Judge Judy's Cat-Killing-Hipster Plaintiff Speaks: An Interview With Teeth Mountain's Kate Levitt and Andrew Burt
A little over a month ago, Baltimore primal-noise collective Teeth Mountain set the internet on fire with a dubiously outrageous appearance on Judge Judy. Teeth Mountain co-founder Kate Levitt, 24, alleged that Jonathan Coward of SHAMS got so drunk he smashed a TV and killed her cat. What followed was a riotous mess: Judge Judy reprimanding Kate multiple times for being fidgety in the courtroom; leather-jacketed longhair Jonathan denying the feline-murder charge by saying, "I was pretty wasted, but I don't think I've ever killed a cat"; Jonathan's character witness and "ex-boyfriend" Brian Blomerth a/k/a Narwhalz (of Sound) zinging Judge Judy after she impatiently shushed him ("Alright, mama"); Blomerth later accusing "filthy" Kate of leaving her underwear on the counter; Levitt's roommate/bandmate/witness Andrew Burt looking into the camera at the end of the show and summing the whole thing up, "I feel like my whole life is ridiculous."
Right after the episode aired, Teeth Mountain, who've previously collaborated with Dan Deacon, went on a Northeast tour and immediately discovered they were viral video stars. "That's been the weirdest thing, just how inescapable it is," Kate now says. " I could not believe it." She had to: countless Facebook friend requests, creepy e-mails, and blog posts followed--hell, LA Times property Brand X was still wondering about this yesterday. We caught up with Teeth Mountain co-founders Kate Levitt and Andrew Burt when they were recently in town for a few days. If you're looking for confirmation of whether this was real or fake, well, you'll see.
You've been quiet about your Judge Judy appearance until now? Why?
Kate Levitt: It prompted a big response, obviously, and it just seemed like fun to just watch people being like, "WTF, is this real?"
Andrew Burt: We just figured it would be the best course of action just to let people stay confused.
What did you anticipate happening when it aired?
Kate: I just thought our friends would think it was silly.
Andrew: It really didn't go the way we thought it would. We thought it would be way more drawn out [in the courtroom], fighting with each other. But it happened so quickly--we were only in front of [Judge Judy] for like ten minutes--that we were like, "Man, this isn't going to be a funny episode at all." But then when we saw it, we were like, "This editor really knew what he was doing."
Kate: Yeah, whoever edited that? You're a mastermind.
What's the response been?
Kate: I've gotten a bunch of weird Facebook messages from guys--crazy guys--and I got 100s of friends requests. It got so intense the first couple of days that I changed my Facebook name so I wouldn't get mad creeps telling me dirty things. Than I realized that even though I changed my name, you can still Google "Kate Levitt Facebook" and you still get me. So I still get these messages. Like yesterday, dudes saying like really dirty things: "I wanna stick my finger in your asshole." Or, "I wanna watch you cry and take you to the Olive Garden." Stuff like that.
Andrew: Some really bizarre shit. I don't have a Facebook, but I just talked to my brother the other day, and he looks a lot like me, and he's been getting a bunch of people contacting him saying, "Are you the Judge Judy guy?"
Kate: I just don't understand why it's such a big fucking deal. Seriously, I mean, it's kind of funny, but it's not that funny.
Andrew: I don't know if you've read all the comments on YouTube but there's a class of people who are really angry about it. Like, "Those dumbass motherfuckers." Like "They're all gay" or "They're all on drugs" or "What's wrong these people?" And there're the creeps who to touch Kate. [To Kate] What other kind of people are commenting on there?
Kate: There're four categories of responses: people that are like, "Fucking hipsters"; people that are like, "OMG, that poor girl and that poor cat"; people that are like, "I wanna bang that girl"; and people that are like, "They're all on drugs."
I did see a lot of people writing in a comments section somewhere: "They're all junkies."
Kate: It's just crazy. I don't even do drugs or drink--ever, really! I'm just fidgety.
So how did you end up on the Judge Judy show?
Kate: It's really easy. You just write to them about your case and they call you back four days later.
Andrew: And they pay for everything. They pay for your flights, your hotels, and they pay for the settlement, too. So when they ruled $1000 dollars at the end of the show, the show paid us that 1000 dollars. It was a really sick deal. All it took was a little bit of legwork: writing the story out, sending it in--and that's about it.
And smashing some TVs?
Andrew: Well. [Pause] So what we're trying to do is just take the conversation away from "Was it real? Was it fake?" and talk about it in a different way. The lesson I've been telling people to take away is that it's easy to get on TV.
Kate: Although what's crazy is that I tried to get on [The] Maury [Povich Show] and I think they figured out that I was the same person. I was talking to them for a while, and then this Judge Judy thing dropped, and they stopped calling me back.
Andrew: You think that had something to do with it?
Kate: I spoke to [Narwhalz's] Brian [Blomerth] about it and he thinks it did too. We had a sick plan for that.
Andrew: I haven't heard about this plan.
Kate: [To Andrew] You haven't heard about this? [To both of us] Alright, check this out. Brian's going to pretend to be my boyfriend of five years and my thing is that I'm really obsessed with Winnie the Pooh. I can't stop wearing Pooh clothes. He was going to write to them and be like, "Hey, I really want to propose to my girlfriend, but my parents can't take her seriously because all she wears is Winnie the Pooh gear. I think that if she changed they'd really come around to her." They always love relationship shit.
