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September 11, 1992 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-09-11

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*The Michigan Daily Friday, September 11, 1992 Page 13

L.A.'s L7 spread the
girls-can-rock gospel
by Annette Petruso
Bassist Jennifer Finch from LA-based grunge queens L7 tells a great
joke based on their negative experience with Seattle's finest indie label:
"How do you stop the spread of AIDS in America? Let Sub Pop distribute
Therein lies the essence of L7's public persona: part snide humor and
part political consciousness embedded in an ultimate in alternative guitar-
based rock. Though better experienced live than on record, both mediums
give L7 a forum to spread a girls-can-rock gospel.
"We didn't set off with any kind of agenda to be inspirational," Finch
says. "It's just a nice payback, I think. We get a lot of letters from young
girls - and boys - saying that we inspired them to pick up a guitar, pick it
up again, be in a band with their friends and that's cool."
Because L7 is comprised of women who just happen to be in a band,
they are sometimes scrutinized with different criteria than other, male-popu-
lated alternative bands. The word foxcore immediately springs to mind,
Finch says, because of the media hype.
"The press is completely responsible for trying to genre-ize gender with
that whole foxcore shit," Finch spits. "That's like sexism in a nutshell."
Sonic Youth's lanky leader, Thurston Moore, came up with the term.
Finch adds, "I'm sure he did it very tongue in cheek to be very funny and
the British press got of a hold of it and tried to make it this big thing. Like
around '90 or so, they tried to do this big foxcore movement. It was like us,
Babes in Toyland, Dickless and STP and Lunachicks. It was just really
lame. It really hurt a lot of bands, like STP and Dickless ending up breaking
up. They weren't solid bands in the first place."
More than just putting on undue pressure, by labeling L7 and other bands
foxcore, the media's intense scrutiny meant limiting what group members
could discuss.
"Now you can really talk about being a woman in a band," she says. "For
a while, you couldn't talk about it because the press would just completely
get the wrong idea and fuck it up."
But L7 could always discuss being a woman in their music, as their latest
release, "Bricks are Heavy," does. Though the album doesn't have the spon-
taneous grungola quality that, say, their "Smell the Magic" EP exudes, the
band hits hard on warmongering governments ("Wargasm"), the weight-loss
industry ("Diet Pill"), and, most directly, assholes on their "Shitlist."
"The shitlist is just anyone who bums you out really," says Finch. "Our
shitlist is more involved with oppressors sort of. Like the entire Republican
Convention speaker agenda is now on our shitlist. I don't think I saw one
positive thing out of that. And Operation Rescue, I think the guy's name is
Terry Randell who heads that.
"I mean, it can be like political jerks and it can be just like your landlord
who wants you out so he can raise your rent higher, you know."
Unlike many bands, L7 put their money where their mouth is and helped
found Rock for Choice.
See L7, Page 14

Sneakin' some R&B
Katie Webster suxceeds despite Ma and Pa

by Andrew J. Cahn
On one episode of "The
Simpson's," Krusty the Clown re-
calls how his desire to be a clown
upset his Rabbi father. As a result,
Krusty, or as his father knew him,
Herschel, concealed his profession
until a gig at a Rabbinical conven-
tion in the Catskills blew his cover.
Furious, Rabbi Krustovsky dis-
owned his son, and would not come
to terms with is son's fame until
many years later.
Katie Webster has lived a simi-
lar life. Her mother and father, a
missionary and a minister respec-
tively, fiercely objected to her de-
sire to play blues and R&B music.
Although she did play organ for her
church choir, she practiced the mu-
sic of boogie-woogie pioneers
Meade "Lux" Lewis and Jelly Roll
Morton under cover. By the time
she was 13, she was good enough to
play on sessions for Excello
Records. She even traveled from
her home in Houston to the studio
in Lake Charles, Louisiana for
years before her parents found out.
"I would tell my parents I was
staying at one of my girlfriends'.
house over Friday and Saturday and

be back by Sunday so I could go to
church," Webster said in a recent
"I would go to this girl's house,
and then her parents would drive
me into Louisiana. They would take
me to the studio, and then drive me
back. If my parents would say, 'We
called but you guys were gone,' my
friend's Dad would say, 'We
wanted to see some of our relatives
in Louisiana and we took her with
Webster admits that the blues
music world is dominated by men,
but she never saw that as a problem.
Breaking in as a blues pianist at
such a young age makes her
achievement even more impressive.
Oddly, the prominence of female
blues instrumentalists like Webster
and Bonnie Raitt has not led to an
influx of younger performers like
them. Webster says the only other
woman she knows who plays blues
piano professionally today is
Dorothy Donegan, who is in her
Though she is known now as a
pianist and singer, Webster did not
want the studio to know that she
See WEBSTER, Page 17

Webster reacts when reminded that she once sang "!'m a King Bee."

