CHICAGO — Cynthia “Plaster Caster” Albritton, one of rock’s most flamboyant backstage figures of the 1960s and 1970s, who rose to prominence for her plaster casts of famous musicians’ penises, died Thursday after a long illness. She was 74 years old.
Born May 24, 1947, on Chicago’s South Side, Albritton grew up as a music-mad teenager in the South Shore neighborhood, “when I broke free from my overprotective mother,” she said in a 2010 radio interview. She was an art student at the University of Illinois at Chicago – “Circle” as it was then known in the local parlance – when a teacher gave her an assignment to “make a plaster cast of ‘something hard'”. After some experiments. on friends, according to legend, Albritton met Jimi Hendrix in 1968 at the Chicago Hilton Towers, when Hendrix got stuck in the mold for five minutes. The rest is rock ‘n’ roll history.
At age 20, Frank Zappa became interested in Albritton’s art and brought her to Los Angeles, where she became close to Pamela Des Barres, best known for her 1987 memoir, “I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie“, detailing his exploits in the Los Angeles rock scene of the 1960s and 1970s.
While Hendrix was his crowning achievement, Albritton went on to immortalize the erect phallus of Wayne Kramer from MC5, Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys, Momus, Eric Burdon from The Animals, Pete Shelley from Buzzcocks and Noel Redding from Jimi Hendrix Experience, who is appeared in the 2001 documentary “Plaster Caster”. His method of making plaster casts included the use of a dental mold making substance called alginateand many volunteer assistants.
“She considered them works of art,” said her close friend John Connors. “A lot of people would like her to cast them, but she would only do them for bands she respected”
Momus described the experience of being cast as “asexual” and “clinical, with newspapers on the floor”.
Albritton eventually branched out to do plaster casts of filmmakers and Broadway stars she admired, as well as sinking the boobs of these female group members like Suzi Gardner of L7 and Sally Timms of The Mekons, according to AV Club. She estimated the cast at 60 men and a dozen women, with a few roadies who slipped into her collection.
After spending three years living the rock ‘n’ roll life in Los Angeles, Albritton returned to Chicago, where she became considered an institution by the music, art and theater communities. (Having been drawn into her orbit at The Hideout, a rebellious club in the industrial corridor of Elston Avenue, a friend and I once tried to convince her to dump President Bill Clinton’s soldiers at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. )
Albritton lived in the same apartment in Lincoln Park for almost 50 years. She had been in failing health for a year, cared for by a close circle of friends.
“Cynthia didn’t want anyone to take pity on her,” Connors told Patch. “She wanted her friends to visit, and the fact that none of us exposed her on social media is incredible. We let her hang out however she wanted.”
Connors said Albritton was a regular at his Sunday movie nights.
“It was fun to sit with her on movie night watching old variety shows,” Connors said. “She was pointing out which band members she had slept with or who was a heavy drug addict.”
While Albritton was known for her love of rock, she was also very drawn to Broadway musicals. She was able to meet a big Broadway star thanks to one of her assistants, “who really wanted to be cast”.
“But they ran out of plaster,” Connors said, “and she went with him in her white convertible to the hardware store to buy more plaster.”
Albritton gave Connors the cast of the Broadway star as a birthday present, which inadvertently appeared in the background of a Chicago newscast when he was interviewed after a megacryometer crashed through her ceiling, narrowly missing her cat, Oscar.
“Cynthia was more excited than me,” Connors said.
Although Albritton often describes herself as a “recovering groupie”, Connors said Albritton considers herself an “art maker”.
“She was great at drawing and sketched The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa,” Connors said. “But those were the phalluses she was known for.”
Albritton was the subject of a 2001 documentary “Plaster Caster” and was featured in the 2005 BBC documentary “My Penis and I”, by filmmaker Lawrence Barraclough about anxiety over the size of his private parts.
She was later immortalized in Kiss’ “Plaster Caster” and the late Jim Croce’s “Five Short Minutes”.
In 2010, Albritton declared her candidacy for mayor of Chicago on the “Hard Party” ticket, when she was in her 50s.
“I am not a politician. I am an ordinary citizen who is sick of seeing our city’s problems getting worse, and I believe that we ALL need to get involved to help make our city the best it can be,” he said. she declared. quoted saying in Dangerous Minds. “Please join me in being part of this election process. Tell your friends and family to get actively involved in learning about what’s REALLY happening at City Hall RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSE!”
News of Albritton’s death prompted a flood of tributes from Rolling Stone, People, AV Club, Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, to name a few.
“I hope that somehow in the great beyond, Cynthia knows that this has been this great outpouring of love for her,” Connors said. “She was the last of the wacky ladies.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.