(Originally run in Razorcake #79, April / May 2014)
My name is Alicia Velasquez, but I’m better known as Alice Bag. I grew up in East L.A., the daughter of Mexican immigrants. In the late 1970s, I was the lead singer of a band called The Bags, one of the first wave of Hollywood bands alongside such groups as The Screamers, The Weirdos, the Zeros, and the Germs. We all performed at a basement in Hollywood called the Masque, a club started and run by a Scottish immigrant named Brendan Mullen. The Masque scene was very short-lived. It was open just about a year or so before the Los Angeles County Fire Marshal shut it down permanently, but it made a huge impact during that time, functioning as an incubator for the nascent punk scene. It was a subterranean basement where being different was not only welcomed but celebrated, a place where creativity, art, and music flourished and found support outside of the mainstream.
The 1970s Hollywood punk scene was a space where I could be with other, like-minded individuals who also felt disenfranchised or alienated by the communities where we had grown up: our schools, our families, our neighborhoods. I wanted to join a Chicano student organization when I was in high school, hoping to find solidarity with others who were motivated to make positive change. I ended up not joining after I perceived being judged unfavorably based on my weird appearance, so I know what it’s like to be the recipient of negative bias.
As I write this, I want to state that it is not my intention to deny or diminish those deeply personal experiences of perceived bias, spoken or unspoken. I simply want to add my voice and the voices of others who were present in the early years of the Los Angeles punk scene in hopes of providing a more balanced narrative and a counterpoint to what is in danger of becoming “the official story.”
A few years ago, three University of Washington professors curated a museum exhibition called American Sabor, which aimed to show the influence of Latinos in U.S. popular music. I was lucky enough to get a personal tour from one of the curators during the first installation at Seattle’s Experience Music Project Museum. The show was well received and it was picked up by the Smithsonian as a traveling exhibition in 2012. I took my friends and family to see it when it got to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ. Now, a smaller version of the exhibit is at Cal State L.A. I was happy to attend the opening reception and thrilled to experience the show at my old alma mater (I got my Bachelor’s degree and my teaching credential at Cal State L.A.) I planned to tweet links to help spread the word. But, I noticed when I chanced upon the Smithsonian’s webpage for American Sabor that some of the information was wrong and misleading.
For example, the Hollywood punk scene predated the East LA punk scene; they were not concurrent as stated on the Smithsonian website. They were separated by a period of roughly two years. The Brat was never an all-female group. The assertion that Westside venues would not allow Eastside punks to play in the early days is also inaccurate. There were many Mexican Americans from the Eastside and other places and cities who were integral members of the Hollywood punk scene (myself included). We played at a variety of venues on the Westside.
I spoke to one of the original curators who told me that her text had been changed by the Smithsonian. She asked me to write a letter to them, but I didn’t feel a letter was enough. I felt compelled to do something more, so I approached Razorcake about letting me research and write this piece in response to those inaccuracies.
Most disturbing to me was the implication that the early punk scene was inhospitable to people of color, specifically Latinos. The scene I experienced felt pretty egalitarian, but I wanted to engage my peers in the conversation. so I decided to interview some members of that early Hollywood punk scene to get their impressions and tell another side of the story that’s been so often left out in order to perpetuate a dramatic storyline that never really existed—or perhaps existed for only a handful of people. What follows are those conversations. We were there and we can tell you first-hand how we were treated and how we treated others. I asked for concrete, specific first person accounts only and that’s what you’re getting.
Hollywood Punks Presente!
For the sake of brevity, I’ve listed the participants’ OG punk affiliations alongside their self-designated ethnic identities rather than give a lengthy list of their subsequent achievements.
Moderator, Alicia Velasquez: Aka Alice Bag, Chicana, The Bags
Tito Larriva: Mexican, The Plugz
Trudie Arguelles: Hispanic, The Plungers
Robert Lopez: Mexican American, The Zeros
Margot Olavarria: Latin@, The Go-Gos
Sean Carrillo: Mexican, artist
Juan Gomez: Cuban, Human Hands
Margaret Guzman: Chicana, artist
Seal Sanchez: Hispanic, roadie
Hector Peñalosa: Mexican American, The Zeros
Javier Escovedo: Mexican American, The Zeros
Kid Congo Powers: Mexican American, Gun Club/The Cramps
X-8: Mexican/Spanish/Native American, FlipSide writer
Hellin Killer: Argentinian, Plungers
Mike Ochoa: Mexican American, Nervous Gender
L.A. Punk’s First Wave: Punk as Its Own Race
Alice: Did you ever personally experience racism from other punks, bands, club owners, magazine writers, or record promoters involved in the early punk scene?
Tito: I don’t recall ever being discriminated against at all by anyone involved in the early punk scene. I believe that the punk scene was about the freedom of ideas and in order to have that, you had to remove any preconceived stereotypes. That was what made it exciting; you were included because you wanted to express yourself, not because you were Mexican, Black, a woman, Jewish, gay, whatever. That was the whole point, I thought.
Trudie: The scene actually broke down the walls of racism. If you wanted to be in our scene, you were accepted no matter who you were—after a certain hazing period.
X-8: It was a lot of young kids coming together for a variety of reasons, but most importantly it was about the music and having fun.
Margot: Without denying that racism is institutionalized in the broader U.S. culture, I can’t say that I experienced racism from folks involved in the early punk scene, in L.A. or elsewhere. Back then, I identified first as a punk rocker—that being the source of discrimination I experienced outside our Hollywood counterculture, be it from law enforcement, academia, work environments, etc. Secondly, being in an all-woman band—following the punk ethos that anyone could pick up an instrument and play—I identified as a woman musician. I sometimes experienced prejudice from the male-dominated music business, especially as my former band, The Go-Go’s started to become more commercially successful. I don’t recall strongly identifying as Latin@ within the punk scene back then, because I was not prejudiced against on that basis.
Alice: Yeah, I agree with you. When you feel like there’s nothing to push back against because you’re being treated like everyone else, you have no need to differentiate yourself. In those days, I didn’t think of myself as a female, Chicana, bisexual musician because within the punk scene I felt like we all just interacted as creative individuals. It was only on the outside that those things could make you the subject of stereotypes or discrimination.
Hellin: Girls and guys were equals for the first time ever in the music scene!
Alice: Within the punk scene nobody would bat an eye at female musicians, but out in the mainstream people still made sexist comments.
