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Pauline Butcher Bird's Interview

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Ravi V Chhabra-fnbworld By Ravi V. Chhabra



Frank Zappa-Pauline Butcher Bird-Ravi V.

File Pics.


The Mothers of
Invention- ravi v. chhabra

I had missed interviewing Frank Zappa by a whisker when I first visited New York in 1991 and couldn’t send the fax questions across as desired then by his secretary (818-PUMPKIN). At that time, I had joined as a journalist with India Abroad in NYC and there were time constraints as you can imagine me being new to the city and to the job.


Having read most of Frank’s books but yours comes out to me as a work of literary tour de force. Like most of his fans globally, I was truly depressed when he died so young, with an unparalleled range of work.  I wrote two obits in India’s leading newspaper Hindustan Times, when perhaps not many knew the genius Frank in India. How could I have imagined after all these years I will be able to get in touch with you – someone who slogged it out with him as a workaholic and get a super insight into Frank’s human side and his relationships - what he really was -  a peek into his house and the groupies.


I take the liberty to reproduce here some of the photos in your book Freak Out my Life with Frank Zappa. Pauline’s book on Frank Zappa has been translated into Italian and Spanish and published across Mexico, Chile, Columbia Uruguay and Argentina as well as USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the book has also been adapted into a BBC Radio 4 drama, broadcast in May 2015.


Pauline Butcher Bird -

Pauline in 1971-fnbworld-frank









Another page from Pauline's book  -


 _________________________________________ _________________________

“What makes you think that leaving Frank equates with

forgetting him?”


Pauline Butcher's book page
photo - 1971-fnbworld

Ravi V. Chhabra: You are the first secretary to Frank Zappa and began/traversed your career with him from London to LA - Laurel Canyon, and you were always in awe of him, probably also the only ‘non-weirdo’ (read groupies) in the Log Cabin. Were you not tempted to try their kind of stuff?

Pauline Butcher Bird: What do you mean by their kind of stuff? If you mean drugs, no. Why would I when Frank did not allow it.


Ravi: Do you still listen to some of Frank Zappa?

Pauline: I rarely listen to music because I listen to speech radio all the time, ie BBC Radio 4. When I do listen it’s as background to my work and then it’s BBC Radio 3. Occasionally, when I’m doing something related to Frank Zappa, then I listen to specific tracks, not albums.


Ravi: As mentioned in your book Freak Out my life with Frank Zappa, any Zappa relic or gift besides his lock of hair that Frank gave you and is still with you?



Pauline: I have nothing else except the lock of Frank’s hair.


Ravi: What took you so long to pen your memoir about Frank Zappa. Of course, I know it’s an arduous task but still...


Peter Butcher and Pauline in


Pauline: When I returned to England I was busy with raising our son. When he went to university and my husband was constantly travelling I knew I had no more excuses left to try to become a writer. It took ten years before my book was published. I had spent six years trying to write radio plays. A producer told me to write something no one else could write and I realised the only thing no one else could write is my experience living and working with Frank Zappa.


Pauline Interviews Zappa: 

Ravi: Your favourite memorable incident with or without Frank in the log cabin, Laurel Canyon?

Pauline: I have a fond memory of working all night with Frank on his article. We hardly spoke but still it was very intense. We started at 10pm and finished at 8am the next morning. He said by my desk the whole time and drank endless cups of coffee and we smoked enough cigarettes to fill a bin.


Ravi: You met so many celebrities like Captain Beefheart, Wild Man Fischer, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison among others, who impressed you most and why? I am aware that you found Lowel George a sober man...

Pauline: I think Mick Jagger was the most impressive. His knowledge of politics and history was surprising.


Ravi: I think it was a difficult or rather painful for you to make the decision to leave Frank and forget him (as Frank often nudged you to pen down the goings on at his home). Do you still have the diary with your jottings during that time?



Pauline: Yes, I have all my diaries. What makes you think that leaving Frank equates with forgetting him?


Ravi: A personal favourite FZ album or song, any particular reason?


Pauline: Water Melon in Easter Hay is an easy one. Of those with lyrics, I think Camarillo Brillo is pretty extraordinary.


Ravi: Who is your favourite music composer/musician?



Pauline: I don’t have one.


Ravi: Did your book fetch you good money, any reprints?

Pauline: I have had one re-print after the initial run of 4,000 copies. I still owe my publisher £1,000 as she gave me £4,000 advance. In other words, I have made £3,000 over six years on my book but it is still not a profit.


Ravi: I found your writing style quite similar to Jane Austen, who is your favourite British author?

Pauline: Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors, as is Emily Bronte. Probably George Elliot wins top prize.


Ravi: Any message for Frank Zappa diehard and there are aplenty thankfully.

Pauline: No.

 Honest Betrayal-Pauline Butcher
Bird-fnbworldRavi: How did your play/theatre on Frank and Gale Honest Betrayal work financially for you and any future plans about Frank Zappa.

Pauline: It cost me over £20,000. The next stage is to get someone in London to put it on and then hopefully I might recoup some of that money.


Ravi: Are you in touch with any of the FZ band members, his immediate family members or any of the GTOs?

Pauline: I saw Bunk Gardner and D on Preston at Zappanale last year (You should go. It’s fantastic.) I occasionally communicate with Mercy of the GTOs. I have never communicated with any of the Zappa family nor do I try to. I believe Moon and Dweezil have read my book.


Ravi: How was the response in media to your book? I am currently reading the fourth book about Frank and I liked The Real Frank Zappa Book and yours very intriguing and enjoyable at the same time. I am reading at leisure the one you suggested by Pamela Des Barres.

Pauline: I had incredible response to my book from the media when it came out in 2011 in England. I had no response from any media in America. The Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Express, ran articles, and BBC Radio 4 Today program interviewed me, as did BBC World Service.


Ravi: Frank believed there were many things physics can’t explain yet. Your views?


Pauline: He may or may not be correct. I don’t know. It was his way of hanging on, I think.



Ravi: Did you have any role in any of the other books by or about him?

Pauline: I mention it in my own book. Frank was commissioned to write a book by Stein & Day to be delivered at the end of 1968. It was supposed to be on the political outlook of young Americans of the day. They gave Frank carte blanche on what to write. He was not a prose writer and found the article he wrote for Life Magazine extremely difficult. I think it made him realise how much work was involved and he just did not want to give up his music to do so.

I may send this interview across to Megan Zappa and to Ahmet Zappa/ZFT, who signed a mutual agreement with me for a musical project I am still midway. I have spoken to both for a project and they were very kind to me on the phone. I respect and love them all.

Surely, this interview gives my soul a strange satisfaction. My sincere thanks Pauline or as Frank would call you Par-leen affectionately!


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