Tomata du Plenty 1948-2000
photo: Mary Rocco, 1977
the WAKE, 'Carnival du Plenty,' and the MEMORIAL are documented on:
Tomata's Memorial and Wake page
the REMEMBRANCES sent to theoretical.com are posted BELOW...
These words and pictures have been offered by a variety of Tomata's friends for posting here...
photo: Ray Webster, 1983
Tomata, 1974-75 in
Central Park, New York City.
Tomata, with friend
added March 1, 2001:
"I call it my Cairo love, turning to my love I said the dead are dancing with the dead, the dust is whirling with the dust, but she said she heard the violin's and left my side and entered in: Love passed into the house of lust."
is John Heys-
Love John Heys.
Style and theater were also so much a part of the Screamers that nobody ever called them out for being a punk band with a full-time stylist. Later on, under the direction of Austrian filmmaker Rene Daalder, the band made a series of video clips and short promotional films nearly two years before MTV went on the air. Gary Panter's screaming, hair-raising skull caricature of Tomata has become one of the few recognizable "official unofficial" emblems of the great L.A. underground rock band rebirth of the late '70s.
No one with any management or business skills understood the Screamers or their lo-fi psycho-Kraftwerk-meets-The Night Porter as performance art, yet the band (one ARP Odyssey synth, one Fender Rhodes with fuzzbox, and one minimal drum kit plus Tomata) was still regularly selling out multiple consecutive nights at the Whisky and the Roxy, two shows a night with their meticulously polished productions. Any unsigned band able to rack up ticket sales even half that amount today would stir up a major knock-down bloodied bidding war among several multi-national mega corporations.
Tomata's riveting stage moves were blatantly copped by Jello Biafra and Danny Elfman-goes-New-Wave- with-Boingo After the final break-up of the Screamers in '81, Tomata embarked on a new career as a painter, and after his first show at the Zero One Gallery in '83, he gradually evolved into a revered folk artist who worked the storefront gallery circuit in Seattle, L.A., Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco. (He always said he'd sooner sell 100 of his trademark instant paintings of his favorite artists and other plain folks at $25 each rather than one at $25,000.)
Before moving to L.A. in early '77 Tomata was a beneficiary of Seattle's "one-percent-for-the-arts" policy at a time when there were more than a dozen funded live theaters in the city mostly featuring farcical musical comedies which brought out droves of actors, designers, costumers, and performers like Tomata who were enticed to artist-friendly Seattle looking for low-wage work in the arts. Tomata was a big hit on the thriving Seattle off-theater circuit of the early 70's as a member of Ze Whiz Kidz a lip-sync troupe he originally formed with Gorilla Rose (RIP Michael Farris) in '69.
After opening for Alice Cooper at the Paramount in '72 with a 50's-theme musical "Puttin' Out In Dreamsville" the vitality around Ze Whiz Kidz god-fathered major re-births of local scenes in modern dance, performance art, punk and the gay underground in Seattle. Ze Kidz staged nearly 100 mini-musical/revues with a cast whose stage names included Satin Sheets, Co Co Ritz, Daily Flo, Benny Whiplash, Michael Hautepants (costume designer Michael Murphy), Leah Vigeah and real females Louise Lovely (Di Linge) and Cha Cha Samoa (Cha Davis). After bailing on Ze Kidz circa '74 Tomata formed the Tupperwares an all-drag vocal trio with Melba Toast who later reinvented herself as Tommy Gear (the utterly enigmatic musician-writer who wrote most of the Screamers' classic songs and then seemed to disappear) and Rio de Janiero (David Gulbransen).
Frequently billed together on what came to be known as "TMT" shows, three Seattle bands -- the Tupperwares, the Meyce and the Telepaths -- basically mid-wifed Seattle's version of the late 70's punk-new wave scene. There was also a brief period in New York with Gorilla Rose and Fayette Hauser who performed comedy at CBGB's with the Stilettos (featuring a pre-Blondie Debbie Harry) and the Ramones as opening acts.
After moving to L.A. in early '77 the Tupperwares quickly changed their name to the Screamers after meeting keyboardist David Brown and transplanted Oklahoman multi-media artist-musician KK Barrett. Following the final break-up of the Screamers in '81, Tomata embarked on a new career as a painter whose first show was at the Zero One Gallery in '83. Since then he gradually evolved into a revered populist folk artist who worked the small store-front gallery circuit in Seattle, L.A., Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco where he always said he'd sooner sell 100 of his trademark instant paintings of artists at $25.00 each rather than one at $25,000. With style, grace and humor Tomata once said "everybody must be made to feel important sometime ..."
added February 14, 2002
TOMATA DU PLENTY
Tomata du Plenty was
the Art Critic for the public access cable TV show What's Bubbling
Underground? that was produced in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
I directed all the episodes in which he appeared. I was saddened to read
of his passing. He was a remarkable talent, so I thought I would share
a little about his contributions.
I think Tomata du Plenty was mischievous, but he would never cause minor injury. I think he was responsibly playful. He could be annoying. He could be trouble. But underneath all that, beat an outrageous, yet caring, heart of gold. At least those are my impressions of Tomata du Plenty.
