TO: LINDA KALWINSKI FROM: GRETCHEN KALWINSKI, VENUS ZINE WRITER Lately, I’ve been thinking about how über-DIY my mom is. I have fond memories of my hippie-parents building their own garage and cutting labels off clothing to protest advertising. But my mom’s Lately, I’ve been thinking about how über-DIY my mom is. I have fond memories of my hippie-parents building their own garage and cutting labels off clothing to protest advertising. But my mom’s Do-It-Yourself attitude wasn’t just ’60s counterculture-nonconformity, it was necessity. She came from scrappy immigrants who re-used every plastic baggie, every piece of aluminum foil. Then her father died when she was 16, and DIY took on a whole new meaning for her family — making their own clothing, canning vegetables and fruit actually helped the 6 of them survive. During my childhood, she managed to work full-time while also making clothing and costumes for us kids, designing her own “Snugli” before they were popular, cooking from scratch, baking elaborate birthday cakes in the shapes of trains and animals, and still attending every game, every dance performance. Even now, when it’s no longer financially necessary, she re-uses materials, gardens, and makes clothing herself. I believe that every creative urge, every cooking, yoga, or gardening impulse that my siblings and I have, we owe to the DIY street-cred instilled by my amazing mother when we were kids.
“If you’re broke or simply looking for an alternative to the standard bar or hotel New Year’s “bash” — which is, let’s face it, usually overrated — Venus is at your rescue with some creative alternatives for welcoming 2006. [for full article, click here.]” December 1, 2006
“An audio-blogger, experimental music lover, and managing director for the Third Coast International Audio Festival — an annual and ongoing celebration of documentary and feature audio works — Chicago’s Julie Shapiro is known for bringing to light fascinating audio segments, sounds, and radio works. [for full article, click here.]“
“John Lennon once described New York as the center of the universe, saying that, “If I was living in the time of Rome, I’d go to Rome. But I’m living now, so I’ll be in New York.” Freelance work being a bit slow in Chicago right now, I had this in mind when I hopped a red-eye to NYC to visit a pal.
We got $2 sandwiches at the deli on the corner in her Brooklyn ‘hood, then hopped on the train to McCarren Park Pool where Joanna Newsom and Martha Wainwright were playing a 6 p.m. show headlined by the superb Neko Case. [for full article, click here.]” September 1, 2006.
“One of the most organized groups is the Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In in Santa Cruz, California. In 2002, they started showing films such as The Third Man and The Gleaners and I on vacant walls of abandoned buildings for friends and strangers to enjoy. [for full article, click here.]“
“Her ideas about muses go back to her childhood, when her grandmother warned her about the trials and tribulations of the role. Still, Tanya is so impressed with the great Russian writers that besides masturbating to Dostoevsky, she decides to achieve immortality by inspiring another person’s work. [for full article, click here.]“
This first novel by Lara Vapnyar tells of a modern muse living in New York and obsessed with the great Russian writers, Dostoevsky in particular. The main character Tanya emigrates from Russia to the States, after deciding in adolescence that she is not gifted in her own right and asking, “could I fight death by living my life to the utmost degree?”
Tanya’s ideas about muses went far back into childhood, when her grandmother warned her about the trials and tribulations of the role. Still, Tanya is so impressed (and turned on by; she masturbates while thinking of Dostoevsky) the great writers that she decides to achieve immortality by inspiring another person’s work. Vapnyar’s lyrical style is notable for its fine detail, economy of words, and tight, crackling dialogue, best evidenced in the gender-interplay between Tanya and Mark Schneider, the writer that (in the absence of Dostoevsky), she takes up with. Mark is confident, with well-honed tastes in everything from coffee to clothing to architecture, and he enjoys schooling Tanya on the tenets of his sophisticated world, paying for her clothes and food, and letting her live with him. In turn, she listens to his childhood memories, discusses his work, brings him coffee while he writes, sleeps with him, and undresses the way he requests, until the affair turns up its eventual pitfalls.
