LD was so creative and always looking forward to his next thing or project. He always had a zillion ideas. He didn’t let things get him down for long. I think he was proudest of his musical adventures. I know he used to send me every Moth Wranglers release. He loved performing, too. Certainly, his collaboration and friendship with the Magnetic Fields was a high point in his life; singing 69 Love Songs. He fondly remembered that and loved sharing those experiences. I’m going to miss my friend, LD. The last time we met, we were eating on a tiny street in Chicago at a bakery I like, thought he would like. He sure did. We sat in the sunshine and caught up on things.
I first met LD when I was a 20-something journalist for the Village Voice’s doomed “Long Island Voice” newspaper and he was the Art Director. I still wonder how the hell he used to get to that office in Mineola. After 5 issues he told them to “shove it” and that impressed me greatly. In the years that followed My Favorite were fortunate enough to be asked to join the Magnetic Fields on a few bills, and I became friends with Claudia and got to know LD. One time I took a road trip with two amazing people to Memphis and who should greet us at a pub called ‘Poor & Hungry’ but Mr. Beghtol. He was talented in so many art forms, witty, warm, precocious, and generous with his praise when I was still finding my footing. He changed the art he touched as much as it changed him, and that’s what’s made him so great on Stephin’s songs. We were the sort of friends who followed each other’s work, and always exchanged a hug and a joke when we ran into each other at some bar where I only half-belonged, even when the years piled up between occurrences. He was an artist when that could still be said without irony or cynicism. We won’t see his sort again very often I fear. I’ve only heard of his passing from others and have no information. But he (as we all do) deserves to be remembered, and thanked for what he gave us. And this is just me—doing that.
In 1997, I left the Jersey Shore for NYU, where my intention was to get an education in Music Technology. Upon meeting LD Beghtol within my first year or so of living there, I quickly figured out that I would now be getting two types of musical education: my formal training at NYU and the special sessions from LD that commenced nearly every night at various dimly lit bars with great jukeboxes across the city.
I believe my first interaction with LD was when he invited me to back him up at a solo show of his in the late-90’s / early 00’s. This was around when 69 Love Songs came out, and we performed some of the songs he sang on the album. This invite quickly turned into being asked to join his band Flare as a guitarist/vocalist/banjoist/etc. It was then that my musical world began to expand in amazing and exponential ways. So many of the composition theories I was studying by day at NYU became put to good use in the studio at night. I felt appreciated there, amongst a very talented cast of characters and world class musicians.
LD and I were very close for many years. My fondest memories of my twenties were hanging out with him and Stephin and Dudley at Dick’s or The Phoenix, or our chats at Veselka or any number of diners throughout the city. We never seemed to run out of things to talk about. It’s true LD was always at his best holding court and educating the “noob,” as he was so generous with his knowledge, but he was also very enthusiastic about hearing new music and things that I was bringing to the table as well. We had a very good friendship. In 1999, we pioneered the Morgan Ave stop in Bushwick, moving into a pretty amazing apartment together. I recall many humorous instances of LD—always the nudist at home—wandering into my room wearing only a ukulele, excited to play a new song for me.
Over the years LD would design album art for me and we’d collaborate on lots of music together. We’d play shows together with Flare in different states, SXSW, opening for Low in Philadelphia, Luna in NJ, so many shows. He became a very dear friend, even coming to a family holiday or two (my family loved him).
I’m sad to say that we hadn’t been in touch in many years. But I always had immense respect for him and I thought about him all the time. His passing has left me very saddened and nostalgic for the beautiful music we made and the wonderful friendship we had forged. My wish is that he lives on in the music and art he leaves behind.
