Friday, November 09, 2007

Delayed Gratification

I turned 49 a couple of days ago and I am in my happy place. There's change in the air and even though I can't attend, I'm excited about Brendan Mullen's show in Los Angeles this weekend. Brendan is promoting his latest book, Live At The Masque - Nightmare In Punk Alley and has managed to assemble an old codger contingent that makes me want to run out and grab my Depends. The show is this Veteran's Day at the Echo and Echoplex. Scheduled to appear are The Plugs, The Eyes, The Controllers, The Gears...It promises to be fun. I saw somewhere that Geza X will be joining the Deadbeats onstage. Not only is Geza an ex-Bags member, but he also had a band at the time who were called the Jerrys (after Jerry Lewis). I thought it might be fun if he had a new band called The Geris (after geriatrics). I would love to be in that band! So climb into the wormhole and click on the flyer for a journey back in time.

The many photographers who contributed to the Masque book, along with Brendan Mullen and his co-editor are doing their part to preserve the legacy of punk rock. It's something I get asked about in almost every interview and I typically wrestle a bit with the answer. Truthfully, it's sometimes difficult for me to say which things have changed for the better (or worse) as a result of punk rock. But today, I saw some photos that gave me the answer I was looking for. More on that below.

Earlier this week, L.A. Record asked me to do an interview in conjunction with this event but because it was my birthday and I was out celebrating, I missed the deadline and only half my interview made it in on time. Click on the drawing to read the first part of the interview. I've included the missing second half below the drawing.

Drawing of me by Christine Hale

"When Necessary, Annihilate" interview part II

Q: Being female and Latina, did that present any obstacles for you in the scene or was it an asset to be female and 'exotic' in the scene?
A: I never felt that I was treated as anything other than a human being by the people involved in the punk scene. Being female was not a liability as the large number of women who were involved in the early scene can attest. Neither was being a Latina. At a certain point my band got a bad reputation because of our aggressive behavior and unruly fans, but that was well deserved. I am nobody's victim. I very often confuse people who get in my face with punching bags. You can take a girl out of East LA, but you can't take East LA out of the girl.

Q: Can you recall specific events that, for you, sounded the end of LA Punk and signaled the shape of things to come?
A: Yes, I remember one particular show where I looked into the audience and I realized that it was made up of people who were not connected to me (or connecting with me) in any way. They were there to "make the scene," hang out, act tough, fight with each other, whatever but they were not there to hear The Bags. Up until then my performances were all about interacting with the audience. I never wanted to make background music. I think I knew then that there was a new breed of punk on the horizon and that I had to move on to something else.

Q: What are your thoughts on 'music' today; how it is made, what is being made, and the way we experience and consume our music now as opposed to then?
A: Music today is just as exciting and creative as it was in 1977 - if you know where to look for it. There are lots of young musicians making their own recordings, putting out their own merch, exploring with new sounds and instrumentation, planning their own tours. The internet has made it possible for us to hear small, unsigned bands from all over the world. That's a good thing but I still feel that the best way to experience rock or pretty much any kind of music is live, in a club setting.
Mainstream radio is just as bad or even worse than it was back in the seventies when punk started. The whole music industry has become slick, sophisticated and geared towards image driven pop stars who are as interchangeable and disposable as the products they sell, from sneakers to cell phones.

Q: How did the closing of the Masque affect the scene? I'm wondering if the bands were maturing and growing up and out of the Masque?
A: You know, I hear people talk about how there were other venues for punk rock other than the Masque and it's true that there were clubs who would book punk bands who could draw a drinking age crowd, but the Masque was more than a venue. It was almost a clubhouse. Brendan wasn't selling liquor, he wasn't making big bucks off admission fees. He was just doing what he wanted to do. He opened his doors to a bunch of strangers, welcomed us in and gave us a place to express ourselves and create. I think the fact that the L.A. Scene was so strong was because it was unified and interactive. We were living, working and creating in many of the same places like the Masque and the Canterbury. Those places were like little greenhouses for us. As those circumstances changed the scene changed. I'm not sure if the closing of the Masque affected the scene as much as the natural evolution of the scene itself and the influence of outsiders affected the closing of the Masque. The scene just grew beyond the Masque and the original, tight knit community unraveled around the same time.

Q: How do you want to be remembered at your passing?
A: Truthfully, if you want to remember me do it now. I won't give a shit when I'm dead.

Megan Brown shreds on the Alice Bag skateboard.

