Monday, December 14, 2015


Santa baby, just slip a sable under the tree for me...

In the mid 1990’s, I was a member of Flowers Of The Desert Arabian Dance Company, a professional belly dance troupe put together by talented Los Angeles-based choreographer and performer Laura Crawford.  The Flowers worked regularly at Al Andalus, an Egyptian-run club in North Hollywood as well as many other clubs; we did theatrical productions, appeared on Arabic television, and at ridiculously sumptuous private parties held by the many members of the Saudi Royal family.

Our repertoire focused on the dances of The Middle East and North Africa, but we also did Bollywood, Samba, Flamenco and quirky international fusion numbers. Because the company often gigged at multiple locations in the course of an evening, and was composed of dancers who were frequently busy doing their own solo gigs, the group’s line-up would change drastically from gig to gig, often on the same night, with dancers scheduled to drop in and out according to what numbers we were doing or to meet the individual’s needs for the solo projects. This took a lot of planning, and at rehearsals when the company’s scheduling was taking place; Laura was always on the look out for new numbers to add spice to our repertoire.

During the late fall of 1996, the troupe had recently added weekend shows at a new Arabic club called Pasha. The club owners wanted a modern floor show as opposed to a more traditional production, and the performance area was small, holding six dancers tops, so this was yet another challenge we faced- creating a full, varied show with a limited amount of performers.

  At a Monday evening post-Thanksgiving rehearsal, calendar in hand, Laura announced,

“ We need a solo for this week at Pasha, and they specifically want something modern…can anyone come up with a new piece?”

 The room was strangely quiet; it was that obvious everyone was wracking their brains, trying to come up with a performance that could be ready by the weekend. Since nobody else was offering a suggestion, I volunteered.

“I could do a number to Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt,” I ventured.

“Is it ready to go?”  Laura asked, “Can we see it?”

 “Well, no…” I admitted. “But it could be ready by this weekend!”

Laura cocked her head a regarded me in a perturbed way. Sometimes she thought my  ideas were a little risqué, because many of them  really were kind of outré, if not downright scandalous. For example, I’d been nominated as the soloist in a samba number, not because of my fantastic Brazilian dance technique, but because I was the only company member who would wear a thong on stage! Another time, I’d suggested a group number that involved a West Side Story gang-girl rivalry act; with all the dancers appearing onstage clad as  Flower Power1960’s go-go dancers in hot pants, fishnets and boots.  Everyone in the company had their doubts, but the audience gave us a standing ovation and by the next show, everyone in the troupe wanted to get involved.

“How would it go?” Laura asked, “What’s the idea?”

“ Well…I’d come onto the stage in a big faux-sable coat, gloves and a Santa hat,” I said,
“… And  I’d strut around a little, taking off the gloves and coat to reveal a red velvet Christmas outfit, Then I would just sort of mime the words to the song, and walk around the tables giving everyone some personal attention.”

 A strange expression crossed Laura’s face, and the rest of the company was even more silent than they had been earlier, anxious to see what the verdict would be.
Finally, Laura said she’d think about it.

A few days went by, and apparently nobody else had come up with anything, because I got a call from Laura  the night before our gig, telling me that “Santa Baby” was a go.

“But keep it clean!” she admonished.

 I rehearsed my number into the wee hours and got the costume together, even pinning a huge rhinestone brooch and Mistletoe spray to my Santa hat.  I felt great about my new debut… until I got to Pasha, and had a look at the audience. They seemed to be all multi-generational families dressed to the nines in holiday finery. There were Lebanese, Armenian, Persian and Egyptian  people there, and I started to get a little nervous. A Bollywood number had just ended- would the crowd get what I was about to do? Would they even know who Eartha Kitt was?

As the opening strains of “Santa Baby” came over the speakers, I flung caution to the wind and sauntered out onto the stage. I removed my fake fur coat, revealing my sparkly, Sexy Elf outfit.  The crowd became still, sitting upright in their seats.  I removed my red satin gloves, walked over to a table, and “polished” an elegant, older gentleman’s bald head with one of the gloves while I sat on his lap.

 Except for Eartha Kitt’s suggestive voice, the silence was deafening…until everyone at the man’s table burst into wild hoots and applause, and the club’s photographer ran up, flash bulbs a-popping, to document the moment. With that, everyone produced their own cameras and started taking pictures, and other tables started waving me over, brandishing wads of cash over the head of the person they wanted to single out.
 I left the stage triumphantly to appreciative applause, until the club’s manager came backstage after the show- something he had never done before.

“I want to talk about  “Santa Baby” song,” he said, with a note of conviction in his voice.

All the Flowers –especially Laura- looked apprehensive, and I was afraid I might have crossed the line...and maybe get fired.

“ You must do this “Santa Baby” every show!” he declared, “Every night you come, you do this!”

 After he left, we all had a giggle, and Laura looked at me in a mixture of pride and disbelief.

“Ok, Plezzy,” she said, “You’re booked!”

I performed “Santa Baby” every Friday and Saturday night of the season,  and it was a winner every time.  On New Year’s Eve, the tips during my number lay so thick on the stage it was as though it had been covered with a snowfall of cash.

The first weekend of the New Year, we performed an entire set of brand new dances, which we’d been working on feverishly all throughout December.

 That night following our show, the club’s manager once again stormed into our dressing room, only this time he was really angry.  We couldn’t figure out why he’d be mad; we’d done a truly awesome set!

“WHERE  “SANTA BABY”?  he roared,


 Taken aback, we tried valiantly to explain to him that it wasn’t Christmas anymore, but he just shook his head in disappointment and left.


