I wrote about Tina Weymouth, woke feminist badass lady hero queen of all bassists, for PAPER. I’m really proud of it. Read it here.
The year is 1981 and pop culture is exploding around the world — Raiders of the Lost Ark premieres, the wreckage of the Titanic is found, and Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales. The music industry is coming out of one of its worst slumps in decades, dealing with the backlash against disco music, and tucked away at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads record their first album as Tom Tom Club.
The album will become one of the most popular post-disco dance records of the ’80s and gross more than any of the four albums Talking Heads had released to that point. It incorporates international musical techniques and influences, giving the songs a flavor that expands the post-punk art rock sound Tina and Chris had established with Talking Heads, and sets the tone for the new directions that they would take in their musical careers.
While this album can definitely be dated to the early ’80s, we are in love with how it simultaneously sounds fresh and exciting to millennial ears. In this episode, we explore the sound combinations that make this album the joyous thing that it is, discuss its legacy and relevance, and speak about why Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz are two artists who inspire us big time.
(I try to love all of our episodes equally, but I think this one might be my absolute favorite and our best one yet, so check it out.)
This past week has felt like some kind of bad dream.
I have nightmares like this sometimes. In them, I wake up to a text message or a Google alert that one of my biggest heroes, those few rare, celestial, magic people in my life, has died. Just as I’m about to lose it, I wake up for real. Sometimes a little sweaty and breathless, usually a bit disoriented, always frantically checking that it really was just a dream.
But this time, it was real.
Carrie Fisher was gone. It was real, and I didn’t get the news while in the safe cocoon of my own bed. It was a phone call from my best friend, followed by several texts from a slew of others, late in the morning on the Tuesday after Christmas. I tried to ignore them and keep running, but I just knew. I just knew, as I pulled my phone out of my pocket with shaky hands.
I crumpled to the ground and sat on the curb in the town I grew up in, a block from my high school, and began to sob uncontrollably.
I called my friend back. I don’t think I was coherent. I can’t remember what I even said. All I can remember is her calm, soothing voice on the other end as I blubbered and felt my nose begin to run. All I can remember is eventually standing back up and staggering home in a daze, gasping for breath, gulping at the cold air like I was drowning, trying desperately to swim to the edge of my sorrow.
Every time I think I’m there, I fall back under.
I’m trying to figure out why this hurts so much, why my heart physically aches sometimes, why I haven’t gone a day without crying. Mourning someone you never really knew in real life — as much as it feels like you did — feels strange. It makes me feel so different from everyone else. Why do I care so much? Is it because I had come to feel like Carrie was almost like some beloved aunt who I never got to see, but was always there with the right words to inspire me, to advise me, or just make me laugh, whether it was through a book or her Twitter account? Is it because Carrie helped me know myself better?
Maybe it’s because I saw so much of myself in Carrie, so much of her in myself: She was so self-aware, so self-deprecating and sometimes self-loathing, even when everyone around her was heaping on praise. She knew what it was like to be so inside your head that you can’t escape sometimes, how frustrating and exhausting and sometimes terrifying that can feel. I would underline passages in her books and send photos to friends. “See! This is me! This is exactly how I feel!”
She was irritated by so many things in this hostile world and made her opinion known at all times, without filter, without thinking about the consequences. It never failed to remind me of my tendency to do the same, how my mother has to constantly ask,“Carrie, is this the hill you want to die on?”
Carrie learned how to take everything that happened to her — being the child of two celebrities, reaching unexpected and perhaps overwhelming superstardom at 19, drug addiction, bipolar disorder, failed public relationships, aging, body image, and more — and spin it in her own favor. She learned how to draw upon her insecurities for inspiration, learned how to take Nora Ephron’s “everything is copy” motto and twist it. Everything is copy if you can make it funny, and trust — there is laughter to be found in even the most brutal situations.
She was bold and loud and even when she wasn’t actually confident, God, she did such a great job at faking it. She called bullshit as she saw it. She stopped apologizing for who she was. She took all of the punches and hit back, even when she was hurt. We owe her so much for that.