TO TOMATA FROM ADORE
DU PLENTY YOU WERE
WHEREVER YOU ARE
TOMATA DU PLENTY
In a message dated 8/29/00
Dear Mr (Brendon) Mullen
Your E-Mail notifying Tomata's friends of his death was forwarded to me by my brother Edward (Eddie) Mac Gillavry with whom Tomata had been sharing a house. Tomata came to Holland a couple of years ago. He stayed with my mother here in The Hague. I was able to show him a bit of the center of The Hague taking time for a lengthy lunch and my mother took him to the beach. We truly enjoyed meeting him and think back to the meal we had at my house before his departure the next day. My brother has kept me informed of Tomata's condition. He had been in touch with Tomata who seemed to be confident of a recovery. My mother and my partner join me in expressing our sorrow. We are all very glad to have known him.
Another of our comrades
has fallen. I have been informed by Brenden Mullen (who keeps track of
these things) that Tomata DuPlenty (of the Screamers) recently passed
away due to cancer.
After the Screamers broke up and Tomato began his art career, I bought two of his water color paintings from him and he gave me a third, one of which, unfortunately, I have lost somewhere in all the moving I have done since. I found his "affordable art" to be irresistible.
When I moved to Albany, NY I wrote to all my friends to give them my new address. A letter I had written to Tomata went to two different addresses in Florida before being delivered to him. He wrote me a long letter in reply, to which I failed to respond...in it he told me that he had a crush on me back in the day. I was mentally dislocated by this confession. We got back in touch with each other in the last few years, thanks to the miracle of e-mail. I was hoping to visit him in New Orleans soon, or that his art activities would bring him to New York. I sent him some e-mail recently and hadn't received a reply and was starting to worry. Now I know why. I have a little shrine for my friends who have passed: Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Lester Bangs, Richard Grossman, Kickboy Face.
I can use a photo of Tomata to put there, if anyone has one. It can be small and even a photo copy of a picture. thanks.
PS Please don't die before me.
Tomata, with friend
Rob Wray at a 4th of July BBQ in L.A..
FOR GENERAL RELEASE
Tomata DuPlenty, 52, Punker
Tomata du Plenty, 52, a prolific stage performer and artist whose 33-year career stretched from the Haight-Asbury to the French Quarter, died of cancer August 21 in San Francisco.
Best known as the lead singer of the late '70s Los Angeles punk band The Screamers, Tomata seemed perpetually ahead of his times. He was in the forefront of the late 60s glitter scene as a member of San Francisco's gender-bending drag troupe, The Cockettes; he then formed Ze Whiz Kidz, his own counter-culture theater group in Seattle. In the late 80s he abandoned performing to become a painter full time, turning out hundreds of vivid portraits that he exhibited in storefront galleries across the country.
Tomata du Plenty (his name was a play on "do plenty") was born David Xavier Harrigan in Queens, New York, of Irish immigrant parents. His family migrated to Montebello, Calif., when he was 9, and Tomata ran away to Hollywood at the age of 16.
He moved to San Francisco in 1968 where he joined the Cockettes, the hippie-glitter theater troupe that staged legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach. The company's freewheeling shows and rhinestone-studded costumes anticipated and inspired the glam rock scene of David Bowie and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show.Ó Their shows were attended by Diana Vreeland, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal; their then-scandalous film, "Tricia's Wedding,Ó recast the marriage ceremony of first daughter Tricia Nixon as a psychedelic drag show. John Waters described the Cockettes as " the first hip drag queens...on stage and off.."
Tomata lead Ze Whiz Kids, a Seattle troupe that blended counterculture comedy with drag theater from 1969-1972. The group staged nearly a hundred musical revues with a cast that featured performers like Satin Sheets, Co Co Ritz, Daily Flo, Benny Whiplash, Michael Hautepants (costume designer Michael Murphy), Leah Vigeah and real females Louise Lovely (Di Linge) and Cha Cha Samoa (Cha Davis, now a painter).
From 1972-1974 Tomata joined friends Gorilla Rose and Fayette Hauser in New York City to bring guerrilla comedy to CBGB's and other East Village clubs, working with then-unknown bands like the Stilettos (later Blondie) and the Ramones. "I used to do Pat Suzuki between their sets,Ó he said. In 1972 and 1973 Tomata and company staged two Palm Casino Revues at the Bowery Lane Theater. In between shows, he found time to write an advice column for an adult newspaper and operate a thrift store.
As much theater as rock band, The Screamers eschewed guitars and featured two keyboards, one drummer and assaultive lyrics mostly written and sung by Tomata. Their sound anticipated the techno rock of the early 80s. Their look--foot-high hair and ripped clothes--was achieved with the help of hair sprays, gels and a full-time stylist (Chloe Pappas).
From 1977-81 The Screamers were L.A.'s leading punk band, and one of the city's leading club draws. They played consecutive sold-out performances at L.A.'s top music venues, including the Whisky, the Starwood and the Roxy, but despite several offers never signed a record deal.
The band's last performance, without keyboardist Gear, was at the Whisky-A-Go Go in 1981. Two years before MTV, it incorporated music video with live performances by Tomata, K.K., Paul Ambrose, Shari Penquin and the Fabulous Sheela. Much of the film was later used in a full-length feature, "Population: One," produced and directed by Dutch filmmaker Rene Daalder and featuring a cast of L.A. musicians and scene-makers, including a preschool Beck Hansen. "Population: One" was screened in 1986 at the Cannes and Seattle film festivals. In 1987 it was screened at the Chicago Film Festival and was later released in Europe and Japan.
In 1985 he wrote and performed "The Weird Live Show,Ó a series of unconventional shows at the Anti-Club and LACE Gallery in Los Angeles. Tomata assembled "The du Plenty Players" and staged "A Shakespeare Travesty" at the Ocasco Gallery in 1985, blending the camp comedy and the work of the Great Bard. He joined Fayette Hauser and the artist Gronk in writing and performing in "The Royal Family" at the Lhasa Club in Los Angeles in 1985-86. In 1986 he appeared on stage at the L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art in conjunction with Gronk's "Morning Becomes Electricity" show. In the late 1980s he directed a series of short films with Los Angeles filmmaker Kevin Kierer, including "Mr. Baby," featuring Styles Caldwell, and "Pick Up on Olvera Street," featuring Juan Garza. He coaxed 50s TV horror-movie hostess Vampira out of retirement, and featured her in several performances and films.
In 1987, he won the L.A. Weekly's Best Set Design Award for his work on John Fleck's one-man stage show, "I Got the He-Be She-Be's." He directed the Compulsive Players in a performance at L.A.'s MOCA that same year and exhibited at the Bye Bye Gallery with artist Diane Gamboa.
An exhibit called "Knock Out!," featuring portraits of boxers, appeared in 1988 at the Zero One Gallery in Los Angeles. That same year he was the regular art critic on the cable television series, "What's Bubbling Underground," and he guest lectured at the Fashion Institute of Los Angeles. In one of his last stage performances he appeared in "The Loves of Edgar Allen Poe" with Gronk, Fayette Hauser, Janis Segal and Styles Caldwell at L.A.'s Casa Confetti.
to New Orleans
He was proud of his status as an outsider artist--he once observed he would rather sell 100 pictures for $25 than one picture for $2,500.
In the mid-1990s he moved to his studio to New Orleans. Several times a year he would hit the road for exhibits in California, New York and Florida.
In January 1999 he appeared in a CNN interview, along with series of paintings featuring Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley and other pop-culture icons. Last July, he returned to California for an exhibit at Beyond Baroque in Venice. His opening reception included readings and performances by an eclectic assortment of longtime friends, including the Oh! Sisters, the Groovy Rednecks, Pleasant Gehman and Vampira.
Tomata's last major show, "Black Leather Kerouac," featured watercolors of the beat generation and was held at Cafe Vesuvio in San Francisco's North Beach. Fellow punk veterans Jello Biafra and Penelope Houston performed at his opening.
At the time of his death Tomata was researching opera singers for a planned exhibit at the Glendale Art Library.
Robert Wray 323 934-2492 email@example.com
I know that many of you
not knowing about Tomata's illness have concerns about the last weeks
of his life. I just want to assure you that there's an unsung hero that
came back into Tomata's life just at the right time. His name is Satz
(Satin Sheets from Ze Whiz Kidz and SF's
The Lewd). When Tomata came to SF for the
Kerouac show it was obvious that he needed medical attention. Although
it had been 25 years since Satz and Tomata
had spent much time together, Satz took Tomata in and gave him his own
room in the apartment building Satz manages.
This webpage is
Your words will be
signed Screamers Poster (1979)
from the collection of Chuck Fulton
Just published (Click Here:) Tomata Forever cover article
written by Terry Durbin (of the band Shoofly) in this issue of Nightlife Magazine.
About 2 years ago Tomata became web savvy and we collaborated on a little piece called the tomatapatch from his diary's snapshots of past theoretical events which remains on THIS theoretical site. There's also documentation of Tomata's part in the "Roasting of a Cock-eyed Optimist" (refering to Jim Yousling) by Stuart Timmons in the Archives. Tomata also contributed a cathartic piece on his good friend Paul Adrian who died of AIDS in 1998 for placement in our WestWing (where THIS page now resides, too). I know doing that really helped him gain some closure and perspective on loosing one of his best friends right before his eyes in Miami Beach. He also created his own website [www.tomataduplenty.com] last year which offers some of his recent work and gigs. We hope that site will remain intact. The loss of this truly original creative gentle genius has many of us shocked and bewildered. We now know he had been HIV positive for some years but chose not to broadcast it.
The last time I saw Tomata (this past Spring) he was looking so swell and laughing that deep slow Phyllis Diller laugh of his. He gave me a little portrait of Edith Sitwell from his latest literature series.
Farewell, Dear Friend.
If you would like offer a personal contribution to this page contact:
The Farewell events are documented on:
Tomata's Memorial and Wake page
other friends are remembered in theoretical's West Wing
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