Boston Punk's Original Personality
BGN- So tell us the Helanie Saad story!
HS- I was going to BU but I was also working at Coffee Houses. At the Odyssey
Coffee House on Beacon Hill.. I used to hitch hike from the slum town
BGN- You seem like such an exotic person Helanie!
Do you really come from Lawrence?!
HS- Yeah! Hmmm, Mary Lou Lord says "You
mystify me." Do you like these tights? I found them on a mannequin on the
street. I washed them off first. And this is a thrift store skirt…and thrift
BGN- You have such style!
HS-I hated Lawrence so I started a fashion column even though I went to a catholic school
and we wore uniforms.
BGN- A fashion column? Where?
HS- In the school paper. Like what someone wore to church on Sunday 'cause we
wore uniforms the rest of the time. Then I was a buyer, at 14, of Junior Sportswear
at a Filenes's type joint. That's really what I wanted to do.
PL- I assume you couldn't have felt too at home
HS- NO! At 6 years old I was saying "Get me out of this place!"
PL- So you're at BU….
HS- I worked in a shoe factory; tied shoelaces and buckled buckles on the assembly
line. Now I'm counting clips. I do the accounting for Hubba
Hubba and I'm counting like Nipple Clamps, I'm thinking they
were office supplies!
PL- OK, so you're at BU and…
HS- Right, but my grandfather wouldn't pay for Journalism School there because
he was like "A writer?? What does that mean?" My grandparents were illiterate!
So here I am, the writer and I have file cabinets full of writing. Somebody
asked me if I wrote "Absolutely Fabulous" because I had the Daphne
and Dahlila characters and they were just like the AbFab girls.
BGN- You had a story written?
HS- Yup, I wrote like episodic but I have no self-esteem and I chickened out,
I schpieled it out to Jim Brooks 'cause
they wanted some of my skits for the Tracy Ullman
Show when I went to Hollywood then Tracy
Ullman didn't go on for
another season and I had to keep my bookkeeping job during the day and have
a nervous breakdown…I worked at The Comedy Store
for Mitzi, THE most eccentric woman, Pauly
Shore's mother. She'd be dressed like I am right now and she's like
68!! Everybody wanted that job so because I looked strange and my resume was
interesting she hired me.
BGN-You were out in L.A. for a while?
HS- I was out there two different times. One of the times I lived in a store
front with The Real Kids
BGN- So let's go back to BU for a while.
HS- OK, well I had to work, I was a working class girl. I went there and it
was like "Oh my God, everyone's got monkey furs and they're from Long Island
and they're flying to The Bahamas every weekend and I gotta go work in a shoe
factory." So instead I got a job at the coffee house. I saw John
Hammond play in '64 and had an orgasm as a virgin! So I wanted to
book him everywhere so I could listen to him. So I started booking John
Hammond and I started booking Jerry Corbitt
from the Youngbloods at my high school.
So I had that feel for booking bands but I didn't want to be a sleazy agent,
take all the money.
PL- So the coffee house thing eventually went
to the rock thing?
HS- The progression was, at BU, there's me watching the bands, Bernie
Apothica, he was Barry & The Remains manager
and he said "Hey do you want to work for our agency?" He just pulled
me out of the crowd, I guess 'cause I looked so outrageous. So I started working
for music production, then I booked The Lost.
In order to book The Lost at a college they wanted a go-go girls so I would
go as the go-go girl.
ML- Is that how you met Willie Alexander?
HS- Yeah. So I was booking him and I would go to the shows and my very first
friend was Swine, Stephan Baerenwald, bless
his soul. So we would all go back to their apartment on Beacon Hill so I got
my own apartment on Beacon Hill and Renee Ricard,
the Warhol star, was my neighbor.
Blowie- When did you get to Groupie Towers?
(This is the apartment miss Lyn lived in while doing the original; print
version of the BGN-ed)
HS- That was after I came back from England where I had to go to get away from
The Mob. I got into The Groupie Towers because there were all these J.
