Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Welcome to my new blog! This previously unpublished story is about LA punk icons The Screamers, and their  lead singer Tomata DuPlenty, a dear friend. My new collection of memoirs, "Showgirl Confidential" will be published in September on Punk Hostage Press.  The book release and signing party for "Showgirl Confidential" will take place Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 at Skinny's Lounge, 4923 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA  6:30-9:30pm.  More readings to be announced soon!
Tomata DuPlenty of The Screamers
 Tomata DuPlenty, best known as the lead singer of LA’s most infamous and legendary 1970’s art-punk band The Screamers, was a walking work of art. Nothing about him was normal- he was definitely An Original. Everyone he met adored him on the spot. He was a talented performer; a musician, visual artist… a wit, a mensch and a true gentleman. After Tomata, the mold was broken. God probably could’ve retired, and everything   would’ve been fine. Before punk rock and Hollywood, Tomata been living in Seattle with his best friends, who were were named Gorilla, Suitcase and Gear. Prior to that, he was a member of the hippy/glam/ performance troupe The Cockettes in San Francisco.
Culturally literate and beyond hip, Tomata had a child-like naivete, that no matter if it was cultivated, always worked. He knew how to act in every situation, he could’ve written an etiquette book, one of his greatest talents was making people feel at ease and comfortable about themselves. Tomata’s persona was earthy and folksy, seedy and glamorous. Even the way he spoke- like some insane character from a Frank Capra  - by way of John Waters movie- was original. He’d say “cuppa Joe” instead of coffee, and  “ You look swell” instead of the more commonly used  “you look good”. His trademark phrase, used with an infinite amount of inflections, was, simply  Hiya!”  He always knew the best, raunchiest gossip about everyone on the scene, which he would deliver from the side of his mouth with impeccable comedic timing in a stage whisper. After he’d stated the tidbit, he’d revel in it for a moment, before cocking his head slightly, widening his eyes and pursing his lips like a holier-than-thou housewife at a coffee klatch, tsk-tsking over the transgressions of a swingin’ divorcee neighbor.

 Tomata was like a Norman Rockwell painting gone dada, Howdy Doodee meets Tallulah Bankhead, or possibly Jimmy Stewart on a lost weekend. But onstage with the Screamers in a hospital-issue straight jacket held together with duct tape, he was riveting and dangerous, the living embodiment of true insanity.  Seeing him perform, you’d never know that this was nothing close to his true nature.

 I first met Tomata at The Whisky A Go-Go in 1976, when I was sixteen. His appearance alone made my jaw drop. I was stoned out of my gourd on Tuinals and Mickey’s Big Mouth, sitting in the balcony thinking I was way cool, wearing a polka dotted Lucille Ball dressing gown held together with safety pins, torn fishnets and battered 1950’s majorette boots… yeah, I was cool…until I spotted Tomata and Tommy Gear on the dance floor, looking like a pair of ambassadors that been sent from another planet to educate earthlings.  They weren’t just cool, they were incredible.   

They both had black spiked hair and were wearing wraparound sunglasses, tight black pants, and Tomata had on a red sharkskin suit jacket, with a wooden clothes hanger shoved into the shoulders. I made my way through the crowd to stand near them  so I could spy on them covertly.

Suddenly,  Tomata spun around, looked me up and down and said breathlessly;

“Geez… look at you…Hiya, I’m Tomata!”

 I fell in love immediately, rendered shy and speechless.

I had the kind of crush on Tomata that a swooning 1950’s bobby-soxer would’ve had  on a teen idol, but we could call each other. I was obsessed with him and the other Screamers, I’d cut school to hang out at the their house, the Wilton Hilton, and took notes in my diary on everything that went on there. It  all seemed so glamorous to me, and it was glamorous. I couldn’t  believe that a teenager like me had the good fortune to be friends with Tomata, the other  Screamers, and their coterie of  fantastic hangers-on.

Tommy Gear & Tomata at the Wilton Hilton
 A big ramshackle Craftsman duplex, the Wilton Hilton was where Tomata and Tommy Gear both lived, along with a stunning redhead named Fayette ( who shared a matching Kewpie Doll tattoo  with Tomata) and   Chloe, a small, wide-eyed professional make up artist whose crew cut changed colors every week- and this was well before Manic Panic or Krazy Kolor existed! Chloe used concentrated Ritt  fabric dye to color her hair..

According to Tomata, William Randolph Hearst had built the house in the 1930’s as a love nest for Marion Davies, before Paramount Studios bought it and housed  a bevy of starlets there.  Apparently, at some point in the 1960’s, all or most of the GTO’s had resided there, and after they left, it was occupied by a Satanic cult. Tomata was prone to embellishment sometimes, and though I never verified any of these tales, the Wilton Hilton’s wooden floors had large, burned circles on it that looked like they could’ve been used for ritual, and the downstairs neighbor’s dog was constantly digging up  cat skulls from the back yard, so it seemed as though it could be true.

The hallway leading up the The Screamer’s ample second-floor flat was painted matte black; at the base of the steps, there was a huge ( locked) wall safe and a giant poster of Marilyn Monroe which a blown-up newspaper clipping from August 6, 1962  that declared in French Marilyn Est Mort!   The Wilton Hilton was located about two blocks away from Danger House, the pad  on Carlton Way where Screamers K.K. and David Braun and their friend Rand McNally  founded   LA’s infamous underground label of the same name, the Wilton Hilton had the best parties ever.

 One of the most memorable parties of my entire life, let alone my teenage years, was held there. Tomata and Gear threw the bash for Blondie and The Ramones, both in residence at The Whisky that week.  It was absolute chaos: the ceilings were festooned with  pink, yellow and blue crepe paper streamers, the type that would be a child’s birthday party, and the house was so packed, the wait for the lone bathroom was about forty five minutes long.  Sixties 45’s were blaring from the living room, and furniture was being knocked over while people danced. Looking like a carnival sideshow act, tiny round Chloe was doing a wild Frug with Joey Ramone. The Screamers were serving Sangria punch, which had probably been made with Thunderbird or Night Train; it was in a huge, bottomless bowl and everyone attending was drunk beyond belief. I was with Randy Kaye, my punk rock fanzine  Lobotomy co-editor, our friend Lisa Curland (whom Kim Fowley always called “Devil Worship”) and my roommate Brian Tristan, who later changed his name to Kid Congo Powers when he joined The Cramps…we were all out of our minds on acid. Phast Phreddie of the fanzine Backdoor Man was spinning records. I remember being impressed that Warhol  star Mary Woronov was there, she was so glamorous, all cheekbones and tawny hair.