Finally, for those of you who asked about the Alice Bag skateboard deck, it's done. Gridlock Skateboards has produced a limited edition of Alice Bag skateboards and the last I heard, they were planning on selling a few at the show this weekend. All proceeds go to supporting a youth skateboarding mentor program organized by Michael Fox. The art for the boards was designed by Zeroxed in conjunction with Gridlock Skateboards. So if you've ever wanted to step on my face here's your chance.

Today, I saw some photos of a young female skater named Megan Brown riding my board on MySpace and I've posted a couple of them above. It's hard to describe the many feelings I get from these photos but I can tell you that I couldn't be more proud. Seeing a young girl riding a board with my face on it really brought home the "legacy of punk rock" idea for me. It's like the whole thing has come full circle. When I was a kid, girls didn't ride skateboards; if they did, they certainly didn't ride them aggressively like the boys did. Seeing this image of a young girl, empowered on a skateboard with my face on it,'s kind of the ultimate delayed gratification for me. It tells me that punk changed something about the way young women feel about themselves and the way society views young women.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to you and your fellow rebels in musical arms, Ms. Bag. You and all the first generation punks did leave a legacy and it's taken 30 years to officially acknowledge it but I agree with you that the most meaningful changes effected by punk were not related to music or fashion, but in the way young people think and view themselves today.

Congratulations on your board and Happy Birthday!

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

First off, happy birthday, Alice! I'm 42 on Monday. Secondly, great skateboard!!!!!

Jenny Lens said...

Happy Birthday, you don't look a day older than when I photographed you back in the day! I truly feel this event is will suffer for the lack of Alice not being here and performing!

What a great birthday gift: the birth of Alice and OUR Masque book!!!

I've been blogging and blogging about how much I love OUR book!

This book is as much Alice's, or Michael Yampolsky's or Gaby Berlin's or dearly departed Herb Wrede's or Geza X's or Trudie's or Jenny Lens' as it is "Brendan's book." It took a lot of people to make and run the Masque.

Gaby told me she and Al Flipside broke into the Masque when it was closed and she shot wall after wall of graffiti. She has about 9 pages of it, and you can see variations of "Jerry" more than any other graffiti!!

I am so pleased I have 33 photos in OUR Masque book, 5 in the LA Weekly online, and 4 in LA Weekly printed. And in all cases, my shot of Alice at the Masque Benefit, standing up against a wall. A full page opposite Belinda against that wall, so it's part of my LA Women in Punk line-up! They used my live Bags shot from the Masque Benefit as well (with live X at Benefit right above it on the page!). The book and the Weekly printed all but the X shot.

That blows my mind, that my color Bags shot has become THE iconic live shot. Who knew?

I'll have all those photos in my book, but a different version of Alice, holding a small photo of Elvis in his "Jailhouse Rock" clothes. I had to keep the best image for "PUNK PIONEERS."

The amazing thing to me is I only shot at the Masque or Masque related events 10 times, and yet I have 33 photos, Gaby Berlin a couple more than I (she wouldn't have participated if I hadn't begged both her and Dawn Wirth to do so), and then Al Flipside and Michael Yampolsky with the most.

So I am in the top four, and after me, the numbers drop. I know you all are thinking WTF, but this means something to me. For years I didn't realize the value of my photos. Now in 'Punk 365', or 'Spin' or whatever book, doc or mag, I have more photos than anyone from LA, with the exception of the Masque book. But Michael, Al and Gaby were there all the time (Gaby lived there for awhile).

So I'm blown away. At the same time I'm hurt, as usual, by the fact everyone talks about this being 'Brendan's book.' The book would be nothing without the crazy, dedicated, brave souls to stood in the eye of the storm and took photos, night after night. We were the ones who couldn't get too drunk and shoot.

Gaby reminded me of the time we found champagne bottles in a parking lot near the Masque. We each drank one bottle and got so wasted. Yep, I always tell peeps I went to the Masque and partied like I didn't anywhere else. I let my hair down there! But those were not the nights I shot!

But for the most part, the photographers had to stay pretty straight most of the time, and we worked damn hard. Yet over and over, it's "Brendan's book."

You can see this on the flyer: where the hell is mention of the photographers? When I called about the event, they didn't even know if they'd have chairs for the photographers to sign the books. I didn't even get a plus one.

I struggle to survive, and a mention here and there from people like Brendan would make such a difference. I don't want to be famous. I prefer living a quiet artistic life. I fight for my archive, and the many photos that aren't in any books and the stories still to be told.

Until I take my last breath, I will rant about the photographers. This book is about them! There are few stories, but pages and pages of wonderful photos. "Brendan's book" is the result of so many generous people, who gave back then and now. We gave our time and our photos.

I recently blogged that I don't want people to cry when I'm dead. I want them to care now. Just like you said!