Geils Band people living in the building. So I got tipped off that
there was an apartment there. I was booking him at one point. A few years ago
I was with my old boss at a show down on the Cape and Peter
Wolf came up and said "Oh, you kept us alive in '65!"
got a feel for all of that and I wanted to carry on and go to New York and become
an agent but they said "Oh women start in the secretarial pool, I don't care
if you were an agent." And there, where I was at Music Productions,
Don Law didn't' have a desk, he was just
an On Campus Rep so I was actually over Don Law….and I don't mind telling the
story…he probably won't talk to me again but…when he got the Tea
Party I said "Can I have a job?" he said "Ah, no. But you
can be on the Guest List and be backstage with all the bands as long as you
don't tell anyone that I worked under you."
So I met all the bands but I
wasn't the "pretty girl' like my friend Jo-Jo,
Denny Lane's ex-wife or my friend Francine,
who made the clothes for Steven Tyler or
my girl friend Viva. Viva
would do the "pulling". Like she'd say to The Kinks
"We're the only girls you should be out with in this town." But I was
always working and when I was at Groupie Towers my job was at the Boston
Phoenix and I was the manager's bookkeeper. He loved me 'cause I
was getting lots of Display advertising so he'd give me his Stone's
seats and stuff and two days off to hang out with the Stones.
Rock Tour flyer
Blowie- So when Punk rolls in, you're at Groupie
Towers here in Boston?
HS- I was in England, in Stoke Newington, the punk neighborhood
where The Damned rehearsed at my local pub,
in 1978. It was called The Pegasus.
ML- I thought you were down on South Carolina
at that time.
HS- I went there first, for a summer. I was into Southern Rock so I did, you
know, go hang out with the Allman Brothers
and Terry Hanley, who owns the sound company
I used to work for…Miss Lyn remembers him, I tried to get her to work there.
Lyn, now he has a nice clean office…
ML- Ugh! It was this filthy place and he had a
big ole' filthy dog and he was always scratching his crotch and smoking these
HS- He doesn't smoke cigars anymore and he's the nicest guy in the world!
ML- He yelled at me 'cause I called a speaker "that thing".
HS- Oh yeah! You gotta say the name of the speaker! "Big Ten Inch",
the Aerosmith song! That was about Terry
and speakers or something, not about cocks. Yeah 'cause Steven
Tyler would come in and say "Can you cash my paycheck? I have
to buy a microphone." And I said "I don't have that much petty cash.
How much is your paycheck?" and he says "Two hundred dollars." I
said "You get two hundred dollars a week? You're Aerosmith!" This was
the first deal they had with Leiber and Crebbs.
PL- You're sort of a scene person, obviously.
HS- Well not anymore. I'm very selective.
PL- I didn't think you existed outside the scene.
You're kind of scene-only.
HS- No! I really wanted to be a situation comedy writer but I just couldn't
cut Hollywood. I went there at 40 and I had to have a day job. The
Stones manager had moved there and he said "Oh excuse me, you're
too overweight and not blonde enough and you don't look 21." And two years
before he was going to hire me in New York but in Hollywood; "You're
PL- So let's go to the time you met Miss Lyn.
ML- I was basically following Willie Alexander
around at that time and he used to do these Monday night gigs with the Mezz
as his back up band at The Rat. So I was there one night, fairly early on, and
this woman comes up to me and says "Oh, do you like Willie?" and I told her
my story. She says "Well, I have an apartment across the street from the bus
stop he takes to get to his house in Newtonville. Why don't you move in with
me and you can look out the window to see when he's out there and invite him
up." I sais "OK!"
HS- That's what alcohol will do! I'd always open my mouth and say weird things.
ML- Well I think it's that you were always very
open and always ready help out people in the scene and that's continued.
HS- I was already ready to give.
PL- Were you booking Willie?
HS- NO, at the early Rat we would book The
Lost and Barry & The Remains and
Lovelace. This is like '65 & '66. Then
it became a yuppie joint for a while. That closed and when it reopened it became
a cool place and I booked Mickey Clean and The Mezz.
They were rehearsing in the basement of what is now The
Kirkland because they had Corners of The Mouth Restaurant,
a health food place. So they rehearsed downstairs and Mickey said "Hey Helanie,
get us a gig!" That's when I lived on Broadway, Abbie
Hoffman came and stayed with me at one of the places I had on Broadway.
PL- Now looking back, are you happy with your
HS- No I wish I had been backed to have a clothing shop.
ML-Every time I see the designer for the clothes
on Sex & the City I think of you and think "that should've been Helanie!"