However, the reasons why a modern-day woman would choose this role instead of pursuing her own path, are left unanswered. After all, which of us in adolescence had a declared passion, other than the prodigies or geniuses? Why did Tanya lack the curiosity to find and develop a talent of her own, rather than glomming onto some dude? We never discover why Tanya decides on such a lazy route at such a young age. To be sure, muse-dom is a complicated notion to tackle, especially since muses are usually female and have roles similar to that of “kept” wives and mistresses. In the latter half of the book, Tanya begins to understand what her role entails, and Vapnyar handles the contradictions of a muse’s role with intelligence and dry humor and earthy, womanly insight.
Guerilla drive-ins These groups are reviving the lost pleasures of the drive-in movie
By: Gretchen Kalwinski
When was the last time you watched a movie with a bunch of strangers under the stars? Drive-in movies have been phasing out since their heyday in the ’60s and ’70s. They were popular because of the inherent romance in watching a film under the stars, snuggled up with siblings, friends, or paramours under blankets. Contemporary technology allows an extremely high-quality home entertainment experience, but it has come at the cost of estrangement from fellow movie-goers. So some radical folks began their own “guerilla” drive-in movie collectives as a DIY way to enjoy the intimacy and communal nature of drive-ins, with the added bonus of being able to show whatever films they damn well pleased, usually free of charge!
One of the most organized groups is the Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In in Santa Cruz, California (guerilladrivein.org). In 2004, they started showing films such as “The Third Man” and “The Gleaners and I” on vacant walls of abandoned buildings for friends and strangers to enjoy. The Santa Cruz drive-in doesn’t actually involve cars, however — movie-watchers bring lawn chairs and blankets to the given location, where they view the film via a projector and high-powered speakers.
The nation-wide MobMov collectives — short for Mobile Movie — (mobmov.org) take the term “drive-in” a bit more literally. They use technology similar to that used in ye olden days, utilizing an FM transmitter to broadcast the movie’s sound into car radios, so that, as organizer Bryan Kennedy notes, “there is no sound pollution at all.” Because of this, says Kennedy, they are rarely bothered by law enforcement. He thinks that the MobMov idea (now active in 12 U.S. cities) has caught on because of “the sense of community you get when you come, the experience of sharing something unique with strangers.”
Most groups have guidelines for if and when they are approached by police or upset neighbors, since, as the Santa Cruz group notes, “good neighborly relations are an important element of DIY culture.” In Kennedy’s experience, a law enforcement confrontation “has never happened–if it did, I would just show them my papers, and if they asked that I stop the movie, I would.” The Santa Cruz group notes that the best defense to hassling from cops is to “know the laws restricting amplified sound and rules restricting access to public space after dark, and have people on hand who have experience with non-violent communication.”
Most collectives agree that the real issue at hand is one of public versus private space. The Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In notes on their website that; “Beyond showing great movies and bringing a broad community together, our mission is helping to reclaim public space and transforming our urban environment into the joyful playground it should be.”
Kennedy from MobMov echoes the sentiment, saying, “A drive-in is much more than just a movie projected on a wall like at your local cineplex. In a cineplex, you have this huge public space, yet interaction is frowned upon, so it is not appreciably different than watching the movie by yourself. In the drive-ins of old, some people would roam around and visit each other, while others would sit in the privacy of their car, unperturbed. With a drive-in, you can select the level of interaction you want. It’s a much more customizable experience.”
Plan Your Own Guerilla Drive-In
Location, location, location. The Santa Cruz group suggests that you scout out a dark location near a smooth, light surface, in areas that are either full of warehouses or under bridges to minimize the chance of interruption.
Determine whether you’ll use speakers or a radio transmitter, and then scrounge for speakers, amplifier, and projectors. Additional technical information about projecting films can be found on the Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In and MobMov websites.
What ya gonna watch?
Make a list of films to choose from. Some groups have subversive or political themes, while others make a specialty of documentary or foreign films.
If you build it, they will come.
