Originally printed in Razorcake #75, 2013, here is a printable PDF and full text of Nardwuar’s interview with Alice Bag. We made this stand-alone zine for of Self-Help Graphics’ 2016 Dia de Los Muertos celebration.
This zine is also available directly from Razorcake.
Nardwuar the Human Serviette Vs. Alice Bag
Alice Bag and her band The Bags set the bar for the catchy, punchy, and intense punk rock emanating out of Los Angeles in the late 1970s. The band lasted until 1981 but a Dangerhouse single here and a compilation appearance there was all that was really necessary to cement their legendary status. Behind the songs and gigs, Alice had her own fascinating back story, one that was not fully captured until the release of her book Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, A Chicana Punk Story.
In true punk rock fashion (and I am using the word “punk” a lot here!), Alice has been taking her book on tour, doing readings and solo performances at select venues. I was lucky enough to be able to Skype away with Ms. Alice “Douche” Bag before she stopped in Vancouver, BC’s Red Cat Records. Here’s what happened….
Nardwuar: Who are you?
Alice: I’m Alice Bag. I was in a band back in 1977 in Los Angeles called The Bags. We wore bags over our heads. Then I became a teacher and I was in a bunch of different bands, mostly in L.A. Now I’m an author.
Nardwuar: And speaking of Alice Bag and authorisms, you’d like to say something to the people of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, wouldn’t you? You’re coming here this Sunday.
Alice: Yes, Sunday at Red Cat, four o’ clock. Please come.
Nardwuar: What exactly will be happening, Alice Bag, author of Violence Girl?
Alice: I’ll be reading excerpts from my book and playing a few songs, and the songs are going to go along with the excerpts. So if I read something from my childhood, I will try and play something from that time—we’ll move through the story sequentially that way.
Nardwuar: So Alice, right off the bat, you could’ve retired from rock and roll in 1975, couldn’t you?
Alice: [laughs] 1975?
Nardwuar: Yes, you could’ve retired in 1975.
Alice: I don’t know about that. I don’t think I can ever retire.
Nardwuar: I think you could’ve retired in 1975 because you met Michael Jackson.
Nardwuar: Is this true, Alice Bag?
Alice: Yes, yes it is true. He rolled up in a limousine. I was stalking Elton outside of CBS, waiting for him to film The Cher Show, and this limousine drove up and rolled down the window. There was a young Michael Jackson who was wondering what we were up to. He was so friendly. It’s hard to believe that he went through so many changes and is gone now. But yeah, it was very exciting at the time.
Nardwuar: At that time, how were you dressed? What did Michael Jackson see, Alice Bag?
Alice: He saw me in very short hair and Elton John glasses because I was a huge Elton fan. I had these giant spectacles with rhinestones all around. I had ditched school, so I’m not sure if I had changed out of my uniform or if I was wearing my Elton John pants. I had these pants that I wore when I was on my stalking missions that were just a pair of jeans on which I’d sewn the word “Elton” in silver lamé. So I would’ve looked freakish.
Nardwuar: Meeting Michael Jackson, 1975—reason to retire number one for Alice Bag. But number two reason to retire, was all the way back after playing at a cast party for M*A*S*H.
Alice: [laughs] I know, isn’t that funny? Yeah, and I got to meet Hot Lips Houlihan. That was her name, right?
Nardwuar: It was indeed.
Nardwuar: I just love the idea of Hollywood. Like, god bless Hollywood, right? For some rock and rollers, like for me, meeting Michael Jackson, playing a cast party for M*A*S*H in The Bags, did it get any better than that?
Alice: [laughs] Well, I was in a band with a guy who used to write episodes for—wait, wait, wait. Let me back it up to M*A*S*H. I’m sure you know this, but Joanna Lee—who was Craig Lee’s mother, who was my guitarist—Joanna Lee was actually in Plan 9 from Outer Space. So I was in a band with the alien’s son.
Nardwuar: Well, that’s reason number three that you could retire early from rock and roll, Alice Bag. That’s amazing to be in the same band with somebody that was in—what did she do in Plan 9 From Outer Space?
Alice: She was one of the aliens.
Nardwuar: Going back to the M*A*S*H party, The Bags—a fierce punk rock band— playing for M*A*S*H people. Were they ready for an onslaught?
