Sheree Rose

Almost Infamous

Rose, age 4, with her par­ents, Los Angeles, 1945

Born into a con­ser­v­a­tive Jewish fam­ily in the 1940s, Rose describes her par­ents and fam­ily life: “We didn’t have money, by any means, by my par­ents always made sure that I went out prop­erly dressed, my hair per­fectly done, and we always had the very lat­est record player in our liv­ing room.”

Rose, age 5, Los Angeles, 1946

Rose, Los Angeles, 1947

Rose, age 13, Los Angeles, 1954

In 1954, sit­ting in a car with her aunt, Rose describes the moment she heard a new song on the radio that would for­ever change her life: “When I heard that singer, I didn’t know if he was black or white—I didn’t care—I was just crazy for his music!” So crazy, hav­ing worn the grooves out of all his records, when she couldn’t con­vince any of her friends to join her, the thirteen-year-old girl took a trol­ley car all the way across Los Angeles, alone, to see that same singer, Elvis Presley, per­form at the Shrine Auditorium.

Rose, age 15, Los Angeles, 1956

In her fresh­man year in high school, Rose met and began dat­ing a boy with a motor­cy­cle, which led to her get­ting a rep­u­ta­tion for being “loose.” She even­tu­ally broke the boy’s heart, and despite being a vir­gin, never shook the reputation.

High school grad­u­a­tion, Los Angeles, 1959

Most all of Rose’s female friends and fam­ily were mar­ried by the time they grad­u­ated high school. Rose’s par­ents allowed her to attend col­lege, but the con­di­tion was that she be mar­ried by the time she graduated.

Wedding Day, 1964

Sheree & Dan on their hon­ey­moon, 1964

Sheree, Dan & Matthew, June 1969

Rose, preg­nant, with son Matt, 1969

Dan & Sheree, June 1970

Sheree and her first hus­band were both teach­ers. “We were just your typ­i­cal sub­ur­ban fam­ily,” she says.

Muir Wood, 1970

Los Angeles, 1979

In the 1970s, after divorc­ing, Rose returned to school, earned her Master’s degree in psy­chol­ogy, raised her two chil­dren, shar­ing joint cus­tody with her ex-husband, got polit­i­cally involved, dis­cov­ered punk rock, and rein­vented her­self. Clearly.

In1979, Rose took her boyfriend to a Los Angeles high school to see an all-girl band, called The Go-Go’s, open for another local act, called X. Thoroughly dis­gusted by the unusual make up and dress of the bands and audi­ence mem­bers, not to men­tion the bro­ken beer bot­tles, glass and vomit cov­er­ing the gym­na­sium floor, her boyfriend launched into a tirade about the ter­ri­ble music, that The Who were the only rock-and-roll band that mat­tered, while, awestruck, Rose looked around, think­ing it was the great­est show she had ever seen. The cou­ple broke up soon thereafter.

Sheree Rose & Billy Zoom, gui­tarist of the band X, Los Angeles, 1979, crowned “East LA Punk King and Queen.

Mexico, 1980

Having trav­eled through­out Europe in a VW Van with her ex-husband and two young chil­dren for an entire year in the early 1970s, Rose began trav­el­ing alone in the early 1980s, which even­tu­ally led her to stay­ing at ashrams around the world.

Rose & Bob Flanagan, Los Angeles, New Year’s Eve 1980

Rose met Flanagan on Halloween, 1980, and recalls their first date: “We went out, and Bob told me he was a masochist. I didn’t know what that was.” But how quickly she learned.

Poets in New York, 1982

Sheree became the staff pho­tog­ra­pher of Beyond Baroque Literary Center in Venice (which is how she met Flanagan), and doc­u­mented a group of poets, who trav­eled to New York to read, includ­ing Amy Gerstler, Ed Smith (far right) and Dennis Cooper (fourth from right).

Rose (cen­ter) at the Gay Pride Parade, Los Angeles, 1986

While return­ing to school for her Master’s degree in psy­chol­ogy in the 1970s, Rose got extremely involved in polit­i­cal activism on behalf of the Society of Janus, gay and trans­gen­der com­mu­ni­ties, while jug­gling her own polit­i­cal and sex­ual pol­i­tics, upon being informed by one of her les­bian friends that she was “sleep­ing with the enemy.” (Men.)

Rose, Anne Sprinkle, Veronica Vera, 1988

Rose and Flanagan “wed­ding” photo, Beyond Baroque event, Los Angeles, 1989

Flanagan had cys­tic fibro­sis, and, when they met, the two didn’t expect to have more than two years together before he died. As it turned out, they lived together for six­teen years, before his death in 1996.

Rose and son Matthew Levin (sec­ond from right) with Congressman Henry Waxman, Freedom of Expression March, Washington, DC, 1990

First Gay & Lesbian March on Washington, 1993, photo credit: Sheree Rose

Rose and Flanagan, New York, 1994, photo credit: Michael Del Sol

Rose & Flanagan, Berlin, 1995, photo credit: Christine Knegewski

After his death in 1996, Rose co-produced the doc­u­men­tary SICK: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, which won a Special Jury Prize at the 1997 Sundance Festival.

Rose and the Minister of Art, Tokyo, 1996

Rose stands with the Japanese Minister of Art in front of the “Bobaloon” sculp­ture, which had to be covered—its penis had to be cov­ered for this pho­to­graph to be taken.

Rose, Los Angeles, 1998

Only three months after spinal surgery, Rose’s attended the first exhibit of her work in many years, a show that opened at Western Projects, on January 8, and runs until February 5, 2011.