A tale from the vaults of the Dwarves’ Blag Dahlia.
(photos from the 900bats archive)
I’m proud to feature naked girls on the covers of all my records. Aesthetically it beats the standard ‘photo of rock band standing there’ cover or the ever-popular hip-hop variation ‘ young black
guy looking angry standing there’ cover.
Our nude photos aren’ t really of the Playboy or pin-up variety, either. They tend to be minimal and almost arty with the women in positions of defiant superiority over the hapless dwarf figure lurking in the background. Of course, there are tits, too and this more than anything makes them good pictures.
At the photo sessions themselves I try to engage in as little panting, giggling and salivating as I can, but if I am to be known for only one thing in this life then abetting the adolescent fantasies of a generation of pre-internet perverts is just fine by me.
Years after a particular cover shot had been taken in New York we were playing an all ages show across the country in Seattle. A voluptuous blond got onstage and danced around completely naked, culminating in a stage dive that left her writhing across the freshly shaven heads of our easily impressed fan base. She appeared to be having the time of her life.
It was a fun show, but I was exhausted from the night before in Portland (it’ s basically Seattle, but thinner) and all I wanted was to get back to the hotel and crash. Alas, this was not to be.
After the show the blond came backstage and asked me if she looked familiar. I vaguely hoped that I knew her and raked my drug-addled brain for the specific context when it hit me that she had been one of the nudes featured on a cover of ours years before. She told me that she had had a great time tonight and suggested that we go out and have a drink. As much as I wanted to I said, ‘ no, I have to get some sleep.’ She laughed and said we’ d have a great time and I said, ‘ really, any other time, but not tonight,’ feeling a twinge of regret as the words escaped my lips.
The next thing I knew I was flat on my chin with an arm chicken winged behind my back, unable to move and too dazed to say anything. As she grabbed my hair and ground my face into the threadbare carpet she clamped her teeth over my ear and bit into it until my eyes watered with pain. She smiled widely and through laughter somewhere between mocking and maniacal she said, “we’ re going out, right?” I said, “ Sure.”
In the cab over I had a chance to look her over some more. Curvy and statuessque with a standard issue ‘ girl sunbathing next door just to drive you crazy’ look. I started to remember details from the original photo shoot as well. She had shown up at 10am and by 10:15 was joking about needing a drink. By 10:20 the entreaties became more serious. One of the make up assistants suggested that drinking this early in the shoot might cause puffy eyes. This would necessitate an application of Preparation H to her eyelids, but she didn’ t seem to care. Eventually I snuck out and got her a pint of something nasty and she looked at me like a St. Bernard reunited with her master after a daring Yukon rescue.
Back in the present, we arrived at the bar and she ordered a pitcher of beer and I ordered a Coke. It might as well have been a Shirley Temple, extra syrup. She insisted I drink a beer with her. I hadn’ t had a drink in years, the last time had been a puke-inducing bout of alcohol poisoning in the Big Easy that ended with me wishing that I was dead along with everyone else. I didn’ t relish tasting the floor twice in one evening, but I had my orders, so I drank.
We talked about the photo shoot and the fun we had had and she talked about what had been happening in her life. She was now an army reservist, had been trained in combat by the US military and was contemplating whether to go into the service full time now that September 11 had once again made America safe for imperialism. She couldn’ t decide between the Army, nude modeling or some other pursuit, it might have been crochet or air traffic control, I no longer cared.
You see one drink renders me completely retarded. A few drinks makes of my head a toilet and my tongue a toilet brush. Carnal fantasies get sidelined in favor of puking and mindless negativity. I no longer cared about fucking this girl or being beaten into submission by her, I just wanted to go back to my hotel room and seep into a nice warm suicide.
After a couple of rounds I was deep into an alcoholic fog. I told her what fun it had been hanging out with her and how we must do it again sometime. As I rose to leave she grabbed my arm and twisted it behind my back marching me to the bar where she presented me to the bartender and asked what I wanted. I said really, I was done for the night and all I wanted was a cab so she forced me to my knees until I ordered another pitcher. The bartender just laughed.
By now I knew that my only hope lay in escape. If I went home with this girl she would fuck me until my spine snapped like a twig. If she wanted to, she could have hoisted me over her shoulders and used me as a battering ram. I dimly remembered a session where a red headed jujitsu enthusiast from South America pushed me around a Tokyo love hotel like a ping-pong ball. And that girl seemed to have liked me. This time, I didn’ t stand a chance.
The booze was starting to make me angry and confused. I couldn’ t see straight. I had to piss, shit, puke, moan, bawl. The old Italian man that lurks inside of me wanted to scream, but no words would come out. The inside of my eyelids longed to be shut against the approaching darkness. I wanted my mommy.
Finally, the blond went to the bathroom just as a cab pulled up in front of the place. I stumbled outside and gave the driver the address of my hotel urging him to start driving before I had even gotten in.
Seattle isn’t a beautiful town, it’s not a smart town, and it’s not a busy town. The skies are ugly and the girls are grey. It’ s more like a suburb wrapped in an unincorporated county and stuffed uncomfortably into an urban environment like a fat girl at Frederick’ s of Hollywood. As we rolled through the placid streets I reflected on the weirdness of my existence. Why did the search for warm genitalia so often net the cold fish slap of reality? And why, when I wasn’ t even looking for it did I still get slammed hard face first into the uncomprehending floor of inebriation and frustration? What hath Blag wrought?
“ You look like that guy from the Dwarves,” the taxi driver said. I said yeah. He told me that he had seen us play with Nirvana in Seattle years before and he had really enjoyed it.
Nirvana, the name pierced the murky soup that marinated my injured brain stem. Good songs, and they were kind of cute, but wasn’ t one of them dead now? I recalled a story involving somebody’ s skagged out girlfriend in a northwest hotel room years before, passed out and turning blue, prompting a panicked call not to the paramedics, but to the record company asking for medical advice.
Why had this band been vaulted to such celebrity status, wasn’ t it just the Pixies with a side of Zeppelin drums? Were they really that much better than everybody else or had they simply become instant winners in the random lottery of the music industry? And ten years later couldn’ t they stay dead if only to keep my brain from oozing out the hole in my skull.
Meditating on the fate of Nirvana was depressing, something I did at times when my mind refused to turn to happier subjects. After complaining his way to success Cobain had groused his way into the grave, his chin the last thing to cross his clouded mind before an early retirement. Rock, by its very nature, had to end badly. That was the nature of the Beast.
Meanwhile, the driver kept talking. He had wanted to go to the show tonight, but had to work instead. He never got to see any good shows anymore. Anyway, the scene was dead.
The scene might be dead, but weird stuff still happens sometimes. I described how this busty blonde had manhandled me all night until I had made my escape. The details began to pour out of me as I relived the evening and though I knew that by any reasonable measure I was the victim here, I still couldn’ t help laughing. And not just with me, but at me. My life really was the empty farce that my critics imagined it to be, that might be true, but unlike the most successful band of the era, at least I was still alive.
“You say she was on one of your covers?” the cabbie asked, as he grabbed a hold of his radio. At the end of the line a disembodied voice crackled in with a question that answered more than it ever meant to. It was a weary voice, rough, but not without a certain buoyancy, like a red balloon in a pile of shit. It was a voice that knew only too well that somewhere out there, maybe patrolling the Hindu Kush or helping to reconcile the two Koreas or promoting responsible genocide in Rwanda, there was a blond with an M-16 on the loose from Seattle, her hands lethal weapons, her hips awash with doom.
“Dispatch, what’ s your location?”
“Capitol Hill. Hey Dude, you’ re never going to believe what your
wife was up to tonight!”