“And then I go and spoil it all by saying
Something stupid . . . “
by Emily Figueroa + Katie Royal + Maxwell Trautmann
Click on above image to meet the authors!
Elephants Fall From the Sky
On Stage: Podium on Stage Left
Audience Lights Shut Off
ENTER: Andrew- center stage with mic
Emcee Andrew’s Introduction:
Don’t look for Veracity.
Check. Check. Check the Poetry. Read it then Shred it.
Katy (peeks through curtain): Yeah, I Said it.
Wallie (backstage): You Said wut?
Lili enters/ Lili Taps! (20-30 seconds)
CUE Music: Rebel Rebel (Song length TBD.)
- Ariana and Brie enter from audience
- Rebel Rebel performance – Lili and Emily enter during song
- All dancers exit
Change light to pink
ENTER: KATY center stage with mic
Katy’s Spoken Word:
Title: The Boys Are Back in Town
“Hell no.” said Topcat, as she took a drag.
“Hell no to those in the know.” “Fuck.”
“Fine.” “Somebody pass me a mirror, cuz I ain’t got much time.” Where the Hell’s my Wine?”
Catty chimed, “We look better now than we did back then, and aren’t you curious?
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
Topcat lassoed the twins, Fran and Rick, along with Scott, Valvur, and Neuner. We fixed up in the Upper Room: The Ruthless, “addition.” Some would consider it an eyesore, a ramshackle shack detached from the rambling main house. These days had seen better days.
70s party paradise. Peter Jacuzzi lived down the road. Yes, that Jacuzzi. “You’re soaking in it.”
Flash in the past. Fifteen minutes of fame. Parade of charades. We didn’t care, we didn’t wear underwear.
At the High School Reunion, The Smoker’s Corner Crowd sparked up ciggies outside the banquet hall. Tennys Duffy walked our way. “I’ve always loved the way you smoke cigarettes. You make it look so Kool.” With a K.
Tennys never gave the time.
Neither did Charlie Vance. Nor Topher. Or the Oddone brothers. Had they not been so hot, the spelling of their surname . . . odd ones undone.
Devin, the original Kingsman, married Homecoming Queen. She’d just published a Top Ramen cookbook and popped out a couple of kiddles. Both 23 and harried.
Catty batted her Maybelline burnt match lined lashes (velvet black) and smacked her “Lips to Match Your Mood” lip balm. 2 kinds: “Are you a Virgin or a Slut?” “. . . Moisturizes and protects cheap, chapped or just plain overused lips.”
Topcat, the twins, Valvur, and Neuner jammed out for the Grand Slam. Reminiscing about their junior high Physics teacher, Mr. D., in a Denny’s back booth one Friday night lights out. Making out w/ a glam gal. No wife in sites.
Feeling British, Scott and Catty drove up to Orinda Downs on the wrong side of the road.
The “Julie Holbrook Let’s Just Be Friends” boys were throwing a kegger.
PINK LIGHT OFF/ STAGE LIGHTS ON
NOTE: LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK DURING POEM
I heard a rumor today about you
They said you were wrong
You gotta stop acting like that
I know we’re friends but you don’t have much more
You walk funny
Let me teach you how to walk normal
You also wear your pants wrong
Let me show you
See now you look normal
Now we should practice what you say to people
When they ask you what you did this weekend don’t say “like” or
So now I can feel good about defending you because before it was hard for me.
You don’t realize the pressure you put on me.
It’s like I’m the only friend you have that actually cares about you.
You don’t realize what I’m teaching you is to make the school like you.
It’s not as if I don’t like you.
I just find it hard to walk with you
Talk with you
Shop with you
Eat with you
Play with you
Skate with you
That one time I wanted to smoke with you, you said no like it
was bad for you.
LIGHTS BLACK OUT BY END OF POEM
SET STAGE: (45 seconds)
- Stagehands bring on coffin
- Five ladies enter with own chair
- Extras enter
- Boys enter
Title: MAC’S SCENE
Stage lights up
KATIE ENTERS- begins narration
- Ladies pay respects during initial narration
- Ladies sit by time Katie says XMAS lights
Men exit with coffin as narrator says last line
LINE: “and made their way to Luz’s party” – LIGHTING BLACK OUT
Luz enters during blackout with beach chair and cooler midstage right
LIGHTS ON: Optional blue and pink light to set scene for party?
LINE: “not even him, but us, together” BOYS EXIT – Luz takes chair and cooler
Katie’s finishes narration
LINE: “It was Christmas in July” LIGHTS BLACKOUT
Dancers ENTER, Katie Exits to AUDIENCE
SIMULTANEOUS: CUE FAME/ LIGHTS ON
Transition to: FAME
Music: Fame (Song length TBD.)
Katy & Wallie’s Spoken Word:
Andrew: From the west to the east, these ladies are never the least . . .
Katy: Who are you calling a lady?
Andrew: Ad lib Title: Memoirs of a Matriarch: It’s All Fun Until You Break a Nail
Katy: Pivot turns and past burns, too-toos in full effect. Matriarchs on a mission, Christmas afoot, ripping and zipping through the aisles. This diva guided me, as I did her. Cooking up pork, handing me a fork. Serving up knowledge and strive. I took the dive. After New Year’s, she dressed me in gold and sent me on my way. Which way?
Up, of course.
Wallie: It was like . . . the theme music to the Wicked Witch of the West bicycling. Driving the jeep, raving, from store to store, buying up the Christmas chore. No time to settle the score.
