“Regan’s Song,” the latest video collaboration by Razorhouse bandleader Mark Panick and filmmaker and photographer Peter Rosenbaum, is an vivid, black and white tribute to Regan, who was a fixture in Chicago’s punk and LGBTQ bar scene from the late 1970s until her death in 1997.
Regan was a model for the famous photographer Francesco Scavullo. She was both openly transsexual and defiantly tough in an era before LGBTQ acronyms, where terms for gender identity and even words such as “transsexual” weren’t part of daily lexicon. Embraced by Chicago’s underground music and art scenes, Regan was notorious for her beauty and her steel; her persona wrapped in a combination of punk glamor and hairspray; a razor sharp combination of dangerous wit and vulnerability. Panick met Regan in the early ‘80s Chicago punk scene amid misfits and social nonconformists. From the thick-skinned yet kindred underground, Panick tells Regan’s tale of trying to be yourself in world that shuns your very identity.
Directed by Rosenbaum (who first met Regan in the late ‘70s) and edited by Martin Nelson, “Regan’s Song” is a short film built around Rosenbaum’s intimate photographic portraits of Regan and the minimal, but visually rich lyrics of Panick’s song to form a knowing portrait. The clip’s kinetic elements create a cinematic feel much like surrealist directors Luis Buñuel and David Lynch; trails of cigarette smoke (Regan was a heavy smoker who favored Marlboro Reds), birds of prey and Regan’s praying mantis tattoo (Panick describes her as a “predator and hustler”), and a blindfolded Panick singing the lyrics he wrote and that soundtrack the video (“Regan’s Song” appears on Razorhouse’s 2015 EP Codex Du). Regan “lived by her wits,” according to Panick. One night around Easter of 1997 (her favorite holiday), Regan reportedly got high on pills, fell back in a chair, cracked her head on the floor, and bled out.
Mark Panick first came to the public’s attention as leader of Bonemen of Barumba, an early 80’s art-punk group who released music on the independent labels Fever and Enigma (and on an early Sub Pop compilation), received airplay via influential UK DJ John Peel, opened shows for Alien Sex Fiend, Sisters of Mercy and Tones on Tail, and were recently featured in the popular Chicago Reader column “The Secret History of Chicago Music.” Panick went on to form several other groups, including Razorhouse and Black Friars Social Club.
Peter Rosenbaum’s photography and films have been shown in group and solo exhibits, private galleries, film festivals and at The Chicago Cultural Center, The Museum of Contemporary Photography and The Hyde Park Art Center. His film and video credits include the award-winning documentary Riding My Way Back, the Razorhouse promotional short film for “St. Teresa” and the short “Connect” featuring the band My Gold Mask. Martin Nelson is an Emmy winning film editor. He began editing when 35mm film was actually cut and spliced together, which may explain why his work has what is now referred to as “filmic quality.” He’s edited for the esteemed and the anonymous — Panick and Rosenbaum fall somewhere on that spectrum.