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Saturday, September 19, 2015


Poster for The Sensuous Woman Aug. 10, 2007 at the Renburg Theater, Los Angeles

 I spent most of 2007 dancing in The Sensuous Woman, comedian Margaret Cho’s boundary pushing, gender-bending burlesque and variety show. The production melded Margaret’s outrageous stand up comedy with classic as well as post-modern striptease plus a slew of hilarious song-and-dance numbers. “Sen Wo”, as we affectionately called it in homage to J-Lo, originally started as a one-off benefit show at the historic Los Angeles nightclub El Cid. It immediately sold out and we were asked to do a residency there, which lasted several months. That led to dates in San Francisco and an appearance on Fire Island, New York’s famed gay enclave. Eventually a tour was booked, which included a week in Chicago and a six-week Off Broadway run in New York City.

The show was wild by anyone’s standards. Margaret stripped langorously to classical opera until she was totally nude before parting her huge feathered fans to reveal a disturbingly realistic flaccid penis.  Transgender comedian Ian Harvie’s set focused on his misadventures trying to get a bag of dildos through the TSA security checkpoint at an airport. Selene Luna,  a 3’ 10” comedian and burlesque dancer known as “The Pocket Venus”, rode onstage in a vintage  baby carriage before toddling around stripping out of a christening gown  and frilly bonnet. Liam Sullivan performed his hit song Shoes as his teenage nerd-drag alter ego Kelly; queen-sized burlesque legend Dirty Martini did “The Patriot Act”, which concluded with her pulling an endless string of dollar bills out of her ass. Mustachioed dancer Ryan Heffington rampaged through Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana dressed in acid-washed 1980’s denim and a miniscule G-string, doing splits in over-the-knee platform boots before climbing over the chairs to assault audience members with uber-raunchy lap dances. In comparison, my Wizard Of Oz burlesque act as a slutty, stripping Dorothy Gale who gets molested by a Flying Monkey looked tame.

All prurient lunacy aside, the entire cast was always just a little stunned at the show’s popularity- who would’ve ever thought that that an audience made up of about ninety-five percent queer men would flock to a show which primarily featured women twirling tasseled pasties?

In order to up the ante even further, it was decided that for the tour, we’d add in a couple of Busby Berkely-esque group numbers for the opening and a grand finale. We moved into another residency, this time at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renburg Theater in Hollywood to woodshed the new, improved show before taking it on the road. We rehearsed at the Center through most of June and July, before finally moving into the theater itself for our dress and technical rehearsals.  We were very pleased with the venue; in addition to state-of-the-art sound and lights, the Renburg featured modern plush chairs, which reclined for optimal audience comfort.

During our first tech rehearsal, Ian and I decided to go out into the middle of the house to see what the lighting looked like from the audience.  Since it’s always difficult to know what the stage lighting looks like when you’re actually standing under it, we decided to take photos for reference.  As we whipped out our smart phones, Margaret was onstage going through her  “Chairman Meow” burlesque number.  She was in mid-striptease, wearing  a Chinese Army uniform, her twin braids peeking out from under her Mao hat.

“Hey, look at this,” Ian cried, perturbed, brandishing his phone under my nose,

“It looks like it’s snowing in here! ”

The photo he’d taken captured the entire theater as well as the stage, and the whole picture was chock full of orbs. Some people think that  orbs-the white or translucent spheres that appear as anomalies on photos -are merely dust particles on the camera lens, but others believe they’re a visual manifestation of spirits. Many are convinced that when orbs show up on film, it’s a sign that angels are nearby.

As Ian aggressively dusted off his phone screen and camera lens, just in case of dust, I snapped a photo on my phone... and the resulting picture was exactly the same as his.

 Ian cocked his head, arched an eyebrow and asked,

“Do you think these are orbs?”

We immediately both wondered out loud about the possibility of the Renburg being haunted, as many theaters are reputed to be. In fact, historically, so many theaters are alleged to be inhabited by ghosts that for the past decade, the famed New York Theater publication Playbill actually tracks- and publishes - sightings  of apparitions and other reports of paranormal activity in it’s annual Broadway Yearbook. After a “spirited” discussion, we both decided that since the Renburg Theater was built recently, it probably wasn’t haunted after all.

Just then, the theater’s director Jon Imperato came up to us, asking if we were pleased with the venue.  We assured him we were, and making small talk, Ian asked how many people the theater held. Jon’s answer stunned us into silence.

 “ We hold five hundred, “ he said, making a sweeping gesture,

“...And every seat in here is dedicated to honor the memory someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. There’s a plaque on the back of every chair.”

As Jon walked off to check on the lighting, Ian and I looked around. Indeed, every damn chair in the place had a plaque on it, with the name, birth and death dates of the individual it honored.

Glancing down at our phones to see the orb-filled photos once more, Ian and I locked eyes.

Ian wrinkled his forehead as he surveyed the theater.  He nodded imperceptibly a few times as though he was processing his thoughts, then exhaled slowly and said enthusiastically,

“Well… I sure hope all you guys enjoy the show!”


 The story you've just read is from my  forthcoming book (Super) Natural Woman  which will be published by Punk Hostage Press in 2016.

 The Sensuous Woman: left to right Ian Harvie, Margaret Cho, Dirty Martini,Ryan Heffington, Selene Luna, me

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Twitter: @pleasantGehman1

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Thursday, July 16, 2015


Kid and me at our infamous Lobotomy Magazine  punk crash pad, 909 Palm in 1977  Photo by TheresaKerakes

 In 1976, when I was seventeen, I came up with an ingenious way of buying booze. The idea was that I’d disguise myself as a practical, somewhat harried young mom who just happened to be picking up a fifth of vodka… along with the rest of her weekly household supplies.  

 I’d go to the supermarket- never a liquor store; that was an obvious bust- dressed up in what I hoped looked like   “straight lady” clothes: taupe pantyhose and a conservative beige vinyl pocketbook that had all been dumpster-dived from a Salvation Army Donation Box.  In keeping with what I imagined a Normal Housewife would look like, I’d pull my hair back in a tortoise shell Goody barrette, and apply frosty turquoise eye shadow as opposed to my customary winged Ronnettes-like tough rock’n’roll chick winged eyeliner. Then I’d put my glasses on- I’m so blind that I   need them to see more than two feet in front of me- but they were so ugly and dorky I never wore them to gigs or anywhere important.  However, they were perfect for the character I was creating!

 Somehow, I always passed. I like to think that my superlative dramatic skills were what conveyed my Young Mom Realness to the staff at the many stores where I pulled this scam.  It wasn’t until I hit my late thirties that I stopped I looking like a baby-faced pre-teen.  Hell, maybe it was the glasses after all!  So I’d   get all dressed up in my costume and collect money from my three roomies whenever we needed a drink- and that was often- before trotting off to the supermarket to score.

 The four of us lived in a non-descript 1950’s apartment building at 909 Palm in West Hollywood. Our lifestyle   was similar to a hippie commune, though our aesthetic was strictly Post Glitter Rock, informed more by John Waters and The Rocky Horror Show than The Merry Pranksters.  The lease on our place was signed by Ann McLean, a party girl whose Hammer Films Scream Queen looks belied her eternally sweet nature, and Bing Crosby’s grandson Dennis, a witty, louche bon vivant who’d spent his years at Beverly High tottering around on platform sneakers doing amyl nitrate in the hallways while he cut class.  Ann and Dennis had been fast friends ever since they’d met at Rodney’s English Disco. Tiny but legendary, Rodney’s was the ne plus ultra of Glam, where The New York Dolls, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin would get cozy with the scads of scantily-clad fourteen year-old-groupies while Rodney himself spinned Bowie and The Sweet. None of us living in the apartment were gainfully employed-or working at all- except our fourth roomie, Kid Congo, who, in his life before The Cramps and The Gun Club, took the long bus ride from our apartment to his part-time job as a clerk at Bomp! Records in North Hollywood.  At the rate we all drank, I had to pull the Young Mom stunt so often that it was absolutely necessary to rotate between the many markets in Hollywood so as not to arouse suspicion.

Once I arrived at the store, wary of any grocery clerk’s watchful gaze and with the craft of a highly trained Method actor, I’d stroll down the aisles at a leisurely pace,  acting out “comparison shopping”  on stuff like sponges, Tupperware and cooking utensils.  Since my roomies and I were on an extremely limited budget, literally scraping up pennies from the carpet to buy our hooch, the concept was to keep up the ruse while at the same time spending as little money as possible  on non-alcoholic things.  In addition to the all-important vodka, my regular checkout haul included three or four jars of baby food, a roll or two of toilet paper, and a package Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Top Ramen.

 The booze was consumed instantly, the food got wolfed down in short order, and we were never without bathroom tissue.  But after a few months, the jars of baby food became a problem; they began to take over our kitchen.  We were all so poor we were loathe to waste food, so once in a while someone would wind up eating a jar of Gerber’s mashed plums or add some Toddler Chicken Bits to their Top Ramen, but even that never made a dent in our supply.

At one point, in a moment of practicality, Ann suggested we simply return the baby food to the stores and get the cash, but I nixed the idea. First of all, it was impossible to tell which store all the jars came from, and it wasn’t like I saved the receipts! More importantly, I was afraid that it would blow the entire scam if I suddenly showed up at some market with, like, twenty or so full jars of strained spinach… what would I say, that my quintuplets died suddenly?

So the ruse continued, and started to spread. Once I explained the concept to my close friend Theresa Kereakes, a talented photographer who worked with me on my punk rock fanzine, Lobotomy: The Brainless Magazine, she took to the idea like a duck to water. Soon, her cabinets were chock-full o’ baby food jars too.

 When Blondie first played The Whisky in February 1977, we held a party for them at Theresa’s pad. Amidst the Quaalude and Burgie Beer-drenched mayhem, we locked ourselves in the bathroom with the band to conduct an interview for Lobotomy.  The resulting cassette was uproarious, with standard interview questions interspersed with Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri yelling about The Bay City Rollers, Debbie giggling uncontrollably, and Chris Stein singing an off-key rendition of “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” with lyrics changed to reference the roadie they shared with The Dead Boys, Michael Sticca.

Outside of the tiny bathroom, the party was in full swing, with pretty much all of Hollywood’s nascent punk scene in attendance.  All of the Go-Go’s were  there, of course, as well as Joan Jett, The Screamers and  The Plungers- Helen, Trudy, and Mary Rat. Members of The Germs, X, The Berlin Brats, The Bags, and pretty much Everyone Who Was Anyone made the scene, too.

That particular soiree was so wild, it was an absolute miracle the cops weren’t called -as they had been so many times before. It took a really long time to clear the apartment, and when it was finally empty, the place was more of a wreck than it had ever been...and that was saying something! Beer bottles and empty half-pints of booze covered every available inch of surface, as well as most of the floor. In the midst of the debris, we noticed that poor Kid was passed out cold on the kitchen floor.  He was a stalwart drinker who was like The Energizer Bunny- he was usually among the last standing at any particular event; tonight, incongruously, he was out cold. After numerous attempts to wake him up and help him move to a more comfortable spot to sleep it off, Theresa and I finally gave up…until I was struck with a lighting bolt of an idea for a practical joke.

