The Sixth Annual Chattanooga Film Festival Gets Bizarre and Unearths Four Killer Days of Movie Madness & Mayhem, April 11-14!

Posted on: Apr 8th, 2019 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The Chattanooga Film Festival kills it again during its 6th year invading downtown Chattanooga (Chattanooga Theatre Centre (CTC), The Moxy Chattanooga and Miller Park) this Thursday-Sunday April 11-14. CFF has way more to offer than your average film festival and promises a weekend chock full of killer films (features and shorts blocks), workshops, presentations, podcasts and parties! CFF prides itself in sharing films with the masses that are “unique, challenging, critically significant, and a helluva lot of fun!” This year’s festival showcases films ranging from monsters, rockin’ tunes, geek magic, sinister good times and homages to classic films and bizzaro television series. Here are our top 10 reasons to high tail it on up to our wonderfully weird little sister city to the north for the Chattanooga Film Festival!

1) MALLORY O’MEARA & THE CREATURE. Delve into Mallory O’Meara’s recently released biography, The Lady from the Black Lagoon (Hanover Square Press, March 5, 2019). Take a peek into the life of Millicent Patrick, killer actress, make-up artist, special effects designer and creator of the head costume for Universal’s Gill Man, a.k.a “The Creature.” Patrick’s legacy was nearly forgotten, but O’Meara gives Patrick her due in this monstrous retrospective. O’Meara is scheduled to give a 30-minute talk, a reading and will sign books for all you Millicent Patrick fans. Catch O’Meara’s event from at 3pm on Friday, April 12 in the Classterpiece Theatre! And if you’ve never caught Jack Arnold’s monstrous classic CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) on the big screen, then you’re in for a special treat! Chill with the Creature at 8:30pm at Miller Park on Saturday, April 12!

2) CRISPIN HELLION GLOVER. Spend the night with cinema icon, Crispin Glover [BACK TO THE FUTURE franchise; television series “American Gods”; David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART (1990)] from 7pm – 11:3pm Friday, April 12, as he presents a “Big Slide Show 2,” screens IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE (2007), which he co-directed with David Brothers and tells a psycho-sexual tale about a man with severe cerebral palsy who has a fetish for girls with long hair. According to Glover, screenwriter Steven C. Stewart “wanted to show that handicapped people are human, sexual and can be horrible” – a film you definitely will not want to miss! After the screening, stick around for a book signing and meet ‘n’ greet with Glover! An Evening with Crispin Glover takes place in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre.

3) GARY SHERMAN.  CFF Guest and horror film director/producer Gary Sherman [POLTERGEIST III (1988); DEAD & BURIED (1981)] brings you special treats at CFF this year! First, catch a screening of his ‘80s thriller film with mutilator pimps, Hollywood hookers and more, VICE SQUAD (1982) on Saturday, April 13 at 4:20pm with an introduction and Q&A afterwards with the director, screening in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre! On Sunday, April 14 at 10am, learn The Secrets of Poltergeist III with Sherman in the Classterpiece Theatre. You won’t want to miss Sherman dive deep into the “smoke and mirrors” behind the film’s practical special effects and more!

4) SO-CAL DESERT PUNK. CFF presents their Sonic Cinema Block screening of Stuart Swezey’s documentary DESOLATION CENTER (2018) and see the untold story of the Reagan-era anarchic punk rock desert events that have seeped into our culture by way of phenomena such as Burning Man, Lollapalooza, Coachella, etc. The film will be screened in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre on Saturday, April 13 at 12:30pm!

5) GEEK LOVE – EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. If you’ve ever wondered where the art for Dungeons & Dragons originated, look no further! Directors Kelley Slagle and Brian Stillman present their 2018 documentary, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, which explores the history, influences and stories behind the artwork that helped create the world of Dungeons & Dragons. The film will be screened in Bruce Springscreen Theatre on Sunday, April 14 at 10:30pm!

6) BJORK IN THE JUNIPER TREE. Get medieval with Bjork with a 4k restoration screening of Nietzchka Keene’s debut Brothers Grim-esque film THE JUNIPER TREE (1990) on Sunday, April 14 at 8:40pm in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre!

7) METALPUNKOCALYPSE. CFF plans to rock your face of this weekend! Get hellbent during the Metal Madness After Party on Thursday, April 11 at 10pm at The Moxy, celebrating the Heavy Metal in cinema with themed cocktails, metal face painters and more! Or catch a screening of Eric Pennycoff’s heavy metal terror SADISTIC INTENTIONS (2018) on Friday, April 12 at 5pm in the Screena Turner Theatre, followed later that night by Jonas Akerlund’s LORDS OF CHAOS (2018) where an obsession with creating “true Norwegian black metal” turns truly sinister at 11:30pm! And who needs Saturday morning cartoons when you’ve got Destroy All Movies!!! The Punk on Film Panel with Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly at 10am Saturday, April 13 at The Moxy, with a hilarious take on Hollywood vs. the Punk Rock Movement “when horror films and party comedies became infested with mohawks and mayhem!”

8) MEMPHIS ‘69. CFF presents a rare treat with a screening of Joe LaMattina’s documentary MEMPHIS ’69 (2019), which showcases the 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival celebrating the 150th anniversary of Memphis, all thanks to Fat Possum Records’ acquisition of the nearly 50-year-old footage. LaMattina’s doc features a rare view of performances by Johnny Winter, Bukka White, Rufus Thomas and more, screening Friday, April 12 at 3:30pm in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre!

9) HELL-BENT AND BEWITCHIN’. Atlanta’s own Ben Winston’s feature debut, HELLBOUND (2018) world premieres at CFF! You won’t want to miss this witchy, satanic tribute to the classic films of the ‘70s, shot in B/W on 16mm, and described by CFF staff as giving off an “Easyrider/Texas Chain Saw Massacre/Race with the Devil vibe.” The film screens Saturday, April 13 at 2:30pm in the Bruce Springscreen Theatre! Winston and producer Tim Reis will be on hand for the film’s introduction and a post-film Q&A!

10) COWBOY WHO?
Get weird as CFF presents a screening of the first season of Canada’s bizarre children’s show “Cowboy Who” which aired from 1990-1994 (condensed to 90-oddball minutes) curated and introduced by Peter Kuplowsky. Have a wacked out good time on Saturday, April 13 at 10am in the Screena Turner Theatre.

