Friday, March 19, 2010
John Kennedy Jr. stepped forward gracefully.
John Kennedy Jr. stepped forward gracefully. He was with Darryl Hannah. Darryl and I looked very much alike in those years.
"Hi Darryl. My name is Phoebe." She laughed.
Darryl Hannah is bright, sophisticated, and tough. At the height of her beauty she had fine blond hair and a rangy body, crazy eyes and an almost masculine cleft in the chin. Darryl was not threatened by me in the least—she was amused. In 1984 Miss Hannah was the supreme trophy.
John turned his melancholy, poetic face to Plimpton and said something, never taking his eyes off of me.
Plimpton nodded his wonderful head. John looked up in disbelief and said, “Vassar?”
The audience gasped when I removed my crystal chiffon sheathe and did a pas de chat across the footlights in my Fur Bikini. The band played a detached, cool, casual, horny, poised groove with 12 tone spikes and unexpected silences.
I looked out. I wanted to embrace the collective heart of my audience. I wanted to give them something warm, cosmic and lasting.
You can download any shit you want and analyze it and reconstitute it and peddle its ass all over town, but when it comes right down to it there is no happiness like the feeling of singing to a perfect heartfelt handmade groove. A funky experimental New York Groove that’s right on the one. There is a Shaker elegance to it, because it’s all about restraint. You’ve got to stay with your riff, repeat it, exquisitely. That is the discipline of a New York City rhythm pattern. I learned how to manifest this groove from my teacher John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet.
John Lewis said, “Phoebe, don’t get stoned or you’ll forget your riff. Just keep repeating your perfect riff, more and more perfectly."
The music filled me like a balloon and I floated upward. The music lifted me high above the room. I was looking down with the eyes in my ovaries: the people in the audience seemed so pure… like spirit beings. The music infused me with metaphysical compassion for humanity and lifted me out of the horror pit of my perpetual depression and poverty.
I had invented an instrument called the Suicide Piano: it was a Flying V guitar bolted to a meat cleaver and a tiny Casio keyboard. I slung it across my shoulder like a rifle and turned my ass to the audience. I picked up a large, red staple gun and nailed a piece of blank butcher paper to the back stage curtain.
I had the most beautiful band in the world: Susie on bass, Turgid Loathingmore on guitar and Tony Thunder Smith, (Serge Gainsberg) on drums.
While the band played I did a live painting with a fat ermine paintbrush. I loaded my brush and painted a gargantuan nude. The nude had four-foot wide breasts, huge eyes and voluptuous lips. I glorified her with an erect cock (why not?) and painted drops of fluid emitting from the tits. The drops become music notes flying into space. The nipples were day-glo pink. I painted the navel. It was an eye streaming with tears like semen droplets. I painted hair as music staves; music flowing from her brain waves. The flying drops of fluid became music notes. It seemed perfectly logical. The finely-muscled arms, and balletic, nervous artist fingers of the enormous blue nude were clutching at the abyss.
I danced. I improvised. I played. the piano with my face, my arms, my fists, and finally, played a tone cluster with my derriere.
Ahmet Ertegun cocked his ear and asked Earl ‘The Asshole’, “What kind of music is this? What is the Genre?”
Earl the Asshole McGrath had no idea. Someone in the crowd yelled, “It’s 12 tone psychedic blues…!”
Ahmet turned to George Avakian, and before I had finished the intro to the first song, Ahmet damned the band; he focused his fleshy, reptilian eyes on me.
Harry Neilsen was drunk. He laughed, turned to Terry Southern and said, “But will she take it up the ass? ”
(Nile reported this bit of dialogue)
In 1984 stardom was the farthest thing from my mind. I’m not a flash in the pan pop star; I am a serious artist. That’s different. It’s a different animal. Art is forever. Just keep watching—the movie ain’t over until it’s over.
In the Spring of 1984, I was young and I didn’t give a damn about “making it” in the material sense. I was ecstatically happy in the bosom of my queer night-family.
Voice teachers often say “Don’t sing too high, don’t sing too low, don’t sing too loud, don’t sing too long.”
I’ve never had a voice lesson so I break every rule.
When I asked my mother for voice lessons she said,
“Why spend the money? You can already sing.”
So I developed my own autodidact vocal technique; I scream, sigh, shout, implore, seduce. I am a bird, a lion, a snake. When I sing I go into a trance: I deliquesce. I cathect the infantile desire for my mother’s breast onto the audience and the audience feeds me like a communal supermommy.
9. SQUEEZE ME
The audience moved closer to the stage. One man reached up to stroke the fur of the bikini. Michael O ran in to hand me my accordion. I heard nervous giggles, and gasps of shock, and fear.
Twenty years ago, NO ONE in rock-n-roll played the accordion.
Earl the Asshole used to say, “Phoebe, don’t let anyone see you playing that thing!”
Even Faithe Deffner, President of the American Association of Accordionists says,
“Only a masochist would play the accordion.”
Yeah, I’ve taken a lot of heat for playing the accordion, but what could I do? I love accordions. When I put my accordion down it cries like a baby. It hangs on my breast, and through its reeds I hear the sighing of the sun, the tears of immigrant mothers, the hopes of Ellis Island, the dreams of the grassroots millions.
The gay men stopped cruising each other and looked at me with awe. Suddenly they were hanging on every note. I started singing in French. You could hear a pin drop. There were four hundred people packed into a club that holds two hundred and fifty. The drug addicted Atlantic record company executive Richard “Trust Me” St*inb*rg was ogling a young fashion model. The girl smiled at Steinberg and pointed in my direction.
Richard St*inb*rg (A + R Atlantic) ladled another spoonful of coke into his late 70’s nose job and said numbly, “What am I supposed to do with her?” I couldn’t hear him. I was singing the Monad theme song,
“In the decline of the west we ask you to be our guest in the Monad.”
After three encores I found myself back in the Pyramid dressing room. Ann Craig looked away.
“What’s wrong Anne?”
The sarcoma on her scalp had grown since I had seen her last. Death haunted her eyes. She weighed about 85 pounds.
“Can I borrow your black sparkle lipstick?”
I said, “Of course Ann...you keep it."
It was obvious: she had the new disease.
Later that night I saw her at on 8th Street. Ann was radiant, and so high she didn’t even see me. She was smiling, that far away Jackie Kennedy smile. Heroin was helping her to bear the disease she probably got from using Heroin. AIDS. Ann was a hard-core junkie. Ann Craig, a rich girl from Apple Blossom St. in Greenwich Conn. was dead at age thirty-one. Her best-known poem was called “Wet Red Rag.”
It was a long time ago. It’s hard to remember. 1984 P.D. - Pre Digital. In those days it cost thousands of dollars to make a record. Record companies had complete control. No one could afford to make a record on his or her own. Except maybe rich kids, or whores who traded sex for studio time like Madonna. As a consequence, everybody was obsessed with getting a record contract. Others, like me, were simply obsessed with music. In 1984 they were still making vinyl. Vinyl records. I get hard just thinking about vinyl.