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‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’: The best book yet on the dawn of punk rock

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Early band shot of Blondie

In the now long line of endless punk rock history cash-in books being pumped out from every corner of the world it’s shocking to find the one book that’s not like the others. Paul Zone’s Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground published by Glitterati Inc. is a coffee table book brimming with amazing, unseen photos and the life story of Paul and his brothers Miki Zone and Mandy Zone and their bands The Fast and later, Man 2 Man. What makes this book different is its author and the time frame it takes place in.

There was a short moment when everything was happening at once, no one knew or cared and the only band that had an audience or a record deal was the New York Dolls. As early as 1974 Patti Smith was playing, as was Television, Wayne County, Suicide and Blondie. The Ramones were starting to play at CBGB (opening for a drag show that starred Tomata du Plenty later of Screamers fame), KISS was pretty much in this same scene playing to about five people with many bands like The Planets And Paul’s brothers The Fast were playing alongside of them. At one point, sub-culturally speaking, all the cards were thrown up in the air and no one knew where they were going to land. It was a very small group of friends almost all of whom would, in a few short years, become icons of pop culture,
 
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Johnny Thunders, early 70’s

At the time, Paul Zone was very young. Too young to be in a band, but not too young to see a band or be snuck into the back room at Max’s Kansas City. And not too young to document this exciting time in his life by photographing everything. There are very few photos of this period when punk rock was actually occurring in the midst of the glitter rock scene. When the up and down escalators of rock ‘n’ roll infinity met and EVERYONE was hungry on the way up AND on the way down. There was change in the air, excitement and confusion.

Seeing Alan Vega of Suicide performing in a loft in 1973 with a huge blonde wig and a gold painted face is unbelievable. The years the photos in the book span are 1971 to 1978. Most are snapshots of friends hanging out when everyone was still on the starting line. The Fast were one of the more popular of these bands who let their new friends Blondie and The Ramones open for them in small New York clubs.

Early photos of The Fast show them amazingly in full glitter regalia with KISS-like make up (Miki Zone has a heart painted over one eye, etc.) but this was before KISS! There are a few photos of icons of the time like Alice Cooper (watching cartoons in his hotel room), Marc Bolan, The Stooges, etc. (a good one of KISS with about three people in the audience, as mentioned above). Most are of friends just hanging out, having a ball, not knowing or caring about the future and without that dividing line in music history called “punk rock.” It is truly a treasure to see something this rare, and even better, 99% of these photos have never been seen before.
 
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Wayne County long before becoming Jayne County

By 1976 Paul Zone was old enough to join his brothers and became the lead singer of the version of The Fast that made records. Sadly due to poor management decisions The Fast got left behind that first punk wave and watched as almost all of their buddies become some of the most famous faces in music history. How amazing that all of these people were friends just hanging out, broke and creative going to see each other play, talking shit and influencing each other in ways they didn’t even realize?
 
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Joey Ramone eating dessert at Paul Zone’s parents house at 5 am

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Linda Ramone, future design icon Anna Sui, Nick Berlin and me, Howie Pyro (The Blessed) at Coney Island 1978

After a few years of struggling, The Fast trimmed down to just brothers Miki and Paul Zone and some early electronic equipment. They finally let go of the name The Fast and became Man to Man, one of the first Hi-NRG electro dance music groups, recording with the likes of Bobby Orlando and Man Parrish. They had huge hits worldwide and here in dance clubs like “Male Stripper” and “Energy Is Eurobeat,”
 
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Suicide’s Alan Vega, early 70’s

This book is three quarters a photo book and one quarter autobiography, cutting to the point and perfect for this modern, short attention span world. It is packed with so much amazing first hand information in such a short amount of text that no one will be disappointed. Playground was co-written by Jake Austen of Roctober Magazine, with a foreword by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. The book is available here
 
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If you are in the Los Angeles area this Saturday, June 28th, there will be a book release party and photo exhibit (with many of these photos printed HUGE) at Lethal Amounts Gallery at 8 pm.
 

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Why was transgender punk icon Jayne County banned from Facebook?


 
Punk pioneer, transexual trailblazer and Stonewall Riots veteran, Jayne County is a national treasure. However, the most recent coverage of County has not been on her legacy to punk rock or transgender history, but rather a petty bit of Internet activism. It appears the groundbreaking transexual foremother was banned from Facebook for 24 hours, presumably for her affectionate use of the word “tranny”—the exact phrase being, “I am having a party tonight and all my breeder, fag, dyke, tranny and shemale friends are invited!”