Of course, this hurts so deeply because it just seems so unjust. “Fuck a world that allows Carrie Fisher to die prematurely and for Donald Trump to be the fucking president,” one friend said the other day, and I sympathized. She had so much left to give, so many more one woman shows and memoirs and novels and emoji-laden tweets. It was too soon for her to leave. When I think about it like this, I get so angry that my heart races, that I want to yell at God or whoever it is that makes these decisions — Why her? Why now? What kind of cruel punishment is this? What did we do to deserve this?
But part of it hurts because I am very selfish. The world still needs Carrie Fisher, yes, but I still need Carrie Fisher. When I met her in November, we joked about having the same name and she signed my copy of The Princess Diarist dedicated to the “other, newer Carrie.” I may be the younger, newer Carrie, but she was the older, wiser, fewer-fucks-to-be-had Carrie. I’m nowhere near that, so I lived vicariously through her. I learned through her. Now she’s gone and I feel like I need her more than ever, more than I would typically care to admit.
“Our heroes are our lighthouses; they guide us safely home,” my friend Whitney wrote in an eloquent tribute. Carrie was one of my lighthouses, and over the past week, the world has felt a little bit darker and I have felt a little bit lost.
I’m sure that, in time, I’ll get better. It just might take me longer than others. I’ve been here once before, and the last time, I didn’t have friends like I have now, friends who understood, who felt the same way. I wasn’t confident enough to write my feelings and share them as raw as they were. But I still got better.
Carrie Fisher will always be in my life. I will continue to learn new things from her, to find new lines in books or interviews that resonate with me. A little bit of her will always live in my soul and come out every time I write, every time I call bullshit on something, every time I refuse to care what someone thinks. I can’t thank her anymore, but instead, I’ll be more critical of myself. Am I making Carrie proud?
I hope the answer will be ✌️📧💲.
“Bend down,” she said. “Bend down so I can get over you.”
About a month ago, I found myself, by complete chance, at a book signing for Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist at the Strand. It was 30º and they made us wait outside for two hours. “The things I do for my heroes,” I complained.
We only spoke for a few minutes, but it was worth it. I told her Surrender the Pink was underrated, and one of my all time favorites. “It’s about Paul!” she whispered, but it came out as more of a shout and I laughed and nodded. I said all the things you want to tell your heroes: how I was a writer, too, how her style has influenced mine, especially her novels, even though I write non-fiction, how I just wanted to thank her for everything.
She stopped signing, looked up at me, and did this thing that not every older writer who I say that to does — because how many girls like me say they’re writers, but they just *aren’t*, you know? — and she may not have realized it, but it meant the world to me. She looked me dead in the eye, almost like how an animal can smell one of its own. She was a little amused, but mostly serious. She said a thousand pieces of advice in that one look before she earnestly told me to keep at it, to write what I want to write, and to never let anybody get in the way.
This loss hurts a lot. This hurts deeply, to the point where I haven’t said all I’d like to say, but I just can’t form the thoughts. Carrie Fisher is one of my few heroes. She made me laugh. She made me cry. She taught me to be brave and unapologetic. She taught me to tell anyone who didn’t like what I did to fuck off. She taught me how to write. She taught me so much more. To say I am devastated would be an understatement. Rest in piece, Carrie. Your influence will not be forgotten.
Actress and author Carrie Fisher reportedly suffered a “massive heart attack” on a flight from London to Los Angeles Friday afternoon. She was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital, where her brother, Todd Fisher, told Variety she is currently out of emergency and in ICU, in stable condition, though “there’s no good news or bad news.”
News of the episode sparked an outpouring of support on social media and in the press. A common thread in all the discussion? Star Wars.
Identification of public figures is an important part of reporting. It makes sense to note that Fisher is most well-known for her role as Princess Leia — it gives the general public an iconic, familiar role to put a face to the name. It makes sense to lead with that, but not to make it the entire focus.
