Characterized by ambiguous sexual energy and resistance to male domination and objectification, the visual idiom of punk rock communicated feminist prospects through the performance of fashion. This essay interprets the creative agency of Alice Bag, Marina “Del Rey” Muhlfriedel, Trudie “Plunger” Arguelles-Barret, and Helen “Hellin Killer” Roessler as Latina and Hispanic sono-spatial artists in the early days of L.A.’s punk subculture. Situating the performance practices of Hispana (Iberian) women alongside the Latina (hemispheric Latin American) artists, L.A. punk is situated within a Spanish-American borderlands matrix of meaning, where non–Western European roots of women in punk gain coherence as a specifically bordered set of historical circumstances. By embodying musical performativity as creators of a relational theatre of musical experience, the study asserts that women punk fans redefined how alternative music was generated, circulated, and consumed.

“We wore what made us feel hot and powerful, and made us a piece of art.”

—Trudie Arguelles-Barrett1

I was in the sixth grade when I walked into a Supercuts in the Highland Park neighborhood of Northeast L.A. with the Go-Go’s Talk Show record tucked under my arm, determined to attain the impossibly beautiful cropped hair of drummer Gina Schock. I was ready for my style to speak: I wanted to defy the expectations set for girls and women, and the Go-Go’s, the first all-female rock band to create a number one album on the Billboard 200 in 1981, were exhilarating to me as a pre-teen who had been inspired by their combination of toughness and femininity. When my dad dropped me off, I hadn’t yet developed a sense of style in the musical tribalism of L.A. teens, but when I left the stylist’s chair, a transformation had been achieved: I was a new waver.

I hadn’t known that the favorite band of my sixth-grade year had been co-founded by Go-Go’s original bassist Margot Olavarria, a Latina born in Chile.2 As touched on in Alison Ellwood’s 2021 documentary The Go-Go’s, Olavarria’s contribution as a co-founder, along with Jane Wiedlin, Belinda Carlisle, and original drummer Elisa Bello, demonstrated the early presence of Latinas in this band that had been seminal to the first-wave scene, and shows how they “punkified” Gina Schock’s look by cropping her frizzy blond hair and dying it black—a move to darken tresses that placed her more firmly in the aesthetic of Olavarria and Wiedlin.3

In my youth, I had assumed new wave was a White thing, and that my own fandom constituted something of an exodus from the culture of my Northeast L.A. neighborhood where Debbie Deb and Afrika Bambaataa were on repeat at school dances and parties—soundscapes identified with Black, Brown, and working-class experiences. I feared the threat of being called a “wanna be” or a “poser” by kids at school, which were the worst things that tweens aspiring to a personal style quotient could be called. As a Latina, it didn’t just feel like I could be accused of “trying too hard” in terms of my personal appearance, but it also bore the implication of being visibly eager to be other than what I really was. The visual idiom of sonic Whiteness was linked to a desire for ethnic self-erasure, and the Brown, Black, and Filipino kids in my environment who listened to punk, new wave, and ska were seen as preferring White performance practices to their own. As Joshua Javier Guzmán writes, people of color and queer-identified folks who subscribed to punk-tinged subcultures encountered an amount of social isolation as “misfits-wannabe-superheroes.”4 However, as Michelle Habell-Pallán has argued, “Chicana/o youth had historically been at the forefront of formulating stylized social statements via fashion and youth subculture—beginning with the Pachucos, and on to Chicana Mods; and…punk’s critique of the status quo, of poverty, of sexuality, of class inequality, of war, spoke directly to working-class East Los Angeles youth.”5 Investigating the implications of these sonic territorializations today, I can see how the notion that I was taking something that didn’t properly belong to me had more to do with how music markets and histories are controlled than with the genders or ethnicities of its punk innovators.

My research into the first wave of punk in Hollywood points to a scene that had been highly diverse and inclusive of women—Latinas/os (of Latin American heritage) and Hispanas (of Iberian Spanish heritage)—in ways I had never suspected.6 To that girl with the Go-Go’s record held up optimistically to a sympathetic East L.A. stylist, I offer this study of Latinas and Hispanas who were formative to the development of L.A. punk. By situating the performance practices of Hispana women alongside the Latina artists, I investigate the colonial racial frameworks that flatten important distinctions between the two. Situating L.A. punk within a Spanish-American borderlands matrix of meaning, the non–Western European roots of women in punk gain coherence as a specifically bordered set of historical circumstances. The sonic aggression, experimentation, absurdist humor, and anti-capitalist politics of punk had been wielded by these women since L.A.’s first wave, and restoring the memory of their influence helps dismantle the perception that punk was by and about Whites and Whiteness.

By discussing both Latinas and Hispanas as vectors of change, my study does not erode the differences separating Latina/o/x (from here forward “Latinx,” a gender-neutral designation) and Hispanic sets of experiences, but rather is intended to make a space for dialogue about shared markers of identity. Two factors compel me to include Hispanas in this study. First, unlike the New York and London epicenters of punk, L.A. was a metropolis with Native American, Spanish, and Mexican roots. The Gabrieleños (also known as Tongva and Kizh) and Chumash populated the region that Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed for Spain in 1542. The town El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles was founded in 1781 under the Spanish governor Felipe de Neve, and later became a part of Mexico in 1821 when the Mexican War of Independence ended Spanish rule. Historians agree that its original pobladores (civilian settlers) included people of Spanish, Mexican, American Indian, and African descent. A foundational locus of borderlands consciousness, Los Angeles was an epicenter of Iberian, Afro-Latinx, Chicanx, and Indigenous subjects who were, for the political aspirations of the Spanish Empire, simply referred to as Spanish. And, unlike New York and London where punk took root, in Los Angeles, Spanish (and later Mexican and Chicanx) communities, place names, architecture, food, music, language, and other cultural elements were baked into the creative life of the city, inevitably fueling the multisensorial business of shaping L.A. punk. Habell-Pallán has contributed extremely important insights about the unrecognized influences of Mexican and Latin American culture embedded in the “estilo bravío” acts of gender transgression, and its links to gritos (yells) and “hands-on-hips” personalities of mariachi music’s female belters of Mexico’s post-revolutionary period that then went on to inform Latina and Hispana punk registers of performance.7 Indeed, the Hispana women I interviewed for this study also saw themselves as shapers of an emerging punk scene that was positioned in the Latinx and Hispanic borderlands, as evinced below in the remarks Trudie Arguelles-Barret and Marina Muhlfriedel provided about identity, place, and style.

