Rock and Roll Trivia — This may be the most trivial bit of rock and roll trivia there is. Everyone knows what a “groupie” is; the word started out meaning girls who followed musical bands or “groups” and usually had sex with one or more of the musicians in any given combo. Eventually it came to mean anyone (usually women) who made it their business, for whatever reason, to chase anyone famous (usually men, I read somewhere that Geraldo Rivera has “groupies”) and have sex with them. These later groupies are still often called “starfuckers.” But what were groupies called before the term “groupie” came about? I know what they were called, and this is my contribution to rock trivia.
This may be the most trivial bit of rock and roll trivia there is. Everyone knows what a “groupie” is; the word started out meaning girls who followed musical bands or “groups” and usually had sex with one or more of the musicians in any given combo. Eventually it came to mean anyone (usually women) who made it their business, for whatever reason, to chase anyone famous (usually men, I read somewhere that Geraldo Rivera has “groupies”) and have sex with them. These later groupies are still often called “starfuckers.” But what were groupies called before the term “groupie” came about? I know what they were called, and this is my contribution to rock trivia.
In 1965 I was 19 years old and “on the road” in upstate New York, the Albany-Lake George area, playing in a rock and roll band. A certain young woman came to the gigs, and always talked about the other bands she was going to see. She could name every member of every working group in the entire area. Actually she boasted about knowing them. I found this annoying; it sounded as if she was implying that those other groups were better or more important than we were, even though I knew that when she was with other bands she would talk the same way about us.
One night I asked her, “Do you ever do anything besides hang around with bands?” She acted very insulted, gave me an incredulous look and said, “What the hell do you think I am, a band faggot?” Band Faggot. I liked it. We used this term, even after “groupie” became popularized by early band-faggot publications like Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy. However, before long you couldn’t say “faggot” even if your particular meaning had nothing to do with homosexuality, so the term “band faggot” never caught on in mainstream media. Too bad, it’s so much more colorful than “groupie.”
Literary Trivia — Please. Don’t call me a “Port Townsend writer.” I live in Port Townsend, and I write, but that’s merely an unfortunate coincidence. I came here quite by accident, and only because I had nothing else to do at the time. But before I left, a woman in Sausalito told me, “Oh, you’ll like Port Townsend, they have a big writer’s conference up there.” Writer’s Conference? What might that be? A bunch of writers getting together to smoke and drink an tell jokes about literary agents? I had no idea, but it sounded vaguely interesting.
One thing led to another and I’ve been here for nine years. And I can assure you I’ve never been to the Writer’s Conference. The Port Townsend Writer’s Conference is an annual function of Centrum, a “non-profit organization” that puts on cultural and other uplifting events hereabouts. I can’t comment on their “non-profit” status, but a lot of money moves through somebody’s hands there. What I can comment on is Centrum’s successful combination of snob appeal and attraction for wannabes of all persuasions. The Writer’s Conference, for instance, is a bonanza of wannabe bucks. For $150, wannabe writers can come for a few days and a few “real” writers will talk to them, often by reading from their own work. 200 wannabes at 150 bucks a head, that’s $30,000. Pretty nice non-profit. If you want to put on a play or musical show, you can rent Centrum’s theater for 300 bucks a night, if you don’t need electricity. That costs extra. The ultimate Centrum wannabe is the recently retired director who said in an interview that he’d “like to end up playing clarinet on a street corner in Prague.” Not bloody likely; that might be a little uncomfortable sometimes and I’ve been to his rather luxurious digs in a “gated community,” not as a guest, of course, but as a furniture mover. He wouldn’t give up that cozy scene to be a street musician, even if he could play.
But what sort of “Port Townsend writers”? Nevermind Centrum; they rarely if ever recognize local talent unless that person is already famous. Actually, Port Townsend as a whole can compete very nicely with Centrum when it comes to literary pretension. The town boasts itself as a haven and mecca for talented and creative people of all types. This causes some related problems. We have doctors and dentists who’d rather be artists or Esalen hedonists or boatbuilders. Personally, I want a dentist who wants to be a dentist. But particularly, the town likes to call itself a center for writers. And, it’s true that for a town of six or seven thousand population, the number of published writers is probably high.
There are lots of poets. There’s even Copper Canyon Press, a publishing house dedicated to poetry. There’s a couple of successful science-fiction writers, a few authors and illustrators of children’s books, and a “Libertarian” magazine, full of revelations that the government is bad, that could use a hefty dose of Paul Krassner or maybe Hunter Thompson, if he’s still alive.
The most interesting, and really about the only, thing with any guts at all published in Port Townsend is the Loomponics catalog. This is the outfit that sells the same book used as reference in the making of the Oklahoma City bomb. The catolog is full of anarchist and survival stuff, as well as practical and lighter fare such as a how-to book on dumpster diving. The people at Loomponics are walking on the edge of the Freedom of Speech issue, and I salute them.
Otherwise, what constitutes “writing” in Port Townsend is what I call “The Mystical Journey of the Gentle Mountain Flower-Fish.” This includes stuff ranging from cutesy-pie books on insects and endless paeans to the blue heron, to reverent recollections of hiking the Olympic rain forest, and photographic accounts of “My Trip To (you name it…),” texts on Native American spirituality written by people other than Native Americans. And salmon, always the salmon. If half the energy used to deify and iconize the salmon around here were used to the benefit of the actual fish, there might be more of them left.
My composite image of the “Port Townsend writer” (male) is a 50ish, soft-spoken, graying chap wearing a button down shirt, gold wire-rim glasses and a full yet neatly trimmed beard, wih Khaki pants and Birkenstocks or Bass Weejuns, who may find the idea of sheep and/or shephard boys erotically stimulating.
I’ll keep my image of the female Port Townsend writer to myself, because I’ll be in enough trouble already with the rest of it…