Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Old Ang Sign

Alice Bag wrote to me from her new location, Arizona. Another infamous singer/songwriter/artist is moving to Missouri with her husband, now that her son will go to college in NY. Lots of changes amongst my early punk pals.

Alice was my first punk friend. I believe we met in late 1976, before I moved to east Hollywood, Christmas 1976. Little gypsy children robbed me, so in early 1977 I moved across the street from Tower Records, a short walk to the Whisky and Roxy, so helpful all those nights I walked home stoned or always high on the shows, to get into my car and drive into Hollywood and drop off film at two labs: black and white and color, then go to the labs the next day and pick them up, then label and make prints and mail them off, in the often-futile attempt to get punk published, while not making a dime. And you all think being an early punk photographer was so much fun and glamour. It was and continues to be the hardest thing I ever did or shall do. The rewards are so many memories, photographs, friends. And how wonderful when those friends also are talented musicians and artists.

I guess this means it's gonna be a lot harder to get us all together again. But at least we are still alive. I often walk through and around a 19th century cemetery that most don't know exists. The best cure for depression or inactivity or stress is to walk through a graveyard, and see the dates of the little babies and old couples, the flowers and headstones. It's surrounded by ivy across the street from Santa Monica College.

The Brat, an amazing punk-influenced/inspired store, also faces the cemetery. I had a fascinating talk with owner, Nancy, who's been into early punk and art since at least 1976. She knows many of the same people as Alice and the other woman mentioned above, so I asked her why she didn't write a book. We know others are, but her response was she's too busy living in the present.

I agree: nothing is more important than living in the present. I wrote recently of Steven Rascoe, who lives in the past, and steals memorabilia from those early days, and says he was there. The tragedy is he lives in yesterday, and messes up his life cos he can't cope with today.

I'm in-between, eager to see the Dresden Dolls with Janet Klein and her Parlour Boys at the Fonda on Dec 29 and focus on my archive. I'm Janet's guest and I couldn't be more thrilled. Janet's songs remind me of years before my birth, when people were wild in their own ways as we were in punk, the Roaring '20's and a few years before and after. I truly feel Janet is like one of my cousins, Russian Jews whose names start with "J" after my grandfather.

Amanda from the Dresden Dolls sings of wanting a plastic, wind-up boy. And what contemporary woman can't relate to that? Plus the music is so seductive. All the local papers are recommending the show – something unusual for this town, cos the Dresden Dolls aren't exactly heard on the radio. They'll have a treat with Janet and her skilled band. Amanda sometimes reminds me of Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, the playful piano and unusual phrasing and delivery.

I started reading about the Dresden Dolls (you know I can't call them the Dolls!) last year. I read a terrific blog entry from Alice Bag about them. I think they played the Troubadour, which would have been a great venue to see and hear them. I saw them a year ago November at the El Rey. I hurt my leg, so I was upstairs watching the action below. The opening band were the Ditty Bops, and they reminded me of Janet Klein. So I was delighted to see my dream double bill appearing at the Fonda. I saw the Rock against Bush show as a guest of the Epoxies, a cool Portland band on Fat Wreck.

G8 Xmess at Gary Stewart's beautiful home. I walked home around 1 AM, after a light rain, clutching gift of music from him. I got the boxed set , Shout It Loud, A Celebration of Black Music in America, 6 CDs, starting with a man I listened to in college, much to the ridicule of everyone I knew, the one and only rag time genius Scott Joplin and ending with Coolio. I gave him a Joey Ramone and Kamen Rider print, an Artist's Proof. I've been going to several new labs, and that was a test, meaning it's one of one, always a limited edition.

I won't do limited editions of my most popular, important photos. I don't want someone purchasing these as investments. They are something to look at and enjoy. That's what art is about. I will do limited edition Giclee prints when I make more money and open that market. I worked with the man who helped pioneer digital printing as fine art. What a trill – can you imagine some of my photos on canvas or archival paper?