Hellin: Now, I did feel discriminated against by the general population of average people.
Alice: I think that’s one of the things that strengthened our bonds and made us feel like a family.
Sean: One of the first “aha” moments for me had to do with you, Alice. I remember perusing one of the magazines and there was an example of a real “punk” wearing a big crinoline undergarment as a skirt and leaning back on the hood of a car. It identified the young lady as “Alice Bag,” but as I stared more closely at the image I realized it was my old classmate from French class, Alice Armendariz.
Alice: I remember French class with you! I think one of the things that threw people off was that so many of us had punk names that didn’t overtly display our ethnicity so we were forcing people to view us primarily as punks. I was Alice Bag. Margo was Margo Go-Go. I recently saw Dave Drive (from the Gears) at a concert in my neighborhood and was surprised when he told me he was Latino because you know “Drive” doesn’t sound Mexican [laughing].
Sean: Right! At that moment I realized that this music, this movement, this time in history was ours and we would be a part of it. After that it was an avalanche. I remember hearing the Plugz on Rodney (Rodney on the Roq, KROQ) and then seeing them live the first time. With surnames like Larriva and Quintana, it was not difficult to detect their ethnic identity. But the best part of all was the part that I feel most difficult to describe. It wasn’t that their last names were Spanish that was significant. It was that their art, their music, their creative output was also a part of a larger musical movement. In other words, this was not “Chicano” music. It was “punk.” That meant “we” were punk and nothing and no one could ever make us feel as if we were not an integral and important part of this burgeoning movement that I knew would live much longer than us and in fact burned brightly and quickly when it did.
Alice: For many of us, the strongest part of our identity during that time was being outside the mainstream, being punk.
Juan: Really, it was like “Who gives a fuck?” We were interested in the moment. Nobody thought about identity that much except for our punk identity, which was all-embracing. I felt embraced for who I was.
Hector: I never experienced any racism from any other people in the punk scene whatsoever. The punk scene was made up of a bunch of society’s misfits, regardless of race. What brought everyone together was not accepting society’s norms, and that included racism.
Margot: The early punk scene in California was a close-knit, inclusive community. We took care of each other for the most part, sharing food, putting people up, and helping others with survival regardless of ethnicity or gender. Although punk in the U.S. and U.K. was predominantly white, the L.A. scene had many racially-inclusive bands, especially in terms of Latinos. Some of the racially mixed bands back then were: The Zeros, Plugz, Nervous Gender, The Bags, Germs, The Dickies, Eyes, Alleycats, The Controllers (after adding drummer Mad Dog), and later Los Lobos, Kid Congo joining The Cramps, and others.
Kid: I never felt any racism in the first wave of punk. It was an open field for everyone, all races, women, gays, and men! I do know that the idea of labeling was taboo, so there was not politicizing of anyone’s roles. As a matter of fact, there was no talk of it. Same with the gays involved, we knew who was fucking whom, but there was never discussion—besides occasional gossip—about it. There were too many Chicanos involved to ever feel racism from within the scene. The Plugz, The Zeros, The Bags all were Chicano led bands that were extremely popular. We were seeing ourselves as if from a truly alternative perspective. We were something not constrained by labels.
Margaret: I didn’t experience racism directly, though there did seem to be a bit of underlying hostility or non-acceptance from a few individuals.
Alice: Like what? How did the non-acceptance display itself?
Margaret: It wasn’t out in the open. Once I remember Philomena, from Slash (Magazine) was talking to me and she told me I looked Spanish, when another girl who was in the room added, “She doesn’t took Spanish. She looks stone-cold Indian.” The non-acceptance was in her tone of voice.
Alice: How did you react?
Margaret: It caught me off guard. I just let it go, probably walked away.
Alice: Did you tell her how you felt?
Margaret: No, but I get that, even from my own people. It has to do with skin color.
Alice: You know, I would take “stone-cold Indian” as a compliment.
Margaret: Well, it wasn’t meant that way!
Alice: Yeah, I get it. I wish I’d known you better in those days so we could have called the girl out on her bullshit together! I always felt like I could speak my mind and I felt respected in that scene, so I’m sorry you had to go through that alone.
Trudie: I never experienced racism, because I don’t look ethnic. I am very white. Although, once I did experience whitey hate…
Alice: That’s racism, too!
Trudie: But that was not in the scene; it was much earlier.
Alice: It was rare in the Hollywood scene.
Good, Mean-Spirited Fun
Trudie: Remember the Plunger Hate List? We put any insult we could think of to fit each person. Not that I’m proud of it, but I can’t pretend I was a goody-goody. [Laughs]
Alice: What is this, confession time? You had a slam book. We made one of those in Cholita years later. It was good, mean-spirited fun! [Laughing]
Trudie: At the same time, we had no prejudice at all! [Laughing] It’s hard to explain, but I think you know what I mean. We liked to spout obnoxiousness to get a reaction, to instigate chaos! We were kind of like belligerent drunks—actually most of us were belligerent drunks)
Alice: I was a belligerent drunk a lot of the time and I said and did my share of distasteful and insensitive things, but I always felt like all those punks were my family. I will be the first to admit that I sometimes did pick fights for sport. They never had anything to do with race, but that’s a whole other story.
I think it’s important to note that nobody was denying their ethnicity and we did speak about each other’s backgrounds. We sometimes even joked about it. My rhythm guitarist, and later roommate, Craig Lee was Jewish and he and I often made cracks about each other’s heritage, but we laughed about it. It was funny because we knew, trusted, and respected each other.
I once went to a dinner party where a man I had just met made a joke about some dolls that were popular at the time. He called them Beaner Babies instead of Beanie Babies. I stared a hole through his head and the whole dinner party struggled to recover even after the guy apologized to me. There was no trust in that situation and I didn’t want to give him permission to continue to joke along those lines. So, yeah, I know what you mean Trudie. We trusted each other, so we could tease each other and laugh about it.
The Masque was one of those places where sacred cows and political correctness were definitely not in fashion. You couldn’t take yourself too seriously in the early days because punk was rooted in irreverence. If you did take yourself seriously, either by posing as a more adept musician, someone who had industry connections, or any other claims to political or artistic importance, then you might not be welcome.
Hellin: To the best of my knowledge, anyone and everyone was welcome at the Masque!
