Like a soprano singing Tony Clifton, Sybil Vane is the side of Molly Zackary that doesn't behave

Welcome to the Name Game, the latest Backbeat feature, in which we periodically check in with a local act and ask members to share the story behind their nom de tune (if there is one), to find out how and why they chose their handle, and to spell out any special significance the moniker might have.

For years, Molly Zackary has transformed herself into Sybil Vane night after night, going from a polite young sprite of a girl to a rude, uncensored force of punk-rock opera. Like a soprano singing Tony Clifton, Zackary describes Sybil Vane as the side of her that doesn't behave, as she puts it. We asked her to give us some insight into the name Sybil Vane.

"The name comes from the [Oscar Wilde] book, 'The Picture of Dorian Gray,'" Zackary explains. "But I chose the name not from the book, but from the film version. It stars Angela Lansbury from Murder, She Wrote, but in the movie, she's only eighteen. Her character's dad owns a titty bar where all the sailors go to get drunk and look at tits.

"Sybil Vane doesn't belong there," she goes on, "but since her dad owns it, she goes up on stage every night and sings this little song about a bird. And even though she doesn't fit, the sailors love her and she has a beautiful voice; it's not about titties or beer, but this little song she sings about a little bird, night after night. And that's what Dorian Grey falls in love with; she doesn't belong there, but at the same time, it's the only place she belongs, because it's where she's from."

The paradox of not fitting in with your own habitat (yet ultimately accepting that it's the habitat that made you who you are) is what inspired Zackary to adopt the handle for herself. "I wanted to sing opera at punk shows," she says. The world of DIY punk was the cradle that Zackary blossomed in -- yet, at the same time, she holds an advanced degree in classical music -- and just like the young Angela Lansbury, Zackary continues to walk onto the stage of punk-rock venues and sing her operatic heart out.

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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse