(AP Photo, 03-07-10)
You might be surprised that I'm writing about the whole Sandra 'n' Jesse thing, but I think I can help explain a thing or two.
See, if there's one thing I learned from 17 years in Southern California, it's that people there tend to wear costumes (as opposed to "dressing up," like they do on the East Coast). Everybody is working for Central Casting. People present themselves as types.
In the early 90s, a certain type solidified and became extremely pervasive in the art and music worlds: the retro blue-collar man. I remember going to art shows at La Luz de Jesus and everybody there looked like an auto mechanic, with tattoos, pomaded hair, etc. Their girlfriends wore retro cocktail dresses, bangs, and too much makeup and too many tattoos. The whole "Kustom Kulture" revival was in full swing.
Because everybody was getting tattooed, the tattoo artists got into the galleries alongside the artists who were ripping them off, as did the automobile customizers and... I don't know, probably the pomade manufacturers as well. Everybody mingled together, the emulators and the emulatees. Painters started customizing cars and designing tattoos, car customizers were given retrospectives in art museums, and so on. The final, pestilent denouement of this movement is with us today as we find ourselves surrounded by horrible, garish, Ed Hardy* clothing.
Anyway, here's my point: sometimes it's hard to tell if somebody is a hipster emulating a macho, trashy, blue-collar shithead or if they actually are a macho, trashy, blue-collar shithead. Like Jesse James.
So once you realize that Jesse James is the real thing, a real dyed-in-the-wool macho, trashy, blue-collar shithead, not just playing one on TV, then it's hardly surprising when he behaves like one. And then it all falls into place, doesn't it? The over-the-top stripper girlfriends, the jocular nazi references, all of it.
I used to work with this girl, Rebecca, and she was way into the Kustom Kulture style. She'd come to work every day looking immaculate, gorgeous: sleeveless vintage dresses, period accessories, ample tattoos and perfect, perfect magazine makeup. She was awesome looking, as good as Dita Von Teese, really beautiful... but maybe a tad cartoonish. Like a female female impersonator. Her boyfriend was a tattoo artist with a similarly severe look: shaved head, profuse piercings, boxy bowling-style shirts covered with flames, etc. He was also gorgeous, but not very friendly.
But it turned out that, like Sandra 'n' Jesse, the girl was playing a role and the boy was the real McCoy. I heard later that they had moved away from Southern California, at his insistence, to get away from all the "spics and fags," etc., and had moved to some all-white enclave in the South. For real! This was especially surprising because Rebecca's last name, her maiden name if you will, was something like "Ramirez." Under all that makeup she was, in fact, half Mexican!
But, again, I had mistaken her boyfriend for a cartoon instead of the real thing, and that's what happens over and over in Southern California.
It's honestly something I really don't miss.
*Not to knock Ed himself! Don Ed Hardy and I were in a couple of group shows together in LA, and we had some close mutual friends, so I hung out with him several times. He is honestly one of the nicest people I've ever known. He's an extraordinarily talented artist, and I'm really glad for him personally that he cashed in so successfully, but... urgh, that stuff is awful.