Friday, March 24, 2006

Fashion and LA Punk, 1976-1980

Earlier this week I received an email inquiry from Natasha Perry. She is writing about early punk fashion and wondered how much fashion -- British punk fashion in particular -- played a part in the LA punk scene. This is my reply.

Oh, if anyone out there knows how to do these blogs so it's just a few lines, and a link to read more, lemme know!

I prefer formatting, making text bold and/or italic for easy reading. Blogger.com often won't allow me to post a formatted blog, using THEIR formatting tools and won't answer their emails regarding this issue. The work-around is to re-format it, when/if that works. Like I have time to waste doing that again and again!

I'll let you know the end: we laughed at British punk fashion, made our own, but of course loved the music and musicians. Not for nothing did the Go-Go's write "London Boys." We ALL got it on with those lads from across the pond! But we didn't wear their dark heavy clothes in sunny LA!

Questions for Jenny Lens

1) What attracted you to the punk scene in the first place?
A photo, a simple snapshot of an androgynous woman wearing a man’s jacket and long tie (rare during end of 1975), holding a small book and reading/yelling out poetry. I thought any rocker who knows the French Symbolist Artaud has my attention. The moment I heard “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine, my sins belong to me! They’re my own!” at the very beginning of her "Horses" LP, I was hooked. I read everything I could, which was minimal in those days, saw Patti Smith in January 1976 and that was that.

I read about the Ramones, got their LP the day it came out (spring, 1976 -- online sources list April. LP: “long playing record,” no CDs then), saw them at LA’s Roxy August 11, 1976, grabbed my camera, took photos of Dee Dee on August 12, cos he was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, and I used to study old movie stills. I met them that night, followed them around and had the time of my life!

ONLY LATER did the fashion have an impact. Cos at that time, it was surfer bell bottoms, English disco velvet satin that was dying out -- there was nothing. But that would rapidly change by the beginning of 1977. Initially the MUSIC and the LYRICS and the ENERGY were the impetus for all of us. Fashion only affected a few creative souls in the midst of it all.

But really, why does one abandon 8 years of college, graduate degrees, the good daughter, the good student whom few knew even loved rock, change one’s whole life, move into West Hollywood, and live for rock? Who can explain that? It’s magic. It’s like falling in love and following your beloved to the ends of the world.

2) How did you get involved?
January 30 or so, 1976 – the night Iggy visited Patti and a radio station broadcast it. “Teenage Perversity and Ships in the Night.” It’s out there, I have a tape from the radio and a LP. It’s gotta be on CD. That was the early show, I stood in the cold air for the second show. Then I saw them: the entourages, the groupies, the press, aka industry people. I didn’t know any of that. I said to myself: “I have to be part of this scene. [I had never gone to a small club to see rock, only Phil Ochs at the Troubadour], but I can’t sing, I’m too fat to be a groupie (and wouldn’t want to be that), I can’t write songs or play music. But somehow, I’m going to be part of this.” I couldn’t see Patti by the time I got in.

Next time she was in town, I was shooting her, on and off-stage, from San Diego to the Bay area (November, 1976). Some dreams do come true. Be careful what you wish for! I had no idea what I was doing, but I was having so much fun, taking so many cool photos. I’ve waited a really long time to share a few of them. I’m so glad people enjoy my photos and stories, cos I sure was involved and working my butt off (then and now) to document it. I also yapped on and on to every record company publicist, managers, and press. I promoted the scene. For that, most “industry” types, performers, and other photographers thought I was outta my mind. And when I started wearing wild makeup and clothes, with my already wild curly hair, later and now, magenta, well they all thought me very strange!

3) As a photographer, do you think the fashion element gave punk more of a presence? Or was the music and attitude enough?
Punk HAD no presence then, fashion even less. If that were true, wouldn’t LA be remembered in a different light? We were a blip on the radar. You think it was a good thing what Steve Jones said on the Bill Grundy show? Have you heard former Ramones manager, Danny Fields, in “End of the Century?” He relates the Ramones were going to finally get support from their record company, with record store prominent positioning and radio air-play. It was pulled after England made such a big deal outta what happened on your TV.

You think fashion mattered? People didn’t want to know about punk, that’s what gave us so much freedom and frustration.

Los Angeles is a totally different animal, with different mind-sets than New York or England. I truly think we are more like our sister city San Francisco more than the other cities. Political, more homosexuals involved. Tom Robinson Band was the only Brit punk band that was “Glad to be Gay.” It’s just a fact of life in LA and especially SF. It’s warm in LA, and SF more moderate than NY or England. Gas prices so cheap in those days, traffic so minimal, it was nothing to drive or fly readily back and forth.

LA was totally and absolutely about the MUSIC FIRST, SECOND and THIRD. I'll be the devil's advocate, more than likely. That's because I'm brutally honest and punk was not about fashion or even attitude at first. Music reflected the frustration of our life as well as the joys.

Attitude because people “beat on us cos we really got the beat” (X’s “We’re Desperate). We expressed frustrations, dreams, politics, in similar terms as others, aged from their teens to late ‘20’s – a rather large age group for a small cultural revolution – in Los Angeles, New York, England, San Francisco and a few other pockets.

Most people eventually moved to NY or LA if American. Many write online their scene was over-looked during those eras, but if you wanted to be radical and make a dent, you were in those cities. Sorry, but some city that rains or snows or is spread way out is gonna have a hard time supporting a growing art/fashion scene.

The fashion in LA was a whole different animal too. We were the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” Studios were selling off clothes, socialites always discard clothes for the latest trend. There were no resale stores or actresses wearing vintage clothes. My late ‘70’s photos show the ‘60’s at their brightest and wildest! I was about 8 to 10 years older than most of the LA people I hung with/shot. From childhood on, I studied art, music and fashion history because I was/am obsessed with the visual arts.

I lived through the Mod ‘60’s, inspired by those moppets from across the pond: the British Invasion! John Lennon cap worn by future Go-Go Belinda, early August, 1977. Onstage at the Whisky, March 5, 1978: Mary Quant orange slicker and white Lennon cap -- you can’t get more Brit/NY ‘60’s than that! (Alice Bag), wild Pucci-inspired dresses (Sheila Edwards, but Trudie with beehive hairdo), Connie Clarksville with similar makeup (oh those racoon eyes! And B52’s hair-do BEFORE we were aware of the band) but in an Op Art ensemble of black and white with large polka dots. OP Art was THE American art from New York in the late 50’s to early 1970’s (Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol, et al).

We grew up on film noir, the distinctly American black, cynical, pessimistic, foreboding black and white films after WW2 and into the McCarthy witch-hunts. Many were too young and unaware of the political and social sub-texts in these movies. Others, like X, Screamers, Weirdos, Dils were charged with noir and cultural references. NY’s Blondie and the Ramones sang about the purely American culture that we yanks grew up on.

“She [Debbie Harry] contributed to the vogue of the thrift-shop look as much as anyone, once appearing onstage in a tacky wedding gown and telling the audience, "It's the only dress my mother wanted me to wear." Joan Rivers goes punk.

Platinum Blondie, Jamie James, Rolling Stone, 1979, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9437617/platinum_blondie?rnd=1143231258094&has-player=true
[a cursory search turns up many similar quotes throughout the years from various sources].

Joe Strummer totally understood our culture and one reason American youth, fortunate to hear and see them, regard them as our generation’s Beatles. The Edge said that at the Rock Hall Induction, but I saw the Beatles at Hollywood Bowl, but they were not MY defining band. The Clash were and will always remain the most phenomenal rock band ever. 1976-1980, RIP. After "London Calling, "well, all bet’s off. But til then, no one can touch them. Now our culture is broadcast around the world. Ironic cos it’s gone down the drain and horrifies most of us.

American films during the 1940’s are complex and often dismissed. Women slinked around in padded shoulders, slightly platform strappy open toed-shoes (very risqué in those days!), wore little gloves and clutch purses. The dresses weren’t as clingy and bias-cut, as they had been in the ‘30’s. That look originated in Paris in the ‘20’s, but I’m surprised to see so many dresses in silent films that were rather baggy or lots of fabric. I love my shot of Natasha at the second benefit for LA’s early “Slash” magazine at rented Larchmont Hall, just yards away from Paramount Studios. Paramount, although not the richest studio in town (that’s MGM), churned out many noir films. Paramount had a superb costume department and created many memorable looks. Who knows what actress or starlet or socialite wore this lovely evening dress from the ‘40s?

Natasha is wearing a beret similar to blonde Lana Turner, who so memorably wore a white one in “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” a early classic noir fave. The back of the hat, revealed in the mirror, indicates she attached a gift ribbon. How punk is that? Best of all, red-headed Natasha’s face was Betty Boop’s! An amazing resemble. Natasha was quiet, sweet and still lovely.

Brunette, Latina Margo at the Masque Benefit March 25, 1978, wearing lace, polka-dotted vinyl mini skirt, go-go boots up to her knees, with lace stockings – so Julie Christie. Julie was a MAJOR ‘60’s icon to me, born in India, famed British style icon. The cool blonde not afraid then nor now to reveal her deep intelligence, who rose to fame in “Darling,” similar to what Belinda would later experience on so many levels. I wonder if Belinda ever saw “Darling.”

Alice Bag wore hot shocking pink, glittery high heels. I admired them, and she leaned over Nickey Beat, her boyfriend and official Weirdo and unofficial Germs, Bags, etc. drummer. She handed me the shoe and I stuttered. “Schiaparelli? Do you know who this is?” She didn’t. “She coined the term ‘shocking pink.’ Her grand-daughters, Marisa Berenson, was THE SUPERMODEL Socialite of the day, still close friends with her co-star in “Cabaret,” the incomparable Liza Minelli. Her sister, Berry, had a more tragic life: lost her husband, actor Tony Perkins to AIDS and perished in -- I think second -- jet to hit World Trade Center, 9/11 on her way to LA to see her son perform at the Whisky. Their grandmother Elsa Schiaparelli was a surrealist couturier also collaborated with Jean Cocteau.

But ask any of those young women if they knew all this and you’d get blank stares from many. Belinda studied beauty books and magazines when I lived in their closet (Disgraceland) for one week in 1980. But few were brought up with the art and culture I experienced, being older and an avid “follower of fashion” to quote the great Ray Davies. I was too fat and broke to wear the fashions, but these looks were my teen years, a full decade before punk. You have to remember we were NOT bombarded with fashion on TV, mags, everywhere. Fashion, like other American cultures, was disposable. No one I know could afford those shoes these days, now found in museums, not thrift shops.

Remember, most of us had little money. Life was a helluva lot cheaper then. We all went to thrift stores to get clothes, we knew we’d get some discarded treasures due to rich socialites and “the industry.” But did they buy because it’s a Pucci or Halston or whatever? No way. But they knew these were cool clothes. We didn’t care if they were ripped, but many in great condition.

WE BOUGHT AND MADE COOL CLOTHES and accessories. We didn’t care about “labels” or “designers.” We didn’t copy each other. We inspired each other. Everyone had their very distinct look. Can you really tell the difference between Hollywood fashion stylist Rachel Zoe and her client, Nicole Ritchie et al? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think Rachel is a genius and more power to her. There’s so many great designer clothes out there, how cool your clients wear what she doesn’t have time to wear.

But we didn’t need any stylists, magazines, fashion shows. No one told us how to dress! The fashion attitude was: colourful, daring, fun, adventurous, creative and collaborative. Connie Clarksville bleached, dyed and cut a lot of heads of hair. I didn’t know that and fried my hair, but worth it, various shades of crimson, scarlet and magenta head of hair, gorgeous and out there (1978)! I dyed my hair later than my friends cos I had a straight job teaching elderly retired people, til my lifestyle interfered.

I will never forget visiting Pleasant Gehman, one of the most popular, early and important punks. I spoke with her mother, Betsy, a writer who tried to place a few of my shots, then stopped at the pile of clothes on the floor in the middle of her bedroom. I have the same image at the Canterbury, the infamous decrepit apartment building. People didn’t squat in LA, but they did at the Canterbury, around the corner from the Masque. That place was a pig-sty, much has been written about it, I’m not the first to say it. Alice Bag (alicebag.com) posted shots of Shannon, future Go-Go’s Belinda and Jane (and co-founder, bassist Margo), and others and you’ll see for yourself. With one bare yellow light bulb, I saw Shannon transform herself in front of the dirty mirror.

How they became the transcendent colorful butterflies I shot, by sharing clothes thrown in piles, discarded here and there (Hellin and Trudie left a pile at my home and finally picked them up after my numerous requests) is beyond a simple explanation. They were untrained artists, making the most of their environment. I can figure who was where and with whom and when a great deal of the time due to what the LA punks were wearing. It’s harder to tell when I shot Dee Dee and his hair length than a shot of Pleasant with either long or short hair. I never saw many wear the same thing twice.

Fashion was fun. Here’s all these kids from who knows where, in the land of cheap, classic, stylish clothes and accessories. And the more ripped, the better! A friend of mine, Mark Martinez, told me he liked punk because as a poor Mexican-American kid from Glendale, he couldn’t afford to buy glam/glitter clothes. He went to the shows, he loved Bowie and Queen (like the Germs and other punks). He could wear whatever he wanted and be a punk.

Music first, Attitude second, Fashion: part of the fun. It was a way to get attention, get backstage, photographed. It wasn’t to get into the papers or on the net (both were NOT options). Most have never seen their photos, no matter who took them. Being noticed was fun and validating.

As Alice Bag wrote: they “played dress up.” MEN AND WOMEN. Punks could take advantage of the many thrift stores and church sales. I studied theatrical makeup, I knew movie and art history. I was a Fauve, the French “Wild Beasts.” My makeup and colors were early Matisse. My college look, very Mae West but not corseted nor as over-the-top, was often compared to Matisse years before punk. He’s not my fave painter by any means. I prefer Renoir, Monet, Munch, Van Gogh, Chagall to pick my top five. I already earned a Master of Fine Art’s Degree, with most art history self-taught. But I was so alone, I longed for an art community, which I found in punk.

Everyone thinks LA is fun. The mid-1970’s were tough in LA too. People think we were all Beach Boys and surfer girls. Not true! We were economically depressed in some circles. Music was DOA, school meaningless, and many had little in the land of plenty. We were the outsiders: bright, outspoken, creative, energetic, not rich, minorities, non-heterosexual, fat, too this or that: pick a few from the list. We all loved music in ways that people rarely expressed in those days. We weren’t wired w/iPods. I purchased one of the very first Sony Walkmans ($200) and people couldn’t understand why I had to listen to punk while in the grocery line.

People already gave us a hard time. Why not take it to the limit? How far could we go? And Hollywood was wide open then. While the cops were busting the disco-goers and in many cases ignoring the under-age drinkers at the Masque, parties, clubs and elsewhere who were cavorting with the drug dealers out on the dance floor and backstage, and sex was anytime, anywhere. No AIDS. Others will tell you about being hassled by the cops. They never bothered me and I was dressed as wildly as anyone. But I didn’t hang out where cops would notice me, drunk and noisy. I was careful.

The phrase sex ‘ n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll was perfected as a lifestyle in LA, whether into the typical LA scene, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac (Brits who relocated here) to the punks. We had as much going on as the big “industry” events. A lot more fun, cheaper and more stylish.

4) Do you think it would've been so popular if there hadn't been that fashion element?
Music first, second, third, Attitude fourth, Fashion fifth. You know what put punk on the map, kept it going in the ‘80’s til people rediscovered the Ramones, the Pistols, the early Clash, X at its height? HARDCORE FROM LA. Then Grunge. Fashion look: jeans, t-shirts, flannel jacket for grunge cos Seattle is cold and wet, unlike LA. Fashion had NOTHING to do with it. Really.

5) Do you think that if it hadn't been for Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, there would've been such an interest in the style side of it?
“Although Hell's musical ability was minimal, his influence on the early punk scene was considerable - New York Dolls manager Malcolm McLaren stole not just Hell's torn t-shirt heroin addict look, but Hell's "Blank Generation" (the basis for "Pretty Vacant") before returning to England in 1975 and recruiting the Sex Pistols.” Courtesy of http://www.warr.org/verlaine.html.

A cursory web search reiterates this, whether from performers, managers, writer, fans, from NY and England at that time who were there, but their words are still debatable in Europe. Of course one look does not a movement make. McLaren, and Westwood, like any great promoter/artists, recognized the marketability of this look and its accompanying NY music and took it further in both fashion and music AT THE SAME TIME.

England was into fashion as a punk statement earlier than NY or LA. Remember the music and the musicians came here later. Our local bands were transitioning from glam/glitter, but the scene was too small, too scattered to make either music or fashion statements as early as those cities, but we caught up quickly!

Most of us in LA didn’t give a rat’s ass about Brit fashion. We laughed at what Westwood was doing, making punk for the rich poseurs. The last thing we respected was seeing safety-pinned clothes on runways or in fashion mags. Getting one’s hands on an authentic Pistols t-shirt was a big deal and outrageous for its day. T-shirts just didn’t look like that. But that’s Jamie Reid’s art, not Westwood/McLaren. Hellin Killer was one exception who briefly sported Brit Pistols fan Sue Cat Woman riff for about 10 minutes. That’s as far as it went.

