Been reading the book “White Riot… Punk Rock and the Politics of Race” for the past few weeks. I’m almost finished and more on it later. It’s an intense book that is proving to be valuable in terms of the history of punk and of getting another perspective than the typical Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash history we so often are told over and over and over. I’ve got a lot to say about this book, mostly good, with a few criticisms, but for now I just want to bring to your attention an all Latino punk band from Chicago in the 1990s “Los Crudos”.
They were one of, if not the first U.S. punk band to sing almost 100% in Spanish, though as you can see form this clip, they also spoke fluent English. Also, as you can tell by the clip they are (surprise) very political and as you can tell by the short, burst of lyrics that are hard to understand regardless of language, very hardcore.
Not my favorite genre of punk music so I would have probably never stumbled upon these guys with pandora or ipod or any of that type of music had these guys come along a decade or so later. Yet their perspective as their self proclaimed “We’re that spic band” probably would have landed them on “American Latino TV” or “LatiNation” alongside NOFX, Tiger Army, Calavera, Madball, No Way Joseand any other semi-well known punk, pysychobilly or rockabilly hand that had a decent Latin following.
I was always trying so hard to counteract the popular notion that Latinos only cared about R&B, Rap, Hip Hop and “Latin” (Cumbia, Meringue, Salsa, etc.) music. We tried really hard to showcase underground communities where Latinos were so instrumental and that includes punk which, if you’ve been following us for a while, has a huge Latin American and American Latino (U.S. Latino) following as well as a history of participation.
Punk history is rich with Latinos in the scene including bands like Black Flag, Iggy & The Stooges and many, many more I won’t go into here today.
When I Executive Produced those shows, I was very involved in getting our producers to target these subcultures very strategically, covering not only bands but events like “The Warped Tour” and “Viva Las Vegas”from a U.S. Latino perspective and it worked beautifully.
Not only did I feel good about representing this ignored part of Latino culture, ratings in cities from California to Texas increased dramatically. We had successfully added to our following which was really important for a small, indie TV Show with no marketing budget to speak off airing in most of the country in the most fringe of late night or early morning weekend time periods.
Now, sadly, and predictably the new owners and producers have cheezed it up again. The shows look like a cheap version of TMZ, with nothing but pop culture after pop culture references. They even changed the show logos and theme music to gaudy, loud metallic purple and silver colors and cheeze ball electronica music.
But hey, the shows are in their 11th & 9th seasons respectively so I understand that change is inevitable. It’s ok. There are a couple of people there that do try to represent (Agnostic Frontwere featured last season and one of the editors is from the Colombian band “La Pestilencia”).
In the meantime, I leave you with a couple of videos of “Los Crudos”. I would sure like to interview these guys for “Punktology”documentary. If anyone knows how to get in touch with them, please hit me up.
Bettie Page and I have some similarities. We’re both from Tennessee. We both moved to New York City in pursuit of a bigger dream… and we both ended up in Los Angeles. She was a sex symbol with legions of loyal fans who fantasized about her night and day.. I… well, that is where the similarities end my friends.
Bettie did a lot to dispel the American puritanical myth that sex and sexuality is somehow evil and unnatural. I’m no expert on Bettie, but like many, I have followed her resurgent popularity among young, modern day women with fascination.
Many females that we’ve interviewed in the rockabilly scene in particular view Bettie as a pioneer who bursts open doors at a time when there were few professional choices for women and plenty of unspoken rules about their sexuality (sex was not to be enjoyed too much, to sleep with a man before marriage meant you were a slut, etc.). Bettie had some pretty liberal views on sexuality that at the time were considered very taboo.
It’s easy to forget that not that long ago, women in the U.S. were often viewed as too hysterical and emotional for serious work and men controlled the good jobs, money and power in the household. Many husbands even “spanked” their wives like children… or worse. Bettie had issues with men but you don’t get the sense that being bossed around or controlled by a man was one of them.
Bettie was pretty famous during her peak as a ‘pin-up” cheesecake model but the mark she left after those years was even bigger. Her life was fascinating, in part because she dropped out of sight at the height of her fame, discovered religion but in the meantime had bouts with psychological issues and brushes with the law. It’s not easy being a pioneer.
Bettie Page Movie Premiere & Lookalike Contest at Viva Las Vegas
Much has been written and said about Bettie Page. There were even dueling fictional movies based on her life a few years back. I don’t want to add to the noise, but I did want to offer a little tip about a movie I had the pleasure of seeing while attending “Viva Las Vegas” last month called “Bettie Page Reveals All”.
What separates this documentary from the other accounts of Bettie’s life is that it was filmed with the full cooperation of Bettie, featuring a wonderful collection of archival material and it is told in Bettie’s own words. In fact, she provides the voice over for the documentary.
But don’t expect to see more recent images of an older Bettie. According to the producer Mark Moriin the Q&A after the film, this was in accordance with Bettie’s wishes. She told Mark she wanted her fans to remember as she was in her hey day.