I'm always putting my money into my art. I've been researching and putting together packing supplies for future shipments. I can use free USPS boxes, but I modify them and it takes forever to do the packaging. I also need interior packing, large chipboard/cardboard to protect the large prints in transit. I've been saving packaging supplies for years, but nothing large enough for the 16 x 20 prints. Ohmygawd, the 16 x 20 prints are amazing, whether in black and white or color. A pal got my color Iggy portrait, and wow, it's very cool that large. Anyway, that's the artist in me, always spending my money on supplies.

I've known Gary, formerly of Rhino and now with i-Tunes, since 1976 as well. I remember Gary and Harold showing me the back closet at Rhino Records, where they had their special stash of records. They also wheeled and dealed at the famed Capital Records Swap Meet, when it was really underground and small.

Gary Stewart: if you don't know that name, you need to pull up EVERY punk, power pop, great ROCK compilation from Rhino, and his name and influence is present. As someone said, he was the SOUL (I'd add HEART) of Rhino. Harold Bronson and Richard Foos played their part in the business end and were of course great music fans, but the artistic burden of producing the packages fell on Gary's sturdy shoulders.

What an incredible holiday season! A couple of years ago I was fatter, married and miserable. Now I go to great parties and hang with the people from City Beat – arts editor Natalie Nichols, Chris Morris whom I met when he came to LA in '77 or '78 I think and Don Waller saw me get so drunk at their party last week, well, shit, I have photos of him being drunk at Phast Phreddie's birthday party at my home, October 1976. A photo of Don and I ran in MOJO in our Halloween costumes, and various Screamers parties and Bomp Record store events, so we go waaaay back.

A punk/old film pal invites me to free movies at UCLA (big Columbia restoration series coming up) and the Academy, cos he works in restoration (my other passion, see the connection between film preservation and my archive??), saw the original "Robin Hood" on big screen the afternoon of my small photo exhibit opening at Shepard Fairey's gallery, Subliminal Projects, and got more holiday emails than I ever believed possible. Lots of art shows, a few rock shows (GANG OF FOUR!!) and too many emails. Best of all, hundreds of wonderful friends, some from long ago and some I just met. Thank you all!

My Xmess/Chanukah gift: L'Chaim, always remember: TO LIFE!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

X, Stones, Screamers, projects, parties!

Got up, wrote an email to Shepard Fairey about the show at his gallery, took a long walk. Picked up my mail, tears of joy filled my heart, reading the new "Punk Rock Confidential." My Iggy is on the cover, my Joan Jett and Johnny Rotten on the Table of Contents, and 6, that's SIX pages of great color and black and white images, accompanied by my thoughts throughout it. X, Germs, Screamers, Dead Boys, Patti, Blondie, some of my faves but no Stones, which are killer shots, but I didn't submit them.

A few typos, oh well, that's what happens when I only have a few minutes and it's midnight and I've been up since 8 am working, but it captures me perfectly. I wrote "preserve" when I meant "perservere." I really let loose and none of this boring "how did you get started" crap. I am SO pleased that it turned out SO GREAT! At your local Barnes and Noble and Hot Topics, what a hoot! Lars Hendrikson is on the cover, and he always looks at me like I'm from another planet. And now my photos share the issue with him.

Read a short and sweet note from Regi Mentle. Last night ran across Drew Blood's Germs publications telling the story of Gloria, a mannequin head, and the Screamers. Yours truly photographed Regi, Gloria and Trudie. What a trip to read about an obscure incident and I shot it!

Glen E. Friedman emailed me about my book status, so I called him. Glen always has fascinating stories about his life as a famous photographer. I love hearing the inside scoop about how he deals with the same kind of shit I deal with, from getting paid to being quoted correctly in the press and more. Then Shepard called and we discussed a variety of collaborative projects we are working on, in a variety of media with him and his partners in his various ventures. Of course Glen and Shepard know each other.

