Thursday, September 20, 2007

Junkface: Kalamazoo, Columbus, Tizoli, NYC

After Randy’s phone cut out last time I talked to him, the thing was dead. And it stayed dead. I finally had to call Carlos from Deer or the Doe and get him to put Ryan from Junkface on the phone to catch up on a few days that we had missed.

Day 9: Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I, for one, am real glad I’m way over here on the West Coast. Sounds like some crazy shit has been going down for these guys out East. For instance, the boys ran into the Sasquatch in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Day 10: Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The dudes got a chance to see ex-Junior Private Detective vocalist/Tranquilazer bassist/my one true love Emilie Strange in Columbus, Ohio. It was the debut show of her new band called…Ohio.

Days 11 and 12: Thursday and Friday, September 13 and 14, 2007
A bona-fide haunting went down in Tizoli, New York.

Day 13: Saturday, September 15, 2007
Within minutes of arriving in New York, Deer or the Doe bassist Clint realized his dream of becoming a drag queen. Around this point I started to wonder if Ryan was pulling my leg. You decide!

Photo: Ryan holding a credit card in his mouth while playing keys. He commonly uses a credit card as a bass pick. By Sound on the Sound.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You Don't Know Me: MFNW 2007

So at the Music Fest Northwest after party, I started on Tequila. I mean, I had to match last year's madness and I wasn't anywhere close when I arrived. But after a couple of drinks they ran out of tequila. So I switched to vodka. Then they ran out of vodka. So I switched to beer. Then I lost my mind. I talked about garage rock with Tom Humphreys all night, didn't dance with any babes, went home and puked. The next morning I had the worst post-college hangover I have known and had to drive to Popeye's in my bathrobe to obtain nourishment. I kind of forgot about MFNW, which woulda been a bummer because I had a blast. Luckily, my adventures are recorded here on HARP Magazine's website.

Photo: Jackie-O Motherfucker, taken by Michael Byrne in his final hours as a Portlander.

We're the new Northeast...

Originally published in The Oregonian on September 13, 2007. By Jason Simms.

When Shawnna Ramirez, her husband and three sons first saw their house facing Lynchwood Park in outer Southeast, they had the same first impression most would: nice home in a nice middle-class family area.

They paid $284,000 for the house in the neighborhood of ranch-style homes northeast of Powell Butte and moved in April 1.

Then the trouble started. The house was egged the first week. Someone “didn’t like the fact that there was going to be someone living here,” Ramirez says.

Then she noticed daily drug deals in the street. Cars would pull up, exchange money and take off. “It’s hard enough to keep your kids drug-free and then to have all that going on out your front window,” she says. “I just had to do something.”

But residents aren’t sitting still — thanks to Ramirez — as crime migrates in. They’ve formed a neighborhood watch and foot patrol.

Gang activity and other problems have shifted east of 82nd Avenue as North and Northeast gentrify, says Teri Poppino, crime prevention coordinator for east Portland.

Or as Portland police Officer Shad Ron told 22 residents gathered for the first foot patrol in late August: “We’re the new Northeast.”

Ramirez got things rolling by visiting the 90 houses closest to the park. Because of the personal contact, she says, 45 residents came to a meeting. There, neighbors discovered they weren’t the only ones noticing problems.

Cassaundra Orndorff, 13, used to walk through Lynchwood Park to and from school. But she made an unsettling discovery on a field trip to draw the large park with its towering firs.

“We found a couple of needles, undergarments,” she says.

Residents including Patti Keller have seen someone they call the “curby bandit” rifling through recyclables. He’s not looking for cans: “It’s like he’s filing,” says Keller. Virginia Bonnerlinn got a locking mailbox after medication was stolen.

The neighbors are now submitting information for a neighborhood map, enabling them to include names and addresses when they report illegal activity to police.

About half volunteered for the foot patrol. Groups of three or four will make the rounds and report suspicious activity. Of Portland’s rougly 650 neighborhood watches, about 12 have foot patrols.