Bettie died in 2008 after living much of her middle and later life in seclusion and near poverty. But thanks to the help of people like the producers of this film and Robin Leach from “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, she was eventually able to see more control and income from her images. She lived out her closing days in some degree of comfort until her death in 2008. In fact, in 2011, her estate made the Forbes annual list of top-earning dead celebrities, earning $6 million, tied with the estates of George Harrison and Andy Warhol, at 13th on the list.
When Bettie’s voice first rang out at the screening, I got chills. It was a voice that reminded me of my long dead grandmother not some sexpot. She had the same unique Tennessee accent, similar intonations and not so correct “hillbilly” grammar at times. It was hard to reconcile this grandmotherly voice with the beautiful creature on screen talking about intimate details of her life and sexuality so openly.
Pin Up & Burlesque Performer "Nentini" Channels Bettie Page.
Without a latter day Bettie on screen, the producers had to rely on some pretty rare archival footage, reenactments and interviews with contemporary icons like Ditta Von Teese and Hugh Hefner as well as former friends, husbands, etc. to fill the void. Not an easy task, but I thought the filmmakers did a good job of keeping the story moving while allowing Bettie to tell her life’s tale in a way that wasn’t too different from how my own grandmother might have spun me a story from her own life (minus the R rated dialogue and visual stimuli of course).
The film was a fascinating, intimate look at a woman who for many, even after viewing the film, retains a bit of her mystery.
One of the appeals of Bettie’s life was that she openly (and bravely) flouted the societal norms at the time on women’s sexuality (and still are very much alive today in much of the world and as evidenced by our own Presidential election politics, this country as well). That is what makes Bettie so enticing and mysterious… and in my view so punk. I don’t think Bettie intended to be a pioneer, she just didn’t care if people had a problem with her lifestyle or what others in polite “normal” society thought. She was OK with it so that was all that mattered. You really cannot get much more punk than that.
If you think, like Bettie, that life is meant to be lived shamelessly on one’s own terms, not the terms that someone else imposes, then I think you will like this film.
I’m not sure what plans the producers have for distribution but you can get involved with the film by visiting their website HERE.
If a photo is worth a thousand words.. how much is a video worth? Well, assuming it’s worth something, here’s a little video recap of Viva Las Vegas 2012 for ya. Thanks to the organizers of VLV as well as the cool bands, attendees and those who participated in the video.. oh and thanks to our Russian comrades (the Punk Outlaw interns) for their help in putting this together.
Hope to be around to give you guys even better coverage in 2013.
Our good buddies at Remezcla just published an article we wrote aboutViva Las Vegas and the phenomena of Rockabilly’s resurgance and what role American Latinos may have played. It’s highly entertaining and informative if we say so ourselves
and if you don’t then “go to hell!”… just joking.. say so… we can take it, but be gentle please.
Below you will find the complete, uncensored and “RAW” video interviews from Viva Las Vegaswhich helped to comprise the article. Special thanks to DJ Del Villareal, DJ Rockin Vic, Victoria Inez Rivera and Boom Boom L’Roux for their participation.
DJ DEL VILLAREAL
DJ Del Villareal
DJ Del Villareal is a Mexican American hailing from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and host of Motorbilly Radio, a popular online rockabilly radio station. DJ Del got into rockabilly by hitting some of the local weekenders in the Midwest. Not surprisingly for a DJ perhaps, music was his entry point and a facet of the culture he feels is most important. Here is DJ Del Vilareal’s complete interview with Punk Outlaw.
1) WHAT IS YOUR ETHNIC & GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND?
I’m what I like to call “hispanic” or Mexican-American. My mother is 100% Mexican (both her parents were from Mexico and she was born in Texas) and my father is mainly French-Canadian (there’s actually some Native American in his gene pool -we think Chippewa). I was born in the small town of Bay City, MI.
2) WHAT IS MOTORBILLY RADIO?
Motorbilly Radio is my online rockabilly music radio station, hosted by Live365. The name “Motorbilly” comes from a combination of the words “Motor City” (I began DJing at clubs & shows primarily in Metro Detroit) and “Rock-A-Billy” -the best kind of American rockin’ music! I’m happy and proud to say that Motorbilly Radio is the top rated rockabilly station on Live365, with over 10,000 regular listeners and 1,100 + “favorite station” selections. We’re a deep mix of classic & contemporary rockin’ music, with the emphasis on the more traditional side of rockabilly music.
3) HOW DID YOU GET INTO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
I think I’ve always been into the culture, but didn’t really know much about it until I first started going to shows in Detroit and eventually, my first “weekend” events; The Indiana “Rockabilly Rebel” weekenders and the NJ “We Wanna Boogie” festival back in the mid 1990′s. I admired the looks, styles and attitude of the people I befriended and eventually, I just fell into it! The music was (and still is) the main entry point for the rockabilly scene and I absorbed and ingested more and more of the modern day rockabilly artists as they toured and recorded. Thanks (blame?) need to go to the Europeans for keeping the music scene alive during the 60′s through the 80′s and for the treasure trove of reissue albums that have steadily been imported back into the USA.
4) WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY LATINOS GRAVITATE TO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
My own opinion is that many of the California Latino families (I’ve heard the term “taco-billies” used -it’s kinda funny to me, but probably a tad racist…!) grew up exposed to and enjoying the sounds of honking Rhythm & Blues music through the 40′s and early 50′s as well as smooth/romantic DooWop/Early Soul into the 50′s and 60′s, and so many may be naturally predisposed to 1950′s American music and culture. Add to the mix the flashy retro fashions and the vintage car culture scene (which crosses over with the rockabilly scene) and I think you’ve got an attractive mix of the past and present, especially with so many excellent Mexican American rockin’ acts performing and recording today (Omar Romero & The String Poppers, Pep Torres, The Side-Wynders, Luis & The Wildfires, The Rhythm Shakers, etc.)
5) DO YOU FIND IT SURPRISING THAT WHAT MANY PERCEIVE AS A SOUTHERN, BLACK/WHITE REDNECK CULTURE IS EMBRACED BY LATINOS?
There’s a Western Americana aspect to the culture that may resonate here as well. I think that there’s always been a similarity between the Latino subculture and the African American subculture (both have been institutionally marginalized, romanticized and relegated as “outside” the mainstream) and you’ll see Latinos pick and choose the best aspects from both of these cultures. You may not see Confederate Rebel flags flying, but Latinos will often emulate the hair styles, the sexier & coolest clothing, partner dancing, traditional tattoo patterns, vintage motorcycle & more styled period cars and hot rods -and they/we will always do it well!
6) DO YOU SEE THE PHENOMENA OF LATINOS IN ROCKABILLY CONTINUING TO GROW?
I think so. With so much of the US “rockabilly scene” centered in & around California and the American South West (Texas, too!), it’s bound to just grow and grow. It’s practically a geographical inevitability! And as Latino performers continue to rise in popularity and cross over into different musical territories (I can see WILD recording artist Gizzelle gaining fans outside of the retro “roots” audience, for example), you’ll have more new converts and perhaps even older fans migrating back into rockabilly.
7) WHATS YOUR SENSE OF ROCKABILLY CULTURE DOWN IN LATIN AMERICA? IS IT BIG OR GETTING BIGGER?
My initial observation is that it will become bigger. It’s hard for me to say how big it is at the moment, but there are definitely exciting new bands making a lot of noise South of the border (Los Benders, Mystery Trio and Los Dorados to name a few) and are starting to attract fans here in America as well as abroad. I hope things will get bigger! As technology reaches further and connects fans with favorite acts, I can see the more dedicated and talented acts easily crossing the Equator and perhaps opening up channels & venues for American or Northern bands to migrate South! It’s definitely and exciting time!
8) DO YOU THINK THE ROCKABILLY SCENES IN THE U.S. WOULD BE AS VIBRANT AS IT IS WITHOUT LATINOS IN THE SCENE?
No! Not at all! I’ve known and seen a strong, vibrant Latino-billy presence in the U.S. scene since I first became involved more than 15 years ago. So many of the best DJ’s in our rockin’ scene are of Latino origin, I can’t imagine how things would be without them! DJ’s Topper, Rockin’ Vic, Doo Wop Edgar, Caveman Leo, Jive Bomber and Wine-O are big influences on dance floors and record hops and I like to think that my regular record hops and radio programs have helped inform the current and next wave of rockabilly fans (and maybe artists!). We’re here, we love the scene and I can’t see us leaving anytime soon!!
9) WHAT ARE THE BIG POCKETS OF ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
Hmmmmm…. obviously California, up and down. Texas: Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas come to mind. New York and the nearby New Jersey areas. England has always had a rather vibrant scene and lately Paris, France is on the rise. Berlin, Germany. Spain has some of the world’s best festivals these days as well. I think South America, in particular Brazil, will soon be making more rockin’ noise as well!
10) WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF PSYCHOBILLY WITH ROCKABILLY? ARE THEY RELATED SCENES OR DO YOU SEE THEM AS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?
There’s a definite connection, but in my opinion, it’s a younger and more of a “punk”-y connection (the ‘outlaw’ spirit, the louder, brash and faster rhythms are similar in some aspects). Crossover bands like the Reverend Horton Heat, Three Bad Jacks and the Chop Tops spring to mind as closer connections. Some people say that rockabilly is the punk rock retirement plan (maybe it’s the psychobilly retirement plan, too!) and with some mediocre bands, I guess the argument can be made that psychobilly music is just sped up rockabilly music. It’s not my favorite of the “sub-billy” genres, but there are some great bands out there. Done well, it can be just as entertaining as traditional styles of music to me
VICTORIA INEZ RIVERA / BLOGGGER AND VINTAGE ENTHUSIAST
Blogger & Vintage Enthusiast Victoria Rivera @ VLV
Victoria Inez Rivera is from East LA and a self-described “voluptuous vintage Mexican gal” who writes and publishes a vintage inspired blog at www.VivaVictoriaVintage.blogspot.com which covers everything from upcoming area events to her take on vintage fashion and the vintage lifestyle (which covers more than just clothing by the way).
