By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
Harding's manager is a fan of the Debs, even lobbying Tonya to let them play at her wedding reception when the band offered. "He called and said he thought it would be great," Ginger giggles. "But Tonya thought it wouldn't be serious enough for the wedding." This from the woman who allowed the consummation of her last marriage to be videotaped and sold to the public; it seems Harding's puttin' on airs.
And pretending to be something you're not is very white trash, whether that means assuming a grace and dignity you don't have or putting on a wig and rapping AC/DC. The irony makes me dizzy. I need something concrete to stop the spinning. I ask the Debs where they're from.
At my invitation, Rico volunteers his white trash credentials. "I'm from Tampa, Florida," he says, "the land of trailers and tornadoes. My mom and dad were friends with a lot of pro wrestlers, like Dusty Rhodes; he was over at our house a lot."
"Did you ever meet Rowdy Roddy Piper?" Sean asks, obviously impressed. "He's one of my heroes."
"When I worked on the hydrogen bomb in Augusta, Georgia," Patty chimes from her chair, "they made us live in trailers so that we wouldn't talk to anybody in town about the bomb." What exactly did Patty do to help along the H-bomb? Ever the good American, she refuses at first to elaborate, not wanting to compromise national security. "I'd look over the plans every week," she finally tells me, "and then I'd tell the scientists how they could improve them."
"White trash migrates," Ginger says. "There are certain people who get this kinda instinct to get out and they realize that there's more than working and getting married and breeding more white trash, and so you get out and then you realize, 'Hey! God, we were hicks!' "
But what is it about the white trash ethos that attracts such a motley crowd of musicians and shock artists?
"You remember that line in Repo Man?" Sean asks, elaborating on the attraction of the white trash identity. "When Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez are doing lines and this guy's getting his car towed and he's fighting with the tow-truck driver and Harry Dean Stanton says, 'Look at that. Normal people, I fucking hate 'em.' That's one of my favorite all-time lines."
But couldn't it be argued that white trash is normal? Ginger hails director John Waters as the King of White Trash because he brings out the weird inherent in the normal.
"He sees beauty in people who aren't stereotypical beauties," she says.
Real life is very strange, when you look at it, "you just don't hear about it," Liz says, her platinum-blond Marilyn cut bobbing emphatically. "But it's so weird that it's normal." She pauses to think about what she's said, but it makes perfect sense. It's that weirdness/normalcy dichotomy that underlies the supermarket tabloids, the faux-news TV shows, monster trucks, and John Waters.
Before I take my leave of the White Trash Debutantes, Punk Rock Patty gives me her address so I can send her a copy of the article. As she stoops over an end table, writing her info on a Post-It, Ginger makes a ribald prostitution joke at Patty's expense. Punk Rock Patty, despite the pot and fishnet stockings, takes offense. She turns, her hands on her hips, the halo of her shockingly pink fright wig oscillating in the light from the kitchen.
"Oh, let's not get silly," she admonishes Ginger.
If, like the White Trash Debutantes, your definition of trash allows ample room for irony, then you might enjoy one of the occasional white trash outings staged by San Francisco's infamous Cacophony Society. Though a true Cacophonist could probably find satirical intent in a brick, the mercurial organization isn't above white trash.
Longtime Cacophony member Maxwell Maude sets the scene of the most recent white trash event -- Wino Wine Tasting, an evening of dining and wining on the best low-rent cuisine: Thunderbird, Cheez Whiz, and Spam. The white trash picnic took place at Rubber Tire Beach, where 24th Street meets the bay.
"The beach is strewn with tires and concrete chunks," Maude says, "and the low tide brings a wonderful aroma as you dine at one of the two picnic tables in a shabby little park with a nice view of graffiti-covered junk trolley cars."
How is this urban outing white trash? "Quick food," Maude explains. "Disposable, lots of plastic wrap." I ask him to elaborate on his version of the white trash aesthetic. "Hot dogs at 7-Eleven, any store-bought meat jerky." It seems his idea of white trash is more culinary than anything else. Maude recommends the chili-cheese fries at the Carousel Diner across from Fleishhacker Zoo. "Greasy chili, limp fries, and cheese from a can -- just the way we like it."
"The white trash kick, it'll come and go," says John Law, a Cacophonist who joined way back in the '70s when the loose-knit organization was still called the Suicide Club. "Everything's popular for about a half-hour."