Tough Broads

From a tender age I’ve always been attracted to strong women. None of those squealing, fainting damsels for me. Thinking back, it was probably Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in ALIEN that started it all. She’s gotten sexier as she’s aged, putting more meat on her tall bones, but she was all attitude in Ridley Scott’s classic horror film. The part was originally written for a man, and her husky voice and take-no-shit attitude grabbed me by the underoos and made me pay attention. She’s remained one of my favorite actresses, even when she’s played against type in the hilarious GALAXY QUEST. She’s got a smoldering glare that adds an edge to her husky voice.

Sigourney about to rip John Turturro’s arm off.

Speaking of husky voices, Kathleen Turner is the undisputed queen of that, no? She made her bones (and mine) in the excellent noir BODY HEAT directed by Lawrence Kasdan. She plays the ultimate femme fatale, a siren who can dupe even a clever man into doing her bidding. She did this again as Jessica Rabbit, but one of my favorite roles is her psycho Martgha Stewart clone in  John Waters’ hilarious SERIAL MOM, a movie more people need to see. “Is this the cocksucker residence?!” She’s been playing a tough bitch on “Californication” lately. Time hasn’t been as kind to her physically as Sigourney, but she still has the attitude that makes her believable as a vamp who can get away with saying “You aren’t too smart, are you? I like that in a man.”

Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes’ 1980 film GLORIA epitomizes the term “tough broad,” and the film’s offbeat tale of a mob gun moll who takes a kid who witnessed a hit under her wing appealed to me then and now. What boy wouldn’t want to be clutched to Gena’s bosom while she cocked a magnum at bunch of goombas? She oozes old school, classy sexuality so effortlessly that even Angie Dickinson in POINT BLANK or Tuesday Weld in THIEF could learn a thing or two from her.

Now we get to the broad who inspired this post- Debbie Harry, this month’s Garden State Playmate at The Sexy Armpit– otherwise known as the lead singer of Blondie. She took off with a disco-rock aesthetic hit “Call Me,” and blasted into her own punky, glammy campy form of rock ‘n roll that’s never been duplicated. She’s covered calypso and helped put hip hop in the mainstream with “Rapture”- no joke- commercial radio wouldn’t play that “fringe” music back in the day and neither would MTV. Black and white charts- cough, I mean “pop” and “R&B”- remain segregated, but she introduced millions of white kids to hip hop. For me, that led to Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, and culminated in blasting NWA when I went to college in Newark, even though I looked like TweedleDee with a Wopfro back then. Anyway, back to Debbie- she was a Playboy playmate with a brain, and that wry grin that punctuates much of her music is her great appeal. I liked that she voiced Angel in the ’80s rock cartoon ROCK ‘N RULE (full review) and her roles in VIDEODROME and of course, John Waters’ HAIRSPRAY – the original. With her silken voice and smart way of winking at the audience, her lyrics are deceptively simple and catchy. Between her and Chrissie Hynde, I’d give her the crown of Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.

Sorry. I didn’t notice her flagrant crack until just now.

And that crown will be passed on to Joan Jett, once those two pass into the great gig in the sky. Joan Jett is the sexiest woman in the world. How I came to this hypothesis, proven so far only in my own personal universe, begins in the year 1980 when her album “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was released. While we fondly remember the classic rock of the ’70s, we mustn’t forget that the air and our ears was heavily polluted with a substance known as Disco, which made Indians cry and men wear pants so tight you could tell if they’d been circumcised. The late ’70s rock ‘n roll and punk resurgence saved us from all that. So we need to thank Iggy Pop, the Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, Debbie Harry and of course, Joan Jett for dragging us out of it alive. Joan took the raw edge of punk and rockabilly, slammed it with a bit of Bowie’s glam for image and rocked into our world with an unapologetic tomboy swagger, leather jacket and guitar. She’s STILL sexy as hell, even when she forgoes her sneer for a light-up-the-stage smile:

The sexiest rock ‘n roll girl ever.

That’s her at the premiere of THE RUNAWAYS biopic- pronounced BIO PICK, not like bionic, Firecracker!!- which is a fine movie detailing how creepoid rock promoter Kim Fowley put together the first all-girl rock band by sexing up these rocking teenagers and exploiting the shit out of them. Joan managed to ride that wave and transcend it, getting even bigger by covering practically every inch of her body and showing us more simmering sexuality in one smoldering glare on her debut album cover:

So who are your favorite tough broads?

© 2010 Tommy Salami

9 thoughts on “Tough Broads

  1. Mine — as could probably be expected — are a lot older than the women on your list :) Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Susan Hayward, Lauren Bacall and (despite her dainty voice I personally think she qualifies as a tough broad) Jeanne Moreau.

  2. I almost went back and swapped Lauren Bacall for Kathleen Turner, because she is such a cribber of "The Look" and her iconic image. Mrs. Bacall is one of a kind, and if I'd watched classic films at a young age she would have been as influential to me as these gals were. Marlene Dietrich too. She'll get her own post someday, after I read her daughter's book.

  3. Oh dang I love this post! I'm a big fan of Sigourney Weaver, Debbie Harry, Kathleen Turner (love Serial Mom!), and Joan Jett as well! Other awesome tough ladies I dig include Pam Grier, PJ Harvey, Kathleen Hanna, Janeane Garofalo, Tura Satana, Lauren Bacall, Patti Smith, and Linda Hamilton in T2. And lately I'm really coming around on Michelle Rodriquez, who was the best part of Avatar and quite badass in Machete.

  4. I too am a lover of the tough broad. My favorite not on your list would be Amy Madigan, particularly in Streets Of Fire. Now there's a tough broad who never got the opportunities she deserved.

  5. I came here to leave my two cents about Lauren Bacall–but ya'all beat me to it. My favorite actress who stands up for herself (not so much a 'tough broad' in your sense of the word) is Shirley MacLaine. Shirley and Debra Winger in 'Terms of Endearment' always get me crying whenever I watch it. (Shirley was also great in "Steel Magnolias" as Weeza (fantastic role for her)). Debra Winger is great all on her own (you would not know it was her as Emmett in "Made In Heaven" if you weren't told before hand (give it a chance, it is a decent movie).Amy Madigan's been getting some good roles lately (Criminal Minds — she was the love of a serial killer); she was great in "Field of Dreams"; and I think she's going to be Olivia's mom on "Fringe" this year.

  6. Summer Glau, Maggie Q, and these other waifs- even Milla Jovovich, who I like purely because she has fun with her roles- are about as tough as cotton candy. Pam Grier, Chrissie Hynde, Amy Madigan, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis- now there you go. Miss Piggy? That's inspired. HIIII-YA!!! I loved when she beat the shit out of Kermie.

  7. Great post!Kaese's comment about Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias got me thinking about how much I love Olympia Dukakis. Especially in Moonstruck where she interrupts herself at the dinner table to tell her father-in-law, "Old man, you give those dogs another piece of my food and I'm gonna kick you 'til you're dead."

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