Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cherie Curie - The Culture Vultures Interview (Part 2)

This week’s episode of Culture Vultures will feature a epic-length and wide-ranging interview with Cherie Currie, the legendary lead singer of The Runaways who is coming to perform in the Detroit area for the first time in 36 years. Since the raw taped interview with music runs 85 minutes, here are only a few of the juiciest tidbits that were discussed.

NOTE: The first part of this excerpt is at Motor City Blog and should be read before diving into this section. We’ll wait until you’re back...........back now? Good. Here we go!

Were there any conflicts in the musical direction the band wanted to go versus what Kim wanted or was it more a manner of management style, touchy-feely vs. “Where’s our money?”

Well, if we asked about money we knew that we were going to be in big trouble. Actually Jackie - she’s a very bright gal, I mean she’s a lawyer now - and she was saying, “Where’s our money?” and it got to the point where Kim would turn around and say, “OK, I’m just gonna walk away and you guys aren’t going to have a record deal and you’re over.” He would always use that as leverage to keep us quiet.

Kim is a songwriter, he was very colorful. But as we continued on we started wanting to put our input in more. Of course Joan was writing the majority of the material with Kim, so we all started finding our own selves in the process.

Do you think you would’ve lasted longer if you’d been older when you started or paid some dues before being signed or if the management had been more attentive to what they’d created?

I feel we would’ve lasted a lot longer had we had some kind of mediator, somebody that could kind of be a mother figure that would’ve been able to sit us down and keep us grounded and let us talk to each other because it got to the point where we weren’t even talking to each other. There were these deep-seated resentments, there were jealousies, there were all these things. Kim always would pit one of us against the other because he said it would keep us on edge and it would be good rock & roll, but what it did was slowly dissolve our relationships and sisterhood of being on the road together.

I don’t think that us being older would’ve mattered. It’s just that had there been any care taken whatsoever instead of throwing us out there, it’s like throwing us out in the middle of the ocean and telling us to swim back to shore with no raft, no life jacket, nothing. We would’ve survived, I believe. I would’ve stayed.

While prepping for this interview I was comparing the live versions to the studio versions and I really preferred the live version. Do you think that if Live In Japan had been released in America at the time when live albums like KISS Alive and Frampton Comes Alive were instrumental in blowing up bands by showcasing them at their live and energetic best that it would’ve helped the band continue?
You’re really right. I never actually thought about that until right now because Frampton Live was huge at that time and I know that it was some kind of deal that was made directly with directly with Japan and I also know that the imports of that album were extraordinarily expensive for the fans to buy. But I absolutely agree with you, I really believe that had - and I never really thought about it til now, wow - yeah, I think it would’ve done something, I do. You’re right.

Here’s another thought-provoker: According to the legend, “Cherry Bomb” was written at your audition and it riffed of you’re name, Cherie. What if you were not named Cherie? What if you were named Lynda or Brenda or Julie? They might have written a different song but would it have been a bit hit; would The Runaways have been a hit? Is it the luck of the draw that you were named that or that your sister wasn’t named and you weren’t named Marie. Have you ever considered that there’s the alternate universe where you were named something different and none of this happened for anybody, so Lita and Joan and everybody else doesn’t have a career either. (laughs)

(laughing) There’s so much more to Dirk than meets the eye. I’ve never thought about that. My brain is firing at massive speed right now. That’s interesting; I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Here comes the uninteresting question that I’m sure you’re asked endlessly: So, what’s up with The Runaways reunion? When’s that gonna happen? What’s the holdup?

Well, Lita and I are on board to do it; Joan really doesn’t seem to be interested and that’s really disappointing.

There always seems to be factionalism in the band where people kinda pair off against others. Previously there was some hassle where Lita was not involved with the movie; she didn’t think she was offered enough for her life rights, so it was you and Joan, but now it’s you and Lita and now Joan is the problem?

I just had dinner with Lita last week and we actually discussed this. Lita, bless her heart, got a divorce from a crappy husband and he very much sheltered her and wouldn’t let her know what was really going on and that was this whole factor about the life rights. He was absolutely, completely wrong and he lied to her. Either that or he didn’t read the contract because that was not what the contract stated. He just told her what he wanted to tell her so she wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Wait, so when Lita was saying that Kenny Laguna was only offering a thousand bucks, that wasn’t what happened, that was just what Lita was told?

No, no, not at all. In fact what it was was there was a small amount of money offered at the signing, but when it went into production then you received a substantial amount more. But of course her crappy, asshole husband wouldn’t tell her that part. She didn’t know. She didn’t know what the real deal was and that is how he controlled her. But she’s free of him now and that’s why she’s doing so well, thank God. She’s a great person. I can’t even explain to you how wonderful it is to talk to her and be around her now because, you know, we were just kids when we parted ways. She’s a remarkably strong woman. Remarkably strong. I’m really proud of her. Getting away from that creep was not an easy thing for her to do and she did it. She deserves all the success.

There seems to be this recurring theme of men being a problem for The Runaways’ careers - Kim abusing the band, carving up the band because he didn’t know how to treat people; the conflicts with Kenny and now Lita’s husband - it seems like The Runaways’ legacy is constantly being deferred and delayed and damaged because of the influence of outside forces. It’s not band against each other; it seems like there’s guys talking to people causing problems. Am I reading that correctly?

