Monday, April 11, 2005

This Post Is Dedicated To...Sheila

I'm writing this post to answer a question that was emailed to me from a Canadian musical artist named Dandi Wind...she wanted to know more about this young woman named Sheila Edwards, who appears in my gallery of punk photos:

Sheila Edwards was my Canterbury roommate at one time, along with Shannon Wilhelm, later of Castration Squad. She was also somewhat mentally unstable (she herself recognized this and from time to time would commit herself to Camarillo State Mental Hospital until she felt better.) I remember she would walk up to people and ask if they had a dime so she could use the payphone (we had no phone at the Canterbury) to call the hospital and check herself in. She would always regale us with stories of the inmates when she returned and we looked forward to hearing her tales from the asylum. Sheila told me and Shannon that in a past life, she had been Caligula's sister. She also claimed to have the ability to suck blood from anyone through the pores of their skin, which she readily demonstrated by sucking blood from her own arms.

One time, Sheila and I decided that we would apply for jobs at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, so we got dressed up in our finest dresses and high heels. Needless to say, they took one look at us and sent us packing. As we were leaving, Sheila stepped off the curb and was nearly hit by a car driven by an elegant looking couple who were leaving the hotel. Sheila began yelling and pounding on the hood of the car. The woman driver then made the mistake of starting to get out of her car to confront Sheila, who went ballistic. Sheila going ballistic was a truly frightening spectacle to behold, not like an average person going ballistic. She began screaming and pummeling the hell out of the car with her handbag. Then the male passenger started to get out of his side of the car and I sprang into action, screaming and beating his side of the car with my own handbag. The startled couple jumped back into the car, locked the doors and sped away, leaving me and Sheila collapsing in hysterical laughter on Hollywood Blvd.

After that, we decided to lower our sights and we applied for jobs at an Arby's Roast Beef in Hollywood. Shortly after we got this job, we agreed to trade shifts and through some confusion, neither of us showed up for one of the shifts and we both got fired.

One of the more memorable nights at the Canterbury happened when some scary drug dealers who lived upstairs from us came to our apartment, looking for Sheila and some money she owed them. We were terrified and refused to answer as they pounded on the door, trying to get inside. We knew that these guys had guns and were not kidding around, as people had been shot in the Canterbury before. After awhile they gave up and went back to their apartment. Sheila suddenly burst out, ran down the hall and up the stairs and began pounding on the drug dealers' door, shouting at the top of her lungs "KILL ME! I WANT TO DIE! KILL ME!!" This time it was the dealers' turn to hide inside their apartment until Sheila gave up and returned home, exhausted. I guess they figured she was crazier than they were and wanted no part of it.

She later confided to us that she had done this to scare the drug dealers. In case they were actually planning to kill her, they would immediately become the prime suspects since she had drawn so much attention to them. So it was a bit of reverse psychology.

If you haven't been through my online punk photo gallery, then you won't know why Sheila appears battered and bruised in the photo above. Sheila liked a certain guy, who instead liked Dorothy James, the little sister of Barbara James. Barbara is the girl who pulled up a "no parking" street sign during the Elks Lodge incident after the L.A.P.D. had billy-clubbed her sister Dorothy for no reason. She was arrested and charged with assault since she had supposedly threatened the police by swinging the pole and sign at them. After being subdued, she broke her handcuffs and went after the police again. Anyway, Sheila and Barbara got into a fight because of some comment Sheila had made about Dorothy. Barbara said that Sheila took a bite out of her stomach. In a telling bit of irony, each girl claimed that the other had gotten the best of her. I wish I had seen it; they were two of the scariest and best brawlers ever and you would definitely want them on your side in a fight. Sheila asked me to snap this photo of her bruises afterwards.

Another time, I remember that Sheila spent all night in the park with some people she had met and she came home early, early in the morning, raving "look at my tongue! IT'S BLUE, CAN YOU SEE MY TONGUE IS BLUE??" She hinted that these people she had met had some kind of special powers, that they might have come from outer space and this accounted for her tongue being blue. Her tongue was blue, but it could just as easily have been colored by a blue popsicle. I figured that was a much more likely explanation but Sheila was not naive, so either she was convinced or wanted to convince us that something extraordinary had occurred.

Sheila sang with Tomata of the Screamers at the shows they did at the Roxy and she appears in some Screamers related videos. She had an amazing voice, with great range and power. Shannon wrote an ode to her for Castration Squad, a song entitled "Sheila," which was later covered by 45 Grave. I haven't seen Sheila since the punk days and I'm not sure if she is still undead. I'm hoping that she is.

POSTSCRIPT 4/16/05: Here's a link to a video of Sheila onstage with the Screamers in New York, 1979, that was mailed to me and is provided courtesy of More cool stuff! Thanks to everyone who wrote in about Sheila.


Jenny Lens said...

SHEILA!! Oh, thank you Alice for your memories. I shot Sheila with the Screamers at the Roxy. I posted it in my Screamers section. Both Sheila and Tomata are screaming, in a band called the Screamers, and look EXACTLY like the character in Munch's famous painting, "The Scream."

I will never forget Tomata telling me that Tommy Gear was furious at Sheila. She got into a fight with another girl, who rubbed Sheila's face into the pavement, tearing it up. She appeared onstage with a bandaid on her right cheek. Tommy couldn't understand why Sheila couldn't control herself, knowing she was going to perform at the Roxy. I didn't know Sheila other than shooting her, but I understood. A gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do. If Tommy hired her, he should have known what he was getting into!

Last night I posted some very compressed collages and there's a color shot of Sheila and Shannon wearing their home-made seemingly blood dripping shirts emblazoned "The Pyranas." I can't wait til I have the time to post just shots of all the great people I shot, not performing, but just hanging out. And in better detail.

Alice, you ought to write a book on your Canterbury experiences! I missed that -- I had camera equipment, my photos, books, personal possessions and couldn't risk losing it all living there and I was robbed a few times, sometimes when I was home, sometimes when I was gone or when people would just hang out at my place, getting high before a show.

I didn't have time to hang out at the Canterbury cos I was either shooting or working on my pix, sending them out, trying to get them published. I wanna know all the sordid and funny details!

Maybe that's your next set of interviews: all the people who lived and hung out at the Canterbury. The Go-Go's will be in town this month, hit them up! Cos Alice and I remember when the Go-Go's were punk! "Living at the Canterbury" and "Fun with Ropes."

thanks for the memories!
jenny lens

annie said...

this brings back lots of memories but where was the canterbury? i remember everyone lived there or the hollywood tower at one time but i cant remember where canterbury was. please help my addled brain....xo

alice said...

The Canterbury was on Cherokee, a block up from Hollywood Blvd.

sambson said...

Lots of great footage of Sheela Edwards can be found in this film. Her performance of "Jazz Vampire" is fantastic!

sambson said...

Sheila is also mentioned in several times in this L.A. Weekly article: