Friday, November 23, 2012

Margot Olaverra and Kathy Valentine: The Pete Best And Ringo Starr Of The Go-Go's

If the Go-Go's were the female L.A. Beatles of the '80s (and they obviously were), then Margot Olaverra was their Pete Best. Like Best before her, Olaverra suffered through the difficult, unglamorous years with her band, only to be kicked out at the last minute and be denied even the tiniest sliver of fame and fortune.

Pete Best's main problems were threefold: 1) he couldn't play the drums very well, 2) he was boring and he had no sense of humor, and 3) he was better looking than the other Beatles. Clearly, the addition of Ringo swiftly solved all three issues in one fell swoop. Margot's fatal flaw? She didn't want to actually be in a successful band:
She was still a committed punk and felt that we were selling out with pop-sounding music. She was against anything that sounded too polished and commercial. But that was the direction in which we were headed ...  She didn't take care of herself and missed rehearsals, and when she was there she was contrary and argumentative.

One day, as we struggled with the bridge to a new song, she stopped playing, which brought the song to a halt, and looked at us with a frustration that I found impossible to read. Then it became apparent that she didn't like what we were doing.

"Why can't we play songs like X?" she said.

I felt like she left rehearsals and bitched about us to her friends, like Exene Cervenka of X, who seemed to turn against us, especially me. I already felt like Exene thought I was a stupid, silly girl anyway.

In December, Margot was diagnosed with hepatitis A. It was another sign that she wasn't taking care of herself. We had to go to a clinic and get hepatitis shots, which put me in a foul mood. But we turned the situation into an opportunity to make a lineup change before the very important Whiskey gigs.
Kathy had been playing professionally since her teens in Austin, Texas. At sixteen, she had moved to London, and then three years later she'd come to L.A. and co-founded the Textones. She knew one of our roadies and immediately fit right in ... Onstage, she played as if she had been doing it for years. I looked at her at one point and thought, "We have to keep her."
Let's see...Kathy could play better, she wrote her own songs, she didn't care about militant punk ethos ... can you say "no brainer"?

But alas, Margot couldn't read the writing on the wall. Like the Beatles before them, the Go-Go's passed the painful duty on to their manager:
In January, Ginger was charged with the messy job of firing Margot. She was told that since she was the manager she had to do it. It was a chickenhearted move on our part, but none of us could handle the dirty work.

Margot responded as expected. She protested, cried, begged, and denied any of the problems we raised really existed. Ginger kept responding, "It was the band's decision."
Yeah, but it was the manager's misfortune to have to sit there and tell her it was the band's decision! At any rate, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and with the addition of their spunky new bass player, the Go-Go Alliance was finally complete: "With Kathy on board, we were a unified group. We eliminated the tension and added a talented new songwriter all in the same move."

Even though they'd just kicked out their most hardcore punk member, the Go-Go's didn't entirely abandon their gritty side. Belinda moved into an apartment that had become infamously known in the L.A. punk scene as Disgraceland:
Clothes were piled high as people, food had been left on every possible surface, the walls were filled with random scribbles and band posters, and it was as dirty as you would expect from a party pad that had the same hours as a 7-Eleven. It never closed.

I built a small altar in my room at Disgraceland. Even though Pleasant and I had serious boyfriends, we would cast spells on boys we liked. We would put a small amount of our period blood in a vial and surreptitiously drop it into the drink of whichever unsuspecting boys we were crushing on that night. It was something we had read in a book, and every time we did it, I laughed hysterically, thinking, If only they knew.

Bad Belinda! Bad!

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