A Review: Part 3 Lick Me by Cherry Vanilla, Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series

October 15, 2011

A Review

Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series

Lick Me

by

Cherry Vanilla

Review by R.E. Prindle

Vanilla, Cherry: Lick Me, 2010, Chicago Review Press

Kathie

Part 3

 Intro

 Since writing Part 2 an interesting development has occurred. In what might seem an unexpected twist, according to the Cherry Vanilla website it has been decided to make a TV series of her autobiography. Given the life she has lived it is hard to believe the series wouldn’t be a salacious affair. Her biography is mainly a list of her sexual and drug escapades some of which are almost too much for the printed page. We will have to see.

Having brought her story up to graduation Kathie’s post high school life can be divided into three segments with an aftermath. The first period from 1960-66 might be described as exploratory, the second commencing from her introduction to Dr. Bishop in 1966 to 1971 might be described as a period of wild abandonment when she decided to become a relatively aged groupie, the last period can be divided into the Warhol period when she starred in his stage play, Pork, and her time with Bowie before attempting to become a Punk star. With the collapse of her hopes when her Punk escapade failed and all her hopes were disappointed she was plunged into a period of despair and depression as her personality disintegrated leaving her life a wreck of her hopes. She was finally saved when a hand was extended to her by the musician Ianni.

Whatever financial gain she receives from the projected TV series with a little luck now that she is sixty-eight might give her some financial stability for the rest of her life unless she blows that ruining what is probably her last chance.

1.

 

There are many who believe the individual is completely responsible for his choices in life but I’m a firm believer that you have to play the cards you’re dealt. Even if the choices are yours they are limited by the possible. It’s possible to squander a good hand but very difficult to parley a bum deal into a pot winner.

Kathie’s childhood had its difficulties, its highs and lows but the significant incident of aborting her dog Lady’s pups seems to have formed the psychological basis for Kathie’s choices in life.

On the one hand she had a dismal home life with a boorish uncultured father but on the other she was introduced to cultural society by being introduced into the household of the actor Don Ameche through a friend. She spent weekends living a childhood high life in Amerche’s hotel suite as a friend of his daughter where none of the pleasures of room service and other amenities were denied them. She was allowed, as it were, to participate in the pleasures of Fifth Avenue society in ways that positively affected her future expectations while giving her a background that allowed her to fit in. The contrast between the two modes of life would greatly influence her outlook and early success. She did have a promising start in life that she threw away.

The most influential incident in her life was when her father discovered that her Dalmatian, Lady, had been mounted by some black mongrel. Rather than accept the situation, for some seemingly irrational reason, her father decided to destroy any chance of fertilization by scouring the dogs womb with boiling water.

The shrieks and howling of the poor dog penetrated deep into the subconscious of the young girl giving her her central childhood fixation. Shortly thereafter she developed an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that plagued her throughout her autobiography; what she called her OCD. While she doesn’t describe the wounds she inflicted on herself by tearing at her skin she apparently tore her flesh to the point of leaving scars.

Thus the Aces and Kings were removed from her hand severely limiting her decisions while compelling her to go in directions better avoided. The tragedy is that she chose the road of drugs and sex rather than some serious self-analysis. Like most central childhood fixations the memory of the event is strong but the reaction to the event is obscured and hidden while too difficult to face without some direction. Having suffered a similar childhood fixation myself, which I was able to solve by self-analysis, my sympathies are with Kathie.

The worst of it for Kathie was her excessive use of drugs. Drugs tend to destroy the conscious resistance to the fixation eliminating the barrier to the full expression of sub-conscious compulsions giving the unconscious full unobstructed expression. At the height of her sexual activity as Kathie notes her OCD disappeared being replaced by the repressed sexual equivalent. Old OCDs for new. That was the hand she was dealt.

2.

 

Growing up in a poor area of Queens might have been an impediment to success except for her friendship with the Ameches and also with a sort of introduction to show business because her mother worked above the Copacabana nightclub which led to Kathie’s seeing many of the big stars and meeting several of them, most notably her favorite, Dean Martin.

After graduating from high school Kathie was first attracted to the Madison Avenue advertising world. He landed a job with the Sullivan, Stauffer, Colwell & Bayles advertising agency. She landed a plum of a job straight out of the box. She assumed a role not too different from the portrayal of Peggy Olson in the Mad Men AMC TV series.

Seeking other opportunities she quit that job to join the firm of Kastor,Hilton, Chesley, Clifford & Atherton in a similar capacity. There she was introduced to the homosexual world as her associates there were all or mostly gay. As a young woman she could not have been aware of the rapidly developing influence of homosexuality on life in New York City. The Stonewall Riot was a short eight years away after which for all practical purposes homosexuals took over the cultural life the city.

For decades New York City had been the destination of homosexuals from the South and Mid West who flocked to New York as a haven. Over the decades the homo population grew. As the sixties began critical mass for their conquest of the Big Apple was reached. Kathie fell into the group through her advertising connections.

