And When They Go…They Let Ya Know

First, just want to tell everyone that I watched a movie on cable (Showtime on demand) that blew me away. It’s called “Speak”, and it’s about a teenage girl who gets raped at a party at the start of high school and subsequently shuts down socially. I am lucky that I never went through that particular experience but the movie expresses the isolation that comes with being a teenage social outcast better than most I’ve seen. “Welcome to the Dollhouse” almost got it, but it was too harsh and satirical. This movie summed up the first half of my own junior high/high school years almost exactly, even right down to art being the only outlet and the one teacher that sort of gets it, but still can’t make things better for you. I felt like I was watching my own life but I have a feeling that many others have had similar experiences and will be able to connect.

So people have been sending me emails asking me about Johnny Thunders and in my estimation he is most definitely blogworthy. I am not an expert by any means, but here is the sum total of my Johnny Thunders experience:

I loved the Dolls as a teenager (of course) and my favorite was always Johnny. He was just the coolest to me with his teased black hair and sharp taste in clothing. I just loved the way his voice rang out in, “Traa-aaaash”, you could always recognize it right away. Then just as I was discovering the Dolls, LAMF came out, and that blew me away as well. I was in remote Michigan and young enough not to understand the whole junkie thing, I knew it meant they were addicted to heroin, but I had never seen it up close so it seemed glamorous to me. And they sounded cool as hell, Johnny’s nasal voice cut through all the lame bullshit of my high school life, straight to the heart of rock and roll, the only important thing in existence anyway. I cut photos of Johnny out of magazines and posted them in my locker while everyone else had photos of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Then So Alone came out it and was also given a starring role on the musical roster, where it has remained to this day.

When I got to NYC I met Sonda Weber, a native New Yorker and a brilliant rock and roll clothing designer. She made custom leather pants for all the cool, cute guys and sold her beautiful velvet tops and dresses in Enz on St. Mark’s Place. Sonda was a short, chubby little firecracker with bright red hair and a sarcastic, wisecracking sense of humor. She hated that I was constantly picking up the boys she liked and designed for, but she was very funny and cool about it. When I got engaged to Slam Thunderhide from Zodiac Mindwarp (spur of the moment, for about two minutes, another blog some other time) she cracked like Mae West and said, “Finally, someone’s takin’ the bitch out of commission.” I loved her and was very sad when she moved to London years later after one of those idiots from the Black Crowes broke her heart. I never heard from her again and still wonder what she’s up to now.

Sonda sometimes designed clothing for Johnny and when he had a show at Irving she was invited to his hotel room beforehand. She knew I worshipped him and told me I could come along. I was thrilled, of course. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to hang out with Johnny Thunders! I planned my outfit very carefully and according to what I thought he would think was cool. At the time I didn’t understand that guys don’t want women to wear cool clothes, they want them to look pretty. So I was dressing exactly like the men I worshipped and I chose a pair of leather pants that Sonda had made for me, black with fringe down the sides, very Michael Monroe. On top I wore a t-shirt and old tuxedo jacket with tails, along with one of those flat on top, wide-brimmed western hats that everyone wore in the ‘80’s. I felt that this was an ensemble worthy of meeting the great JT.

So Sonda and I trekked through the cold to the Gramercy Park Hotel and took the elevator up to his room. I felt so glamorous, my first time in a hotel on my way to meet a rock star. She knocked on the door and after a moment of muffled thumping and shuffling Johnny opened the door and leaned on it, a little wobbly. He was wearing black leather pants and a tuxedo jacket. On the dresser behind him was a hat like mine. He looked me up and down slowly and said, “Ehhhhh…nice outfit.” Sonda snorted gleefully, I cringed…We spent the next two hours watching him and some very skeezy Noo Yawk type guy freebase with a miniature blowtorch while he tried on different jackets and shirts. This was before crack had been invented and I was so naïve that I didn’t quite understand exactly what they were doing, but I knew it couldn’t be very healthy. The room smelled of burning chemicals and in between puffs Johnny would open the window, throw his head out, and hack into the cold air like he was dying. Eventually Sonda and I got bored and left for Irving Plaza. The show sucked of course, he was far too wrecked to perform properly, but it didn’t dampen my regard for him.