 I opened the cabinet and grabbed an armful of the baby food jars.

“We’re gonna spread this shit all over the floor and around Kid’s mouth,” I yelled, laughing hysterically, 

“When he wakes up, he’s gonna think he puked all over the place!”

Theresa and I opened up all the jars and began to mix the strained peas and carrots with the chunky beef stuff to affect the appearance of a huge pile of Jack Daniel’s puke on the floor, directly adjacent to Kid’s face. With the precision and artistry of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, we daubed a bit of the disgusting stuff around Kid’s mouth and on his chin. In punk rock homage to Jackson Pollack, Theresa stepped back and flung some onto Kid’s arm as well. Satisfied that our endeavor was Puke Perfection, we decided to leave the horrendous mess of bottles and cans for the morning, took some aspirin and went to bed.

We awoke to the delicious scent of cooking bacon, which was almost-but not quite- enough to ease our hangovers, which were brutal. With the hunger that can only come after a night of binge drinking, we both enviously assumed that the smell was drifting in from a neighbor’s window.  Stepping into the living room, we were astounded to see that all the dead soldier beers, paper cups and booze bottles were piled into three huge trash bags sitting by the front door. As if that wasn’t enough, the dishes were done, the floors had actually been mopped, and Kid was standing at the stove, frying eggs to go along with the bacon he’d just finished preparing.  It also sunk in that Kid had to have gone to the store to get the food, too, cause it wasn’t like there was ever anything to eat in either apartment.

Theresa and I were speechless with shock- shit like this never happened.

 Seeing our stunned expressions, Kid ducked his head sheepishly as he handed us plates of breakfast.

“You guys….” he began tentatively,

 “I have a confession.  Last night, I…uh… kind of made a mess…so I cleaned the house.”

Theresa and I shared a sidelong glance, and  then just started chowing down.  We hadn’t anticipated the house cleaning or the breakfast,  but weren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth!

 We were so consumed with guilt that it took us years-make that decades- for us to  ‘fess up and tell him the truth.


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Saluting my country on July 4th, early 1980's

 In 1979, if you were an unskilled, unemployed pyromaniac, you were always assured of employment at one of the many Red Devil Fireworks stands that sprung up around LA County in the weeks before Independence Day. The only job qualifications necessary were a moron’s grasp of arithmetic and being crazy- or desperate- enough to work twelve hour shifts at the height of summer in a screened-in, corrugated aluminum shack surrounded by roughly three tons of explosives.

 I didn’t have to fill out a job application. At the beginning of every summer, my roommates and I threw wild all-night punk rock parties that went on non-stop for days on end. When one of the drunken revelers asked me how I could possibly manage to do this and still hold down a job, I explained that I was unemployed. Back then it was tough to get work if you had pink hair. This guy said he could help me out, scrawling an address on the side of a Coor’s carton. I reported to the location the next morning, bleary eyed and hung over, along with five other guests who’d spent the night and were in the same condition.

We were hired on the spot.

The firework stand was located on a vacant lot at  the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Robertson in Culver City. Though we were a motley crew with our unevenly cropped and dyed hair, Blondie and Clash T-shirts, stiletto heels and motorcycle boots, our co-workers all appeared to be fresh from the  LA county correctional facilities. There was a cholo who showed up every day-no matter how hot it was- in corduroy house slippers and a plaid wool Pendleton buttoned all the way up. He had his girlfriend’s initials in gold pierced into his ears, an 18th street tattoo on his neck, a jailhouse tear in the corner of his left eye, and a crude cross with C/S for “Con Safos” inked into the web of skin between his thumb and index finger. There was a trailer trash woman of indeterminate age who was never without bubblegum pink rollers in her hair. She must’ve weighed an easy two hundred and seventy-five pounds, and complained constantly in a whiny South Carolina accent about how her feet hurt. And then there was Roger, a genial senior citizen who did nothing but guzzle beer all day in the corner while he pulled apart dozens of Piccolo Petes and Sonic Screamers. He’d add new fuses and with the precision of a skilled surgeon, join all the smaller fireworks together to make bootleg Roman Candles. He turned out to be the boss of the operation.

The six of  us- underage punks, artists and alcoholics -fit in perfectly. We soon learned the difference between Ground Bloom Flowers and a Cave Of Pearls, Serpent Charmers or Witch’s Cauldron fountains, Smoke Pots and Magic Rainbow Snakes. It took me under two days to get on a beer-sharing basis with Roger, and soon there was an industrial sized cooler full of booze on ice, available to anyone who wanted to imbibe. We knew from the many posted signs that it was illegal to smoke within three hundred feet of the stand, so cigarette breaks became a frequent group affair, and we took them even more often once we discovered that Julio, the 18th Street guy, was never without killer buds.

 One of the girls I brought in made long, lovelorn calls on the stand’s payphone to her rock star boyfriend in England, charging them on a hot credit card. She shared the number with me and I got in on the action too, also calling the UK to talk to my English Teddy Boy flame plus the famous  British punk star I was having a simultaneous affair with. I shared the  bogus credit card with Julio, who  gave the number to a homie who was incarcerated. Since nobody else but us ever used the payphone, after a half pint of Jack Daniels, Roger just looked the other way.

The day I decided to show up for work in a skimpy halter top, Roger singled me out as a protégée, carefully teaching me his secret to crafting Bottle Rockets. Occasionally a sleek, ominous- looking black sedan would pull up to the side of the stand. A swarthy man in a crisp white shirt and Rayban Wayfarers would step out of the car, open the trunk, and all the employees and most of the customers would cluster around, waving money.

Naively, I asked Roger what was going on.

