Betty Bathory at the RescUkraine Benefit earlier this year, by Gord McCaw, not to be re-used without permission
I make no claims to understanding Betty Bathory. For all I know, I may not want to! What is the meaning of putting on a Ted Bundy mask to cover "Be My Baby," for example? Can one consistently don a Ted Bundy mask while speaking from the stage about MMIWG? Does she contain contradictions? Is she a bad influence? If I had teenage daughters who wanted to see her shows, would I feel differently about them?
I have no fucking idea. Not everyone one speaks to loves Betty. Some find her a bit on the, um, "amoral" side, or was that "immoral?": I have certainly seen people take a moral objection to elements in her shows. And how do we exactly understand the sexuality of her performance? I wrote some dazed notes to Bob Hanham, who I don't think was present for the RescUkraine thing she did in March (hence the Gord McCaw photo; Gord's great but Bob is my usual go-to for Betty). I was trying feverishly to get my mind around what I was seeing (I was slightly twisted, you understand). This is mildly edited for clarity (and further re-edited to avoid misrepresenting mentioned parties):
It's very complicated, what she does! On the one hand, last night was the most stripperlike performance I have seen of hers, lotta gyration and sexualized motion and a mostly bare bum from the start - it's an objectively cute bum, but attached to someone who subverts straight sexuality so thoroughly that I found myself staring at it lost at times, wondering what the hell to make of it. I mean, she had on her normal horrifying face makeup and a glittery cut-off t-shirt that at first (reading only the middle few letters) I took to say, "Princess" but which, on closer inspection, read INCEST, befitting her one liners about daddy's cock ( Like, "Jeezus, Betty"). I found my (somewhat stoned) head going to the weirdest places: Can a woman do drag? Dan Harbord (whom I chatted with a bit) and Gerry Hannah had been going at it about drag on Facebook the other day, which brought to mind feminist arguments about whether drag was "mocking," satirizing, or even attacking women. Dan was at the gig and we talked about the topic - drag was on my mind. I thought, having myself experienced doing drag on Halloween, I was exploring, playing, having fun, "trying it on," but I certainly didn't intend any commentary on women. And how could a woman feel attacked, presented with a man who was dressed like THEM, subverting masculinity? Masculinity is sometimes threatening to women, but I think most women get a kick out of seeing a man in a dress...
...But, like, how would a woman who had been sexually abused by her father - a startling number of women seem to have that as a life experience - feel about Betty making stripper moves in an "incest" t-shirt, and framing KISS' "Love Gun" as being about your father's cock? What exactly was Betty sending up/ attacking/ commenting on, there? Seeing her is like being at a protest march and being hit over the head with a large, angrily-brandished sign that you CAN'T READ: "What just hit me?" I *think* that a man with an investment in the power structures of the patriarchy - a priest, a cop (I just typo'd that as "cock"), or a daughter-fucker would find Betty wayyyy more threatening than a woman would. Betty the Avenger? Even tho' she's playing with femininity, she's not ATTACKING it, any more than drag performers are attacking femininity. Which led, as I tried to sort this all out, to my wondering: WHAT IF BETTY HERSELF HAD A COCK?
I mean, would I like her more for it? Is it BETTER to have a woman in this role? Would her having a dick change things, ruin them, MAKE it an attack on women? Can only a woman do what Betty does?
Hell, could anyone other than Betty do what Betty does?
...So there I was, trying to imagine what was inside Betty's panties, trying to imagine a cock in them, while she made stripper moves and symbolically "blew" Orchard Pinkish and it was all INTELLECTUALLY exciting and not remotely SEXUALLY exciting, which is on the one hand really weird, and on the other hand, makes total sense. What's her actual sexuality about? I have no idea, completely mysterious to me. In a way, I don't wanna know.
