Archived interview with Philomena Winstanley. Interview originally conducted in February 2005.
Fourth in my series of interviews with influential women in the early L.A. punk scene is none other than Ms. Philomena "Philly" Winstanley. I'm very happy to have this much too brief interview with Philly, because I've known her since my earliest days in the punk scene and she was always a good friend to me. Even though she is reticent and extremely modest about her involvement, her importance to the L.A. punk scene should not go unrecognized. As cofounder of Slash, she was one of a handful of people who nurtured the fledgling punk scene and helped it to blossom. As the longtime partner of the late Claude Bessy (aka Kickboy Face) she was both muse and protector of the punk spirit.
Philly has lived abroad since she and Claude left the U.S. in the 1980's. She is a travel writer, an educator and operates a children's aid program in South America. I am proud to call her my friend.
To the left of the sane mountain range,
behind houses and tears,
behind fences and lies
lives a derelict computer
disguised as a young romantic couple.
In the mornings,
when the dust shimmers in the heat
and the bushes try to sway,
their one delighted fearful thought
(Hallelujah the madness is spreading)
takes the shape of a prayer,
and like an opaque globe
almost materializes above the plain:
Hallelujah the madness is spreading.
- Claude Bessy
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
I was co-editor of a music magazine called Slash which started the whole movement in L.A.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
The first Screamers show at Larchmont Hall. (ed. note: the first Screamers show was actually at the Slash party in late May 1977, although they did play Larchmont Hall with the Weirdos shortly thereafter.)
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
It's difficult for me to think about those days, but I suppose women seemed stronger and more confident then, maybe fighting more for equality. (Before punk), it was unusual to have a female film director (Penelope) and a lot of women in bands (like you). I've noticed (in my subsequent) travelling that women only sing and dance, rarely play instruments (though I did an interview with a woman in Madagascar who made her own instrument)....I'm sorry I'm a bit hopeless at this, but for me women had already started moving upwards with the hippie movement.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
Insight into people of a younger generation.
5. What are you listening to now?
World music; i.e., African, South American.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
Well, there is a personal story I remember....can't remember whose party, but the police came, Claude had bottles hidden under the trees and went to dig them out, the police took him when I wasn't looking, roughed him up and put him in jail. I thought he'd left me behind and gone on to the Blondie party so when he rang in the morning I was very angry and hung up on him until he rang back and explained, then I sheepishly had to go and pick him up...
I remember a spaghetti fight at The Screamers'...
When I think of the punk days I think of the punks 'rioting!' outside...mmm...what was that place called? (ed. note: Elks Lodge, now Park Plaza Hotel) when police cars and helicopters came because someone threw a can of beer down the stairs, and the police hit kids with their batons, one of the Xerox twins went for a cop because he hurt her sister, they handcuffed her and she broke the handcuffs....and another time I remember well was Claude being dragged off the stage after trying to sing (drunkenly!) with The Clash and backstage bouncers kicked him. We hobbled home and there was a party in full swing already started in our flat.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been been adequately recognized?
(I'm) out of touch now, here in Spain.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don't know?