V I O L E N T F E M M E S
She's going to smile to make you frown, what a clown
Little boy, she's from the street
Before you start, you're already beat
She's gonna play you for a fool, yes it's true…
“Femme Fatale” ( VELVET UNDERGROUND, 1967 )
Besides being the title of a classic VELVET UNDERGROUND song, allegedly the first of many gloomy homages to the infamous Edie Sedgwick, Femme Fatale is an French expression which has functioned as theme and leitmotif in cultural jargon since the birth of communication and arts. Needless to say, you will find them in your real life as well, and the history of mankind has seen many of the likes of this dangerous but oh so seductive woman, from Cleopatra to the stand out example of punk, Nancy Spungen.
Femme Fatale is a term derived from several ancient mythological, religious or historical archetypes, such as Lilith, Salome, Aphrodite, the sirens, Cleopatra and the list goes on. She is the dragon lady (THE GERMS) that thrives on her seductive powers on men, to the point of fatality. The man becomes a victim, trapped in an obsessive relation he fails to get out of before it is too late, which gives femme fatale a heroic cling to the term. She can also become a victim herself, of course, an anti-heroine, and we are soon to learn a classic example of this type.
As an antagonist, she teases her prey into the cave with lips that later will execute an icecols kiss of death, metaphorically or literally speaking. A more outdated synonymous word for the fatale woman in US slang is Vamp, which of course is short for Vampire. The original vampire used as model for the later very successful Count Dracula (1897 novel by Bram Stoker), was in fact a woman by the name of Carmilla, as we meet her in the 1872 Gothic novella by the same name, written by Sheridan Le Fanu. A lesbian one, in fact, in her choice of prey to suck dry of the bodily fluids.
Then again, the novel was heavily inspired by the real life story of the Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614), who allegedly was one out of 5 collaborators who sexually abused, tortured and killed 650 girls, though only to get convicted for 80 of them. She also had a bloody eccentric spa routine, a Spa-bath Bloody Spa-bath, if we were to believe one of many myths that of course pops up in the aftermath of any story as extreme or macabre. she had a liking for regular baths in the blood of young virgin girls. Using the blood of other, taking their lives, all for the sake of preserving her youth as long as possible, and with this element in mind, it should be easy to see the parallels to the fictional vampire woman with a liking for fresh blood. But when Carmilla, by the pen of Bram Stoker, transformed into the masculine counterpart, Count Dracula or Nosferatu, we know for sure that he took the key elements of Carmilla (thus Bathory) and applied them to a soul brother of “the Blood Countess” that lived 100 years earlier, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia(1431–1476), nicknamed “the impaler” for his habit of impaling all enemies, also calling himself “Dracul” and ruling Transylvania. The latter proved to be somehow more popular fictional concept, perhaps because it also depicts, in its own twisted way, a heterosexual love story. Bram Stokers novel has spun off countless movie adaptations through the entire history of film ( Murnau, Dreyer, Browning, Herzog and Coppola have all their respective versions), in addition to the many contemporary series, like True Blood or Buffy The Vampire Slayer..
If the world of fiction lost a mighty prototype of the female villain to the opposite sex in the case of the vampire, new types came in, not at least in the cinematic universe. Film Noir is full of them, in addition to the many thrillers with a pinch of eroticism, think Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven). Of course you will find this figurine in your real life as well, often more than what is good for your health and heart. They are all around you, the (anti)heroines and ruthless dominatrix's, women that will make you suffer under a treatment your constitution don t seem built to resist. Most love stories, however, do not turn out as bad as the one your about to hear.
The most infamous liaisons dangereuses in rock history, is arguably the juicy controversies of the short lived bad romance of SID VICIOUS(ex-THE BANSHEES,FLOWERS OF ROMANCE) of SEX PISTOLS and punk rock groupie NANCY SPUNGEN. Love kills, as JOE STRUMMER said in his musical contribution to the 1986 motion picture Sid & Nancy.
Nancy Spungen (1958-78) was the ultimate Femme Fatale of punk in the strictest sense of the term. Seductive, abusive and (self) destructive, in other words, fatale company for the weak hedonistic soul. A heroin(e) of rock n roll suicide. She started working as a stripper in NY in the early 70s and hung around all the bands she was into, AEROSMITH, NEW YORK DOLLS and THE RAMONES, following them on tour, groupie style. She was given the title “Starfucker” by NME in an retrospective article in 1986, thanks to her reputation of sleeping her way through the upper leagues of pre punk / original punk. Spungen was some kind of working class Edie Sedgwick , with an ordinary face, jumping from one bed to the other, strung out on booze and other stimulants.
The story has it she followed JERRY NOLAN and JOHNNY THUNDERS when they went over sea with THE HEARTBREAKERS, hoping she might get lucky with either one of them. Both rejected her, all too familiar with her reputation in NY. Instead she ended up bumping into SEX PISTOLS, hitting hard on JOHNNY ROTTEN ( who rejected her…”sex is borrrring” ) so she had to settle for the new bassist, SID VICIOUS. They moved together after a couple of days and took on a rather destructive path, the mainline down to China White. Both of them confirmed in various interviews that VICIOUS had no smack habit before SPUNGEN entered his life. After all, she came straight out of the THUNDERS camp, where everybody lived on a Chinese Rock (“Chinese Rocks”, THE HEARTBREAKERS). Heroin was no hit in the UK punk scene yet, though I presume VICIOUS probably was not too hard to convince.
The “Bonnie & Clyde of punk” reached the end of their hell ride at the infamous Chelsea Hotel in NY, where the couple rented a room to house their non stop drug bender. A chemical vacation, kind of. On October the 12th, 1978, Spungen was found dead in their room, stabbed to death by a hunting knife SID got himself after seeing DEE DEE RAMONE give a similar one to STIV BATORS of THE DEAD BOYS. VICIOUS claimed he could not recall a single second, but that did not hold through in court and he got charged with murder. He died of an overdose heroin the 2th of February, 1979.
Sue Catwoman (Soo Lucas), was a strange figurine in the ´77 punk scene of London. She became one of the first British female punk icons, entirely based on her style and haircut (thus “cat woman”) and the fact that she hung around some key members of the inner circle of punk in London. If she was a good friend of the likes she posed together with on some well known photos and videos from that time(1976-77) from 100 Club or Roxy Club, SIOUXSIE SUE(BANSHEES) and JOHNNY ROTTEN(SEX PISTOLS), never became clear. She was written into McLarens The Great Rock n Roll Swindle(1980), but declined the offer of playing the part herself, so McLaren went for an actress instead (Judy Croll). Unlike many other personalities that made a remarkable profile in the 77 London punk cast, Sue Catwoman disappeared as fast as she popped up, the only true embodiment of the original punk spirit. She was neither involved with the creative side of punk, nor any other activity that kept her visible during the transition from post punk to new wave.
PATTI SMITH (1946-), an eruptive musical and poetical genius of the rare kind, had a huge impact on punk. Before founding the band in 1974, she wrote rock journalism for Rolling Stone Magazine etc and also had a part, together with WAYNE COUNTY, in Jackie Curtis play Femme Fatale. Her talent as a musician came to show almost immediately, on the single “Hey Joe”/“Piss Factory” of´74. As soon as the JOHN CALE produced debut album Horses hit the marked in 1975, there was no further debate on her extraordinary gift for both music and words.
Heavy inspired by bohemian Paris, art, Arthur Rimbaud, Antonin Artaud and Charles Baudelaire as well as Walt Whitman, William Blake and of course the long list of Beat poets, especially the influential William S. Burroughs, whom she had a close relation to during his senior years. SMITH was the sort of female counterpart to TOM VERLAINE of TELEVISION, a Beatnik intellectual who gave the language of rock n roll a fresh new dimension. As with TELEVISION, the influence of ROLLING STONES was present in vast amounts. Her voice is like the female punk version of JAGGER, like the one of DAVID JOHANSEN of NEW YORK DOLLS, but with more temperament as well as sophistication . A revival of the basic and raw rock, but in a way that opened for growing possibilities.
The cover shot of Horses, by her beloved friend Robert Mapplethorpe, was an iconographic landmark, representing a new and daring sense of femininity. It avoids traditional stereotypes like the bimbo or the masculine lesbian, simply because SMITH is depicted too vague and mystic, in style and environment, to suit such an affirmative and conventional thinking. A true bohemian. a new kind of woman, leaning against the wall in a gentle way, with a pinch of androgyny. Dressing like a man, in the most power strutting clothing of them all, the three piece suit. Mapplethorpes cover picture reflects the substance of her integrity, both as artist and woman. That black and white picture of SMITH, the outlines of a calm and proud female visionary in menswear, shows the artist in a way that goes perfect along with what she is all about.
You are bound to respect the person on the Horses cover, that confident pose in a dense minimal setting, with her as the only motif. The look of an artist artist that places the heart felt , non compromising expression in the center of her work. Independent and free spirited, not trusting the support of neither vain menagerie of female fashion and make up nor just being the girlfriend in shadow of her rock star man, first Alan Lanier of BLUE OYSTER CULT and then, far more important to punk, the legendary guitarist of MC5, Fred “Sonic” Smith, who became the blueprint of THE RAMONES look. I will give the very last word to another woman who´s had considerable influence on redefining a new feminism, alongside other "intellectual superstars" like Susan Sontag, Christina Hoff Sommers, Judith Butler and Gloria Steinem. Though, due to her radical controversial thinking, she remains the black sheep of that symposium.
In 1975, Arista Records released Horses, the first rock album by New York bohemian poet Patti Smith. The stark cover photo, taken by someone named Robert Mapplethorpe, was devastatingly original. It was the most electrifying image I had ever seen of a woman of my generation. Now, two decades later, I think that it ranks in art history among a half-dozen supreme images of modern woman since the French Revolution.
TINA WEYMOUTH / SIOUXSIE SUE / DEBBI HARRY / GAYE ADVERT / VIVIENE WESTWOOD / LORNA DOOM / POLY STYRENE / PAULINE MURRAY / JORDAN / JOAN JETT / ARI UP / EVE LIBERTINE / JOY de VIVRE / PENELOPE HOUSTON /JORDAN / SUZIE QUATRO / BEKI BONDAGE / DEBBI JUVENILE / CHERRY VANILLA / GEM(GILL WESTON) / LINDA ASHBY / KIRA ROESSLER / JANNE LUNDBERG / NINA HAGEN / KATE PUSSI PUNK SVANHOLM / KATJA OSVOLD / YVONNE DUCKSWORTH / ALICE BAG / ELANA RITCHIE / TOYAH /
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