Catching Up with Penny Arcade

A week away from the encore performance of MURDER MUSIC, I stopped in to LA’s Human Resources for Semiotexte’s book party/performance for (and by) Penny Arcade. An old friend, a compatriot, a – what’s the word? – kindred spirit of long standing and real personal and cultural importance. The night was a mix of of older work (from her book BAD REPUTATION) with surprisingly powerful sections of her new works OLD QUEEN and LONGING LASTS LONGER: at 62, she’s got a new kind of focus and a new kind of penetrating power – I don’t quite know how else to describe it. The crowd was a multi-generational mix of LA’s best, even stretching back to the Warhol days: I sat beside Holly Woodlawn, who cried when Penny played recordings of Jack Smith. But the tenor of the evening was really caught in video of a conversation between Penny and the late Quentin Crisp. In the video, he explained the difference between fashion and style. Style, he said, tells people who you are. Fashion tells people only that you can afford a copy of Vanity Fair. Fashion is for people who don’t know who they are (or maybe are afraid to reveal who they are, perhaps even to themselves). The meaning, of course, went way beyond clothes. Penny always makes you feel like you’ve been brought back from the dead, and you suddenly remember why you want to be alive. Here’s a link to Penny’s book: and to her Facebook page:

© Dudley Saunders