I first met Cynthia at the premier of Plastercaster at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Then, I ran into her at some events held by the Ever So Secret Order of the Lamprey, an underground art group based in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. I had the following conversation with her at The Prodigal Son, a Chicago nightclub. As always, she was quite charming and she had a million fascinating stories that she was eager to share. — Vito Carli
Carli — Could you tell me an about your childhood or upbringing?
Plastercaster — I came from a working class background, and I am a recovering Catholic. I wanted to be popular but I was not the world's most popular person in high school. People thought I was a freak because I had a wacky sense of humor.
Carli — What do you mean when you said you are a recovering Catholic?
Plastercaster — I mean I was raised Catholic. I tried to comprehend the dogma, and I just couldn't get past it. Through the years I grew more and more oppositional in what I thought. Being Catholic makes you feel guilty all the time, and we were taught that that sex is wrong outside of procreation. But I discovered the Beatles, and I really wanted to get laid.
Carli — Do you feel like your artistic career is a rebellion against your Catholicism?
Plastercaster — I didn't feel like it was a rebellion against anything. I was just this goofy girl, and I had this homework assignment. I really wanted to meet a band and get laid. I was so shy that I was incapable of seducing anyone. But I figured if I could get a rock star's pants down that sex would transpire automatically.
Carli — Well I read that your first time was with Mark Lindsay, the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders. Is that true?
Plastercaster — I had a homework assignment, and the art teacher said take a plaster cast of something solid. I had never seen a penis before, but I heard they got solid. So I couldn't wait to meet my girlfriend downtown and tell her about my homework assignment. We decided to make a plaster cast of the band member's crotches, or "Hampton wicks" as we called them. This was cockney rhyming slang for dicks. We used that language to talk to the band members about sex. Anyway, we went to the hotel where they were staying. They all responded favorably, but Mark Lindsay had the time to spare for a fledging groupie that wanted to relieve herself of her virginity.
Carli — Wasn't there another plastercaster that you worked with for awhile?
Plastercaster — You can say that my girlfriend Pest and I were the founding members. We went around and experimented, but originally there was not a designated caster or blowjob giver. Then, once I figured out how to do it, Diane replaced her. She became the blowjob giver, and I was the mold mixer.
Carli — So did word get around quickly about your unusual hobby?
Plastercaster — It didn't take long at all for word to get around, Vito. Roadies started picking us up and bringing us the rock stars' rooms from word of mouth. They would see the logo on our suitcase and yell "Bring up the plastercasters." One day we ran into Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds and when he saw us with the logo on our suitcase, he jumped around and began screaming at a teen party where you could meet rock stars. It was such pandemonium. The ushers thought it was girls getting hysterical over the band, but it was the other way around.
Carli — So the rock stars were starting to become fans of you?
Plastercaster — I feel funny saying that Vito. That role reversal didn't seem to come till later.
Carli — Well you're a part of music history. You mentioned in one of your interviews that your mom does not know about your activities. How can that be? It's even obvious from your phone message. (Cynthia's phone message has a song on it that mentions plastercasting.)
Plastercaster — She probably can't hear it. I don't think she connects the casting with penises yet. However, she did read about the evolution of my diaries.
Carli — How did she react to that?
Plastercaster — I don't think she read it clearly, but she knew that it mentioned penises and she thought they were evil. She did call up my dad after they got divorced, and she read excerpts aloud to him over the phone. He just laughed at her. I hope that if she sees me on TV, it will just go over her head. I do like to wear wigs sometimes.
Carli — How did you become interested in rock music? Was it the Beatles?
Plastercaster — It was the Beatles that changed everything for me. Before that I was a fledgling theater groupie. I would go to plays. Like the ones they used to have on Broadway. I saw mainly musicals like The Sound of Music starring Florence Henderson. I saw Carnival, and we had really good seats. I was so excited. Seeing a famous person up close made me want to meet them. I had all these primitive sexual desires, and I thought that maybe they would like me better in high school if they knew I had met a famous person. So it all goes back to me not being popular in high school.
