I never knew that women-in-rock were supposed to have a hard time making it. I just took for granted that anyone can express their feelings, let it all hang out.
Wendy O. Williams probably found the greatest level of fame of all four of these artists. In 1980, we met while I was working at WIZARD radio in Buffalo. I had heard about her terrifying reputation—playing loud music and fornicating with an ax onstage. I had expected to meet an incoherent woman- on drugs. Instead, I met a vibrant woman who wanted to change the world. Her attitude was to destroy conformity. And she made that point very clear: “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us.” In other words, if you ignore outrageousness and don’t express yourself, you’re doing a lot to perpetuate a staid existence. A former exotic dancer, Wendy decided to form a rock and roll band and stretch musical styles. As a result of her group, The Plasmatics innovated speed metal. They recorded “Stand By Your Man” with Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead. She was invited to supply the soundtrack for and act in a film called “Reform School Girls.” In it, she played a ring leader who wreaked havoc on naive girls. Her part came across as a devil-angel figure who believed in free sex and died at the movie’s climax. But so did the evil reform school headmistress.
I sought some spiritual refuge from Wendy in the late 1980s. We had a mutual friend named Roman Kozak, who died from alcohol abuse. Roman, who featured Wendy in his book, “This Ain’t No Disco: The Story of CBGB,” adored her. Wendy suggested that I stay strong and keep doing whatever it was that I was doing. Afterward I lost touch with her. When she shot herself, she had moved to Connecticut to rescue and rehabilitate animals. It was sad, because Wendy’s suicide note said, “The act of taking my own life is not something I am doing without a lot of thought. I don’t believe that people should take their own lives without deep and thoughtful reflection over a considerable period of time. I do believe strongly, however, that the right to do so is one of the most fundamental rights that anyone in a free society should have. For me much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm. Love always, Wendy.” I collected a lot of material about Wendy, even wrote an obituary for GOLDMINE. The most beautiful tribute came from METAL MANIACS writer Jeff Wagner: “The tragedy of her suicide was met with a bit of irony: that every week country superstar Tammy Wynette passed away. Wendy had covered Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” with Lemmy further instating her in the heavy metal hall of fame…Wendy remarking at the time that country music is symbolic of conservative lunacy. It’s almost no surprise that Wynette went quietly while Wendy went out with a single, fatal bang.” Wendy asked that those who would like to make a donation in her memory can do so to:
The Quiet Corner Wildlife Center
109 Ashford Center Rd.
Ashford, CT 06276