Longform

Hell's Belle

Page 2 of 7


On a lazy Labor Day afternoon, Walker putters around in the kitchen of her single-wide Apache Junction mobile home, fixing a dinner of baked ham, potato salad, and deviled eggs for herself and Vic, her lesbian partner of six years.

Taking a break, she navigates through a living room cluttered with boxes from an aborted move to Las Vegas she couldn't afford and sits in an antique Oriental-style wooden chair reminiscing about the past.

Initially, Walker seems somewhat unwilling or unable to disclose certain details of her jet-setting days, either due to years of brain-scrambling partying or because of a juicy tell-all autobiography in the works. She eventually opens up somewhat, and starts talking.

Thumbing through a stack of cheesecake photos of herself from the 1960s, which she sells on eBay, Walker peers through a pair of bifocals at her youthful appearance.

"Back then, I had the most beautiful pure white skin and this stunning raven-colored hair," Walker says. "I used to be gorgeous; now I'm all gray hair and wrinkles and warts."

Long before she was a trailer park rat or even Satan's Angel, she was Cecelia Angel Helene Walker, born at San Francisco General Hospital in 1944 to Connie Lobo, an assistant buyer for Macy's, and father Ernest Pierce, an Army infantryman. She was the oldest child in what she describes as a "Beaver Cleaver-type family."

After her father was killed in 1945 during World War II, Walker and younger brother Ron were raised by their ultra-devout Catholic mother. (Another brother, Ray, was born in 1957, after Connie remarried.)

Walker says everything in her life revolved around Catholicism in those days, with iconography dotting the rooms of their small home in San Francisco's Marina District. The family went to mass twice weekly and religious retreats on Friday, while the children attended Catholic school and spent Saturdays in catechism. Her brothers were altar boys, and she dreamed of becoming a nun starting in kindergarten.



"I would tell everybody I wanted to be a nun . . . my mom would snicker to herself and just pat me on my head," Walker says.

Connie, an 80-year-old furniture saleswoman living in southern California, says that although Walker was a "good Catholic girl" in her youth, she doubted her daughter's seriousness about the sister act.

"She could be really sweet and innocent, but she also had a temper and was kinda strong-headed, too," says Connie.

Walker strayed from her devotion in her early teens. At 13, the nuns at St. Anne School informed her mother about such bad habits as skipping down hallways, chewing gum, or ditching class. The calls became so frequent, Connie transferred her to public schools, where Walker says she became "Hell on wheels."



The openness of public education after years of being cloistered in a discipline-rich Catholic school made Walker feel like a kid in a candy store, allowing her wicked side to emerge. If her life was a schlocky juvenile-delinquent B-movie from the '60s, the trailer would've exclaimed it was where "a good girl went bad."

She cut school, dressed in skintight outfits, and stayed out late with the beatnik crowd, smoking pot at clubs in Haight-Ashbury in the late 1950s.

Around this time she also began having sexual feelings for women, after becoming friends with a tomboyish schoolmate named Nicky, the first of several girlfriends she had throughout junior high and high school. Walker says her chum gave her a French kiss one afternoon at a local pool, much to her surprise.

"I was disgusted, but she told me, 'Everybody's doing it, you're the only one who isn't,'" Walker says. "A few nights later my mom was tucking me in and when she kissed me goodnight I tried to stick my tongue in her mouth. Whack! She backhanded me and demanded to know why I tried that, and I told her, 'Everybody's doing it.'"

Connie attempted to mend her daughter's wicked ways by enrolling her in charm school at the House of Charm. When that didn't work, she was shipped off to the Ventura School for Girls, a reform school near Oxnard, California. She graduated at 17. Then, Walker says, things really started getting wild.

"Once I left the nest, I realized I could stay up all night, go to after-hours clubs and drink whiskey in my coffee, sleep with anybody I wanted to, smoke as much pot as I cared for, and swear up a storm without my mother washing my mouth out," she says.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.