We DID NOT get into punk because of fashion. I don’t even have time to deal with the ridiculousness of that statement, especially dealing with British punk as worn by Angelinos (that’s what we call LA people). With rare exceptions, such as a rare Pistols t-shirt, and one jacket/bondage pants (both worn by Terry Graham, drummer of Bags and later Gun Club), all the fashions were extremely and only Southern Californian. The one punk fashion store, Poseur, was looked down upon by many of the early, real, grassroots punks who later became so infamous for bands or whatever. The proprietors were from England (and very nice; I wonder where they are?), the merchandise was authentic, but not home grown. It didn’t reflect the LA vibe of sunshine. The clothes were too heavy and dark. And they represented British punk.

The Bags sang “We don’t need the English,” although we loved the music, the musicians. The point was we didn’t need your clothes, your music INSTEAD of ours. Why not both? Why were the record companies only signing, in some cases, inferior British and New York bands? Many LA bands are revered today while some signed NY bands forgotten.

We couldn’t afford the clothes and accessories. Who wants to buy a look, when true art is making your own? We didn’t NEED art from elsewhere to make our own, while appreciating all that was around us in the same genre.

In those days when you lived in around Hollywood with rich Beverly Hills and beach socialites, you could pick up what are now collectible shoes, dresses, coats, etc but for pennies then, and they are all brightly-colored, why would you want to pay a small fortune (Terry’s jacket cost half my rent in those days!) for clothes designed for British youth? Why would you give a darn about what two Limey clothing designers are doing?

It was the Pistols music and lifestyle, and that great Jamie Reid art that turned us on. I’ll take the Clash’s one-offs over anything from Sex. Vivienne who? Malcolm was a clothing designer? Out of our radar of if we knew, we weren’t into copying or being influenced by anyone. Other than the spiky hair, which started in NY w/Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell. Who had money beyond rent, a bit of food, and lots of drugs and booze and many times people couldn’t get in free, so tickets to shows? Money for over-priced bondage clothes, too heavy and warm for our mild weather? Nope.

Who started wearing lingerie in public? Madonna stole the look from LA and I have proof. She knew what was coming outta LA. She had a contact in NY who was very connected w/LA punk scene. It’s too cold and rainy for that look to start in either NY or England. That’s what we were about.

One should dress according to one’s heart, geography, weather, budget and lifestyle. Not cos Paris Hilton or Agent Provocateur or Westwood. I have long admired Vivienne Westwood, what a fabulous career! But you can’t credit LA punk fashion to anyone but those in LA.

And therein lies the problem. LA has NEVER gotten credit for the fabulous punk fashions we recycled with our own creations to create a totally unique look, reflective of the life and times of LA. Now that’s fashion that has taken hold, in LA and America, far more than Westwood’s. I see it everywhere, and it’s verified in my photos and photos of others shooting in LA in the mid-to-late 1970’s. That’s the only fashion I can discuss with absolute air of authenticity. Photos don’t lie.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Tale of Two eMails: Do Photographers Deserve Credit and/or Money?

I was a weaver before a photographer. This looong blog will make sense if go w/flow and reach the end. I’m discussing issues in response to what people write to me. I receive a lot of questions about being a photographer, then and now. About the scene. People see my photos everywhere (I don’t wanna hear about it for two months. I can’t take more grief). They are saddened to hear my photos used without credit, permission or payment.

Do you think photographers deserve credit and payment? How long can one person do so much gratis/pro bon fucking free work? Why is it so hard to find/raise payment for photos? So many people LOVE MY PHOTOS, often far MORE THAN the TEXT. So why so little money? So little credit? Can you explain that to me? It’s my daily struggle.

From the editor of an upcoming rock doc (check back for details):
“Your pictures are absolutely fabulous, and I can't tell you how excited I am to have the pleasure of working with them. Really awesome stuff.”

That reaction is the fuel that flames my work. He is referring to a gratis project (hours and hours of work but no money, and not just me). It is an important piece. It's a wonderful chance to for me to see a few of my photos used in project created by people who know and love the subject matter. The people who've seen these photos are taken aback. They are transported to a magical time, whether or not they were there.

This particular project is a labor of love of all involved, and I volunteered -- not the first time, not the last. But I wish it were the last free project! What do you do if it's a quality product that needs to be done? I do it. But what if some are paid and others are not?

Currently, there’s a healthy discussion between some photographers concerning a photo-heavy book. We’ve been told no money for photos. Some won’t contribute, others are gonna fight for something, others wait-and-see and others don't care. Why should everyone make money from the book except the photographers?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Food doesn't fuel me -- I am waaaay too broke (but if I don’t make some money soon . . ). It’s, as Ramones Art Director/Merchandising genius Arturo Vega told me after I defended Los Angeles being omitted from End of the Century (EOTC),” because I argued quite furiously and ferociously about this wrong:

“Jenny, you still have the fire in your belly for the Ramones. I thought about what you said. And that’s why we’re having the Ramones Tribute in LA.”

What did I say to entice Arturo to hold this historic event in my hometown?

I had drawn my sword and firmly informed New Yorkers and Angelinos alike (and everywhere else), I’m out to set some records straight, with the support/input from people who were there or those who know more than some were.

Privileged few were witness to a momentous event after the American Cinematheque rough-cut EOTC showing. Some thought me a loud outta-my-mind whack job. But those who know it was JENNY LENS (many knew me first as fans, now friends):

They knew I EARNED the right to say what I said, LOVED the FACT I LITERALLY STOOD UP AND TOLD IT LIKE IT ‘TIS! I spoke truths that others have worked hard to cover up and eradicate. I actually EARNED the RESPECT of the directors and others involved.

So why don’t more people from the past speak out?! I know so many are still in the pain I carried for too-many years. Many repressed those times. Let it out! It's so healing and wonderful to read/meet so many who appreciate what we ALL did.

MORAL: STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE! I get emails from people complaining about their young lives. So do something, get on the net, get out in the streets and take a stand on the direction this country is sinking. Cos one reason there's LITTLE MONEY FOR the ARTS has to do with WAR.

But we could afford to make art and go to movies even in the "Great" Depression (my mother lived through that and constantly tells me it's worse now!) and World War II. The government, led by FDR, my hero, paid artists to make art during the depression. I can barely do that, can you? For God's sake, DO SOMETHING!!

Back to EOTC: during my logical but loud, fast rant, I kept leaning over the balcony railing -- amazing I didn’t fall over -- but I’m used to holding onto the railing and going wild, like when I danced, especially at the Starwood and the Go-Go’s or other fast bands played. I am very physical, I’m hyper. I kept pointing to Arturo waaay downstairs in the front, when I was relaying stories and dropping names, and saying “Arturo, you know, we had so much FUN! The Ramones had fun, we gave them parties . . . tell them, you remember what I’m saying!”

Arturo DID remember how beloved they were from the get-go. LA gave the Ramones an early response they needed and never let up. I was driving Arturo from Long Beach Airport to West Hollywood.

I dropped him off at Indie 103.1 DJ/ [my fucking fave. You want the BEST punk rock in the universe?! He needs a 4 hour slot, twice a week (at least once!). Will someone please archive him! If I knew how to do it, I would!]/Side One Dummy Records Co-President (w/Bill Armstrong), the one, the only Joe Sib, the only person I’ve ever met who talks like I do! Really fast, all these great stories pouring out. He is amazing, he inspires me.

We have to remind people LA gave as good as she got because we know unknown/forgotten stories about the bands people love! They wanna know: the fans and yes, some performers! We provided a lot of memories and support to many early punk bands from the seventies, not just punk. They needed our support, but few remember and fewer post/distribute photos or write as much as I do about it.

Hey, Joan Jett (oh watch her website! She’s gonna make a lot of good, needed NOISE REAL SOON.) wore a Cheap Trick t-shirt spring, 1977. CT opened for the ladies. That’s where I shot my infamous Cherie Currie in a merry widow corset and fishnets, and garter belt -- years before Madonna.

Cheap Trick’s manager, Ken Adamany, missappropriated a few of my shots. And then he banned me from ever seeing them again. The band felt helpless, but sweet Robin helped me get in. CT wrote a song about one of my best friends, then and now. Barbie, a nice Jewish Canadian Princess (she, unlike me, had some money). Barbie had a close relationship with one of the band members. She never talked to me about it, but I sent her the lyrics. We laughed about that!

I loved Cheap Trick. I talked about them to everyone, I was in touch with writers and publicists. I always yapped on and on about my fave bands. I could have helped them a lot. I took some great shots. I found the best backstage shots of Runaways and Cheap Trick. CT with other bands too. We had so much fun til that asshole did that to me. I only wanted to help. And no, I’m not afraid of defamation/libel action. I have witnesses. People saw it happen and I’ve moaned and complained about that for years.

I received two emails today that are related because one wouldn’t post my photo because I “stamped” my name on it (I had to dig it up, scan, make the size he wanted and for free and now I find out he won’t post “as is”? He’s got a terrific site, and I won’t name it, I wish him continued growth with it . . .), the other wondered if my photos opened the first Tom Snyder Tomorrow Punk shows, DVD from Shout! Factory [buy it!]. She wondered because: NO PHOTO CREDIT. Hmm, and people are surprised I put them on . . .

YES, MY PHOTOS WERE THE FIRST THING PEOPLE SAW WHEN THEY WATCHED ONE OF THE FIRST NATIONAL, certainly the most important early West Coast PUNK broadcast! OPENED WITH MY PHOTOS.

And I never capitalized on it. That's one point of this rant. That should answer some questions why I didn't become more famous and make LOTS of money. I was on the ground floor, but I didn't know what the hell I was doing with my life. And I got ripped off and went broke. Hmm, there's a pattern there.

I never realized my photos were in the same context as Bill [talk about godhead!] Graham, Robert Hilburn, Joan Jett and others. I had no concept. I really fucked up my life. I blew so many opportunities. And that is why I am literally starving.

I’ve been through HELL and back in my life. I thank the universe every day I can work on my photos. But I can’t do it alone and can’t do it without money. I’m asking the universe, and all you readers, to do something! You like the photos! Buy some. Spread the word, and lemme know what you think.

It disheartens me that people think it’s fine to use photos without asking or credit on them. I’ve been very generous, give away waaaay too many photos, but when someone asks me for shots online, what are they thinking that it’s fine to post without ANY photo credits on the image, no watermarks? Or object to where I place my credits on MY photos?

Don’t they realize OR CARE that’s how photographers SURVIVE – that people can track them down to LEGALLY use their photos? To buy them to put on their walls or license rare shots for projects. This person knows my site. You think I’d put up photos on my site with my credit, but give them to someone else without my credit?

The first email is just lovely, typical of what people write me. Believe me, in the middle of trying to juggle all these projects, under what I call “house arrest,” wishing I could take a longer walk than the one this morning to mail my rent, it’s literally a breathe of fresh air to receive such wonderful emails, especially after dealing with issues of credit and money that just drag me down.

So why do I do it? Cos of the following email:

Jenny,
Been enjoying the site since its first days and it is really a treat to see that you actually documented a lot of historic events that I have only read about such as the Weirdos/Germs/Nerves show at the Orpheum, the early in-stores at Bomp Records etc, etc. I even seem to recall you posting photos in the earliest days of the net that were subsequently taken down. I love the fans shots as much as those of the musicians.

The reason I was inspired to write is because I recently watched the new 2 dvd set of punk/new wave acts on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show and the great first episode that is on the set. It is from a 1977 broadcast (filmed in Burbank) and the guests are Kim Fowley, Bill Graham, Robert Hilburn, Joan Jett and Paul Weller all talking about this new phenom called punk rock. Too many great sound bites to quote you and it is such an amazing time capsule on par with your photos or the amazing must see video performances that are floating around of the Weirdos at the Masque or the infamous Bags at the Troubadour.

Anyway, as the title credits roll as well as between breaks are a montage of photos including live Weirdos shots as well as a great portrait of Tomata Duplenty and Tommy Gear. Fowley shows another photographer’s portraits during the show but the ones I write about sure look a lot like they may be yours. Are they and any recollection of the circumstances of the broadcast?
All the best,
JB

JB,
Yes, indeed, not only are those shots mine, but one is me! I think it’s the second shot, the first being local boys Weirdos. I forgot I had those color slides til someone sent screen shots from the DVD, which Shout! Factory sent me Wow! Color Weirdos at the Orpheum? April, 1977. Holy shit! I always tell people I have no idea what's in my drawers. I've learned I am the ONLY person able to make sense of it all, but it's great to find hidden/forgotten photos.

I’m holding a gun to Tony the Tiger, written about in “Lexicon Devil.” My makeup is smearing, as earlier shots [not in the show] showed Pleasant making me up, then Tony and I were in the shower/tub and someone turned on the water.

The software doesn’t have a fast-forward button?! Hello Apple, are you outta-yer-fucking-minds? I can’t fast forward through a CD to find out if MY photos are used again?! You think I have 1.5 hours to watch this? If anyone does have time or knows how to fast-forward (I've already been online twice today to solve s/w issues), please lemme know if you see the beginning shots again. I plan on posting all of them, but next month.

Unfortunately, NO ONE involved in that package even thought that the photos might belong to someone. These are people who have spent YEARS research rights and clearances as part of ANY packaging or release of archival material. They didn’t even conduct a mere quick search on the net, cos they would have found me. I found them, got a little bit of money, but too late for credit. They sent DVD to me, but I’m too busy to even look at it.

Yes, I hand-coded a small website circa 1995 or so (maybe earlier). I labored to post a website with my photos and liner notes for the “Live at the Masque” CDs that came out around 1996 or so, with link to Exene's company, "Year One." [Records?] Exene produced them, but she wasn’t into the net yet and ignored my hard work. She's an artist, maybe she didn't like it. I don't take it personally cos that’s not new, not from her or so many performers. Doesn’t stop me, cos of people like you. But performers are discovering my work and like you, appreciate the fact I took them and am getting them out there.

Please read my blog as I write about what I’m doing, what projects. I plan on redoing my website next month, bigger photos, lots more stories, better design. I’ll post pix from a ton of docs, books, DVDS, Cds that my pix are appearing. And my book, deadline now, I have a solid contract and gotta get it done.

Memory: I remember getting a phone call to get over to NBC in Burbank, I lived in West Hollywood, across from Tower Records [on Sunset, 2 blocks east of Whisky]. I grabbed a few slides, dropped them off, can’t remember if I had to drive back or they mailed them back to me. I got $100 and still have a copy of the check and invoice, which surprised the dude at Shout! Factory [a TRUE gentleman, by the way!], who packaged and released it w/NBC Universal. I saw it once, that was it, no re-runs, no video tapes in those days.

But you are one of the few people to make the connection: these are my pix. Thank you!! I love the Ramones shot under the title credit — someone sent me screen shots -- wait, maybe that's the lead back from a commercial. Yeah, I gotta watch this!

You are very kind, I appreciate your words. I am up against a ton of deadlines. Please stay in touch.

NEXT EMAIL:

Hi Jenny
Yes I got the images you sent me. I didn't use them as they have a big Jenny Lens stamped across them and I didn't want to bother you again as you said you were really busy.
A person w/punk website

A person w/punk website,
I've experienced many email problems and hate to bother people and ask them if they received the email [cos I had trouble sending to him]. Many times I don't get an alert to let me know something has bounced back. I also know just cos I send something, doesn't mean it will be used.

I can't begin to tell you the heartbreak seeing my photos online and in print without a credit. I've even asked people to go to my sites or if within myspace, to copy and replace what they have with a photo with my credit. And many give me a hard time! They are using MY work and hassle me!

Imagine spending 30 years of your life, and constantly hearing from people they love your work but had no idea it was yours.

So I have a very firm position, which OTHER photographers and concerned people told me: never send out anything without credits. If someone is going to use in a book, CD, DVD, doc, etc, then after they've chosen which photo(s), I'll send them without watermark.

But not online. Those don't appear without my credit. And if that means I won't have photos on your site, so be it. I can't handle the heartbreak of seeing my work without my name. I am beyond broke, you have no idea how much time and money I put into this. I am SO hungry -- I don't even know what it's like to eat dinner, pay my bills on time, even just hang w/friends, and always living on the edge.

I'm working on some very high profile projects, have photos in major docs at film fests, my books, other books, etc. I need to be sure my name is out there, so people start connecting the dots and realize who took some of their fave shots. Many mention me on their blogs/sites and add links. Which I can't do yet, I'm redoing my site next month, and not touching it til then.

When people realize I took certain shots, they check me out, write great emails, and some buy them (or use in projects), so I can keep this going!

Final thought: there are unions and laws preventing people from using songs without payment and credit, or lifting text from authors, credited or not. So what's wrong with photographers being treated as equal to writers, musicians and painters?

Why must photographers be anonymous? It's not enough to put a credit in a corner, too easily cropped out. I am tired of giving away my work. I deliberately put text there so if they want a clean copy, pay me. It's that simple.

Why should I give away everything with NO credit, while freezing, unable to afford heat?? I drink a gallon of hot herbal tea every day, and my timer just went off, a cup to clear my lungs, damaged by the damp cold. The tea warms me for a few minutes.

I remain a fan of your site. I know it's a labor of love, and sorry I won't be able to participate. But keep up the good work!!
jenny

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Go-Go’s SAW my PIX ONLINE at Airport!!

eMail from Rosemarie [verbatim, my comments in brackets, otherwise I didn't change a word]:

Gina brought this press kit from a S.F. band she likes, and there was a local punk rock mag in it - sorry can't remember the name [Punk Rock Confidential, punkrockcon.com] but I know you will because there was a big article/interview with you and a whole bunch of pictures, 3 or 4 pages. We were at the airport on the way back looking at it and I mentioned all the great photos you have of them on your website.