Here, I also acknowledge a dynamic that unfairly corrals Latina and Hispanic women together: the mediatization and commercialization of these women as cultural products. In the early and mid-twentieth century, Carmen Miranda, although born in Portugal in 1909 and raised in Brazil, crossed into the public light as a South American bombshell who was central to the tropical vamp stereotype imposed on Latinas in film and theater. Another example of the conflation of Iberian women and Latinas is found in the Spanish-born María del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza, professionally known by her stage name Charo. While known for her abilities as a singer, flamenco guitarist, and actress, Charo was even more famous in the U.S. for her augmented cleavage, cartoonish accent, and trademark phrase “cuchi cuchi.” Both the Portuguese-born Brazilian Carmen Miranda and the Spanish-born Charo are included in Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol’s Latinas in the United States.8 In Dance and the Hollywood Latina, Priscilla Peña Ovalle analyzes the careers of both Carmen Miranda and Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino to a Spanish father and Irish-American mother) alongside the trajectories of Dolores Del Rio, Rita Moreno, and Jennifer Lopez. Extending the definition of “Latina” in her study to include women of Iberian decent, Ovalle places emphasis on the systematized “myth of desirability and availability” that was the backbone of the “myth of the Hollywood Latina.”9 If their ancestral ties were moored to the Iberian Peninsula, their mediatization through the patriarchal and colonial gaze of U.S. popular culture meant that they suffered from many of the same pejorative stereotypes that music and film industries assigned to Latinas along the markers of culture, class, gender, and sexuality. Acknowledging the divergence between Latina and Hispana historical trajectories, my inclusion of Hispanas in this study takes into account these two important sites of convergence: the Los Angeles Basin as an Indigenous-Spanish-Mexican-American borderlands location, and a shared history of discrimination as performing artists in the United States that mainstream outlets have identified and understood as “Latinness.”

Figure 1.

Gina Schock and Margot Olavarria. Photo credit: Louis Jacinto.

Figure 1.

Gina Schock and Margot Olavarria. Photo credit: Louis Jacinto.

This study argues that Latinas and Hispanas in L.A.’s early punk movement challenge popular music’s emphasis on the auditory aspects of musical practices and submits that a sono-spatial approach is better suited to restore the creative labor of women in the scene.10 Typically, the field of music history is dedicated to signaling aesthetic currents and compositional techniques illustrative of a particular period of time. Although the 1970s through the 1990s saw a shift in cultural criticism that began to take into account the complexities of globalization and multiculturalism, the women who extended the territories of music with their bodies through visually performed repertoires (style referencing sound) were seldom acknowledged as more than spectators and idol chasers. Informed by a genealogy of feminist analysis of countercultural style and gesture that includes, but is not limited to, Michelle Habell-Pallán, Keta Miranda, Catherine Ramirez, and C. Ondine Chavoya, I discuss how style constituted a musical signifying practice for four women, two of whom were in bands (Alice Bag and Marina “Del Rey” Muhlfriedel) and two who were not (Trudie “Plunger” Arguelles-Barret and Helen “Hellin Killer” Roessler).

The ’70s punk pioneer Alice Bag (Alicia Armendariz Velasquez) was born to a Mexican American family and became the co-founder and frontwoman for the Bags. Her extremely important work as a Chicana archivist of women in L.A. punk was crucial to the development of this study; indeed, her extensive interviews and published reflections provide the archival, and political, perspectives that serve as basis of the present “Latina challenge” to musical memory. Penelope Spheeris’ 1980 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, which serves as one of Hollywood punk’s most significant archives, features Alice Bag’s performance of “Prowlers in the Night” and “Gluttony.” Bag has published two memoirs, Violence Girl and Pipe Bomb for the Soul, that tell of her experiences as a foundational performing artist in L.A.’s first wave of punk.11

Another artist who pioneered sono-spatial punk culture in L.A. was Marina Del Rey (born Joanne Russo, changed to Marina Muhlfriedel after marriage). Of Sephardic Spanish, Greek, Polish, and Romani decent, Muhlfriedel started the first-wave punk band Backstage Pass, and was an early organizer of Hollywood’s seminal punk venue The Masque.

Trudie “Plunger” Arguelles-Barret (of Iberian Spanish descent) and Helen “Hellin Killer” Roessler (of Argentine descent), were known as the Plunger Sisters. Along with Mary Rat and Trixie Treat, the four “Sisters” constituted a punk aesthetic collective rather than a band. In the early Hollywood scene, the Plunger Sisters lived in a house that became known as the Plunger Pit. Bands, promoters, writers, and fans grouped around these young women, who threw after-show parties and were connected intricately to the music and its message. Roessler was a trained stylist who first sculpted the iconic “liberty spikes” hairstyle (thick, upright spikes like the Statue of Liberty’s crown) for Darby Crash (Jan Paul Beahm of the Germs) and was central to cultivating the visual legacy of L.A.’s first wave.12 In fact, Roessler’s image is on the front cover of Ruby Ray: Kalifornia Kool Photographs 1976–1982 (2019), where she holds the hand of a supine Sid Vicious.13 Focusing on the visual idiom of punk in the hands of Bag, Muhlfriedel, Arguelles-Barrett, and Roessler across a series of interviews, print and web publications by Bag, and photographic documentation, I argue that Latina and Hispana contributions were central to, and not on the periphery of, L.A.’s first wave.14 Informed by the conceptual tools of performance studies and feminist cultural commentary, I interpret their syntax of costume, gesture, and atmosphere as “sono-spatial” performance art.

My use of a sono-spatial, synesthetic timeline disrupts colonial and patriarchal logics that have historically undervalued the contributions of Latina and Hispana taste labor as a musical signifying practice of 1970s punk.15 According to architect Sean W. Robbins, our sensual awareness of space occurs as a “sono-spatial” mode of being.16 A more nuanced picture of punk’s development must take into account a borderlands, feminist genealogy of how women took up space. Habell-Pallán writes that the “centering of sound and bodily gestures deployed a decolonial methodology that permitted musical gesture, technique, and attitude utilized to reevaluate and remake received narratives.”17 By focusing on the embodiment of punk performance, Habell-Pallán recuperates sensual aspects and “embodied cultural knowledge that spills out in performance.” Here, I carry the sono-spatial interaction between sound and form produced by architecture’s tectonic structures to the performance artist’s appareled live art personas. Costumed in punk, the body broadcasts sound as sight, and the interiority of music is externalized and spatialized through the intervention of gesture and style.

It’s important to note that the ’70s Latinas and Hispanas were not the first generation to perform rebellion through the coterminous territories of style and sound. Pachuca counterculture of the 1940s had constituted a Mexicanized visual performance of jazz when the zoot suit threads were interpreted by women of the borderlands in unique ways. Pachucas dressed to the nines in masculine draped coats they paired with knee-high socks and short skirts. Hair was styled high, and exaggerated pompadours and theatrical make-up played up the contrasts of masculinity and femininity.18 The pachuca precursors of punk defied middle-class values and war-time expectations and, as Catharine Ramírez argues, expressed “shared experiences” and a “sense of collectivity” for youths who faced national rejection.19 In short, the pachucas anticipated the Latina and Hispana punk rockers in harnessing style as a sono-spatial expression of outsider identity.20 These visual idioms of pachuca and punk streetwear transformed women into protagonists of new identities. Writes C. Ondine Chavoya in reference to the punk rock infused Chicanx performance group Asco:

One of the tenets of body art, especially situated within activist practices, is the enacting and asserting of the self within the social…Performances of walking, trespassing, or temporarily transforming public spaces in Los Angeles allowed artists from diverse backgrounds a corporeal, agitational move away from the didactic or prescriptive modes and methods of enacting identity.21

The synesthetic exaggeration of outsider identities through the extreme marking of presence had socially different stakes for Latinas and Hispanas in the L.A. basin than it did for bodies that represented institutionally privileged positionalities. Only by taking into account the taste labor of Latinas and Hispanas in these countercultural scenes can we expand our understanding of music memory to reinstate women as punk’s co-authors who, like the pachucas of the 1904s, lodged objections to patriarchal and colonial values through the politics of sono-spatial style.