Let people know when and where the screening will take place. This can be done via a website, e-mail distribution list, or fliers on local bulletin boards.
Dealing with authorities.
The Santa Cruz group always has a few “cop tamers” on hand to serve as police liaisons. He explains, “A good cop tamer has experience with non-violent communication and a good understanding of applicable laws.”
“Girly takes place mainly in rural Pennsylvania, and depicts the unfolding of events in several women’s lives, most primarily the lives of the Hart family women, made up of Racinda Hart, her psychologically damaged sister Ruth, and out-of-it mother Amandine, who became a born again Christian when Racinda was a baby. [for full article, click here.]” January 15, 2006.
“Ladyfest organizers as a whole are a determined lot with an idealistic focus and an overabundance of energy. They also are uniquely open-minded about their attendees and welcome all genders. [for full article, click here.]” November 23, 2005.
“Known for her heartbreak-y tunes and melancholy, wistful lyrics, Frost is used to fielding questions from journalists about her relationships. She’s matter-of-fact about a recent breakup on her massive blog, edithfrost.com, and a recent post expresses frustration that her relationship status gets so much attention. [for full article, click here.]” November 23, 2005.
The first Ladyfest took place in 2000 in Olympia, Washington. In addition to bands like Sleater-Kinney and Cat Power performing, the weeklong event hosted bands like the Rondelles, Neko Case, and Mary Timony, and a dizzying array of varied spoken-word artists, authors, and visual artists, along with workshops and dance partiesOlympia festival, an astounding 80 Ladyfests around the world have been successfully planned, testifying to the need for this sort of event. Ladyfests should not be mistaken for a franchise, however, and the different Ladyfests are not related to one another, except in spirit. The varied places around the world that have hosted Ladyfests include Bloomington, Indiana; Chicago; San Francisco’s Bay Area; Nantes, France; Glasgow, Scotland; Toronto; Los Angeles; Stockholm, Sweden; Melbourne, Australia; Seattle; Berlin; Napoli, Italy; and Vienna, Austria. In 2005, approximately 30 Ladyfests were scheduled to take place worldwide. Venus interviewed organizers and performers from this year’s festivals in Brisbane, Australia; Guelph and Ottawa, Canada; Denver; Lansing, Michigan; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Organizers Ladyfest organizers as a whole are a determined lot with an idealistic focus and an overabundance of energy. They also are uniquely open-minded about their attendees and welcome all genders, unlike the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, for example, which restricts attendees to only biological females. Sarah Brown of Ladyfest Ottawa noted that their demographic was “definitely young women 18 to 30, but we had audience members of all ages and genders.” Fellow Ottawa Ladyfest organizer Natasha Beaudin attributed their good turnout to dynamic and feminist-oriented programming, affirming that, “it was definitely a better turnout than one would get [from] a lecture on feminism, for example.”
Ladyfest Guelph organizer Ashley Fortier was impressed with the event’s large attendance and the variety of ethnicities that were represented, especially given Guelph’s small population. “It was a very diverse crowd, especially at the hip-hop night,” she said. Ladyfest Out West organizer Shannon Perez-Darby commented on the queer focus of their festival’s performances. “Over 75 percent of our performers were queer, lesbian, gay and/or trans identified,” she said. The organizers of Ladyfest Guelph went a step further by specifically listing their event as”anti-oppressive, feminist, queer and trans-positive, DIY, and collective.”
Local Focus, Broad Appeal The 2005 Ladyfests had varied concentrations in their different locations. Some had a heavy hip-hop presence, while others were more film-centric or focused on performance art or workshops.At Ladyfest Ottawa, the closing party with the Gossip was the most popular event, and Alix Olsen was a “big hit” in Lansing, Michigan. The best-attended performance at Ladyfest South Africa was a band called Electro Muse, a string quartet that combines drum‘n’bass tracks to trip-hop.
