’77 music club’s latest: marquee moon

On March 31, 1974, a young band called Television played their first gig at recently-opened Bowery dive CBGB. Not long before, they had helped Hilly Kristal put the CBGB stage together; now, they were performing in the club that they would help to immortalize. Television, comprised of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Richard Hell (replaced by Fred Smith in 1975), and Billy Ficca, soon became the de facto house band at CBGB, appearing regularly and becoming a staple of the growing scene that would come to include the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, and Patti Smith, to name a few.

With their popularity growing, the logical next step would have been to record an album, but Television bided their time. They chose to hone their sound, to develop and grow as a band, so by the time they were signed to Elektra Records in 1976, they were more than ready to begin work on what would become the seminal Marquee Moon. Released in early 1977, the album is regarded as one of the greatest of the punk era, containing songs that continue to be referenced today in covers and samples.

We chose this album as the first to be covered from our show’s namesake year because of its grit, its timeliness and timelessness, and its particular way of getting under your skin and making you feel more electrically charged than you were when you began the album. In this episode, we explore how Television’s and CBGB’s beginnings are inextricably linked, dive into Marquee Moon’s darkness and dreaminess, and outline the continuation of the band’s sound, proving that their legacy still thrives today.

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Lea DeLaria Talks ‘Orange is the New Black’ and Diversity in Television

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer.

Inspirer is celebrating inspirational and influential women in film with in-depth interviews. This project will share the stories behind the trailblazers and pioneers who paved the way for females in the arts. 

Lea DeLaria is having a moment. With a multi-faceted career that spans multiple decades as an actor, comedian, and jazz musician, DeLaria is earning a new set of fans and recognition for her role as Carrie “Big Boo” Black in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” The show, and DeLaria, have helped open up conversations about diversity in entertainment, LGBTQ issues, and female-run television.

With just days until the anticipated release of OITNB’s fourth season, we spoke to DeLaria about her character, the show’s trailblazing moments, and her role as an LGBTQ activist.

Big Boo is a really interesting character, one that has definitely developed over the past few seasons. What initially attracted you to this role and to a Netflix show? Because “OITNB” was really one of the first big shows for them when they weren’t really known for original content. Now, everyone’s itching to be on Netflix.

A paycheck. [laughs] No matter what actors say, if someone is going to pay you to act, you’re always very happy to get that money — especially if you’re the kind of actor that I am. I come with a lot of baggage, so the parts weren’t always frequent, especially within the confines of show business in general. It’s not a pretty place. Or, well, that’s the way it used to be. It’s different now. It’s an incredibly great time to be a woman in our industry. I think half the reason, if not three-quarters of the reason, is because of “OITNB.”

I was also completely attracted to working with Jenji Kohan [writer and producer, creator of “OITNB”], who is a genius in this industry. We were all just chomping at the bit to work with Jenji, because she’s everything.

What some people don’t know is that there actually was no Big Boo in the show. When they saw me, they basically wrote the part for me. I auditioned for several other roles, and none of them were exactly right. I had kind of a hissy fit. I sat in my manager’s office and said, “If they’re doing a show that takes place in a women’s prison and there isn’t a part for me, I fucking quit. I quit this business.” At the time, I was living in both New York and London, and I did quit. I packed up all my bags and flew to my house in London. By the time I got off the plane, there were, like, 10 messages from my manager saying, “Glad you had your hissy fit. Now you gotta come back because they wrote a part for you.”

 

 

Amazing.

Yeah. It just got bigger and bigger, for whatever reasons. Some of it is that the genius of Jenji understanding that a part like Big Boo probably ought to be in a show that takes place in a women’s prison. Some of it was that once the writers knew it was me playing the part, they wrote a lot of shit for me, so it just fits me like a little glove. Sometimes I think they sit around and think, “What’s the craziest thing we can think of? Give it to DeLaria — she’ll do anything!”

What has been the biggest challenge?

There are a couple, but probably the biggest is that I’m actually acting in the show and not just being an asshole and saying things that are funny. [laughs] The fact that Boo is three-dimensional, the fact that she’s real — the biggest challenge is the biggest joy. Boo is a real human. She’s not just a stereotype of what every butch dyke in the world is when they’re presented in the media. That’s my joy, but it’s also my challenge. On stage, I do everything. But in film and television, it’s all comedic, and when I show up for work, I have to bring my A-game.

It’s one of those shows that gets included in the comedy category a lot, but it isn’t always funny. It’s just that it’s very real.

Boo’s definitely comedic relief, but she’s real. Especially with her backstory — how could she not be? Oh my God! Who knew I could cry on camera like that? I had no fucking clue! And then when I did it in different scenes, I was like, “I had no idea I could do that!” [laughs]

Maybe because part of it is because it’s so genuine — how could you not?

Yeah, I think that’s part of it. The writing was so perfect and everything. But, I was shocked at my ability to do it when it was shot. I went to catering and Kate Mulgrew was there and Kate was like, “You’re a great actress, Lea. I don’t know why you always doubted yourself. You’re a great actress!” I don’t know, Kate! I’m not asked to cry a lot. I’m generally asked to pleasure myself to orgasm with a screwdriver.

