Bright Lights, Big Sky

Tammy Faye Starlite and me, by Shell Sheddy

Tammy Faye Starlite and me, by Shell Sheddy

The last two weeks have been a swirl: friendships forged and renewed, mother-son bonding, bright lights and big city, desert island and the deep sea, public performances, private connections, music and nature and ideas and activity. I spent five days revisiting my proto-Sex and the City life in New York and three days on Catalina Island with 31 fifth graders. Both experiences were deeply gratifying, and I’m immensely grateful to the friends, and family, who enrich my life.

First, New York. For my spring “break” from teaching, I finally made it to the center of the universe to do some promotion for Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways. I wound up with three gigs in as many days: a Women’s History Month Keynote speech at Bergen Community College March 6; a rock’n’roll show that night at the Cutting Room, featuring the Runaways tribute band the Stay-At-Homes; and a book signing and reading at Bluestockings in the Good Ol’ Lower East Side March 8. Each event was different, productive in its own way, and worth the trip all by itself.

It was an honor to deliver the Keynote at Bergen, where I spoke to students and faculty about the process of writing a historical biography like Queens. The gig was also a goddess-send; it paid for the trip. But heading out to New Jersey first thing in the morning then hightailing it back to Manhattan for the evening show made for an intense day. The faculty at BCC were lovely; one, Andy Krikun, lived next door to Sandy West when he was a LA punk rocker himself.

Singer and raconteur Tammy Faye Starlite and I put together the Cutting Room show, All Hail the Queens of Noise. She played Cherie Currie, fronting a band of top-notch female musicians, including the impeccable Linda Pitmon (the Baseball Project, Miracle 3) on drums (she even looks like a dark-haired Sandy  West), Heidi Lieb (Sit N’ Spin) as Lita Ford, Monica Falcone (Sit N’ Spin) as Jackie Fox, and Jill Richmond (the Aquanettas) as Joan Jett. The evening became a microcosmic case study of life as an all-girl band. The act for the 8 p.m. show went WAY past their set time, noodling on with their lamely earnest prog-rock for a seeming eternity, completely wiping out our setup time and taking a big bite out of our 10 p.m. slot. The club did nothing to get them off the stage, then snarled at us like it was our fault. Tom Petty did this once to the Runaways, in Detroit, cutting short their headlining set with his onanism. My manager friend Debbi Gibbs did her best Kim Fowley to get the wankers off the stage. Fortunately, unlike those dunce-heads, the Stay-At-Homes are professionals, and once the hippie relics finally realized they were over, the women managed to get their gear up and play an ace set. Tammy thinks on her feet and turned the situation into a piece of performance art. Karyn Kuhl wailed and nailed “You Drive Me Wild,” and Miss Guy took “Born to Be Bad” to the floor. Ultimately, as the band reenacted “Dead End Justice,” the night provided the ultimate theatrical goal of catharsis. It was a great New York crowd: lots of my friends and the band’s friends, including Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate and Miracle 3), the legendary Penny Arcade, filmmaker Ethan Coen, Phast Phreddie Patterson (in whose house the Runaways played their first ever show), Jackie Rudin, Vickie Starr, Mike Tyler — the list goes on.

The Stay-At-Homes by Shell Sheddy

Dear friends also turned out for the Bluestockings reading, leaving standing room only at the event on International Women’s Day. Having people I know from my childhood in Beloit, my post-college salad days in Providence, my single-woman years in New York, and even my adult life in Miami made me feel supported and confident. It was one of the best readings I’ve ever given.

In general, besides the gigs, this visit to the town that was home for 12 years was about reconnecting with people and the city. I went to no shows, ate wherever and whenever convenient, and barely even shopped. I went to only one museum, the Brooklyn Art Museum, where I saw their new exhibition Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties. It was deep, moving. Mostly, I walked the streets that I once walked daily and visited old friends and colleagues. I really love New York. I feel comfortable there in a way I don’t feel anywhere else. Though I have to say, the city has become more and more congested; I don’t know if I could live there again. But it was great to be back.

Next post: Field trip to Catalina.

The Fictionaires (Vivien Goldman, me, and Jana Martin)

Photo by Eric Drysdale

With superheroines Silver and Sara Valentine

With my oldest friend, Jon Gold

Tammy Faye Starlite as Cherie Currie

I stayed a couple nights with Vickie Starr, who’s managing Me’Shell Ndegeocello. She showed me this clip, which seems a propos.

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Filed under Going Mobile, Queens of Noise

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