Ohmygawd, I am working with Glen E Friedman and Shepard Fairey! I am blown away! I always thought no one knew or cared about my photos, never realizing the impact my work made on so many other creative people, whether in art, music, or any walk of life.

Then Leora Lutz, of Gallery Revisited, spent 3.5 hours looking at my portfolio, discussing my future at her fab new gallery location in Silverlake. She is exactly the kind of gallery owner/curator who understands my potential and knows how to do what needs to be done! I am looking forward to working with her for a long time. And we share birthdays, although a couple of decades apart.

I'm now pulling negs and slides to take to a new lab for customers. Been trying a few labs to find just the right one. The one I like the best is more expensive than 3 others, but I want the best prints I can find in my neighborhood and who deliver somewhat on time, even if I make less money.

Gotta pull some negs and slides to scan for a television program. Lots of parties for the holidays (hence the long walks, cos too much food, stress and temptation). No idea what to wear, the last thing on my mind and I simply don't have party clothes. Other than my constant ordeal with my weight and food, is life too fab or what?

I must never forget this day. A year ago this was inconceivable to me. Now all I have to do is write a few emails and show my pix to a few people and I'm inundated with work. Tons and tons of it. Gotta revamp my website (redo it!), improve marketing cos money still so tight and these shows are gonna require lots of cash. And I must follow up on three very serious book offers. Piles of emails, filing, admin work taking up 99% of my time, computer problems, and that's the short list.

I'm compiling a portfolio of 11 x 14 and a few 16 x 20s for the first time in my life. What a thrill to look at them and show people. Sometimes I can only look at the photos for a few minutes until I have to pack them up for some lucky customer, cos they can afford what I can't. Yet.

Tell everyone to buy my prints so I can keep doing this! You won't believe what I'm digging up! I still need help and advice, so if you like what you see/read, join in the fun and help keep this going! More details on www.jennylens.net.

Gotta go prep my lab order. I am exhausted, but many miles to go before I sleep, and the woods are dark, lovely and deep. Oh, what a beautiful morning, afternoon and eve. Ok, I'm quoting Robert Frost and Oscar Hammerstein, not exactly punk but there's more to life than Darby Crash's lyrics. Give me Stephen Sondheim!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Punk Photo show a Success!

Life just getting better, the result of a lot of hard work and good friends. Friday, December 9 I dropped my photos at Subliminal Projects, Shepard Fairey's gallery next to the Wiltern, at Wilshire and Western. Saturday night, all night long, people kept asking: "are these YOUR photos? YOU took all of these?" I nodded and watched their faces as they tried to process the fact I took so many classic punk and rock (had to display a Stones shot) shots they loved. Great talk with Shepard -- a real mutual admiration society between us.

Imagine we both "grew up" enjoying each other's work, although he is much younger than I. His staff were so respectful and his wife so friendly. Shepard plays the BEST music in town! If you need a stellar DJ, call on him. He gave me one of his last remaining signed "Walk the Line" posters, knowing how much I love it, and several others. I was blown away! All it took was an email to me and we've got some projects lined up.

After dropping off pix on Friday, I drove down Wilshire to see the streets all decked out for the holidays (gotta drive through Beverly Hills and check out the windows!) to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the folks who bring us the Oscars. They always have stunning free exhibits. The first honored Hans Drier, the brillant art director for early Paramount Films, starting in the the 1920's to 1938. His drawings were accompanied by still photos and a DVD of film clips. Breathtaking!

Downstairs, cinematographers displayed their off-set photos, demonstrating their ability to capture in one image what they usually captured in sequences. OK, now you know my photo background. I created art from earliest times, earned degrees, exhibited in museums and galleries BEFORE punk, but never studied photography in school, although I always took photos for fun. My first true love are movie stills, not rock photos. And that is how I learned the art of photography, from the masters of cinema.

