With the opening of Floria Sigismondi's new film, The Runaways, there has naturally been a lot of coverage of, well, the Runaways, the late-'70s teen-girl band fronted by Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. But there hasn't been a lot of coverage (including in the film) of Runaways drummer and co-founder Sandy West — until last week's cover story, "Wild Thing: How Sandy West Was Lost," by Evelyn McDonnell (March 19). West's story is a tragic one: The bandmember most invested in the band's history, she didn't make it to see all the retro attention. After a long battle with drug addiction, West died of lung cancer in 2006. Somewhat surprisingly, much of the heartfelt response to McDonnell's story comes from men.
"The day I stepped into the now-defunct California Music Co. record store in 1976 and saw their first album, then discovered they were the same age as me, I felt that this was a band I could relate to," writes James R. Nolan. "I was disappointed that they never achieved success in their heyday. I was glad to know that individual members surmounted their particular obstacles and found their niches but was saddened when I read the news of Sandy's death in 2006. This article made me more sad, as I was unaware of Sandy's plight.
"I think of that pretty, fresh-faced 17-year-old on the Queens of Noise album cover, how she looks so confident and ready for whatever the world has to throw at her. If her tale has anything to teach us, it's that the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle (the drug part in particular) has been romanticized beyond reason. But on the positive side, it also teaches us that the Runaways always had the talent that we original fans knew would one day validate them. In a just world, Sandy would be basking in that glory along with us."
Mark Proctor adds: "I maintain the tribute page for Sandy on myspace.com/therunawaysneonangel and I have to say that, until now, I have been disappointed with media coverage on Sandy West — but wow, this great piece puts Sandy front and center. So first of all, thank you for elaborating on the backstory to the film and urging us to discover who Sandy West was. We've been waiting years for somebody to properly acknowledge how influential and important Sandy West continues to be for female musicians.
"No disrespect to the other more commercially successful members who will profit from this new movie but Sandy was, IS, and always will be the Runaways. She got it off the ground and she loved that band like a family. It breaks my heart that she craved a reunion so much but didn't live to see a renewed interest in them after all these years. But if Sandy's role in the film is merely a bit part, I think she might have had something to say about that."
L.A.'S BIG BAD MAD MEN
As Davy Crockett (aka Fess Parker, RIP) was fading into last week's sunset, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was himself staring down a few bears with a smile. Big business bears who are making a killing off giant digital — and illegal — billboards, as reported by the Weekly's serial-killer-and-billboard specialist, Christine Pelisek ("The Mad Men of Los Angeles," March 19). As with all such pieces, some people are happy about it and some people aren't.
"Great article," writes the well-rounded Pershing Square. "We've all been wondering where the money goes, and now we can see who is gaming the system. Also good job on 'outing' Jan Perry, that woman has the audacity to think she's going to be the next mayor? Well, I suppose the example set by the present mayor explains that! Trutanich seems to have the wind behind his sails though, and the Dragongate saga that put a 'businessman' in jail 'til he took down his illegal supergraphic was brilliant. I just hope Trutanich has enough handcuffs to hook up the rest of them."
It is no great surprise that Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, banbillboardblight.org, is in agreement. "Christine Pelisek and the Weekly deserve great credit for lifting those supergraphics to show the raw greed of people with no concern for the law, the communities they operate in or the safety and quality of life of people working in the buildings they turn into giant ads and cash machines. One point, however, deserves clarification. The Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight represents numerous community groups and individuals throughout the city. Whatever impact the organization has had in raising awareness of the threat to our public spaces posed by rogue operators like Barry Rush, Pamela Anderson and others is due to the support and hard work of those groups and individuals, not just to the efforts of a single person."
But then reader Alex wonders "how much Christine Pelisek received to write this ONE-SIDED story. All Carmen Trutanich is doing is making installers, advertisers and all other people associated with outdoor advertising unemployed, and L.A. Weekly helps him to do so."
For the record, Pelisek is a staff writer, and her salary is not based on how many stories she writes about billboards. Or, for that matter, serial killers.
A commentator going by the all-too-common moniker of Anonymous responds to Alex: "The 'installers, advertisers and all other people associated with outdoor advertising' need not be unemployed. They can go to [supergraphics multimillionaire Barry] Rush's hometown on the East Coast and plaster it with signage. Surely he'll pay them."
Do we have time for one more conspiracy theory? Why yes, we do, from Dan: "By the way, whoever wrote this article sounds very jealous of rich people ... just an observation. Oh, and I think it's pretty evident as to why this article is so anti-billboards — the author is employed by an advertising-based Web site that is fighting for those very same advertising dollars ... no billboards equals more online spending? Is that it?"
Yes, Dan, by golly, you've got us! Now, if we could just figure out how to cut those billboards up into itty-bitty pieces ... And for the record, all journalists are jealous of rich people.
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