Saturday night at Rainbo, friends and couples cluster in the gloom. Suddenly there's an apparition. It's an eight-foot-tall something, large enough to require more than a moment to take in. A pair of two-foot-high papier-mache shoes are topped by a cascading pair of electric blue bell-bottoms and a ruffled pastel shirt. Above the shirt is a human face of some sort. Black dots splotch the part of the visage that can be seen below a seemingly glowing pair of blue sunglasses, and as for the hair, it's some sort of weird skullcap with a few strands of stringy locks falling from the top like a horse's mane. The ghoul has a sidekick, a much shorter figure dressed in black with an aluminum-foil crucifix around its neck and a vest that reads "LACKIE" in silver letters across the back.
The sidekick, carrying a megaphone, bellows, "Just because our new album sucks doesn't mean that you shouldn't spend $15 on it." The specter towers above. "The Nash man, comin' through," it calls out.
The appearance is merely the latest outrage from the Stalkers, a two-woman attack team cum performance-art ensemble currently devoting a lot of time to a single-minded mission: the destruction of local demistars Urge Overkill. They've recently published edition number four of the Stalker (the "anti-fanzine for anti-fans of Urge Overkill"), a withering quarterly attack on the band members' personalities, looks, and records. Now they've added live appearances to the mix, with "Miss B" on stilts in a corrosive portrayal of guitarist National ("Nash") Kato and "Miss K" as drummer Blackie Onassis, who in the pair's cosmology is a fawning Katoite with a hair-trigger temper. (The pair are somewhat sparing of third band member Ed Roeser, whom they view as merely wayward.)
At a photographer's loft earlier that evening, the pair spent hours posing for photos in their Urge outfits. The Stalkers discuss their duties with a fundamentalist fervor. Just as a religious zealot might address a reprobate with a pitying sigh and the words "But god is love," the Misses B and K do the same, only substituting the words "But Urge Overkill suck." Miss K is Karol Cooper, a Hoosier who studied English and journalism at Bloomington before moving to Chicago and taking a job in PR. Miss B is Beverly Babb, a bike messenger who came to Chicago from Athens, Georgia, in 1990. They recount stories and facts about Urge Overkill with the significance of gospel. Miss K tells of a friend who bought an Urge record for a road trip, only to recoil at the sound and pitch it out the car window. "There are stories from at least three people who threw Urge records out the window after hearing them," she says seriously. "And that doesn't count the people who've thrown them in the trash."
The preparations continue. "Wait, I need my mole guide," says Miss B. She grabs a magazine photo of the real Kato to use, cruelly, as a map to apply her own magic marker versions of his facial moles. Meanwhile, Miss K straightens her outfit and practices her sneer. "Look at this," she marvels. "I'm fat, black, and female, and I look like Blackie O." Getting into character, the pair intone quotes from recent Urge interviews. "Someone has to be Nash Kato, and it might as well be me," says Miss B, almost to herself. "You know, my next album is a lot like the White Album," she continues, before breaking character to cackle. "We're white," she concludes gleefully, "and it's an album."
To the contention that the band has been known to play with irony, particularly in interviews, Miss K has a ready answer: "We looked up the word ironic and nowhere does it say 'excuse for bad and insincere art.'"
The pair's hatred for the band has its roots in separate incidents, both involving liquor, National Kato, and a kiss. Miss B admits to thinking Kato was interesting at the time, Miss K pleads youth and ignorance. Their anger festered in private until they met. "We thought, what can we do?" recalls Miss K. "We figured, well, we can put nails under Nate's tires, so we did that. Then we said, 'We've got to put this in writing,' and that's when we decided to start stalking." (A free copy of the Stalker can be had by sending an SASE to PO Box 268173, Chicago 60626. A one-year subscription is $5; make checks payable to Cooper.)
"You know, sometimes I get a little paranoid," says Miss B, preening for the camera. "I say, 'Karol, should we be doing this? It's so karmically incorrect.' She had to convince me, and I'm like, 'That's right, they're assholes. We have to go get them!'"
Their stalking has had some quasi-tragic consequences. A Miss K in Onassis guise handing out the Stalker was doused by a bucket of water outside Delilah's, where Onassis spins records most Sunday nights. Miss B is more confrontational and has the scars to prove it. A provoked Onassis, she says, threw her across the room at Lounge Ax one evening, "teaching me never to underestimate the strength of a greasy, wimpy-looking lunatic," as she recounted the incident in the Stalker. And in the Stalkers' most celebrated moment, Miss B was cracked across the face by an angry Kato after saying "Hey, pussy, what's up?" and yanking on his coattails. "The number-one thing people ask us," says Miss K, "is 'Don't you have anything better to do?' To which we answer, 'No.'"
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.