Hector: Anybody with an electric guitar, drums, bass guitar, singing or non-singing voice was pretty much accepted in the punk scene. The philosophy of the punks was DIY. It didn’t matter if you played the guitar like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page. On the contrary, just making something happen regardless of musical technique was the objective. Assholes were not welcome: skinheads, narcissists with delusional rockstar syndrome, and a few others.
Trudie: All sorts were welcomed, as long as they showed that they were loyal to the cause, usually by cutting their hair off. [laughs]
X-8: Everyone was welcome as long as you were different from the boring, mainstream music and people at the time—disco and Fleetwood Mac stuff.
Kid: The only requirement in my eyes was that you had to be bucking the system
twenty-four hours a day.
Margot: In 1977-8, the scene welcomed punk bands in general and by 1979, you began to see more diversity in genres: surf punk, death punk, goths, art bands, cerebral bands, folk punk, romantics, rockabilly, while some bands chose to evolve into pop or new wave. Those not welcome into the early scene were hippies, posers, spoiled rich kids, old rockers—back then that was people over thirty who did not appreciate our aesthetic or music—but certainly not on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, or gender. When a few punks started to wear swastikas, there was a backlash, best expressed by Jewish lesbian folk punk singer Phranc’s “Take off Your Swastikas.”
Alice: That was the cool thing about it. We took responsibility for our scene. Shannon Wilhelm , my roommate, and I made stenciled shirts that read “Die Nazi Scum” especially for the neo-nazis who started to come around. We harassed them until they took off their swastikas. The Masque and the Canterbury were like our homes and we may have been slobs, but we cleaned house on that occasion.
Seal: It was a very accepting scene. All kinds of people were welcome. Scrawny, pimple-faced misfits in bad fashion… no matter what you looked like, you could be cool. Even if you sounded bad and couldn’t play an instrument you could be accepted. Or, you could be a roadie! It seemed that everyone had ideas. Conversations happened. Fast friendships were formed.
Alice: Yeah, unlikely friendships that cut across all kinds of imaginary boundaries. People came from all over the place to be part of the burgeoning punk scene.
Mike: The scene was very small and everyone would tell each other what bands were coming up. If you went to more than a couple shows, people would begin to recognize you and start talking to you. It made me feel included. It was a way of keeping this scene growing. People had to talk to each other to make sure the bands were being supported—social networking before cell phones. We were Nervous Gender—a band made up of two gay Mexicans, a gay Irish guy, and a Jewish lesbian. I do not remember any band that was not welcome.
Alice: You would fit in at the Masque, if you were going to fit in anywhere! I know some people feel most at home in the place where they grew up but for those of us who were too different from those around us, that just wasn’t true. Back in 1976/77, I sometimes had my bands practice in my parents’ living room in East L.A. When we walked around outside in the neighborhood, people would look at us like the circus was in town! I was a freak in my own backyard! I think people reacted negatively not only to the way we dressed, but also to the music we were playing.
X-8: People thought we were crazy to like bands like the Ramones and the Germs. We used to argue with people in high school, who were into Genesis and Led Zeppelin. There was a faction of kids who thought they were cooler because they liked The Cars [laughs] Whittier was a very boring town. Although, as you know, it had great thrift stores. Nixon came from there and it was very conservative. We went to Hollywood to get away from that.
Mike: Growing up, I felt like an outsider. I do not fit in the Latino community or gay culture. Many people I met at the punk shows also seemed alienated and disenfranchised from where they came from. The overall feeling I got was that the world did not want us, so we all came to Hollywood to find a safe place to be.
Lands before Punk: Sexuality and Glitter
Alice: Ways of expression that are uncommon within your own ethnic group might lead to suspicion. Some of the stuff I was listening to was promoting ideas that challenged traditional values, especially in regards to sexuality and gender roles. I’m thinking of pre-punk bands like the New York Dolls, whose male members wore makeup and sometimes dressed in women’s clothes.
Seal: I didn’t realize I was different until the cholitas targeted me for listening to The Runaways. That was where my life changed: punk rock and gay…I was ready to fight!
Alice: The people doing the policing were often operating within patriarchal paradigms, which were threatened by the gender-bending of bands like the New York Dolls and the androgyny of performers like David Bowie or Patti Smith.
Robert: I saw the New York Dolls at an all-ages club when I was fourteen years old. It was JJ’s in San Diego, Saint Patrick’s Day 1974. My parents drove me and my two sisters. I was front row center.
Alice: Did people in Chula Vista make fun of you or give you a hard time for liking the New York Dolls?
Robert: They didn’t know!
Sean: The Dolls seemed to reflect a new aesthetic; I wasn’t sure what it was. I was far too young to understand it in a historical context and I certainly had never heard of anything like the Cockettes or Les Petite Bon Bons—though I soon would—but I did recognize an outsider when I saw one and the Dolls were like music for outsiders, the “new” outsiders.
Robert: The roots of punk is glitter.
Seal: I knew that I was gay and that’s when I started to feel different, but gay and bi were beginning to be okay by then.
Alice: More widely accepted in some circles maybe.
Seal: My brother and sister were seriously into Bowie and I knew every one of Bowie’s lyrics.
Alice: I was introduced to the idea of bisexuality from reading an interview with David Bowie. It immediately made me stop wondering what I was because I didn’t have to choose between identifying as gay or straight, I could be bi and according to Bowie that was just fine.
Juan: Bowie just blew all the doors wide open. It did make me feel like things were getting better. The band that made me realize I was going to write songs was The Velvet Underground. I thought, if Lou Reed can do this, so can I [laughter]. No, not because he was a hack but because of his genius. He inspired me.
Hector: I went to elementary school in Tecate, Mexico and lived with my grandmother for a few years but I always felt like I was in the wrong place. I’m a kid of the pop culture of the times: rock and roll, TV shows like the Munsters, Batman, Green Hornet, Beatles, Saturday morning cartoons. I did embrace the entertainment world of Mexican pop culture: lucha libre and its protagonists like El Santo, Blue Demon, and a few others, also Los Polivoces (a Mexican comedy team.)
Kid: I grew up hearing rancheras in my house and although I didn’t speak Spanish, I was drawn to the sounds of anger, revenge, or delight in their voices.
Alice: Rancheras are very emotional. I internalized some of that too.
