Interview with Sandy and Rache ("The Clucking Belles")

Francesca Coppa

Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Interview with Sandy and Rache ("The Clucking Belles"), conducted by Francesca Coppa.

[0.2] Keyword—Vidding

Coppa, Francesca. 2011. "Interview with Sandy and Rache ('The Clucking Belles')." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6.

1. Introduction

[1.1] This is an excerpt of an extended video interview with vidders Sandy Herrold and Rachael Sabotini, jointly known as the Clucking Belles and founding members of the vidding collective known as the Media Cannibals (note 1). This interview was done as part of the Organization for Transformative Works' Oral History Project, which aims to record the history of vidding in vidders' own words. Currently the project is documenting the experiences of analog vidders and/or vidders who were working before 2000.

[1.2] Sandy Herrold is one of slash fandom's most influential fans. A fan fic writer and vidder, her contributions to fandom include founding Virgule, the first Internet slash mailing list, and hosting such well-known sites as the "All Jewels Have Flaws" rec list, the "Big List of Fanfic Peeves," and the "Slashfic Hall of Shame." With Rachael Sabotini and others, she created the annual "Vid Review" panel at Escapade, which became the model for other serious and sustained conversations about vidding as an art.

[1.3] Rachael Sabotini is also a well-known fan writer and vidder. She was one of the administrators of the ROG-L Highlander mailing list and her presentations and articles about fandom include 1999's "The Fannish Potlatch: Creation of Status within the Fan Community," the first article to talk about fandom in terms of gift culture, and "The Genealogy of Vidding," which traces what she calls the "three great houses" of vidding.

[1.4] Together, Herrold and Sabotini founded the Media Cannibals, a loose collection of Seattle-based VCR vidders who produced five tape collections between 1993 and 2002. The Media Cannibals were among the first vidders to "brand" themselves and their vids with a distinct identity and logo. At the height of their popularity—about the time they put on "The Media Cannibals Indulgence Hour" at Escapade—there was a backlash among fans who thought they were getting egotistical. Their response was to print up T-shirts that read, "Media Cannibals: Who Do They Think They Are?" on the back—in Latin.

[1.5] This video interview was conducted by Francesca Coppa at the seventh annual Vividcon vidding convention, which took place in Chicago, Illinois, in August 2008. An annotated transcript follows.

Vid 1. Five questions with Sandy and Rache, the Clucking Belles.

2. Five questions with Sandy and Rache—Epigraph

[2.1] FC: So, in fact, if I have to retitle this, I might call it: "Media Cannibals: Who Do They Think They Were?" [laughter]

3. When did you first discover vids?

[3.1] SH: 1991 Koon-ut-Cali-Con II was happening in San Diego (note 2), and we decided to—what the hell, it's, I don't know, a thousand miles away, and we decided to go. Koon-ut-Cali-Con, I mean it's a Trek con; we were K/S fans. So we get down there, and almost the first thing we see—is vids. And not K/S vids. Man from Uncle, which had been, like, you know, secret baby little loves of ours, and this curly-haired guy and this dark-haired guy who we eventually found out were—

[3.2] RS: We had no clue.

[3.3] SH: 'Cause there were Professionals [vids]…

[3.4] RS: When we first saw them—well, the way that we found them was the way fans find each other when they're new at a con: they wander up and down the hallways until they find a place where people are talking!

[3.5] SH: Where the door's open. And so we wandered in and—it wasn't even like "a vid show," it was like, you know, 92 more people than the room could hold, around a really small television with really bad—really bad!—19th-quality vids going on, and we were just totally blown away (note 3).

[3.6] RS: Yeah.

4. How did you learn to vid?

[4.1] SH: So a couple other cons, we meet somebody who meets somebody who knows somebody who lives in our area who vids, who's DeeJay (note 4). And we introduce ourselves, and she says "Come on up," and we talk a little more about vidding and she finally says, "I have a song—I have two songs, I have two songs: you can vid one of them. I'll help you vid one of them." And the one we chose was "Don't Put It in Your Mouth," a totally adorable Uncle Bonzai song by a local Seattle band—I mean, it was made for us.

[4.2] RS: And we were doing The Professionals at that point in time because there were only two fandoms, really: there was The Professionals and Blake's 7.

[4.3] FC: Life was so simple then.

[4.4] SH: Both Trek and Starsky and Hutch had kind of moved on, at least in our area, so yeah, it was B7 or Pros. And we chose Pros—

[4.5] FC: You could have vanilla or chocolate. [laughter]

[4.6] SH: Exactly! Or actually it was more like—never mind! And "Don't Put It in Your Mouth" was fun, it was totally fun, except it was our vid except when it was her vid, and we found that a little frustrating. And we said: "We're going to make one, just us."

