The Rumpus Mini-Interview Project #41: Alex Behr in Conversation with Margaret Murray

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I heard about Margaret Murray before I met her: strange rumors about her being a kept woman in LA and a sad, true story of her apartment burning down in San Francisco.

Of course I wanted to befriend her. In the early ’90s we played together in combustible “super-mini-groups”—Job’s Daughters and Heavenly Ten Stems—and I had the chick-bassist slot for two months in (then-named) Caroliner Open Wound Chorale before quitting. Margaret took my place. Grux, the singer, used to stomp on my foot to indicate section changes, and I never defended myself. So I was secretly pleased when Margaret punched him on tour (though, she tells me, she loves him).

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Alex: You’ve been in some latex fashion shows. How does a latex dress feel?

Margaret: Latex is a thorough, nonstop hug. The first time I wore it out, my good pal (and latex designer extraordinaire) Jeffrey Gent dressed me in latex bike-style shorts and a tank top. We went out to a nightclub on a hot summer night. I was amazed at the idea that the sweat needed to be released—latex is waterproof. I still felt like me but I looked like my priorities had shifted. I was told I looked like a mobile sex app. A simplified language to communicate in for sure… as long as one realizes what country you’re in.

Alex: If you could list all the bands you’ve been in and associate each with the first dessert that comes to mind, what would you choose?

Margaret:

1. The Undesirables: Pancakes with jam and some good butter. This band was three teenage girls of which I was one; we completely didn’t know how good we were; but at the same time, we weren’t good.

2. Translucent Zen Bunnies: Ice-cream cone. Summer in Chicago. I’m sometimes not even sure this band happened, but I do know that every song I remember was like the sound of a hot summer night in the city: pieces of car radio, kids yelling, a game, fans whirling…

3. Caroliner Rainbow Armed with Quarts of Blood: I will say a kitchen sink sundae crammed down your throat so the whipped cream helps the nut lumps slide down easier. And I do mean crammed, but entirely consensually. Caroliner is the best band in the world for about fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes, results may vary.

4. SF Seals (Barbara Manning): Apple pie. Playing with Barbara made me feel cute and sunny.

5. The Three Doctors: Late harvest Gewürztraminer. Wha? Very adult … but I’m starting to feel fucked up. Wa-wa-wooozy.

6. United States (US) Saucer (Brian Hageman and David Tholfsen): Best fruit crisp ever with mangoes and cherries amongst others, with a side of fudge ’n caramel sauce in case you can’t decide. Because there was so much there, but what a mess. I still remember confessing to Brian that I started crying during one of our shows and had to stop playing for a minute; he confessed to the same thing at the same time so there onstage stood David, still singing and playing all alone.

Alex: You once put all the food you wanted to eat in a bowl, and would eat from that all day. What was in the bowl and when did you start this?

Margaret: I did it while I was in Chicago, going to school. I think the bowl had cottage cheese, bananas, tuna fish, probably pineapple and I’m trying to remember if there were any vegetables. I was determined to sever all emotional attachment to action. Food is simply fuel—who cares how it tastes, right? I was tired of putting doilies on basic animal needs.

Alex: You had a comic strip in Bananafish magazine called “Cooks ‘n’ Chefs ‘n’ their Assistants.” What prompted you to create it, and why hasn’t it made you a millionaire?

Margaret: I liked really simple images with (what I imagined as) a colossal amount of emotion packed into them. When I was a kid, I’d watch sporting events on TV and they’d have these bigheaded mascots. Even the University of Iowa had “Herky the Hawk” with a big hawk head in a helmet. The mismatched anatomy triggered extreme giddiness and I would spin around yelling when I saw these things.

I also like cooking shows/magazines and am quite sure that the assistants are doing all the work but Genius Chefs can never be questioned.

And you’re right to ask, why am I not a millionaire? Maybe the drawings are too small? Or the truths they tell are too true…

Alex: My husband’s fantasized about being perfectly spherical. If you could be any shape, what would it be?

Margaret: I would have a really large rear end, be completely pear-shaped so that no one could think straight (see the big-headed mascot thing from above) when they saw me walk by.

Alex: The other day my son called me “Richard Nixon,” which I took as a compliment. I have nothing further to say.

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A 1993 interview Margaret and Alex conducted with film historian Jack Stevenson appears in The Rumpus.


Alex Behr received an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University. Her writing has appeared in Oregon Humanities, Portland Review, Propeller, Evil Monito, and other online and print publications. She performed excerpts from her teenage diaries in Mortified in Portland and San Francisco - as a “brain butt.” More from this author →