Randy, Lisa, Kid/Brian and I  all somehow wound up in the backyard, smoking a joint in the bushes with Dee Dee Ramone and Debbie Harry, who was so high that she stumbled and almost fell over as I passed her the joint. Trying to pretend she wasn’t so wasted that she’d lost her balance, she giggled and said,

   “Ohhh…I was just… smellin’ that tree!

That night was also first time I laid eyes on Danger House star the infamous  Black Randy, of “Trouble At The Cup” fame. Paper cups in hand, Lisa, Exene  Cervenka and I  ventured into the kitchen to get more Sangria, when all of a sudden, an extremely tall and portly man with a bullet-shaped shaved head and preternaturally blue  beady eyes eyes uttered a huge shriek that sounded like an elephant about to go rogue. With that, he picked up the gigantic pot of spaghetti and marinara sauce that was bubbling on the stove and hefted it skywards with both hands before dumping the entire thing over his head.  Everyone in the kitchen shrank in horror against the walls, trying to avoid the tomato sauce carnage. Black Randy wailed again and ran   from the room and down the back steps,  the spaghetti pot still on his head, blinding him.  There was sauce splattered on the ceiling like a Manson murder scene, and worms of cooked pasta everywhere; on the walls, hanging from the gay streamers, and   all over everyone’s leather jackets.  The entire room was silent with shock. We could hear him bellowing all the way down the street.

 Tomata, ever the impeccable host, merely commented calmly,

“Oh, that Black Randy… what a card!  He’s a fabulous recording artist, who has just signed a contact with Danger House Records!”

 Looking back on all of this, especially through reading  my old diary entries, I had a lot of dreams about Tomata. He was not just a friend, but, whether he knew it or not, he was a mentor.  Tomata knew how to create the illusion of glamour while still mingling with hoi polloi.

He taught me many important life lessons, like how to crash strangers’ parties and then make a French Exit, which meant that you left by slipping out suddenly without saying goodbye to anyone. He also taught me how to screen telephone calls, which was a necessary art in the days preceding answering machines…let alone Call Waiting! You’d answer the phone with your voice disguised, and when the caller asked if you were home, you’d say “Let me see”…  then come back on the line and go, “No, I’m sorry, Can I take a message?”

 True to the Screamers song he’d written, “You Don’t Love Me, You Love Magazines”, Tomata always had a plethora of weird publications on hand, from 1940’s movie magazine to True Detective; the full-color Mexican tabloid Alarma, and a lurid pulp rag called Violent World  that featured pictures of airplane crashes and dismembered bodies that had been shoved into suitcases before being discovered in cheap Time Square hotel rooms.
The Screamers & friend in Hollywood by Jenny Lens

 I was into magazines, too, and one afternoon was hanging out at The Wilton Hilton working on  my fanzine Lobotomy one afternoon, when Gear told me that I what I was writing was mean.

 “But not mean enough”, he said.

 “There’s a difference between writing mean, and living mean!”

Wide-eyed and impressionable, I nodded dumbly as Tomata gave Gear a baleful glance before pulling me aside and saying pointedly,

“But you always have to know who to be nice to!”

 Tomata was the first person who ever brought me to a bar. I was still hideously underage, and he took me to The Blacklite, way  before it was a tranny hooker bar, back when it was a prize- fighter’s hangout with framed yellowing press clippings of boxers with bloodied noses hanging on the walls. After that, we took a cab  to some place called Harold’s in  Downtown LA.  Harold’s was later featured in the movie of Bukowski’s  Barfly, and it was  mentioned  frequently in John Gilmore’s book on The Black Dahlia, Severed.  Harold’s was dim and smoky, with long tables, sawdust on the floor and lots of sinister, shadowy corners.  It seemed to be populated by Mexican pimps, more than a few amputees and  a number of  shady looking people of indeterminate gender.

Tomata sidled up to the bar, bought me cocktail and said gleefully,

  “ Now you’re gonna get stinko!”

 Later that night, after I became utterly stinko, I   admitted that I  had discovered  his real name, David Harrigan.  Committed the ultimate punk rock sin – outing a person on their given name, I began singing:

 “H- A- DOUBLE R – I- GAN SPELLS HARRIGAN!” at the top of my lungs… and he just laughed.

 I accidentally tipped over some barstools doing the pony with a really scary aging whore, and Tomata, elbows against the bar, said dreamily, without even a touch of sarcasm,

 “ Gee, you dance just like the boudoir!”

 Tomata has not walked this earth in a very long time, but I think of him constantly.

Diary Entry- Oct. 21, 1977:
Had a crazy dream last night…I was at the top of the stairs at the Wilton Hilton, but it was painted ice blue. Tomata was at the bottom of the stairs, his arm outstretched, saying, “C’mon, Toots!”

 I looked at him intensely, then floated down the stairs, or kind of slid down the banister onto his hand, landing softly in the Lotus Position.  He smiled at me slowly, a really wide grin, and started walking, carrying me over his head, like a waiter carrying a tray.

 “Wait’ll you see this!” he said, and then I woke up.

Tomata, Gear and me in  1977, by Jenny Lens

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Friday, August 23, 2013


 Welcome to my new blog! The story you're about to read was published in my first book, Senorita Sin. My latest memoir collection Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road will be published in September, 2013 by Punk Hostage Press.


The year my best friend Joan and I turned thirteen, we started keeping extensive journals, hoping that, since we’d now entered our teens, we’d finally have something worth writing about. That something was love, L-U-V, spelled in poison green neon capital letters, and we were ripe and ready for it… two nubile death-traps, gamey with jail-bait.

 In the early seventies, we were drunk on love– free love, Love’s Baby Soft cosmetics, Maybelline’s Roll-On Kissing Gloss, in luscious strawberry and honey orange. Our lips were dripping wet, drenched in promise, and we were dying to be kissed. Love, the way we saw it, was 18-22 years old, tall, long-haired, and lanky, hopefully in a band, and wearing tight patched jeans over a cute little ass. Sometime during that year, I’d heard that the word  triskaidecaphobia meant “fear of the number thirteen”…unfortunately; most of the would-be Love Gods we knew definitely had that fear.

Life grew complicated and took on air of espionage as we strove to be mature, mysterious, urban sophisticate foxy ladies. We rearranged our lives in our pursuit of l’amour: instead of rushing home from seventh grade to draw the shades and watch “Dark Shadows” with half the neighborhood, we’d linger at diners smoking Marlboros (the tough, worldly, hippie-chick brand) and drinking black coffee, which we absolutely hated – but God! – it looked so grown-up. After we were sufficiently wired, we’d hit the Fashion Post boutique, trying on all sorts of groovy clothes, and then the Grand Union, where we used to shoplift Maybelline Blooming Colors eye-shadow compacts. I always wore Forest Green, because Cosmo said green eye-shadow looked wanton. Over dinner, I asked my mother what “wanton” meant, and when she said “whorish”, I knew with all my heart and soul that green was, indeed the color of eye shadow I needed to express my true inner feelings.

