14 October 2018

Remembering Josie + The Pussy Cats (Part Three)


VARIATIONS ON A THEME CALLED PUSSY RIOT: 1972 AND BEYOND

VARIATIONS ON A THEME CALLED
P U S S Y   R I O T !
THE SECRET HISTORY OF 
JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS

THIRD VARIATION:
1972 AND BEYOND

PUSSY RIOT 1972

¡BIENVENIDOS, AMIGOS! DON SEÑORITO CARTOON WELCOMES YOU BACK TO THE POP CULTURE CANTINA FOR THE THIRD AND FINAL PART OF MY ASTOUNDING INTERVIEW WITH CHEYENNE PEPPER. CHEYENNE IS FORMER LEAD SINGER OF THE BAND JOZETTA AND ONE OF POP MUSIC'S MOST FAMOUS TRANSGENDER ICONS. HE WAS A LONG TIME FRIEND AND COLLABORATOR OF THE LATE JOSIE JAMES.

HIS HISTORY WITH JOSIE GOES ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE FOUNDING OF JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS IN 1970. HERE, FOR THE FIRST TIME, HE HAS REVEALED ONE SHOCKING SECRET AFTER ANOTHER ABOUT THE BAND'S EARLY YEARS! WE TAKE UP THEIR STORY IN EARLY 1972, AFTER A SCANDAL TRIGGERED CANCELLATION OF THE PUSSY CATS' POPULAR CARTOON SERIES. IN ADDITION, A COCAINE OVERDOSE HAD LEFT VALERIE SMITH HOSPITALIZED, AND JOSIE HAD BEEN RAPED.  WORSE, SHE WAS PREGNANT WITH HER RAPIST'S BABY! 

AS IF ALL THAT WEREN'T BAD ENOUGH, A CLOSE FRIEND OF THE GROUP WAS BRUTALLY MURDERED BY MEMBERS OF A RELIGIOUS CULT. CHEYENNE DETAILS HOW JOSIE JAMES, MELODY MUNRO-JONES AND VALERIE SMITH CABOT ROSE ABOVE THESE MAJOR CHALLENGES TO BECOME FEMINIST ICONS AND POP LEGENDS.

GOODNIGHT, SWEET PRINCE

GOODNIGHT, SWEET PRINCE

AFTER VALERIE, THE PERSON MOST IMPACTED BY COLLINS GREGORY'S DEATH WAS ALAN M. HE TOOK TO HIS BED AND JUST LAY THERE SOBBING DAY AFTER DAY! LAURA PINTO AND I KNEW WHAT WAS WRONG; TOGETHER, WE MANAGED TO PULL HIM OUT OF A DEEP DEPRESSION.

ALAN DIDN'T REALIZE HOW MUCH HE LOVED COLLINS G UNTIL AFTER HE DIED. I THINK HE TRIED TO ESCAPE THOSE FEELINGS BY TAKING REFUGE IN A HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGE. I ATTENDED HIS WEDDING TO ALEXANDRA, BUT I KNEW THEY WOULD NEVER STAY TOGETHER; DUDE WAS HOLDING A TORCH XANDIE COULD NEVER EXTINGUISH!

EVEN SO, THEIR MARRIAGE LASTED MUCH LONGER THAN I EXPECTED. AS YOU KNOW, THEY HAD A DAUGHTER: YVONNE REMY, WHO FOLLOWED IN HER DAD'S FOOTSTEPS AND GREW UP TO BE A TOP DEEJAY AND RECORDING ENGINEER. ALAN TOOK TO FATHERHOOD LIKE A FISH TO WATER, BUT THE JOYS OF PARENTING COULDN'T CHANGE HIS TRUE SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR HIS FEELINGS FOR COLLINS! DUDE KEPT FRESH FLOWERS ON THE GRAVE OF THE MAN HE CALLED HIS "EGYPTIAN PRINCE" UNTIL HE LEFT CALIFORNIA FOR THE EAST COAST.

ARLO PHANTOM DETAINS ALEXANDRA

ARLO PHANTOM DETAINS ALEXANDRA!

SOMETHING ELSE THAT DOOMED THE CABOT-MAYBERRY MARRIAGE WAS ALAN M'S EXPECTATION OF HAVING A STAY-AT-HOME WIFE! ALEXANDRA WAS LIKE, "FORGET ABOUT IT!" HE REALLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. RIGHT AFTER THEIR HONEYMOON, XANDIE DOUBLED DOWN ON HER GOAL OF LAUNCHING A SOLO CAREER!

HER BROTHER LEX HAD PROMISED TO BAG HER A RECORD DEAL, BUT SHE THOUGHT HE WAS DRAGGING HIS FEET. XANDIE SHOOK SOME ACTION ON HER OWN AND GOT PRODUCER ARLO PHANTOM INTERESTED IN SIGNING HER TO HIS LABEL. ARLO HAD BEEN ONE OF THE BIGGEST BRITISH INVASION HITMAKERS, WORKING WITH FEMALE VOCAL STARS LIKE HELEN SHAPIRO, LULU, CILLA BLACK AND DUSTY SPRINGFIELD. BABE THOUGHT SHE WAS JUST THE ARTIST ARLO NEEDED TO START THE HITS FLOWING AGAIN; BUT THIS GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY NEARLY COST XANDIE HER LIFE!

ALAN M TOLD ME HOW IT WENT DOWN: ARLO INVITED HER TO HIS BIG RANCH HOUSE IN LAUREL CANYON. THEY TALKED FOR OVER TWO HOURS, BUT XANDIE COULD NEVER GET HIM TO DISCUSS MUSIC; AND THE HUNGRY WAY HE WAS GLARING AT HER REALLY CREEPED HER OUT.  SUDDENLY ARLO EXPOSED HIMSELF AND INVITED HER TO SIT ON HIS LAP! ENRAGED, SHE FLIPPED HIM THE FINGER AND GOT UP TO LEAVE; BUT HE YELLED OUT SOMETHING, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, SHE WAS SURROUNDED BY A PACK OF ST. BERNARD DOGS. THEY JUMPED ALL OVER HER AND SEEMED VERY PLAYFUL; BUT WHEN SHE WENT FOR THE DOOR, THEY TURNED VICIOUS!

ARLO HAD THESE ST. BERNARDS TRAINED TO DO ANYTHING HE WANTED! SNARLING AND SNAPPING, THEY HERDED XANDIE INTO A BEDROOM AND HE LOCKED HER INSIDE. LAUGHING LIKE A MANIAC, HE REVEALED HIS INTENTIONS: "I'M ADDING YOU TO MY COLLECTION OF BRIDES!" DUDE TOLD HER HOW HE'D LURED OTHER WOMEN TO HIS HOUSE, BUILDING UP THEIR TRUST OVER SEVERAL DAYS. "BUT WITH YOU, I COULDN'T WAIT!" HE CACKLED. "YOU TEMPTED ME TOO MUCH! AND HOW I'M GOING TO PUNISH YOU FOR THAT!"

ALEXANDRA REALIZED THAT ARLO PHANTOM WAS THE ELUSIVE CANYON KIDNAPPER! DO YOU REMEMBER THAT CASE? DURING THE EARLY MONTHS OF 1972, SEVERAL YOUNG WOMEN DISAPPEARED WITHOUT A TRACE. TRUCK DRIVERS PASSING THROUGH LAUREL CANYON PICKED UP STRANGE CB RADIO MESSAGES FROM SOMEBODY CALLING HIMSELF "THE KIDNAPPER". IN A VOICE DISGUISED TO SOUND LIKE SNAGGLEPUSS THE CARTOON CHARACTER, DUDE TOOK CREDIT FOR ABDUCTING THE WOMEN. THEN HE DEMANDED A NONSENSICAL RANSOM: THE END OF THE WOMEN'S LIBERATION MOVEMENT, WHICH HE CONDEMNED IN LONG, PROFANITY-LACED RANTS! AUTHORITIES HAD BEEN UNABLE TO TRACE HIS BROADCASTS, AND HE WAS STILL ON THE LOOSE. NOW XANDIE WAS THE LATEST TO FALL INTO HIS CLUTCHES!

ALEXANDRA'S REVENGE

ALEXANDRA'S REVENGE

BUT SHE WAS FREED THAT SAME DAY. WE STILL DON'T KNOW WHO CALLED THE POLICE, BUT THEY FOUND ALEXANDRA STILL LOCKED IN THAT BEDROOM. SEBASTIAN WAS WITH HER. XANDIE TOLD NEWS REPORTERS THAT SHE HADN'T BROUGHT HIM ALONG; SHE BELIEVED THE CAT HAD FOLLOWED HER AFTER SENSING THAT SHE WAS IN DANGER. THE NEWSPAPERS RAN A PHOTO OF HER HUGGING SEBASTIAN, AND THERE WAS A QUOTE THAT DIDN'T RING TRUE: "I WAS SO FRIGHTENED, I THOUGHT I WOULD LOSE MY MIND!"  ALEXANDRA CABOT, FRIGHTENED?  I'VE NEVER KNOWN HER TO BE AFRAID OF ANYTHING OR ANYBODY! FEAR JUST ISN'T PART OF HER NATURE.

IT WAS PART OF ARLO PHANTOM'S NATURE, THOUGH, AND HE'S THE ONE WHO ENDED UP LOSING HIS MIND! POLICE FOUND HIM ELSEWHERE IN THE HOUSE, COWERING IN A CORNER AND BABBLING ABOUT A GIANT "WITCH CAT" THAT TRIED TO EAT HIM! DUDE WAS STARK-RAVING MAD! EVIDENTLY, HE HAD A DEBILITATING FEAR OF FELINES, AND THE SIGHT OF SEBASTIAN PUSHED HIM OVER THE EDGE. BUT STRANGELY, HIS PACK OF ST. BERNARDS WAS JUST AS SCARED AS HE WAS: THEY WERE COWERING THERE WITH HIM, WHIMPERING AND CRYING! ANIMAL CONTROL HAD TO BE CALLED IN. SOMETHING HAD SEVERELY TRAUMATIZED THOSE DOGS, BUT THERE WAS NEVER ANY EXPLANATION; THE WHOLE THING WAS BIZARRE.

ONE THING THE POLICE LEARNED FOR SURE: ARLO PHANTOM WAS DEFINITELY THE CANYON KIDNAPPER! IN HIS ATTIC THEY FOUND AN ELABORATE CB RADIO SETUP, WHICH HE'D USED TO PASS HIMSELF OFF AS A TRUCKER; AND DOWN IN HIS BASEMENT, THEY FOUND ALL SIX OF THE DISAPPEARED WOMEN. THEY WERE IN PITIFUL SHAPE: NAKED, DOG-BITTEN, CHAINED TO THE WALL AND NEARLY STARVED TO DEATH! EACH ONE HAD BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED, TOO; BUT THEY ALL SURVIVED AND WERE SOON REUNITED WITH THEIR LOVED ONES.

I WONDERED IF ALEXANDRA'S KNOWLEDGE OF VOODOO FIGURED IN HOW QUICKLY SHE WAS RESCUED. I ASKED HER ABOUT THAT A COUPLE OF TIMES, BUT SHE JUST SMILED AT ME AND DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING! I DECIDED IT WAS BEST NOT TO PRESS THE ISSUE.

INTRODUCING GREG JAMES

INTRODUCING GREG JAMES

AFTER EVERYTHING THAT WENT DOWN IN THE LATTER HALF OF '71, JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS NEEDED TIME OFF TO RECHARGE. THEY ALSO HAD PERSONAL ISSUES TO DEAL WITH. A RELATIVE FROM SHREVEPORT CONTACTED MEL WITH NEWS THAT HER FATHER HAD DIED! SHE DECIDED TO RETURN HOME FOR THE FUNERAL AND TRY RECONCILING WITH HER HOMOPHOBIC MOTHER. UNFORTUNATELY, THAT ENDED UP BEING A LOST CAUSE; BUT SHE WAS ABLE TO RENEW BONDS WITH SOME OF HER EXTENDED FAMILY.

SWAMI SUNSHINE GOT VALERIE SO FUCKED UP, SHE HAD TO COMPLETE A DRUG DETOX PROGRAM! LEX CABOT GOT HER PLACED IN THE BEST ONE MONEY COULD BUY. WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS PUT HER THROUGH A LIVING HELL, BUT VAL CONQUERED HER ADDICTION AND STAYED CLEAN FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE. NO MORE ALCOHOL OR TOBACCO, EITHER: SHE WAS EVEN WARY OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS!

JOSIE SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED AN ABORTION, BUT SHE ULTIMATELY DECIDED TO HAVE DON IGNACIO'S BABY. I’LL NEVER FORGET WHAT SHE TOLD ME, WITH TEARS STREAMING DOWN HER FACE: “MAYBE I CAN TAKE THIS UGLINESS AND MAKE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OUT OF IT? I’M GOING TO TRY.” SHE DID GIVE BIRTH TO A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BOY IN MAY OF '72. JOSIE NAMED THE BABY AFTER COLLINS GREGORY AND POSTHUMOUSLY NAMED COLLINS HIS GODFATHER. EVERYBODY CALLED THE BOY "GREG", AND THAT NICKNAME STUCK.

WHEN THE PUSSY CATS REGROUPED IN EARLY FALL OF '72, SHE TOOK HER BABY OUT ON TOUR WITH HER. SHE'D BRING GREG ON STAGE, AND THE AUDIENCE WOULD GO CRAZY! MOST PEOPLE ASSUMED THAT COLLINS G WAS HIS BIOLOGICAL FATHER, AND SHE CHOSE NOT TO DISCOURAGE THAT ASSUMPTION; ONLY THOSE OF US CLOSE TO JOSIE KNEW THE TRUTH. AFTER GREG HAD HIS BAR MITZVAH, SHE TOLD HIM WHO HIS FATHER REALLY WAS. HE DIDN'T TAKE IT WELL, AND GOT INVOLVED WITH DRUGS SOON AFTERWARD! JOSIE BLAMED HERSELF, BUT SHE WASN'T AT FAULT; HE'D JUST FALLEN IN WITH THE WRONG CROWD. HE HAD HIS MOTHER'S STRENGTH OF CHARACTER, AND IT WASN'T LONG BEFORE HE GOT CLEAN AGAIN.

DUDE LATER BECAME BECAME A CPA, AND HE WAS THE PUSSY CATS' BUSINESS MANAGER FOR FOUR YEARS. UNFORTUNATELY, GREG JAMES WAS A LATE CASUALTY OF THE AIDS EPIDEMIC. HIS MEDICATIONS ALL FAILED, AND HE JUST WASTED AWAY; IT WAS SO SAD!  ALL THREE PUSSY CATS WERE AT HIS BEDSIDE WHEN HE PASSED AWAY IN 1998. JOSIE JAMES WAS THE MOST RESILIENT PERSON I EVER KNEW, BUT THE LOSS OF HER SON WAS THE ONE TRAGEDY I DON'T THINK SHE EVER RECOVERED FROM.

WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT

WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT

SHE CONFIDED IN ME THAT, AFTER HER HELLISH EXPERIENCE WITH DON IGNACIO, SHE DIDN'T THINK SHE COULD EVER HAVE SEX WITH A MAN AGAIN. FORTUNATELY, THAT WASN'T THE CASE: JOSIE DID HAVE MALE LOVERS, BUT IT WAS A WOMAN WHO WON HER HEART FIRST. IRENE BANG HAD ALWAYS BEEN TAKEN WITH JOSIE; IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT SHE WAS IN LOVE IF YOU KNEW WHAT SIGNS TO LOOK FOR! HOWEVER, WHEN THEY MET JOSIE IDENTIFIED AS A HETEROSEXUAL WOMAN. BESIDES THAT, SHE ONLY HAD EYES FOR ALAN M! BUT DURING HER PREGNANCY, BABE ACCEPTED IRENE'S INVITATION TO COME LIVE WITH HER.

