R.I.P. May 24, 1947 – April 21, 2022
©2022 By Legs McNeil
A few years ago I got the chance to interview the late Cynthia Plaster Caster, a.k.a. Cynthia Albritton, who died on Thursday, April 21, 2022, at age 74. I found Cynthia to be very friendly, slightly kooky, incredibly honest, hysterically funny, and the key to defining the secret place where embarrassed glances met sexual contact. For those of you who don’t know about her, Cynthia Plaster Caster was a Chicago art student who was given a homework assignment to cast something solid in plaster, and she choose rock stars’ erect penises. No kidding. The 1960s were a time of fantastic rock and roll and a burgeoning sexual revolution—and during our interview Cynthia took me from her most innocent days to losing her virginity to Mark Lindsay, lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders. She accented her story by reading pages from of her diaries.
Cynthia was truly an original thinker and a meticulous goofy artist who took the job of casting rock stars’ erect “rigs” extremely seriously while never losing her sense of humor about the job at hand. Join me now as we listen to Cynthia Plaster Caster’s story….
Cynthia Plaster Caster: I was unpopular, or not very popular, and I wanted to impress the popular kids at school—you know, if I met somebody famous—so I would go to plays. Musical plays and Broadway plays were starting to be shown in Chicago. My mother and I liked to do that, when I was getting along with her—my mother, who I called “the Warden.”
So I wanted to meet Jerry Orbach, who was playing in Carnival! that week, and I asked my mother to take me backstage and she wouldn’t. I don’t know why I wanted to go backstage. I just liked him and I was really enjoying the music, because it was highly melodic.
I loved seeing these people live. And one day I saw in the newspaper a picture of four guys with mop-top hair who I thought were really cute, and I thought they were comics.
So I asked my mother if we could go see this comic group when they came to Chicago, when they came to play the Shubert Theater, which is where all the plays were. I don’t know what my mother said, but I found out later they were a rock and roll band and I didn’t think I’d like ’em until I heard, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “She Loves You.” But “I Want to Hold Your Hand” really changed things radically for me.
And that’s who I really wanted to meet. But then [the Beatles] got really popular really fast—and it was 1964 when the Beatles played Chicago first. I went by myself and stood about a block away from George Harrison. I swear we were making eye contact. It was so exciting.
I saw all the Beatles shows live. But even better, I saw the Rolling Stones hanging out in Chicago when they were recording 12×5 at Chess Studios. I didn’t hang out with them, but I came up with a process in which I would call hotels and pretend I was looking for somebody that I knew to be staying there and ask for their room. And when the operator would tell me, “Oh, no, sorry, we don’t have anybody like that,” I’d say, “Sorry, I got the wrong number,” then move on to the next hotel. So I tried that using Bill Wyman’s name and one hotel operator rang his room, but I hung up real quick because I was too scared to talk to him.
All I wanted was the hotel name so I would take my friend Pest—her real name was Barbara; “Pest” was her nickname—but she couldn’t go with me. So I went with another friend named Cassie, but we didn’t know what to do or what was involved. We just stood in the lobby, and there were maybe about four or five other girls that figured out the same thing we did. And then all of a sudden, the Stones walked through the lobby so fast that I couldn’t think straight, and everything was like a blur, and I couldn’t see very well. And then this one guy comes up to me who’s wearing very dark sunglasses with blonde hair and a seersucker suit. And I said, “Are you a Stone?” And it was Andrew Loog Oldham, and he said, “Yeah, baby,” and just starts making out with me on the spot!
And I’d really never made out with anybody before! And this was really exciting because he kind of smelled like Scotch whiskey, and I liked that.
Andrew Loog Oldham looked pretty good, and he put his tongue in my ear, and then walked away, and that was that. And I felt like I was in the middle of a cyclone where there was nothing around me but myself, and I was in shock! And my friend Cassie had the foresight to figure out what floor they were staying on by following the arrow that they put over elevators telling you what floor it was on, those old-fashioned ones?