Workshops also drew in enormous crowds. Sarah Brown of Ladyfest Ottawa mused that, “A panel discussion on privilege in activism was one of our best-attended events. Bookbinding also had high numbers.” Nearby in Guelph, the workshop on urban gardening was hugely popular. Oftentimes, decisions about performers and events were made broadly and then localized, with organizers focused on bringing in as much local talent as possible. “We included similar broad themes like music, art, politics, film, etc., but then tried to re-appropriate it to the Brisbane context,” said Ladyfest Brisbane organizer Nikola Errington.
Similarly, Ladyfest Ottawa included local talent such as Les Alumettes, Sarah Hallman, Daydream Square, and the Hussies. Ladyfest Out West brought in resident spoken-word artists Jeanette Henriquez, Angela Palermo, and Isis, in addition to well-known local activists Ashara Ekundayo and Kelly Shortandqueer MC and the Denver band Supply Boy.
The Talent When asked about their Ladyfest experience, performers often got gushy. Susie Patten was double booked at Ladyfest Brisbane with her bands I Heart Hiroshima and the Mean Streaks, and she enjoyed playing to the crowd’s enthusiastic response. “My bands played first and second, so we thought that there’d be a pretty quiet vibe around, but everyone was really into [it]. The crowd response was fantastic. Maybe that was just because Kate Bush was played in between sets.” Patten attended other Ladyfest events while on location and said that “apart from the rad music, the photography exhibition was probably the highlight — so much awesome talent.”
Patten said the only changes she would make for future Ladyfest stints are that she’d like to play last. “And for Cat Power to support us, and maybe even for her to fall in love with me,” she said. “So realistic.” Deb Cavallaro of the Golden Circles called the Brisbane Ladyfest an “intimate, beautiful, dynamic, honest, and inspiring gig. As far as sisterhood goes, there was a fair bit of that feeling going around that night and [it was] kinda great … when you look at the stage and see more than one woman out there.”
Organizational Challenges The momentum for these festivals seems to be only increasing as time goes by. In 2002, there were 13 Ladyfests; in 2004, the number had reached 26, and in 2005, close to 30 Ladyfests occurred around the globe. This steady growth is encouraging to those of us who aren’t having our needs for this kind of event met in mainstream culture. However, there are definite challenges in planning these festivals. First, there is no one source of income or funding for Ladyfests, and one of the first things that organizers are obliged to figure out is how to raise funds through advertising, fundraising events, or auctions.
Ladyfest Ottawa raised funds via craft sales, bake sales, film nights, rock shows, garage sales, art parties, and bottle drives. Sarah Stollak and Latricia Horstman of Lansing, Michigan’s Ladyfest invested the money from their tax returns to fund their town’s festival, in addition to applying for grants and selling ads to local businesses. Ladyfest South Africa secured Jose Cuervo as a sponsor and “used most of the funding to pay the marketing and printing” costs for their festival. There are definite challenges to organizing other than finances. Many organizers struggle with the admittedly valid critique that Ladyfest and events like it can work to marginalize women artists and performers. Being cast as an “alternative” culture can run the risk of alienation, an important point to consider when in the planning process. Others depict the female nonprofit organizing process akin to a series of infighting sessions, characterizing women’s managerial styles as too emotional or complicated.
However, the typical response from a Ladyfest organizer is that although the planning completely consumed their life for the better part of a year, the payoff was enormously rewarding. Most organizers said that they’d do it again but would change small parts of the process. For instance, they suggested a different organizational structure, setting earlier application deadlines, and, as Nikola Errington of Ladyfest Brisbane said, “we would try and make EVERYTHING all-ages.”
When asked if she’d program another Ladyfest, Sarah Brown said, “Hell yes. Organizing this festival is so rewarding. It deeply affects your life, and as an organizer you have the privilege of watching it affect others.” Latricia Horstman muses that she set out on a mission to bring Ladyfest to Michigan in a way that changed her community’s mindset, all the while having fun and providing a fantastic opportunity for folks to get involved and learn. “The ultimate goal for everyone participating or attending: to have fun, learn something, and have some money at the end to give to a charity,” she said. “Every year we’ve done just that.”
