Drug Me: The WWE and The Death of Michael Jackson

Well, fuck.  Am I REALLY going to have to write something about this? Apparently I am, because two things that should have stayed the hell out of the way of each other due to obvious mutual concerns have come up.

So I was on the Internet this morning, because I heard that, yes, once again, ANOTHER celeb had kicked the bucket. What the hell, guys? This week is just NO GOOD to be famous, right? Sky Saxon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and now Billy Mays? Really? Jeez Louise. At any rate, there was yet ANOTHER Internet RUMOR that someone (this time Louie Anderson) had died, and I was looking into that because, well, we had gone past the whole “they go in threes” thing, and frankly? At this juncture? After Michael? ANYTHING was believable. So, I found a REALLY interesting article. And of course, because it was related to wrestling, I totally clicked on it.

Rick Rockwell of the Pro-Wrestling Examiner wrote a very short, but sweet, treatise on the internet hoax of the death of Louie Anderson and how hurtful death hoaxes on the internet were. He made a very incisive statement when he said that “A hoax and false rumors are hurtful and disgusting. Although, WWE tends to create storylines that are hurtful and disgusting, the Trump story was only stupid in the end but didn’t really hurt anyone; unless you count the WWE stockholders who sold their stocks,” referring to the current Donald Trump storyline. HOWEVER, to make Mr. Rockwell’s point even more significant and have even more weight, the WWE has a its own history of death hoaxes as well. It is a company that thrives upon soap opera antics (for more on this, email me- I got a nice long paper for ya to read- I’m a huge wrestling fan) Yet, to be sure, like the current Donald Trump storyline, they hurt no one but possibly the audience whose loyalties and fanships ran, perhaps, a bit too deep and that is only temporarily. As most people know- hoaxes are just that- they always get uncovered at *some* point. That is their point.

The explosive "death" of the head of the WWE...

The explosive "death" of the head of the WWE...

Even the most recent and the most bombastic death “hoax,” that of WWE head honcho Vince McMahon in June 2007 was eclipsed by a real LIVE death, the epically tragic Chris Benoit murder-suicide, which actually cancelled what was going to be a long running storyline regarding McMahon’s “death.”  The death hoax in this case was a major plot point, and would probably have lasted a good long time. However, out of respect for the tragedy of one of their major performers, the WWE had some taste in this situation and cut this storyline way short. However, my point is proven. Large scale company, famous figure, DEATH HOAX. But fictional, so as not to hurt anyone.

In a week like we have had, where people’s childhoods have had the door closed upon them, and steamy adolescent dreamings have been laid to rest, do we REALLY need to hear that Jeff Goldblum might be sharing Vibes on a higher plane right now? Or Louie Anderson, for that matter?

No, we really don’t. I’m sorry guys, but not this week. Take your “funny” elsewhere, it just ain’t “haha.” I don’t feel like I wanna be checking Snopes.com 80 times a day nor do I want to have a flipout everytime I check my Twitter or Facebook and SOMEONE ELSE’S name pops up, k? Can we have some GOOD news, please? And look, celebrity ain’t everything, in fact it just happens to be a big area of academic study for me, but…..HELL. If it ain’t that important, why don’t we go back to looking at the children dying in Iran and not some poor shlemiel comedian who died and didn’t fuckin’ know it, eh?

So on to my next point, and where the title comes in. So I keep reading Rockwell’s piece. It’s cool. Whatever. I’m thinking about wrestling, the veritable plethora of hoaxes that get pulled all the time that, in real life, would be really really bad, hurtful and painful…when I see this headline: Ultimate Warrior Rips on the Death of Michael Jackson

Oh hell no. Really? C’mon guys, for reals? So I make with the *clicky*

For those of you who are not wrestling fans, this is the Ultimate Warrior:

Ultimate Warrior- cuz all guys can get that buff naturally! Check out that vein! Ooo!

Ultimate Warrior- cuz all guys can get that buff naturally! Check out that vein! Ooo!

