This website exists today only because courageous, intelligent and daring women back in the 1970's
decided to break the rules of society. They rallied together under the banner of the punk movement.
Many of them are no longer with us.
This page is dedicated to their memories.
Because many people have written to me to suggest other people to interview and wondering how I
choose the women I interview, I want to explain my criteria for inclusion in this section. They are:
1) You must be a woman or have identified as one at the time.
2) You must have been active in the L.A. punk scene before 1980. By active, I mean actively participating
by frequently going to shows, taking photos, writing, being in a band, supporting the scene in some way.
This section was never intended to be a "celebrities only" section. It's an oral history of the early scene
from the female perspective.
3) You must be able to send me your answers via email. I don't talk on the phone. I have previously sent
interviews via email to women who would seem to be obvious choices for inclusion but they have either
not responded or have told me they are working on it and then they forget about it (you know who you
are). So if you know someone who belongs in this interview series, remind them to finish up their
interviews and send them in.
Everyone gets the same eight questions. No space or time limitations. Since I think that women's voices
have already been over-edited by others, I reserve the right to refuse to edit these women's responses.
Instead, I intend to publish them in their entirety, raw and unexpurgated.
LET THE WOMEN SPEAK!
conducted July 2014
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
In the greater scheme of things, I suppose it was helping to launch The Masque along with Holly Vincent -- who I
was playing in the band Backstage Pass with at the time -- and Chas Gray, who was in The Skulls then (and, of
course, later in Wall of Voodoo). The three of us happened to meet a girl (who was she, I wonder?) at a restaurant
who overheard us talking about needing a place to rehearse and said, as I recall, “There’s this Scottish guy,
Brendan (Mullen), who has this big basement in Hollywood he’s trying to do something with. He might let you use
some of the space.”
To say it was raw would be an understatement. The basement's rickety, neglected bones looked like they could
barely hold up the ceiling. Nonetheless, it was a filthy cool, ghostly space under Hollywood Boulevard and we dug
it. I had to write a contract with Brendan pledging to pay him rent every month so the landlord would let him keep
the space. Then, if I remember correctly, the three of us, with a couple of Chas’s friends, physically built our
rehearsal room, put a door and lock on it and moved in.
Backstage Pass at the Masque, 1977. Photos by Donna Santisi
Brendan and I would spend hours sparring about experimental artists and musicians... the Cork St. crowd in
London, musicians like Cornelius Cardew, Henry Cow and John Cage. He kind of wanted the space to be a kind of
experimental art and music scene. We vamped on ideas about how it would take shape. At one point we mused
over inviting artist and musician friends for a Bland Party. Everyone would have to wear neutral colors, talk really
softly and clean the space, painting all the surfaces gray or beige. The payoff would be that whoever survived the
day would be allowed to could come back and splash paint a la Jackson Pollock or however they chose --
redecorate as they pleased. The Bland Party never materialized, of course, but there was a lot of that kind of
dream speak. I never thought Brendan perceived what was coming, but embraced the tidal wave that soon crashed
down those steps, giving LA punks a home. Correct me if I’m wrong – this was a long time ago – I believe
Backstage Pass, The Skulls and The Controllers were the first three bands there, sharing the room we built.
Backstage Pass, Marina del Rey at far left.
Then there was Backstage Pass. When the punk scene started there wasn’t even a name for it. Kids all over the
world – many who had no (or barely any) idea how to play (including us) – were spontaneously picking up
instruments and forming bands. Most early-70’s music was truly unbearable and the world was overripe for
something to shake it up. Backstage Pass wasn’t quite sure how to find its way and were lucky enough to be drop-
kicked into reality by Jake Riviera of Stiff Records.At the very beginning, before we moved into the Masque, Conn
Merton gave us free rehearsal space at Cherokee Studios. We were in an upstairs room with a one-
way mirror -- like musical test lab subjects. People would watch us try to figure out our instruments and write songs.
Bowie and Alice Cooper were both recording downstairs and would spy on us. There were a few drummers who
would come play with us but mostly it was Rod “The Perve” Mitchell. Spock, Just Gennybody (Schorr), Holly
Vincent, Che Zuro and I were the main others in the band.
