It was moving to read those final four pieces in First‘s tribute to Estrellita. Her writing (only one aspect of her work) seemed to just get better and better. At one point, stupidly, I thought the songy stuff was both contrived and oversimple, now it seems like the genius it was.
When I moved to a certain block in downtown Charlottesville with my ex in ‘93, Susan and I started noticing this Olds 88 (or was it a Cutlass Supreme? anyway something hilarious) always parallel-parked on the street. And it WAS old, beat out, gray. Across the back of the trunk was painted I BRAKE FOR OCD. This caught my attention since like Carmelita I was/am a sufferer. Side panels: TEXACO logo with that DO-NOT-ENTER circle painted over it, drops of blood dripping down. I could imagine talking to this person.
Soon after that we met, she lived down the street, and that was it, can’t-live-with-her-can’t-live-without-her for the next 20 or so. We went out with a whimper a few years ago. But we did talk in November, just for a minute. She texted—“Do you remember me?” to which I replied “You’re the one with the cute smile and a way with words?” “That’s me!!”—and I called. She had a visitor AT THE FUCKING HOSPICE I WAS LIKE WAAAAT so had to go but we noted how great it was to hear each others’ voices, and she sounded ok. “I’m feelin pretty good,” she said in that downbeat passive-aggressive baritone. “They tell me it’s terminal.” I swear she said that.
I have a huge accordion folder of her stuff, and several larger pieces. Comix, postcards, chapbooks, matchbooks, drawings, paintings. I gave her a fair amount of my salary for years, so she would “compensate” me. My faves go on and on. Wuthering Transexual magazine. Unpopular Transexual. Her “Jalapeño Rotunda” was a nice riff on the local cult of Jefferson. I have a beautiful framed Teen Action: A Magazine of Fly Chicks Everywhere, with its Untitled Airlines plane nose extending from between a girl’s legs.
“Spilt Indefinitive,” a trans quandary panel. The “Bra Sanitarium” series with brassieres in various states of distress and mental institutionalization (and boy did she know from that). “Hairdressers Rule!!” is one of her great comix; punchline: “you can’t really blame psychiatrists; if they had all the answers, they’d be hairdressers!”
Anything would set her off, and well. Mel Gibson is partly responsible for the series “The Passion of Check 1017,” a bouncing check with legs, hat, and briefcase that keeps going out and aaaaaaaaaaalways comes back.
She gave me countless tapes; I gave her countless drugs. We got high a lot, often on the fly, usually at her place, which looked (and smelled) like the Collyer brothers had thrown a party. She was even funnier then. She was into phone sex for a while (aren’t we all) and I wish she’d’ve written about it. She also loved the fuck out of Gene Clark, and you had to give her that.
She was untamable, and infuriating. She was a true public character, for many years a fixture on the Downtown Mall, and got banned from several of her favorite coffee shops for her pains. We painted our porch and hung a WET PAINT sign across it that she simply stepped over on her way to the door. There were days when she’d call me six or seven times to lay some line or joke on me or vent about the latest local injustice (to her). She came to my 50th birthday party with a bunch of joints (thank you) and drove me crazy in under twenty minutes. I think she enjoyed that power. She was in the world, couldn’t not be in it, and therefore in every way defied the aristo-bourgie world she was brought up in and not destroyed by. Given name? Fairfax Conquest Jr. Fax Conquest growing up. Hey Fax. She invented herself Natalie Fairfax. Then Natalie Estrellita. Then Carmelita Estrellita. Middle name Suzanne, Leonard Cohen deep in her mx. She was a girl of the streets, in the best and best of ways, comic, mystic, artist, legend in her time and on her own terms.