Punk's not dead, after all — at least on ABC's Jenkintown-set sitcom, The Goldbergs.
The show, which began a new season this week, will pay homage to iconic South Street punk rock boutique Zipperhead with "You Got Zuko'd," an upcoming episode that premieres Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. In the show, protagonist Adam F. Goldberg tries to go punk to keep the attention of his girlfriend, Jackie, who herself turned punk following a year living in New York. Naturally, as a Philadelphia area youth, Zipperhead is his best option to look the part.
"The store was an accidental overnight sensation," says founder and former owner Rick Millan, 65, who now works in real estate. "It was rock and roll to wear."
Opened in 1980, Zipperhead served as one of the first clothing stores of its kind in the nation. Though he doesn't consider himself a punk, Millan opened the boutique with a partner after a trip to Europe, where he saw the punk scene in full effect, and decided to give nascent Philly punks a way into the scene. As Millan puts it, there was "nothing like" Zipperhead in the area at the time.
One of those potential punks, it turns out, was Adam F. Goldberg, creator of The Goldbergs. A suburban youth in Zipperhead's heyday, Goldberg often took trips down to South Street, which he saw as the "polar opposite" of Jenkintown at the time. Since the show is loosely autobiographical, Goldberg reached out to Millan to get started on a episode.
"Our favorite place was Zipperhead, which defined cool," Goldberg said, "especially for a suburban geek like me."
Goldberg then worked with Millan to recreate the original Zipperhead, which closed its original location at 407 South St. in 2005 (its giant metal ants, however, still adorn the building). Using photos supplied by Millan and former general manager Margarita Passion, the Goldbergs reconstructed the boutique's interior in detail, which surprised the shop's former owner.
"It is an unbelievable recreation," Millan says. "It looks just like Zipperhead."
Adding to the authenticity is Millan's daughter, Tedra, who serves as a guest star in the episode. An actress who debuted on Broadway opposite Kevin Kline in Present Laughter last year, Tedra plays a cashier at the store in The Goldbergs, and even donned her own vintage Zipperhead T-shirt for the role. For Millan, that element has made The Goldbergs' homage a little more special, as he used to have Tedra and his son Josh act as living mannequins in Zipperhead's window to attract business back in the day.
Tedra called the part the "opportunity of a lifetime."
"Talk about full circle," Goldberg said.
Millan, who also owned South Street shops Urban Guerilla and Xog, got out of the retail business for a run in real estate in 2000. That year, he sold Zipperhead to two former employees, Rob Windfielder and Stefanie Jolles. While the original location closed, Zipperhead's spirit today lives on at Crash Bang Boom, Windfielder and Jolles' current shop at 528 S. 4th St.
In its time, however, Zipperhead was no stranger to controversy. While it was known mostly for dealing punk wares like T-shirts and Doc Martens boots, the store was also known for its over-the-top advertising campaigns and headline-making events.
For example, there was the time Millan and his cohorts tried to drum up business using images of serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson on posters — a stunt that ended after a family member of one of Dahmer's victims contacted Millan, as his wife, Harriet, wrote back in 2016. Or the time Millan commissioned a TV ad showing a 500-pound woman jumping on a trampoline, advertising the slogan, "Extreme Clothes for Extreme Times." The store was even immortalized in local punkers The Dead Milkmen's biggest hit, "Punk Rock Girl."
"One Saturday I took a walk to Zipperhead," the song, released in 1988, goes. "I met a girl there and she almost knocked me dead."
However, Millan says, the boutique's name — also a racial slur toward people of Asian descent — was never protested. Millan says Zipperhead got its name in a "name this store" contest, and it was more connected to David Lynch than David Duke.
The name, it turns out, came from clothing designer Raymond Ercoli, who was an art student at Glassboro State College — now Rowan University. One night, he had watched a screening of Lynch's Eraserhead at the nearby TLA, and walked by the store afterward, where he noticed a group of mannequins wearing garments with large zippers on them. From there, the name Zipperhead was born, and Ercoli won an Atari video game system for his trouble. He also went on to design Zipperhead's logo and T-shirts.
"We had no idea about the racial element," Millan says. "We were open from 1980 to 2005 as Zipperhead and never heard anything."
To celebrate the Zipperhead-focused episode of The Goldbergs, the punk boutique's former owner says he plans to hold a viewing party with former employees when it airs Oct. 3. The event, he adds, will serve as a reunion for many ex-Zipperhead workers from the store's prime, an era when punk was very much still alive.