Tag Archives: Tammy Faye Starlite

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.

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The Incredible Tammy Faye

The Stay-At-Homes

The Stay-at-Homes

Like a good – and female – drag queen, Tammy Faye Starlite doesn’t impersonate great women; she invokes them. She’s most famous for her Nico act, Chelsea Madchen, which is smart, funny, tragic, and lovely. While aptly pointing out the anti-Semitic Velvet Underground singer’s numerous faults, she also made me appreciate her talent. I haven’t seen Tammy’s Blondie tribute band the Pretty Babies or her Runaways manqué the Stay-At-Homes. But from the way she talks about learning to portray Debbie Harry and Cherie Currie, I know she gets it.

“I really love Cherie’s voice – it’s husky and she imbues each song with both attitude and subtlety, similar to the way Debbie Harry does, although their sounds are so different,” Faye said in a recent email. “Cherie is so much fun to play onstage – she has certain signature moves – the single knee-bend, the arm flap, the squat/crouch, the Bowie-esque mime. She was definitely in command as frontwoman, which I love. I also love the L.A. inflections in her voice and her slightly Liza Minnelli-style ‘s.’ She’s a very physical performer – she bodily punctuates the beat and is full of kinetic energy. Debbie Harry is also physical, but to me she seems much cooler, much more ‘come to me’ as opposed to beseeching the audience to come to her. Nico barely moved at all – I love doing her almost catatonic stance, but it’s hard for me, in a way, because I’m inherently a spazzy freak and cliched ‘entertainer.’ (Must be my Jewish upbringing.) As Cherie, I get to be my teenage self, who jumped in front of the mirror with a hairbrush and did interpretive dances to ‘Honky Tonk Women.’ (Also, shamefully, to Billy Joel’s ‘My Life,’ but we’ll keep that to ourselves.)

“Speaking of Judaism (were we?), I think my favorite song to do is either ‘American Nights’ – it’s so gloriously anthemic – or Lou Reed’s ‘Rock and Roll’ (even though my husband pointed out that the Runaways do the Mitch Ryder version). It must be the New Yorker in me – I have to stop myself from saying, ‘She stawted dee-ancin…’ I don’t always succeed in that endeavor.” Continue reading

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Born To Be Miss Guy

Miss GuyMiss Guy is a Downtown legend. Before there was an imaginary Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Guy and his Toilet Boys were flipping the punk-rock script at parties like SqueezeBox and DropOut. They’re the chromosomal love child of the New York Dolls and Blondie. In fact, Guy co-wrote “Charm Alarm” with Debbie Harry and, as a sometime makeup artist, helps make the Queen of Punk look glam. A genius DJ, Guy channels the girl power of rock divas, from his Cherie Currie mane to his Dumb Blonde (it’s the name of his solo album) persona.

“I’ve always been inspired by female rockers and The Runaways are the epitome of the perfect all girl rock band!,” Guys says via email. “They had it all. And I adore Cherie and Joan!”

So Miss Guy was the perfect artist to tap for All Hail the Queens of Noise, the March 6 event at the Cutting Room. He’ll be singing a song with the Stay-At-Homes, Tammy Faye Starlite‘s Runaways tribute band. (The picture gives you a hint which song.) I’ll be talking about my book, and Theo Kogan will be the beauty queen. Proceeds benefit rock camps for girls.

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Getting Lippy With Theo

When a bunch of gnarly tattooed girls in New York City decided to form a punk rock band in 1987, they came this close to naming themselves after their favorite band, the Runaways. “There was a minute where we almost called ourselves ‘the Go Homes,’ we were all so inspired and enamored with the Runaways and that they were so young, so talented and so hot,” says Theo Kogan, the singer of the band that instead became the Lunachicks. They were “total idols for me and all of us.”

The Lunachicks were one of the best American punk bands of the late ’80s and ’90s, successors to the Ramones, Dictators, Blondie, and of course, the Runaways. The towering Kogan dressed like a refugee from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! but sang with a deep, rich vibrato. When she wasn’t thrashing, she was a successful model, for the likes of Calvin Klein and Kenneth Cole. She also did a stint as an advice and beauty blogger for MOLI.com.  (I was her editor; she’s a great writer.)

Armour_Logo_wType_2014 copyThese days she’s a makeup artist and beauty expert who is creating the products that punk singers and fashion plates crave. Her Armour Beauty lip gloss line features shimmering colors that are paraben and cruelty free and have names like Nirvana, Gazarri’s (after the infamous LA club), and Siouxsie. Theo will be giving away Armour Beauty samples to lucky attendees of All Hail the Queens of Noise, the Runaways tribute night I’m hosting with Tammy Faye Starlite at Manhattan’s The Cutting Room on March 6. Appropriately Tammy’s band the Stay-at-Homes (almost the Go Homes) will be playing, proving that great minds do think alike. And of course I’ll be reading from my book, Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways. Profits go to rock camps for girls. Stay tuned to this blog for profiles of other performers, including Miss Guy, Karyn Kuhl, and Ms. Starlite.

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New York, New York!

 ALL HAIL THE QUEENS OF NOISE!

 

EVELYN MCDONNELL READS FROM HER ‘RUNAWAYS’ BEST SELLER,

THE STAY-AT-HOMES CHANNEL CHERIE, JOAN, JACKIE, LITA AND SANDY AT THE CUTTING ROOM ON THURSDAY MARCH 6

“They had something that cannot be manufactured, no matter how cunning your maverick manager is: a spark of explosive creative chemistry, the primal energy that Iggy Pop calls ‘raw power.’ The Runaways could play like the boys, but without once pretending they weren’t girls.”  – Evelyn McDonnell/ Queens of Noise

 

Evelyn McDonnell, author of Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids and Rock ‘n’ Roll, former pop music critic for the Miami Herald and Village Voice senior editor, and journalism professor at Loyola Marymount University, will be joined by The Stay-At-Homes, the much- celebrated Runaways replicant band, for a multi-tiered evening of performance events at New York’s Cutting Room. The renowned journalist will bring Queens of Noise, her critically acclaimed biography of The Runaways, the legendary ’70’s SoCal all-girl band, to glam-rock life at the Cutting Room on Thursday, March 6th at 10pm.

 

Bask in the California paradise that was the ’70s Sunset Strip with the author as she reads excerpts from her groundbreaking book and rock out with the premiere Runaways tribute band, The Stay-At-Homes.  Their take-no-prisoners lineup includes downtown performance chanteuse/provacateuse Tammy Faye Starlite (just named by Time Out New York as one of the top ten cabaret artists of 2013 for her role as Nico in Chelsea Mädchen) in the role of Cherie Currie; Jill Richmond (the Aquanettas) as Joan Jett; Linda Pitmon (the Baseball Project, Steve Wynn’s Miracle 3) as Sandy West; Heidi Lieb (Sit ‘N’ Spin) as Lita Ford, and Monica Falcone (Sit ‘N’ Spin) as Jackie Fox. With special guests Miss Guy (Toilet Boys) and Karyn Kuhl (Gutbank) on vocals and Theo Kogan (Lunachicks) on Armour Beauty lip gloss.

 

Relive the sunshine-and-neon era of Lurex, leather and jailbait juvies! Be sure to wear your feather earrings and satin shorts, wing your hair and climb into those platform boots! ‘Ludes optional but recommended.

 

The Cutting Room is at 44 East 32nd Street, New York. Tickets will be $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Show time is 10 p.m. http://ow.ly/t0NC8

 

>>Part of the proceeds will benefit the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls<<

 

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Lou Reed After Hours

Friday night at the MEOW Conference in Austin, Grace London found the dark innocence in the Velvet Underground song “After Hours” like only a 13-year-old could. A tall, lanky girl with eyeliner curls, the Austin artist sang with the raw emotional warble of Conor Oberst or Chan Marshall as she strummed an acoustic guitar hard, then stepped on the pedal smashing the kick drum behind her for good measure. It was an impressive performance, doubly impressive that a young teen was playing a Velvets cover, triply impressive that she was playing that cover. Here was a new generation, discovering Lou Reed’s songwriting genius. “If you close the door, the night could last forever/ Leave the sunshine out/ And say hello to never.”

Genius is one of those words that gets tossed around so much, but Lou Reed was definitely a genius. I’ve been thinking about the Velvets a lot lately, ever since I saw Tammy Faye Starlite’s amazing Nico tribute. I played “All Tomorrow’s Parties” for my Revolution Girl Style students, explaining how this was the dawn of punk (and how women were there at the beginning). My love of Lou runs long and deep. In college I was obsessed with him. So important were albums like Street Hassle and Transformer, I can’t really imagine myself without the influence of his music. That didn’t stop me from once writing a negative review of a Broadway show he did, which I felt pandered to fans. I guess Lou read his press; a few years later, he refused to talk to me for Interview magazine. “Isn’t she that writer who writes terrible things about me?” he apparently said. Ouch.

While I stand by my judgment, I would take it all back, because I love Lou Reed’s music and what he stood for: an unapologetic, tough, loving, cantankerous, idealistic, ugly, beautiful, rapturous aesthetic, that is now silenced forever.

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Nico Reborn (Plus a Legendary Cowgirl)

Nico

Tammy Faye Starlite as Nico. Photo by Bob Gruen

Today would have been the 75th birthday of the enigmatic art chanteuse Nico. I saw her reincarnated last night, in a spot-on, dead-funny, brilliant show by the performer Tammy Faye Starlite, at the louche Pico Boulevard cabaret lounge Mint. Tammy impersonates the Teutonic beauty with the arch exaggerations of a classic drag act; her makeup-encrusted eyes zoom wide with sarcastic disdain at errant laughs or remembered inanities. But the interpreter’s sense of humor is sharp, wide-ranging, and wicked – she sings like Joan Baez, but she jabs like Lenny Bruce. Her targets shift from Nico’s legion of legendary lovers (Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Jackson Browne) – “I mean friend euphemistically,” she says — to today’s crackpot legislators.

Starlite makes fun of the former Velvet Underground singer’s deadpan, drugged-out affect and German arrogance. “Jews are my go-to trope when I find something execrable,” she says. But she also sings Nico’s songs beautifully, funny accent and all. In the midst of her deconstruction of this cultish icon, Tammy resurrects her’s music, from the Velvets’ “Femme Fatale,” to Browne’s “These Days,” to Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” –all songs written for Nico.  Starlite’s Chelsea girl is more than a muse for great men (though she is that); she’s an underestimated talent too proud to feel sorry for herself.

The show ended with Starlite’s ace band (Petey Andrews on guitar, Richard Feridun on guitar and mandolin,  Keith Hartel on bass, Erik Paparazzi on keyboards, and Aaron Conte on drums) tearing “Heroes” to shreds. Tammy sang Bowie’s epic with all shtick gone, only real sentiment now.

While Tammy left the stage to “do something,” Carlene Carter came out and played a walloping “I’m Waiting for My Man.” Carter – daughter of June Carter and a country star in her own right — has a great Janis Joplin voice and looked awesome in cowgirl shirt, shorts, black stockings, and boots. Incredible night. Thanks Tammy. Happy birthday Nico.

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