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Friday, June 17, 2005

Rock Chicks - Triumphant & Tragic

tkDH3, originally uploaded by Cool Auntie.

Blondie's Debbie Harry had quite a back-story. She rose up from modest beginnings and the struggles of low-paying jobs and dues-paying gigs to become an internationally renown and respected performer and icon with staying power. She inspired loads of women during the 70s and 80s to front bands and proudly assert themselves in all their rock chick glory.

Other women chose the "muse" route. The character of "Penny Lane" in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous reminds us of Sabel Starr. Of course, "Penny" is likely an amalgam, but she has a lot of Sabel's personal idiosyncracies.

Stiv & Sabel Starr

Here she is with Stiv Bators. I've noticed that a lot of readers come to this site via Google searches for Sabel Starr. I guess I'll have to print more photos of her for you.

Like "Penny Lane," Sabel was a scene maker and muse to many musicians. She probably had her heart broken as many times as she herself broke hearts.

Personally, I never understood the idolization of many of these ladies from within the ranks of my female peers. Among my "born in the 50s" girlfriends, Patti Boyd was an inspiration for her fashion sense and ability to have relationships with both George Harrison and Eric Clapton, and is most famously the subject of "Layla." Another rock n roll lady icon among my friends is Anita Pallenberg, the German-Italian actress/model who mothered two of Keith Richards children, and who also had a turbulent relationship with Brian Jones, and co-starred in Performance with Mick Jagger.

All another era. But the punk rock era had its share of it girls, muses and icons. Like Debbie Harry. On a more local level, my partner in crime on many adventures, Pleasant Gehman, is an It Girl of a whole different sort.

Dave Alvin & his ladies

Here's Pleasant, a little bleary-eyed, backstage at the end of a night at the Whisky, with Belinda Carlisle, Dave Alvin and Connie Clarksville.

Pleasant has worked very hard her whole life to get things done. She launched the seminal fanzine Lobotomy, which boasted as its early "art director," future interior design superstar, Brad Dunning. She, (as did Bags member Craig Lee,) wrote the LA Weekly's gossip column, La De Da. It was a wonderful anachronism - taking a stalwart concept - the gossip column - and injecting into it an LA punk rock/hipster tone. She wrote articles and reviews for a wide variety of publications, but to call her a journalist was just the tip of the iceberg.

Pleasant knew what she wanted and she knew how to achieve it... not unlike that lyric from the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" - "I know what I want and I know how to get it..." only Pleasant didn't want to destroy. She is a creator.

Yesterday, I received a sad email from a friend who is a fan of the 60s and 70s rock lady. She sent me a clipping from London's Daily Mail newspaper. Krissy Wood, first wife of Small Faces, Faces and Rolling Stones guitar player Ronnie Wood died by her own hand. An overdose. A sad ending for a woman whom the public may have seen as a beautiful world class jet setter. Things are rarely what they seem.

Finally, I have to once again applaud Alice Bag, a fellow Angeleno and singer for The Bags. She maintains a comprehensive website chock-full of artifacts from back in the day, and also, she has been building an archive of interviews with women from LA's early days of punk. Go to this place on her site to read interviews with several women who were there when punk happened... women who helped mid-wife it and who made it happen. I hope some book editor stumbles upon Alice's site and offers to publish these interviews into a book. The romanticized portrayals are nice and all... but isn't it time to hear it from the source's mouth?

1 comment:

Alice Bag said...

Dear Theresa,

Thanks again...we're all in this together. I'm glad that so many different women's voices are at last being heard. It's remarkable how I often I have to persuade women that their contributions were important while men usually have no qualms about taking credit for anything they've done.

Best regards,