Friday, April 06, 2007

April 6

Wendy Orlean Williams, without question the most irrepressible female performer in the history of rock, blew her head off in Storrs, Connecticut nine years ago today. Williams fronted the thrash-punk band the Plasmatics from the late 1970s through the end of the Reagan era, during which time she destroyed televisions and automobiles on stage while facing arrest for "lewd conduct" nearly everywhere she played -- mostly for performing topless, with electical tape or shaving cream covering her nipples, and for simulating sex acts with sledgehammers and chainsaws. After the Plasmatics were banned from performing in London in 1980 -- she wanted to blow up a car on stage -- Willams explained to Creem magazine that "England is run by monkey-brained Fascist farts. We don't wanta play there."

After her musical career ended, Williams devoted much of her energy toward promoting vegetarianism and animal rights; she worked as a wildlife rehabilitator and promoted natural foods. She also made a brief appearance in an episode of MacGyver. By the late 1990s, though, Williams was mired in depression and decided she no longer wanted to live. In her suicide letter, written to longtime partner Rod Swanson, Williams wrote:
I don't believe that people should take their own lives without deep and thoughtful reflection over a considerable period of time. I do believe strongly, however, that the right to do so is one of the most fundamental rights that anyone in a free society should have. For me much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm.


Four years before Wendy O. Williams took her own life with a pistol, two African presidents -- Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi -- died when Habyarimana’s Falcon 50 jet crashed near the airport in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. The plane was believed at the time to have been shot from the sky by Tutsi paramilitary forces, who had been waging a campaign for years against Rwanda’s Hutu-dominated government. The Rwandan civil war had nearly ended in August 1993, but the Arusha Accords proved unsatisfactory to Habyarimana’s party, which objected to any power-sharing arrangement with the various oppositional Tutsi factions. After Habyarimana’s deadth, Hutu militias -- most notably the the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi -- began slaughtering Tutsis with extraordinary rapidity and in tremendous numbers. By July, perhaps a million Rwandans had been killed, most of them hacked to death with machetes.

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