Cristina is the kind of girl who does what she likes. For one thing, she’s rich. She lives in France with her father (he’s a psychiatrist there) or in London or New York. She’s studied at Harvard, where she won the History and Literature Prize in her sophomore year. She’s acted in plays and reviewed them for the Village Voice. So you can see she’s smart. She likes reading and pear-shaped diamonds, MDA and valium, Balzac and I Love Lucy. Since she is also very beautiful, she gets what she wants. — From Cristina’s 1980 press release
Every year around this time we get inundated with jolly carols about jingling bells, roasting chestnuts and horses dashing through the snow. In her 1984 anti-Christmas anthem “Things Fall Apart”, ZE records first lady Cristina Monet-Palaci (known simply as “Cristina” in downtown NY circles) made even the most wonderful time of the year glamorously, and gloriously, depressing. Over a vicious Don Was-produced new wave beat, Cristina deadpans in her bored, money-filled voice that “Things fall apart. My mother said “I’m a survivor.” I pull together Christmas every year.” Then she goes on to wax disdainful about the manufactured cheer and vacuousness of Christmas time. It’s not as miserable as it sounds though. Despite gloomy subject matter, Cristina’s songs like “Is That All There Is?” “Don’t Mutilate My Mink” and “What’s A Girl To Do?” are loads of fun — full of sidelong winks, mink coat decadence and expert self-parody. According to Richard Strange,“In a sassier, zestier, brighter, funnier world, Cristina would have been Madonna.” And it is, indeed, strange that Cristina is not more well known.
Cristina Monet had all the textbook makings of a cult star: blue-blooded lineage (her parents were wealthy intellectuals), exoticism (she was raised in Paris and London), brains (she was a Harvard drop-out and theatre critic at the Village Voice), beauty (she did a stint as a lingerie model), wit (she recorded a song called “Don’t Mutilate My Mink”, after all) and a perfect dash of hack-a-Chanel-suit-with-a-chainsaw subversion. Before he iconically elongated Grace Jones’ face for the cover of “Slave to the Rhythm”, Jean Paul Goude elongated Cristina’s neck for the cover of her second album “Sleep it Off.” As the girlfriend and eventual wife of music maestro Michael Zilkha — the founder of seminal no wave record label ZE — Cristina could afford to have the best, eat-off-of-it-it’s-that-gleaming production by Don Was and Kid Creole. But her star never rose. Perhaps she was just too much. Too smart to be an ingenue. Too irreverent without being crass. Too punk rock but not punk rock. Neither uptown or downtown. Too self-reflexive about her pill-popping messiness and class status. She looked like a sex object, and was willing to play into her sexiness, but was certainly running the show. Although her first LP was titled “Doll In The Box,” she gave that doll in a box a voice and a whip-smart, snarky sense of humor. Cristina is now in her 50s and alive, but details are scant about her present-day whereabouts. We hope wherever in the world Cristina is now, that her perfectly arched eyebrow is still raised in perpetual distaste and she’s thinking “Is THAT all there is?” Pictures of Cristina after the jump.– Marlo Kronberg