Tuesday, July 8, 2008

lady talkalot will be missed!

sad news everyone...

we lost a dear dear beautiful friend on sunday. spencer gates was her name. spencer was pavement's publicist at matador in the 90's and she was an amazing woman who loved music and life like no other. she was funny, witty, outspoken, tenacious, smart... i could go on and on, but i can't stop crying. i can still see her dancing to pavement side stage at lollapaloosa, or even at my wedding. she was an integral part of the pavement machine and a good friend. i'll always remember the 'lil gator'...

Ann Spencer Gates, of Cambridge, known to her friends as Spencer, died
peacefully at home on July 6, 2008, after a courageous two-year battle with
breast cancer.

Spencer moved to Boston in 1978 from her hometown of Buffalo, to attend
Boston University. She quickly fell in love with the Boston music scene,
introduced by her brother Peter Gates, already established as a DJ at MIT’s
WMBR. In 1981, she and her best friend Sheena (Lisa Buchholz) became hosts
of the beloved show "The Mystery Girls" on WMBR, which ran Friday afternoons
for 5 years, and was, by Spencer's own admission, "the most unprofessional
thing ever on the radio." The show featured many of the bands of the city's
burgeoning punk rock scene, including Mission of Burma, Lemonheads, Nervous
Eaters, Sorry, and Moving Targets, and was an irreverent Friday afternoon
cocktail party on the air, signaling the start of the weekend. Every week
they would assume different personas. They were the Mystery Girls, and had
the power at will to become the characters they chose. It didn't matter if
they couldn't quite agree on who they should be or remember who they decided
to be. Said Mission of Burma’s Clint Conley, “As a person Spencer was such
a gas--so funny, and sassy and tuned in. I was a dedicated listener of
her show in the 80s--total irreverence, anarchic fun, such a psych hearing
them getting all jacked up over the music they'd be checking out that
weekend. Thinking of Spencer, I am more convinced than ever that the most
inspired part of any cool music scene usually has less to do with the
musicians than the musicians would like to think.”

Unlike shows of the time playing only the punk rock canon, the Mystery Girls
played country, blues, and even the odd show tune, as long as it was
American and fit their thread. It would not have been unusual to hear Patsy
Cline with Flipper, Fear or X. And if they changed their mind, it was
equally likely that they'd change tracks mid-song. If someone dared to play
a British band or anything else not to their liking, it wasn't unusual to
hear the sound of a needle scratching across a record. They were hostile to
structure of any kind. If a guest was perceived as whiny during an
interview, Spencer would cut him or her off unceremoniously. It was perhaps
the most memorable punk rock radio show of the era.

They recruited as their “official” phone answerer Michael Patrick MacDonald,
a traumatized Southie punk-kid they'd taken under their wing, who partly
recounts his time with them in his book Easter Rising. Said MacDonald, "It
didn't pay but it was the first time I ever felt proud of something I had to
show up for. And Spencer and Sheena were immediately my adopted big sisters,
introducing me to books, films at the Brattle, and music that expanded the
definition of 'punk.'” On most nights, Spencer and Sheena could be found,
dressed to kill in cocktail garb, at a club like the late lamented Rat or
Chet's Last Call hosting a party for a touring band who would soon be
famous. The Mystery Girls loft in downtown Boston, hosted many legendary
after-hours happenings of the time. According to former Lemonheads manager
Joyce Linehan, “The paradox of the Mystery Girls was that they were
finishing school girls who brought comic civility and good manners to punk
rock by being unbelievably uncivil and ill-mannered. Yet it was never
mean-spirited, and even the most outcast of the outcasts were a welcome part
of the fun. “

After leaving Boston, Spencer lived in the apartment above the legendary
Hoboken club Maxwell's, and also spent time in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
She moved to New York in 1988, and later took a job as a publicist at
Matador Records, where she worked with Liz Phair, Pavement, Cat Power,
Bettie Serveert, The Fall, Mark Eitzel, and Yo La Tengo. After leaving
Matador, she was a publicist at Atlantic Records. Eventually disillusioned
by an increasingly corporate and less creative music business, Spencer moved
to Rhinebeck in 2000, where she worked in retail. In 2005, she moved back
to Boston, to the delight of many of her friends, and took a job in Harvard
University's Division of Continuing Education, where she enjoyed working
with new students to introduce them to her beloved adopted hometown. When
she became too sick to work full time, she took a part time volunteer
position in the marketing department at the Huntington Theatre Company in

According to Tom Johnston, manager of Buffalo Tom and Bettie Serveert,
“Spencer was one of the greatest, most dazzling people I ever had privilege
to get to know. She had great taste, a wicked sense of humor, and was so
extroverted that many of the friends I have today, I credit directly to her
and her charm and gift of gab.”

Since her breast cancer diagnosis in April of 2006 until the final week of
her life, Spencer took every opportunity presented to spend time with family
and friends, and to go to plays, concerts, movies and other events. In
addition to being a fan of music, photography and theater, she was an
environmental activist and an animal lover.

She was the daughter of the late H. Hamilton Gates. She leaves her mother
Mrs. H. Hamilton Gates of Buffalo, brother Peter of Boston, David of Buffalo
and P. Bradford of Ithaca and many cousins and close friends. Donation in
Spencer’s memory can be made to Zumix, 202 Maverick St., E. Boston, MA 02128
or Future Chefs, c/o Third Sector New England, 89 South St., Suite 700,
Boston, MA 02111-2680.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I just came from the memorial service in Cambridge today. It was profoundly beautiful and sad at the same time. Just the right mix of tears and laughs, sort of like our good friend, Lady Talkalot.

It was really wonderful to connect some of the dots that brought us all together in her life and reminded of the little things that made her such a special person that I hope never to forget.

Rest In Peace, Spoonie.

Kris Gillespie