October 05, 1987 12:00 PM

Washington, D.C., is a town better known for hot air than hot music, but the capital may be about to make one of its most striking musical contributions since it gave birth to John Philip Sousa: a trio named Betty, which is enchanting the town’s movers and shakers with a wild style its members call “rockapella” and the Washington Post christened “heavy mental.” Betty is, or are, twins named Bitzi and Amy Ziff and pal Alyson Palmer, all 26 years old and single, and they debuted in 1986. The act combines a little bit of everything—”We can have poetry, theatrics, anything that transcends a strict musical format,” says Amy, the blond twin—and they wi go national on HBO next year with a hip half-hour series for kids.

The three women coined the term rockapella “because we do a lot of a cappella, but we rock out too,” says Alyson, at 6’1″ the high point of the group. Bitzi says the group is named “in honor of some of our favorite people: Betty Ford, Betty Rubble [of The Flint-stones], Betty Grable, Betty Crocker, Betty Boop, Betty Friedan and Betty Cooper [of Archie].”

Their performances match the syncopation of Alyson’s electric bass, Bitzi’s percussion and Amy’s cello to wry, witty lyrics, and they already have delighted audiences and critics in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. One anonymous set of fans even send the group a dozen roses at every appearance. Although they have had several offers, Betty is taking its time signing a contract, because, says Alyson, “We wanted to see how far we could get without having a record, just by people coming to see us.” While that experiment continues, Amy teaches French, Bitzi mixes drinks and Alyson is a sometime actress. “It’s a bit of a struggle at this point because our money goes right back out in promotion,” Amy admits. But they are confident. Says Alyson: “We all have so many ideas, I can’t see it stopping for a long time.” It seems likely that Washington may soon be out a French teacher, actress and bartender.

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