THE SORDID STORY
I had the idea to start working with leather because fabric is so boring. Yard after yard, it all looks the same. But with skins, each one is different and has it's own personality. By looking at the hides you can tell that some had rough lives, some had easy lives. Some are covered in scars and almost all cowhides have a brand of some type. But I didn't know that my life would be surrounded by dead animal byproducts (leather is a byproduct of the meat industry) for so many years. Leather had been my primary thing for many years, even though I'd been trying not to do it for a long time (I'm just a girl who can't say no, but I'm getting better at it). I'd worked with it for so long that it wasn't challenging or interesting, but I only made clothes for people I liked and have had some really great clients over the years. Some will be my friends forever.
The last notable design job I did was for Eric Singer (Drummer) for the Kiss Alive 3 Tour in 1993. By then I hated it, and wondered if I had ever enjoyed it.
In the summer of 1983 I received what I at first thought was a prank call. Some guy with a heavy accent kept saying that he was calling for the ammuls. I finally told him that he had the wrong number and hung up. He called back and I figured out what he was saying. His name was Tappy, and he was calling for Eric Burdon from the Animals. They were in town for their reunion tour with the original members, and Eric had heard about me from someone and needed some work on his clothes. He was half-way through the tour and his shit was falling apart. He wanted some whole garments made, but desperately needed some maintenance on his stage clothes.
I met Eric at the Pine Knob Music Theater where they were doing a sound-check for the first of two shows they were playing at there. I took his measurements and went over the repairs, then took his stuff home. Everything had to be finished by 5:00 the next day before show time, which meant that I'd be up all night if I wanted to get it done on time. Same old shit.
Over the next several years I made quite a few things for Eric. I saw him for fittings every time he was in town, then I'd just ship the clothes to him wherever he was. He was a real nice guy with many interesting stories to tell. He said that their management had ripped them off in their early years and they had basically never made any money. He also hated "The House of the Rising Sun", but knew that he would have to play it at every show he did for the rest of his life. And he said that this Animals reunion thing wasn't going to last long because they still had the same problems that had broken the band up previously. The main problem was that him and Chaz Chandler hated each other intensely (their greeting to each other as they passed in the halls was fuck you or fuck off).
The only problem I had with Eric was that I could only understand about half of what he was saying because his accent was so thick. One time I was in a hotel room with him and his guitar player, Hilton, and Hilton talked to me for an hour without me understanding more than ten words. I continuously asked him to repeat himself, then would finally give up and nod my head. I didn't have a clue as to what I was agreeing with.
Eric was writing a book about his life and had holed himself up in a cottage in England. He called to talk about something we were making and he told me that even though he had many stories to tell, he couldn't finish his book because he didn't have a conclusion and it was giving him a big mental block. He did finish his book and titled it "I Used to be an Animal, but I'm Alright Now."
I ended up doing wardrobe for the Romantics 4 album covers and tours. For 4th album (In Heat) we wanted to come up with something that you didn't see everyday. We had done assorted colors of leather for the 2nd tour, and ugly pink leather for the 3rd, so we decided to try some other type of dead animal. We went with black python. The jackets would be cut exactly like levi jackets, the pants straight and tight as usual. This stuff would be real expensive and hard to work with, but it would all be worth it when it was done. They gave me a deposit for the hides and I ordered it from a company in South Carolina.
I was busy making the patterns when the snakeskin arrived a few days later, so I opened the box and glanced inside, then took the box upstairs to my sewing room. The next day when I went into my sewing room, I saw at least 20 huge black ants on the walls. Apparently the snakeskin had not been tanned properly and the ants were feeding on it. These were aggressive South Carolina type ants that would get on their hind legs and try to fight back when I'd try to kill them. My pet snake was in a tank in this room also, and a few months earlier he had crawled under the burners of my stove without me knowing about it, and I had inadvertently burned an 8" long piece of his back (I was making snake and eggs for breakfast). I caught those fucking ants going into my snakes tank, crawling under his scabs and feeding off his wounds. SICKENING!
I returned the putrid snakeskins, ordered more from another company and exterminated my sewing room. The python hides were between 16 and 22 feet long and the stuff was really hard to work with. You could tear it by pulling on it, but needles continuously broke when they'd hit the scales. Also the glare gave me terrible eye strain every day I worked on it. But I kept telling myself it would all be worth it when I saw that beautiful, shiny snakeskin on the album cover.
Many months later Jimmy called to tell me that he had advance copy of the album cover, and added that he was really sorry. I asked why, and he said he'd bring it over to show me. When he got to my house, he told me that they had thought that the cover shot would be of them from the waist up, and they were all disappointed, but it was too late to change anything now. He showed me the cover. It was mostly head shots with only the top of the shoulders of their snake skin jackets showing.
A year and a half after that album came out, I received a gold record from the Romantics. This business is so anticlimactic, but I was still happy to get the record. Groups have to pay for their own gold records, and I thought it was nice of them to spring for the extra one. And it was at least something tangible to show for the years of hard labor.
I hung the record up in my dining room where I would see it all the time. But a few weeks later, I came downstairs one morning to find my precious gold record horribly warped because it was too close to a heat vent. It never occurred to me that it was a real record. I sent it back to the company that made it, and they reheated it and straightened it out as good as they could, but it wasn't the same.
Leather and Rock & Roll go hand in hand, and for several years I took pity on the young, aspiring long haired musicians and did some artist development with the local talent. I did their bio's, booked shows, took them into the studio to record demo's and mostly baby-sat for a fee. But they were basically hopeless because of their personality deficiencies, and before they could get anywhere they would self-destruct. A big exercise in futility.
In the early 90's Leather Weather was once again revived on 89X.
By the end of that, I was pretty much sick of radio, Rock Groups and everything music business related. I had cared so much about my work, but suddenly couldn't remember why. It all seemed so meaningless, and I started questioning myself as to why I still did it. It wasn't interesting or challenging, and I realized that I was only doing it to feed the ego. So I stopped and went off on a big Buddhist trip (I'm happy to add that I was ultimately disillusioned, and got off that trip. Disillusionment is a good thing, because it simply means getting rid of false ideas. And I'd rather hear the awful truth than a good lie any day).