A Bunch of Fives: Girl Gang Movies


GHOSTBUSTERS (Paul Feig, US 2016) This summer’s biggest blockbuster is a reboot of a comedy-horror buddy movie from 1984. Remade with the four main roles played by women, this was a movie that many hoped would fail. That it didn’t is due to the inspired casting of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon as the supernatural sleuths. The addition of a black actress, the amazing Lesley Jones, had chauvinists frothing at the mouth with barely concealable reactionary anger.

This film is a riot, made memorable by the aforementioned female cast, souped up special effects, and a sleazy and believable villain in Neil Casey’s Rowan North. A new classic ‘girl gang’ movie then?

It surely is, and it takes it’s place on a fascinating list of excellent female buddy cinema.

1. THE DOLL SQUAD (Ted V Mikels, US 1973) Schlock king Mikels inspired Charlie’s Angels with this cheap cheapo story of five fantastic female agents, who tackle a mad and evil genius about to release bubonic plague on an unsuspecting world. It’s worth digging around for a copy of this insane romp, not least for a typically camp and over-the-top performance by Tura Satana.

2. FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (Russ Meyer, US 1965) Satana also turns up as one of a trio of over-excitable, underdressed, sports car driving, killer go-go dancers, in Russ Meyer’s most memorable film. Set in the southern Californian deserts, FP!K!K! is a sorry tale of bad behaviour, kidnap, extreme violence, and low morals. Yes, it’s THAT good.

3. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (Lou Adler, US 1982) Rarely screened and therefore rarely seen, The Fabulous Stains’ exploration of girl-powered punk rock pre-dated riot grrrl by a decade, and delivers some punchy home truths on the state of the music business and power of the media machine. The Stains wage musical war on rivals The Looters, who, it’s worth noting, feature former Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, and Ray Winston on vocals.

4. WE ARE THE BEST! (Lukas Moodysson, Sweden 2013) A sensitive and realistic portrayal of the trials of teenage girlhood, explored through the lens of three punk pubescents and their adventures with boys, bands and struggling parents. Friendships flourish and then flounder against a background of guitars and cheap alcohol.

5. MUSTANG (Deniz Gamze Erguven, Turkey/France/Germany 2015) Five orphaned sisters living in rural Turkey attempt to find freedom through rebellion in a conservative village. Swimming with male school friends, attending football matches, kissing older boys and driving cars, the sisters are progressively picked off for marriage. The film has a gloriously positive ending, and despite some brutal and depressing events, is a joyous and unusual example of teenage rebellion (and an important critique of Turkey under arch-conservative President Erdogan).


This article first appeared in Narc Online


Sara Makari’s Persian Pop & Turkish Psychedelia

Sara Makari is a North East-based collector and curator who is currently exhibiting her incredible collection of Turkish and Persian pop-culture memorabilia at Vane Gallery.

The show ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’ is open until June 4.


Sheena: What will a visitor to your show see at Vane?

Sara: A visitor can expect to see rare 1960s-’70s music covers, memorabilia in the form of: 1960s-’70s vintage magazines and postcards, textiles, shoes and hats.

Specially made for the show is beautiful handmade, hand-painted silk and lurex nostalgia inspired ‘Persian Pop’ gown with matching hat dripping in glass beads. The same artist Hushi has also painted a 1971 Whiting and Davis gold mesh purse with the popular singer Googoosh’s face and the words in Persian Bavar Kon (Believe), one of her songs.

There is also a lot of collage artwork, photography, a drawing, paintings, miniature painting on shoes and a 3-D super kitsch box work! You just have to go see for yourself!

Go-Go Chakmeh I

Taravat Talepasand, ‘Go-Go Chakmeh’, 2016, Lacquer on Gold Fabric, 46 x 23 x 9cm

You’ve worked with both artists and collectors on your show.  How did you go about choosing collaborators?

Most of the artists are friends and we have become closer through working together.

The art world of the contemporary Middle East and North Africa is small and everyone knows each other or is connected in some way. I simply pick artists that I feel are doing something unique, passionate, visually stimulating. They have something to say and are personable people.