Kid: In the Gun Club, Jeffrey Lee Pierce and I referenced neighborhood sounds of our San Gabriel Valley upbringing regularly: the mixture of oldies, R&B mixed with hard rock and psychedelic rock we heard coming out of garages as our neighborhood bands practiced. My sisters and cousins were very into Thee Midniters and would go to dances to see them. I remember their excitement in getting ready. As a pre-teen I didn’t know what Thee Midniters did, but I knew they made my teenage family members very excited. That excitement influenced me.
Juan: People compared Human Hands to the Talking Heads, but I think it was the rhythms and danceability of Cuban music that had slipped into our music.
Alice: Sometimes we’re not even aware of when or where our influences will surface.
Sean: Mexican culture definitely influenced my point of view as an artist. I grew up listening to Eydie Gorme and the Trio Los Panchos. It was like the soundtrack of my childhood.
Alice: Mine too—well, that and rancheras and Mexican pop, and soul. That Eydie Gorme and Los Panchos record is classic. Did that music influence your art?
Sean: When I did my first paper fashion show at Cal State L.A. in 1982 I was very specific about the music. The clothes were all new and shiny but I wanted the music to reflect something traditional, so instead of a disco beat like other fashion shows at the time, I chose traditional Mexican Mariachi music.
Alice: Sounds great!
Sean: Getting back to Eydie Gorme, I would like to point out that she was not Latina. Nonetheless, she sang beautifully and had tremendous command of the language. I thought it was wonderful. This is a very important point to me—if little Edith Gormezano, a Sephardic Jew from the Bronx could make an album of Mexican standards that sells millions of copies and gets played in Mexican homes all over the Southwest.
The point I’m trying to make is that we should not be limited to race-specific roles as regards our creative output no matter what our race. So the rules should apply to white as well as non-white races. I even hate saying non-white…
Alice: The rules should apply to everyone. I agree with you that artists should be free of race-specific expectations. Having said that, I want to add that I’m glad Eydie decided to collaborate with Los Panchos because there’s a big difference between a respectful cultural exchange of ideas and colonization of someone else’s culture.
You know, I’ve said on a number of occasions that I’m bored when I see yet another all-male, all-white band because I find it much more interesting to watch a band that reflects the diversity of their community, instead of buying into the pre-fab, hair-gelled, cute boy band model. I want to see different ethnicities, different genders, different body types onstage. It affects the way I see the world to see diversity represented. It thrills me when artists challenge society in these unspoken ways. From where I stand, punk is about challenging the status quo, not reinforcing it. I don’t want to knock the contributions of white males, I just want to see parity.
But since we were speaking of race-specific expectations, how did you feel about the nickname the Mexican Ramones?
Javier: I hated it.
Alice: Oh no, I’m sorry. I think I might have parroted that, thinking you were okay with the nickname, though when I really stop to think about it, I don’t know why I would think that.
Javier: First of all, I don’t think we sounded like the Ramones, we didn’t look like the Ramones, and I wasn’t Mexican. Mexican means you were born in Mexico, the people in Mexico called me Chicano. I feel like if we sang the Ramones’ songs in Spanish you could call us that, but we didn’t. Also calling us the Mexican Ramones seems to imply that what we did was not original.
Alice: It was!
Javier: It’s as if we heard the Ramones and then started a band. We were in a band before we heard the Ramones. We were influenced by all the glitter bands and solo artists I mentioned earlier. At our first show in Rosarito we covered “Pipeline” because I heard the Dolls play it when I saw them in San Diego and we also covered “Waiting for the Man” by the Velvet Underground. So I would say that the Dolls and the Velvets were probably our two biggest influences. When we were called The Mexican Ramones, I didn’t like it but I was happy we were getting written about at all and reviewed in the L.A. Times and other places so I took it in stride.
Hector: The story goes like this: Slash was interviewing The Screamers and Claude Bessy—may he rest in peace—asked Tomato Du Plenty what he thought of the Zeros and his response was… Ya sabes.
Alice: They’re the Mexican Ramones?
Hector: And of course it got printed and circulated and suddenly it’s “Hey, it’s the Mexican Ramones!” I didn’t like it but I had to accept it since it stuck like a barnacle on the Zeros boat.
Alice: How was that Rosarito show?
Hector: It was a quinceañera party for one of Javier’s relatives! Here are four teenage boys in tight pants and pointy shoes/boots looking like we walked out of a time machine circa 1966. The folks at the party stared at us like we had just landed from Mars.
Alice: [laughs] I can picture it.
Hector: Seriously, I felt the vibe. We played six tunes and got out of there fast! We had to borrow the musical equipment from a top 40 band in Tijuana and they were older musicians who were not happy about us using their stuff because we didn’t fit in. Is that punk? I think it is!
Alice: Totally punk! You ran all the way to Hollywood!
Hollywood: The Birthplace of Southern California Punk
Hector: Being the bass player in The Zeros and residing in San Diego, California, we had to drive to Hollywood in order to play live because back then, San Diego had nothing to offer a band like The Zeros. The first time we played in Hollywood was April 1976.
Javier: There really was not a scene in San Diego. We tried to play a few places but they wanted cover bands mostly. There was nowhere to play, and I mean nowhere. It took San Diego forever to get a scene going.
Alice: Neither San Diego, nor Whittier, nor East L.A was a viable alternative for us yet.
X-8: My first show was The Quick at the Whiskey in 1976. There wasn’t a punk scene at the time, but we used to listen to Rodney on The Roq and hear about what was going on in Hollywood. We used to take the bus from Whittier and go to Hollywood and see flyers of upcoming concerts. That’s where we heard about the Germs and Weirdos. It eventually inspired us to do a fanzine (FlipSide) in the summer of 1977. We printed the first couple of issues at the Whittier Library.
I felt that we (FlipSide) were accepted because we were giving the bands (and local celebrities) some publicity. But I think we would have been accepted anyway because we weren’t typical suburban kids. I lived at a fleabag hotel in Whittier.
Mike: It was early 1977. I had seen the Sex Pistols on TV. The next day I went to a record store in Long Beach and picked up the singles, “Anarchy in the UK” and “God Save the Queen.” Soon, I was going to shows, starting with a show at the Whisky a Go Go. The show was The Dickies and The Bags. I later found out that you—Alice, the lead singer of the Bags—went to the same junior high school.
Alice: Robert Louis Stevenson Jr. High in the house! [laughs]
Tito: It must have been 76/77 and Janet and I lived at the Geza X house along with Charlotte Caffey, Joe Ramirez, Joe Nanini, and, of course, Geza. I distinctly remember Charlotte and Joe Ramirez coming home one day all excited about a new club opening up in Hollywood.
