JD RAGE (1947-2018)
A Remembrance by Jan Schmidt
A Remembrance by Jan Schmidt
J.D. Rage said she dreamed herself up in a drug rehab in 1978 and came to life in February of 1985 on the sixth anniversary of the suicide of Sid Vicious.
She believed that words are more important for their sound than their conventional meaning but that when both effects combine in harmony, the result is true beauty. While searching for excitement and peace, she played bass guitar and sang lead in several bands, wrote three unpublished novels and vomited up mountains of published and unpublished poetry, painted many portraits, and worked with film and digital photography. She was co-editor of CURARE, a multimedia magazine, and of Venom Press, a chapbook publisher. JD Rage was one of the co-hosts of the Sunday Open Series at ABC No Rio in the 1990's. She wrote in one of her bios, "She thinks Jack Kerouac is god even though it is no longer politically correct for a woman to feel that way. And by the way, god is dead. LUV, JD."
When Janet Whalen took the moniker JD Rage, she wasn’t kidding. Many people remember her fights: crashing her bass against the amp in rehearsal; stomping out of poetry readings; rushing in suicidal madness through midnight Lower East Side streets in search of heroin; catching a man who stole her money off the bar at the corner of First and St Marks and digging her cash out of his underwear, madly slamming garbage cans around in the street in a rage at her boyfriend. Through all the pain of her manic depressive, schizoid obsessions, what kept her alive was her art: music, painting, and always poetry. When she performed her poetry live, she had a powerful voice, with a punk rage-full dramatic delivery, full of sound and fury, signifying plenty. She was one of a select few asked to participate in the poetry part of the punk, alternative, hip-hop traveling show Lollapalooza, but she couldn’t get out of work for such a long period.
Some of her chapbooks are:
“Man Trouble” 1989, Rage/Allied Productions
“Rage” 1989, Rage/Allied Productions
“Dear Grim Reaper” 1993 Venom Press
“Relentless” Venom Press
“Crucifried” 1996, Undulating Bedsheets Productions, reissued by Venom Press
“Fire” Venom Press
“Devotions & Desecrations” 1999 Venom Press
When I moved to New York City in 1981 from the Bay Area, I had one phone number for a friend of a friend, JD Rage. When I called, JD invited me over. The cab driver told me as he dropped me off at her apartment that if he’d known where I was going, he wouldn’t have picked me up, as he refused to drive into that dangerous neighborhood. JD was living in a graffiti-covered building on Fifth Street between Avenue A and Avenue B. There were drug dealers everywhere in the Lower East Side. I was thrilled. JD and I got along fine and began hanging out together in bars, in abandoned buildings, empty lots, and in music clubs. She dressed in leather and spikes and played bass in a band, the Bandits, but when they broke up we formed a new band, Baby Boom, a name we all hated, though we couldn’t let it go. JD Rage wrote most of the songs and sang while playing the bass, with Ptr Kozlowski and me on guitars, and Hazel Lucchesi on drums. Through much of the 1980s, we played around LES at places such as A7, CBGB’s, Sin Club and many other venues with fellow travelers like False Prophets, Bag People, Swans. I remember one time we did so much speed we played our hour set in a half hour. At A7, when we were the headlining band, it meant we went on at 6am. Link to information on bands: http://www.rantrecords.com/
JD RAGE PLAYLIST FROM YOUTUBE
And always JD Rage was painting, including many portraits of Sid Vicious, some of her other icons, Iggy Pop, Jack Keroauc, Andy Warhol, Billie Holiday, and various boyfriends such as Billy Demon and Mugsy Franklin aka Mugsy O’Harlot. Some of them she painted on leather jackets for herself and for friends.
In the 1990s, I published a series of oral histories in DOWNTOWN Magazine. On February 15, 1995, they published an interview I conducted with JD Rage.
During all this time, JD kept her full-time high level job at the State Insurance Fund where she was well-respected. At the memorial Luther Williams told a wonderful story of JD going to testify before judges. She’d show up dressed not-so-professionally in punk garb, but most of the judges thought she was smart so didn’t bother with it. One judge told her that this was inappropriate for court and not to show up again dressed like that. The next time she appeared before him, she came in and sat down. Wearing a tuxedo.
Even when she had to quit work because of illnesses, which she suffered for more than twenty years, JD kept writing. She died in hospice care on March 3, 2018, clutching her AA coin of thirty-three years. Her poetry opened up into a universe of pain and pleasure. For a person who wrote about death and suicide so often, at the end, she was a fighter, hanging in there till every organ in her body was failing.
We held a week-long memorial for JD Rage. From July 23 to July 28, 2018, an exhibit of her paintings and other art work was held at 292 Theatre/Gallery Bullet Space, curated by Ptr Kozlowki.
Below you can see three versions of the exhibit and the poetry reading memorial on July 28, 2018, where people read her poetry and talked about her life, along with links to five poems reprinted here for Wall readers. Friend-performers below include Ptr Kozlowslki, EAK Edward Arrocha, Bruce Weber, Thad Rutkowski, Su Polo, David Huberman, Joanne Pagano Weber, Susan Sherman, Dorothy F. August, Chris Iconicide, Luther Williams and me.
LINKS FROM JD RAGE MEMORIAL
Part 1 - https://youtu.be/EwLtJghPRcA
Part 2 - https://youtu.be/wIFVPWntAZI
POETRY THIN AIR, WITH MITCH CORBER
Part 1 https://youtu.be/KuTA2cFQKt4
Part 2 https://youtu.be/zme6uykdWaU
J.D. RAGE POEMS
"MY VETERAN" from Rage (Rage/Allied Productions)
"Three Minute Poem" from Café Nico 1996 Alternative New Year’s Day Reading
"Never Female Before"