Hal and I have now come to a pivotal moment in the Girls on Fire story. By the time that I completed and released the cassette album Life is Too Funny — I Think I’ll $hoot Myself in early 1984 I was no longer the teen art punk who went searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow called San Francisco. I was about to be 21 and heard the call of other muses. Or were they really sirens?
While working on Life is Too Funny— I Think I’ll $hoot Myself, I was reading the book Happenings, An Illustrated Anthology written and edited by Michael Kirby, published in 1966. I believe that I found this book used at Aardvark Books on Church Street in SF. (It is still there).
The book contains the statements, scripts, and production details of 14 happenings by five artists: Allan Kaprow, Red Grooms, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Whitman, and Jim Dine.
Allan Kaprow, a student of John Cage, is credited with coining the term "happening". Frankly, I think that in addition to being one of the first in this grouping of artists to do happenings, he was also the one most genuinely engaged with making life into art, not just trying to sell some overpriced tchotchke.
A former painter, inspired by Jackson Pollock and his action paintings, Kaprow thought that the next step was to literally step out of painting and make lifelike art. The script for his 1961 Happening, A Spring Happening, is a “grocery list” of sounds and actions like “car horn starts constant sound”, “nervous kazoo sits in chair”, “person speaking babbling”, “Lights out in cubicles” and “cooking food.” Script directions like this were an inspiration for songs on Life is Too Funny, especially the last piece on the cassette album, "Camus’ Crashing, Burning and Eating Hungry Man TV Dinners".
The piece is an audio document of a performance that I did at Club Foot in SF in late 1983. I ate a TV dinner on stage while an audio tape loop of car crash played in the background. I was now edging into contemporary art practice/commerce as after this performance I began to slowly move away from making cassettes and into something else....
Other songs on the cassette album deal with topics of everyday life, and reflections on the impermanence of this earthly realm: "Hideous Pants", "Jessica Savitch" (celebrity death by car crash, a theme Singer explored over and over), "My Groovy Apartment", "My Ironing Board", and more.
Leslie and I have been working since mid-2018 on creating an archival resource site for her Girls On Fire project, based on interviews with her that I have conducted via email.
Released in early 1984, Life is Too Funny — I Think I’ll $hoot Myself was the fourth cassette that Leslie had created since she had moved from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco in October 1982. There would be one more Girls On Fire cassette, In My Blood (1985), and then no more. Leslie turned to other creative art forms, and you will find out more about that as the project develops.
The adventures continue. Thank you very much for this work, Leslie and Hal, of which I declare myself an absolute fan. I'm looking forward to seeing your other artistic works. All this is very inspiring to me.
Rafael, thanks so much for your kind comments and support. Very appreciated!
My pleasure, really!
Great piece Leslie! I truthfully enjoy learning mor about your artistic endeavors over the years. I never recieved any tapes from you personally but Kiby sent me some Psychodrama tapes & a bizzare video.
Chris, thanks for your comments. Yes, the Nuns were SF legends but had broken up just before I arrived in SF so I sadly missed them. It sounds like that Club Foot show was a good one!
Yes it was a great show! I haven't heard the C.L.S.I. Ensemble recording of Kurzwellen, but yes familiar with Max Neuhaus 4 Realizations of Zyklus. Good listening. Oh know nothiing weird about that as I love Cage as wel!
Great read. I am looking up that book as we speak!
Beautifully written personal history! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve learned something new today.
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After high school and a year in the DC noise band, Psychodrama, I moved to SF in 1982.