"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> "Neon Angel; A Memoir of A Runaway"
by Cherie Currie
Book Review by Ban Tasers
"Hot tramp, I love you so! Do do do do do do do do...."
Cherie Currie. Sounds like a rockstar's name, doesn't it? I guess, because it always rang so much, like a bio-ready stage name, I always assumed Kim Fowley had made it up, but apparently, her actual birth name was the cool invention of her actress Mom. The queen of noise, Cherie Currie, is such a descriptive writer, that when she recalls the "unfathomable sadness" that seemed to emanate from her totally hip Dad, whenever the drink stirred up his bad memories of the horrors of war, and one of his army friends, who'd committed suicide, using his gun, it totally pulls on one's heartstrings---particularly, if any of your own loved ones, are haunted by similar demons, from their military days. Her recollecting the heartbreak experienced by children, going through the divorce of their folks, is even more harrowing. She conjures all this stuff back, like it was just yesterday. "Mementos were not enough for me. Even Daddy's water stains would fade away over time". Harsh, hurtful, tear jerking stuff. She, fortunately, applies that same gift for bringing back the fun loving, wild and reckless, glittery years of the Sugar Shack, Bowie, and Rodney's English Disco, on the Sunset Strip. I recently watched that Rodney Bingenheimer documentary, "Mayor Of The Sunset Strip", and it was, similarly, filled with an abiding sadness, from his lonely childhood. So many of us rock'n'roll people were throwaway youth from broken homes. It's weird how we all stay troubled by that kid stuff, the mistakes our selfish parents make, no matter how old we get. Anyway, this book's a fast paced rocket blast through hot pants, androgyny, seventies glam, smelly roadies living in Chevy vans, bubble gum flavored lip-gloss, and punk rock. Cherie was the teenaged, silver space-suited, roman candle lead singer of rock'n'roll's most important girl group. A sensational story teller, when Cherie recounts envying her more conventional twin, or the pain of being sternly judged and misunderstood by her relatives, or the excitement she experienced, en route to see the Thin White Duke, it makes you feel young, again. Who hasn't had to sneak out of the house, under cover of "babysitting", and make their super hero transformation, in a pissy public restroom, like the Currie twins? A true child of Marc Bolan's revolution, Cherie defied the school bullies, defended the preyed-upon underdogs, shop-lifted platform shoes, and dyed her hair red, white, and blue! You totally have to love her, before page thirty! When I read her words, I feel like, relieved, that someone else has felt the same way!! You wanna be friends with her.
I know exactly how she felt about Bowie. I used to close my eyes, listening to "Candidate", and "Ashes To Ashes", and "Life On Mars", on headphones, in my basement beanbag chair, for hours and hours, transporting me far away from the hicks, preppy jocks, and sadistic rich kids, who inhabited the suburban hell-hole I grew up in, and heaped their abusive shit on me for wearing make-up, and Dollsy drag. She even recalls their moronic insults. Me, too. I used to make-out with my Ft. Wayne girlfriend, while listening to the "Loving The Alien" twelve inch single, back in Indiana. We thought we were cutting-edge, with our red leather and panda eyes in the mid-eighties, but Cherie was already wearing lingerie onstage, a decade before Vanity, or Apollonia! When I was only eight! Currie remembers Kim F. introducing her to Shaun Cassidy, whose Eric Carmen penned, "That's Rock'n'Roll" was the first forty-five this scribe ever owned-'always wanted to record my own version of it, 'til Blag and the Dwarves beat me to it!
Cherie moved really great onstage-graceful, like Bruce Lee mixed with Noddy Holder. Lita, too. All of 'em. I mean, you can never say enough about Joan, but lookin' back, the whole band were pretty awesome. Old videos on Youtube, aptly, demonstrate how Cherie definitely achieved total rock'n'roll authority, on stage. Even if Lita often moaned about Cherie's "limited vocal range", I can't think of another frontwoman as adept at holding a crowd-she was masterful, really. Guitarists always figure they actually have better pitch than their singer, and so they ALWAYS resent it when the fans, or press, pay special attention to the lead vocalist. You can see that Lita already harbored ambitions of being a solo star, but the reality was that Kim loved pitting the girls against one another. He arranged a sultry, solo photo shoot for Cherie, assuring her that all the girls were being photographed, individually, for a Japanese tour-book, but a feature story came out, focusing on Cherie, instead of the whole band. Whenever magazines appeared with Cherie in the center, Lita went batshit. Jackie Fox freaked out when her Thunderbird bass fell off it's stand, blaming Cherie, before having a breakdown. These poor girls really went through the wringer.
Currie's druggy flashbacks are summoned forth as vividly as some of us might only be able to recall very recent events, and again, her use of language is startlingly poetic. We accompany her on her audition for Fowley and the girls, and to their first time playing the Starwood, with Led Zeppelin in attendance. I wonder where Kari Krome is today. Lita, who reportedly, refused one thousand dollars, for her permission to use her name in the bio-flick, and was therefore downplayed, was always a hard case, a tough customer, even before hooking up with that weight-lifting Jim Gillette dude, from a high-pitched, 80's hair-band called, Nitro, who used to sell those "How-To Metal Shriek" tapes, in the back of "Hit Parader" magazine. They have kids, and live on an island. He's rich from real-estate deals. She still makes music, their kung-fu teenage boys do, too. It seems like several of the former Runaways hooked-up with inflexible, greedy, business-people, who came between them, and a possible reunion, while Sandy was alive, and it's a damned shame. They say the big motion-picture was based on this book, and it's easy to comprehend why the studio executives gave it a green light, the book itself, is exceptionally visual. You know that Cheap Trick song, "You're takin' me back, I remember it well..."? Cherie's book takes me back to my own misspent youth, even though, I was a teen in the eighties, not the seventies, she evokes so many familiar feelings, it's easy to relate to it, if you were ever an outcast teen, or into punk'n'roll, and being theatrical, or "playing the wild mutation", this book's a must-own.
Prior to reading this bio, I always read the stories in magazines like "Mojo", about Kim Fowley calling the girls "dogs", and worse, and while that's not kind, I always sorta thought, "so what"? He still made them stars, and from what I've gleaned from reading Cheri's reminiscences, he wasn't significantly less caring than some of their actual parents...That is, until Cheri describes the night he pressured her into going home with some unnamed pop idol (Andy Gibb??) and at that point, the alarmed reader is flooded with compassion for the naieve kids in the band, and disgust for creepy, old "Miiiister Fowley". As the book goes on, his foul-mouthed bullying, chronic manipulation, pervo-exhibitionisms, and unapologetic exploitation, becomes less and less forgivable, no matter how much one is naturally inclined to want to defend unique and outrageous rock'n'roll eccentrics. There's many things to admire among Kim's accomplishments, but he was slimey and abusive, and his briefcase carrying employee, Scott So-And-So, their road manager, was even worse, a total sexual predator-coldly, taking advantage of all these young musicians, one by one, on the road.
The image of the hideous, subhuman, puke who raped her, however, earlier in the story, is so repulsive, it turns one's stomach. Then, after the break-up, she was abducted and sexually brutalized by a psycho-sadistic, violent, despicable, sociopath, who got away with a mere slap on the wrist, because he had some famous friends. Just horrific. Unspeakable. It hurts just to read that chapter.
Cherie Currie is hardcore. The real deal. A pioneer. A badass survivor. A beacon. A helluva good yarn spinner. A visual artist. Drug counseler, fitness instructor. Her son's a tattoo artist to the stars, and a guitarist. Like Bowie, she keeps rising above her bad memories, reinventing herself. Again and again.
Cheap seventies nostalgia has been as ubiquitous in recent years, as fifties nostalgia was, back in the seventies. This book recaptures something a lot grittier, and more horrific, and genuinely romantic, than "That 70's Show", or those tedious Dennis Leary gags about cocaine and bell bottoms, or even that ironic copy of "Dynamite" magazine with Kristy McNichol and Willie Aames on the cover you picked-up, at the vintage boutique, along with your last fringed, suede vest, and black light poster. You might remember "Foxes", her movie with Jodie Foster. After a quickie, Fowley-throwaway solo album, "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep", Currie was pressured by her old man to make a "sisters record" with her twin, Marie. I've never heard it, apparently, it sank, when Marie refused to promote it. Marie was always more like a mainstream person, than Cherrie. She even married a guy from Toto. I never got to see "Edgeplay"-the Vickie Blue documentary, or even the Dakota Fanning "Runaways" bio-pic, but I saw some absolutely wrenching footage, on Youtube, of Sandy West, tearfully pleading for her band mates to reunite, filmed before her passing. Also saw Joan, live, this year. The Blackhearts are a tireless and unstoppable rock'n'roll machine. You forget how many great songs she has, 'til you see her live. They're like The Ramones. Hit after hit! Word on the street has it that a Cherie Currie comeback album's in the works, produced by Velvet Revolver drummer, Matt Sorum. Cool! Her paintings and chainsaw wood carvings are a whole lot better than you might imagine. What a talent. Stay tuned for more rock'n'roll, cos as soon as her new long-player comes out, I hope to be one to review it, right here.