. Hey Johnny, you want to come up here and get saved today?” And I just wave at him, and he starts laughing, he goes, “I figured you didn’t” I mean, I’ve spoken to him for hours about Satanism, so we are on a level, where I respect what they do, and they respect who I am and what I believe in. And, so it’s pretty cool when I walk in there.
FC: Are you still close with your dad?
Johnny: Yeah, when my dad came back into the picture, around ’89, I told my 2 brothers and 2 sisters, “Hey, he’s back. We ain’t gonna worry about what happened.” I mean, my mom still brings that shit up. But me, and my brothers and sisters, we don’t bring that up. Actually, my brothers and sisters, they are all born-again Christians now. All of them. They went from being Catholic to born-again Christians. It’s pretty trippy. No matter who you are or what you believe, it has to be your own belief that gets you through life.
FC: Do you want to be buried or cremated?
Johnny: Cremated. I want my grandchildren to have a little bit of me. But I don’t know where I want to be scattered. It don’t matter.
FC: Do you speak any other languages?
Johnny: I speak a little bit of Spanish.
FC: If you could learn another language, what would it be?
Johnny: I don’t know. I’m a big American. And English is everything. America is everything. So I don’t think I’d want to learn anything else, to be honest with you. It trips people out sometimes- they look at me and they say, “You’re a Satanist? AND a Republican? What the hell is wrong with you?” I’ve been a republican ever since Ronald Reagan was in office.
FC: What about Donald Trump? How do you feel about him?
Johnny: I think he’s a joke. I think with the way his pulling his shit, and the way Hillary’s pulling her shit, I’m actually scared for the Country. I think a lot of other countries are looking at us like we’re the laughing stock of the world right now. I think something’s going to happen. It’s actually scary now. You know? It wasn’t like that in the 80’s when Reagan was in office, and it wasn’t like that when Bush Sr was in office. They say he did a lot of shit, and he might have, but things were still okay. Things were still organized. I mean it’s like, somebody’s got to grow up and graduate and keep this thing going. You don’t see that no more. It’s really a bit scary.
FC: What is the most shocking thing about you?
Johnny: I got one. I was 5 years old. My mom told me to go to my room to take a nap. She walks in about half hour later, I got my pants down and I’m on top of this teddy bear. How’s that? I like to throw that story out there every so often.
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