Photograph by Gail O’Hara; please do not borrow or use
I met LD sometime shortly after 9/11 at Dick’s Bar over many drinks and likely some jukebox New Wave. I am pretty sure we discussed the merits of Bow Wow Wow and probably bonded over our mutual love of Ultra Vivid Scene, graphic design and Baroque ’60s pop. He gave me his music, which I loved and we collaborated on a number of things over the years and always discussed doing more, sadly never to be. LD always had an opinion about everything so he was good for a long conversation and I had many, many great ones with him in the nearly 20 years I knew him. He was utterly brilliant. Very much a creative renaissance man with a bottomless curiosity and a deep knowledge on so many topics. As a Village Voice art director, he outfitted me like a turn-of-the-century devil for a photo of the Isotoners, a band I once played in. He also produced our album and added many layers of bassoon, stylophones, keyboards and finger cymbals. The “more the merrier“ seemed to be his production motto. His own music was lovely and I consider his song “(Don’t Like) The Way We Live Now” to be one of the very best songs about gay life in the 21st century. No one discusses his fantastic songs enough and I expect there to be a reissue compilation of them some day. At times LD could be incredibly bitter and difficult and I’m not going to lie and say he was always the nicest person in town. He held people to a very high standard and did not suffer fools at all. I definitely saw him read a bitch hard a time or two. But he also once brought me to an orphan Christmas party when I was at my loneliest and saddest, always told me how much he loved my singing voice and aside from his occasionally difficult personality, he was kind of a softy — a caustic softy. He was a complex person, the very kind I moved to New York City to know and I’m sad to see him go.
Three Terrors photographs by Gail O’Hara; design by LD Beghtol
I met LD in 1996 when we got referred to me to record the first Flare album Bottom. It was out of my scope of my normal alt-rock production style, but he happily turned me on and taught me about an entire world of music, art, literature and sounds that changed my way of thinking about songwriting and record making. His lyrics all had stories that ran deep from obscure historical references to snarky stories of ex-boyfriends and day-to-day life.
I eventually became a full-time band member when Damian left the band and a 25-year collaboration continued. We spent endless hours in the studio together recording, rehearsing and hanging out with an array of people who came in and out of the band over the years. LD introduced me to some of the people who are some of my best friends to date.
We were in the middle of finishing a new record and expect that I will continue to keep his music alive and help have his legacy live on.
The last thing he gave me was “The Happy Apple” kids toy. We recorded it on the song and now my kids play with. Every time I look at that now, I think it’s LD smiling back at me.
LD and I have emailed off and on over the years about various ideas for collaboration though we only ever met in person once, the occasion being a Chickfactor show at Fez in the ’90s. There I learned of his interest in the band Crash and his desire to put together a tribute album. Would I be interested in participating?, he asked. Certainly, I replied, somewhat surprised that someone I’d never met before was aware of the band and the fact that I had sung back up on one of the Crash songs at least 10 years before when I lived in NYC. Though the project did not materialize, we kept in touch occasionally about other possibilities until 2017 when LD graciously consented to cover one of my songs for a tribute cassette and to also design the cover. While I cannot claim to have known LD well personally, I always thought of him as a rare spirit, someone who knew exactly what was good and what was not so good. His gift for words, songwriting, and the visual are not often found in one artist.
Most recently, during the quarantine summer of 2020, I started recording again after many years. It seemed like a good time because there was plenty of free time (I wasn’t working for various reasons). LD texted with some possible ideas for collaboration and we decided on a cover of his song, “Lack of Better,” a nicely moody tune beginning in E minor. Right up my alley. He gave me license to do whatever I wanted and so I did. He was to complete the recording with a “big acoustic guitar” track and a backup vocal. We last discussed the project in an exchange of texts on Thanksgiving night, after he had returned early from a trip to Memphis fearing another lockdown might be imminent. After talking a bit about the sorry state of things in general (as well as various recording software options), the chat ended. I assumed that we would pick up where we left off sometime in the near future.
I have spent all day trying to absorb the death of LD Beghtol, with whom I shared a stage and a cognac many a time. His extravagant voice and personality lent charm and drama to his bands Flare, The Moth Wranglers, and the New Criticism, as well as his unforgettable vocals on The Magnetic Fields’s 69 Love Songs. In lieu of a photograph I am posting what may as well have been a portrait, from a book by Edward Gorey we both admired. Listen to something gloomy tonight, with a touch of melodrama and panache, to remember a man who turned every room into a velvet-draped literary salon. Mr. Beghtol, the world is diminished.
What I keep remembering is at the first Three Terrors show, where Stephin, Dudley and LD were singing the saddest songs they could think of. LD sang “Pretty In Pink” with me on synthesizer and I screwed up the intro, so he only sang a few words and the we had to stop. But the few words, “Caroline laughs and it’s raining all day” gave away the surprise. So the start-over was particularly awkward. LD waited for the murmurs to die down—he did always hate a chattery audience—and then we started again and his vocals were so sad and relentless that everyone was transfixed. Everyone made the journey with LD to the place where this was indeed the saddest song. That’s what he did: he brought the theatrical moment, the drama, the gesture. And he could transfix you.
