“Every bad girl has a soft side,” Bianca Halstead, a.k.a. Bianca Butthole, recently told me as she described the fond ‘n’ funny power ballad about the ‘80s metal scene called “Big Hair, Broken Heart” on her band Betty Blowtorch’s
album Are You Man Enough? Of course, anyone who’d ever come in contact with Bianca already knew that. She may have been a tough, tattooed chick who shamelessly sang about beer, boys and body parts, but there was a sweetness and humor behind everything she did and said. That big ol’ heart tat on her chest was there for a reason.
On Saturday, December 15, around 5:30 a.m., after a show with tour mates Nashville Pussy in New Orleans, Bianca took a ride with a friend in his Corvette. Reportedly, the driver was speeding, lost control, spun around and was sideswiped by another car on Bianca’s side. She was killed instantly. There have been reports that the driver was intoxicated, but Bianca was sober and had been for several years. The Bronx, New York–born, Studio City, California–raised musician left behind ex-husband Andrew Halstead, parents Jerry and Angele Woolery, sisters Selina Smith and Victoria Roberts, brother Andrew Wilson and countless admirers.
After making her mark in bands such as the punk outfit Butt Trumpet and Humble Gods, Bianca formed Betty Blowtorch with Trumpet guitarists Sharon Needles and Blare N. Bitch and Bobsled drummer Judy Molish. Guns N’
Roses’ Duff McKagan became a fan and produced their EP Get Off in ‘99, and they won Best Punk/Hardcore Band at this publication’s music awards show the following year.
In 2001, the band’s hard work was finally starting to pay off. They released their Foodchain debut, which got lots of attention in part for its guest
appearance by Vanilla Ice on the raunchy romp “Size Queen,” and the band was seen on the big screen in the dark comedy Bubble Boy. Soon after, they scored a tour with similarly rowdy rockers Nashville Pussy, and were on the road when, about a month ago, Sharon and Judy suddenly left the band.
On the phone from her tour van just after the breakup, Bianca was down but not out. She said she was sad but trying “to make the best of a bad situation,” and she vowed to “keep the rock alive no matter what.” She’d called in her old pal, former L7 bassist Jennifer Finch, and had a friend of Nashville’s sit in on drums for the rest of tour. Their hometown New Year’s Eve gig at the Whisky a Go-Go was to feature former Lunachicks drummer Becky Wreck. The sad irony is that a feature I wrote about the band to correspond with that show had been scheduled for this issue of the L.A. Weekly.
From her stint behind the counter at Melrose rock-clothing emporium
Serious (where she helped even us gals with bodies not nearly as perfect as hers squeeze into the same kind of scandalously low-rise jeans she always wore — and feel good about it) to her band’s amazing performances (the early ones in Silver Lake and Hollywood, which featured fire-wielding goth babes, and more recent ones on the Strip and at the Pretty Ugly Club, where friends and fans
always crowded near the stage, head-bangin’ and bowing to the singer-bassist like the goddess she was), Bianca was an unforgettable force whose ballsy stage persona and kind-hearted offstage manner — not to mention kick-ass
music — should be an inspiration for girl- and guy-rockers to come.
In the words of one of her tunes: B., you really rocked our world.