Goth 4 Lyfe

Goth Porn

Hi I’m blogging from Boston, my homeland, location of my first and everlasting discovery of high style – GOTH. There is a reason why pretty much every serious designer delves at least occasionally into the dark arts. It’s intense, glamorous, it’s costume, it references mythical romantic pasts, it’s tragic, it’s done up, it is total artifice, painstaking, difficult to wear in the real world but I did, humble reader, here in the streets of Boston circa 1986, when thuggish Irish boys would spit on me in the street for wearing giant crucifixes thrifted from the BEST Salvation Army of all time on Route 1 in Saugus. It was tough being Goth in this land of haters in the conservative 1980s before Green Day made it okay to have funny-colored hair. But in a funny way it was okay, because you were cultivating angst, and what better fodder than actual people actually trying to kill you in the actual street. Anyway, I’m blogging on borrowed time, at a Colonial-esque Starbucks downtown, behind a very goth little churchyard where real dead bodies are buried and where I once gave my teenaged boyfriend a blowjob after seeing the Doors movie. I also had a formative homosexual experience in this churchyard. All in all I am awash in nostalgia for my glorious youth and so please come crawl with me down memory ally.

Duh.

This is a no brainer. Everyone wanted to look like this – goth is, actually, a very conformist subculture, with a palette of exactly one color to choose from, black, with the occasional risque foray into red or white. That’s it. I tried with varying success to make my hair look like this from 1985 – 1989. I also saw Siouxsie at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on the Tinderbox tour, the first concert I got to go to unchaperoned. Yes! During Arabian Nights, when a photographer continued to snap pictures past the allotted time photography was allowed, Siouxsie hauled off and smacked him  in the camera with her microphone. Everyone heard the blow, it was like ‘Ripped out sheep’s eyes / mmmmmhmagdofbfsihbfdos‘  And the photographer passed my seat running up the aisle with a smashed camera and a bloody face.

SM influences were not so heapsy (short for Hystrionic Personality Disorder) and played and tacky in the 80s – there was something sleek and daring and transgressive about it. Gitane Demone sang in some of Christian Death’s many incarnations and I liked her dark Marilyn Monroe look. I also think that she has aged in a really cool manner:

Just like a sort of hardened lady sexy gypsy who has seen rough times and looks gorgeous from it. In my goth gang, everyone had the band that they sort of owned, they were yours, and Christian Death were mine, which means I had their album cover painted onto the back of my leather jacket. And it is worth noting that the leather jacket was stolen from my stepfather, and the art was painted onto it by a hesher in the graphic design shop at my vocational high school.

Rozz Williams, the tragic, suicided, hot singer for some of Christian Death’s confusing incarnations. You can visit his grave at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles.One of the best moments of my youthful goth lyfe was getting to hang out with Rozz backstage at the Living Room in Providence, Rhode Island, during a weird Christian Death reunion tour in the 80s. He was pretty strung out and nodding off, but between snoozes he was sweet, and shared pitchers of beers with us, the his underage fans. After the show, loathe to let the moment pass, I decided I would finally fulfill my destiny and become a groupie, and hop on their tour bus and let whatever happen happen. I dragged my gay hairdresser friend Ronnie, who had a credit card, with me, asked my other gay friend Peter to call my mother and tell her what I’d done and that that I would be back, I was not dropping out of high school (I wish!) and I climed onto the bus and the band was like, ‘Sure, you can come with us, do you have any money?’ And I was like, ‘Ronnie has a credit card!’ And the humorless pink-haired roadie started screaming ‘Absolutely not, get the fuck off this bus right now!’ And we were like, Fine, you don’t have to be such a bitch about it. And we climbed back off, disappointed, certain the rest of my life would not live up to that moment, but suitably impressed with my own dedication and daring. Also – why are brides so goth?

Goth flirted with the mainstream in the 80s, in such personages as Billy Idol, who I once waited thirteen hours to meet outside a hotel in Boston, who I loved more deeply and psychotically than I can explain here, except to say that my room was wallpapered with his image and I spent many, many hours simply lying in bed listening to his music and crying  and crying with my impossible and unknown love for him. Look how goth this wedding scene is! Or, look how bridal this goth scene is!

Perri Lister, Billy Idol’s girlfriend and stylist, played the bride in the White Wedding video. I looked like a wild nerd when I saw Billy on the Rebel Yell tour – my first concert ever and I opted to wear my Catholic School varsity jacket rather than the leather jacket my stripper aunt had given me because – hold on – I was afraid of looking too slutty. I learned my lesson after that show. If one is truly dedicated to goth, and the gother strains of punk and dare I even say metal, one can never look slutty enough. When I saw Billy, past his prime during his Whiplash Smile tour, I dressed like Perri Lister in the video, in my gay friend Danny’s divorced sister’s wedding dress, my little sister’s ballet shoes and a long white wig.

More Goth Porn

Hot. I wanted to be Perri Lister so bad. Here she is having her birthday party at the Cat Club with her boyfriend Billy Idol. It was 1984, I was in 8th Grade in Chelsea, Massachusetts and I wanted to run away to New York City, find where Billy Idol lived, knock on his door and then pass out when he answered. For real, that was my plan. Because he couldn’t leave an unconscious girl on his stoop, could he?

This is me in 1986 or 87 gazing with incredible delight at the love of my life, Billy Idol, who was so nice to me, and let me kiss him on the mouth and put his arm soooo tightly around me when we took a picture together that I sadly do not have anymore. Behind me is my friend Stacy who was a Libra and could do her goth eyeliner perfect. Next to me is Peter who I am crashing with right now! Goth besties 4-evah!

Let’s look at more pictures of me! You guys, I worked hard to look like this! My hair looked so good this day! I must have freshly dyed it because it looks so healthy and you know how the conditioner that comes with box hair dye is so great. Me and my friends are waiting to get into the Skinny Puppy show, look how excited I am! I’m clutching my gay friend Mark who was really artsy and cool. The girl who looks incognito behind me was my other bestie Guen, whose real name was Gwendolyn but she changed it to the gother Guinevere. Guen is wearing a goth wig over her goth hair, like a Goth Hasidic woman.

Here I am in my Graphic Arts shop at my shitty vocational high school – thank you for humoring this extreme narcissism! There are two points to this picture, aside from the joie de vivre that is clearly in evidence and made being Goth a bit challenging, temperamentally. Point One: Eyebrows. Point Two: Lords of the New Church t-shirt. Let’s start with the eyebrows. Eyebrows are goth. Mine here are darkened heavily with eyeliner, but what I really longed for was the elegant, elaborate eyebrow designs I didn’t have the artistic hand for. Such as:

Nina Hagen: Ultimate Eyebrows. I tried out for the 80s lip-synch show Puttin’ On the Hits as Nina Hagen when I was like 16. I did these eyebrows and wore my friend’s prom dress and stole my sister’s actual beauty pageant winner tiara and lip synched to Gods of Aquarius, which is about the coming of the UFO gods. I did not get selected.

Doctor and the Medics had like one hit, Spirit in the Sky, a cover even, but I liked the song and I liked the video with the girls with long black hair like goth-hippies (there were girls who looked like that in Cult videos, too, and I loved that look a lot but it was the era before straightening irons and so that was not an available look for me) and I really liked the Doctor’s crazy eyebrows.

I fucking loved Stiv Bators so much, more than any of you could ever understand. I tried to be his teenaged groupie when his band The Lords of the New Church played in Boston. It was a 21+ show but the band kindly let us come in to hear the soundcheck and told us what hotel they were staying at, and me and my friends stayed up all night waiting for the morning when we could buy donuts at Dunkin Donuts and bring them to the band, which we did. Alas, Stiv Bators was occupied with a real groupie who was actually having sex with him and not bringing him pastries. We went and hung out with the rest of the bad and drank vodka with them at 9 in the morning while watching a made for tv movie where Gary Coleman lives in a locker at Grand Central Station.

Cute cute Stiv with SuperGroupie Bebe Buell, who I promise I will blog all about at some point. She’s Liv Tyler’s mom. Stiv got hit by a van in Paris, went home and went to sleep and never woke up. Stiv is dead, long live Stiv.

I always felt really cool when I found an obscure goth band before my friends. This is the LA band Kommunity FK and I was briefly in love with the singer there with the nice hair. I lost my virginity to their song Something Inside Me Has Died. Perfect.

This is what happens when you try to bleach all that black hairdye out of your hair. We called it After-Black Orange, it’s own shade. Sort of a Molly Ringwald look, which I wasn’t totally opposed to, though I believed I had a darker soul than Molly Ringwald. Despite my joie de vivre. I was a complicated Gothic teenager, okay? Here I am wearing a Smiths shirt, The Queen is Dead. I saw them on this, their last tour, and hopped seats until I was standing on the front row of chairs. My hair was tied back in a bandanna and I had drawn a black spider web coming off the corner of one eye out to my temple. No photo exists, you will have to trust me.

!!!!!!! TWINZ!!!!!!!

Sexy twins aren’t just for frat boys – Goth girls and gay goth boys got to drool over the double romantic trouble of Gene Loves Jezebel. I loved them very, very much, and like Jay Aston, the twin on the left, I would tie shreds of ribbon at the base of my scalp. I hung out with them before one of their shows and they were very aloof. They played pinball, and whenever they lost the ball they’d go ‘Koo-kuh!’, like they did in all their songs. Lacking the wisdom to suicide themselves while still young and androgynous, GLJ have, like all goth men, aged badly:

Boys 2 Men

Fabio called and he wants you to stop stealing his jobs.

I'm on acid in this picture.

Me and Peter. Peter is wearing colored contacts which made his brown eyes a spooky blue. GOTH.

One of my best looks. I was excited that the blue of my hair matched the blue of the jean jacket so well.