In the chronology of popular music’s subcultures, the 1960s witnessed pop charts toggle between the height of rock’s commercialism exemplified by prefab bands (The Monkees, Josie and the Pussycats) and revolutionary aesthetics and discourses that called for Black pride, fierce individualism, and an end to war (James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin). The 1960s garage rock sound was heavily influenced by Latin American and Latinx sonority across dance floor anthems by Chicano bands such as Cannibal and the Headhunter’s “Land of a Thousand Dances” and Question Mark and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears.”22 In fact, as sustained by Habell-Pallán, a cursory search for the term “proto-punk” reveals that one of the earliest written uses of “punk” as the modifier before “rock” occurred when critic Dave Marsh used it in 1970 to describe Question Mark and the Mysterians.23 First applied by Marsh to describe a Mexican American band, it is evident that Latinx and Hispanic participation in the genre was not as much a matter of “crossing over” into a cultural form that rightfully belonged to British or White U.S. musical repertoires, but rather a continuation of performance practices Latinx bands had helped originate.

Following after the glam rock of the early to mid 1970s, Latinas and Hispanas of L.A.’s first wave of punk helped launch an aggressive diatribe against the flower power jam bands and disco pop hits that, for some, represented the rampant commercialization of rock’s erstwhile anti-establishment origins. Consolidating near the end of the decade, Los Angeles groups such as the Germs, the Bags, the Weirdos, the Zeros, and the early line-up of the Go-Go’s were among notable early contributors to a punk community in Los Angeles. The Germs, considered to be one of the most influential of the early West Coast punk bands as well as the most outrageous, was fronted by singer Darby Crash, and had been styled at times by Roessler. Even more than their music, the Germs’ reputation as a chaos act preceded them, and their shows typically included broken bottles, collapses, shouted poetry, drunken vomiting, and riotous fights.24 For Alice Bag, aggression was signaled through her howled vocals, snarling persona, and untethered rage that refused any type of conformity—not even to punk’s own allegiances. The Bags’ song “We Don’t Need the English” (Yes L.A., 1979) famously rejected the notion of English ownership of the punk movement, creating a Chicana locus of punk performativity through song lyrics that replaced fealty to the London’s first wave with unapologetic self-affirmation on the West Coast.

Sartorially speaking, with its rage-fueled, anti-art soundscapes and scornful lyrics, punk’s aesthetic heralded a shift in gender roles and an embrace of gender ambiguity that early ’70s glam rock (known as glitter rock in L.A.) had not achieved. For some, the gender flexibility associated with the first wave of punk was a response to the sexual abuse of young women, which had been virtually codified in proto-punk glitter clubs such as Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco (1972–1975) on L.A.’s Sunset Strip. It was in this context that the 12-year-old Lori Lightning lost her virginity to David Bowie: “I was twelve and a half when I started going to Rodney’s. The first time, David Bowie said, ‘Lorie, come with us.’ I was terrified. I was still a virgin.”25 Moreover, statutory rape was immortalized in Iggy Pop’s 1996 song “Look Away.” The song’s first verse refers to having slept with Sable Starr (née Sabel Hay Shields) when she was thirteen, with a chorus creepily telling the listener/observer to “look away.”26

One survivor of the 1970s rock and roll culture recently came forth in the context of the #MeToo movement to divulge her long-silenced anguish born of the normalized culture of predation. The Runaways’ bassist Jackie Fox (née Jacqueline Louise Fuchs) recounted how she was raped in public at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975 by the band’s trusted mentor and producer Kim Fowley. Roessler and Arguelles-Barrett had been present that night in an unfolding of events that left permanent scars on the group of friends.

As producer, Fowley had dictated the performance personas of the band’s members, helping to entrench rock music’s patriarchal enthusiasm for statutory rape. Lead singer Cherie Currie was 16 when she howled, “Have you, and grab ya til you’re sore” in live shows to a predominantly male audience in the Runaways’ signature hit “Cherry Bomb.” Released in 1976, it had been Fowley’s idea to hire a choreographer to teach the 16-year-old Currie how to whip the microphone cord around her leg while dressed in a white corset and fishnets.27 The Runaways were emblematic of a music industry in which women’s careers in rock were largely restricted to hyper-sexualized singers in revealing apparel and performances engineered to stoke male desire.28 Meanwhile, their male counterparts filled stadiums with the “cock rock” of the era, emphasizing sexual aggression and domination. With the guitar handled unambiguously as a screeching phallus, the early 1970s had solidified the album-oriented “arena rock” recipe with bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones consolidating rock and roll masculinity as a highly aggressive genre narrowly based on strutting, shirtless men and guitar virtuosity.29

Following the Fowley-produced Runaways that had been created to capitalize on male sexual fantasies about underaged girls, the early women of punk embodied a synesthetic approach to performance that empowered women to be more than products for male consumption. By communicating the sonic aggression of punk through the vehicle of style, women announced a counter-cultural self-ownership that had not been available to the earlier icons of glitter and glam.

In the literatures historicizing Latinx popular music in the United States, little is said of the women who came to rock shows and the significance of their style. Visual articulations of sonic identity have long been an undervalued space of musical imagination for women, and dedicated female fans in particular have been referred to dismissively as “groupies,” or women who offered indiscriminate sexual access to the bands and their personnel. With “Beatlemania,” for example, the devotion of the Beatles’ female followers was viewed as a craze or thrall: a perverse obsession that was overly intense and slavish, in which previously “ladylike” young women abandoned all decorum and self-control in public paroxysms of sexual desire.30

Reyes and Waldman’s Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock ‘n’ Roll from Southern California stands out in my findings: a few keystrokes are dedicated to the style of Irma Rangel and her friends, who took inspiration from the mid-sixties celebrity singer Cher and supermodel Twiggy, donning dresses, pants with wide bell bottoms, and theatrical eye makeup. “Just as the bands put in a lot of time and effort into their appearance, so did the teenage girls who came to see them,” Reyes and Waldman note. They describe Rangel and her friends as “architects of the scene” who went to dances every weekend in the mid-sixties to see Thee Midnighters, the Impalas, the Apollos, and other Eastside bands.31 Keta Miranda furthers this point in her contention of the centrality of teen fans in the Eastside scene, whose photographed gestures, styles, and recorded cheers and screams were “fundamentally constitutive of the sound and scene of the early 1960s Mexican American youth culture.”32 More than fans, these young women were essential co-creators of the relational zone of rock performance.

