10 Life Lessons from ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’

There have been plenty of amazing movies about all-girl bands, from The Runaways to Josie and the Pussycats to Spice World, and most recently, The Sapphires. But few have the same gritty appeal as 1982 cult film Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, which follows three girls (including the awe-inspiring Diane Lane and Laura Dern) who form a band after three rehearsals and become overnight sensations and fodder for the local media. It’s hardly a perfect film, what with its shoddy editing and sometimes hilariously bad dubbing, and its heroine, the frighteningly fierce Corinne “Third Degree” Burns, is no saint. Yet there’s quite a bit to be learned from the film, whether it’s make-up tips (skunk-chic, to be exact), tour bus etiquette (never expect toilet paper in the bathroom), or simple bad-ass tenets to live by. Here are some of the best ones to take to heart, ideally with a heavy layer of red eyeliner.

1. Find your calling, even if you suck at it.

Whether it’s an electric guitar or an electric crepe maker, find something you’re passionate about. But beware: loving something and being good at it do not always go hand in hand. The Stains weren’t exactly technical virtuosos when it came to music, but they had fun with it, even if that meant plagiarizing a song from a rival band/former love interest. (We do not condone stealing, but we do condone having fun.)

2. Don’t get left behind.

It’s easy to get swept away in a new job or new relationship but make sure it’s not at the expense of your own happiness or ambitions. Corinne was adamant about not getting stuck anywhere — not in her hometown, not as a no-name second opening act. She had to be forceful to make sure this didn’t happen, which didn’t always go over well (see: all the times people throw things at her), but in the end, she never found herself standing still.

3. Be a skunk.

There’s more to a skunk (the unfortunate nickname for a Stains groupie) than meets the eye. Aside from their streaked hair and see-through tops, they also admire honesty, toughness, and the propensity to question everything. Though they idolize the Stains, they’re not mindless sheep when it comes to their heroes. (See: #9)

4. Inspire others.

The Stains didn’t only have the skunks on their side. They also won the admiration of a local newscaster, who seemed to almost live vicariously through their aggressive attitude. Her look at the band’s media attention as a double-edged sword was oddly prophetic and especially relevant today, what with all the twerk-related headlines floating around. The Stains never meant to be a beacon for female strength, but they still managed to empower others.

5. Own your bitchface.

If there’s one thing Corinne has down to a science, it’s the perfect scowl. While people are always trying to find a cure for bitchface (including plastic surgery), just remember that going out of your way to make others happy at your own personal expense is not Stains-approved. You may lose the occasional back-stabbing boyfriend or weasley manager because of this, but in time, it’ll prove worthwhile.

6. Choose your own rebellion.

You can rebel just as much by donning a frilly apron as a leather jacket, depending on your circumstances. Just make sure it’s your own choice, and no one else’s. The Stains got their big break when Corinne went on a publicized rant against her boss at a fast-food restaurant. Was it angtsy and slightly melodramatic? Of course. But was it sincere? No doubt.

7. This is your time.

It may seem like you’re in a perpetual waiting game –waiting for high school to end, waiting to turn 21, waiting to exhale— but don’t underestimate yourself. Make the most of this time, even if that just means finally picking up the guitar or ratting your hair to Dolly Parton-like heights. Choose your cliché: gather ye rosebuds, carpe diem, #YOLO, etc.

8. Toot your own horn.

Sure, you should always embrace your flaws, but that doesn’t mean selling yourself short. Corinne knew people scoffed at her less-than-stellar voice and undies-on-the-outside fashion transformation, but she walked on stage like she was the Queen of the Nile. Modesty has it’s place. That place just doesn’t happen to be leotard-friendly.

9. Kill your idols.

Your favorite band may seem to do no wrong. That is, until they actually do wrong. Being a hardcore fan should never stop you from questioning those you admire and holding them to the same standards you would put on anyone else. Even a majestic band like the Stains can slip up (Stains-sponsored hair dye? Really?), and you can bet the skunks called them out on it.

10. Don’t put out.

In Stains-speak, “putting out” doesn’t mean putting out. It’s shorthand for everything Corinne holds true: not being a sucker. And Corinne may be many things –a sell-out, a crab, a waste of time– but a sucker isn’t one of them. If you take away anything from this fabulous movie, it’s that the Stains do not put out. And you shouldn’t either.

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