Dana Kletter remembers her friend and collaborator
When I met LD, I felt he knew me, and I think he felt I knew him.
The first time I recorded with him he instructed me to be the murdered girl.
He was a great writer of some crazy antic fiction.
“Maybe this time, you think to yourself: ‘Lady peaceful, lady happy.’ That’s the new me! Giddy with it all, you plant a big wet kiss on Not-So-Little Red’s startled, becollagened mouth, pinching what’s either a third nipple or an ill-concealed on/off switch slightly misaligned on the bead-encrusted bodice of the creature’s gaudy gown as a fan organ wheezes soothingly above the thrum of hypnotic snares.”
When I told him I found a new psychiatrist, he wrote, “I sometimes wish I were much more fucked up so I could do that.”
He was the most cynical romantic I’ve ever known.
He meant to make a record this summer but was thwarted by everything. He sent me some demos for possible songs. Hell is other people’s boyfriends, one began.
We texted and called each other regularly. I’m sorry I cannot text him now to complain about this.
I loved him dearly and will miss him forever.
Photo by Dana Kletter. Taken while we were in the studio recording “Morgantown.” Listen to the song here. Recorded San Francisco, 2012, Doug Hilsinger on guitar, LD and I on vocals, and backing tracks LD brought from New York. Mixed by Kramer.
Oh LD. I don’t remember exactly when I met LD but he just twirled into the Magnetic Fields universe around the time that 69 Love Songs was being designed and recorded. He was in a band called Flare. He sang on 69 Love Songs. He was a graphic designer who became instrumental in bringing chickfactor’s design to another level; his photoshop expertise also elevated the quality of my photography in the print publication. He became our designer in chief; I usually chose the art but he made it all work in chickfactor issues 12 to 15, our chickfactor mixtape, many event posters, and even a book of my photography that was published (limited edition, 7-inch size) in 2012.
When the rest of the city left town on holiday weekends, LD and I would hole up in my Manhattan apartment and/or his office on 23rd street and work work work on chickfactor. We would spin many singles. We would sit on the floor eating pad thai. We would plot upcoming shows. We both had extremely busy day jobs and yet we were productive AF during all of our free time. Other times we’d be communing with Stephin at St Dymphna’s over tea (Stephin’s chihuahua Irving Berlin would often eat the entire Irish breakfast) or later at Dick’s Bar on Second Avenue or the Phoenix where we would watch show tunes, sip Courvoisier and talk endlessly about people and music and art and life. I would often try to leave to go home and the boys would buy me another drink and set it in front of me.
LD was a force of nature. If he loved you, he *REALLY* loved you. But if you crossed him, it was murder. If he cared about you, his loyalty knew no bounds. He once wrote a set list that was built to torture a certain musician who LD believed had wronged me. He felt everything extra deep. Some of his creative partnerships didn’t last: If he burned the bridge, that was it. But he lived a creative life through and through; whatever day job he was doing, you can bet he spent every free moment doing a million small creative things. His grand moments in the spotlight with the Magnetic Fields in New York and London were among his proudest moments; as a featured singer he would come out with all the drama one would expect in such moments. He made you believe he *was* the King of the Boudoir all right.
Our relationship was complicated but we mostly got on like a house on fire. He found community with both the Magnetic Fields and chickfactor (among others), along with New York music culture in general. He and Dudley and Stephin were like a trio of charming, sulky sweethearts, and LD was like a bitchy-diva sibling to me. We mostly got along well but struggled with creative differences. Although the vile and brutal year 2020 took him along with many other cultural icons and American lives, his art will live on, and you can bet he had a million new projects simmering away that we’ll never get to see. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but I won’t forget him because he was unforgettable. RIP, LD.
interview and photograph are from chickfactor 15, 2002, by Gail O’Hara
anyone who has seen the go-go’s documentary has seen some of theresa’s photographs. she was out and about taking photos of the los angeles punk scene back in the day, including photos of joan jett, billy idol and the jam. this interview focuses heavily on the go-go’s! see more of her photos here.