Alice: No. [laughs] I don’t think they were ready. They sat there with their canapés looking at us sort of dumbfounded. But they were very nice. They were very polite. I think Joanna introduced us as her son’s band, so people were tolerant.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, I read a great review for your book, Violence Girl, in Razorcake and I thought that I would begin with the question that they asked in their review: Why didn’t you go for lunch with Oprah?
Alice: The real reason I didn’t go to lunch with Oprah is because I couldn’t go to lunch with Oprah, because I was singing back-up with El Vez, and El Vez was going to be on the show. So we were going to fly out and Robert (Lopez), El Vez, was late for the flight. So our luggage somehow ended up on another plane at another airport, and we didn’t have clothes. Her secretary called and invited us to dinner with Oprah because she was dining with all her guests. It was in a nice restaurant and we had no clothes, so we couldn’t go. I had a pair of torn jeans and a Ramones T-shirt on, I think. So that’s the real reason I turned down dinner with Oprah.
Nardwuar: Alice, your book Violence Girl—does it have the world record for chapters? How many chapters are in it?
Alice: I don’t know. I haven’t counted them. It sounds like a good contest, though. [laughs]
Nardwuar: It makes it so easy to read—I love it. I was kind of thinking, “Alice was from The Bags and still is rocking, and is like, punk rock at heart, and that’s why the chapters are short, like punk rock songs. Why are they so short, the chapters? Why are they so short?
Alice: Because they’re like punk rock songs, exactly. [laughs] No, no, no. The real reason they’re short is because I was blogging and I would write a chapter every day. That seemed to me the right length for a blog entry.
Nardwuar: And for people who don’t know, you grew up where, Alice Bag?
Alice: I grew up in East LA.
Nardwuar: Ditman Avenue.
Alice: Ditman Avenue. [laughs]
Nardwuar: And growing up, you mention in your book Violence Girl, a lot about Mexican garage rock, at least a few allusions to it. Like Los Teen Tops and Thee Midniters.
Nardwuar: Do you ever think of covering any of those bands, like Thee Midniters’ “I Found a Peanut”?
Alice: [laughs] Oh, wow. No, I haven’t thought of covering them, but maybe I should. Now that I’m doing this, I’m thinking of trying cover versions of some of these songs that are popular in certain areas. Yet, a lot of people have never heard of Thee Midniters. I really like “That’s All.” You know that song?
Nardwuar: I love all Thee Midnighters stuff. Yeah, it’s amazing. My favorite, I guess, is “I Found a Peanut.”
Alice: [laughs] Okay.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, growing up, your family was involved in dumpster diving. What can you tell the people about that? Dumpster diving for fabric and then selling it at swap meets?
Alice: Well, my dad was a carpenter and he didn’t always find construction work, so there was a period of time where he was not getting any work. So we would go downtown to the garment district and my parents would hop into the dumpsters and pull out these rolls of fabric that might just have a couple yards left, or these big books of samples which were like bound books that had maybe a square about… a foot by a foot. My mom would rip out the squares, take them home, make quilts, and then we’d display them at the swap meet, and that’s how we made our living for a while.
Nardwuar: Downtown in L.A., there’s Clifton’s—it’s been there for years. What was Clifton’s like way back when and how does it differ from the way Clifton’s is today? It’s a legendary cafeteria. Was it always the same?
Alice: I don’t know what it’s like now. I don’t even know if it’s open anymore. We used to go on weekends, mostly, and there were usually religious people outside singing songs, playing tambourines, and calling you to come join the congregation. We’d make our way through that [laughs] and pick up a tray. And you walk in and there’s a waterfall and there are tables. It was like a tiered dining area, so there were little balconies on either side. If you walked up to the very top level, the top floor was all red velvet curtains and red carpeting, and it looked really plush. And there was even a little chapel on the side where you could pray before you ate. So it was really, really a cool place.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, in the book Violence Girl, there is some violence. Like a car chase that your dad took you on. That seemed frightening and wild.
Alice: Yeah, it was. My dad had a really bad temper and usually it was directed at my mother, but sometimes it was directed at other people. Just being in his presence when he was being violent, even if it wasn’t toward you, it was just—it was a really ugly thing. It’s scary. It’s scary being in a car where the driver doesn’t have control. My mother was driving and my father was stepping on her foot, trying to get her to run the red light so that he could catch somebody, so that he could beat him up. So it was frightening.
