By: Ginger Coyote
I have wanted to interview Cherry Vanilla for quite sometime now.. She recently released her autobiography called LICK ME.. The book is getting rave reviews... I found out that she was going to my dear friend Randy Jones party so I jumped at the chance to ask her a few questions. We chatted about Lick Me, Bebe Buell, Jayne County, David Bowie and Shawn Phillips. However I did forget to ask her about having Sting and The Police as her back up band for a tour in Europe.. I love Cherry we are both Libra's and we both love Glitter and Glamor... We also both recorded a cover of "Boys" with Jayne County, Holly Woodlawn and Constance Cooper a couple years back as Four On The Floor... I hope you enjoy the interview..
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Cherry. I know you recently released an autobiography tell us about it?
CV: Itís called LICK ME and itís a first-hand account of my feelings, experiences, love affairs, accomplishments and failures, in the pursuit of my show business/music business dreams. But aside from my personal story, itís a trip through the history of an incredible era, from the birth of rock & roll to the height of punk rock. Young people are always asking me what it was like back then, and LICK ME is my attempt at answering that query in the most honest and accurate way possible.
Punk Globe: I have heard it is a delightful read and that you are so honest in the book. How long did it take you to write?
CV: Honesty is the quality I strove for more than anything else. My life has been such an incredible journey, there was no need to fictionalize even a minute of it, or to gloss-over any embarrassing and ego-crushing admissions. And even when it came to describing the atmosphere of a certain hotel room or the intimidation of a backstage scene, I really scoured my diaries and wracked my brain to convey the details as truthfully as words would allow. It took me two years to write it. And a lot of that process was in deciding what stories to leave out of the final version.
Punk Globe: Who was your publisher?
CV: Chicago Review Press / A Cappella Books. Theyíre based in Chicago and are not huge. But they have published a lot of great show business books, and they respected my vision and my ability to write the book myself.
Punk Globe: Did you have co writer work with you on the book?
CV: No way. It was something I always wanted to accomplish for myself, and I just had to prove to myself and to the world, I guess, that I could do it. It wasnít easy, believe me. Though the greatest compliment people give me about it is that it flows so easily, like it took me no effort at all to write it. Thatís what I was hoping for, aiming for all along, for it to sound just like I was talking to a friend, not editing myself and not trying too hard. But it took a lot of work to accomplish that, ha ha.
Punk Globe: Bebe Buell asked me to let you know she really enjoyed your book. How have the reviews been?
CV: Well that makes me feel really great. Bebe was around for much of the history I describe in the book, especially for the David Bowie parts, and itís really nice to hear that from another woman who was right there at the time. Please tell Bebe ďthank youĒ from me for that. The reviews have all been extremely positive, beyond my wildest expectations. I even garnered praise from the likes of sociology professors and columnists like Liz Smith and Michael Musto. I couldnít be happier with the reviews. I feel very very blessed in that regard.
Punk Globe: You also did a tour reading at different Book Stores . How many dates did you do?
CV: I did a couple oí dozen, mostly on the east and west coasts. I didnít make it much to the middle of the country, for financial and demographic reasons. My fans tend to come from the edges -- in more ways than one Ė and neither my publisher nor I could afford further travel. I did more than book stores though; I had the extreme honor to perform not only at the Warhol Museum and the Watermill Center (Robertís Wilsonís artís lab in the Hamptons), but also at the fabulous Coco de Mer lingerie/sex toys shops in both LA and New York City!
Punk Globe: Did a lot of people come out of the wood work to cheer you on?
CV: Happily they did. I saw friends I hadnít run into in years, including my X-boyfriend, Louie Lepore and many of my X-band mates. One couple I know drove for eight hours to hear me read at the Barnes & Noble book store in Manhattan. I was floored by that. And both Angie Bowie and Nancy Lee Andrews flew into LA for my book launch party that Rufus Wainwright hosted at the Chateau Marmont. And Tim Burton flew in from the UK to host my NY launch party at the Royalton Hotel. I must say my friends really came through for me in that regard. But then, I have incredible friends.
Punk Globe: Tell us which city you felt you got the best reception?
CV: Well, the very first launch party was given in LA by my friend Betsy Parker, on my sixty-seventh birthday. So, in some ways, that was the best night of all. But I would have to say that both LA and New York were kind of equally great. But then Pittsburgh, San Jose, Montecito and Lenox, Mass all were as well, in their way. I did a lot of radio in New York City, and I love love love love radio. So, I guess New York would win on that account.
Punk Globe: I know that my pal Chelsea Rose went to hear you read and bought a book in Bay Area. How did you enjoy it there?
CV: I think she must have come to San Jose, just outside of San Francisco. That was incredible. These people from Apple threw me a delightfully ruckus house party, with decorations made of LICK-able, edible sweets and a special kind of pork dish, in honor of my role in PORK, the Warhol play Ö and the girls all wore tutus, in honor of my author photo and Rufusís line in the forward about me still being ďa nice little girl in a tutu.Ē Both Betsy and this San Jose couple spent their own money throwing ME a party. I mean, how sweet and how generous is that!
Punk Globe: Did you get down to Atlanta to read from the book and see Jayne County?
CV: Unfortunately, I didnít. And I really would have liked to visit with Jayne in her environment. In all of the years that Iíve known her, Iíve never once been to her home. Though we did live together, of course, while in London doing PORK. If I ever do a reading down there, I will certainly ask Jayne to do a guest spot with me. She is one of the most entertaining people I know, and even with all of her nuttiness, I love her dearly and always will.
Punk Globe: In the book you talk about your days working with David Bowie. Has he responded to the book?
CV: Not a word, and I donít expect one. David decided to move on from all of us Mainmaners years ago, for whatever reasons I do not know. But a few years back, when the French and Italians published THE MIRABELLE MAGAZINE COLUMNS that Iíd ghost-written for him in the seventies, he did, through his management, give permission to use what heíd written about them on his website for the bookís intro. So, that was sweet of him. I think, for somebody who had sex with him, I kind of respected his privacy somewhat in LICK ME. He was actually a great guy to work for and a really fun friend for a while. I hope that came across in the book, and I hope he had a good laugh revisiting the ďcarbuncleĒ night at the Howard Johnsonís in Boston. I did. Itís one of my most cherished memories. Such a perfect rock & roll night, when you end it in bed with the star!
Punk Globe: You also talk about your fondness for Shawn Phillips.. That is a name I have not heard about for years. Are you still in contact with him?
CV: No, and for years I thought he had retired to his beloved Positano in Italy, never to tour the world again. But just a year or two ago, I heard heíd played a few gigs in the States. Man, he was unique and such a darling darling man. I hope I can catch his show next time around and get to give him a hug and kiss backstage. Please let me know if you hear of any upcoming Shawn Phillips gigs.
Punk Globe: Is your book also being sold electronically?
CV: Yes it is. Even though I am not the most hi-tech person on the planet and I donít own a Kindle, an iPod or even a fancy cell phone, I Ďm so happy that those who are into that stuff can get my book in that form. Me, personally, I still like holding an actual book. But hey, Iíve been here for sixty-seven years already, so Iím more used to old-fashioned things like paper and land-lines. But, I swear, once they put everything Ė radio, TV, telephone, computer, internet, camera, kindle, make-up mirror, microwave and wine-chiller -- into one simple gadget that I can put in my purse, I will be sure to get one.
Punk Globe: Besides the book release. What have you been doing?
CV: I am trying to get a quite serious reality TV show I wrote produced. Though Iím not sure that anyone really wants to see a quite serious reality show. Anyway, itís only half-serious. Itís actually quite schizophrenic, a kind of ďHell & HollywoodĒ type of thing, with lots of love and laughs, along with the tears. And I am working on the first draft of a LICK ME movie script. Iím not sure Iím capable of writing a really great movie script, but I am giving it a try. I have a really bright development guy pushing me and helping me. And in time he or some other experienced script writer might jump in to be a co-writer or whatever. But for now, I am giving it the old college try. I love challenges and learning how to do new things. And Iím still working for Vangelis, so, luckily, I still have a way to pay the rent while pursuing further dreams and living in the beauty of Southern California. Vangelis contains the word ďangel,Ē and so does Los Angeles, so I take that as proof of how blessed I am Ö and how I have angels watching over me.
Punk Globe: I know it is really hard finding a copy of your vinyl release. Have you heard if there is any plans to release it on CD or DVD format?
CV: Some record company released both RCA albums combined as one CD around ten years ago, without my permission and against my RCA contractual provisions. When they went out of business, I bought up their surplus CDs, and you can buy them now from my website. Donít buy them from anywhere else. Theyíre available all over the web, and I never see a penny from those other sales. And you can get them signed if you like from my site. RCA in Japan did do those specially-packaged, incredibly re-mastered CDs of each album a couple of years ago, but in a very limited number. I actually had to buy them myself from a Japanese website for like $44 each Ö and I havenít seen a penny from the sale of those releases either. But donít get me started on that frustrating subject. There are so many artists out there who are getting ripped-off just like me. Unless and until you sell enough to afford lawyers and accountants to go after them, people will just do what they will and know that they can get away with it. I just try not to get too upset and to think of it all as free PR. If your readers want to buy my books, CDs or T-shirts, they can get them all at I sell the books signed on my site. You can get them cheaper from Amazon, but they are unsigned there.
Punk Globe: Any bands or solo artists that you are listening to now?
CV: Well you know that I am in love with Rufus Wainwright. Heís almost like a godchild to me, so heís the number one artist in my book. I also love Teddy Thompson, Antony Hegarty, Leonard Cohen, Chika Ueda, A Fine Frenzy, Gossip, Henri Salvador, Brad Mehldau and Nightmare & The Cat. And I love Lauren on this seasonís AMERICAN IDOL. But mostly of late I keep going back to that Bob Dylan album TELL TALE SIGNS, and playing the SERIES OF DREAMS track over and over. And Iíve also been listening a lot to the live version of DRIVE-IN SATURDAY on the Bowie Vh1 STORYTELLERS CD. But, as you know from LICK ME, Van Morrison is still my number one medicine man when I need the big healing that only music can bring. Mostly though, I listen to the radio, KCSN-FM 88.5, from Northridge, CA.
Punk Globe: What is in the future for Cherry Vanilla?
CV: God only knows! Just hoping we make it beyond the Mayan calendar end date and that the earth can recover from the devastating effects of overpopulation, greed, right-wing politics and religion. Hope I stick around and stay in good health long enough to see Rufusís baby girl, Viva grow into a beautiful young woman, and Lindsay Lohan win an Oscar for playing Cherry Vanilla in the film version of LICK ME.
Punk Globe: Any parting words for Punk Globe readers?
CV: Be here now Ö may the force be with you all Ö thank you for your interest Ö love. Guess that about covers it all.
Punk Globe would like to thank Cherry Vanilla for the wonderful interview...