I am so proud of the artists in my show.  They have worked really hard for me and luckily things have worked out for the best with the project. I have only one work from a collector, the ‘Googoosh’ box by Khosrow Hassanzadeh, which I felt was the most suitable work of Khosrow’s for the project bearing in mind it is a high impact piece and it was already in the UK, as it is for sale.

We are very grateful to the kindness of the collector (who shall remain anonymous) for sharing his work with the public.

Afsoon, ‘Mahasti’ (from the ‘4 Corners’ series), 2010, mixed media, 16.5 in; Width 23.2 in / Height 42 cm; Width 59 cm

Tell us about your own Persian heritage? Was there a sense that Persian pop culture was important when you were growing up?

I grew up with my Dad’s tape collection from Pre-Revolutionary Iran.  These were tapes of songs he liked recorded from the radio. He couldn’t afford to buy records.

I used to ask him what the lyrics meant and was astounded at how deep the meanings were of the songs and to what lengths Persian people go to express their feelings and to tell their stories.

Where did you even begin to start collecting the items in your exhibition?

Most of the items such as records, magazines, postcards, clothes and non-painted shoes belong to me. The majority of these things I collected when I was lucky enough to go to Istanbul on a research trip funded by The Art Fund through the Jonather Ruffer curatorial grant.

Istanbul is an amazing place full of relatively cheap and unusual vintage items. I’m also an Etsy addict! I think if you have a good eye for antiques and fashion you can go into a junk shop and come out with some unimaginable treasures.

Afsoon, one of the artists also shares my love of digging for treasures around the world.

PastedGraphic-10Malekeh Nayiny, ‘My Mother and Her Sister Homa’, 2000, Digital Chromogenic Print, 90 x 65 cm

The Persian singer Googoosh features heavily in your exhibition. Why is she such a major cultural figure amongst the Persian diaspora?

People just love her: her style.  She had many looks.  The haircuts she had including her rebellious pixie cut, her many happy and sad songs and her distinct voice, the fact she danced when she sang in quite a traditional style, her politics (she’s well known as a gay icon now) and also that she was very real to the Iranian people.

Googoosh was actually from a working class Azeri family from the North of Iran. Her father used to make her perform as a child and everyone saw her grow up quite publicly in the Pre-Revolution times.

Turkish culture in the seventies seemed to be very liberal indeed. There are a lot of images that are almost ‘soft porn’. What happened? Turkey is currently going through something of a counter-revolution and is becoming increasingly conservative.

I can’t really comment on the politics of Turkey right now as I am not experiencing it. Most of the material I collected from the 1960s-’70s is what I found in vintage and records shops or from collectors’ stashes.

Some of the graphics from Iran Pre-Revolution was also quite racy and it seems censorship rules were a lot slacker than what is to be expected now.

If you were to recommend just one Turkish or Persian pop record for the beginner, what would that be?

A really epic Turkish song for you is Zehra Sabah’s Ikimiz Bir Fidaniz

And a really epic Persian Pop song for you is Googoosh singing Talagh.

I recommend any records with these women as a starting point.

Lisa Lyon: the other Mapplethorpe muse

Everyone (or at least everyone with taste and a spirit of enquiry) knows who Robert Mapplethorpe is, and most of those people will know that he had three great muses – people who modelled for him time and again and helped shape his art.

Sam Wagstaff is one. Patti Smith is the one most people know. Mapplethorpe took the iconic black and white portrait that adorns the cover of her greatest gift to the world, the album Horses. That’s a photo that has resonance way beyond being merely packaging. Ask any teenage girl from the seventies who went on to write poetry, play in a band, or create a fanzine. Ask any boy for that matter.


I discovered the Mapplethorpe muse who most fascinated me via a large format paperback book I found in a remaindered book stall in the early eighties.  She was an impressively sculpted bodybuilder called Lisa Lyon and the book was called, simply, Lady.

