Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hollywood Diaries: Part Two

16) What was considered a fashion faux pas for you and your friends? (Where I grew up, it was anything from Sears! NB: Outfit to right was definitely not from the Sears catalogue!)

Polyester pant suits of the day come to mind, and I suppose blending in with the crowd.

17) Describe a night out at the clubs...where are you going, what are you wearing...what are the groupies wearing...is there anyone who is a fashion star of the scene, whose wardrobe you admire?

A typical night out was first to the Whisky A Go-Go to check out the bands performing and to see who was in the club. Depending on that I would either stay and dance or talk to people I knew. Then I would walk up the street to the Rainbow and see who was there. And from there I would either go back to the Whisky and dance or stay at the Rainbow. Usually I went back and forth to the two places. It could be an amazing night out, or very quiet, depending on what band was in town.

I am wearing anything from a long evening gown which I did like in those days or ripped jeans tucked into boots. The girls are dressed in vintage clothes, a lot of satin and velvet in those days. Platform shoes are in as are hot pants (short- shorts) and lots of glitter. The fashion stars are the ones who carry their fashion well.

My friend Tyla was always one I admired. She mostly wore vintage clothes and feathers in her hair. She could pull it off and look exotic and different from every girl in the place. She had a style unlike anyone I have ever seen.

18) You hung out a lot at the Riot House. Describe a typical afternoon there--who is there, how are they dressed, what do you use to catch the attention of a musician?

An afternoon at the Hyatt House usually started in the coffee shop. In the early days, before everyone in the city knew about it, there would be very few people about. We would order tea and perhaps lunch or dinner and sit and smoke a lot of cigarettes. I'm not so sure I relied on fashion to get noticed, but rather a witty line or something as a musician would walk past. Then if all went well I would be invited up to a room and party. That could lead to many different things...sex, drugs...rock and roll. At one time, when the word got around, there would be a long line waiting to get into the coffee shop, mid-day or in the evening. There was every fashion style imaginable from space thing like David Bowie was doing, to tie- dyed shirts and patched jeans, back then style was very personal.

19) People have an impression of the groupie scene as being very exotic, very sophisticated, very glamorous; come to find out it was peopled by teenagers. What was the average age of a girl on the scene? How competitive was it?

The girls were from 14 to mid-20s. It was not that competitive during my years there. I think the waitresses at the Rainbow and Whisky were the competition for me. It was a small world and easy to meet whomever you wanted. I never had to compete with anyone to meet the people that interested me; if it didn't happen it was not meant to be. That has always been my attitude. I never got into those cat fights over the guys.

20) You don't appear to have worn much makeup; was this a cultural thing or a personal thing? I recall makeup not being tremendously popular in that era before disco.

I don't like to wear much makeup. There was a cultural thing about it, natural was the way to go. I just don't feel good with a bunch of stuff on my face and hair. I also grew up with parents who were both in the modeling and fashion industry. I sort of rebelled against makeup and all the glamour stuff my parents were so into.

21) I have to ask: What were you wearing in that famous Led Zep pic? You're sitting down and we can't tell. There's a story behind that pic, isn't there?

He he, yes there is more to that outfit. I had on a really great satin and tapestry cowboy type shirt that I bought at Holly's Harp, a great store on Sunset, and a pair of Landlubber jeans. Landlubbers were about the most popular brand of jeans at that time, nice hip-hugger bellbottoms. And, I was wearing a whip as a belt. I guess that is an accessory that will get you noticed and it did. Later that evening I had a fun conversation with Jimmy Page and Roy Harper about my belt...you'd have to read Hollywood Diaries to find out about that...lol. I put the whip on as an accessory in one of my silly moments.

22) You've just released Hollywood Diaries, your memoir. It's your actual diary from the era. We hear your voice as you recorded it over 30 years ago. It's a fascinating self-archaeology. There is storytelling in its most elemental form, without intellectualism or hindsight. What do you think of the girl who wrote the diary compared with the woman you are today at age 51?

I admire the girl I was. I think she lived true to her dreams and when things didn't work out she kept on going and creating new dreams. She was a good friend to people and that has resulted in the gift of lifelong friends. I think I am pretty much the same person today in many ways. I don't take as many risks as I once did, my responsibilities are greater. I miss that about being young, there was much more freedom to pursue your whims. I don't think life's disappointments have made me bitter as I see sometimes in people who encountered rough times. Life is short, so go for it, has always been my motto.

23) Using the actual diary makes the memoir extremely personal. Did you ever consider writing it in narrative instead in order to maintain separation? It seems to me that using a narrative form might have resulted in some abbreviation of expression. Also, it would have created a distance between you and the reader that the diary format doesn't have. Central to the diary is the sense of discovery; there's a real-time engagement.

I wrote Hollywood Diaries in a couple different formats initially. My first draft was a fictional story that incorporated my experiences. I got fed up with that, it became too complicated to tell my story. Then one day it came to me and I decided on the diary format. The Internet was still rather young and I decided to post an entry every two weeks on my Web site. I gave myself two weeks to get a new entry together, so it was like posting it as it happened in a way. It also kept me on a schedule. I built up a following of people waiting for the next entry. I decided to keep much of what I put on the Internet as is into the book.

24) Did you ever want to go back and revise anything, perhaps shade it a bit differently? Did you ever feel that the memoir was too personal? As it stands, it is almost painfully truthful.

In real life there are a few things I would have liked to do differently. As for the book, there was a lot I edited out, mostly because I didn't want to infringe on other people's personal life. It is very personal and sometimes raw, but I think we need that in our society. Everything is becoming faker and faker. I don't mind being honest about my life. I cannot be any other way. It can be risky, there are a few people out there who like to use those things against you. I guess that is a good thing about being older is not caring as much what people think and being wiser about dealing with those who do try to use your past against you. I also intended this to be a documentary of those times so I wanted it to be real and not too glossed over.

25) Did you ever want to play with the structure of the book, rather than telling it in linear
form? Or perhaps with some detachment rather than from the extreme inside?

I did try several different forms. I may resurrect the original fictional story at some point. One thing I learned about me as a writer, is the process of finding your voice. I think once you find it, words and thoughts begin to flow. When you are not in the right mind, the work does not seem authentic. For me, that process is sitting quietly and tuning into that frequency. If I am detached from the work there is risk of not putting my soul into it. If I only write one book, it had to contain my heart and soul. I think I need full immersion of self instead of detachment when I write.

26) Did you ever think, when you were involved in the scene, that what you were really doing was collecting information? How much did you see yourself as an observer? The book really is about your reflections, your intepretations of what you saw.

I saw myself both as observer and participant. I knew during those years that I would write about the days. People would always say to me, you should write a book, and I would reply, "I will!" I knew at the time that what we were doing was very special. I now see that it was more special than I thought. My only regret is that I didn't write down more and that I could not remember half of what did go down then. At the time it seemed that life was typical, now I realize how unique and historic it was.

27) What are you doing now? You live in Arizona, right? What interests you these days?

These days I am working promoting Hollywood Diaries and all the business attached to that. That alone keeps me busy. I also have a Web design and promotion business, 2 Chicks From Mars, but am taking a sabbatical while I work on Hollywood Diaries. I am also raising six grandchildren which is BIG. I live in a small town where I can hike in the forest and mountains, I love to garden and spend time outdoors, and I love to dance under the moonlight. I am deeply interested in what is happening to our world, politically, economically, and socially. I don't like the direction we are heading. I also, from time to time, teach the art of manifesting. I developed a six-part course to help people realize their dreams. The material is based on practical business skills and visualizing work.

28) How would you describe your style today?

Today I enjoy great trousers with a fun jacket and a sexy top, something vintage perhaps. I love a romantic Victorian era gothic look in long dresses. I wear a lot of velvets and brocades. I love rich fabrics. I still do not like to dress like everyone else. I like that fashion can vary according to our personalities. Sometimes I watch the show What Not to Wear especially when I went through "Oh God, I'm 50 now what should I be wearing?" but decided that I don't subscribe to the "uniform" look. I think there are some basic things like certain styles that look better on a figure than on others. But I still look at fashion as a statement of who one is and I guess I will always be a bit bohemian.

29) What did you learn from putting this book together?

I learned a lot about my ability to focus in on a project as big as this one, and to pull it off on my own. I had to pull every business skill I had learned in my life out to take each baby step to make it happen. I have also learned a bit about book publishing, that will help me next time around. There were many snags along the way, but all in all it came out great. Anything you do teaches you something. I'm still learning now that I am moving into the marketing phase.

30) If you were to return to the Hollywood scene today, how would you think it has changed? Would you even recognize it or would it be an unfamiliar pile of glitter?

I think many things have changed. Hollywood and the music biz in general have lost a lot of originality and because of that the excitement that was once abundant is not there. I think the boundaries that were stretched out in the 60s ran amuck somewhere when everyone tried to one up each other. That is one of the things that drove me out of LA. It was as if a door to decadence opened even wider and it just keeps expanding. On the other hand, I think LA is a very creative place. I have always thought that was more part to the land and it's beauty, you can't help but be inspired there. I miss the old days when it was less populated and really a place of beauty.

Thank you so much, Morgana, for this interview. It was a pleasure working with you.

Hollywood Diaries available here

Morgana on MySpace

Photo credits: Morgana Welch personal collection
Led Zeppelin photo from Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis
Morgana is center with Tyla (star on forehead) to her right. Also Sable Starr, Lori Maddox, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, circa 1973.


susie_bubble said...

A very thorough and indepth interview... thanks for filling up my lunch hour!

WendyB said...

Well, you know I love a woman who carries a whip! BTW, I have a great vintage dress from...Sears!! :-)

Suzanna Mars said...

WB, your dress must not be a Groovy Group dress. Oy, the painful memory.

You're such a cosmopolitan; I knew you'd appreciate the whip story.

WendyB said...

Ha ha...I will see if I can find a photo of me in the dress and you can give your verdict.

Suzanna Mars said...

WB, I will look forward to this picture. But you tend to look good in anything--I did see you, after all, wearing those knee-length shorts that no one else could wear (and looking fantabulous).

Perhaps my mother only ordered the worst from the Sears catalogue; she had an unerring instinct for selecting those polyester garments that had some odd shiny knit backing on the reverse side. I am not sure what this backing was supposed to accomplish other than to give the garment some body. It certainly did nothing to enhance mine!

WendyB said...

Oh, no, those knee-length shorts were VILE! That was some serious bad taste. I remember how we all thought we were so cute in those! It was like a mass psychosis.

Suzanna Mars said...

And so they were, WB, but I am telling you that you carried them off. Those were one hideous fashion, perhaps one of the worst crimes against women's knees yet.

I still maintain that you transcended the hideousness. You are very adaptable and have great kneecap structure.