View her raw video interview below:
DJ ROCKIN VIC
DJ Rockin' Vic & Wife at the "Bettie Page" Screening at Viva Las Vegas
A big name rockabilly DJ spinning tunes at Los Angeles events is DJ Rockin Vic. Rockin Vic was born in LA and is ½ Mexican and ½ Ukranian. Rockin Vic estimates that as much as 80% of rockabilly followers in LA are Latino. Now when you consider that roughly 50% or so young people in LA are Latino, then you can see how Latinos greatly over represent in this subculture.
DJ Rockin Vic adds that Latinos have been an influence on American music since rock n roll’s first wave.
Below is his full interview with Punk Outlaw about Latinos in Rockabilly:
1) WHAT IS YOUR ETHNIC & GOEGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND (I.e. Where are you from)?
My Mother was born in Mexico and my Father was born in the Ukraine. I was born in Echo Park and I grew up in Highland Park in a working class L.A inner city neighborhood in which was predominantly Mexican.
2) HOW DID YOU GET INTO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
There are several reasons why. I have always been into music. My father had a vast record collection that included Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Elvis. I gravitated towards those records. It definitely planted the seed, as well as watching the John Carpenter movie made for TV starring Kurt Russell as Elvis. I remember being 5 years old in awe of the flashy clothes and swagger and my father telling me that this is “real rock and roll, son.” That did it for me. Later in the early 90’s, I took it a step further and started buying and listening to original 1950’s rockabilly like Gene Vincent, Joe Clay, Glen Glenn, Johnny Burnette trio, and Benny Joy. As a teen growing up I identified with the teenage angst expressed in the music and energy evoked in the songs. I was already into punk rock and realized that this was the “original” punk rock and appreciated the fantastic musicianship. There is nothing like those original timeless cuts. With few exceptions, I thought the music of the day was bland, contrived and predictable.
On a side note: When I first got into rockabilly in the early 90’s it was considered un-cool and weird. The “house party” scene was a prevalent style and sub culture for young Latinos. Illegal back yard parties organized by Party crews sprouted everywhere and it became very trendy. Ironically, the guys kind of dressed rockabilly with the faded jeans, cut off sleeve pendletons, and sported quiffs with side burns, but the similarity stopped there, they listened and danced to 80’s new wave and mostly techno/house music. That is why in my opinion Morrissey became so popular amongst Latinos in Los Angeles in later years. My friends and I wanted to separate our selves from these so called “Rebels” and painstakingly did our research and stayed true to the real deal 1950’s music, cars and clothes. For us it was not nostalgia, it was something new, original and counter culture. We took a lot of ridicule and flack from people in those days, now in Southern California it is common to see a young kid “into it,” which is a positive thing.
3)WHY DO YOU THINK ROCKABILLY IS SO BIG IN LOS ANGELES?
Latinos have contributed greatly to its popularity. It use to be a sparse and predominantly white working class subculture but that all changed when a few Latinos embraced and popularized it. Word spread fast and more and more Latinos got into it, from that point on, it caught on like wildfire. Also, a great milestone that deserves honorable mention is when D.J Tom Ingram (Viva las Vegas organizer) moved from England to Southern California in 1996. When he started djing the now defuct night club “Rudolphos, ” which was ran by promoter Vido in Silver Lake, California, he introduced a predominately mexican crowd to an excellent selection of boppers, jivers, and strollers in his record hops. Prior to that time people danced only to live music and dj’s where considered just filler between bands. Dancing had now become an integral part to the scene, which therefore encouraged its popularity. We have a long history of being great dancers and having the opportunity to strut our stuff on the dance floor is a no-brainer. Many of the regulars who frequented the rockabilly clubs have now become accomplished musicians playing “rockin”music, this has now doubt made L.A an epicenter. There is also a cult like following to Reb Kennedy’s “Wild Records” independent record label. It formed out of Hollywood California in 2001. The Label highlights many Latino rockabilly artists and the fan base has grown exponentially through out southern California and into Europe.
4) WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY LATINOS GRAVITATE TO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
The obvious answer is we can easily indentify with the look and style since Latinos for the most part are invested in there own heritage and proud of there traditions. The Mexican American experience in the 1940’s and 1950’s left an indelible impression on to popular culture in cars, music and fashion that never died and has been passed on to generation to generation. Just take a look at the 40’,50’s, 60’s cars Latinos take pride in fixing up. Practically every other house in my neighbor has an old chevy or ford in their driveway. There is a long proud history to it. Mexican Americans have played a vital role to the early development of the 1950’s Kustom Car. Gilbert “Gil” Ayala was a legendary custom car builder and painter. Gil was the younger brother of Al Ayala, Al was two years older, and the pair was known as the Ayala brothers. These two genius’s made history when Gil at age 20 in 1945 opened up a custom body shop named Gil’s Auto Body Works at 4074 E Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. They built together some of the most beautiful Kustom mercury cars. A dream car for cats and kittens into rockabilly. For example, the Ayala brothers performed all of the customizing on the first edition of the Bettancourt Mercury. The Ayala’s, together with Sam Barris and Jerry Quesnel, where the first to chop a 1949 Mercury. Ayala chopped the top and created a very smooth flowing roofline and just as Sam did on his personal ’49 Mercury. Ayala also created the famous full fade away fenders.
If you revisit the history of American music there are many unsung Latin heroes of the 1940’s and 1950’s who played jump blues, doo wop, rockabilly, and rock and roll who incorporated latin elements to their song structure. To name a view, Lalo Guerro, Don Tosti, Trini Lopez, Freddy Fender, Tito Guizar, Danny Flores (aka Chuck Rio), Chan Romero and of course Richie Valens. Many Latinos already know some of these artists from their parents and grandparents. Also Dj’s like Art Laboe and Huggy Boy have played oldies for generations of Latinos on am radio and often included in their sets, 1950’s rock and roll, doowop and rhythm and blues. If you are a Mexican American from east L.A, chances are, you more than likely grew up on oldies in your house. To get into rockabilly, really isn’t a far stretch.
The “hepcat” look and style never faded away. Some of my friends’ grandparents who where hip still wore the “dixie peach in the hair” and donned 1950’s style button down shirts. You can say, we inherited the rockabilly style from our families. If you look at The Golden age of Mexican cinema with movie stars like Resortes and Tin Tan they had that 1940’s Zoot Suit style, that today is a look some still take on. The longest running syndicated televison show is “I love Lucy.“ We have admired icon Desi Arnez for decades with his slick black hair and “Ricardo” Jackets, this today is considered a rockabilly look. It is no wonder we can relate to the fashion. And Don’t forget Ladies they also look hot adopting the “rockabilly fashion” in its many variations and interpretations. Latinas are generally more curvaceous and the “pinup look” adopted by the ladies compliments their body frame quite nicely.
5) WHAT TYPE OF EVENTS DO YOU END UP WORKING AS A DJ? I have been djing greater Los Angeles for over 11 years. I have DJ’ed countless car shows, night clubs and rockabilly weekenders. Currently, you can dig my record hops every Saturday night at the Viva Cantina in Burbank California.
DJ Rockin Vic Spinning @ Viva Las Vegas
6)WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS TO SPIN OR LISTEN TO?
I love Doc Starkes and the Nightriders, the Dudroppers, Roy Brown and Ronnie Self. However, I like everything from Earl Bostic to the Sonics. My musical palette has advanced over the years from being just into 1950′s rock and roll. I dig roots 40′s hillbilly, jazz, and blues but tend to be on the African American side of things. Good friends of mine have turned me onto western swing. I also dig wild 60′s northwest garage, newbreed and popcorn. 17 years ago I was really into neo rockabilly, like the Nitros and the Deltas but have I evolved since then. I have always loved the 1950’s classics first and foremost, I learned quite a bit from am radio. The famous 50′s DJ Art Laboe was instrumental in my musical upbringing. I will never forget hearing Sanford Clarks “the fool” the first time or Big Joe Turner’s “Chicken and the Hawk”. Right now in L.A, desperate late 1950′s rock and roll is hot as well as Blues boppers. I play them all.
7) WHAT % OF THE ROCKABILLY SCENE IN LA WOULD YOU GUESS IS LATINO?
8) DO YOU EVER LISTEN OR SPIN ROCKABILLY IN SPANISH?
Yes, I am one of the few that does and is very knowledgeable of it. I play songs by Johnny Tedesco, Los Gibson Boys, Los Silver Rockets, Gloria Rios, Los Llopis, Los Xochimilcas, Los Apsons, Los Teen Tops, Los Camisas Negras and Eddie Con Los shades to name a few. The crowd “gets it” because the beat is tops and most of us can speak Spanish.
9)WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK ABOUT YOUR ROCKABILLY LIFESTYLE?
They love it! They think the music, furniture and the cars are fantastic. I was raised to understand that “made in America” especially stuff from 1950’s meant high quality and durability. My father is very knowledgeable of antiques; therefore my family can appreciate and admire my life style. For example, I take pride in my clothes being well tailored. I am a full-blown Hepcat who loves dressing in the Memphis “Lanksy” look that was popularized by Elvis in the 1950’s. In my opinion, that look is timeless, slick and will never go out of style.
10) WHAT ABOUT YOUR PLACE OF WORK?
