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A few years later she re-enlisted, at this point the only original member; this version of Starship was a soulless commercial enterprise that commissioned its songs from top Hollywood hacks, but the aging Slick liked the easy ride. Since retiring several years ago, she's been campaigning to end medical testing on animals, but co-author Cagan (Marianne Williamson's co-author for A Return to Love) doesn't help herexplain the cause very coherently. Slick's swaggering, unapologetic persona gets a little irritating by the end, but her progress from hippie queen to cranky rich liberal makes for a fun and emblematic trip.
It's Chicago, 1973. Jefferson Airplane is tuning up and I'm standing onstage getting ready to sing. Some guy in the audience stands up and shouts, "Hey, Gracie-take off your chastity belt."
I look directly at him and say, "Hey-I don't even wear underpants." I pull my skirt up over my head for a beaver shot, and the audience explodes with laughter. I can hear the guys in the band behind me muttering, "Oh, Jesus."
My response to that particular heckle was actually pleasant compared to what I did in Germany, four or five years later, when I was so drunk, I went up to a guy sitting in the front row and picked his nose. It was the night before I left the band for the first time. To be more accurate, I fired myself. Fed up for a variety of reasons I'll discuss later, having ingested the entire contents of the minibar in my hotel room before I arrived at the venue for the show, I stuck my fingers in this guy's nostrils just because I thought they'd probably fit. Luckily, the majority of that particular German audience had never seen us before, so they must have figured we were some kind of punk band and just let it go.
Why did Grace Wing, a well-educated, contented girl who grew up in a Leave It to Beaver household, ultimately embrace such a maverick persona?
Well, sarcasm was always a family trait, but the real reason for my tendency toward raucous behavior can best be explained by a 1949 film that I watched when I was a young girl. I recently saw a rerun, and it was all right up there on the screen: a combination of humor and fantasy that was especially appealing to a young child looking for a Technicolor reality.
TV Guide listing in May 1997:
11:40 (DIS) movie, Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend-comedy (1949) 1:35 Betty Grable.
Love the title.
When I was between the ages of five and nine, the soldiers of the Second World War wanted to have Betty Grable, but I wanted to be Betty Grable. She was the epitome of an alluring woman; she had it all as far as I was concerned.
My mother told me, "She's got caps on her teeth, bleached blonde hair, and no talent." Mom, being a natural blonde with a mouth full of perfectly straight teeth, was feeling some resentment. But Miss Grable could have been head-to-toe Styrofoam for all I cared. Whatever it was, it worked for me. When I saw that movie, I figured I had all the information I needed to ride through life like an armored blonde goddess.
The opening shot of The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend takes place in 1895 in a small western town. Betty's in jail, still in the fabulous outfit she was wearing for her evening's saloon singing. She's only slightly put out by being in the slammer, and a friend tells her, "Don't worry, you'll be out in minutes. Nobody liked the guy you shot, anyway."
After a rousing evening of performing for assorted drunken cowboys in a saloon and shooting a rabble-rouser, she shows up for her trial the next morning, where she speaks out of order and then winds up shooting the judge in the ass.
The point is, what nine-year-old Grace saw was a woman who looked like a princess, behaving in a primarily offensive, often masculine way and producing slapstick results. No heavy feminist stuff, no serious reprimands. Just a series of entertaining events, showcasing the character's comedic qualities and instinct for following her whims.
In scene two, Betty's character, as a little girl, is being coached in sharpshooting by her grandfather.
"Can I go play with my dolls now?" she asks.
"Young lady, the frontier is a wild place," says her grandfather. "Nobody's gonna take care of you; you gotta take care of yourself-and nobody argues with a gun. You get good enough with that piece, you won't find no trouble you can't get out of."
Little Betty blows ten bottles off the wall from twenty paces, and says, "Can I go play with my dolls now?"
"Okay," says Gramps, mumbling under his breath, "Boy, she's an amazing shot."
In the following scenes, Betty's adult character continuously lets fly with sarcastic remarks, takes no guff from children and adults alike, and lets her various suitors know she's charmed by their attention but not available. A class A gunfighter, she hikes up her skirts and plows into the fray with John Wayne-style resolve. When she falls in love with Cesar Romero, she has to save him-both from winding up on the losing end of a gunfight and from his own confused thinking.