One of the crew had a PC so pretty soon Belinda, Gina, Jane and I were having a blast looking at them! It was really fun and the crew couldn't get over that Belinda used to be Dottie Danger for the 5 minutes she was a Germ. Or the fact that she even was like the images you captured. It made our wait go a whole lot faster!

As far as the trip - I am EXHAUSTED. What is it about planes and airports that just suck the juice out of you? Anyway, I did not get to f**k Jim Carrey - or even see him!! his loss :^) I saw Robin Williams, Garth Brooks, Trisha the wife [Yearwood?], Celine Dion, Babyface, Kirstie Alley, the hunk that played Conan [I called and informed her Conan was our governator, oops, maybe they have a new one?] and a bunch of other celebs that I am too tired to remember. The set time kept getting later and finally they only did 3 songs! What a tease. The crowd went nuts though . . . [the rest is private . . .]

to clarify:
"Punk Rock Confidential," punkrockcon.com, is published in San Francisco by a young couple whose older relatives were in the Zeros, the great group called "Mexican-American Ramones," but were much more. El Vez and Javier Escovedo (yes, Alejandro's younger brother) continued their musical careers. El Vez is such a trip, check out his website, elvez.net.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

One of Muhammad Ali's fave bands: GO-GO'S!!!

I wanted to post this early Saturday but had to wait til Midnight PST. I couldn’t ruin Muhammad Ali’s surprise -– explanation in a moment. My room-mate announced he’s been downsized and leaving. I called Rosemarie, aka Wyline, and asked if she would pick up photos from an exhibit, as I no longer had time to run across town. She’s leaving for Venice on Monday (months ago promised to accompany friend for friend’s 40th birthday), returning to West Week (big deal around LA for interior design) to reconfigure the upscale firm she’s associated with, and just had dinner with Belinda when I called.

Two days later she called while on the way to the Burbank Airport, confirming storing my photos. She told me she "did the craziest thing." She’s flying to Phoenix and returning the next day. Celebrity Fight Night, a rather private expensive event, is honoring Muhammad Ali. One of his favorite bands is the Go-Go’s and they were gonna surprise him with a performance.

Dig this: Muhammad Ali’s digs our fave local gals. How fab is that?!

Rosemarie recently lost her father. They always watched Ali together. She wished he were around so she could tell him. I said “he’s around, you know how he’d react, and keep that vision in front of you.” We know he’d be thrilled. Rosemarie’s met a lot of famous people, but few are as special as Ali due to her connection with her father. I don't have any good memories of my father. I've admired how devoted Rosemarie was to her father, and glad she has friends to be there with her during this painful but inevitable transition in her life.

I told her Ali was my hero because of his stance against the Vietnam War. He was a CO: conscientious objector.

Ali could inspire young people today, if they knew his history and their future.

I have no time to post photos here, go to my site, jennylens.net and you’ll see a link for Belinda. 38 shots of her, some w/the Go-Go’s. And one shot of Rosemarie and Belinda, the night before the Go-Go’s went to England as unknowns and came back on the verge of superstardom.

I told Rosemarie just last night I wrote Alice Bag (alicebag.com) because the shots she and her husband Greg posted from the early days of punk focused on the Canterbury are so much fun! I told Rosemarie I had just seen Belinda, Jane, Margo and Sheila, Shannon, Terry and of course Alice and others.

Neither of us spent much time at the Canterbury. I was so shy I missed out on all that fun. I was also busy shooting elsewhere, but I would have made time if I had any idea the fun they were having playing dress up. Or as Terry Bag told me, tying up. He asked where do I think "Fun with Ropes," written by Jane, came from?

I told her Alice lives near Phoenix and her recent blog mentioned she’s so bored with it (already). But this isn’t exactly a public event. But too bad it couldn’t have really been a desert punk rock reunion: the Go-Go’s, Rosemarie aka Wyline and Alice Bag. And Muhammad Ali. Wow, that boggles my mind.

Don't ask for gossip from Rosemarie re the Go-Go's. I love her discretion. She gets a kick outta them, and knows a side of them no one else will ever know. I couldn't be prouder of them. I know they feel no connection towards me, but I've always thought of them as younger sisters or at least close cousins.

I love them all, but gotta say this, I miss Margo. I have so many delightful shots of her. She was beloved by many. Anyone in contact with Margo -- please tell her to write me! I saw years ago on "Behind the Music" and she looked so hot and healthy! Good for her. And 99% of the photos in the first 20 minutes that featured their early Hollywood days were mine. Ah, the Go-Go's . . .

Myspace eMails: Punk and Fascism

I write tons of emails, and felt it time to post a couple I expanded. These are issues I discuss with myself and people every day. The first email is about the art/science behind my photos. Did I have any idea what I was doing? Did I have any experience? Why did I shoot?

The second letter is political. Art and politics are always intertwined.

Artists are true warriors. We speak out via a variety of media, and by doing so, we can change the world. If you are such fans of my work and the people I shot, then do something to save yourselves and us. I much rather be political more hours of the day, but my work calls me. What’s your excuse?

Our society is changing. People are truly living in fear of each other. Not just the terrorist in some unknown spot in a desert somewhere. No, right here in the liberal, cultured west side of LA. We gotta stop this culture of fear.

I’m the eternal cock-eyed optimist. I am still in shock, disbelief and sadness due to a devastating incident at my local health food store. People are far stranger than even Jim Morrison sang about. “Uncivilized wars,” as X sang in “I will not think bad thoughts.”

Many fans, aged 12 to mid-50’s, write such loving and appreciated emails, grateful I not only took photos, but post so many. Now you do me a favor.

Write your political reps, from local, to city, to state to federal levels. Write letters to editors, print, TV and online news. Start there, meet with others, DO SOMETHING!

How do you think those who rule the govt and media got their power? By writing, congregating, gathering together and working to push forward their agenda. You can do that, you’re just as smart and energetic as they. Go for it!

There’s lessons to be learned. Learn from people who’ve seen this before, and life in Amerika is getting tougher. Let’s assert our rights, so we survive!

Date: Mar 17, 2006 2:09 AM
Jenny,
I'm happy to see a lot of your photos of the punk rock stuff and I have to say that seeing those in various books is an inspiration to me. When you were taking photos of bands and people did you have a certain way in which your pictures would come out or did you mainly just do it through trial and error? The reason I ask is that I don't know very much about photography other than just friends and my dad doing a little. However I would love to take pictures of bands and eventually write a book documenting punk and hardcore in the South. Which does not get a lot of coverage because it's hard to dig back really far to find out about older bands . . . I think you know how it is. Anyway I just want to write and ask you those questions and also tell you that I like your work.
Dave

Dave,
I was shy, my camera didn't work right and fucked up more photos than my broken heart wants to count, I never knew if or what would show up when printed. I knew NOTHING about photography, from what film to use to being in a darkroom. I taught myself right there in clubs or in my closet-turned-darkroom. I never even looked at rock photos or rock mags til 1976, having discovered Patti Smith, end of 1975, from a casual, street photo and blurb in then-new “People” magazine.

I totally captured what was in front of me, staging nothing. What you see is what I saw, photojournalism in its rawest form. Cos now people can be online and celebs in minutes. Few ever believed anyone would look at these photos or care.

I’m an artist, I knew art history, I knew punk was a revolutionary art movement. Like a comment, blazing the sky, illuminating for a brief moment, than changes and disappears, almost as fast as it appeared. 4 years is not a long time (1976-1980). But research all major art movements since 1850. Name any that you study in a good art history book and you’d see how short-lived, yet lasting influences are a pattern of important cultural revolutions. Janson’s text, the Bible of college art-history classes, just this year added photography!! When I lived in Hollywood, my most precious movie and art history books were stolen. I replaced my Janson! But no photography.

The cultural shifts come along every few years and life is never the same again. Last night, while listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage Rock on the net, my fave station in the universe, I heard the song that changed my life: “I wanna hold your hand.” Little Steven told the story of the Beatles, not just their first Ed Sullivan appearance, but the history of Capital Records. Just wonderful.

[disclaimer: I knew someone who worked w/LS'sUGR and often spoke disparingly of her former employer. I appreciate what Little Steven is doing! I love his show and guest DJ's -- Joan Jett, Dick Manitoba, Kim Fowley, et al. ]

More stations (Indie 103.1 fm and Rodney on ROQ: are you listening?) should archive shows! But don't charge! It's my lifeblood!

