Killer Pussy: Old-School Phoenix Punk Parodists Gather For 30th Anniversary Reunion

It's another sweltering Phoenix night — the millionth one of the summer. One hundred forty-seven 20-somethings are gathered in this dank, smelly warehouse, perspiring and writhing in unison to deafening rock music. One young woman in a miniskirt made entirely of paper clips thrashes wildly beside a guy in a plastic raincoat and a Brockabrella hat. An obese man wearing a sailor suit and a wig made of lima beans is screaming. Someone has farted.

Suddenly, an Amazon takes the stage. She is seven feet tall and wearing a tiny, skin-tight nurse's uniform; her long, dark hair curls like seaweed to her waist. She glares at the audience, then begins hurling dead fish at the crowd from a plastic bucket at her feet. The audience goes wild.

This is not a fetishist party or a secret meeting of crazed halibut fans. It's 1983, and this is a Killer Pussy concert. The Amazon is lead singer Lucy LaMode; behind her, trashy-looking guys with asymmetrical haircuts break into the opening chords — all three of them — of the band's signature hit, "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage." Just before stepping over to her mic stand, LaMode points to the mob and scowls.

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Killer Pussy will perform on Saturday, May 29, at the Old World Brewery.

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"Fuck you," she says in a bored voice.

The audience practically levitates with joy.


Twenty-seven years later, LaMode rolls her eyes at the memory.

"I had just graduated from high school, and I was in these punk bands," she says from her home in Austin, Texas. "I love Killer Pussy, but everyone thought I was a whore. I was a virgin! I had my first beer at age 26! I'd sing these very sexual and shocking songs about fucking people with tomahawks or whatever, and I hadn't even been intimate with anyone."

LaMode has lately been singing about tomahawks — and about dildos and earwigs and enemas — again, in rehearsals for Killer Pussy's upcoming reunion concert in Phoenix. The band, remembered primarily for its outrageous early-'80s stage antics and the success of "Bondage," is preparing for a 30th anniversary gig at a west-side brewery this weekend.

It's not so much that Lucy LaMode (her stage name) is embarrassed to once have been a glam-punk diva who wore halter dresses made of calves' livers. It's that she worries that people still don't understand that she never really was that girl to begin with. LaMode, who came from a strict Italian family, recalls her punk days as a latent teenage rebellion in which she was sadly miscast.

"I loved the scene, but the other punks were always ragging on me because I didn't do drugs. I wasn't interested."

Drugs were expensive, and if she'd had money, LaMode insists, she'd have spent it on shoes.

"But the whole punk era was a good time to be in a band," LaMode remembers, "because you didn't have to know anything about music."

She and punk diva Les a Go Go had been moonlighting as The Roll-Ons, a band that did songs about pantyhose and feminine hygiene backed by Feederz drummer John E. Precious, when LaMode met musician Robert X. Planet. They bonded over a mutual love of Baltimore punk goddess Edith Massey and were soon writing songs together. The Roll-Ons morphed into Killer Pussy, which took its name from Les a Go Go's pet cat ("No one believes us," says Planet, a former New Times calendar editor and friend of the author, "but it was nothing anatomical or gynecological."), and Planet eventually joined the lineup, which at that point included guitarist Gary Russell and Dale B. Sari on bass.

In a thriving downtown Phoenix punk scene, Killer Pussy quickly made its mark with songs about pedophilia and the joys of sex at Gym 'n' Swim and its deep commitment to kitsch. Planet, who studied theater in college, filled the band's stages with blow-up dolls, beach balls, and giant dioramas of downtown Phoenix — anything, he recalls, "that was cheap and pretty."

The band became the dour darlings of the punk set. A hastily recorded four-song EP featuring "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage" was an instant hit; released in May 1982, it quickly rose to number two on Los Angeles hit-maker KROQ's playlist; the band couldn't press copies fast enough to keep up with the EP's sales.

Following a tour of California clubs, Killer Pussy's popularity soared. Actor Dennis Hopper was such a fan that he did a painting of LaMode, a poster of whom was prominently displayed on the network sitcom Square Pegs, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. The band followed with a full-length album called Bikini Wax and a single, "Moist Towelette," a note-by-note spoof of Grace Jones' "Warm Leatherette." But after Precious, a heroin addict, died in 1985, the band performed less often. They played occasional gigs throughout the '80s and early '90s and participated in reissues of their back catalog.

"We were a parody of punk bands," Planet admits. "Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics would go onstage with shaving cream on her boobs and she'd saw a car in half with a chainsaw, so at our next show Lucy would go on wearing whipped cream and she'd saw a cardboard guitar in half with an electric carving knife."

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2 comments
curtis
curtis

We opened for Killer Pussy at the Mason Jar in 86, I was 15 (Franco didn't care) Lucy was so cool she took the time to talk to me and I made her laugh we had a good time for an hour before she went on, she gave me the ep and signed it...so cool...

 

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