The moment Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten went on Judge Judy in 1997
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to find punk’s ultimate pantomime villain, Johnny Rotten face off against one of TV’s legends, Judge Judy in this agonisingly cheesy clip from 1997.
As the mouthpiece for the Sex Pistols Johnny Rotten, AKA John Lydon, often found himself delivering a sardonic tongue-lashing or two with only a widening of his piercing eyes. The singer was famed for his scowl across the crowds and his razored clothes but his words were just as sharp. It’s a rare occasion to see Lydon put in his place and even rarer to see it on a daytime TV show, and American institution, Judge Judy.
During one particularly brilliant 1997 episode of the iconic show, which is a small claims court turned TV studio, Judge Judy found herself face to face with the Sex Pistols man and it’s fair to say she was not impressed by his actions. The famously curt Judge was quick to put the singer in his place.
Lydon was in front of the TV Judge for an incident involving former drummer Robert Williams when Lydon worked with the percussionist on his tour to support the 1997 album Psycho’s Path. Williams was suing Lydon for $5,000 for “breach of contract and assault and battery”. Arriving at court, Lydon is clearly ready to mix it up.
As Diffuser share, Virgin Records press release for the taping offered up some clarity on the situation: “During rehearsals, Williams’ behaviour became increasingly provocative, adversely affecting the camaraderie of the band.” They went ahead with the drummer for the tour anyway but instead decided to air their grievances at a meeting. During said meeting, Williams continued to behave adversely and the “assault” was largely attributed to the pair bumping into each other during a tepid malaise.
The esteemed Judge and TV heavyweight Judith Sheindlin was quick to figure out that Williams’ claim was flimsy, at best, using her laser-vision to find his weak spot. She labels him a “nudnik” and in the end does rule in favour of the Sex Pistols singer. But the cringing moments of embarrassment to punks who hold Lydon as a galling, agitating antagonistic and artistic deity come when Johnny Rotten’s punk tropes come out to play. With an audience and a camera crew in front of him, what did we expect?
Lydon was clearly in the mood for performance (surely the PR whiz was still working his magic throughout the whole dance) and duly began to provide the cameras with his snarling punk persona. He blew his nose as obnoxiously as possible, answered questions with a serpent snap, and generally tried to be true to his anarchic image.
Obviously, Judge Judy was having absolutely none of it and batted him down with aplomb, generally relegating his antics to a middle-aged man playing up like a teen.
John Lydon is vindicated in his actions after Judge Judy rules in his favour and throws out the claim and, in truth, Lydon does have the cherry on top of the last laugh as his use reference to OJ Simpson’s murder trial with “Now I’m going to get on with my life. We’re going after the real killers” highlighted the ridiculousness of the event.
Watch below as Judge Judy comes up against Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon in 1997.