A couple years later I met Kim Montenegro, also a brilliant clothing designer. I was modeling for Tripp/Trash and Vaudeville at a boutique show at the Javits Center and she had her own booth across the aisle featuring her crazy lift and separate zip up the butt pants, which became my uniform for the next five years. She thinks they are mortifying now, but I still believe they are one of the most brilliant pant designs created in the 20th Century–like a brassiere for your ass. In any case, it was love at first sight, I thought she was just the coolest person I’d ever seen. Twenty years later and I still think she is.

So we immediately became the best of friends, and since Kim lived in Philly, she would come and stay with me in NY a lot. I got a Pomeranian because I loved her Pomeranian and we would ride through the EV in her ’56 Buick, waving at friends and chain-smoking, wearing high heels and butt pants with our little dogs yapping out the windows. We were ridiculous but we thought we were the coolest.

Kim would sometimes rent a suite at the Gramercy to show her clothes, and on one occasion instead of selling she got totally high with Cheetah Chrome and his girlfriend in the bedroom while I got really drunk and made out with some random guy I didn’t know on the living room floor. Finally we threw everyone out, fixed our faces and got out of the room and into the elevator to go out for the night. When the elevator doors opened I tripped and fell, WHAM, face first into the lobby. She laughed and laughed, hysterical and itchy, while I laid there, also laughing, as horrified hotel guests stared at us. Good times, people, good times.

Anyway, digressing as usual…Kim had dated Johnny when she was just a teenager, and continued to make clothes for him. They were friends up until his death, and if you want to see more photos of them together she’s in my friend list, but please don’t hound her too much. On one of her trips to NY she said, “I’m having lunch w/Johnny, wanna come?” Well, of course I did! So I met her at an outdoor café and we had a fairly uneventful meal with Johnny Thunders. He was very sweet and they talked about old friends and what they were doing. At this point in time he was well damaged by drugs, his skin had that pasty junkie pallor and he looked like an old man. He spoke with that high-pitched whine that people get after years of being high. But it was still lunch with Johnny Thunders and I was happy to just be a part of the equation.

A couple of days later Kim called me and said, “So, Johnny wants to go out with you. I hope you don’t mind, I gave him your number.” I shrieked, “You did what??” I mean, I worshipped the guy, but he was a total mess and a gazillion years older than me! Sexual attraction was unthinkable. How would I get out of this?

I was totally freaked out and every time my phone rang I jumped. But a few days went by and he didn’t call, so I relaxed, thinking he must have changed his mind. Then, of course, as it always does when you don’t want it to, and never does when you want it to, the phone rang. My sister picked it up, said hello and handed it to me:

Me: Hello?
Man w/heavy NY accent: Raffaele. It’s Jahnny…Jahnny Thundahs.

(I put the phone against my chest and mouthed the words, “It’s fucking Johnny Thunders!!!” My sister looked at me blankly. She is notoriously uninterested in good music or rock stars and just wanted to use the phone.)

Me: Um…Hi Johnny.
Johnny: So, hey, it was nice to see you again the other day.
Me: Yeah, totally…
Johnny: I was thinking…maybe we could go onna date. Ya wanna go on a date?
Me (frantically running through excuses in my head): Well…thanks, Johnny, that’s so nice, really…um…but I have a boyfriend.
Johnny: Oh, that’s too bad. It’s probably one of those heavy metal guys, isn’t it?
Me (feeling like crap for lying): Uh, yeah…it is.
Johnny: Yeah…I hate those heavy metal guys. But, that’s cool. Just thought I’d ask.
Me: Well, I’m very flattered.
Johnny: Okay, so I’ll see you around.
Me: Yeah, definitely. Take care…
Johnny: Bye…
Me: Bye…

A few months after that I ran into him at a club on the West side, I can’t remember what the name of it was, it was a short-lived venture. There were bands playing and a lot of fun people were out that night. Kim and I hung out drinking and chatting with Johnny at the bar. Somehow I remember it that he was alone, but I don’t know how that could have been possible, I’m sure he must have had someone hanging around with him. He always seemed to have one druggie pal along, never an entourage.