Alice: The Masque!
Tito: Yes! Within weeks we all had bands.
Alice: That’s around the time that we were playing with Geza. We—The Bags—played our first gig there in the summer of 1977. The Masque had just gone from being a rehearsal studio to hosting live shows. It was an exciting time to be in Hollywood, so I moved there from East L.A. shortly after that gig. Hollywood and San Francisco were the two scenes that were happening at that time and I think many of us migrated from the suburbs to the city because we found acceptance there. It seemed that it was okay to be a weirdo in Hollywood. In fact, it was preferred.
Margaret: Platform shoes were traded in for spike heels for the girls and tennis shoes were traded in for black boots for the guys. If people showed up with long hair, they soon got punk hair. And clothes: second hand or thrift store or vintage was good. I remember seeing a sweet looking girl, kind of surfer-looking, and next time I saw her she had cut off and spiked up her long hair and was wearing a vintage dress, ripped stockings, black leather jacket, and leather work boots.
Alice: Yeah, there was an aesthetic, but it wasn’t a uniform. I remember spray painting clothes to wear to Weirdos concerts and each outfit was an original.
Margaret: Alice, I don’t think I ever saw you wearing the same thing twice. Remember the girl with the cigarette butts safety-pinned all over her pants?
Alice: I don’t remember, but it sounds cool! [Laughs] Better than wearing something too mainstream, as far as we were concerned. So the scene was open, but I think you had to understand the punk aesthetic.
Robert: It was open. We didn’t have the luxury to discriminate. Our numbers were too small, but we invited the world to discriminate against us. We wanted the others to hate us, but if we were hated it wasn’t for our race. That seemed the farthest thing from the point. We wanted others to hate us for the music we listened to, the way we dressed, and the way that we thought.
Alice: Because it wasn’t just about music or clothes. Like Hector said, it was about not blindly accepting society’s norms. We challenged the status quo with everything at our disposal—race, class, gender—but we did it by just being ourselves. We were happily, if inadvertently, messing with the outside world’s preconceived notions of what those things meant and that often pissed people off.
Seal: I never felt racism at all, or sexism or really any kind of bias. I mostly hung out with lots of dykes, but our social circles were a rainbow.
Kid: I fell in with gay musicians, performers, actors, actresses, photographers, and scenesters via The Screamers and their entourage who were performers from NYC Theater of the Ridiculous/La Mamma scene. People like Gorilla Rose, Styles Caldwell, Paul Ambrose, and of course, Tomata Du Plenty. Also Fayette Hauser from The Cockettes in San Francisco. These were the highly creative people of both and third, sexes, whom I was enamored with and they gladly acted as mentors. They really did help art direct the scene. I am positively sure of that. Certainly, I knew other musicians who were gay or figuring it out through punk. Like I said before, labels were taboo, so no one really discussed being gay. We were just tribespeople, perhaps in a sub genre. We were pretty invincible at that age with the force of the punk movement.
Mike: I had felt disenfranchised from both the place I grew up and the gay community. I did not need acceptance from the local East L.A. community. The people I met in the punk scene became an extended family. In many ways, gay people create surrogate families for their support in the same way the punk scene became my surrogate family. I call it the punk scene because the people I met were from all over the city, not just Hollywood. Hollywood was the only place bands could play, in the early days. The Hollywood scene included bands from across the city.
Alice: Yeah, in the early days kids came into Hollywood from the suburbs, but I think that sometime in late 1979 and early ‘80 the climate of punk in L.A. changed and punk spread out into the suburbs. By then, the idea of punk was popular enough that you didn’t have to leave home to find fellowship in Hollywood; you could play in your own backyard.
Kid: By that time, I was starting my own band The Gun Club, with Jeffrey Lee Pierce, who was also Mexican American and we bonded greatly by the “otherness” of our ethnic background and growing up in our respective San Gabriel Valley suburbs of La Puente and El Monte. We were misfits that felt outside of our own backgrounds, but somehow drawn to it, if only by instinct, by blood—a crazy dichotomy I find many Los Angeles Chicanos feel. We didn’t grow up speaking Spanish but we knew Spanish words, Mexican food, the importance of family, and customs well. I don’t think our band felt racism, but when “hardcore” happened we had little interest in it. It even seemed silly to me. Guess I was already an old coot!
Sean: There was a critical turning point for me and it was when I really knew it was time for me to move on. In the beginning we used to pogo dance. It was fun and it was not violent. As silly as it may seem now, it was enormous fun. If someone fell down, the other dancers would make room for them and help them get back on their feet in order to continue dancing. I distinctly remember Black Randy falling on his ass repeatedly at the Elks Lodge and each and every time we helped him up. His pants were falling down too. It was rather comical, actually.
Later, the mosh pit was born and dancing was no longer fun. The “pogo” was replaced by slam dancing and I felt uncomfortable once more. It was like being back in high school and the bullies were back in charge. Punk had changed.
Hellin: I think the shows were very different in the ‘70s. It all seemed much more like family. Everyone stuck up for each other and gender or race were irrelevant! Maybe people were kinda judgmental about long hair but it was more in fun.
In the ‘80s, things got weird. More new kids were influenced by the news propaganda saying punk was violent and they started trying to act like the skinheads in England who were driven by their own racial tensions. Things were not as safe or fun.
Seal: In my experience, things did change in the early ‘80s. I think it was socioeconomic though. As punks, we hurt each other all the time—mostly on the dance floor! It was mostly good-natured rough-housing with friends, but occasionally there were real fights, knock-down brawls with outsiders who thought our rough fun was an invitation to beat people up. We cut each other, tattoo’d each other. We were rough and tough. But at some point, the jocks got wind of the scene and came at us thinking it was okay to go into the pit and hurt anyone randomly. I went to a show at the Cuckoo’s Nest in Orange County. The Alleycats were playing with The Go-Go’s. The local guys were beating the shit out of the punks who were regulars to the music. Somebody pushed my head into the stage and I got a huge lump on my forehead. I was in the bathroom checking it out and a girl came and told me who it was. They were jocks! Big, meat-headed dudes in letter jackets. So, a bunch of us dykes fought back! To my recollection, we won. The bouncers threw them out for fighting girls!