To call Jayne County an “icon” insinuates that she’s a paragon of her field, and that doesn’t quite do her justice—she just has too many fields. She came from Georgia to NYC in 1968, a draggy outsider who knew she’d find a more vibrant (and safer) community in the New York arts scene. New York was no picnic however, and Jayne quickly found herself fighting for gay rights in the Stonewall Riots. Before she was Jayne, she picked “Wayne County” as her nom d’arts alter-ego—a reference to her love for Detroit music. As Wayne she acted for Jackie Curtis, then onstage for Andy Warhol in Pork. By 1972 she had started an early protopunk band, Queen Elizabeth.

County’s hand in punk wasn’t just relegated to her androgynous persona and raunchy stage antics—the 1974 stage show, “Wayne at the Trucks” was an early rock theatre experiment, very reminiscent of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour. In 1974, Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys were regulars at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and County appeared in the 1976 punk film, The Blank Generation. By ‘77, Wayne County & The Electric Chairs had developed a following in Europe, and Wayne began her transition to Jayne, making her the first trans rock star. She’s never stopped moving, and even now sells her art as she cares for her ailing mother in Georgia. I highly suggest you check out both her music and her autobiography—Man Enough To Be A Woman. She’s a lovely, fascinating person with an unbelievable story, and we at Dangerous Minds couldn’t be more pleased to get an exclusive interview with her.
 

 
Dangerous MInds: First of all, how did you make your way from Dallas, Georgia all the way to New York City?

Jayne County: From Atlanta to NYC was a trip indeed! I first heard about Sheraton Square and The Stonewall from a group of gay hippies that I was hangin’ out with on 14th Street in Atlanta. 14th Street at that time in 1967 was the hub of everything that was cool and different in the repressive state of Georgia! It was wild and all types were welcome! Straight, gay, men, women and anything “in between”!

There was a big crackdown on anyone and anything the least bit different and unfortunately for me and my friend, drag queen Davina Daisy, that included being shot at by a truck full of chicken-carrying rednecks from Alabama! Rednecks would bring in the chickens they had raised on the back of their trucks to be sold at the local farmers market. Davina and I were prancing down 14th Street dressed in all our 60’s finery, and that included something that in those days was called “semi drag”!  We would go, “Ooooooooo Miss Woman !!! Lookatchew! In SEMEYE DRAG, lookin guuuud!!!” Semi drag was a term that just meant that you were not in full drag, which was usually reserved for Halloween or very special occasions! Full drag was good for Halloween because Miss Alice Bluegown, (the police) couldn’t legally arrest you for female impersonation.

In Atlanta there was a law that if a male’s hair touched the tip of his ears, he could be arrested and thrown in jail for impersonating a woman! The Southern Baptist Church, which controlled just about everything in those days, wanted to make sure that their young, straight Christian men didn’t mistake one of these demon possessed sodomites for a woman and commit a horrible, unforgivable sin!

By law you were required to wear a couple of articles of men’s clothing so people wouldn’t mistake you for a “real woman”! That’s the way it was! Your clothing was policed, and you could be put in jail for wearing the wrong attire! Back in those days, no one used the term “trans.” I didn’t even know what a transexual or transvestite was!

If the police caught you, sometimes they would drag you down to the police station and hold you down and shave your head. More than likely you would be severely beat up or raped or both! The cops would sit back and do nothing or laugh of even take part in the “festivities”! Such was life for trans people!
 

 
That day Davina and I were shot at, you could actually hear the bullets zinging past our ears! It was a truck full of rednecks! You could hear the chickens in the back of the truck just a cluckin away! I turned to Davina and told her that I was getting the hell out of there! I bought a one-way ticket to NYC and that was that!

DM: How did you get into theatre? You got involved with Warhol through Jackie Curtis, correct?