In the nearly 40 years since Fisher became an overnight icon as an outspoken princess with a memorable hairstyle, her resume has expanded to cover multiple fields. She has written four novels, three memoirs, two plays, and two screenplays, including the screenplay for the Academy Award-nominated adaptation of her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. She has acted in several other films, from Hannah and Her Sisters to When Harry Met Sally.
In the 1990s, she was considered one of Hollywood’s best script doctors (a writer brought in to rewrite or polish an already existing script), having worked on films like Hook, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer. Her autobiographical one woman show Wishful Drinking was adapted into both a memoir and an HBO special.
Having suffered bipolar disorder and addictions to cocaine and prescription medicines, her activism around mental health and addiction has been recognized by multiple organizations, most recently Harvard University.
I shouldn’t have to list the contents of Carrie Fisher’s resume here. I shouldn’t have to remind people that she has done more in 40 years than don a pair of cinnamon roll hair buns and a white dress.
If we were talking about her co-star Harrison Ford in this situation, I’m fairly certain media outlets would not be focusing on his role as Han Solo. The overwhelming amount of tweets would have more than photos of Indiana Jones. Fisher doesn’t deserve to be reduced to a single role. She doesn’t deserve press coverage including a still of her as “slave Leia” — a degrading outfit she has vocally spoken out against — in their articles.
Women are reduced to singular roles, relationships, and images again and again and again. Women are constantly identified as someone’s wife or girlfriend, a single line summarizing their entire career, a former sex symbol. It isn’t lost on me that this time last year, Fisher was making news after a New York Post writer wrote a misogynistic opinion piece that if she was unhappy about people commenting on how she’s aged, she “should quit acting.”
Fisher is just one recent example. This is not unique; it is not special. It just shines yet another light on a problem. Women are more than one singular identity. It’s about time we started acknowledging it.
“This is my thought for you for tonight. The testament is: dreams do come true. Anything you want is out there for you to just reach out in the stars of Bella Donna and just grab one, because it is all there. […] You must continue to believe that you can have what you want. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you’re not talented enough or smart enough or any of that, because you are. You’re totally beautiful. You’re totally talented. You can do anything you want. Never let anybody get in your way. Tell them to get out of your way. You are on your way to greater things.” — Stevie Nicks, 12.1.16
I believe that every human should spend a few hours at a Stevie Nicks concert at least once in their lives. Yes, she puts on a great show and sounds amazing, but it’s not just that. It’s that spending a few hours in her presence is good for your soul.
I’ve been thinking about this for the past twelve hours or so. Thinking about these words and the significance of hearing them after hearing “Crying in the Night,” and I’m finding it hard to come up with any other person more qualified to deliver such a speech. Forty-three years ago, she was my age, cleaning people’s houses and waiting tables, driving a car without reverse, barely getting by. She didn’t know how she was going to get to where she wanted to be, but she just knew she would get there someday.
Last night, a 68-year-old woman — not Beyoncé or Rihanna or Ariana Grande — sold out Madison Square Garden as a headliner, something none of her female contemporaries have done in recent years, something that makes me so proud of her and women everywhere. She got there, and then some.
Hearing her sing a song from this time in her life, when she was young and struggling and trying to figure everything out, now, to that kind of crowd, hit me on a deeper level than just excitement at hearing a deep cut live for the first time. It made me think about how many times I’ve doubted myself, how many times I’ve felt like I wasn’t enough, how many times I’ve worried that I can’t follow my dreams because someone else is going to get in my way and stop me.
Stevie Nicks has the incredible ability to address 18,000 people and still make it feel so personal, make it feel like she’s speaking straight into your soul, delivering important nuggets of wisdom, advice, and encouragement that you desperately need to hear. Her words are perhaps more essential now, when it feels like the world is upside down and it feels difficult to be an optimist. She believes in you, and she doesn’t even know you. She makes you believe in yourself, forces you to remain adamant that, yes, you are on your way to greater things.
If Stevie Nicks tells you that you can do anything, trust her. She knows.