Award-winning Canadian documentarian Bobbi Jo Hart has this knack for uncovering queer stories that we may have heard of, but for the most part, are untold. She did this beautifully with her affectionate and in-depth look at Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the world’s foremost all-male ballet company in ‘Rebels on Pointe’. Now she has turned her attention and cameras on Fanny the trailblazing all-female rock band from the 197O’s who never ever got the recognition they deserved.
Their story starts back in the 1960s when two teenage American/Filipino Millington sisters were getting gigs as an all-girl rock ‘n roll band. They called themselves ‘The Svelts’ they had a drummer join them and performed covers of Top 40 hits.
They soon got bored with the local scene and decided if they really wanted to make it in the music industry they would have to move to LA and they did just that …… move and make it. After a gig at the legendary Troubadour, they got signed by Richard Perry at Warner Brothers and started recording their debut album.
They rented Hedy Lamar’s old house in Hollywood, renamed it Fanny Hill, and started communal living that included a whole stream of other rock musicians. Strangely enough, there never seemed to be any condemnation of their new drugs, sex, and rock n roll lives, but because of the (male) management of the record label, the lesbian members of their Band had to keep their sexuality totally under wraps.
Although too few of the public may remember Fanny now, Hart interviewed a string of musicians who waxed lyrically about both their talent and their rightful place in rock history. Back in their peak Fanny had ‘opened’ for acts like Humble Pie, Deep Purple, Slade, and Jethro Tull. There was archival footage of countless appearances on TV, one in particular hosted by an angelic-looking Helen Reddy.
Fanny’s biggest successes however were over in the UK where they were mobbed at every single appearance, something that they sadly never ever got back home. One of the sisters even dated their most famous British fan ……..David Bowie ….. for a whole year.
Their inability to break into the big-time like the Go-Go’s and other female groups that would eventually follow them rankled. The 70’s proved to be a rough and unhappy time for Fanny with the Record Company insisting they wear much sexier clothes. This combined with people leaving and then having money problems. lead to them disbanding in 1976.
The story doesn’t end there, and without giving out spoilers, Fanny marks their 50th Anniversary with a re-emergence and renewal. What makes this particularly endearing is that by this point in the tale we are so enamored by all the band members’ passion for music and each other we so want (and deserve) a happy ending.
Hart’s wonderful uncovering of this exhilarating piece of queer/Filipino/female/music history was way past due and makes for such compelling viewing.
Fanny is screening as the Closing Night Gala at OUTFEST for all future screenings check out https://www.fannythemovie.com/#See_film
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