Waking up from sleep. Shhh . . . Don’t make a peep.
She’s the Veep. It was like falling into the deep. Being touched by Meryl Streep.
Sins on your soul will seep. What you sow is what you’ll reap. And we weep.
Bleep. Or, we write memoirs. We are matriarchs of course.
Title: How a Trans Girl and Divorcée Came to Slay
Fox and I walked from The Federal to “The Social,” an apartment complex located within North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts’ District “Pizza Slice”—the triangle of Vineland, Lankershim, and Camarillo. Fast cars drag race late nites over the hill to Hollywood–flashing by the red neon signs of Johnny’s Auto Body and the Colony Inn, rife with sin. It bills itself to tourists as the “Hotel Near Universal Studios.” To get to Little Toni’s from Idle Hour you jaywalk.
The Social’s Penthouse #6 is a study of geometry in motion. Rooftop parties jammed with revolving roomies ranging from Jr. High mates to ill-fated spoilt baby rock stars. Balconies occupied by tween actors and Tik Tokers are in hip-hop distance of each other.
Levi Ponce’s mural, Baby Buddha, Bob Marley, and Jimi is painted on the backside of Big Boss Records studio. They keep a watchful eye over Huston Street, the strip that perpendiculates Mr. Patel’s no tell motel from Ponce’s “Soliloquy,” protector of the wholesome, homeless, hoes, anything goes.
The elevator sighs, “Fourth Floor,” and opens up to the front door where Wallie and I live and go live with our podcast, “At The Four Twelve: Cocktails and Conversation with the Heyy and Divorcée.” Wallie had originally roomed with my eldest son, MacGuinness, one story up at the PH6. At times, various “Socialites” take part in the revolving apartment art installation. My younger son, Killian—Gaelic for “strife,”—has occupied three. Wallie’s trans mother, Raquel Starr, resides in the #409. We are a biological and logical family. Progressive. Nonaggressive.
Music: Playground Love (Song length TBD.)
Excerpt from The Virgin Suicides
Lillye Hope (6:00)/Lili Hardy (8:00) “We could never understand why the girls cared so much about being mature, or why they felt so compelled to compliment each other . . . We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors were together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like elephants with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.”
Music: I’m Every Woman (Song length TBD.)
Andrew: Wallie was tragically born a male and is sheroically transforming to female. Named after a cousin who was killed in a woodchipper, her father, Jose David Cruz, promised his sister, Mori—Hebrew for “bitterness of Yahweh,” —that he would name his first-born child after the original. Fargo, right?
Wallie: “As a child growing up in Philly, I knew I was different. I liked certain things that other boys didn’t. ‘Why do you like girl music?’ ‘Why do you dance like a girl?’ I always felt like a girl. As I got older, the mirror was telling a different story. You assimilate, especially when you are in terror of your parents finding out. You do not want to be your parents’ disappointment.
Andrew: She found willing support from her Kindergarten teacher, Miss Campbell.
Wallie: “Playing dress-up; feeling pretty. I was frolicking in an 80s cocktail frock that puffed out. It had a cinched waist six sizes too big for me, and when I spun around, it opened up into a complete circle. I fought with the girls over the black and white garment. I told my teacher, ‘Miss Campbell, I love what you’re doing, but we need, like a wig or a clip in ponytail.’ She brought in a pink bag from the beauty supply store. In it was a little bob brown wig but I wanted the flirty pony. Now I had two things to fight over. A teacher’s assistant snapped a picture of me, and I begged her not to show my mother.”
Andrew: They kept her secret. In 1st grade, however, Wallie told her mother, from the shower, that she wore dresses. Wallie’s mother asked . . .
Wallie: “What else have you done?”
Music: (Song length TBD.)
Title: Run to You
Wallie: “In the fall after high school, mom bought me a $1000 dollar hoop dee car with a push start button that would always fall out. I started cosmetology school. Kits, mannequins . . . I excelled as I had been doing hair since I was eight years old.
Andrew: After graduating Florida’s Aveda Beauty College, Wallie moved to L.A. with Jason, a recording artist boyfriend with a contract. Still . . . evictions, surfing from couch to couch—homeless for two months. Wallie was hired at an upscale shoe shop, took a second job at Forever 21, and was doing hair on the side. ALDO shoes and accessories is where Wallie met me. One of my roommates would come to lunch, and Wallie wondered . . .
Wallie: ‘Who’s this little white boy with swag?’
Andrew: The “little white boy with swag” was MacGuinness.
Wallie and Jason’s relationship was shot, and during a fight, Jason called the police. Wearing boyfriend jeans and a pink sweater that said, “Hooked on You,” Wallie grabbed her new six-inch platform boots and ran out of the house.
Wallie: “I didn’t even grab my toothbrush. I called Andrew, who told me to . . .
Andrew & Wallie: Just go to the PH6.
Katy: A year later, Wallie was standing at attention in military lineup fashion with the other Socialites, when I walked through the front door of the PH6, a toothbrush in hand and both sons at my back.
Cheetah Girls Cinderella Song
Wallie: “Looking at Disney, I would see myself as the girl, Chuchi, from the Cheetah Girls. It was a rude ass awakening to me that I wasn’t. Looking in the mirror, I didn’t see what I saw in my head as a twenty-three-year-old. I was just listening to music, getting older, and having to do the best with what I had. There was always something happening with my hair, every version preppy, edgy, long hair, short. I was never satisfied. Up until I started meeting other trans people and seeing how beautiful they are . . .”
(Raquel’s Burlesque Moment)
“I heard about Raquel Starr from another girl, Jesse. She said, “I have a girlfriend who lives in this building; she actually lives right down the breezeway from you. Jesse said she was this and she was that—all that. I’m not the kind of gal impressed by the hearsay. Let me see, let me meet her, you know, that kind of thing?”
Andrew: Wallie finally met Raquel at her birthday held at Cobra.
Wallie: “She’s in a skintight dress made from pink snakeskin leather. I walk up to her, ‘So, we live in the same building.’ I realized I had seen Raquel in passing at Evita, way back with Bradshaw. Long ginger hair with a gold chain link dress. Glistening, floating through the room. She stumbled upon our bottle service, offering party favors and taking shots of tequila. She wanted me to do the wig for her Viper Room performance. The wig was terrible. I made it not terrible.
And just like that, Jessica Rabbit became my drag mother, and I, her drag daughter.”
Andrew: Incrementally, the inevitable millennial guyliner led to an enviable mug of glamour; tucks and Spanx under slips.
Raquel comes in and sits at the vanity.
Wallie: “I was visiting family in Florida. had just come back from shopping, and since it was the weekend, I already knew Grandma and Grandpa were sipping whiskey and milk. I rushed to their suite, where they offered me a drink. Grandma pulled me aside, ‘I’ve got something for you that helped me, and it will help you.’
Goes to the second drawer of her dresser and takes out a zebra print lace push up bra and told me to put it on, so I did. Pushed up the A cup girls. Grandma said, ‘There. Now it looks like we have something.’
I felt like a little kid, foreign. I pushed them up, and as I sat and drank with her, she would make comments like, ‘It needs to be a little tighter.’ And as much as I tried to pull on my fat from back through my armpits, it wasn’t going to happen.”
Raquel: Once I got my body, it was the end for all the other bitches.
Wallie: “I decided to delay my return to NoHo, and take the necessary steps to slay. My mother, Hurricane Jacqueline, went with me to Miami. She took care of me while I recovered from my boob job along with a few other sumpin’ sumpins’.”
Andrew: So Wallie, how can allies support?
Wallie: Become informed. Get educated. Realize the evolution. Complacent cis girls always feel the need to comment, and make it seem so unobtainable. You were born a girl, use it to your advantage. I couldn’t play with my mother’s makeup. You had the time. You also act like it fucking happens like magic—the drive and wanting to do something. . . . putting your best face on and handling. The more passable you look, the safer you are in society. It can be death for those that can’t get surgery. . . . And, why the intimidation, why the reluctance to accept trans sisters?
(And why isn’t my bang working?)
Cis women shouldn’t feel competition; they know what they got. When Audrina goes out with her cis and/or gay friends, and a straight guy is paying attention, it’s always the jealous friend, girl or gay, that feels compelled to point out she is trans, which can lead to a dangerous situation.”
Andrew: “How do you feel when you look at cis girls?”
Wallie: “I look at them with pity. I just feel I need new friends. Friends that make me sweat. Why should you be in sweats while I’m in heels?”
Music: (Song length TBD.)
Title: Baby, I’m a Starr
Raquel Starr’s Interview
(Narrator to be determined) “Barbara Walters: You don’t have to look like this. You’re very beautiful. You don’t have to wear the blonde wigs. You don’t have to wear the extreme clothes, right?
Dolly: No. It’s a . . . It’s certainly a choice.”—Dolly Parton: Here I Am
Katy: Story told gold. She don’t care if it’s pretty shifty, or gritty. The urgency . . . the agency. Authentic expression overtakes the fake.
L.A. long drives, long cons, what could possibly go wrong?
Toys boys blank blondes vacuous vapid stares parents unaware, no care.
Starry eyes. Lies between thighs.
What’s a girl to do? Go ask Alice or become Jessica Rabbit?
Raquel: There was an ugly fight with my father. Because I have a sister, because I wanted to discover myself, I ran away. I left Monterey, Mexico, just shy of eighteen for McCallum, Texas.
Running lost into the wild, and, honey, I find the wild.
I worked in a mall candy shop. All I knew was music. Always singing in Spanish. A friend heard me sing and invited me to a casting for a band to perform at quinceañeras.
Identifying as gay, I met an amazing transgender woman, who invited me to perform in drag shows. Give me a microphone!
Katy: What did you sing?
Raquel: “Bésame Mucho.”
Katy: Reaction to the action?
Raquel: Compliments, “You’re so pretty, you’re so pretty . . . Coming from . . . not a broken home, but a home that definitely had troubles, and at the time the trouble was me. I thought I had to fix myself.
Katy: I see . . . you turned to the audience for acceptance. Go on.
I received an amazing amount of love from all these people. Not to mention the tips!
I started performing in different venues; after the restaurants closed, I’d play at the gay bars. Out of the blue a club from Houston hit me up.
I didn’t know anything about make-up.
I didn’t know anything about padding.
I didn’t know anything about wearing a bra.
Yet, once I started, I just didn’t want to take off the drag. It became my second skin!
Fuck it. Time to move to Hollywood.
I just turned 21. I had enough money to stay in a West Hollywood hotel for a week. . . . when you take off your clothes, make the night count to make the day survive.
I did the show, and people liked me. A friend in the exotic adult film industry introduced me to a producer. He liked me for who I was and wanted to move fast. I wanted to move slow. I moved in with him after a week.