HS- Yeah, I just want to be someone's stylist. Ray
Davies has worn one of my coats on stage, Mick
Jagger had one of my coats. But how do you become a stylist in Boston?
You'd have to be a personal shopper but I'd be shopping for conservative clothes.
The musicians in this town don't have the money to buy the clothes. Like my
friend Francine, she designed Steve
Tyler's look, you know, with the scarves and everything and she made
it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
PL- Well you've become a name here in Boston.
What do you think of that?
HS- I've been getting a lot of appreciation this week.
PL- You've been around a long time. People you
know have died, drugs and liquor. But you continue on. How did you not get caught
up in that?
HS- Because I was always the working class type and believe me I've tried every drug known to
mankind but if I ever became addicted my mother would declare me mentally insane and throw me
in jail for the rest of my life. I wouldn't get a bail out for that one. I didn't want to be
PL- Is your mother a strong personality?
HS- Oh, she tough, yeah! She'd do anything to put me away! So now all I have are my
prescription drugs. Get old, fall apart and get prescription drugs!
PL- Do you want to talk about your illness? You
had breast cancer?
HS- Yeah, in a funny way…now I'm sort of celibate…I still like the occasional
young boy but .... to get back to the story…my slag (British slang for slut-ed.)
days were over and I bought this top at Hubba Hubba
that pushed my tits up. I bought it especially to be a slag in London. When
I put it on I had to adjust my tits and I felt this little pebble. That's how
I discovered my cancer. Thanks to Hubba Hubba and
being a slut in London I found my own cancer before it was way advanced. So
there's something to being a slut in London. I only bought that top to wear
in London 'cause nobody wants me here! As far as I know no one has ever fancied
me in Boston. So I always have to be providing something. Like the equipment.
PL- During your recovery you were always out
there at gigs and stuff.
HS- Oh yeah! Want to see my wig collection? I have 14 wigs.
PL- You really seem to always be out there in
HS- Now I'm very selective I only go out if it's someone I really like. Like
last night I went to see Patti Smith.
PL- Did you see Patti Smith early on?
HS- Oh sure, the best show was at The Performance Center which
is where The Garage is now. It was just Patti
and Lenny and a piano player. But the piano
player was really there to play behind Holly Woodlawn who was the opening act.
You know, the Warhol transvestite. So Andy,
my darling Andy Paley, who is the god of
rock & roll! He's done so many things and he's still my good buddy, he took
me to the show with Patrick Fleming, who
was in Warhol's Chelsea
Girls, and I think there were probably 6 people at the show.
BGN- What are some of the most memorable shows
HS- Oh! the most memorable show I'd ever been to was Dylan
going electric at The Newport Festival
and getting boo-ed. And I was at one of the Exploding
Plastic Inevitable Shows by The Velvet Underground.
I still have the silver Mylar poster somewhere. So when they had that light
show, you really felt it. You actually felt like you were IV'ing heroin or something
with that light show and the whole thing. I think it was at The ICA.
Then when I went to Woodstock! Oh, my clothes,
from the rain, were falling apart. When I arrived there I said "Well I should
be on the guest list." Because Terry Hanley's
brother Bill did the sound and the guy looks at me and says "Ah, are you
crazy lady? Do you see there's like a half million people behind you? We're
gonna let everyone in in a minute!" Ha ha!! Always the ligger!! (British
term for freeloader - ed.) "Can I get in for free??" So I did that time!
So when I get back to Lawrence my grandmother's screaming from the third floor
tenement "Hippie, go back where you came from!!"
The last big
memorable thing is my new favorite band in the entire world: The Manic Street Preachers . I
got back stage passes over in London just so I could hear them. I found out
about them just when I found out about my cancer. And I was listening to them
and I thought "I am happy now, I could go to heaven now." I was
with my friend who performs in the West End. She's like a TV actress and she's
dancing up a storm and her 16 year old son was embarrassed!
PL- One of our new features is gonna be Future
Tombstones. What would you like yours to say?
HS- UGH!!...I wasn't going to have a tombstone. My plan was to donate my body
to science and they automatically cremate you and I was going to have my ashes
sent over to Roscoe in London to smoke in
his crack pipe. But he doesn't have a studio now so I may just have the ashes
sent to Ray Davies' studio.
Two pictures from Mickey Metts