 

Chattanooga Film Festival main hours are Thur. April 11 from 4:30pm to 12am; Fri. April 12 from 10am. to 1am; Sat. April 13 from 10am. to 1:30am; and Sun. April 14 from 10am to 12am. For more info, visit the Chattanooga Film Festival official website here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: 21st Century Punk Lives: Noelle Shuck of SHEHEHE & HAMMERHEAD FEST Turn Five This Weekend

Posted on: Mar 10th, 2016 By:
SHEHEHE. Photo credit: Gary Duddleston.

SHEHEHE. Photo credit: Gary Duddleston.

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

About a dozen punk and metal bands are performing at the two-day Hammerhead Fest V this weekend at Star Bar. The Goddamn Gallows swing in to headline Fri. March 12 and Ramming Speed will close the festival on Sat. March 12. The first bands hit the stage at 9 pm both nights, and the mostly local line-up includes returning acts The Vaginas, Death of Kings and Bigfoot (Read our interview with Bigfoot’s Jett Bryant here).

Also back this year is Athens based ass-kickers SHEHEHE. Catch em while they’re close because who knows when they’ll be back around. About their Friday night Hammerhead slot, the band posted the following on Facebook: “Last Atlanta show until we’re not sure when! Come out and rage with us!” So we figured we’d better get a move on making guitarist and singer Noelle Shuck our Kool Kat of the Week.

Like Hammerfest, SHEHEHE formed in 2011 and have long been favorites among fans of the current punk rock scene, here and in Athens. They sound like the bands, the best ones, that became popular just as “punk” exploded in the late 70s, when the genre was still loosely defined. Still, Shuck says she and bandmates Nicole Bechill (lead singer), Jason Fusco (drums, vocals) and Derek Wiggs (bass guitar) don’t mind stretching the boundaries of the genre to make room for creativity. They are a punk band after all. So in addition to the genre icons you might expect (Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Stooges), they list as influences The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Kinks, Motorhead, even Tears For Fears and The Bangles.

hammerheadShuck took the time to chat with ATLRetro a few days ago about SHEHEHE’s specific punk pH, what the genre means to her, and the most punk rock thing she’s ever seen at one of their shows.

And why a clarification might be in order if ever asked if you’re an old school punk.

And briefly about dining locally.

How can people check out your music?

We’re on Spofity, Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, all that digital shizzzz. Links to it through our official Facebook page, too.

What’s the Hammerhead Fest?

A two-day festival that features regional rock bands put together by King/Tastemaker Amos motherfuckin Rifkin and Co

How did SHEHEHE come together?

Lots of practice (grins).

shehehe2How would you describe your music to those unfamiliar?

Describing SHEHEHE to people is difficult because we get so many different descriptions from people about what we sound like. But I would describe it as a mixture of early-’70s punk, kinda Ramones-core mixed with some glam. We get Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, L7 and The Donnas as well. If you’re familiar with power pop, that’s something people tend to agree on. Punk ’n’ roll also works.

Who are your influences?

Wu-Tang

Who do you listen to now?

My mom.

shehehe3What is punk? Plenty of aging rock fans say “real” punk ended decades ago. Thoughts?

Part I: Originally, a prison term for a guy who was at the receiving end of anal sex.


Part II: Real punk is relative to each individual. The words “real” and “original” aren’t necessarily the same. Punk to me is a response to mainstream conformist tendencies that tend to stifle creativity and expression. I think punk is just about being genuine.

Musically of course it’s a little narrower than that. We all have ideas of what punk music should or does sound like, but it’s cool to find new ways to stretch that and play with it some. Our band is a weird amalgamation of four people with different influences and backgrounds coming together to make something we all agree is good. But I never would have known this would be the result if you’d asked me what I thought a band with these four individuals would sound like. So for me that’s that idea of being genuine. Musically or otherwise. There’s too much sheepherding and being told what to like these days. Fuck that—like whatever the hell makes you happy.

How are the Atlanta & Athens punk-rock scenes?

They are fantastic. 10/10 would recommend.

What acts do you like locally?

It’s a tie between cunnilingus & Blondie from the Clermont Lounge.

shehehe4What’s the most punk rock thing you’ve ever seen or done at a SHEHEHE show?

I think the punkest thing was early on in the semi-original lineup when we still had a lead guitar player. Well, actually it was right after we lost our lead player. We got a guy to fill in for a show at Caledonia. He practiced with us once and everything seemed well enough. So we get to the show, and he shows up just completely wasted and proceeds to play leads in all the wrong places, something that would’ve been great if we were like Sonic Youth, Then he tries to sing along into Nicole’s mic even though he knows zero of the words. Jason unplugged him, but he kept plugging himself back in. Eventually Jason started throwing shit at him, a drumstick and a roll of duct tape, and told him to get off the stage before he beat his ass.

Some people in the crowd thought it was some sort of schtick up until this point, including our dudes from KarbomB. As soon as they realized it was real, they all helped keep the dude in the crowd so we could finish our set. People said we ripped it. Whether or not that was just in comparison to being an unintentional noise rock band or because we were all kinda pissed and full of adrenaline, I’m not sure.

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Tell It Like It Is: Ray Dafrico Remembers a Special Time in the Atlanta Music Scene and a Band Named the Nightporters

Posted on: Jun 11th, 2013 By:

In late April, when THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS premiered at The Plaza Theatre, it wasn’t your typical movie screening but a reunion. The crowd was mostly in their 40s and 50s. Many of these folks had families and didn’t stay out late any more. But that didn’t mean they never did and some still had the leather jackets to show for it. When they come out in Atlanta, you know you’re in for a special evening.

If you are old enough to have been part of the early ’80s nascent punk/new wave scene that revolved around the now-legendary 688 Club, you remember a handful of local bands that stood out. You never missed any of their shows, and they played all the time. Perhaps the coolest and most memorable of these bands was The Nightporters. That’s not to say they never had any crappy drunken gigs. They had plenty, but when they were at their best, they were as good as any band that topped the college alternative charts and many that made it big when real punk had faded into a careless memory.

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Ray Dafrico started with some raw found footage of the Nightporters performing, mostly at the Blue Rat Gallery, a notorious art space in the now-demolished Pershing Point Apartments which was ground zero for housing starving punk rockers back in the day. To that, he added interviews with band members and other key members of the scene such as Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Rick Richards (Georgia Satellites). The end result is a time capsule not just of a band but of the clubs and people that made that period in Atlanta rock history so unique and a frozen moment in time when it seemed like music not just mattered but meant…well…everything.

With the movie now available on DVD, ATLRetro recently sat down with Ray to find out more about the genesis of this home-grown rockumentary, as well as what was so special, as the subtitle states, about “a time, a place and a band.”

ATLRetro: How did the idea of a Nightporters documentary get started?

Ray Dafrico: I got hold of some early footage a couple of years ago by a guy named James Farmer, who was one of the Blue Rat’s artists. There was footage of us that I had never seen. I thought it was really amazing and somebody should make a film and add some interviews. I didn’t know anyone else that would do it so I took it upon myself to start making it.

There really seemed to be a special quality about the early ‘80s music scene in Atlanta. What do you think made that time so special?

I just think it was creative and kind of more innocent in a way. Maybe it was because we were so young that it all seemed new and fresh. Punk rock was fairly new. I was into music, but it seemed inaccessible. With punk rock, you could prove you could do stuff yourself. Once we started doing that, we had a small circle of people that just started growing. Atlanta was really small at the time. There were maybe 10 bands and everyone knew each other. Everybody pulled for each other for the most part and would come to each other’s shows. There was some competition between bands that played in midtown and bands that mostly played like in Buckhead, but eventually we got friendly with most of the bands in town. Nowadays it seems so competitive. There are so many bands. It seems like everybody’s out for themselves.

The Nightporters definitely had that punk rock spirit, but you had other influences, too. 

We were influenced by punk rock, and we kind of sounded like punk rock, but the Sex Pistols just proved that you could go against the system and the corporate  music of the 1970s. But the thing that brought the Nightporters together was more the ‘60s punk bands. Originally the Rolling Stones, but we really liked the more obscure bands that had one-hit wonders like The Count Five. So you’re right, we weren’t directly the late ‘70s kind of punk rock. We were sort influenced by it, but it was an enabling thing than anything else. Our sound was sort of garage mod rock with elements of glam, folk, country, ska and reggae.

How important was 688?

Very important at the time. They just booked some amazing bands. At first, we were underage and we couldn’t get in. It was the same with the Agora Ballroom. It was like we would go down there every weekend and try to get in. There was this long-haired guy at the door. He would call us “weekend anarchists” and kick us out. We tried to see the Plasmatics and all these bands. Finally he let us in to see the Ramones. We had borrowed fake IDs from Marines that didn’t look anything like us. By coming down and trying to get in there for six months, we earned our way in. But yeah, there were [a few] other clubs to go to, like The Bistro, Moonshadow, Metroplex and Rumors, but 688 had the great bands, $1.50 beer  and a lot of cool diverse people would go there. We used to go to this place every Sunday called Margaritaville on Spring and 14th St. We were there so much we talked them into letting us play and turned it into our own club. It soon turned into its own little scene.

Part of it was the clubs, like 688, were more into promoting local music. They were as creative as the bands and at least more willing to experiment. I know [clubs] are about making money because they took a lot of ours, but it just seemed more laidback. They were having fun just like the bands were. It seemed that way anyway.

When did the Nightporters first get together and perform?

We were still in high school, I think, in 1981-82. I was going to say this in the movie, but it was a big deal for us to get from the suburbs to downtown Atlanta. We thought playing Tuesday nights at the Bistro was success. We had started at high school parties playing our punk rock/’60s songs. We would play to rednecks and jocks, and they were always trying to beat us up. Tim [Neilson] and Andy [Browne] and I were all transplanted Yankees, and there was still a lot of hostility towards outsiders in Atlanta especially in the suburbs.We got really tough because we were always having to mentally and physically fight with these people. We thought by the time we got to the cool new wave/punk clubs that we had made it. Anything beyond that was easy for us. I think that kind of shows because we were a really rough band. We earned that.

Can you talk a little about the Blue Rat?

Well, we all lived in the Pershing Point Apartments at 17th and Peachtree Street, that are all torn down now. Andy and I had an apartment there. We didn’t know anybody initially. It was across from the art school I was going to. I dropped out of art school like every good rock guitarist and pursue the Nightporters full time. We were so poor we lived off of hefty bags of popcorn because we knew someone that worked at a movie theatre. It was that and egg rolls from the Chinese grocery on the corner. We rehearsed in our kitchen which we didn’t dare eat in as there were giant cockroaches everywhere! It wasn’t a matter of time before we met two guys named Clark Brown and Chick Lockerman. They were the artists who set up the Blue Rat Gallery in their apartment. They asked us to play one of their openings. A huge crowd came out to see us of really crazy and eclectic people. Like Andy said in the movie, it was like Andy Warhol’s Factory. There were tons of drugs and everyone was just crazy and doing whatever they wanted.

So we became kind of the house band at the Blue Rat. We would rather play there than a club because it was more fun. We didn’t even charge any money.

How well, or should we say “shitty,” were you paid back in those days?

Once we got better known, we started playing colleges. That’s where the money was. We actually had contracts, not that that means a whole lot. Sometimes people would stiff us even with a contract, but we could get $1000 to play a college frat or something. Even when we were fairly well known, there was one incident in south Georgia where the club owner pulled a gun on us and refused to pay us. I had driven straight back from California to play that show! It showed my dedication, but maybe my stupidity, too. We never made any significant money, partly because we never got a record deal.

But the Nightporters toured a lot, including a lot of gigs in New York.

Yeah, we toured a lot. We went to the northeast a lot and played New York all the time and Boston. We opened for all kinds of people, like Bo Diddley.

Do you have a favorite performer or band you opened for?

We had some good times with Cheetah Chrome and the Dead Boys. Jason and the Scorchers were always fun. We played with The Replacements a lot, but there was a lot of tension there because we were so similar that it was like a competition. They were fun to watch, but they had their good nights and their drunken nights similar to us. Opening for The Clash was fun, even if Mick [Jones], my favorite in the band, wasn’t in the band at the time.

Was that the time when the Clash played the Fox Theatre and there was a riot on Peachtree?

That was actually the time before that the Clash played Atlanta. But I was in the riot. We were in the front row. When we came out, there was literally a riot starting. Chris Wood of The Restraints was in the front with an American flag protesting their communist views or some crap. Somehow a fight started and police cars came from every direction. Everyone was so amped up from the Clash show that they were literally fighting with the cops. It was a blast. It was kind of scary, but it didn’t last long.

We played with them a year or two after that. I had gone to Nashville and met Joe Strummer and got us the show. I just gave them a demo tape because I knew they got local bands to open. We got the show a day or two later.

How close did the Nightporters come to cutting a full LP and getting a recording contract with a record label?