Carli — So in a way your whole career was a way of overcompensating?
Plastercaster — Yes, in a weird way I guess it was.
Carli — When did you first start getting media attention?
Plastercaster — I was mentioned in the Chicago Tribune. It was right after the time I met Jeff Beck. They said there was even a girl who made a plaster cast of Jeff Beck's third leg. And I went "right on!" This was even before we did Hendrix, but at that time we didn't know how to do it. Then Frank Zappa wrote a piece for Life Magazine, and he mentioned us. Then there was that piece in The Realist, "A Writer's Meeting with the Plastercasters."
Carli — Didn't you have a conflict with Zappa's manager over the ownership of the plaster casts?
Plastercaster — Frank Zappa became my patron, and he brought me out to Hollywood. He told me where all the rock stars were so I could build up a collection. His record company gave me an advance because Frank had this dream of financing an exhibition of my casts in a gallery or museum. When I was living in LA, my apartment was robbed, and Zappa's manager offered to put the casts I had made into Zappa's house vault where I thought they would be safer. I thought that was very kind of her at the time. The burglar saw the casts, but he had left them, so I allowed him to hold them. I went back to Chicago, and I asked for them back. He said, "You don't need them back; I can hold them until the exhibition." Lots of time went by, and he believed they belonged to him. I had to go to LA County Court to get them back. I had to talk about dicks on the witness stand for a few days. That was a trip.
Carli — How did the court react to your testimony?
Plastercaster — The female judge was very sober; she didn't bat an eye, but the judge's friend looked at me and kind of smirked. There weren't that many people — there only a few paparazzi from the tabloids. I wore a babushka and sunglasses so my mom wouldn't recognize me on TV.
Carli — Didn't you know the GTOs?
Plastercaster — Yes they weren't musicians, they were singers and poets. They had famous people backing them like Lowell George of Little Feat, and Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck were in the back playing music.
Carli — Did you ever want to become a musician?
Plastercaster — Yeah, I did. I wanted to be a piano player, but I wouldn't mind playing drums now. My mom couldn't afford a piano so I did plastercasting instead
Carli — How do you support yourself?
Plastercaster — Over the years I have worked in offices mainly in places that knew what I was doing — as a typesetter. A proofreader proofread an article about me. He was a Baptist minister. He said, "Ooh I thought that girl was a negro."
Carli — So he assumed you were black just because of your sexual proclivities?
Plastercaster — Yeah (laughing at the absurdity of the idea). That's what that meant.
Carli — What happened to the other plaster casters?
Plastercaster — Well, Diane didn't want to be known for giving head anymore; she wanted to be married. She didn't think giving head to strangers would be the road to that. She retired before I moved to LA. I worked with a few girls there including Harlowe, who was in the Cockettes ... an assortment of straight women and drag queens that performed. They did musical reviews in LA. So Harlow worked with me, then a girl named Lixie. But I lost touch with them. I think Lixie lives somewhere in Florida. I would love to see her again. Dana moved to London; I heard she wasn't doing too well. Pest fell in love with a German sailor overnight and married him. I don't know what became of her after that.
Carli — What's the craziest story you can tell about being on the road?
Plastercaster — I don't know, doll. They're all crazy. I never know what to say.
Carli — I read the passage in Pamela Des Barnes' book I'm With the Band about how one of the casters was in a tub full of baked beans with a Led Zeppelin member. Did that really happen?
Plastercaster — Oh that ain't true. I think that rumor came from Hammer of the Gods, and that's not true. But I did have a horrible experience with Led Zeppelin. I can't go into more detail because I am saving it for my book, my autobiography. But it was the most horrible experience I ever had. I was wary for awhile after that.
Carli — Were they misogynists?