I think there’s a lot of manipulation that’s gone on. Not for the well-being of the member of The Runaways; it’s always about manipulating and taking control of that person. Unfortunately, this has kinda been what’s happened with a lot of these situations with us and this constant drama that everybody talks about and all this. I mean, my God, Lita and I are both parents, we have children, and our kids turned out pretty good, so I don’t know. You’re talking to a 53-year-old woman right now, you’re not talking to the 16, 17-year-old Cherie from The Runaways. So you look back and you go, “Why can’t we just all just get along?” and the thing is that it’s always been the people around us that kept that from happening. I don’t know, men like to covet. They like to covet and I think that that’s been one of the major reasons why things haven’t been smooth sailing.

Moving onto a discussion of The Runaways movie, we ran through several of the inaccuracies like Joan Jett not wearing leather pants back then; the meeting of Kim and Joan with Cherie shown occurring at Rodney’s English Disco which in reality was closed and they’d met at the Sugar Shack; her rape at the hands of her sister’s boyfriend which triggered her Bowie makeover being omitted; the inexplicable change in artist that her audition of “Fever” was based on; and what really happened at the talent show.

Was [“Lady Grinning Soul”] the song you did at the talent show and did everybody bring paper to throw at you? What happened with that?

No, actually I did Bowie’s “1984” and I won that talent show! People were on their feet and it was fantastic. It was a great day in my life. But actually the food being thrown at me and all that stuff did happen before that and it usually would happen in the food court or in the hallways or whatever because I would go to school with a lightning bolt on my face and I went there in Bowie garb, but that was my way of attacking the bullies because I had witnessed a young kid who was wearing glasses be brutalized and be thrown in the trash can and be called a freak. I was so appalled and disgusted by these creeps that I just walked up and said, “You call this kid a freak? I’ll show you a real freak,” and I came to school the next day with a lightning bolt across my face and my hair dyed red, white and blue.

It was my way of punching them in the was a fight for the kids who couldn’t fight for themselves and I had enough enough anger in me from the experience when I had been raped at 14-years-old; that was my way of setting it right and that was to protect the kids that didn’t deserve this. It was a noble fight, because I was right, and when you’re right you can do anything and you’re driven to do what you can. So, “Lady Grinning Soul” was not the song.

So you recommend that people who’ve seen The Runaways and want to know more buy your book, Neon Angel, to get the real story about what happened. 

[Cherie went into detail about the the two versions of the book and the impact it had on kids who read it, but there wasn't time and space to transcribe all that.]

Also there is the documentary done by one of the bassists who passed through the band [Vicki Blue aka Victory Tischler-Blue] called Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways that had everyone interviewed except for Joan, which I thought was a rather big piece to leave out. It’d be like doing a Rolling Stones documentary without Mick or Keith in it. Is that a good source for those who want to know more about The Runaways?

Somewhat, but I really wasn’t too thrilled with Vicki. She wasn’t in The Runaways; I never stepped on a stage with her. Even though she and I became friends after The Runaways, after the band had dissolved.

She wasn’t in the band or she wasn’t in the band when you were in the band?

I left just days after she joined, so we were never on a stage together. You know she, of course, went for the drama and she also being the director and editor of the film could piece anything she wanted to together. I was really disappointed because my last day in The Runaways was absolutely a 180 from what she had in there, that I was always late, that I was a prima donna. I was there two hours early, in fact, helped [photographer] Barry Levine set up the shot.

Isn’t the story that you had to leave to give your sister the car because you shared it and Lita showed up late?

The session went from like 11 [am] or 12 to 6 [pm] and my sister and I shared a car. Like I said, we didn’t make any money in The Runaways. So I needed to get back home to give her the car so she could go to her acting class and I had told Barry that when I was helping him set up all the shots. I got there early and it was unfortunate that it was Lita and Vicki that were late - like an hour late. By the time six o’clock rolls around...I’d told Barry that I need to go, I need to go on time. Of course, Barry being a drama king at that time threw his camera when I said I gotta go and smashed it on the floor and did everything he could to make that last day of my life a little bit more miserable instead of being supportive. And that’s where Lita kicked the door in and that was just it for me because you just couldn’t win. You couldn’t win, you couldn’t have any peace.

But I have to say in Kenny’s defense with Edgeplay is that Kenny had a vision years in advance that a feature film would be made about The Runaways. He had that in the back of his mind when Vicki was approaching Joan to use the songs and have Joan be a part of it. Vicki and I were, I’d heard some things - of course this is a little drama here - she had a lot of resentment about me because she felt I kept her from being in the lawsuit that Lita and Joan and Sandy and I had against Mercury and Kim. She felt she should’ve been part of that lawsuit. I totally disagreed with her. I didn’t think she deserved to be a part of it, but I didn’t intentionally keep her out of it. I just was very busy and so on and so forth.

Had Joan been a part of Edgeplay I don’t really know if that movie [The Runaways] would’ve happened at all, so in Kenny’s defense and also Joan knew that I had a lot of problems with Vicki and she just wouldn’t participate. So, in a way it was a good thing.
The full conversation will be aired in its entirety on the Culture Vultures Radio show on Raw Radio X at 9 pm EST on August 1, 2013 and will be available as a podcast via the Culture Vultures Radio site and iTunes shortly thereafter.

A million-billion-trillion thanks to Cherie for being a terrific and gracious participant in the conducting of this interview. 

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