Some Girls Ask Liz Phair Some Questions and Stuff
CLASS ASSIGNMENT — by Barry Wright
We figured that Liz Phair had talked to enough rock journalists, but not to enough women-of-tomorrow. So we called Barry Wright, an elementary school teacher from the Valley School, who chose six lucky fourth- and fifth-graders. The girls got to listen to Liz Phair’s music, read some articles about her and then talk to her on speakerphone. –Eds.
MR WRIGHT [Age 31]: All right, all right, who’s going to start?
BRANDY [Age 10]: I am…Brandy…Are you really famous?
LIZ PHAIR [Age 27]: I’m moderately famous. I’m somewhere-like, if you picture it as constellations in the sky-you know there’s the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. I’m sort of like that, what is that “W” one? Cassiopeia.
ANNIE [Age 11]: Have you ever met anyone famous other than yourself?
LP: I’ve met a ton of famous people. In fact, girls, listen up — I was just on my honeymoon in the Bahamas, and right on the beach next to us Elle MacPherson ws doing this photo shoot, and we were the only two people on the beach wearing like, orange bikinis. We were just dying, because we would watch her run up and down the beach — and like, I was picturing this as my job. That was all she had to do was, like, run up and down the beach swinging her hair. So… then I met Lenny Kravitz. Do you know who he is?
LP: Do you know who Elle MacPherson is, though?
MR. W: We need a bigger star!
LP: A bigger star… Who’s bigger? Those people are big! Okay, I met Bruce Springsteen. Have you heard of him?
GIRLS: [Some have, some haven’t]
LP: Do you know Tori Amos?
ISABEL (IZZY) [Age 10]: I think I’ve heard of her.
LP: We’re like this, we’re best friends… No, I’m kidding.
IZZY: Have you ever heard of the cartoon show called Jem?
IZZY: Well, it’s about these three rock stars, it’s kinda corny. They have pink and blue hair.
IZZY: They sing songs and fight crime, stuff like that. They have a really nice life. They go around in limos, and there are these bad rock stars.
BRANDY: Jem and the Holograms.
IZZY: Jem and the Holograms, yeah. Well, they want their group to be bigger than Jem’s, and she has this little song that she always sings, and it’s really stupid. It’s like Barbie.
MR. W: Isabel, what were you going to ask her?
IZZY: Well, how is your life, as a rock star, alike or different than Jem’s?
LP: Well, there are different people out there that are, like, sabotaging my career, I think maybe every time I step into a limo, maybe it’s bombed or something. The only time you go in limos is, like, when you go to the Grammys. But the funny thing is, everyone thinks, like, you get this huge amount of stuff, but you really don’t. You don’t until you are really, really huge. So the thing about Jem… maybe Green Day rides around in limos. Frank Sinatra rides around in limos.
IZZY: Do you fight crime?
LP: [Laughing] Rock stars aren’t known for fighting crime. In fact, they are known for breaking the law more often than not.
IZZY: They’re also known for committing suicide.
LP: No, no, that’s only a few very troubled people. There’s a lot of people that don’t.
LAUREN [Age 11]: How much money do you get singing?
LP: Depends on how big of a show you play, how many people come in, and how much money the club takes in at the door. If you’re ever planning to become a rock star, make sure you have a good manager to find out how much the club people are making, because you are supposed to get a percentage of that. Does that make any sense?
DASHA [Age 11]: Can I have some of the money that you make?
LP: Sure you can! What are you going to do for me?
MR W: She wants you to earn the money. How can you earn it? Can you sing back-up vocals or something?
LP: Well, I’m sorry, darling, but you know, there’s no free lunch.
ELIZABETH [Age 11]: Did you get teased at all when you were a kid?
LP: Yeah, they used to call me “four eyes,” but not that often-when I was a freshman in high school, I was put in all the smart classes. And I got in girl fights about boys and stuff like that.
DASHA: Do you sing songs with only bad words in them?
LP: [Laughs] Have you ever heard my album?
LP: Okay then, but no, I don’t. Well, it depends on what you think a bad word is. Doesn’t it? It depends on whether you think talking about boys and stuff is bad. You know what I’m saying? There’s some songs that obviously have dirty language. But there’s a lot of songs that don’t. It depends on, like-well, you guys haven’t hit puberty yet.