You and Pennsatucky started to have a really great, unlikely, friendship on the show. How did that work out? The chemistry is so good between you and Taryn Manning.

You have to be very careful on set because the writers on our show don’t miss a thing. If you say something on set, in front of an incredible writer, be careful, because it will end up in the next episode. Taryn and I love each other. We’re really good friends. We used to hang out all the time. They saw us hanging out in each other’s dressing room and being the pals that we were, and one of the writers probably just went “Click! There’s a great idea!” Suddenly, here we are, this unlikely friendship. Everyone talks about it, but it’s because Lea DeLaria and Taryn Manning are really tight friends, and I believe that’s why that camaraderie comes across on screen like that.

This camaraderie on the show, with every woman backing each other up, puts out a very strong feminist message. But, it’s not about using feminism as a trendy prop — you guys aren’t a squad — it’s very genuine. Is that something that is important to you when you film the show, making sure it seems real?

From Jenji on down, male and female, I believe that everybody involved in our show is a feminist. The beauty of our show is that Jenji is beyond feminist. She is a person who wants to wield her power for good. Every time she writes a show, the statements she makes in them — she’s literally trying to change the world, totally from a feminist perspective. It’s really amazing. It starts with her saying “I just want to work with people who want to create something interesting, new, unique, and unusual, something that shows women in a light that we’ve all seen ourselves in for so long, but has frustratingly not been show in in the media at all.”

She had these goals, and she wanted it to be entertaining and she wanted it to be smart. Here we are, doing all of that. If that isn’t the very definition of feminism, I don’t know what is.

It is, 100 percent, and it’s so well-received, I think, because for a very long time, realistic female characters were here and there.

Right? Good luck finding them. I’ve been in this industry a very long time. To find actual women, real females of all races, all shapes, all sizes, all sexual orientations, in this little fishbowl together, being portrayed as real and honestly as they could be — that never happens in television. Never.

No, and there’s a lot of talk right now about how theater is leading the entertainment industry towards diversity, but TV is really starting to make headway, too. It’s not perfect by any means, but there’s such a great mix of diverse — across sexualities, body types, races — characters on “OITNB.”

I remember when we won the SAG Award this year. Laura [Prepon], who accepted for us, said, “This is what diversity looks like.” Our cast is what diversity is.

Do you think Netflix made that more possible than just being on cable TV?

Absolutely. We get away with things on Netflix that you would never have been able to do on Showtime or HBO or any other cable show. We have a fisting scene in our pilot! Who the hell else can say that? And it’s not just about the sex — it’s about no boundaries. It’s about keeping it real with no boundaries in a way that HBO was when HBO first hit the airwaves. It’s yet another frontier that we’ve surpassed. Netflix and Hulu and these other streamers make it possible.

Personally, I feel like Netflix really does it because of Ted [Sardanos, chief content officer of Netflix]. I think Ted goes out of his way to ensure the most interesting programming on Netflix, all the way around, not just our show. I feel that Ted really gets what people really want to see. He gets how important it is to make these statements in the world. He understands how to work that with business and making money, but he never compromises in a way that he can’t look himself in the mirror every day and like the guy he sees. It’s a great marriage of these things, Netflix, Lady Prison Productions, our cast, and the writers.

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Is there anything you would like to see more of in television?

I’d like to see more of what we’re doing. The shows out there like ours are few and far between. I think we’ve proven something to the industry that nobody realized was possible before. We’ve shown real people having their real lives being real. We’ve shown the world, in this microcosm, exactly as it is. Before, it was the industry’s concept of what being a real woman was instead of just being a real woman. So, this show, viewed by over 80 million people in 190 countries is huge. [Ed. note: Netflix is available in 190 countries, however, exact ratings for series have not been publicly disclosed.]

I’m hoping that the rest of the industry will see this and understand that people want to see real. We’re more real than a reality show! Reality shows are fake. We’re fiction, but we’re real. I’m hoping that this industry realizes, “Wow, you can actually make money, and still be smart, innovative, diverse, and have a strong sense of community and politics.” I’m excited to be at this point in our industry. I hope it just moves forward from here.

You’re really involved with the LGBTQ community, and there have been a lot of horrible events that have happened in the past several months, but particularly in the past week with what happened in Orlando. Would you like to share any of your thoughts?

My heart goes out to friends and family of the deceased in Orlando. I feel so strongly for them. It’s hard for me to talk about, even today. I’ve been crying since I woke up on Sunday morning. As we obtain our rights and get more and more of what is ours, that’s when the people who hate us are going to fight more and more. We have to be prepared for this. I think that’s a lot of what is going on — this backlash from the extremely conservative haters out there. It’s big. More than anything else, what happened in Orlando has only strengthened my resolve to be as visible as possible for the fight for our rights.