We did make a few records, but we never made a whole album. We did two singles on our own and an EP on Safety Net Records called OUTSIDE, LOOKING IN [1986]. We had a lot of material, but we didn’t have a vehicle to release stuff. Andy and I would go up to record company offices in Manhattan, and they would just look at our clothes like “you’re not Scritti Politti or Duran Duran or whatever was selling then.” They didn’t know what to make of us. We were just way too real for a big label to consider investing in us. That’s my theory anyway.

How hard was it to assemble everyone whom you interviewed in the movie?

The hardest person was our drummer, who I never did get in the movie. It was easier to get Peter Buck from R.E.M. than our drummer. Other than that, I just told people to come down to The Majestic [Diner]. I asked a series of five questions and listened to whatever anyone had to say. The idea for the movie was to try and make it a cross between a Jim Jarmusch-type film like CIGARETTES AND COFFEE or something and a little bit of Spinal Tap and The Rutles. I was trying to keep it real, but light-hearted and funny because that was the way the Nightporters were. On one hand, we really took things very seriously. On the other hand, we didn’t take it serious at all. It wasn’t too hard. The most difficult part for me was editing the four hours of footage.

Do you consider the cut you showed at The Plaza the final cut, or will you still be editing some more?

I wanted to tell the whole story. That’s why it’s two hours long, but some people said it could have been shorter. It’s hard for me because it’s so personal. I think I had to include certain parts, and I guess if I’m going to get it distributed, I am going to have to cut it to half the time. I’m kind of dreading that because by now I’ve seen it so many times.

Are there any outtakes or a blooper reel that could be extras for a commercial DVD?

Yes, there is enough for a blooper reel, which is way funnier than the movie.  I kept interrupting everyone during the interviews saying things like, “I remember that”! It took a long time to cut all that out of the film. So I learned to just keep my mouth shut. It’s my first movie, and I had a lot of fun just doing it. That’s the best part – trying to shoot things 10 times because you’re laughing so hard.

Do you have any regrets that the band didn’t go further on a national scale?

Yes, I definitely regret us not staying together longer. I think we could have been huge, seeing what happened with the Black Crowes after us. Our songs are a lot more original and catchier. They have a lot more hooks. Like I said, we were a real kind of band that fought a lot, and we had a lot of problems. It was extremely difficult to get through even the three or four years together that we were.

Any chance of another Nightporters reunion?

Oh, yeah. Maybe. Definitely maybe. But I don’t really know. That’s not up to me—one person out of the four—to say. Andy and I have talked about it. We both have our own lives now and live in different cities, which makes it all the more difficult. We had enough trouble agreeing on things when we lived in the same apartment. We’re working on it, but sometimes I think we have two different visions of what the band could be.

Plus we all have KIDS! Mine is 18 now so I have a bit of free time, but Andy has two little ones.

What else are you up to? 

I still write tons of songs. I don’t always do a lot with them, but I’m always writing them. I have been playing under my own name with different musicians—whoever is available. That’s the thing now. I’m 49. It’s not like I’m 20 anymore so it’s hard to pull people together for any reason, much less to do a show. All those years of rocking out have really done a number on us as well; we’re now paying the price. We survived but are not by any means very healthy!  I’ve been working on this movie for the past year. Actually I’d like to make more films. I like editing. It puts all the things I like such as art and photography—I do photography—all in one form. I’m trying to juggle all those things really and start playing out again soon.

DVD Copies of THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS are available for purchase for $15, payable directly to Ray Dafrico’s PayPal account at Rockandrollray@yahoo.com and eventually also will be available through Ray’s ReverbNation store link.

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: HARLEY LOCO Takes Readers Back to a Darker Side of New York’s Lower East Side inthe Experimental ’80s

Posted on: Apr 25th, 2013 By:

HARLEY LOCO: A MEMOIR OF HARD LIVING, HAIR AND POST-PUNK, FROM THE MIDDLE EAST TO THE LOWER EAST SIDE 
By Rayya Elias
Viking Penguin

By Clare McBride
Contributing Writer

I adore the ’80s—the colors, the androgyny, the everything. This is mostly due to watching VH1‘s I LOVE THE ’80s ad nauseum at a formative age, which also means that my vision of the ’80s is a particularly sanitized one. I didn’t realize that until I was watching PARIS IS BURNING (1990), the documentary about queer New York’s drag ball culture in the late ‘80s, and saw, briefly, the old Times Square. As much as I love the ’80s, there’s still much to learn, and that’s when HARLEY LOCO popped up on NetGalley for me. A memoir by a queer woman of color-cutting hair and struggling with drug addiction in New York in the ’80s? Sometimes the universe is kind.

HARLEY LOCO is the story of Rayya Elias. In the ’60s, when Elias was a little girl, her family fled the political strife in Syria for the (relative) safety of Detroit, where she grew up. Struggling with the conflict between the American culture she desperately wanted to fit into, her own sexuality, and her traditional family, she fell into drug and alcohol use at a young age. After high school, she began working in a salon and working on her own music, two occupations that eventually brought her to New York. Things were looking up—a girlfriend, a record deal—until Elias’ drug use got the better of her and she spiraled into addiction. It robbed her of her friends, her family, and her dignity, and her struggles to overcome her addiction were herculean.

This memoir opens with an introduction from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE, praising both close friend Elias herself and Elias’ writing style to high heaven. I’ll be honest, it made me a little nervous. I’ve not read any Gilbert at all, but it did feel a little like someone quite popular assuring everyone that their friend was totally cool. It struck me as slightly nepotistic, which is sort of a poor way to start with a book. But, soon enough, we’re with Elias herself and, as promised by Gilbert, her writing style does feel natural and unforced, straightforward and human. This does mean that there’s very rarely moments of sparkling wordplay; my commonplace entry for this book is quite sparse (but, it must be said, present, which I can’t say for every book I read). But the plainness of the style makes way for Elias’ life.

And what a life! It’s absolutely stuffed with material—dealing with one’s sexuality in the ’70s, being a successful hair stylist in the let’s-call-it experimental ’80s, being a moderately successful music act at the same time in New York, negotiating two cultures, her jail time, struggling with toxic relationship after toxic relationship, and, of course, the all-consuming drug addiction and her multiple lapses.

Unfortunately, Elias’ jam-packed life doesn’t quite all fit into HARLEY LOCO. Her plain, natural style keeping out of the way of the content is admirable, but it also means it feels like a Cliffs Notes version of her life. Her relationship with the polyamorous Lana is examined in great detail, but the succeeding women in her life are written about in less and less detail, until she opens a chapter mentioning a girl she’d been getting serious with. Everything is touched on, but precious little is examined—she praises her own music without getting too far into the creative process beyond “magical” (a similar thing occurs with hairstyling), she glosses over returning to Syria in the midst of a seven-year struggle to get sober, and she doesn’t even go into enough detail about the fact that she shared a bathroom with Quentin Crisp. She’s got a fantastic handle on why she turned to drugs—there’s a passage where she compares walking into the hotel lobby of a nice hotel with her sister while she’s disgusting after spending weeks homeless and high to her experience in high school. It’s fear-based. Getting high is the only way Elias could relax. There’s a staggering moment when Elias gives you the number of years she spent strung-out versus years sober, and you realize she’s including her childhood. But this reflection doesn’t extend to the rest of the memoir, which ends with her final wake-up call and doesn’t examine the process of putting her life back together again. Given the rich material here, it’s frustrating.

On a much, much lighter note, it definitely served its function as a means of ’80s voyeurism. Elias finds her people among new wave and dark wave freaks, all intriguingly dressed, but it’s the Lower East Side you really get a feel for. Late in the memoir, Elias maps her own journey to get clean against how the neighborhood was cleaned up, and it’s a particularly rich and beloved background. Her style means that you don’t get too much into it, but you can catch the taste of it.

Elias mentions her music in the memoir, for obvious reasons (and in increasingly glowing terms), and you can listen to a few of her songs at her Website. Five of the songs are, although begun at different points in her life, completed fairly recently, but “Nothing Matters” is an actual track from circa 1985/1986. It’s a fascinating window into Elias’ life at the time; I recommend giving it a listen.

Bottom line: An interesting life is hurt by the author’s plain style in HARLEY LOCO—everything is so interesting, but there’s little actual reflection. An interesting portrait of the Lower East Side in the ‘80s, but other than that, I’d give it a pass.

This article was originally published on The Literary Omnivore and is reprinted with permission.

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 24: It’s No Holds Barred at the Plaza When Blast-Off Burlesque Goes to Prison with a Taboo-La-La Screening of Wendy O. Williams Cult Classic REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS

Posted on: Jul 26th, 2012 By:

By Melanie Magnifique
Contributing Writer

REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS (1986); Dir: Tom DeSimone; Starring Wendy O Williams, Sybil Danning, Linda Carol, Pat Ast; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 28; 10 PM; arrive early for a sexy live stage show courtesy of Blast-Off Burlesque, and special guests Vanity’s UnCanney and Poly Sorbate; Also riots, chainsaws, and pillow fights , a Wendy O. Williams and Reform School Girls Costume Contest and prizes from  Libertine; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

Blast-Off Burlesque will host REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS at the Plaza Theatre this Saturday July 28, as part of its “Taboo-La-La” film series. The film, which stars Wendy O. Williams of punk band The Plasmatics fame, is a satire of the women in prison film genre and intentionally features many of its more provocative elements, such as shower scenes, fight scenes and implied sexual relationships between inmates and authority figures in exchange for favoritism. Austrian-born Hollywood actress Sybil Danning plays the warden, and Pat Ast rounds out the cast as sadistic prison guard Edna.

As the story plays out, Reform School becomes a microcosmic version of society in which women are stripped of their dignity, terrorized, punished for and enslaved over their sexuality, and forced to lie to protect their captors. The only compassionate ally that the inmates have is the institution’s therapist, played by Charlotte McGinnis. Despite her best efforts, however, the crimes of mistreatment against the inmates finally spark an uprising which ends with a real bang.

Wendy O. Williams plays inmate Charlie Chambliss in REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS. New World Pictures, 1986

Blast Off’s own Dickie Van Dyke says this weekend’s salute to Wendy O is timely. “Wendy is the patron saint of women who whoop ass,” (s)he pointed out the other night at rehearsal. Indeed, it seems that women everywhere could use some inspiration in the whoop-ass department. The global climate towards us these days has many of us shaking our heads in disbelief, and, as Dickie says, “Decades after women’s lib, we still do not have total control over our bodies, we still battle to overcome the glass ceiling, lack of respect… and PMS! Apparently we have to kick everybody’s ass while wearing a bra and thong before our voices are heard. If that is the way the game is played, so be it. Wendy O will be our MVP!”

Other members of Blast-Off agree that the timing is just right for this show. Barbalicious says, “It’s time for us to rock out, and after spending some quality time in the ’60’s and ’70s with Russ Meyer, John Waters and Pam Grier, the ’80s seemed like a great place to continue our big-haired hijinks, but with much less clothes, because you know in reform school, you only need to wear your underwear. It’s also summer, and we’re hot.” She adds that the movie itself will be a blast, saying, “REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS is a ridiculously fun camp classic. All the classic women in prison elements are in place: shower scenes, food fights, forbidden romance, branding and other tortures, but then you add in the Wendy-O-Williams factor and it becomes just that much more surreal. Wendy-O is one of the hardest working women in rock and roll history. She is as hardcore as it gets; no female performer has or will ever come close her badassness. She beats the hell out of everyone in this movie. Those who are not familiar with her, need to be. Those who remember what the power of real rock and roll was about need to pay tribute.”

Taboo-La-La has been a wildly popular film series for Blast-Off at the Plaza Theatre. Previous films have included SHOWGIRLS, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! , FEMALE TROUBLE and BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Barbalicious says that its main purpose is to examine cultural taboos in film, but adds with a wink, “It’s really just an excuse for us to throw an amazing party.”

Festivities will begin at 9 p.m. DJ Westwood-A-GoGo will be spinning tunes in the lobby, where patrons can enjoy complimentary cocktails and mingle before the show begins. Once seated, the audience will be treated to a riotous performance by Blast-Off Burlesque, with guest performers Poly Sorbate and Vanity’s Uncanney. Audience members are encouraged to enter a costume contest to win prizes provided by Libertine. Tickets are $10, and are available through Plaza Theatre’s box office and at www.plazaatlanta.com.

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Going Totally ’80s to Save the Plaza: VALLEY GIRL Like Embodies Classic Romantic and Cinematic Themes, Fer Sure!