In Rolling Stone Magazine, photographer Baron Wolman acknowledged the centrality of women in shaping the rock and roll music scene through style. In 1969, Rolling Stone released an issue that was dedicated to the “super groupie” of rock that explored the sexual adventures, unrivalled access to rock stars, and inner lives of women who were close to the bands, opening the popular media floodgates on the groupie phenomenon. Featuring Wolman’s studio photography of young women in topless poses or elaborate furs and feathers with bold eye makeup and dramatic lashes, the portraits emphasized sexual confidence. Wolman held that, rather than just bedding men, the early groupies constituted their own creative force, noting that musicians such as the Rolling Stones started to borrow style cues, and even clothing, from their offstage companions: “I just loved these women for the same reason that I liked any kind of performing artist, for their unexpected and endlessly delightful visual creativity.”33 At the apex of the late 1960s groupie phenomenon, Frank Zappa organized and produced the young women who dominated the backstage scene in Los Angeles into an acapella and spoken-word project called the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). The GTOs released the 1969 album Permanent Damage featuring school-girl-style vocals on songs and catty conversations, identifying themselves as “mini mamas.”34

For Latinas and Hispanas, the broader sono-spatial context of the late 1960s and 1970s saw musicians and artists celebrate and inspire nationalistic sentiments through the creation of Latinized rock, soul, and funk in the urban West Coast, Tejano fusion in the Southwest, and the rise of salsa music in the East, but in popular music, as in other areas of music production, few women were granted creative and intellectual enfranchisement in these vibrant scenes. Also, the massification of the Charo-esque Latina spitfire stereotype in music marketing coincided with the hidden, social body of Latina citizens and denizens of the U.S., who were then, as now, overwhelmingly sequestered in the areas of domestic service, the garment industry, agriculture, and food service. Reflecting on this duality, Laura Pérez argues, “The use or representation of dress and body ornamentation in visual, installation, or performative art practices is…both symbolic and productive.”35 At the symbolic level, the ornamentation of the body “speaks,” whether contributing to normative or subversive forms of embodying femaleness. Razor blade earrings, for example, tell a profoundly different story than a power suit. At the productive level, gender identity is forged along the axes of ornamentation and attitude: a continuum of femininities, masculinities, and androgynies are produced by how one lives and behaves in their social skin of attitude and attire.

If the GTOs had epitomized the popular culture’s fascination with what Jimmy Hendrix called the “electric ladies” of the rock and roll era, the Plunger Pit and its residents the Plunger Sisters constitute a departure from the legacy of the so-called “super groupie.” Although they were more than muses, the GTOs were still a cohort of women whose renown stemmed from their appearances on the arms of the most famous male icons of rock, and their intimate access to the music and lives of male industry legends. Conceived and produced by Frank Zappa, the GTOs, like the Runaways, had been defined and shaped by men.

In contrast, the punk movement provided freedom from male-defined gender norms, where women could be as self-invented as the men both on and off stage. In her early teen years, Bag was viscerally drawn to young women who injected elements of theater into their personal style at live music shows, as these provided her with a shared visual code for the new ideas that she would later also interpret sonically:

I heard of a local glam band called Batch…so I went to see them play a show at Montebello High School. As I walked down the aisle of the auditorium, I spotted an empty seat next to an attractive, red-haired girl and sat down next to her…she jokingly referred to herself as a groupie (at least I thought she was joking) and asked me if I was one. I told her I was a groupie-in-training, and we both laughed.36

Although she doesn’t specifically discuss Marlene’s style, a photo shows them in a photo booth together wearing a theatrical amount of make-up, with Marlene sporting oversized white, Elton John style sunglasses. However, Bag goes on to say about Marlene’s aspiration to groupie status: “I didn’t want to play a supporting role in someone else’s life. I wanted to be the star of my own life.”37 Later in the course of their friendship, Bag recruited Marlene to join her and Patricia Morrison to be in an all-girl band they named Femme Fatale, but Marlene’s first appeal had grown from the instant solidarity born of sono-spatial performativity.38

Although the GTOs and their cohort were determined to capture the attentions of the “alpha” rockers, their bravado had been couched in a girlish sweetness that affirmed that the male gaze was still in control. However, a new inspiration—and aspiration—was soon offered. Bag points to the transformative power of Patti Smith’s gender nonconformity as a turning point in 1976: “She came onstage, a skinny, makeup-less wisp of a girl, and before my astonished eyes and ears she transformed herself into a superhuman androgynous, sensuous, venomous, writhing shaman, spewing words like poison darts that pierced and destroyed my stereotypes.”39

The need to reject male-defined femininity was also remarked by Muhlfriedel. The Fowley-controlled Runaways were both exhilarating and exasperating to the early women of punk. In an interview conducted by Bag, Muhlfriedel remarked:

While I loved what the Runaways grew into, I hated them the first time I saw them, because clearly, they were young women acting how men wanted them to act. They were a Cherry Bomb fantasy and it sort of pissed me off. Actually—that was my impetus for starting Backstage Pass. No one would tell me what to do.40

Figure 2.

Alice Bag. Photo credit: Jenny Lens.

Figure 2.

Alice Bag. Photo credit: Jenny Lens.

Muhlfriedel was aware that, as women who hung out with male band members, Backstage Pass was considered by some to be a “groupie band.” “There was a bit of guys coming over from England and couldn’t wait to meet Backstage Pass because we were like the groupie girls, [but we] held all the cards if we want to pull any or not, seriously.”41

Muhlfriedel offered a particularly keen vantage point from which to compare punk and conventional rock and roll attitudes toward gender. Using her given name of Joanne Russo, she wrote for Teen magazine and conducted interviews with stadium band members who, she recalled, were “much more obnoxious, there was much more objectification of women, and more women who are playing into the stereotypes of the backstage, competing with each other and all wearing the same sort of outfit.”42 As a journalist for Teen, the cultural spaces she accessed gave her a literal backstage pass to the rock and roll world where she saw women conform to spaces on the periphery and compete with each other for men’s attention. Women in punk, on the other hand, were in leading roles, both on and off stage. The punk persona acted as a social skin that empowered women to defend themselves from unwanted advances, and be unapologetic about rebuffing unwelcome behaviors.

Figure 3.

Alice Bag. Photo credit: Louis Jacinto.

Figure 3.

Alice Bag. Photo credit: Louis Jacinto.

Figure 4.

Marina Del Rey. Photo credit: Donna Santisi.

Figure 4.

Marina Del Rey. Photo credit: Donna Santisi.

Roessler, for her part, had much darker cause to reject the Runaways’ male-defined ethos. She had been present the night that Fowley had tragically raped Jackie Fuchs while Fuchs had been heavily under the influence. After that night, Roessler was determined to become the anti-Jackie, and began to cut her arms and wrists and scar herself with cigarette burns. Friends called her “Hellin Killer”: “‘I preferred dangerous,’ she says. ‘It was safer to me. I will do shit that you don’t even want to know.…If I’m going to fuck myself up this bad, what can you do?’”43 For Roessler, the trauma born not only of male predation but its outright glorification in L.A.’s glitter scene was part of what propelled her to adopt a dangerous persona as a total rejection of glam-era female objectification and passivity.