Nardwuar: And he did catch him.
Alice: Yeah. And he did punch him out.
Nardwuar: The amount of violence your dad showed toward your mom and family is pretty intense. Have you encountered other punk rockers who’ve had similar upbringings at all? Like, the amount of violence you encountered in your family really is unreal.
Alice: I don’t know that people feel comfortable talking about it, or even maybe admitting it to themselves. I tried not to think about that stuff for a long time until I was writing the book. No, I didn’t want to think about it. It’s something uncomfortable to think about. So there were certain things that would trigger memories—if I saw a movie or TV show or something. I remember watching Monster and thinking, “I can relate to her”… just that fury, that rage. But I don’t know what people have experienced because everybody is not writing a book and talking about it. But, for me, it seemed like it was just the depths of horror.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, your book Violence Girl has so many great punk tidbits, but also so many great tidbits from you growing up. For instance, in your book, you talk about a guy in high school who chucked dog biscuits at you and then threw a school desk out the window and didn’t get in trouble. And then you made him bleed. How come he didn’t get in trouble for chucking a school desk out the window?
Alice: Because the teacher was afraid of him. The teacher was probably just trying to make it through the day and this guy was probably bigger than the teacher. I think he was actually taller than the teacher and much fiercer and angrier.
Nardwuar: But you weren’t afraid to make him bleed, though. You actually made him bleed.
Alice: I actually did, but it was—you get to that point when you’re angry where you don’t even think about that kind of stuff. At least I do. Where it doesn’t matter because something snaps and you’re just gonna get that other person. No matter what happens to you. It didn’t matter at that point—I just wanted to stick my fingernails in his face and scratch it up.
Nardwuar: Did he bring the dog biscuits to school everyday with him? What were the dog biscuits doing there?
Alice: [laughs] I think he brought the dog biscuits to throw at me. I don’t know what they were doing there, but… I don’t know.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, you also don’t like Bic pens very much, do you?
Alice: [laughs] Yeah…
Nardwuar: You had some anger directed at a Bic pen. You got mad at a Bic pen, didn’t you?
Alice: I got mad at the girl who was attached to the Bic pen. I was bullied a lot in school. I was kind of awkward and this girl would just torture me. She’d call me names and push me around. One day, I was walking up the steps toward the bathroom in junior high school and she shoved me. Again, something snapped and I just turned around automatically, without thinking about it, to push her back. As I turned around, I hit a pen that had happened to be in her mouth—I hit it with the flat side of my palm and shoved it into her throat, and her throat started bleeding.
Nardwuar: And afterwards you became the cause célèbre of the entire school, right? Everybody loved you for doing that?
Alice: Yeah, actually! [laughs] People treated me with a little more respect after that.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, who was Hunch Butt?
Alice: Oh no! [laughs] Oh, that was that horrible nickname that I was given in junior high school.
Nardwuar: But you loved the nickname, didn’t you? You mentioned in your book, Violence Girl, that you loved the nickname. You thought it was a clever nickname. You hated being called it, but you couldn’t deny it was a good nickname?
Alice: I didn’t love it. No, I hated it because it was funny, so people used it. If something doesn’t have a bit of truth to it, it’s not funny. That was clever and it was funny, and my butt sort of, you know, had that shape. [laughs] So unfortunately it fit, and people used it. But I did not love it. I hated it.
Nardwuar: And in the book Violence Girl, you remember so much with such detail. I love that you remember the Germs joke. Can you tell us the Germs joke that Darby told you? It’s so awesome.
Alice: [laughs] Yeah. “Did you hear about the guy who got his left side cut off?”
Alice: “He’s all right now.”
Nardwuar: And there’s part two to that as well, right? This is really from Darby Crash, right?
Alice: This is really from Darby Crash.
Nardwuar: We’re channeling him right now.
Alice: “Did you hear about the guy that got his right side cut off?”
Alice: “He’s lucky to have what’s left.”
Nardwuar: Ba-BOOM! Did you use that on stage at all for stage banter?
Alice: No, but I did repeat it to all my friends for a long time, because it was so funny.