Yeah, so that’s the guy. He didn’t have very many nice things to say either on his blog, no sirreebob. And, y’know, in general, I’m fine with people having and voicing their opinions. Absolutely. That’s what this whole blogosphere thing is all about. And I’m fine with him having his. But I’m going to come out on the record and say that he’s a total hypocrite for the things that he’s saying and, while he doesn’t hold much weight in the wrestling community anymore, he holds weight with people and fans and sometimes (most times) that is even more powerful that holding sway in the company itself.

In his blog, where he (I fear) was attempting to be as righteous as he was humorous,  the self-proclaimed “Founding Father of Intense Sarcasm” discusses how all the celebrities are probably quite upset now that they have nowhere to drop off their children for playtime. He calls all of them “drug-soused entertainment freaks.” Oh Warrior. Really? Didja have to go there? Cuz NOW I have to write about this. NOW I have to rip into you. Now I can’t just leave you alone to your poor, pathetic, paranoid has-been existence. I mean, honestly, I have a great amount of sympathy A GREAT AMOUNT for ex-wrestlers or ex-WWE-wrestlers, but from the bit of research I’ve done on you and your blog today, um, well??? I think I can confidently say that you are not one of them.

If any of you have seen The Wrestler, then you know its really tough to go from the 80’s and the highest highs to…well, what the WWE is now. Which is not exactly what is *was,* per se. Not that its not still one of the largest and most economically viable companies in the nation, but…it sure isn’t what it was back in the day. And many casualties have fallen to the wayside as a result, mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s like a war- only there really is no support group for former wrestlers, there is no WWE “Vet” group…there’s just shattered kneecaps, shattered souls, and most likely a lifetime addiction to painkillers and assorted other *fun* substances! Hurray for entertainment!!

Aaronofsky's film is a great look into what the reality of wrestling truly is. You can only get thrown through a table so many times.

Aronofsky's film is a great look into what the reality of wrestling truly is. You can only get thrown through a table so many times.

The interesting thing to note is that wrestling, while indeed following a fictionalized storyline, is also choreographed, like a dance number on broadway or a fight scene in a film. When people take on the condescending tone with me about wrestling (which happens right after the “OMG, you’re a girl and you like wrestling” face- it’s pretty similar to the “OMG you’re a girl and know something reasonable about comics” face, but we can discuss facial antics at a later date), they generally say “You know its all fake, right?”

Sure. Sure, it’s fake. Tell that to Owen Hart, who died when he fell to his death at a WWE (then WWF) event in Kansas City Missouri. Or tell it to Plum Mariko, the Japanese female wrestler who died from injuries received inside the ring that reinjured former ring injuries. Tell THEM its fake. Or tell the innumerable men and women who have passed away in the last few years due to the high levels of physical stress that they have suffered due to extreme conditions of travel, and years of drug abuse and physical conditioning and sheer performance on a nightly basis. Tell their families that it was all fake. The surgeries? ALLLLL fake. Yup, indeed. An elaborate game of pretend.

So what? What does all this have to do with the Warrior’s rant?

Well, first off, I recognize that the Warrior is a bit of a nutter, and his rant on Michael Jackson as a drug-addict holds no water, coming from a man who was released unceremoniously from the WWE for testing positive for steroids. I think, however, that this issue goes beyond the Ultimate Warrior’s blog, and I think that his readers recognized that as well. Some of the comments made were quite acute as to the Warrior’s own position in the world and I found them to be quite entertaining.

On the other hand, this is a larger issue. It is very likely that Michael’s death resulted from a highly toxic cocktail mix of drugs administered and recommended to him by a “doctor.” Not dissimilar to the doctors that wrestlers regularly depend on. The choreography of a dance is not unlike the choreography of a wrestling move, and a tour is a tour, no matter who you are performing to or when. Sure, wrestling is more physically demanding than what Jackson did, but the parallels are there, the fame issues are there, and, more importantly, the access and opportunity is there.

