Bitch Fight photos courtesy of Michelle Cruz Gonzales, illustration by Elly Dallas

Bitch Fight: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Part 2 by Michelle Cruz Gonzales

January 1, 1984
The new year is finally here. I spent New Years Eve with Suzy at Kathy’s house. It was lots of fun. I really wanted Nicole to be there with us. I called her but she wasn’t home. I’ve never spent New Year’s Eve with Nicole before.

February 27, 1984
Nicole her mom and I went to Berkeley Friday. I got home on Saturday at 4:30. We watched Rude Boy, the Clash movie, DOA the Sex Pistols movie, and Urgh! A Music War. I bought a couple of buttons.

Pan to abandoned small town movie theater – DAY
Nicole jumps down under the railing that separates the sidewalk from the alley on the side of the abandoned building in town and Todd follows. The walls are crumbling and open in various places. They are, as usual, bored, so they have decided to explore this building that was built before either of them were born and has been abandoned all their lives.

Inside abandoned movie theater – DAY
Todd gasps as they get inside. 

The roof is completely missing, but the stage is still mostly intact. Rows of theater seats are strewn upside down, charred, and sideways, some rows untouched except for weeds and ivy growing up between the springs. 

Nicole and Todd just stand and stare, their mouths open, their heads turning, taking it all in.

NICOLE
Buggo says that it used to be an opera house.

TODD
An opera house? In Tuolumne?

The Bitch Fight girls met as kids—bonded by our shitty little houses, in our shitty little town, food stamps, government cheese, and our fiercely independent single moms.

Suzy and I met in pigtails, gingham, and knee socks. Her mom was one of my mom’s wild, single friends, or maybe it was the other way around. Both our moms had a mass of dark curly hair. They favored jean skirts and macramé tops. Suzy and I got to know each other climbing the massive rock in her yard while our moms sat in the house and got stoned. We went with them to the Turn-Back Creek Inn too, a hazy restaurant bar. There’s a photo of the two of us, our heads barely making it over the bar. Suzy, at six, a year older than me, a fair-skinned, serious, blonde toe-head with big round eyes, and me, nearly her photo opposite: long black hair, dark eyebrows, indigenous, smiling. 

Nicole and I sat next to each other in elementary school band. We both played the flute, had almond shaped eyes, black hair, and Spanish surnames. A sisterhood was practically required. 

When Suzy moved to another town nearby, she missed being called out by girls with names like Beth Whitehead, or bullied by the sixth-grade history teacher who made clear his distaste for Mexicans, communists, and shabby daughters of single mothers.

October 10, 1984
It’s homecoming week and tonight we had a bonfire rally. A ritual to burn the mascot of the team we are playing. The school built a teepee of wood with the argonaut mascot in the middle. The football team marched with torches shouting and lit the stack on fire. As the flame got higher the crowd cheered louder. The rope on the argonaut burned thinner and thinner until it broke and fell into the flames. The crowd by then was cheering its loudest. It reminded me of something so vulgar and evil. Nicole and I were so upset. It was like the KKK burning a cross in a Black person’s back yard. No war, No KKK, No Fascist USA.

October 29, 1984
My 15th birthday such a wonderful day. Nicole hugged me as we laughed playfully. We love each other. We give each other hope to go on. If it wasn’t for Nic, I wouldn’t make it!!

December 28, 1984
The new year is almost here and my New Year’s resolution is to work on changing Tuolumne County. Hopefully to give them some direction, make the people somewhat aware, give them some radical ideas. I must achieve something. After I do this term paper about being an activist, I’ll know more about organizing. With Nick’s mum’s help with politics, we can do something for some people in the county.

In Tuolumne then, a name like Lopez was its own statement, and a special kind of a fuck you when kept by a White lady.

Nicole sometimes passed as white but not to a xenophobe. She had black hair and brown eyes but she was lighter than me and tall for a girl, like her mom, Pamela Hutcherson. Pam, who some still call their Commie Mommie, went by Shawn, and kept Nicole’s dad’s name even after they divorced. Since I was the only one left in my family with a Spanish surname after my mom remarried, it impressed me that Shawn kept Lopez. In Tuolumne then, a name like Lopez was its own statement, and a special kind of a fuck you when kept by a White lady.

Shawn took us to political rallies, demonstrations, anti-war group meetings, and punk shows. She had attended UC Berkeley before dropping out around the time she met Nicole’s dad, so she was our go-to homework helper. She encouraged us to start our own self-published newspaper, and we did. We even got donations for printing from members of the anti-war group, but we never finished the first issue because what we really wanted was to be in a band. We had wanted that the second we heard Gina Shock’s drum intro on “We Got the Beat” and saw the Go-Go’s in the movie Urgh! A Music War, all five of them each in a different bright color—top, dress, tights, headband—playing instruments and harmonizing while dudes jumped on the stage and skanked around them trying to make some stupid point. Nicole and I already played music at school. Starting a band actually felt like something that we might be able to achieve even if no one thought so.

Ronald Reagan, who had been governor of California when we were toddlers, hated us too, and now he was president—the kind of leader who made time move real slow. Our moms feared our welfare benefits would be cut, we feared we’d never get our instruments and be stuck in Tuolumne forever, or at least until Reagan and Thatcher lead us to war, or worse a nuclear holocaust.

Inside abandoned movie theater – DAY
Todd points to what looks like might have been a screen on the back of the stage wall.

TODD

Look at that

NICOLE
Buggo says gran told her it was an opera house, then a dance hall, and later a movie theater.

TODD
We should take it over.

NICOLE
Yeah, like fix it up and practice on the stage.

TODD
And invite all our friends.

The two girls wander around the theater a bit more, stepping over piles of debris and kicking at a few beer and whisky bottles here and there, evidence that others have gone inside too. They wonder if it’s dangerous. They know they shouldn’t stay inside long.

Outside movie theater – DAY
In faded letters on the outside of the building, it says Fireman’s theater which is ironic since the fire department building is across the street, and it was a fire that ruined this theater and the wooden one that stood in the same place before it.

I tried not to play too loud so I could hear the chord changes of our first song “Beer Shampoo,” a song about hating trendy girls and small-town class warfare. 


Our very firstpractice space wasn’t in an abandoned theater, but an abandoned one-bedroom trailer near my mom’s property where our ex-neighbor, Lynn, had committed suicide. No one ever told us who went in and cleaned up the body or blood from the gunshot to the head, or in which room he was found, but after a while of me practicing my drums in my mom’s sewing room, she suggested we practice out there. We finally had a drum set, a guitar, and tiny practice amp. We ran both the guitar and the microphone through that amp, and I tried not to play too loud so I could hear the chord changes of our first song “Beer Shampoo,” a song about hating trendy girls and small-town class warfare. We played our one song over and over and worked on writing more. We were finding our voice. Now we just needed an audience.


Click here to read: Bitch Fight: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Part I