Nardwuar: When Darby was ripping your bag off your head—because when you were in The Bags, a lot of times in the early gigs you wore bags on your head—that was kinda mean, wasn’t it? Was Darby kinda mean or was that just something he would do to everybody?
Alice: Oh god no, he was not mean. During those days, he was really, really sweet, and was mostly just drunk and wanted to hang on people. And, as a matter of fact, I would go to his shows and pull on his clothes, so it was payback. It was sort of something he did in fun.
Nardwuar: But he liked that though, you were saying. He liked that happening. You didn’t really like having the bag pulled off your head.
Alice: I didn’t like the bag pulled off my head. He really didn’t want me to wear a bag. We were pretty good friends and he thought he knew better. So he told me, “If you wear a bag on your head, I’m gonna rip it off.” The first time we stepped on stage, he started pulling at it. Eventually he ripped a big chunk out of the side of my bag, and I ended up having to sing peeking out of this rip on the side instead of the proper eyeholes, which is how any decent band with bags on their heads is going to be singing.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag from The Bags and also author of Violence Girl, Sherwood Schwartz from Gilligan’s Island was Elton John’s body double decoy?
Alice: [laughs] No! No, he happened to be at the Santa Monica Civic on the day when we were stalking Elton. I was a big-time Elton John stalker, so I found out that Elton was going to be at the Santa Monica Civic and my friends and I waited outside. We tried to get on the premises and we were being constantly run off by the guards. But one of the people who actually talked to us was Sherwood Schwartz, and he was really nice. Again, it was sort of like that Michael Jackson thing where he just wanted to know what these young girls were up to, hanging out, laughing, you know.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag from The Bags, did you invent the term “douchebag”?
Alice: I didn’t invent it. I didn’t.
Nardwuar: Was that a very early instance of the word “douchebag”? Because you were Douche Bag before a lot of people were douchebags, right?
Alice: I was. And I was a proud douchebag, too. All the members of The Bags took the last name “Bag,” but then it wasn’t enough for us so we decided to name ourselves a particular type of bag. Patricia was Trash Bag, Craig Lee was Bag Teria, Terry, who we call Dad, was Bag Dad, and… what was Rob Ritter? Oh my goodness. Rob Ritter played guitar with us and… oh, of course I’m gonna forget…
Nardwuar: Shopping Bag?
Alice: Yes! Thank you! And I was Douche Bag. [laughs] I love it that you know the answers.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, author of Violence Girl, did Freddy Mercury inadvertently cause Patricia Morrison—Pat Bag’s—finger to get chopped off?
Alice: I don’t know if Freddie Mercury caused it. He did hand her a glass from the stage, and perhaps may have looked at her and looked at someone else at the same time or a second later. But Patricia had a glass of wine in her hand. Another girl who thought it was for her grabbed it out of her hand and ended up cutting a big chunk of Patricia’s finger off. But we had front row center seats for that show. We were like, eight feet away from Freddie Mercury, which was really exciting for us. We’d spent the night at the local scalper’s shop, and when we got in, we were the first people in. Those were the best seats I’ve ever had for a concert. But look what it cost us!
Nardwuar: What did it cost you?
Alice: It cost us a big chunk of Patricia’s finger. She couldn’t play for months after that.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, is the song by The Bags “We Don’t Need No English” about Zippers?
Alice: Oh, wow! No, it’s not. “We Don’t Need No English” was written by Craig Lee and it was in reaction to, I believe, a Stranglers song. I can’t tell you the whole story because I didn’t write the song, but it was something negative that was said about Americans and Craig Lee was reacting to that.
Nardwuar: I thought it was about your friend Mr. Zippers, the Brit.
Alice: No, but I do remember Zippers.
Nardwuar: There’s great footage of The Bags playing in Portland, Oregon on YouTube that people can check out like, right now. Amazing footage. Is that the gig that Jello Biafra is in the audience? Do you know the footage I’m referring to?
Alice: I do. And, yes, Jello was there. They (Dead Kennedys) were actually supposed to do some of those shows. I think they were supposed to play the Iggy Pop show in Seattle and possibly The Long Goodbye in Portland, also. I don’t remember what the reason was that they weren’t on the bill, but Jello was there and he was really supportive. Jello was always great to have around because he’s just fun.