Posted on: Apr 26th, 2012 By:

Plaza Theatre Benefit Presents VALLEY GIRL (1983); Dir: Martha Coolidge; Starring Nicholas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily; Fri. April 27 at 8:30 PM; Special guests, including Blast-Off Burlesque,VALLEY GIRL costume contest, contest for the best VALLEY GIRL impression; silent auction from local Atlanta businesses, including Libertine, Adult Swim, The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, Slopes BBQ and more; tickets $16 with a $1 discount per ticket for cash payments; All proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction go directly to keeping The Plaza Theatre alive. Trailer here.

By Emily Jane McFarland
Contributing Writer

When I first learned that The Plaza Theatre had plans to screen the 1983 classic teen romantic comedy, VALLEY GIRL, on Friday, April 27 at 8:30 pm, I could not stop talking about how hot Nicholas Cage is as a young ’80s Hollywood punk rocker. The Plaza is not just Atlanta’s only independent, nonprofit cinema, it is also a historical landmark and an important part of our community.   Owners Jonny and Gayle Rej have always had to fight to keep the Plaza’s doors open, a difficult one that many would probably have given up long ago. But the Rejs are two very special people. Unfortunately, as of late, The Plaza’s situation has turned more dire than usual and the decision to host a fundraiser centered around a screening of VALLEY GIRL was made in an effort to raise both money and awareness that The Plaza needs help.  If it does not receive that help, this art deco gem will sadly become another ghost of Atlanta’s past.

In 1983, I was busy being born, so I never had a chance to see VALLEY GIRL in the theater when it first opened. Once in middle school, I was finally able to watch it, forming a slew of girlhood memories that made VALLEY GIRL very special to me. I sadly came to the realization that the likelihood of seeing VALLEY GIRL on the big screen, let alone on a 35 mm print, was slim to none, even when I lived in New York for seven years. My dreams of staring into the dopey eyes of a 30-foot Randy as he falls in love with Julie were crushed.

Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman in VALLEY GIRL (1983). MGM Home Entertainment.

When I was in the seventh grade, I had not yet seen VALLEY GIRL and those young memories were just starting to develop. Every Saturday, while my best friend’s parents would stay out all night for their weekly “date night,” we would walk to the now defunct Movies Worth Seeing video store off Highland Avenue, before ordering a pizza, to rent a movie.  Often we would ask the guys at Movies to recommend films, which would almost always turn out to be not age-appropriate for us – titles such as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, MEET THE FEEBLES, BLUE VELVET and SHIVERS. We never hesitated to rent their picks because, like most young girls who frequented Movies at that time, we were madly in love with staff-member John Robinson.

This particular Saturday evening, however, John was off somewhere with his long-term relationship girlfriend, so instead of making an effort to impress him, we picked VALLEY GIRL, a movie neither of us knew very much about. All I knew was that I had just seen CAN’T BUY ME LOVE for the first time and I was ready to watch anything in that genre.  Although VALLEY GIRL is nothing like SHIVERS or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, it is rated R, so that meant it had to be at least a little inappropriate or us, making it all the more fun to watch.

That night, as we popped the tape into the VCR, I was almost relieved to watch a romantic comedy instead films with bizarre rape scenes set to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.” Little did I know that VALLEY GIRL (and its intelligent and honest depiction of teens in love with an ending that as I grew up I would come to see as melancholy and thought-provoking) would affect me more deeply than the films mentioned earlier, albeit for entirely different reasons and in different ways.

As we watched, it was obvious to us that the story of VALLEY GIRL was timeless, utilizing universal literary themes, most notably ROMEO AND JULIET, which VALLEY GIRL has been cited as being very loosely based upon. It doesn’t stop there, however; lyrics from numerous Motown girl group songs floated in and out of my head as I watched, such as “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals and The Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack.” We also see these themes in a number of films that were made prior to 1983, such as GREASE, MY FAIR LADY, THE PALM BEACH STORY and, my personal favorite, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.

When all is said and done in VALLEY GIRL, the punks stay punk and the girls stay valley. Many characters become much more self-aware and some even change. These transformations, however, are all on the inside. One of the central messages of the film is very much the opposite of both GREASE and MY FAIR LADY, in which the female protagonists must change the way they dress, speak and their mannerisms and, in GREASE, her morals. This outward alteration is not only in order for their respective men to realize that they are deeply in love, but necessary for these relationships to succeed, or even happen at all. In VALLEY GIRL, as well as THE PALM BEACH STORY and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, the lesson to be learned is not that you must change who you are and how you dress in order to be with the one you love, no matter how different the two may be from one another.  Sometimes we simply cannot help who we love, even when it makes no sense.

The closing limousine scene in VALLEY GIRL (1983). MGM Home Entertainment.

Another central message of VALLEY GIRL that goes hand in hand with the one above is that love has absolutely nothing to do with how we dress or which side of the tracks we come from. Instead, it is much more about a connection inexplicably felt between two people. In fact, during their first night together, Julie blushingly tells Randy that she is experiencing this exact feeling. By the look in his eyes at that moment, it is obvious that he feels it as well. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT uses a similar concept – these two people, one rich and stuck-up and the other a drunk out-of-work newspaperman, should in no way be in love. In fact, throughout the entire movie, they fight it all the way. But in the end, they give in and the Walls of Jericho come tumbling down, because this lesson is the same as that of VALLEY GIRL – you cannot help who you love.

At the close of the film, Randy and Julie ride off in a limousine, slipping out of Julie’s prom as a food fight ensues. The last image of VALLEY GIRL is Julie in her prom dress and Randy in his nice-for-a-punk-rocker suit, seated side by side in a limo, looking straightforward. One is left to wonder if the film’s ending is a happy one, full of promise, or if it is meant to be reminiscent of THE GRADUATE (1967). In that film, Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) interrupts the wedding of Elaine (Katharine Ross) and Carl (Brian Avery), causing a physical altercation. Elaine and Benjamin are able to break away from the chapel and proceed to board a bus. They sit in the very back seats, with Elaine in her wedding gown and Benjamin in his tattered clothing. For a moment, there is a feeling of triumphant possibility and an infinite future, where nothing is too late, as spoken by Elaine to Benjamin upon his arrival at the chapel.  This moment, however, is a fleeting one, quickly overshadowed by reality and the uncertainty of the future that at one time felt magical. When the director of VALLEY GIRL, Martha Coolidge, mimics this ending, she subtly brings up similar reality-based questions involving what is next for our couple.  By doing so, she is able to set VALLEY GIRL apart from many other films of its genre.

Katharine Ross and Dustin Hoffman in the closing scene of THE GRADUATE (1967). MGM Home Entertainment.