interview by gail o’hara / photographs by theresa kereakes
chickfactor: how are you today!? can we save the world from evil? theresa: hi! I am doing well, but I am concerned about saving the world from evil. we can, but there are so many variables. like the willfully ignorant. are you currently living in nashville or LA or both? nashville. I’ve been here for 12 years, but I do visit LA two or three times a year. despite its horrible traffic, its overdevelopment, loss of characteristic architecture, displacement of normal people to make room for business plazas no one now needs, and homes no one can afford, I still do miss living there. my LA of the ’50s through early ’80s is noir LA, punk rock LA, and even though it was always the second largest city in the states, it felt like a town because the metropolis is so spread out. my LA is weirdly the LA of tarantino’s once upon a time in hollywood, which I enjoyed for the nostalgia factor. for the most part, some sections of the valley and of hollywood still seem untouched by the 21st century. I miss NYC too. I lived there for 20 years, and have been back once or twice a year since I left, but damn, if it isn’t so expensive.
how and when did you meet the go-go’s? (and billy idol, joan jett and paul weller) I met belinda carlisle when she was still belinda kurczecki, during her time on her high-school speech and debate team, as I was on my high school’s speech and debate team. we competed in the same events over four years’ time—original oratory, impromptu speaking and debate. an aside, I was known as the squirrel queen of debate. this means I was able to present and argue a case so ridiculous and squirrelly and yet prevail. I often tell people I’ve been pro-UBI since 1974, and that’s because in 1974, the policy debate topic was: resolved: that the federal government should guarantee a minimum annual income to each family unit. the case against it was always comprised of the same old GOP talking points you hear now about UBI and unemployment insurance—people wouldn’t work because: free money. my rebuttal to this was “mother’s milk leads to heroin addiction.” I love absurdity. I love taking a debate opponent off track with a flippant response, and then being able to control the argument philosophically.
when the participants’ names were called in the awards presentations, belinda and I were the two girls with the unpronounceable K names, and we bonded over that. we were also both fashion oriented and spent time in between the speech and debate rounds talking about the latest issue of Vogue and identifying designers we liked and styles we thought we could get away with wearing in school. my mom was a fashion designer, so I’d get her to copy all the latest styles and make them for me. I’d be wearing kenzo! we also both liked shoes and accessories and vintage style—back before it was called “vintage” and just known as thrift shopping. our bond was made over weekends through our high-school years; I graduated early—january 1976 (I applied and was accepted to start mid-term at UCLA) so I could start college a term earlier and in reality, I just wanted to move to LA proper and be on my own.
after I had graduated, and was living in the UCLA dorms, I’d see belinda and teri ryan (lorna doom to the world) every weekend in the rainbow parking lot. that was a scene. you’d go to see and be seen. the rainbow bar & grill is next door to the roxy theatre. all the rock & roll people would drink and dine at the rainbow (great pizza; good bars; DJ upstairs), including rock stars, so even if you didn’t have money to dine, or weren’t old enough to drink, you could still be a part of the scene and catch a glimpse, a chat, a photo or an autograph with any of the local and visiting rock stars. belinda and lorna would go to shows, hit the rainbow parking lot, and then drive an hour back to their home in thousand oaks. after they graduated, they eventually found an apartment in west hollywood on holloway drive, just off the strip, in an apartment building next door to the one where sal mineo was killed in his driveway. I was very aware of the location because mineo was killed right when I moved into the dorms and started hanging out in west hollywood, and when my parents saw the news stories on television, they made me call them every night to check in. since we didn’t have cell phones back then, of course, it was to make sure I was in my dorm room (or somewhere inside, with a phone). it was walking distance to tower records (a scene and a hang! you could honestly see elton john or alice cooper shopping there) and licorice pizza record stores, the whisky, the roxy and the rainbow parking lot. that’s centrally located, because as you know, nobody walks in LA, they even drive to their mailboxes!
so by the fall of 1976, we were all living in LA proper. I was in the dorms until april of 1977 and then I got a place in hollywood, which became known as the famous lobotomy apartment (because pleasant and I would put the zine together there). the address was 7231 franklin ave., on the northwest corner of franklin & la brea. la brea was the avenue that separated classic hollywood from “real estate west hollywood.” I believe west hollywood actually has a boundary that’s further west of la brea, such as fairfax—but this is real estate speak here. we were on the OK side of the tracks, and this is important in punk living because so many people lived in old hollywood proper (which many uppity people considered the wrong side of the tracks—la brea being the dividing line) in the canterbury apartments on cherokee ave., spitting distance to the masque, where bands rehearsed and played, and where punk rock people hung out. now, 45 years later, the canterbury touts its punk past as a selling point (see “connection to history”).