Michael’s history with drugs was just as unfortunate as many wrestlers. Starting just after the Pepsi commercial, he had a very big problem with pain killers and was in and out of rehab multiple times. Being a performer, a star and a major physical talent, he had to be at the top of his game at all times. ALL times, not just on occasion. And that’s practically impossible to do, especially without the use of synthetic assistance. Michael’s body became racked with addiction and substances until it became a shell of the gorgeous and rubber-like dancer’s skin that we saw back in the day. On June 25, 2009 we saw what can happen when you try to continue to use that system to make your flesh provide.

Your body is not made to do that. Chinese medicine teaches that the body is one whole organ, and that if you are sick, the body as a whole must be treated- that there is blockage in one location which is preventing your system, as a whole, from working correctly. By plugging up your body with painkillers and a whole cornucopia of drugs that make it so that the natural ingredients in your body will not work with each other in tandem, you’re basically just clogging up your own pipes. It may feel better for the moment, but it’s a temporary satisfaction. Tragically, if you’ve fucked your body up as bad as a wrestler has, sometimes it seems like there’s no other way. On the other hand, there are a good amount of wrestlers who have been able to know how to handle their bodies now and know how to balance more today than before (I hope). As for Michael, well? I don’t think he has had anyone there to advocate for him since he was a kid. I think the only people he has ever had in his life who have provided any kind of positivity for him were maybe his sisters or his mom, but were they strong advocates for him?

NO WAY.

What I hope is not to see anymore blogs or anything come out from the wrestling community about the Michael Jackson death. If I do, I’m going to be really pissed. It’s going to be more than any pot meeting kettle or glass house with boulders, man. It’s just a sad situation and in times like this we should be combining forces *not* dividing them.

In a situation like this, we should and could be recognizing the similarities between the parties, seeing the ways in which the entertainment industry in all of its Glorious Intelligence has decided to go the Alfred Hitchcock way and treat its performers like cattle. Well, guys, if you treat your performers like cattle, GUESS WHAT? You are not allowed to be shocked when the most talented, the most amazing and the most incredible ones get their own form of Industry Hoof and Mouth disease and die the fuck off. Nope, instead we, the audience/fans, get to suffer for your inability to treat your performers, be them wrestlers or pop singers, like human beings. Lucky us.

And I end this with a sincere letter from my heart:

Dear Entertainment Industry,

Try to treat your performers better. Keep ’em healthy and for fuck’s sake take oxycontin off the market for celebs. You’ll be doing all of us a huge favor.

Love always,

Ariel

G’night, Sweet King…RIP Michael Jackson, King of Pop, 1958-2009

So Michael Jackson died today. He was 50 years old.

And a whole bunch of people are “not upset.”

That’s fine. I understand. I get it. There’s terrible things going on in the world. Iran, the economy…I mean who can blame them for not giving a shit about a pop star, right?

Well, I have a little bit of an issue because this guy’s life was sorta intertwined with mine, and I guess I never really thought about it until his death. When Michael Jackson died today, he pretty much took the remainder of my childhood with him. While that might sound hyperbolic,it’s kinda just how it feels.

michael_jacksonI was 5 years old when I bought Thriller. That means that I had just started all that walking, talking, reading stuff a few years earlier.  But I was musicking. Woah boy, was I musicking. I was tiny. And I danced around my room to Jackson & McCartney fighting over a girl (“The Girl Is Mine”), sang along to “PYT” and, most importantly, rented the movie. Yup, the movie that introduced me to John Landis, zombies & Vincent Price all in one fell swoop.  And I LOVED IT. And to be brutally honest, I just rewatched it tonight after I got home from work, and I dare you to watch this and not see something absolutely incredible. I was totally thrilled to see how amazing it was and, even more importantly, how talented Jackson was in it. I remembered it with fond affection, sure, but…I was not prepared to see a young Michael who was so full of grace, talent and charisma that he essentially truly DID become the King of Pop. I got it.

But I wasn’t alone. And that’s my point. Many kids were just like me. My housemate. Friends I know on Facebook. Kids all over the world. It was a huge part of our childhood, that album. And then his presence expanded for me. To Captain EO at Disneyland.

