Friday, April 26, 2024

Sassy Women: TLC Forever

So it hasn't been the best week for women in general.  

Harvey Weinstein's conviction was overturned on a technicality, despite countless victims, witnesses, and evidence of retaliation for those who fought back.  

Trump had some gains in court with his payoff to two women to stay quiet about affairs. 

Despite E. Jean Carroll?  Despite the P-grabbing thing we all heard/saw ourselves on video?  Despite cheating on his then pregnant wife with Stormy and Karen, then paying them to shut up during his election (which I have no doubt is going on with Melania, too, but clearly, she's a golddigger)?


As for me, in addition to the below posts on my health and an unkindness about that, someone slashed our tire, last night. 

I know for a fact that it's no one in our neighborhood, because we're friends with everyone here, so who knows -  but the mechanic said that definitely a knife was used on the tire.

In fact his exact words were "I don't want to start any trouble, but do you have an enemy? Because this looks like someone took a buck knife to your tire."

Now, most likely, it was just random, kids vandalizing.

Or maybe it's someone retaliating for my husband's mini road rage, which I've warned him about.  

Or maybe it was someone from a long time ago who wants me to shut up.  

Or maybe it's someone who doesn't know me well, but reads my blog and doesn't like what I have to say politically. I mean, this is red-state Kentucky, after all.

It really doesn't matter, because here's the thing  - I'm not shutting up, regardless 😁 
In fact, it just makes me want to speak up more!

(There's a fine line between bravery and stupidity I've never figured out 😅)

However, if it IS personal and aimed at me, and you want to slash my tire over truth spoken?

Seriously - time for therapy!

In fact, I'm going ahead to publish this post full throttle, without having the time to add all of the the pictures and things I want to say yet, because it's timely and important.

So I watched this documentary on Netflix, last night, "TLC Forever," that not only brought back some good memories, but really inspired me about what was once upon a time, a trio, TLC, but now a duo, after the tragic death of the rapping member of the group (and primarily lyricist), Lisa Lopes.

I wish you could know how big of a deal TLC was for young women, back in the day.  I don't think we even realized what their legacy would be, at the time.  

Three tiny, delicate-looking pretty girls, who looked like they could've just walked off The Cosby Show, but dressed in baggy clothes, singing and rapping about sex and AIDS while wearing condoms on their eyewear and clothes, as well as about men hollering at them from their cars or wanting them to change the way they look for them, and against gang/gun violence - and all three taking a lot of sh*t for doing so.

Tionne ("T-Boz"), the alto, Lisa Lopes ("Left Eye"), the rapper, and Rozonda (Chilli), the mezzo soprano -  T-L-C

I remember when their first song "Ain't To Proud to Beg" (not the Motown version) came out, we girls LOVED it!  The men, I think, were a little scared? 

I'm not sure why men reacted like that, actually.  I mean, Salt N Pepa's "Push It" was way worse and more demanding towards men.

ATPTB is just about wanting sex with the man you love - not casual sex, sex with your man. 

I guess because in 1992, women were still supposed to be pretending we didn't like sex publicly or something, plus they looked so young, and the condom thing, I guess.  They were actually 20 years old, but always looked younger.  

Their message was actually about monogamy (but staying protected, you never know what your partner is into, thus the condoms) , but it didn't matter, "proper young ladies" weren't to be singing and rapping about such things!

And the funny thing was, though Lisa contributed to some of the lyrics, the song was primarily written  and mixed by men!

And a good memory moment, attached to that song ...

I remember going to a club with a bunch of people from the restaurant where I worked, while in college, and the DJ calling all the ladies to the floor to play this song, just the ladies singing and dancing, then him telling us to "Pick your man to dance" about midway through, so we did. 

I gotta tell you, I had never asked a man to dance before, and haven't since (except my husband, now that we're married), because we women usually wait to BE asked  - so that felt greeeeeaaaaat!!!

At the time, I was dating my daughter's father, so I playfully did a "come hither" with my fingers and gently tugged on his collar to the dance floor, to which he laughed and obliged - he was a really good dancer, we had a blast!

