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‘Pass The Dust, I Think I’m Bowie!’: True tales of Black Randy, first wave Los Angeles punk icon

The many roads that led to the happening that was to be referred to as “punk” are varied and often way more interesting than punk itself. It’s still a wonder to me to see the various ways so many very opposed situations all wound up in one place, at one time. In other words, to skew a quote from the the old TV show Naked City “There are eight million stories in punk city. This is one of them.”

My personal introduction to Black Randy was when I arrived (by bus!) in Los Angeles from New York with some friends and bandmates to visit our new found buddies who had come to New York six months before. We let them stay in our sorta squat (in actuality it was the storage space of the drummer of The Lovin’ Spoonful, who our friend babysat for!) and they said to come to LA. These new pals consisted of Brian Tristan (later to be known as Kid Congo Powers), Trixie Plunger, Mary Rat, Rod (from LA band The Mau Maus) and Hellin Killer. Lifelong friends, all. In LA we bounced between the three places most people in our circle did: The Screamers house (aka The Wilton Hilton, where Brian/Kid literally lived in a closet); The Canterbury on Cherokee, off Hollywood Boulevard, an entire apartment complex stuffed to the gills with punk rock kids in every room and across from infamous punk club The Masque; and Joan Jett’s house, then a looney bin party pad.
When entering the Canterbury I was warned by Screamers drummer KK Barrett about a guy named Black Randy who was crazy and to “definitely not shake his hand”! The next morning we went out and in the lobby of the Canterbury, on the huge maybe seven ft by eight ft art deco-ish mirror was a thick covering of human feces. THIS was a typical Black Randy gesture to humanity. I was then told that when he went to get assistance from the government due to his mental problems (SSI aka “crazy money”) he had his pockets stuffed with his poop and went in with his hands in his pockets and gratefully shook the worker’s hands when greeted…of course causing a mini riot at the welfare office and speeding up his paperwork just to get him the hell out of there! This is why you do not shake Black Randy’s hand. He was also known to poop in party hostesses’ purses and worse. His phony phone calls are legendary and can be heard here!

I then found out Black Randy had a band. This I had to see!
I saw Black Randy and The Metrosquad at the Masque. At his very first show there the first words out of his mouth were “I’m glad to see there aren’t any punks here tonight… because I HATE PUNK.” Being from New York it reminded me of James Chance and the Contortions. It had a similarly fast and funky element, but unlike Chance’s bands, the subject matter was scathing and funny with lots of gay, street and political references. Songs about Idi Amin, porno, fighting the police, narcs, sex and death. His backup singers—the Blackettes (think the the James Brown Revue on glue) were the scream of the then new crop of punque chicks including Exene Cervenka, Alice Bag, Lorna Doom, Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin and others.
To quote

Black Randy and his Metrosquad were a supergroup of the Hollywood punk era: the lineup included members of the Randoms, Eyes and the Dils as well as one of the other founding partners of Dangerhouse, David Browne. Musically, they were nothing like the hard-fast-loud sound of punk- if anything they were a ‘60’s Soul/James Brown style funk/soul band that played rather fast. They also had echoes of early Blondie and the Who, with their tough and tight rock and roll. They were a funny band, a joke band in the sense that humor was key to understanding what they were about. The band’s’ music, with its circus-like Woolworth Doors organ vibe, played the collective straight man to Black Randy’s drunken, buffoonish, drawling, sneering voice. His voice is one of the few truly filthy voices I’ve ever heard in music—every word he says is dripping in self-hatred and general loathing, a venomous nicotine and beer-stained voice that’s just laughing. His voice is sleazy enough that you don’t just think that he just slept in a porn arcade (as the lyrics to his anthem “I Slept in an Arcade” discuss), you think he INHABITED it. The band was perfectly in sync with Black Randy, playing covers of “Shaft” and “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” while he took aim at the songs, exaggerating the swaggering manhood of one and the simple-minded racial pride of the other to grotesque proportions.

Black Randy as a lyricist was a satirist who made everything he took aim at disgusting and outrageous, but still rooted in the real world. This is important, as many artists will take satire into fantasy (such as Eminem), making the situations so outlandish they become unreal. Almost all of Black Randy’s lyrics are internal narratives of a person’s feelings at a certain moment.