Unrecognized genius can be a total drag

by Greg Baise
Why does Rodney Dangerfield's
plaint/mantra "No respect!" come to
mind in the peculiar case of film di-
rector Edward D. Wood, Jr.? I was
talking with Rudolph Grey, the as-
tounding free jazz electric guitarist,
about both the realms of free jazz
and that of cinema, specifically that
of Edward D. Wood, Jr., and I'm
sue he would concur that like many
great artists of the 20th Century,
Wood gets no respect from the
"champions" of cultural taste.
Grey, among others, is working
to remedy this sad overlooking of an
American original. Grey recently
published an oral biography of
Wood, a book powerful enough to
get even Richard Corliss to break
from his usual infotainment capsules
and write a full-page essay about
Wood in the sober pages of "Time."
In and of itself, "Nightmare of
Ecstasy" (Feral House, 240 pp.,
$14.95) is a stupendous accom-
plishment, assembling the reminis-
cences of dozens of Wood's associ-
ates with a fascinatingly detailed
filmography and bibliography.
Considering the dilapidated state tf
Wood's oeuvre, the publication of
the book seems nothing less than
Ed Wood transmuted the lowest
of low-budget cinema into assem-
blages of potent signifiers, glazed
over with dialogue so unusual that it
reveals the difficulties of communi-
cation. Sometimes the scripts of
Wood seem remarkably prescient of
the speech patterns of malapropists
like Dan Quayle.
Just imagine J. Danforth an-
nouncing these words at some com-
mencement: "Greetings my friend ...

We are all interested in the future -
for that is where you and I are going
to spend the rest of our lives ... and
remember, my friend, future events
such as these will affect you in the
Thus began "Plan Nine from
Outer Space," Wood's 1956 work.
"Plan Nine" repeatedly bears the
stigma of being referred to as the
Worst Movie of All Time by smug,
condescending critics who'd prefer
to ignore the holes in some high
budget Hollywood film rather than

1960s here in New York I would
watch them every time - which was
about every six weeks. They would
repeat these two films, 'Bride of the
Monster' and 'Plan Nine from Outer
Wood had his idiosyncrasies,
among them his legendary trans-
vestitism. Wood's masterpiece,
"Glen or Glenda" (1953), addresses
transvestitism in a cinematic essay
that haphazardly predicts similar ef-
forts by Godard and Makavejev to
loosen up the cinematic medium. As

'We are all

interested in the future - for that is

where you and I are going to spend the rest of
our lives ... future events such as these will
affect you in the future!'
- from Ed Wood's 'Plan Nine from Outer Space'

way to his more obscure work of the
'60s and '70s. During these later
times his life seemed to be in a haze
of alcohol, angora sweaters, prolific
production of pornographic novels,
and little concrete information on his
day-to-day doings. Several of his
later films are now lost, trapped in a
netherworld between the ceasing-to-
exist 42nd Street grindhouses and
the sterile puritanism of mass-market
Of the disappearance of said
grindhouses, Grey commented, "It's
a great cultural loss to the city. All
that's interesting is slowly disappear-
ing from New York. And the thing is
it's gone before you know it. Who
would think you would look back
nostalgically at porno theaters?"
Now high class repertory theaters
and college cinema societies keep
Wood's work in the public eye.
To compensate for conflicts and
holes in the eyewitness accounts of
Wood's life, Grey structured "Night-
mare of Ecstasy" as an oral biogra-
phy, putting editorialization in the
mouth of the speaker and the mind
of the reader rather than interfering
with what his subjects say. As Grey
explained, "I chose that format be-
cause I tried it in a straight, narrative
format, and it just wasn't working.
There wasn't enough concrete in-
formation about what Ed Wood was
doing from year to year.
"I wasn't able to chronicle it like
that, because he had such a wild and
erratic life ... I didn't know for sure
what he was doing from year to year
..." Grey hesitated before putting
See WOOD, Page 16

participate in vigorous jouissance
with Wood's cinematic texts.
Personally, I don't see how a
Derridean could not have a field day
with Wood's films - but then again
we Derridean film critics are few
and far between.
Ask any fan of late-night psy-
chotronia, though, and they'll tell
you that the work of Wood is one of
America's great hidden treasures -
just as the fact that it remains hidden
through ignorance, fear, and plain
lack of recognition is one of
America's great cultural tragedies.
Grey told of his discovery of
Wood: "I was attracted to any film
with Bela Lugosi, and that's what
led to my interest in the Ed Wood
movies." Lugosi was a close friend
of Wood, and appeared in several of
his features. Grey continued, "When
they played on television in the

the distinctions between drama,
docudrama, and documentary dissi-
pate like so much dry ice, Bela
Lugosi, as some mysterious god-like
spirit, cackles classic nuggets of
Wood dementia. Wood himself stars
in the title role.
"Evidently there's no room for
eccentrics in Hollywood," Grey told
me, looking like a lost third member
of Suicide over some sesame
chicken at an midtown Chinese
restaurant on 8th Avenue. "Even
Orson Welles, who had quite a repu-
tation, had a hard time. So if Orson
Welles had a hard time, what chance
did Ed Wood have? They were go-
ing to treat him the way a duchess
would look at a bedbug," he opined.
Wood's work of the '50s gave


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