Thursday, August 18, 2005

"No Good - Always Trouble"

That's what Esther "Madame" Wong once famously said about female-fronted bands. Madame Wong passed away this week at the age of 88 and the L.A. Times, in their obituary, dubbed her the "Godmother of Punk." Madame Wong may have been the Godmother of Power Pop or the Nanny of New Wave, but she was no friend to punk rock.

From the L.A. Times article: "Besides Oingo Boingo (that famous punk band), her stages presented the Police, X, the Motels, 20/20, the Knack, the Know, the Textones, the Go-Gos, the Plimsouls, the Nu-Kats, the Bus Boys, Plane English, the Naughty Sweeties and others." Contrast this with some of the bands who played her rival down the street, the Hong Kong Cafe: The Dils, Alleycats, Middle Class, Black Flag, Germs, The Consumers and acts like Johanna Went, who defied labels. It was clear which club supported punk. Truthfully, I did go to Madame Wong's on occasion; usually to throw ice at the bands onstage. You can't take me out anywhere!

In fact, it was when the Bags played a show at Madame Wong's where the audience got out of control (read about it on Michele Flipside's website) which caused her to decide that bands with girls in them were trouble and for awhile, the club refused to book groups with females, with the exception of Martha Davis and the Motels, who drew a somewhat milder audience than we did.

It's a safe bet that one band which would never have been allowed to play at Madame Wong's was Castration Squad. Greg Holcomb just sent me this photo of Shannon and Tiffany in C-Squad uniform. Tracy Lea also sent me a review of Castration Squad at Circus Disco, which reminded me that the band "conned" their way into this gig by passing off a cassette of the English band, Penetration, performing "Don't Dictate" as themselves. We even learned the song so we could play "our hit" live. It must have been immediately obvious that the whole thing was a fake when we hit the stage and performed "No Mercy For The Dead" sans British accents, but we were a hit and were invited back the following week.

Some of the original members of Castration Squad will be performing live together for the first time in twenty years on Friday, September 2 at the Key Club in Hollywood as part of the Divas of Death Rock show, along with Eva O, Dinah Cancer's 45 Grave and Voodoo Church. Be there or DIE!


darkside777 said...

you are back!

Karl said...

Sorry to hear about the "Nanny of New Wave"'s passing... also sorry that I probably can't make it out there for C Squad's big comeback show. For those of us who can't attend, I hope there will be some audio/video record of this event. Photos too. So, who's going to be in the reunited Castration Squad?

Jenny Lens said...

Alice, I love the fact your are as outspoken as I am! Cos I keep shocking people, but the truth shall set us free! I was contacted by a few for words about Mdme Wong and I only shot the Police there [boring, but my shots should bring me some good money when I decide to finally sell them, which I will do to support my archive of true punk pix]. I too preferred Hong Kong, saw X, Catholic Discipline and Extremes there (maybe more, but I found photos from those gigs). I will never forget being high on acid, standing in line outside Hong Kong, loudly singing X songs, right outside Mdme Wong's door.

I was TOTALLY offended when LA Times gave her that credit! But the LA Times are dinosaurs. They contacted me for photos because -- hold onto your hats, big news break -- they want to share the news that "punk's not dead." NO fucking duh! They needed them right away, and I've yet to find the story printed. What happened?

New flash: the LA Times are not taken seriously by anyone in punk. Did I just shoot myself in the foot? Ask me if I care. The power of the web reaches further than they do. In fact, if they ever deign to cover what Alice is doing, and what I am doing with my pix, it will elevate them! It will give them some prestige. Til then, punk is not only alive, but growing and influencing every aspect of our culture. Now I'm preaching to the choir, so signing off . . . see you all at Divas at Death Rock Show!!!
jenny lens

Anonymous said...

You are insane. But, that is why we love you!!

Keep on keeping on...

Donny Dorko

Anonymous said...

The reunion show will include Dinah Cancer, Alice Bag, Tiffany Kennedy, Tracy Lea and "special guests" according to the flyer I just got via email last night. You can see a copy of the flyer (it's "X" rated - or at least a hard "R") on Alice's website.

Theresa K. said...

The Castration Squad reunion, with who's left to carry on sounds amazing and I wish I could be there, but I am in NYC - so just my spirit is with you.

As re: Esther Wong - I believed then and still believe she was simply a business woman who saw that having live music in her restaurant would bring in more business. Period. Whatever could give her a leg up on the competition. She did give some bands their break because she either liked them or liked the people in them - Oingo Boingo for one. She messed around with other people which is how she got dubbed "Dragon Lady." She never did me any wrong, but I can say that I observed her treating others badly. We all know the stories about the Fire Marshall and the Hong Kong Cafe...

We certainly do have a very rich past history, don't we?

hilda said...


i've much else to comment on -- not to mention just to make contact -- but quickly wanted to add comment to jenny's, et. al, re: madame wong. I used to go to Hong Kong all the time (btw, I remember when the bags played there and david bowie was in the audience and we all wondered, will they do We Don't Need the English, and of course, you did!) and we always knew Madame Wong's as the New Wave, and very much Not Punk club. In fact, she hated punks so much there were nutty urban legends floating around all the time about it -- I've never forgotten one about how she had Charlie (from the plugz) tied up in her back room. So kudos to alice and jenny for setting the record straight about her. BTW, another happy memory of hanging out in the courtyard between Hong Kong and Wong's was meeting Brian Grillo (hey brian! xo) when he just a wee young lad, and getting totally trashed -- Dee took some cute pics of us all that night -- i wish i knew where her photos are - their scope and tenderness would seem sublime right now.

more later, including introducing myself. Meantime, it's soo great to have willy and jenny and alice's websites to visit all these years later (that time was life changing for me and is still the center of my heart).

xo hilda