The other main member of The Metrosquad was David Brown who started the first and best Los Angeles punk label, Dangerhouse Records, who put out classic 45s by The Germs, Avengers, Dils, Eyes, X, Weirdos, Deadbeats and more. The only LP released on Dangerhouse was the incredibly titled Pass The Dust, I Think I’m Bowie by Black Randy and The Metrosquad. The reason to celebrate is that the LP has just been reissued by another classic early punk/post punk/hardcore label, Frontier Records (Suicidal Tendencies, Redd Kross, Christian Death, T.S.O.L., Circle Jerks, Long Ryders, Three O’Clock, Damned, Adolescents, etc.), helmed by founder Lisa Fancher and still going strong. It’s been a long time since this LP has been available on vinyl. Get it while you can here.
As an afterthought, I have a really interesting tidbit of info that no one knows: Black Randy had a long history, like so many of the older first wave punk rock innovators. He was a video tech in the earliest days of that field. He was friends with the guys who became LA synth cult icons The Screamers (Tomata Du Plenty and Tommy Gear) long before that when they were doing insane drag performances. I don’t mean Judy Garland impersonations, I mean more like terrorist performance art. In 1974 they had put a show together called Savage Voodoo Nuns which was booked into a new club in the worst neighborhood of lower Manhattan (The Bowery) called CBGB, by Ramones friend (and later their t-shirt designer and lighting director) the late Arturo Vega. Read a review of that show here. They also wanted bands on the bill so Arturo wrangled his friends The Ramones (their second show) and another new band on the scene called Blondie to play.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
The Thief’s Porno: Jean Genet’s existentialist gay smut film from 1950 (NSFW)
03:07 pm


Jean Genet

In 1950, the great French criminal, poet, novelist, playwright and homosexual Marxist revolutionary, Jean Genet—one of the towering literary talents of the 20th century—directed his only film, Un chant d’amour (“A Song of Love”), a silent, 26-minute black-and-white short depicting the sexual fantasies of two male prisoners, one young, one older, and a self-loathing prison warden who gets off watching them. In the role of the younger prisoner, Genet cast his then lover, 18-year-old Lucien Sénémaud, who would later leave him for a woman.

Un chant d’amour is one of the earliest classics of queer cinema and the film caused scandal and censorship crackdowns for several years when attempts were made at public screenings. This controversy—and the difficulty of actually seeing the film allowed Genet to put his well-honed conman skills into action as he sold “the only” print to several wealthy porn collectors. Like his books Un chant d’amour kept Genet’s name in the news with near constant censorship battles.

When Jonas Mekas wanted to screen the film in New York, he had to smuggle it past customs officers by hiding the film—cut into several pieces—in his pockets. As Mekas explains in his intro to Cult Epics DVD release of Un chant d’amour, he happened to be seated next to British playwright Harold Pinter who was flying to America for the 1964 Broadway premiere of his play The Homecoming. Pinter’s fame helped him distract a star-struck customs officer as Mekas whistled by.

Jean Genet with Angela Davis
From an extensive and thoughtful essay about Un chant d’amour at Jim’s Reviews:

When Mekas screened the picture at the Film-Makers’ Cooperative (which he’d co-founded, as he later would Anthology Film Archives and Film Culture magazine), police burst in, beat Mekas, threw him in jail, and sneered that he should be shot for “dirtying America.” The case was later dropped, since Genet was himself something of a celebrity, with two plays running in New York; but Mekas received a suspended six-month sentence for screening another landmark LGBT film, Jack Smith’s gender-bending Flaming Creatures. Déjà vu: more police raids a few months later in San Francisco when Genet’s film was shown to private groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought suit, enlisting the expert testimony of the brilliant critic Susan Sontag, but to no avail. The California District Court of Appeals banned the film, and the decision was upheld by the US Supreme Court.

Unwittingly, Genet had helped narrow the US’s legal definition of obscenity, which had earlier been expanded to include explicit works with “literary or scientific or artistic value.” In the UK, despite a scattering of underground screenings over the years, the film was not even presented to the British Board of Film Classification (i.e., censorship) until 1992. Happily, times have changed – even if it’s taken several decades – and we can now appreciate Genet’s film on its own terms… even if, ultimately, Genet himself could not.