Skip ahead to 1986, Anaheim, CA. Disneyland puts in a new attraction starring…….Michael! It’s called Captain EO, and it’s in 3D. In many cases, it’s probably the very first 3D film most kids have ever seen. It was probably *mine.*

Coming shortly after the “Pepsi Incident”, Captain EO was written by James Horner, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and was, at the time, the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis. Beyond that, it was chock full of Angelica Huston as the scaaaaary Supreme Leader, a total Giger-influenced villainess who rocks (and I *desperately* wish I could dress up like for Halloween!!), super awesome and adorable animals, and fantastic music. Again, during the dance scenes, we bear witness to the exquisitely sleek physicality of Jackson and his grace and dance finesse. The subtle movements of his body in unison and conjunction with the rest of his team are mind-blowing, to be sure.

Michael Jackson was like Dorian Gray in a way. Something happened to him, I think. There was a switch, some kind of fucked up something. Really, it seems to me, that he was intentionally trying to make himself disappear, become someone else. I am not excusing any kind of misbehavior that may have occurred. However, when it came to the mental disintegration that caused everyone to laugh and make fun of him, even at his death today, I think it was a bit more Wilde-like than anything. As his face changed, became more plastic and angular; as his pigment disappeared and his ethnicity was altered, he seemed to be trying to get away from that person that he way before.

And you could see it from the videos too. The ones that reacted to the ways that the media turned him into an item to be consumed and not a human, almost more than anyone else on earth. The first example was the video for “Leave Me Alone,” from the Bad album.

And if that doesn’t speak for itself, try the one he made with his sister, Janet, on for size…

He wasn’t happy at the way things turned out. Personally, I think something snapped inside him, and, not unlike Vivian Leigh or Howard Hughes with their own mental instabilities, he was unable to cope. Unfortunately for him, we live in a highly media-obsessed age. moreso than ever before, and it probably exacerbated everything. Many people think that he was never the same after the Pepsi Commercial. Who knows?

Does that part matter? Does any of that matter?

Does it matter to his family?

Does it matter to the people who hold his music dear to them?

I remember when I lived in Israel, moving into my adopted sister’s room on Moshe Dayan Street, in East Jerusalem. The first thing I noticed was wall to wall Michael Jackson. To this day, I remember, more than anything, that Bad poster- the one above my bed. Sneaking a boy in and making out with him, underneath that Bad poster. Falling asleep…underneath that Bad poster. And you know what? It wasn’t even a POSTER!! It was a TAPESTRY, for heavens’ sakes!! Yeah, Israel. 1994. Michael Jackson was a part of my life then, too.

Really, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything.

And honestly, while I am not surprised at all the snark and hip apathy that has arisen over this, it saddens me.  Without Michael Jackson, we wouldn’t have a good amount of the modern dance routines in music we have now. Without Michael Jackson, we wouldn’t have a huge amount of the music we have period.

The internet blew up today with the news of his death.  And I think, to an extent, some people were reacting to people’s reactions, and simply being contrarian about it. Or maybe they honestly don’t care. But then others are being intentionally mean, and not in a “I’m an asshole and I recognize his talent, this is just how I joke” way.

It’s just not cool to be snarky. I’m over it. Really. I’m ok with sarcasm, but to be honest? I’m done with snark and especially snarkiness in order to be hip. I have seen too much of that today.

Look- Michael Jackson changed the music world, whether you like it or not. If you don’t think so, you’re either deaf, blind, vegetative, in a coma or lacking in a pulse as well. He also changed the dance world and he was talented as hell.

A friend of mine said it best today when she said this, in regards to the way that Jackson’s death was being handled by certain factions:

“I think everyone deserves more sympathy and respect than that. You don’t have to know someone to appreciate his contributions to the world. Before he became a strange and broken creature, Michael Jackson overcame outrageous hardships to create brilliant music.”

In any case, this isn’t my best blog, in fact I’m not even sure it’s that good. But I’m a little pissed that people can’t separate themselves enough to look at the exquisite talent of a man who shaped a section of the art & music world forever, not to mention a guy who definitely changed my life and that of many people in my generation.