Roessler and her fellow Plunger Sisters are never discussed as followers or fans, but rather the other way around: the bands, producers, and fans followed the Sisters. With their Plunger Pit home touted as an important headquarters for L.A. punk, Courtney Iseman’s article for Icon Magazine describes them as the facilitators of punk rock networking. “In a time before the Internet, people turned to them to find out what bands to see and what shows were going on. They were the curators of the scene, turning people on to the most exciting acts.”44 Without the benefit of a house telephone, participants in the punk scene needed personally to go to the Pit to learn about what was happening in town. Members of Blondie got their hair cut by Hellin Killer (Roessler), and Stiv Bators of The Deadboys visited with Trudie Plunger (Arguelles-Barret), while punk bands from California like Germs, the Bags, the Zeros, the Go-Go’s, X, and the Dickies would mix with national and international producers within a framework of the Plunger Sisters’ curation of punk atmospheres and energies. The scenario deftly reverses the groupie paradigm of young women leaving home to follow the rock stars, as punk bands from near and far orbited around the Sisters’ gravitational force.

The Plunger Sisters’ sono-spatial influence quickly took on a national scope. Arguelles-Barrett describes the early reach of their innovations:

We were photographed often and the photos were published in magazines and newspapers. We were artistic souls and our canvasses were our bodies. Once in San Francisco, staying at some friends’ of my boyfriend KK, a women who had moved there from Oklahoma, said to me, “I think you definitely are the girl whose photo I used in my dissertation about punk in women’s fashion” (this was in about 1978 or 79).…She had seen my photo in a mag and was one of the earliest to write something about punk women’s fashion.45

Frequently depicted in photographs of the era wearing ripped fishnet stockings, garter belts, open-toe heels, and black, gothic eye makeup, Arguelles-Barrett’s stance and attitude belie the dark, rag-doll-meets-teen-dream look by conveying a sense of confidence and self-possession.

With regard to the femininity of punk symbolism, Arguelles-Barrett tells Bag in an interview from 2015, “This butch side did come out with punk that probably couldn’t appear before that as strongly, because of the whole attitude of assertion that was punk.…Punk was like a riot after the flower-power hangover. We were finally freed of tie-dye and macramé and just wanted to splatter and crazy color and invent ourselves.”46

According to Muhlfriedel, when women of punk dressed in more sexually assertive outfits, such as garters or fishnet stockings, they “had a sense of irony about it” and donned these looks to emphasize the absurdity of clichéd femininity—a gesture of reappropriation and resignification. “You’d go to some cheap store and buy like a really cheap pointy bra…you were doing it because it was an absolutely ridiculous fashion statement. I remember wearing a pointy bra over a pajama top once.”47 In the Bags’ performance at the Troubadour in 1978, Bag wore garters and briefs from waist down and a belted Sexual Outlaw tee shirt, while bassist Patricia Morrison, equally pants-less, wore a billowing menswear shirt on top as they shouted lyrics and pounded bass notes. These ironic juxtapositions are clear examples of the tongue-in-cheek reappropriation of the patriarchal and consumer-driven regulation of women’s bodies that were re-styled to subvert their original meaning, engaging the “style politics” Ramírez defines as the “expression of difference via style.”48 The GTOs had opened new terrain as sexually confident pioneers of rock and roll fashion, but the Latinas and Hispanas of punk’s first wave gave the movement a sartorial profile that was qualifiable as feminist.

Figure 5.

Trudie Plunger. Photo credit: Ruby Ray.

Figure 5.

Trudie Plunger. Photo credit: Ruby Ray.

Figure 6.

Hellin Killer. Photo credit: Ruby Ray.

Figure 6.

Hellin Killer. Photo credit: Ruby Ray.

So far, I have argued that the denunciation of patriarchal discourse in the L.A. scene was achieved via sono-spatial expressions of punk style championed by Bag, Muhlfriedel, Arguelles-Barrett, Roessler, and other women of L.A.’s first wave. In this section, I discuss how these women expanded the territories of Latina and Hispana performance through gestures that announced symbolic and productive engagement with non-Anglo identity.

Latinx and Hispanic participation in first-wave punk was the subject of a conversation that originally appeared in Razorcake in 2014 titled “We Were There: Voices from L.A. Punk’s First Wave: An Oral History hosted by Alice Bag.” In the discussion, Bag asks fellow pioneers to comment on the diversity of their scene. The conversation is preceded by a list of names along with their major projects and self-designated ethnic identities that included Kid Congo Powers (Mexican American; Gun Club/The Cramps), Tito Larriva (Mexican; The Plugz), Trudie Arguelles-Barret (Hispanic; The Plungers), Margot Olavarria (Latin@; The Go-Go’s), Hellin Killer (Argentinian; The Plungers), and Robert Lopez (Mexican American; The Zeros), along with several other Latinx/Hispanic/Chicanx participants from the early scene. The group members were unanimous in recalling the unqualified acceptance of ethnic and gender diversity, and they took issue with characterizations of the subculture as being inhospitable to people of Mexican, Spanish, and Latin American backgrounds. In this conversation, Bag remarks: “I think one of the things that threw people off was that so many of us had punk names that didn’t overtly display our ethnicity so we were forcing people to view us primarily as punks. I was Alice Bag. Margo was Margo Go-Go.” Sean Carrillo agreed with Bag, noting, “This was not ‘Chicano’ music. It was ‘punk.’ That meant ‘we’ were punk and nothing and no one could ever make us feel as if we were not an integral and important part of this burgeoning movement…”49

As Bag pointed out, new punk names were adopted by participants in the subculture, regardless of whether or not they played in a band, as was the case with the Plunger Sisters. Along with punk fashions, the re-naming announced anti-art personas that were more rude and crude than the feathered and floral girlishness of the GTOs and the earth mama, faded denim uniforms of the previous decade. However, in the process of shedding the old and becoming wholly recreated, ethnic affiliation was often leveled, and although there was consensus in Bag’s group about the inclusivity of Latinx and Hispanic punks, they also acknowledged that new sentiments had begun to emerge by the end of the ’70s, as remarked by Roessler: “In the ’80s, things got weird. More new kids were influenced by the news propaganda saying punk was violent and they started trying to act like the skinheads in England who were driven by their own racial tensions.”50

