Tagged: CBGB

Martha Thomases: We’re A Happy Family!

ramones archie

Ah, the dog days of August. Carefree times when our only worries are going outside where we might sweat to death or staying inside and being driven insane.

Luckily, we have each other, right? We can band together and support our shared passions, especially as they relate to pop culture, can’t we? Isn’t that why we have the Internet?

Well, sure, unless you’re a woman, queer, a person of color, or a member of some other group of random people that someone decides to insult gratuitously and, usually anonymously. The most high-profile recent example is what happened to Leslie Jones, but there are a zillion others we can cite.

Up until now, there is nothing anyone could do about it except ignore it, and shudder in despair at the hatred that eats away at certain human souls. And, when it gets personally threatening, tell the police and take out a restraining order, if possible.

However, there may be hope that haters will no longer be able to hide behind a fake user name. Technology might be able to discover which anonymous trolls actually are in real life. We will, virtually if not actually, tell their moms how badly they behave.

Let me be clear here. I’m all for freedom of speech. You can say anything you like, no matter how hateful. However, if you don’t say out loud it in public, or if you don’t sign your name on media, I will think you are a weasel and a coward and deserve to be ridiculed. And if you make credible personal physical threats, the law says you have moved beyond free speech and into criminal activity.

Look, I understand baseless rage. I feel it several times a day. It’s a characteristic we all share, proof of our inner two-year-olds. Is the line too long at the ATM? Is my food delivery delayed? Does my elevator stop at every floor? Is it hot in the subway station? All these things make me want to rant and rave and call people horrible, abusive names.

But I don’t. I’m an adult. And my inner two-year-old is properly terrified that my inner Mom will yell at her.

That’s maturity.

Mine will be tested this fall, when Archie Comics publishes Archie Meets the Ramones. One of my pet peeves is that many more people now claim to be Ramones fans than ever supported them in the late 1970s or 1980s, when they could have used the money. They couldn’t even get radio play. And now AT&T uses their songs to sell their wireless service and most of the Ramones are dead.

I went to see them a lot when I was young enough to go out at night. And I took as many people with me as I could, famous and not. Those memories not only bring me pleasure, but they contribute to my sense of self.

I sure as hell never saw Archie Andrews and his ilk at CBGBs. Nor, despite what the actual story might depict, did I see his father, either.

So, perhaps in a way that might provide me with some empathy for those who don’t want anyone to remake Ghostbusters, I’m skeptical of this. I don’t know if it will seem true to me in the ways that the best fiction is true.

And then I remember how much the band liked comic books, and how much they probably would love being in an Archie comic, and I try to let go of my resentment.

I’m not promising to love the story when it comes out, but I promise not to anonymously make threats about its creative team on the Internet.

Martha Thomases: Vex & Comics & Rock & Roll


Every Monday my Facebook feed is filled with people kvetching about Vinyl, the new HBO series created by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winters. Every criticism I see is valid (the pace is slow, the characters and the situations in which they find themselves are unbelievable), but I still kind of like it.

If you haven’t watched, you should know that Vinyl is about a record company struggling through the changes in music and culture in the early mid-1970s. I moved to New York full time a few years later, so perhaps some of the reason I like it is that it reminds me of my lost youth.

Bobby Cannavale plays Richie Finestra, the head of the company, a drug addict with no moral code (is that redundant?) who uses people in his pursuit of money and more drugs. We are supposed to believe that his love of rock’n’roll redeems him.

I love Cannavale. I love most of the actors in the series, with special shout-outs to Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano and Juno Temple. My problem with the series is that all of the characters are horrible human beings. I would not like any of them if I actually met them. Even Wilde’s character, Finestra’s wife who is struggling to break out of her housewife prison and be an artist like she was before her marriage (hanging out with Andy Warhol), just seems to me to be someone who has coasted on her beauty her entire life, now forced to adjust to middle age.

Richie is especially vile. If he wasn’t played by such a charismatic actor, I think we would all realize what a poser he is. He wants to go to the Mercer Arts Center and listen to the New York Dolls? He wants to sign a punk band? He’s an opportunist. I mean, that is almost his job description.

All of this was brought home to me when I saw CBGB, currently on Netflix. This movie covers the same era in the New York music scene, but from the perspective of Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman), the man who started CBGBs, the punk club on the Bowery. There is a fictional record company guy, Nicky Gant, played by Bradley Whitford, who may be similar to Richie but who is clearly seen as contemptible by everyone else.

CBGB isn’t perfect movie but, unlike Vinyl, it’s fun. And you know one of the things that makes it fun? Comics!

Comics were a huge part of the punk scene. For one thing, some people credit Punk Magazine with giving the scene its name. (Note: some people do not. This is a pointless argument. Who cares?) I’ve written before about how important I think Punk was (and still is). This movie agrees with me, giving John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil prominent roles. It’s clear that the creative people on the scene at CBGBs did not take themselves as seriously as the people on Vinyl. They love comics, too.

There is also a large, deep cast, with talented actors (Alan Rickman, Malin Ackerman, Donal Logue, Rupert Grint, Estelle Harris, Stana Katic, Freddie Rodriguez, just for starters) playing all sorts of people, some real, some fictional. Unlike in Vinyl, the female characters are defined by more than just their sexual availability (although most have sexual appetites because, like the male characters, they are humans). They are musicians and producers and journalists and business managers and fans. I’m not going to say that the punk scene was devoid of sexism (because it certainly was not), but this movie certainly sees it as an improvement over the rest of the world at the time. And, in some ways, it was.

In general, I’m happy to see my memories validated, because I won’t be truly satisfied until all entertainment acknowledges my importance.

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And Another Thing: If you’re going to this year’s MoCCA Fest in New York this weekend, stroll down to the Medialia Gallery at 335 West 38th Street and check out the exhibit, “From Panel to Panel: Our Voices,” featuring comic art from women and their allies, including Regine Sawyer, Sara Wooley, Kenya Danino and lots, lots more.