Cynthia Albritton, better known as Cynthia Plaster Caster, is inarguably one of the more fascinating pop culture personalities the Windy City has to offer.
In the mid-'60s, as her legend goes, the Chicago-born groupie queen embarked on a strange mission: To plaster cast the genitals of rockstars using dental moldmaking substances in order to "get laid," as she puts it. Over the decades, she expanded her operation to cast women's breasts and has gotten personal with such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Karen O, Peaches and Ariel Pink, as well as members of Jesus Lizard, the Dead Kennedys and the Mekons.
And now, Albritton is writing her memoir, called "Plaster of Paradise," and has created what she's calling a "Dickstarter" campaign to help her make ends meet while compiling her memories of decades of late-night casting sessions and high-profile run-ins, which even include former President Richard Nixon.
As part of our "Can They Kick It" series, The Huffington Post spoke with the caster extraordinaire herself about her new project in addition to her still-aspiring political career.
HP: Cynthia, first of all, I'm curious what inspired you to put together your memoirs at this time. It sounds as though this has been in the works for some time.
CPC: I have been working on this for some time, but I'm glad that I waited until now to pull it all together. So much keeps happening that I'm going to have to finish it before it comes to writing a sequel! I could end up like Shirley MacLaine or Shelley Winters, writing sequels over and over.
I started writing it in the mid-'90s when I was laid off from my job of 15 years and have been working on it on and off over the years. I need free time all day long to work on it and I have to go back to work on it again. Because I'm unemployed now, I still need supplemental income to free my mind to give the memoir my undivided attention. I'm roughly halfway done -- when I don't have to worry about money, the thoughts just flow.
(Scroll down to watch Albritton's Kickstarter video.)
Tell me about your process of writing it. Do you have more of a thematic outline that you're following or are you just going through your life in a more chronological way?
I think it's a little bit of both. I have several outlines and right now at this point, I am planning to start the book from a certain part later in my life and then it goes back into a reflective mode. I start thinking about the past and arrive back at that point before moving on again. I mean, my life story is more interesting than me and it only gets more interesting as I get older. I have never had so much interest in what I do as I have lately.
Besides the book, what is keeping you busy these days? Are you still doing castings regularly?
Well, I cast when the circumstances are right. I'm still available for that and I'm still a major fan of musicians and artists. But everything has to be in place to do it when somebody is coming to town or through here. I have to have had a good night's rest. I've found that it occurs best at 3 a.m. I am doing occasional castings, though I am thinking of passing the gauntlets on to my assistants, who have been great. I'm doing interviews with the BBC and European media, another way I make a living, and I was running for mayor last year. That took up some time.
I was planning to ask you about that! How was the experience of running a mayoral campaign in retrospect? Any thoughts on Rahm Emanuel?
Well, the idea came about over a couple of margaritas one day. I really wish I was more prepared, especially with knowing more about the issues, which I have been learning more about since then. The process has made me more interested in the political and the way politics work. I may attempt another run again, so I don't know.
As for Rahm, let's just say he's not on my list of desirable castees. He always does look good on TV, but when it comes to listening to what he says, he's too PC, too dry and boring. I'm waiting for some of that potty mouth he is said to have to get my attention, because that's the only way I'm interested in listening to what he has to say.
Well, he certainly hasn't sent anyone a dead fish that we know of. But he was accused by the Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis of screaming obscenities at her. And he's been a bit zesty in interviews with the press.
I think it would serve him well to make that more public. That's going to phallicize the political process, which will make people listen more. We want them to listen more and learn more and get more involved and that's my platform. I'm a firm believer in that.
And if you were to run for mayor again, what do you think you would do differently?
I would really bone up, er, boner up on things going on in the city. I would still be HARD on crime -- all caps on the "HARD," please -- and would try to improve public education. I'm sure we'll be in need of it by then. Also, I'd work on the development of low-income neighborhoods. Parking meters probably will be an ongoing problem. I'd also try to get more enforcement of pedestrian rights. In my neighborhood [Lincoln Park], you could make a bundle if you do that.
Getting back to your book's contents, what's this about an experience in a hotel room with Led Zeppelin I've read about? Will that be in there?
Yeah, but you will have to wait! That will definitely be in there. It was a learning experience, Joe: Don't go to strange rock stars' hotel rooms alone, at least not without doing a fully researched background check.
Are there aspects of the book that you think will surprise your readers?
Oh yeah. There's a weird variety of people I've encountered through the years, and not necessarily in a plaster way, like Tiny Tim and Richard Nixon -- and that's all I'm going to say for now. There's also the fact that I was always and still kind of am a very shy person that was just doing this to get laid. I was a very unlikely person to be a plaster caster and then it turned into me wanting to collect more of them, like stamps. Then, lo and behold, Frank Zappa came along and said that what I was doing was art. It's always been a long, weird, lovely road.
How do you choose who you cast now? You mentioned in a Chicago Sun-Times interview last year that people are less open to doing it now than maybe in your early days of casting. Why do you think that is?
I'm not so sure. I do some very careful screening and do background checks now to see if someone is plaster-friendly and if they sound like they have a rock and roll heart and would be into it. I'm very careful with who I ask because I don't like to be turned down. Just about everybody I've asked has said yes and we either will do it that night, after a show, or make a rain check. My last castee was Ariel Pink a couple of years ago.
I'm also pickier, so I'm not so sure that certain people have changed as much as, I hate to say it, there aren't as many groovy bands anymore. I've noticed that in the last couple of years as I have just a couple of favorites instead of loads of them.
Who are some of your favorite musicians you've seen play lately?
Ironically, a member of Ariel Pink's band, John Maus. I like bands in Chicago more lately, like Wilco and The Sometimes Family is a new one. Ezra Furman too, an ex of Chicago. Those are off the top of my head, I would have to look at my calendar to see who else I've seen lately.
Who is on your wish list of castees that you haven't been able to work with yet?
I also do breasts now, so Marianne Faithfull is long overdue to join my collection. There's my friend Pamela DeBarr, who is a great writer and is welcome in my collection. Otherwise, all I can think of right now are the dead ones, the dead ones that got away for some reason: Brian Jones, Joey Ramone and Serge Gainsbourg.
Are you confident you'll meet your Kickstarter fundraising goal of $5,000? You're well over halfway there now.
Oh, I can never be too confident but I can only hope and pray I can reach my goal and also make some more than that. I do need more than that goal, but I wanted to make sure I reached a target goal and made it safer. I'm happy with the way it's going along and it feels good. It also feels good that so many people have pledged for the award that includes a copy of the book. That's promising for the amount of interest when the book comes out.
What is the time frame you're looking at for the book's release?
I think I can get it done by the end of next year at the latest if I can supplement my income and do nothing but that. I already have a publisher and they told me that it could take anywhere from maybe two months to several more months depending on the time of year they receive the final draft. I'm shooting to publish it sometime in 2013.
As of Nov. 28, with just more than three weeks to go, Cynthia Plaster Caster has raised nearly $2,900 via her Kickstarter campaign. Click here to help make her memoirs come to life and here to visit her official (somewhat NSFW) website.
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