Wendy O. Williams on Sally Jesse Rafael in 1984

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Sometime in 1984, Wendy O. Williams went on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show to promote WOW, her first solo album. It’s no surprise that Wendy made her badass entrance by tearing down a wall with a chainsaw, knowing her history of explosives and sledgehammers.

Wendy O. remains one of the most mesmerizing, strong and abrasive punk icons of the late 1970s and 80s: with an attitude more boyish than Debbie and a sex appeal as flammable as her onstage antics. With the Plasmatics, she blew shit up, broke things to pieces, styled her hair in a dangerously sharp mohawk and welcomed all forms of nudity and sexuality (despite it causing her trouble with the cops, but hey, this is punk rock). Honestly, though, what is most lovable about Wendy O. was that she was real. She was a proud vegetarian activist and found her way on the cover of the July 1984 issue of Vegetarian Times.

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Vegetarian or not, it’s improbable not to love Wendy O. after this interview on Sally Jesse. You get the idea that the producers on the show wanted to put Wendy O. on immediate defense with the opening question to the audience: “Who here has never seen anything like this?” But it didn’t deter Wendy O. from being on her best behavior, explaining her “fashions” – the nail-studded arm cuff as a non-conformist jewelry with its practicality as a defense mechanism on the tough NYC trains. She even refuses to argue with Sally Jesse, proclaiming “I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover!”

As an introduction to her video to the anthem “It’s My Life”, Wendy O. states that the video is one of the first to portray women as strong characters, rather than “as models, as objects, as coffee tables.” Besides Wendy O.’s midwest gang of white-faced, blue contoured Rocky Horror fans, the ultimate takeaway was – as her life’s oeuvre – the proclamation that “you don’t have to do what everybody else tells you to do.” RIP WOW.

About The Author

Andi Harriman is the author of Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s. She resides in Brooklyn, New York where she writes, DJs and lectures on all things dark and gloomy.