Tell me more about your experience with applying to get on these shows. Like, with Judge Judy, you just wrote to them and the producers were into it?
Kate: When I wrote to them, it was six o'clock in the morning and I couldn't sleep. So I was like, "Well, I might as well write to Judge Judy about this case." Then when they called me back, I was like, "Really? Really?" You guys really want to do this? I didn't believe it until we got our plane tickets in the mail.
Andrew: Judy has nothing to do with anything except for the taping. She doesn't even know about the cases until she comes out into the court room. So it's really like this team of producers who put together all the cases. So they called us, had us come out, arranged everything, and when we got there, they kind of coached us on how to act in the courtroom.
I guess that isn't too surprising.
Andrew: They told us that Judy is very wary of models and musicians and actors. They said that she always has a prejudice against them because she thinks they're just coming on the show to get attention and money. So they were like, "Whatever you do: Do not let Judy think that the four of you were hanging out the night before partying together. Because if she thinks that, she's going to throw it out and not believe you." And we were like, "Okay, cool." But the night before, we all played a house show together at this house called Women in Los Angeles. So that's exactly what we had been doing.
Not beating each other up?
Andrew: No. They did put us in separate hotels. [Defendents Jonathan and Brian] were in Hollywood, we were downtown. Their hotel had a jacuzzi and ours didn't, which is total bullshit.
Kate: I think that's how they get the defendents to come on the show, by offering them nice things.
Andrew: But their hotel wasn't as nice as ours. We were in a really nice Sheraton downtown, and they were in a lower-budget hotel in Hollywood.
Kate: I would've traded that for a fucking jacuzzi.
When was this filmed?
Andrew: It was January 21 . The producers had told us that it was going to take three months to air, but it was exactly one month.
Kate: I kind of felt like the producers were like, "We just have to get rid of this one. I don't why we dropped so money on these people, but we just have to get rid of it like right now."
Andrew: I think they recognized it was gold and they knew to get it on as soon as possible.
Did you hang out with any of the other people on your same show?
Kate: No, but Brian and Jonathan did.
Andrew: They said the defendents' room was really rowdy. They said there was a really cool comraderie going on in there. Just people, like, "Yeah, you fucking get them!" Everybody was really into being there and fighting for their case.
Kate: But Judy was a bitch though, for real.
Had you ever seen Judge Judy before?
Kate: I don't know if I'd ever seen it before actually.
Andrew: I saw it a couple times when I was in high school, but I never watch TV anymore.
That hilarious moment in the hallway after the ruling--did you know how that was going to go down?
Andrew: The after-interview? We knew that was going to happen. Clearly, it's the best part. My famous line at the end there ["I feel like my whole life is ridiculous, really"]--that really came from the heart. That was really the way I felt. Like, here I am, in LA, on this silly-ass court show. My life really is fucking ridiculous.
Kate: The questions they were asking me were insane. They were like, "He killed your cat, but you didn't call the ASPCA?" I was like, "No, I didn't want to get him in trouble." Then they were like, "You didn't call the cops?" And I was like, "NO, YOU NEVER CALL THE COPS." And then they were like, "What would do if he killed a person?"
Andrew: They were asking her about the dead bird photo and she kept saying, "He's an artist." Jonathan did light a bird on fire at Whartscape. He didn't kill the bird himself--our cat Trips killed the bird--and Jonathan took it to the show, and did this weird ritual and lit it on fire.
So that dead bird picture was from Whartscape?
And Trips the cat is real?
Andrew: Yeah, Trips is real.
Kate: He may or may not be alive.
So you had a whole bunch of creepy Facebook messages. What other responses did you get?
Kate: Dude, our MySpace account fucking skyrocketed, sick as shit! And it aired the day before we left for tour, which was crazy. It was the perfect time for it to drop. Every single night of tour, people were like, 'Oh my god you're on the internet!'
That's been the weirdest thing, just how inescapable it is. Just wherever we go, somebody is calling us out. We play music too, you know?
The craziest part was when were were in New Jersey. We played this house show in New Brunswick. It was kind of a noisier show, but there were a lot of little college kids too. After we played, these two girls came up to us because--Brian is playing with us too know, and so the three of us were there--and they came up to us and were like, "Oh my god, are you Kate Levitt?" And I was like, "Yeah..." And they made us take pictures with them. They were like, "We watched that clip so many times! We say, 'Alright, mama!' to each other all the time. It's like our new catch-phrase." It was crazy.
Are you worried that whenever anybody writes about Teeth Mountain, this will always come up?
Kate: Here's the thing about that. I had a stupid phone interview the other day, and was like, "Maybe this will come up" and it didn't. The lady didn't know shit. She just like asked me stupid questions.
Andrew: I'm not worried about it coming to define us or being attached to us for a long time. Clearly, this woman had never heard of it.
It'll be helpful, actually.
Andrew: I definitely don't think it's a bad thing. I think it already has, and probably will, help us to get a little bit more attention, which doesn't hurt. But that's not why we did it. So I'm not worried about it being attached to us for a long time. In two weeks, nobody's gonna remember this shit anyway. That's the way it goes.
Kate: We'll just go back to being nobodies with a band. And that's exciting actually.
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