Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t

The novel is coming near its end, which means people are dying and the irony meter is starting to go off the charts.  So, naturally I ain't writing anything new for this stupid blog just yet.  In place or new fresh content, here's another (slightly) repurporsed repost, which I have chosen to publish since it has the honour of being The House of Glib's 6th Most Visited Post:
Having just spent the last few days enjoying the magnicent glory that is the newly-released 2-disk special edition DVD of Russ Meyer's classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, I've been inspired to start a new intermittent feature that I'm going to call You May Think I'm Being Sarcastic In My Praise Of This Subject, But I Couldn't Be More Sincere If There Was A Fucking Gun To My Head or YMTIBSIMPOTSBICBMSITWAFGTMH for short.

As this rather unwieldly title indicates, this feature is meant to be an irony free zone.  If I choose to talk about or defend a subject in this feature I guarantee you that the sentiments I express are not a joke, but deeply and honestly felt, no matter how counter-intuitive they are or how much they defy the conventional wisdom of our age.

So, for example, if I were to state in a
YMTIBSIMPOTSBICBMSITWAFGTMH post that I considered Jessica Simpson our greatest contemporary vocalist, then you are not to assume that I am making a sarcastic joke.  Though it may go against everything you know to be true, you have to accept that I sincerely believe it to be the case.  Though this is just an imaginary example (kd lang would be my real choice for such an honorific) I use it to illustrate the point that no matter how extremely deluded or abhorrent you think my proposals are, they are meant to be taken completely seriously. 

Too often people make the mistake of assuming that their own opinions about popular culture are universal truths, rather than just conclusions they have reached based on their personal prejudices and biases, so they assume that when someone challanges their beliefs they are doing so merely to be belligerent or to make a joke.  Either that or the person making the "indefensible" argument is obviously an idiot whose lack of sophistication can easily be ignored.  This feature is intended to throw a wrench into this kind of thinking.  I am arrogant enough to believe that my ideas and perceptions regarding popular culture are just as valid as anyone elses, no matter how much they may differ with the common line of thinking (and yes this means that a defense of Michael Bay will someday be written here--probably when Transformers comes out*).

That said, it is now time to get to the actual subject of this first


Sadly I know that most of you who are reading this are now asking yourselves: who the heck are The Carrie Nations and if they were as good as this guy is claiming, then why haven't I heard of them before?

Shame on you for having to ask that question.  I don't care what your excuse is, there are some subjects for which ignorence is simply unforgivable and this is one of them.  I shouldn't have to tell you the history of this dynamic, trailblazing trio, you should all know it by heart, but since you don't I'll share it with you right here and now.

The year was 1970.  Richard Nixon was president and many members of polite society were growing increasingly frightened by the cultural revolution they saw being fought on their movie and tv screens.  Women were wearing skirts that exposed their legs, while men wore brown vests and grew their hair to discomfitting lengths.  Drugs were omnipresent and fueled a wave of immodesty in which young people everywhere flouted traditional morality by having premarital sex and exposing their genitalia in public.  The rules that had so long governed society were now being ignored by more and more people.  Among these rules was the commandment that only men could form rock and roll bands.  Women were occasionally allowed to join in as a singer or maybe to play the tamborine, but they were not allowed to form groups of their own that completely excluded anyone with a penis.  For a long time it appeared as though this would remain the case, but then three young women from parts unknown got together and did their best to change the world.

At first they called themselves The Kelly Affair.

Little is known about the group's origin.  With one of their members dead and the other two unwilling to talk about their past, there are few people around who are able to shed light on how they came together. The earliest the group can be traced back to is a series of high school dances they played in the east before they made their momentous decision to go west in pursuit of their lead singer's family fortune.  It was there in Los Angeles that they would undergo both their meteoric rise and calamatous fall.  Here is some footage shot at one of these early gigs; in it they are shown performing their future hit "Find It":

As is immediately apparent watching this footage, this talented trio was made up of three very beautiful women.  They were:

Kelly McNamara, lead singer and guitar

 Casey Anderson, guitar and backing vocals

Petronella Danforth, drums and backing vocals

Behind the scenes, their early days were managed by Kelly's then-boyfriend, the slightly hapless Harris Allsworth:

But when they reached Hollywood and--through Kelly's aunt's social connections--met the famed teenaged rock impressario Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell, Harris' role as their manager diminished, as the hot trio dazzled the young idolmaker with a performance at one of his infamous parties. Luckily for us, their rendition of "Sweet Talkin' Candyman" from that party (in which they were joined by members of  The Strawberry Alarm Clock) was captured for posterity.  Here it is:

As this video clearly shows, it was Z-Man who rechristened the band The Carrie Nations.  With him as their guiding force, they began to play at all of the hot clubs and cut their first record, which immediately shot up the charts.  But like all new phenomena, this all-female group was not accepted by everyone.  Many of their critics found it difficult to believe that three women as beautiful as Kelly, Casey and Petronella could really play their own instruments and suggested that their work was instead created by studio musicians.  They also pointed out that Kelly and Casey were dead ringers for two Playboy playmates.  When one sees the pictures, it is hard to argue otherwise.