Wanton-eyed and baby-faced, I waited as patiently as I could for what Cosmo termed a “torrid affair” to occur, but in those days of Free Love, alas…most older men didn’t seem to notice willing, bra-less 13 year-old virgins-not that it really mattered at that point in my development, anyway. And Joan and I had succeeded in terrifying all of the boys our own age. It was clear to us: we needed help in a big way.
 Desperate, we turned to Higher Forces, and very seriously practiced witchcraft, calling ourselves Pagans. We earnestly burned incense, buried bits of cloths and hanks of hair, fingernail clippings and coins tied into tiny scraps of material. We’d stare for hours into the flames of candles, we’d sew up little dolls and stick pins into their genital regions.

 We’d have sleepover parties at each other’s houses, and would smoke an entire lid of raspy dirt-week, then strip naked and lay on the bed for hours with the lights out, trying to Astral Project. It all went into our diaries– the crushes, the incantations, the drug-inspired supernatural frenzies.  We’d write exacting descriptions of what we wore every weekend on what we’d come to term  our Fox Hunts … little satin  1940’s bed jackets, glitter  platforms and tight-tight jeans covered with  Majik Marker doodles of dragons and unicorns. Mine had  Queen,  Jimmy Hendrix, Bowie and T-Rex lyrics written  all over them in a loopy child’s scrawl, the “I’s all dotted with tiny stars –  excuse me, I meant Pentagrams.

Ultimately, with no magic other than nature involved, we both got our wishes and lost our virginity, and went on to become, at least for a time, home-wreckers in earnest. Then, very suddenly, it seemed, Joan and I were separated – I moved from Connecticut  to California, and we fell out of touch.
Even more suddenly, I was no longer a teenager, and the way of life I’d aspired to as a bright young floozy had grown tiresome  by my mid-twenties. Even though I was still into lookin’ for love , I was kind of sick of bars, parking lots, motel-rooms, liars, and being The Other Woman. Being a modern-day man-eater just wasn’t as exciting as it had seemed before I’d ventured into The Jungle Of Lust.

Recently, I dug out an old, dusty box of my diaries, and with them, Joan’s letters, and spent an afternoon re-living our manic, desperate, truly wanton adolescent friendship. It was a union full of furtive notes passed in class, with entire sentences underlined; green sparkly Sally Bowles-style nail-polish, Boone’s Farm Ripple wine, headaches, hallucinations, crying jags, buying speed from bikers and carnies, dramatic entrances and exits, parental screaming matches and uncontrollable giggling.
Down near the bottom of the box was a book Joan had given to me for my fourteenth birthday:


The dog-eared cover featured a sultry sorceress with overly-plucked eyebrows, hot pants and square-heeled lace-up boots posed fetchingly near a bubbling cauldron. I hadn't seen Joan in almost twenty  years, but he book still smelled like her sandalwood oil, and by the scent alone, I could conjure her up.

 I closed my eyes, and there she was before me, standing in a silver Lurex tube-top and cut-off Levi’s, her long blonde hair shimmering, daring me to take another hit off the joint she’s waving around, while she tosses her head, weaves around a bit on her platforms, dancing in all her teenage glory to her favorite song: Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch”.

  Listen to “Season Of The Witch”  from my spoken word  CD  Ruined  here:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


 Welcome to my new blog! The story you're about to read was originally published in my memoir collection, Escape From Houdini Mountain. My new book Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road will be released in Fall 2013 by Punk Hostage Press.

Disgraceland, 1980's photo by Bobby McClellan


For over a decade, I lived in one of Hollywood’s most famous punk flophouses, Disgraceland.  It was one quarter of a buff-colored stucco ‘20s-era fourplex, residing in the shadow of Frederick’s of Hollywood, right around the corner from the Masque.  By the time I moved in with my pals Kid Congo and Marci Blaustein in 1978, the building- hell the entire neighborhood- had seen better days.

  I lived there until 1988, along with various roommates including Go-Go Belinda Carlisle, Ward Dotson of the Gun Club, writer Iris Berry (who was my longest-running roomie), and literally, a changing cast of thousands. Almost everyone involved in the punk scene partied there, touring bands crashed there (sometimes for months!) and for a period of time, Don Bowles, drummer of The Germs, lived in the driveway in a white van with the license plate Unit 666, with extension cords snaking their way across the driveway into electrical sockets in Iris’s room.

Our neighbors were gypsies who did auto body work in their driveway and a guy we called “The Hit Man” because he looked like one. A dapper older gent with silvery hair, he was always wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, yet living in this horrifying, shabby dump.  We were sandwiched between an elementary school and the K-thru-8 Catholic school that belonged to Church of the Blessed Sacrament, located right around the corner from us.  Recess, for everyone who lived at Disgraceland, was hell.

My bail bondsman boyfriend, Billy Persons, dubbed it “Disgraceland” because we had a Tijuana plaster bust of Elvis -with Alice Cooper make-up that I added on with Majik Marker- on the mantelpiece, surrounded by empty fifths of booze.  Billy was the one who contributed the pink porch swing, obscured sometimes by the six foot tall corn growing incongruously in the front yard. “D.G. Land”, as we called it, was within stumbling distance of lots of major Hollywood nightspots—The Masque, Cathay De Grande, after-hours club The Zero (when it was on Cahuenga and later Wilcox), Club Lingerie, and about five dive bars that all opened at six a.m, including some that are no longer there, like The Firefly and The Sideshow.  My brother Chuckles called this Bermuda Triangle-like set-up The Circle Of Death.

Disgraceland was a total pigsty, and that’s being kind. When Belinda was seeing Suggs from the English ska band Madness, they were all so horrified/amazed by the mess they wanted to do a video there. The Split Enz, fresh from New Zealand, once walked into a bash called  The Forbidden Food Party, (ten chicks all fucked up, in the middle of piles of garbage, wearing negligees, tiaras, and false eyelashes, eating chocolate cakes, bon-bons, French fries, potato chips, lasagna, cannoli pastries, jellybeans, and burritos) and when we offered them blue and purple rum punch with lollipop stirrers, they loudly proclaimed,

 “We love Los Angeles!”

We had “Mr. T” -our ironic idol from The A Team- plastered on the living room wall in stick-on Stay Free Maxi-Pads that had been samples slipped into the neighborhood mail boxes. It was flanked by Xeroxed band flyers, a toilet seat, and Lost Pet posters stolen from the ‘hood.  You always had to step over passed out bodies, clothes, amps, guitars, drum set, total strangers fucking, dirty laundry, fast food wrappers, miniature school desks, a Christmas tree stolen from Club Lingerie that we didn’t throw out until the next April (it was adorned with empty Budweiser cans, Marlboro packs, and fishnet stockings), a craps table, piles of petticoats, and millions of empty beer bottles.

