Obituary: Wendy O.Williams, 1949-1998

It has not been a good week for music celebrities. Tammy Wynette and Cozy Powell join that jam session in the sky (Cozy should at the very least make harp practice kinda interesting), while George Michael got caught...doing SOMETHING in a Beverley Hills toilet. Not so much cottaging as mansioning, perhaps? But personally, the saddest piece of news was the death of Wendy O'Williams, former lead singer of The Plasmatics.

I think I'd better explain who they were, if the reaction at work is anything to go by i.e. "Who?". They were the archetypal punk band, with an act which consisted largely of things like chainsawing guitars on stage, while Ms.Williams costume consisted largely of Sellotape. While their musical skill was perhaps questionable, you couldn't doubt their energy -- after having a show banned in London in 1979 the group retuned to New York, and were helicoptered onto a New York pier. There, in front of some 20,000 people, Wendy drove a Cadillac into a stage loaded with explosives, jumping out of the car seconds before it hit the stage and the whole thing blew up.

But, of course, WoW will remain forever in the hearts of trash film fans for her stellar performance in 'Reform School Girls', the women-in-prison movie to end all women=in-prison movies. As bad-girl Charlie, she was the perfect foil for Sybil Danning's evil warden, ending up ploughing a bus into a watch tower at full speed. Typically, WoW insisted on doing the stunt herself, smashing through the windscreen and climbing up on to the roof, all as it drove along at about 40 mph. They had to do the scene after she was officially off the picture, because the insurance company had a fit when they heard about it.

This wasn't *quite* her only movie role, but I'm not away of anyone who's seen her appearance in 'Candy Goes to Hollywood', where she apparently does a perfect imitation of the thing with ping-pong balls that they do in Thailand... I could believe it though, as the still from 'Reform School Girls' on the right shows, she wasn't exactly unfit.

In the end, taking her own life is perhaps not too much of a surprise, sad though it undoubtedly is. She seemed to possess a self-destructive streak, manifesting itself in a variety of ways, such as the incidents described above. But still, it came as a shock; somehow, I'd envisaged her settling down, having kids, that kind of thing. Instead, I'm going chug a beer, howl at the moon, and go watch 'Reform School Girls' one more time. RIP, Wendy.


Back to the TC home page

Previous editorials: