Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deleted Scenes - The Marbellite

Another deleted scene from my autobiography in progress, Violence Girl. You can read the full work in progress here. At the time when this story takes place, it's the mid-seventies and I am going through a mad obsession with Elton John. I'm enrolled at a private all girl Catholic school called Sacred Heart of Mary and I'm going by the nickname of Ziggy.

The Marbellite

I joined the Marbellite staff almost as soon as I got to Sacred Heart of Mary High School. I'd never had a journalism class and felt a little out of place on the school newspaper. Unsure of my writing skills, I opted for what I thought would be the easy way out; I volunteered to be the resident cartoonist and to my delight the teacher agreed. I went right out and bought a pen and ink and would have started up immediately if I'd known what to draw. I began with a few drawings of the cheerleaders and some poor caricatures of students and teachers engaged in a variety of activities throughout the school. It turned out that I sucked at being a cartoonist, which was much more difficult than I'd imagined. You can't just copy a picture the way I'd done in the past, you had to have something to say, you had to infuse personality into the characters who were like silent screen actors speaking with their faces and gestures. I had no idea how to do that and after a few of lame attempts, I decided to try to write an article instead.

The dilemma was that Ms. Milton, the teacher who supervised The Marbellite staff, was very open minded. She allowed us to choose our own stories based on what interested us. Some of the girls were writing about sports, others about certain classes or teachers but none of that really thrilled me. All that freedom and I didn't know where to start, so I called a friend of mine who was on the Montebello High School newspaper. The year before, my friend and I had pretended to be real journalists in order to get tickets to the first ever American Music Awards where Elton John's record Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had been nominated for best album. The award show was new and eager to generate as much press as possible so when I spoke to the woman on the phone and said I was from The Derrick Diary she didn't ask me if it was a high school paper and I didn't tell her. I scored two passes for me and my friend from Montebello High. Sadly, Bernie Taupin, not Elton John had been in the audience and my chance to meet Elton John in person was thwarted once again, but it was still fun going to the event. True to my word, my friend wrote about the award show in The Derrick Diary. Now we were hoping to do it again.

The American Music Awards had been a huge success and the organizers had moved the show to a larger location, the Santa Monica Civic auditorium. Weeks before the show, I started bombarding them with calls that they easily ignored. When I finally got through to someone she informed me that yes, she realized that The Derrick Diary had been invited before but now the show was more popular and there was much more interest in attending. We were off the list.

Never one to take no for an answer, I decided to show up anyway to see if I could figure out a way to sneak in. By sheer coincidence, Elton was again nominated for an award. Hoping to have better luck than the year before, I got together a small gang of Elton fans and our posse showed up early to wait outside the venue. We broke off into teams to ensure that Elton couldn't get past us and to see if anyone could find a way in. Yes, this was supposed to be about the awards but true love is more important that journalism. We met a few people who worked behind the scenes as they went in early. One of the people we met that day was a man named Sherwood Schwartz; he stopped to talk to us and find out why we were there. He didn't help us get in, but I still thought he was a really sweet man whose name I knew because he produced two of my favorite TV shows: Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch.

While I was busy talking with Sherwood Schwartz, the lookouts had spotted Elton's gold limousine and they ran over to tell me. EJ had entered the building and his limousine was now pulling up to a parking space behind the building. We rushed over too late; the security guards saw us and though we tried to evade them, they caught up with us and evicted us from the property.

We got some snacks from a store across the street and sat on the sidewalk watching as fancy cars, stars and paparazzi started to arrive. It could have been depressing but it was actually kind of fun sitting there on the ground, snacking, laughing at ourselves, loving Elton. We'd met a cool TV producer, spotted Elton's limo and been chased away by security guards, nothing to write a newspaper article about but it sure beat staying at home.

I had wasted so much time with cartoons and award shows that I eventually had to ask some of my classmates for help to meet the newspaper's deadline. Since I didn't have anything real to write about, I decided to dissect some classic literature. I started re-telling the story of Chicken Little and got the others involved in adding crazy details. We made up our own ridiculous version of the story. It was bad, really bad and only funny to us because we were giddy with the absurdity of the whole thing but it went into the paper. When the story finally came out in print, I was embarrassed to see my name attached to the piece. I thought to myself, "I don't ever want to be a writer!"

Thursday, October 02, 2008

White Hot Interview

A new online article by Sandra Vista about the Vexing exhibition just appeared at You can check out the article here.

Pink Viscera—A Permanent Triumph

Here are the original interview questions and my responses:

-While looking at your website I saw a current photograph of you in Phoenix. Your face appears soft and characteristic of a time of peace. (cara lisa) How do your experiences as being part of the East LA Punk movement contribute to what you are doing today-musically, with your family life and other creative aspects?

Yes, I'm cara lisa as opposed to that scary, angry gorgon that I used to be in my punk days but you don't have to scratch the surface too hard before the gorgon reappears! I don't know if I can honestly say that I'm at peace. I think I have figured out a way to negotiate a truce which allows me to express myself in positive ways, or at the very least, to be less impulsive than I once was. I still have the capacity to rant and rave when I'm angry and I still consider myself fairly uncivilized, but with age and experience, I learned how to channel my energy in different ways. Peace is a big word, I can't isolate a few events in my life and say that I'm at peace when all around me the world is getting fucked by corporate interests and our country is waging war.

-How is East LA, as a community, responsible for the Punk movement that you were associated with in the l970's and 80's? Does the community still have a reservoir of creative energy for the current generation of musicians and artists?

My part in the ELA punk movement is really as someone who helped set the stage for what would transpire later. I was part of the Hollywood Punk Scene which was a well integrated scene that preceded the scene at the Vex. As part of that earlier scene, I, along with other Latinos was performing alongside other punk musicians in integrated bands. My band, The Bags, was one of those bands. I know that some of the younger kids who shared my gender, ethnicity or economic level were inspired and motivated by seeing a woman from a poor, working class family from East L.A. play and sell out the most popular clubs of the day. I wasn't singing about being a woman or about being poor or about being Latina: I was simply being who I was and singing about a broad range of topics.

By 1980 when the East L.A. scene at the Vex was going strong, The Bags had broken up and I was going back to school for my B.A. in Philosophy. I still attended and played shows infrequently but I didn't consider myself part of a scene at that time because my focus was elsewhere and to be part of a scene, I think you really have to be immersed in it. I played the Vex with The Castration Squad, an all female proto-goth ensemble and I also played with other groups. Although I was not immersed in the East L.A. punk scene, I was immersed in East L.A. I moved back to my parents' house in East Los and worked my way through Cal State L.A. by working at a Franco Florist in Montebello. I worked all day and practiced and played gigs at night.

I am traditionally associated with the Hollywood Scene that centered around the Masque and predates the opening of the Vex in 1980 by at least 3 years. East L.A. is where I was born, grew up and spent most of my life. My experiences there have shaped every aspect of my life. I was in my late 40's when I moved to the Westside of L.A., then to Phoenix, and now San Diego. Every community has a reservoir of creative energy. There is no ethnicity, gender or socio-economic group that has a monopoly on talent. The problem is that not everyone has the opportunity to make his/her voice heard and that the dominant culture controls the means of production, distribution and promotion and they select artists based on corporate goals rather than artistic ones. Of course, that has all changed radically thanks to punk rock's DIY ethic and the internet. There is a more level playing field today but it is by no means an equal playing field.