Women in Punk

NYC UNDERGROUND ICON: ‘HIYA KIDS, BLONDIE FANS ARE THE BEST’ (1978-82)

MY LIFE IS LIKE A LATE NIGHT RERUN. – DEBBIE HARRY

In a pre-digital era, fan clubs were a means of community building and disseminating information, from new record releases, bios, and tour schedules to exclusive band merchandise. Beyond the promotional aspect of building artist identity, fan club ephemera were a means of establishing a personal connection with fans and followers.

Wild Dog Archives includes a number of press kits and promotional items from now defunct fan clubs as well as handwritten letters. Henry Wild Dog was a superfan of female-fronted bands such as the Helen Wheels Band and Blondie.

  OFFICIAL BLONDIE FAN CLUB EPHEMERA AND PUNK ZINE NO. 10 COURTESY OF   WILD DOG ARCHIVES  .

OFFICIAL BLONDIE FAN CLUB EPHEMERA AND PUNK ZINE NO. 10 COURTESY OF WILD DOG ARCHIVES.

PiL RIOT AT THE RITZ: 'BOTTLE & CHAIR THROWING MELEE' (1981)

Photo: Eugene Merinov Photography Archive

Two DEAR HENRY WILD DOG letters from the Helen Wheels Band reference a Ritz riot ignited by the John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) outfit Public Image Ltd., Texas Punk, Wild Dog, and a mention of the Island, Houston's first punk club (1979-1983).

TRANSCRIPT

March 8, 1981

Dear Henry,

I was real glad to get your letter, cause although I get fan mail from all over the USA & some Europe, I’ve NEVER gotten a letter from Texas, & I know Texas is BIG & there must be lotsa real rock n roll & not just boogie music. I think Wild Dog #? (that you sent me) is a great fanzine though I was not familiar with some of the bands (texas?). Was proud to see me on P. 20! ….

If you ever get to NY (or whenever we make it to Texas) I’d like you to be our guest at a show. We hope to have some T-shirt/buttons & most of all a record deal soon, but for the time being we could send you a couple of ravaged guitar picks if you want some HWB memorabilia….

Yours in Rock n Roll,

Helen Wheels

TRANSCRIPT

June 1, 1981

Dear Henry,

Hope things are going well for you in Houston & I thought I’d drop you a few lines to let you know how things are going with us. First off, we were called in especially to headline The “Ritz” on Sat. May 16 after the riot that “Public Image Ltd.” was responsable [sic] for the previous night. It seems that “P.I.L.” refused to come out from behind The Ritz’s video screen and then shouted obscenities at the crowd which caused a bottle & chair throwing melee.

No announcement was made about “P.I.L.’s” cancellation for the 2nd night & all of The Ritz’s stage hands warned us that we were in for the same, however, we got 2 encores at the end of the night! They called us at 5:00 p.m. to do the show that night and it was amazing how quickly we got it together.

I’m writing you from the Secret Sound in N.Y. where we’re recording our new 12″ 6 song E.P. It is being produced by “Blue Oyster Cult’s” Joe Bouchard and engineered by Corky Stasiak who worked with Lou Reed and The Clash so you know it will be “state of the art” work…

Thanks for your info on Texas Radio. I unfortunately misplaced the list, so if you were to be so kind, when next you write, please send out the list again. Also, I’d love to get some info on stores in your area where we could sell the record for CASH UP FRONT ONLY. We will be selling it via mail order, however we are looking for stores that we can sell the record for upfront money. When it comes out, we’ll of course send you a copy for review and place an ad in “Wild Dog” as well as sending a copy to Phil Hix & Richard at the “Rock Island” in Houston…

Sincerely,

Name Unknown [Road Manager for HWB]

P.S. by Helen Wheels

Hi, Henry — You won’t believe this record — It’s gonna be a world-wide hit.

HALLOWEEN AT THE OLD SPIT (1981)

TRANSCRIPT

October 26, 1981

Dear Henry Wild Dog —

Nice to hear from you & glad of your continuing interest in the band — Here’s a couple flyers on some of our upcoming gigs. Yes the record has been quite delayed in release, but the package is STUPENDOUS & unique (& almost complete). Also guitarist Jack Rigg is no longer with the band & has been replaced for the time being w/ Scott “Top Ten” Kempner — formally of The Dictators. (He was my guitarist for about 1 1/2 yrs w/ an earlier HWB [Helen Wheels Band]). Loved the irreverent [sic] ISSUE. Hope Disc will be out in a couple weeks. You will be receiving a complimentary review copy. Thanks again for your interest. Too bad you can’t attend any of these Halloween shows — I’ll be dressed as a vampire/devil!

Keep Rockin’

Helen Wheels

HELEN WHEELS: GOING TO JAPAN & 'POSTMODERN LIVING' (1983)

TRANSCRIPT

No date

Hi Henry! Long time no hear — How you doin? How’s Wild Dog? Did you receive the record we sent you? Thought you might enjoy this pic from Halloween — We may be going to Japan in August! “Postmodern Living” is currently receiving airplay in 38 states!

Best Always, Helen

R. CRUMB, HELEN WHEELS AND NYC PUNK (1981)

Houston’s Henry Wild Dog was a prolific letter writer. And by prolific, we mean he has a mind bending collection of correspondence with more than a few punk icons from the early underground music scene nationwide. Out of a stack of ZIGZAG magazines, we culled out a manilla package with Henry Wild Dog’s scrawl titled, “The Helen Wheels Band Promotional Materials,” including flyers, letters from Helen to WILD DOG zine, Houston’s own first wave punk rock fanzine, an original WILD DOG galley proof featuring the band, and this R. Crumb print dated 1976 and autographed by Helen Wheels in 1981.

Our favorite underground cartoonist of the day, R. Crumb was a fan and friend of the fierce Helen Wheels (Robbins), heralded as one of the “original punks” and “one of the best unrecorded acts in rock ‘n roll” during the formative years of the first wave. According to her record label’s promo flyer for “Postmodern Living,” the band’s premier EP, Helen was a performing staple on the NYC punk rock scene since 1977 and well known before that for her songwriting with Blue Oyster Cult.

Even today, examples of Helen’s early work and music are scarce. We did come across a video of Helen from a NYC punk rock archival project courtesy of Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong, whose punk-era concert footage is being digitized at NYU.

What follows are some reviews from the height of her career courtesy of the archives:

“Heavy is Helen Wheels, who you probably don’t know (but you will). The only way you might forget Helen Wheels would be if someone gave you a frontal lobotomy. Of course that someone could very well be Helen herself. In other words, Helen is unforgettable.” — Creem
“A total original with brains, boas, tattoos, and a long history of outlaw lovers.” — Damage
“Wheels looks like a punk interpretation of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle…Her songs have real flair.” — Newsday
“A cross between Johnny Rotten and Blondie.” — Cashbox
“That woman is a ball-bearing bitch strutting around and wielding an array of formidable looking daggers…offstage Helen Wheels is a charming young lady who’s highly intelligent and very articulate when it comes to her music, which she views as an art form.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“Helen makes love to one of her daggers as she sings — The New Wave of Sex.” — Penthouse
“Gutteral, erotic, soft-textured hard rock with depth. You’ll get a rush off her will.” — Wild Dog

And from Crumb…

“Helen Wheels has the toughest ass in show business, if not in all America.” — R. Crumb, cartoonist in Punk