Swastikas on arm bands were incorporated into many costumes at the Canterbury apartment complex that housed many members of Hollywood’s punk community in 1977, as Bag recounts in Violence Girl. Some wearers would claim that the symbol was merely for shock value, whereas others, dismissing the Nazi connection, insisted that they were wearing an ancient symbol that predated the rise of Hitler. “Their excuses were weak,” Bag writes, “as the stark, black, bold-type swastikas that were being worn were clearly Nazi ones and not the more organic-looking, multicolored versions of the same bent cross found in religions of old.”51 Wholly objecting to the emergence of Nazi symbolism in and around punk of the late ’70s, it becomes clear that Bag, Muhlfriedel, Roessler, and her Plunger cohort were already at the nucleus of the Hollywood movement and preceded the swastika fad and its adherents. This racist fad had been a new arrival to a sono-spatial space already defined by Latina and Hispana women, who proved they were more than capable of defending their territory and leveling a counter-attack that took place at the level of style. Some of their cohort made shirts with “Die, Nazi Scum!” and similar messages on the front. “At the Canterbury,” Bag recalled, “most of the swastika-wearers were not well received, prompting many to give in to peer pressure and stop wearing them.”52 As one of the founding residents that helped turn the Canterbury into an epicenter of the first-wave community, Bag acknowledges that “peer pressure” was something that she exerted on followers of this unwelcome fad; as her narrative suggests, they both listened to her and valued her approval, abandoning swastikas in order to remain in good graces with Bag and her company.

Not only did Bag and her allied forces manage to secure victory over the swastika invasion at the Canterbury, but they also made it clear that Bag was no mere recipient of punk: she was one of its key gatekeepers. With this power dynamic in mind, it’s easy to understand how she and her Latina and Hispanic cohort of the mid-’70s would hear any allegation of early punk’s “racial hostility” as more than inaccurate, but approaching offensive in its omission of the influence she and her friends exerted.

The downside of this vigilance is that Bag and fellow defenders of the early scene could be seen as snobbish. When penning Violence Girl, Bag seems to have anticipated some side-eye about the perceived exclusivity of the early set. “I didn’t see the scene as cliquey, but we did recognize that we had something special, and we wanted to protect it.”53 Her frequent physical and verbal confrontations with others were largely tied to newcomers’ attempts to bully or threaten the women and men who had enjoyed a safe space of gender fluidity, intersectional and queer inclusivity, and mutual respect for counter-cultural self-invention.

Then again, in the 2014 “We Were There” conversation, Bag and her interlocutors were not working with, or suggesting, a concrete definition of racial hostility or a historical context in which perceptions of cultural prejudice acquired coherence. If their main criteria for punk’s racial diversity and Latina and Hispana equality was established along an axis of inclusivity, then it’s clear that Latinx and Spanish participants were represented in much greater numbers in the L.A. scene than in its corresponding New York or London counterparts.54 But inclusion, as we can gather from punk rock’s re-christenings that swapped Hispanic names for punk ones, did not necessarily equate to visibility. “Invisibility syndrome,” according to Franklin, Boyd-Franklin, and Kelly, is a psychological outcome of conditions produced when talents or identities are “not seen” owing to the pervasiveness of White privilege and beliefs about the racial inferiority of non-Whites.55 How Latinxs and Hispanics of punk were included, with their heritage was either unremarked or noted paternalistically, has colored how the first wave’s participants are remembered.

In the case of the Zeros, physical features that Angelino onlookers might ascribe to mestizaje led to the band being called “the Mexican Ramones” by journalists and fans, a designation the band members found irritating. The “Mexican Ramones” appellation has the undesirable effect of erasing the Zeros’ originality and turning them into a novelty act.56 For example, a hypothetical “Mexican Willie Nelson” or “Mexican Michael Jackson” would remove attribution from the identity chosen by the artist, while reinforcing the exoticism and matter-out-of-placeness of Latinx and Hispanic participation in the musical practice in question.57 But was this pall of the paternalistic “remarkableness” of Latinx and Hispanic punk tantamount to racist aggression? Clearly, the band members desired a creative space in which race was unremarkable, and the unwanted modifier detracted from the symbolism and nomenclature that made them punk. This double-bind of paternalistic signposting of Latinidad, and the leveling of Latinx, Chicanx, and Hispanic identities in the act of name replacement, pose a challenge to any decolonial inventory of punk rock’s non-Anglo inventors.

In Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization, Black Flag’s early Latino singer Ron Reyes (also known by the punk name Chavo Pederast) is the only member of the punk scene to whom Penelope Spheeris directs the question, “Where are you from?” In response, Reyes tells the camera that he is from Puerto Rico, then immediately sings in a self-deprecating manner, “But I want to live in America,” a phrase taken from the musical West Side Story. In a 2000 interview with José Palafox, Martin Sorrondeguy, the front man for Chicago’s seminal punk band Los Crudos and queer edge band Limp Wrist, explains how this was problematic:

What many people don’t realize is that punk has been portrayed as a white thing.…When Chavo, from Black Flag, in The Decline, also brings up that he’s Puerto Rican, he immediately says, “But I want to live in America.” What kind of message does that send? It makes me fucking cringe.…This says so much about racism in society and about liberal notions of a “color blind punk underground” where race/racism does not exist.58

In 1998, Sorrondeguy’s DIY documentary Beyond the Screams/Más allá de los gritos gets at the problem of invisibility of Latinx culture in first-wave punk. Although he speaks from the vantage point of Chicago in 1998, twenty years after its first waves in Los Angeles and New York, his remarks nonetheless offer a lament about the uneven ways that punk has been remembered: “I never heard about an East L.A. renaissance…until recently.…People don’t really know enough about what happened before. There was never really…anything that’s really marked…nothing that was ever really well documented.”59 Indeed, it would not be until 2008, ten years after Sorrondeguy’s documentary, that the Claremont Museum of Art would produce the breakthrough exhibit “Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk” (May 18–August 31, 2008). Pioneers of Eastside punk used Club Vex (located on the second floor of the original Self-Help Graphics & Art building) as a seminal venue for the incubation of borderlands counterculture, featuring homegrown punk bands like Los Illegals, Covarrubias’ band the Brat, and the Plugz. The need for something “marked” alludes to the suppression not of Latinx and Hispanic participation in early punk coming out of L.A., but of available archives that signaled their inclusion.60

Considering these obstructions to ways that culture was recognized and included, it’s important to remember that the Latinas and Hispanas of the Hollywood scene challenged the invisibility syndrome in significant ways. For Bag, she was unquestionably one of the Hollywood scene’s founders and has been archived as such, so her punk performance was not a question of “were Chicanas allowed,” since a Chicana was clearly at the center, rather than the periphery, of the co-creative process of punk. No element of subordination was associated with her punk persona on or off stage. Although she may not have centered political messages in her performances in the early days of the Hollywood scene, the ornamentation and Die-Nazi-Scum-We-Don’t-Need-the-English attitude executed by a Brown woman had the result of extending East L.A. Mexican American experience into a new kind of cultural citizenship and self-making that began in the realm of style, and extended into a politics of sono-spatial, feminist affirmation. Bag’s commitment to cultural visibility is more overtly sounded in the names of her numerous subsequent bands, such as Cholita!, Las Tres, and Goddess 13. Moreover, her own writings, extensive interviews with women of punk she has archived on her website, and hosted conversations such as the ones cited throughout this study reflect her ongoing engagement with the need to realign musical history and cultural memory of this subculture in which Latinas, Chicanas, and Hispanas conceived, rather than received, radical reinvention within the punk scene.

As with Bag, Arguelles-Barret acknowledges the significance of borderland culture as a shaper of her sono-spatial performance, noting that there were Catholic connections that the Latinx and Hispanic post-punk death rock scenes shared: “Perhaps leftover from the Inquisition’s horrors, when so many Jews fled to central America from Spain and are still a main part of the supposedly ‘Catholic’ population. The horrors buried inside, even in the DNA, have to come out somehow.”61 This view is shared by other researchers, who point to shared Hispanic and Latinx religiosity in early L.A. death rock. In Mikey Bean’s Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the LA Punk Scene, the Día de los Muertos parade, produced in the mid-1970s by the Self Help Graphics & Art center in Boyle Heights, constituted a key influence on Arguelles-Barret’s aesthetic: “Día de los Muertos was actually becoming kind of popular here.…They had the parades around the Evergreen Cemetery but they were just sort of starting it up. I’d go down to East LA and check out that place, and I’d dress up in all that stuff too.”62

For Muhlfriedel, she chose the name “Marina Del Rey” when Backstage Pass was on its way to its first interview with Slash magazine. At the time she had been employed as a writer for Teen magazine and published under her given name of Joanne Russo. Band members were picking names on the Marina Del Rey freeway, and, stated Muhlfriedel, “I connected with the name and I just went, ‘Marina Del Rey, that’s who I am’.…Most of my aunts and uncles were thrilled because it was like ‘Oh my God, Marina, she finally has a real name’.…Joanne was such a complete white girl name. But Marina was like a name that Hispanic people have and Greek people have.” The selection of a non-Anglo name rooted in the Spanish toponomy of the L.A. Basin resonated with her family, a number of whom, at the time of our conversation, were in the process of obtaining citizenship in Spain and Portugal. An invitation to repatriate had been extended by the Spanish crown in a gesture of acknowledgment of the injustices born of historical religious intolerance, a legacy that preceded many waves of Spanish outmigration resulting in diverse Spanish American identities both north and south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

By providing the above details about the cultural influences that Latinas and Hispanas of the first wave carried into the punk scene, it becomes possible to repair the notion that Latina and Hispana innovators were absent from—or unwelcomed by—L.A.’s first wave of punk. Rather than “crossing over” into the reproduction of Whiteness, these women performatively produced new Latina and Hispana sono-spatial territories with their bodies that indexed an intersection of punk, feminist, and borderlands identities.

Lurking in the seemingly innocuous “where are you from” question Spheeris posed to Reyes is an underlying attitude that suggests something deeper. It challenges the non-White person to account for their matter-out-of-placeness, and to answer the real question on the table, which is, “Where do you belong?”

As a young pre-teen, my short haircut felt daring. It distanced me from the type of femininity that seemed to excite the boys and men I knew, and this was certainly part of its appeal. But, in the back of my mind, I was also nervous about the question of where I belonged. If Chicanas and Latinas were a large demographic presence in the Los Angeles of my youth in the ’80s, they were seldom represented in positions of power and public creativity, and Spanish-speaking women were disproportionately sequestered in sweatshops and sub-minimum wage jobs providing domestic labor so that others could enjoy leisure and creative activities. Viewed as one of L.A. punk’s most significant archives, The Decline is source material that both establishes the centrality of its Chicana icon Alice Bag, while also giving us plenty to cringe about.

Upon achieving a Go-Go’s haircut, I had to deal with the fact that my facial structure and hair texture were not going to let me look anything like Gina Schock. But now I know my ’do had been more in the vein of the Go-Go’s than I could have imagined. Margot Olavarria, one of their founders who helped “punkify” Schock’s look, had also been a young Latina out of L.A. who explored radical self-invention, yet she remained largely hidden from view. Punk style was yet another kind of labor rendered invisible by mainstream media’s inability to see, hear, and document Latina and Hispana performance practices. By interpreting the creative agency of Alice Bag, Marina “Del Rey” Muhlfriedel, Trudie “Plunger” Arguelles-Barret, and Hellen “Hellin Killer” Roessler as Latina and Hispanic sono-spatial artists in the early days of L.A.’s punk subculture, a more wholistic concept of musical performativity becomes available: one that historicizes not only aural products, but an entire relational theater of embodied experience in which the women of first-wave punk redefined how alternative music was generated, circulated, and consumed.


Trudie Arguelles-Barrett, Email interview with author, July 21, 2016.


Rob Tannenbaum, “The Go-Go’s Recall the Debauched Days of Their Hit ‘We Got the Beat’ 35 Years Later: ‘We Were a Five-Headed Monster’,” Billboard, May 20, 2016, accessed November 2020,


Alison Ellwood, The Go-Go’s (Belfast, UK: Fine Point Films Ltd., and New York: Polygram Entertainment, 2020).


Joshua Javier Guzmán, “Makeovers and misfits: A review of Alice Bag’s Violence Girl,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 22, nos. 2/3 (2012): 363–66.


Michelle Habell-Pallán, “‘¿Soy Punkera, Y Qué?’: Sexuality, Translocality, and Punk in Los Angeles and Beyond,” in Beyond the Frame: Women of Color and Visual Representation, eds. Nefertiti X.M. Tadiar and Angela Y. Davis (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 223.


The Hollywood and East L.A. punk scenes are described by Alice Bag as having distinct, but frequently overlapping, trajectories: “The Hollywood punk scene predated the East LA punk scene; they were not concurrent as stated on the Smithsonian website. They were separated by a period of roughly two years. The Brat was never an all-female group. The assertion that Westside venues would not allow Eastside punks to play in the early days is also inaccurate. There were many Mexican Americans from the Eastside and other places and cities who were integral members of the Hollywood punk scene (myself included). We played at a variety of venues on the Westside.” Alice Bag, “We Were There: Voices from L.A. Punk’s First Wave,” Razorcake, December 27, 2016, accessed November 2020,


Michelle Habell-Pallán, “‘Death to Racism and Punk Rock Revisionism’:” Alice Bag’s Vexing Voice and the Ineffable Influence of Canción Ranchera on Hollywood Punk,” in Pop: When the World Falls, Music in the Shadow of a Doubt, ed. Eric Weisbard (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012), 254–56.


Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, Latinas in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 144, 478.


Priscilla Peña Ovalle, Dance and the Hollywood Latina (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 2.


Keith Negus, Producing Pop: Culture and Conflict in the Popular Music Industry (London: Edward Arnold, 1992), 126–28.


Alice Bag, Violence Girl (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2011) and Pipe Bomb for the Soul (Los Angeles: Alice Bag Publishing, 2015).


Ovalle, Dance and the Hollywood Latina.


Ruby Ray, Ruby Ray: Kalifornia Kool Photographs 1976–1982 (Stockholm: Trapart Books, 2019).


The surname “Bag” is used for Alice Bag, which is the name the artist uses in her publications and public-facing performances. “Muhlfriedel” is used for Marina Del Rey throughout. Trudie Plunger is referred to as Arguelles-Barrette, and Hellin Killer is referred to as Roessler.


The notion of “taste labor” is developed by Edward R. O’Neill, who writes, “Gay men and divas, fags and femmes fatales: we are bound together by a logic we yet dimly understand. But it is not the diva’s image that supports my being as a gay man; it is a real historical woman’s performance, her taste labor, to be specific.” Edward R. O’Neill, “The M-m-mama of Us All: Divas and the Cultural Logic of Late Ca(m)pitalism,” Camera Obscura 65, 22, no. 2 (2007): 11–37.


Sean W. Robbins, “Sound, Shape, Space: The Ontology of Space in Architecture” (Master of Architecture thesis, Ryerson University, 2013), 4.


Habell-Pallán, “Death to Racism,” 265.


In “Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story,” Sam Behrens notes that first-hand exposure to gang culture and the dominance that cholas held offered a model of Latina womanhood that fell outside the domesticity of Latina motherhood. Behrens notes that the connection to chola identity is mentioned only briefly in the book, but makes the historical link between cholas and pachucas in LA culture and their performative challenge to White conceptions of beauty and conventional femininity. Northampton Review of Latina Books, May 7, 2015,


Catherine Ramírez, “Crimes of Fashion: The Pachuca and Chicana Style Politics,” Meridians 2, no. 2 (2002): 1–35.


Habell-Pallán makes the connection between the historical specificity of pachuca style and early East L.A. punk in her essay on Theresa Covarrubias and the politics of style. Covarrubias, the lead singer of the foundational new wave/punk band The Brat, conjured stage drama with the use of heavy eyeliner in what Habell-Pallán calls a “feminized Pachuca image.” “The Style Council: Asco, Music, and ‘Punk Chola’ Aesthetics, 1980–1984’,” in Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987 (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011), 341.


C. Ondine Chavoya and Rita Gonzalez, Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987 (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011), 53.


Paloma Martínez-Cruz, “Mapping the Burrito Circuit: On How the Dirty Reggae of the Aggrolites Remains an Eastside Persuasion,” Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies 43, no. 2 (Fall 2018): 77–101.


Michelle Habel-Pallán, Loca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2005).


Kitty Empire, “The Death and Afterlife of an LA Punk,” The Guardian, August 23, 2008, accessed November 2020,


Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001), 14.


Iggy Pop, Naughty Little Doggie, Track Record, Inc., 1996.


Jason Cherkis, “The Lost Girls,” The Huffington Post Highline, May 13, 2020, accessed November 2020,


Negus, Producing Pop, 128.


Christine Feldman-Barrett, “From Beatles Fans to Beat Groups: A historiography of the 1960s all-girl rock band,” Feminist Media Studies 14, no. 6 (2014): 1041–55.


Mark Duffett, Popular Music Fandom: Identities, Roles and Practices (New York: Routledge, 2014), 2.


David Reyes and Tom Waldman, Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock ‘’n’ Roll from Southern California (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), xviii.


Keta Miranda, “‘The East Side Revue, 40 Hits by East Los Angeles Most Popular Groups!’ The Boys in the Band and the Girls Who Were Their Fans,” in Beyond the Frame: Women of Color and Visual Representation, eds. Nefertiti X.M. Tadiar and Angela Y. Davis (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 15. The female fan phenomenon and the Eastside sound is also examined in my essay, “Mapping the Burrito Circuit.”


Carrie Kania, Groupies and Other Electric Ladies: The Original 1969 Rolling Stone Magazine Photographs by Baron Wolman (New York: ACC Distribution, 2015), 10–11.


GTO’s, GTO’s Permanent Damage, Straight Records, 1969.


Laura Pérez, Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 50–51.


Bag, Violence Girl, 106.


Ibid., 107.


Myra Mendible, ed., From Bananas to Buttocks: The Latina Body in Popular Film and Culture (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007), 13.


Bag, Violence Girl, 116.


Alice Bag, interview with Marina del Rey for, April 17, 2016, accessed November 2020,


Marina Muhlfriedel, Zoom interview with author, November 14, 2020.




Cherkis, “The Lost Girls.”


Courtney Iseman, “Darby’s Girls: The Iconic Women in Punk Who Befriended and Followed Darby Crash,” in Ion Magazine, June, 22, 2015, accessed June 2016,


Email interview with author, July 21, 2016.


Alice Bag, interview with Trudy Arguelles-Barret for, October 27, 2015, accessed December 2020,


Marina Muhlfriedel, Zoom interview with author, November 14, 2020.


Ramírez, “Crimes of Fashion,” 3.


Bag, “We Were There.”




Bag, Violence Girl, 290.


Ibid., 290.


Ibid., 234.


David A. Ensminger includes the Zeros, the Brat, the Bags, the Gears, the Stains, Mad Society, the Detonators, Shattered Faith, Eddie and the Subtitles, Nervous Gender, Detox, China White, Circle One, Los Illegals, the Plugz, the Go-Go’s (original lineup), Los Lobos, and Black Randy and the Metro Squad among the Los Angeles area’s early bands with Latinx members.

David A. Ensminger, Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011), 216.


Anderson J. Franklin, Nancy Boyd-Franklin, and Shalonda Kelly, “Racism and Invisibility: Race-Related Stress, Emotional Abuse and Psychological Trauma for People of Color,” Journal of Emotional Abuse 6, nos. 2/3 (2006): 9–30.


In Alice Bag’s “We Were There” conversation (2016), Zeros’ member Javier Escovedo states: “It’s as if we heard the Ramones and then started a band. We were in a band before we heard the Ramones. We were influenced by all the glitter bands and solo artists I mentioned earlier.…When we were called The Mexican Ramones, I didn’t like it but I was happy we were getting written about at all and reviewed in the L.A. Times and other places so I took it in stride.” In the same conversation, Zeros’ member Hector Peñalosa offers, “I didn’t like it but I had to accept it since it stuck like a barnacle on the Zeros boat.”


A testament to Chicano punk humor and the burden of the “Mexican” descriptor, Robert Lopez of the Zeros went on to play in the punk band Catholic Discipline, followed by his best known performance persona El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. Marisol Berríos-Miranda, Shannon Dudley, and Michelle Habell-Pallán, American Sabor: Latinos and Latinas in U.S. Popular Music/American Sabor: Latinos en la Música Popular estadounidense (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018), 243–45.


José Palafox, “Interview with Martin S. from Los Crudos,” Maximum Rocknroll 203 (April, 2000), accessed August 2021,


Martin Sorrondeguy, Beyond the Screams/Más allá de los gritos (Chicago: Lengua Armada,1999).


Pilar Tompkins Rivas, Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk (Claremont, CA: Claremont Museum of Art, 2008).


Arguelles-Barret, email interview with author, July 21, 2016.


Mikey Bean, Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock From the LA Punk Scene (self-pub., Lulu, 2019), 401.