Where Is She Now? (The Scream Queens and The B-Movie Bimbos)
Feature by Alex Zander
Welcome to our new and ongoing feature. “Where Is She Now?” Every issue we will bring back one of the legendary bad girls who were cinemas most sensational sex symbols. The movies may have been panned by so-called critics, but they were adored by us. Enjoy the first of an endless run of B-Movie Babes that will begin here with Yvette Lera who starred as Razor Baby in Full Moon’s, “Blood Dolls”.
Yvette Lera is a native Chicagoan who was in love with music. She is real rock n roll girl but not at all rock grrl. Her image is one more easily identifiable as glamour as opposed to grunge. She studied acting and music in Chicago, and in the 90’s moved to LA like so many other young women hell-bent on breaking into the business. Unlike so many others her story is not a tragic one. Yvette is, in essence a workaholic, and rock n roll is her job. She’s on the job 24-7, and is not one prone to taking a day off. A shameless self-promoter, her resume is impressive and speaks for itself. Moving to LA her face made her a living as she appeared in print ads TV ads and then moved into movies. She has a few low-budget beauties to her credit, which of course include gratuitous nudity. Somehow she managed to graduate to the biggest summer blockbuster of 1998 Armageddon.
But her real love is rock n roll. And she decided after a brief stint playing the sunset Strip in Hollywood to return to her roots in Chicago. The timing couldn’t be better since the music scene is becoming healthier for original rock music than it ever has. And unlike the Lolitas that have the music world’s attention over the past 4 years, Yvette, writes, sings and plays her own stuff. At the time of this writing she now has the attention and interest of rock n roll legend Kim Fowley. Fowley, who may very well own the greatest rock n roll resume of them all was the man who created the sensation known as The Runaways in the 70’s.
It’s still early in Yvettes return to her hometown, so we wanted to catch her while we could so we sat down at Rannalis under the Tower Records store on Chicago’s north side and shared some beer and chewed the fat.
Alex Zander: Yvette please rattle off some of the movies that you’ve done and what you did in them. And begin with the notorious Blood Dolls
Yvette Lera: First I was in Blood Dolls. I played Razor Baby, so I was the guitar player and the little bad girl in the cage that the villain makes perform songs through electric shock. I was picked from 150 girls chosen by Charles Band and Miles Copeland. They had interviewed us. Miles Copeland, founded IRS Records and he had us working with Penelope Spheres who did the documentaries on the DVD for Blood Dolls, she did “Suburbia,” “Wayne’s World,” “Decline and Fall of Western Civilization”… I worked with Jane Weidlin from the Go-Go’s, we collaborated on some music. So that was a long interviewing process.
AZ: Was that the last film that you did?
YL: Yeah, that was the last major film that I did.
AZ: What was the film Judas Kiss?
YL: Judas Kiss, I was with Carla Gugino, she’s in Spy Kids now, she plays the mom. In Judas Kiss I played an extraterrestrial-vixen sort of thing, Captain Desire. It was the very beginning, basically. It was a small little clip of like a semi-porno with a chick that the security guard was watching when he was getting killed.
AZ: Is that where they got the nudes that are on the Internet?
YL: Yeah, basically, it was just “I’m Captain Desire and I’m here to shoot you,” the alien chick. And we just take our tops off and get it on. (laughs)
AZ: What was House of Wax?
YL: Exotic House of Wax is a Full Moon production, but it’s under a different name. It’s sort of like their softcore things that they do. My character was Cleopatra and I play the wax figure, and it was Cleopatra and Anthony…
AZ: Comes to life?
YL: Yeah, so she comes to life when you put the amulet around her neck and all of a sudden she’s sexy.
AZ: So that’s why for that movie Charles Band directs under a ladies name, right?
YL: Yeah, it’s sort of like how Anne Rice writes and then she does Anne Rampling. Charles also uses the name Sybil Richards.
AZ: That shows up on Showtime, USA and late-night Cinemax?
YL: Yeah, basically. You know, living in Hollywood, starting out I did a few things where you start out, you do a little bit of nudity here and there and it’s just like “alright, whatever.” But, it gets you one contact. Everything that you do in this business, depending on how you work it, gets you from one level to the next. It’s like stepping stones. So because of the fact that I did Exotic House of Wax, they remembered me and they really liked me as the character. Plus I got box art cover for that. They called me in and they were like, hey are you doing skin flicks anymore? I said no, I’m not doing that anymore, I’m moving up. Then they said “We want you to come in and audition for this Blood Dolls film”. You need to come in and actually sing and play guitar, meet Miles Copeland, all that stuff. So I went down to the record label, met Miles and auditioned.