MR W: I have.
DASHA: Me and Lauren, definitely![Some arguing about who has and who hasn’t.]
LP: I don’t think so!
IZZY: What was one of your most embarrassing moments as a kid?
LP: Um, gosh. Okay, my friend Lisa and I would go ride our bikes past this guy Chris Beacom’s house all the time. We knew which window was his. We were standing out back, parked in the bushes, like, behind his house. He was actually standing behind us. He had come home from baseball practice and was listening to us talk about him and his bedroom and stuff and what he would be doing. That was very embarrassing. That was mortifying, in fact.
LAUREN: What was the meanest thing you ever did to a Barbie?
LP: [Laughs] I took Ken away. I don’t know, let’s see, I took their heads off. How did you know I had Barbies? That just goes assumed?
IZZY: To tell you the truth, we’re psychic.
LP: Ha ha ha. You psychic? Okay then, what color shirt am I wearing?
LAUREN: Um, purple.
IZZY: We don’t do that kind of stuff.
LP: What kind of stuff do you do?
IZZY: Barbie stuff.
LP: Okay, which was my favorite Barbie?
LAUREN: How about Long-Hair Barbie?
LP: Which one is long-haired, you mean Malibu…
LAUREN: The one with really, really long hair.
LP: No, I liked the one that had the hair that went underneath — it had a flip, and she walked. You pressed a think in her back and she walked. It’s probably a really old Barbie.
DASHA: If you have kids, do you wan them to be rock stars?
LP: I don’t really care. I just want it to be a girl.
MR W: Are you going to have kids now that you’re married.
MR. W: Soon?
LP: Yep. Ha ha ha.
MR W: Real, real soon?
LP: I don’t know. No, I’m not pregnant.
IZZY: Barry, that was kind of nosy!
ANNIE: Do you want to know what our favorite groups are?
LP: What are your favorite groups?
IZZY: Boyz II Men.
LP: You guys like Babyface?
GIRLS: Yeah, yeah.
LP: He was really nice at the Grammys. He played a really great song.
LAUREN: Um, were you really at the Grammys?
IZZY: Did you meet any actors like, um…Keanu Reeves?
LP: No but my friend did. She said he was an airhead.
BRANDY: Are you a feminist, and could you tell us what a feminist is?
LP: I think I am probably a feminist, but the definition is an ever-changing one. It means basically that you promote the rights of women. I couldn’t say that I’m, like, a perfect feminist. It’s sort of like I am a feminist, but I don’t do it all right. Of course, I was never an A-plus student, either.
BRANDY: What kind of feminist are you? A trying… a B feminist, a B-plus feminist. I think of feminism as working to be certain that women are being treated fairly and given equal freedom in the eyes of the law. Does that make sense?
LP: Girls get to do everything that boys get to do, and no one can treat you differently because you are girls.
GIRLS: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
IZZY: Sounds good.
LP: Okay, that’s it.
LAUREN: What is the grossest thing you have ever seen?
LP: The cover of a Big Black album called Headache.
IZZY: Could you come to our school?
LP: Well, I’m only in Seattle for a day. I don’t think I can come during that day.
LP: [Laughs] I’m sorry.
DASHA: Can you sing to us?
LP: Let’s see… Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener… Um… It was a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater. My husband has a little kid and he sings on the answering machine. He sings my song “Double Dutch.” He’s like, “La la la la la la double dutch la la la la la.”
BRANDY: What is that song about, anyway?
LP: “One-eyed, One-horned Flying Purple People Eater”? [Laughs] Oh, the one on Whip-Smart? Actually, it’s about deception. It’s a feminist song, because it uses the idea of Rapunzel-that princess who was locked up in a castle. I’m sort of switching it around and locking up a boy in the castle instead of a girl. It’s sort of like saying you should go through some of the experiences… like if I had a son, I would raise him to understand what it is like to be a girl. Do you know what I mean?
IZZY: You mean you would braid his hair up and put it in bows?
LP: [Laughs] I use a lot of fancy images just trying to say that if men knew what it was like to be a woman, the world would be a better place.
MR W: Well, it’s time to let you go. Girls?
GIRLS: Thank you!
By Barry Wright
The Stranger, Vol. 4 No. 28, April 12-18, 1995