THEY BECAME VERY CLOSE, AND IRENE SPARED NO EXPENSE TO MAKE SURE MOTHER AND CHILD HAD EVERYTHING THEY NEEDED. HER FINANCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT HELPED JOSIE BOUNCE BACK FROM ALL THAT PAIN SHE'D SUFFERED. THEIR BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP EVOLVED INTO A FRIENDSHIP, AND THEN IT BECAME SOMETHING MUCH MORE. JOSIE AND IRENE WERE A COUPLE FOR SEVERAL YEARS, AND WHEN THEIR ROMANCE ENDED, THEY REMAINED LIFELONG FRIENDS.

NO, JOSIE DIDN'T IDENTIFY AS A LESBIAN, BUT SHE WAS THE SECOND MEMBER OF THE PUSSY CATS TO EMBRACE PAN-SEXUALITY! BY THE END OF HER LIFE, SHE WAS ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY DATING WOMEN. NO, NO, THAT NEVER HAPPENED!  THERE'S NOTHING TO THOSE RUMORS THAT I WAS JOSIE'S LOVER BEFORE MY TRANSITION.  WE WERE ALWAYS LIKE BROTHER AND SISTER; AND OF COURSE, SHE WAS MY MAIN SONGWRITING PARTNER, TOO.

JOSIE'S SOLO ALBUM

JOSIE'S SOLO ALBUM

I FOUND A NEW JOB IN THE SPRING OF 1972. DON IGNACIO'S PUBLISHING COMPANY WAS BOUGHT UP BY SATURDAY MUSIC, A FIRM CONTROLLED BY PRODUCER BOB CREWE. I WENT TO WORK FOR BOB FROM 1972-75. AS YOU KNOW, HE PRODUCED HITS FOR FREDDY CANNON, FRANKIE VALLI + THE FOUR SEASONS AND MITCH RYDER'S DETROIT WHEELS. DUDE WAS A BLAST TO WORK WITH, AND I LEARNED A LOT ABOUT SONGWRITING FROM HIM. DUDE LOVED THE SONGS I WROTE FOR THE PUSSY CATS, AND I DISCOVERED THAT HE WAS EAGER TO RECORD JOSIE; HE FELT SHE HAD THE BEST SINGING VOICE IN THE GROUP. "NOT THAT VALERIE AND MELODY CAN'T SING," HE ASSURED ME, "BUT TO OVERLOOK A FINE VOICE LIKE JOSIE'S? WHAT A WASTE!" WHENEVER I SAW HER, I WOULD TELL HER ABOUT HIS INTEREST.

THE LAST SINGLE FROM THE PUSSY CATS' TV SOUNDTRACK, "CLOCK ON THE WALL" CAME OUT IN EARLY SUMMER OF '72; THAT WAS ONE OF COLLINS GREGORY'S SONGS. IT SCORED A MODEST HIT, BUT CAPITOL RECORDS STILL DECLINED TO SIGN THE GROUP AS ARTISTS. LEX CABOT ASSURED THEM THAT EVERYTHING WOULD BE ALL RIGHT, BUT FOR A WHILE IT WAS ROUGH GOING FOR THE GIRLS! THEY WERE YESTERDAY'S NEWS: THEY WEREN'T GETTING GOOD BOOKINGS ANYMORE AND THEY’D BECOME ALMOST TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON THEIR FIREHOUSE GIGS FOR INCOME. NO, THERE WEREN'T ANY ROYALTIES: WOULD YOU BELIEVE RAINBO ARTS STUDIOS CONSIDERED THE PUSSY CATS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS? THE CONTRACT WAS BROKEN, SO NATURALLY THERE WAS LITIGATION; BUT THE PUSSY CATS NEVER DID GET COMPENSATED FAIRLY.  YEARS LATER, THEY ENDED UP WITH A FRACTION OF WHAT THEY SHOULD'VE EARNED!

SO THE GROUP WAS ON HIATUS, AND JOSIE WAS SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT RETIRING FROM MUSIC AND GOING BACK ON THE ROLLER DERBY CIRCUIT.  MY PRODDING IS WHAT GOT HER TO RECONSIDER: I INTRODUCED HER TO BOB CREWE, AND THEY STARTED WORKING TOGETHER RIGHT AWAY. SHE REALLY DUG HIM, BUT WOMEN ALWAYS LIKED BOB! UNLIKE DON IGNACIO, HE WAS A PERFECT GENTLEMAN AND A GORGEOUS-LOOKING GUY, TOO.

JOSIE WAS A BIG FAN OF SOUL SINGER TIMI YURO, SO BOB SUGGESTED THAT SHE CUT A TRIBUTE RECORD. BLUESY MATERIAL LIKE "HURT" AND "INSULT TO INJURY" WERE TAILOR-MADE FOR HER VOICE!  LAURA PINTO WAS BETWEEN JOBS, SO BOB HIRED HER TO ENGINEER THE ALBUM. I SANG BACKGROUND AND WROTE SOME VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS.  CREWE RECORDS WAS NO LONGER ACTIVE BY THEN, SO THE MASTER WAS SOLD TO VERVE, THE JAZZ LABEL. I REMEMBER ALL THE GREAT REVIEWS; MUSIC CRITICS LOVED THAT RECORD TO DEATH!   IT SOLD ZILCH, BUT BOB FELT STRONGLY THAT JOSIE WAS, IN HIS WORDS, “GOING PLACES”! 

HE ARRANGED A DINNER PARTY AT HIS WEST HOLLYWOOD APARTMENT SO HE COULD INTRODUCE HER TO SOME IMPORTANT PEOPLE. TWO OF THEM WERE DAGMAR DIAMOND AND LUCKY JONES; BOB HAD KNOWN BOTH OF THEM FOR YEARS.  BUT HE HAD AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE FOR THROWING THAT PARTY: HE’D WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY THAT HE WANTED TO DISCUSS WITH THEM! BOB CREWE WAS ALWAYS CHALLENGING HIMSELF, ALWAYS NEEDING TO BRANCH OUT.  I ATTENDED THAT GATHERING, AND I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT LUCKY DIDN’T THINK MUCH OF BOB’S SCRIPT! BUT HE WAS VERY IMPRESSED BY JOSIE. 

STRANGE, ISN’T IT, THAT HE’D NEVER MET HER BEFORE? SHE WAS ONE OF HIS WIFE’S BIGGEST CLIENTS, AND HIS LOVER PLAYED DRUMS IN HER BAND!  WITH HER GREEN EYES, NATURALLY RED HAIR AND LARGE BUSTLINE, BABE DEFINITELY HAD HIS KIND OF STAR POTENTIAL; BUT LOOKS ALONE WEREN'T ENOUGH TO SELL LUCKY JONES ON AN ACTRESS.  ONCE HE GOT TO KNOW JOSIE PERSONALLY, DUDE SAW THAT SHE HAD REAL STAR QUALITY!


KING OF THE LESBIAN MELODRAMA

KING OF THE LESBIAN MELODRAMA

THE 1960S AND 70S WERE THE GOLDEN AGE OF CHEAP EXPLOITATION FILMS. RUSS MEYER, BOB CORMAN, DORIS WISHMAN AND OTHER CULT DIRECTORS BUILT THEIR REPUTATIONS ON TRASHY MELODRAMAS WITH SEXY GIRLS! LUCKY JONES WAS IN THAT GROUP: HE SPECIALIZED IN FILMS WITH A LESBIAN THEME. BEFORE "PUSSY RIOT", HE WAS KNOWN FOR SCREEN ADAPTATIONS OF GAY WOMEN'S NOVELS. DAGMAR WAS HIS PARTNER IN A FILM PRODUCTION COMPANY CALLED LUCKY DIAMONDS AS WELL AS HIS CINEMATOGRAPHER.  LUCKY USED LOTS OF WOMEN ON HIS FILM CREWS; DUDE WAS POLITICALLY PROGRESSIVE AND A PIONEER ACTIVIST ON SEX AND GENDER ISSUES. FOR HIM, SENSATIONALISM WAS A VEHICLE FOR MAKING SOCIAL STATEMENTS.

