Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains – Not So Secret Obsession

This film changed my life and the lives of so many other people that were my age when it was basically always on TV late at night. I still watch it every once in a while, and love it even more.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains is a 1981 film about three teenage girls, played by Diane Lane, Laura Dern and Marin Kanter, who start a punk band. Shot in British Columbia, Canada, the film also featured Ray Winstone, Christine Lahti, ex-Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook, along with Paul Simonon from The Clash, and Vince Welnick and Fee Waybill from The Tubes. L.A. punk icon Black Randy from Black Randy and the Metrosquad also makes an appearance as himself and as “Mexican Randy”. There are also brief cameos by Elizabeth Daily as a hotel maid, and Brent Spiner. Musician Barry Ford plays the busdriver named Lawnboy. Ford wrote the majority of the soundtrack including the title song “All Washed Up”; which features Jones, Cook, and Simonon.

The film, originally titled All Washed Up, was directed by music business tycoon Lou Adler for Paramount Pictures and written by Nancy Dowd, who won the Best Screenplay Academy Award for Coming Home. Dowd took the pseudonym “Rob Morton” after being dissastisfied with the production process and final cut of the film. The movie was produced by Joe Roth, who would later become chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Punk rock journalist Caroline Coon was a technical advisor on the film.

The film was never given wide release, though it may have had a small theatrical release in 1982.[citation needed] A screening in Denver, Colorado generated a poor response. The film was shelved but eventually made its way to the Art-House circuit. The film’s theatrical run included engagements at Film Forum in New York City on Wednesday, March 6, 1985, in Chicago in April 1985, in Atlanta and Los Angeles in July 1985, and at the Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia from Friday, August 23 – Saturday, August 24, 1985.

The true audience for this movie found it on late night cable television. TV airings during the 1980s happened on the popular USA Network program Night Flight, Los Angeles local cable Z Channel and Showtime. Rhino Home Video released a DVD on September 16, 2008.

The film has a loyal cult following and shows up on the big screen once in a while. A projectionist at the Nuart Cinema in Los Angeles lobbied for the sole remaining print to be kept in circulation, and the Nuart has screened the film multiple times since 2001. In 1998, the film showed at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and in 2005 at the Sydney Film Festival. In recent years, a private screening was held at the Yale University Department of Anthology in December 2006. The film enjoyed a two day showing at Alamo Draft House – Ritz in Austin, Texas (December 1 & 8, 2008). The film recently aired on Turner Classic Movies as part of their Friday night feature, TCM Underground, on January 31, 2009. It was also shown as one of the films in the outdoor Top Down film series run by the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon on August 6, 2009. Most recently, it was screened at the premiere of the Rocksploitation midnight movie series on July 10, 2010 at the Bridge Theater in San Francisco, CA.

The Stains were frequently referenced by notable participants in the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s which helped to generate further interest in this otherwise forgotten punk relic. Other fans of the film include musician/actor Courtney Love, musician/actor Jon Bon Jovi (who dated Stains star Diane Lane in the 1980s), Paul and Ariel Awesome of the long-running punk fanzine Maximumrocknroll, Beat the Geeks “Movie Geek” Marc Edward Heuck, and the late underground filmmaker Sarah Jacobson. In 2000, Jacobson directed, with Sam Green, a short documentary on the film for the IFC television show Split Screen. In 2008, Heuck recorded a historical commentary track for the Rhino DVD, which was not included on the finished DVD; it is available for free download.