Wendy O Williams
'She was a completely outrageous punk rock agitator.’ – Lemmy
Wendy’s initiation into the entertainment world started traditionally with her learning tap-dancing and appearing on The Howdy Doody Show at the age of six - however these were probably the only traditional aspects to Wendy’s career.
Wendy dropped out of school during ninth grade and at the age of sixteen earned money crocheting string bikinis in Colorado. By the late seventies she was working as a stripper, amongst other things, and it was at this point Rod Swenson (aka ‘Captain Kink’) recruited her to front his punk band The Plasmatics. The Plasmatics were to produce ‘shock rock’ on a scale not seen before and with Wendy at the front they had the perfect catalyst for their energy, anger and show. Debuting at CBGB’s in July 1978 the group ripped apart any preconceptions of them with their wild show and music.
With Plasmatics concerts incorporating everything from chainsaws to explosives Wendy took her own anarchic take on clothing ensuring that she was as much of the performance as the visual effects. Whether she was wearing bondage gear, being topless with just duct tape to cover her nipples, simulating sex or wearing just shaving cream there was always something to upset the ‘authorities’ resulting in Wendy being arrested on numerous occasions on obscenity charges. Despite, or maybe because of, this the Plasmatics developed a cult following and the effects got larger (if you wanted to see a car full of explosives hit a stage and explode with the driver jumping out with moments to spare then you went to a Plasmatics gig – the driver was, of course, Wendy).
While the Plasmatics’ shows were stunning events, the music didn’t lend itself to commercial success and the controversy that dogged the group sometimes made it difficult to find venues (they were banned in London for example). Given this Wendy left the band in 1982 and went solo.
While many critics expected her to sink without a trace she returned in 1984 with the album “WOW”. This was an album showing Wendy’s unconventional vocals at their best and in 1985 she was nominated for a Best Female Vocalist Grammy. Wendy’s approach to both music and vocals helped to reinforce the punk ideal that music could, and should, be made by anyone who wants to.
After two more solo albums and a Plasmatics reunion in 1989 (leading to the release of “Maggots: The Record”) Wendy retired from the world of entertainment subsequently taking up various roles including working with animals.