This article was written by Sarah Schimek for lethalamounts.com The article is a retrospective about one of the members of one of the first all-women punk bands, Backstage Pass. Member Genny Schorr was co-owner of the store Strait Jacket which was a staple of the L.A. punk scene. Hear stories from Genny herself on the upcoming Metal Priestesses Podcast!
Genevieve “Genny Body” Schorr is a serious mover and shaker of the 1970’s and ‘80’s Los Angeles rock counter-culture. She played guitar in one of Hollywood’s first punk bands, helped build The Masque from the ground-up, and preceded the Melrose alternative boutique boom with her partner Antoinette “Tony” Laumer Sales from their shop Strait Jacket — situated on 3rd Street in Boss Angeles, where “the truly Groovy shopped for drapes.”
Genny Schorr co-founded Backstage Pass in 1976, a band of “unapologetic groupies” that formed as a malevolent response to Kim Fowley’s jailbait despotism over the teen scene, the antithesis of the “Cherry Bomb” sex-kitten vogue. Submerged in glitter-rock and teetering on the cusp of punk, they were ready and willing to ride the New Wave. They were vivacious, thrifty, and scrawled their own codes on sexual presentation and female representation.
“Backstage Pass was made up of more polished and proficient musicians than most of the punk bands around at the time. Their music bridged the gap between glitter and punk and was inspiring to many female musicians, who eventually went on to form their own bands.” - Alice Bag, prologue excerpt from her interview with Genny Schorr, from the Women in L.A. Punk Archives
Needing a space to rehearse, the girls assisted in the transformation of Brendan' Mullen’s Hollywood Blvd. porno theater basement into the legendary Masque venue that bred the first L.A. punk legends of yore. Backstage Pass would hit the stage eventually with the guidance of close friend and mentor, Jake Riviera, the co-founder of Stiff Records. The Stiff Records / Backstage Pass connection runs deep. Jake Riviera was responsible for bringing The Damned to Los Angeles in 1977, the first imported English Punk band to play the city. The scene in L.A. truly kicked off after their arrival and bands started forming left-and-right, with Backstage Pass in the throes of it all. They had befriended Riviera earlier when pub-rockers Dr. Feelgood came through and played a year prior. During his stay with The Damned, he whipped Backstage Pass into a fully-functioning unit.
(GENNY SCHORR, 1977. OUTFIT DESIGNED BY ANTOINETTE LAUMER SALES. PHOTO: JENNY LENS)
Riviera’s wife at the time, Antoinette “Tony” Laumer Sales, was a costume designer making outfits for her favorite bands. Genny is pictured here wearing one of her creations at The Masque in 1977, top-down split-body couture complete with a garter belt denim applique. Alice Bag later reflected on this look as, “ a metaphor for the time and place that her band, Backstage Pass, occupied. I thought that the made up half represented the glitter scene which was then being replaced by the new punk scene… It was raw and real, as opposed to the more showy, artificial glitter side. “ This outfit would be catwalked at the Punk Rock & Fashion Show of 1977, and would mark the beginning of the collaborations between Genny Schorr and Tony Sales.
(FREDDIE MERCURY WEARING SALES’ GLOVES ON TOPPOP, 1974)
Sales had been imprinting herself in rock ‘n’ roll fashion history as early as 1974, when Freddie Mercury swapped his belt for her rhinestone-studded kid leather gloves at an early Queen show in New York City. He can be seen wearing them in a cosmic lip-sync to “Killer Queen” on TopPop, and in a legendary live performance of “Seven Seas of Rhye” at the Rainbow Theatre in London where he coquettishly probes his audience: “Do you like my claws? They’re made from real diamonds… a present from the Devil himself.” By 1979, Tony had curated a star-studded resume -- Todd Rundgren, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Heart, and Cheap Trick (having been responsible for designing Rick Nielsen’s famous checkerboard pants). During her years with Jake Riviera she had created artwork for his label’s album covers and provided wardrobe for the Stiff-rockers. She coined Nick Lowe’s album Labour of Lust, designed the cover, and created for him the ultra-boss Riddler Suit.
After Backstage Pass, Genny would embark on another all-girl musical venture in the early 1980’s with Pleasant Gehman’s band, the Screamin’ Sirens. She was also asked to play bass in The Go-Go’s, post-Margot Olavarria, but ultimately chose to pursue fashion full-time. With the help of the Riviera’s, Strait Jacket was born.
(EXENE CERVENKA OF X, 1982. DENIM CUSTOMIZED BY STRAIT JACKET. PHOTO: GARY LEONARD)
“After [Backstage Pass], I started teaming up with Tony (Laumer Sales), who was Jake Rivera’s wife at the time. He managed Elvis Costello. The name of the store was” Strait Jacket” and we bought the business and he was my silent partner. We had vintage clothes, black jeans, creepers and Beatle boots. Things that you couldn’t get just anywhere. Tony liked to redo a lot of the vintage stuff by embellishing it. We also did custom clothing for bands like Wall of Voodoo, Psychedelic Furs and locals shopped there like The Plimsouls and The Bangs (Bangles). Bruce Springsteen even walked in there one day and bought a shirt he wore on the cover of Creem Magazine! Melrose really hadn’t taken off yet, so we were really ahead of our time.” — Genny Schorr, excerpt from a Punk Globe interview with Ginger Coyote
“Strait Jacket was where the truly Groovy shopped for drapes… Pointy-toed shoes and boots were imported from Tijuana and East L.A. Party dresses were discovered in old department store basements. Miss Genny would often take jackets with nice prints and alter their lapels to the much more eye-pleasing narrow style. Sequins were added to the appropriate poodle skirts. All of this happened while a well-stocked jukebox blasted rock ‘n’ roll — usually The Coasters’ ‘Shoppin’ For Clothes’.” - an excerpt from Make The Music Go Bang! The Early L.A. Punk Scene by Don Snowden and Gary Leonard, 1997
(SPARKS, 1981. SOURCE: GENNY SCHORR VIA INSTAGRAM)
The women of Strait Jacket were commissioned to custom-make clothing for a ton of other local bands including X, The Blasters, The Go-Go’s, and Sparks. Ron Mael is wearing a customized gold lamé two-piece suit from Genny and Tony, seen in action during a 1981 televised concert in Munich.
Genny and Tony would also recreate the Freddie Mercury studded rhinestone gloves for Strait Jacket. Siouxsie Sioux was one of the lucky customers to don a pair of the inspired devil’s claws. Another Strait Jacket customer favorite was The Cramps. Poison Ivy is seen wearing a fringe-laden crop top from Strait Jacket, while former bassist Candy Del Mar models a custom made leather catsuit by Tony, perfecting the “Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon” ultra-sleaze of the Stay Sick! era.
Genny and Tony’s work would receive a significant amount of exposure from The Bangles, starting from the band’s inception. Strait Jacket designed cutaway 1960’s mod dresses for the girls when they still called themselves The Bangs, and Tony designed the 1982 reissue cover of their debut single Getting Out Of Hand!.
Schorr became The Bangles’ key wardrobe stylist during their peak in the mid-’80’s, collaborating frequently with Sales, visually engraving the Paisley-pop stars into the hearts of millions.
Genny and Tony would eventually close the Strait Jacket shop, but they remained faithful to costuming. Last year, they teamed up after a long hiatus to refurbish an old jacket that they had customized for Exene Cervenka back in the day (a garment immortalized on television when X guested on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1982). Exene can be seen wearing the jacket in promo shots for the new X album, Alphabetland.
As a bonus, here’s a collection of Strait Jacket flyers and fashion illustrations by Tony Sales. Her graphic design and communication work is iconic, and should not go unnoticed: