The Coolest Girls in Eugene

The funny, feminist performance group of the ’70s that’s still kickin’

The Radar Angels used to put up collaged posters across Eugene ‘we had to entertain ourselves first,’ Radar Angel Indi Stern says.

On any given Saturday night in 1970-something, the fine-dining restaurant The Excelsior is filled with folks dressed to the nines (in Eugene terms); couples celebrating anniversaries, parents visiting their University of Oregon college kid and, if you’re lucky, a group of rowdy, feather boa-ed young women, pulling pranks and taking names.

They’re called The Radar Angels and while they may have interrupted a couple of your date nights way back when, they probably entertained you — at the very least they entertained themselves, as Radar Angel Indi Stern says. 

Stern, who was a founding member of the endlessly goofy, feminist gaggle of performance artists and friends, says these rowdy restaurant hangs were the beginning of everything for The Radar Angels.

“We had these things called ‘Frivolous Teas,’” Stern says, “where we’d dress up in fancy or silly thrift store dresses and fancy hats. Sometimes we’d take over a restaurant. It was a wine and chocolate extravaganza.”

Stern, who moved to Eugene in the early ’70s, says the Angels found each other through other arts, political and philosophical groups they were a part of. “A few of us came together for somebody’s birthday and we were all talking about all our groups being so serious,” she says. “We thought it’d be fun to just chew the fat and let our hair down.”

And so they did just that. A few of them hailing from theater and dance backgrounds, The Radar Angels put on skits and musical performances at the WOW Hall, local restaurants, birthday parties and Jell-O art shows, and they still do a show at the Oregon Country Fair every year. The group now lets men join as Radar Rangers. “But they have to get goofy like us,” Stern says.

Their first official performance was an October 1979 Halloween-themed show at the WOW Hall. Stern says the show was inspired by Stern’s friend and fellow Angel Angela Pershnokov, who went to a private school growing up and was never able to join a choir or be in a play. “Angela said, ‘I never got to do anything like that.’ We had been discussing fantasies and supporting each other in dreams and hopes and visions, so we decided to put a show together so that she could participate in the show,” Stern says. 

The Radar Angels’ performances weren’t always met with roaring laughter and applause. Stern recounts the time the police shut down an “Alice in Wonderland” performance/tea at the Rose Garden for a lack of the proper permit. Or when the police would take down their Xerox flyers and artwork they’d plaster all over town. 


Pranks were also a key part of being a Radar Angel back in the day. Stern shows Eugene Weekly the classified ads they’d put in the now-defunct Willamette Valley Observer with cryptic messages signed, The Radar Angels.

“We always had to entertain ourselves first,” Stern says.

She says the name Radar Angels came to her and her friends after watching Walter Cronkite interrupt the 1979 Super Bowl to tell Americans about a UFO sighting. “He brought on some aerospace engineer who launched into an explanation about swamp gas and public hysteria, and then he added, ‘Of course, it could easily be those well-known radar angels,’” she says. “We all were like ‘What the hell is that? He never even explained that.’ I literally said, ‘That would be a great name for us.’”

When asked what a Radar Angel is, Stern says, “Irreverent.” (The real radar angels are effects seen on radar displays that look like large periodic structures and are usually the same length as a radar’s signal wavelength.)

At the heart of all the tomfoolery, music and fun is friendship. Stern pulls out a letter from a former Radar Angel, Robin Mix. Mix writes, “For me, the essential beauty of the group was that it served as a support group for crazy, creative women.”

 “It was a breath of fresh air,” Stern says of The Radar Angels. “For me it was lifesaving.”