 “Oh,” he said, taking a long swig of his beer and wiping his mouth on his sleeve,

“He goes down to Mexico and gets real fireworks…none of this candy ass shit we sell!”

 You could buy a quarter stick of dynamite from the guy for thirty cents. Next time the sedan showed up, I was there, cash in hand.

We’d come home every night drunk out of our minds, exhausted, blackened from head to toe in gunpowder, flash powder, sawdust and shredded strips of Asian newspaper, our under-the-table pay  stuffed into our pockets in big gangster rolls. By the end of the first week, I knew that while Chinese fireworks had the most amazing colors, American fireworks were much louder.  I also learned that a Boilermaker was bourbon and beer mixed together, how many strategically placed M80’s it took to blow up a two-story house, and whom the 18th Street gang was going to hit next.  I discovered that a Cherry Bomb wasn’t just a Runaways song, but a highly potent illegal explosive that had been banned in the USA under the 1966 Child Safety Act. My bootleg Bottle Rockets were starting to look pretty damn professional, too.

One of the guys I’d brought in found out how to fudge the inventory and was bringing home a case each of Ground Bloom Flowers and Sparklers every day. He told Roger he was moving and needed the boxes. I’d sit bored at the cash register, my hands coated with a  thick, scaly, shiny mixture of dried Elmer’s Glue mixed with Bonne Bell lip gloss in grotesque  peeling layers. When an innocent customer would ask if the fireworks were safe, I’d reply, “Safe And Sane!” before pushing the change through the cashiers grate with my mangled looking paw, delighting at the look of shock and horror registering on their faces.

Inside the stand, my friends and I would bend down over stacks of Family Pack Displays and whistle a series of  descending notes long and low through our teeth, watching  the rest of the staff frantically scramble on top of one another trying to get through the lone exit before the place blew sky high. As Independence Day approached, we pulled a string of all nighters, blasting The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, which almost- but not quite- drowned out the Southern woman’s bitching about her aching feet.

 The Fourth of July was an anticlimax.

 We spent it on the beach in Santa Monica, but now, being insiders, we just couldn’t really get into the city-sanctioned display…we wanted volume, we wanted fire power, we wanted Total Destruction. Besides, Roger had passed out inside the stand, and we were all  a little too chicken to blow up all the  gigantic illegal Roman Candles and Bottle Rockets he’d so lovingly prepared.  Instead, we dropped a trail of lit up stolen Ground Bloom Flowers out the back window of our battered Honda, all the way from the beach to Hollywood. We stayed up all night drinking at my place Disgraceland, lighting fireworks in the bathtub and on our porch, throwing them out the windows at random to startle the  late night revelers passing by.

The next morning, we returned to the firework stand, but like Brigadoon, it had vanished. The site had been returned to its original state: an abandoned lot. It was completely desolate and sad, with nothing left but a few shreds of red, white and blue bunting blowing in the wind, empty beer bottles and a couple of dud Lady Fingers scattered among the weeds in the sandy dirt.

Later that week, I received a final check for overtime and a handwritten note asking if I’d like to work at a Christmas tree lot in December.

 I declined.


The story you’ve just read is from my forthcoming book, Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere, slated for publication on Punk Hostage Press in  2016.

 Purchase a signed copy of my latest book, Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road

Saluting my country...more recently

Friday, June 19, 2015


Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso, 1937

We haven’t seen each other for more than six months, after an intense affair which was packed with enough peaks and lows to give even the most foolhardy or courageous person a nervous breakdown.  And now here we are in Paris, neither of us sure exactly what is going on between us.  After four days of visiting monuments, getting drunk on the steps of Sacre Coeur, dropping acid at Jim Morrison’s grave, careening around Pigalle smashed on Pastis, having conversations and lots of hungover sex in the crack of two single beds pushed together to form a double one, we still don’t know.

The humidity is unbearable, close and claustrophobic. We’ve spent the day lost on the Metro, but now it’s twilight, and we’re having A Situation in our tiny, cramped hotel room.  Music drifts up from the street below, and what began as a request for a goodbye kiss—he’s supposed to be going home tonight—has somehow escalated into a surreal disjointed discussion of our relationship. All the doubts and fears and misconceptions are offered up for examination, things which had- until this point remained unstated- are coming to light. I feel tears well up and try to hide them at first, but then don’t see the point in it.  I’ve been keeping a lid on my feelings for most of the time we’ve known each other, thinking (correctly) that any emotional display would horrify him.

Of course, we’ve been drinking all afternoon.

I am suddenly Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” come to life, and it isn’t pretty. The brilliantly colored cubist planes  that seemed interesting on canvas  do not translate well on a human being.  Both my  eyes are on sideways, tears flying out like fragments of broken glass to match my fragmented psyche.  My mouth is a  distorted gash of red like a bleeding open wound…or maybe that should be a bleeding open womb. I feel helpless and damaged, palms sweaty, hands shaking.  Hysterical.

Everything he’s saying is a lie, I’m certain of it.  Whether it’s intentional or just something he’s trying to convince himself of,  it doesn’t matter right now.  He’s wound around me like a snake, physically and figuratively.  I want to escape but can’t leave the heat of his skin, and the tears won’t stop no matter what.

He’s telling me he wants to end our sexual relationship, touching me the whole time, stroking my hair, his palms soft on my skin as he holds me, rubbing my back lightly.  I hear what he’s saying, and yet I still am finding comfort in his arms, inhaling his familiar scent, feeling his bare skin.  In a moment of lucidity I realize that I can’t figure out if I want to fuck him, or just be held and have him comfort me like a baby, even though he’s the one that’s making me feel this way to begin with.  Undoubtedly, this is one of the more perverse moments I‘ve ever experienced.  I find it hard to believe we’re having this conversation in bed with no clothes on.  I find it hard to believe that this conversation is taking place at all.  It’s difficult to tell who is more out of control, me or him.