Eventually Johnny was talked into getting onstage for some jamming, and I was shoved up there as well to sing backup. That’s where the picture on my photo page comes from. Unfortunately, the truth must be told that we never got through a song. He fucked around, starting and stopping tunes, and I am just not a real singer. I can’t even remember my own lyrics, let alone anyone else’s, and Johnny was in no frame of mind to walk me through it. So we goofed around and giggled at each other and eventually we hopped down and went back to the bar. At least that’s the way I remember it, and that’s how I came to obtain photos of me with Johnny Thunders on a stage.

And that was the last time I saw him. I did end up going on a tour of Canada as a backup singer with Sylvain, but I never ran into Johnny again and he died a few years later. Kim was very upset and I felt a great sadness. Throughout the years I had seen him play some really shitty shows, and I didn’t know him very well. In retrospect I realize that I shouldn’t have been so uptight and should have just gone on the damn date, if only for the great story. But I have never changed my opinion of him; to me he was always rock royalty, a great songwriter, a trailblazer, a sharp dresser, cooler than pretty much everyone on the planet, and a very sweet person. I consider myself blessed to have the minimal contact I did.


Convo on song possiblities…check out the Axl guy in the corner!

Kim, her leopard jumpsuit (had one of those too!), Johnny, and her car.


Why I Hate Straight People

And by that I don’t mean heterosexuals, I’m talking about those mall-walking, mom-jean wearing, double-wide baby strollering, still think pink hair is craaaazy, normal types that make up the majority of our population.

I went out Christmas shopping today with a mild hangover brought on via a night out with my extra gay friend Paolo and the totally rocking Army of Darkness. I adore Paolo and always have the greatest time with him, even though we have nothing in common. He calls me Myrtle, I call him Prissy. He hates rock and roll and worships Madonna, she annoys the hell out of me, and we invariably spend our time together arguing about her no matter how hard I try to steer the conversation elsewhere. If we’re not arguing about Madonna directly we’re still arguing about his love of crap pop culture and my hatred for it. Somehow it works for us. And the AOD, well, they just rule.

I behaved like an absolute idiot last night after drinking a LOT of liquor, starting out with sake at an employee birthday dinner, then ouzo at Patricia Field’s fabulous apartment, then lots of beer at 3 of Cups with the AOD. I capped off the night by throwing Paolo to the filthy bar floor (in a $1200 coat) and doing a flailing, grinding dance on my knees over him while “Burning Up” played. This morning he called me and said,
“Oh sweet Myrt, we are an embarrassment to heavy metal heteros and Chelsea faggots everywhere.”

Um, yes, Prissy, indeed we are.

Anyway, so my head is a little tender today but I braved the cold weather and dutifully shopped, and stopped into Trash and Vaudeville. I havenï’t been in there in a year or so and I find it comforting that it hasn’ really changed in format in 20 years. And apparently, some other things never change as well. As I stood perusing the hooker boots and creepers I heard a commotion coming from the front of the store, loud laughter and the sound of chortling voices. It was a group of six or eight men and women, obviously couples, all over 35 or so, and all of them very overweight. They lumbered to the back of the store, picking up hangers and shouting, “Hey Judy, you should wear THIS tonight!! Hahahahahahahahaha”and “Hey, what are these, FRANKENSTEIN SHOES??”and “Oh my God, Dave, what is this thing?! Har, har, har!!”

You know the drill: apparently, even in 2005, even with the success of MTV, Hot Topic and the internet, they’re still coming to town to places like Trash so they can foist their ignorance and ill manners on the freaks. This bunch was so obnoxious and irritating under hangover conditions that I was forced to run out, needing peace and feeling too infuriated at their incredibly boorish, uneducated, self-satisfied behavior to maintain silence for too long. Ugh. Why is there never a fire hose around when you need one? Why can’t I perfect my mental power to make people bleed from their eyes and asses when I concentrate?

The other incident that is making me consider clinging to my own status as “other” is this one:

I had a friend in high school who was a very naive, sweet Texas country boy, who was madly in love with me and of course never got a moment’s play because he was exactly the opposite of what I was looking for (and come to think of it, still is). But he was so nice that I just regularly deflected his advances and we remained pals even after I started dating his close friend. He moved back to Texas after high school and we have kept in touch on and off over the last couple of years via the internet, just brief updates, never any deep or inner conversations.