Good Deeds, Progressive Values Ladyfest South announced on its Web site that it is a forum for “radical and progressive women everywhere” and goes above and beyond the call of duty by not only paying their performers, but raising a good deal of cash for local social-service projects that assist women, such as the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center and the Women’s Center to End Domestic Violence.
Ladyfest Mexico will be held in Monterrey in February 2006, and the organizers are calling for submissions of women artists, including photographers, writers, actresses, filmmakers, musicians, and fashion designers. The festival will focus on subjects such as the situation of women in politics, society, and the economy, with a critical reflection of the role assigned to women in the work-field and family by societal and moral values.
The possibilities of Ladyfest seem endless. As long as there are women producing good work, there is a seemingly endless array of locations and venues for Ladyfests to showcase them. It is of note, though, that what most of the organizers, participants, and attendees are ultimately working for is a world where the kind of work, art, and music featured in Ladyfests around the world would automatically be showcased and valued by a larger and more diverse demographic of society. We’ve come a long way, ladies, but there is still a long way to go.
The Future of the Fest Some upcoming Ladyfests in 2006 are in Atlanta and Monterrey, Mexico. For more information about past and future Ladyfests, visit http://www.ladyfest.org.
All photos courtesy of Nikola Errington of Ladyfest Brisbane 2005.
Top photo: Stitch N’ Bitch event Middle photo: Scout Niblett performing Bottom photo: Women in Activism workshop
Chan-sans-band is drama and spectacle free, but still oh-so-magnetic Chan Marshall’s fans have come to expect eccentric behavior onstage. Notorious for being clearly uncomfortable while performing as Cat Power, she often hangs her head low while singing, shielding herself from the audience with a veil of hair and bangs. Her onstage quirks have become almost legendary, with tales of her ending songs in mid-sentence, walking off of the stage, or as one rumor goes, playing a four-hour show because she was waiting for the crowd to disperse so that she wouldn’t have to interact with anyone.
I’ve never minded the quirks and just figured that it’s not actually normal to get up and perform like a monkey in front of large groups of people. Walking into Chicago’s Park West for her solo show promoting her fourth album, The Greatest (due out on Matador in January 2006), I was happily prepared to give her a free pass for crankiness and had few expectations.
My friends, the lady has come into her own. She seemed — dare I say it? — happy. Not intimidated by the audience, not imploding into breakdowns or exasperation, not trailing off while singing. The performance was riveting and soulful, with very little of the usual drama. She began the set with a smattering of mellow new tracks from The Greatest, most notably, “Love and Communication,” “Lived in Bars,” “Islands,” and “Could We.” These new songs round out her formerly jagged, raw style with softer country and Southern soul undertones, and continue her affinity for plain, introspective lyrics like “Love and communication you were here for me / At this very moment ’cause I found you on the phone / You called me.” Or, “Islands,” with its spare, pensive refrain of “I want to rule the islands / I want to rule the sea / I just want my sailor to come back to me.”
In the show’s latter half, she turned chanteuse and crowd-pleaser with some tunes from her Covers and You Are Free albums. “Good Woman” induced immediate clapping and presence of lighters, testifying to my belief that this is one of her best tunes, and she did it up, even changing the lyrics from “I’ll love this love forever” to a simple “I’ll love you forever,” packing a little extra punch of heartbreak to possibly one of the saddest love songs ever written. She followed it with “Names,” and then her staccato, reworked cover of Nina Simone’s “Wild as the Wind,” and then a melodic medley of her “Dream/Blue Moon/Try a Little Tenderness.”
Mood-wise, Marshall was content, occasionally smiling, and once mumbled an apology when she thought her own performance wasn’t cutting it, musing, “I want to do what I think I should be able to do. Don’t we all? I guess we all want that.” But mostly she was technically masterful; lyrics flowed, equipment and performer were in sync, and she switched seamlessly from piano to guitar every few songs.