I had my boobs done as a rite of passage, then went back home to Texas to recover. Family judgement faded away. My father said, “Human beings are not meant to travel alone in the world. You have a family, and I’m sorry I didn’t see the beauty in you. I see you.” And for the first time, I felt seen.
I became a Mother to Nikita Dragun, and now Wallie. I have love for the upcoming generation and wish to share my stories so they may avoid the same struggles I faced.
(ALL CAST AND CREW SILENTLY COME ON STAGE TO STAND BEHIND RAQUEL.)
Once upon a time, me being a little boy, daydreaming about becoming a star . . . I didn’t have a path; I didn’t have a plan. Opportunities came my way, and I evolved.
. . . And . . . I’m here.”
And (hands up), I’m here!
Twinkle fingers down.
Music: Heroes (Song length TBD.)
Bows & Acknowledgments!
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
“I could run to the liquor store. Or, we could go somewhere else,” said Mac. He didn’t drink, and I didn’t blink. We could only think India Tandoori was a bust. Someone under 21 had been overserved. ABC observed. I opted for the masala tea, which did not arrive until after the meal. The ritual was enough for me. Salaam Bombay, Burbank!
Back to NoHo, we pulled up from Vineland Place, and parked on the right of Huston. Jordan was passing by in the middle of the street. Mac hailed, leaning into the driver’s side window. Wallie’s newest hair client, wearing a Grinchmas sweatshirt, was tentatively crossing over from First Hydro’s side of the street. Wallie and Raquel to greet.
“The Social,” is an apartment complex located within North Hollywood’s Arts’ District “Pizza Slice”—the triangle of Vineland, Lankershim, and Camarillo. Fast cars drag race late nites over the hill to Hollywood—flashing by the red neon signs of Johnny’s Auto Body and the Colony Inn, rife with sin. It bills itself to tourists as the “Hotel Near Universal Studios.”
Levi Ponce’s mural, Baby Buddha, Bob Marley, and Jimi, is painted on the backside of Big Boss Records studio. They keep a watchful eye over Huston Street, the strip that perpendiculates Mr. Patel’s no tell motel from Ponce’s “Soliloquy,” protector of the wholesome, homeless, hoes, anything goes.
I remembered Jordan’s jacket, left over from our last party. I went up to the apartment, Mac did the fetch. Still sorting through mail, I heard the kvetch.
Mac heard the pops.
Then called the cops.
From my fourth floor sliding glass door, I watched Mac lean into the SUV’s passenger’s side window offering comfort to the victim’s girlfriend. Then I went in with the photo ops.
Mac’s car was blocked in as part of the crime scene. After waiting over an hour to be questioned, he left his contact info and bailed a few blocks over to his “Living in NoHo” apartment on Magnolia Blvd.
The detectives strolled floor to floor, door to door. I let them know I was Mac’s mama. The handsome detective, who looked like he stepped out of a TV cop drama said, “Oh, your son, the actor?” Everyone is so pretty in L.A.
I called MacGuinness who, in reality, is not an actor, but a Kiwami by Katsuya Sushi Master for actors like Only Murders in the Building’s Selena Gomez and Captain America’s Chris Evans.
He was at once annoyed and anxious. “You take so many pictures and videos, but you don’t know who’s watching you.”
True. A diehard true crime fan, on pause was Dig Deeper. On the podcast, “My Favorite Murder.” Bookmarked, Chapter 5, “A Female Killer” from Ann Wolbert Burgess’ A Killer by Design. It’s my hometown murder story.
I texted my principal and priest and tried to rest.
Opening the bedroom blinds the next morning, I spotted an oversized plush duck, what the fuck, perched next to the fire hydrant pert on high alert. It remained there as a shrine for months, during sun and rain, where it became sad soaked sodden downtrodden.
Research showed “Mikey” as a 49er fan, FB friends with many, including Thumps, Parody, and Jessa, Sales Manager of North Hollywood Toyota. I entertained the idea of walking down Lankershim, to perhaps share the experience. Jessa, however, has also inexplicably passed. I lit a virtual candle for Mr. Michael James Roskowick on the Mount Sinai website, and contemplated the “wick” in his name. I combed through The Homicide Report and alarmed myself with violence afoot . . . I reflected upon the North Hollywood Shootout, aka, the Battle of North Hollywood.
I watched incessantly obsessively Wallie worried me taking it too seriously. She’s Puerto Rican and raised in Allentown, P.A. Just another day of foul play.
November 29, 2022. A year to the day, I was in Tuesday school mass to pray. Listening to Father Alexander’s homily, I faded to black. Six firefighters came to carry me out of the church. Ashley was only too happy with the 911 to provide the 411 and flirt. They looked like they had just stepped out of Backdraft.
My eerily prescient 4th grade student, Malala, told me I had turned to her and whispered, “Save Me” before I went from kneel to keel.
Malala’s mama peacefully passed November 2023.
Fast forward to February 23. Dinner at Black Market Liquor Bar with MacGuinness’ roommate Andrew “Gaga” Rafeh, and our astrologist friend, Kristina. Andrew recounts being awoken at 1:40ish A.M. overhearing two people in a heat on the street; behavior normalized in NoHo. Atmospheric river rain lulls to doze, then Andrew sharply arose to, “Get the fuck off me. Step back.” Flipped out of bed worried about Aniesse, tripped over the ottoman. Looking out onto Blakeslee and Magnolia is a man hunched over, stabbed six-eight times. Sirens then Sleep.
