LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, 1985: Redd Kross former drummer Janet Housden was the first real California Gurl that your humble narrator (YHN) ever met. She was everything that was to be expected from every song, movie and fever dream and so very much more than Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Marky promised.
Redd Kross drummer Janet Housden – a child of California
Gurl Thirty Seven, Janet Housden, was a child of the California no one wanted to know about, the true, pock-marked face of the Sunshine state. The tawdry reality that always existed there below the glitz and glamor.
The squirmy underside of Steinbeckian documented Okie-hate, the brutal oppression of Jack Webb’s “just the facts” cops and the creepy old pervs pulling trains on drug-addled teenagers on a casting couch in Rancho Cucamonga. The real California
One of YHN’s first, vivid images of her -other than as a stunning drummer- was as she killed another characters mother with a guitar in a scene from the movie “Desperate Teenage Lovedolls.”
It was a movie that had been produced by some other culture-jamming miscreants YHN had joined in the synchronous orbit that kept us wrapped around the heavy gravity of SST during the early Eighties.
Janet Housden before Redd Kross
Janet was a surfer at a young age and according to her brother, prone to not giving a shit about what “adults” had to say from a very early age. She was a problem child with issues that can only come from too much imagination and far too much late night Cal Worthington.
Someone told me she got that way because Squeaky Fromme from the Manson Family used to babysit for their family and put acid in her baby bottle.
When YHN had an opportunity to ask her about that story she poo-poohed it and mentioned that it wasn’t actually Squeaky and it wasn’t actually LSD. The real story is even crazier.
I’m sure the truth about Gurl Thirty Seven is in some government file, somewhere, buried deep in a missile silo in Wyoming.
Like most Gurls, the real story is both lost to time and tied to legends. This is as close as YHN can come to capturing the insane majesty and the majestic honesty that is Gurl Thirty Seven.
Bands, Movies, Surfing and Redd Kross
She was there in the beginning of it all. She played in bands who are now lodestones for loners looking for meaning. She starred in movies that are primers for DIY cinema. She publishes short tales of inscrutable cool and she surfs like a direct descendant of Duke. Oh yeah, and she is funny as shit.
Janet started out in Redd Kross as their drummer. Their blaring, clarion fusion of blistering punk and a deep knowledge of the entire oeuvre of The Partridge Family made for one of the most exciting bands to come out of that graffiti encrusted South Bay church that so many combos sprang from.
It really seemed that it wasn’t until Punk came along that women were looked at as being anything more than a singer or, anything less than a slut. Gurl Thirty Seven was neither. She was a tub thumping, wise cracking, kick you in the crotch “let’s do this motherfuckers” kind of person.
Redd Kross and “Desperate Teenage Lovedolls”
While in Redd Kross Janet appeared in her first movie. It was produced by and featured almost the entire cadre of miscreants that she had matriculated with in the nascent South Bay scene that would eventually come to define an entire genre.
“Desperate Teenage Lovedolls” and it’s sequel “Lovedoll Superstar” are now shown in museums around the world and used as exemplars of early postmodern punk art in classrooms.
Their music was pretty gnarly as well.
After Redd Kross
Never being content seems to be a trait of a lotta Gurls. Janet never seemed to even be content with being discontented. She would slip in and out bands and in and out of the scene on either wildly wispy whims or wondrously wasty wanderings.
She never strayed too far from the rock though. Bands like Raszebrae, a female facet of ferocious riffage and feral poetry was especially exhilarating to witness on a good night.
As many Gurls do, at some point in her life, she made a choice to be naturally crazy. Drugs were keeping her down and she wanted to get off the leash.
She started surfing again.
Janet Housden and the post-Redd Kross legacy
She started playing in bands again. Not drums, those are too hard to carry around. This time she took up the bass and, as usual, she boomed the thunder stick like a massive attack on unsuspecting onlookers in litany of bands like Shitbirds, the Shakes, The Double Negatives/People Talk and these massive purveyors of the fuzzy love machine, the Superkools.
That is the thing about YHNs first California Gurl. She simply does it. She showed how much more fun it is to beat up others than it is to beat up yourself. Not physically, but with humor, grace and diligence.
Janet still surfs, still steals waves from dorks, is now rockin’ the violin because it’s even easier to carry around and, as far a YHN knows, hasn’t punched anyone in the face yet.
No Sex wax was used in the writing of this article.
YHN Angelo Mancuso is a character from “A Confederacy of Dunces” who is known for being perhaps the most hapless and bumbling member of a local gang of toughs and heroes. His love for the love of women and his desire to be noticed coupled with his convoluted relationship with his Mother made him the perfect companion of criminals, carneys and everyone stepping out from under the jackboots of conformity.
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Promotional Lead Images: Publicity images property of Janet Housden, Black and White Red Cross photo by Edward Colver, Desperate Teenage Lovedolls photos by Dave Markey, Desperate Teenage Lovedolls movie poster drawn by Janet E Hammer.