“When I came here,” he says, “The whole way on the train, I wasn’t sure if we were going to have sex.”

“When I came here,” I answer, my voice taking on a nasty shrill edge, “The whole way on the plane, I didn’t know either…but I  notice we both brought huge boxes of condoms!”

I cannot see how any of this is ever going to be resolved, especially considering the fact that we now reside on two different continents.  It seems to me that with his words, he is denying everything that ever happened between us, but with his actions, he feels the same way that I do.  Clearly, he thinks with his head , no matter how twisted his logic might be, and I think with my heart. The pain I am feeling is expansive, with no end in sight.  We have reached a stalemate.

All I can do is cry.  Can’t talk, can’t smoke.  Can’t look in the mirror, I’m blinded by tears.  I cry the contact lenses right out of my eyes.  He’s drinking straight from the bottle and I won’t any more.  It’s not doing the trick now, anyway.  Raw emotion has nullified any effects it might have.  I’m scaring myself now.  I take a Xanax to calm down but all it does is cause my speech to slur slightly.  I feel frighteningly sober and completely lost.  I feel like I’m outside of myself, floating somewhere near the ceiling of the room, watching this sick scene unfold.  The tears still won’t stop, it’s like a year’s worth of tears have been bottled up and the floodgates have broken.  By now, it’s dark.

“Have I broken your heart?”  he asks, not without concern.
“When, recently?” I practically scream, amazed that my sense of irony can still function at a moment like this.

The next morning I wake up in the wrong bed, unaware of when I fell asleep.  My eyes are nearly swollen shut from crying.  Hazy sunlight is streaming in through the cheap gauze curtains with the sounds of Paris coming to life just after daybreak.  He is still sleeping, but leaving this afternoon.  There are bottles, cans, and shredded tissues all over the floor. 

The pillows are smeared with a massacre of lipstick and black with a ruin of  tear-washed mascara: love notes to an assassin who didn’t quite finish his job.


Get a signed copy of the book this story is from, Escape From Houdini Mountain – or my latest book Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage, And On The Road here:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


 The story you are about to read is Part Two of  a memoir from  a Road Trip From Hell that took place in 2002. It's full of  psychic phenomena, odd  coincidences, and unexplained paranormal weirdness...Enjoy!

 All the hair on my body stood on end. I shuddered in utter disbelief, chills running up my spine.  I felt like I was drowning, like my brain was being sucked slowly and loudly out of my skull. In the midst of it all, my thoughts came thick and fast.

 How was this even possible…especially after the episode with My Electrical Disturbance? Why the hell hadn’t I paid attention to that damn gas pump?  More importantly, how come  my apparent clairvoyance had shown me  “Chinatown”, and not the part about the police pulling us over? What the fuck?

 I started crying hysterically again, and at some point, still in my clothing, fell into a deep, fitful sleep. I awoke suddenly to blinding desert sunlight and the tinny sounds of ranchera music on a cheap radio, floating above the roar of   the maid’s vacuum cleaner in the room next door. I took a shower and tried to apply make-up over my tear-swollen eyes. I was gonna need every bit of what was left of my feminine wiles to   figure out storing the truck, not to mention getting out of Seligman, considering the fact that I was twelve bucks away from being flat broke.

Grabbing a paper cup full of the brown crayon water that was masquerading as coffee in the lobby, I began trying think coherently about negotiating vehicle storage at the tow yard, not to mention financing my trip back home.

 The Chuck Norris guy greeted me brusquely with a grunt as I entered his garage. He rolled out from beneath the chassis, dressed in worn, grease-stained coveralls. Lighting a Marlboro, he repeated his terms, and then asked if my boyfriend had gotten out of jail. I started weeping again, snot dribbling out of my nostrils as I recounted the previous nights events…leaving out the crazy paranormal shit so I wouldn’t sound completely insane.

 “Oh, man…please don’t cry!” he begged, his demeanor changing unexpectedly,

 “ I just cannot handle seeing a woman crying!”

 He pulled out a plastic orange crate, gesturing for me to sit down as he handed me a clean red chamois cloth to wipe my eyes with and a glass of water.

 “You seem like a nice person, “ he said earnestly, “ I know you’re really upset…and I’m not sure why your boyfriend is in jail…”

“I’m not either!” I wailed, lips quivering, snot bubbling out of my nostrils like a child, “They wouldn’t tell me!”

He looked me straight in the eyes and told me he would store the truck until James got out of jail, and only charge me five buck a day instead twenty five, but that I had to promise to mail him the cash as soon as I got home.  Gratefully agreeing to his terms, I offered to leave my license as collateral, but waved his hand in dismissal. Writing me up a receipt, he said a Greyhound bus came through the town, and let me use the shop phone to make a reservation. The automated voice stated that the bus only came through Seligman every three days; apparently, I’d just missed one. Seligman, known as  “The Birthplace of Route 66” is located in Northern Arizona’s Upland Mountains,  “conveniently located” exactly 180 miles away from both Phoenix and The Grand Canyon…which was a euphemism for “in the middle of nowhere”.

 As I hung up in despair, the tow driver told me I could get a flight from Flagstaff to Phoenix, so I could then fly to LA. I reached my sister, told her the predicament, and she called back after she’d booked the flights for me.  Wolfing down the Snickers bar the guy offered me after he called the taxi service, I thanked him gratefully and profusely for his kindness. Things were actually starting to look up!