Michael Jackson was integral to my development. As I sit here on my living room floor and MTV rattles on about Sheryl Crow’s quotes and JC Chasez’s dancing experiences with Michael, I have to think about how many offices were pumping MJ today and how his sales are gonna go up and how many people are gonna dust off that VHS copy of Thriller tonight. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, some people can be like me tonight & revisit the songs and items that they thought were simply nostalgia, and find that, perhaps, they are quite a bit more. I thank Jackson for that. I thank him for letting me be able to see him have that amazing physicality and be part of a generation where that was part of our culture, in a sense. Thriller was our album, and Michael Jackson was, without question, one of our cultural icons, like it or not. And of course I have to thank him for introducing me to horror film stuff at a young age…

So, with that, I bid you adieu. I think I’m overwhelmed by all this right now. I planned on this being much better written, but I hope that maybe the dancing that is in the clips I have provided above might be enough to make you consider the way that you consider Michael Jackson, on the whole. I’m not certain that I actually believe all the allegations against him anyways. But who knows. Not sure if it matters anymore.

So talk to me. What do you think?

Thank You For Bea-ing a Friend…:RIP Bea Arthur,1922-2009

I will be the first to admit that my gay sensibilities are ostensibly heightened and terrifically off-the-charts much of the time when it comes to…well, almost anything. Go ahead and point it out. I will shrug at you. I will shrug quite loudly at you, in fact. I have recognized that there is a very large possibility that I was a gay man in my last life. But that is neither here nor there, really. Because while Bea Arthur was arguably a much-loved and cherished icon in the gay male community due to her participation in one of THE MOST beloved shows in all gaydom, Golden Girls, Bea Arthur was a woman that spanned far beyond that, and boy howdy did she know it!

beaarthurBea Arthur was a woman who, through her deadpan vocal stylings, sly grin and animated eyebrows exuded a confidence that any woman would be lucky to have on her good day. Or any man for that matter! She had an enviable career to be sure. From her beginnings in Kraft Television Theater in 1951, to the roles she made famous: Vera Charles in Mame or the roles she created like Dorothy in Golden Girls or Maude in Maude, Bea Arthur was nothing if not the consummate professional and always, always, always Funny As Hell.

Being 5’9″ and broad shouldered in an industry constructed for the petite of frame couldn’t have been easy, but she seemed to have risen to the challenge and worked it with all she had, and truly cut her own place for herself. To be honest, that may have been the reason that she made out as well as she did. There are a thousand and one sweet’n’petite blonds that can sing and dance up a storm, I suppose, but how many of them can turn a line of dialogue into something so dynamic, so alive, so pulsating with energy that when it drops from their lips (even when said in the most deadpan-esque manner) you want to scream and howl with laughter?

Not many. And you know what it was? Bea Arthur was born with a watch in her blood stream. She was born with a sense of timing that even many of the very BEST comedians have to train for years to achieve. But for some reason, and I think her consistent work in Golden Girls is the best proof of this, Bea Arthur had it. She knew exactly when it was “right.” And the most wonderful part is that you could see the confidence in her face, at all times.

When I woke up today, and I found out about her passing, I spent a great deal of time looking for Bea Arthur Awesomeness to post on my Facebook. To share with my friends, to share with my little cousins who may not know who the hell she was, or just to basically remind folks how wonderfully talented Bea was and how multidimensionally talented. Let me tell you- one of the best Saturday afternoons I have had in a long time was today, eating lunch, and watching a bunch of fan-clips of “favorite  moments” from the Golden Girls. In pajamas, and then getting to write. Really lovely. But aside from that, there were 2 pretty extraordinary YouTube videos that I found, and I will post them here:

Rock & Bea discuss the “good old days”

Angela & Bea…Bosom Buddies forever.

