The story of the Assassinettes

The Soul Assassins held a few rehearsals when I decided to bring a girl group into the act. Originally, this was designed as a way to build a female fan club, all of whom would become Assassinettes, but the promotion stunt eventually morphed into the stars of our show.

Claudia Assassinette

The original Assassinette was my girl friend at the time, Claudia, who I’d discovered while she was working as the phone receptionist for Tommy Boy Records. Claudia was a disco queen from Queens, half Italian, half Jewish. As far as style goes, few could touch her.

I think I asked her out on the spot or maybe it was my second visit to the office, but I was gaga over her immediately and couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Claudia had attracted others, most notably Jellybean, who had an open relationship with Madonna at the time. He offered Claudia a job as his assistant but when Madonna found out she hit the ceiling and had it squashed immediately, which hurt Claudia’s feelings since she was currently unemployed, something I suspected might have been somehow related with her unexpected involvement with me. Obviously, Tommy Boy never understood her value, but she would end up doing A&R for Profile Records before launching her own label called Maxi.

Flick brought in Jeannie, Romeo’s girl friend, and Claudia brought in her best friend, Elena, and the original trio appeared first in a club downtown that probably doesn’t exist anymore. Afterwards the girls were mobbed by horny guys while I immediately went down to the dressing room alone. Along the way, “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound came over the sound system, a song we had actually played. Some stranger on the steps blurted out, “sounds exactly the same!”

I changed into a t-shirt as I was dripping sweat, when his imperial highness James Marshall, the dean of East Village rock critics, appeared in the doorway. I had no idea Marshall had even come to the show but was prepared to accept whatever withering comment he wanted to make.

Much to my surprise, he gave us an unqualified rave review, and I thanked him sincerely.

Shortly after this gig, there was trouble in paradise as Elena and Jeannie confronted Claudia about being off key, and that confrontation crushed Claudia and put her into a tearful state.

My Solomon-like decision was to start over. If Claudia couldn’t be chief Assassinette, I needed a new trio, as having the other two without her would be an endless psychodrama afflicting my harmony with the crew.

After calling the band together, and announcing my decision, I also established the first band rule: no sleeping with any Assassinettes.

Flick and Allegra

A promoter had recently created “The Mind’s Eye” at Tramps to revive the garage psychedelic era, the music made by real teens before record companies perverted everything. I sent Andre Grossmann down to photograph the new scene and he came back with really cool photos, one of which jumped out at me. After working up a nice puff piece to promote the club, I invited¬† Ivy, the genius promoter, to come to the office to check out the layout.

“Who’s that?” I asked Ivy pointing at a picture of an exotic multi-ethnic girl with purple streaks in her hair.

“Allegra of the Black Orchids,” she replied. I got Allegra’s phone number and invited her to the office to see her picture in the layout. I told Allegra I wanted to recruit her for my new girl group. I didn’t know it at the time, but that exotic look was half Vietnamese and half Sephardic Jew.

Allegra showed up with Abby, and right away explained she fronted her own band and couldn’t join my girl group, but felt sure Abby was the one I needed.

Abby Assassinette

I don’t think Abby had ever been in the sunshine. Her skin was porcelain perfection. Built like Marilyn Monroe with a face like Betty Page. Abby must have based those bangs off Betty as she soon produced a Page homage video starring herself.

Abby had to be one of the most popular and highest-paid topless dancers in the Tristate Area but never did gigs in Manhattan and none of us were ever allowed to watch that show but safe to say some of the moves made it into our show. Abby worked for a posh private library and no doubt pulled down a significant salary there as well.

Abby, Kimona, Lucy

Flick found Kimona 117, who had more of a hip hop background, while Abby possessed a PhD in garage rock history. And since they were both alpha females, one wondered how this could harmonize. But once Kimona opened her mouth and belted out a few notes, everyone in the rehearsal room, including Abby, took a step back. Kimona had a voice like Joplin. It was obvious who was going to be the female star of the show.

Abby brought in her best friend Lucy. They were both from Boston and both were professional dancers. It was really confusing trying to figure out who of the three was the sexiest, even when you lined them all up together, but I guess most guys picked Lucy, who eventually became the most popular runway model for the East Village look. Those three girls bonded into a real sisterhood.

And that rule about not sleeping with Assassinettes? Well, I forgot to tell the girls about it and they had their own agendas, so while some hookups happened, others misfired, and it did turn into a bit of a psychic mind-field sometimes after all.

 

Birth of the Assassinettes

Our first gig (a High Times Christmas party) was a huge success, drawing a standing-room-only crowd of over 500 to the restaurant on the first floor of the McGraw Hill Building. We couldn’t wait for our next performance. The success, I knew, was at least partially due to distributing free mushrooms to the crowd. We resolved to continue that tactic for all future gigs. The great thing was we got people dancing at a time when people didn’t dance in New York. The only band I knew that created an instant dance scene was The 52’s, so we were in good company. I also knew that in order to build our fan base, we needed female fans. Guys show up in force at gigs where they know hot girls can be found. How were we going to attract a bunch of hot girls, I wondered? I soon came up with a plan: we would form a sister organization for the Soul Assassins called “The Assassinettes.” My girlfriend at the time, Claudia Cuseta (who I’d met working the front desk of Tommy Boy Records) was the first one to be inducted and she quickly recruited her best friend, Helena, to join as well. Flick came up with the third girl, Mean Jean, who was going out with his hairstyling buddy from high school, Romeo. That’s them in the photo, from left to right: Claudia, Helena, Jeannie. Hot, eh? Yes, they added quite a lot of pazazz to our second show, even though they only performed on three of our ten songs. Flick had booked us a gig in a bar downtown and Captain Whizzo, who had recently dropped by High Times to introduce himself, agreed to add his psychedelic light show to the festivities. I think we paid him $50 and all the mushrooms he could eat. Of course, we also brought shrooms to hand out to the crowd a half hour before showtime. Much to my surprise, East Village Eye rock critic James Marshall showed up. I wasn’t sure if James liked me at the time; I knew he was extremely hard-to-please musically-speaking. Imagine my surprise when he comes down to the dressing room in the basement after the gig to tell Flick and me how much he enjoyed the show. At that point, I knew nothing could stop us. The crowd, needless to say, had gone berserk cheering us on. I remember getting eye-contact with Flick during a peak moment and both of us smiled as if to say, “It’s working, man!” Problems would soon emerge, however, as the Assassinettes began to squabble. Jeannie and Claudia were clashing, and inexplicably, Helena was taking Jeannie’s side against her best friend.¬† I was head-over-heels in love with Claudia at the time, and I couldn’t take the stress of refereeing the disputes. This conflict was also affecting my relationship with Flick, so I disbanded the original Assassinettes. We needed to look for three new Assassinettes, I told Flick. And the number one rule next time around is nobody from the band sleeps with any Assassinettes! This would solve the problem, or so I thought.