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A scum-shock queen grows up
Lisa Crystal Carver doesn’t have to pee in litter boxes anymore — she has plenty of volunteers to do it for her

It’s Sunday, and America’s queen of sex and pee is offering to reveal her scars. "Want to see my marks?" she asks, leaning over a half-eaten bagel in a Dover, New Hampshire, coffee shop. Pulling up a sleeve of her V-neck sweater, the 37-year-old holds out one wrist, revealing a patch of thin vertical lines left over from the time she tried to kill herself at 19. She blurts out lovingly, "My peeling!" It’s as if she’s just introduced an old friend.

Like everything Lisa Crystal Carver does, her suicide attempt wasn’t a cliché — no weepy slit-your-wrists-and-bleed-in-the-tub adolescent banality. Nope, when the tormented teenager tried to end it all, she did it in Paris with a bottle of gin and a rusty potato peeler.

This death-by-kitchen-implement episode is one of the many predictably unpredictable anecdotes retold in Carver’s recently published Drugs Are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir (Soft Skull), a first-person tell-all that rummages through the darker, more harrowing episodes of Carver’s cult legacy. The scum-shock vixen first lashed and screamed and peed her way into the underground in the late ’80s, with what could be loosely described as a band: Suckdog, a feral touring "opera" of rape skits and litter-box excretions and violent visions recently immortalized in a loosely assembled companion DVD, Drugs Are Nice: A Suckumentary. In 1990, Carver started Rollerderby, a chatty, lusty, handmade ’zine of pop-cultural musings, gossipy banter, and grrrlish sexual grit that became a hallmark of the self-publishing genre. Capitalizing on Rollerderby’s DIY success — by issue 15, the ’zine had 10,000 readers — Carver then reinvented herself as a professional writer, first with the book Dancing Queen (Henry Holt & Co.) and then with regular online journals for Nerve.com that were later compiled into The Lisa Diaries: 4 Years in the Sex Life of Lisa Carver and Company.

Carver has always documented her animalistic sexploits and appetites in great mouth-to-orifice detail, implied exclamation points punctuating all her sentences. She’s written about her seven weeks as a teenage prostitute, her parade of exotic lovers, her experience having a swingers’-club dungeon master Saran Wrap her nude to a ladder. A motor-mouth raconteur on the page, she’s been likened to "Camille Paglia channeling Tonya Harding and Liz Phair" and "Hunter S. Thompson in a miniskirt" — Thurston Moore once called her "the laugh, the fart, the make out, the beauty, the LIFE." Somehow, Carver always managed to make spectacular perversion and provocative delirium sound so, well, romantic.

But Drugs Are Nice wipes away the luster of "disgusting glamour" to reveal a despairing figure beneath the dirty allure. Carver writes frankly about her manipulative, womanizing, ex-con, drug-dealer of a father. She relives her theatrical fights with Suckdog collaborator and ex-husband Jean-Louis Costes: him dumping oatmeal on her head, him abandoning her on a highway mid-tour. And she delves into her psychologically and physically abusive relationship with industrial-music antagonist Boyd Rice, a Church of Satan dabbler and fascism flirt who sired her son Wolfgang.

But all that was the old Lisa Carver. The new Lisa Carver is a married homeowner with two kids. She leaves Saturday-night Halloween parties at 10 pm. She doesn’t drink much anymore or strip naked onstage. And she doesn’t relieve herself in public.

Then again, she is still Lisa Carver. She talks publicly about her open marriage to Newton native and ex–Elevator Drops singer/bassist Dave Goolkasian. When she recently interviewed lifelong crush, Billy Idol, she immediately asked him to marry her. She mentions vaginal gas over coffee, albeit in a whisper. She traverses the country on a book tour and ends up in a fistfight with Satanists. Although she’s no longer the one urinating for spectators, she enlists cute understudies to do it on her behalf.

Carver’s grown up, though, she swears. "I’m not suicidal anymore. But I still like a good pee."


Tucked into a Dover side street down the block from the public high school, Carver’s home doesn’t look like the domain of a former scum-shock queen. There’s no welcome mat in the shape of a litter box, no door knocker engraved with the phrase SEXPERT LIVES HERE, no schlong-shaped topiary. Rather, Carver’s yellow-siding house fits nicely in swing-state suburbia: a plastic toy on the front lawn; framed photos of Carver’s kids, 11-year-old Wolfgang and three-year-old Sadie, arranged on an interior wall; a refrigerator drawer of moldy cucumbers on the back porch. Perhaps the detail most characteristic of the place’s owner is the unflushed toilet in the downstairs bathroom.

Slipping on a pair of Keds to drive downtown for a bite, Carver grins naughtily, "My husband Dave hates these. He told me not to wear them [today] because you’d write about them." Actually, close readers of Carver’s work already know that Goolkasian hates her Keds from The Lisa Diaries. They’d also know that during a housewarming thrown in this house, Carver once cajoled her husband into a threesome with a sultry Boston drag queen they’d met at a Chinatown goth club. They’d also remember that when Carver once held a Nerve.com contest in which the winners got to sleep with her and Goolkasian, a mini-orgy transpired upstairs in the bedroom when the victors came to visit.

"I’ve given up on privacy and trying to keep things from people," Carver admits as she settles into a chair in an "ultra-hip" downtown Dover coffee shop where "all the MySpace people go." (Carver herself actively maintains a MySpace portal: http://www.myspace.com/drugsarenice.) "I just figure that everybody knows: the babysitter, the in-laws, they all know everything." Being a suburban mother who’s recorded her adventurous promiscuity and sundry drug experiments on paper — and perhaps worse, the Internet — has had its complications. "People just assume things," she says, alluding to a handful of community members who’ve labeled her an unfit parent. "They think that because I did cocaine 10 times in 1998, I’m a cocaine addict today."

Carver knows firsthand what it’s like to have negligent parents. As a latchkey kid often left to her own devices, she was more toughened up than raised. Her mother’s absenteeism was caused by Crohn’s Disease; her father’s, jail. Carver and her mother moved around a lot, falling so far behind on rent that they’d have to sneak out in the night.

After Carver’s father was released from prison, she lived with him in California for a year when she was 15. That adolescent period, partly relived in Drugs Are Nice’s prologue, serves as an undercurrent for everything in the book that follows. "I just kinda realized how much of my career came out of him," Carver acknowledges. "My father raised me on tales of being tortured, being in gunfights, killing people, people trying to kill him, and the cops torturing him.... I was always trying to get myself in these bad situations with people, or the authorities, or just life, so I could prove that I wasn’t a scaredy cat."

Proving her fearlessness played out in all sorts of crazy behaviors. She tried speed. She formed Suckdog with her best friend Rachel. She corresponded with scumbag-rock’s most crassly misanthropic icon, G.G. Allin. She whored.

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Issue Date: November 25 - December 1, 2005
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