You Can’t Step in the Same Punk River Twice
Alice: As punk expanded, it definitely picked up regional flavors—both good and bad. In some scenes it turned into a white male thing that I couldn’t get into. The Vex came along in 1979 and helped take the scene east of Chinatown where it had already taken hold in 1978. On March 12, 2012, the L.A. Weekly ran a piece by Nicholas Pell called “The Vex and Chicano Punk: a Very Brief History” for the L.A. Weekly that attempted to record the scene at the time, but only managed to paint an inaccurate picture that has continued to live on today. Pell at one point wrote in his article for the Weekly, “ …once punk proper hit with all its safety pins and mohawks, L.A. was home to two rival punk scenes: One in Hollyweird, another in East Los.” I don’t remember this rivalry at all.
X-8: There was no rivalry that I know of. I had already left the punk scene by 1979-80 because it became violent and it was no longer that fun. I never even made it to The Vex!
Hector: Keep in mind that a lot of these writers were still in grammar school when we were already doing our thing.
Robert: Did I know Nicholas Pell in 1976? Did you? Was he cute? Was he born yet?!
Alice: I don’t think he was around then. I think his writing is based on investigative journalism [laughing]. I Googled him. He looks well groomed. You might think he’s cute… He wears fedoras. His Twitter account says he tweets about egoism and masculinity among other things.
Robert: Well, I don’t remember a rivalry.
Mike: It never occurred to me to wonder where a band was from. I only cared if I could enjoy what the band was trying to do. They did not have to be good musicians. They just had to try and express themselves.
The Vex was only four blocks away from where I live. The only time I saw any negativity was when I saw Nervous Gender there. I was not in the band at the time and I went to support them. There was some homophobia directed at the band.
Tito: I don’t really remember any divide other than a geographical one. But then, as you know, I was a transplant, not an East L.A. native. I lived in Hollywood and considered myself a Holly Weirdo and as I remember it, the “Hollywood Punks” were well on their way by the time there was even an awareness that there was a viable punk thing happening on the East Side.
Hector: This bit about Hollywood and East L.A. not coming together, well, maybe into the ‘80s as more kids got into punk rock, but in the beginning EVERYTHING WAS HAPPENING IN HOLLYWOOD. There was no rivalry whatsoever.
Sean: This person is probably young and making claims in order to incite the masses.
Tito: It sounds like someone is trying to stir up some shit and make it look like there was more going on than truly was.
Alice: The problem is that this narrative is starting to take hold. The Smithsonian website for American Sabor has made similar claims saying that “Almost all the famous venues would not allow Eastside Chicano punks to play.” I’m from East L.A. No one kept me out of anything.
Robert: It sounds like West Side Story.
Alice: Yes, it does and it wasn’t like that at all. The Masque and the Vex scenes weren’t even concurrent and we somehow had a rivalry? I think it’s more complicated than that. Some of the punk bands that came along a little later felt that they were being discriminated against on the basis of race and somehow that got blamed on the Hollywood scene. Most of the people I know who were playing at the Vex didn’t have those racist experiences, but some people did and I don’t want to negate or make light of their experiences. The truth is that by late ‘79 things were already really different than they had been in the early years. The Hollywood scene was all but over by the time the Vex came along. So, I’d say that the rivalry is a myth, but allegations of racism in punk at large are possible. I mean, there were skinheads in those days. They weren’t hanging in our circles, but they were out there calling themselves punks.
Tito: All that skinhead nazi racist image came much later after the media and film inflated that aspect of the imagery, which was really more for shock value.
Alice: Nicholas goes on to say, “The Vex provided a platform for bands like The Plugz, The Brat and The Zeros, who were known as the “Mexican Ramones” and featured a young El Vez.”
Robert: I don’t remember ever playing the Vex. I quit the Zeros in 1978.
Alice: The Zeros and the Plugz were both already established by 1979, having honed their chops as part of the Hollywood scene. We claim you, not out of rivalry but out of accuracy.
Robert: By 1979 they (the Zeros without Robert) had moved to San Francisco.
Hector: I never heard of The Vex.
Javier: We never played there.
Alice: More myths…
X-8: FlipSide didn’t care where you came from. For example, we liked The Zeros and admired the fact they drove almost two hours from the San Diego area. If they could come up to Hollywood, why not bands from East L.A. and Orange County?
Alice: In 1976-77, it was wide open. Tito, you were part of the Hollywood scene first but you later played a key role in the East L.A. scene as well.
Tito: I arrived in Hollywood in 1975 and was not aware of what I call “The East L.A. Syndrome.”
Alice: When was this?
Tito: A little later. The East L.A. scene came later.
Alice: What did you experience in East L.A.?
Tito: In my naïveté after getting to know some of the few East L.A. punk bands, I noticed they didn’t play in Hollywood much or at all. Inspired by these bands, I created a record company to exclusively produce, record, and release East L.A. bands. I didn’t equate this with racism but more to a geographical problem. Knowing what I know now, I believe that many of the bands in East L.A. thought they were being ignored because of their race. I don’t think that was true, but then, I wasn’t from East L.A.
Alice: You can’t step into the same punk river twice, our experiences were different because they happened at different times. There were a lot of punk bands by 1980, so it might have been more difficult for people to get noticed or even get gigs. Or, maybe there were some racist bookers out there and we were just fortunate to never have met them. Was your company Fatima Records?
Tito: Yeah, Fatima was late in ‘79. The first record was Gun Club’s Fire of Love. We ran out of money and made a deal with Slash for that record then got Yolanda Comparan and Richard Duardo involved to do the Brat Attitudes EP (1980), then a few singles and other stuff.
Alice: Sounds like cooperation and support rather than rivalry. These situations are successful not because one group extends goodwill but because all parties are open to a creative exchange.
Brendan Mullen’s Ears Knew No Color
Alice: Many of the bands that played at The Vex played there by choice, not out of duress or for lack of other venues. On the topic of the Vex, several years ago, the Claremont Museum of Art presented an exhibit called “Vexing: Female Voices,” which focused on the contributions of punk women from East L.A. I was invited to participate despite the fact that I told the curators that I was not part of the East L.A. punk scene but of the Hollywood scene. They encouraged me to participate because I was born and raised in E.L.A.
During the wave of promotion that preceded the opening of the show I was asked to interview with a writer named Augustin Gurza for the L.A. Times. The interviewer had been given a brief history of The Vex and was looking for quotes for his story. Because I have a very good friend who had told me of her own experiences with racism in the punk scene, I was trying to be sensitive and respectful of her experiences and I inadvertently played into a drama that I had no idea was about to unfold.