5. How did you make your first vid?

[5.1] SH: I went out and bought an editing VCR, for probably $600, the price of a cheap computer now, and then she [Rachael] got pregnant, and she—fairly soon in—went on—I want to call it house arrest [laughter]—where they tell you you gotta lay down or bad things are going to happen…

[5.2] RS: Sandy came over, and she brought all of her vidding setup with her.

[5.3] SH: At that point we lived 20 miles apart from each other, and we haven't vidded much, and there are many, many pieces. There's—you know, I have to bring two VCRs, all the cables, remotes for both of the VCRs, and every time—and I'm not a type-[A] organized person—every time, I would get over there and I would forget something, and sometimes we could work around it and sometimes I'm like, "Oh my God, 20 more miles home, 20 more miles back again—do I even care? Maybe I should just talk to her for 2 hours!" But I wasn't working much at the time, and yeah, I would just come over every couple of days…

[5.4] RS: And we would set it up with my computer—not my computer, but with my TV system, and she would sit there on a wooden hardback chair in front of the TV, and she would push the button, she'd feed in the source and she'd push the button because I could not get off the couch. I couldn't even turn over from on my left side.

[5.5] SH: And this set the pattern of our relationship ever since. I do all of the button-pushing; now that we are on computer I still do all the button-pushing. She still sits on the couch and tells me what to do!

6. How, when, and why did you become the Clucking Belles?

[6.1] SH: Mid-'90s.

[6.2] RS: From my perspective, we vidded with DeeJay in '92–'93, okay, and then 1993 is when we started doing our own stuff, and it was really Escapade that was the knob, basically, because Escapade was the place that required you to submit no more than three vids under a name. So we needed our own name to submit our vids, and then we needed another name—

[6.3] SH: We had five vids.

[6.4] RS: —for our "group vids" (note 5).

[6.5] SH: And the idea that you would pick your three best? Are you kidding? We had worked hard on those! And it's not like there was another place that we could—I mean, you know, Escapade was it until Z-con, that's like 6 months! And it's not like you could put them up on the Web! I mean, yeah, we had to show all five of them, you understand? We had to!

[6.6] FC: I do!

7. How did the Media Cannibals shape "vid meta"?

[7.1] SH: So, the history that I wanted to tell this year, and it ended up being the other one (note 6), was supposed to be '84–'92—'92 is the cutoff, because '92 is when Escapade starts to influence vidding in a way that just changes vidding forever. That's when we start to talk about vids in large, painful groups.

[7.2] RS: Yes. Because before Escapade, you would go to a con, you'd show your vid, but there was nothing afterwards. We were the ones that came up with the vidding comment forms. We were the ones that came up with wanting to do a Vid Review.

[7.3] SH: And the Vid Review—that's like 5 years of learning to talk about vids in ways that did not end friendships.

[7.4] RS: And it was incredibly fraught. Because one of the things we were interested in was honesty about our reactions to things. And we had people from lots of different disciplines that were attending—we didn't have so much the MediaWest [vidders], 'cause that was all gen, but things that were important to one group were not necessarily important to another group, and we fought like crazy.

[7.5] SH: And we also spent a lot of time coming up with vocabulary. I mean, some of the earlier problems probably would have been made easier if we'd been able to talk to each other more aptly. Some of our conversations we're still having at Vividcon started really in the very early '90s talking about vids—I say '92 but it was probably '94 or '5 before we finally got the Vid Review going every year. And it gradually became a 2-hour vid review just like it is at Vividcon. And it moved, just like it does here, it was a different person each time, or a pair occasionally, with different philosophies, which I think was good, but certainly some people were easier or—less willing to get involved.

8. End credits

[8.1] Filmed in Chicago, Illinois, 2008. Produced by the OTW Vidding Committee.

9. Notes

1. Other members of the Media Cannibals over the decade of their existence included (in alphabetical order): Alexfandra (Alex), Blackbird, Feochadn (Jo), Charlotte C. Hill, Gwyneth Rhys, Lynn C., Megan Kent, Michelle, Michelle Christian, Nicole V, Pam Rose, and Thomas (Katherine).

2. Koon-ut-Cali-Con II was actually put on in 1990.

3. In the days when vids were made with VCRs, most vids were made from source footage that had been copied multiple times. Vids made from The Professionals—a show that was never broadcast in the United States—were particularly known for their terrible image quality.

4. DeeJay Driscoll, longtime fan and early vidder. DeeJay was taught to vid by Mary van Deusen (aka MVD), the subject of Henry Jenkins's chapter on fan vidding in Textual Poachers (1993). On account of this, Rachael Sabotini classifies the Media Cannibals as "descendants of Mary van Deusen."

5. Sandy Herrold elaborates, "Clucking Belles was the fluff name we came up with when we needed to send more than 3 vids to Revelcon and Escapade" (personal correspondence, August 24, 2010).

6. "The other one" was the history show/panel Herrold and Kandy Fong comoderated at Vividcon 2008: "Vidding History: 1980–1984."

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