Commcdiennc Robin Tyler
by Claire Noonan
In early 1978, Robin Tyler and partner
Patti Harrison were in the last year of a
three-year contract with ABC-TV. The
network was spending hundreds of
thousands of dollars on several pilots,
trying to transform the feisty feminist
comedy team into a cute, all-female
version of Donnie and Marie.
Tyler still lives in Hollywood and
works regularly at the Comedy Store,
but she is no longer with ABC. Dropping
off the path toward commercial success
on network television was an important
change for Tyler. Like many comics,
Tyler's material is based on her experience, but her lesbianism was off-limits in
the eyes of the established media. "I
was not allowed to talk about my own
life. For a comic that's like being a
pianist and not being allowed to touch
the keys," she says. "Once I decided to
come out, I had a ton of new material."
Tyler's abundance of new material,
from raucous personal anecdotes to
sophisticated political insights, is smoothly presented on her first solo album,
Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom
(Olivia Records). Among the many outrageous incidents in Tyler's life is her
unusual introduction to show business:
"When I was 19, I was arrested in New
York for being a female impersonator.
They arrested 44 guys and me. The guys
were all saying 'She's a girl, she's a girl!'
and the cops were saying, 'That's what
you all say.' They wouldn't send me in
to be examined by a man, in case I was
a woman, and they wouldn't send me
in to be examined by a woman in case
I was a man, because they could get
sued. So they allowed me one phone
call—and you know who I called? The
New York Post."
In the early days of her partnership
with Patti Harrison, they braved public
derision to publicize feminist causes.
In 1970, they invaded the Rams-Raiders
game in front of 65,000 people, demanding more sports scholarships for .women.
They brought the only anti-war USO
show into Vietnam by hiding their
feminist politics behind mini-skirts and
cutesy tunes when they interviewed
for the USO. They were booed off stage
for kissing in front of 2,000 GI's, saying
"Love is never having to say you're
They invaded I. Magnin's men-only
room at Christmas time, dressed as the
Good Fairy and Santa Claus, singing
"Hark, the Herald Angels sing, women's
liberation is the only thing; Peace on
earth and mercy mild, day care centers
for every child."
Tyler makes no apologies about her
political commitment: "The women's
movement has invented a new word-
assertive. If you're assertive you take
your own power. But if you're aggressive, you take power over someone.
I'm aggressive because I plan to help
take power back from the people who
took power from me."
With that goal clearly stated, she says
she would like to become president of
a major TV network. "Then I would ban
all commercials that make women look
like imbeciles. That would mean 24 hours
of uninterrupted programming."
For Tyler, comedy is a political weapon, something you turn around so you
can laugh at the ludicrousness of the
establishment that's oppressing you.
Casting light on that truth can make
To prove her point, Tyler thinks
that the Democrats and Republicans
should change their national emblem
to a prophylactic. "It stands for inflation, halts production, protects a bunch
of pricks, and gives a false sense of security when one is being screwed."
Tyler mocks the humor of the macho
culture that gave us such anti-female
material as "Take my wife, please" and
all those mother-in-law jokes. She advises the men, "If anyone gets insecure,
just do a crotch check. It's still there."
Her well-placed one-liners demolish
such targets as Anita Bryant ("who is
to Christianity what paint-by-numbers is
to art") and those right-to-lifers ("You
have to agree with them. . . if you don't,
they'll kill you."). And she puts her
audience on notice: "I'd like to say that
if I offended anyone, you needed it."
Though Tyler's politics are bold and
confrontative, her delivery and style
are professionally polished. She is hopeful that her album and her recent appearances on cable TV will reach an audience
beyond the lesbian and feminist communities. "I think laughter transcends
barriers," she says, "and I hope it will
help transcend the barriers of who we
Off the Wall Productions will be presenting Robin Tyler in concert, Friday,
October 5 at Agnes Arnold Auditorium,
University of Houston/Main Campus at 8
p.m. The performance will be interpreted
in American sign language and the auditorium is wheelchair accessible.
Also appearing will be Houston artist
and singer Lee McCormick.
To complete a weekend of women's
culture, Off the Wall Productions will also
be presenting singer/songwriter Therese
Edell (From Women's Faces) and Betsy
Lippitt in concert on Sunday, October 7
at Fitzgerald's at 8 p.m. Also appearing
will be Houston singer Rawslyn Ruffin.
Single tickets for both performances
are available at BD & Daughter, The
Bookstore, Wilde 'N' Stein, and at the
University of Houston Ticket Center
(Tyler only). The tickets are also available
as part of the UH Fall Series package.
Tyler will be at BD & Daughter and
Wilde 'N' Stein (both at 520 Westheimer)
on Thursday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Everyone is welcome.
There will also be a sound workshop
on Monday, October 9 at Fitzgerald's.
For more information on these events
Claire Noonan is with Off the Wall
The Michigan Womyn's
by Sharman Petrie
Fall into the ocean
We all come from the Goddess
And to her we shall return
Like a drop of rain.
As recording artist Therese Edell said,
"This is not America. It's paradise.
It's Womyn 9s land."
If you've ever dreamed *of total
womyn's space, the annual Michigan
Womyn's Music Festival, held every new
moon in August, is the place to go.
Located on 200 acres of wooded farmland seven miles outside of the small
town Hesperia, Michigan, it is the only all
womyn's music festival of its kind.
Close to 7000 womyn attended the
Fourth Annual Michigan Womyn's Music
Festival. The festival provided excellent
music throughout each day from obscure
to acclaimed performers that included
Holly Near, Theresa Trull and Terry
Garthwait. There were also numerous
workshops on topics ranging from sound
engineering to karate. Merchants and
craftswomyn also came from coast to
coast to sell their goods.
As a first time viewer, I was in awe of
the warmth, sharing, enthusiasm and
smooth sailing that prevailed throughout
the entire four days of the festival. Imagine an environment free of violence and
crime—no thefts (I never worried about
leaving my belongings unattended, including about $800 worth of camera gear.).
Also, all womyn shared the work load
that ranged from sound and lighting to
plumbing, as well as the conventional
cooking and clean up.
The womyn that attended the MWMF
felt freed from everyday inhibitions that
they live with in a male society. Many
wore little or loose clothing, and lesbian
couples openly expressed their affection
for each other. Not even male children
were allowed in the area as this was
totally a womyn's space-a womyn's
There was an excitement in the cool
crisp Michigan air and the energy spread
to the performers. I have never seen Holly
Near give such an electrifying perform
ance. The musical themes reinforced the
bonds that many womyn share—political
struggles, violence against womyn, and
feelings of warmth and love that womyn
can have through the positive energy that
we project among ourselves.
I will never forget my first images of
the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival
as they are very dear to me and have
given an added strength and purpose
towards a better life for myself and
all womyn. I'll be going next year and
every year that this event is held, if for
no other reason than to recharge on this
high energy output that 7000 womyn
working harmoniously together can give.
Further information about the festival
may be obtained by writing We Want the
Music Collective, 1501 Lyons, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan 48858.
Sharman Petrie is a freelance photographer
and this is her first published story.