  Many people had their most memorable sexual experiences in the walk-in closet at the end of the hallway.

Our landlord was Jayne Mansfield’s ex-husband, body builder Mickey Hargitay, and the previous owner, mentalist Criswell of Criswell Predicts built a  Cold War-era bomb shelter underground in the front yard.  After the  cops would  come calling, ordering us to “keep it down”,  we'd climb down into the shelter and “get bombed.”  The building’s manager, Ross Christena,  always seemed to be on Valium, which was probably how we got away with hardly ever paying the rent.  For years, there was an outstanding balance, and somehow—guess it was the drugs—we’d never get evicted.   But the cops were there so often they knew Iris and me on a first-name basis!

I was once at a New Year’s bash at a soundstage on La Brea, and the Riot Squad was busting the party which was packed. There were about seventy-five people standing around drinking outside and I was one of them. When the Riot Squad started marching on the place—helmets on, batons lifted—one of them walked up to me, tilted up his visor, and said in an absolutely friendly, genuine way.

 “Hey, I know you!  I busted a party at your house last week!”

Yes, indeed, the parties went on for days blending into one another for the decade-long duration. One sunny mid-morning, artist and interior designer  Brad Dunning was jogging on the roof of YMCA , about two blocks away from Disgraceland.  He said he could hear the Velvet Underground blasting and knew it was coming from my house and that we’d more than likely been up all night.   
Pleasant and Kid Congo at Disgraceland, 1978: photo by Theresa Kereakes

 The late  Brendan Mullen of  The Masque and Club Lingerie used to offer the floor to touring bands as an alternative to renting to motel room -without our permission- but we never turned anyone away.  Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster used to climb in thought the kitchen window all the time.  Even though it was a ground floor apartment, we usually kept the windows open ‘cause we were always so drunk, we’d lose our house keys.  Hollywood, believe it or not, was safe enough to do that  back then. In fact, when I moved out of there, I found nine garter belts and a few pairs of panties under my bed, all with house keys safety-pinned it them!

The phone never stopped ringing ever…unless, of course, it was shut off.  But Iris and I were such telephone abusers that when she got her own line, we actually used to lay in bed and call each other’s bedrooms collect, having half-hour-long  conversations even though we were literally fifteen feet down the hallway from each other.

People would show up for a specific party and then stay for weeks, others were always bringing strays over, like this one guy Clam Lunch, whom Iris found sleeping under a bulldozer on Melrose.  Clam cleaned the house two or three times  and probably bought a communal bottle of Jack Daniel’s, and to us that was good as paying six months’ rent.  Everybody would come over at four a.m. looking for someone; Disgraceland was like a human lost-and-found department. Can’t locate your friend? Try D.G. Land, the Bermuda Triangle of the Hollywood underground scene!

One early morning, in the wee hours past bar  closing time, Iris, our roomie Laura, and I trashed the entire living room—I mean, we seriously destroyed every stick of furniture we owned—by re-enacting G.L.O.W.  (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) bouts.  There were a ton of people there that night and the party got completely out of hand because we all took Ecstasy…back when it was still legal.  It was so raging that even The Hit Man couldn’t stand it—he called the cops on us.  The ones that showed up didn’t know us, but Iris saved the day by telling them that her boyfriend Rat’s Ass was joining the Marines the next morning, hence the party.  God only knows why they believed her, but they did.

Sometimes we’d wake up to complete strangers cooking breakfast for us, but more often the strangers were soundly asleep beside us.  In that case, there was the delicate task of finding out if you’d had sex with whomever it was  was in bed with you although some of my friends never even bothered to ask.

Matt Lee of the L.A. band The D.I.’s once said about Disgraceland,

 “Usually when I wake up, I have no idea where I am.  But when I wakeup at Disgraceland, I always know exactly where I am.  The question is:  How long have I been here?”

He wasn’t alone—members of T.S.O.L, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Detox, Poison 13, R.E.M.  The Vandals, Tales Of Terror, The Rockats, The Cramps, The Gun Club, The Big Boys, The Blasters, The Joneses, X. Blood On the Saddle, The Gears, B.Y.O., The Mumps, Teenage Jesus, The Hickoids, Hard As Nails Cheap As Dirt, Mary’s Danish, Bulimia Banquet, The Mentors, Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs, The Go-Go’s, The Dicks, Tex And The Horseheads, The Plugz, The Dickies, D.O.A.,  Red Scare, The Runaways, The Senders, Blondie, Fishbone, Guns’n’Roses, etc., etc.—shit, you name it—all felt the same way.

 MTV did a special on famous punk hangouts and featured Disgraceland; journalist Art Fein wrote about it in The L.A. Musical History Tour, it was featured in Rolling Stone; on The Tanqueray Gin Rock’n’Roll Map, it’s even—no lie—on the current version of Maps to the Stars’ Homes!   ("Do Not Disturb Current Occupants!) Disgraceland got more famous than anybody who ever lived there did! That movie The Boost with James Woods used the exterior as a crack house…It was perfect, all they had to do to dress it up was put a shredded up old mattress in the yard, that was the only change they made.  The location scout for that film must’ve gotten a raise!

After ten years, I (finally) moved out—actually, it was an eviction that, for once, worked.  The whole place was remodeled into an office building, and there were handicapped ramps installed. But  before that, we were always so wasted, someone that had lived there observed,

“Too bad the ramps weren’t there when we really needed them!”

Years later, I keep finding out that many people were terrified—and rightly so—to even go near there.  But there are others who claim, right to my face, that they used to party there, people I never saw before.  I’d be thinking,  “I wasn’t that fucked up!”, then I’d realize they were lying! It got to the point that I was skeptical of believing anyone I didn’t recognize immediately when they said they’d hung out there.

But one girl restored my faith. She was a lovely redhead who said she’d been there.  Of course, I didn’t believe her.
“What’d ya do there?”  I asked, expecting to catch her in a lie.

“I’m not sure,” she said,

“All I know is, there were a bunch of punk bands from Texas staying there, and I got really shit-faced and wound up fucking someone’s fat roadie on top of a pile of clothes in a closet!”

Obviously, she was telling the truth.

Flyer  made by Pleasant for the Disgraceland moving sale, 1988

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Thursday, August 15, 2013


Welcome to my new blog! The story you are about to read is from "Escape From Houdini Mountain", a memoir collection published by Manic D Press. 
My latest book, "Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road" will be published this coming September, 2013 by Punk Hostage Press.