I always thought of punk as the next major event in that timeline (I missed Elvis, I didn’t watch TV when I was that young). Sure there were other short-lived eras, the British Invasion, the San Francisco Hippie sound, horrid metal and prog-rock, and then da brudders from Queens. I missed glitter, although I was a Bowie fan. Then, like now, I stayed home, made art and earned my Master of Fine Arts graduate degree from Cal Arts. So I missed the Dolls and Iggy. Even when Iggy and I slept together, I think that was 1977, I still had no idea exactly the impact of the Stooges. But I knew Iggy’s new releases were gonna be remembered. “Lust for Life” was too great to be forgotten.

Even if you hate or never heard the music, NO ONE in the western and most parts of the Eastern, and Southern hemispheres has not been affected by punk. I knew that would happen. I used to tell people. They didn't have computers and I am a fast typist and need to edit. You can't edit w/typewriters. I only wish I had more written proof of what I told everyone.

But remember, a lot of these people either knew me or could tell from my antique/thrift shop kimonos, jewelry, purple hair, makeup and energy and passion I was no average photographer. It was hard for everyone to reconcile this wild woman who actually got her photos published and talked to record company publicists.

Was I a crazed fan or part of the publicity machinery? No publicist wanted to hang with me and I had no time for that kind of brown-nosing. What other photographer put music first, turned down paying gigs or shooting Pink Floyd to get high at X, dance and shoot all night, something I did night after night? After seeing X thirty-forty-fifty times, why not shoot Pink Floyd and make some money? Cos I found the music that made me go bang!

I am an artist, a fan, and a photographer last. It's just the tool I used to express my art, one of many media I used. The one that mattered to more people and in ways most visual artists can only dream. I knew this era was important, but I never dreamt my photos specifically would mean so much to so many and change my life in ways unimaginable to most, including myself.

Every day I learn something new and I change in so many ways. I am blessed I have so many friends. Our connection starts with our mutual love of the music, that early punk era, and appreciation of these photos. I only wish I had time to compile all the great emails to post and share. Lovely sentiments.

Few artists receive so much validation and acclaim.

What more could an artist want? (well, enough money to service her car, buy fresh produce every week from the farmer's market, pay her bills, etc). Enough money to keep this going, and the going gets rougher every day.

Back to it, waaaay behind in deadlines and need a new room-mate. Dear God, give me strength and time, health and some money.
jenny


I wrote several emails to a Myspace Friend who used Anne Frank’s face for his photo ID. But there was nothing on his page to indicate who this smiling, young girl was. Anne Frank must be remembered. Her story is your story. She and her family did nothing wrong, but along with 6 million others, not just Jews, but scientists, artists, rebels, and society’s “outcasts” were robbed, raped, tortured and killed, while local residents had “no idea.” Yeah, right. Amerikan Punks must know her story. It is happening here, right now.

Dear Jenny,
I still can’t figure out why I chose Anne Frank and now it’s starting to bother me. When my grandmother was a young girl, she was torn from her home and forced into concentration camps because of the fact she was Japanese. My family had their business and their home taken away by our fascist society, so I am quite aware that concentration camps are no laughing matter.
Ian

Ian,
In 1965 or so, when I was probably 14, I remember the Stones hit, “Satisfaction” was on the radio. We were studying for mid-terms or finals in high school. I totally remember dancing and singing along, I couldn’t concentrate. I was practically a straight- A student, worked hard at it, but darnit, the music devoured me. This shy loner surprised people she loved to rock, just by herself. I went back to studying by myself.

I was at classmate Karen something like Yamaguchi's home. I was admiring a fabulous silk embroidery. Before I picked up a camera, I made lots of arts and crafts, excelling in all, in college art shows, museums, galleries. My art was acclaimed in school since I was a child. I never knew what to make of it, I didn't realize how talented I am. I never saw what was the big deal. No matter my media, my art excelled compared to others. It resonated with so many. I knew about art and the hard work involved in embroidery, the beautiful colors and design.

Karen’s mother told me she embroidered it while in the camps, using 1, just ONE, thread. Embroidery thread comes without 6 slightly twisted strands, and I typically used 3 at a time. But thicker cotton, not thin silk. She worked on the piece for months and months. One silk thread would drive most of us crazy.

We were never taught about Japanese-American internment camps right here in California and other Amerikan states. I was in high school and it had been HIDDEN from us. It was my first introduction to the horrors of this country. My mother also told me many stories about how England and US turned away boatloads of Jews in the 1930's. History relates we Jews were too stupid to leave Europe. Reality is JKF's father, Joseph P. Kennedy, ambassador to England, and other rich white men prevented them from landing.

I think it quite appropriate you chose Ann Frank. She represents a recognizable figure you and your family totally relate to. As do I.

I think it would be a loving tribute to your family and other Japanese-Americans, and Jews from everywhere, to say, very clearly in your home page:

Anne Frank, like my grandparents, was robbed and killed by the countries they loved and called home. It happened right here in Los Angeles and across the nation. It is happening now.


Towards the end of her too-brief life, Anne Frank famously wrote: "deep down inside, I believe people are good."

Everyone should read her diary and remember, similar injustices happened here, on a lesser level. It's happening right now. And we are doing it to ourselves. Not just Washington, but the news media and large corporations. They are stripping us of our rights, censoring news, and passing laws that will make it easier for frightening scenarios again. We do it at work, stores, everywhere.

We don’t trust each other. We don’t listen. We fight. We don’t explain. We don’t apologize.

"The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Wise words from FDR, my fave President who created programs for artists, musicians, playwrights, actors/directors, architects – all the arts were represented in government work. Build a building w/govt money and include murals.

Keep art and artists alive.

oh, I think I just wrote today's blog!!
take care,
jenny

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Emails between Hot Topics CEO and Myself

Only have a brief moment, but I've shared some lively and positive emails with the CEO of Hot Topics, who happens to also be a woman. To summarize: they're cool. As with any trademark, be careful how it's used. I much rather see that phrase used by Hot Topics, who at least honor and celebrate punk, than some soda or car company taking that phrase without earning it.

It's not Hot Topics' fault if people think being punk is ONLY buying from them. It's a starting point. I discovered "Punk Rock Confidential" there and subsequently was prominently featured in it. Which wouldn't have happened if I didn't find it at Hot Topics.

I could say more, but I'm under deadlines slip sliding away. Gotta make some money so I can buy magenta hair color at Hot Topics, when they've got it on the shelves! It's not easy being magenta!

From their CEO:

"Hi Jenny,

I appreciate you taking the time to write me. It would be great if every email I received was a positive one, but I know that's not always going to be the case. Our company culture has always been about being open minded, so your point of view is appreciated.

As for our celebration of 30 years of punk, most of us are true punk fans like yourself, having been around during in the 70's. In the true punk spirit, we love punk and wanted to celebrate. Punk is all about doing and saying what you think, even at the cost of pissing a few people off. In fact, I actually like the idea of our relatively insignificant retail promotion actually causing an emotional reaction.

Positive or negative, I love the emotion and angst.

A good friend of mine made a comment to me that punk rock has not become mainstream, but rather the mainstream had found punk rock. I agree with that statement. One promotion does not dictate how a person thinks, his lifestyle or his attitude. True love of punk is something that lies within a person's soul and NO retail store can sell that attitude or way of life.

Thanks for taking the time to write to me.

Sincerely,"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Times Square Honors 67 Journalists Slain: 3 years in Iraq

Remember, PUNK IS POLITICAL. If you're not outraged, you are not paying attention.

67, that's SIXTY-SEVEN, Journalists have been slain in ONLY 3 years during the Iraq war. 67 brave men and women. Ohmygawd. If that doesn't cause one to take pause, then nothing will. NO matter what your day was like, we should pause and remember these brave souls.

And may God have mercy on our souls for what we are doing in Iraq (and Afghanistan, let's not forget how sports hero Pat Tillman was SHOT BY OUR OWN SIDE, up close and personal), the environment, and now the Govt can poke into online search records, re: Google's setback to take on the Admin's "fishing expedition" to find out what you and I are investigating while on the net. Big Brother is watching.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/
news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002158109

Reuters' Baghdad Chief Cites Growing Dangers In Iraq--As Giant Times Square Screen Honors 67 Slain Journalists


By Dave Astor, New York

NEW YORK

As Iraq bureau chief for Reuters, Alastair Macdonald is a long way from New York City. But he appreciates that Reuters today began using its huge sign in Manhattan's Times Square to draw attention to the many journalists who have died in Iraq since the U.S. invasion nearly three years ago.

"It's worthwhile for us to remind people about the price of the news they're getting from Iraq," MacDonald told E&P, when reached by phone this morning in Reuters' Baghdad bureau. "And the sign is timely, because the dangers are becoming greater. Three Iraqi journalists were shot dead, assassination-style, during the past seven days."

Reuters' Times Square sign will continously run the names of 67 journalists -- as well as a montage of some of the war's most iconic and harrowing photos -- through the end of this month. Four of the 67 who were killed covering the war worked for Reuters, noted Macdonald, and a fifth Reuters person died in a car accident in Iraq.