Interestingly, when I was younger I could only see that in the end the boy got the girl, despite all of the obstacles placed in front of him. Years later, when I was no longer a teenager, I still could see VALLEY GIRL as I did in the seventh grade, but also began noticing the melancholy nature of the end as well as the director’s ability to turn ridiculous ’80s teen stereotypes into characters that feel as though they are actual human beings. I cannot wait to find out what I am able to learn about VALLEY GIRL this time around.

Video Links:

VALLEY GIRL well known loooooove montage: “I Melt With You”

Break Up Scene from VALLEY GIRL: Nicolas Cage does a great impression of a Valley girl (lots of F-bombs).

Club Scene from VALLEY GIRLwhen Julie and Randy fall in love and she mentions that connection she feels for him and so on “it’s like we’re linked or something.”

THE GRADUATE End Sequence.

THE PLAZA (2010): Documentary by Matt Rasnick about The Plaza Theatre’s struggle to survive in a world of multiplexes.

If you have any additional questions or to make a donation to Save The Plaza Theatre via Pay Pal, please visit www.PlazaAtlanta.com.

Emily Jane McFarland is an Atlanta-based photographer and the Manager of The Plaza Theatre. This is her first article for ATLRetro.com. 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Jayne County Brings a Little Max’s Kansas City Down to the Little Five Points Halloween Festival

Posted on: Oct 20th, 2011 By:

The Little Five Points Halloween Parade and Festival may be chock full of the craziest costumes you’ll see in Atlanta during the spooky season, but zombies, vampires and Elvis impersonators don’t hold a candle to us compared to real ’70s rock star Jayne County who will be playing the Main Stage behind the Star Bar with her new band, the Electrick Queers, at 10 p.m. Every real American punk rocker knows that musical revolution didn’t start across the Pond with the Sex Pistols, but at a couple of smoky clubs in lower Manhattan called CBGB and Max’s Kansas City – and Jayne, formerly Wayne, County was at the audacious heart of that then-burgeoning scene along with the New York Dolls, Iggy & the Stooges, Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie, Television, Pere Ubu, Cherry Vanilla, the list goes on. As Andy Warhol said, “Max’s Kansas City was the exact place where pop art and pop life come together.”

Recently Jayne County, though, returned to her Georgia roots, and ATLRetro couldn’t resist making her this week’s Kool Kat especially since we caught up with her while she was making homemade chicken soup for her own ever-growing family of cats. Of course, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to find out what outrageous plans she has for Saturday night’s gig, her take on the scene in Atlanta in the ’60s and now, and what else she’s up to now, from her artwork to her passion for protecting homeless felines.

Back in New York in the late ‘60s/early‘70s, did you feel like you were at the start of something new – first hanging with Warhol and then glam and the punk rock? Or was it just the way things were?

We knew it was something new.  A lot of people didn’t think anything of it. I knew Glam was gonna loosen things up with fashion and all. Now you have metrosexuals… all the things that we were doing then were outrageous, but now they seem normal.  I knew what we were doing would eventually change things.

You’re born and raised in Dallas, Ga, and it’s easy to imagine why you’d leave and head to New York. Why did you decide to come back to Georgia?

I came back to Georgia because of tragedies in my family. My parents had been sick, my sister’s suicide and my brother’s murder made my mind up to come home and help the family as much as possible. Plus, I was sick to death of paying a fortune to live in a tiny, grimy shoe box in NYC. (laughs)

What do you think of the music and creative scene here in Atlanta and how does it compare to being here in the 1960s?

Well, the scene is a lot bigger, and then there’s more happening. It doesn’t compare to the ‘60s because it was totally radical. We were changing things. When I came back to Atlanta, I was pleasantly surprised at how much was going on and I wanted to be a part of it. I have Dick Richards to thank for that. He brought me back here in the ‘80s and ‘90s to places like Club Rio and Velvet.

Do you have a favorite memory of Atlanta back then? Maybe one that would surprise us?

That could go either way. Good memory or bad. One of my best memories was when they started having BE-INS and art shows in Piedmont Park. Seeing Atlanta’s own Diamond Lil perform for the first time at Miss Pea’s. Worst memory: there was a law that if you were male and your hair touched your ears you could be arrested for female impersonation. They used that to harass people and give them “free haircuts.” That memory sticks with me.

Coming back to the present, what did you enjoy most about playing the L5P Halloween Festival last year?

What I enjoyed most was having an opportunity to perform here, on my home ground, in Atlanta. All these years I concentrated on California, New York City and Europe, never concentrated on the South at all. I totally enjoyed letting people experience my own brand of musical mayhem and madness. Also, some people are still surprised to find out that Jayne County is actually from the state of Georgia and not New York City.

What’s the story behind your current band, the Electrick Queers, and who’s playing with you?

This goes back to doing things on my home ground. I’ve never had what you call a local band. I’ve always wanted to have an opportunity to work and record with a band from the South. I worked all over the world, but not here. I was asked to perform at the DebuTAUNT Ball, a benefit for PAWS Atlanta, and needed a band. I met my guitar player Jet [Terror] through close friends. He put together a lineup of homegrown musicians: Jet Prickett, Gary Yoxen and Rob Kirkland.

Will you be playing old favorites or are you throwing in some new material? Any other special plans for this year’s gig?

I will be performing mostly old favorites like: “Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl,” “Max’s Kansas City,” “Man Enough To Be a Woman,” “Nighttime” and, of course, “Cream In My Jeans.” People tend to want to hear the songs that I’m most famous for performing. Every once in awhile we do throw in a few new ones. All of these songs are available on Youtube. People become excited at the chance of hearing and seeing them performed live.

You’re known for pushing the limits at being outrageous and audacious on stage. Is it challenging to keep up that reputation after all these years?

It is especially because simply being transgendered is no longer as outrageous as it was. I’m famous for using “street language” as well which is now commonly used in a lot of our pop culture. I just happen to be the best at doing all of these things.  I also consider myself a natural comedian. I enjoy making people laugh and giving them a good time.

If you had to describe your music to someone who’s never heard you play, what would you say?

I always considered my music to be my own special brand of Rock and Roll, really. You can try to classify it as Glam Rock, Punk Rock or Alternative, but to me it’s just basic raw Rock and Roll. I always thought that was what rock and roll music was. Rock and Roll is Rock and Roll and when I do it, it ROCKS. Although, I think my music transcends being categorized, a lot of people consider me a transgendered Punk Rock pioneer and I can live with that.

Do I recall correctly that your last album was AT THE TRUCKS in 2006? Any plans for recording with the new band?

