1973 – KQED Auction
In the early days of Les Nickelettes’ evolution we performed on stages, but also, acted out our anarchistic antics with events we called “stunts”. We invaded The Carol Doda Condor Strip club on Broadway, jumped on stage, and sang a song dressed in Girl Scout uniforms and plastic breasts. We crashed the ultra-chic San Francisco Opera opening wearing vintage clothing and mop-top wigs. These great stories are included in Anarchy in High Heels. But one caper didn’t make the cut. Here it is.
In 1973, KQED, San Francisco’s public television station, staged its annual fund-raising auction. The event was run by rich, high-society Marin housewives with little else to do. The Nickelettes volunteered to make an appearance and donated a private exclusive performance as an auction item. For our live appearance we came up with the idea of a performance art satire of a stripper popping out of a cake. Our version had seven Nicks portraying a variety of skewered female fantasy figures hiding in a huge wooden cake. “Debby was dressed as a bride, and I was Sister Liturgica,” Priscilla recalled. “They wheeled that big wooden cake in front of the camera, and we jumped up, one at a time, doing our individual slogan, song, or cheer. Well, as the camera panned to me – in my full nun habit, and over-the-top make-up – I crossed myself, and anoited the audience with an apostolic blessing. And it just so happened that the Pastor’s wife of the Trinity Church was watching the KQED auction on TV. At the time, my day job was working as a secretary to the Pastor of the church. She screamed at the Pastor, ‘Hugh, it’s Priscilla!’ He comes running out and there I am on TV doing this blessing in my bad nun’s outfit.
The next day, I’m at work, when the Pastor walks up to my desk, and says, ‘I saw you on television last night. Can I see you in my office, please?’ And I’m thinking, oh no, he’s going to fire me. He closes the door, sits at his desk, peers over his glasses, and scolds, ‘Miss Alden, nuns do not deliver the apostolic blessing: that honor can only be bestowed by The Pope.’
I slink back to my desk thankful I still have a job.”
Priscilla’s story wasn’t the only scandal that evening. After our “performance” we were hanging out watching the auction when a roving camera captured Bermuda drinking a beer. The Marin housewives promptly kicked us out of the TV studio. Their disapproving looks as we packed up and left, made us feel like wayward teen-agers. “Right, breaking the rules, you know, looking bad, virgins with beer.” Debby laughed.
Breaking the rules had a price, evidently; there was not one bid made on our donated private performance.