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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
Style Icon: Richard Hell
As I wrote a few days ago, it was Sofia Coppola who got me through eleventh-grade English class. One year later, I found myself thrown back into the tedious terrain of symbolism, King Lear and Robert Frost. It was twelfth grade, I was seventeen years old, and I was as cool and angsty as anyone had ever been. By then, I'd reached peak levels of boredom, dissatisfaction, and overzealous eyeliner application. Gone were the days of channeling my frustrations into daydreaming about fashion shows, cuffed jeans, and chunky knits. Yeah Right! I was seventeen now; I'd seen shit. I needed a new, more relevant Style Icon: somebody mean, fast, miserable, and hard as hell.
And after countless nights spent obsessively Audiogalaxy-ing and/or Allmusic-ing, I found him. And his last name was even Hell! Come on-- how perfect is that??
Weekday mornings were spent sitting in the back of my English class listening to the Voidoids on headphones, ignoring my classmates' vapid presentations on Robertson Davies' The Fifth Business, scrawling metaphor-heavy short stories about beautiful tortured lovers in my black-and-white Mead notebooks. I can't remember if I was referring to Richard Hell specifically when I wrote the grandest sentence of my entire literary career: He looked like a cross between a zombie and a member of the band The Zombies. I have dwelt upon this particular sentence near-obsessively since I wrote it, liberally inserting it into dozens of short-stories, articles, poems, e-mails, mixtape tracklistings, etc. I'm quite sure it'll make it into my first novel, seeing as it embodies pretty much everything I love about boys, in general, at all. I love that sentence so much, I even managed to stick it into a No Good For Me post!
But it ain't all for naught. Now that I think about it, I really can't imagine a boy more aptly described by this sentence or sentiment than Richard Hell circa 1975 thru 1977. His aesthetic reads as 50% fey, 50% undead. His eyes seethe, jab, corrode; his skin, so white it's blue. He stares confrontationally into camera lenses as if they killed his mother. His t-shirt may read "Please Kill Me", he may have scrawled "VOID" across his forehead in black marker, but such acidic gestures could have easily come across as petty or unpleasant had he not a distinctly poetic ferocity of spirit to back those infamous statements up, give them clout.
But Richard Hell's a Libra, you know. I've known a lot of Libras in my life; they're great, but always really annoying people. I can totally handle Geminis, I love them in fact; see, Gems are always cognizant of their double-edgedness, they prize it. Libras, however, over-emphasize their relationship to The Scales, thinking it means they're somehow more stable than the rest of us, when really they're completely unbalanced. Take old Richie, for instance, preening and pouting like he's a member of the Living Dead, all the while entirely oblivious to his little-boy sweetness- ie. his member of the Zombies side. Oh those bee-stung lips of his, pursing as he croons, aping Sinatra in black and white. It's so obvious he'd be a textbook Perfect Boyfriend, all roses and bathtubs full of Evian. He's pretty as "hell", girlish even.
Which is why I'm sitting here ode-ing on and on about Richard Hell rather than some spotty-faced, jerk-off zombie type (Keith Richards, Arthur "Killer" Kane, any Ramone, Sex Pistol, or, ahem, Dead Boy) or a banally saccharine "member of the band the Zombies" (Peter Noone, Richard Lloyd, Paul McCartney, any actual member of the Zombies). Richie's a bewitchingly cool contradiction-- half-demon, half-lover, half-boy, half-man, half-scruff, half-fashion icon; in so many words-- he's got it all.
"Please Kill Me"? More like "Please Marry Me"!
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