So he sends me an email wanting to know what I’m up to and I give him a brief synopsis and tell him if he’s really interested he can look at my myspace page. Here is his response:

Thank you for your thoughts.  I did visit your site yesterday.  Colorful friends you have…
I didn’t have time to read many of your blogs though.  I’ll try to visit from time to time.  Seems as that many of your friends think the world of you.  No surprise there.
Do I detect an emptiness somewhere in your heart?
Grrr. Every fucking straight person from my past always gets around to this same presumptive, self-important question. It’s so incredibly annoying. But as you can see he is very nice and so I swallowed the rage that came up to respond:

Emptiness? No way! I have been happier the last few years than I ever was in my life. No worries there.
And then the second part of it comes, and I should have seen it coming because the “there must be something wrong with you” question is almost always followed by this one:

So happy to hear that.  Don’t mean to pry… just want for your happiness.  Neat how life somewhere along the way does get more rewarding.  It takes on a meaningfulness that we could not see as children.

I must ask… hope you will not mind.  I have reached a point where I am not afraid to broach the subject…

Do you know Jesus? I won’t preach at you, but am available to talk if you so desire…
AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!! Okay, now I feel totally sideswiped, and I’m really fucking pissed, and this is my answer:

Oh Lord. First the emptiness question, then the Jesus question? Is there some script out there in the Midwest and down South, meant to rescue us city folk from our evil and empty ways? Please, not you, too!

 I consider myself very spiritual and I am familiar with the teachings of many masters, including Jesus. I pray, I meditate, I try to follow his (and others) example, sometimes more successfully than others, of course. But please don’t hit me with the born again thing. I know it’s part of that particular belief to work to bring others in, but I don’t believe in organized religion or straight Christian teaching and I really resent it when people try to force their religious beliefs on others. I think it’s very invasive and completely arrogant. There are all kinds of valid ways to worship God.
That being said, I respect your right to believe whatever you want to.

I expected an apology but none has been forthcoming, and I have just been fuming about it ever since. I can’t stop being mad. But I wondered, why am I feeling so defensive and angry? Why do I care what he thinks about my lifestyle or that he’s dragging out the whole you need me to teach you the ways of Jesus thing, which btw, I swear to fucking God, nearly every “normal” friend or acquaintance that I have ever tried to be kind to and respond when they reached out, always fucking tries to foist on me after they work their way up to the whole emptiness bullshit! It’s like, well gee, your life looks good–you still look attractive, had your 15 minutes of fame, traveled the world and met all kinds of cool people, all while I’ve been sitting in my barcalounger in the same town I grew up in, eating bacon and assuming I know all there is to know about the world… but surely there must be SOMETHING wrong with the way you are living. Surely there must be some hole that was meant to be filled with babies and the bible! You can’t be having as much fun as you appear to have, because otherwise I may have to admit that my own life might not be as much of an adventure as I had once hoped it would be.

So after examining my anger to figure out where it came from, I reached the conclusion that what is pissing me off is not that I have once again been hit with this narrow kind of condescension. It’s that I was hit with it by one of the people that I trusted enough let in to my world. Every time I give one of these people from my past a little inch they take their country mile and the result is that I end up feeling like I got duped into laying myself open for the attack when I was simply trying to be friendly and open-minded. I spent my whole childhood and teen years defending who I am to the world around me and at this point in time I am not at all interested in doing it again. That is why I’ve gone to great pains to set up my world so that the only people I see and converse with in an intimate manner are of the same ilk.

But does that mean I have to be close-minded and think that the only cool people on the planet are the ones with tattoos and bands or jobs as trance channelers or pet psychics? Maybe! I really don’t want to be a big snob who thinks every normal person out there in rural and middle America is a mouth-breathing Bush fan. And I don’t want to reject a possibly wonderful person because they appear too straight or lead a life unlike mine. But I see no other choice at the moment. I have no time or energy to expend on being annoyed by people I’m not close to anymore or tourists looking to feel better about their sorry lives by guffawing at platform shoes. Sometimes, like in the latter case, it may be unavoidable. But in my own personal life, I think the ranks will have to remain closed and bigoted for the time being– liberals, new agers, faggots and freaks only, please. And I don’t mean the Jesus kind, fuckers.