Shine On, You Crazy Gem Sweater
Take a plump, 24-year-old girl from the Midwest who raps about her affinity for gaudy, adorned sweaters only the mother of a Solid Gold dancer would love, and, voilà, another Internet star is born. By now you’ve probably received the Web links directing you to Leslie Hall’s video for her “Gem Sweater” song on YouTube.com or ifilm.com, which is poised to be this year’s “Numa Numa.” Sporting gold pants, oversize glasses, blue eye shadow and a blond bouffant that’s ’80s-mall-rat-meets-Mormon-schoolteacher (think the gentile version of Saturday Night Live’s “Coffee Talk” hostess, Linda Richman), Hall spits out rhymes about her shoulder pads having the “power to destroy villages, homes and crops” while fronting two backup girls playing mock turntable and Keytar. Her Web site features a collection of 150 sweaters, each given names such as “Fireworks Freedom Dance,” “Present Me Desire” and “Incrusted Intrusted.” Our personal favorite is the fuchsia, Native American–themed “Navaho Brave.” And just as any white, female rapper from Ames, Iowa, worth her stock in corn would, Hall’s band, Leslie & the LY’s, have already released two albums, Gold Pants and Door Man’s Daughter, both DIY throwbacks to Debbie Deb, Zapp-style beats, slow jams and verbal assaults. “As I dance, buildings will crumble,” she sings. “My stretch marks lit up just like thunder.” Before she had a chance to pillage a Goodwill near us, we caught up with Hall, en route to the West Coast in her Sweatermobile, to pick her bejeweled brain.
L.A. WEEKLY:Is gem sweaterology a fashion statement or a state of mind?
LESLIE HALL: Can I say both? I mean, with a sweater on, the confidence and shine is happening. But without the sweater . . . maybe something tight and shimmery. Yes! I think it goes both ways. Homeless people who might not own a gem sweater can still harness the power and mindset of true gem ?sweaterology.
Do you buy your gem sweaters or design them yourself?
All these sweaters are rescues from thrift-store and garage-sale doom. That is truly the last and final resting ground for a lot of fashion dynasties. The Leslie Hall Gem Sweater fashion line is truly something I dream of. I’m not there yet, but maybe if I sell enough CDs.
Do you remember your first gem sweater?
Oh, yes! Black, probably, a size large or extra large. Mostly sequins. My memory is blurry, but I remember the good times, not the bad. Like when my mom destroyed it in the washing machine. Dry-clean only, Mother!
Which sweater would you throw your body on a live grenade to protect?
God, I hope it never comes to that; under UV-protected glass and with security cameras on it at all times, that is. “Blue Bunny Patch,” the second sweater I ever bought and now look at as the symbol of my true calling as her sweater holiness.
What advice do you have for a gal, or guy, using a Bedazzler for the first time?
Ah yes, the Bedazzler. Look at us talking about it. You know, I contacted them and proposed being a new face for the Bedazzler, the new spokeswoman and leader of the new bedazzlers coming into the 2000s. But they turned me down. I’m now approaching the Puffy Paint industry about a partnership and alliance. So to the bedazzlers out there, my advice is, Puffy Paint it.
Why always gold pants? Perhaps a prairie skirt with Western stitching?
Huh, interesting. However, chafing is an issue for me, and the spandex creates a slick, smooth slide from leg ?to leg.
Which celebrity would you like to see wearing a gem sweater?
I would love to get celebrity donations to the Mobile Museum of Gem Sweaters. Mike Myers wears one. Roseanne wears one. Amy Sedaris, Tanya Tucker. All have been spotted with one. But if I had to pick a celeb to pay and sport a gem sweater . . . hmmmm . . . Jenny Jones. After her talk show, I think the power of the gem sweater could lift her from wherever the hell she is and bring her up and out into the spotlight again.
What’s the white, female rap community like in Ames, Iowa?
You’re speaking to it, and we’re lovely and nice.
What message are you sending in your music?
If you listen to the words, it’s mostly dance, wear tight clothes, buy my merchandise, and rescue gem sweaters, or my junior gem community will crush you.
Any artists you’d like to collaborate with?
Reba, Faith, Shania and Dolly.
Aren’t you really a 60-something Miami Beach retiree?
My God, what am I doing in Iowa??
Leslie & the LY’s appear at Amoeba, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd., Fri., Sept. 15, 6 p.m., (323) 245-6400; and at Safari Sam’s, 5214 W. Sunset Blvd., Hlywd., Mon., Sept. 18, 9 p.m., (323) 666-7267.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.