A Tribute to Singer of Betty Blowtorch

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A life-size cardboard cutout of Bianca Halstead in a rock-star pose was placed in the middle of the stage at the Dragonfly early Saturday evening, while the sounds of her favorite bands--AC/DC, Queen, Guns N' Roses--played in the background.

It was a fitting tribute to the exuberant singer and bassist of the band Betty Blowtorch, who died a week earlier in a car accident in New Orleans, after a show there.

Loved ones and fans packed the Hollywood club for a public memorial following private services for the 36-year-old performer, whose rambunctious music melded humor with aggressive metal and punk influences.

With its debut album "Are You Man Enough?," the female quartet was just starting to emerge from the tight-knit L.A. hard-rock scene, where bands such as Texas Terri & the Stiff Ones, Motochrist and the Newlydeads regularly pack the Dragonfly, the Garage and other clubs, celebrating sheer volume and excess in a way the city hasn't seen since the '80s glam-metal era.

The wild lifestyle that Betty Blowtorch glorified is very much alive in this flamboyant world, but for many, especially more seasoned musicians, the tough, hard-partying stage persona is just that. Despite lyrics that might suggest otherwise, Halstead had been clean for more than a decade.

"She was one of the most beautiful, loving, caring creatures on the planet," flame-haired singer Texas Terri said Saturday. "She ... is an inspiration to anyone that thought to be sober is to be boring."

Indeed, Halstead was an undeniable presence in Hollywood, as was evident by the giant photo collages displayed on stage Saturday showing her with friends and fellow musicians.

Saturday' gathering also featured outtakes from filmmaker Anthony Scarpa's documentary about the band, but it was at last week's three-year anniversary event for the Dragonfly's weekly rock night Pretty Ugly that Halstead's fun-loving spirit was most evident. As her parents sat in a booth, holding her ashes in a KISS lunchbox, peers and pals sang Betty Blowtorch tunes such as "Rock My World" and passed around a collection jar to raise money for her burial.

The usually boisterous night took on a bittersweet tone, suggesting that Halstead's passing will impact this scene for a long time.

"She made music on her own terms," friend and fellow musician Casper said Saturday. "She was the epitome of what this li'l community is about."

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