I became fascinated by Alice Temple upon first seeing her back. It was last summer in L.A. at a rock ‘n roll photograph exhibit when I saw a short mussed haired woman facing away from the camera, her back bare except for a large skull tattoo. Maybe it was the hair or the ink or the way her jeans sat on her hips, but I had an idea she was gay. I do this a lot – look for the queerness wherever I can. That usually means in such exhibits I have to find the one photo of Joan Jett or Melissa Etheridge album cover, things I’d likely seen before. But this I had never seen, and I snapped a photo of the display, a guard angrily whispering that I wasn’t allowed to do so. I didn’t want to forget her name, the woman in the picture.
It was Alice Temple.
Ari Marcopoulos was the photographer, and Alice was his friend. She was a musician-still is, in fact- as well as a model and a BMX bike rider. The image went on to be the cover for a book called The Chance is Higher. Upon researching Alice and the history of the photo, I read this interview with Ari, where he said he decided to make her tattoo the cover before he even saw it in person.
It is a portrait without a face. The back is the face. The skull is the face. The spine is beautiful.
Alice’s face is beautiful, too. She was the androgynous cover girl for both her band (Eg and Alice)’s album covers and magazines like i-D. She’s walked catwalks and posed for photoshoots while living a glamorous life among rock stars. I even found one interview where Boy George was asked to clear up the rumor that he had a relationship with Alice. He cleared that up by saying:
I did have a little fling with Alice and I think quite a lot of her but this whole thing in the media has put me off the idea. I’m not seeing her or answering any of her phone calls at the moment. The reason I like Alice is because she looks like a boy. I know I say I’m bisexual but obviously I have a preference.
That interview ran in 1986, and it both surprised and delighted me to hear how Boy George and Alice and their friends were so open about their sexuality while in the public eye. Yet somehow I had never heard of her, and had to track down her songs on the internet, which led me to following her more recent musical and photography endeavors on YouTube and Instagram. Then I found a 2012 interview she did with post-new where she talked about being the female BMX champ in 1982 (“In 82 all I had to do was win one more race to secure my number 1 spot for the following year.”) and having had a 10 year relationship with supermodel Rachel Williams. She told a story of meeting her:
There was a little gang of us girls. Me, the gorgeous Jenny Shimizu and a few others. Then Rachel joined in. We were all getting up to no good and it was great fun, good times in NYC. I wasn’t really aware of all the fuss that was being made of me and Rachel being a couple. I don’t think she was either. We were just out a lot having a great time, I was completely and utterly in love with her. She had my back and vice versa. We didn’t care what anyone else thought, we had each other.
I listened to Alice’s music (she’s solo now) and it seems she’s not been releasing anything new in the last two years or so, but I have hope she’ll make a kind of comeback in the public eye. We’re four decades from when she was first coming out and there are still not a lot of women who are so forthcoming about sexuality like she is, at least not that look like her.
I guess it’s easier to come out these days than a few decades ago, but then I think about all those college kids committing suicide and I think, fuck me maybe nothing has changed. I have always lived in city’s like London, NYC, LA and Paris. You step a few feet out and your back in the dark ages. One thing that has definitely changed is that when I was a kid there were no role models. Lesbian meant butch, cropped hair men hatting tobacco chewing women. Now you get people like Megan Fox and Angelina Jolie coming out and saying they sleep with women. There are much better women to fantasise about these days!
I prefer to fantasize about the likes of Alice.