We started hanging out way before he’d ever considered a career as a rock musician, long before he became a cult star.  At the time, the early ‘80s, he was just a fun scenester, and I was like a punk version of Holly Golightly, with a few jobs that added to my Ultimate Hollywood Party Girl cachet.  I was not only booking the Cathay De Grande, the hippest club in town, I was writing LA De Dah, the rock gossip column in the “alternative” newspaper, the L.A. Weekly.  The icing on the cake was that I was also leader and singer of The Screaming Sirens.

The Screaming Sirens  were known for being completely out of control, especially during out shows.  Our existence was a surreal pastiche of malfunctioning musical equipment, broken glass, and home-wrecking, love-‘em-and-leave-‘em affairs.  People were scared of us, but they always wanted us at their gigs and parties to liven things up.  Don Bolles, the drummer for the legendary Germs, had summed up our infamous reputation by dubbing us The Semen Siphons.

One day I was sitting in my basement office at Cathay De Grande, and this guy shows up with a bag of tacos from Dos Burritos, the one on the Boulevard, near the Frolic Room.  He had an idea for a club, and he took a seat on the corner of my desk and started telling me about it—kind of like a glorified hangover party, the club would take place in the early afternoon on Sundays, serve cheap drinks, and feature diverse bookings.  It sounded great, and I couldn’t help but notice how funny and charming he was.  I guess I’d missed out on this fact before because he wasn’t exactly what you’d call good-looking.  At all.  He looked like he’d been, as the old song goes, “whupped with an ugly stick.”  He had a shapeless Brillo pad mop of dirty blonde, hair, his legs were a bit short for his torso, and he was missing most of a finger.  He wore thick Buddy Holly glasses and was blind as a bat without them.  Please note that this was a least a full decade before Nerd Chic took the world of Alternative Rock by storm.  Actually, the term “Alternative Rock” hadn’t even been coined yet.  Not only that, his teeth were crooked and he had acne.

Oh, and I was married, so it wasn’t exactly like I was looking for anyone whether they were cute or not.  He was fine company and had an instant, engaging familiarity with me, so we spend the rest of the afternoon comparing musical tastes, talking about the local scene, and laughing.

For the next couple of days, he’s show up and the same thing would happen.  That Friday, he took me to his favorite bar, just off the Boulevard on Highland, The Powerhouse.  We drank whiskey and beer and he played “Love On The Rocks” by Neil Diamond and “Crazy Arms” by Ray Price a number of times in a row on the jukebox.  He confided to me about how his relationship with his wife was falling apart, so I confided in him that my relationship with my husband was in the same state, except for the fact that my husband was also beating me up on a regular basis.  Domestic abuse wasn’t taken seriously by the cops (or anyone else, if it was even discussed) back then—my roomie Iris and I were regularly getting punched out or having our house trashed by our respective mates, but of course, due to the massive quantities of drugs and alcohol we were all ingesting, this seemed completely normal.  Nevertheless, I was sad a lot of the time, because in moments of lucidity, or perhaps I should say sobriety, I had a creeping suspicion that life—or at least the married life I was leading, wasn’t nearly all it could or should be.  But this one, he made me laugh.

That night at the infamous after-hours club  The Zero, my drummer Boom Boom, a steely-eyed filly with a tri-colored Mohawk, pulled me into the men’s room to question me about him.

“Yer not fuckin’ him are ya?” she hissed in her heavily nasal Cincinnati trailer trash voice.

 Not only was she the best female drummer on the planet, I always loved to listen to her talk because she sounded like a genuine honky-tonk angel.

“You’ve gotta be insane to even think that!”  I sneered, rolling my eyes as I wrenched out of her buff arms.

Practically on cue, I was making out with him in a broom closet… and loving it!  It didn’t seem to matter what he looked like, and it wasn’t just because there was no light in there.

The next day at band rehearsal, Boom Boom fixed me with a narrow-eyed gaze,  and said sternly,

 “If yer kissin’ him, yer gonna fuck him.”

Her arms were crossed and she looked pretty pissed.  I was perturbed because we usually championed each other in our respective acts of sin and degradation.  Boom Boom gave my beau a nickname that referred to his getting 86’d out of more places than we did.  And  that was no easy feat—I was regularly thrown out of Cathay De Grande, and I booked the fucking place! 

Then, Boom Boom began actually chaperoning our dates by sleeping over at his place, all three of us on the bed.  I was always in the middle, but she had to be there, to keep an eye on us fooling around.

“Quit yer moanin',’” she’d say.  “I wanna get some sleep!”

 See, even though Boom Boom was the kind of girl who’d change her underwear in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard in broad daylight, the kind of girl who’d smash beer bottlers inside clubs and give blow jobs in parking lots, she didn’t want me sleeping with him in particular because she thought if word got around, the general physical quality of our foxy groupies and conquests would go down.  Like I said, he wasn’t what you’d call good-looking.  Much to Boom Boom’s chagrin, the inevitable occurred.

I can’t remember when, exactly, the first time was, but I think it happened about six-thirty a.m. when, after a three-hour long physical brawl with my husband, I called my boyfriend.  He came to my rescue in a taxi, picked me up and brought me to his place at La Leyenda, a grand though crumbling old ‘20s starlet residence. We watched The Little Rascals while eating Animal Crackers and milk. I bawled my eyes out, and then we had sex. After that, there was no looking back, we were having a full-on affair.

Daily, he’d proclaim his love for me, and expect me to do the same.  Ray Price would be playing over and over his stereo, he’d pin me to the bed and holler, “Say it, Gehman, SAY IT!”

  “Say what?” I’d go, all faux-naïve.

“You know what,” he’d answer, and I’d torture him:

“Oh, you mean the thing I say to my cat six thousand times a day without even thinking about it?”

I never said it, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t feeling it, or at least a reasonable facsimile.  I was just too shell-shocked.

We were constantly together.  Hollywood Boulevard became our oyster, and because neither of us had a car, we’d walk day and night through all the alleys, yards, shortcuts, and parking lots, exploring everything. He’d get armloads of art books, and bring them to Book City for cash, then we’d get burritos and go drinking at The Powerhouse because nobody knew us there, it was only old men.

 Even though both marriages were basically over and we were still trying to keep our relationship a secret, word was getting out.  I’d tell my husband the classic philandering line “I’m going to get cigarettes,” and stay gone for four hours.  Usually, my husband was too wasted on pot to notice the time elapsed, but after a while, even he started getting suspicious.  My boyfriend’s wife accused him of having an affair with me, and when he denied it, she produced a pay stub of my husband’s from Flip, the trendy Melrose boutique where he worked, which she’d found under the bed.  She was certain this was proof we were seeing each other, but my quick-thinking lover told her we’d been doing laundry together…which still doesn’t explain what I was doing in their bedroom.  As they say, the spouse is always the last to know.

