Pictured: Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, and Peaches | Photography by Holger Talinski, Courtesy of Akashic Books
In the new book What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches with provocative photos by Holger Talinski (out now from Akashic Books), Peaches comes to life. In this excerpt from the book, actress Ellen Page shares her own special memories of the transgressive cult icon.
I was sixteen when I went to my first Peaches show. I had moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where very few major musicians pass through, to Toronto, and the opportunity to see someone who I adored was thrilling. My best friend and I arrived at the Opera House earlier than I have ever shown up for anything. We were going to have our bodies pressed up against that stage, we were going to dance, we were going to get fucking sweaty, and we were going to love it. I remember vividly when the Stranglers' song "Peaches" came on -- "Walking on the beaches, looking at the peaches" -- signaling that she was about to start. The song, which is only slightly over four minutes, felt like it would never end. Then Peaches came out and I watched what is still to this day one of the best shows I have ever seen. If you have not seen P live, may I express with all of myself that you must. She is ferocious, relentless, sexy, confident, and gives all of herself to her audience.
Now, there is something specific that happened that evening and I want to tell you about it (I have not even told Peaches this story). At a certain point during this concert, P grew very concerned. Her face narrowed, looking as if she was going to lose her balance; she leaned forward, putting her hands on her knees, and attempted to compose herself. Oh no, she's sick, I thought to myself. Sure enough, she began to dry-heave -- suddenly the music had stopped and this poor woman was about to throw up all over the stage. Then she began to vomit, but it was blood that she was spewing all over the audience. The music came back on, everyone was screaming; I had fake blood all over me and my hands in the air, and Peaches grabbed me and ran her hand from my elbow to my wrist, smearing the red liquid along my entire arm.
When the night ended, my friend and I were charged. We did not get on the streetcar and instead walked along Queen Street, adrenaline pumping. We looked at the "blood" all over my arm. We had this artifact. The show was still with us, she was still with us, and I didn't want to lose that. So I proceeded to do what I could to keep the mark. I would shower with my arm sticking out from the side of the curtain. I am not really sure how long I kept this up for. Not as long as I wish I'd had to really land this story, but definitely for at least a week or two.
Let me stress that I have no other story even remotely like this and feel slightly horrified writing about myself, but I really want to get across my unwavering admiration for this person. Peaches has, without a doubt, been one of the most important musicians in my life. She is more than a musician, though: She is a true artist, and a prolific one at that. For a sixteen-year-old gay person, she offered something that I could not find elsewhere. A voice that said, Fuck shame, fuck the male-dominated perspectives of sex, fuck gender stereotypes, fuck not embracing your desires, and fuck not owning yourself.
Peaches is radically herself in a way that not many people are. Despite being unapologetically sexual, bold, and aggressive, she instills her work with moments of beautiful vulnerability. There is a moment very close to the end of her film Peaches Does Herself where the camera stays on her while she sings, "I don't want to lose you," and this one shot cuts through all of the theatrics and sexual imagery you've just seen and hits the heart hard. How does she do it? I am not sure. I will say that she is one of the most sincere human beings I know, so present, curious, thoughtful, and kind. Perhaps that is the trick. Existing in the world in such a true and honest way leads to work of such integrity.
I guess this is turning into a sort of love letter to Peaches, which is strange because she is a friend, but perhaps this is the only way to tell her how much of an impact she's had on me and how thankful I am to her and for her. I know there are countless others who feel this way too. Peaches is a person who inspires. A kind of true inspiration that is so very rare. Just like Peaches herself.