The obvious became undeniable in 1966 when Time Magazine published an article lamenting the degree to which homosexuality had infiltrated the infra-structure of NYC. It has to be obvious to the blind, deaf and dumb before the media notices anything. Kathie relates this influence in a sort of perplexed tone. Perhaps Queens in the fifties was relatively straight or closeted so that Manhattan was a revelation to her.

The homosexual migration to NYC might even be considered in the light of the Great Internal Migration of the Negroes from South to North and West. During the Great Coming Out from 1960 to Stonewall in 1969 homosexuals became increasingly open while increasingly setting the sexual and social mores of the city. Kathie first began here working career in advertising on Madison Avenue. She appears to have become enamored of what she calls Mad Men, perhaps after the TV show or perhaps the TV show aped reality, at least to that extent. Don’t know.

Kathie’s second agency job turned out to be a nest of homos. Thus per the Time article homos were not only becoming paramount in NYC but began, or perhaps continued, to shape continent wide mores always tending to stretch sexual limits.

Of course as Kathie was already stretching heterosexual mores to the limit this presented no problem to her. Just as she indulged her drug usage with few limits so she indulged her sexual activities with no limits being open as she proudly acclaims to anything.

She was first taken to Fire Island by Mad Men at the hetero resort. Her curiosity drove her to the homo enclaves of the Pines and Cherry Grove which became a fascination to her. According to her LSD had not yet reached the Pines, so ever a pioneer, Kathie made the trek to the Pines with her purse laden with tabs. As no cars were allowed on the island Kathie had to walk down the beach. She says she changed the direction of the gay crowd.

Whacked out on whatever there was no barrier to her unconscious desires so Kathie was able to do things without qualms while she associated the impregnation and aborting of her dog as a reason for her uninhibited exhibitionism. She was however compulsive in avoided impregnation herself. Although the pill was around she preferred to use an IUD. Kathie was ready to copulate in public at the drop of a hat. Thus in this 1960-66 period at a big bash at the Pines the homos had hired a hetero bartender by mistake. A little eye contact between he and Kathie was enough to incite them. They jumped up on the counter and went at it.

As Kathie says if it had been two homos nothing would have been said but hetero sex was too much for the Guys who expressed their displeasure. Strange attitude in a bunch that would make fisting a form of public entertainment a few years hence.

It may prove interesting to see what they make of the TV series as Kathie’s whole book is a record of her really extraordinary sexual and drug escapades. While she was still working on Madison Avenue she began moonlighting as a disc jockey at the club Aux Puces. The night club scene was still tightly controlled in NYC at this period. The most that the Guys at Stonewall were doing as late as ‘69 was dancing together. The wide open S&M and fisting surfaced after Stonewall which resulted at the end of the seventies in the public hetero and homo sex at first Studio 54 and subsequently throughout Bohemia. Kathie once again was a pioneer which is what perhaps the TV series will concentrate on.

In 1966 Kathie was introduced to the Feelgood Dr. Bishop (this may be his real name) who she patronized until 1970 when she was persuaded to stop. Dr. Bishop brought in a whole new level of drug taking further erasing the line between the conscious and subconscious- in other words, Kathie was now in full dream mode. In the Freudian sense Kathie had accessed her unconscious with little or no censorship from the conscious mind. She was free to indulge her libido with no sense of shame or guilt as we shall see when she becomes a groupie.

While drugs made her oblivious to the reactions of others by 1966 if not before she had created a reputation of sexual abandonment that made her repellant to many men and this may have influenced her decision to become a groupie. She slowly moved downtown from Madison Ave. into the lower reaches of the Bohemian East Side. She was no longer employable on Madison Avenue although they still threw her a bone occasionally.

She was still working at Aux Puces as a disc jockey but as the decade progressed and the homos became more and more obvious and open the hetero clientele of Aux Puces was driven away leaving the club 100% gay. This was too much for Kathie who had become progressively disenchanted of the homo scene, perhaps still brooding over her chastisement for performing hetero sex at the Pines, so she quit Aux Puces and decided that perhaps Groupieism was for her, especially as she was drawn to the musicians by her experience as a DJ.

Nineteen sixty-nine then marked a sea change in culture for herself post-Stonewall as well as for society at large. I don’t know how many of us were aware of Stonewall at the time and if we had been I’m sure we couldn’t have projected the societal changes of the next ten years. I don’t think anyone had even thought of disco in ‘69. I was in the record business on the West Coast at the time. I began a record store in a medium sized college town in ‘67 while my store was just taking off at the end of ‘69. While I was into pop culture- records and posters- I was still in a definite minority, almost of one. What the general population knew of pop culture was not good. Not that many at the university were aware of the sea change while none of the faculty was nor did they approve of it. Even posters were a relatively new phenomenon while the forms they were taking were well beyond the imaginations of most of us including myself. Warhol may have been old hat in NYC but the soup cans were still news out West.

New York was alien to those of us on the West Coast. We despised and reviled it. From San Francisco to the Canadian border along I5 the SF scene was what was happening. LA and SoCal was different. We were familiar with Warhol and when the Warhol tour of ‘67 appeared at the university as its last stop it was able to fill the university auditorium., perhaps a thousand people. That it was a faux Andy didn’t seem to bother the students so much. It was pretty clear that Midgette was an imposter. The administration felt defrauded however and demanded their money back. Rather our money although no attempt was made to refund our tickets.

The image of Warhol was a bit hazy. We’d read about him, heard of the superstars not knowing what to make of them but rushing events eclipsed their importance. I don’t think I even knew that Warhol was shot in ‘68. Perhaps his shooting was eclipsed by Robert Kennedy’s.

At the time Kathie decided to be a groupie the scene was already in decline. Altamont definitely ended the sixties. In 1970-71 the record business even became precarious supported during the entire summer of ‘71 by two releases: Carole King’s Tapestry and Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman. There were many days when those two records were virtually all that I sold. Then the Columbia Big Brother started to break the logjam; Janis Joplin somehow broke through to the middle class while the bands from ‘66 to ‘68 put out greatest hits packages and these and Led Zeppelin carried the industry through to ‘74. Then it was a disco run as homoseuxals took over the industry to the industry collapse of ‘79.

In 1969 then when Kathie decided to be a groupie, as I see it, she was running from a bad reputation into one that became much worse. Whatever talk there may have been about her could not have been good. Most of the groupies were very young girls; any rocker could have been picked up on a morals charge any day. That the federales didn’t do it is a wonder. Why worry about drugs which were difficult to prove when you got ‘em in a headlock over a thirteen year old girl. When Kathie decided to compete with the young stuff she was already a twenty-seven year old woman with sexual experience that few attain. I mean, when you reach a certain age you’re just not that cute anymore, you’ve crossed the line. Perhaps there was an aura of desperation about her.

She did manage to latch onto Burton Cummings of Guess Who in a very humiliating encounter. God, I don’t know how she survived it. In the first place Burton Cummings! I don’t mean to put Cummings down personally, who I am sure is a very fine person, but out on the consuming end of the industry Cummings and the Guess Who (Guess Who- what a super dumb name when there was already a group named The Who, also pretty dumb, had a semi stupid hit in American Woman and never could put together a first rate album) even then the rhythm section under the name of Bachman-Turner Overdrive put out a bigger LP than Guess Who ever could. The Guess Who were definitely third rate material. I used to groan every time Guess Who released another LP, them and Harry Nilsson- The Point!

The first time around was enough for Burton and then on her second attempt Burton deleted Kathie in New Jersey after all public transportation had closed down for the night leaving her without a dime in her pocket and no way back to NYC. A pretty desperate situation.

Indeed, desperate she ran back to the venue to beg the boys in the band to let her on the bus. They took her along on the loop through Philly and back to NYC. This is painful to relate and frankly I don’t know how Kathie could tell it but she gave blow jobs to all the boys in the band, minus Cummings, and then a their insistence blew the bus driver. The band dropped her off in the worst part of the Bronx, this is 1970, where she somehow cadged subway fare, found an entrance and got safely back to the Village.

I don’t know how she could psychologically survive that except that the drugs placed her mind safely outside reality. I can’t even guess how this is going to be told in the TV series.

Kathie had many other groupie adventures that I am only going to sum up in a poem she wrote commemorating her groupie adventures. I hope she won’t mind my quoting it in full. P. 95:

A GROUPIE’S LAMENT

 

Diamonds twinkle beneath my feet

On the Labor Day weekend street

Sunlight shines warm through my hair

You’d think there was no pollution there

Pimples sprout on my sleepless face

Varicose veins show the endless pace

My white dress dirty as I walk it home

But my head is up, so I’ll write a poem

I’m feeling beauty in my ghetto land

‘Cause I got it on with a rock and roll band

The trip was a long one; the bus was crazed

The guys and I were mostly dazed

We sang a few tunes from old rock and roll

And we hid the dope when we paid the toll

Burton ignored me, the silly fool

But the rest of the guys thought I was cool

From Asbury Park to Virginia Beach

I gave head like daybed philosophies teach

I feel good and I should and I even got a tan

On my two-day tour with a rock and roll band

You see I missed the last bus from the Jersey shore

And a taxi driver said that there were no more

So I went back to Convention Hall

And I got on their bus and I had a ball

The motels were sterile and the food was all plastic

But at their last set on Sunday I got freaked-out spastic

I know they all love me, ‘cause they told me so

As for Burton, well, I just don’t know

I’m the happiest broken heart, can you understand

‘Cause now I’m the friend of a rock and roll band

 

At that point Kathie’s life was going nowhere. Then Andy Warhol had Brigid Berlin’s taped phone conversations with her mother turned into a play he named Pork, tapped Kathie as Cherry Vanilla for the lead role of Brigid.

Part 4 follows.

 

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