The BGN News Archive
July 7, 2008
In the saddest of news we have to report that Spencer Gates has died after fighting cancer for some time. Spencer burst on the scene in the 80's by being one of the two outrageous personalities dubbed the Mystery Girls with a show on WMBR. Her outgoing personality would never be suppressed on the radio or on the scene. If you were talking to Spencer you had to be on the top of your game because her mind was going a mile a minute and the barbs were flying and if you didn't keep up you were toast. It was always wonderful fun to be around her.
If she was in the room then the party was around her. Indeed parties were the environment where she shined. She loved to go to them and give them.
She worked in the record industry for many years.
We are going to miss her intelligence, wit and beauty.
More picture of Spencer....Click Here
This is form Joyce Linehan:
The memorial service for Spencer Gates will be held on Wednesday, July 9 at
11 a.m. at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square (Bennett St.). The event will consist of a service at which any of Spencerıs friends are invited to speak (play, dance, read!) followed by a reception with many of Spencerıs favorite passed hors douvres (deviled eggs will flow). Joanie Lindstrom will DJ, and there will be a table for photos, so bring them if you have them!
If you would like to speak, let me know and I will get you on the set list.
If any of you canıt make it but would like to send something to be read, I can take care of that too.
Itıs going to be a marvelous party, even if Spencer wonıt be there. In lieu of flowers, weıre asking for donations. Tom Johnston and I wrote the obituary below to submit to the papers, and the donation info is at the bottom.
Hope to see a lot of friendly old faces on Wednesday.
Ann Spencer Gates, of Cambridge, known to her friends as Spencer, died peacefully at home on July 6, 2008, after a courageous two-year battle with breast cancer.
Spencer moved to Boston in 1978 from her hometown of Buffalo, to attend Boston University. She quickly fell in love with the Boston music scene, introduced by her brother Peter Gates, already established as a DJ at MITıs WMBR. In 1981, she and her best friend Sheena (Lisa Buchholz) became hosts of the beloved show "The Mystery Girls" on WMBR, which ran Friday afternoons for 5 years, and was, by Spencer's own admission, "the most unprofessional thing ever on the radio." The show featured many of the bands of the city's burgeoning punk rock scene, including Mission of Burma, Lemonheads, Nervous Eaters, Sorry, and Moving Targets, and was an irreverent Friday afternoon cocktail party on the air, signaling the start of the weekend. Every week they would assume different personas. They were the Mystery Girls, and had the power at will to become the characters they chose. It didn't matter if they couldn't quite agree on who they should be or remember who they decided to be. Said Mission of Burmaıs Clint Conley, ³As a person Spencer was such
a gas--so funny, and sassy and tuned in. I was a dedicated listener of
her show in the 80s--total irreverence, anarchic fun, such a psych hearing them getting all jacked up over the music they'd be checking out that
weekend. Thinking of Spencer, I am more convinced than ever that the most
inspired part of any cool music scene usually has less to do with the musicians than the musicians would like to think.²
Unlike shows of the time playing only the punk rock canon, the Mystery Girls played country, blues, and even the odd show tune, as long as it was American and fit their thread. It would not have been unusual to hear Patsy Cline with Flipper, Fear or X. And if they changed their mind, it was equally likely that they'd change tracks mid-song. If someone dared to play a British band or anything else not to their liking, it wasn't unusual to hear the sound of a needle scratching across a record. They were hostile to structure of any kind. If a guest was perceived as whiny during an interview, Spencer would cut him or her off unceremoniously. It was perhaps the most memorable punk rock radio show of the era.
They recruited as their ³official² phone answerer Michael Patrick MacDonald, a traumatized Southie punk-kid they'd taken under their wing, who partly recounts his time with them in his book Easter Rising. Said MacDonald, "It didn't pay but it was the first time I ever felt proud of something I had to show up for. And Spencer and Sheena were immediately my adopted big sisters, introducing me to books, films at the Brattle, and music that expanded the definition of 'punk.'² On most nights, Spencer and Sheena could be found, dressed to kill in cocktail garb, at a club like the late lamented Rat or Chet's Last Call hosting a party for a touring band who would soon be famous. The Mystery Girls loft in downtown Boston, hosted many legendary after-hours happenings of the time. According to former Lemonheads manager Joyce Linehan, ³The paradox of the Mystery Girls was that they were finishing school girls who brought comic civility and good manners to punk rock by being unbelievably uncivil and ill-mannered. Yet it was never mean-spirited, and even the most outcast of the outcasts were a welcome part of the fun. ³
After leaving Boston, Spencer lived in the apartment above the legendary Hoboken club Maxwell's, and also spent time in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
She moved to New York in 1988, and later took a job as a publicist at Matador Records, where she worked with Liz Phair, Pavement, Cat Power, Bettie Serveert, The Fall, Mark Eitzel, and Yo La Tengo. After leaving Matador, she was a publicist at Atlantic Records. Eventually disillusioned by an increasingly corporate and less creative music business, Spencer moved to Rhinebeck in 2000, where she worked in retail. In 2005, she moved back to Boston, to the delight of many of her friends, and took a job in Harvard University's Division of Continuing Education, where she enjoyed working with new students to introduce them to her beloved adopted hometown. When she became too sick to work full time, she took a part time volunteer position in the marketing department at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.
According to Tom Johnston, manager of Buffalo Tom and Bettie Serveert, Spencer was one of the greatest, most dazzling people I ever had privilege to get to know. She had great taste, a wicked sense of humor, and was so extroverted that many of the friends I have today, I credit directly to her and her charm and gift of gab.
Since her breast cancer diagnosis in April of 2006 until the final week of her life, Spencer took every opportunity presented to spend time with family and friends, and to go to plays, concerts, movies and other events. In addition to being a fan of music, photography and theater, she was an environmental activist and an animal lover.
She was the daughter of the late H. Hamilton Gates. She leaves her mother Mrs. H. Hamilton Gates of Buffalo, brother Peter of Boston, David of Buffalo and P. Bradford of Ithaca and many cousins and close friends. Donation in Spencerıs memory can be made to Zumix, 202 Maverick St., E. Boston, MA 02128 or Future Chefs, c/o Third Sector New England, 89 South St., Suite 700, Boston, MA 02111-2680.
Miss Lyn's computer has gone kaput-ski, so it will be a few days untill we ramp up with a full page here. So please check the site in a few days.