(Editor’s note: The Plasmatics are supposedly a rock band. Wendy Williams, the group’s “leader,” is fighting a self-declared “war against complacency.” The Plasma tics latest album is entitled Beyond the Valley of 1984. From here on out, you’re on your own.)
BY El NUEVO WAVO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PHYLLIS HERNANDEZ
Preparation is the key in going to a Plasmatics show. Mental, physical, emotional preparedness. The Boy Scouts will, no doubt, turn out en masse.
I have ear plugs. Stopple, they’re called, and rated on a decibel-blocking scale of one to 30. I would have preferred the maximum protection of 30s, but settled for 17s.
I have my crash helmet. Actually an old football helmet without the face protector. I am sitting on it, Apocalypse Now-style, outside of the Agora, but instead of listening to the boisterous strains of Wagner, I’m watching an arrest - make that two arrests; they just pulled over a van and hustled the occupants out into the waiting squad car - in front of the Fox where another concert has already gotten under way. Imagine getting arrested at a Blackfoot show. For what - being too mellow? Too sober? Not wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt? Not being dirty enough? Everyone at that show eats meat. I can smell it. No wonder they’re all so violent.
I have reading material. The new issue of Sprouts! Alive and last January’s Tofu Today (which has “Undeliverable,” a skull and crossbones and “Return to Old Address” stamped over my general delivery address in Campeche) will help pass the time before the night’s activities begin in earnest.
I have food. I will never again eat pizza at this place. The last time I did, the following morning my system felt like it was in the third week of a strict mango diet, which, let me assure you, gives new meaning to the term “loose as a goose.” Seed-food (pumpkin, sunflower, etc.) is in soundproof containers so it will not turn to flour once the noise begins. The cheese I packed is turning green in the heat even as I rummage my knapsack for something to drink.
I have liqui… - DAMN! I forgot the carrot juice. No juices, no distilled water, no nada. My precious bodily fluids evaporate. My tissues turn to gauze. Shriveling is setting in. In a pinch, I’ll drink Perrier.
I was never a Boy Scout.
SCENES FROM A DIVORCE
All the long hairs are at the Fox. Not a one in the Agora line, which could be accurately described as aT and A crowd. Jock types. One guy in mountain climbing attire - boots, shorts, Kelty shirt, ropes dangling from his belt, the works. Probably has something freeze-dried ·in one of his thirteen pockets. Flew in from the Alps, no doubt, to catch some twin peaks action tonight. He’s in luck. The peaks will even be snow-covered.
A girl hanging around at the sold-out Blackfoot show says (to no one in particular, pointing at the Agora): “That’s where everybody goes who can’t get in here.” She’s wearing a t-shirt stating (there’s no question mark): “Who Can You Trust.” An elderly couple drives by risking several cracked vertebrae apiece as they crane bursate necks to glare-gape at the girl in stilettos, spandex, silk and half-inch hair- platinum. The girl’s lip curls up a little closer to her button nose as their eyes meet. Hostility. “Spikes” has probably just eaten hamburgers at the Varsity. With chili. Violence (or is it onion breath?) is in the air. Confirmation walks by in a Judo outfit. He uses his hands, Wendy Orleans Williams uses a chain saw. My blood sugar threatens to drop drastically as I breathe fumes unfit for human consumption, so I eat a handful of sunflower seeds, thus warding off hypoglycemia.
At the entrance to the club, in the display window, are pictures of Miss Williams and the gang along with two empty “whipped topping” cartons. The cartons are stuck to the cork board so that the rounded bottoms protrude. There is a strip of black tape across each one. Very quaint. I can just see the next Cool Whip commercial at the Old Tucker Inn:
“HEY!” snaps the main character with the purple Mohawk. “What the fuck is THIS?’
She begins to wipe a creamy white substance from her bare chest.
“Sara Tucker’s playing tricks on us again,” says a black guy with a white Mohawk. His smile matches his shades.
“Sara! What’s going on?!” lisps a tall, skinny guy in black-leather and fishnet stockings.
Enter, the calm Mrs. Tucker with a coy smile on her lips.
“Wendy!” says Sara. “I knew I couldn’t fool you!”
“This isn’t Cool Whip, bitch. You want I should smash EVERY T.V. at Tucker Inn?” bellows Wendy.
“Cool Whip, Cool Whip, Cool Whip ...” begins the chant.
Camera pans across the entire Tucker Inn dining room to reveal tables filled with degenerate Mohawkers of every color and size and sex.
“Cool Whip, Cool Whip, Cool Whip, COOL WHIP...” the chant swells in volume.