Nardwuar: You were saying in your book Violence Girl that perhaps it maybe wasn’t your best gig or best tour, but you guys look totally on it. I loved it!
Alice: Oh, thank you. No, it was the tour that happened right before we broke up, and I felt like we were all on edge.
Nardwuar: In the movie The Decline of Western Civilization, the Alice Bag pad is featured. You’d mentioned about fighting happening backstage before you went on. Wasn’t there punk unity? Why was there fighting?
Alice: I think there was no punk unity at that particular time. People wanted to be filmed early in the evening because there were a lot of bands that were on that bill. I think there were five bands and nobody wanted to go on last because it was being filmed, it was late, everything was running later than normal, and we all had kind of figured out that people would be tired by the fifth band.
I think I was the only woman backstage at that point and I was also probably the one who had been around the longest, so they listened to me. I said, “Let’s not fight. Let’s draw straws!” We drew the short straw and ended up going on fifth, which was really unfortunate because we were out of steam, the audience was out of steam. I could not stand to look at The Decline. If it’s showing, I can be in the same room with it, but I try not to watch it because I have a hard time just watching that show. It’s difficult for me. I’m not happy with our performance, not happy with the whole thing.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, did you ever meet Jack LaLanne?
Alice: No, I wish! [laughs]
Nardwuar: You worked for him for a couple years, right?
Alice: I did. I was an exercise instructor and I was in very good health at the time. I worked at the Miracle Mile (mid-city L.A.) and we did twelve-hour shifts every other day, because at that time women and men had to have different workout days. I eventually quit. But the whole story is in my book, Violence Girl.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, you were a great fan of The Weirdos from Los Angeles.
Alice: Yeah, I still am. They’re always gonna be my favorite punk band, I think. I just have an emotional attachment to them.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, was the fight between Nicky from The Weirdos and Tom Waits really a draw?
Alice: I think it was. It was eventually busted up by the bouncers who were surrounding us.
Nardwuar: Maybe a bit of background on that. It sounds kind of interesting. I love the idea that a fight was actually set up. What happened?
Alice: Yes. Well, what happened was that Tom Waits had made a disparaging remark about Nicky Beat—he called him a dipshit. Oh, I’m sorry!
Nardwuar: That’s okay. In the Nardwuar Human Serviette Radio Show, you can say “dipshit.”
Alice: Okay. [laughs] So… what else can I say? Because then I could tell you the whole conversation.
Nardwuar: Oh, please, go for it.
Alice: [laughs] So, Tom Waits knew that we were going to be playing. He had met me and I was very friendly, because I had no idea that he was going to turn out to be a jerk. So I invited him to The Bags’ show at the Troubadour, and later he went on to make the comment about Nicky. So he showed up to watch The Bags at the Troubadour and Nicky Beat was playing drums with us because we had lost our drummer. When Nicky found out that Tom was in the audience he was really, really mad, and before we even played, we walked up on the stage, we’re all getting ready to play, and Nicky went up to the microphone and called him a “bloody cunt.”
Tom just sat there, looking at him—he didn’t react. We started playing and our fans started—in those days, you had these rock clubs that had long sets of tables and chairs lined up to the front of the stage so that people would have a two or three drink minimum. They would be the people who were sitting at the front of the stage. But of course, our fans didn’t have that kind of money, so they just proceeded to throw the chairs and the tables out of the way so they could pogo.
The band starts playing, tables and chairs are flying, and at the end of the night… well, Tom Waits, first of all, is just sitting there. Stoic. He’s watching the band, refusing to move, he’s not having fun, he’s just glaring at Nicky. At the end of the night, the show’s over, the club is destroyed except for the one little area where Tom Waits and his friends are sitting, the premises are vacated, we’re getting ready to move our stuff out, and they lock us in. We don’t know what’s happening. We don’t know if they’re going to hold us responsible or take away our equipment or what they’re gonna do, but it turns out that all they really wanted was for Tom Waits and Nicky Beats to have it out. So these bouncers from the club make a big circle around Nicky and Tom, and they start duking it out.
Nardwuar: So did the bouncers decide that they should duke it out? Like, say Tom didn’t wanna fight Nicky.
Alice: Yeah maybe, I don’t know. I think Tom did wanna fight Nicky, though. Tom was very aggressive. He called me a whore, actually. He was yelling at me too, because I was apparently to blame for whatever had happened.
Nardwuar: Has his side of the story ever come out at all? Has he ever been confronted about this?
Alice: I think it’s been confronted, but I don’t think he’s ever given his side of the story. I’m curious.
Nardwuar: And that’s one of the tidbits you’ll get in Violence Girl, isn’t it, Alice?
Alice: Yes! And you’ll get it in more detail.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, Nicky from The Weirdos and filling in with The Bags, he saved all the packaging from all the meals he ever ate with you?
Alice: Well, there were an awful lot of packages in the cupboards. I don’t know if it was every single package, but there were boxes and jars… jars full of water, like Ragu, peanut butter and all that, they were rinsed and nicely lined up in the cupboards of our apartment.
Nardwuar: So he’s like an early purveyor of recycling, maybe, or something like that.
Alice: Perhaps. Yeah, and all the cereal boxes were folded neatly and stacked up like books in a library.
Nardwuar: Which kind of freaked you out because you didn’t think that everything was kept, you thought it was just chucked out.
Alice: Yeah, it was funny because Nicky had to have things his way, and one of the things he had to have his way was that he had to make all the meals. Which, you know… [laughs] That’s fine with me. So he wouldn’t let me in the kitchen. He did all the cooking and he’d just ask me to come in and eat. He had to wash the dishes and do everything, because he wanted it done his way. And he had to do the laundry because it had to be rinsed twice because he could feel detergent on his body.
All those things that Nicky wanted to do just happened to be the things that I don’t particularly mind giving up. So it worked out really nicely until we broke up and then that’s when I discovered the jars and boxes and stuff. I think it was kinda funny.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, you met Sid Vicious onstage. Is that when you first met him?
Alice: That was my only introduction to Sid Vicious, yes. He was in the audience when we played in San Francisco. We played the Mabuhay around the same time. We set up a gig specifically because we wanted to see the Sex Pistols play, and we wanted our trip to pay for itself, so we set up a show.
Nardwuar: Which is kinda genius. I was thinking, when you mentioned that in the book, that all the clubs would’ve been booked. Were other bands trying to do that or were you the only people that were that crafty?
Alice: Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t do the booking. Craig Lee did the booking, so he’s the clever one. It just turned out that he and my friend Helen showed up…
Nardwuar: Wait a second, we gotta go back here. Your friend Helen—come on!
Alice: Helen Killer.
Nardwuar: The legendary Helen Killer.
Alice: The legendary Helen Killer. Yeah, she was hanging out with Sid and she brought him to our show, and it was wonderful. I was onstage and Sid was bopping his head to our music and all of a sudden he just decided that he wanted to be up there. He started to roll around on the stage, and I describe his dance as sort of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn because he was kinda kicking his legs and his little paws up in the air. After he rolled around for a while, he got up and he came over and put his arm around me, and tried to grab the microphone to sing along with me. But I wouldn’t let go of the mic. I was still thinking, “This is a Bags show, I’m gonna keep singing.” Sid just kinda hung onto me and swayed around the stage with me, which was, of course, just amazing for me. I was a fan too, so it was really exciting.
Nardwuar: Did you know it was Sid Vicious though, and not an imposter?
Alice: I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Sid Vicious.
Nardwuar: And how did Helen meet Sid?
Alice: I think Helen met Sid because the Plungers had actually gone to Texas, I think, to see them at an earlier show and they’d met them there.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag—blood. You were into cutting yourself quite a bit.
Alice: Yeah, there was a time in my life where I felt disconnected from humanity, and I felt like cutting myself just made me feel like I was alive. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but for some reason it just maybe made me aware of my body, made me aware of pain, and it was a time when I felt like I couldn’t even feel pain. I felt very numb. So I started cutting myself. I was having a hard time dealing with a lot of different things. I eventually stopped cutting myself. I moved back home, went to school, and started just being more introspective and figuring out what was going on with me. I gave up cutting.
Nardwuar: Did you ever get a Germs burn?
Alice: No, I was offered a Germs burn. Darby tried very hard to burn me, but I threatened his life. [laughs] I would not allow him to burn me.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, what was it like working at Arby’s in the 1970s? Do you have any trade secrets you can tell us?