MELODY INTRODUCED LUCKY TO LEX CABOT.  ALWAYS ON THE HUNT FOR PROMOTIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, LEX SUGGESTED THAT HE STAR JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS IN A MOVIE. NOW THAT THEIR CARTOON SERIES WAS HISTORY, THE GIRLS NEEDED TO RE-INVENT THEMSELVES IN ORDER TO REMAIN IN THE SPOTLIGHT. DUDE WAS ALWAYS CHASING THAT ADULT MALE DEMOGRAPHIC, AND HE THOUGHT A SLEAZY GRINDHOUSE FLICK MIGHT BE JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED!

BUT LUCKY WAS 'WAY AHEAD OF LEX. HE’D ALREADY ASKED BOB CREWE TO REVAMP HIS SCREENPLAY AS A STARRING VEHICLE FOR JOSIE. IF IT WAS GOOD ENOUGH, HE PROMISED TO DIRECT IT.  SOMEBODY, MAYBE BOB, DAGMAR OR JOSIE HERSELF, SUGGESTED THAT ROLES BE CREATED FOR MEL AND VAL, TOO. ONCE THEIR NAMES WERE ATTACHED TO THE PROJECT, THE CONCEPT FOR "PUSSY RIOT" BEGAN TAKING SHAPE.

BARING IT ALL, HEATING IT UP!

BARING IT ALL, HEATING IT UP!

LUCKY JONES NEVER USED TRAINED ACTORS IN HIS FILMS, SO IT WASN'T UNUSUAL THAT JOSIE, MEL AND VAL HAD NEVER ACTED BEFORE. HE HAD A GIFT FOR DRAWING COMPELLING PERFORMANCES OUT OF ORDINARY PEOPLE, AND FOR CONVINCING THEM TO DO THINGS THEY'D NEVER DREAM OF DOING OTHERWISE!

THAT'S HOW THE PUSSY CATS ENDED UP PORTRAYING 1950s BURLESQUE QUEENS AND TAKING IT ALL OFF IN FRONT OF MOVIE CAMERAS.  BUT THE PROSPECT OF SHOOTING THOSE SCENES TOTALLY FREAKED JOSIE AND VALERIE OUT!  LUCKY HAD TO DO A LOT OF COAXING BEFORE HE GOT WHAT HE NEEDED: BUT IN THE END, BOTH JOSIE AND VAL CAME ACROSS LIKE PROS. HE TAUGHT THEM HOW TO CHANNEL FRAYED NERVES INTO WHATEVER EMOTION WAS MOTIVATING THEIR CHARACTERS. 

JOSIE WAS THE STAR, BUT CRITICS HAVE TAGGED MEL'S PERFORMANCE AS THE BEST AND I AGREE. OF THE THREE GIRLS, SHE WAS THE MOST NATURAL ACTRESS. MEL TOLD ME SHE DREW ON HER ANGER AT BEING DISOWNED BY HER PARENTS, AS WELL AS HER EXPERIENCES AS A HOMELESS GAY TEENAGER.

HE'S JUST TOO MUCH!

HE'S JUST TOO MUCH!

LUCKY MADE A LOT OF SCRIPT CHANGES, BUT BOB CREWE WAS DEFINITELY THE SCREENWRITER. HE RESEARCHED THE SUBJECT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT ON THE JOB AND DREW ON THAT RESEARCH TO WRITE HIS SCRIPT. YEAH, I HEARD THAT, TOO: HOW HE'S SUPPOSED TO HAVE INTERVIEWED DOZENS OF FEMALE ENTERTAINERS ABOUT THEIR BAD EXPERIENCES! AS FAR AS I KNOW, HE DIDN'T DO THAT; BUT BOB DID SPEAK EXTENSIVELY WITH JOSIE ABOUT BEING A RAPE VICTIM. SHE CONFIDED IN HIM, AND IT WAS A VERY COURAGEOUS THING FOR HER TO DO. THE INTENSITY OF HER FEELINGS IS REFLECTED IN HIS SCREENPLAY. IT'S THE CUTTING EDGE THAT MAKES "PUSSY RIOT" MORE THAN JUST A GRINDHOUSE FLICK. NOBODY HAD EVER SEEN WOMEN'S RAGE DEPICTED ON SCREEN LIKE THAT . . . IT BROKE NEW GROUND!

"PUSSY RIOT" BARELY ESCAPED BEING SLAPPED WITH AN X-RATING. THE MAIN REASON THE RATINGS BOARD OBJECTED WAS THOSE REALISTIC SCENES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: FIRST, THE BURLESQUE QUEENS GET ROUGHED UP BY SOME OF THEIR CUSTOMERS, AND THEN THEY TAKE TIT-FOR-TAT REVENGE! DISGUISED AS MASKED MOTORCYCLE MARAUDERS, THEY TURN THE TABLES ON THEIR ASSAILANTS. EVEN IN THE ANYTHING-GOES ATMOSPHERE OF THE '70s, THOSE FRANK DEPICTIONS OF MALE RAPE WERE TOO MUCH FOR A LOT OF EXHIBITORS TO TAKE!

MOST RELEASE PRINTS OF THE MOVIE WERE HEAVILY CENSORED, BUT A LOT OF THAT TRIMMED FOOTAGE CAN NOW BE SEEN IN A "DIRECTOR'S CUT". SOME SO-CALLED EDGY MOVIES FROM THAT ERA LOOK TAME WHEN SEEN TODAY, BUT NOBODY WILL EVER DESCRIBE "PUSSY RIOT" AS TAME: THAT FILM SOCKS IT TO YOU JUST AS HARD AS IT DID IN 1973! AND THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT ISSUES IT ADDRESSES ARE AS RELEVANT AS EVER.

THE PUSSY RIOT MOVIE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM

THE PUSSY RIOT MOVIE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM

I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT: THE "PUSSY RIOT" MOVIE SOUNDTRACK PROBABLY IS BETTER KNOWN THAN THE PUSSY CATS' TV SOUNDTRACK! THAT LP NEVER SHOWED UP ON ANY BESTSELLER CHARTS, BUT IT SOLD STEADILY AND STAYED IN PRINT FOR OVER A DECADE. IT WAS REISSUED RECENTLY AND LAST I HEARD, IT HAD SOLD SIX MILLION COPIES WORLDWIDE! JOSIE AND I CO-WROTE THE TWO INSTRUMENTAL TRACKS, AND MY DAUGHTER IS ATTENDING COLLEGE ON SOME OF THOSE ROYALTIES!

BOB CREWE WAS SUPPOSED TO SUPERVISE THE MUSIC, BUT HE HAD TOO MUCH ON HIS PLATE. IN ADDITION TO WRITING THE SCREENPLAY HE CO-PRODUCED THE MOVIE, AND DUDE WAS ON THE SET EVERY DAY.  BOB ASSIGNED ONE OF HIS PROTÉGÉS, PETER SHAYNE, TO HELM THE SESSIONS. IN TURN, PETER HIRED THE VERY TALENTED LeROY GLOVER AS MUSIC DIRECTOR.

BACK IN THE '60S, LeROY HAD ARRANGED AND CONDUCTED HIT SINGLES FOR THE ANGELS. HE WORKED CLOSELY WITH BOB AND LUCKY JONES TO CHOOSE SONGS THAT WOULD WORK BEST IN CERTAIN SCENES. THE SOUND LEROY CREATED FOR THE FILM WAS CLASSIC '60s GIRL GROUP MUSIC, UPDATED WITH A LATIN ROCK EDGE AND MIXED TO SOUND LIKE A PHIL SPECTOR PRODUCTION. WE HAD A WHO’S WHO OF LATINO ROCK STARS AT THE RECORDING SESSIONS: OUR SIDEMEN INCLUDED PAT AND LOLLY VEGAS, MAX UBALLEZ, MARK GUERRERO AND SHEILA E!  NO BULLSHIT, SHE WAS THERE.  BABE WAS JUST A TEENAGER THEN, BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN HER WORK THOSE TIMBALES!