In comparison to previous shows — other than having her shit remarkably together — this was a solo and less rockin’ performance, since she was sans band. It was a different, slower tempo — no reverb, no angry guitar, no band to pick up on her visceral energy — but still imbued with power and a quieter brand of world-frustration. If people came to see the spectacle of her angst, they found no spectacle here. Instead, just her usual restrained, minimal growl, and soft, throaty moan, something like a woodland animal wailing in moonlight. With Halloween approaching, maybe the moon is at the forefront of consciousness. It did seem that the stage — after she asked nicely to “get that white light turned off? Any other color is fine” — appeared lit by the moon, and she was likewise illuminated by silver and periwinkle hues.
For longtime Cat Power fans, this show was like meeting up with a friend who you haven’t seen in a long time, and having the distinct sense that they’d figured something out. It’s obvious by reading her lyrics and interviews and listening to her world-weary voice that the woman gets it – she knows that the world is often hateful, usually unfair, filled with injustice, abuse, and poverty, but still finds the gumption for beautiful love longs and can spit out a gorgeously beautiful medley, of all things. Matador, her label, recognizes the shift, calling this album the most “confident and life-affirming” of her career. Before, Marshall showed us how to be angry, dissatisfied, strung-out, disgruntled, passionate, sorrowful, and tormented. If this new Chan is the beginning of a trend, Ms. Cat is showing us how to be something else, too. Hopeful.
–published in Venus Zine / Issue 26 / Winter 2005 Edith Frost Album Review: It’s a Game (Drag City)
Edith Frost once described her sound as “dreamy, sleepy, country-folk songs for jacking off in the bathtub.” Her poetically moody music can also be a soundtrack for heartbreak, alternately rocking out, and then spinning the listener ‘round the room in a consolation waltz. Frost’s new album It’s a Game evokes the beautiful melancholy of fading love, but despite haunting chords and introspective lyrics, she avoids a wrist-slitting or sad-sack-o’-potatoes tone with wry humor, and songs that are occasionally sing-song. Many tracks are laden with organ and bells, creating the subtle effect of a lullaby at a country carnival. The title track in particular has a sweet sadness, with melodic bells alongside disillusioned lyrics; “it’s a beautiful day for launching your lovebeams / out into the stratosphere/…everyone knows it’s a game.”
While previous albums (with elements of rock, pop, noise, and country) only alluded to Frost’s assuredness, here she is fully resolved – vulnerable, while also caustic and confident, and using a complex mix of upbeat yet lyrically depressed ballads alongside country tunes. Her whispery vocal style is not kittenish but more like a Cheshire cat – sly, sexy-in-an-earthy-way, and spunky. For example, she inserts a knee-slapping “hot damn!” even while lamenting, “I was there for you, I was there for you, “ in “What’s the Use.”
Frost’s ability to shift volume and speed for dramatic effect is best showcased in the gorgeously harmonic “Playmate,” with keyboards that are initially delicate but quickly become dreamy, crashing crescendos. Play this track first for guaranteed goosebumps and sighs.
Writer Richard Rodriguez poses the theory that love is an “active agent within history,” and that the history of the world is actually the history of people blending together and resolving differences in the name of love. Similarly, Walk the Line is not a music film, or even a biopic, but instead a film that tells the story of Johnny Cash’s life through the lens of love.
The first half of the film is made up of Cash’s childhood and simple country boy-beginnings, his first pangs of the music bug and gospel roots, and marriage to wife Vivian Liberto Distin, mother to four of Cash’s five children. But make no mistake about it, his meeting and decade-long flirtation with June Carter of country music royalty the Carter Family is the real focus here.
The latter half focuses on Cash’s drug habit and eventual redemption. This is a tale of boy meets girl (while boy and girl are married), boy becomes famous (and simultaneously pursues girl while also developing a nasty drug habit), and eventually the love of girl helps boy turn his life around. A diner scene the night that Cash and Carter first meet is a subtly acted and well-written conversation between 2 people that would continue to be intrigued and delighted by one another through 35 years of marriage.
