Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Mongrel magazine, December 2006

The Gossip

she's bringing chubby back

beth ditto
“Oh my God, are these new? Can we keep these?” The glossy celebrity magazines were really only intended as props for the photoshoot. But having been cooped up inside the Temple Bar Music Centre since the early afternoon, The Gossip gleefully lap them up like manna from heaven. “Jen and Vince” gasps Nathan. “It’s back on!” “Lindsay Lohan’s fire crotch!” enthuses Hannah. Only Beth Ditto remains focused on the task at hand. “What magazine is this for? Monger Magazine?” It’s a trade magazine for the fish industry, I reply. “Oh, I like fish” she purrs saucily. And on that note… Tell us why you started the band.
Beth: To get the fuck out of Arkansas. Just to get out of there. Olympia was the birthplace of the Riot Grrrl movement – things like Bikini Kill and Kill Rock Stars. My friends were big fans of that and I was just starting to get into it too. So when they moved to Olympia to go to school, I ended up moving with them and starting the band.

You put down Arkansas in almost every interview you do. Was it really that bad?
There are things about it that are absolutely horrible. And there are things about it that are really wonderful. The weather is nice and the food is delicious – deep fried chicken and biscuits! If you’re a straight white male in Arkansas then things probably aren’t that bad. But if you’re not – like we’re not – then its really horrible.

You’re quite outspoken on the fat issue. Do you think your size has counted for you or against you?
I think in the past it counted against me, but right now its helping me out. And I think that’s… fucking awesome really. I’m actually writing a book about fat girls fashion, which is something I’m really passionate about. It’s coming from a very punk background with a DIY mentality. These are things that I think about – people with acne, people with disabilities, people that are cross-eyed or have fucked up teeth. It’s not cool to diss on those people just because it’s not your personal reality.

But weren’t you dissing bald men in an interview I read?
No, no, no. That wasn’t a diss. No, no, no. I was saying that fat bald men can speak and the industry listens to them, whereas if you’re a fat woman you have to scream ten times as loud.

Is there anyone you’d really like to have as a fan?
Beth: [immediately] Yoko Ono.
Hannah: Maybe Kim Gordon.
Beth: Yeah, or John Waters.

What’s your live show like?
Beth: Vomit and vaginas. A lot of vomit coming out of vaginas. Pit sweat, pit stains.
Hannah: Spitting, screaming, crying, laughing…
Nathan: Drunken fights, knocked over furniture.

That’s a traditional Irish Christmas you’re describing there.
Hannah: [shocked] Seriously?
Beth: That sounds horrible!

You get used to it… So how will you spend Christmas yourselves?
Beth: With my partner’s family in Seattle. Which should be hilarious. His family are just so different to my family. [Her partner is a transgendered man] They actually use nice plates, like china. My family use paper plates. For Christmas dinner? Fuck yeah! In front of the TV. Peace out. Seriously… I have like seven brothers and sisters. They have children. I’ve got fourteen aunts and uncles. Slews of cousins. No way is my Mom washing all of those dishes.

My mother always gets stressed out Christmas Day. Maybe I’ll suggest paper plates this year.
Yeah! Tell her to get the nice printed one with the designs on them. Then after dinner you can just throw them out. It’s not every environmentalist [sic] though, but don’t tell her that. Of course if she’s anything like my Mom she probably doesn’t give a shit either way.

Postscript: This interview took place when Beth Ditto was right on the cust of tabloid mini-fame. We hung out together for a couple of hours before a gig. To be honest, I found her loud, annoying and not particularly bright. Also, her shtick – that being morbidly obese is something to be proud about – seemed pretty dubious. Gossip drummer Hannah Blilie was much the more thoughtful and articulate of the pair. I was very interested in what she had to say. But once the interview commenced, unfortunately, she couldn’t seem to get a word in edgeways.

Photographer Ross McDonnell (recently co-director of the excellent Colony movie, incidentally) brought along some celebrity gossip rags for the photo-shoot. Beth refused to handle any that had Kate Moss on the cover. She said several unprintable things about the model, but her main point seemed to be that Kate Moss promotes an unhealthy body image to young girls. (Yes – pot, kettle etc. etc. etc.)

A couple of months later, this story was all over the papers… Quelle surprise!