We recently spent part of a sweltering New York afternoon, ahem, walking the streets with world renowned performance artist Tammy Faye Starlite. What Tammy doesn’t know about cars could fill the New York Public Library. That’s no surprise in light of the fact that this Manhattan born and bred provocateuse doesn’t have a driver’s license and that’s a very good thing since she doesn’t actually know how to drive a car.
While she’s rather indifferent to cars other than taxis, she was somewhat smitten by the sight of a vintage Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet on East 11th Street. It’s not often that one encounters a mid-80s car parked on the mean streets of Manhattan, especially a soft top like this yet there it was. The VW convertible has long been considered the ultimate “chick car” and that’s not a slight in any way. They’re cute and trim and when the top is folded down there’s a roll bar that looks something like a purse handle.
These were built for VW by Karmann (as in Karmann Ghia) in the Westphalian town of Rheine, 190 kilometers north of Cologne. That’s where Christa Päffgen was born in 1938. She would transform herself into the underground icon Nico who went on to a career of modeling, recording, acting and drug abuse. Tammy has portrayed her in Nico: Underground, a theatrical performance that The New York Times called “remarkable and howlingly funny, morbidly fascinating night of theater.” See how we connected the dots just now?
Just one block removed from that surprisingly not-too-battered VW we encountered a domestic rag top of similar vintage. Behold, the Chrysler LeBaron convertible for 1983. Though not as loveable as the VW, the two cars have much in common. Both are front wheel drive cars powered by transverse-mounted 4 cylinder motors. Are you taking notes, Ms. Starlite? There will be a quiz! We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Tammy’s deficiencies in automotive areas is more than made up for by her uncanny ability to inhabit characters based on real people. Her next piece, entitled Cabaret Marianne, debuts October 1 at New York’s delightful Pangea restaurant and supper club. It’s a performance based on the life and music of Marianne Faithful which Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called “poignant” and “lethally honest..” Damned if we can find a way to connect this with Chrysler’s K-Car but Marianne once recorded a song entitled “Times Square” and that’s only about a mile away from where this LeBaron was parked. No? How about the fact that, in her youth, Marianne had a fairly big record titled “Summer Nights”? Isn’t that exactly when you’d want to put the top down. Hey, we’re walkin’ here!
We offer a bit of time travel with the great Ricardo Montalban, a performance artist in his own right, in this LeBaron commercial from back in the day.. and not a mention of “rich Corinthian leather.” And check out this Mattel commercial for the Heart Family Car which looks strangely similar to the VW Rabbit convertible.. but much, much smaller.
What’s keeping you from buying this ’87 VW Cabriolet? It’s in nearby Seattle and is offered for a mere (not a typo) $525!! A deal like this won’t last forever. And while you’re in the buying mood, why not add this ’82 LeBaron convertible to your shopping list? It’s a low mileage cream puff in nearby Palm Springs. Yow! They’re asking $7900 for it but, hey, it’s the deluxe Mark Cross edition and one of only 505 made.
Bonus! Click here for Tammy performing Marianne’s “Sister Morphine” at Lincoln Center.
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Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes. If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.