Every chick I know can spin a tale about a brush with rock 'n' roll greatness. There's my pal the graphic designer, who was set up with an indie-rock guitar god on a blind date by mutual friends. It turned out his ax was a crutch--he was painfully shy, so nervous and tongue-tied offstage that he could barely form a sentence. Then there's the PR flack whose prepubescent dreams were smashed by her run-in with a bloated, has-been '80s pop sensation at a hotel bar, who was drunkenly copping a feel from a clueless 14-year-old admirer. Truth is, it's not uncommon for female--and, for that matter, male--fans to hook up with, and dig up some good dirt on, their idols. Trouble is, proof of such close encounters is harder to come by than backstage passes.
Cynthia Plaster Caster, a veteran groupie and scenester extraordinaire, has the primo dish on many a music legend. But her boasts carry a little more weight than those of the average rock fan, mainly because she has, er, hard evidence. For more than three decades she's been coaxing willing male celebs out of their drawers and dipping their genitalia--shaft, balls, and all--into a vase-full of alginate, making life-size molds of their erect privates. Among her subjects are a remarkably well-endowed Jimi Hendrix, Animals/War frontman Eric Burdon ("It was a big honker, honey," the Plaster Caster attests), former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra, Pete Shelley of the (snicker) Buzzcocks, and the Mekons' Jon Langford (one word: gi-normous!).
The resilient, amazingly well-preserved 53-year-old Cynthia Plaster Caster (whose real last name is Albritton) has amassed about 70 impressions over the years, and she still actively pursues her hobby of immortalizing the schlongs of the famous. (And even those of the not-so-famous: She's collected some from roadies and other blue-collar Joes.) Her body of work has attracted much attention of late. Last year, Manhattan's Thread-Waxing Gallery mounted a major exhibit of her collection, and a documentary about Albritton and her work, Plaster Caster, directed by Jessica Villines, is making the rounds on the film-fest circuit.
Albritton says she came up with the Plaster Caster concept way back in the 1960s as a way to distinguish herself from the other groupies vying for the attention of British Invasion and acid-rock superstuds. "It was usually done to get their pants down and to get some sexual action started," she says. "I was a very shy girl."
Dipping wicks successfully requires a team effort, Albritton explains. Originally, she would prepare the mold mixture while, in a separate room, a business partner whom she refers to as the "plater"--Cockney slang for "blow-job giver"--helped participants reach their full potential before they thrust into the mold. These days, she says, working with couples is easier, with the participant's significant other given the job of fluffing his wang. And it's more fun that way. Although, as her explicit tryst in the film with the lead singer of the Detroit band the Demolition Doll Rods suggests, the artist is willing to lend a hand if the need arises.
Still, Albritton says she's pretty choosy about her subjects--"You can't pay me to cast your dick," she insists--and that what draws her to a candidate is his musical gifts rather than his anatomical ones. "I'm geared towards creative people--superheroes of the arts," she says. "If I'm interested in a band, I try to find out if they're 'casting material.' Do they have a heart of rock 'n' roll? Are they single? I wouldn't approach them unless I thought they would do it." Director Villines, who met the Plaster Caster when she popped the question to Villines' then-boyfriend, Duane Denison of the Jesus Lizard, speculates that men who agree to have a cast made are few and far between. "Most people turn her down, I think," Villines says. "I guess they're embarrassed or are afraid they aren't huge--something about penis size. You know, their wives wouldn't want them to do it. That happens a lot. Or they're just intimidated." Even though Villines advised Denison to take Albritton up on her offer, he declined.
The Plaster Caster insists she's not a size queen, really, and that the guys' appearances don't matter. Although "it sure is a bonus if they're cute," she admits. But what really gives her satisfaction is surveying the fruits of her labors--all those pert, chalky, plaster hard-ons of various shapes and sizes lining the shelves of her Chicago apartment. "They're like a chorus line!" she chirps.
She hesitates to attach any kind of broader significance to her work, either artistically or sociologically, despite the accolades of such renowned supporters as the late Frank Zappa (allegedly, he thought her boner collection would make a great addition to the Smithsonian) and academic/provocateur Camille Paglia (whose commentary is featured extensively throughout Plaster Caster). While it's apparent that Albritton has a sense of humor about the whole thing, she obviously takes pride in her work and regards it with a little more reverence than she would probably care to admit.
For instance, in Villines' film, she's candid about having cash-flow problems (currently unemployed, the tirelessly resourceful artisan has always worked "straight" clerical jobs to finance her late-night escapades). But Albritton nixes outright the idea of selling out by licensing her casts for their most obvious consumer-product spin-off.
"A dildo?! That's, like, so cheesy," she scoffs. She says she has considered classier moneymaking schemes, such as selling limited-edition reproductions of her casts. Oh.
Ultimately, Albritton says, she's enjoying the newfound respect that her ties to the film and art scenes have afforded her. She's booked solid for the next few months promoting Plaster Caster with Villines, who's still shopping for a distributor for the documentary. But Albritton acknowledges that she's a little taken aback by all this sudden interest in her work.
"The world of plaster is a crazy one right now," she says, genuinely surprised. "Everybody wants to talk dick!"Adele Marley writes for the Baltimore City Paper, where this feature first appeared. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org