The “cab” which turned out to be a black 1980’s Cadillac Seville with a burgundy velvet interior, arrived an hour and change later. The sunburned driver was portly in a plaid shirt, Polyester pants and a shocking white comb-over. Holding the door open for me, he told me that the journey to Flagstaff would take roughly two hours. Shaking Chuck Norris’ hand, I stepped into the car’s front seat and we took off.

 Neil Diamond was playing softly on the radio as we drove through the barren desert. Thinking of Pa in jail, I felt tears welling up again. Staring out the window at the scrubby landscape, I tried to be as silent as possible, just for the sake of being polite.

An hour or so went by before the cabbie, in a timid voice, ventured,

“Miss? I know this isn’t any of my business, and I don’t know what happened to you, but I hope you’ll be all right… I don’t want to pry… but…”

Taking a measured breath, he continued,

“ I wanted to let you know that… you’re… the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had in my cab.  I’m a married man, so I don’t… mean anything by this…but, uh, I want to help, so… this ride is on me”.

 I looked over at his sincere face, and burst into tears again, loudly and for real.

“Thank you so much!”  I sobbed.

We drove the rest of the way in silence. When he let me out at the Flagstaff Airport he wouldn’t take a tip, just patted me on the arm in a fatherly way and wished me luck.  Even though the airport was the size of a postage stamp with only one runway, because   the September 11th tragedy had was still a brand new open wound, the security line was a bitch.

 As it happened, I had a  Starred Ticket, which meant I was singled out for  “secondary search”. The extremely thorough agents succeeded in knocking six keys off my brand new laptop. Then they confiscated all the vintage diaper pins inside my bag.  Like, sure, I was totally planning to hi-jack the plane by brandishing a diaper pin decorated with a yellow plastic ducky! As they did this, a woman breezed through the line wearing one of those giant American Flag pins made of beads- and twenty or thirty safety pins.

 “What about her? “ I asked indignantly. “She’s got tons of safety pins on!”

“Oh, “ the security agent said, “That’s just jewelry!”

 With all the security procedures, I barely made my plane, which turned out to be a single-engine eight seater. Five passengers were men, ranging from executives to desert rats, and there was a pair of newly weds who’d obviously been honeymooning at the Grand Canyon. Their affection made me lonely for Pa and their clean-cut appearance made me envious. It was clear that neither of them had never jumped on the hood of a police car like a lunatic, experienced psychic issues involving popular films, or  gotten stranded in a surreal one-horse town with no money.  I felt immensely sorry for myself and during the bumpy take off,  and the crying kicked in again.

 I didn’t even notice the incredible turbulence until the flight attendant started doling out barf bags to everyone- handing me my bag along with small package of Kleenex. As we flew directly into a vicious thunderstorm, the plane hurdled up and shot down hundreds of feet like a thrill ride. Shell shocked, I watched with a detached fascination as huge, fake-looking white bolts of lightning practically bounced off the wings.  Passengers were heaving loudly and the entire cabin reeked of vomit. The new bride clutched her husband’s hand praying out loud and the pilot yelled frantically into his headset as the flight attendant white-knuckled her seat.

 After what seemed like forever, the plane burst out of the storm and into glaring sunlight, making an abrupt descent into Phoenix. Everyone filed off the plane and onto the tarmac like zombies.

 Since I had an hour to kill- and had almost died- I found the closest bar right away. Gulping down two shots of vodka in quick succession, I noticed the woman on the stool next to me staring…I’m a fucking wreck.  She looked like a Casino Trash Bingo Lady from Laughlin who’d been a stripper in her youth, with her fried blonde hair and sun–damaged skin covered in harsh, cheap make up.

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt”, she said with a kind, knowing expression crossing her weathered face.

 “Your drinks are on me!” she stated firmly, ordering me another shot.

 I don’t remember the flight back to LA, or getting home. Immediately I called I called Prescott and learned that Pa had been transferred to The Yavapai County Detention Facility.  I Googled the number and called, waiting through a series of automated prompts and recordings before I got a human being. At first, the CO wouldn’t let me talk to him or leave a message, explaining that inmates couldn’t receive messages unless there was a Verified Emergency Situation. After I called back six or seven times in quick succession pretending to be a pregnant spouse, in exasperation the guy finally said he’d give Pa the message and allow him to place a collect call to me.

 Half an hour later, I gladly accepted the charges, rejoicing in hearing James’ voice. He sounded good in spite of everything he’d been through: getting shackled with the “4-piece” – the cuffs and chain arrangement usually reserved for serial killers- while sitting in the back of a squad car and then on a bench in Prescott waiting to get processed. He’d gone to jail in ancient, shredded jeans and a T-shirt emblazoned with a ventriloquist dummy that had a bloody Manson X on its forehead and “Puppet Terror” in drippy horror movie letters. He didn’t have a cent on him and was barefoot, so he was booked as an “indigent”. He still hadn’t found out why he was being held or when he’d be released, but he sounded good. I promised to wire cash to be put into his commissary account and we phone-kissed. The call ended far too quickly, but reassured that my lover wasn’t being mistreated; I slept peacefully for just over twenty-four hours.

 The next couple of days were filled with calls to his mother  (who, not surprisingly, was cautious and suspicious each time we spoke) and cyber-stalking the Yavapai County Detention Center, to the point that I knew how many employees the place had and all about the new prison-wide plumbing system that was being installed.  

 In a couple more days, Pa finally found out why he was being detained. It turned out that a court summons had erroneously been sent to an address at which he hadn’t lived at for years. Eventually it turned into a bench warrant, and the recent passing of the Patriot Act had qualified any fugitives from justice to be extradited back to the state they’d fled for trial and/or punishment. So Pa was held in custody in Arizona until New Mexico sent for his transport, which would land him in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, until his trail. We’d definitely need a criminal lawyer to unravel this mess, even though it stemmed from a clerical error.