Significantly, she takes it all on with no whining or lobbying against sexist attitudes. She just tackles one problem at a time, always with a sense of humor, always self-possessed, always unruffled. At the end of the film, when she discovers that Romero has a woman on the side, she dumps him with a few well-chosen remarks and shoots the same judge in the ass again-this time hitting both cheeks.
"Feminist comedy," practically an oxymoron, had a couple of good years after WWII. Chalk it up to the forced female autonomy that occurred during wartime, when Rosie the Riveter went to work in the factories, constructing the Allies' war machines while taking charge of the finances, the home, and the children. Those movies gave little girls in the audience the green light for self-reliant, admittedly-leaning-toward-violent behavior. No preaching, no bra burning, just facing and enjoying the humor of life as it was, wherever you were, whatever was going on.
All those images on celluloid filled out a picture of how I wanted to be.
Even though the fifties seemed to regress into the pocket of a fluffy Doris Day apron, I clearly was influenced by the do-it-yourself heroines I'd watched as a child. They took it all on without viewing "it" as something that needed a great deal of support to handle. Consequently, in the early sixties, when women started telling me I should join "the Cause," that we should stand up for each other, march in D.C. and so forth, I thought that was about as interesting as joining the Daughters of the American Revolution. It seemed like a new slant on an old Tupperware party.
By the time I was old enough to consider how I wanted to live my life, I'd read about and heard of Golda Meir; Indira Gandhi; Babe Zaharias; Clare Boothe Luce; Eleanor Roosevelt; Marie Curie; Cassandra of Troy; Cleopatra; Elizabeth Taylor; Melina Mercouri; Anna Pavlova; Moira Shearer; Isadora Duncan; Maria Tallchief; Mary, Queen of Scots; Queen Isabella and Queen Victoria; Mary Shelley; Louisa May Alcott; Betsy Ross; Susan B. Anthony; Marian Anderson; Ella Fitzgerald; Carmen Miranda; Tokyo Rose; Sarah Bernhardt; Georgia O'Keeffe; Gertrude Stein; Annie Oakley; Amelia Earhart; Joan of Arc; Mother Teresa and Guru Ma; Julia Child; Pamela Harriman; Catherine the Great; Evita Peron; and Snow White.
The above-listed women collectively represented every attitude and occupation, so I figured my field of possibilities was wide open. I assumed that women who lived for the home front-housewives, homemakers, whatever the euphemism was-chose to do that; otherwise, they'd be doing something else. I couldn't imagine anybody doing something they didn't want to do.
Apart from rectal examinations and dental visits, why do something you don't like?
Financial circumstances might have demanded certain unpleasant activities, but if you did decide to specialize in the homemaking arts, I thought it should be because you were fulfilling a dream, not bowing to societal pressure.
At the time, that wasn't the accepted way of thinking, but since adults had made the Betty Grable films, I figured some people somewhere knew it was possible to experience life on a grand scale. They knew you didn't have to acquiesce, didn't have to be drab.
For years, I've followed the Grable credo: say what you mean, mean what you say, and throw a joke and a song in the mix now and then. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Somebody to Love? by Andrea Cagan and Grace Slick Excerpted by permission.
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Posted April 17, 2011
You want to know what life was like in San Fransisco, and the temperature of the US was like in the late 1960's and early 1970's? Read this read.
Grace, coming from a socially and fiscally conservative back ground, after moving with her family from the midwest to California turns to communal living with artists from Haight Ashbury in San Fran.
Her exploits are legendary. The drugs, sex and the general decadence of the times are appalling! LOL, I grew up with it and while I wonder if it could hold a candle today, it was new and fresh at the time.
We've come a long way since, or have we?
Posted March 31, 2000
A disappointment. One of the most original and intelligent stars of a splendid era in American culture has given us a shallow accounting of herself. Most glaring is the sophmoric style, which at times reads more like a reference book than a biography. Appropriately crude at times, the story we read is often little more than a cavalcade of drug/alcohol/sex episodes that really aren't the least bit interesting. There could have been some irony here and there is not. There is, regretably, a lot missing here. Grace, you were a part of one of the best musical groups to ever perform and record serious rock music when you were with the Airplane. I hope you decide to get serious and tell us about it sometime soon.
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Posted October 6, 2013
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Posted August 11, 2010
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Posted February 26, 2011
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