The patrols can be extremely effective, says Poppino. She oversaw one in the Argay Park neighborhood of outer Northeast that began in 2003. Patrols collected small plastic bags that had been used to hold drugs. Over four years, the number of bags dropped from dozens to zero.

The key is making criminals feel unwelcome, Poppino says. Argay residents “had a higher profile in the neighborhood, and the problem solved itself.”

And in Lynchwood, with an especially high rate of participation and a “well-organized and detail-oriented” leader, Poppino has no doubt the same can be done there.

This is the original blog post linking to the story before the OregonLive url expired.

That’s it, North Portland. I’m out of here. I’m going to East Portland. You heard right, I’m moving east of 82nd Avenue. Why? Because this place is too fancy nowadays! And all my gangsta and hooligan buddies have relocated to East Portland. I learned all about it when I wrote a story that came out last Thursday in the O. (Note: The curby bandit was taking papers from recycleables—presumably for identity theft. He’s no common can collector.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Junkface: Minneapolis, Marquette, Houghton, Madison, Chicago

This installment of the Junkface audio tour diary takes us through what those vested and tied lads were up to during Music Fest weekend.

There seems to be a theme developing here. Junkface and Deer or the Doe tend to get close to big crowds but not actually play in front of them. A hundred emo kids missed out in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Day 5: Friday, September 7, 2007

Day 6: Saturday, September 8, 2007
Randy and Ryan used to live in the upper peninsula of Michigan, so when Randy says he got coffee in Marquette, Michigan and it felt like home, I’m not sure if he means Portland or Michigan…

Day 7: Sunday, September 9, 2007
Here’s a photo of the “power horn” Randy says got the crowd into it in Houghton, Michigan. The blog he's talking about catching up on is this one on localcut.

Day 8: Monday, September 10, 2007
This clip from Madison, Wisconsin is waaaaay over a minute, but it delivers a hilariously awkward “groupie” story.

Now, all that’s pretty funny, but even after three minutes, Randy hadn’t addressed something I knew had to be on his mind. While he was kicking it in that dorm room, Swim Swam Swum—a trio in which he plays drums and Clint Cunningham of Deer or the Doe plays bass—was opening for Wolf Parade at the Crystal with a couple of fill-ins borrowed from Tranquilazer.

Day 9: Tuesday, September 11, 2007
And we finish this installment off with another story of Junkface playing in the vicinity of a big crowd, but not actually to them in Chicago, Illinois. Randy’s phone cut out right where this clip ends, so I hope I’ll still be able talk to him tomorrow!

Photos: Randy by Sound on the Sound and megaphone by Jason Quigley.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Viva La Femme

Bebe J

Originally published in The Oregonian on September 6, 2007. Photos and text by Jason Simms.

BeBe J was the perfect image of grace last Sunday night in the Portland Room of the Oregon Convention Center.

As she stepped onto the wide stage fit for a Prince concert, a thick, soft layer of her purple dress peeled away, remaining in a mound around her ankles like an exotic plant and revealing a skin-tight glittery gown.

She waved from the catwalk, and from table 70 – the farthest from the action – she seemed like a monarch. Distance is your friend in any impersonation contest. Female impersonators are no different.

This was the 26th annual La Femme Magnifique International, hosted by Portland’s own Darcelle XV (namesake of the longest running drag show in the country), and widely regarded as the biggest beauty pageant in drag show business.

But all was not as refined as BeBe’s entrance in the formalwear competition.

“She looks awful!” audience member Clayton Walker heckled loudly at Cicely, the winner of the 1985 pageant. Previous winners performed throughout the night, donating the hundreds of dollars they made in tips to charities such as Camp Starlight, a summer camp for children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Doug Foufos, another face in the crowd, came to the performers’ defense, explaining that a sense of tradition and honor is often more important than sex appeal. “If it weren’t for that old troll, none of us would be here,” he said of no former winner in particular.

Despite the camaraderie, competition was fierce. In addition to two Portland contestants, five others came from Denver to Honolulu after winning regional competitions. They paid their own way to be here, not to mention the $400 earrings and $250 dresses they rotate for four phases of competition.

After the first phase, Bebe seemed to be one of the front runners. But there was some tough competition in the theme round, when performers wear costumes made to match the year’s theme, in this case, famous animated villains.

A couple of Cruella Devilles and a Queen of Hearts seemed a bit Disneyland, but Sophia, another Portlander, wowed the crowd in her Catwoman costume complete with cracking whip.

But anyone who saw BeBe walking around before the competition had no fear. A pair of male buttocks never swayed and quivered with such femininity. Rumor has it she also had her nose and chin done. Only hormones and breast implants are barred as performance enhancers.

Later in the talents competition, Sophia performed as a lip-synching Tina Turner facsimilie with the legs to pull it off and elicited the largest gasp and applause of the night with a double spin.

As Clayton Walker quipped: “You wouldn’t understand if you’ve never tried to spin in three-inch heels.” Apparently, he and most of the audience had.

But Mexican-born BeBe’s Latin baile — with a cast of four men to carry her around — was a clear hit with the crowd.

Emcee Darcelle stood at the side of the stage watching the action, about a quarter of her 7-plus feet belonging to her blond wig. Who was Darcelle rooting for? “I have a favorite, but I never choose,” she said. “ I have to be so neutral it makes me sick.”

The the final round began: the elaborate Vegas showgirl competition. A peacock the size of a Volkswagen strutted onto the stage followed by a scantily clad contestant with a 3-foot Spartan-style feather headdress, proving the pageant to be something of an athletic event with a focus on neck strength.

BeBe bore a magnificent series of thick cords, like a pre-historic purple and pink fern, as though it were a beret, kneeling and smiling at audience members along the catwalk.

The moment of truth arrived.

Sophia took runner-up honors. It was all or nothing for BeBe. If she lost, it would be a robbery as far as the locally biased crowd was concerned. Luckily, the judges agreed.

Young men flooded the stage to hail their new queen.

This is the original blog post linking to the story before the OregonLive url expired.

In yesterday’s Oregonian you’ll find a piece on La Femme Magnifique International (with probably the silliest headline ever applied to a story I wrote), which, from what I understand, is the biggest drag pageant there is.

I’m greatly indebted to a couple of sources in the story for hanging out with me and answering questions throughout the night. The event was really fun, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on if you’re a drag queen n00b like me.

If you have any drag wares I can borrow let me know…I’m tempted to try to enter the pageant next year. I think my Dagger of the Mind skills would be really valuable in the competition.

Photos: Bebe J’s headdress (above), and her coronation as victor (below...that’s Darcelle XV on the right). By me.
Bebe J

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Junkface: Spokane, Bozeman, Mt. Rushmore

So this music blog I used to write for,, has a lot of rad tour diaries. Well, actually, I don’t know if I can say that with authority. See, I’ve probably read less than a tenth of tour diaries posted there. I just don’t have time for a novel (by anyone except Nick Jaina, who is a genius).

So the other night while at a show at the Green House, which everyone knows is where Randy and Ryan from Junkface live, I came up with this bitchin’ short attention-span-friendly tour diary concept. I am going to talk to a member of Junkface on the phone for one minute each day of their tour and post our conversations here. Below are the first three.

I apologize for the sound quality on this initial set. I have it figured out now and the rest of the installments of Junkface’s three-week tour will be crystal clear.

Day 2: Tuesday, September 4, 2007, 8:42 pm.
A sleepless Randy tells of the band’s adventures in Spokane, Washington and how hard it was to get out of town.

Day 3: Wednesday, September 5, 7:19 pm.
Ryan checks in to say that Junkface pretty much sold out an arena in Bozeman, Montana.

Day 4: Thursday, September 6, 5:58 pm.
Ryan calls to ruin your image of Mount Rushmore

On the next installment: How far will Kyle’s car make it? Will his family come out to see his band in Minneapolis, or will they long for his days as a famous person, drumming for the Hippos (fact)? Will Randy ever get some zzz’s? Stay tuned to find out!

Hey! If you don’t know who Junkface is, check ‘em out.

Photo: Jason Quigley