Directed by James Mangold and based on Cash’s autobiographies Man in Black and Cash: The Autobiography, much of the film takes place while on tour, where Cash and Carter’s forbidden attraction played out alongside such luminaries as Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings, and Roy Orbison. Joaquin Phoenix plays a wry, tortured, and passionately quiet Cash, complete with haggard facial lines that remarkably resemble Cash’s own. Reese Witherspoon’s Carter is a spunky showboat with a chirpy vulnerability that is appealing and true. The film makes the assumption that the audience already understands Cash’s legacy, and is light on the music-making or creative details of Johnny or June’s music, other than one scene showing Cash writing songs while in military service, and a scene depicting a pensive Carter composing “Ring of Fire” on her autoharp.
The film nicely encapsulates the strange glory of the moment in musical history in which this love story takes place, when blues, country, gospel, and rocknroll were feeding off of each other and melding as if by osmosis. And, during the requisite detox portion of the film, June is shown by Johnny’s bedside while Mother Maybelle Carter, grande dame of the Grand Ole Opry, stands at the outskirts of Cash’s property with a shotgun to ward off his mustached drug dealer.
In one scene, the tour car is heading from one venue to another and Carter is sitting in the backseat, complaining about the boyish antics of her cohorts. When the car finally pulls into their motel, Carter twangs, “Somebody get me out of this car with all these boys!” Her humble traveling companions at the time are none other than Jerry Lee Lewis, Cash, and Elvis Presley. Later in the film, Carter is more cynical about the habits and vices of the “boys” and we see her transform from a comic, girlish figure to a tough, understanding woman who will put up with little guff from Cash or anyone. The growth that takes place in the film is as much about her as it is about Cash. During their 35 year marriage, he’d credit her (loudly and often) with saving his life, and died four months after her passing. From the point that the two met, their life stories became invariably intertwined, and there is no way to separate the trajectory his life took from hers, to credit one with success without crediting the other. Devotion between a big mouthed woman and a long-legged guitar pickin’ man, and a true American love story indeed.
Pamela Des Barres embraced her “ultimate groupie” moniker with the 1987 publication of I’m with the Band— a merry recounting of her friendships and trysts with some of rock’s elite, including Captain Beefheart, Jim Morrison, and Frank Zappa. This new reprint includes an epilogue by Des Barres and an affectionate forward by Dave Navarro, who calls her “one of the most unique and important rock historians of our time.”
After graduating in 1966 from high school in Reseda, California, Des Barres hung out with bands nightly in Hollywood. Bestowing oral sex to rock musicians testified to her belief that these musicians were on earth to do great things and that she was here to cater to them. Although written when Des Barres was 39, the book maintains an adolescent tone replete with cringe-worthy puns and lifted song lyrics. For example, several chapters after she recounts fainting while seeing Jim Morrison perform, she muses about Michael Des Barres, the rocker she will eventually marry; “I kept him all to myself and tried to set the night on fire. Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” Seriously. Or: “I soon found out that the answer to any and all questions was blowing in the wind.”
Her visceral, high school obsession with the Beatles, Paul Anka, Rolling Stones, and the Byrds became lust and lifestyle by her late teens. Her perspective might be easier to comprehend if she were a sex-positive, 1960s free-love explorer and adventuress, but she wasn’t — she states repeatedly that all she really wanted was to be the wife of a rock star. Des Barres was trying to be part of music in the best way she knew how — offering her body to it, and this makes her story a sad one. In one poignant scenario, Des Barres trespasses and is forcibly removed from Beatles property, and while being driven away in a police car she notes a contemptuous, sorrowful look on John Lennon’s face.
Des Barres’ deference to “her” musicians is, for lack of a better word, icky. Although claiming lack of any regret, the updated epilogue of the new edition reads, “I have spent so much time wistfully flitting about, caring for creative souls and — wonder of wonders — I have finally come to recognize the potency of my very own creative soul.”
