Interview with: Trudie Arguelles-Barrett, originally conducted April 2005
Trudie (Arguelles) Barrett is arguably the one of the best known female faces to emerge from the early Los Angeles/Hollywood punk scene, having been crowned "L.A.'s Most Popular Punk" by N.Y. Rocker, interviewed by San Francisco's Search and Destroy and immortalized in song ("Trudie Trudie" by the Gears.)
If the Class of '77 had a homecoming queen, it would definitely be Trudie Arguelles. She was the girl all the boys (and many of the girls) were in love with. She had that "girl next door" quality, but she could be as wild as any of us. She was friendly, approachable and the perfect ambassador for the Hollywood punk scene, which helps explain why she was so well known outside of L.A. When K.K. Barrett of the Screamers finally married Trudie, scores of hearts were broken.
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
All around exuberance and a few guest lists. Our apartment turned out to be the general meeting place of the early LA "punk" community before it had a name or shape. The LA bands were just starting up at the time. This started before we even considered the term "punk" for ourselves or anyone else in LA. We (the Plungers and our Pit) became vital as connections, social servicers and free floor to pass out on if the two beds were full (which meant 4 people in each). There was one room, a kitchen and a bathroom with a toilet that usually didn't work. You'd pee in the bathtub and otherwise use Lillian's, the gay bar across the street. Since we had no phone, people would come over to find out where the good show was that night, what was going on, what bands were in town etc. There was no internet or newspaper ads at the time (no LA Weekly). The only way to advertise was by handing out flyers or mainly gluing them onto telephone poles. When bands from out of town showed up they would check in too. Blondie would come over to get their hair cut by Hellin, Stiv would come over to see me, the Deadboys and the Mumps from NY were there a lot, we'd have parties after bands played at the Starwood, which was practically across the street. The Zeros were always there from Chula Vista, and San Francisco bands...Trixie loved Crime. We met the Dickies before they'd played anywhere. They were from the Valley (San Fernando that is), so far from Hollywood, so they would stay at our place.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
The Screamers are the obvious choice since I married one of them. And their show was more of an experience than any other I can think of. They were just magical, the sounds, energy, attitude, look and drama.
Other bands that I loved were the Germs (for raw, exhilarating chaos), the Pistols and Damned, Dead Boys, Weirdos, and for me it all started with the Stooges and the Doors recordings, then the Dolls and the Ramones. I was one of the many who heard the Ramones first album and I knew instantly, from the first song, that it was a sound the world had never heard. I was so excited about it, then I played it for some twenty-something people and their comment was, "They're just copying the Beatles, what's the big deal?" In high school, Patti Smith's first album, her lyrics (and) originality was very inspiring to me. That album was from one woman's point of view and I had never heard any woman's ideas, fantasies, nothing before that, except maybe Joni Mitchell but that wasn't as passionate and wild. It was completely different from anything else at the time. Just that one album is such a classic.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
Women had whatever role they wanted in the early punk days. Everyone was a pioneer. There was no scene happening till all these kids made one. There were no roles to follow because everything, from the music, to the clubs, to the style was invented each day. There were absolutely no females to emulate before punk. There was Suzi Quatro, I remember all girl-parties when she was on Happy Days. But she was wearing that leather outfit, it was kind of glam. Other than that
there were no women in rock bands that I saw until the Runaways who were friends and classmates of ours. At the same time as we were going to Runaways shows all over Southern California, Patti Smith's first album came out. Then you'd start to see the girls with short hair, it was great to see women starting bands, starting fights, screaming as loud as the boys, they were just as tough, and I loved it.
