Go Away With … Exene Cervenka

By Jae-Ha Kim
November 16, 2010

Exene Cervenka has lived quite the life. Born in Illinois and currently residing in Missouri, the 54-year-old artist earned early fame as the co-lead vocalist of the punk rock band X. She co-starred in the 1987 film “Salvation!” with Viggo Mortensen, where the two played a married couple. In real life, the couple followed suit, but divorced after their son Henry was born. When author Michael Blake was writing “Dances with Wolves,” he crashed at her house and dedicated the book to her. Blake — as well as Kevin Costner who would go on to star in film adaptation of “Dances with Wolves” — appears in her cowboy satire “Bad Day” (www.baddaymovie.com), which is available via digital download.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. New Orleans. I love the people and have close friends there. I love the past — the art, the history. … It’s so haunted! But I really love Austin, too. I have a lot of friends in Texas and a lot of memories there. I’m kind of nostalgic about the place, but I meet people there all the time, too. I love the insanity of Texas — the music and the wildness.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Joshua Tree (Calif.). It was the first desert I had ever seen in the early ’80s and it blew my mind and still does. It’s a place I’ve been sharing with my son since he was a baby.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. 29 palms Inn in Twentynine Palms, Calif., the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco and the Hotel Congress in Tucson.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?

A. Pizza anywhere in Manhattan, El Azteca in Austin, and Mother’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Art supplies, a journal, music and names and numbers of everyone interesting I know, or will be getting to meet.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New Orleans, New York City, Austin, Boston and Chicago.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. I look for where the “real” is. I research where the independent stores are for music, books and vintage so I can buy my gifts and souvenirs from indie shops. I pay a lot of attention to the weather, cause I always pack light, so I can’t bring everything.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I’ve been to Honolulu, but just to play a gig. I want to see the rest of the Hawaiian Islands.

Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?

A. My best vacation memory is visiting the land of the Ozarks when I was five years old. It was the only vacation my family ever took. It was magical — hillbilly-themed everywhere, square dancing and colored lights strung outside. … I don’t remember the drive, but I remember the dancing.

My worst vacation memory is Prague just after the fall of communism. I stayed with lovely friends in Soviet block housing. The water — what little there was — smelled strange, like unknown chemicals. Did I mention it was cold water? There wasn’t much in the way of heat, but luckily I was sleeping in the top bunk of a bunk bed. It was a rough night. There was scaffolding covering the buildings all over Prague. Restoration and renovation was going on everywhere, unfortunately, obscuring the architecture I had come to see! And it was cold and icy.

© 2010 JAE-HA KIM


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