“The first half of the film is made up of Cash’s childhood and simple country boy-beginnings, his first pangs of the music bug and gospel roots, and marriage to wife Vivian Liberto Distin, mother to four of Cash’s five children.
But make no mistake about it, his meeting and decade-long flirtation with June Carter of country music royalty the Carter Family is the real focus here. [for full article, click here.]” September 2005.
Christen Carter reignited the one-inch button market in 1995 after talking with a button-making friend in London and realizing that few people were doing it stateside. Carter saved her pennies to invest in a button-making machine, named her company Busy Beaver, and worked solo for the first few years. The business grew organically, and now employs four of Carter’s friends, who work out of Busy Beaver’s headquarters – Carter’s apartment in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. After producing 7,000 button designs, Busy Beaver decided to take on a new challenge – dispensing buttons from gumball machines. Carter scored a load of vending machines and is dispensing one-inchers at various Chicago restaurants and hangouts.
How did Busy Beaver get started?
I was living in London on a work exchange through Indiana University and a friend was making buttons over there for bands and his own promotion. I realized that nobody was really offering custom buttons in the U.S. anymore, so he showed me around his machine. I had gotten sort of friendly with Guided by Voices in London, and when I came back to the States; they asked me what I was planning to do. I said that I was thinking about making one-inch buttons for bands, and they said they’d be my first customer. That really made me go out and find a machine and figure out how to print (I just used the IU computers) and figure out pricing (which I’ve never changed). I then went through my record collection and sent fliers to all those people and it just kept growing.
It seems like button-making could get monotonous?
Very true! Pressing and pinning are really repetitive. But it’s a good job for people who don’t mind just thinking or listening to music or NPR while working.
Who are some of your well-known customers?
Sleater-Kinney, Lost Goat, Paul Westerberg, the Butchies, Le Tigre, Tracy + the Plastics, Stereolab, Beck, Tenacious D, NOFX, Slayer, and Fisher Spooner.
You employ your friends and work out of your apartment. Do you sometimes have to be the boss and say, “OK, we’re done having a beer, guys. Let’s get to work”?
I’m not completely comfortable being a boss. I had to learn how to deal with being communicative, but now I’m more comfortable. But I sometimes ask, “Do you think you’ll be OK to come in tomorrow morning or are you going to be hung over?”
What are the biggest perks of running your own business and working from home?
We can cook food while we’re working and the kitties are nice to have around. If I ever worked in an office, Max and Floyd would have to do some serious adjusting.
What’s your workaday schedule?
We work like mad Monday through Thursday and take Friday off unless it’s super busy. But I work really late when it’s busy; otherwise, I usually wrap up about 7 p.m.
There are several button Web sites that look like yours (www.busybeaver.net), and some of them even have similar price gauges and timelines. Since you were the one who got this button thing going again, what’s your take on the competition?
I think there’s room for us all. I honestly feel like we’re a great business and do a great job, so that’s all I can do. But it’s sort of a nice feeling to have set a standard in the independent one-inch buttons world.
You had an opening party for your button machines in September. How did the project begin?
It’s working out really well, and I love doing it. I was talking to a New York friend who has a vending machine in a record store there, and me and Rosie [Sanders, a Busy Beaver employee] decided “We have to do that here!” We scored vintage vending machines on eBay, and asked some friends [including Archer Prewitt, Jessica Abel, Emily Counts, and Paul Koob] to design buttons. The next exhibit will be in December or January, and I think the theme will be a scavenger hunt.
If the vending machines do well in Chicago, would you be interested in expanding to include more artists and venues in other cities?
I’m not sure, I guess we’ll see. We have 20 machines and 10 are en route, so there’s room to grow. There’s been some interest from people in New York, but we haven’t figured out how to refill, do maintenance, etc. I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
Sure we could grow and I’d like that.
Any advice for potential entrepreneurs with original ideas?
For people who don’t like paperwork, I say just go for it and deal with the paperwork after you’re actually earning a little bit. And don’t be shy about promoting your ideas, talk to people about it.