Inspired by the looming 1992 elections, the Anita Hill hearings, and after organizing a fund raiser for Barbara Boxer, author/activist Nicole Panter, who at one time had managed the seminal Los Angeles punk band The Germs, and her friend Exene Cervenka gathered together a group of friends–including Monica May (now of the Nickle Diner), Belissa Cohen then the nightlife/gossip columnist for the L.A. Weekly, singer poet Weba Garretson, and heaps of other LA women–to write letters and register voters and get active. I was invited to come to a meeting of the group with the inspired name of the Bohemian Women’s Political Alliance (a tongue-in-cheek take on the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, a high-profile group that was fund raising for Democratic candidates and progressive causes–and one group that found our band of show business worker bees, struggling writers, burlesque dancers, punk rockers and tattooed moms–some were all of those!– a bit too, um alternative to join their ranks).
Nicole wrote the above manifesto–based on our heart-held sentiments and real life experiences–yes, I and others had climbed out of our bedrooms and taken cabs home before dawn, shocking I know; and though I am more Morticia Addams than Lily Munster, I firmly agree with Emma Goldman who said
If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.
The BWPA staged some really cool events, as well as marching and writing letters. At local concerts we collected food for non-sectarian food banks. We raised funds for the Homeless Writers’ Coalition and Sunset Hall, a home for retired activists through poetry readings. We organized a concert at a local club to register voters; Courtney Love, fresh out of the pages of a highly negative Vanity Fair article and a stint in rehab, played an acoustic set which featured “Pennyroyal Tea,” a song that would later appear on Nirvana’s In Utero.
At the KROQ Weenie Roast, the BWPA accepted a $5,000 check from Stone Temple Pilots who had come under fire for their song lyrics; we turned around redistributed the funds to abortion, rape crisis, senior and child aid groups, using 10% to fund our breast cancer fund raiser featuring a celebrity bra auction (Madonna and Courtney Love both donated their lingerie, and Jack Lemmon provided an autographed vintage bra referencing his role in Some Like It Hot) and strip-a-thon where numerous local go-go girls, belly dancers and underground burlesque queensalong with a guy who would later become my lawyer–shimmied for a good cause. Ron Athey and his troupe also performed that night. Dr. Dre who was in the audience certainly had his eyes opened. And we raised $10,000 for the Dr Susan Love Foundation at UCLA. [cont’d.]
Another breast cancer fund raiser featured a silent auction of prosthetic breasts decorated by noted comic book artists. Maybe not in the best of taste, but definitely ahead of its time.
We also made and installed a hundred plaster busts of, well, busts–our own and anyone we could recruit–along Pacific Coast Highway and at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard. But it wasn’t all art, poetry and music. We got kicked, elbowed and spat on doing abortion clinic protection; in one neighborhood close to East Los Angeles, car loads of angry men circled, yelling and making threatening gestures as we stood outside the clinic; rabid evangelicals cheered them on, taking up their shouts. It was kind of intense.
We were given a table at the annual ACLU Torch of Liberty dinner as thanks for our volunteer work–corsets and piercings are formal wear, right?– and generally tried to make a difference. (And yes, we had really cool tee shirts, with the logo above, designed by Terry Davidio).
As the 90s moved forward, life changes altered the abilities of our 40-odd (very odd) members to meet, but the majority of us continue our activism in our personal–and in some cases professional–lives. Recently I have run into BWPA gals registering voters, volunteering and donating at Occupy LA, so I was thrilled when Nicole posted our manifesto/mission statement up on her Facebook page, a prescient statement which almost 20 years later is heard across the nation.