I work in the entertainment industry and I am a Broadcast Engineer/Video Editor by trade. My job loves my style, in fact, they even featured my self in a promo a couple of years back highlighting “my rockabilly style”
BOOM BOOM L’ROUX / BURLESQUE DANCER & PIN UP MODEL
Boom Boom L’roux is a Puerto Rican burlesque dancer from New York City currently living in Seattle. She originally got into burlesque when she happened upon a performance by dancer “Dirty Martini” at the famous Slipper Room in NYC. The performance influenced Boom Boom so much that it led her to become a professional burlesque dancer and pin up model herself and precipitated her move to the west coast where the scene was more vibrant.
Burlesque has become a big part of the Rockabilly subculture and perhaps it’s no surprise the burlesque performances at Viva Las Vegas 2012 were some of the hottest tickets around. Los Angeles is full of pin up models and burlesque performers with retro rockabilly girls of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities getting in on the acts.
Indeed if you hit any psychobilly or rockabilly weekenders these days chance are it’s going to include some burlesque performances. Bettie Page, if she were alive, would probably be blown away that what used to be considered “trashy” and “obscene” and in some cases “illegal” is now rather tame when you consider what you see on TV or in the movies on a regular basis.
Yes, the U.S. puritanical roots are slowly but surely fading away. Back then there were those who’d prefer that everyone’s moral outlooks reflect their own and if it didn’t, well, then they could just lock ‘em up. BUT that whole freedom of speech and expression thing gets in the way EVERY time.
There are those that argue burlesque objectifies women and they might have a point. But the vibe I gathered from speaking to many of the performers and attendees at Viva Las Vegas is that it’s all in good fun and of course, no one is forced to perform, or to watch for that matter.
They simply revel in reviving an art form that sadly used to be assigned to the alleys and hideaway of seedy clubs in mostly the big, bad “evil” cities. Back then many women danced because there was so little opportunity for single women beyond marriage. Men ruled the workplace and secretarial work didn’t pay so hot.
Today, it’s still not quiet an equal society but at least women have choices and are choosing to dance burlesque for reasons other than raw necessity. In fact, like other art forms, it can be really hard to make ends meet by those who choose the competitive art of burlesque performance.
So many do it as a hobby, not for the money but because they love it.. and I think it shows. At least it did at the Burlesque Bingo event at Viva Las Vegas 2012.
If you didn’t get enough burlesque at Viva Las Vegas well then you might want to head to Vegas for the “Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend”to be held 5/31/12-6/3/12 to be held at the very same place VLV was held, The Orleans Hotel & Casino.
If you know rockabilly, you probably know about The Polecats, a damned near legendary British rockabilly band that’s been doing it since, get this, 1977!
They were the final act at the recent Viva Las VegasCar Show Stage last Saturday and it was cool to see some living legends do their thing live for a crowd that appreciated what they were witnessing.
First impression of these guys felt a little like channeling some old school Jerry Lee Lewis energy mixed with some punk.. maybe the Damned or Buzzcocks…. hmmm wonder where I got that Buzzcock reference? Oh well, in case you missed it here is a little video of them performing a little ditty called “What Do I Get?” by some other British band that escapes me.
Woke up late on Saturday, packed up my camera and I and my painfully chapped lips and headed over to the Viva Las Vegas Car Show at the Orleans Hotel. Other than my aforementioned chapped lips, I love the desert air in April and it was an almost picture perfect day for any outside activity. It’s been five years since I’ve attended VLV and as if further evidence of it’s tremendous growth and popularity over the years were needed, I present Exhibit #1… The Car Show, which this year in addition to the classic cars and hot-rods, featured dozens of vendors on site and a large festival stage with bands playing all day until sundown.
I finally hooked up with my buddy Alex Blue, from the Los Angeles band Normandie Blue who was hanging with our mutual pals at the Spitfire Interiors(Whittier, CA) booth. I’ve known the crew from Spitfire for years and they have some of the most unique punk, rockabilly and psychobilly type of merch I’ve ever seen and they were doing a brisk bit of business at VLV. When I arrived, their booth was so crowded I couldn’t fit inside and shoot at the same time. The guys were preoccupied just trying to provide change for the cash being shoved in front of their faces.
Most of the vendors, like Spitfire, were mom and pop entrepreneurs and artists plying their wares for an appreciative client base. Booth prices are relatively affordable so vendors have a good shot of not only promoting themselves but making a nice profit at events like VLV. As well they should, exhibiting at these events is a lot of work but for most, well worth it (not to mention, a more than little fun is had in addition to raking in all the cold, hard cash).
The cars were insane as always. My favorites are the ridiculously low riding cars with the narrow front windshields and the old timey, two-seater hot rods. Many cars are towed in from around the country on the backs of trailers but I saw more than a few driving in the slow/truck lane on the drive to and from Los Angeles on the way in and out.
One of the great things about VLV in general and the car show specifically is the diversity of unique fashion that’s on display. The ladies had their Sunbrellas out in force to fight against the high desert sun and most of the fashion reflected the tattooed lifestyle of rockabilly or psychobilly fanatics. But there were also plenty of punk and other types of fashion influences mixed in amongst the crowd of strolling pin up queens and retro enthusiast.