JC: Yes, I got in to theatre because of the fab Andy Warhol drag queen, Jackie Curtis. I say drag queen to avoid confusion because Jackie didn’t call herself a drag queen! She just called herself Jackie! She stated in an article that she wasn’t a man and she wasn’t a woman. She said,  “I’m just ME! Jackie!” At the time this seemed quite revolutionary! She wrote a play, called Femme Fatale, while stirring speed into her coffee every day upon waking up! It was performed at La MaMa [Experimental Theatre] as a sort of a tribute to the song by The Velvet Underground. I played a lesbian prison inmate named Georgia Harrison. In the play I swatted flies with a fly swatter then ate them! Like that nutty guy in Dracula! Don’t ask me why—it was art! Patti Smith was also in the play sporting a three-foot long cock ! A phallus like they used in ancient Greek theatre! She played with her over-sized Oscar Meyer, rubbing it and thumping it against the furniture shouting out lines like, “Hey, imma gonna fuckka you witha my hot pepper,” and “benda over Rover! And letta my big pizza taka over!” At one point she started waving it in my face and I started beating it with my fly swatter! It was ridiculous! The entire play was ultra offensive!!!
 

Above, from Rosa Von Praunheim’s City of Lost Souls
 
DM: You were a part of the Stonewall Riots as well—can you tell me a little bit about that?

JC: The Stonewall Riots were a turning point for gay people’s rights. People, especially the obvious femme queens and drag queens, were totally fed up with the treatment we were receiving! The queens stood out like sore thumbs, so naturally it was the queens that got all the shit on the streets! You had to know how to run fast! And some carried weapons like those fab metal tipped teasing combs! The ends could be sharpened and become very adequate weapons! Of course hair spray in the eyes was another good one. Some of the girls hid knives in their highly teased up wigs! It got really bad when the cops started doing “sex searches”! Taking the drag queens into the women’s rooms and forcing them to show their genitals to the officers. Some of the pigs were laughing at the queens who were in tears and begging to be left alone.

Well people simply snapped! We started throwing bricks, setting fire to trashcans or anything else that would burn . Turning back buses, chanting “Gay power! Gay power!” Marching up and down Christopher St. with our fists in the air! Causing mayhem anyway we could think of. It lasted three days and things were never the same again! We had had enough!!! It was time to fight back!
 

 
DM: At what point did Wayne become Jayne, and what was that transformation like for you, personally and also artistically?

JC: I remember being so thrilled when my breasts began growing ! My roommate at the time was the legendary underground rock-n-roll photographer, Leee Black Childers, who just recently passed away, bless his heart! Leee was a close friend for many many years and knew me better than anyone else on planet Earth, including members of my own family who don’t really know the real me at all ! Leee was and will always be a big piece of my life ! It was funny to watch Leee’s reaction to my breasts becoming large! He couldn’t even look at them! He would quickly cover his eyes when I would trick him in to seeing them! I had been Leee’s friend Wayne for years. We would go bar hopping together and go see all the bands at the Fillmore East! Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Iron Butterfly, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Led Zeppelin, oh I could go on and on!!! We were both big rock fans! And Leee was used to being pals with Wayne . And he had to watch Wayne disappear right before his eyes and Jayne take his place! As I think back it must have really been hard for him! I’m sorry Leee, my dear dear ole friend, but I had to do it!

In Atlanta I saw The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, The Shangri Las, The Ronettes, The Shirelles, Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Turtles, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Sonny and Cher, The Supremes, Tom Jones, Otis Redding, Peter and Gordon, etc., etc., etc. I saw all the greats!  And when glam came in, I was right there! I started experimenting with both sexuality and gender during the so-called “glam movement” which Leee and I played a big part in. We both worked for David Bowie’s Mainman Records and I was one of their signed artists alongside of Bowie, Iggy And The Stooges and Lou Reed. I had been dressing as a woman on and off my entire life—since age three or four. I can actually remember doing it at age five and six! But during the glam period I began taking it more seriously. And in 1974, I began taking female hormones A few years later I read a book that Leee brought home called Canary Conn. It was the story of a M to F trans woman—true story and it had a huge influence on me. But I didn’t change my name officially from Wayne to Jayne until 1979. It was a gig at CBGB! There were these big pink posters up all over NYC with a really good and very femme photo style drawing of me saying WAYNE COUNTY ! But the “W” was Xed out and a “J” was put in over it! It looked fantastic and it was my first gig as Jayne County!
 

 

”(If You Don’t Wanna Fuck Me, Baby) Fuck Off!!”

DM:You were a pioneer on the punk scene since before punk was punk—how did you transition artistically to music?

