Monday, September 23, 2013

MY INTERVIEW WITH PLEASANT GEHMAN

 "SHOWGIRL CONFIDENTIAL"  (Cover Photo by Dusti Cunningham)
PLEASANT GEHMAN, AUTHOR OF “SHOWGIRL CONFIDENTIAL”
BIOGRAPHY

Pleasant Gehman is a true renaissance woman: writer, dancer, actor, musician and painter. A Hollywood icon, during the 1970’s, she was one of the first punks in Los Angeles, documenting the scene she helped create in her fanzine “Lobotomy”. During the 1980’s, she toured across North America fronting her three bands, all of whom released multiple recordings: The Screaming Sirens, The Ringling Sisters and Honk If Yer Horny. She was also the booker for the seminal Los Angeles clubs Cathay De Grande and Raji’s.

 Since the early 1990’s, under the stage name Princess Farhana, she has appeared internationally as a professional belly dancer and burlesque performer and teacher. She has danced and acted in numerous motion pictures, in music videos and on television. She has appeared in many documentaries on belly dance and burlesque, performing and as an interview subject. In 2009, she was the star of Steve Balderson’s film “Underbelly: A Year In The Life Of Princess Farhana” which was released worldwide in theaters as well as on DVD.

From the age of sixteen, Pleasant worked as a journalist and cultural commentator with literally thousands of articles published nationally and internationally on everything from rock ‘n’roll to homeless teenagers. Her memoirs, short stories and poetry have been widely anthologized and many works were recorded on her spoken word CD Ruined.

She is the author and/or editor of eight books.




 Showgirl Confidential chronicles just some of Pleasant Gehman’s amazing adventures  from over thirty years spent constantly on the road.  From cross-country punk rock tours in the early 1980’s to her extraordinary belly dancing escapades in Cairo during the Arab Spring, from the dressing room antics at burlesque shows to unnerving paranormal experiences, this memoir is as finely crafted as it is riveting. The easy finesse of her writing, her keen memory and eye for detail will leave the reader devouring each story while remaining hungry for more.

“Pleasant Gehman (aka Princess Farhana) is possessed of talents too numerous to count. But she is, most of all, a formidable wordsmith. Her writing surpasses all her talents and that’s actually saying a lot because she is so goddamn good at everything. Each time she writes anything I am anxious – jonesing like a junkie sweating for morphine – desperate to get my hands on it, devouring every word in a kind of literary binge. Her descriptions and details are devastating. She’s like a seasoned jazz musician in her approach to literary pursuits, making up her own chords and time signatures, defying every convention while at the same time adhering to every one.”
Just read her. You need to.
-Margaret Cho







 xox INTERVIEW xox


1.  Your wild punk rock n' roll chapbooks were the first I ever read, in Junior High (they blew my mind).  Were your wonderful books inspired by an earlier writer or were you, as far as you knew, the only person at the time creating that kind of work (the funny lists of purse contents, the punk poems, the boozy self portraits)?

When I was writing and compiling those chapbooks back in the 1980’s and ‘90’s, my roommate (and current publisher) Iris Berry and I were doing those independently, with no outside influence. We were both working crappy temp jobs and bartending and we wanted to make books, but there were no avenues for “street poets” like us to really get published, so we did it ourselves, stealing paper and copying them from our temp jobs!  At that moment in time, we were both unaware that anyone else was doing anything like that.


2.  I consider you a quintessential Los Angeles personality.  Are you originally from L.A.?  Have you ever lived anywhere else?

 I always wanted to live in LA, as long as I could remember- but I didn’t live here until I was fifteen. I was born in New York City, and lived in Carmel, New York ‘til I was nine. Although, I did live in LA the year I was three- my whole family came out here for the year because my father was a writer. I remember walking down Hollywood Boulevard and going to Coffee Dan’s every morning! I’ve also lived in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

3.  Who is your favorite L.A. writer?

 I’m rather partial to my life-long friend, the aforementioned Iris Berry. We were roommates in the 1980’s, wrote together, and were were in bands together.  Aside from her, Eve Babitz, Pamela Des Barres and Lauran Hoffman are probably my favorite LA authors. Of course, I also love Charles Bukowski and James Elroy- who doesn’t?

4.  How did you get involved in belly dancing?  Would you like to expand on your involvement?  I understand it's a big part of your life.