Awoken by Mac at their usual workout time: 5:20 A.M.
Andrew: I’m not going to the gym, and I’m going to buy a tiny gun.
“Lost to gun violence on November 29, 2021. 67 candles have been lit.
It is always difficult saying goodbye to someone we love and cherish. Family and friends must say goodbye to their beloved Michael James Roskowick (Los Angeles, California), who passed away at the age of 30, on November 29, 2021.
Funeral arrangements under the care of Mount Sinai Parks and Mortuaries.”
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA — A 30-year-old man is dead today after being shot in North Hollywood Monday night, and police are searching for his killer.
Authorities have not yet identified a motive for the killing, which occurred just after 7 p.m. in the 11000 block of Huston Street. According to Los Angeles Police Department detectives, Michael Roskowick of Van Nuys was sitting in the driver’s seat of a Ford SUV parked in the middle of the street when the gunman approached.
The shooter opened fire before fleeing north on Vineland Avenue.
When police arrived, they found Roskowick suffering from gunshot wounds and being treated by paramedics, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. He was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.
The suspect was described as a bald man roughly 40 years old. He was about 5-feet- 11-inches tall and weighed about 230 pounds.
Anyone with information on the shooting was asked to contact LAPD Valley Bureau Homicide at 818-374-9550. Calls made during non-business hours or on weekends can be directed to 877-527-3247. Anonymous tips can be called in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or submitted online at lacrimestoppers.org.
Postscript: The Social’s Mangeress, Christine, updated the author the killer has since caught . . .
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
Bryan Knox was born under the sign of Virgo to a dichondra farmer in Riverside—when the area code was still (714). Virgoans are custodians of culture—and true to his astrological sign, Bryan’s early punk rock years are filed chronologically (1980-88), geographically (Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties), and neatly in a box marked “Punk R#ck Doc. Destroy Date: Never.” Content is divided between “Stuff I did” and “Stuff I didn’t.”
Bryan’s collection, and his clear recollection of the punk crowd: poets, artists, writers, trust fund babies with gangster daddies . . . not to mention the musicians that laid down the soundtrack to L.A.’s early punk rock party—makes it easy to go trippin’ down memory lane.
“What’s black and white and read all over?”—Children’s Riddle
Bryan: It was 1978 or 79. My friend Bill Bartell and I finagled this gig with the The New Rocker. The office was in the 9000 building across from The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. We would hang out and pretend to be important. No one was ever really working anyway, the job was just leverage to go see bands. We heard X was playing at the Hong Kong Cafe. We arrived early to watch the sound check. At one point Bill and I were sitting around with John Doe and Exene and DJ Bonebrake. I was naïve to their personal history. John Doe’s gear had stencils of Baltimore all over it, his bass case, et cetera. I asked him about it. He said it was because he was from Baltimore, which surprised me, I don’t know why.
WBTL: Maybe, because even then he was emblematic of Los Angeles.
Bryan: Exactly. Exene was looking through the LA Weekly. She would stop on different pages to color over photographs. Every once in awhile she would open her cigar box and very carefully select a new crayon. I looked in the box. All the crayons were red.
“We like dancing and we look divine”—Joan Jett [sings a David Bowie tune]
Today’s artists hire their own “people” to keep the masses away. At least, at bay. In the early L.A. punk rock scene, it was fairly easy to mix with people now elevated to icon status. Like Exene and Joan Jett.
Bryan: I was living in Moreno Valley. Darby Crash was still alive. A bunch of punk bands were playing at Great Gatsby’s in Redondo Beach. The Angry Samoans, Eddie and the Sub-Titles, the Circle Jerks, maybe. I drove a 68 Volkswagen Squareback. Bill Bartell, Jon Morris, Donnie Rose, and I had a TEAC open reel four-track recorder that we took to all the shows. We’d arrive at the door and say we’re recording the band—then we’d go to the soundman and say we need two lines out of the board and he would plug us in. We would use two mics . . . which reminds me of another story that you can’t publish because it’s too criminal . . .
That night we got into the club but the soundman was onto our scam and wouldn’t let us record, so we just watched the show. I noticed Joan Jett standing dead center in front of the stage, teetering. Everyone slamming around her. She was barely conscious, having a good time. Jon was a big fan of Joan’s and thought we should try to talk to her, but Bill said: “No,” we should try to kidnap her. We discussed the pros and cons—wouldn’t it be funny and cool and punk rock? But then she would find herself in Riverside.
WBTL: BUST Magazine sells the t-shirt W.W.J.J.D? What Would Joan Jett Do?
Bryan: What would Joan Jett do? She’d be mad and we’d get our asses kicked and she would dislike us. And we’d have to drive her two hours back to L.A.
“Rock, rock, rock’n’roll high school”—The Ramones
WBTL: How did you get into punk rock?
Bryan: I can’t really remember what I listened to as a kid besides the usual—like The Beatles. Then in TV Production class at Moreno Valley High, 1978, I met Jon Morris. Jon was into audio recording—he had recording equipment and a serious stereo system. The only thing I had was an eight-track player in my Ford pickup. It was stolen when we went to see the Ramones open for Black Sabbath at Santa Monica Civic. He also had a Punk Magazine. Jon, Bill Bartell, and I would sit around and listen to records, reading Punk and other zines. We were aware the Sex Pistols were touring. We tried to figure out a way to get to San Francisco to see the ultimate punk rock concert. We never made it, but we spent a lot of time obsessing over it.
