Hairiness; much hairiness! Who has time for spring cleaning with all that’s been going on? I’m still recovering from the premiere of Susanne Tabata’s punk rock movie, Bloodied But Unbowed. I couldn’t decide whether, or how to wear the Subhumans-Incorrect Thoughts, Rock Against Racism and Avengers buttons I dug out of my collection. Hey, I didn’t brandish badges then, why start now? I didn’t shave my head or wear a black leather jacket either. I couldn’t afford one! I stuffed the relics in a pocket to share with my Vancouver punk rock homies.
I was delighted to see former band members Conny Nowe, drummer of my first group, the all-girl Zellots-who just happened to be visiting from Toronto-and The 45s Brad Kent and Randy Rampage. Conny’s been playing music, currently in an outfit called Swamperella with renowned bassist Rachel Melas. I marveled at how marvelous she looked as we chatted before the movie started rolling.
I’ve run into Randy a few times over the years but hadn’t seen Brad since I was nine months pregnant, my son, now 15. I’d been walking down the street near 12th and Clark in Vancouver when I heard a voice braying “Hollywood and Western,” the scene of a notorious east end rehearsal space the 45s used. I turned around and there was Brad! The meeting was a little awkward and fleeting but at Thursday night’s after-party, he came and sat with me, gave me a big hug and apologized profusely about breaking up the 45s on the eve of our gig with PiL at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. “I’ve been wanting to say that to you all these years.”
My biggest regret . . . . . . it was a really good band! We agreed. It was also a unique band. (Did Brad say he had a tape? I’ll have to look into that.) I was quite philosophical but he reminded me how furious I’d been at the time. Of course I was. I was devastated. It took years to recover. Everybody left. I was aimless, abandoned, desperately poor, pretty much homeless. It must have been stubborn pride but I was determined not to return to Vancouver, tail between my legs. I went to San Francisco, where I knew no one, eventually meeting Bruce Loose of Flipper—rooming with him and his violinist-pastry chef girlfriend Diane of Animal Things—Matt Heckert of Pink Section, Richard Kelly of Clubfoot and the Clubfoot Orchestra (who said I reminded him of Carla Bley), Brock Wheaton of Chinas Comidas and Johanna Went, Val Vale of Search and Destroy, Mark Paulene of Survival Research Lab, several Dead Kennedys and the illustrious Peter Haskell, with whom I moved to New York City. We got hitched and tried in vain to put together a band; rehearsal time exorbitantly expensive. A cohort of John Doe and the X crew, Peter and I returned to LA, put together a poetry zine called Rattler and a band with future Thelonius Monster bassist Jon Huck and ex-Modernette drummer John MacAdams. Sadly, it turned out to be the band with no name that went nowhere and Peter and I broke up. Finally though, finally I got a group off the ground, Heather Haley & the Zellots, named one of “LA’s Great Bands” by rock critic Craig Lee though we did not get the major label recording contract I was certain we were entitled to. We did not pass Go, did not collect 200 (ooo) dollars. “Nobody interviews the losers,” said Art in his BBU interview. Many of us feel that pain. Loss, losing, didn’t enter my mind. I had everything figured out. I was so special, so talented all I had to do was write amazing songs, put together a fantastic band, and sing. How naive. Well, I was just a kid, a small town girl from the backwoods of BC. It’s amazing I survived but my Vancouver punk rock schooling might have had something to do with it. I was a tough kid but it made me stronger though perhaps only a little smarter.
Anyway, I love the genre—documentary-Bloodied But Unbowed a stellar and compelling piece of filmmaking. There were grumblings about who got left out, including Chuck Biscuits who was sort of in it but not really, his face blacked out, due to some legal bullshit—I think—another hot topic at the after-party. Several people pointed out I wasn’t in it either. C’est la vie. Sure, I would love to be have been featured—I was there—but still, the film effectively portrayed a glorious time in my life, a time that served to galvanize us all and propel me on an inevitable journey of self-discovery. I may never have gotten on a stage or become an artist if I hadn’t walked into the Windmill that night to have my ears—and mind—blown my DOA. So kudos to Susanne. I’m relieved somebody stepped up and created an important document of our short, sweet, euphoric time of vision, camaraderie and explosive creativity. Life is too short to be bitter and surely Bloodied But Unbowed will inspire others to make their own treatises on the subject.
An exhilarating night, we also got to see punk rock luminaries Scott Beadle, the Dishrags-Jade, Dale and Scout sitting next to me during the screening-Bill Scherk, Gord Nicholl, Ron Reyes, Tony Bardach and his luminously beautiful daughter Alexa-Carola, Bob and Tabitha Montgomery, Dennis Mills, Lincoln Clarkes, Diane and Walt Makaroff, Jaime Clay, Chris Crud, Doug Smith, much beloved Bev Davies and Mary Jo, Lenore Herb-who provided some great video footage she shot back in the day, Ian Tiles and Jerry Useless, who both provided more than a few eloquent insights in the documentary. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out!
Speaking of punk, I saw an article in the paper about the latest trend claiming subculture status, steam punk and their upcoming Victoria Steam Exposition in Victoria on Victoria Day. Woo Woo! Think Wild, Wild West, which I knew, even as a child, was edgy. It’s a little ironic as I’ve been tutoring my aforementioned son in the Industrial Revolution and the steam engine for his Distance Ed social studies unit which may have triggered the dream I had about stealing a top hat. I had written a poem but was soon very distressed to find that I had lost it. Is that why I stole the dude’s hat? Dream logic. It all makes sense. Anyway, as the article states, it’s true that people were naive about technology in the Victorian era, optimistic about what technology could do for society. This steam punk scene consists of a little literature, a lot of fashion and style, which is fine. I like style, style is crucial but we, the subjects of Bloodied But Unbowed, were all about substance. We were, are substantial. What remains, who remains no less vital.
Next time I’ll include an excerpt from my novel The Town Slut’s Daughter depicting the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre debacle. Yikes! Talk about a trip down Memory Lane.