Inside Leland Meadows Mess Hall - DAY
Bitch Fight is playing a small mess hall stage. The tall, busty Xicana Nicole is playing guitar; Todd the smaller Xicana with darker skin is playing drums; Chris, who they taught to play bass and will kick out soon because she comes to practice high and spends too much time with her boyfriend; and Suzy the blonde singer is chanting into the mic.
Our good friend Brooke prances through the school/
She thinks she’s really neat/
She thinks she’s really cool/
We tend to disagree
Inside Leland Meadows Mess Hall - INTERIOR
There’s a small crowd of young people, a few punks in black, spikes, and mohawks, a couple of new wave girls, some metalheads and stoners. A couple people up front are bobbing their heads.
Suzy punches her fist in the air and mimics pouring a bottle of beer over the audience and chants the chorus of the song. A couple of the metalheads, a guy with long brown hair and guy with long blond hair with a leather strap bracelet, raise their fists and chant with her.
SUZY AND METALHEADS IN THE CROWD
Beer shampoo! Beer Shampoo!
We didn’t call ourselves Bitch Fight for nothing.
The song “Beer Shampoo” was our anthem, and a few of the people in the crowd had been there the night I had really dumped a whole can of beer over this rich girl Brooke’s head because she had taunted me in elementary school and then acted hot shit like she was better than us in high school, then showed up at our parties and flirted with all the punk boys. It was a petty song about schoolyard rivalries, but it was also about fitting in, and hierarchies, and class background. We didn’t call ourselves Bitch Fight for nothing.
Before playing these few shows with the guys in the metal band White Tiger at Leland Meadows Mess Hall, Bitch Fight practiced a lot for a band who had no place to play. Being that it was 1986 and we were Tuolumne County’s first punk band, nobody was going to invite us to play the bandstand downtown Tuolumne, or the fairgrounds, or at any of the bars where cover bands played worn-out songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd or Blue Öyster Cult. Unlike the punk boys who were supposed to be our friends, the guys in White Tiger made sure to tell us how rare girl bands were, and I got the sense they were impressed we were writing our own songs while they were still playing covers.
The core punk boys in our small Tuolumne scene, John, Jon, Chris, and Tobin kept talking about starting their band, but the only one who knew how to play an instrument was Tobin. He was also the only one who didn’t try telling us girls couldn’t play music. But, while Bitch Fight spent our time woodshedding in my mom’s sewing room, the empty trailer where my neighbor committed suicide, Nicole’s living room, and the Summerville High School band room, Jon, John, and Chris were off dating trendy girls, including Brooke, and dabbling in white supremacist ideologies. They called their band Beyond Peace, but as Bitch Fight suspected, John, Jon, and Chris were all talk. It became a competition to see who could learn their instruments, write their own songs, and play live—a competition that Bitch Fight was already winning.
The punk boys (née patriarchy) had lit a fire in us and kept it burning.
By late 1986 though, our ultimate goal wasn’t to best some racist, misogynist punk boys, but to have enough songs to play shows in San Francisco where we were determined to move once we all graduated high school. The punk boys (née patriarchy) had lit a fire in us and kept it burning.
August 26, 1986 12 AM/L.A. Times
A former Tuolumne County sheriff’s deputy was found innocent of charges that he fatally beat a prisoner. A Monterey County Superior Court jury acquitted Dennis Gene Raymond of second-degree murder in the Aug. 3, 1985, death of William Flagg who had been arrested for investigation of public drunkenness at a bar near Sonora. Flagg died of asphyxiation. Two deputies testified that Raymond repeatedly struck Flagg with his patrol car. The jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquitting Raymond of companion charges of assault with intent to commit great bodily injury and battery by a peace officer. A mistrial was declared on those counts, and the case was put over to Sept. 10 to set a retrial. The case was moved to Monterey because of pretrial publicity.
In addition to an anti-war song and a song called “Hands Off” about child molesters in Tuolumne, which we wrote even before Ellie Nesler brought a gun to the Jamestown courthouse and opened fire, killing her son’s molester while he was in the courtroom, Bitch Fight also wrote a song about the Bill Flagg case. No one remembers all the words, but it was about police brutality, the way cops just do whatever they want, especially to people who are poor or without any power. It had a line that said something like, “If you want to get away with murder come to Tuolumne.” These are the songs we played at the Leland Meadows Mess Hall and a couple of house parties before Nicole and Suzy were both injured badly in a head-on collision. The accident left them both unable to walk for a time and in a great deal of pain. I felt I had been left without a band, and because I was fifteen, I felt left out.
January 3, 1987
Nicole has a broken pelvis and hip and will probably have to be in the hospital for about six weeks or more. Suzy has a broken leg, a pin in her leg below the knee, stitches in her head, abrasions where she hit her head on the glass, and stitches on her elbow. She is in the most pain, but won’t be in as long as Nicole. I feel so bad, and I’m so frustrated that we can’t practice.
But by late February we were driving to the Bay Area, Reno, or Carson City for shows, and planning to leave Tuolumne forever. It was around this time that we officially adopted the name Bitch Fight, a name that called up the fact that we were young women playing punk and the fact that we got into a lot of fights at school and with each other, drinking a lot, and doing drugs, all seemingly in an effort to sabotage everything.
March 2, 1987
About last Wednesday's practice, it went better but Suzy was still depressed and super high. She told Nicole that she hasn’t really been happy. We’ve known that even when she says that she is. She’s been miserable since the accident. Sure, it was a horrible experience for her, but it’s over now. Why doesn’t she just put it behind her?
Bitch Fight was my way out of Tuolumne, and by April 1987 it felt like we’d never make it out. Suzy was smoking a lot of pot, I was drinking too much every weekend, and the three of us were fighting all the time. Then Nicole would leave the band before graduation, leaving Suzy and me to find a stand-in guitar player, Tom from White Tiger, to play our graduation party, but we were even more out of control without Nicole. She was our anchor.
Suzy and I did move to San Francisco just two weeks after I graduated, but Nicole wasn’t with us. Getting out felt like a win, but it was not how we planned to leave.
After about a month, Suzy and I returned to Tuolumne to visit and tried to get Nicole back in the band.
August 4, 1987
As I predicted Nicole was totally irrational when we tried to talk to her and went as far running off and calling us bitches real loud so everyone could hear. And one of the trendies who wanted to kick my ass was sitting with Nicole. As soon as Nicole called us bitches in front of her friends, Suzy wanted to bail for fear of getting beat up. In the morning at my house, we decided to call Nicole. She said that she thought we had already discussed everything. We told her if she wanted to leave it at that, it would mean we were no longer friends. She decided to come over, and we told her that we wanted her to play guitar on our demo, and if she wanted to be in the band great, but we needed a decent recording so we could advertise the band. She understood and said she would, and that she did want to be in the band.
We played our first show with Operation Ivy in drummer Dave Mello’ garage, and then went on to play a number of shows at Gilman with bands like Surrogate Brains, Frightwig, and MDC.
I pretended like I wasn’t devastated when Bitch Fight broke up for good in 1988, but I somehow managed to move on. Triads are difficult, and we were too young to understand what we had, or how to nurture it. I didn’t know then that, outside of Tuolumne, I wouldn’t again be in a band with young women so like me, girls raised on welfare by single moms, scrappy girls who, together, were able to withstand the shame of being poor and female that the patriarchy tried to put on us.
1985 in concept: Nicole, guitar; Suzy, vocals; Todd (Michelle Cruz Gonzales) drums
1986: Nicole, guitar; Suzy, vocals; Chris, bass, Todd (Michelle Cruz Gonzales) drums
1987: Nicole, guitar; Suzy, vocals; Brandon, bass, Todd (Michelle Cruz Gonzales) drums
1987: Nicole, bass; Suzy, vocals; Steve, bass, Todd (Michelle Cruz Gonzales) drums
1988: Nicole, bass; Suzy, vocals; Elka, guitar, Todd (Michelle Cruz Gonzales) drums
“On and On,” The Thing That Ate Floyd compilation, Lookout! Records
Suzy, vocals; Elka, guitar, Todd (Michelle Cruz Gonzales) drums; Ivy Dubois, guest bass player
Click here to read: Bitch Fight: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Part I and
Bitch Fight: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Part II