The live musical acts on the huge outdoor stage was a great addition to the event from when I attended 5 years ago. There were great acts throughout the day but one of the highlights for me was catching a performance by the legendary British band “The Polecats“, who are a great, high energy rockabilly band dancing and playing on the edges of the genre where it melds with punk and psychobilly.
After the Polecats gig and the car show wound down, I made my way back inside the Orleans. If for some ungodly reason the car show wasn’t your scene, then there was STILL plenty going on… VLV is like Rockabilly amusement park where only your body’s need for sleep (or your tolerance for loads of alcohol) can prevent you from feeling entertained every second of the entire 4 day affair.
In addition to another pool party going full blast, I discovered a couple MORE music venues I had somehow missed PLUS a whole separate vendor area featuring retro clothing and old remastered classic rockabilly CDs and band posters. Yep, VLV has gotten huge.. but unlike so many things that see this kind of success, it has only gotten better in the process of growing. Everywhere you went, PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) was on tap for a measly $3.
Finally, burlesque.. that oh so popular retro and relatively recently revived art form that, at VLV at least, often meant braving snakingly long lines to secure a pass to the sold out shows. You may know how I feel about lines, basically I don’t do them. So I felt pretty smug when I was able to waltz into Burlesque Bingo without standing in so much as a 2 person deep line.
Now I’m not a big bingo fan exactly, but the fact that I could roll right in armed only with my VLV armband and press pass, well then bingo was a great excuse to get up close and personal to some burlesque dancing. Ah dear reader.. the sacrifices I make to bring you the pics and the story. I sure hope you appreciate it!
I’m not going to explain how Burlesque Bingo works but lets just it’s not your typical church bingo, of that you can be pretty certain. The highlight of the event for me was the chance to see the reigning 2011 Miss Viva Las Vegas Burlesque Champ, Miss Inga Ingenue(AKA Little Blonde Bomb) perform… wow! ,
And for any of you with delicate gender political sensibilities, you should know this was not a room full of dudes ogling scantily clad performers, far from it. It was at least 50/50 male-female ratio with some of the most raucous applause coming from the ladies in the bunch, many of whom were there with their man.
Inga Ingenue .
Lets see… burlesque, bingo, bowling… fashion, art and hot-rods… tattoos, leather jackets and rolled up jeans, sun-brellas, tight dresses and high heels..
Pool Parties with Tiki Bars, Hawaiian Shirts & Hula girls… Pachucos with Zoot Suits,
Guys with Mohawks, Quiffs and Pompadours..Girls channeling Sophia Loren and Bettie Page…
Mexibilly and Hillbilly Billy music with sliding guitars!
Drinking PBR out of a bowling pin or a plastic cowboy boot…
Elvis in with a pink cadillac scouting couples for the wedding chapel…
Chuck Berry and Richi Valens blasting from hot rods…
Greasers and Car Clubs…Sophia Loren and Bettie Page lookalikes..
Torn Suicidal Tendancies T-Shirt guy next to a Johnny Cash look a like..
Fans from Japan, Romania, Scotland, England…
Guys in overalls looking straight up from the movie “Brother Where Art Though?” and I saw a tough looking dude in combat boots and a kilt!
ahhh.. silly, ridiculous Las Vegas… oh and lest forget…
great live music from all over the world.
This is Rockabilly… this was Viva Las Vegas 2012.
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For the complete set of photos from Viva Las Vegas 2012 visit our Flikr Page HERE!
and stay tuned for some video clips from Burlesque Bingo and the Polecats coming soon!
I love subcultures. At Viva Las Vegasweekend you get to experience a world flipped on it’s head where it seems almost EVERYONE is a rockabilly character from some 1950′s movie or I Love Lucy episode. When I drove up to the Orleans hotel I knew I was in the right spot before even checking the sign. There were James Dean greasers walking into the venue and crazy looking hot-rods out in the parking lot.
The Orleans is huge and with it’s over the top Louisiana cajun theme, it is the perfect locale for a rockabilly weekender. After 15 years, I would say the Orleans Hotel and Tom Ingram’s Viva Las Vegas have pretty much perfected the art of the event. And it is art. It’s packed full of activities from 10 AM on Thursday until the wee hours of the night on Sunday. When do the people sleep? From the looks of things… not much.
To the casual attendee, things sure seemed to flow along without a hitch. I arrived early afternoon to see an incredibly long line snaking it’s way through the casino floor. It seemed to have no end in sight. I panicked thinking I was going to have to stand in that line to pick up my passes. But not to worry, that was the line to pick up tickets for the popular Burlesque Show later that evening. That dear reader, would have to carry on without me.
Picking up my press wristband and pass was much easier and in a matter of 3-4 minutes I was good to go. I headed straight to the vendor area to see what kind of unique items were being offered this year. Underneath the rockabilly soundtrack and booming live band next door, I heard the faint buzz of tattoo needles where people were getting inked up. Next to the tattoo booth was a spot for Rockabilly girls to get a makeover.