(I don't think I'd choose him now, I don't mind saying, but that's another story).

As a quick aside, later, I convinced the whole crew to join my gay friends (two of whom were also servers at the restaurant where we worked) at The Bar Complex, because it had the best dance floor in town, still does, with a glass roof, on the third floor.

I'm not sure it's still set up this way, but first floor is pub on the left, drag show on the right; second floor was a casual/fine-dining restaurant (because gay men wanted to go out to a nice place on dates, too, but couldn't openly), and the third floor is the bar and dance floor with the glass ceiling. 

I remember a couple of our straight male friends being really uncomfortable and terrified at first, but realized that gay men realized they were straight and didn't bother them, and are just as selective and have "a type," just as they are, anyway!

(Well, except for one who literally stood against the wall the whole night, refusing to get a drink, go the bathroom, or even move, as if he was in a room full of alligators!)

But it was interesting to see men couldn't handle our world for 5 minutes, even the thought of potentially being groped or grabbed or sexually assaulted by men. 

Lucky for them, this didn't happen because gay men may flirt with straight men, but they don't typically grope or grab them - both because they know how uncomfortable straight men are in that environment AND because they know they'd get the sh*t kicked out of them!

In fact, this is why girls night out often includes a gay men's bar - because we know we're safe!

That has nothing to do with the story, really, other than the fact of how interesting it was to see how uncomfortable and literally scared that straight white men were around a room full of other men who were sexually attracted to men and feared being groped or grabbed or assaulted, just like we do, every day - AND - I was able to unite two friend groups together -  a group of young white male Republican frat boys to join my other set of gay male friends - most of whom worked together anyway - to have a great time together!

The fact that The Bar has been, and always will be, a gay bar, right down in the middle of Main Street in Lexington, just a block from the police station and the courthouse, has always made me laugh.

 Anyway, back to the ladies and the honesty found in their first hit, "Ain't To Proud to Beg." 

I don't really remember any other songs from that album, but that was quite an entrance. 

Over time, they learned and grew, and we learned and grew with them. 

TLC's sophomore album "Crazy Sexy Cool" was even better, now coming into their own personalities, and the song, "Creep" was less bubble-gum candid fun and more relationship complication - and those jazz trumpets at the beginning were a nice touch. 

Another good memory - I stayed home with my daughter for the first six months, and back when MTV still played music, I kept it on most of the day.  

When the song "Creep" came on, I'd dance around with her in sort of an electric-slide fashion, doing the dip down on the beat of the song where they sang "So I CREEP, ye-ah" - which was met with her squeals and giggles of delight, every time!

That song has been covered by alternative bands like the Afghan Wigs, as well as sampled in other songs, to this day. 

Now, just before this, however, Lisa "Left Eye "Lopes burned Andre Rison's house down - whups!

Okay, so that was such a huge deal, at the time.  It got almost as much coverage as OJ.

Now, we already knew that Lisa was a little crazy, but that was WAY cray cray - but then so is Andre!  

(No team would keep him long, he was always trouble.)

So I also found myself saying "Okay, girl is cray cray, but what the hell did Andre do NOW?  She didn't just up and decide to burn his house down."

Turns out, they had gotten into an argument over his cheating, then he beat her up, you can see the bruise on her lip in her mug shot ...

Can you see the bruise on her lip?

Yep, and I'm sure the police could too, but nothing happened to Andre. 

And she wasn't trying to burn the house down -  she was trying to burn his favorite pair of shoes in the bathtub, in retaliation for busting her lip, when the fire got out of control.

Now, I'm not saying that's okay to do, by any means - no one should.

I'm just saying that she was  5'2", who weighed 100 pounds, he's a 6' tall, 200-lb man. What can she do to make him stop/make him think before he tries that again, call the cops? 

Though both of them are black, who do you think they'll believe?

The little girl who sings and raps about sex and AIDs and wears a condom over her left eye?

Or the 5th-round draft pick wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons?

So you see what I'm talking about.

Regardless, though we may not have made the same choice, it really wasn't unfair to characterize her as some kind of crazy Fatal Attraction bitch, either.