When he’d run out of art books to sell to keep us fed and drunk, he’d take the keys to the illegal after-hours club he cleaned, and we’d rob the jukebox for change and comb the floor for drug bindles. Once, we went there during the week when it was closed, and removed a painting of artist Bob Zoell’s from the wall, put in on the floor, then had sex on top of it.  If memory serves me correctly, I think it was because I adored that work, which was a huge oil cartoon of Flower, the skunk from Disney’s Bambi, with the words “What Stinks?” painted beneath.  That was the night I noticed the stone in my wedding ring had cracked.

There was a lot of good speed going around Hollywood, and when we couldn’t find it carelessly dropped on the floors of clubs, we’d go in on it with friends, guys from No Mag and Fear and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  All of us were tweaking constantly. By this time, his wife had moved out of the apartment and my husband and I had quit fighting, we just basically ignored each other.  I’d be at my boyfriend’s with the usual crew, up for three days in a row speeding our brains out.  After a certain point, I don’t think anybody hanging out in that apartment ever slept.

Meanwhile, this  local band the Joneses had started squatting in the abandoned Montecito Hotel on Franklin, just around the corner from La Leyenda.  There had been a night-time security guard there, but after The Joneses partied him down, he simply looked the other way, so they’d gone to the former front desk, gotten all the keys, and mix’n’matched the furniture to the coolest rooms, making a private multi-storied playhouse.

 Somebody discovered that you could see The Montecito from the La Leyenda apartment’s windows and vice-versa, and that both buildings were visible from the Boulevard.  A system was worked out so that whoever had beer or crank would hang a blanket out the window, so that everybody who was in the know would be able to figure out where the party was even if they just happened to be strolling down Hollywood Boulevard.

After my husband  moved out, on the rare nights I’d stay at my own house Disgraceland, my boyfriend would climb through my ground floor window in the middle of the night and crawl bed with me.  Hollywood was still safe enough back then to keep your windows unlocked at night.  Near the end of the summer, I stared trying to “be good” and “get my life together” and even though I wasn’t tweaking and paying attention to who had what blanket on display, we still hung out.

By the beginning of autumn, he began to lose interest... I guess because I would never “say it.”  Though we drifted apart romantically, we remained pals.  He found another beautiful girl at the Weekly to fall in love with, and she slept with him while simultaneously sleeping with her ex who was, at that time anyway, a new fling of mine.

It’s funny, I haven’t spoken to my first husband in years,  but even now,  if I’m ever at a dive bar, I’ll scan the jukebox for Ray Price doing “Crazy Arms.”  It’s only once in a great while I bump into that old boyfriend, but it’s always nice to see him.  From what I know about my own life and what I hear through the grapevine about his, we’ve both managed to somehow survive the never-ending romantic chaos. Some things never change.

A few years ago, I ran into Bob Zoell at a gallery opening, and in a moment of wanting to make amends, guiltily confessed the twenty-plus year old story about his “What Stinks?” painting.

 Far from being outraged or disgusted at our carnal trespassing, he told me he was glad, honored even, that one of his works could move viewers so profoundly.


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Saturday, August 10, 2013


Welcome to my new blog! The story you are about to read is from my last book "Escape From Houdini Mountain", a memoir collection published by Manic D Press.

Skate And Destroy!


I had to pick up the phone. Even though I hadn’t spoken to him in ages, his molasses-slow Southern drawl was unmistakable on my answering machine.

“You’ll never even believe what I’m doing now,” he said, obviously delighted with the irony that he was about to unfurl upon me.

I thought about the myriad ways we’d overturned any kind of moral and social decency – not to mention all the laws we’d broken – in our short but intense relationship. The last time I’d seen him, he’d been up for about three days and was about to make an impromptu road map to Alabama to sell the many bags of blow he’d been stashing at my house.  He promised to be back within the week and left, brushing his chapped, lipstick- stained lips against mine as I begged not to go.  A few months went by, then a year.  I heard he’d served time in the pen for drugs, and then married his high school sweetheart.  That was at least a  couple of decades ago.

“Let’s see,” I guessed, “…you’re a cop?”

“Nope!” he giggled still sounding boyish.

“Uh… you’re getting a sex change?”

He laughed even more uproariously, and then said in la voice with enough matter-of-fact conviction for me to know there’d be no way he was bullshitting,

 “I’m a Pentecostal evangelist minister.”

Well you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. I mean, I was absolutely, positively, maybe for the first time in my entire life, at a loss for words.

“No fuckin’ way!”  I finally stammered, then realizing my faux pas, I added,

 “I’m sorry, did my saying “fuck” just offend you?”

“Well, no…but the Lord kinda changed my vocabulary.”

*                   *                    *                         *

I’d been hearing about him for ages.  A skateboard champion wunderkind, he was a member of an elite clique of youthful daredevils, and the risks he took in that milieu were wild enough for him to stand out even in that fast crowd.

 I met him on Halloween night in my living room at Disgraceland, and when I first laid eyes on him, he was reclining on my couch, drinking a Bud, attired head-to-toe in my clothes, his face smeared with garish make-up, my favorite pair of rhinestone baubles dangling from his earlobes.

At the time, I was in an outrageous all-girl cow-punk band called the Screaming Sirens.  We were a combination of saloon gal Miss Kitty-style sleaze, biker chick badness, and rock’n’roll hooliganism.  We valiantly tried to play country and rockabilly music, but it came out sounding more like the Ramones than Kitty Wells. Our stage shows were train wrecks with beer bottles flying through the air, a flurry of ripped fishnets and torn petticoats and broken guitar strings as we plowed through songs, pulling guys up from the audience to make out with them.  I mean, I used to bite the buttons off guys’ shirts with my teeth.

 The fact that we usually played stoned out of our gourds on alcohol combined with some sort of hallucinogen or speed (we always took the precaution of making sure that if one player was on drugs, we all took the same thing so we’d play as a cohesive unit) just added to the general chaos and sloppy musicianship.  Offstage, our antics were even more notorious.  People were actually scared of us, and we made quite a name for ourselves causing disturbances on the club scene.

That Halloween night, we’d just done a gig in Santa Barbara with T.S.O.L at an all-ages place called Casa de la Raza.  I was bruised, burnt, sweaty, crabby, and tired.  Plus, I was infatuated with the singer of T.S.O.L. and even though we’d  rendezvoused with before, he was playing hard-to-get and that kina raised my hackles. For a change, I just wanted to go to sleep.  Meanwhile, in my absence, my brother Chuckles and a couple of his pals had decided to attend the Halloween festivities at the nearby Club Lingerie.  When they discovered there was a costume contest with a $100 first prize and all the free beer you could drink, they immediately left, went back around the corner to Disgraceland, raided my closet, jewelry box and make-up kit, and returned, entering the contest as the Screaming Sirens.