at some point late in 1977 (I was living in the famous lobotomy apartment at this time), I ran into belinda and lorna out and about and they were telling me they were trying to stay out until daylight because when they were trying to go home, they heard suspicious and dangerous noises in the bushes around the alley by their apartment. knowing where they lived, and the sal mineo murder still fresh in my mind after a year, I invited them to spend the night at my apartment. they ended up staying for a few months while looking for a new apartment (or two) of their own. I had a wurlitzer electric piano and at several times over the weeks and months she was there, I’d hear belinda muse about being in a band. I think they were probably still bunking at the lobotomy apartment when everyone made the trip up to san francisco to see the sex pistols. in february, the king tut exhibit came to los angeles and every punk who wanted a job as a ticket taker or whatever, really, at LA county art museum got one. I guess all that kohl eyeliner made them instant thematic fixed-term employees. so around that time, you saw a huge surge of punks becoming first-time renters because they had jobs, most of them getting places at the canterbury, or renting houses as a group. belinda did not work at LACMA though. as far back as I remember, she always had a hard-core work ethic. she had a job at the hilton hotel in the administrative office. a real job!
I met charlotte caffey in line in front of the whisky a go-go one summer as we were waiting for doors to open for a ramones gig. she soon started a band she called the eyes, who I frequently saw. they played a gig on my birthday, 1978, where they opened for the jam. that is when I met the jam, together with the rest of my lobotomy cohorts. I still remember the publicist at polygram’s name: len epand (I even have a photo of him with rick buckler!). the “daft PR stunt,” as paul weller has referred to it in post-1978 interviews, involved the label hiring two red double-decker london busses and squiring a bunch of journalists to the king’s head pub (where legit english people did hang out) in santa monica from the starwood in west hollywood. there was fish & chips & mushy peas, all the booze the bartenders could pour and darts. we made a big deal about it being my birthday, and as we (the lobotomy zine crew: me, pleasant, and co-founder randy kaye) were the same age as the band members, and actual real punk rockers, the jam took to us. that’s how we met them, and I maintained a casual correspondence with paul’s father, john weller, for decades. mr. weller would always get me on the guest list, no matter where I lived, or how tight the gig, and he was always completely accessible. the last time I saw them was in NYC in the early ’00s. paul had performed at the town hall, and we went back to their hotel and closed the bar. I spent a great deal of the night talking with mr. weller, as we were both interested in writing a memoir of the early punk days.
joan jett was friends with pleasant and randy since high-school days when they all hung out at rodney’s english disco, which I didn’t do very much. they grew up in beverly hills and in the valley and I was in santa barbara, although I did spend many a long weekend in LA, and during the summer, convinced my parents to let me and various friends spend a week at a time in town each month. my dad and a couple other of my friends’ dads had offices in LA, and also LA pied-à-terres that we could stay at. we also took advantage of our parents’ season tickets to the hollywood bowl, universal amphitheatre (went opening night to jesus christ superstar in 1973; I snuck in a cassette recorder and taped it) and also the more grown-up downtown venues like the marc taper forum (I saw matthew broderick in one of the brighton beach plays). so my rodney’s visits were limited. joan, however, was an emancipated minor (I suppose because of being in the runaways, being a professional musician and traveling the world), and she had her own apartment before anyone else. by the time I had moved to LA and started hanging out with pleasant, dropping in on joan was just part of a regular day. she was one of us, and she was also a rock star. In our eyes, she was a huge rock star.