AZ: Your credits include the big budget Armageddon. That’s impressive. I remember you were a stripper in that.
Is that the bar where the astronauts went before they flew?
YL: Yeah, that’s when I met Steve Buscemi, actually. It was awesome because I got cast for that last minute, and it was the scene with Steve Buscemi where it was his last night on earth before he was going up on this big mission. This scene was filmed downtown at the LA theater. They were spending a wad a cash on strippers or whatever. My little part for that, I had my hair really short and slicked back and I was in patent leather, dancing around a pole. I was one of the dancers on the side and he was surrounded by strippers, throwing cash. It was sort of like a real-life meets film-art thing because I was part of that whole scene at one point. But it was cool, and then I got to sit off on the sidelines and Michael Bay was the director, of course he’s done Pearl Harbor and all these big things with Jerry Bruckheimer.
AZ: What other movies?
YL: Basically House of Wax, Blood Dolls, Armageddon, and Huxley’s Brave New World, I had a part in that. That was fun because I got to work next to Peter Gallagher and Leonard Nimoy. So I got a chance to meet those guys and be on the set, be an extra on that.
AZ: Did Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows scare you?
YL: Yeah sort of.
AZ: Are they as big in person?
YL: Bigger and bushier, at least every shot I was behind them…
AZ: Behind the eyebrows?
YL: But I remember the day we were filming that, there was El Nino at the time. So it was raining really hard, it was a scary day. But it was awesome because I got a chance to meet and work with those guys.
AZ: You did music videos, too?
YL: Oh yeah, I was a featured extra in Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” video. I was the chick in the background on the left wearing a red tank top, having a cigarette, kinda dancing/partying. But that was pretty featured, it was played on MTV, it got a lot of airplay. So I was in that. I did a video with the Wallflowers. So I got to talk with and meet Jacob Dylan. I also got a chance to be in a feature, this up-and-coming band, Everything. Then the Harvey Danger video. You know, the cheesy pop stuff, basically. But also being out there I got to sing backgrounds for Danzig. I’ve worked with Chris Vrenna, Geordie Walker, Jazz Coleman, Steve Jones, from the Sex Pistols, Joey Castillo and Paul Raven on the Zilch Hide project from Japan. I got props on that. I got credits for being background vocalist and I named the song.
AZ: I know you were doing Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors, right?
YL: Yeah, they did a feature on the Blood Dolls. I have a big poster of that.
AZ: So you had to sit there all day, sign autographs and take pictures with geeks? How often do you do that?
YL: Not very often.
AZ: Full Moon does a lot of merchandising, they made the Pimp Doll, Was that was the only toy from Blood Dolls.
YL: They were supposed to do some dolls of us but…
AZ: They do move a lot of videos and DVD’s.
YL: Well, Penelope Spheres did a full-length documentary on us but she pulled out of the project before it was finished.
AZ: So explain to the readers the advantage of buying the DVD as opposed to the video. Or as opposed to watching it on Showtime.
YL: Buying the DVD is better because you get a lot more for your money. You get cast and crew bios, you get a short clip, a brief piece of the documentary segment that Penelope did with us. In the video it only just shows the Full Moon previews and the movie. But the DVD has a lot more features of each person. You get a little bit more on it. What’s really sad though, about that movie, is Nicholas Worth, he’s the rich guy in the film, he passed away. That’s pretty sad. Yeah, he was a really great guy. Jack Maturin the clown-face guy, he was awesome. He loved us. Of course the midget, Phil Fondacaro who was in Willow.
AZ: He’s in everything, the Little Monsters movie, Bordello of Blood, Addams Family Reunion and so on. Now what’s with Full Moon and dolls and miniature people?
YL: I don’t know. I think Charles Band and whoever is a part of it, that’s just such a big thing, their infatuation with toys and taking it to the next level, creating it to life. Meeting the toymakers who actually built the dolls onset was awesome and showing how they animate the dolls and make them lifelike was really exciting and fun. Besides that, when I did a House of Wax feature they were making a mold out of me and that was quite the experience.
AZ: They made an actual mold of you?
YL: Yeah, what they did was they took me into the stage room. I’ll never forget this day. I went in there and they had me strip down. I was in my heel-platform shoes. I stripped down and was in my underwear only, topless, holding my tits and I had a garbage bag wrapped around my waist they had me sit in a chair and then they wrapped my hair up in this long tall thing, straight up in the air. What they were doing was they were getting ready to pour the prosthetic stuff on me. So what they did, they didn’t even put straws up my nose, I don’t know how I did it, I got myself into a zen breathing moment, and they poured this white, plastic molding stuff all over the top of my body. So basically they poured it off my head, my chest and everything. Then there were these people molding it to me, shaping it. Then after it hardened they cut through a couple parts and pulled it off of me. So I had a whole bust.