Other journalists, such as Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor, have been kidnapped (she is still being held).

Macdonald, 43, knew three of the Reuters people who died. "It's very hard for us to lose friends this way," he said, adding that all three were killed by U.S. soldiers.

The bureau chief said he also hopes the Times Square sign will make people think about the journalists who continue to report from Iraq under very dangerous conditions.

Reuters people in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq include more than 50 full-time journalists, nearly 20 part-time journalists, and several dozen support staffers. This 100-plus crew -- which includes print reporters, photographers, and TV people -- is a mix of Iraqis and people from other countries.

Macdonald noted that as things became more dangerous in Iraq, news organizations started relying more on Iraqi journalists to cover certain stories. But Iraqi journalists -- such as the three killed recently -- are starting to be targeted more. Foreign correspondents have been targets since the March 2003 U.S. invasion, said Macdonald.

"Unlike in previous wars, you can't drive around with a big 'PRESS' sign on your vehicle and expect to be safe," said Macdonald. "That will get you blown up. You have to travel incognito." Or travel less than before.

Macdonald -- who was in and out of Iraq starting in 2003 before becoming bureau chief last June -- recalled that journalists had at least somewhat more mobility in the war's earlier days. "In 2003 and 2004, we would routinely move around Baghdad fairly comfortably," he recalled. "You could walk the streets and drive the roads to a point." That, said Macdonald, is no longer the case.

Despite the dangerous conditions, journalists can still do good reporting from Iraq. "It's possible," said Macdonald, "but it does come at a cost."


Blondie in-fighting and Rock Hall of Fame

I hinted how costly it was for Ramones to be inducted (buying tickets for the tables being the major obstacle), now there's a new controversy within Blondie. If you've read my comments about my infamous shot of Debbie on the floor of the Whisky stage (jennylens.net), you know I have conflicting feelings towards the band.

No matter my personal history, I am so happy for all their much-deserved success. I've always loved Blondie, from the raw beginnings to the superstar status. Debbie Harry is one of my fave singers, bringing so much personality and spark to their songs. The songs are catchy and reflected the pop culture of their times. "Blondie" is one of my fave releases of all time. "Rip her to shreds" a particular fave, probably because I never had the guts to say exactly what I felt about someone without it coming back to bite me, so I too often kept my mouth shut.

It's just a sad situation. I'm not going to add to it, but to quote the Screamers, "in a perfect world, everyone would be made to feel important." I think it's a tough call, deciding which members of a band should be honored and which shall play. Let the fans decide!

May they resolve their differences quickly and amicably. My very best to all of them.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Steve Jones and Paul Cook’s Autographs, Masque January 17, 1978

The process of reviving my archive is a combination Sherlock Holmes, close and constant attention to details, write notes, input notes into database, send out emails to people in the shots. The seemingly random searches lead to unexpected rewards. I’m overcome with waves of emotions after looking through one of my autograph books. I stupidly didn’t write people’s names down, cos some are impossible to read, nor date them, and many wrote on the back of someone else’s signature.

It’s a micro-history of a few people I shot: Freddie Mercury (who ratted on me, and the Elektra publicist was pissed, he was such a queen!), Roger Taylor and Brian May; “Take the Tonic, love, Bob Geldof,” and each of the Boomtown Rats, each of the Clash, Ramones, Cars (Rick Ocasek gave me an address to send pix and keep in touch, but did I? oy!!), Chuck Berry, BB King, and more. What a trip down memory lane.

I wanted to verify Tomata and Liara’s birthday party in Wattles Park, June 1979. Verifying chrome/slide date of Divine at Fiorucci’s led me to stunning black and white shots of Andy Warhol, Fiorucci’s opening and punk wedding (plus color slides of Screamers performing). Some negs on the wedding sheet were of X, August 30, 1979, Stardust Ballroom. I’ve lost or seriously hidden most of my X, so finding anything is a treasure. [I also shot Dils and DOA that night.]

Primarily men were in the audience, with mosh pits becoming more routine with X's opening acts. People always ask me about hardcore, but I shot Before Hardcore, when you could dance and get close to the stage. I also shot color, and you can really feel the audience’s energy, led by the band and Exene in particular.

I need a different slide of Billy Zoom and Steve Jones, taken at a party during X’s first British tour, July 1980. While going through my Sex Pistols slides, I found one of Paul Cook at the Masque, signing a red autograph book, 28 years ago January 17, 1978. I opened another drawer and pulled that little red book. Steve Jones signed the opposite page.

Gotta get back to work. Haven’t found the slide of two of my fave guitarists, Billy and Steve, the third being Joe Strummer yet. I told that tidbit to Jonesy while on his show, his birthday, Sept 3, 2004. Some of you may know he threw me off the show for talking about the Clash, LA punk and Toulouse Lautrec. Steve and I are pleasant to each other now, but if you’re gonna talk about art history, you better know your facts. Ha ha!

A pal gave me some cool CDs. Tom Waits singing “I don’t wanna grow up.” Oh Dee Dee, Joey and Johnny. We miss you.

If not for Dee Dee, my archive wouldn’t exist. I doubt if I ever would have picked up a camera and shot the early, most combustible era of the first 30 years of punk rock that changed every aspect of world culture. I didn’t wanna grow up . . . I wanted to do it on my terms, and not 9-5 and all that jazz. Give me another 30 years of punk rock!!

Rock Hall of Fame/Hot Topics Trademarked “30 Years of Punk”

If you want to see just a few of my many Blondie and Sex Pistols shots, as well as previous inductees, check out jennylens.net and jennylens.net/merch. You can’t read the white text if on a Mac on jennylens.net, but I’ll fix, and redesign with more and larger photos in April.

Friday, Jonesy’s guest was Johnny Rotten Lyndon, brillant, acerbic, witty and right on. I loved his story about how the Rock Hall of Fame wouldn’t let him film there when he had his TV show. You think us punks forget those kinds of slights? I am so proud of them for telling the Hall what they could do with their induction. I too think it’s outrageous how expensive the tickets are for the inductees. The Ramones were so limited as to who could be there and it was such a slap in the face to all they’ve done.

Today Jonesy played a plethora of Sex Pistols related songs.

As for Blondie, I am happy for them. I don’t want to cast anything negative if someone is happy to be inducted. Quoting the Hall's website text re Blondie:

"Someone forgot to tell Blondie that New Wave bands weren’t supposed have hit records."

What kind of bullshit is that? You think Blondie, Ramones, Patti, Iggy, X, Weirdos, Screamers, Avengers, Clash and Pistols, Gen X, Jam, Sham 69, Boomtown Rats [oh, look at my photo list, you’ll get the idea] didn’t want to sell records?

And will someone please retire and bury the phrase “New Wave” forever? It was a lame record company industry term created to make punk or adventurous rock more marketable to fellow radio and mag personnel. They were bored, scared or indifferent to punk. I was there, I dealt with enough industry people to tell stories (if I had time).

You think the Rock Hall of Fame could hire someone to program their site so apostrophes appear instead of question marks? That’s what I’m seeing right now.

Of course I won’t stop calling it the Rock of Shame til Iggy and Patti are inducted. I wanted to verify Iggy still not in, but I can’t even find a list of inducted PAST rockers on their site. Some honor?

And if that means they won’t use any of my pix, so what. My new agency, Retna, told me they could have submitted many photos of Blondie. Of course I could have approached the Hall years ago. One guess why I wouldn’t. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. And I don’t care.

While listening to Rodney on the ROQ last night, I was enthralled by MC Lars “Hot Topics is Not Punk Rock.” You can check out MC Lars’ lyrics online and hear the song on myspace (Google it).

Hot Topics usually brings a smile to my face, while at the same time concerns about over-commerciality of punk always causes conflict. I love the one-stop shopping as my time and money extremely limited. I hope people start at Hot Topics and then go to thrift shops, fabric stores, their closets, and grab a scissors, pins and thread and make up the rest. It’s fine as long as it’s not your whole look. Use some imagination, ok?

I was dismayed to see Hot Topics TRADEMARKED “30 Years of Punk.” Well, I’ve been shooting photos for the first “30 years of punk.” Many people are celebrating “30 years of punk.” I’ve earned the right to use this phrase any way I want. It’s more than a phrase, it’s been my life for 30 years of punk.

I wouldn’t mind if they actually CARED about what they carry. No matter how many times I inquire as to why they don’t carry ANY of the magenta/fushia colors I need for my hair, they never offer to special order for me, can never tell me if I can order online (it’s totally hit and miss). They carry several brands, Raw being my fave, but try finding in my colors in ANY of their brands!

They are also EXCLUSIVE distributors of several of the brands, so if they don't stock it, NO ONE else can. Hmm, since when is that punk rock?

