Former RuPaul collaborator to bring his country punk rock to San Diego
By Pat Sherman
Guitarist/vocalist Glen Meadmore — a staple of the Los Angeles punk/avant-garde scene of the 1980s and 1990s and an early collaborator of drag megastar RuPaul —will bring his act back to San Diego for a performance at the Tower Bar in City Heights Sept. 22.
Long before the native San Diegan built his media empire, RuPaul performed backing vocals for Meadmore onstage in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, and on Meadmore’s mid-’80s country-techno LP, “Squaw Bread.”
Meadmore and RuPaul first met at the Four-Star Saloon in West Hollywood, where Meadmore had a regular Thursday night show at club Limbo Lounge, performing his version of “(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls,” as well as songs from his first CD, “Chicken & Biscuits” (which led Dead Kennedys’ frontman Jello Biafra to pen a fan letter to Meadmore’s record label).
“RuPaul stayed with me for a while in Hollywood and did some vocals on [the song] ‘No Money No Honey,’” Meadmore recalled. “Ru was very shy, very quiet, very introspective and always talked about being famous — more than anything.
“He wanted me to go on ‘The Gong Show’ with him and I was like, ‘no, I’ve got my limits.’ I won’t go on cheesy national TV and have people make fun of me,” Meadmore said. “I don’t mind being a joke on stage, but it’s within my control. He didn’t care. He just wanted the exposure. That’s what separated him from me. He was willing to do anything to become famous. I was not. I wanted to do it my own way.”
Meadmore did just that — if not achieving the same level of fame, certainly equal or of greater infamy — in full-on drag as guitarist for the punk band Pedro, Muriel & Esther (or PME, fronted by performance artist and colleague Vaginal Davis and including Meadmore’s current, longtime bassist Dean Opseth).
After PME’s first EP, Meadmore decided to form his own country-punk band, releasing three CDs, “Boned,” “Hot, Horny and Born Again,” and “Cowboy Songs for Little Hustlers.”
Three of his songs are featured in the 1996 Bruce LaBruce film “Hustler White,” in which Meadmore was also cast.
His current band also includes powerhouse Dave Kendrick, a former drummer for Sparks and Devo. Meadmore met Kendrick through Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh, who contributed an illustration of Meadmore being raped by an alien to the album art for “Hot, Horny & Born Again.”
“Mark was doing the music for this play I was in,” Meadmore said. “I was looking for a drummer and he said, ‘Why don’t you use our drummer?’ … He came out and we clicked, and he’s been with me ever since. I have to give credit to Dean and Dave for sticking with me all these years of no rewards … for being loyal friends.”
Meadmore last performed in San Diego at the Casbah, with the Geraldine Fibbers and the Muffs. He is currently gearing up to play Germany in November. Though stardom on the level of RuPaul may have eluded Meadmore, he said he’s happy with his modest but loyal fan-base, and excited to still be performing.
“I opened for Jane’s Addiction and I got extremely booed, like it was raining objects on me,” he recalled. “But at the same time, there was a group that was cheering me loudly. I thought, ‘That’s great. At least I got a reaction.’ … In one of our shows in Turin, Italy, there was no audience except for a lone dog.
“Imagine,” Meadmore mused. “Who plays to a dog? I do.”
After hearing about an exhibition of paintings by serial killer John Wayne Gacy at Amok Books in Silver Lake, Meadmore was intrigued and commissioned Gacy to do four portraits of himself — one which became the cover of “Hot, Horny and Born Again,” produced by composer and filmmaker Jack Curtis Dubowski.
Meadmore’s Gacy commission evolved into a correspondence that lasted from 1988-93, the year before Gacy’s execution.
“I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind having a painting of myself done by a serial killer, just to see what their impression would be,’” he said. “I thought it would be an interesting slant on art … just from the perspective of somebody with a deranged mind. I was into deranged minds.”
Meadmore says he felt the correspondence might help channel “a sense of dementedness and darkness” that he could incorporate into his performances.
“I wanted be scary in some way,” he said. “I didn’t want to be like a safe performer.”
Meadmore’s performances included opening for Donny Osmond at one of notorious club kid (and later convicted killer) Michael Alig’s parties, in a Swiss Miss outfit. A Santa Barbara show led to an obscenity trial, for which Meadmore was later exonerated.
“That was me neglecting to wear anything underneath my costume,” he said. Another performance, which included the insertion of chicken heads into Meadmore’s posterior, got him 86ed from LA’s Anti-Club — no easy feat.
“I didn’t put the beak in,” he noted. “I had more sense than that.”
Though Meadmore has since put aside drag and flamboyant costumes for a 10-gallon hat, his music is as wild and unhinged as ever.
“I can’t say that I was the wildest performer, but I like to think I contributed something to the danger of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
Glen Meadmore and his Kuntry Band will perform Friday, Sept. 22, at 9 p.m. (with the Dum Cumpsters and New Swear), at The Tower Bar, located at 4757 University Ave. in City Heights. For more information, visit thetowerbar.com.
—Pat Sherman is a local freelance writer and editor and a former editor of Gay San Diego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.