AZ: How long did that take?
YL: Obviously it had to be that fast because I was under there not breathing. So probably like 10-15 minutes it took to do it, but it seemed like forever.
AZ Originally from Chicago, when did you leave and move to LA?
YL: I moved to LA about five or six years ago.
AZ: So that would have been ’97, ’98?
YL: Right when I rolled into town I got the gig.
AZ: What kind of experience did you have here, if any? Did you have any acting experience or was it all music?
YL: Well the thing is, I’m a graduate from DePaul University Goodman School of Drama. I got a bachelor in fine arts, in film, theater, television and music. I have a minor in communications. Basically I did film school, then I was a bartender. Being in band and whatever performance art pieces which I was able to be a part of, I was. I was involved in everything that I could be. Being that, I had no fear. I went out to LA with $200 in my pocket and found an apartment and had faith that I’d find a little bartending job. I got an agent and right after that I just started auditioning for people. It’s definitely what they say. It’s who you know.
AZ: So who did you have to know or meet first?
YL: Well a friend of mine was working in the business and basically gave me the insights of what auditions, so it’s more so than just having a variety magazine or whatever. If you know somebody that’s an insider they can give you a tip on what to do. Then you go down and audition and of course, your look, vibe, personality and talent have to win you the part. But it helps to have somebody on the inside to be like, hey, this is what’s going on. Then you go down and you do it.
AZ: What was the first film thing you did?
YL: I think the first filming I did was the commercial work and the videos, stuff like that. Then I started auditioning for film parts and did photography shoots with friends of mine out there.
AZ: With the exception of Armageddon being a huge blockbuster, the most popular movie that you’re known for is probably Blood Dolls, right?
YL: Yeah, for a main feature, yes.
AZ: So when people meet you do they want your autograph as Razor Baby?
YL: That’s right…(laughs)
AZ: You’ve done fetish work with Robin Perine and Steve Diet Godde. Where can people see your modeling work.
YL: I’ve done shoots with Robin Perine Photography, (www.robinperine.com) which is Seeing Red Photography Studio. It’s great, she’s got a studio and it’s fun rock n’roll photography. She’s an amazing photographer She’s done some of the greats such as Manson’s Portrait of an American Family cover album. She’s worked with Chris Stein and Buckcherry, and other bands out there. She’s just a really great rock n’roll photographer. She’s got a great eye. So we’ve done a couple shoots that have been in tattoo magazines and SKIN 2 and my friend Steve Diet Goedde has had a couple of books published, The Beauty of Fetish Part 1 and 2, and he’s shot such girls as Julie Strain and Dita Von Teese.
AZ: He’s pretty popular amongst people who read MK ULTRA. Now you did music out there, right? You worked with a lot of people I know. So tell MK Ultra readers who you did it with, who your friends are in the business.
YL: Bill Kennedy, who I knew and met out there from engineering, he had brought me in and he needed somebody to do vocals. That was the one with Chris Vrenna, Steve Jones and all those people. He had me come in and at the time it was A&M Studios, which is now the Jim Henson Studios, they bought it out. But we went down to the studio with Paul Raven, it was some of the most exciting times, being in the studio, meeting managers from L7, Rage Against the Machine, it was amazing.
AZ: Did you sing for Lick before you went to LA, or while you were there?
YL: I met them on my way out there the first time then came back here for 8 months and was in the band. Then I moved out back to LA.
AZ: Now are they a Chicago band?
YL: They are a Chicago-based band. I met them here in Chicago. They were part of Invisible Records.
AZ: Then you started your own project, Cuntagious, right?