I told Mr. Gurza that the punk scene I had experienced had been open to all, but he asked if some people had felt it was closed as that narrative had been already been presented to him. I thought of my friend and I explained to him that in later years, yes, some people felt the L.A. punk scene was closed off to them. I was not talking about the early Hollywood scene or the Masque because I knew that scene had happened much earlier. I went on to express support for the fact that E.L.A. punks had created their own venue and that it had thrived despite the fact that some of those punks had initially felt excluded. The interview was lengthy, but the quotes extracted failed to capture my intent and the article would come back to bite me in the butt. (LA Times, May 10, 2008. “Museum Showcases Female Punk Scene.”)
Soon after the interview came out I received an angry email from my good friend Brendan Mullen, the founder of the Masque, who accused me of selling out the Hollywood scene in order to be in line with the E.L.A. scene. I explained to him that I had done no such thing and after a flurry of emails back and forth we declared an uneasy truce. I felt bad that someone I considered a friend would accuse me of “playing the race card” for personal gain and I don’t know if I handled the situation as well as I might have, had I not felt attacked. I knew that Brendan felt wounded by the implication that the punk scene had been anything but egalitarian and, despite the fact that his name had never come up and that I had told the reporter that my own experiences had been of an open and inclusive scene, those items were minimized in the article.
Shortly after that, Brendan passed away and I was left feeling as though the wound I unintentionally inflicted on him hadn’t fully healed. I would love to be able to clear his reputation, so in case there’s any doubt, I never experienced any prejudice from Brendan.
Trudie: Brendan could be a royal ass at times, but never prejudiced regarding race!
Juan: Brendan was such a warm and open person, he would never put up with racist bullshit!
X-8: Brendan was great. The one thing he confided in me was at goth club Bar Sinister many years later and told me he was a closet goth. We never talked about race.
Margot: I definitely don’t think Brendan’s booking was discriminatory in any way. We were rehearsing at the Masque back then. One night at the Whisky parking lot Darby Crash came up to me and said, “You guys are playing at the Masque tonight.” I guess it was very spur of the moment.
Hector: Brendan Mullen was one of the top three or five people who kept the Hollywood punk scene alive. He did it by creating the Masque punk club and I stress the word punk. The Whisky and The Starwood were supportive of the punk scene in its inception, but they also had other bands like Van Halen, The Runaways, The Vapors, etc.—more commercial and non-threatening bands with a somewhat rockstar vibe. But, the Masque was primarily punk with a few exceptions like The Nerves and The Go-Go’s and a few others.
Alice: Brendan booked punk, plain and simple and if he liked you, he didn’t even have to hear your band. He might give you a gig just based on how he felt about you. Geza and Nickey Beat talked Brendan into giving us our first gig without ever playing him a single song. It was more about being on the same wavelength.
Mike: Brendan was always friendly to me from the first time I found my way to the Masque. When Nervous Gender was formed he was very supportive. He would come to our shows. When we saw each other at shows thirty years later, he would make sure to stop and check to see how I was doing.
Javier: I think the first time I met Brendan was when we played the Masque with The Nerves and F-Word. The Nerves had white suits on and I really liked F-Word. They were cool. We played the Masque a handful of times. I think we got about twenty bucks each time for gas back to San Diego.
Hector: The Zeros went to the Masque after a gig at The Whisky, if I’m not mistaken. We met Brendan and right away we liked him. He was a gentleman and very nice. Right away he offered us a gig after we told him we were a band. He was a super cool, down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy. He also supported the punk scene by making the Masque a rehearsal space. The Controllers used to rehearse there with Carla Maddog on drums. Brendan was about the music.
Sean: Brendan Mullen, Kateri Butler, Bibbe Hansen, and I often ate sushi together at Oomasa in downtown Los Angeles—sometimes by coincidence, sometimes by appointment. During these lively dinners we often spent a good deal of time discussing some of our favorite subjects—music and politics.
One evening I remember discussing something that bothered Brendan greatly. He said that he had heard several members of East L.A. punk bands claim that the Hollywood scene was tainted by racist overtones and that playing in Hollywood was virtually impossible due to this inherent bigotry. He knew that I was born and raised in East L.A. and had been on the scene at that time. He was curious to know if I felt the same way.
I assured him that I did not share this opinion, but I was also curious why he was so affected by this. Once again—in typical Brendan fashion—he worked himself up, not in a combative way but he did become indignant. He was very proud of the fact that the Masque, the club he founded and the birthplace of L.A. punk, was so integrated.
The pride was not boastful but natural for a person who looked at the world not through race-tinted glasses but usually through a pair of ears. As long as I knew Brendan, he was always focused on the music. It was the sound of things that fascinated him, from the sound of language and dialects to the rhythms created by people from all cultures. I don’t know if there was a genre of music he didn’t like—though he had strong opinions—and he seemed able to find something to appreciate in almost every culture’s music, especially if it was authentic.
After listening to Brendan rail against these accusations, I finally understood what upset him so greatly. It wasn’t being labeled a racist, although that was pretty bad considering nothing could be further from the truth. It was that it would not reflect his musical taste and the sincerity of his commitment to music.
Punk, at least in Los Angeles anyway, was born of a group of misfits, outsiders, weirdos, and those that don’t fit easily in society’s compartments. Who better to champion the creative output of this band of outsiders than an outsider himself? A Scotsman in a land of make believe—Hollywood—would surely find the real and true spirit of music in a city known for creating false realities, and he did. He was a man whose ears knew no color. He may not have liked your band or your music, but it had nothing to do with the color of your skin. Of that, I am completely sure.
Alice: Absolutely right, Sean. I could not have said it better. Brendan led by example and helped turn the Masque into our safe place to be creative and though it was home base for many punks in the early days, it was by no means the only place we had to play. Many clubs, not only in Hollywood but all over Southern California, were eager to cater to the rapidly growing taste for punk. The Whisky a Go-Go even had a punk drink menu for a short time. Aside from Hollywood, in what other cities—or neighborhoods in the Greater L.A. area— were you invited to play and or watch punk bands?
Margot: San Francisco, San Diego, South Bay, and Orange County.
