Tomorrow, as part of the CBGB Festival, Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong will discuss the Downtown Collection’s recent acquisition of their Nightclubbing archive of punk-era concert footage. In this week’s installment of their column for The Local, they speak with Tish and Snooky Bellomo, who will be playing with the Sic F*cks tonight at Bowery Electric and tomorrow at Fontana’s. That band was hardly the only one the Bellomo sisters had a hand in.
In the beginning, there was the Stillettos: Debbie Harry, Elda Stilletto and Roseanne Ross. As flashy and trashy as glam bands got, they played CBGBs so early in the game that the Ramones opened for them. By 1975, Debbie Harry had gone on to form Blondie. Elda transformed the Stillettos into the Stilletto Fads, with Tish and Snooky Bellomo as back up singers.
The Bellomos were no strangers to the CBGB scene. “We used to come down to the city from Riverdale,” said Tish. “We would hide our ‘subway’ shoes in some hedges outside of Max’s and CBGB and change into our cool stilettos and rock-and-roll wear before we went in, then change back on the train on our way back to the Bronx so we wouldn’t scare the neighbors.” Their fashion sense paid off: realizing how hard it was for New Yorkers to get the cool tight black pants that English kids wore, they used $500 to open Manic Panic on St. Marks Place in 1977. “Sometimes, we only made a $2.50 sale all day,” recalled Snooky, “but everyone would drop by, so you almost didn’t care. It was a while before we started making any money.”
Meanwhile, they sang with the Sic F*cks – at CBGBs, Max’s, Mudd Club theme nights, and wherever fun was to be had – and with the Stilletto Fads.
Elda Stilletto, who had been the longtime partner to the late Eric Emerson of Andy Warhol Factory fame, was a fixture on the downtown scene. And she never had trouble putting a band together. Everyone from Lenny Kaye of Patti Smith Group to Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys played with her at one time or another. This line-up included her boyfriend, Scheebo Pampillonia, on drums, and the Wynbradt brothers from the Miamis and Mugzy O’Harlot on guitar. It was a fad and it didn’t last, but it was fun for awhile, the way CBGBs often was.
Manic Panic, which celebrates its 35 anniversary this year, is now an empire with a retail store in Los Angeles and international distribution of its signature hair color products. And Tish and Snooky still play out, most recently at the Max’s Kansas City reunion at Bowery Electric. It was fun to be a girl at CBGBs. They showed us how.
“Jerkoff Blues” is the first song we’re posting today. Elda recalled its origins: “We were opening for The Battered Wives, a group from Canada who had women furious about what they stood for and what they sang about. So we decided to put together a set that would humiliate the bums… and this song suggested by Tish was certainly one that had The Battered Wives shaking in their boots.”
The inspiration for the second song is explained on the Stillettos website: “In 1978, New York City was amuck with discotheques that were competitive with the punk-rock scene. Some however were melting pots of styles such as Studio 54, Hurrah’s and The Ritz. Having more venues to perform in was a plus, but these environments had disco balls and too many colored lights. These joints didn’t have the comfort zone of CBGBs.” Hence, “Anti-Disco.”
This story originally appeared on The Local East Village.