Interview with Connie Clarksville, originally conducted January 2008
Some of the women who lived in the Canterbury Apartments in Hollywood back in the late 1970's identified themselves as (or through association, became known as) either "Pyranas" or "Poodles." My roommate Shannon and I both belonged to the Pyranas, a group of young women who tended to be a bit more sexually aggressive, confrontational and messy than the norm. But whatever the Pyranas had in tough, man-eating mystique, the Poodles had in style. The Poodles included Connie Clarksville in their ranks and I believe that Belinda Carlisle (later, of the Go-Go's) must have been operating as a double-agent between the Pyranas and Poodles.
I remember Connie Clarksville as one of the first punks to marry the hard-edged punk look with 50’s pin-up glamour. Her rockabilly hairdos and fashion easily set her apart from the crowd. She had a place on the first floor of the Canterbury, where on any given day she might just as easily be hosting a raucous party as cropping a punk 'do or styling a DA. Compared to the rest of us, Connie seemed to have her shit together. She served food and wine at her parties while the rest of us were sharing half pints of rum, Dr. Pepper, and a bag of potato chips.
As a fellow Blackette with Black Randy & The Metro Squad, Connie showed us all that she was a multi- talented Glamazon. She danced and sang along with me, Trudie Arguelles, Exene Cervenka, Sheila Edwards and Belinda Carlisle.
Looking at her current pictures, it’s hard to say whether she isn’t even cooler now than she was in the late '70’s. She’s still ahead of the curve, still stylish and she can still kick your ass if you don’t mind your manners!
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
When I moved to Hollywood from Orange County in 1972, I moved into the Canterbury Apartments. Back then it was full of drag queens and pimps and gays. I was a Bowie fan and liked the array of different people. After (the era of) Glitter, Rodney Bingenheimer's (English Disco), The Real Don Steele Show, The Rainbow, disco and hanging out on Sunset, I went to a show at Larchmont Hall one Saturday afternoon. There was a show at the Whiskey where I met Bruce (Moreland) who would become Bruce Barf (of the Weirdos) later. He told me how this guy named Brendan Mullen was wanting to open a place where we could hang out and bands would play in the basement of the Pussycat Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. He took me over to this mess of a basement where I met Brendan. I loved his accent and had a crush on him rite away. He said he's naming this mess "the Masque." I loved the idea and wanted to do something to help so I hauled trash out of the basement. There was a small, cut-out room in the middle, so when bands started playing and people started showing up, I decided to ask Brendan if I could sell sodas. He said, "sure, Clarksville." Nobody had ever called me that before, so I got used to the name. Brendan was really the only person who called me that.
Soon after, I met this girl named Sheila (Edwards) and we needed a place to stay. I was going to beauty school and had a little money and with her half (of the rent), I suggested the Canterbury. It was close to school and the Masque. Soon after, many bands moved in: The Bags, Nicky Beat from the Weirdos, The Germs, Geza X lived across the hall... so, so many to list.
"If you looked at us or made judgement, well, we'd spit at ya and tell ya to fuck off and that was freedom to me."
My other contribution is all the hair I cut from members of Blondie, to the Dickies, Blasters, X, Plimsouls, The Go-Go's; the list goes on. At the end of my haircutting career, I had 500 clients in my guest book. I also was a backup singer for Black Randy and the Metro Squad - yes, I was a Blackette.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
The Go-Go's had a big impact on me as I lived with Belinda ((Belinda Carlisle, lead singer of the band) for 4 years off and on. I also lived at Disgraceland with Pleasant (Gehman) and, of course Belinda was there too. That was before I went on tour with the Go-Go's to England. I
had to play roadie as there were no friends allowed on the tour. The other roadie was Lydia - she went by the name Seal later though.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
Our role? I don't know how to answer that - I was just there. From a personal point of view, it was that we could be as rude and fucked up as we wanted to and do whatever we wanted to and if you looked at us or made judgement, well, we'd spit at ya and tell ya to fuck-off and that
was freedom to me.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
I feel I made a big gash/mark on the early punk scene, not just by doing a lot of hair but by being there in the nitty gritty of everything and every show that happened. It was a small bunch of people, but we stuck together.
5. What are you listening to now?
I listen to lots of oldies, a lot of Elvis, Blues and music I grew up with. I hadn't paid much attention to punk in years until my 19 year old daughter got into it some years back. She is now a famous Portland punk and goes by the name Horrible Heather. I gotta admit, she got
it down! Hmm...gee, I wonder if Punk is in her blood?
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
Stories? Are you ready? I've got so many I could fill a book but here are a few that stand out in my memory.
One early morning at the Plunger Pit (that's where Helen Killer, Trudie Arguelles and Trixie Treat lived), Helen says "why don't you cut your hair?" I had this messed up perm I got in beauty school so I was glad to say yes. She gave me my first spiky short cut since my Bowie days.
When she was cutting my hair, Rock Bottom was watching. I happened to look up and see him pick up some shattered pieces of glass out of the sink and start munching the glass in his mouth and swallowing the bits down. I said "Rock, did you just eat glass?" and he said, "yup." I asked why and he replied "cause I wanted to see what it felt like." That was good enough for me and we all laughed.
