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 Fuller Up The Dead Musician Directory 
 
David Xavier Harrigan
Tomata du Plenty
August 20, 2000
Age 52 
Cancer 
 
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Editor's Pick:  Video:  1978 Live SF
 
 
 
 

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          Goodbye, Tomata du Plenty    David Xavier Harrigan, a.k.a. Tomata du Plenty, lead 
        vocalist for the Screamers ('77-'81), died in San 
        Francisco on Sunday, apparently from cancer. He was 
        52. Born on Coney Island, Tomata was the son of Irish 
        immigrants. He is survived by two sisters. 
          
        One of L.A.'s all-time biggest club bands, the 
        Screamers were also its most mysterious. They are 
        renowned as the original punk underground's most 
        popular band, who vanished into thin air without ever 
        releasing a single record, who never officially 
        toured, and who were so far ahead of their time in 
        doing away with electric guitars in aggressive rock 
        that they were called "techno-punk" by local scene 
        scribe Kristine McKenna as early as February '78.  

        Style and theater were also so much a part of the 
        Screamers that nobody ever called them out for being a 
        punk band with a full-time stylist. Later on, under the  
        direction of Austrian filmmaker Rene Daalder, the band 
        made a series of video clips and short promotional 
        films nearly two years before MTV went on the air. 
        Gary Panter's screaming, hair-raising skull caricature of 
        Tomata has become one of the few recognizable 
        “official unofficial” emblems of the great L.A. 
        underground rock band rebirth of the late '70s. 

        No one with any management or business skills 
        understood the Screamers or their lo-fi 
        psycho-Kraftwerk-meets-"The Night Porter" as 
        performance art. Yet the band (one ARP Odyssey synth, 
        one Fender Rhodes with fuzzbox, and one minimal 
        drumkit plus Tomata) was still regularly selling out 
        multiple consecutive nights at the Whisky and the Roxy, two 
        shows a night, with their meticulously polished 
        productions. Any unsigned band able to rack up ticket  
        sales even half that amount today would stir up a 
        major knock-down bloodied bidding war among several 
        multi-national mega corporations.   

        Before moving to L.A. in early ‘77 Tomata was a 
        beneficiary of Seattle’s “one-percent-for-the-arts” 
        policy at a time when there were more than a dozen  
        funded live theaters in the city. Mostly featuring 
        farcical musical comedies, these brought out droves of 
        actors, designers, costumers, and performers like  
        Tomata who were enticed to artist-friendly Seattle 
        looking for low-wage work in the arts.  

        Tomata was a big hit on the thriving Seattle 
        off-theater circuit of the early 70’s as a member of 
        Ze Whiz Kidz, a lip-sync troupe he originally formed 
        with Gorilla Rose (RIP Michael Farris) in ‘69. After 
        opening for Alice Cooper at the Paramount in ‘72 with 
        a '50s-theme musical called “Puttin’ Out In 
        Dreamsville” the vitality around Ze Whiz Kidz 
        godfathered major rebirths of local scenes in modern dance, performance 
        art, punk and the gay underground in Seattle. Ze Kidz 
        staged nearly 100 mini-musical/revues with a cast 
        whose stage names included Satin Sheets, CoCo Ritz, 
        Daily Flo, Benny Whiplash, Michael Hautepants (costume 
        designer Michael Murphy), Leah Vigeah and real females 
        Louise Lovely (Di Linge) and Cha Cha Samoa (Cha 
        Davis).   
         
        After bailing on Ze Kidz circa ‘74 Tomata formed the 
        Tupperwares, an all-drag vocal trio with Melba Toast 
        who later reinvented herself as Tommy Gear (the  
        utterly enigmatic musician-writer who wrote most of 
        the Screamers’ classic songs and then seemed to 
        disappear) and Rio de Janeiro (David Gulbransen). 
        Frequently billed together on what came to be known as 
        “TMT”  shows, three Seattle bands--the Tupperwares, 
        the Meyce and the Telepaths--basically midwifed 
        Seattle’s version of the late '70s punk-new wave 
        scene. 

        There was also a brief period in New York with Gorilla 
        Rose and Fayette Hauser who performed comedy at CBGB’s 
        with the Stilettos (featuring a pre-Blondie Debbie 
        Harry) and the Ramones as opening acts. After moving 
        to L.A. in early ‘77 the Tupperwares quickly changed 
        their name to the Screamers after meeting keyboardist 
        David Brown and transplanted Oklahoman multi-media 
        artist and musician KK Barrett. 

        After the final break-up of the Screamers in '81, 
        Tomata embarked on a new career as a painter, and 
        after his first show at the Zero One Gallery in '83, 
        he gradually evolved into a revered folk artist who 
        worked the storefront gallery circuit in Seattle, 
        L.A., Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco. (He always 
        said he'd sooner sell 100 of his trademark instant 
        paintings of his favorite artists and other plain 
        folks at $25 each rather than one at $25,000.) 

        "With style, grace and humor," Tomata once said, 
        "everybody must be made to feel important sometime..."

    
  
 
NY TIMES
        
 
 
       
 

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The Screamers by Dave Lang (March 2000) 
      ...Going by the scant facts that are out there, The Screamers existed from 1977 to 1981, and called 
         Los Angeles their home, but to even attempt to appreciate such a band, and to get a grasp on 
         where they were coming from, I must repeat a fact I've stated before: the West Coast scene of the 
         late '70s was the most exciting and vibrant music scene of its day. This is a fact for many reasons. 
         Firstly, because the bands existed in relative isolation and were given time to develop identities of 
         their own, away from the spotlights of London and New York. Secondly, because unlike London or 
         NY, the major labels based in California had nada interest in local punk, thus the bands had no one 
         to compromise to and a myriad of interesting/essential 7"s to release in the meantime (as opposed 
         to the quick-as-a-flash burnout/dismissal of Television/Richard Hell/Dead Boys, etc.). Thirdly, and 
         most importantly - and this is a point made by many before me - the sunshine'n'happiness myth of 
         California, and the respective hippie/beach cultures of its two main cities, nurtured a strong 
         resentment amongst its beatnik/Dada/art-freak community that would coalesce into a mass of 
         loathing sparked by punk in the late '70's. The sheer oppressiveness of what one should be (surfer 
         dude/and-or hippie pot-smoker) culminated into producing a punk/new music scene that was not 
         only angry, but smart, funny, obnoxious and far more intelligent than the more famous scenes of its 
         day... Their unforgettable stage shows - each gig being seen by the band as an event, with Tomata eyeing 
         each audience member individually and spasmodically flailing about on stage - earned them an 
         instant reputation as one of the best and most original bands in town... more 
 
 
 
  
 
 

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