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 is a contributor to The Rumpus. She is the author of Planet Grim: Stories (7.13 Press) and her work has appeared in Tin House, Salon, Bitch, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. More from this author →