The elevator the Stones were on was going to the sixth floor. So Cassie went up there while I waited, because I was a good girl. I behaved very well. When somebody told me not to go, I didn’t—and the hotel policy was you weren’t allowed to go up to the room unless you were staying there. So I waited for Cassie downstairs. And about 15 minutes later, Cassie comes out of there white as a ghost.
She told me she found Keith in Mick’s room, and their door was open, and she’s just chatting real friendly with ’em, having a nice time, when all of a sudden somebody comes knocking on the door, banging on it: “Let me in! Let me in!”
And they go, “Andrew, go away! Go away, we know you’re drunk!”
Andrew said, “No, I’m not—I’m not!”
Keith and Mick said, “We know you’ve got the gun!”
He said, “No! I’m not—I don’t!”
They said, “Honest?”
He said, “Yeah.”
So they let Andrew in and he brandishes this gun, drunk out of his mind, chasing Cassie around the room. Keith and Mick were yelling for Charlie to come help ’em apprehend Andrew, but Charlie was in the next room watching a soap opera and couldn’t be bothered.
Charlie was sick of all the hubbub, which he’d heard before, apparently. Eventually Charlie gets up and walks into Keith and Mick’s room, walks over to Andrew, and gives him one punch in the nose, knocks him out cold, and walks back to his soap opera. Meanwhile Keith and Mick had to drag Andrew’s unconscious body into the bathroom. Then Brian Jones emerged, patted Cassie’s hand, and said, “Would you like a cup ’o tea, love?”
So Cassie comes down and tells me this, and I thought to myself, “This is the life for me!”
The big concerts were held at the Amphitheater. I mean, the Beatles played there, but the other groups were mostly at Chicago’s McCormick Place. It’s a big convention center because, you know, Chicago’s a big convention city. It was produced by a guy named Ed Pazder, who put on everybody but the Beatles. Ed Pazder devised this great idea—Ed Pazder’s Teen Party—where if you bought a ticket and joined his fan club, which was five dollars a year, and you bought a ticket to one of his concerts, you could come to a meet-and-greet party with the groups before the concert!
It was only five dollars a year! I’d never heard of it anywhere else! It was revolutionary, and that’s how we made all our connections.
So me and Pest are listening to the music, drooling over it, and trying to figure out who we wanted to meet—while I’m trying to hide my albums. I’m hiding my albums from my mother over at Pest’s house, because not only didn’t she like the music, but she was really controlling and domineering! And this was not what she was going to allow me to become, you know—a beatnik! But I thwarted my mother by not telling her what I was doing.
Anyway, me and Pest were reading 16 magazine and seeing all these pictures of people like the Beatles going to the Virgin Islands with their girlfriends, and I thought, “Wow, I have a feeling they’re sleeping with those girls! That must be where that thing called ‘sex’ is going on? Right?”
I didn’t know anything about sex. I didn’t even know what a penis looked like. I had no idea what was involved in the process, I never had sexual education classes, but we were curious about this thing called “sex.” It sounded kind of scary and we really didn’t know what we were gonna do about it.
And then we went to see this local band called the Robin Hood Clan. They were actually a local band, but from England; they took up residence in some Chicago suburb. They weren’t very cute, and their music wasn’t that great, but they were real nice guys. And one of ’em, a much older one, liked to talk with us, and we were asking him sex, you know, just talking to him about sex, and he said, “Oh, do you know any of the Cockney rhyming slang for certain words?”
We said, “No, what can you tell us?”
He taught us that if we want to talk about dicks, call it a “Hampton wick,” because that rhymes with “dick.” Then there was “charva,” for “fuck”—I don’t know what that rhymed with, maybe larva? And “Barclays Bank” rhymed with “wank,” which was a popular British term already for a hand job. We didn’t even know what a hand job was, but we had these words, and we weren’t sure what we would do with ’em.
Then Gerry and the Pacemakers came to town to do a promo event and perform, and I thought, “Why don’t I write a note?” We were very silly and goofy, and we wrote a note to them and called ourselves “The Barclays Bankers of Chicago,” without even knowing what that would mean. We wrote, “We have convenient night banking hours if you would like to meet us.” Something like that. We signed it, “The Charva Chapter of Chicago.”
