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Monday, February 13, 2012

Marian Anderson's Last Fast Ride

Posted by on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Two New Punk Docs Ponder Authority, Part Two:
Last Fast Ride: The Life, Love and Death of a Punk Goddess

  • Virgil Films

Lilly Scourtis Ayers makes her feature film debut with Last Fast Ride, just as Andrea Blaugrund Nevins made hers with The Other F Word. The former, however, is a scrappier, more downbeat affair. Depending on your perspective, that makes it even more punk, both in terms of content and presentation, though three of the same bands have connections to the two (and I don’t mean "scrappy" as in amateurish; it's just less polished, in keeping with the brash subject matter).

In this case, Scourtis Ayers turns to Rancid's Tim Armstrong for commentary and Black Flag's Henry Rollins for narration, while the other film featured Rancid's Lars Frederiksen and Black Flag's Ron Reyes. The Other F Word also features U.S. Bombs' Duane Peters. Though he doesn’t appear in Last Fast Ride, he released a collection of Anderson's work with Bay Area band the Insaints.

  • Virgil Films

If you've never heard of the Insaints, join the club. If you were living in San Francisco from 1990-94, though, I don’t see how you could have missed them. Anderson's then-boyfriend, Tim Yohannan, founded 924 Gilman Street, the Berkeley Mecca where her group played gigs with Armstrong after his segue from Operation Ivy to Rancid. He became a fan and issued a single on his Hellcat label, one of their few releases, which is unfortunate, but better than nothing (on the evidence of this film, the Five Fingers material should probably stay buried).

If most of the men in The Other F Word came from broken homes, Anderson, who grew up in Monterey, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her father, followed by a blur of suicide attempts and stays in psych wards and group homes. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she found a sanctuary of sorts with her supportive grandparents in Modesto, where she formed the Insaints. The pretty high school student became an imposing punk with towering blond spikes before trying a Mohawk on for size. After they relocated to San Francisco in 1990, though, she seemed to take more cues from Bettie Page than Nina Hagen and Wendy O. Williams (in an archival interview, she also cites GG Allin as an influence).

Once there, Anderson took up with a man named Kal. She also became pregnant and had the child, which her grandparents would eventually adopt. Though the relationship didn't last, she and her daughter, Hannah, would remain close.

Somewhere along the way, she became a dominatrix, a vocation that found its way into the Insaints stage act as she would disrobe, make out with other women, and engage in a variety of Karen Finley-type sex acts with bananas, prompting the attention of the State of California. After a protracted court battle, Anderson won, and the show went on. Along the way, though, she broke up with Yohannon, who had also launched Maximum Rocknroll. Yohannan succumbed to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1998, and Anderson stuck by him until the end.

Later, she moved to Los Angeles, took up with Danielle Bernal Santos, and joined the Thrillkillers. On the side, she worked as a stripper, which may be how she got involved with heroin, since none of her friends were users. In fact, they didn't know about her habit until it was too late. And that's where the story ends. It isn't a happy one, but I might never have heard of Marian Anderson* otherwise.

As far as I can tell, she could sing and she could write, and if she'd had a greater interest in a conventional recording career, she might have become a bigger star—she certainly had the charisma—but that doesn't seem to have been her intention. Friends believe she performed because she felt she had no choice, but I don't know whether she found it cathartic or not. Based on the drugs, the alcohol, the cutting, and the 20 suicide attempts, I can only conclude that it wasn't cathartic enough, but maybe she wouldn't have lasted as long without it.

*Yes, she shared a name with the great opera singer. This Anderson was born Marian Holloway.

According to SF Weekly, Anderson was "an admirer of the Avengers' Penelope Houston."

Virgil Films releases the Last Fast Ride DVD on February 21, 2012.


Comments (5) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Tim Yo founded MRR in 1982, long before the Insaints, 924 Gilman, etc. You make it appear otherwise. I didn't live in SF while the Insaints were a band, but I knew of them and their records (MRR put out a great split with the equally filthy Diesel Queens), and saw them play. Just because you didn't know them doesn't mean they were obscure or unknown out of SF, or that others hadn't heard of them.
Posted by carnivorous chicken on February 13, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 2
I'm sorry if I caused any confusion. I realize that Yohannon made his impact before Anderson.
Posted by Kathy Fennessy on February 13, 2012 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Estey 3
I don't think I'd ever heard of the Insaints before reading this, or heard of 'em but never got a chance to experience 'em so this is a great opportunity! Gotta check this doc out. Much appreciation.
Posted by Estey on February 13, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 4
Thanks, Chris! I think you'll like 'em. Marian had a fine voice, somewhat akin to Penelope Houston or Mia Zapata. She was also a big Debbie Harry fan.
Posted by Kathy Fennessy on February 13, 2012 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Dear Marian.
Fragile soul
in a deep dark hole.

Posted by malbuff on April 8, 2013 at 12:59 PM · Report this

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