As someone who studies/works with fan culture quite frequently, I have to say that one of the things that I found interesting was the evolution of the comments over today on these videos. The response from people showing the impact that Bea Arthur has had on their lives is simply remarkable. A few examples:

I dreaded this day too. When I was diagnosed with an uncommon illness i had nothing to cheer me up for day until i turned on the television and it just so happen that the Golden Girls was on tv and my mood changed and till this day I pop in a GG Dvd and i laught with Dorothy yelling at her mom and Rose — from Atitoinnyc, from the “Sniff Swig Puff” video

One of the most talented and classiest actresses ever to grace the stage or air waves. She brought so many years of happiness to so many; my parents adored watching her in everything, and they were tough to please. A tremendous loss! –from Frymet, from the “Bosom Buddies” video

I would encourage you to go and look at more of the comments on more of the videos, as they are fascinating and they show a real sense of the power that Arthur’s career has had over so many people’s lives over the years, not to mention a real intriguing look at the fan community as well. But that is bordering on my own interests and so feel free to disregard. However, I do feel it to be an important part of someone’s final passing to see how the community as a whole grieves and how they take it together; the fan community being one of the most strong and creative in certain media respects. For example, in the next 2-3 weeks, there will be no less than 100-200 new fan videos based on Bea Arthur and her career in the Golden Girls. That is a bet I am totally willing to make. Tribute videos, mixes, everything. It’s one of the greatest parts about fan culture. Their creative impulse is so strong. Sure, half of ’em may live in mom’s basement, but does that really matter at the end of the day?

At any rate, at this point I would like to raise a glass to the woman she started out as, the woman she grew up to be, the woman she became, and the woman she was. I would like to raise a glass to Vera Charles, to Maude Findlay, to Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, to Amanda Cartwright, and just, plain and simple, to Bea Arthur- what a woman! Here’s to you, and thank you for being MY friend and gracing me with the opportunity to be so thoroughly entertained for most of my lifetime!

May you and Estelle be up there sharing laughs together as we speak…..The earth is lonely for you both, but the heavens are made more glorious with laughter upon your arrival!

goldengirls

Journey to the Center of a Girl

Growing up in Los Angeles- Hollywood, to be precise- can be a very odd experience. Not that I would know any different, so I suppose that it should all seem perfectly normal to me. However, as someone who is a trained critical thinker, I do consider my evolutionary process quite frequently, moreso when an icon that speaks to me passes on.

On February 4, 2009, Lux Interior died.  For me, this was a heavy loss and spanned multiple areas of my life.  In a way, this man’s death was also one of the final nails in the coffin containing the slowly deteriorating body that was the Los Angeles that I grew up with. See, Los Angeles used to be ALIVE. Vibrant. Pulsating. Now I fully recognize that at 30 years old, I am too young to have fully experienced my city to its capacity, especially in the ways that I am writing about it now. That said, I have always had eyes and I have always paid attention. See, I remember when Melrose was a little bit “dangerous.”  When my mom used  to drive down the street and I used to look at all the people whose hair color matched my crayon box, I sensed that this place was a bit verboten and dangerous; not a location for “nice” people to be seen, necessarily. Of course, the greatest irony is that now I *am* one of those people…but I digress. When I was very young, Melrose was not what it is now. vinylfetish I do remember how it all began, though. My mother used to joke about the stores staying for 5 minutes. In fact, since I live so very close to Melrose these days, I still make that same joke- because it still happens. But Melrose now is not Melrose then. In fact, trying to find pictures for this entry was very difficult. As most people know, you can find pictures for just about ANYTHING online. you want pictures of Lindsay Lohan’s original bellybutton piercing? You got ’em! But old school Melrose? HARD. The picture above is a store that is no longer there, Vinyl Fetish. Right across the street was Retail Slut. I remember going in there after school when I went to Fairfax, and being gazed upon with incredible disdain by the employees. I felt as big as a peanut. Shell not included. I remember how horrible that felt. It was terrible, because the honest-to-god truth was that I was a really smart, sweet kid who got swooped up by some crazy slightly older punk rockers later that same year and everything ended up being perfectly ok, cuz I got my “boots’n’braces” education eventually, but…

A very very short time later, my baby brother was WORKING there. Working there. At Retail Slut. My little brother. With a nickname and everything. HUH?!?!? Yeah, that’s what I said. But that’s a whole other story, I guess.  At any rate, that’s not what this is about. this is about  My Experience With Lux. It’s not EVERYONE’S.  And it is most certainly not a *striking* one, but it is mine, and I cherish it because it is part of My Los Angeles.