Compare Dolly Read, Miss May of 1966, to Kelly and the resemblance is startling:

And the same is true of the resemblance between Cynthia Myers, Miss December of 1968, and Casey:

Furthering aiding their critics' cause was the fact that Kelly's English accented speaking voice gave no hint of the power found in her vocals, which led some to suggest that she was merely lip-synching to tracks originally recorded by a singer named Lynn Carey (who is pictured here with her band Mama Lion):

Let it be said here and now--those critics were full of shit and simply couldn't wrap their heads around the sheer awesomeness that was The Carrie Nations.  Whenever I read one of these critiques I am hit by the overpowering stench of pure, unadulterated sexism, one whose message is clear; attractive women cannot play rock and roll. 

This makes me sick.

But despite these unfounded and utterly sexist criticisms, the public knew good songs when they heard them and the band's first single "Look On Up At The Bottom" was a #1 smash.  Here's a promotional video they made for the song, a decade before the creation of MTV; it not only features the band, but also the two men who helped to make them famous:

Unfortunately, as is the case in so many similar tales of rock and roll stardom, the trio's success was quickly undone by the tumult stirred up by their own personal demons and by the excesses of the period in which they lived.  The beginning of the end came when Harris, having been rejected by both Kelly, Casey and that noted sexual icon of the period, Ashley St. Ives, as well as having his role in the band reduced to that of glorified groupie, decided to commit suicide live on national television, during a perfomance by the band on a popular talk show.  This makes for some of the most shocking television footage you will ever likely see:

Amazingly Harris managed to survive the fall, but he was left crippled.  This was only the first of the band's many personal setbacks.  Petronella nearly ruined her blossoming romance with a poor law student named Emerson Thorne when she cheated on him with Randy Black, the heavyweight boxing champion.  Kelly jilted Harris to pursue a relationship with a callous golddigger named Lance Rocke and came close to sacrificing all of her self-respect in order to secure her share of her family fortune.  But of the three, no one suffered more than poor, sad Casey.  Not ready for instant stardom, the shy beauty took to booze and pills to numb her pain.  When a drunken one night stand with Harris resulted in her getting pregnant, she went through the indignity of a back alley abortion--an experience that caused her to swear off the men who had caused so much misery in her life.  In their absence, she found comfort in the arms of a beautiful fashion designer named Roxanne:

For a time it seemed as though Casey might actually find happiness with Roxanne at her side, but their bright future ended on the fateful night that would doom the band to the obscurity where they now sadly dwell.

It started off as typical night of early 70s debauchery.  Casey and Roxanne had been invited to join Z-Man and Lance Rocke for a small party at Z-Man's enormous mansion.  Drugs and alcohol were consumed and Z-Man decided that it would be fun if everyone dressed up as comic book characters.  Casey and Roxanne dressed up as Batman and Robin, while Lance wore a leopard skin bathing suit in his guise as Jungle Boy.  When Z-Man insisted on dressing up as Superwoman, everyone assumed it was merely the drugs having their weird way with him.  What they did not know was that Z-Man had spent years keeping an amazing secret.  While the two girls went up to their room to make love, Z-Man tied Lance up and confessed to him that he was really a transexual--a woman posing as a man.  To prove it, he unbuttoned his shirt and exposed his breasts.  Shocked at first, Lance then proceeded to laugh at and mock the teenaged millionaire.  Z-Man was so enraged by this response, he grabbed a sword and cut off Lance's head just in time for Casey to come downstairs and witness the murder.  Clearly insane, Z-Man then went on a murderous rampage.  He killed his nazi servent with the same sword he used to decapitate Lance, and then grabbed a gun, which he used on a sleeping Roxanne.  Terrified for her life, Casey made a desperate call to her friends for help, but they came too late.  Z-Man found her and shot her in the head.  His rampage continued when Kelly, Petronella, Emerson and (a wheelchair bound) Harris finally arrived at the mansion.  At that point the maniac managed to shoot Petronella in the shoulder before he was subdued and killed by the others.

With both their record producer and lead guitarist now dead, the two surviving members of The Carrie Nations saw no way for the band to continue.  Almost as soon as it had started, the story of this trailblazing group had ended.

Following the break-up of the band, Petronella married Emerson and Kelly married Harris in a civil ceremony that also saw Kelly's aunt, Susan Lake, marry her on-again, off-again, beau Baxter Wolfe.  Here is a photo from that ceremony:

Since then both Kelly and Petronella have maintained a policy of never discussing their brief time in the limelight, choosing instead to live lives of quiet seclusion, which is their right.

Knowing all of this, you can now appreciate why I unhesitatingly believe that The Carrie Nations would have gone down in history as the greatest all-female rock group in music history had fate allowed them to continue making records.  As it was it took several years before bands like Heart, The Go-Gos, The Bangles, Vixen, Fuzzbox, L7 and Sleater-Kinney proved to the world that women could rock out as hard as the boys could.

Aand if you think I'm joking you'd be wise to remember the mission statement of this feature.
* Obviously, this did not happen.