Interview with: Dawn Wirth
Originally conducted May 2005
I first met Dawn Wirth through Terry Graham. At that time, Terry was not yet the drummer for the Bags. She and Terry were going out and Terry used to sleep outside her house in his car. She was taking photography classes and we soon found out that she was a talented photographer who was enthusiastic about documenting the new scene by taking pictures of the bands.
Dawn was also very involved in supporting the early scene bands. She used her photos to create promo items for the Weirdos and Mumps. In the days before the internet, the only way unsigned bands could get their name out was through fan clubs and flyers.
I reconnected with her through this website a few months ago. It is my honor to post a few of her photos, many of which had never been seen at the time this interview first appeared in 2005. Since the time of this interview, Dawn's photos have been published and prints are available for purchase here: http://www.drkrm.com/punk_prints.html
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
I was a U.S. (based) reporter for 2 fanzines in the U.K., White Stuff & one other one, I can’t remember the name of it. White Stuff was about Patti Smith. I would take what I could get my hands on and send it to Sandy Robertson. Patti thanked me once with a lovely "thank you" card. I also took photos of the bands performing and just being themselves, too.
I had a really strict mom, who "had a tight leash on me," as Alice told me the other day. I was a kid from the San Fernando Valley. I was 16 when (the Hollywood scene) started (but I wouldn't have been involved) if it hadn’t been for my friend Diana Binczek, who had a car (and was willing to drive us)... We went to Hollywood a lot, we (used to go) to the Capitol Records swap meet. I met Darby (when he was still Paul/Bobby Pyn) and Terry Graham. I helped out with fan clubs for two bands, the Weirdos and the Mumps. I worked at Bomp Records on the weekend.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
You supported your bands. Really, punk allowed you to be yourself, with no judgment to worry about. Everyone judges, even then, (but) punk gave you the energy and confidence to do anything.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
My photographs. I never stopped being a punk. You just have to modify sometimes to make the rent. It's kinda like Peter Pan, if you are punk you will never grow old. I am very proud of my photographs. That was a magical time. It was a fun time. Also, I have passed the love of
photography to my daughter, Sarah.
5. What are you listening to now?
Radio: Indie103.1, Steve Jones (Jonesy's Jukebox)
Bands: Radiohead, Interpol, Kristian Hoffman, NIN, loads of others, but this what I am listening to now.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
Seeing the Sex Pistols in SF in 1978, the roadie for the Weirdos got me and Pat Smear a warehouse to stay at. I had come up the day before the show. The warehouse had no bathroom to use. Pat pissed over the balcony and laughed as he did it, (laughing at the fact) that I
couldn't because I was a girl.
Going to see The Weirdos and The Screamers during December 1977, at the Masque. The bands took turns headlining. I came home the second night with at least a hundred bruises on my legs. My mom wouldn’t go back, but it was the last night, so I was smiling on the inside.
Interviewing the Mumps for Sounds, a U.K. music paper. It was at the backstage area of the Whisky. The one night at the Masque when David Byrne came in and was standing next to me. Sitting with Brad Dunning to watch the Mumps open for Van Halen at the Whiskey and Russell Mael from Sparks was sitting next to Brad. He had such a nice smile.
Nickey Beat always wanted his photo taken, he would always ask, "Do you have film in your camera? Good, take my picture" and he would start posing.
When The Mumps would be in town, Lance Loud always had something nice to say to me. He made me feel special. There was one day I went after school to Trudie & Helen’s apartment, we all went with the Zeros into the Mayfair market, and I watched them shoplift food, so they could eat.
Does anyone remember when Devo first came out to LA? They played the Whisky for a month straight. If Diana and I had nothing to do, we would go and see them play. One night, the lead singer had his baby face on and jumped off and stood in front of Diana and sang his song.
Diana (was frozen in place), it was like he had her mesmerized.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been been adequately recognized?
Alice Bag and Trudie.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don't know?
I am a single mom of a seventeen year old daughter. I have a bakery, called “bigmouthbakery.” I am working on a website so I can sell my brownies over the internet. I go grave hunting. I collect autographs of actors and musicians. I collect first edition books. I collect Nightmare Before Christmas toys. I also collect books and artwork of Gris Grimley, here is his website www.madcreator.com. I lived in London in 1978 for five months. I work in the entertainment business, processing payroll (this pays the rent). I have (dressed as) Fred Flintstone, Astro, Yogi Bear and Bingo of the Banana Splits. I wore costumes for Hanna-Barbera, this has also helped with the rent.
Alice's note: Dawn's brownies are the best, especially the peanut butter brownies.
Dawn is represented by Hyaena Gallery. Her books of Bags and Weirdos photos can be purchased from Factotum Press.