PUNK PANTHERS

Ever wonder what happened to some of the Valley's former punk V.I.P.'s? While a few still are fixtures on the scene, others packed up their whips, chains and dog collars and fled Phoenix years ago.

For example, it's been nearly a decade since most locals lost track of Frank "Rat Boy" Discussion, that irrepressible punk who was given to terrorizing the city's rodent population. Discussion eventually moved to San Francisco and now works at a postal services and supplies store in Berkeley. Still other celebs from the golden age of Phoenix punk have split the scene even more permanently. John E. Precious, formerly of the Consumers and Killer Pussy, and David Wiley, erstwhile of the Consumers and International Language, both retired to that great pogo party in the sky years ago.

As for the scenesters who've managed to stick around, they've entered the post-punk era by embracing everything from motherhood to eco-causes to highfalutin art. Recently, New Times caught up with some of those movers and shakers in an attempt to find out if, indeed, there is life after punk.

Lucy LaMode: It seems like only yesterday that lovely Lucy was wearing provocatively cut nurse's uniforms and performing fake enemas on-stage at Killer Pussy shows. These days, LaMode spends her time changing dirty diapers and cleaning up baby puke with husband Donny and four-month-old baby Jett as her only audience.

But don't start picturing the former high priestess of punk in a terry cloth robe, whiling away the hours watching the Home Shopping Network. "I still go out sometimes, and I still dress as crazy as I used to," she insists. "I haven't gone that domestic yet, thank God. I mean, I don't even cook."

When she's not tending to young Jett, LaMode is busy studying acting. The woman who was once carried on-stage in a coffin has decided to put her wildly theatrical side to good use by pursuing a career in theatre and movies. She appeared in a show at the Herberger recently, and she has a project planned with the Valley's Playwright Workshop for this fall.

As for Killer Pussy, LaMode hasn't ruled out the idea of a future gig. "We will play again as a reunion type of thing," she promises. "I can see that happening.

"Although," she notes, "I have to say I haven't worn my nurse's outfit in a while."

Brendan de Vallance: Somehow it makes perfect sense that the Junior Chemists' guitarist--he of the flea-bitten thrift-store clothes and half a mustache--would end up being a performance artist. With their Romper Room theatrics and Dadaist songwriting sensibility, the Chemists were always more performance artists than punks anyway.

De Vallance, who last performed in the Valley in March at downtown Phoenix's Ice House, describes his shows as "collages." "I do these very nonnarrative, cacophonous kind of shows, somewhere between stand-up comedy and vaudeville and Jackson Pollack, I guess."

Between performances, de Vallance pays the rent by doing freelance work in the graphic arts field. He now lives in Chicago, having moved there in 1981 to attend the city's Art Institute. De Vallance still gets back to Phoenix occasionally, though, to visit family and take in a gig by former Chemist Michael Cornelius' new band Housequake.

De Vallance recently started his own two-person group, Misery Loves Company, which debuted at Chicago's Battle of the Bad Bands in January. "I still play the same guitar that I played in the Junior Chemists, you know," he explains. "It's a two-string guitar that someone had that got run over by a car, and the piece where the tuning pegs are supposed to be got broken off. I mean, I still don't know how to play. I don't know any chords or anything like that. So I guess in some ways my music hasn't changed a heck of a lot."

Francine Ruley: To look at her now, you'd never guess that a decade ago this fairly conservative-appearing page designer for the Phoenix Gazette was one of the Valley's reigning punk debs. An ASU student at the time, Ruley would bleach out her hair and dye it a myriad of fluorescent colors. "Sometimes when I'd be walking across campus, I could hear people singing `Whip It' behind me," she groans.

Back then, you could find Ruley swilling beer at a Mad Gardens show or harassing "normals" at trendy clubs like Tempe's Devil House. "We'd go to New-Wave Wednesday at the Devil House, and the Devil House was typically a jocky, yuppies-in-training-type bar. It was the big deal for those types of people to get decked out in their new-wave clothes and go to the Devil House and dance to Adam Ant. We'd usually go out of boredom and to show off how creepy-looking we were. When the `normals' would get up to dance, we'd steal pitchers of beer off their tables and drink them."

Nowadays, Ruley isn't the club hound she once was, but she still finds time to catch a gig by the Valley's more creative acts, like Twenty Four Hour World. Bands like the World have given Ruley faith that the scene may be recouping some of the excitement it's lost since punk's halcyon days. "The scene is getting better," she asserts. "It went through a real drought for the past three years. But the bands are getting better, and people are believing in them a little bit more. I've been up to Seattle so many times and seen the support that locals get there that it's made me think, `Geez, it's only three or four bucks. Let's go see this band.'"

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