But anyhow... we got a TON of originals out of Betty last night. Mr. Katynski (who I guess is one of Betty's "dicks," along with Orchard - I dunno if all her bandmates are named Richard?) informs me that they are slowly working on an album... they did do "Love Gun" and "Be My Baby" and Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," but I don't recall if there were other covers. She did that "Hail Satan" song, which is such an amazingly OBVIOUS chorus for a song that it's hard to believe I haven't heard other people do that. She ended with a cover of "Touch Me I'm Sick" where she had some sort of rubberized goo attached to her crotch and was pulling it out, examining it in horror: like, Jeezus, Betty....
So there: last time I saw her, it was like a really transgressive, over-the-top drag show, somehow, except fronted by an actual female; to bend the line from Silence of the Lambs - itself a film with some significant Ted Bundy references - it was like Betty was wearing a girl suit made out of a real girl.
And of course, the first time I saw her, doing the BB Allin show, she actually did have a cock that she whipped out, which she used to pee on the audience, but it was a PROP cock, of course. It wasn't even real pee.
And I mean, speaking of props, that IS a burning Bible she's got there. Surely SOMEONE must be offended. Or are we all that fuckin' hardcore that we just chuckle now? Maybe she could sacrifice a lamb onstage or something (no, Betty, don't). I mean, it's not like I don't have questions: is that a real Bible? Does she have one Bible prop she uses (more cost-effective, that way) which is not actually consumed by the flames (note the absence of smoke in the photo), or does she, like, burn a fresh Bible each time? ("One less Bible in the world," Hail Satan!). It's not like there aren't plenty of Bibles out there in thrift stores, though I would love to learn that she only, like, burns the New International and/or Good News versions, not the King James, which at least has lovely prose in it (and has resale value at antiquarian bookstores, take note, if they're nice and the store is out at the moment; no broke bookscout ever got a meal out of flipping the New International Version).
Anyhow, there's lots I could ask her, but each time I see Daddy Issues (her main gig of late), my jaw drops a little lower and - I mean, do you want to know where the sausage comes from, really? Especially if you LIKE EATING IT.
I like eating Betty's sausage (is this weird?).
Seeing Daddy Issues live must be like how seeing Alice Cooper must have felt in 1969. No one in Vancouver uses theatrical elements as outlandishly as Betty; her background in horror burlesque bleeds into (and all over) her stage shows, which are NOT hardcore (neither of the punk nor porn variety, though there was that stage show involving strap ons and two other girls, this one time, that tended more to the latter than the former, not that I could see all that clearly; perhaps what happens at LanaLou's stays at LanaLou's, especially when the writer is too inebriated to take notes?). Daddy Issues, who perform May 12th at the Railway, are punk as fuck in spirit, but musically, it's more, I dunno, "Alannah Myles Goes to Hell," or something, a kind of demented, more muscular, more debauchedly in-your-face descendent of 80's blues-derived female fronted rock; it's potent and high energy and lively, but I think people who don't like punk would still dig it, especially if they like their rock theatrical and thought-provoking and funny and outlandishly button-pushing. Daddy Issues are the coolest thing to happen to Vancouver's music scene since the peak days of the Little Guitar Army, if you want to see a SHOW. How has she not been on the cover of the Georgia Straight yet?
So, like, this isn't an interview or anything. I've only done one of those with Betty, and it was easy, because I hadn't seen her, at that point. I will no doubt do another eventually (maybe whenever Daddy Issues are close to having an album ready?). But in the meantime, do you want to see a SHOW? Go see Betty at the Railway on March 12th with the SLIP~ons and the AK-747s. The AK's are sonically the [post-]punkest band on the bill - see here - whereas the SLIP~ons owe more to the Minneapolis scene, Replacements and Du and Soul Asylum and such; see here. They're both going to get blown offstage - no, wait: they're both going to get blown off the stage - by Betty. Event information here.
I don't think I'm gonna be able to make this show, but it's going to be memorable for those that do, I suspect.
Just a suggestion.
Post a Comment