For those of you who wondered what the KISS song “Plaster Caster” was really about, the kicker is they were never immortalized by Cynthia Plaster Caster. But the rock stars who were her subjects — such as Jello Biafra, Eric Burdon, and others — really bring to life another side of the fan/rock star relationship in this hilarious, offbeat rock film. She’s still hard at work, as you can see at her website www.cynthiaplastercaster.com/. This movie review originally appeared in 2003.
She wants their love to last her
Groupie sculptor immortalizes rock stars’ organs
KISS had a penchant for euphemism. It took some deciphering to figure out what Gene Simmons meant by “love” (could be an emotion, sex, genitalia, or some combination). So in high school, when I first heard the song “Plaster Caster” on Love Gun, I wondered. Was it about a groupie who casts plaster, or a porno reference? Is she really taking casts of people’s penises, or are my hormones seriously clouding my interpretation? And if she isn’t, what the heck is this song about?
Well, there really is a Cynthia Plaster Caster, and she really did get access to some of the most notorious rock stars. As the documentary Plaster Caster explains, she never stopped, and has amassed a large collection of famous white penises. (Incidentally, Simmons’s is not among them; she never approached KISS to cast them. Simmons declined to take part in the film.)
Cynthia only casts the stars she chooses, but opportunity sometimes knocks. When going after Jimi Hendrix, she was really interested in his bandmate Noel Redding — but couldn’t shun the opportunity to cast Jimi. Hendrix’s cast resurfaces throughout the movie. As former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra says, “I can’t measure up to Jimi Hendrix!”
Cynthia got into her preferred media thanks to a college art assignment. Her mother, a.k.a. “The Warden,” had already threatened to pull her out of the school because of the bohemian influence it had on Cynthia. If only she knew. (And apparently, she still doesn’t.)
The process, as more than a few musicians observe, is oddly asexual. Cynthia takes a mould of the organ with alginates (dental mold). When that hardens, plaster is poured in, and when firm the mold is broken away. Aside from the stimulation from Cynthia’s assistant, or “plater,” while Cynthia prepares the alginates, it seems more like a messy kitchen project.
People’s experiences vary. Bill Dolan of 5ive Style/The Fire Theft is shy, and his first cast (off-camera) doesn’t turn out . The next time, he brings a “friend” to help, and it works. Then there’s Danny Doll Rod, of the Demolition Doll Rods, who revels in the process — in the same hotel room that Hendrix did, and almost entirely on camera. While it’s interesting to see from start to finish, I wonder if a bit of computer animation mightn’t have served just as well. Danny is a skinny fish of a man, and about as sexy as Gollum. Perhaps it’s a groupie thing.
Writer Camille Paglia and artist Ed Paschke comment on the work from social and artistic perspectives, but the high points come from the musicians themselves. The Animals’ Eric Burdon chuckles at the time when Cynthia was attempting to cast him in his tour plane’s lavatory, as the pilot was trying to clear the plane for takeoff. And Momus (Nick Currie), seeing her collection, interprets with a postmodern view: the old-time rock stars are all erect, whereas the new, ironic musicians, often fail to keep it fully up. Right. It’s your irony.
A serious look at an artist full of chutzpah, Plaster Caster is a look at rock n’ roll unlike any other. Now if only someone would make a film explaining “Lick It Up.”
- Directed by Jessica Everleth
- Avenue Edit / Fragment Films
- Four stars out of five
Originally published in Uptown Magazine, August 2003
UPDATE: Should have thought of this before, but have added the official trailer below.