In September, 2012, I - Liza - took a trip to The Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City to delve into my own collections. I was looking specifically for my 1976 slide show, What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear. I found it, and brought the slides home to digitize.
The online magazine Dapper Q, which had interviewed me about Dyke Clothing, had requested some of the slideshow images, should I ever find them, so I sent some along for them to publish HERE.
In 1975 and 1976, I took pictures at various events and places around the country to show to women-only audiences. While I had permission to show the slides in this context, never in my wildest dreams, in the mid 1970s, could I have imagined the internet, or websites like dapperQ. So, I have selected a few images to share in this context, choosing only the women who have given permission or who are famous, or whose identity I think won’t be recognized after all these years. Photos by Liza Cowan unless stated.
Alix Dobkin in a t-shirt from Lammas, a women’s bookstore in Washington, DC. We had all just gotten new haircuts and were happy to show them off.
Alix Dobkin in vest and striped shirt. This was taken on Amtrak, travelling from DC to NYC. Alix is wearing one of the buttons I created, “A You’re An Amazon,” the first line of one of her most popular songs, “Amazon ABC.”
T-shirt collage, featuring Alix Dobkin. Lammas was a women’s bookstore in Washington, DC. “The Future Is Female” - the slogan for New York City’s first women’s bookstore Labyris Books. Amazon Expedition. I can’t remember what this shirt was for, but there was a popular anthology of the same name, published in 1973 by Times Change Press, edited by Bertha Harris, Jil Johnston, Esther Newton, Jane O’Wyatt and Phillis Birkby. I am Woman, a shirt we found at some five and dime store, probably a take off from the famous song by Helen Reddy. Note the props.
Amy and Phranc taken at an Alix Dobkin concert in LA. This concert took place the week after the What The Well Dressed Dyke slideshow made it’s debut at the Lesbian History Exploration outside Los Angeles. In an interview in The Advocate, July 22, 1986, Phranc said: “…then I saw the slide presentation by Liza Cowan [at the Lesbian History Exploration] on ‘What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear.’ It was great: all these women in 3-piece suits. They showed a slide of Liza shaving her head and I thought, ‘This is great.’ ‘I went home and got a total buzz-cut, and just loved it.” Note that Amy is wearing the “A You’re An Amazon button and Phranc is wearing another one of my buttons, “I like Older Women.”
Liza Cowan and Penny House, posing for the slideshow. I am wearing my favorite wool vest, tie, jeans and green Converse sneakers. Penny is wearing wool sailor pants, a vest and tie, and Frye boots. Photo by Alix Dobkin.
Liza Getting her head shaved. Our neighbor, friend, and riding instructor, Dorethea, had a haircutting salon. She was puzzled and amused when I asked her to shave my head. Photo by Alix Dobkin.
Louise Fishman and Liza. Louise wearing the now-stereotypical flannel shirt, Liza wearing, again, my favorite wool vest, a bandana with women’s symbols on my neck, and, again, the “A You’re An Amazon” and “I like Older Women” buttons. Photo by Alix Dobkin.
Three piece suit by Lesbian designer, Morgan, at a fashion show/tea party she hosted to present her collection.
DYKE A QUARTERLY, Rated xx: recorded women's music p. 26,27. Rated xx: recorded women’s music Lavender Jane, Alix Dobkin
Here is another review from this long article, Rated XX. I've broken them up into separate posts to make the reading easier:
Lavender Jane Loves Women, review by Liza Cowan in DYKE A Quarterly, No. 2, 1976,
In March of 1973 Alix met Kay Gardner at the Women’s Skills Festival at the women’s center in Manhattan. Soon they began to meet together for reversals. The first time they performed together was at the Lesbian Lifespace benefit at Barnard in NYC. It was right around this time that Alix, Smokey and Mary and I began to talk about and analyze the human being theory, and we started to develop a separatist consciousness. We had been fortunate that almost all of the women’s events we had attended in NYC had performances for women only as well as for mixed audiences. At Brooklyn College there were some men present for one of Kay and Alix’s performances. Alix was able to make them leave before she sang her Lesbian songs. That was the last time men were ever able to set foot in one of Alix’s concerts. We knew how disgusting it would be to have men present, and insisted that there be only women allowed at the concerts. Lavender Jane made its titled debut at the women’s center in August 1973. Abacate, who had been playing bass with Alix and Kay, left to join the women’s rock band, Street Fighting Woman (later known as Sister Moon). Soon they found Patches Attom to play bass, and in October they went into the studio to record Lavender Jane Loves Women.
Each time I listen to this album I am disappointed in the way it sounds. Alix and Kay are almost drowned in reverb (echo) and there is so much tape hiss that I have to cringe. I realize that many women are not bothered by this, but to me, sound quality is one of the most important features of a recording. Besides being the oldest cliché in recording, the reverb makes Alix and Kay sound like they were at the bottom of a canyon. There is no presence. I want to feel like the singer and musicians are sitting next to me, not in the next county.
Other than that I think Lavender Jane Loves Women is a far out, brilliant album. It is so blatant and specific, you never have to guess what Alix is singing about in a song. I am a detail junkie, I always want to know every detail about something that interests me. I think it is important to know how and why something was made or written, what it was based on, what year it was done, and what was happening at the time, etc, etc. Alix satisfies my need for details in her liner notes. It’s our history and I want to know all about it.
One thing that I feel is so fantastic about Alix’s music is that she sings so explicitly about Dyke experiences. I love and dearly appreciate that everything she writes about comes directly from her own experiences, and is written about as such. There are no vague generalities (except in her old hetero songs, and you won’t hear too many of those.) Many women love to hear A Woman’s Love, one of Alix’s coming out songs. She wrote it from my 23rd birthday, in 1972, but it is really about her, the anxiety of coming out, and the delight of actually being out. View From Gay head is the first Dyke separatist song I ever heard. It chronicles the events and ideas that led us to be separatists. Smokey and Mary used to talk about men being ‘them’ and the women ‘us’, not all human beings. I was really upset at having to look through all the books by men in the library. Carol Hardin, our neighbor and my partner for Cowrie (a Lesbian magazine) spoke of pacifying men with pretty smiles, and Louise Fishman had just finished her electrifying series of paintings: Angry Djuna, Angry Radclyffe Hall, Angry Alix, Angry Harmony, Angry Judy, Angry Billie, Angry Sarah, Angry Bertha, et. al. Alix took all our thoughts and turned them into a song so Dykes all over the world could share the ideas with us.
Another thing I like about LJLW is how varied it is, with Balkan songs, old American folk songs, and original compositions. I’m also glad to hear children singing on Little House, and Kay’s piccolo solo is fantastic on that cut. Many Dykes objected to the song Charlie, because who want to hear about some dumb man? I agree. Talking Lesbian is another separatist delight. Kay Gardner’s flute playing on this album is wonderful to hear, supporting Alix’s voice with her beautiful tone and intonation. Her arrangements add another dimension to Alix’s music.
After all these years I still adore Alix's music. It just doesn't get old for me. And now you can get it on iTunes, which is something we'd never have been able to imagine in our wildest dreams. Not just the technology, which is mind boggling, but the idea that Alix's music would be available in any other venue than ones that are totally controlled by women. Of course, you can still buy her cd's at Ladyslipper Music, and I encourage you to do so. For albums, you will have to search online auctions.
Lavender Jane Loves Women, original cover and album