How long have you been a slut?

How long have you been a slut?

Images as a teen are strange things. Especially if you exist in some kind of perverse “subculture” or have a desire to do so. I was initially part of the latter variety that (luckily for me) ended up in the former. So many visuals came with the territory, and I remember seeing hoards of them. Many that would end up becoming part of my everyday sartorial choices. The Two-Tone label, Bad Religion, Madness, X…all of these iconic things found homes upon my body somewhere, sometime. The FEAR insignia, the Crass logo, the Christian Death symbol- I learned how to read them. It was all a kind of language- a new symbolism almost. But…I remember that the Bad Music for Bad People image scared me.

I cruise through the city & I roam the streets...

I cruise through the city & I roam the streets...

HOW AWESOME IS THAT???? I say that with enthusiasm, because that is every bit of the intent. While I don’t adore every single everything by The Cramps that has ever been done, as a band they are one of the best that has EVER crossed the face of the planet because they hit on all of my favorite things: sexual permissiveness/provocativeness/perversity, horror cinema, b-films/culture, combining aural stimulus with visual stimulus, and, most important of all, breaking boundaries.

I loved being scared, then. I love being scared now. I will probably always love it. If you can find something that can scare me, I’ll kiss ya and buy ya a soda pop! I’m the kinda girl that can go to bed right after watching The Exorcist, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the fact that I’ve been Bat Mitzvah-ed and am not Catholic in the least.

OK. So you wanna know what else I REALLY love about The Cramps? You REALLY wanna know? Sure, my heart is broken and totally devastated that I never got to see them, but here’s the other stuff that makes me all gushy inside when I think about why the Cramps are integral to the world as we know it, musically, socially, and artistically. This band changed the world. Now, I’m gonna get all theoretical on you, so if you hate that stuff, here’s your chance to jet……NOW.

I like The Cramps because they are, to me, a visual-musical representation of Julia Kristeva’s theories of the abject and abjection. And I think abjection is endlessly interesting. Kristeva wrote that “It is not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite. The traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior…He who denies morality is not abject; there can be grandeur in amorality and even in crime that flaunts its disrespect for the law-rebellious, liberating & suicidal crime.  Abjection, on the other hand, is immoral, sinister, scheming, and shady: a terror that dissembles, a hatred that smiles, a passion that uses the body for barter instead of inflaming it, a debtor who sells you up, a friend who stabs you…” (Powers of Horror, p.13) So what were The Cramps BUT a band about abjection? They were the outside, the other, yet with some very odd traditional sensibilities. In that sense, they bore a significant musical resemblance to Kristeva’s idea of the ambiguous, the composite…. From their very beginnings and their first album, Songs The Lord Taught Us (1980, Illegal Records), they had set up that status. Through singing traditional cover tracks like “Fever”  or “Tear it Up” and marching them up against their self-penned original titles like “The Zombie Dance” or “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,”  The Cramps established themselves as a band that could do exactly what they wanted to do…TO YOU. Especially since they were under the auspices of the Lord, right?

They had a message from God!

They had a message from God!

Variety Lists the Top 10 Cramps song titles as follows:

10. The Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon

9. I Wanna Get in Your Pants

8. Eyeball in My Martini

7. The Most Exalted Potentate of Love

6. Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs

5. Fissure of Rolando

4. Journey to the Center of a Girl

3. Don’t Eat Stuff off the Sidewalk

2. Two Headed Sex Change

1. Bikini Girls With Machine Guns

First thing to be noted here: at least half these songs reference significant physiological issues. The Fissure of Rolando is an area deep within the brain, not immediately accessible or visible. A sex change? Let alone one of the 2-headed variety? Yes, I do believe that would border on “outsider” status, don’t you?  With Abject Cramps Logic, this is all just par for the course. And the lyrics do not deviate any more than the titles do. For example, let’s just take “Eyeball in my Martini.”  On a deeper, more psychological level, abjection is about the breakdown between the subject and object or the self and other.