There were of course old Rockabilly albums and photos of bands from back in the day, lots of vintage items including old movie posters from the 50s and 60s, plenty of booths with all kinds of unique clothing for guys and gals, customized knobs for the gearshift of your hot-rod and even a zoot suit booth for those who rock the pachuco look.
Happy Customer with George (Right) - The House of Jorge
I think my favorite booth wasn’t so much of a booth but a little area called “The House of Jorge”run by, you guessed it George from Denver, Colorado. George had custom belts, some cool chain wallets and some really cool, really popular and yes, expensive ($75+) PBR belt buckles. The stuff was unique (and expensive.. though I hear he’ll cut you a deal if he likes you) because it’s custom, one of a kind and made by hand by George himself. George is not only a talented artist, he’s a nice guy. We had a good time talking about the end of social networking as we know it (what, you haven’t heard? well you heard it here first kiddies).
Next up was bowling. Now with bowling shirts so popular in this scene, it should, I suppose be no surprise that the “sport” of bowling is equally popular. The upstairs area of the Orleans has a kick ass bowling alley and for $5, VLV attendees received 2 games, shoe rental and a slice of pizza.
There was a constant supply of music everywhere in the hotel and it was all the right kind, rockabilly and old time rock and roll.
We also saw the Atomic Drifters from Denver and the Phantom Shakers from Detroit as well as our good buddy DJ Rockin Vic (Los Angeles) spinning classics for a packed and swinging dance floor. There was a cool pool party featuring the “kings of hulabilly”, “Hula Girls”and when I say cool, I mean literally cool, it was chilly in Vegas.
Hula Girls @ the Pool Party
One of my favorite things the entire day was the VIP Screening of the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All.. a documentary years in the works that was officially authorized and narrated by Bettie herself. What an amazing thing to actually hear (but not see) the older Bettie Page telling her incredible life story just before she passed away.
Before the screening there was a red carpet and a Bettie Page look alike contest. BTW – A complete review on Bettie Page Reveals All is coming up later.
One of the many great things about VLV is that there is so much to do that you can’t possibly do (or in my case) cover it all. So you pick and choose your favorite things and if you are bored, well, it’s because you want to be. There are so many bands, so many different things to do you just have to relax, highlight your “Must Dos” and let the rest come as it may, naturally.
It’s sort of like a short vacation to another country, except in this case, it’s not only another place but a completely different era. You can’t do it all, so you do what you can and don’t let the fact that you can’t do it all stress you in any way. I didn’t see a lot of stressed people at VLV by the way, it seemed everyone was having a good time.
Which brings me to the question, if everyone is in the subculture, then is it a subculture anymore? While I don’t think there is any danger in rockabilly taking over the planet anytime soon… hitting the VLV at the Orleans hotel gives one a slight taste what life would be like if it did. And I have to tell you, so long as Elvis is around to be our president and roll around in his motorcade in a hot pink cadilac, I think it might be pretty cool.
MORE TO COME: Today we’re hitting the Car Show, seeing more bands and we’ll many, many more pics and videos up soon, so stay tuned.
Yesterday was Day 1 of the big Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender and despite our intentions to leave bright and early, we left around 1 pm and thanks to a car accident on the outskirts of Los Angeles arrived kind of late to Vegas, hungry and tired.
The hungry part was addressed with some cheap but awfully good Mexican food at some not so little hole (everything’s big in Nevada.. wait, wrong state.. never mind) in the wall.
Vegas Road Trip
The tired part, well, I must be getting old because I didn’t seem to bounce back from the 5 hour drive like I hoped.
So yes, you guessed it, I was in Vegas and it was just after 10 pm and off to bed I rolled. Hope I didn’t break any local laws.
On the flip side, I woke up this morning completely rested and refreshed right? Wrong! I was up at 5am for some unknown reason… I finally went back to sleep around 7Am but I feel like the elusive God of Rim sleep skipped my bed last night.
Wow.. how boring it is to type about these minute details of my life. As you know, I usually try to stick to the more exciting things (mugging attempts, con-men, fights, etc.) when covering behind the scenes… and now, my friends, you know why.
The good news? I’m heading over to VLV right now… to pick up my media pass and stand in line to get my pass for the burlesque showcase.. (I guess it’s pretty popular because access to the press is limited). So things are bound to pick up when I actually do what it is I came to do… so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I just finished some pancakes and I think I’ll grab a shower.. Will the mind blowing details of my journey to the exotic land of Las Vegas never end? Wait… I better twitter that pancake blurb really fast! People will want to know.
Punk fans, bored by all this rockabilly talk? Well I ran across this article in the local Vegas CityLife paper about punk history in Las Vegas. Bands like Tomorrow’s Gone and Faded Glory. They put up an online archive series for you punk history buffs called www.PunksInVegas.com. Check it out.