I mean, this butch side did come out with punk that probably couldn't appear before that as strongly, because of the whole attitude of assertion that was punk - that was what had never been in our lives before. Punk was like a riot after the flower-power hangover. We were finally freed of tie-dye and macrame and just wanted to splatter and crazy color and invent ourselves. Today, I think Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is the woman who most reminds me of the early punk women. Maybe that's because she's also an artist and has the same spirit and wild abandon onstage that I remember of the early punk girls.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
Pogoing is good exercise but don't whip your head around like I used to, you'll regret that. When people started to call us punks, I hated it. Being labeled anything is never nice. But there is no denying that those early couple years were just brilliant and I am so glad to have been a part of that but I drifted away from it as soon as it had a label. I was not interested in punk music really, or I guess that would be hard-core, always hated how the bands started all sounding alike. I liked good songs that were a little different from what I'd heard before, not the same sound. But the energy and life that the scene originally took on is something I wish that my own children can find, hopefully while they're still young enough to not have any responsibilities so they can have the feeling that the world is whatever they want to make of it. At the time, we all knew something historic was going on though we didn't really know what it was or what effect punk would have. Of course, I love seeing my kids and their friends doing something fresh, fun and a bit crazy, and just starting bands or making things.
5. What are you listening to now?
I like new music, mainly. I get bored by the old, just keeping a few classics on my iPod. I tend to listen to singer-songwriter things with good lyrics like Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, Azure Ray, Sleepy Jackson, Carla Bruni, Liz Phair and I like Air. But I also like the Strokes, Interpol, the Dandy Warhols and I love Outcast, Dizzee Rascal, Beck and flamenco music. Also some strange music from Fonal Records in Finland. As for punk music, Green Day are still good. I really don't listen to much of it though, but sometimes it's fun to hear an oldie by accident on the car radio, great driving music, things that were NEVER played on the radio back when they were released like the Stooges and Sex Pistols. I don't see enough concerts, recently saw Marianne Faithful. I'd never been a fan but on a couple songs she was so good that I realized a younger person could not sing those songs as well, with that much emotion. It was great to know age does have its value in rock because most people just get worse with age musically. I shouldn't say that but it makes me sad when artists aren't as good as they used to be. They should be better, but we all get lazy and lose that feistiness, I suppose. Too bad. Luckily some people stay curious and worthwhile, like Alice.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
I have quite a few in my old diaries. At Allison Anders' next rock film festival there may be readings of some of them by actors. It's so funny that this period only lasted like one and half to two years, if I hadn't written things down, it would all be forgotten, coming back like dream fragments once in awhile. One Plunger story was the ice-cream heist. The other three Plungers, Hellin Killer, Mary Rat and Trixie Treat were always trying to get jobs at ice cream parlors but never succeeded. One day Mary was looking out the Plunger Pit kitchen window into the alley when she spied an ice
cream truck whose driver was in the midst of a restaurant delivery. She alerted the rest of us and we all went out and opened the freezer door and stole armfuls of ice cream cartons before the driver came back from his delivery. Unfortunately, our refrigerator immediately broke down and we had all the neighbors in the apartment building storing ice cream for us in their freezers. We never had much food in the place. The Dickies came over and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for us. Leonard was a good cook.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been been
Well, I heard Paul Roessler was writing something about Gerber who was a crazy character of the time. I'm sure there are some great stories there with some of them, most of them actually. Chase Holliday, Fayette Hauser, Connie Clarksville, Rover, Nicole Panter, Pleasant, Pandora, Paula, Jade and Zandra, Kira Roessler, Karla Mad-Dog, Backstage Pass was I think the other all-girl band in LA and the first band to play at the Masque, Sheila, Miriam Linna, the Cramps first drummer who let me crash at her apts. in NY, and all the Plungers!
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don't know?
Punk led to hip-hop which was just as amazing a time to me. Near MacArthur Park we opened an all-ages club with Alex called Radio where the kids started that scene in LA. With Ice-T as the MC and special guests performing, every night was full of rap and break dancing by more ground-breaking teens. I also did the graphics, ads and t-shirts there which led to more art jobs. I was in a couple bands over the years, the Boneheads and Alarma! as well as a few shows with Castration Squad! I have three offspring and one is already a man (!) I don't know if anyone should actually know this but the first time I met Alice we were both wearing Ace Frehley silver stars on our eyes at a Kiss concert!