Watching Jimmy Destri of Blondie and Steve Naïve from the Elvis Costello band was pretty much how I learned to
play keyboards in a band (guitarist Randy Rhoad’s mom had been my piano teacher, earlier on). Pretty soon we
were playing shows with The Mumps, Devo, Elvis Costello and so on.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
There is no way I could pick just one but... In 1973, I was going to school in London and seeing David Bowie at
Hammersmith Odeon changed everything. Suddenly music became so much more than the music I knew – it was
another life I had slipped into. I suppose I remembered that feeling that as a kid listening to the Velvet Underground
–my world split a few seams and hatched into a bigger universe. In ’73 I also saw Roxy Music at the Rainbow
Theater and nearly lost it. Everything about them was incredible but it was Brian Eno in his full glam get up and
endless tease of enticing sounds that took my breath away. I had no idea how it would happen but I just knew that
somehow I’d play synths. In ’74 I was asked to review a band called Unicorn (who I remember nothing about), at the
Whisky for my college paper and Patti Smith took the stage as the opening act. I was dumbstruck. Her voice,
words, persona gave me this sense that the world had again changed and I knew I had to change with it.
Brian Eno on stage with Roxy Music, circa 1973.
On a personal level, dare I say The Damned actually had a pretty major impact on my life. Because Jake Riviera
managed them – and he was staying in Genny and my apartment (where we answered our phone, “Stiff Records”)
- they quickly and briefly became entwined with our lives. The band was staying between our apartment, at Spock’s
and with the Screamers. In a way, they flipped Backstage Pass’s switch – kind of sparked our attitude and how we
played. We jumped right in after that.
Then of course, the LA bands – particularly the Screamers, and Wall of Voodoo – our peers, our friends, were
making the most amazing music. I loved every minute of it. Looking back –Television, the Clash and Wall of
Voodoo are probably the three bands of the time that I still listen to most.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
In the States and in the UK it seemed that punk women did a good job of avoiding being manipulated. We/they
were wildly expressive, tough when we wanted to be, without limits on behavior, really. Style and makeup were
irrepressibly creative. I never felt like there were
imposed gender roles.
Marina del Rey, back in the mid-late seventies.
While I loved what the Runaways grew into, I hated them the first time I saw them, because clearly, they were young
woman acting how men wanted them to act. They were a Cherry Bomb fantasy and it sort of pissed me off. Actually
– that was my impetus for starting Backstage Pass. No one would tell me what to do.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
Good stories, edge and possibly most importantly -- artistic courage. I have never been afraid of trying a new
instrument, writing something new, painting, dancing when I have no idea what I'm doing. Being a punk gave me
the license to jump in the mosh pit of life, I guess.
5. What are you listening to now?
Ha. Right this moment? Phillip Glass. But I listen to everything from old, old blues to Radiohead to Saul Williams to
world music to Dvorak.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories?
My life has been an interesting story, to be sure. Maybe even funny. Punk is but one chapter of the wily, sordid
tale. Hard to dredge up one.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene whom you feel have not been adequately
Holly Vincent, although she moved to NY and then London pretty early on.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don't know?
After Backstage Pass I formed a techno-popish band called Vivabeat that was signed
by Peter Gabriel to a UK label and it was kind of a different scene for me. Fun – but
different. These days, I’m a writer and a mom. I’m learning to play the autoharp and
fantasize about starting a punk cover autoharp orchestra.
Marina del Rey in 2013
As this Fourth of July weekend draws to a close, I'd like to offer you a post that celebrates
our own punk independence, an interview with one of the Masque's Founding Mothers,
Marina del Rey, who along with her bandmates (Backstage Pass) literally helped build the
rehearsal studios that would become the cradle of Hollywood punk. I am grateful for Marina's
participation. She, along with her Backstage Pass mates (Genny Body and Joanna "Spock"
Dean) have helped us understand that women were there even before the first concert
happened at the Masque. These ladies were co-creators of the west coast punk movement
and one of the most vital physical spaces that supported it.
In his book, Live at the Masque, Brendan Mullen's concert list shows Backstage Pass' playing
their first Masque show in October of 1977, but these ladies were filling the basement (and
other venues) with music before most of us knew what was to come. - Alice Bag, 7/6/14