I bought it for a pound, took it home, loved it, imitated it, used it as masturbatory inspiration (hey, what can I say, I like powerful women!).

tumblr_n4j2qgySpn1r9e2vfo1_1280Lyon was, and is still regarded as one of the great female bodybuilders, one of the pioneers. She began her career in martial arts, through the Japanese art of kendo, and because it takes upper body strength, started weight training. Which, in turn, led to bodybuilding.

In 1979 she won the first international contest for female bodybuilders and went on to write the first book on the subject, Lisa Lyon’s Body Magic. She appeared in Playboy and according to Wikipedia could “dead-lift 225 pounds, bench-press 120 pounds, and squat 265 pounds; two and a half times her own weight.”

When photographers requested she do a shoot, she got it. Because she’d actually been an art student at UCLA, she understood both what made a photo work and what work it took to make a photo. She posed for Helmut Newton and for Marcus Leatherdale amongst others. Leatherdale was Robert Mapplethorpe’s office manager and an excellent photographer.

But Mapplethorpe’s photos of Lyon are something else. Like Tom of Finland, Mapplethorpe shot women like he shot men. His portraits of Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Sigourney Weaver and others are devoid of sensuality. They’re kind of blank, blunt, non-relfective. They’re like beautifully crafted passport photos.

But with Lisa Lyon, Mapplethorpe went somewhere else. He created a character in almost every photograph – as if we were channeling Cindy Sherman. There’s Lyon as athlete, dominatrix, bride, fashion icon, boxer, porn star.

“When I first saw her undraped it was hard to believe that this fine girl should have this form,” said Mapplethorpe.

“My relationship with Lisa is not just her body […] I’m just as interested in her head as I am in her body.” He dug and explored the light across her muscular frame, her veined arms, her chiselled jawbone and cheeks.

140911005For her part, Lyon seems to have disappeared from view. She’s still alive, as far as we know. In the meantime, seek out Lady, the book of portraits of Lyon taken by Mapplethorpe.

She’s a strong and inspiring woman, and for me, as important a figure in the NY art scene of the early eighties as Laurie Anderson or indeed Patti Smith herself. She’s just been forgotten.

A chat with Richie Ramone

This interview originally appeared in NARC Magazine Issue 114 (February 2016)


On the day I interview a Ramone, something I’ve wanted to do all my writing life, David Bowie dies.

So inevitably, when I get through to Richie Ramone on Skype, the first thing we discuss is the death of The Dame. In a broad New Jersey accent, Richie tells me he “just expect[s] it now, kinda. You try not to get too upset. When you get to 70 you know time ain’t on your side. But who next? I guess it’s the Stones”.

Richie Ramone got the rock’n’roll bug early on. “When I was in high school I got hold of fake ID. I was sixteen and living in New Jersey and I used to come up to the city, and that’s where I saw the Ramones. I saw them a few times, and I was fan, totally”.

“I hated all that arena rock shit, but around 1979/1980 I started hanging out at CBGBs, those kind of places, and I saw so many great bands, and I thought, this is what I want, this is how I want to live my life”

“I mean I was a fan, but I didn’t have any Ramones posters on my walls. When I joined the band I joined as a musician. I’ve been playing the drums since I was five years old so I was brought in because I could play.”

Born Richie Rheinhart, Richie Ramone was third in a line of excellent drummers (after Tommy and Marky) and played on the albums Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy and Halfway to Sanity. “I wrote a lot of material for the band” says Richie. “I wrote ‘I’m Not Jesus’ and ‘Somebody Put Something in my Drink’ and I’m the only drummer who wrote songs for the band”

He was also the only Ramones drummer to sing on a track when he recorded ‘You can’t say anything nice’ for the band.

Punk rock to the soles of his Keds, Richie also played on solo work by Dee Dee and the posthumous (and rather excellent) Joey Ramone album Ya Know?. As far as Joey was concerned “Richie saved the band. He’s the greatest thing to happen to the Ramones. He put the spirit back”.

