New York Rock Confidential , January 10, 2003
Penny Arcade's Rebellion Cabaret at the Bottom Line
by Jeanne Fury
What do you call five feet of dynamite? Penny Arcade, New York City's legendary crotchety performance artist with Betty Page bangs. Fresh off a national tour with the Sex Workers of America, Penny brought her vociferous Rebellion Cabaret to the Bottom Line and let the audience have it.
Penny witnessed the whole over-the-top revolution of punk rock in New York City in the 1970s. She saw how Patti Smith went from being her friend to everyone's Shiva. Penny, being a woman with her feet stapled to the ground, ain't one for the deification of anyone, no matter who the fuck you are. So allow her to be a bit jaded and bitter. (For more, read chapter 20 in Leggs McNeil's book Please Kill Me.)
There are no in-betweens with Penny Arcade. You either like her or you don't. You don't have to agree with a single thing she says. You just have to be willing to hear her razor-toothed opinions, which will make you laugh like hell. She'll introduce a new angle of the world, the Penny Arcade angle.
Taking the stage in a red-plaid skirt, black tights, and black t-shirt, Penny danced around, jumping to the rock music blaring over the sound system. Her bountiful bosoms bobbed up and down and damn, it looked painful. "Don't worry about my breasts," she said. "They do this naturally." Phew. Thank goodness. "Perhaps you've noticed I've gained weight since the last time you saw me." Well, I didn't want to say anything, but um, yeah. The former sex worker told us about the diet adopted while on tour with the Sex Workers of America. "It's a 13,000-calorie-a-day diet," she shouted. You travel in a van and eat Taco Bell. That's all there is to it. More bodily news: Penny admitted to being obsessed with plastic surgery, "except for the part where they cut you." She's especially fascinated by the $380,000 (yes, you read correctly) job Demi Moore had done.
Aside from the body, Penny is passionate about and fiercely protective of her hometown. "New York has been invaded by America," she bitterly lamented. Then she lashed into my personal favorite piece, where she rattles off in a Valley-girl accent and bops her head around, playing the perfect ditz. Ditzy Penny pretends she's a new resident in the East Village who's saving her money to move to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, because it's, like, so cool and really great there. "Ohmigod, have you, like, been to Galapagos, that club? It's like, so cool, and I rilly, rilly love it." See, the East Village is too depressing because it's filled with old, failed artists and ragged bohemians from, like, a million years ago, like the 1970s.
Penny recounted the time she was invited by the New York University's women's center. And then they didn't like what she had to say. And then they tried to censor her during a workshop that they asked her to run. She's not too keen on that women's center. Nor is she keen on homosexuals who complain that their parents hated them because they were gay. "What about the rest of us?!" cried Penny. "Our parents hated us for no reason! At least you had the moral high ground!" I'm still wiping the tears of laughter outta my eyes from that one. But it's not nearly as funny to read as it is to see Penny screaming, doubled over in disbelief. Some other famous quotes: "Nobody who was popular in high school can be hip," "Nobody who's young is cool," and "I hate identity politics."
The Rebellion Cabaret ended with a quote that should probably go on Penny's tombstone: "I don't trust people who aren't depressed or confused." Amen to that.