Sooooooo, our illustrious frontman croons, “I went out to eat the other night. Picked up my girl at eight. In my soup I found a fly. But, there beyond my plate. Was an eyeball in my martini. A highball with a twist. One in my linguini, too. I said, “There’s somethin’ wrong with this.” Eyeballs, eyeballs, eyeballs. Eyeballs everywhere. Eyeballs, eyeballs, eyeballs…” OK. Not only are we hitting on Kristeva’s issues with abjection and the uncleanliness factor in this instance, but we definitely have significant issues surrounding the recognition of the abject. Kristeva writes that “A wound with blood or pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death…I would understand, react or accept. No, as in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse & corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being…” In this song, it is exactly this. Whether he’s looking at his drink or staring at his dinner, he’s being confronted with the very “condition of his humanity” through the existence of a piece of it. Removed from it. One basically can exist without one’s eyeball, most assuredly, but most would choose not to if it could be helped. However, singing a song such as this, where the eyeball/humanity/abjection/symbol of the body’s breakdown or demise is continually appearing in his linguini, drink and so forth???  Lux is about to eat his own flesh. Drink his own sight. Inhale his own existence. He cannot get away from the fact that he has to face mortality, and existence. The pus, the defilement, the breakdown. THIS IS THE ABJECT….

My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border...-Kristeva

My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border...-Kristeva

See, the abject also refers to our reactions to that which is considered “abject” which, according to Kristeva, can be quite a traumatic experience all-around.  Kristeva mentions examples of certain items that illicit these reactions, inclusive of corpses, open wounds, piss, or the skin on the top of warm milk (don’t ask on that milk one- if you want to go further, read her full piece, which I would highly recommend doing anyway).  Because these items remind us of our own mortality, of our own physicality, of the things that we do/are /the “uncleanliness,” (see earlier quote), or other things that rip us away from the general state of “pretty happy shiny” that we tend to live in, the abject causes us to, essentially “flip out,” and experience a very real, significant sense of cognitive dissonance. Yeah, pretty fucked up. So in a sense, we are confronted by our own existence and bodily functions, we don’t like to recognize that we die or bleed or crap, and……OMGWTFBBQ!!!!

We fear. This is exactly why horror films work. This is why Cronenberg has built a cinematic empire upon body horror. This is why the Aliens series works. This is why SO MANY things work. I could go on. Buuuuuuuuuut…..my point here is this is also why The Cramps work!!!

The Cramps played a lot. So did X. So did a great many bands that my friends were able to see and I was never able to bear witness to. However I remember the visual. I remember, as only a child/adolescent does, COMPLETELY mixing up Lux Interior and the cover of Bad Music For Bad People (the main image I always saw around town). I always thought THAT was him. But I enjoyed the fear and the THRILL that he put in me. Years later, when I became a fan, and then a film and pop culture theorist myself, I was able to think about things (obviously) on a different note. However, to this day, I will always think that Bad Music for Bad People is a scary album cover. I will also think that it clearly references theoretical issues of abjection, etc, which only makes me adore it even more.

I am sad for my loss. After all, what is sadness after a death but personal loss, really? I am just sad that I was unable to see them. That is my tragedy. It is an aural & visual loss that I will always regret. However I am proud to have experienced them as a Hollywood girl, having them be such a crucial part of my lifecycle, and and even happier to have them continue to prove to be a brilliant source of education and inspiration for theory and learning. Even if, at the end of the day, I am just a Goo Goo Muck…

I Got My TV Eye On You….

RIP Ron Asheton

RIP Ron Asheton

I love The Stooges.

Always have, always will.

RIP, Mr. Asheton. Thanks for the tuneage.