 Belly dancing is a huge part of my life… and has been for almost 25 years!  I started dancing in 1990. I was on the dance floor at the long-defunct Club Lingerie in Hollywood, just dancing to a band that was playing; I think it might’ve been Fishbone. A woman came up to me the ladies room a girl asked if I was a belly dancer.  I asked why she thought that and she said to me  “You move like one”.

 I’d always been fascinated with belly dancing, and when I found out she was a belly dancer, I begged her to teach me.  She didn’t teach, but she introduced me to people who did. I became obsessed with it immediately, and I had a knack for it.

 Soon after, a friend gave me a ticket to Greece, so I quit my job, added on Cairo and left. When I came back, I was still taking classes, but I started working professionally, and started using the name Princess Farhana for belly dancing- cause nobody in the Arab clubs could pronounce “Pleasant”.   My involvement with burlesque started in the mid- 1990’s, when I was “drafted” into The Velvet Hammer by the troupe’s creator, Michelle Carr. I was with the Velvet Hammer until it ended.

5.  It may not be your style to kiss and tell, but in case it is, do you have any past relationships of particular interest to share?  Ever run your fingers through Axl Rose's carroty locks, etc?

  Ha! I already Kissed And Told a lot… in Pamela Des Barres’ book  “Let’s Spend The Night Together: Backstage Secrets Of Rock Muses And Supergroupies”!  I have my own whole chapter in that book!   You can see me on the back cover of that book as full-on jailbait, lying across Iggy Pop’s lap.

6.  What projects are you currently working on? Tell us about your book.

My new book, “Showgirl Confidential” is almost all touring stories from the 1980’s to the present, from punk rock tours with my bands to belly dancing in Cairo. It’s a memoir of fabulously misspent time on the road!

  I have another book coming out in November 2013 too. It’s called “The Belly Dance Hand Book”, and of course, it centers on belly dancing. It’s not memoir, and it’s not a how-to, it’s more of a lifestyle book for belly dancers.

 Also, two films I was featured in will be coming out soon.  “The Far-Flung Star” is making its debut at The Raindance Film Festival in London next week. I play a washed-up B movie actress in that. The romantic comedy, “Occupying Ed” will be out in 2014. Steve Balderson directed both films.

7.  What is your favorite band?  Movie?  Show?  Visual artist?  Song?

 Favorite band/ musician: David Bowie…favorite movie: “Cabaret”…Favorite show: “Mad Men”…Favorite visual artist: Larry Johnson…Favorite song; too many to name!

8.  Are you familiar with Love and Rockets comix?  In some ways your work reminds me of them.

 Yes, I LOVE them!  And a lot of people have told me that they think the work is similar, which is very flattering.

9.  How is your cat's health?  Do you only have the one cat?

I have three kitties right now- Ni-Ni, who is twelve, Tab who is nineteen and Sphinxie, who’s six. They’re all good right now, Ni-Ni had an operation recently, but she’s doing great. I’m a card-carrying crazy cat-lady!

10.  What is your favorite and least favorite LA restaurant and clothing store?

My favorite restaurant is Moun Of Tunis, a North African restaurant in Hollywood. When I’m in LA, I belly dance there on the weekends-come and see me!  As for clothing , I prefer garage sales and swap meets.

11.  Any parting thoughts?


And please come to my up-coming “Showgirl Confidential” readings! They’re all free and open to the public:

Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 NORTH HOLLYWOOD CA
Book Release Party Skinny’s Lounge
4923 Lankershim, North Hollywood, CA
6:30-9:30pm 21+ FREE

Monday, Oct. 14, 213 AUSTIN, TX
The Continental Club
1315 S. Congress, Austin
8:30-10:00pm FREE

Wednesday, Oct. 15, LOS FELIZ, CA
Skylight Books
181 N. Vermont Ave, LA 90067
7pm FREE

Thursday, Nov.14, 2013 ECHO PARK, CA
Stories Books & Café
1716 Sunset Blvd, LA 90026
7:00pm FREE

 Sunday, Dec. 14, 2013 LOS ANGELES, CA
Chevalier's Books
126 N. Larchmont, LA 90004
4:00pm FREE




 
Pleasant as Princess Farhana ( BELLY DANCE),  Photo  by Maharet Hughes


Photo by Maharet  Hughes/GRAPHIC VIBE

 PLEASANT 1977 - PHOTO BY  THERESA KEREAKES

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