Wendy then grabs the (phallically symbolic) camera lens, points it at herself and snarls:
“I like WHIPS of all kinds. Harrison Ford turns me ON, y’know! But nuthin’ can replace Cool Whip. GET IT?! You can bet Sara TUCKER will after this commercial is over. UP THE WORLD!!” she screams, waving a live cattle prod in what can only be the general vicinity of Sara Tucker.
End of commercial.
“We’re expecting trouble tonight,” says the bouncer with ‘‘FUCK OFF” emblazoned across his cap. “IDs – I need to see IDs tonight. ‘It’s against the law in the State of Georgia to enter any establishment serving alcoholic beverages without proper identification,”’ comes the litany. Six people from Austell (!) have no IDs. They don’t get in. I offer them some pumpkin seeds. It’s the least I can do.
Q: Where would we be without variety?
RUMORS OF WAR
It is rumored that the Plasmatics just returned from soldout shows in Milan, Vienna, Hamburg, London and a small Alpine hamlet outside Zurich, where Miss Williams herself herded all the villagers into a hockey rink and then sang “Headbanger” until the captive audience, aware of her well-publicized black tape craving, procured several rolls from the village electrician, rushed the stage, and as the band banged away, held the scrappy Amazon against a bank of speakers and amps and wrapped the tape around her head numerous times, covering her mouth, thus effectively gagging the belligerent performer from causing any more bleeding from the ears or involuntary seizures. Simultaneously, the power supply to the stage was cut off. Most of the villagers escaped unharmed.
A girl dressed in black leather pants tight enough to cause skin cancer walks by the bar, and one can sense immediately that one is watching Art in Action. The back of her black t-shirt says in bold white letters, “Your Mom Told You Not to Stare.” True. But my mom never saw leather pants like that, either.
It is nearing the stroke of twelve, and while the Agora is not sold out, the bar is not hurting for business. Enough “giant screen video,” however, is enough. The lights dim; the Real Thing is Eminent. And what’s the Real Thing? A movie. Of the New York concert where Miss Williams and Co. blew up a Cadillac. But before the demolition number occurred, we were bombarded cinematically with two alleged “songs” of dubious parentage: “Make You Squirm” and “You Ain’t Got No Nuthin’,” both of which were repeated-amazingly enough, word for word-in the live show. (A blessed redundancy, indeed, but one which when it happened later on provided a friendly environment for polio viruses to multiply. My legs became weak and even as one hand began to develop arthritis, I managed to consume some organic bee pollen to stave off the gremlins a bit longer.)
A “CONCERT,’’ FINALLY
But if I thought it was fun on film-W.O.W.-the good times are only beginning, mere tadpoles which will wiggle their way to Frogdom in an hour.
The Moment of Appearance is not the Transcendence for which I, El Nuevo Wavo, had hoped. Dressed in a scotch plaid, pleated skirt; tennies, white knee socks, and white shirt with a tie around the neck; the perky Miss Williams looks like a preppie with a purple Mohawk. A bra is visible through the shirt! Have we all been snookered? If she would have been wearing Weejuns she could have passed as a graduating senior in the Westminster Class of ‘81.
W.O.W.! Look at her dance: Like Irene Cara with peg legs.
W.O.W.! Listen to her “sing.” The half-octave range is staggering.
W.O.W.! Here she comes out into the audience, warbling the dulcet melody of “Be a Drunk, Be a Jerk.”
W.O.W.! Back on stage at the finale of said song, she runs the length of the platform and performs a hook slide which would have made Ty Cobb purple with envy were he still slicing shins today. The baseball fans in the audience go wild and begin screaming “Batter up! Batter up!”
Because of the players strike not one qualified jock takes the stage, so W.O.W.!, always willing to improvise, starts to scratch her crotch; obviously poking fun at all those big, burly guys who forget to dash on the Cruex in the locker room and then get itchy on the field in front of 40,000 fans and a national T.V. audience. Half of the sports fans hanging on the front of the stage pass out at this point. Baseball, they now know, lives. And so does Elvis.
Miss Williams plays hard ball. At this point, in a scathing social commentary (she’s shouting, “I love it-OH!”) the roadies (who have been scurrying around the bandstand all night like squirrels gathering nuts) haul out a poster-sized blow-up of the Hollywood Star. It says:
ELVIS WAS BISEXUAL!
Nick Adams Was His Lover!
All of this has absolutely nuthin’ to do with nuthin’, which only goes to show that nobody ain’t got no nuthin’, except Wendy and her boys who have royally ripped off over a thou· sand people who paid to see and hear this overblown hysteria, and who are, even now, suffering degeneration of the spinal column as Miss Williams spits out the last words to the immortal classic, “Fast Food” (not to be confused with the Village People classic, “Big Mac”).
Certain that at least a tenth of my brain cells are being pulverized by the mega-decibels, I fortify myself with a straight sniff of Brewer’s yeast and a Perrier laced with vitamin C. The top of my head almost erupts as violent chemical reactions take place in my bloodstream. I would give anything right now for a mango and a little peace and quiet.
By now Miss Williams’ shirt is completely unbuttoned and although her bra is squeezed down below her breasts, being a woman of incredible modesty and good taste, she dutifully covers her nipples with some of that famous tape. Clothespins are then attached (bless her, never wanting to offend) so that the tape is sure not to slip off. This woman is obviously proud of her body-in a reserved sort of way. All the while this is going on (or coming off) Miss Williams sings “Sex Junkie.”
Lest I forget to mention the Plasmatics’ wonderful rhythm section, which cranked out over an hour’s worth of pure noise in frenetic, grimace-filled, painful, non-stop and routinely abusive acts of musical sado-masochism; which are doubtless part of the Communist conspiracy to turn our already crippled brains into what Professor Kingsfield might charitably call “mushburgers;” and which will then be easy prey for Moonies, anarchists, pagans, Klansmen, Reaganites, nattering nabobs, Cubans and other assorted loonies and ying-yangs who should never have been allowed to run around loose anyway-and besides-well, now what was I saying ... ?
I LIKE PAUL THE BEST
My favorite Plasmatic is the one from the Ukraine who counts down the songs in his rare Slavic dialect. Foreign accents drive me wild.
EXIT, STAGE RIGHT
Miss Williams leaves the stage now after an hour of raving frenzy, smashed T.V. sets (I was very disappointed when she destroyed a mere black and white set instead of really Making a Statement by yanking off on a color model.
“Her work is shallow, lacks vision and is truly indulgent,” said the Times, continuing:
The authentic zeitgeist of the late 20th century, while laid bare by other artists, has overtaken and swallowed Miss Williams in her feeble attempts at examining the decline of Western culture from the Industrial Revolution to the present day. Her Kafkaesque dramatics preclude any coming to terms with her inner self and therefore history will probably place her audio-visual excesses on the level of other great mediocrities of this generation, including works by Leroi Neiman and Ernie Bushmiller.),facial lacerations and the complete draining of my sunflower seeds, whose calcium and phosphorus it has been necessary for me to ingest constantly so that I did not develop stress fractures all across my rib cage which is right at speaker-level. Meanwhile, my football helmet has begun to split along its seams; I remove it and throw it at Miss Williams, missing her by several feet, but pleased with the effort.
After ten virtually terminal minutes (during which I just knew a major blood clot was rushing to block some major blood vessel to my heart or brain) of the instrumental, “Plasma Jam,” Miss Williams returns in a black leather harness, black boots, metal armbands, studded wristbands and creamed (breast-wise) to the gills. A Gestapo fantasy without a Sten.
While doing a bump and grind that would cause even the novices on 42d Street to laugh their tassels silly, Miss Williams squirts Barbasol on the crowd. (Some kind of lucrative commercial deal is probably being worked out at this very minute.) Next she dumps several flower pots full of dirt onto her white chest, alternately throwing the mums into the audience or eating them.
By now, people are streaming out the club’s doors, stone deaf and unable to focus three feet in front of their noses.
I follow, desperately hoping to locate some liquid vitamin B in my pack to mainline so that my nervous system can be restored to some sort of working order, and any lingering polio venomites can get what’s coming to them.
I do not care that I missed Miss Williams sawing a guitar in half. There are few actions we take in life about which we have no regrets. This is one of those actions. I have been robbed, raped, ransacked, rattled, reamed and ramrodded through both eyes and ears. My chromosomes will never be the same. My children will be born with purple hair. My fingernails are peeling back from the skin. My eyelashes have fallen out. My earplugs are sort of drooling out of my ears like very soft bubble gum. My stomach muscles are jelly.
Going to a Plasmatics concert is like watching That’s Incredible multiplied exponentially, with lots and lots of noise in the background. Only it’s not incredible; it is ignoble and self-destructive. It’s not even fun.
I think there’s a bus heading west tonight and I think I’m going to be on it. Mexico, believe me, is beautiful in late summer, and 1984 shouldn’t be arriving there for the next hundred years.