Interview with: Valiant Ferguson, originally conducted November 2009
I first met Valiant in the late '70s, when she still went by the name of Heather. She was a creature of the night who dressed like a punk rock Coco Chanel. She had a film noir air of glamour which she cultivated with fascinators and cigarette holders. Her sense of style was so strong that I instantly trusted her when she invited me to sit in her salon chair. Heather was just as comfortable in the Beverly Hills salon where she sometimes cut my hair as she was in her little apartment in Hollywood. We'd sip wine or tea while she chopped, colored and transformed my DIY locks into a cutting edge 'do. Sometimes we'd dress up and go out after my makeover, other times we'd grab a cheap bottle of wine at La Brea Circus and talk the night away, sitting on her couch. In those days, Heather loved Sylvia Plath, romance, and red wine with nice labels. In fact, it was Heather who gave me my first lessons on selecting wine. First rule: look for a bottle with a real cork. I was still buying wine like a kid cutting class in high school, what did I know?
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
My name is Heather Ferguson. I now go by the first name Valiant. I became a hairdresser at age 18 and went to San Francisco to work for Vidal Sassoon. I did a lot of free hair for a lot of fellow punks, including The Avengers, The Cramps, The Ramones, Belinda C., The Dils, etc.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
I lived in Pacific Heights on Broadway and Laguna. It was around 1974-75. The punk rock scene was making its way over the waves from Britain through Sassoon’s. At the very place in time that punk rock came streaming into consciousness, I was hanging around with some very dark and edgy people like myself. We used to go to a place in North Beach and I would smoke Black Sobranie cigarettes in a short black cigarette holder. I wore black clothing and Hats with veils. I was dating a musician lead singer named Bobby Death. He kept crooning on about this band from New York called ‘THE RAMONES’. One night he got tickets to their SF debut at a place called the Savoy Tivoli. Well, he disappeared somewhere, but I didn’t care…..WOW, who were these brilliant moptops?? Beat on the brat, with a baseball bat, Oh yeah, yeah, oohh oohhh. I was in my version of Nirvana. I felt something growing inside me and it wasn’t a baby. It was life alright, but they just knocked me out. Bobby appeared near the end to tell me that he had invited them over to my apartment for champagne and coke……WOW again. We stayed up all night long telling each other all our stories. That was too kewl for words. So that show was me plugging into me, plugging into the whole synchronistic punk scene. I moved to Hollywood a year later to work at Sassoon’s there.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
Well, to me, I felt our roles were really powerful and infinite. We could choose who we wanted to fuck, love, or hang with. We were strong; we had a lot of power, that’s why its impact was so enormous. So many girl bands or bands with female lead singers who had balls and used them. The guys loved it. We were a tight knit group. Everyone knew everyone. You could walk into the Mayfair Market, and across the store see a guy or girl who looked like you. You immediately connected. The next thing, you were going to a gig that night with them. Knit very tightly.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
The history, making history with some of the most brilliant people I have ever known. The honor to belong to something bigger than oneself. The impact on all music since then. It was like belonging to ‘SKULL AND BONES', it was us against them. We were fantastic!!!! It was an Epoch of time, a revolution on so many levels. My friends from then, like Trudie, Dinah Cancer, you Alice Bag!!! The making of history (and knowing we were) was some pretty heady stuff, but fun fun fun.
5. What are you listening to now?
Lots of Goth, new punk, Iggy, a lot of old stuff, like Siouxsie and Television. I like Michael Buble. I was always a sucker for a lounge crooner. I still listen to Velvet Underground, and Marianne Faithful a lot. Opera, Miles Davis, Alice Cooper. Like I always say, if it’s brilliant, I will listen and love it.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
Well….as a matter of fact…although not chronological, these stories are sometimes funny, sad, endearing, but always the truth as I saw it.
There was the time when Rod Mau Mau and I kind of got crushes on each other at the same time. He was working for the King Tut
exhibition taking the public's money. Rod was a heroin junkie, and that was okay with me at the time. I remember he asked me out on our
first date and said it was a surprise. That night he picked me up in his old station wagon and took me to dinner at Musso and Franks. Pretty expensive. He admitted to me that he had stolen the money from the King Tut job to take me out. I was so slayed. I thought it was so romantic that he had stolen the money to take me out instead of buying dope……
Then there was the time I took Tony Pony home from a Screamers party, and we fucked all night long, and he left the next day. The next
day was the Gay Pride Parade and Marlon came to pick me up to go over to my friend Nancy’s house to start the festivities before going to the parade. On the way, we went to pick up my friend Spike. I ran up to the apartment to get him and knocked on the door. No one answered, but the door was ajar slightly, and I went in to get Spike and he was in bed with Tony Pony and they were spooning, but out totally. I ran down to the car, and as soon as I got in, I started laughing. Marlon wanted to know why; I told him I could never tell anyone, and kept laughing. I’m still laughing.
Or there was my birthday party thrown me by Jeff Isaaks and Branda Miller at their loft apartment on Fifth and Wall. I had a sheet cake covered in black roses. We were right on Skid Row, across the street from the LAPD Building downtown. We had several rooms with themes. The front area was just streamers and balloons and looked very innocent. Then there was the blue room where 8mm porn was playing to standing room only. There was the disco room where everyone was dancing to James Brown records. There was the room where everyone was doing drugs. The roof, where I was getting drugs for my b-day. The live band room where the Smog Marines and some other bands were playing. Well, Jeff was hanging out with Black Randy, but Randy was stuck in New York and for some reason he was pissed he was missing all the action. He called in to the police and told them some hardcore heroin deal was going down, and the SWAT team broke in and had us all against the wall in front. But we just flirted with them and they came back when they got off of duty. Margie gave me 5 grams of coke in a birthday card that said “you can never be too rich or too thin.” What a night.
Then there was the time I met Gene Hackman at Trader Vic's. I had just gotten hired to work at Fioruccis on Rodeo Drive, and a friend and I went out to celebrate. We met Gene Hackman and he asked us to follow him home. He lived in the Hills and here I am, following him in my old blue Mercedes Benz. When we got to his home, he invited us in and proceeded to pour us some Cognac. He started asking me questions, I suppose because of the way I looked. The other girl was a hairdressing friend, and not into the punk scene. Here I was, all in black with short white spiky hair and black roots. Eyes rimmed round in black. As we spoke and I was telling him I aspired to be a great writer someday, he started telling me how I belonged in New York. In two days, I was flying first class on United with him to Manhattan. We went to plays and I went to visit Trixie (Treat) at a Soho thrift store where I had heard she was working. It was great fun. He went on to London, and I flew home after four days. I cried the whole way home, cuz I wanted to stay in NYC.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been adequately recognized?
Lorna Doom, Nina Hagen….Eva O. (shrugs shoulders), I have a good memory but at this very moment …..Duh.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don’t know?
That I consider myself a vampire, born awake to it, drink blood occasionally, and get my energies from the elements. Thunder, lightning and rain work. A shower works too. I am currently very involved with the OVC (Online Vampire Community) and am an Elder in one group called ‘THE VAMPIRE NATION’. I edit and write for THE GRAVEYARD PRESS, an e-zine for the Vampiric/Dark/Alternative Communities. Also that I converted to Roman Catholicism about five years ago.