Today, perhaps the most shocking aspect of Un chant d’amour is Genet’s denial of it, beginning around 1975 when he huffily refused a 90,000 franc award from the Minister of Culture, of office which he equated (not unjustly) with censorship: and by the way, hadn’t he made the film a quarter of a century earlier. Edmund White offers some intriguing speculations about Genet’s denunciation: “perhaps because as his sole film it seems a slender accomplishment given his overwhelming lifelong ambitions towards cinema, perhaps it reminded him of a sterile, unhappy period in his life and of his now-dead love for Lucien, or perhaps because it was one more instance of his trafficking between art and pornography in an ambiguous territory he never felt happy about… [And] the extra-artistic reactions to his work – legal, moral, titillated – irritated him. He told Papatakis he didn’t like the film because it was too bucolic and not sufficiently violent. It is also Genet’s last attempt to portray homosexual desire.”


Genet marching with two of his revolutionary queer literary compatriots, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
If you look at late 60s issues of The Village Voice and other underground newspapers, there were often small ads advertising screenings of Un chant d’amour along with films like Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks or Scorpio Rising (or Andy Milligan’s Vapors, which mostly takes place in a gay bathhouse) at cinemas with names like “The Tomkat Theater” or “The Adonis Lounge.” These film titles were pretty much code words indicating gay cruising scenes, but in a manner likely to fly right over the heads of the NYPD’s vice squad.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Marianne Breslauer’s gorgeous photos of queer, androgynous and butch women of the 1930s

The photography of Marianne Breslauer is striking for both its intimacy and its subjects—women, usually of the sleek, chic and gender-bending variety, posed to optimum androgynous elegance. A bohemian Berliner by birth, Breslauer studied under Man Ray for a time in Paris and achieved some commercial success before returning home to an increasingly volatile Germany. As a Jewish artist working in an obviously queer milieu, Breslauer eventually fled to Switzerland and retired from photography early, eventually marrying a man and becoming an art dealer.

Among the many beautiful faces captured by Breslauer was her dear friend, Swiss writer, journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, who she described as “neither a man nor a woman, but an angel, an archangel.” A libertine and rebel, Schwarzenbach defied her wealthy, Nazi-sympathizing family, funding anti-fascist publications and later supporting American unions at the height of the Depression—this is not to mention her adventures hitchhiking across India and Turkey, or the many lesbian affairs. Surviving addiction issues and a suicide attempt, Schwarzenbach nonetheless died at the young age of 34 after a fall from a bicycle, leaving behind a prolific body of work, 170 articles and 50 photo-reports.



More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Underground erotica: Konstantin Somov’s secret stash of gorgeous gay art
01:22 pm


Konstantin Somov

The Boxer (1933)
Russian painter Konstantin Somov isn’t very well known for the dreamy, homoerotic portraits you see here. He was a successful commercial artist from an artistic family, but his most acclaimed work might better be described as “retro,” or even “camp.” Somov was essentially a Rococo revivalist, forgoing the somewhat harsh realism that was popular in Russia at the time for a whimsical gouache and watercolor style that was nearly 200 years old—think big wigs and giant skirts, a lot of fussy-looking depictions of 18th century aristocracy. In some ways, his commercial work was even gayer than his gay boudoir scenes.

In Russia, Somov was an integral part of a thriving and lush arts community centered around a publication he co-founded—World of Art, which also included lavish costume and set design for the Ballets Russes. There were a lot of gay men involved in World of Art, and its predilection with fantasy and luxury were very much out of step with the 19th Century Russian Realism. After the Russian Revolution, Somov likely anticipated his work being denounced as decadent so he immigrated to the U.S. and then Paris. His commercial work is auctioned off for millions at Christie’s, but it’s his underground gay portraiture that’s got the cult following.

Naked Young Man (1937)

Portrait of A Man (1933)
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Funeral Parade of Roses’: Edgy 1969 Japanese drama that inspired Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’
02:09 pm


Stanley Kubrick
Toshio Matsumoto

Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses is one of the most audacious and astounding feature films ever made, a visually-stunning hodgepodge of cutting edge 60s graphic design, Warholian underground cinema, documentary filmmaking along with wildly experimental editing techniques. Matsumoto’s dazzling freewheeling filmmaking breaks the Brechtian fourth wall several times—interviewing the actors about their roles and pulling a shot out to reveal the camera and lighting crew—and shows the influence of William Klein’s fashionista extravaganza Who Are You, Polly Magoo?, the films of Jean Luc Godard and Alain Resnais, even Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Funeral Parade of Roses is a furious and dizzying bombardment of violence, sex, and drugs. The 1969 film is well-known to have been a major influence on Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, and we see this in the sped-up montage scenes set to classical music, the sound design and editing style, and art direction (not to mention the false-eyelashes and the phallic lollipops). It was produced via the Art Theatre Guild (ATG) the legendary Japanese production company and distributors of the country’s “New Wave” cinema that was shunned by the major studios. In one underground “in-joke” New York’s avant-garde cinema promoter Jonas Mekas is mentioned by name and quoted:

“All definitions of cinema have been erased. The doors are now open.”


All this and I’ve yet to mention that Funeral Parade of Roses takes place in Tokyo’s gay underworld—Bara no sôretsu is the original Japanese title, “bara” meaning “rose” which equates to the pejorative use of “pansy”—giving it a particularly edgy reputation for a film made in Japan in 1969.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Boyd Rice and Douglas P. get busy in the new fan-fiction comic book ‘Love Holocaust’

Now there’s a Henry & Glenn Forever for the neofolk set.

The latest catalog from Soleilmoon Recordings (home of the affordable Dreamachine and much of the Legendary Pink Dots’ oeuvre) offers Love Holocaust, a new comic book about “an imaginary romantic encounter” between former collaborators Boyd Rice of NON and Douglas P. of Death in June:

The story, written by J. Guignol, draws inspiration from Death In June’s legendary songbook. Illustrator Tenebrous Kate turned the story into a comic book, and has lovingly hand-made each copy. The covers are hand-printed linocuts with gold ink on black paper. Limited numbered editions of 27 hard-bound and 50 soft-bound copies.


The glimpses of the book’s contents on the Soleilmoon website disclose runes, Gothic script, tiki mugs, and other totems of these men’s mythologies. I see that J. Guignol describes their assignation in the kind of prose Terry Southern used to call “brutally frank” and “frankly explicit”:

Boyd wanted to feel the tightness of Dougie’s anal swastika, he wanted to open the “brown book” of his love. Boyd began to pull Dougie’s pants down; his hot breath send [sic] shivers down Dougie’s spine as he whispered in his ear, “Put the mask on. You know I like it with the mask on.”

More fun after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Meet Tuttii Fruittii and Toni Tits, the ‘drag clowns’ of London
02:21 pm


Toni Tits
drag clowns
Tuttii Fruittii

The memorably named Tuttii Fruittii and Toni Tits—Tuttii’s the one on the bicycle above—are inclusive clowns for the generation that has decisively rejected the imposition of restrictions on gender identity. Operating out of the Deptford neighborhood of London, they go by the name Jûngølā Klöwñz, and they are an “experimental comedy art duo” inspired by a generous grab-bag of sources, including drag, clown, and tribal culture.

Tuttii and Toni both cut their teeth at the Haus of Sequana, a women-only group inspired by the tribal practices of the African, South American, and Asian diasporas that after “rampant orgies of imagination and joyous mashings of minds” created a group of performance artists that liberally uses body paint, movement, and chanting “to challenge patriarchal norms and prescribed gender roles.”

In what passes for “regular life,” Tuttii is a hair sculptor and Toni is a video artist. Photographer Poem Baker has been capturing the duo as they go about their business for over a year, and that time has culminated in the colorful series of pics seen here.

On the Klöwñz, Baker writes, “Their psychedelic creations being so entrenched in their daily lives has made it impossible to distinguish between persona and performer, between art and life.” The two clowns have given Baker an occasion to ponder why she does what she does too: “London is my home, and I love photographing all its wonderful, colorful characters— the eccentrics, the artists, the crazies, and the the bohemians.”


More after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cute Jehovah’s Witnesses animation teaches kids how to be homophobic

If you want to get through Jehovah’s metal detector into paradise, you’ll have to leave behind that bag full of love and inclusivity

Jehovah’s Witnesses have released a cute Pixar-ish animation intended to teach children that same-sex marriage is against the will of God.

Lesson 22 is titled “One Man, One Woman” and is part of a longer series called “Be Jehovah’s Friend!” The animation shows considerable influence from Pixar’s monster hit from 2015, Inside Out.

The video depicts a young girl telling her mother about an episode at school involving a friend named Carrie who drew a picture of her family, which has two mommies but no daddy. The girl passes on the comment from the teacher—a liberal heathen and a threat to everything right and good—that “all that matters is that people love each other and that they’re happy.” This bit of commonsense truth provides an opening for the girl’s mother to bring down the hammer and explain that Carrie’s mommies are never going to get into heaven if they persist in such unholy pursuits.

