So, my longtime and dear friend Bebe Buell asked me to do a spoken word opener for her record release party last night. She said, “You’re so funny, Raffer. I am envisioning you with a new spoken word career!” Which is very kind, and I gladly accepted and wrote something specially for her night.
My mom is in town for a visit, and staying with me, so I’ve been on the go nonstop all week, and I worked all day. I ran home, curled my hair, threw some eyelashes on, printed the piece out quickly, then ran to the venue without checking. the pages.
True to Raff minor chaos form, I got onstage, read the first three pages happily, and then realized as I stood in a spotlight, with 350 people listening, that I had left the last page at home. Le sigh. Le panic. Le FREAKOUT. I had to wing it. I am SO not into winging it. But I had a great time, and I think the crowd did too, and I’m so grateful to Bebe for her incredibly generous spirit and her awesome audience. Please pick up her new album “Hard Love”. You won’t be disappointed, I think it might be her best yet.
All my best girls showed up for support, and in another typical Raff situation, two of them almost got in a major brawl in the ladies room when a zaftig goth girl complained loudly to the bathroom attendant that I had stolen her material. I have killer friends, and I do mean killer in both senses of the word. They do me proud.
And happily, more than a couple of people I met asked if they could find the piece online, so I am posting it here. And then I’m going back to bed, because my vodka-soaked head is killing me.
As per usual, namaste, my bitches.
When Bebe asked me to get up here and say something, I thought about a number of stories that I’ve written, but decided that since it’s her record release, it makes sense to begin by speaking about Bebe, and how we met.
When I was a teenager I was a nerd. I wore thick glasses and lived in a small town in Michigan. And I was insane about Todd Rundgren. Like devoted, rabid fan. His nerdiness spoke to my nerdiness in a way that I felt no one else could understand. I knew we were meant to be together. One day we would be madly in love. I would stand at his side wearing the coolest clothes and we would use big words like “onomatopoeia” and “ubiquitous” in our everyday conversation.
Because it was the 70’s I had pictures of him up in my locker at school, cut out from Creem and Rolling Stone Magazines, where I got all of my most important news. There was no internet. You couldn’t google your idols, you just had to wait for these magazines to come out each month, and listen to flat, vinyl records over and over again while you looked at the jacket cover and fantasized about another life. A life that involved fitting in and rock stars and skyscrapers and fancy backstage parties. A life that did not include shoveling snow in moon boots and waiting for your birthday so you could get contact lens and stop being abused for being a four-eyed nerd at your Todd-festooned locker.
One day I opened a magazine, most likely the aforementioned Creem, and there was that famous photo of Todd and Bebe sitting at a small table looking up at the camera. I stopped breathing for a minute. Bebe looked so beautiful, and not much older than me. Her big blue eyes were wide and sweet, she wore a flower in her long, light, full hair and her mouth was parted slightly open, as if she were waiting to be kissed. She was so beautiful.
I thought to myself…“That fucking bitch.”
I was pissed. My hair never looked like that! I had assumed, wrongfully I could see now, that Todd was waiting patiently for me to pull myself together and move to New York so we could start our life together. Bebe was an interloper. She had stolen my man, my future life! I began listening for signs of her in his songs. I practically had a meltdown when she put out a record of her own. That was really taking it too far. I was gonna beat her up one day. As soon as I got the hell out of Dodge and into New York City, she was gonna get it.
Well…I did get the hell out of Dodge, and I stopped wearing glasses and started my own band. Screw you, Todd. I don’t wanna be your goddamn girlfriend anymore. I’m going to get famous and then you and all the hometown haters will be sorry that you didn’t appreciate me when you had a chance! I was officially a Cycle Slut from Hell with an attitude to match the name.
Sometime in the late 80’s Dee Dee Ramone hosted a show that featured a number of bands, including my band, the Cycle Sluts, and Bebe was scheduled to play. I was finally going to get to see my teenage nemesis in person and I was very curious. I assumed that I would hate her. She was blonde, after all. Surely just a spoiled model with nothing to say.
I dressed in my heavy metal gear for sound check and put my guard up. Too cool for school, just hanging here near the stage, smoking a cigarette in my thigh high boots. You know how it is.
Bebe spotted me immediately and got up from her seat and marched directly over to me and introduced herself with a big smile. Liv, who was just a little girl then, smiled and waved from her seat. Bebe’s blue eyes were even more clear in real life. Her hair looked great (of course). She was so friendly and natural. They both shone like the sun and their presence was so warm and friendly that I couldn’t help but warm up a little bit in the light.
I thought…“That fucking bitch.” Now I had to be nice. This did not fit into my master plan.