Plastercaster — No, not all of them. Just the ones that were involved: John Bonham, Richard Cole and Robert Plant. They were really famous: It had gone to their heads.
Carli — Have you had ongoing relationships with any of the rock stars you casted?
Plastercaster — Only casual ones. I would see them whenever they came to Chicago. It's hard to have a relationship because rock stars all want to live in LA or New York.
Carli — Did your hobby or unusual art bother any of the men you dated?
Plastercaster — Believe it or not, no.
Carli — Were some men attracted to you because if it?
Plastercaster — I hoped it would attract guys, but in a way it backfired. I wanted to get laid, but I spend lots of time learning how to mix, so I became the mold mixer. The other girl got all the action until later when we would double roles. But: "No plaster ever came between me and any man" (laughing).
Carli — How did you meet Jimi Hendrix?
Plastercaster — When Jimi came to town, I had finally got my act together. I was an expert at the art of plaster casting. He was doing two shows at the Civic Opera House. My then-partner Diane and another friend followed his limo in Diane's white car. We arrived at the hotel and told him, "Jimi, we are the plastercasters — maybe you've heard of us." He replied, "Oh yes, I have heard of you from someone in the cosmos." It was so exciting Vito because we got to ride up the elevator with Hendrix as opposed to climbing up a fire escape.
Plastercaster — We went up to Jimi's room. I casted him. He was one of the first, and I didn't know he had to get lubricated — the pubic part needs to get lubed. So all of his hairs got stuck in the mold. I took the hairs out the mold one by one. He very patiently fucked the mold while he was waiting, but for some reason, it out came out kind of cracked. The plaster almost fell out of the mold, but I carefully sealed it and let it harden for a few days. It came out in three pieces, which I glued together with Elmer's glue. It's kind of a rugged, but I think it's very sexy. I call it my "Penis D' Milo" because it looks like an ancient piece of Greek art.
Carli — Is that your most valuable one?
Plastercaster — I really love them all. I don't know which ones were valuable.
Carli — Well you also casted Noel Redding right?
Plastercaster — Yeah, I had the hots for Noel. But his came out twisted. His dick went soft as his mold was going hard. That's what alginate does. I think it's really cute.
Carli — Kiss wrote a song about you on "Love Gun." How did your friendships with Kiss come about?
Plastercaster — I had never even met them. I believe Gene Simmons wrote the song to send out a message that he wanted to be casted. I don't know, but I hadn't met him until years later.
Carli — Did you ever cast him?
Plastercaster — No, I really wasn't a fan of his back then. I wasn't into that kind of hard rock. I like Kiss now, but not back then. I felt rock 'n' roll was focusing too much on visuals and not enough on music.
Carli — So you weren't a fan of the glam rock movement?
Plastercaster — Well, I really liked David Bowie, Gary Glitter, and the Sweet were wonderful. They were more musical in my mind. I didn't get KISS then. In retrospect, I think that song is very catchy.
Carli — Were you flattered?
Plastercaster — Well, I am now, but at the time I was miffed because I had never even met Gene. I wished David Bowie would write me a song.
Carli — Did you also meet some of the punk, alternative people or new wave stars?
Plastercaster — I met the Buzzcocks later. I wanted to meet them early on, but no one introduced me to them. I'm very shy, Vito, and I need to be introduced. My friend Sally Timms introduced me to Pete Shelley. I tried to make a mold of him, but goddamn it, it failed. He was one of my favorite songwriters of all time.
Carli — "Something Goes Wrong Again"? (Quoting one of the Buzzcocks' most famous songs.)
Plastercaster — Yes. Well for some reason, Joe Strummer bought me a margarita. I never got to meet the Sex Pistols.
Carli — Did you know the Wax Trax people like Ministry and the Revolting Cocks?
Plastercaster — I always wanted to cast Paul Barker because I am a good friend of his wife; I never got around to it. But I did do Chris Connelly. It was like the Bermuda Triangle of crotches. He has the most wonderful cock, but the mold kept failing.