They won.

As I stepped into the living room and saw Chuckles and his cronies partying attired in my stage clothes, my lethargy turned to dismay.  I was so wiped that something I normally would’ve though was hilarious just annoyed me.

“Isn’t it great?” my brother beamed.  “We just won the $100 prize!

“I guess you didn’t know that the costume rental was $99.95!” I snarled.

 “Get that shit off and get the fuck out of here!” 

With that, I stormed off to my room and slammed the door. Moments later, there was a knock.  It was the skateboard champion, with a fresh beer and a key full of coke as a wordless peace offering.  It took a moment, but I accepted. Solicitous and contrite, he apologized profusely, begged me to come with them to a party, and offered to return my clothes.  Always a sucker for a pretty drag queen, I told him he could keep them on, and he whisked me off to the soiree.  By this time, it was about three-thirty a.m.

The band Tupelo Chain Sex was hosting the party, and everyone was on acid.  There was Slim Gaillard blaring from the stereo in the living room, and people in Halloween costumes practically having sex on the couch.  There was a pirate, a ghost, and a corseted witch smoking pot in the kitchen, way stoned and trying to make falafel from scratch.  In the bathroom, an old black R&B star, Don “Sugarcane” Harris (one of many Tupelo Chain Sex cultivated) was shooting heroin in the shower stall and scaring the shit out of the New Romantic girls teasing their hair at the sink.

 Me and the skateboard champ were in the driveway with a bunch of people, drinking beer and doing more lines off the hood of somebody’s battered up old Dart, watching a fight that was about to get out of control—two guys duking it out over a chick in a teensy weensy scarlet devil costume, her hair dyed a matching red.  Luckily, Chuckles stumbled down the porch steps at that exact moment and began hurling, which instantly cut the tension in the air.

“Styley!” he slurred, fondly regarding the massive pile of vomit steaming on the cracked pavement.

They didn’t call him “Chunkles” for nothing.

Soon, we were all back at my house with some boring hippie guy who had a block of cocaine so ridiculously huge that it resembled an unused bar of Ivory soap.  He was very generous with it until dawn broke, and then he bailed.  That didn’t stop us.  Oh, goodness, no.  Between the Screaming Sirens impersonators/contest winners and some strays we’d picked up at the party, there were about eight of us who kept at it until we’d depleted all of our drugs, plus whatever beer was left.

I figured this was as good a time as any to go to sleep, my bitchy mood back in place the moment the drugs were gone.  It was so bright in my room at that point that I briefly considered wearing my sunglasses to bed.  My hands and feet were literally freezing from the coke, and my throat was one big miserable cesspool of post-nasal drip.  Presently, there was a knock at the door, and the skateboard champ’s face appeared.

“Hey!” he staged-whispered urgently, “What’re you doing?”

I rolled my eyes in answer, as though it wasn’t perfectly obvious I was trying to sleep.

“Come with me!’  he said,

 “Let’s go to Buena Park!”

Buena Park is an absolutely dismal, post-World War II suburb  full of shabby little stucco houses, about forty minutes south of downtown L.A.  The only two possible points of interest—if you could even call them that—are Knott’s Berry Farm, a cutesy Old West-themed amusement park, and Medieval Times, a horrendous, over-priced white bread establishment where “wenches” (read: perky high school seniors in polyester corsets) serve you non-alcoholic grog while you watch out-of-work movie stuntmen reenact jousts.  Buena Park is the kind of place dreary housewives with helmet-shaped poodle perms get addicted to prescription drugs and go max out their credit cards at Target and Home Depot.

“What the fuck are you going to Buena Park for?”  I asked, oozing charm.

“To get more!”

“Well, I want to go to sleep,” I said.

 Suddenly, he was on my bed on my bed, his breath warm on my neck. We wrestled verbally for a few minutes, his hands roaming tentatively over my legs.  He was really cute—snapping blue eyes, jet black dyed pompadour, not to mention the fact that my earrings looked simply stunning on him.  But my coke crash and impending hangover plus his persistence were annoying the hell out of me. He just couldn’t take a hint, so I sat up, summoning the last vestiges of the blow, and decided to take charge.

“You want to fuck, is that it?” I sneered.

“Yes, ma’am!” he replied, all puppy-dog enthusiasm, clearly unaware of the sarcasm in my voice.

“Okay, I’ll fuck you, but you have to promise to get out right after!”

  His eyes widened like a Japanese cartoon as I stripped my clothes off and lay on the bed.

“Go ahead,” I said, impatiently, not a hint of seduction in my voice.  “Fuck me.”

As he climbed aboard and started going through the motions of foreplay, I did everything possible to ignore him, short of grabbing a magazine and reading it over his shoulders while he sucked my nipples.  All I wanted to do was go to sleep.  I shut my eyes tightly and wished for slumber over and over, barely aware that he’s just entered me.

 When he began thrusting, I opened my eyes and took in the entire scene.  His angelic baby face, smeared with running mascara now looked more like Alice Cooper after a tough gig than an ‘80’s Glam chic, with huge earrings, rhinestone necklaces, my favorite black slip amateurishly stuffed with falsies, his round little ass pumping away framed by my pink leopard garter belt and some trashed Danskin fishnet hose… and I started to laugh.Then he did, too… For a second before he came I actually joined in the festivities, and then it was over.

Back to business, I ordered him out.  He started removing my clothes and pulling on his Thrasher t-shirt and worn blue jeans and stared at me forlornly.

“You sure y’all don’t wanna go to Buena Park?”

“BYE!” I said, watching him shuffle towards the door, all hangdog and sad.

 No sooner had he exited, he was back popping his head into the room again.

“WHAT?!?”  I yelled, at the end of my rope.

“Can Ah see you again?” he asked hopefully.

“As a boy or as a girl?”  I asked, praying that this final dis would get my point across.

He smiled coyly, revealing deep dimples and said,

 “Whatever yew want!”

Hmmm, I thought to myself, this could be fun.

A day or two later he showed up around twilight, with his battered skateboard, a case of beer, and a blond kid in tow.  They were up in Hollywood from Orange County to skate the ditches in Bronson Canyon, and were all sweaty and grimy, having just come from Pacific Palisades where they’d been ripping the banks at Revere Junior High. The minute the surfer kid went into the bathroom, my boy toy was pulling down his trashed Levi’s to proudly reveal a red satin garter belt and black stockings.  He stayed over that night, and after a few days it was pretty clear that he’d moved in.