My brain sort of exploded. And my brain has been exploding ever since. Bebe has taken me to Todd’s house for the weekend, we took a road trip to Wisconsin with Skid Row and Guns and Roses, and another time we went to a strip bar with Gene Simmons, with whom, by the way, I had a very deep and thoughtful conversation about silicone breasts. My teenage nemesis helped make some amazing rock and roll moments possible for me. This is all the proof I need that life is magic.
So today I thought I would hail all the women who have entered my life much as Bebe has: as someone to eye with suspicion as we are raised to do. Who are you? What do you have that people will love you for more than they love me? Are you prettier than me? Skinnier than me? What are you going to take from me?
If you can get past the the butt-sniffing phase, you can occasionally find someone to call sister. Sometimes you gain an archenemy instead. But this can be fun as well, full of catty conversations with friends, dirty looks across the room, and the occasional bar brawl that leads you to review your current life choices. Or maybe that’s just me? Regardless, I get a little smarter with every connection.
So here’s to you, my girls. You bitches, you gossipers, you haters, you nurturers, you lovers. I am so grateful, more grateful than words can say, for the tender hand you extend when I fall. I forgive you for sometimes pushing me off the cliff in the first place.
Here’s to you, girls who weren’t born pretty and made themselves so. I salute you for the effort. You look fabulous. Here’s to the girls who put themselves through college. The ones who get the job done. The ones who can carry half their weight, the ones who can stitch a wound. The ladies who know what it’s like to lug their own suitcase up six flights of tenement stairs. The women who will stop their car on the highway to rescue a stray dog. The ladies of pro-wrestling. You’ve all got great asses.
Here’s to anyone who’s ever sent a cringe-worthy drunk email or left a wasted late night message on the phone. Here’s to the cheaters who just couldn’t help themselves. Here’s to the girls who have figured out all his passwords. You know you’re crazy, but you’re fucking smart. Here’s to anyone who’s ever made an ass out of themselves over love. Here’s to you, who loved so much the bones of your heart had no choice but to crack in a million pieces under the weight. They fused back in new patterns and you were never the same. Harder perhaps, but less of a sap and more compassionate where it counts. You chose the pain; now you don’t need to choose it again.
So here’s to damaged goods. You couldn’t stay away from that bad boy, and now you’re flawed with the occasional std and the constant bad attitude. Here’s to your junkie past that scarred your skin and burned your brain. Who gives a shit. That was yesterday, this is today. Don’t do it again and you’ll be fine. You are fine. You are a stone cold fox.
I laud you, single mothers. I don’t know how you do it, it looks like the hardest job in the world, and I’ve worked some shit jobs in my day. I have a friend who lost her four year old to cancer. She told me some days it was all she could do not to go to the cemetery and dig that baby up just to hold her one more time. Imagine the courage it takes to get through just one of those days. The good mother is superhuman. What it does to your boobs is criminal and it is my God-given right to glare at your stroller that blocks my entrance into the liquor store, but I hail the you just the same.
And I bow to you, wives who make their marriages work, and wives who could not. Either way you are golden and grand and you have done the best you could with what you know. Give yourselves a gold star, a pat on the back, a big glass of wine in a fancy goblet, unless you’re one of my girls in recovery. In that case you can have an ice tea with no sugar. I want you healthy and happy because there’s a lot of work to do out there.
I have so much love for you, you’ve carried me through the best and the worst of times, which are sometimes interchangeable. You loaned me clothes, bought me lunch, called to gently break the news about my cheating man, did coke with me until the sun came up and then called the next day to tell me we had to stop. You shouted and clapped at every show I performed, no matter how off-key it sounded. You forgave me. I’m so grateful that you forgave me.
Here’s to the witches, psychos, crazy bitches, shrews, harpies, cunts, fishwives, hellcats, she-devils, whores, harridans, skanks, nymphos, prudes, dogs. The festerers, the obsessives, the maniacs, the freaks, the drunk dialers, the wallflowers, the fatties. The ones wearing too much makeup. Too thick, too skinny, not pretty enough, too pretty, not the right one. The rock and roll bitches, because you are my favorite bitches of all. You are perfect, my dear. Stop shouting into the wind and and do your best to learn to sit peacefully in your imperfection. It will get better, I promise.
I raise a toast to my girls: Take a look at yourself next time you’re in front of a mirror. This might be the most beautiful you’ll ever be in your life, so enjoy it while you can. Maybe not. Fuck it. Fuck it. You are a champion, you are more lovable than you think you are, you are a muse, you deserve to have songs written about you. You are holy, you are whole. You just have to shut the fuck up and step out of your own way.
So here’s a salute to you my sisters. I hail you my frenemies. I thank you my enemies. Without you, I am nothing.
Now let’s get on with this show because time is ticking and Bebe and I aren’t getting any younger.