Kid: I saw bands in many places like Huntington Beach, Redondo Beach, the San Fernando Valley…
Alice: It seems to me that those of us who were involved in the Hollywood scene were happy to play in any city that had a scene and was willing to host shows. The Bags played up and down the West Coast, Seattle, Portland…
Trudie: …San Francisco, San Diego, Downtown L.A., Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, San Bernardino, Burbank, North Hollywood, Camarillo, Orange County/Anaheim, Torrance. I’m sure there is more.
Alice: Trudie and Hellin, you saw the Sex Pistols in Texas! Punk knew no boundaries. Except for maybe the national border…
Margot: When I was touring with my second band, Brian Brain, I experienced the most blatant racism in my punk career: I was racially profiled by Border Patrol and detained for no reason. While we were driving out of El Paso, Texas late at night, two very piggish border agents pulled our van over and assumed that a British punk rock band had just smuggled a Mexican woman across the border. They would not accept my California driver’s license, the only I.D. I had, as proof that I was in the country legally. I am a U.S. citizen. They said, “Anyone can get one of those.” I argued that I was within the U.S. and that I was not required to carry my passport but they would not listen and they detained me in a bungalow for hours, interrogating me on U. S. history and civics while the band (one member’s visa had expired, but since he was white, they did not even check his passport) and crew waited nervously outside, fearing their bass player would be deported. That’s Texas!
Alice: Racism, sexism, homophobia—all those things are still out there but for a few brief moments, for a small group of Hollywood punks, they ceased to exist.
Pretty Fair and Open
The myth that the Hollywood scene was racially discriminatory is sometimes used to explain the genesis of the East L.A. scene which blossomed around the Vex in late 1979, early 1980. I think we can call that myth “busted.”
As the decade of the seventies came to a close, punk spread throughout the country, from the big urban cities where it had first taken hold out into the suburbs. Once there, it picked up the flavor of those particular communities. The Hollywood punk scene, which had once been a small, inclusive group of misfits ceased to exist in that state. There was never any feeling of rivalry between the original Hollywood scene and the East L.A. scene. As the L.A. scene expanded, it included a much broader collection of humanity and a wider range of ideals. The expansion brought positives as well as negatives and those differences may have stirred tensions in the early ‘80s.
I remember our scene—the original Hollywood scene—as egalitarian. It wasn’t perfect or utopian, but it was pretty fair and open. We were not goody-goodies, not by a long shot. We were not always politically correct, but by and large we treated each other with respect. By 1980, I began pulling myself away from the Hollywood scene. Too many of my friends were involved with drugs—especially heroin—and I started to lose them. I felt the lure of temptation. It would have been all too easy to slip into drug abuse and I wanted to avoid that particular pothole. At the same time, the audiences at our shows were changing, becoming more uniform, male-dominated, and less colorful. They didn’t connect with our music in the same way the Masque audiences had, so I moved on.
I hope that you will consider the accounts of those of us who were there when you hear or read misinformed writers or people with revisionist agendas tell our story. Go to the source. Just because something is in print doesn’t make it true, even if the print appears in the Smithsonian catalog or the L.A. Times.
Question authority. Always.
The Past Remains Largely Unwritten
Michelle Habell-Pallan, Guest Curator, American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, reveals the behind-the-scenes of the traveling exhibit.
Thanks for this opportunity to give context. First, as one of the three curators of Experience Music Project’s American Sabor, we send a big thank you to all the musicians, fans, and people behind the scenes whose creative energy conjured a vital, musical spirit. They’ve been the inspiration for our project that seeks to remember and share their creations via educational formats. Younger generations don’t often have the opportunity to learn about the influence of Chicana/o and Latina/o communities in the making of what is considered “American” pop music as it has occurred across time and geography. We live in a moment in which the humanity and sheer diversity our communities are represented and remembered in are astonishingly narrow by mainstream corporate media and academia. Apparently, we have just arrived and have nothing to do with music scenes that occurred prior to this moment.
The music tells us this is not true. That’s one of the reasons we desired to tell a different story based on evidence in the music itself. Across time and geography our music has often served as a response to those narrow definitions. Alice is right to be disturbed by the website’s inaccuracies and so are we. We worked so hard to listen deeply and get the story right from the start because it is not often that we get the chance to share these stories in a traveling exhibit format. We never had the chance to review or consent to the inaccurate changes in our text as it was rewritten by editors at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit Service for the website version.
We were initially very excited about the website’s potential and appreciated the design of the website. We were shocked and appalled when we realized that our original text had been altered when the exhibit was condensed into a more compact traveling exhibit that included the website as a companion. As soon as we saw the inaccuracies, we insisted they be changed and that the tour of the physical exhibit be halted until corrected. We went back and forth until corrected panels were made to replace the inaccurate ones for the traveling exhibit, now currently at CSU Los Angeles. The website changes are currently underway! Unfortunately, the punk section wasn’t the only section altered; so was the salsa section and others. It remains a mystery to us why the changes were made in the first place.
The altered text’s implication that the Hollywood punk scene was hostile to Latinos/as is confounding because the exhibit highlights how Chicanas like Alice were part of and helped make the Hollywood punk scene. The exhibit also asks why punk as a genre is rarely included in overarching scholarly histories of Latina music that document the music shared in Latino/a communities. Viewers can also listen to oral histories on the website that give a different perspective from the text and listen to sound modules that let the music tell the story. Notably, Alice’s own book, Violence Girl: East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage: a Chicana Punk Memoir, provides a much needed account of the openness of the scene.
We hoped the exhibit would start a conversation about the musicians and scenes featured there and move others to create new exhibits, write new histories, and generally share their stories. It’s important to keep the dialogue going as this exhibit can serve as an entry into new discussions. It’s very exciting to read Alice’s never-before-published, amazing and much-needed interviews with the OG’s here in Razorcake. Her article invites further investigation that will likely inspire new books, testimonios, music, and fans.
We also wanted to keep the story an open and evolving one. To that end, the American Sabor website blog invites music makers and lovers to upload their own stories for posting and preservation. When the exhibit concludes, the Library of Congress will archive posts for posterity. This is a rare opportunity to preserve our collective stories in this manner. This is one way to keep American Sabor an open story, with new voices that discuss their own experiences. We invite folks to post here so that their stories shape histories now and those written in the future. Can’t wait to read them now and for our great, great grandchildren to read them!
Michelle Habell-Pallan is the Associate Professor Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality and Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Music and Department of Communication at the University of Washington and author of Loca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture (NYU Press)
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