YL: Well when I was doing the Blood Dolls thing, since it was all chick-based filming and fun and kind of horrified. I decided to do a band and that’s when I worked with Meghan Mattox who was my lead, bad-ass guitarist (currently with My Ruin) and drummer Tammy Germani, she does a lot of promoting for punk bands in LA. At the time we were just all three friends, hanging out, getting drunk at the bars, then one night I was like, Hey! Let’s start a band! Let’s call it Cuntagious. We just went off with that. When Penelope Spheres was doing my interviews, she had me sing and play guitar for the Cuntagious stuff, which was great. Then after Blood Dolls and Cuntagious I also sung backgrounds with Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat and Newlydeads. Then the Danzig, and started my own project which was Black Lodge because I’m such a David Lynch freak, just so the world knows, I really admire him as a director. I really like the art that he does, especially Twin Peaks and that kind of stuff. It’s really inspired me. The way Black Lodge came about was that I locked myself in my apartment for two days and all I did was watch Twin Peaks back-to-back. I didn’t stop, and it inspired me to write the song. So right there on my four –track in the house, I picked up my guitar, started writing and said I’m gonna make this song and get it to David Lynch. Well, initially I did. We drove up to David Lynch’s house and we put our CD’s on his front doorstep. Talk about psycho move. David, if you hear us, we love you. Nothing personal, but you’re great. So I wrote Black Lodge because I wanted to get it to him because I thought it was very much reminiscent of a soundtrack for one of his movies. So after doing the whole LA thing, the agencies, the contacts, I just decided to take a break and come back to Chicago to get back to my roots, hookup with some musicians out here and see what I can do. I miss the city vibe. LA is like a sprawling wasteland unless you’ve got money and you’ve got your recording studio and your stuff that you’re doing out there to isolate you in what you’re doing. There’s really no life to be had. I think that being in Chicago gives me more of an opportunity to associate with bigger and better things.
AZ: I think the music scene is happening here, really. Next year is going to be a really good year. Soil is doing really well world-wide, Disturbed debuted at #1 with their second album on Billboard, which is huge. Some of the Invisible vibe with Underground Inc. is happening big time. Ministry will be back out on the road early next year. Now you’re here. Where do you think you fit into all of this?
YL: Being that this is my root and having been a part of a few of these things, also working hard on it and working with some really great players, I couldn’t even ask for anything better than to come back and be working with the quality of musicians that I have here because people are in it for the love of the music. Yeah, everybody wants to have some progression and the rock stardom and whatnot. But I think overall it’s way better quality of a music vibe going on out here, as opposed to just totally getting dressed up and being pretty. I would like to see myself opening for some shows. I mean, even with Cuntagious, as simple as it was with the chick band, we opened for the Impotent Sea Snakes. We did a couple of really great shows, opening for some punk bands. My style of rock is very reminiscent of heavy rock and industrial, but it’s got melodic texture, its simplicity.
AZ: So what’s your mission for 2003?
YL: My mission for 2003 is to rock out with my cock out and really do something. As a female vocalist/guitarist/songwriter, there are not enough of us out there that are really taking control of the scene. It’s really difficult being a female in this art form. You have to compete and actually prove a little bit harder sometimes than normal that you’re able to do it.
AZ: People looking at your tits, rather than listening to the music...
YL: Right, and someone once said to me, guys can be rockers because guys want to be them –chicks want to do them. Whereas if you’re a chick, you sell sex like Britney and Christina, stuff like that, is because they sell them as porn stars that rock. If you’re a piece of meat that somebody can try and get their hands on, it makes the sex appeal that you sell.
AZ: Or keep your hands to yourselves and look at the pictures.
YL: Right, so then you’ve got that, rather than somebody looking at you and taking your art seriously. Maybe that might just be my opinion, but I’ve felt that it’s harder to be taken seriously there. But I really just want to rock out, have a band, be out there and take it by storm, along with friends of mine, like Jessicka of Jack Off Jill fame with her new band, Scarling. I just really want to see these people take off and do the real thing. Texas Terri who is the greatest, and my friend Karen Crisis from Skull Sick Nation, I’m really proud of my girls who have stuck it out and stayed out there doing it. We’re battling our day-to-day life just trying to get the rock out there and get it seen and heard. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
AZ: So there’s more choices than just Gwen Stefani, Jewel and Sheryl Crow for women rockers.
Posted by Alex Zander at November 1, 2003 12:00 AM
YL: Fuck yeah! Because in this carnival of a music scene we've obtained a new wall of sound though lots of perseverance and a constant flow of energy within a realm of artistic sorts, such as ourselves. The worlds that we live in become smaller and identified through our pursuits of the same goals, although somewhat different, still of the same mold. This is what's happening right now, I believe with the music that I am creating, along with what we are creating, it is there at your grasp and ripe for the taking. Are you ready? I am. The music scene needs an enema and I'm the nurse. Get ready for the shit to fly! We need to take back the reality in the life of the music scene and be heard by all those that will listen, that haven't been damaged by the spoonfed bullshit that they have been injected with! Incidently, my new band is still working on a name, it’s myself on vocals and guitar, along with former members of Black Country Rock, Usherhouse, Emulsion and Nookleptia.