Saturday I caught a big screen presentation of the one and only "Robin Hood," digitally restored as part of a Technicolor tribute from the American Cinematheque. I sat so close to the screen I could see every golden thread, every bead, every detail. I was entranced, having seen that film more times than I can count. I danced out of the classic old theatre to a beautiful afternoon, with breezy clouds and the most glorious sunlight. Late autumn, early winter bathes LA in irridescent pinks, yellows and blues. Soon I was at my photo opening.

I met two women starting a new gallery who can't wait to showcase a larger show of mine. One asked how I met Shepard. The same way I meet most people these days: via the net. I've "spoken" to Allison Anders, off in Toronto on a film gig (talking about my fave actress Greta Garbo's skin care); Hellin Killer, more than likely on her way to see the Germs in San Diego (with Bauhaus, the Bravery, Aklaline Trio and Louis XIV: if anyone catches that show, write me!! All my friends are dyin' to know how that goes down); a myspace pal in Florida who also knows Regi; Rover cos I sent her Regi's prision address, and Gerber and I are gonna try to help him get out, IF he sends me the info we need to spring him. Legally, of course. I called Michael Pilmer of Devo Obsesso and Mark Mothersbaugh's art curator, to wish him happy birthday and he reminded me he's gonna take me to Devo when they play out in the Valley (oh shit, I grew up there, ick) in January.

Sunday I ran into artist Coop and his wife Ruth. I attended a party for Gary Panter (Nov 20), the creator of the infamous Tomata Screamer logo, now being honored at MOCA (their show on comic artists) at Coop's Brewery studio. I talked with Matt Groening (Simpsons and Life in Hell), Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, the two brothers behind "Love and Rockets," and other comic/graphic artists. It's a thrill to meet Coop, I just love his volumptuous red devil women. I saw a lot of them at Kimm Gardner's California Mart showroom last summer. I was at Kimm's DVD taping of his band, Channel 3, at Alex's on Nov 26. Kimm is such a good friend and all around nice dude.

Today archivist/writer/musician David Jones listened as I analyzed the Screamers' songs, always suggesting what I want to read in his book about early LA punk. He offered to take me to Social Distortion -- ohmygawd I am so in love with Mike Ness, what a brillant singer/songwriter! I wrote to the band because I have killer shots of Charlie, when he drummed with the Plugz, but no response to those emails. I hate the House of Blues and we don't wanna drive to Anaheim. Now if the sound were better, if I could find somewhere I could hear, see, and dance, then I'd be all over HOB. But talk about the Blues! Icky. I said I rather he spend the money on prints. I described some I've printed for clients that I want in my portfolio. He told me to print some for both of us, his gift, and maybe the show. Lots of work to do, have to scan some slides and negs for online customers. I crop the images, with printing instructions for my custom photo labs. I'll be picking up and mailing pix all week long.

Then Saturday it's a BIG party, wherein I'll see lots of my punk pals from the past. Other parties on the horizon, but it's tough for me. I gotta watch what I eat and drink -- why is it so hard to take and keep off weight and so easy to put it on? Just got back from a long walk, part of it through the cemetary. Few know there's a cemetary across the street from a college near me. I saw so many flowers and a little Xmas tree. How can I complain about my weight when I'm still out walking, and so many early punks aren't? How can I complain about too much food when people are starving? Back to work.

Friday, December 09, 2005

John Lennon was a Punk

I read a posting on myspace dismissing the Beatles and John Lennon, other than John being an inspiration to the Ramones. I wrote a response and was flooded with emails thanking me for eloquently stated what they too feel/think. What amazes me is the fact I have to write this. It should be obvious, but this is why it's so important to talk about the past because someone like John Lennon should be remembered and celebrated for a variety of reasons. I posted a particularly poignant response after mine. So here goes:

I too am not into the Beatles, except for their first two albums and a young girl's awakening to cute guys. I saw the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and stood up to my parents to take several buses there and back to do so. I was dismayed because I couldn't hear them -- just screaming girls. I snuck a reel-to-reel tape recorder and was so depressed that I didn't go to rock shows til punk, many years later.

The Stones, Who, Doors, and Creedence Clearwater Revival were more important to me. And you better believe the Who and Doors were early punks.

But you need to study John Lennon's life. Talk about a punk, a brillant genius who worked for peace, created lasting music, a poet, painter, actor, changed our culture in ways no one born after them can possibly understand. He was so powerful the FBI tried to get him deported. And that's just a short list.

He was probably the MOST influential creative person who ever lived. He accomplished more in 40 years than many people in several lifetimes. The tragedy is wondering what more he would have done and how he would have continued to change our culture, had he lived.

Lennon inspired countless legions of musicians, not just the Ramones. He was a frustrated rocker at heart, an artist who always pushed himself while living life fully. And that too makes his early death a tragedy. He had a great zest for living. A great inspiration, even if you never listen to him.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

from myspace I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours friend's bulletin :

, stating such true facts that really opened my eyes. John Lennon was a true rock rebel who did more for the world in forty years than most people can do in a lifetime, she said. he was powerful. he was inspirational. And his death was horriffic and tragic. I can't explain it, as I was not there when it happened. But, my parents and grandparents have often recollected the suffering, the shocked sense of tragedy when people discovered that this true icon was not with us anymore. John Lennon's head was in the right place. We could really use someone like him in the world today.>>

Ah, but John would have said: be that someone. If each of us utilized our talents and power, we could change the world. We can't all be as effective as John was an individual, but we can collectively. And that is what punk is about too.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another Germs pioneer reminisces

[Mark still has love letters from Darby . . . and I spent the day with him, creating a photo poster to sell at my photo exhibit, opening Sat, Dec 10 - Jan something, at Subliminal Projects, Shepard Fairey's gallery.]

November 1, 2005: [I just re-read it; hence its lateness in posting. I get lots of emails!]

Damn Jenny, I am sooooo glad you stood up for all of us! It's a DAMNED (not the group) shame that this generation of young artist and creative beings won't see the truth! But rather a fabricated and exploited-half truth movie.

You mentioned being with Lorna! I am wish I could stand with her and have a flashback! Although I have not become as famous as our lucky friends (dead or alive), just having the experience of actually BEING a punk during the heyday is good enough for me.

Sometimes people think I am telling lies or making up stories about some of the CRAZY things that we did, but we did them and I am proud of it! Like setting trashcans on fire, taking too many drugs, drinking too much booze… fucking ANYTHING that moved! Yeah, so we were outcasts, young meat, psycho crazies… but damn did we have a good time.

Hell, I remember getting the honor of rolling joints for your high-ness just to be able to get a backstage pass or a free ticket to shows. We had so much fun. I learned many things from those times, mostly not to get fucked up any more if I want to remember what I saw or did! We just did what we wanted to do.

So how is Pat and Lorna? I remember Pat was always a funny guy. I was kinda scared of him, I don’t know why but I think it was because I saw his ass one time (he was playing and he wore a pair of jeans with the back cut out). That was scary!

Lorna was so beautiful… does she still talk to Ms. Go-Go? I often wonder. I remember once waking up at the Genesse (how the hell do you spell that) and smelling this AWFUL odor… later I realized it was [early punk who became famous] who I believe haven’t taken a bath in several days nor changed clothes. Boy, that’s a memory.

Malissa Hutton, I often wonder what became of her! She was my very best friend until the drinking and pills got in our way. Our friendship came to an end when she accused me of stealing $20 bucks from her. She was dyeing someone’s hair at the Genesee (there’s that word again) apartment when she GAVE me 20 bucks to go down the street to buy the biggest cheapest bottle of Vodka, when I got back we drank it in record time. She was getting ready to go to work (she worked at the Rainbow Bar and Grill as a DJ) and as usual I was going to hang out with her for awhile there. When we getting ready to leave she screamed "Where’s my money!" which I replied "What money?… You gave me 20 bucks for booze… remember?" Of course she didn’t and then the big fight began. We walked out of the apartment screaming at each other, she was crying and yelling "You fucking ripped me off!" I tried over and over to convince her that I hadn’t, but nothing I said was good enough for her to hear.