Another memorable night was when I watched Leonard, singer for the Dickies, jump off the balcony of the Starwood and break both feet. Let's see - oh yeah, the first time Belinda got on stage at the Masque she was so freaked out she peed her pants. The next little tidbit: the
Sex Pistols were playing Winterland in San Francisco, so a group of us decided to drive up. It was Belinda, Jane, Terry Bag-Dad, that's all I can remember... oh yeah, some friend of Brendan's with godawful smelly feet. We checked into a hotel room in Chinatown, we trashed the room and broke the beds. No other hotel would give us a room. I wonder why?
Well, the Sex Pistols were great - there was a sea of spit, sweat and everything you can imagine was thrown on that stage, even tampons. After the show, there was a party at some girl's apartment so we all went. Shortly after we got there, in comes Sid Vicious. He's loud and crude and rude and breaking stuff and this girl that is having the party was happy that he showed, never mind that he was destroying her place. I was getting hungry and I asked Sid if he wanted food he said yeah, so I went and got sandwiches. When I got back, Sid was passed out in the empty bath tub. I yelled, "Sid, I got your fucking sandwich!" but he wouldn't wake up, so I ate his food and we left to find another party...
Back to Hollywood. One night, me and Belinda were bored, so we took out a wheelchair that Shannon from the Castration Squad had and I wheeled Belinda around Hollywood Blvd. She was acting like she was retarded. We just wanted to freak people out. Well, at a curb I jerked her out and she fell in the gutter, kinda spazzing out. This old man yelled at me to be careful and what the hell was wrong with me, being so reckless! That was a good laugh for me and Belinda.
Nicky Beat (Weirdos) tried hard to teach me to play drums. This guy from a band called the Hands gave me a drum set, but I had a hard time learning. So one morning when I was supposed to have a lesson I freaked and was scared to tell Nicky I just don't get it. Well, he almost broke my door down, yelling "If I can do it, anyone can!" over and over until he finally gave up. Here's some more tidbits: one night, I wouldn't let Sheila in, cause she had a bunch of guys that I didn't know and they were out of control messed up, so she kicked the hall window in and cut her leg up pretty badly. She moved out after that.
Also, there was this old woman with a homemade dress that looked like it was made in 1940. She had matted up grey hair, she was very small (and she had) lived in the Canterbury like forever and she fed the pigeons every day, so we called her the Pigeon Lady. One day, I ran into Trixie in the hall and she had the Pigeon Lady's dress on. I asked her "where did you get that dress?" She said she died and her door was open and that she liked her a lot and wanted something of hers to remember her by. I was creeped out a little but the dress looked real good on Trixie.
At the Elks Lodge when the riot happened, Black Randy played and yeah I was up there behind him as a Blackette. When the Go-Go's went on, I went to pee and all hell broke out. The cops were there in full riot gear. I peeked out of the stall as a cop looked in the bathroom. I was standing on the toilet, hiding so I wouldn't get my head cracked open with his billy club, so after he left I ran out and to safety.
One more small story that I can't forget: one night a bunch of us were bored and Bobby Pyn aka Darby Crash begged me to let him burn the inside of my wrist with a cigarette. I said no but he was so persistent that I finally said yes. He was so excited after he gave me the burn and said "See? Now you have a Germ burn like the rest of us." To this day, I still have that germ burn on my wrist. Well, I will get on to the next question.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been adequately recognized?
YEAH! Gail Bartlette - she was seeing this guy Rory and he managed Blondie and the Runaways, I met her back stage at the Whisky and we became good friends, she went out with John Denny (Weirdos) for a while, She was also real close to John and Exene of X. She later married Ray Zone, the 3D pioneer.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don’t know?
That I wasn't just a hairdresser, that I got down and dirty and participated heavily in the beginning of the original punk rock movement. It was quite natural for me, since I'd gone through every music scene before punk, starting with glitter in 1972. I was a regular at the Rainbow, the Roxy, The Whisky, I was there when Rodney Bingenheimer opened his English Disco on Sunset and was there constantly and also I was on the TV show, the Real Don Steele Show every week. After punk became mainstream and New Wave, I got into Rockabilly. I even was Ricky Nelson's hairdresser. I married and had a family. That didn't stop me, though. In the '80s I worked at Hot Locks on Sunset and waitressed at The Roxy for the next four years.
During heavy metal and glam rock, I met a man who managed a glam band and we wanted something new, so we packed up my kids and moved to Las Vegas. We struggled for two years and he got sick and passed away. My world fell apart, so I got into a church and learned about myself and God. After four years, I fell away from the church. My kids were getting older. I had a good job with the State, working with people who have Developmental Disabilities; as my youngest boy suffers from Autism and MR, his medical needs were such that I had to place him in permanent care. Soon after my other two went out into the world, I had a great place in Vegas and a good job. I always wanted a motorcycle so I bought a Harley and learned to ride. Soon I was on runs and meeting tons of bikers; I decided to start an all women outlaw club - I almost did it, when I met the president of a club and started dating him. One year later, we married. He moved me seventy miles outside of Vegas and I landed a job at the Test Site. We are involved with his club and events, so my life is good and as far as my punk days, I think they prepared me to be one smart ass biker bitch, seriously. I miss Hollywood and wouldn't change my past for anything.
Peace and maybe one day soon I will go back to Hollywood on my Harley Davidson.
All my best to those who read this - Connie Clarksville AKA : CC