Know what’s goth? A good little bolo hat with your humongous black tarantula bangs clawing out from under it.

Know what else is goth? A black velvet cape with white satin lining, and the lining has been autographed by Billy Idol, Anne Rice and Elvira Mistress of the Dark. On a vintage public telephone with my gay friend Gary.

My goth life and times. I am the bleach-blonde in the black dress in the middle right photo. At he Siouxsie concert on the Boston Common, the night I found a fake ID that would forever change my life as well as my immediate social status. Okay I gotta go! I’m off to Salem to give propers to my Witch ancestors and get a tarot reading! Thanks to Cal Treska, Peter Pizzi, Danny Frizzi and Copley Kids for the photos.  Goth is dead! Long live goth!

About Michelle Tea

I chanted "I am a fashion magnet" in the shower and subsequently found a Gianni Versace - era Versace skirt at Buffalo Exchange for $17. Once I got a beyond-my-means Fendi purse for free and sat staring at it, crying. Also cried at Olivier Theyskens' last show for Nina Ricci in Paris. Other things that make me cry: a good lip synch; my emotions. I have stolen two Jeremy Scott swag items from two Jeremy Scott events I was not quite invited to. Sometimes I want to age into Patti Smith, sometimes Baby Jane Hudson. I frequently dream I am in a magic thrift store where I can have whatever I want. I regret not buying the Alexander Wang purse when it was half price at Barney's. Like a delusional guy at a strip club, I feel special when the people who work at Barney's remember me. Having a Leo rising gives me big hair and a need for attention. My favorite designers right now are Alexander Wang, Philip Lim, Proenza Schouler, Vivienne Westwood, Viktor Rolf, Rick Owens, Rodarte, Helmut Lang and Surface to Air. I was once shamed by an employee of a high-end department store for pronouncing 'Rodarte' incorrectly.

8 comments

  1. Thomas Page McBee

    SO CLOSE YET SO FAR! I am the saddest!

  2. Thomas Page McBee

    Also this is basically THE BEST!

  3. Sloane

    OH MY GOD BABY MICHELLE!!! I’m obsessed with this. Please share your fashion past all the time.

  4. love this post so much thank you for sharing your Goth memories, they will forever be black never fading…

  5. Oh hi, we went to Jumbo’s Clown Room together after you spoke at my college like 10 years ago, so I don’t expect you to remember me, but I relate so much to this entry that I have to gush all over it. I love people’s old school goth photos/stories so hard (I remember reading your GLJ groupie tale in some zine years ago). I love that you’re smiling in a lot of your spooky pics, I used to get made fun of for being a “happy” goth.

    I was goth from approximately ’92-’98, but same damn can of worms, except I was in Berkeley. In the beginning there were like 2 super hot older goths who worked at a clothing store on Telegraph Avenue who I stalked because they were so hot, plus one super genius goth boy at my high school who looked like David Bowie with purple hair who wound up posing for some underground goth porn mag wearing nay but black duct tape. (It wasn’t until my twenties that I actually got to make out with any goth guys, far past when I REAAALLLY wanted it). I remember being pissed when Marilyn Manson hit big in 1995 and what had been my SECRET subculture became infiltrated by 12 years olds at Hot Topic and became the subject of skits on SNL.

    I also adored Christian Death (and the majority of the bands you discuss) and even had Rozz hair with the orange scalp and black bitchbangs when Seventeen Magazine came to our school to take pictures of us: http://biancajames.blogspot.com/2011/06/in-lieu-of-content-today.html (Deez Nutzian is in this pic as well!) I had a homemade Christian Death teeshirt that I’d wear to gym and the Cholas would ask if that meant I liked to kill Christians, resulting in many awkward conversations.

    I once had a sex dream about Gene Loves Jezebel, that I cherish to this day although I still think Jay is hotter than Michael.

    I love that picture of aged Gitane- I hope I look that hot when I’m older. I swear goth women just age better for having avoided the sun, even if the dudes don’t.

    Semi-relatedly the Midwest (I live in Chicago) is fucking weird because straight laced people will wind up getting into goth in their 30s and 40s, people who somehow missed the music when it was actually in its heyday and decided to start dressing up now. It’s bizarro for me, as the only over-30 goths I seemed to encounter in the bay area were lifestylers- club owners, in bands, owned stores, etc.

  6. barry

    hi Michelle…greatly enjoyed your memories of the Boston scene in the mid 80s… i was there taking pix… i remember Siouxsie whacking that guy with the mic…was at the outdoor show too… i passed out black balloons to a bunch of folks and took their pictures… i have a nice one of you which i can email you… just give me an address. barry dakabala6@yahoo.com

  7. shelly, you’ve outdone yourself here. I LIVE!

  8. wow michelle, that was incredibly great–you were so on it–I’m very impressed.

IBC LOVES your brain, and we encourage thoughtful, lively discussion. We will, however, moderate comments that are abusive or disrespectful. Stay classy!

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