David Scilken was the vocalist for the Young and the Useless, the band in which Adam Horovitz was a member before joining Beastie Boys. Scilken and Horovitz attended high school together at PS41 in Greenwich Village and were best friends. Scilken is credited for coming up with the title of the Young and the Useless' EP Real Men Don't Floss. At the time, he was obsessed with Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, a popular 1982 book that satirized stereotypes of masculinity.
When Horovitz left the Young and the Useless to join Beastie Boys in 1983, his and Scilken's friendship did not end. The two remained friends and hung out together frequently. When Beastie Boys achieved success with Licensed to Ill, they invited Scilken to join them on the Licensed to Ill world tour as "trim coordinator." His role was to "coordinate girls" for the band.
Scilken was among the Beastie Boys friends who appeared in the video for "Fight for Your Right." He is the person whom Adam Yauch spits beer in the face. Adam Dubin, the video's co-director, said Scilken volunteered for the role.
According to his friends, Scilken had an enigmatic personality and a gift for making people laugh and feel good about themselves. Scilken had an interest in graphic design and, like his friend Cey Adams, was into graffiti art. His graffiti tag was "Shadi." Scilken also had an interest in writing and created a music 'zine called Blister in the early 1980s.
On May 26, 1991, Scilken died from a drug overdose, shortly after completing a drug rehabilitation program. His death deeply affected the Beastie Boys. In interviews, they have stated Scilken's death was a turning point for them, causing them to evaluate their rock 'n roll lifestyles. On the liner notes for Beastie Boys Anthology: Sounds of Science (1999), Beastie Boys included a comment about Scilken: "It's hard to know what to do when you love someone whose drug problem is out of control."
Scilken's life and death have inspired lyrics on several Beastie Boys songs, including "Instant Death" on Hello Nasty (1998) and "Live Wire" on Beastie Boys Anthology: Sounds of Science. Additionally, Scilken is referenced in the song "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" on Paul's Boutique (1989) ("Coordinating chimp is my man Dave Scilken"). The video for the song, which was directed by Nathanial Hornblower, includes an image of Scilken.