 I was at an absolute loss at how to find a competent attorney in another state. There were dozens of them listed, but trying to actually reach one on the phone was impossible. Either the lawyers would be “busy” and I’d be forced speak to a clueless paralegal who didn’t understand the situation and apparently never left a message, or it was suggested I come to New Mexico for a consultation- yeah, right! And then I remembered Mr. V.

  I’d known Mr. V for years- he’d gone to school with one of my sisters. Somehow during a boozy party at her place,  Mr. V had pegged me as a libertine, and  pulled me aside  to confidentially ask me  for sexual advice  regarding his current girlfriend.  Evidently, I counseled him quite well, because he began calling me every few months to ask my take on getting a girl to role-play or how to introduce light bondage into a relationship.  These calls became regular... like, every time he had a date (and he was dating a lot) but they were clean and clinical as opposed to kinky, I didn’t feel creeped out at all.  I was starting to feel like an unpaid sex therapist though. When he called for the third time in one week, wondering about coercing his latest fling into getting spanked, I joked that he would have to repay me someday.  Since Mr. V was a former state senator who was currently a lawyer…that time was now.

As luck would have it, Mr. V was happy to reciprocate, hooking me up with a man who was supposed to be the best criminal defense attorney in the Southwest; he even wrote a personal letter of recommendation. The lawyer took the case, but the court date wouldn’t be set until Pa was extradited back to New Mexico.

Meantime, James seemed to be having a fine time in the Detention Center, as detailed in his many letters to me. Along with heartfelt passages about how much he missed me, he wrote descriptions of day-to-day prison life.  Apparently, because I was still calling the prison constantly to check on his status, I’d become something of a celebrity among the correctional officers. During the Lights Out rounds, while dragging his baton along the metal bars, one of them had even taken to clandestinely whispering out of the side of his mouth, “Hey! your wife called again!”

His correspondence described all the various inmate cliques:  the Mexicans who’d life weights by attaching plastic trash bags full of water to each side of a broomstick, the trannies who offered hair cuts to other inmates from their cell-salons, the Meth freaks and the White Power guys.  He wrote about the shitty food- and the people who served it.  The prison had separate buildings for men and women in the same compound, and the food-serving trustees worked both sides. For a price, they’d smuggle foil-wrapped notes (hidden under the lid of the meal plastic containers) back and forth between lovers who resided in different cellblocks.  One letter of Pa's included pencil rubbings of the tweaker graffiti carved into the metal benches, another was written from the viewpoint of an ET who’d somehow been incarcerated.

Through the grapevine, he learned that many of the inmates believed Yavapai County was shaped like a Pentagram, and that the Sheriff’s office was the very tip of the star. Then there was The Truth Hurts Incident. The only channel the big screen television in the common room ever played was MTV, all day and night. Pa just happened to be watching when my video made its debut. All the convicts were crowded around the   TV, whistling and catcalling at the hip-hop hotties shaking their booties. When I swirled onto the screen in my sparkly blue and gold costume and veils, undulating in a “private dance” for Dr. Dre, Pa proudly announced to everyone that I was his girlfriend. Of course they all thought he was joking!

He’d also become the star of a true Big House rags-to-riches story. Because of his artistic talent, he was now rolling in cigarettes, candy bars, Hostess Cakes, postage stamps, and Swiss Miss drink packets…. all paid to him gladly by his fellow inmates. He was doing a roaring business drawing birthday and greeting cards to send to their mothers, wives and baby-mommas. His work was composed of intricate pencil drawings decorated with cherubs, hearts and roses colored in vivid yellows, and reds and greens, using un-cooked Jell-O mix as paint.  He even designed a tattoo of a raging bull for somebody, and then watched it get inked into the guy’s skin by hand. I could practically see the headlines: Jailhouse Indigent Makes Good!

  On the last day it was possible to extradite James from Yavapai County to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, the New Mexico officers showed up. They’d flown over in a Cessna to bring James back to wait for his trial.  Green-faced, one of the cops was so sick and terrified in the tiny plane that Pa wound up holding his hand the entire way.

The jail there was vastly different than in Arizona- Pa was put into General Population, which was basically a huge cage full of crazy people.  In comparison, the Yavapai Country Detention center had been a cakewalk. He kept a low profile as he waited for another two weeks for his day in court.

Apparently, Mr. V had done an absolutely bang-up job of finding an attorney. Though the lawyer was hideously expensive, he was, for real, the best criminal defense attorney in the state. He was also the presiding judge’s golf buddy, and had been a mentor to the prosecuting lawyer when he’d been in law school!

 A few days after the trial, James returned to Hollywood in his rattletrap pick up truck.  He hugged me long and tight and we kissed for eons.

“I brought you a present from jail!”, he said jubilantly, handing me a grocery bag and a tattered paper clipping.

 Some guys learn how to crack safes or become bookies when they’re on the inside; others kill their fellow inmates with shanks made from a toothbrush. But Pa had been going through magazines in Albuquerque, looking for recipes. The one he handed me was for Southern Fried chicken, written by Martha Stewart…a good two years before she herself was incarcerated.

“I’m starving,” Pa said, getting out a frying pan.
 “Let’s try this!”

 As I handed him the contents of the grocery bag, he squeezed me and sighed regretfully,

You know, when we were in Kingman, and  the gas pump said $9.11? I didn’t think that was a good sign, and I wanted to stay there at the motel…but I didn’t tell you because I thought you’d think I was crazy!” 


This story  excerpt is from my memoir Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road, published September 2013 by Punk Hostage Press. 
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