JOSIE'S BIG NUMBER WAS "YOU'RE NEVER GONNA FIND (A LOVE LIKE MINE)", WHICH PLAYED DURING HER LOVE SCENE WITH THE CHICANO POLICE DETECTIVE.  PETER SHAYNE WROTE THAT ONE, AND IT GOT RELEASED AS A SINGLE.  THERE WAS NO QUESTION ABOUT HER SINGING LEAD ON THE SONGS: SHE WAS THE STAR, AFTER ALL!  BUT MEL AND VAL ALSO SANG SOME LEADS, AND THEY KICKED MAJOR ASS ON THEIR NUMBERS. ESPECIALLY THEIR BIG DUET "JUST KEEP ON LOVIN' ME".  IT'S HEARD OVER THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WHERE THEIR CHARACTERS COMMIT SUICIDE RATHER THAN BE SHOT DOWN.  OH, ABSOLUTELY!  THAT MOVIE "THELMA AND LOUISE" TOOK A LOT OF INSPIRATION FROM "PUSSY RIOT".
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THIS PUSSY IS ON FIRE!

THIS PUSSY IS ON FIRE!

THE "MENSTRUAL CYCLES"?  FUCK YEAH!  I DUG THEM, TOO. THOSE MOTORBIKES WERE CONCEIVED BY LUCKY JONES, BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY VALERIE AND MELODY WHO DESIGNED THEM. VAL'S STREAMLINED ELECTRIC MOTOR AND MEL'S FUTURISTIC CHOPPER CHASSIS WERE 'WAY AHEAD OF THEIR TIME!  AND AS I TOLD YOU BEFORE, THOSE SEXY TIGRESS COSTUMES THAT THE MARAUDERS WORE WERE ALSO MEL'S WORK. SHE CREATED FACSIMILES OF THOSE OUTFITS FOR THE PUSSY CATS TO WEAR ON STAGE, AND WHENEVER THEY DID, HOLY SHIT!!! CONCERT VENUES WOULD JUST ERUPT!

LUCKY ABSOLUTELY REFUSED TO CHANGE THE MOVIE’S TITLE, AND HE WOULD AGREE TO TRIM JUST SO MUCH VIOLENCE AND SEX. DUDE REACHED AN IMPASSE WITH THE MPAA, AND THAT'S WHEN HE DECIDED TO RELEASE "PUSSY RIOT" DIRECTLY TO DRIVE-IN THEATERS. IT BECAME ONE OF THE LAST BIG DRIVE-IN MOVIE HITS AND AN INSTANT CULT CLASSIC!  GAY MEN WERE THE FIRST DEMOGRAPHIC TO EMBRACE IT, AND COLLEGE KIDS SOON FOLLOWED SUIT; BUT OVER THE YEARS “PUSSY RIOT” GRADUALLY FOUND ITS ADULT FEMALE AUDIENCE. 

LUCKY VIEWED THAT FILM AS A MOUTHPIECE FOR THE WOMEN'S LIBERATION MOVEMENT, BUT FEMINISTS REALLY DIDN'T DIG IT.  I REMEMBER Ms. MAGAZINE'S REVIEWER CALLING IT "A TWISTED MALE CHAUVINIST FANTASY", AND THAT BOTHERED HIM A LOT.  HE WAS FAR MORE CONCERNED ABOUT APPEALING TO WOMEN THAN LEX WAS.  AS FAR AS LEX CABOT WAS CONCERNED, THE MOVIE DID EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED IT TO DO: COMPLETELY DESTROY THE PUSSY CATS' SATURDAY MORNING CARTOON IMAGE!  WHAT HE DIDN'T ANTICIPATE WAS THAT IT ALSO SET THE STAGE FOR THEIR TRANSITION TO PUNK ROCK IN THE NEXT DECADE.

IN THE UNITED STATES "PUSSY RIOT" WAS A CULT PHENOMENON, BUT OVERSEAS IT WAS A MAINSTREAM SMASH! THE PUSSY CATS BECAME HUGE STARS IN EUROPE AND SPENT THE REST OF THE '70s OVER THERE, TOURING AND RECORDING AND APPEARING ON TV. THEY WERE ALSO IN A FEW EUROPEAN FILMS, BUT NEVER AS STARS. JOSIE TOLD ME THEY WERE OFFERED SOME STARRING ROLES, BUT THE FILM PRODUCERS ALWAYS WANTED THEM DOING NUDE SCENES!  THEIR RESPONSE WAS: "WE TOOK OUR CLOTHES OFF FOR ‘PUSSY RIOT, BUT WE DON'T WANT TO MAKE A HABIT OUT OF IT!” 

THERE WERE STILL MEN IN THE TOURING BAND AT THAT TIME: DION CLAVE AND CLARENCE McDONALD WERE GONE, BUT TY YOUNGBLOOD WAS STILL PLAYING REEDS AND PERCUSSION, AND LeROY GLOVER HAD COME ON BOARD TO REPLACE CLARENCE. OFTEN THERE'D BE A THIRD GUY ON KEYBOARDS OR RHYTHM GUITAR AND OCCASIONALLY, A SMALL BRASS SECTION.  IT WAS DURING THIS PERIOD, THOUGH, THAT THE PUSSY CATS BEGAN TAKING ON MORE FEMALE STAFF. JINX PONDEROSA, WHO LATER BECAME A BIG-TIME CONCERT BOOKING AGENT, GOT HER START WITH THEM AS TOUR MANAGER. MELODY USED TO CALL HER "L'IL JINX"!

A LITTLE PUSSY WON'T HURT MUCH

A LITTLE PUSSY WON'T HURT MUCH!

IT WASN'T JUST A BIG JOYRIDE.  IT NEVER IS FOR WOMEN PERFORMERS OUT ON THE ROAD! EVEN THOUGH MEN WERE TOURING WITH THEM, THE GIRLS HAD A FEW ENCOUNTERS THAT WERE LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF "PUSSY RIOT"!  THERE ARE PERVS AND HORNY BASTARDS EVERYWHERE, YOU KNOW . . . AND BEING A SINGLE MOM MADE IT HARDER FOR JOSIE.  BUT THEY WERE ALL LIVING THE GOOD LIFE OVER THERE.  JOSIE INVITED ME FOR A VISIT, AND I STAYED AT THE FRENCH RIVIERA BEACH HOUSE SHE AND GREG SOMETIMES SHARED WITH IRENE BANG. MEL SENT ME GIFTS FROM THE CLOTHING STORE SHE AND LUCKY JONES OPENED IN LONDON; AND VAL SENT PICTURES OF HER WEDDING TO LEX CABOT IN BARCELONA. LATER ON, LEX BOUGHT THEM A GORGEOUS HOME IN THE CANARY ISLANDS.

THEY ALL BUT GAVE UP THEIR AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP DURING THOSE YEARS. IN ENGLAND, THEY PRACTICALLY CONSIDERED THE PUSSY CATS BRITISH NATIVES! MEL LAUNCHED HER DESIGN BUSINESS IN LONDON, AND SHE WAS BORN THERE, AFTER ALL; BUT VAL GOT HOMESICK FOR HER FAMILY IN CALIFORNIA, AND LEX WASN'T ABOUT TO WRITE OFF THE US MARKET! AROUND 1977, HE SET HIS SIGHTS ON A STATESIDE COMEBACK FOR THE BAND.

WHEN PUNK ROCK STARTED HAPPENING IN THE UK, LEX URGED JOSIE TO PARE THE GROUP DOWN TO A TRIO AND GO FOR A HARDER SOUND. BABE RESISTED UNTIL, AT MY URGING, SHE STARTED PAYING ATTENTION TO THE PUNK SCENE. THE PUSSY CATS' NORTHERN SOUL SOUND WAS GETTING STALE, AND SHE KNEW AS MUCH!

MEL AND VAL WERE UPSET WHEN JOSIE DECIDED TO LET TY AND LeROY GO, BUT THE GUYS WERE READY TO MOVE ON. TY WANTED TO PURSUE AN ACTING CAREER, AND LeROY HAD GOTTEN SOME OFFERS TO WRITE MOVIE SCORES. JOSIE TOLD ME THEY TOTALLY SUPPORTED THE PUSSY CATS' SUBSEQUENT CHANGE IN MUSICAL DIRECTION. THEY ALSO HAD INPUT INTO THE COMEBACK GIG SET LIST. FOR SURE, THOSE CLASSIC SONGS BY THE SHANGRI-LAS, THE IKETTES, THE FLIRTATIONS AND LaBELLE REFLECTED LeROY GLOVER'S DEEP LOVE FOR GIRL GROUP MUSIC!

