Sunday, February 20, 2011

Women Who Rock

I had the opportunity to attend the Women Who Rock conference this weekend in Seattle, hosted by both the University of Washington and Seattle University. My old friend, Quetzal Flores invited me to be part of a panel who would attend the workshops and then lead a discussion in a general session. Although I had never done anything like this before, I was excited to be included and I looked forward to being in the company of so many dynamic women. I met archivists, writers, artists, musicians, dancers, scholars, community activists, students and filmmakers, all interested in voicing and listening to what women and especially women of color, had to say about a wide variety of topics. These topics ranged from how to build community through music to ways in which we can assert our reproductive rights, concerns about stereotypes, how to empower young girls, gender and transgender inequality, gaining and disseminating historical perspective.

From keynote speaker to closing, the participants were embraced by a palpable feminist energy that felt assertive, determined and mature. Ideas were like ripe fruit harvested from the trees that our sisters before us had planted many years ago. I had the feeling that the seeds had been lying dormant, but on fertile ground. The soil had thawed. We had endured the cold negation of the term "feminist" over the years and now here it was again, bearing fruit to nourish our souls.

For me, the conference was exciting, emotional and above all, inspiring. It reminded me of all the work that is yet to be done and it made me feel that I, along with the other people in the room, had the power to do that work.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Valentine to My Fave Bad-Ass Girls - Starbuck

The next stem in my Valentine's bouquet of bad-ass women is dedicated to a character so fucking tough that not even death could beat her. Yes, I'm talking about the intensely physical, dangerous, but still sexy Viper pilot Kara Thrace, aka Starbuck (played by Katee Sackhoff) from the Syfy series Battlestar Galactica (a show which had several amazing roles for women, I might add.)

In the original 1970's Battlestar Galactica television show, the rough and ready Starfighter pilot role of Starbuck was played by a male actor. The Syfy show producers took a chance and re-wrote the character for a female lead and in so doing, they created a bad-ass icon for the next millenium.

Check out Starbuck frakkin' shit up in this video compilation with music by Peaches.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Valentine to My Favorite Bad-Ass Girls

The recent passing of Tura Satana got me thinking about my celluloid heroines, those bad-ass women who take no prisoners. A woman with a good left hook will always find a place in my heart.

Too often, we allow ourselves to believe that the world is a civilized place. It is not. I have always been inspired by heroines who defy the stereotype of frail femininity. At a subconscious level, they tell us that it is OK to hit back, to defend ourselves.

There is an ancient proverb that says “every rose has its thorns.” Generally, this is interpreted to mean that even things (or people) which appear to be perfect also have flaws, only I don’t agree that the thorn is a flaw. The thorn performs the vital function of protecting the rose. We women need to find our thorns.

When my stepdaughters were little, we showed them the martial arts film The Heroic Trio starring three kick-ass women. When my daughter was 12, we watched Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill. When my elderly aunt came to visit me from Mexico, we watched The Long Kiss Goodnight with Geena Davis in the role of a lethal assassin named Charlie Baltimore. These experiences are memorable for me because I had the feeling that we had shared in an unspoken conspiracy sparked by the guilty pleasure of watching the girl beat the guys, for once. The women in those movies are bad-ass, physically strong and unapologetically aggressive. They are roses who have found their thorns.

This month, I’d like to share my unabashed love for these heroines, fictional and real. Here’s the first stem in a Valentine's bouquet of my favorite roses.

Rest in peace, Tura Satana.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

R.I.P. Tura Satana

I wanted to acknowledge the passing of the legendary Tura Satana with a blog posting. There is nothing I can add to her own story as told by Eric Kohn on his blog, Screen Rush, which I am reposting here. 

Tura Satana, born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi, July 10, 1935, in Hokkaido, Japan, grew up in an Italian, Jewish, Polish neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, IL after her family were released from the Manzanar relocation camp for Japanese-Americans after the war. Asians didn’t mix well in the neighborhood and Tura found herself constantly fighting with the African-American girls on her way to and from school, skills that would serve her throughout her life. At age nine an a half Tura was brutalized and raped by five boys from the neighborhood. She then formed a girl gang with her Italian, Jewish, and Polish girlfriends called the Angels. After her parents placed her with an abusive uncle, Tura walked away to start her own life, becoming a cigarette girl at the Moulin Rouge on Hollywood Boulevard.
By age 15 she was a burlesque dancer with a fake ID. She was discovered by Turk Prujan who hired Tura for his Trocadero nightclub, also on Sunset. She also earned money modeling, becoming a favorite of famed actor Harold Lloyd, with results printed in Harold Lloyd’s Hollywood Nudes in 3-D. During her tour in New Orleans, Tura performed down the street from Lili St. Cyr before working for Harold Minsky, who was married to Lily’s sister. While performing in Chicago at the Follies Theater, Elvis Presley became infatuated and the two started an affair resulting in a marriage proposal. She declined, but kept the ring.
While working the Follies Theater in Los Angeles, a Warner Brothers scout approached Tura and she earned her Guild card on Hawaiian Eye. Subsequent television roles including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Burke’s Law. While working at the Pink Pussycat in West Hollywood, Billy Wilder and his wife came in one night and enraptured with Tura’s performance realized they had finally found the girl to play Suzette Wong in the Shirley Maclaine-starring Irma La Douce. Tura’s performance earned her additional roles as the nightclub dancer in Dean Martin’s Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? and the job of Carol Burnett’s choreographer for the film.
Tura earned her most visible role while performing in Irma La Douce. She got a call from her agent to come read for Russ Meyeer. She didn’t have time to change so she showed up in the wedding dress she was wearing for Irma La Douce. Russ handed her the script for “Leather Girls,” the original title of Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill! and asked how she would play her. Tura replied, “I’d make her kind of feminine, but also a bitch on wheels.” After her cold reading Russ told her, “You are definitely Varla.”
Ted V. Mikels gave Tura two more classic roles in Astro-Zombies, and Charlie’s Angels precursor The Doll Squad, where she starred alongside Francine York and Michael Ansara.
Deciding to spend her time raising her two daughters, Tura left show biz and returned to her nursing career which she first studied while in high school, and continued to go to nursing school while dancing. One nigh, a druggie who had been turned in to the police by one of the doctors came looking for him and shot Tura twice but only hit her once, in the stomach. In 1981 she was hit by a driver without a license, heading at her at 60 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone. She spent two years in the hospital. They told her she would never walk again but she told the doctor, “Not only will I walk again, doc, but I’m going to do everything else I used to do.” She made that promise shy of her martial arts moves.
When I interviewed her, I asked her if she had any words to live by. “One of the things that I always said, and it was one of my father’s favorite sayings, ‘Always be good to the people on the way up, because you’re going to meet them on the way down.’ I have always lived by that philosophy.
“The one thing you’ve got to remember is that you just never accept defeat. Remember to never let life get you down, because there is always something new to learn tomorrow. Life is to be lived, and lived well.”
Tura Satana passed away February 4, 2011, in Reno, NV.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Violence Girl on Facebook

Just a quick update to let you know that I'll be doing most of my updates and interaction for Violence Girl on the official Facebook page for the book, which you can reach by clicking the link below. We've already posted a few videos there. It is a great venue for discussion and sharing and I encourage you to join the Violence Girl community by "liking" the Violence Girl Facebook page.

Thank you!

Click Here for the Official Violence Girl Page on Facebook