pleasant had an obsession with billy idol, and I was friends with a guy who worked at chrysalis records, so between us always dropping in on rodney bingenheimer’s radio show, and my friendship with brendan (bourke, who would later work as billy’s manager), we kind of had a lock on him whenever he might come to town. because of the zine, we had a legitimate reason to go drop in on rodney, and he even put us on the air a few times. we would have benefits for ourselves at the whisky, and we’d promote the shows on his radio show. we always booked local bands, and rodney was the radio station champion of local bands. we had the best of all possible symbiotic relationships. I’ll interject that a few years ago, in retrospect, I branded us inadvertent teenage entrepreneurs. we were doing marketing and events and not really understanding that was an actual job—we were just trying to support our zine. pleasant and I very much planned to talk with billy idol on the phone when there was a scheduled call-in from him for rodney’s show. we did speak with billy for a long, long time after his on-air interview with rodney concluded. he told us he would be coming to the USA to do a promo tour in advance of the american release of the generation X album. we became his tour guides. that’s how my friendship with brendan turned into a mutually beneficial thing. he got to actually spend time at his office getting work done while we entertained billy, AND he also got to include pleasant and me in all of the activities he had to do with billy. all the photos that I took during the week we spent with billy show more than just an english kid visiting LA. they illustrate how the ’70s were so much different than times are now. it’s the difference between an analog life and a digital one. it’s the difference between a world where people have some sense of decorum and one where they have zero filter. we took billy to the airport when he was going back home. we accompanied him right to the gate, and I took pictures every step of the way. that would be impossible now—or even in the 90s. I don’t know if we had a false sense of general safety and trust, or if the world has gone to shit. both can be true.
were you friends with them or just part of the scene? sowith the go-go’s, I was closest to belinda, because I knew her from before. and I knew charlotte, but she was kind of a loner. I’d see her at shows, but her social life seemed very private. considering her solid musicianship and songwriting chops, I guess I figured she was just home creating. I saw her a tiny bit more socially when she was dating guys I knew, but then again, not that much more, because it was still just at gigs, but our conversations would last longer and be more substantive because there were more of us keeping the conversation going. pleasant and belinda became the very best of friends, so the three of us became collaborators in addition to just being friends. I wanted to make all kinds of pictures and pleasant and belinda, together and individually, were willing to be in them. a couple years ago, jane wiedlin asked me why I had photographed belinda almost exclusively, and that’s when it hit me that we did so much work together because we already knew each other before the punk scene happened. I was always in awe of jane, who at the time called herself jane drano. she made cool punk clothes, and because my mother was also a fashion designer, it was something I respected at some level where I felt like I didn’t want to trespass. the other members of the go-go’s I knew only from being at shows, just like the dozens of other punk people I knew. we all recognized each other, because the scene was really small—maybe the same core 100 people, overall. it was like high school in that you had your bubble and stayed there, but you all knew who everyone else was
what kind of camera were you using when you started out? I had a pentax spotmatic F and a nikon FM. I sold the pentax, which was a christmas gift in 1973. I had seen the faces earlier that year and didn’t have a proper camera—ie: an SLR; I shot as much as I could on a canon super 8mm motion picture camera) and bought a nikkormat. I’m still using the nikon FM. the nikkormat got splashed unmercifully when I was crossing the irish sea between wales and ireland and I couldn’t afford to get the work done on it, so I put it in an oxfam donation box. was the go-go’s doc director around way back in those days? if she was around, I didn’t know her! if you’d directed it, what would you have done differently? what is missing from it? what is your favorite part? the way I see it, there are two ways to do a music documentary for the mass audience. either way, you have to figure out what story you’re going to tell, and then tell it without putting in everything and the kitchen sink. allison elwood did a great job. of course, small things—details that only friends of the band members or people who were deeply involved in the scene would know or care about—and for minutiae’s sake, really—are what’s missing; but I don’t think the film or the band’s story is the worse off for it. there was enough back-story and a lot of stark honesty about the usual rock & roll subjects— drugs, personnel changes, record and management deals, breaking up. a few people from back in the day have either contacted me directly, or posted commentary on social media about events and people who were missing. but overall, the story is told, and the people who tell that first-person story are all there—all the band members, past and present, former manager, record label, members of bands they toured with, a couple friends. the other way to tell the story is the tabloid way, and I’m not a fan of that. what do you learn from that? when you see a film about an artist, or read a book about them, what’s really much more interesting is their process. that’s the beautiful part about the go-go’s documentary—you heard both charlotte and jane’s songwriting process. that’s valuable. that might be my favorite thing about the film—hearing how charlotte wrote “we got the beat,” and how jane wrote “our lips are sealed” based on lyrical ideas from terry hall. I liked hearing how much charlotte loved kathy valentine’s “vacation” and then helped transform it into a hit. how many of your photos are used in the film? I think there are 4 that made the final cut. They’d requested another one specifically, but that one isn’t in it. the one they requested that didn’t make the cut? it’s your favorite! how many books of your work are out there and are they still available? every year, I make a limited-edition punk rock day of the dead, which is a cumulative in memoriam collection, that unfortunately grows bigger every year. I only make 20 or so of them and each edition is sold out. I make a small run of catalogs that correspond with exhibits I do, and I don’t have any left. my work is featured in many other books though! punk 365 by holly george warren, barnes & noble’s in-house press did something called the encyclopedia of punk that I’m in; todd oldham’s joan jett book has a couple of my photos, as do the bomp!book and the creem book. the author dave thompson has used my work in his books about patti smith, joan jett and the iggy/bowie/lou triumvirate. there’s a book about jews in punk calledthe heebie-jeebies at CBGB’s: a secret history of jewish punk that includes a photo I took of stiv bators doing the goose-step.
were there other bands from that time you think should have gotten more attention? the screamers are woefully unrepresented; everyone in LA loved them, and san francisco did as well. but outside the big cities, no one knew who they were, and they didn’t have a record, so word of mouth and photos will have to keep them alive. I loved the alley cats. dianne chai, the bass player, rocked this ronnie spector look. the band was tight and fierce. the last were a fantastic power-pop group that played well in any bill, from hardcore to pop. their songs were strong. they’re on one of the rhino compilations and worth seeking out.
tell us about what you’re doing now. I have an actual day job utilizing skills I learned in college! I work for warner music group, doing back office things. my work is not creative or conditional on any artist having a hit, which is about as much job security one can have in the music business. the role I occupy provides a service to the labels (I work in royalties; it’s a little bit business affairs, a little bit finance). if I fuck up, of course, I could lose my job. my point is, with this kind of job, it is mine to lose—my position isn’t dependent on a specific project being a hit. I do a fair bit of guest lecturing and speaking at universities about punk rock, and it turns into a lesson in inadvertent feminist entrepreneurism. I also talk about copyright and recording agreements. when I was younger and had the fortitude, I worked in entertainment law firms, and I still read recording agreements every day. my alma mater UCLA is my main university outlet, and a couple times a year, pleasant and I work with jessica schwartz, the resident punk-rock professor in the herb alpert school of music. I am currently involved (as much as one can be in a pandemic where you can’t travel) with a theatre group in LA that is mounting a production called adobe punk, a deeply fascinating and layered play that’s a coming-of-age story involving kids whose life epiphanies are often delivered through punk music. in february, I attended and spoke at one of their work-in-progress readings together with richard schave, who is an historian of LA culture and architecture. I can’t say enough about its greatness and potential. then COVID interrupted live performance work.
I feel like I have been working on putting together a photo book for decades. actually, I guess I have been. back in the ’80s, when punk was hitting its 10-year mark, I tried to do gallery shows and put together a book based on that but not a single gallerist anywhere recognized contemporary street or documentary photography as “art.” I knew a lot of self-proclaimed cutting-edge people in the art world in NYC and even they too were like, “photography is not art.” this bothered me for years, until very recently when I watched a documentary about robert mapplethorpe, who also ran into many roadblocks being considered an artist and getting shows. photography was ghettoized. so, of course, I chose the DIY/punk route of getting shows. I set up shows just like bands do in-stores, and all the interaction I had with people who were fans of my subjects, or people who appreciated photography taught me a lot. and while doing my never-ending photo exhibit tours, I realized having a theme or some kind of unity in a collected body of work is important. so now I am over-thinking unifying themes for photo books.
I’m also collaborating and solo organizing storytelling/spoken word events. this grew out of the guest lectures; students were always asking about the fun times and wanted stories about people they only knew about via urban legend. that’s how the war stories project got started. I want to do another project not unlike war stories, but I would like to gather groups of photographers and do a show & tell kind of event, and also gather groups of punk memoirists to read from their books (which would also give them additional opportunities to sell them). I keep thinking it would be like a live action rashomon of punk… we’d all pick a time/event/band everyone wrote about and compare/contrast. and except for working alone at home with my scanner, none of this can be done until it’s safe to be around groups of people. CF