Where we met Gerry and the Pacemakers was on the Chicago River, where they were riding a barge promoting the song “Ferry Down the Mersey.” So we went down to the Chicago River along with these other girls. There were a lot of girls by then—fandom was mounting and building up—and we had a lot more competition. So it was harder to get close to Gerry and the Pacemakers to pass them this note. Somehow, I squeezed in between Gerry whatever-the-fuck-his-last-name-was and his brother and I slipped the note into his brother’s hand. I think he was the drummer for the Pacemakers. He took it, waved, and then walked away.
About a day or two later, the phone rings, and it’s him! And he wants to talk to me about “charva” over the phone! And my mother, “the Warden,” was lurking in the background, and I’m trying to have this conversation and it was impossible. She was immediately there by my side, and I said, “I can’t talk to you right now, my mother’s here.”
But he’d realized right away, by talking to me, that I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about when I called myself a “Barclays Banker of Chicago.” But it was an in. It was a step forward in the right direction.
By 1966 I was in college. Out of high school. And the Hollies were in town, as well as the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, I think it was called. I was this art major at the University of Chicago, and I got a weekend homework assignment to make a plaster cast of something that was solid. And, you know, I had learned that “Hampton wicks” got solid!
So I thought, “Oh, that could be one of the Hollies! Wait’ll I tell Pest what my homework assignment is!” I told Pest and we couldn’t wait to meet ’em! And I went on my hotel-finding binge and found the Hollies after a few tries. We called Tony Hicks in Graham Nash’s room, and Pest was asking Tony for his “Hampton hick,” instead of his “Hampton wick,” ha, ha, ha! Pest told them that we were “Barbie Barclay” and “Cynthia Charva,” and that we were two “Barclays Bankers of Chicago” and that we dug his rig! (“Rig” was another slang term for penis we discovered from Keith Moon.) The Hollies responded very favorably and invited us to come over tomorrow so they could “make a deposit into the bank.”
Shortly after talking to us, the Hollies were on this radio station, WLS, and for about five minutes they were laughing about Chicago and what a great reception they’d already gotten! So I thought, you know, “That’s definitely progress in the right direction.”
But the next day we went to their room and got politely rejected because we looked too young.
So we hung with this “Holly” named Bobby Elliott—he was the drummer—and a guy named Eric. They were real friendly, so we just went and talked and told them we were virgins and we were interested in learning more, but kind of shy about it. We watched “The Dean Martin Show” with them, and what else? I’m taking a look at an excerpt from one of my diaries.
I’ll just read it. Plain and simple. [Reading from her diary] “Before going back to the Hollies’ hotel, just for the hell of it, we called a few more hotels to find The Dick Clark Teen Fair bunch, and I did. Then I immediately cut two classes and met Pest at the Hilton. We walked past Billy Joe Royal’s room [singer of “Cherry Hill Park”], whose door was open. He invited us in, and I saw my first-ever rig: his.”
I don’t remember this at all. I just remember seeing this large, undulating dick.
He took it out and showed it to us, and somehow we got around to “Barclays Banking” him! He stroked it and told us to stroke him. He was alright, though he asked us to talk dirty to him while he was jerking it violently. “Barclays Banking” meant a hand job; it didn’t mean blow jobs. Sorry, I forgot to tell you what the word was for a blow job; that was “plate.” It rhymes with something else. It’s not “fellate.” Maybe it is fellate; I don’t know. But it’s Cockney rhyming slang we’re talking about.
Hand jobs; that’s how we started out. That’s all we were willing to do, you know? That’s all that was needed to be done, and this was happening all in the same night, within just a couple of hours! Seeing the first rig and everything!
Then we said goodbye to Billy Joe and went looking for Paul Revere and the Raiders. We knocked on Fang’s door, and he already had another girl, but we talked to him briefly about rigs, and he said, “Why don’t you go over to Paul Revere’s room, and the password is ‘Lanoola,’” which is what they called their rigs. And it worked.
We met Mark Lindsay, the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders! We knocked on his door and he dug us right away and got our phone numbers. And we ran screaming with laughter to the Ed Pazder’s Teen Party for the Hollies before their show, where we were greeted with open arms by the whole band! Howling about “charva” and all! And they wanted to have a plaster party too. So we had made 10 dates in two hours. I mean, we were as goofy and dorky as could be. Not very va-va-voom!
The next day [reading from her diary]: “Went back to the Hilton to keep our Raider appointment. Climbing about 20 floors of stairway.” See, we had to avoid security in the hotel lobbies and corridors. That was no problem when you’re young, and by this time I was 18 going on 19. I mean, there were girls everywhere, running up and down, and in and out of broom closets. I swear, I would hide in a closet to escape a security guard.
Once we finally made it to Mark’s room, he came out and told us some girl from St. Louis had come to see him and he had to get rid of her first. We chatted for a little while, you know, while he was standing in the doorway. Paul Revere showed up, took one look at me, and warned Mark that I was jailbait.
Which I wasn’t. I was a college student—18 going on 19—and Mark knew I was safe. [Reading from her diary] “He took Pest and I out on the fire escape with him and started talking about charva and our virginity. It felt like a scene out of West Side Story. Where he started kissing us, and hugging us, and his rig popped out of his pants!”
Mark’s penis was semi-hard. I don’t know. I just turned away because I was still a shy, timid virgin! And trying to be a recovering Catholic! Everything that was happening was happening very fast—and [it was] very shocking. Not scary-shocking, but funny-shocking.
We came back two hours later, and Mark Lindsay took us to the Raiders’ new guitarist’s room. This was Jim Valley, known as “Harpo.” We ended out making out with him, and “Barclays Banking” him, but I don’t remember much about his rig. We were just waiting for Mark Lindsay to contact us, and he didn’t come back like he was supposed to—he was so tired he passed out and couldn’t be aroused. So we hung out with Harpo. And after Harpo fell asleep, we got up, sneaked out, and went to the Hollies’ hotel. The Hollies were just leaving Chicago, so no plaster party with them yet. Just a date. Not a problem. We were already booked solid. So we made a plaster plan for when they would come back.
So we went back to the Hilton, and we were running back and forth on the ground floor, through the lobby, from the security guards. And while we were running, two of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass spotted us. We saw that they were staying there. I don’t think they were part of Dick Clark’s caravan. So these two sleazy Tijuana Brass guys joined in with the security guards chasing us. It was like Keystone Cops. We ran, but we ran faster than everyone because we were younger. They almost grabbed us! But we lept into the bathroom in the nick of time!
And we hid in the girls’ bathroom, and that was back when no guy in his right mind would ever go into a female washroom!
It was pretty late at night. I was supposed to be staying over at Pest’s house. She just went home, and I went up to Mark’s room one more time, and I got in. He was awake, and he just started kissing me, and he told me I turned him on! Ohhhh!
Mark told me he wanted me to come back, preferably alone, the next day. But I told him, “I don’t know if I can!” [Reading from her diary] “I’ve got a foot infection on my heel. And the Warden’s worried about my heel. I think—I’m afraid—I’m going to charva with Mark!” See, all this time I’d wanted to save myself for a groovy British rock star, like George Harrison or Brian Jones, but the Raider’s “Kicks” was number one on the Billboard charts that week. So that made Mark Lindsay a groovy American rock star, which qualified him.
What happened was Pest came with me back to the hotel the next day, and Mark shooed her off to Harpo’s room, and she wound up giving him a bath. Mark ordered me to take my clothes off while he shaved. And without his pigtail, which he pulled the rubber band out of, he had a very strange mullet haircut. That looked kinda weird. It was the first mullet I ever saw. He was the first guy I ever saw with a short pigtail. You know, that Paul Revere Revolutionary War ponytail look?
Apart from that, he was a drop-dead gorgeous, naked man, with long, skinny legs and a massive chest. [Reading from her diary] “He looked me over as I looked timidly at my second Hampton wick I’d ever seen before. But he was not yet erect.” Mark swooped into bed and made out with me for a while, at first. I loved this so much! He never really stopped!
[Reading from her diary] “He told me over and over I’m groovy, and I have a nice bod, and he likes me so much! He put the rig up against my hole, then took hold of it and began shoving it up. It moved back and forth, but not all the way out or in. And sometimes it moved real fast, but always at a regular beat. He dug my cologne—Au De London. My hole ached as he climbed up more and I could hardly take it. So we did it only for a half an hour because he had to leave. He told me in his matter-of-fact way [that] I was too stiff and unrelaxed, and we’d have to finish it up later. Tomorrow at eight. He’s going to call me tonight.”
What happened was they were going to another town that day and coming back that night. [Reading from her diary] “And there was blood on the bed. Oh, what a bod! And Pest came back, and her mouth nearly fell off when she saw the blood on the bed.”
She didn’t believe that I’d surrendered my virginity.
[Reading from her diary] “Story wasn’t over yet. So far, I had fucked him for about half an hour. I snuck away from the Warden, who didn’t want me to go out with that nasty foot infection unless I was wearing a heavy athletic sock. So I stuffed the sock into the mailbox downstairs and went to my darling Mark’s room. Natch, he was sound asleep, and by the time I snuck up into it, climbing 20 stories, I was two hours late. He didn’t call last night because he was sick—no time to drill further up my hole, he said, because the bus was leaving in half an hour. But still I spent over an hour with him. We made out from time to time while he was busy packin’. Told me he really dug me, cause I’m clean-smelling and fresh. And he hugged me, and loved me like I was something precious and very dear. Never in my life have I ever felt so wonderful and at ease! This is a very unique kind of love, that’s so groovy! We’ve talked about each other and everything else around us. Amazing stuff. Just no room to tell everything. He wants to come back to Chicago after the tour to see me and promises to call. I helped him carry his luggage. And so I was with him and the Raiders outside for a while. And he kissed me a lot in front of ’em. I don’t know. It seems as though I’m different to him from other girls, even though I have no idea how he treats them. All I have to say—all I have room to say is every single person on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars knows us—or, knows of us—very, very well. We are the most talked-about subject. I know for a fact!”
So after that, me and Pest went home and collected our thoughts, and I said, “Let’s call ourselves “the Plaster Casters of Chicago” from now on, and make plaster casting our agenda!”
By the way, I forgot to tell you what the process of plaster casting that the art teacher gave me was: It was to use sand and water for the impression-making material. Yeah, we were to mix a bunch of sand and water to make a very rough negative impression, and, you know, just cast anything that was solid. And that didn’t go over too big with Mark Lindsay! But, you know, it didn’t matter. Because something more important happened! At that point, I was forgetting about my homework assignment, so we never casted Mark! We didn’t have time, and he wasn’t interested, and I’d forgotten all about it. For my homework assignment, I think I just plaster casted a vegetable. Like a zucchini. Or a carrot.
I was in a daze. For weeks after that. Just daydreaming.
I liked giving Mark my virginity, oh, yeah! Because he was number one on the charts, and he was really cute, and he was a real good kisser!
As my diary entry for April 24, 1966, recalls [reading from her diary]: “I charva’d with Mark Lindsay. And all I know is I couldn’t help it, and it’s out of this world. A unique experience.”
A couple months later, when Paul Revere and the Raiders came back to Chicago, I told my mother I was staying at a friend’s place that night, but went out looking for the Raiders’ hotel instead. I couldn’t find it. I was calling and walking around, but I just couldn’t find the hotel. I had lost about 10 pounds for Mark, which I thought he would like.
Well, my mother found out that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be staying overnight at some girl’s house, and her mother called my mother, so my mother found out that I was out, running around, and she forbade me from going out the rest of the summer! And I had a really cute, poor-boy sweater top that Mark never got to see. And I had tenth-row center [tickets] for the Stones’ last concert with Brian Jones that I had to give to a friend.
I was staying at home under house arrest.
So I wasn’t allowed to go to any shows, or to go see Pest for the rest of the summer. It was so depressing because I had nothing to do all day, so I would just eat a gallon, or half-gallon, of ice cream every day. And I gained 40 pounds in 30 days. Yeah, nothing else to do! I was just watching ABC TV’s Where the Action Is every day. It probably made me physically ill, because I was terrified of what my mother was going to do or not do if she found my diaries in weird places, and I was 19 years old at this point!
In the fall, I was going to college, my second year, and college was much better than high school. The teachers were better. I was on the dean’s list once; I don’t know how. But early in the fall, things were really heating up with my mother. She was threatening to take me out of college, because she said there’s too many communists in colleges. She said I’d be better off being a key puncher operator, which was a really good job back then. And that became a full-time job for me later on.
During that fall, I came home one day, and right as I was opening the door, there was my mother sitting on the floor, knee-deep in my diaries, one of them. She just couldn’t put it down; it was so juicy! And in my diaries were discussions about me and Pest talking about how we would create a Plaster Casters suitcase, with all of our plaster-casting paraphernalia in it, and our plans for pursuing plaster-casting in the future.
So I knew the jig was up, and I had to get out of there! A.S.A.P.!!!
In the course of one week I dropped out of art school, which really broke my heart. I was already ahead in my studies. I was an art major, and I’d been thinking about working in art studios at first, but I really liked art history a lot, so I might’ve turned into an art historian.
Never thinking that I might be part of art history someday!
So I left home and luckily a friend of mine, a good friend of mine from college, Karen, just happened to be dropping out of college at the same time I was, so we moved into an apartment together. It was in Rogers Park, a part of Chicago.
Karen wasn’t into plaster-casting, but she didn’t mind what I did; she thought it was funny. Funny was the intent, really. The kind of groupie I had become was someone who could have a good laugh. Not at the rock stars’ expense, but because everybody was having a good laugh about the absurdity of their dicks being cast in plaster!
I forgot to tell you, there was one more time with Mark Lindsay too, and that’s when we did more fucking. Yeah, it was better. I didn’t have an orgasm, but didn’t mind at all. I have my own ways of having orgasms, which suits me fine!
I was staying in another hotel with some friends of mine. You know, girls that wanted to go out for the weekend. Somebody got a hotel room at a different hotel, and Mark came over in a cab and got me and took me back to the Holiday Inn or wherever he was staying. And he was asking me, “Where were you the last time I was in town? I couldn’t find you!”
I said, “Oh, yeah, I know!”
So I told Mark about my mother, the Warden, and about her reading my diaries and leaving home. Mark called me “Cinny Baby,” and told me I had soft skin, and then he told me I needed a lover in town, because I was probably looking at him doe-eyed. Ha, ha, ha! So much in love, and not yet aware of what a whore he was! Ha, ha, ha!
I thought he was The One! Oh, yeah! Because I was very special, you know? And it was a unique kind of love! Ha, ha, ha!
Mark really knew the way to win a girl’s heart—and I never saw him again after that!
I loved Mark’s music, but I was getting interested in other bands, and I was getting a big crush on Noel Redding from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and they were about to come to Chicago. I was just went on to bigger and greener pastures, and I wanted to collect psychedelic music.
I just kinda forgot about Paul Revere and the Raiders, so yeah, I guess they were passé.
Cynthia Albritton went on to plaster-cast rock stars of the late ’60 to the 2000s after it was learned she cast Jimi Hendrix’s erect penis in 1968 and “his pubes got stuck.” Frank Zappa promoted Cynthia as the “go-to girl in Chicago” and helped her relocate to Los Angeles for a short time. The rock group Kiss even wrote a song about Cynthia titled, you guessed it, “Plaster Caster” on their 1977 Love Gun album, and she gained even more notoriety and subjects to cast, including the Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra, Jon Langford of the Mekons, Eric Burdon of the Animals, the Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley, Television’s Richard Lloyd, and the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, to name a few.
INTRODUCTION TO MY COURSE:
ZEN AND THE ART OF THE NARRATIVE ORAL HISTORY
©2021-2022 by Legs McNeil (Based on the techniques developed by Legs McNeil)
Too long has the Oral History format been thought of as the bastard child of literature; assumed to be a “cut and paste” job for hack writers looking to make an easy buck. In other words, the bottom of the prose barrel. But when the art of the narrative oral history is mastered, it can transform the written spoken word by primary subjects—people who were in the room when the event occurred—into actually experiencing the event being described, with all the human emotion, even more so than the traditional omnipotent narrator.