Bill Bartell knew this girl named Nikki who was Donnie Rose’s girlfriend at Poly High. Nikki called herself Sheena because all girls called themselves Sheena—because of the Ramones. Sheena and Donnie were a punk rock couple.
WBTL: Isn’t there a Donnie Rose—Germs connection?
Bryan: He was definitely a Germs insider. Donnie was really young when he got into the punk rock crowd. Before high school. Anyway, he and Sheena had a friend named Rene Gade. I met her at The Squeeze, a little nightclub in Riverside, run by Nicki Syxx. Rene was the first real punk rock girl I ever saw. Beautiful and cool with exaggerated make-up and spiky short hair. Beautiful and cool.
“Looking out the window and who do I see? Someone outside is glaring at me.”—Rene Gade
WBTL: Were you ever part of a band?
Bryan: Yes. The early 80s was the first time Death Patrol performed. Bill Bartell instigated the band for his own amusement. He was always there, but he wasn’t in it. I was the bass player. Well, it was really an old Japanese guitar that I put bass strings on, which was fine since I didn’t know how to use it anyway. Jon Morris “operated” the synthesizers and was the guitarist. We didn’t have a drummer. Shawn Cowart was the singer. We called him Warcot—Cowart inside out. He was an illustrator—gory comic book art with pop culture commentary.
The original lineup played twice. Shawn lost interest. Jon lost interest. Rene joined the band. Then her friend Stacy joined—she played guitar. Like most bands, Death Patrol went through quite a few mutations. We really wanted to be the Screamers. We made up a story about how we opened for the Screamers. Other bands corroborated our story—it eventually became an urban myth.
WBTL: There’s a flier in one of your files: “The Alternative Alliance for the Inland Empire” advertising for drummers for three different bands, including Death Patrol. Requirements include: “Punk as in early Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, and other British Punk Bands. This isn’t H.B. [Huntington Beach]. Dark romance, avant-garde. Prefer creative person not influenced by Black Flag. Determination over skill.”
Bryan: The Alternative Alliance was the tagline for different projects—to make it sound more organized than it really was. We did have rehearsal space, though. I had rented a one-bedroom house; the previous tenants had modified the garage into an acoustic, insulated sound studio. Serendipitous.
WBTL: Was Death Patrol any good?
Bryan: No, we were terrible. But if you’re creating your own fun, everyone has a reason to have a good time. It didn’t matter if you were good—it only mattered if you were entertaining.
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
Donny and Marie Punk Rock!
Let’s Be Phranc.
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
Inside the historic Vista Theater, I watch a black clad Penelope Spheeris stride down the aisle to accept Silver Lake Film Festival’s 2nd annual Spirit of Silver Lake award—an honor that “celebrates living legends who have challenged the mainstream cinema with their independent vision.” At the screening gala, held in Rudy’s Barbershop, she takes my hand, strong and sincere, as I offer my congratulations. An L.A. legend indeed.
“Do you think of yourself as a living legend?
Director Penelope Spheeris poses this question to the venerable Mr. Osbourne well into her exzzellent Ozzfest documentary, We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll. It hardly needs to be asked. The religious fervor of fanatics in the stands, and the bands on the bill (Rob Zombie, Slipknot, System of a Down, et al), testify to the legacy of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. Ozzy’s diffident answer—that he is just an ordinary bloke giving the audience a good night out is disingenuous. But it’s all part of the affable charm he uses to disarm.
The stylistic opening shot of Ozzy through the looking sunglasses is a visual metaphor for the hallucinogenic imaginings of larger than life rock and rollers taking to the stage to hype and hypnotize waves of the faithful. Amidst the carnival of sideshows and mosh pits, Ozzfest is raucous rock that does not stop.
We Sold Our Souls is not, however, a high gloss music video. It’s an endearing take on a rock and roll leader who has outlived his demons to go on to mentor young musicians, and to continue to rouse radical loyalty in any and all kinds of fans.
The real wizard of Ozzfest is Ozzy’s wife, Sharon Osbourne (producer of We Sold Our Souls). A true power chick portrayed as a pleasant British mum, Sharon Osbourne is the mettle behind the metal. Her serene veneer calms the chaos as she orchestrates the tour unseen by spectators.
For Ozzy is not invincible—along with the acclaim, Spheeris subtly depicts his occasional bouts of bewilderment. At one point he sings lyrics read off a teleprompter, another time a roadie sighs, “Ozzy’s not payin’ attention, but that’s cool.”
It is cool. The music idol simply needs to appear and bow to the cheers. And with camera and crew, Penelope Spheeris, in true “Spirit of Silver Lake” style, fiercely documents not the decline, but the dynamism of this miracle man.
Postscript 2023: I texted friend, Visual Artist Alisha Plummer, who worked on The Talk:
“Thoughts on Sharon Osbourne?”
“Love her! She was so sweet—fashionably late, but she and Ozzy would sit and eat with us at lunch. And, I vividly remember them always ordering an “L.A. Hot Dog,” and Mrs. O paying for their hot dogs from her wallet embellished with “Fuck you. Pay Me.”
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
“See What Happens When You . . .
Jason Schwartzman is a Magician.
. . . Do “Lottery” Stuff?”
Postscript: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. Read it!
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
|“Kind of a crazy story with a crazy twist to it. One you didn’t quite figure out.”—Double Indemnity
“A puzzle you won’t ever solve.”—Memento
Christopher Nolan’s intricate trick of a movie Memento, belongs to the legacy of Billy Wilder’s film noir, Double Indemnity. Wilder’s 1944 award-winning classic, co-written with hard-boiled crime fiction author Raymond Chandler, and based upon James M. Cain’s novella, set the screen standard for all aspects noirish—amoral characters, ambivalent themes, taut plots, and an atmosphere colored by shifting shades of drifting gray.
Double Indemnity’s Walter Neff and Memento’s Leonard Shelby are both in the insurance game—an industry perceived to be a necessary evil, employing as many scam artists as the clients who file false claims. Each film’s main character skirts around the edges of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley—where Santa Anas blow ill winds and nobody is quite whom they seem:
Neff: Where did you pick up this tea drinking? You’re not English, are you?
Phyllis: No. Californian. Born right here in Los Angeles.
Neff: They say native Californians all come from Iowa.
Teddy: Leonard, you don’t have a clue what’s going on. You don’t even know my name.
Leonard: (triumphant smile) Teddy!
Teddy: You read it off your fucking photo. You don’t know me, you don’t even know who you are.
Neff’s “movements are easy and full of ginger.” He utters street-smart patter as he slouches against doorjambs, coolly waiting for beguiling blondes dolled up in slit summer dresses and cheap anklets to flounce down a staircase with the right proposition. In Phyllis Dietrichson’s case, it’s the disposal of her husband and collection of cold hard cash:
Phyllis: Could I get an accident policy for him—without bothering him at all?
Neff: . . . You want him to have the policy without him knowing it. And that means without the insurance company knowing that he doesn’t know. That’s the set-up, isn’t it? . . . And then, some dark wet night . . . You want to knock him off, don’t you, baby?
Crocodile tears slither out from Phyllis’s come-hither eyes. The look is enough to hook Neff—this gun’s for hire:
Neff: . . . It all tied up with something I had been thinking about for years, since long before I ever ran into Phyllis Dietrichson. Because, in this business you can’t sleep for trying to figure out the tricks they could pull on you. You’re like the guy behind the roulette wheel, watching the customers to make sure they don’t crook the house. And then one night, you get to thinking how you could crook the house yourself. . . . And suddenly the doorbell rings and the whole setup is right there in the room with you. . . . The stakes were fifty thousand dollars, but they were the life of a man, too, a man who’d never done me any dirt. Except he was married to a woman he didn’t care anything about, and I did . . .
Memento’s Leonard also has a fatal obsession. Retaliation for his wife’s rape and murder:
Teddy: You really wanna find this guy?
Leonard: He took away the woman I love, and he took away my memory. He destroyed everything; my life and my ability to live.
Teddy: You’re living.
Leonard: Just for revenge.
The pursuit for vengeance is problematic for Leonard, as he suffered a head injury during the incident and has no short-term memory:
Leonard: I know who I am and all about myself, but . . . I can’t make any new memories. Everything fades. If we talk too long, I’ll forget how we started. I don’t know if we’ve ever met before, and the next time I see you I won’t remember this conversation.
Leonard is damaged and damned—a man with no context:
Leonard: I have to believe in the world outside my own mind. I have to believe my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed the world’s still out there.
Walter Neff and Leonard Shelby do their dirty deeds, but in true cinema noir cynical fashion, they fail to attain any measure of gratification:
Neff: I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?
Teddy: . . . We found him and you killed him. . . . I’ve never seen you so happy—I was convinced you’d remember. But it didn’t stick, like nothing ever sticks. Like this won’t stick.
Dialogue that interlocks like a zipper’s metal tabs creates complicity between the audience and anti-heroes of Double Indemnity and Memento. Yes, they’re killers, but killers wry and witty:
Neff: Where would the living room be?
Maid: In there, but they keep the liquor locked up.
Neff: That’s okay. I always carry my own keys.
Leonard: So how many rooms am I checked into in this dump?
Burt: Just two. So far.
Leonard: Well, at least you’re being honest about cheating me.
Burt: Yeah, well you’re not gonna remember, anyway.
Leonard: You don’t have to be that honest, Burt.
Walter and his paramour, partner-in-crime Phyllis, mortally wound each other, a strategic decision in obtaining script approval from the Hays Office because the “. . . Production Code still demanded that criminals pay onscreen for their transgressions.” Before his death, Neff confesses all to Barton Keyes—the man who plays the part of Neff’s conscience:
Neff: I wanted to straighten out that Dietrichson story for you. . . . And now I suppose I get the big speech, the one with all the two-dollar words in it. Let’s have it, Keyes.
Keyes: You’re all washed up, Walter.
Neff: Thanks, Keyes. That was short anyway.
In this new millennium, (particularly in independent film), Nolan has no such morality constraints. He is not limited to black and white—literally, in the aesthetic of the film’s look, or figuratively, in the ambiguity of the story’s outcome. Cool blue hues saturate Leonard’s world of loss. Users and losers are on hand to lend menace and pathos. They slink on the sidelines of salvation—no chance or care for redemption. Femme fatales look vaguely the same: opaque-eyed and contemptuous. Including Leonard’s dead (if she is indeed) wife. Tragedy thrives in the burnt embers of her mementos—the love he “can’t remember to forget”:
Natalie: What’s the last thing you remember?
Leonard: My wife.