My record company released my first three complete albums in CD form this year. In the past my music has been released as compilations. This is the first time the full albums are available as they were recorded: THE ELECTRIC CHAIRS, STORM THE GATES OF HEAVEN and THINGS YOUR MOTHER NEVER TOLD YOU. I’m really looking forward to recording with the Electrick Queers. It’s exciting for me to be creative in the same in the place I was born and raised.

Where can people find Jayne County merchandise online?

All my material can be found on iTunes, eMusic and loads of my material is available on Cherry Red Records.

You also are an artist. When did you start painting, what mediums do you work in and what inspired you to take up the brush?

I’ve been an artist since I was a little kid. I had stacks of coloring books. I’d usually color outside the lines. I’ve always been artistic. Since I’m basically retired from constant touring, I’ve been painting again. A lot of my art is starting to become known and people really like it. This makes me extremely happy. I very often can express more emotion and feeling in my art than in my music. It’s a lot easier on my body these days to paint than frantically jumping up and down, rolling around on stage!

What else are you up to?

I care for 20 cats. If anyone would like to adopt one, please call me asap! (*she giggles*) No, I’m enjoying my new house and being able to take care for abandoned animals. Helping animals is very important to me. My touring schedule never allowed for pets, so I’m really enjoying this time and the ability to help abused animals.

Please get your cats fixed!!  It makes me sick how people treat animals. It makes me so mad. I couldn’t bear the thought of these cats being euthanized, so I took them all in and had them fixed. People should not have animals they can’t take care of! It makes me so mad.

What question does no one ever ask you but you wish they did?

I always wondered why no one ever asked me, “Do you know the way to San Jose?”

Special thanks to Jennifer Belgard for her help with this article.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Rod Hamdallah Plays the Blues Dark, Down and Dirty – Just the Way We Like It

Posted on: Sep 13th, 2011 By:

Photo credit: Shawn Doughtie

ATLRetro has been hearing a lot about Kool Kat of the Week Rod Hamdallah—from his fellow local musicians. Like his mentor, the sadly deceased Sean Costello, he’s been playing since very young and early gained a reputation as an Americana blues guitar prodigy. By age 17, he was sharing the stage with Sean and Dexter Romweber, as well as opening for top contemporary blues, funk, soul, rockabilly and roots performers such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Rosie Flores, Romweber and more. He’s only 21 now.

Anyone who’s heard Rod live—and live is the way he should be heard—talks about the dark lyrics, full-throttle energy and deep swamp passion he puts into his heavy licks. That hard-edged sound has earned him comparisons to Skip James, Captain Beefheart, Charlie Patton, Tom Waits and more recently the White Stripes. He looks the part, too—thick dark pompadour, sideburns, usually dressed in black.

This year Rod’s released a couple of singles, “Think About It” and a cover of Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” and has been playing Atlanta and touring the Southeast furiously. You can catch him next at The Five Spot on Friday, Sept. 16. We caught up with him recently to find out more about what made his influences, teaming up with drummer and frequent collaborator Gabe Pline, what he’s got planned for this gig and those recordings we’re looking forward to.

What happened at age 16 to get you, a Jersey boy into punk rock and skateboarding, so revved up about Southern blues and Americana?

I’ve always loved traditional music and was interested in what influenced punk rock. When I moved to Atlanta, live music became something I was around all the time. I watched guys like Sean Costello play around town and immediately wanted to play blues  and traditional American music.

What about Donnie McCormick and Sean Costello made them such an influence on you in the early days?

Sean was a great mentor and friend. He let me share the stage with him when others didn’t. He also turned me on to Donnie McCormick. I loved the inspiration and soul that came from them. [Editor’s note: Read a tribute by Rod to Sean Costello here.]

Rod Hamdallah and Gabe Pline. Photo credit: Scott Livignale.

How did you hook up with Gabe Pline?

Gabe and I would play together once and a while at jams and etc. He was a good person to talk to, where we could relate on music and personal pasts. I’ve always loves Gabe’s style of playing and his attitude on stage. He is definitely a big part of where I am today.

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The King is Dead, Long Live the King—Rockin’ Retro Artist Derek Yaniger Reveals His Squirmy Past with Dead Elvis

Posted on: Feb 25th, 2011 By:

Back in the day, a motley group of UGA art students had this crazy idea to start a band that combined their love of punk rock, beer and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. For about a decade, Dead Elvis was a—welcome to some, nightmare to others—fixture on the Atlanta music scene, drinking buckets of booze and spewing out hard-ass, high-energy hardcore with their signature sense of humor. All the local fame and phlegm, though, never went to their heads—shhh, don’t tell anyone but they’re really swell, sweet guys. But in the mid-1990s as punk began to fade into Green Day-fueled corporate respectability, the band parted ways.

That is, until an awesome set at the 688/Metroplex reunion concert at Masquerade in 2009. Since then Dead Elvis has been rising from the grave periodically to haunt the Atlanta scene. The next of those occasional gigs is this Saturday, February 26, at Star Bar. This time they are teaming up with the El Caminos, another Atlanta classic, and Sex Pistols tribute band Sid Vicious Experience, for a not-to-be-missed old-school punk revival to raise money to help good friend Ed Waller who was in a serious motorcycle accident last fall.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Squirmy Rooter, aka Derek Yaniger, for a sneak peak and to find out what the band has been up to. Since those decadent days, Derek also has forged a righteous reputation as one of America’s top retro pop culture artists. His self-described “chicken scratchins” have appeared in Marvel Comics and on the Cartoon Network, as well as in scads of vintage revival magazines such as Atomic, Barracuda and Car Kulture Deluxe. He’s also designed posters for some of the nation’s premiere retro gatherings like Tiki Oasis, Hukilau and the Wild Weekend. And soon you’ll be seeing his artwork right here as ATLRetro revs up its engines to supersonic this spring.

1. For all the young ‘uns, what’s the quick history of Dead Elvis’s origins and how you got involved? As I recall, the band was founded in 1984 and it had something to do with beer?

I’m a little fuzzy on when she all began, but 1984 sounds about right. The bass player Ernie Danzig, lead singer (Tranny Danny) and myself (Squirmy Rooter) met in the halls of the Art Department at UGA. We were surrounded by heaps of other bands in Athens, but no one was makin’ with the punk rock bit. It wasn’t until we graduated and moved to Atlanta and met up with our lead guitarist Jet [Terror], that Dead Elvis finally rose from the crypt. And yes—it had a LITTLE somethin’ to do with beer!

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