Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cool White Girls

I'm taking a very brief break from alienation to write about cool white girls, er, I mean, women. I used to wonder if such a thing were possible.

Ever since Mark and I bought the Anita O'Day Mosaic box set, however, I've been hopeful about the possibility of cool white girls in the world. Anita O'Day is cool, especially when she sings "Let's Begin" but even when she's singing a song as ridiculous as "Harriet":

"all the cow hands wanna marry Harriet / Harriet's handy with a lariat / but she don't wanna marry it / she's having too much fun..." etc

When I talk about "cool," I don't mean interesting, Feminist, laudable, amazing, talented, original or inspiring--a lot of white girls are all those things and more, and sometimes cool white girls are also all those things. If you're cool, you're not easily upset, and problems slide off you--you're controlled, stable, and composed. Like Anita O'Day, you can live well into your 80s even though you did heroin for years while still recording and touring. I certainly am not a cool white girl, although I am fabulous--I am hyper, easily baited, and have terrible hangovers.

Anita O'Day is at the top of my cool white girl list. However, she shares the top with Mae West and Jean Rhys. After that though, the list becomes more difficult. Mina Loy, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Jane Bowles, you'll notice, are not on it--and they are some of my favorite white girls in the entire word. But they're not cool. Jane Bowles drank herself to death.

Here's my list--feel free to add to it and debate it:

Anita O'Day
Mae West
Jean Rhys
Wanda Jackson
Dusty Springfield
Mata Hari
Chrissie Hynde
Debbie Harry
Kim Novak
Simone de Beauvoir
Marlene Dietrich
Barbara Stanwyck
June Christy
Chris Connor
Emmylou Harris
Melba Montgomery
PJ Harvey
Bernadette Mayer
Lee Ann Brown
Eileen Myles
Kate Chopin
Ida Lupino
Bonnie Parker


Djuna Barnes
Marie Curie
Jane Goodall
Lucile Ball
Carol Burnett
Eleanor Roosevelt
Mimi Eisenhower
Patsy Cline


Matt said...

Kim Deal! Neko Case.

Office of the Cultural Liaisons said...

Ruth Crawford Seeger
example of a song from 2 Ricercars

Office of the Cultural Liaisons said...

(Sorry one more)
Frances Densmore
responsible for most of the native american songs we have recordings of

K. Lorraine Graham said...

@Matt--Neko Case, absolutely, and Kim Deal, too.

@Craig--no need to apologize, keep the names coming, and the links are great.

Gary said...

Seconding or thirding Kim Deal, and also Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth).

Nada said...

Oh, Nico, for sure.
also maybe Carole Lombard?

I don't think Lucille Ball should be on this list.

Next I really want to see your list of HOT white girls.

tmorange said...

excellent list!

i vote for barbara guest. any doubts should be resolved by the donna dennis and fred mcdarrah photos.

you MUST see jazz on a summer's day for anita's performance. (this is newport jazz festival 1957.) lemme know if you don't have netflix or can't rent it in your area...

K. Lorraine Graham said...

@Nada-Yes, a list of hot white girls is also in order! Carole Lombard is a good possibility. I was conflicted about Lucile Ball...

@Tom-At first I was thinking of Barbara Guest, too, precisely because of those very cool pictures. But does her coolness hold up beyond the pictures? I think I have seen that particular performance on video, once, but we're still sans netflix, for now, until we exhaust TCM.

Matt said...

Without Lucille Ball there would be no Star Trek, which to me is reason enough to bestow at least honorary coolness, like an honorary diploma.

Nada said...

Matt, could you unpack that?

Matt said...

As the head of her production company Desilu, she was the one who gave the green light to the show. If you watch the old episodes on video you can see the Desilu tag after the closing credits.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Ah, this comment thread makes me very happy in the middle of my very busy work day!

@Matt: I did not know that Lucile Ball was head of the production company that gave the green light to Star Trek. I'm not sure, though, that she fits my definition of cool. Is Star Trek a cool show? I've watched every episode a bazillion times, and I love it, but it strikes me as deeply not cool.

I guess Spock is cool emotionally. But...but it seems that I need to be more precise about the relationship between style and cool. Spock does not look cool.

But we were talking about Lucile Ball, not Spock. Still, as awesome as she is, and as much as I love Star Trek, I think having any connection to Star Trek might very well eliminate the possibility of being cool in the sense that I've defined it.

Ok. I need some lunch. Some tamales.

Matt said...

No, you're right, I was goofing, sort of. But yeah, what is cool. Is smoking cool? Of course it is! But then, it kills you and makes your breath smell bad, so...not cool! But then again, it is pretty cool...

I guess what I mean is that in my world, Star Trek would be considered cool. And the people who produce it. But I keep forgetting that I don't live in my world.