A NEW SOUND CALLED FOR A NEW LOOK: THE PUSSY CATS DITCHED THEIR CATSUITS FOR ANIMAL-PRINT COORDINATES (DESIGNED BY MEL, OF COURSE). IN ADDITION, VAL DESIGNED A FABULOUS NEW AUDIO SYSTEM THAT WAS WIDELY COPIED. THE BAND CAME OFF THE ROAD IN 1979 AND SPENT AN ENTIRE YEAR PERFECTING THEIR NEW IMAGE, LEARNING NEW MATERIAL AND REVAMPING OLDER SONG ARRANGEMENTS. DURING THAT TIME, MEL HAD A BREAST CANCER SCARE BUT THANKFULLY, IT WAS A FALSE ALARM.

ROADRUNNER VIDEO

ROADRUNNER MUSIC VIDEO

THEY HIRED SANAA HAMRI (WHO LATER WORKED WITH PRINCE AND MARIAH CAREY) TO SHOOT A MUSIC VIDEO FOR THEIR STRIPPED-DOWN REMAKE OF "WATCH OUT FOR THE ROADRUNNER". THIS WAS PRE-MTV, BUT THAT CLIP GOT THEM BACK ON THE AMERICAN MUSIC INDUSTRY'S RADAR. THEN LEX LANDED THE PUSSY CATS A GUEST PERFORMER SLOT AT THE 1980 GRAMMY AWARDS, WHERE THEY STOLE THE SHOW!  EVEN SO, LEX HAD TO PULL LOTS OF STRINGS TO GET THEM BOOKED INTO MAX'S KANSAS CITY!  I WAS THERE OPENING NIGHT, AT JOSIE’S INVITATION.

THE LIGHTS WENT DOWN, AND THIS LOUD ROAR WENT UP FROM THE BACK OF THE CLUB. WE TURNED AROUND TO LOOK AND SAW JOSIE, MEL AND VAL SITTING ASTRIDE TWO MENSTRUAL CYCLES FROM “PUSSY RIOT”! THEY CUT THE MOTORS AND JOSIE YELLED: “DOES ANYBODY HERE WANT SOME PUSSY? WELL, YOU MOTHERS HAD BETTER GET READY BECAUSE BABY, THIS PUSSY IS ON FIRE!”  BELIEVE ME, THAT CLUB WENT OFF LIKE A ROMAN CANDLE! THE GIRLS RODE THEIR MOTORCYCLES UP TO THE STAGE, GOT OFF, PICKED UP THEIR INSTRUMENTS AND PROCEEDED TO KNOCK EVERYBODY ON THEIR ASSES!  FROM THE VERY FIRST NOTE, JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS HAD THAT CROWD EATING OUT OF THE PALMS OF THEIR HANDS.

LAURA PINTO CAME BACK TO PRODUCE THE ALBUM THEY CUT AT MAX’S. IT WAS A RUNAWAY HIT, AND ROCK CRITICS WERE BESIDE THEMSELVES WITH PRAISE: “ONE OF THE BEST LIVE ALBUMS EVER RECORDED” THEY SAID! BUT DO THEY EVER MENTION THE PUSSY CATS WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT GREAT PUNK BANDS? NEVER, AND THAT REALLY PISSES ME OFF! JOSIE, MEL AND VAL TOOK PUNK INTO VENUES WHERE IT HAD NEVER BEEN HEARD BEFORE: SOLDIER FIELD, THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. SHIFTING THEIR STYLE FROM SOUL GROOVES TO PUNK ROCK SCREAMERS WAS TRICKY, BUT THEY PULLED IT OFF. I THINK IT'S BECAUSE THEY SOUNDED SO GREAT AS A POWER POP TRIO!

PUSSY CATS LIVE @ MAX'S KANSAS CITY!

PUSSY CATS LIVE @ MAX'S KANSAS CITY

AFTER THAT SUCCESSFUL COMEBACK GIG, I BEGAN WRITING WITH JOSIE AGAIN. IN 1983 AND ‘84, WE COLLABORATED ON "PRETEND TO BE NICE", “THREE SMALL WORDS”, "REAL WILD CHILD" AND "SPIN AROUND". ALL OF THOSE SONGS BECAME BIG HITS.  IT WAS EXCELLENT TIMING, TOO, BECAUSE "PUSSY RIOT" HAD JUST BEEN REDISCOVERED BY A NEW GENERATION OF FANS. FEMINISTS TOOK A SECOND LOOK, AND THIS TIME THEY LIKED WHAT THEY SAW!  REISSUED ON HOME VIDEO, "PUSSY RIOT" WAS FINALLY RECOGNIZED FOR BEING THE WOMEN'S RIGHTS STATEMENT IT ALWAYS WAS.

PUNK ROCK WAS A PERFECT FIT FOR THE "TOUGH SLUTS" IMAGE THAT FILM GAVE THE GIRLS, SO THE PUSSY CATS' NEW MUSIC PROMOTED THE MOVIE, AND VICE-VERSA; BUT PUNK AND NEW WAVE GAVE WAY TO GANGSTA RAP IN THE 1990s. WHEN THE GIRLS TRIED RECORDING IN THAT STYLE, THEY LOST THEIR WAY MUSICALLY! BY THE YEAR 2000, THEY'D PRETTY MUCH FALLEN OFF THE POP SCENE'S RADAR. THAT'S WHEN ARCHIE ANDREWS GOT INVOLVED. DUDE FOUNDED HIS OWN RECORD LABEL THAT YEAR AND WAS KEEN TO RECORD THE PUSSY CATS. HE FINALLY GOT THEM SIGNED IN 2008 AND RIGHT AWAY, HE SET ABOUT RETURNING THE BAND TO ITS POP/SOUL ROOTS. JOSIE KNEW THEY HAD TO REINVENT THEMSELVES YET AGAIN; BUT WHEN SHE LEARNED THAT REINVENTION INVOLVED WORKING WITH ALEXANDRA AGAIN, BABE HIT THE ROOF!

THEY WERE NEVER CLOSE, AND EVEN THOUGH HER MANAGER WAS XANDIE'S TWIN BROTHER, JOSIE HADN'T SPOKEN TO HER IN OVER THIRTY YEARS! ALEXANDRA CABOT-MAYBERRY HAD BECOME A NOTED RHYTHM + BLUES PRODUCER, CUTTING HITS WITH A GROUP OF FUNKY EX-MARIACHIS SHE'D RENAMED THE KOOLTYME KATTS. ARCHIE DIDN'T THINK ANYBODY ELSE COULD PROPERLY PRODUCE THE VINTAGE SOUL TUNES HE HAD IN MIND. LEX CABOT FINESSED JOSIE'S RELUCTANT REUNION WITH HIS SISTER, AND THEY DID AGREE TO WORK TOGETHER AGAIN; BUT THEN ARCHIE ADDED TO THE TENSION BY ASKING ALAN MAYBERRY TO ENGINEER THE RECORDING SESSIONS!

ALAN M WAS WORKING EXTENSIVELY WITH THE ARCHIES BY THAT TIME. XANDIE HAD BURIED THE HATCHET WITH HER EX-HUSBAND YEARS AGO, BUT JOSIE HAD NEVER FORGIVEN HIM FOR LEADING HER ON! THEY HAD UNRESOLVED ISSUES, AND THE TWO OF THEM CLASHED CONSTANTLY IN THE STUDIO. JOSIE AND ALEXANDRA WEREN'T EXACTLY SIMPATICO, EITHER!  BOTH OF THEM TOLD ME LATER HOW TURBULENT THOSE SESSIONS WERE: JOSIE CAME CLOSE TO SMACKING XANDIE SEVERAL TIMES!  BUT JUST LIKE IN THE OLD DAYS, ALEXANDRA BROUGHT HER CAT TO THE STUDIO WITH HER. SEBASTIAN III HAD THE SAME GIFT AS HIS GRANDFATHER FOR DIFFUSING TENSION AND RESTORING CALM WHEN IT WAS MOST NEEDED!