Carli — The literary critic, Camille Paglia, suggested that you invented a new art form. Do you think that's true?
Plastercaster — I do now. I understand now what art can be, and I think it fits the definition. But back then I had low self-esteem. I thought everything I did was jack shit.
Carli — She also suggested that she considers your work to be a " rebirth of tribal thinking and pagan worship." What do you think of that?
Plastercaster — (Laughing) I never thought of it that way. Whatever, Camille.
Carli — She also said something similar about Madonna, that there is a very ritualistic quality to her concerts.
Plastercaster — That Grand Old Catholic feeling, putting people on pedestals. I worship them, but then I also laugh at myself for worshipping them. My stuff does remind me of old Greek and Roman art.
Carli — Have you ever had any unpleasant experiences with rock star wives or girlfriends?
Plastercaster — Bebe Buelle got kind of territorial over Ritchie Blackmore one time. Most of my friends were groupies, or friends I converted into groupies.
Carli — Tell me about your involvement with the movie Plastercaster: A Cockumentary.
Plastercaster — I knew the director vaguely from the rock scene. Jessica Vilines and her mother were interested in making a documentary about me. They gave me an extremely generous advance. They took care of me so I would not have to work for the two years it took to film it.
Carli — Were you happy with that film?
Plastercaster — I think it's hilarious, and they made me look thirty.
Carli — How has AIDS and the end of the sexual revolution changed life on the road or being a groupie?
Plastercaster — The big change I see is that the age difference between rock stars and groupies is much broader. When I was younger most of the competition was seventeen through twenty-one. I don't think AIDS changed it much except people use condoms.
Carli — What did you think about the film Almost Famous and its depiction of Band-Aids?
Plastercaster — I thought it was pretty good. The only thing is I think that Penny Laine probably would have been more cutthroat. In the film, she was a little too sweet for reality. I probably shouldn't say that because I never met her. I never even knew she existed until the movie.
Carli — Why did you start doing breasts?
Plastercaster — That happened during the documentary. There is a woman who owns a business in Chicago called Oral Fixations. She takes money for doing casts of dicks, but she was also very interested in casting breasts. She gave me a few tips. I use two separate containers for breasts.
Carli — Did you see the film Groupies, and what did you think of that?
Plastercaster — At the time I was overweight and didn't want to be in the film, but now I'm glad I did it. Gosh, I wish they would give it a major release. They would really cash in if they did.
Carli — Do you have any upcoming exhibits or projects?
Plastercaster — I'm not currently in any exhibits, but my big baby is the Cynthia P. Caster Foundation, a nonprofit organization. We are going to try to raise money to help struggling artists and musicians. That way they can be helped the way that Frank Zappa and other people helped me. It's going to help people who have great ideas but not enough money. I'm going to sell limited editions of my casts and drawings. You can buy all this stuff on cynthiapcaster.org.
Carli — Can you tell me about the book you plan to write?
Plastercaster — Yes, it will be therapeutic. I'm going to talk about my mother and my father. It'll be a black comedy/self-help book. It will be about how you can learn about life by being a groupie. I never would have seen or known many things if I wasn't a groupie.
Carli — Who else have you casted besides rock stars?
Plastercaster — I did Mike Diana, the Boiled Angel artist. He's the only artist who was jailed because his art was too much. The FBI entrapped him. He's a totally innocent sweet little lamb. But that's not why I cast him. I did him because he is a great artist. Now he's an actor. I also would like to do Jeremy Stock of Pulp. He's also a filmmaker. He did "Outsider Art" for the BBC, which had lots of interviews. It's too late to do Stanley Kubrick. I'd also like to cast Bill Clinton and any other groovy politician.
Carli — What are you listening to?
Plastercaster — I think the new Plush album is fucking fantastic, and I have the Kinks on deck.
Carli — Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Plastercaster — Stay hard you all.
Text Copyright © 2002 Vito Carli