We began an affair that lasted a couple of months. He was fun and crazy and would do anything, with an aura of twisted innocence and sincerity about him. It was kind of like Huckleberry Finn Meets Divine.  I got him more and more into drag, and with my make-up expertise, he looked so good that straight frat boys would try to pick up on him.  He was muscular but slightly built, and all my midriff angora sweaters and little satin 1930’s bed jackets fit him perfectly.  His hair took teasing and Aqua-Net well and looked especially nice with a big pink chiffon pussycat bow a la Cyndi Lauper tied into it. Hookers on Hollywood Boulevard were among the most appreciative of his fashion statement.  He looked better than any of the Hispanic queens on duty there.

We’d stop at Book City and flip through Hollywood Babylon looking at our favorite vintage stars, and I’d repeat old Tinseltown scandals to him in detail.

“Pleasant,” he’d sigh adoringly, “You’re the smartest gal I’ve ever been with!”

“That’s not saying much,” I’d snap.  “You’ve only been with teenage white trash girls!”

We fell into a kind of debauched domesticity. He got a job delivering pizza and would come home and tell me about the complimentary blowjobs he’d gotten from ho’s in alleys off the Boulevard, while he put away records and dusted in nothing but stockings, garters and pumps.  He knew I was still kinda carrying a torch for the guy from T.S.O.L., but it didn’t matter.

“Ah know you’re in love with someone else, but Ah love yew,” he’s day, throwing his arms around me, smudging his pink Stagelite lip gloss passionately onto my throat.

“That’s nice,” I’d say.  “Will you make me a drink?”

One day he came over with another pal from Buena Park and a big duffel bag covered in skateboard stickers. My roommate Iris and I watched in amazement as they emptied its contents—an amount of coke that would’ve make “Scarface” Tony Montana sick with jealousy.

The four of us spent the next few days chopping, weighing, bagging, and of course, snorting mass amounts of the coke, laid out on this avocado green vinyl card table that I’d done arts and crafts on as a little kid.  We listened to Johnny Thunders over and over, talked incessantly on the phone, and used up every shred of toilet paper in the house.

  Christmas came—and it was white, of course. Christmas Eve we went to the Frolic Room out of our minds on what my brother Chuckles was now calling “goon.”  I stole Christmas balls from the bar and made earrings for the boy toy, then he bought a condom from the bathroom, and we went home and fucked with it, laughing at the novelty—neither one of us had ever used one, it being the early 80’s.

Shortly after New Year’s (we were up for three days doing “bed checks,” calling every soul we knew, wired out of our minds and billing it all on a hot credit card), his partners in crime from the Deep South showed up and talked him into taking a short trip to sell the stuff—heck, he’d be back “within the week.”

 Yeah, right.  I knew already at that point I’d probably never see him again, but he left anyway.

*                 *                *                   *
So his voice sounds exactly the same on the phone while he’s telling me that the Lord has changed his vocabulary, and I’m having all these warped fantasies—does Pentecostal mean he’s a snake handling, battery acid swilling guy in some tiny rural wooden church with people rolling on the floor, speaking in tongues, screaming and shit?  Maybe he’d still let me tie a big bow in his hair, if we could make it look more religious, like with big Madonna crucifix earrings.  Or is he more like Jerry Falwell, kind of fat and balding, but with women’s lingerie under his monkey suit and clerical collar?  Do Pentecostal ministers take confession?

We promise to keep in touch and he tells me it’s one of his dreams to rent a huge building out here, maybe even Frederick’s of Hollywood, and turn it into a giant church for a day invite all his old skating and rock’n’roll buddies to hear him preach.  He tells me he gives sermons in Haiti to thousands of people, builds new churches there, and tours all over the southern U.S.

A few days later, I get a pamphlet from his ministry and there’s an old photo of him in a police hat and ripped up jeans with a skate, sitting in the back of a vintage Caddy.  I think it was an old ad for surf and sportswear.  Under it are a few paragraphs about his was a drug addict that hung out with prostitutes and lived a decadent Hollywood lifestyle, so he really knows about the despair of inner-city sinners.  I’m thinking, I’ll say!

There’s a recent photo of him with his wife and two kids, and God, oops… I mean, gosh, he looks good, all lean and tan—you’d never guess he’d been in jail.  He looks really happy, too.

A few months later he calls excitedly and tells me he’s going to be in California for some services, and he comes to visit. I take him to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Four Square Gospel Temple in Echo Park and he can’t believe that I know who she was.

“She’s one of the most famous evangelists ever!” he said, obviously thrilled.

“She faked drowning in Santa Monica Bay and was discovered in Santa Barbara shacked up in a bungalow having an affair with her radio operator.” I answer.

Feeling guilty over this outburst, I press my cleavage up against the plate glass doors of the church and con the handyman into letting us in, even though it’s closed.  We somehow connect with the minister and he takes us around, pointing out all the temple’s amenities.

“After earthquake reparations, our balcony can now seat three hundred,” says the minister, excitedly.

“Three hundred?  Praise the God!”  answers my man of the cloth.

 I’m beginning to feel like I’m in an Altman movie or something, this is so strange.  I mean, I can remember being totally shitfaced at skateboard contests and rolling on the floors of clubs with this guy, putting on matching bustiers to go to the movies on acid, stuff like that.  As we drive home, he puts on one of Sister Aimee’s inspirational tapes.

We stop to shop for vintage clothes—he wants to look cool for the kids of his congregation.  He seems so simple and carefree; I’m wondering if it’s being born again or whatever, then I recall that he’s always been this way. One time I made him go out and get me Tampax, and when he came back with the wrong brand, I screamed at him and threw the box at his head, and he didn’t even bat an eyelash.  He went back to the store and got the right kind.

We wind up back at my house, where suddenly I’m very conscious of my paintings, all naked women, martini glasses afloat with plump olives, occult symbolism, and horned devils.  We sit on the couch drinking lemonade, I tell him about a recent car wreck I had, and he offers to heal me.

“Sure,” I say, kinda skeptical but willing to try anything to get rid of my back pain.

  “What do we have to do?”

He tells me to concentrate and shut my eyes, as he takes my hand and starts praying. His voice is even yet powerful, with a resonate tone I hadn’t noticed before.  It sounds kind of official, like a radio announcer or a news anchorman.  Every so often he’ll go, “Oh, Lord,” in a conversational way, or maybe it’s that corporate technique where you say the name of the person you’re talking to so they’ll feel more at ease and pay more attention to what you’re saying.

 I can’t resist taking a peek, and he’s sitting there with his eyes all squinched shut, really into it.  I’m thinking, he’s really, really good at this, and with his looks, why, he could be on television!  I mean, forget about those jowly old farts like Jim Bakker and Ernest Angeley—this guy could make letting Jesus into your heart sexy!

He finishes up, and pats my hand, saying he hopes I’ll feel better.  He gives me a peck on the cheek, a pristine hug and then he’s gone. 

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