How old were you when you first started writing?

I was seven.  I had three older brothers and my parents divorced when I was three.  My mom was never home, because she worked a million jobs, leaving my three brothers in charge.  Our house became the Honeycomb Hideout, and we were deemed the forbidden house on the block!  With a pool table in the garage, cars on blocks everywhere, getting fixed, chopped, tinted and lowered.  There was always some kind of explosion or fire erupting at any given moment and it was a non-stop poker party, where only the bad kids were allowed to hang out.  If I weren’t seven, I would have joined in. So my only escape was to write.


Who were your first influences?

Doctor Seuss, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Dean Martin’s Gold Diggers, James Bond and The Bond Girls. All the Gabor Sisters, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball.


What is your favorite food?

See’s Candy, California Brittle, light chocolate.  I’m easy and my dentist loves me.


Favorite reading material?

Anything about old Hollywood, old Las Vegas, pop culture, art, film noir, anything about music, gangsters, vaudeville, boxers, burlesque and architecture.


Favorite Cartoon Characters?

SpongeBob SquarePants, Bugs Bunny and Top Cat.


Who are you biggest writing influences?

Bukowski, Baudelaire, Damon Runyon, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Dave Alvin, Pleasant Gehman, SA Griffin and Thomas Jefferson.


As a performer, singer, songwriter, actress, L.A. historian, author, Dodger fan and Mexican wrestling ring girl, is there anything else you’d like to do, that you haven’t done yet?

Yes, there’s many, but at the top of the list?  I’d love to be a magician’s assistant and one day be sawed in half…it’s an obsession!




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IRIS BERRY has been called a lot of things but one of the best is “a punk rock James Ellroy in fishnets.”

One of the true progenitors of the LA punk scene, her writing has been widely anthologized. In The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry she appears alongside the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

No stranger to the microphone, Berry co-founded and toured extensively with the legendary rock-n-roll spoken word troupe, The Ringling Sisters (A&M Records), produced by Lou Adler. The Ringling Sisters were famous for their numerous benefit shows and through the years enlisted fundraising help from the likes of Henry Rollins, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, X, Possum Dixon, Ann Magnuson, The Gun Club (in their last-ever appearance), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, River Phoenix, Mike Watt, Concrete Blonde, and more. Iris also fronted, sang, and wrote songs for LA combos The Dickies, The Flesheaters, The Lame Flames, and Pink Sabbath.

Her experience as a chronicler of and participant in LA’s extensive underground scene is wide-ranging. From bartending at after-hours speakeasies, to stints in rehab; working within the “legit” entertainment industry (Paramount, CBS) to strutting around a Mexican wrestling ring in showgirl feathers; authoring the sex column titled "Forbidden Fruit"; starring in a number of indie films, including the classic Border Radio, directed by Alison Anders, the recently-released Beth Dewey film Killhouse, and Chris Desjardin’s I Pass For Human.

At present, she is completing a book called Tales From The Tropicana, about the notorious Tropicana Motel, and recently she co-produced a series of burlesque and comedy variety shows with comic and activist Margaret Cho called The Sensuous Woman, with all proceeds going to charity.

In March of 2009, Iris received her second certificate of merit and achievement from the City of Los Angeles for her contribution as a Los Angeles writer and historian, and for the charity work she has done, producing large scale fund-raising events to benefit organizations such as The American Red Cross, Habitat For Humanity, Hollygrove Orphanage, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Amnesty International, and Rock the Vote, as well as many women’s shelters and organizations devoted to homeless youth and runaways. For the past seven years, she has served as a member on the Board of Directors for Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center.

With her prolific creative output, devoted work ethic, and passionate social awareness, Iris has been an inspiration to generations of writers and artists in Los Angeles.

7 responses to “Iris Berry: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. Well, Iris, I see that we share at least one thing in common–we both have been influenced by Bond Girls. Rock on.

  2. steve says:

    Ellroy? Really? When I read James Ellroy I hear a unique voice; explosive, graphic, and highly original. When I read Iris Berry, I hear Pop Art; instantly recognizable, mass produced commodities. Where is the originality? Who, if not Berry herself, called her “a punk rock James Ellroy in fishnets?” Polar opposites. Remove the “Pop Art” aspects of Berry’s work and you have, well, not much. The reference diminishes the original work of Ellroy, and really does no favors to Berry, either. The expectations are too great. A comparison to a pop artist, Grooms, Dine Wesselmann, or Stella may have been okay. But Ellroy? Sorry, I do not see anything remotely connecting the two.

    • DANNY MANN says:

      I HAPPEN TO THINK IRIS BERRY IS ONE OF THE MOST TALENTED…WITTY AND IMAGINATIVE WRITERS
      OF OUR TIME. I FEEL LUCKY TO NOT ONLY HAVE READ HER WORK BUT TO SPEAK WITH HER SEVERAL TIMES. I CAN’T IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT IRIS BERRY IN IT. IRIS..YOUR WORK IS VERY ORIGINAL..DEEP
      AND LAUGHS AT THE THINGS THAT WOULD HAVE KILLED MOST PEOPLE. YOUR VIEW ON THE DARK SIDE OF LIFE HAS ENABLED ME TO NO SHUT THE DOOR ON MY OWN WRETCHED PAST. I LOVE YOU AND YOUR WORK AND ONLY HOPE THAT YOUR LITTLE TALENTED HANDS KEEP ON TYPING AWAY.

      SINCERELY,
      DANNY MANN

      • Annette Zilinskas says:

        Iris Berry has lived a life straight out of a James Ellroy novel. She’s modern day film noir of punk rock hollywood. The detectives replaced by punk rockers and the dames well they are still the dames. But she was there and has written about pre-renovated hollywood – in a delightful and witty voice filled with elegance, grace and humor. She is an inspiration to me as a writer too.

        Viva Las Palmas sister!

        Annette Zilinkas

  3. MarkVanTier says:

    I just came across this site — and I am so pleased that you featured Iris Berry. Being an Angelino, she has always struck a chord with me. Her work is so honest, and real — her flow and natural style are just a few of the things that make her so rare. I saw her read at a benefit and was truly surprised at her candor, beauty and poise. I remember sitting in awe of her. Little known fact, when you close your eyes while she is reading you will be transported to a another time, where men were men, and dames were dames, and fishnets still did the trick, and tricks weren’t just for kids. Ellroy said he never knew any criminals — that he just made the stuff up. I would gather that with Ms. Berry, that just isn’t the case. However, her delivery still maintains luscious visuals, even in hopeless situations as well as comedic subtleties which are are unexpected, welcomed and crafty. As a fan, I will take a Ms. Berry transport any day.

  4. Iris is one of my oldest and dearest friends,
    so one could say perhaps I’m prejudiced, but nothing
    can change the fact that she embodies the spirit of an era
    long gone — and that embodiment is in every word she
    ever writes! There is a time and a place captured in her words —
    a world with subtle shadings, a landscape we instantly recognize
    as the landscape inhabited by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond
    Chandler. It is this ability that Iris possesses, to evoke a
    time and a place and transport us, that has people likening
    her to some of our favorite classic authors.

  5. Neely O'Hara says:

    Iris would never be so silly as to compare herself to Ellroy and to take that comment literally and run with it is ludicrous. Her writing is a reflection of the dichotomy that is Los Angeles: both pure and seedy, delightful and dark, filled with wonderment and knowing at the same time, and of course, filled with beauty. Seeing and hearing Iris read is always an experience that leaves you wanting more.

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