Lisa was charged with first-degree arson, and later went to rehab for drinking - but he was charged nothing, despite the very visible bruise on her lip.

These two not only had mental health issues alone, but especially toxic together - she was the match to his gasoline, if you will (har har har)

And the worst part is, they stayed together after that for a while!

Andre eventually messed up his own football career with his violence and legal troubles, pulling guns, etc., and it appears his son is following in his same footsteps. Talented football player, can't keep himself out of violent trouble. 

Now - the problem is, if you're in a group act, if one member does something cray cray, they all suffer - so at first, they took a big hit - they lost sponsors, airplay at first of their new album, all of it.

But then there was a small section of women - and I was not among them, at the time - that were rooting for her, cheering it on, even if she DID mean to burn his house down after being beaten up.

Because this was the same year as OJ - and some people viewed it as women fighting back from abuse.

In fact, I just rewatched the FX series "Pose," and the cast was cheering her on for doing so, like "Get it, girl, cheating on you AND busting your lip?  Burn allllll that shit down to the ground!"

Not helping their reputation at the time, was THIS magazine cover.

I remember thinking "What the .... ? Oh.My.God, girls, what were you thinking?!?

They weren't.  They were set up a bit, too.  And yet it was the biggest-selling Vibe magazine issue of all time!

And at the same time, I don't know why, but when I see this magazine cover now, I laugh?

Despite it all, Crazy Sexy Cool overcame all of that to top the charts and stay on them, even longer than their first album.

Another hit from that album that knocked it out of the park was "Waterfalls" 


... in large part due to the AI/CGI in the video, and the message - the song is about chasing dreams without thinking of the the consequences, of course, written by Lisa Lopes just out of rehab. 

 The song is against gun/gang violence, but with an understanding  of the economic desperation their communities are in, as well as, once again, safe sex being the only protection from AIDS, which was, at the time, the #1 killer of people under 30.

(FYI, in the advent of "cocktail" drugs that can reduce HIV down to undetectable levels, AIDS has now been replaced by gun violence as the #1 killer of people under 30 in America.)

At the time, very few actors or musicians were addressing AIDS head-on - it was pretty much just Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Magic Johnson, and TLC.

Another quick aside, I'm not sure people realize how brave and important it was of Magic Johnson to do come out publicly with the fact that he had contracted HIV, at that time - the fact that he was a straight male athlete, one of the best basketball players to ever play the game - changed the face and reality of AIDS.

I love that Kareem Abdul Jabbar was sitting right there, supporting him, isn't that great? :)

Quick personal story about Magic, because he played for my husband's alma mater, MSU, so he was already my husband's hero before this.

However, at the time he announced his HIV status, he was still playing for the LA Lakers, but opposing teams were threatening not to play.

Most were ignorant, fearful that if he sweat on them, they could get it. 

(You can't get HIV from sweat or even saliva, unless one of you has an open mouth sore that's actively bleeding).

Others were simply afraid of injury and bleed, which I get somewhat, but then Magic was like 6' 9" and like 250 pounds of pure muscle, so  ... good luck injuring him in any way, or even tripping him to skin a knee, he was super coordinated 😄.

So highly unlikely for him to bleed for any reason, unless you were to like, bite him or scratch him or something, which I hope no one would do during a basketball game?  😣

Sometimes Magic would play Mark and his alumni friends at MSU, pickup games for charity or just at alumni get togethers.

Magic would always ask "Are you guys cool playing with me? Because some people aren't." 

The men were all educated on how it is contracted and thus shook his hand and gave a resounding yes. 😊

Knowing that story now, that he was so responsible about it, and so bravely outspoken, he's become one of my heroes, too 😊

Back to TLC, the next year brought more bad news - despite being chart toppers, they were bankrupt.

This is because, as music industries do with young artists - often black - they were cheated on their contract, and they did not own their own music. They were also charged for every little thing they did, including promotions work.

This pattern started with The Beatles and continued through Prince, who first publicly fought it, well up until Taylor Swift, who famously fought it and actually won.

(This is why Prince advised all new young artists that he came across, whom he felt were talented, to gain control of their masters now, before it's too late - including TLC and later, Pink.)

So here they are, at the top of the music charts and MTV's rotation, but they're flat broke, still working because they're in debt to their own label, already making millions off of them. 

And on top of it all, when they try to leave LA Babyface and Pebble's management of them, LA Babyface sued them with another huge bill!

So what to do but keep trying to dig themselves out of it by working more, and thus the third album "Fanmail" was born, to include one of their most famous hit singles, "No Scrubs."

This song makes me laugh and has another good memory regarding my daughter.

When it came out in 1999, my daughter was in kindergarten and asked me what a scrub was.

While trying to explain it to her, at 4 years old, while walking her to kindergarten, I didn't need to finish - because just then, a car came up and slowed down, with two guys hollering out their window at me.

So I just said "That.  THAT'S s a scrub. They're singing we don't want men like that, right?  Hollering at you from their cars like that, ewwww!"

If that ever happened again, she'd say "Scrub!" 😂

Here are the lyrics, just to be clear ...

A scrub is a guy that thinks he's fly
And is also known as a busta
Always talkin' about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass

So no, I don't want your number
No, I don't want to give you mine and
No, I don't want to meet you nowhere
No, I don't want none of your time and

No, I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride
Trying to holla at me

I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride
Trying to holla at me

Well a scrub checkin' me
But his game is kinda weak
And I know that he cannot approach me
'Cause I'm looking like class, and he's looking like trash
Can't get wit' a deadbeat ass

So no, I don't want your number
No, I don't want to give you mine and
No, I don't want to meet you nowhere
No, I don't want none of your time

No, I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride
Trying to holla at me

If you don't have a car and you're walking
Oh yes son, I'm talking to you

If you live at home with your momma
Oh yes son, (I'm) I'm talking to you (baby)

If you have a shorty that you don't show love
Oh yes son, I'm talking to you
Wanna get me with no money?
Oh no, I don't want no
No scrub, no scrub (no, no)
No scrub (no, no, no), no scrub (no, no)

No, I don't want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride (oh)
Trying to holla at me

I don't want no scrub (no)
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me
Hangin' out the passenger side
Of his best friend's ride
Trying to holla at me

I can't say I've ever gone for a scrub that actually hollered at me from his car, but I did later date and marry a scrub of sorts, not following TLC's advice or my own (NOT Mark, my 2nd and current husband).

And of course, this one, the men also didn't like.  In fact, another group wrote a song called "No Pigeons" in response, about how he was just trying to help her from walking with sore feet and that she looked like a ho anyway.

It made excuses, male-postured, told her she was ugly after being rejected, and was just generally lame and weak - and no one cared.  

In fact, no one ever heard from that group again! 

On that same album, TLC addressed men who resort to bashing women's appearance when they don't get their way (or just trying to make them prettier to please themselves) - in the song written by T'Boz, "Unpretty," about the sort of man that once he has you, constantly belittles you, especially your appearance, or tells you how you could look even better, and not in a constructive way.

T-Boz/Tionne wrote it because she suffered with sickle-cell disease and often went into pain crisis several times a year.  Part of the treatment for SSC is steroids and fluids, which made her puffy for a bit afterwards, and her boyfriend at the time was less than supportive about her appearance. 

We didn't know it at the time, but those concert dates that were canceled because of T-Boz's health were NOT in fact due to drugs or alcohol, but because she had sickle-cell crises every few months.

She hid it at first, but later because the face of Sickle-Cell Disease and a strong advocate.

Just in the last five years, have we found better treatments and even a potential cure through CRISPR gene-editing (if you want to pay $2 million for it, which even T-Boz cannot).

Then just three years after Fanmail, while taking a break from working on their 4th album, tragedy struck - Lisa Lopes was killed in a car accident in Honduras.

Now, here's the super weird thing about this, and not in a conspiracy way.

Lisa was always going on about out-there spiritual stuff.  In fact, she was on a spiritual retreat.  Lisa was bipolar, with which religious fixations often go hand in hand, so she often said some weird stuff everybody just sighed about.