I want to be very clear: this was a gay hate crime. He chose this place so that he could take out as many queers as he possibly could. It was against us, and the worst of it is that he went into a place that has always been a safe place for us. It’s where you go to be who you are, to be with your community, your friends, your chosen family. He stole that from us on Sunday morning. But, the beauty of my people is that they get past things. He’s not the first person to do this to us, but I hope with all my soul that he will be the last. We will get past this. We will have our rights. They can’t stop us.

I just finally today got in touch with every one of my friends in Orlando and they’re all safe, but it’s taken this many days. And, I can’t even tell you how many times I have been dancing in that club at 2 in the morning. I know there’s a lot of us who feel that way. As a gay performer who has been an openly gay performer for as long as I have, I have performed in Orlando so many times. I have danced in that club so many times. It’s frightening.

It really is a scary thought. Thank you for putting it so eloquently.

I have to say, in the face of this hatred, we will survive. Sorry, but we will. The backlash that’s happening? The conservative assholes saying, “I wish they killed more gay people, these sodomites and pedophiles” — again, it just strengthens my resolve to stand in the face of that adversity and that bullshit and cry bullshit. They all preach in the name of their God, but Jesus never said to hate. Jesus is all about love. You’re perverting what Jesus said to further your own agenda. It’s crap.

Knowing what you do now, then, on a lighter note, what’s one piece of advice for young people that you would share as parting words?

Love yourself, no fucks given, and everything else will fall into place.

 

This interview has been condensed for clarity.
All 13 episodes of season four will be available for streaming on Friday, June 17 on Netflix. Seasons 1-3 are also available on Netflix.
Keep up with Lea on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Why The Mary Tyler Moore Show Matters

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This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

Ask a little girl who the most spectacular woman in the world is, and she will probably respond her mother, grandmother, or beloved aunt — probably someone she knows personally. She is a woman who, in her eyes, is the smartest and prettiest and most all-knowing. She is someone that little girl wants to grow up to be like.

I was not like most little girls. If you were to ask 6-year-old me who the most spectacular woman in the world was, I would have told you Mary Tyler Moore.

Much of my childhood was spent in the care of my nanny, an older woman whose love for decades past I absorbed maybe through osmosis. But she rarely allowed television, so my parents knew that the easiest way to reward me for good behavior was to let me plop down in front of the TV before bed. But it was the ‘90s; there wasn’t a lot of suitable primetime content on cable for kids. But, there was Nick at Nite.

I was fascinated by Eva Gabor’s glamor in Green Acres and tried to wiggle my nose to cast spells like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched. Not to mention that Dick Van Dyke was my first celebrity crush — I had a framed 8 by 10 photo of him in my room as a five year old. I was entertained, of course, but when Nick at Nite ran episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, my life changed.

While a lot of the storylines and jokes went over my head as a child, I was able to grasp a few important things and I hung on tight. Mary Richards was everything I wanted to be. She was cute and stylish — God, how I wanted to be able to dress like that — but humble and relatable. She was a loyal friend. She was single and it wasn’t the end of the world. How refreshing it was to not be surrounded by Disney princesses searching for their prince. The theme song offered constant reassurance — you’re gonna make it after all.

Most importantly, she worked hard. It was never lost on me that she was the only woman in that newsroom, that the men around her were sometimes buffoons, that she wasn’t afraid of being smart and good at what she did. I write about lady heroes all the time, and Mary Tyler Moore was my very first one. Long before I learned more about her life, I knew the character she was responsible for and the image she was presenting to women everywhere. That is what I want when I grow up, I thought.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air in 1977, and in the decades since, we’ve had plenty of strong, complex female comedic leads. We’ve had plenty of workplace comedies with women in charge. We’ve had plenty of female-driven shows. 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Sex and the City, The Mindy Project, Veep, Ally McBeal… all wonderful and unique, but owing something to Mary Tyler Moore.

There would be no Liz Lemon without a Mary Richards. Mary was one of the first single, working women in television, and do you have any idea how much pushback from the network that received? The way she worked her way up the career ladder inspired countless women to pursue a life outside the home. The frank talks about sex on Sex and the City should tip their hat to Mary Tyler Moore. The show opened up countless feminist conversations with storylines surrounding issues like birth control, dating and premarital sex, and equal pay.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was just as groundbreaking behind the scenes as it was on screen. The show employed a slew of women on its writing staff: in 1973, a third of the writing staff were women, including the first female executive on a network sitcom. We’re quick to call out today’s women showrunners like Tina Fey and Amy Schumer (whom also have Ms. Moore, co-founder of MTM Productions, to thank), but today, women make up barely 26% of employed network and cable TV writers. In the past 42 years, we’ve gone backwards.

There are plenty of new shows for women, but shouldn’t we acknowledge the past a little more? I mean beyond bland PBS specials that air once in a blue moon. Young women today can barely even watch the show. Forget Nick at Nite — they’ve ditched classics for reruns of Full House and How I Met Your Mother. The show isn’t on Netflix or available past the third season on Hulu.

Mary Tyler Moore taught an entire generation of women how to thrive; I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that their daughters may never understand.