May 7th, 2002


Kris Kovick R.I.P.

Kris Kovick tried to poison me so she could sleep with my girlfriend.

It’s a shame that most people outside the SF lesbian community don’t know who Kris Kovick was. She was an old, old-school, working class dyke and an amazing performer. She died earlier this year after a long battle with cancer, probably caused by her long-term job as a lithographer.

The memory of Kris was brought all its glory when I borrowed a CD of one of her last performances from a friend. I didn’t know it existed, but my housemate (and ex, the one she wanted to sleep with) listened to it last night, alternatively laughing hard enough to annoy the neighbors, and getting teary at the loss of such an amazing person.

Her performance style was over the top and hilarious and she could turn phrases and use metaphors in ways I know, sadly, I’ll never achieve as a writer.* When Kris described looking at porn at a men’s magazine rack in the Castro, or recounted the White Night Riots she could paint a amazing picture You knew it was a skewed, twisted picture containing her own agenda and idiosyncrasies, but you also knew it was more true than it pretended to be. And more valuable as a document of the times than most other histories.

She liked to play up her craziness so you couldn’t tell how much was real and how much was a persona. Even after she poisoned me with undercooked, salmonella-laced, chicken, she apologized but always left a little hedging room. She liked the image that maybe she really had done it on purpose. After all, I was the only one at the small dinner party who got sick. One can’t argue that it was every bit as romantic, in a twisted way, as the night she appeared at our door with a guitar to serenade my partner with embarrassingly personal love songs.

I didn’t see her in the last few years of her life. There was drama and falling-outs with mutual friends and we fell out of each other’s social scenes. I feel guilt for not calling her when I heard she was sick, but it’s just a general dull ache of guilt, like one feels for not calling your family enough or not doing more political organizing. I can’t believe she thought of me or missed my presence in those last months, it just would’ve been the right thing to do.

And really, I didn’t feel the weight of her death until last night. I didn’t realize I should have grabbed my last opportunities to see her perform or just tell stories. I’m in the place of having grief but no recognized credentials for it. A stupid and fucked up feeling, but it's there. It’s strange how someone’s death can make you feel like you need to rank your place in the mourning hierarchy to validate your feelings.

I do wish that I had told her how much she meant to me as an inspiration and an example. I wish I had realized it when I had that chance.

* I’d have to go back and listen to find the best ones and type them verbatim and I’m not up for that right now. One that pops to mind as an example of a simple but evocative phrase is describing her brother’s leather wallet as "like a small, warm mammal," when he pulled out his picture of Divine with a gun (from Pink Flamingoes) in response to questions from relatives as to whether he had a girlfriend.