(In fact, T-Boz said in this documentary that if she were alive today, she might be the female version of Kanye, the sh*t that came out of her mouth sometimes 😂)

But one thing she predicted did come true, whether self-fulfilling prophecy or not, and for proof, watch "The Last Days of Left Eye."

They were filming a documentary of each of the three for their new album, so cameras were following her around at a spiritual retreat in Honduras. 

While a passenger in a car, the driver struck and killed a 10-year-old boy walking alongside the road in the dense jungle foliage.  Lisa held him in her arms while he bled out, on the way to the hospital, and she paid for his funeral and medical expenses, despite the fact that neither the authorities OR the family blamed them (and she was just the passenger).

Now, the weird thing is - she said, on film (you can see it yourself) -  that she felt that she was the one that was supposed to die in the wreck.

She said that there was a dark entity following her, and used the boys' last name being the same as hers as proof (though spelled differently, Lopez and Lopes are pronounced the same way.  One is Spanish, the other is the Portuguese spelling).

She kept his shoes in her room, and said this thing was after her, but considering death was just a transition anyway, she wasn't overly concerned with it.

Okay, all cuckoo, right?  

And I didn't understand the shoe thing until now.

Because she was in Honduras, one of the regions where Santeria is practiced in more rural communities.  Santeria is a mix between Catholicism and voodoo, and some practices involve shoes.

For instance, they believe if you write down a person's name on a piece of paper and stick it in your shoe, that person will be removed from your path.  Nothing bad will happen so them -  they'll just be removed from your path.

(However, apparently it has to be the right shoe, because if you pick the left, it will actually draw the person TO you. 😂)

I'm not sure, but I think now this was the reason for the keeping the boys shoes in her room?

Regardless, we would ordinarily write this off to bipolar religious crazy talk. 

HOWEVER - literally two weeks later, while driving a car, the cameras rolling, her car rolled off an embankment - and Lisa was killed instantly.

Now, she wasn't wearing a seatbelt, letting herself get distracted by the commotion in the car, which you wouldn't think she would do, if she really believed this, so nothing spooky about that. 

The spooky part is that everyone else suffered only minor injuries - only Lisa was killed when the back of her skull was crushed.

Weird, right? 

 I remember the day this happened, it was so shocking, MTV trying to talk to T and Chilli on the phone, but we could hear nothing but sobs. What they did say clearly is that they never wanted to work again without her.

However, there was an album in the works and a contract - and they were given a choice, either finish it or we release a Greatest Hits, our way.

They released an album which was dark and heavy-laden with grief, which sounded sort of like they were zombified, which although it made sense considering they were grieving, didn't sell well. 

Then, after that, T-Boz was diagnosed with a brain tumor - more specifically, an acoustic neuroma.

I never heard about this, actually.  This OR her struggle with sickle-cell because Tionne is the most private of the three.  We heard all about Lisa, as well about Chilli's famous relationship with Usher, but very little about Tionne, who had been going through her own private hell with her health since childhood.

Though not malignant, acoustic neuromas are difficult to remove because they usually sit at a convergence of the nerves that control your facial muscles, hearing, balance, and voice - all four things T-Boz needs for her career.

In fact, a surgeon sat her down and said "Of those things - face, hearing, balance, and voice, which order do you want to protect most?"

Can you imagine having to make that choice?

T-Boz chose hearing, voice, balance, and face, in that order, because of her young daughter - communication with her was the highest priority. 

In the end, T was left with a slight facial paralysis and a 4% hearing loss, which is a better-than-expected outcome.

So they've been through some sh*t, right? 

And only recently have the two remaining members started performing again, but they will never replace Lisa (as if anyone could).

In the end, what started off as a fun girl thing, ended up teaching us all life lessons - most importantly, how to keep going, despite seemingly endless adversity, as well as not to give up, even when everyone else says you can't or are done.

And in the end, they are still the top-selling female group of all time, including influencing artists in their own time such as No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, and a generation later, such as Nikki Minaj and Doja Cat (their rap-singing style is very similar to Lisa Lopes)

Brava, Ladies! And thank you ... 

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