Femme Fatale

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Brenda had two guns hidden in the house, and Jim got to one first, but she found the other and started loading. After Jim wrested the gun from her, he drove Brenda to the hospital and left her there. He went back to their place, packed his stuff and evicted himself. It would be years before they were friendly again.

"She burned a lot of bridges," Jim says. "I think, in the end, she really didn't have too many long-term friends or long-lasting friends."

In a strange twist of fate, it was Jim who connected Brenda to Kathleen Donohue. The first night Kathleen saw Brenda, the punk chick was smashing up a guy in a bar parking lot. As Kathleen and her then-boyfriend stood watching, Jim tried to start shit with them for making fun of his girlfriend. Kathleen thought she was going to get her ass kicked, but nothing happened. Afterward, she was curious about the couple. She called Jim and Brenda the King and Queen of Punk.

Months after Jim and Brenda's messy breakup, Kathleen started going out with the King of Punk. Their romance fizzled, but Kathleen and Brenda later developed a friendship. "You'd think I would hate her and not want to be friends with her," Kathleen says, "but it was so easy, and we really had so much in common."

The two went to shows four or five nights a week at such Capitol Hill staples as Streets of London, the Lion's Lair and Cricket on the Hill, both set on getting backstage and meeting bandmembers. But as much as she was a partner in crime, Kathleen also found Brenda to be someone she could really talk to. They both battled emotional problems, and Brenda helped Kathleen get into therapy to deal with her depression. They were roommates for a short time, but Kathleen moved out after they had an argument over something silly. The fight blew over, but the two lost touch.

"I didn't see her as an aggressive, violent person at all, but that was part of her reputation," Kathleen says. "It's nothing that she was proud of. I think she just really had some violent tendencies. What punk rocker doesn't? If you don't like violence, then you probably don't like the sound of that music."

Sometime in 1997, Brenda Denton began to re-evaluate her life. She had broken her leg and it became infected, leaving her bedridden after surgery. She used that time alone to take a hard look at herself, and she didn't like what she saw. So she decided to make some changes.

Brenda enrolled at Metro State, starting with just a couple of classes in the fall of 1998. She did well, and it made her feel good about herself. The more serious she became about her studies and her future, the more she distanced herself from the punk scene. Brenda still loved the music, but she wanted a new crowd, a new life. "I don't think she has a lot of friends who bridged that gap," says her mother. "Kathleen, I think, is one of the few who bridges the gap from both worlds she lived in."

For years, Brenda worked at the now-defunct Cafe Euphrates, a coffee shop that attracted mobs of high-schoolers who studied and smoked on weeknights and came to hear local bands on the weekends. In August 1999, she wrote in her journal about an encounter with her old friends. She'd discovered that a band she knew, one likely to bring in a rough crowd, would be playing at Cafe Euphrates. She warned her boss and volunteered to work that night.

My boss also knew that when I'd left the punk "Scene," I'd told each and every one of them exactly what I thought of them. This was over a year ago, but they were still intimidated by me: They'd watched me fight, and had called me "Psycho Brenda."

I told my boss I'd be happy to come in and help him out, assuring him that the shitbags would give him no grief while I was there; I knew that no matter WHAT I looked like, they'd show respect-I was still their surrogate big sister and I was still "punk." Like they say, "Punk's an attitude, not a dress code."

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Jessica Centers