Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lita and bygone days


There's something I find especially sexy about Lita Ford during the Runaways era. She's the one on the left in the picture above (followed by Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Sandy West and Cherie Currie, for the curious and unaware). Oddly, I'm able to find very few pictures of her by herself from this era and none quite capture the quality as well as the group pictures.

She looked, at that point, a lot like one of the girls I, or guys much like me, would spend all night after a party talking to, thinking we might have a chance to sleep with her, but not having one. We were hoping she'd be in the mood to slum, but she was waiting for the guys who were cooler than us to slum with her.

I see that I automatically start writing that as if it were a universal type, and I'm not entirely sure it is. It was certainly a couple of significant types involved there where I came from. It may be a white trash type, come to think of it.

I went attended Mariner High School - I always used to write "Washington State Corrections Center at Mariner High School", but I found most people didn't catch the joke on first telling. - which was at that time a place where only rich people and poor people went. Not exactly only, my family wasn't either nor were those of several of the people I was friends with, but they the strong trends.

Since I escaped, they've added a second, newer shinier school with a newer shinier name, Kamiak, to keep the rich kids from having to associate with so many poor kids. Ah, progress!

I was always fascinated by the white trash parts of the school community, and attracted to those girls. I'm not sure I'd have made a conscious connection at the time, but I'm sure in retrospect there was a feeling of having a better chance with them. Of course, putting my - only slightly - greater understanding of such things I've gained as an adult, I'd say that none of the white trash girls were ever more than amused by me, while several of the rich girls were, I'm pretty sure, at least open to the idea of dating me.

I am, however, sure I'd make the same mistake if I were in the same situation now, for all the same reasons.

By that time, Lita had created a new image for her solo work:


It worked for getting her picture in every single rock magazine of the day, nearly every month.

The problem was, the appeal was all about teenage boys masturbating to her picture and not at all about what her music did or didn't sound like. Joan Jett, her former bandmate, did an excellent job branding herself. You look at her picture and you imagine music that sounds about like hers and vice-versa. Whatever Lita Ford's record were or weren't, they weren't inseparable from the pictures. Liking her pictures didn't equate to liking her music or even wanting to hear it on any level.

And in doing so, she also lost the quality of looking like someone you might know and having a general affection for her as relatable, a figure of common experience who one might continue to hold affection for after the tissues had long ago been thrown out.

So, then she married Chris Holmes, who remains best known as the guitarist for W.A.S.P. and a rather disturbing appearance in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Since she was only a figure of fantasy and not of empathy, her image disappeared in one fell swoop, as did her record sales.

Even a divorce a couple of years later couldn't reverse the damage, especially coming, as it did at the birth of the so-called "Alternative" movement, which frowned on overt shows of sexuality... Not actually on shows of sexuality, of course, but they have to appear accidental and incidental, and are usually carefully crafted to have that appearance.



Recent appearances, such as her thoughtful interview in Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways, show her to have found a much more comfortable equalibrium. She's married to Nitro - I don't remember ever hearing this band. - singer Jim Gillette with whom she has two sons. She may err a bit on the side of her '80s image and giving off an obviously MILFy vibe, but she does look like she could live down the street.

I can't begin to know what she'd want to create as a musical image if she planned a comeback, but I'd speculate she's in a position where she could create something if she wanted. Even after all the failures of image I've described, I think she could capitalize on her Runaways background and the fact that the boys who masturbated to her picture in Creem may be old enough to appreciate a more adult, woman down the street Lita, if she's willing to create personal music that shows the reality of this life... and skips the crappy '80s overproduction.

The more likely scenario involves jumping on a tour with L.A. Guns, Brity Fox and Cinderella and catching up with an audience who wants simply to remain tied into what was when they were 14.

(This advice should be applied to Ace Frehley, as well, but that has little relation to the topic at hand.)

That would certainly be the path of least resistance, which was certainly the way she went to become the hair metal queen in the first place, so perhaps I'm imagining too much.

What got me started writing this anyway?


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