I’d say their attitude and inability to stock hair colors was punk rock, but they are too corporate for that.

The idea of Torrid -- focusing on larger size and available only online -- reeks of discrimination against big girls. Guess they don’t want us fatties actually hanging out in their stores. Oh excuse me, since I lost so much weight, I weigh less than the average female. But I’ll always be curvy, and I’ve never worn micro-minis. When will retailers realize people are getting bigger or just might want to be comfy in their punk clothes? Tight is not always what we want.

Gotta finish my book, several other books, docs, CDs, etc and gallery shows. Every day I get more calls and emails. That’s cos I started shooting in the first year of 30 years of punk.

[I moderate posts to prevent spam, but blogger.com not posting approved comments, so here they are:

"polaroid wallah:
...just wanted to tell you how much i enjoyed your post, especially want to encourage you to keep on using '30 years of punk,' man, you earned it (how old were you when you started anyway, 6?...keep up the good work...check out my deep background archives at: www.truecrimeconfidential.blogspot.comit's the official POLICE AND THIEVES blog, anarchy in the UK!....let's trade links...best, john"

darnit, lost the others ones, oh well . . . life goes on!]

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Postpunk, Truthiness and Living in a Time of Fiction . . .

Every day I wrote reams and reams of emails, rarely posting them. I recently met Joe Carducci, formerly with SST Records. He is reviving the late Naomi Peterson’s hardcore punk photo archive. I’ve shared tips on organizing, scanning, etc as well as leads when someone comes to me for hardcore shots. Joe wrote a loving tribute to Naomi that really resonated with me. I'm doing all I can to help. It would be a tragedy if both her archive and mine were lost to history, because we documented such important early bands and times.

I always engage in lively thoughts about punk and how others perceive it versus those who were actually there or the devoted fans. If only the people who write, the book authors, CD liner notes, the magazines, etc would actually ASK AND LISTEN to those who were there, not just the "usual suspects." They don’t give a damn what many of us in the trenches think or remember or DID.

Here’s an exert from today’s thoughts about “Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984” by Simon Reynolds. Joe told me the American publisher [Penguin Books] DROPPED the section on SST Records, which was included in his British version.

"three chapters got dropped by his American publisher, not him. They didn't drop the San Francisco chapter oddly enough. I thought LA always outranked SF, but not in NYC today somehow."

SF punk scene more important/relevant than LA? God save us all. Mabuhay v. Masque/Whisky/Starwood/Roxy/Orpheum/Baces Hall et al! Avengers, Nuns and Dead Kennedys v. X, Screamers, Germs, Weirdos, Bags; then hardcore Black Flag, Middle Class, Circle Jerks; roots/rockabilly from Ray Campi and Blasters; art bands like Monitor, Extremes, Human Hands and let's not forget Claude "Kick Boy" Bessy's Catholic Discipline w/Phranc and so on.

There is NO comparison and I don't say that cos I'm from LA.

I LOVED the Nuns and Penelope Huston and the Avengers are still going strong. I shot the Ramones, Patti, Clash, Iggy and LA bands in SF (after seeing them in LA first). But if you have to pick ONE city over the other to best represent punk and whatever postpunk is, for sheer numbers of legendary bands who influenced others and are still beloved, it's ludicrous to choose SF over LA.

Those kinds of irrational choices make any thesis less credible when not backed up by facts.


There is NO sense of TRUTHFUL history. As I wrote Joe, quoting film-maker Michael Moore at the Oscars® a few years ago: “We live in a time of fiction.”

Makes me ill, explains why it's been so hard to get my pix published . . . 30 years of this shit.

I saved a review by Jim Windolf of Simon's book earlier this month from nytimes.com. I was DISGUSTED with it. The premise is: punk ended with the Pistols and everything after it is post-punk. The book doesn't mention X or the Clash:

"But the Clash doesn't make Reynolds's postpunk list. Neither do similar acts of the era, like the Jam, the Police, X, Elvis Costello and Blondie, all of whom began by making raw music only to end up turning out more sophisticated fare tinged with soul, funk, reggae, disco, hip-hop or Latin touches."

What a piece of bullshit. X is based in part on American roots, whether Hank Williams, Woodie Guthrie, the Weavers, Leadbelly, Patsy Cline, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash or should I go on? Throw in some Ferlinghetti and Bukowski, Raymond Chandler, Theda Bara/Lousie Brooks (Exene and I share a love of silent films) and of course FILM NOIR.

There is simply no group who represented, as the Blasters sang, "American Music," in a way that was more ground-breaking than X. Considering Exene is from Illinois to Florida to LA; John Maryland to LA; Billy Iowa to LA; and DJ, like myself, from LA, the only thing missing is the northern east coast or NY sensibility.

But they blended music from so many genres to describe what was, in many, but not ALL their songs: LA. I always saw them as more universal than LA-centric: city living, plus political comments common to both liberal New Yorkers and Angelenos, or other large metropolitan, educated cities. And of course, the human condition, relationships between men and women, success and failure, with enough references to American culture to ensure their music is truly classic and timeless.

They are to music what West's "Day of the Locust" is to Hollywood: beneath the glitter is the real glitter, and a lot of grit.

Loud, angry, thoughtful, poetic, a great beat you can dance to. If he bothered to read the lyrics and listen to the music. That's basic punk 101.

I am SO tired of hearing these two things: punk ended with the Pistols and the LA scene fell apart cos Darby killed himself. Oh please, that era/scene cannot be summed up and dismissed that easily. Like any art or cultural movement, it was like a fleeting comet that lit up the sky, influenced so many, then mutated into something else.

I won't waste my time reading that book. Cos apparently, with all his research, Simon, like so many others, just regurgitated what others wrote. Seems like he either dismissed or was surprised the actual participants who didn't know what he meant by "postpunk."

Well, just cos others wrote about it doesn't make it a fact. It's whatever the MUSICIANS and FANS deem it to be, not the god damned critics who only wish they could be so clever and accepted on stage, so they make up terms. AND IGNORE SOME VITAL VOICES WHO HELPED MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Like "DIY." Show me when/where that phrase was used before Rhino coined it for their seminal punk releases over a decade ago (my photos on cover for LA and other sections of those releases). It certainly never entered my mind when taking photos or contributing to non-paying fanzines in the late '70's.

Of course we all should be grateful for all Rhino has done to resurrect punk, but damnit, now DIY is a phrase used to describe the early scene. Punk was and is far more than just "doing it yourself." That's what any artist does. The phrase obliterates the SUBSTANCE behind what we did.

So many come up to me and say they are punk cos they are DIY. No, they are artists, and nothing wrong with that. Punk is political and so much more.

And that is what Joe and I and others are up against. Arrogant assholes and their publishers, movie writers/directors (not all, but enough to drive one to thoughts of murder because of the crap they lay out as truth), etc who weren't in the thick of it, weren't at the Masque or Mabuhay or CBGB's or wherever they hung out in England, so they have to put their spin on it.

People want to know why I don’t get more of my photos “out there.” It’s not for lack of trying. The MSM (mainstream media) is more into other scenes and still willing to dismiss LA. Of course, LA press and music industry personnel haven’t been much help the past 30 years either. It’s really up to the fans and those who were there.

That said, back to work. Today is a lovely day, windy and clear skies. I have to drive 74 miles round trip to a free dentist, all I can afford. But I am SO grateful, finally getting some teeth filled. It’s much better than living in fear that my neglected teeth will cause real damage that will interfere with my work. I thank Cherie Currie for her help with the wonderful dental clinic. [Cherie, Runaways, her solo career, and now a successful artist].

The dentist calls me "his bastion of sanity." He deals with society's cast-offs, those too poor for any kind of medical coverage. I always surprise people at free clinics, cos it's obvious I went to college and have skills and brains, but not the ability to hold down a job. As Dr. Pete calls me: "a bohemian." He asked it I ever worried about money. I laughed and said "all the time." But that doesn't stop me!

It’s so ironic that the people I have the best relationships with now aren’t the bands I helped so long ago, but others who recognize my work. Yes, I bitch about how so many still ignore the vital stories, photos, music and people from that era. But there are so many wonderful things happening in recognition of my photos – due to working at it -- that anything anyone else does can’t really hurt the scene. Cos the truth is out there, if you can handle it.

Fight the good fight. I often feel like Sysiphous, pushing that rock up the hill. But I'm not alone . . . and one day LA will be accepted as equally important as NY and England. That's my mission in life. Let the photos, stories and the music be all the evidence any thinking and feeling person needs.

The truthiness of it all!! [thanks to Steve Colbert and Arianna Huffington for turning me onto that concept -- "feeling" is more truthful/valid than facts or history, which might contradict the "feeling" truth. I don't have time nor space to detail, so look it up on Wikipedia.]