Beyond avenging his wife’s death, Leonard becomes a killer for his own convenience. Once Teddy, Leonard’s untrustworthy and unreliable sidekick, accuses him of deliberate memory fidgeting to continue the quest for: “a dead wife to pine for and a sense of purpose in your life,” Leonard blows him away.
Tossing Teddy’s car keys into the bushes, Leonard Shelby metaphorically kisses the “keys” to his conscience good-bye, and Christopher Nolan ushers in his version of neo-noir. Much to the delight, one may well imagine, of Billy Wilder’s grinning ghost.
Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity (original shooting script dated September 25, 1943), reproduced in Double Indemnity/Billy Wilder; screenplay by Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler; with an introduction by Jeffrey Meyers. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 26.
Christopher Nolan, Memento (screenplay dated October 4, 1999), pp. 3-3A.
Wilder, Double Indemnity, p. 11.
Ibid., pp. 28-29.
Ibid., pp. 36-37.
Nolan, Memento, p. 30.
Ibid., p. 9.
Wilder, Double Indemnity, p. 11.
Nolan, Memento, p.115.
Wilder, Double Indemnity, p. 14.
Nolan, Memento, p. 25.
Kevin Lally, Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder (New York: Henry Holt, 1996), p. 134.
Wilder, Double Indemnity, p. 116.
Nolan, Memento, p. 57.
Ibid., p. 87.
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
|ₚₕₒₜₒ by ⱼₐₙₑ ₘ. Gₐᵣᵣᵢₛₒₙ
How can you read that again? . . . You’ve read it a hundred times.
I enjoy it.
Yeah, but the pleasure of a book is in wanting to know what happens next.
Ironic words coming from writer/director Christopher Nolan. The thrill of the unusual, yet captivating, storytelling style of Memento, based upon brother Jonathan Nolan’s short story, is in wanting to know what happens first.
The story backtracks, end to beginning. It sidesteps, omits, and misleads as well. Leonard, an insurance claims investigator, is determined to avenge his wife’s rape and murder. Problematic, as he suffered a head injury during the incident and has no short-term memory.
I know who I am and all about myself, but . . . I can’t make any new memories. Everything fades. If we talk for too long, I’ll forget how we started. I don’t know if we’ve ever met before, and the next time I see you I won’t remember this conversation.
Cool blue hues color Leonard’s world of loss. He navigates his “romantic quest which [he] will not end” with tattoos, handwritten notes, charts, and Polaroids. Users and losers are on hand to lend menace, pathos, and sardonic humor. Femme fatales look vaguely the same: opaque-eyed and contemptuous. Including Leonard’s dead (if she is indeed) wife.
Tragedy thrives in the burnt embers of her mementos—the love that he “can’t remember to forget.”
What’s the last thing you remember?
Leonard is damaged and damned—a man with no context.
I have to believe in the world outside my own mind. I have to believe my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still out there.
Certain to become, at the very least, a cult classic, Memento is reminiscent of other noirish films like Blade Runner, Blow Up, and Double Indemnity. The line between reel and real life blurs after I exit the movie theater, right into Memento’s world. You see, the Limbo Land in which Leonard chases ghosts, is the neighborhood I live in.
All quotations from the Memento shooting script.
This dilapidated house located on Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank is inhabited by a cranky old man who does not take well to nosy parker neighbors peering in his windows. Look closely in the film and you can see his pastel portrait hanging on the living room wall. (By the way, that’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia Blvd., as well.) The neighborhood is also home to Memento film crew member Corey Geryak, a dynamo (Lunge Queen JoDee), and their towhead sons.
(pictured at top of page)
Local watering hole where Natalie tends bar. In reality, it’s Burbank’s The Blue Room, where Lew pours lethal Lemon Drop cocktails—and Judi serves them up with a side of bitter. The Blue Room is (in)famous for its annual New Year’s Eve shindig.
by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley
|How do parents react to the notion their child may be homosexual? In Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader, a film that aspires to be high camp, a young cheerleader suspected of Sapphic yearnings is sent straight to “straight camp” for deprogramming.
With the exception of the fab faux 50s set design and cameo-worthy stars like Bud Cort and Mink Stole, it’s utterly cheerless.
Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s The Deep End takes a more somber view of Sex Ed. Once main character Margaret Hall discerns her son Beau’s sexual orientation, immediate suppression is the task at hand. Margaret runs errands and runs interference in Beau’s extracurricular activities. When she discovers his sleazy lover’s impaled body on the family dock, it’s anchors away as the offending corpse is disposed of right into Lake Tahoe’s chilly depths.
One more to-do item crossed off her list.
What Margaret deliberately avoids is alerting authorities, or asking Beau about the dead man. This efficiency model does not use her common sense—instead she leaves herself vulnerable to the melodrama of blackmail and potentially, jail.
That a mother’s lot is filled with many and mundane details—enough to cause one to go off the deep end—is the only way to fathom the implausible premise. Tilda Swinton, with her crisp competence and precise manner does manage to nicely button up the film. Goran Visnjic, the brooding blackmailer she swiftly puts to shame, is quite good (not to mention good-looking), as well.
Film bleu is the new film noir as The Deep End is awash in turquoise water symbols. Apologies for the pun, but it’s difficult to restrain oneself when virtually every single frame from Sparkletts to Swan Lake contains a H20 allusion. Stylish, yet distracting. Perhaps the imagery is intended to divert the audience from contemplating the irrationality of a mother who, under the guise of protector, cannot confront her child on critical issues of innocence or guilt.
Ignorance is not always bliss. It is often the agony of intolerance.