Tom Petty made a statement during his recent sold-out 40th anniversary shows at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York. The two Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers shows featured a photo of late transgender actress Alexis Arquette as the band played their classic song “American Girl” as an encore. According to Page Six, the image of Arquette and other diverse women flashed on a huge screen as Petty and the Heartbreakers played their radio-friendly 1977 hit. Alexis Arquette died of complications from AIDS in 2016.
Petty’s band regularly features pictures of a diverse group of women when they perform the song “American Girl,” but the image of Arquette takes on new meaning. Fans noted the image appeared at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Forest Hills shows just a few hours after Donald Trump posted a controversial tweet banning transgender citizens from serving in the military.
Alexis Arquette’s brother, actor David Arquette, took to Instagram to thank Tom Petty for including Alexis in the “American Girl” tribute. The next day, David posted a birthday message to Alexis, who would have turned 48-years-old on July 28.
Alexis Arquette’s first acting role was actually music-related. At age 13, Arquette made an appearance in the Tubes video for the 1983 song “She’s a Beauty.”
As for “American Girl,” the song, which went on to become one of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ biggest radio hits, has long been the subject of an urban myth. “American Girl” was rumored to be about the suicide of a University of Florida student who committed suicide by jumping from a Beaty Towers balcony.
But according to Mentalfloss, Petty himself has long shot down the theory in multiple interviews. In the book Conversations With Tom Petty, Tom Petty is quoted as saying the story about his song’s origin has become “a huge urban myth down in Florida,” which is where the band originated four decades ago.
“The song has nothing to do with that,” Petty said of the real-life suicide. “But that story really gets around.”
You can see fan-shot footage of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” photo montage stream which includes Alexis Arquette below.
[Featured Image by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Sacks & Co]