ARCHIE'S QUESTIONABLE CHOICES ENDED UP BEING RIGHT ON THE MONEY: JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS' "SOUL GALORE" ALBUM WAS BOTH A CRITICAL AND COMMERCIAL SMASH! IT WAS PACKED WITH HIT DOWNLOADS: "HEAVY MUSIC", "HEARTBEAT", "I'LL COME RUNNING OVER" AND MY FAVORITE, "STOLEN HOURS"! THE GIRLS ROARED BACK INTO THE SPOTLIGHT WITH A VENGEANCE: BETWEEN 2008 AND THEIR BREAK-UP IN 2016, THEY SCORED THREE MORE MILLION-SELLING PLATTERS, ALL CO-PRODUCED BY JOSIE, ALEXANDRA AND ALAN M. THE PUSSY CATS PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED A TEST PRESSING OF THEIR "BEST OF" ALBUM FOR ME. IT'S WORTH A SHITLOAD OF MONEY NOW, BUT I'D NEVER SELL IT!

THE BEST OF JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS

THE BEST OF JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS

NO, POLITICS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH WHY THEY BROKE UP! I’LL TELL YOU WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. DESPITE VALERIE'S AWFUL EXPERIENCES AT SUNSHINE TEMPLE, SHE REMAINED A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS WOMAN ALL HER LIFE. AFTER YEARS OF EXPLORING VARIOUS FAITH TRADITIONS, SHE BECAME A PENTECOSTAL BELIEVER. VAL WAS VERY INVOLVED IN HER CHURCH, MUCH TO THE IRRITATION OF HER AGNOSTIC HUSBAND LEX!

WHEN THE PUSSY CATS FLIRTED WITH GANGSTA RAP IN THE LATE 1990S, HER CHURCH ELDERS STRONGLY DISAPPROVED. FROM THEN ON, VAL JUST SEEMED TO SOUR ON ROCK 'N' ROLL! SHE'D TELL JOSIE THAT CERTAIN SONGS HAD "A NEGATIVE VIBE" AND REFUSE TO SING THEM. ONE DAY, BABE JUST UP AND QUIT THE GROUP! JOSIE WAS PLANNING TO REPLACE HER, BUT THEN MELODY GAVE NOTICE, TOO: HER CLOTHING STORE HAD EVOLVED INTO A MULTIMEDIA DESIGN FIRM BY THEN, AND SHE WANTED TO DEVOTE MORE TIME TO IT.  SO THAT'S WHAT SHE DID, AND VALERIE SPENT A FEW YEARS PURSUING A CAREER AS A GOSPEL SINGER.

SO JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS CALLED IT QUITS IN THE SPRING OF 2016, BUT Ms. JOSETTA JAMES WASN'T DONE MAKING MUSIC!  NO FUCKING WAY!  BABE PUT TOGETHER A NEW BAND AND RECRUITED YOURS TRULY TO BE THE LEAD SINGER. JOZETTA, RIGHTFUL HEIR TO GEORGE CLINTON'S PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC EMPIRE, TOURED FOR FIVE YEARS AND SCORED TWO PLATINUM ALBUMS ON JOSIE'S LEGENDARY PUSSY LABEL. SHE AND I CO-WROTE MOST OF THE MATERIAL. THEN WE GOT TIRED OF LIFE ON THE ROAD AND PACKED IT IN. BOTH OF US WERE IN OUR '70S, AND FIFTY YEARS IN THIS BUSINESS IS A GOOD LONG RUN.

THE CLASSIC LINE-UP

THE CLASSIC LINE-UP

JOZETTA LEFT ITS MARK ON ROCK 'N' ROLL, BUT WE COULDN'T HOPE TO COMPETE WITH THE PUSSY CATS' LEGACY! IN THE SUMMER OF 2025, TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES SPONSORED THAT GALA SCREENING OF "PUSSY RIOT" AT GRAUMAN'S CHINESE THEATRE. REMEMBER HOW IT SOLD OUT IN LESS THAN AN HOUR?  NEARLY A THOUSAND PEOPLE SHOWED UP, MOST OF THEM WEARING PUSSY HATS! THEY HAD TO SCHEDULE A SECOND, AND THEN A THIRD SCREENING. JOSIE AND MEL MADE A SURPRISE APPEARANCE AT THE LAST SHOW, AND THE RESPONSE WAS JUST INCREDIBLE! RUMORS BEGAN CIRCULATING ABOUT THE TRIO GETTING BACK TOGETHER.

THERE WAS NOTHING TO THOSE RUMORS, BUT LEX CABOT WAS EAGER TO MAKE A REUNION TOUR HAPPEN. IT WAS A TOUGH SELL, THOUGH: NEITHER VALERIE NOR MELODY WAS OPEN TO THE IDEA. VAL RESISTED UNTIL THE VERY LAST MINUTE! SHE AGREED ONLY ON CONDITION THAT SHE DIDN'T HAVE TO SING ANY LYRICS SHE FOUND IMMORAL. MEL HAD PUT ON A LOT OF WEIGHT AND WAS RELUCTANT TO TAKE THE STAGE AGAIN; SHE'D ALSO DEVELOPED SEVERE ARTHRITIS AND COULDN'T PLAY THE DRUMS LIKE SHE USED TO.

AS FOR JOSIE, SHE WAS PREPARING TO DROP HER FIRST SOLO ALBUM SINCE 1972! NOBODY WOULD'VE BLAMED HER FOR SAYING NO TO A REUNION, BUT SHE ENDED UP BEING ITS BIGGEST CHEERLEADER. BABE JUST WANTED TO ROCK OUT WITH HER GIRLFRIENDS ONE LAST TIME! LEX COULD NEVER HAVE CONVINCED VAL AND MEL TO GIVE IT ANOTHER GO WITHOUT HER SUPPORT. JOSIE GRACIOUSLY CANCELLED HER ALBUM RELEASE SO IT WOULDN'T DRAW ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE REUNION.

THERE WAS SO MUCH EXCITEMENT SURROUNDING THAT TOUR. IT WAS ALL ABOUT FEMALE EMPOWERMENT! THERE WAS AN ALL-WOMAN CREW: ROADIES, TOUR MANAGER, LIGHTING AND SOUND TECHNICIANS, SUPPORT MUSICIANS. ONLY THE PILOT OF THEIR TOUR JET WAS MALE . . . THE FAREWELL CONCERTS WERE SCHEDULED TO KICK OFF AT THE OLYMPIA THEATRE IN PARIS, AND THE LAUNCH OF THE TOUR DOMINATED ENTERTAINMENT NEWS. WHO KNEW THAT IT WAS LAST TIME ANYONE WOULD SEE JOSIE AND THE PUSSY CATS ALIVE?

THE FINAL PHOTO

THE FINAL PHOTO

I WAS EN ROUTE TO A HORMONE THERAPY APPOINTMENT WHEN I HEARD THE NEWS REPORT IN MY CAR: THEIR PLANE WAS DESTROYED IN A MASSIVE EXPLOSION OVER THE NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN!  IMMEDIATELY, I KNEW IN MY HEART THAT NOBODY HAD SURVIVED; I DIDN'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THEM TO CONFIRM IT. TERRORISM WAS SUSPECTED, BUT THAT'S NEVER BEEN CONFIRMED; NO TERRORIST ORGANIZATION EVER TOOK CREDIT FOR THE BLAST.

WHEN THAT GRUESOME COCKPIT CAMERA FOOTAGE GOT POSTED ON INSTAGRAM, I FORCED MYSELF TO WATCH IT. I CAN'T EXPLAIN WHY, BUT I NEEDED TO SEE MY FRIENDS DURING THEIR FINAL MOMENTS TOGETHER. IT ISN'T CLEAR HOW THEY LEARNED THAT THEIR NEW CUSTOMIZED JET WAS REALLY A FLYING BOMB, BUT IT WAS TIMED TO EXPLODE UPON LANDING AT PARIS-ORLY AIRPORT! THE FOOTAGE SHOWS JOSIE, MEL AND VAL STORMING THE COCKPIT. SOME OF THE ROADIES WERE WITH THEM, BUT IT WAS THE PUSSY CATS LEADING THE CHARGE! VAL WAS FIRST THROUGH THE COCKPIT DOOR; WITH HER TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE, SHE SURELY MUST HAVE BEEN FOCUSED ON DIFFUSING THAT BOMB. THE PILOT SHOT HER POINT-BLANK; SHE WAS KILLED INSTANTLY!

JOSIE, THE EX-ROLLER DERBY QUEEN, WAS ON HIM IN A SPLIT SECOND!  SHE DISARMED THAT BASTARD AND PUT HIM IN A HAMMERLOCK! MEL WENT DIRECTLY FOR THE CONTROLS; SHE WAS AN AMATEUR PILOT AND MAYBE COULD'VE GOTTEN THEM DOWN SAFELY, BUT IT WAS ALREADY TOO LATE: THE PILOT HAD MANAGED TO TRIP THE BOMB BEFORE JOSIE COULD STOP HIM!

THE TRAGEDY LEFT ME MORE ANGRY THAN SAD. NOT ONLY JOSIE, MEL AND VAL, BUT ALL THOSE STRONG AND VITAL YOUNG WOMEN ON THE PLANE WITH THEM: ALL SENSELESSLY MURDERED! NOBODY CAN TELL ME IT WASN'T A HATE CRIME. I'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND THAT KIND OF LETHAL MISOGYNY . . . THAT WHOLESALE DEVALUING OF WOMEN'S LIVES! 

EARLY ON, IT WAS REPORTED THAT LEX CABOT DIED IN THE BLAST, TOO, BUT HE WASN'T ON THE PLANE.  LEX WAS ALREADY IN PARIS, MAKING LAST MINUTE ARRANGEMENTS.  HE HAD TO BE HOSPITALIZED WHEN HE LEARNED THAT HIS BELOVED WIFE WAS DEAD!  DUDE NEVER RECOVERED FROM THE SHOCK, AND HE'S PRETTY MUCH AN INVALID NOW; BUT NONE OF US WHO KNEW AND LOVED THE PUSSY CATS WILL EVER RECOVER FROM THAT TERRIBLE DAY. I TRULY FEEL THAT A PART OF ME DIED WITH JOSIE.

LEGENDARY PUSSY

LEGENDARY PUSSY

JOSIE, MELODY AND VALERIE DID DIE AS HEROES.  AS YOU KNOW, THEY WERE AWARDED POSTHUMOUS MEDALS OF FREEDOM.  ALEXANDRA, LUCKY JONES, JOSIE'S DAUGHTER ARETHA AND VAL'S BROTHER TREVOR ACCEPTED ON THEIR BEHALF. I'LL NEVER FORGET XANDIE’S PASSIONATE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH, WHICH SHE DELIVERED IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH. BELIEVE ME, THERE WASN'T A DRY EYE IN THAT ROOM . . . CAN YOU GIVE ME A MINUTE? SORRY, I JUST GET CHOKED UP THINKING ABOUT THAT DAY!

I SAT SHIVA FOR JOSIE AND ATTENDED HER MEMORIAL SERVICE.  I ALSO WENT TO VALERIE'S FUNERAL. IT WAS HARD TO GET IN, BECAUSE THERE WERE THRONGS OF PEOPLE . . . AND MELODY'S FUNERAL IN LONDON WAS SHEER PANDEMONIUM! THE BRITISH FANS JUST LOVED HER SO MUCH. 

NO, I WASN'T SURPRISED BY THE HUGE OUTPOURING OF SHOCK AND GRIEF. TRIBUTES CAME POURING IN FROM MUSIC SUPERSTARS OF ALL GENRES AND FROM COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE WORLD. MOST WERE FROM FEMALE PERFORMERS WHO'D BEEN INSPIRED BY THE PUSSY CATS. IT WAS FITTING, BECAUSE THEY DEFINITELY PAVED A PATH FOR MOST OF TODAY'S WOMEN ROCK STARS!  SOME OF THOSE TRIBUTES CAME BEFORE THEY DIED. JOSIE WAS SO HONORED WHEN THAT RUSSIAN GROUP NAMED THEMSELVES AFTER THE MOVIE "PUSSY RIOT"! YES, SHE DID SUPPORT THEIR ACTIVISM: HER GRANDMOTHER WAS FROM RUSSIA.

SINCE THEIR DEATHS, THE PUSSY CATS' RECORDINGS HAVEN'T LEFT DISNEY'S TOP TEN DOWNLOAD LISTINGS. SALES FOR THEIR CARTOON SERIES AND MOVIE DVDS HAVE GONE THROUGH THE ROOF, TOO! IT WAS OUTRAGEOUS WHEN THEIR NOMINATION TO THE ROCK 'N' ROLL HALL OF FAME FAILED LAST YEAR . . . WTF HAVE THOSE PEOPLE GOT AGAINST WOMEN ROCKERS?  BUT THEY'VE BEEN RE-NOMINATED AND I'M ACTUALLY VERY HOPEFUL. DID YOU KNOW THE PUSSY CATS ARE GOING TO GET A STAR ON THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME? IN TWO WEEKS! YOU'RE DAMN SKIPPY I'LL BE THERE!

AMIGOS, THAT WAS CHEYENNE PEPPER, FORMER LEAD SINGER FOR THE BAND JOZETTA, ONE OF JOSIE JAMES' CLOSEST FRIENDS AND A SONGWRITER FOR THE LATE, GREAT JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS. HIS RECOLLECTIONS MADE FOR AN UNBELIEVABLE PODCAST THAT I WILL NEVER FORGET, AND I'M SURE YOU WON'T, EITHER! BUT CHEYENNE SAVED HIS MOST THRILLING REVELATION FOR LAST: A NEW JOSIE JAMES SOLO ALBUM IS GOING TO DROP NEXT MONTH! 

THIS IS THE LP THAT WAS HELD BACK WHEN THE PUSSY CATS' REUNION TOUR WAS ANNOUNCED. CHEYENNE GIFTED THE POP CULTURE CANTINA WITH AN ADVANCE COPY, AND I'M GOING TO END THIS PODCAST BY PREVIEWING IT RIGHT HERE . . . RIGHT NOW! MUCHÍSIMAS GRACIAS FOR YOUR PATRONAGE, AMIGOS, AND ¡HASTA LA PRÓXIMA!


JOSIE + THE PUSSY CATS ENDPIECE

CONCEIVED BY LAURA PINTO
WRITTEN BY HAMPTON JACOBS
ILLUSTRATED BY STUFFED ANIMAL
IMAGES BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY DAN de CARLO
COLOR BY SHARPIE/EXPO
CARDSTOCK BY DICK BLICK

THIS CARTOON SERIAL IS THE WORK OF A CHRONICALLY HOMELESS ARTIST WHO WAS REJECTED FOR ADMISSION TO THE KUBERT SCHOOL OF CARTOON AND GRAPHIC ART. NEVER LET ANYBODY CRUSH YOUR DREAMS!!!

GENYA RAVAN PROPS

Events in this cartoon serial are (very) loosely based on the true story of the Josie + The Pussycats studio group and cartoon series. Much thanks to all the women associated with that 1970 project: Sherry Alberoni, Janet Waldo, Jackie Joseph, Barbara Pariot, Judy Waite, Cheryl Ladd, Kathleen Dougherty, Sue Sheridan, the real-life Josie de Carlo and the late Patrice Holloway. They helped turn a failing comic strip into an enduring legend! Most of the Capitol Records singles mentioned actually exist, and The "Josie" TV soundtrack album exists, too; it was released in December of 1970 (Capitol ST-665). The Pussy Cats' real-life songwriters were Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Danny Janssen, Austin Roberts, Jesse Kirkland, Bobby Hart and Sue Sheridan.  Other songs referenced here were written by Berry Gordy, Jr, Bob Seger, Bert Berns, Billy Page,Van McCoy, Adam Schlesinger, George Goehring, Elzie Bynem and other notable composers.

"Variations on a Theme" is dedicated to the courageous members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot: Nadya, Masha, Katya, Nika, and the two Olgas. These fearless women are a beacon of principled resistance for oppressed people everywhere!