Alice: Trade secrets… no, I don’t have any trade secrets. I was a total failure at working at Arby’s. I got fired. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I tried to trade my roommate, Sheila, a shift, but neither of us ended up showing up and we got fired. It was a place that would have us, basically. If you were a punk and you looked and dressed funny, or if you had a weird haircut or different colored hair, it was difficult to get a job. So if a place would have you, you were lucky and you tried to keep it for a few weeks so you could pay your rent.
Nardwuar: Because that made me think about money and stuff, Alice Bag. Like, who from the L.A. punk scene actually made money and a living off it?
Alice: I don’t know who made money. I know that for a while The Bags made enough money so that we could pay our rent. We did support ourselves through the band for a short time. Let me clarify that I had two roommates. I lived at the Canterbury—I don’t remember what the rent was there, but it was really cheap and we split it three ways. I didn’t really have spending money. So I was able to live, but on very little. I don’t think anybody was making a whole lotta money. I remember The Dickies got a record deal and had regular checks once a month or something. We all thought they had it made.
Nardwuar: Alice Bag, the Elk’s Lodge—your friend Barbara was accused of doing angel dust?
Nardwuar: What was happening there? You were playing a gig at the Elk’s Lodge and all this craziness was going down. You were trying to warn the people but you didn’t get to warn them. Then Barbara jumped outside and fought off some cops with a stop sign?
Alice: Yeah. What happened was there were a lot of bands playing the Elk’s Lodge, and I guess the neighbors were afraid because we looked… scary. [laughs] They didn’t know what punks were about, and apparently the LAPD claims to have gotten complaints. The Go-Go’s had played first and after they played, I went down to the ladies’ room.
When I was walking back, I noticed that there was a phalanx of storm troopers outside. There were like, cops in riot gear lined up as far back as you could see. I was trying to get back to my friends. There were friends of mine who were in the lobby who I managed to warn and say, “We gotta get outta here because this place is gonna be broken up.” Right after I said that, the head policeman walked in and started trying to get us to disperse. It all happened really fast. They ordered us to disperse, but within two or three minutes the line after line of policemen started marching in, just clubbing people randomly, as people were trying to leave.
We’re trying to get down the stairs and people are just being whacked for no reason at all. We’re trying to leave peacefully, and Barbara’s sister, Dorothy and her boyfriend Jeff Atta, who was the lead singer of Middle Class, were bashed over the head and their scalps were torn open. They were bleeding profusely. Barbara saw that happen and she got really angry and she started fighting with the cops. So they handcuffed her and she broke her handcuffs and went after them again, because she felt like she had to try to defend her sister. So they hog-tied her and she broke her restraints again. I don’t know how she did it, but she was able to pull up a stop sign and swing at the cops with it. I think she must’ve just had a huge rush of adrenaline, because Barbara didn’t do drugs. She never did.
Nardwuar: Vancouver is home to Ron Reyes now, of Black Flag. He’s been living here for a number of years. I was wondering, Alice, did you ever play any gigs with Ron Reyes? Because he’s in The Decline, too.
Alice: Yeah, I think they were filmed the same night we were, if I’m not mistaken. I think they were also filmed at the Smokestack.
Nardwuar: What do you remember about Black Flag, Ron Reyes era?
Alice: I don’t remember very much about it. I think at that time I was just more concerned with my own band falling apart, so I wasn’t that involved. This was a new scene that was moving in. This was a transitional phase when the old Hollywood scene was kinda starting to fade. These new bands were coming in and they were much more popular, more forceful. I didn’t have the same kind of connection with Ron that I would’ve had with people that I’d known for the previous years. So I don’t know if that makes any sense to you at all, but I wasn’t close to Ron or most of the bands that went on to do hardcore, even though we were playing with some of those bands. I didn’t feel the same sense of community with them that I had with the early Hollywood punk bands.
Nardwuar: Anything else you wanna add to the people out there at all?
Alice: No, there’s nothing else I can think of.
Nardwuar: And lastly, lastly, lastly, can you please tell me your recipe for chocolate chip cookies?
Alice: I can send you my recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but the trick, the special touch if you’re making them for someone that you need to get back at, is to replace the chocolate chips with Ex Lax.
Nardwuar: All right! Well, thanks so much, Alice. Keep on rockin’ in the free world and doot doola doot doo…
Alice: Doot doo!
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