Gotta go, like the white rabbit, so busy. Cos next week the La Luz exhibit for "Punk 365" and my photos still need to be mailed to the gallery! And I am too broke to fix my car to drive, so I'll have to find a ride, just like I found for Sunday. So many peeps offered to pick me up.

The most astounding thing is the fans are more respectful of me than the people who use my photos or the bands I've promoted, for the most part. Here's to those who appreciate all my sacrifices and hard work. And the fact every time I look around, I see my photos in print, docs, mags, books.

Where is the credit when it comes to publicity? Cos I sure am not making money! Credit leads to more gigs and fame leads to making money. I can't even go to the dentist, fix my car, or work on my archive as I wish and need to do so.

Alice has blogged about women needing to own their art, their work, their lives. I know I get a lot of shit from some because I am always fighting for credit and payment.

No one else is paying my bills or keeping my archive alive. So I do what I have to do. I'm a very early LA Punk Woman, after all!

I put my life's blood into my photos. IT'S OUR BOOK!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I can think of no better example than the Ramones when it comes to proving the old adage that there is no money in being a pioneer. Inevitably, it seems that those who follow in the 3rd or 4th generation are the ones who clean up. That's why Alice Bag's comments about delayed gratification make so much sense. The real reward is that young girls today can do as they please and that don't pay the bills but it's worth more than gold.

Congratulations to all of you, Jenny, Alice AND Brendan because it took all of you to turn the world upside down 30 years ago.

Jenny Lens said...

thanks for the great feedback about pioneers and it "took all of us to turn the world upside down 30 years ago." That's what it's all about.

I don't believe there's no money to be made. I know that if I had just a little bit of money and I could focus on some major projects, I could do OK. Not enough to get a house or retire, but enough to keep the photo archive alive and get more photos out there. It just means I have to keep focused and never give up nor give in.

I got the most amazing voice mail from Gaby Berlin when I walked in from the farmer's market (my greens still on the table, oy!). Gaby is very low-keyed. She and I are total opposites. She's Sleeping Beauty, I'm a whirling dervish. But she left the most excited voice mail because she just received the book. I called and told her about her photos the other day.

She thanked me again for pushing and pushing her to contribute to the book. She said seeing the photos in the book "made it seem more real."

Anyway, gotta package photos for the La Luz show, so gotta go!

Gabba gabba hey!!

LouisJacinto said...

Hi Alice and Happy Birthday! The Masque show was very nice, but it definately lacked Woman Energy (positive, Bags Woman Energy)! Thanks for changing the world all those years ago - it liberated me back then, and I'm still free today! - Louis Jacinto

godoggo said...

There's a nice sort-of-review at Greg Burk's blog,

Anonymous said...

I hope Alice you had a great birthday!

Anonymous said...

WHO is Jenny Lens and WHY does she think she is so important over all of the people that contributed to this very important music scene?

AS I remember there were a handful of us and I thought WE all made the LA punk scene what it was..

godoggo said...

Hmmm...from the above link: "The intense 1977 reek of fevered invention mixed with posing, back-stabbing, chipping and cliquery had blown completely out to sea."

Or not...

Jenny Lens said...

If you have a beef with me, why don't you write me via

Only a coward signs anonymously.

Anyway, thanks for mentioning me. However, you might want to READ my posts a bit more carefully.

I talk about a lot of other people in all my responses here, my site, blogs, emails, interviews and in person.

Didn't I write I don't want to be famous? Don't I constantly say I want to get my photos out there so we ALL are remembered? It's all about what WE created. It's not about me. How many times do I have to write that?

I've got work to do and it's a lovely day, but the sun will set soon, so I'm off for a walk.

Then back to MY first solo book, "Punk Pioneers" from a MAJOR publisher, Rizzoli. A LOT OF MY photos have been in so many major books, docs, mags this year. More than any other LA photographer from 1976-1980.

But MY greatest joy was seeing photos from OTHER photographers in "Live at the Masque," especially so many from my pals Michael Yampolsky and Gaby Berlin, tons from Al Flipside, and scattered throughout from Dawn Wirth, Philomena, Ann Summa and so many more, all wonderful people and friends of mine, NOT my competition.

The BEST part was seeing MY friends!! OMG, I spent so much time writing and calling people and telling them which page they were on. And my JOY a shot of Gaby and I at the Masque Benefit. But they didn't ID her and how sad I was they didn't ask for my help for that one photo!

I love other photographers in LA, SF, NY and England. I am never quiet about the FACT I am so glad WE ALL took photos!

Next time you want to attack me, come to the source. Sign your name so we can have an adult conversation. God be with you and may your dreams be fulfilled.