“People have their own ideas about what is right and wrong, but what matters is what Jehovah feels,” says the mother. The mother then makes an analogy that compares the gatekeepers of heaven to a kind of celestal TSA with a metal detector to deny entry to those with false beliefs:

It’s kind of like going on an airplane. What would happen if someone wanted to bring something on the plane that wasn’t allowed? ... To get [to paradise], we have to leave some things behind. That means anything Jehovah doesn’t approve of.

At the end of the video, the girl, newly motivated to get her friend Carrie to change her parents’ ways, says, “I can tell her about the paradise, and about the animals, and about the resurrection!”

And then her mother says, “Let’s practice!”

A disclaimer at the end of the video states that it was produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, a Jehovah’s Witness organization.

SMH, SMH…...

via Gay Star News

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Meet Wilma Burgess, country music’s first openly lesbian singer
04:29 pm


Country music
Wilma Burgess
Owen Bradley

When country singer Chely Wright revealed to her fanbase that she was a lesbian back in 2010, many of the magazine articles at the time referenced k.d. lang or Melissa Etheridge, to name two earlier gay performers who opted to be true to themselves in public, but very few mentioned an even earlier lesbian country music singer to come out of the closet.

Actually, Wilma Burgess, who had several hit singles in the mid-1960s was never in the closet to begin with. Burgess was a protege of the great country music producer Owen Bradley, one of the chief architects of the slick, string-laden “Nashville sound” of the 50s and 60s. Bradley, who had been Patsy Cline’s producer, heard in Burgess’ powerful voice a performer able to do something similar to the deceased singer and he signed her to Decca Records in June of 1964. Interestingly Burgess was reluctant to perform teary ballads where she was singing to a man, and preferred her material to be gender neutral and ambiguous. When she did agree to sing a song like “Ain’t Got No Man” it was something she negotiated with her powerful hit-maker mentor: One song she liked but that he didn’t have to, for every one of his choices that she went along with but wasn’t too fond of. Their partnership worked well and produced several hits, most notably the Grammy-nominated “Baby,” a 1965 hit Burgess was seen singing in the Jayne Mansfield B-movie The Las Vegas Hillbillys, and “Misty Blue” in 1967.

For obvious teasons, Wilma Burgess ultimately found herself frustrated by the strict and ostensibly pious Nashville scene and left the music business in 1978. She would go on to open The Hitching Post, the first lesbian bar in Nashville, in the late 80s with the money she made during her career. Wilma Burgess died at the age of 64 from a heart attack on August 26th, 2003.

More clips of Wilma Burgess after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Derek Jarman: The iconoclast filmmaker as painter
10:02 am


Derek Jarman
Ken Russell

Derek Jarman became a filmmaker by accident. He was originally a painter, an artist who started making home movies with friends at his Bankside home in London. These Super-8 films slowly evolved into movies and one of the most exciting, original and provocative filmmakers since Ken Russell arrived. During a seventeen-year career Jarman made eleven feature films—from the Latin and sand romp Sebastiane through his punk movie Jubilee (1978) to Caravaggio (1986) and the final one color movie Blue. During all of this time, the artist, director, writer, gardener and diarist painted.

Jarman was a student the Slade School of Art in the 1960s where he was taught—like everyone else—to be an “individual.” Jarman felt he was already managing that quite well in that department without being told how. He left art school and worked as a set designer with Ken Russell—most spectacularly on The Devils in 1971 and then Savage Messiah in 1973. His painting career splits into different sections; his early work reflected his interest in landscape, form and color—something which would recur in his films—his later work reflecting his more personal experience. However, as he began making films Jarman shifted from using paint to creating pictures with celluloid.

His return to painting came after his HIV diagnosis in 1986, when he produced a series of Black Paintings—collages made from objects found on the beach at his cottage in Dungeness. He placed these objects on an oily black background—similar to the contrasting black of the tableaux he used in Caravaggio the same year.

As his condition worsened, Jarman painted larger, more abstract canvases. He given a room to paint in where he splashed the canvas with thick bright paints and scrolling words and statements. His influence came from his life, his own films and the work of Jackson Pollock. The brightness and color of the paintings were a defiance in the face of illness.
‘Landscape with Marble Mountain’ (1967).
‘Landscape with a Blue Pool’ (1967).
‘Avesbury’ III (1973).
More of Derek Jarman’s paintings after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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