Finally when we were in front of Barney’s Beanery I had enough, I threw my drink in her face (oh yeah, back then we always had booze in a cup!) and she then screamed "Fucker! Now I have to go into fuckin' Barney’s Beanery with all those hippies and clean my face!"… now that was scary! Ever since then her and I never really had the same friendship.

She even went to far as to make others hate me or try to, but it did not matter as I was a fuckin' Punk! Who cared who liked me! I was a skinny Mexican/xicano Punk who had Jenny Lens as my friend… and that’s all I need for a friend. Lenny Lens! The girl with the camera eye.

OK I’m tired.
Drunken, drugged out (oh that was then!)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Germs 25th Anniversary thoughts

First read Alice Bag's thoughts re "Germs 2005" at http://alicebag.blogspot.com/. A few of my thoughts:

I turned down seeing the Germs tonight [December 3, 2005] cos I'm in a work mode. Coincidence Alice posted this on the 25th Anniversary of the last Germs show? I too have been fielding emails and various conversations via phone and in person about the Germs.

Leave it to Alice to astutely express this issue with poetry and insight. As usual, Alice's writing comforts me and traverses parallel thoughts of mine.

NO ONE can experience what punk was. It wasn't just hanging out with a small group of people, creating art and music that changed our culture.

As Alice so astutely inferred, part of what we experienced WERE OUR OWN CREATIONS. We manifested our nightmares and fever dreams and that kind of "experience" is life-changing.

Early true punk was a reflection of its TIME. PUNK IS POLITICAL. You can't get behind the music if you don't pay attention to politics, society, and culture. You've got to rage against the machine that is making punk so popular because we warned and warned of c-h-a-n-g-e-s, in angrier voices than Dylan and Bowie.

Those machines that enslave us, take away hard-won rights, media who lie to us, hiding the truth about our corrupt politicians and big business. Punk is an ethos of under-dogs and our ranks are swelling as things get worse and creativity commercialized and co-opted.

Break down some barriers and use art and music to do it! Don't be so apathetic or busy. Say something, and make some of it relevant to our life and times.

You'll get one step closer to feeling what we felt. Maybe. But you will get one step closer to who you are. And that is what punk has been about since day one. "My sins my own, they belong to me." Take responsibility for your life and your music and scene.

Re Germs film criticism and questions: why don't we wait til the film is out? I read a current script and one from a decade ago. I must reserve judgment til we are in the theater.

I've studied movie-making since before many fans were born. It isn't fair to anyone involved in the movie to have all this speculation. It's unprofessional.We ought to say thank goodness this movie is being made. Will it do the scene justice? Give them a chance, then take sides, as so many of you are dyin' to do. But for now, back down, they are doing their best. Even if you don't agree with their interpretation of best, give 'em a chance.

Regi Mentle has been calling me. He mentioned he wants to write about Darby and the Germs, and I second it! Alice, you remember Donnie Rose (RIP, od'd), Tony the Tiger (RIP, but I forgot what Cherie the Penguin told me was cause of death, they actually married for awhile!), John Valium (where is he?? Dying to talk to him, what a gas. He used to tell me the details of Darby's life -- John and Regi). How I loved hanging with Regi and John while we all shot speed or ingested various other drugs together. Those are bygone doors.

Regi's still in prison, but if anyone wants more details, write me! And I've been in touch with Gerber and Jena. I think Jena will be at the show. Gerber is so very ill. Such a bright, funny, woman. The movie won't be telling these stories. And Pleasant ain't in it!

And that's why I'm working on my photos/archive. Cos if we don't tell these stories -- Alice and the women in her interviews, and the men (gotta have the men!), then film-makers and other story tellers do not tell our stories. Not all of them. We have lots of stories to be told.

So go out and live your stories. And read ours too, as inspiration.