Thursday, February 20, 2014


Esther's Orbit Room  today

 In the 1980's,  well before  West Oakland started becoming gentrified, Esther's Orbit Room was the  Dive Of Choice among the pioneering punks, artists, and  early Burners who were inhabiting dirt-cheap warehouses in the neighborhood.   When my all-girl band The Screaming Sirens visited Oakland,  I spent a lot of time at Phoenix Iron Works...which was right around the corner from Esther's Orbit Room, hence, I  also spent a lot of time there. Esther's  was known for making see-though Bloody Marys, meaning that the cocktails were 95% vodka.  The place was so  wild and surreal,  I  appropriated a Disney tagline and began to refer to Esther's  as "The Happiest Place On Earth".   Te geriatric cooks who made the best-and cheapest-soul food ever   would be humping  twenty-something  guys with  dreads or blue Mohawks while dancing to Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison". Under the black ceiling which was  flecked -with gold glitter,  Church Ladies in impressive hats would  rub shoulders with  pimps  and  the crew from Survival Research Labratories.  One morning I was drinking with my friend Steve Heck, patriarch of Phoenix Iron Works, as he  turned down an offer of an under- the- bar blow job from a  dwarf crack whore. I never forgave him for that.

These following pieces are from my book  first book, "Senorita Sin"...and were written on the years in the titles.


6:00am in West Oaklanddogs barking off in the distancedown here by the docks, it almost lookslike a post-nuclear movie setBroken windows and burned-down Victorian housesempty lots littered with trashjunked automobiles, overflowing dumpstersstorefronts boarded up with spray-painted plywood

Pucci is opening up the bar at Esther’s Orbit RoomSam Cooke is crooningas she wipes down the barand arranges the retro-rocket red stoolsthat have seen better days...stuffing bursting from the seams

James Brown is screamingan elderly man has a beer and passes out in a corner boothSly And The Family Stone blarePucci pours a line of sloe-gin fizzesfor the crazy rock ‘n’ roll kids who’ve obviously been up all night raving drunk

A rock deal is transacted just inside the doorway

with the day’s first light, somebody spills a drink, a barstool falls over

Percy Sledge is wailingand Pucci doesn’t give a fuckbecause it’s 6:00 in Oakland, Easter Sundaythe after-church crowd will be here soonand they tip real well


The Raiders are winningall the guys are clustered around the big-screened TVand Juanita is up there  too, screaming alongand back here near the doorway, sneaking shots of Scotch “My horoscope said I be havin’ good luck.Said I should call my broker.” She takes a furtive pull of her drink and sniffs:“I ain’t got a broker. Got me a bookie,but no broker.” A man in a greasy navy windbreaker slides in, tries to sell her a camera

“It’s thirty-eight millimeter,” he says “Bran’ new!” Juanita cackles-she’s on her fourth shot

“You mean thirty-five millimeter,” she says.

The man leaves, she stares after himpours another shot , pats her copperfoil hair into placesniffs again, adjusts her dentureswith a discreet little slurp and says, ”My horoscope say I be lucky in love this month…butI think I’m just gonna give my bookie a call.”


Tuesday, February 11, 2014



Valentine’s Day… just the thought of it makes me queasy. I’ve had so many weird, surreal and downright hellish Valentine’s Days, I often entertain the fantasy of going into hibernation on February 13th and then just popping out emotionally unscathed in the wee hours of February 15th to shoot a lingering sidelong glance at my shadow. Come to think of it, my shadow has probably been the most stable and enduring relationship I’ve ever had!

Don’t get me wrong- I’ve actually been very lucky in love and love gettin’ lucky, but in my regards to Valentine’s Day itself-and my surviving it- it’s a wonder I haven’t been a recipient of the Purple Heart, for sheer bravery, valor and life-threatening battle wounds.

 In fact, the military-slogan-bearing T-shirts stretched across the buff chests of our country’s off-duty armed forces can best sum up my personal Valentine’s Day experiences:


Or better yet:


I remember one Valentine’s Day when the only item in my mailbox that even remotely resembled a heart was a red notice from a utility company. As if that wasn’t bad enough in itself, my evening was packed with shows that only served to rub my “single” status in my face: every damn place I danced was so full of cooing couples I felt like I was performing on Noah’s Ark!

Then there was the February 14 back in the early 1980’s… the date I picked, as a hopeless twenty-year-old romantic, to be My Wedding Day.

My groom and I, in our sole nod to tradition, arrived separately (and not too hung over) at the hall where our ceremony, which had been booked for the better part of a year, was to be held.

I was a vision in an ivory Fifties strapless organza gown, with an over-lay of French lace embroidered with seed pearls. My hair, bleached White Minx, was in a fetching Monroe bob, and under my Goodwill steal of a Juliet veil, I sported my customary Revlon Cherries In The Snow lipstick. As I daintily stepped out of the car, gathering my train, I was astounded to see dozens of buckets of carnations, which had been dyed an uproarious shade of baby blue.

