Wendy O. Williams got our attention in early 1981 on ABC-TV's "Fridays", when she concluded a performance with her band "Plasmatics" by slicing an electric guitar in half with a chain saw. Later that year, she made headlines after being arrested in Milwaukee for wearing only shaving cream on stage and making lewd gestures with a sledge hammer.
So when Wendy O. came to Little Rock in 1982, I couldn't pass up the chance to cover her at a real Arkansas-style promotional appearance. One of the local rock radio stations ran a contest where the grand prize was a brand new color TV. As part of the prize, Wendy O. would come to the winner's home and smash up the old TV.
It was predictable, perhaps, that the winner's residence was in a south Little Rock trailer park, hence the "Arkansas style". For my part, I didn't give a rip about seeing Wendy O. I tagged along because I had never before seen a television set smashed to bits with a sledge hammer, particularly one that was plugged in and turned on.
With cameras rolling, Wendy O. strutted from her limo to the trailer, sledge in hand. The old black-and-white television, turned to an undetermined channel (it should have been turned to our noon news show) was ready.
Wendy O. hefted the sledge.
The sledge made contact with the top of the plastic cabinet. With hardly a flicker, the TV stayed on, and I was more than a little disappointed. I was hoping for a shower of orange sparks, a small explosion of glass shards, maybe some superficial fire damage. But it was simply not to be.
Curse you, Underwriters' Laboratories.
It took several more whacks before the picture went. After a few more swings, the picture tube finally broke, without so much as a satisfying "pop". But by now, Wendy O. had hit her stride and she leaned in with a will, methodically reducing the TV to a small heap of debris.
Wendy O. Williams, "unplugged", acoustic and at the top of her game.
After sledge hammer and chainsaw fame, Wendy O. broke into movies, appearing in "Reform School Girls" (1986) and as "Butch" in "Pucker Up and Bark Like a Dog" (1990). Her 1988 greatest hits album was entitled "F* You!!! And Loving It: A Retrospective".
From music and movies she went on to suicide and, like the old black-and-white TV, it seems several attempts were required before the picture finally went out.