The love is obviously mutual as Richie continues to play at the annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash

“I’m off to the studio this week in LA” Richie tells me. “I’m working on my second solo album, Cellophane, and I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t play great guitar, but I play enough to write songs”. Unfortunately the album won’t be ready for the tour. “Nah, that’s unfortunate, I know” he says, frustrated at the timing. But Richie is one busy boy, recording with the Gobshites, the Rock’n’Roll Rats, and previously with Fred Schneider of the B52s and Dan Sartain.

Richie plays The Cluny on February 9 and it’s not going to be a night for nostalgia. “I’ll be playing Ramones classics, songs I wrote and songs I didn’t, and I’ll be playing a lot of my own material from my solo albums” he says.

“I heard about audiences up there” he says of Newcastle. “You guys really like punk rock, right?”

Oh yes, I tell him, oh yes.


Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight Hilly Kristal will be played by Mr Alan Rickman

The problem with making movies set in the recent past, especially when they concern infamous landmarks such as CBGBs, is that there are people who went there and bands that played there still walking the asphalt.

If you didn’t actually go there to see a band (and I didn’t, despite working in New York when it was still open), you’ve probably read a hundred reviews of gigs being played there, or heard live albums recorded there, or seen Roberta Bayley or Bob Gruen’s photos of bands gigging there.

So Randall Miller’s 2013 movie (currently available on Netflix) had it’s work cut out ahead of time, and it seems nobody involved, least of all Miller, felt like making much of a job of it.

Metacritic gave it 30 out of a hundred based on 17 reviews, while Rotten Tomatoes gave it 3.4/10. The LA Times called it “a mess of caricatures” while The Village Voice (who should know) said the film’s “biggest problem is that it’s taken such electrifying source material and done absolutely zilch with it.”

But don’t let that put you off! It’s hilarious!

There are one or two excellent turns, the surprise package being Hogwarts’ own Rupert Grint as Cheetah Chrome, while Stana Katic stands out as Genya Ravan, and someone called Caleb McCotter has a crack at being Jayne County.

Much of the casting however, verges on the farcical, particularly Malin Ackerman’s Debbie Harry. One thing you can say about the lead Blondie is that she had charisma in spades. Not so Ackerman, I’m afraid. Too tall, too busty, too plain, too miserable.

Ramones in CBGB

The four wack jobs playing The Ramones (see above) are just five blokes in leather and wigs, but completely hilarious. I’m imagining an excellent sitcom starring these four chancers permanently at war with the film’s Dead Boys – also completely laughable and loveable. A weekly thirty minute laugh-a-thon featuring the fake Ramones and Dead Boys might even be an idea I’ll steal myself.

And don’t even get me started on the Iggy, Lou and Patti characters. They could have been played by Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howard and Fenella Fielding for all the difference it made. The film would have been better for it.

By the way, my CBGB comedy theory is leant some weight by the presence of real gag-show royalty, in the form of Mrs Costanza herself, Estelle Harris (as Hilly Kristal’s mom, Bertha), and a decent part by ex-Rosanne alumnus and Big Bang Theorist Johnny Galecki (as Terry Ork).

CBGB-Alan-Rickman-www.whysoblu.com_So how about the recently departed Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal (above)? I’ve never been much of a fan of Rickman. I never forgave him for Truly Madly Deeply, but it seems he was a truly decent bloke. Labour supporter, state school educated, raised by a single parent.

When all else is collapsing around him he brings this rootedness to the role of Kristal. Joey Ramone only knows how Miller got him to take the part, as a cursory glance at the script would surely have had the Shakespearean rolling around on the casting room with stomach cramps. But there you go.

Hilly Kristal was said to be good to his musicians, appreciating that they needed good sound, promotion and payment. Punk Magazine’s obituary was kind to Kristal and honoured his legacy, and I think the same could be said of Rickman’s portrayal of the club owner.

The greatest tribute to Rickman is that in a litter tray of a movie, his performance lifts it out of the ordinary. It’s still a comedy, but it has a heartfelt and memorable dramatic execution at the heart of it.