As I wondered who’d Dumpster-dived the Flower District in honor of my wedding, I spotted legions of Low Riders, uniformly bedecked in powder blue Polyester double-knit tuxes… tattooed jailhouse tears and pompadours covered by homeboy hairnets abounded. The four hundred or so bridesmaids were a symphony in ruffled dresses so tight and shiny they looked like they were auditioning to be the Shark’s molls in a special baby blue colorized version of Westside Story.

Just as I was starting to realize that this was not the result of my hangover or an LSD flashback and that Mr. Colorization himself, Ted Turner hadn’t been invited, the Unitarian priest who was to be presiding over my ceremony came rushing out to explain to my groom and I -and three quarters of East LA- that the hall had been double booked.

Tension ran high for a moment, but at the minister’s gentle suggestion we finally decided that a coin-toss was in order. While disgruntled guests from both camps fumbled for quarters, I heard The Best Man whisper to my groom that he had a full tank of gas, a fifth of Scotch, two hundred bucks… and that The Border was only three hours away.

Before my betrothed had a chance to answer, someone pulled out a coin, we won the flip, and had our ceremony first, amongst the blinding neon blue riot of dyed flowers. Speaking of first, I should’ve taken the scheduling snafu as an omen- that turned out to be just My First Wedding. If there are any photos that somehow survived being cut-up or burned, I can assure you they are predominantly baby blue.

Many years later, I foolishly accepted a Valentine’s Day date with Art Boy, to his first major gallery opening. Why I did it, I’ll never know; I was in the throws of an obsessive crush on my best friend, the sexually ambiguous Collegiate Art Department Head, whom Art Boy and I had met in happier times at The Blacklite, an infamous Hollywood dive bar, frequented by a garish parade of luridly made-up trannie hookers.

And there was another little glitch: Art Boy and I had been… just a teensy bit broken up -oh, excuse me, I really meant to say totally hostile and incommunicado- for months.

But hearing Art Boy’s cajoling, purring voice, I magically seemed to forget all of that… as well as the fact that when Art Boy and I had originally embarked upon our passionate and certifiably insane affair three years previously-also coincidentally on February 14th - it had resulted in the spectacularly gut-wrenching dissolution of My Second Marriage. But Art Boy poured it on shamelessly. He really missed me, he was just dying to see me belly dance again! I caved.

So I went to Art Boy’s opening, dressed for sin in a skin-tight black velvet cat suit and sky-high red platforms, glittering sequined hearts scattered throughout my ass-length, teased-up Pricilla Presley hair do. Art Boy was there, of course… but I hadn’t anticipated the bosomy redhead that was hanging all over him!

Realizing I’d been used for a free performance, I bit the bullet and decided to dance anyway, since I was already there… and at least there would be potential tips. In my frazzled state, I started downing multiple plastic cups of the cheap swill that was barely passing for Merlot.  I was starting my fifth drink when the disinterested gallery owner hustled me to a filthy, closet-sized bathroom, the only place in the gallery where I could change into my costume, since he wouldn’t allow me to use his office.

I didn’t realize that the toilet had been over-flowing until my gig bag had been sitting on the floor for quite some time… because there was no light. Foul mouthed drunks-people drunker than even I was, if that was possible-banged on the door as I changed into costume.

 While I performed, the hem of my costume got drenched in the puddles of beer that had formed on the cement floor, and someone burned a hole in my veil with a cigarette. When I finished my show, Art Boy was macking ardently on the new gal. Instantly, drinks and insults were flung from both sides. My recollection is fuzzy, but I do believe I was the one that started it.

My oldest, most-trusted friend Bobby, who was visiting from Memphis, Tennessee, quickly escorted me out of the melee like the Gallant Southern Gentleman he always has been. Somehow, we wound up at The Blacklite. Collegiate Art Department Head was already there, much to my delight. Much to my dismay, he was there with a date…but by the end of the night, I was infatuated with The Date, who looked like a cross between a gorgeous ‘70’s glam rock fag and 6’ 6” Hitler Youth, with the longest, blackest eyelashes I had ever seen- and they were real!

When the din of the jukebox died down, I detected a Euro Accent. I was madly drunk and melting from lust…and apparently, he was too. That Valentine’s Day, we began or affair- and also a five year long merry-go-round of love, lies, sex, heartbreak, stalking, drug abuse, violence, and psychological torture- between Art Department Head, Tomorrow Belongs To Him and lil’ ole me. You name it, we experienced it. It was a Love Triangle Of Bermudic proportions.

Thank god, all that Valentine’s Day insanity ended in the late 1990’s.

 I’d like to say I’ve learned from my experiences… but I know better. I seem to be feeling a little drowsy …wake me up when it’s over, will you?


The story you’ve just read is from my book  “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road” ( Punk Hostage Press, Sept. 2013)
 You can get an autographed copy here: