Notes from a Hospital Bed in France
by Lisa B. Falour
By 1975, when I was a first-year art student (majoring in graphic design & illustration) at Kent State University in Ohio, U.S.A., I already had eclectic tastes with regard to art, music and literature. I was restless and very unsure of myself, but of one thing I was certain: there weren´t any magazines around to really interest and engage me. Lonely, nerdy, odd, and fond of correspondence, I became a “mail artist” without knowing much (if anything) about that movement/medium. I´d never hesitated to write to artists, writers and others in the public eye (and sometimes, they wrote back – it was fun!), so I wrote to people I admired, such as Patti Smith, asking them to contribute to a little homemade magazine I wanted to do. Patti contributed, and so did some others, although I couldn´t pay them, and I only printed or photocopied very small editions. I´d learned offset printing in high school, but knew next to nothing about layout, technical drawing, or any of the other skills practiced at the time to produce small-press publications. I knew what headlining and typesetting machines and presses were, but had no access to them, so I´d just cut and paste, using whatever was on hand. My first zine was called MODERN GIRLZ, a reference to a song I loved by The Modern Lovers – “Road Runner” – and the cover page title was done by cutting out letters from newspaper headlines and gluing them to a sheet of ordinary paper with Elmer´s Glue-All, “poison pen”-style. Without knowing it, I was part of the zeitgeist – this “poison pen”-style became “punk.”
MODERN GIRLZ had five issues. When I moved to Manhattan in 1977-78, artist/musician Brian Spaeth insisted I do a new zine, and call it BIKINI GIRL, a reference to a cool 1960s British science fiction movie titled “The Night Caller (from Outer Space).” (I continue to recommend it, and would love to own it on DVD, if anyone out there can help me locate a copy in this format.) Brian co-edited the first issue with me. BIKINI GIRL was always printed (or photocopied) onto pink paper, was usually 32 pages long, and changed format with every new issue. Two issues contained soundsheets, and one issue contained a pair of psychedelic glasses. Issue 10 of BIKINI GIRL was done on video (NTSC format) and is about two hours long. It includes three of my short, homemade movies – high weirdness – and lots of other stuff. It got very good reviews when it came out around 1990.
I haven´t ceased publishing, but seek financing and technical assistance to do issue 11, in glossy print format. BIKINI GIRL sold very well – issue 8 had an edition of 10,000! The zany, klutzy cut-up quality of the zine endeared many readers, and I´ve traveled to many countries to meet fans and contributors. I´ve also had three marriages due to my zine.
I have all the content necessary for issue 11, and hope someone can spend some time with me in France to put it together. I have health problems and limited resources, and every past issue has involved lots of input and assistance from various people, so a collaboration would be right in step with my past efforts. Selling BIKINI GIRL directly is a challenge, but I enjoy it. In 1980, I flew to London and walked in to Rough Trade with as many issues as I could carry in a shopping bag, and they bought them all for cash, right on the spot. BIKINI GIRL is in many museum collections and libraries around the world. It was included in a group show called “The Page As Alternative Space” at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. (I was too busy to see the show, and wouldn´t have known about it but for the fact that a few friends told me they´d seen it there.)
I laughed out loud during the creation of every single page (or video segment) of each issue of BIKINI GIRL, and this alone was reward enough, but I met many, many fascinating people doing BIKINI GIRL, whether it was interviewing them, photographing them, discussing their contributions, or whatever.
Issue 6 contains an entire novel by Lynne Tillman (I typeset it myself in 6-point type in 1980), WEIRD FUCKS, which no one else would publish then. (It´s now available via the mainstream market.) Her only payment was 100 copies of that issue. I even dug into my very thin wallet and shelled out for nice, custom-sized envelopes and cardboard stiffeners (so Lynne could mail them out as PR).
A nice, big anthology of downtown New York literature (and some art) from the last quarter of the 20th century came out in 2006 from New York University Press. It´s called Up Is Up But So Is Down. It contains an interview I did with Gerard Malanga and Lynne Tillman in 1980, and a bit more stuff from BIKINI GIRL.
Here are some other interesting and/or famous people I met doing my zines: Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs, Klaus Nomi, Ondine (and others from the Warhol Set), Harry Smith, Jack Handey, George Meyer, many punk and New Wave musicians (such as Pere Ubu, Ramones, Fleshtones, The Cramps and the B-52s), Tiny Tim, Jack Smith, Kenneth Anger, Keith Haring, Jack Goldstein, John M. Bennett, Richard Freeman, David Byrne, John Armleder, Louise Bourgeois, John Lurie, Richard Edson, Ann Magnuson, Jennifer Blowdryer, Bart Plantenga, Melvin Van Peebles, Seka, Candida Royalle, many others in the porn world, Greg Theakston, Willoughby Sharp, Eldon Garnet, Dale Ashmun, Richard Kern, M. Henry Jones, Vittore Baroni, David Alexander, Keith Rahmmings, Allen Ginsberg, Darryl Pinckney, Blue Man Group, Liz Renay, The Church of the Subgenius, Genesis P. Orridge, Devo (when they did a one-sheet zine), Yoko Ono, Jacqueline Onassis, Bill Landis, Robert Mapplethorpe, ugh, I am running out of steam!
My computer programming skills only go as far as the late 1980s, and I only got the ´Net at home in 2007, so I have no idea how to put anything online. I´d love to, but I´m extremely (perhaps overly) fond of print media. My eyesight is failing, and I have been pretty much a dropout and a recluse since I immigrated to Paris, France in 1994. I really enjoy sitting quietly, alone, reading and looking at art on printed pages. I like getting snail mail and envelopes full of zines and small press books and magazines, and have inspired and guided quite a few budding zinesters/writers/guerilla publishers. Long live literacy, free spirits, freedom of expression, and creativity!
Lisa can be reached at: Lisa Falour, 79 Rue de Strasbourg, 93200 Saint-Denis, France.