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Although their "fame" lasted for a full 15 minutes, few bands entered rock & roll with such a crazy reputation as the Plasmatics did. Started by Rod Swenson, a porn film producer who wanted to be the next Malcolm McLaren, the Plasmatics were fronted by sex film "star" Wendy O. Williams, a muscular, raspy-voiced "singer" who generally wore next to nothing onstage. (Her most radical bit of fashion accessorizing consisted of covering her nipples with black electrical tape.) Almost as captivating was guitarist Richie Stotts, a tall, gangly geek who fancied garters and stockings and a blue mohawk; he also liked to smash his guitar against his head until he drew blood.
Playing the New York punk circuit, the Plasmatics became notorious for their extreme stage shows, which, early on, started with Williams firing blanks from a sawed-off shotgun and taking a chainsaw to a human dummy filled with stage blood, sending a spray of fake gore throughout the club and anticipating the fake carnage of GWAR by nearly a decade. The music, however, was another story: mostly sub-literate punk rock loaded with lots of quasi-sci-fi totalitarianism and consumer nightmares of unknown proportions that on record didn't work without the stage pyrotechnics, something Swenson and the Plasmatics understood completely as the stage shows quickly became more elaborate: cars were blown up, guitars were sawed in half (oddly, the dummy disappeared), equipment was set on fire -- it was a Beavis and Butt-Head wet dream come to life, although none of this translated into good record sales.

While Williams became something of a demi-celebrity in punk circles, especially after she was busted (and brutalized by police) in Milwaukee for "public indecency," the Plasmatics were all show and no substance. Jean Beauvoir, apparently on a quest for legitimacy, quit the band, and the focus became Wendy O. rather than the bunch of unknowns backing her up. After 1982's Coup D'Etat, Williams went solo, worked with Lemmy from Motorhead, and roped in Kiss's Gene Simmons to produce her album W.O.W. She made another solo LP, 1986's Kommander of Kaos, and that same year appeared in the movie Reform School Girls; after a 1989 Plasmatics reunion outing, Maggots: The Record, she made a few more acting appearances before essentially dropping from sight altogether during the early 1990s. On April 8, 1998, it was announced that Williams had committed suicide; she was 48.
A great band that wasn't understood by the public. They were so punk that it was impossible to describe them as that.
by Freak Face May 09, 2005
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