JCOh I have always been heavily in to music so there wasn’t really much of a transition from theatre to music! In fact I mixed my music and theatre together ! My big stage show and musical, “Wayne at the Trucks,” was a forerunner of Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” tour and was produced by Bowie’s MainMan Records! When punk happened, it was a reaction to the over excesses of both glam and progressive rock, but at least Bowie’s music contained a lot of great rock and roll and some really amazing androgynous images. Punk rock had to happen in order to sweep the slate clean and make two and three chord music featuring guitars, bass and drums once again the focus point of some of the best rock and roll music ever created!

DM: Your success in Europe was much more distinct than in the US, where you’re considered more of an “artist’s artist.” What do you think the difference is between US and European audiences?

JC: European audiences seem more ready to accept what the artist is trying to do on stage and will usually cheer the bands on, even when the bands sometimes appear to be struggling just to keep themselves from falling apart right there in front of your eyes, as in the cases of The Cramps and Johnny Thunders. American audiences are too quick to judge and shout, “Get off!” at you! In America the audience want you to go overboard to prove to them that you are valid! In Europe it’s just, “Shit, we are so glad that you’re here!”

DM: Recently, some sanctimonious (self-appointed) social media police reported you on Facebook for hate speech—what the hell happened?

JC:I’m laughing my big egotistical head off right now. Oh no, I said “head!” Someone may be offended by that mean ole powerful word and report us to the trans authorities! Anyone could you know? That’s how easy it is now for some uptight “new” version of an old, fuddy duddy, party poopin’ Baptist church lady, to report you!

And I must say that since the crap hit the fan about the transfascists trying to burn books by banning one word at a time, my following has skyrocketed! I seem to have hit a nerve! And that nerve is that thousands of people disagree with them! They are actually trying to silence people that disagree with them as well by trying to pressure papers and magazines like The Huffington Post not to print articles by people that have a different opinion from them! Now that is pure evil! Self appointed, condescending little academic snobs that think they have some divine right to lord over the rest of us by telling us what words we can and cannot use. In other words, they want to let the homo and transphobic bigots take our words from us and use them against them! You can ‘t do that! It won’t work ! You can ‘t erase words like “tranny,” “shemale” and “gender bender,” just because a bunch of psychos try to use the words against us!

Some African Americans now use the “N word” within their own community. They have taken the word away from the racists and made the word their own and by doing so that word cannot harm them! It’s the intent behind the word, not the word itself that is harmful. Trans activists have it completely wrong! And some people are standing up to their bully tactics of forcing their narrow-minded views on the rest of us! No means no, and I will not be intimidated or silenced by any self-appointed guardians of a delusional morality! It’s in your head honey, not mine!

The word tranny belongs to me! You will not take it away from me, because some transphobic bigots are trying to use the word to hurt me! The word does not harm me because I do not allow it to do so! The intent behind the user of the word is what should concern us, not the word itself!
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Jayne County, Cherry Vanilla, Holly Woodlawn and Ginger Coyote: Transgenerators!

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Four On The Floor in the studio.
 
In 2006 Jayne County, Ginger Coyote, Cherry Vanilla and Holly Woodlawn, under the name of Four On The Floor, gave The Shirelles 1960 record “Boys” the Superstar treatment. Trashy good fun from pop culture immortals.

The notorious Ginger Coyote of Punk Globe Magazine and The White Trash Debutantes  was nice enough to share with me a bit of info about the recording session that spawned “Boys.”

Jayne and I wanted to do a joint recording project so when Jayne came to Los Angeles we went into rehearsals with the band Jasten King on Guitar, Brian Hill on drums and the late Willy Graves on bass. The White Trash Debutantes had written and recorded a song called Punk Rak RepubliKKKan. I played it for Jayne and she liked it but felt punk rock was to limiting so she re-wrote the lyrics and we decided that Rock n Roll RepubliKKKan would work.. She also had another song she really wanted to record and that was “Transgeneration” about how Transgender people have been put in very high regard in many cultures in history. Sadly, they have not gotten the fair shake from Christianity.. It is a call to let people know that Transgender people will not take the Bullshit anymore… The third song we recorded we enlisted the fabulous Cherry Vanilla and Holly Woodlawn to record a cover of “Boys”.. It become such a fun song to record we added Constance Cooper and Don Bolles (Germs) on the recording… Making an extended version of the song…. There was a Video made of the last days recording….. It was a great recording session and we got alot done in just a few days…”

Here’s Four On The Floor’s “Boys” with lots of boys.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment