Soft-core Japanese porn. Gig flyers. Fanzines. Ticket stubs. Cherie’s corset. An anvil case. Acetates. Bootlegs. These are just some of the items ultra fan Omid Yamini has in his Runaways collection. The collector and metal musician has let me ravage through his files and bookcases all weekend. It’s been an immensely educational two days, a grounding of all the oral research I’ve done so far for Queens of Noise in actual artifacts. A picture tells a thousand stories, and Yamini’s image library includes professional photos, publicity stills, and fan shots. A view of Cherie Currie oozing fake blood from a live performance of “Dead End Kids” is one of my favorite finds — and came out great in my photograph of a photograph.
It will take me weeks to weed through all the articles we’ve scanned and ephemera I’ve photographed — i.e., more posts to come. Now, I must sleep: One last day of digging to go — concert T-shirts here I come!
All that’s left of the Sugar Shack is the writing on the wall. A pizzeria now stands in the strip mall where, during the mid 1970s, the infamous all-ages club drew nubile nymphets from the Valley and Hollywood. The erstwhile lip-gloss mecca is on the other side of Laurel Canyon from the Sunset Strip, in a cute little gabled complex that also houses an old-fashioned photo service and a restaurant named Classique Raphy’s. It’s kind of hard to believe that, after the shuttering of the even more infamous Rodney’s English Disco, this suburban outpost became ground zero for the fertile, decadent LA glam scene — this picturesque commercial corner was jailbait central. It was here that Joan Jett and Kim Fowley found a blond bombshell singer, Cherie Currie, for the all-girl band they were forming, the Runaways. The only traces of that past, along with other graffiti Magic Markered on the white walls of Joe Peep’s Pizza, are tags celebrating: “Sugar Shack.” “Hollywood.” “1776 Biecentennial. 1976 Biesexual (sic).” Continue reading →
Cherie Currie reportedly posted Lita Ford’s comments about a Runaways reunion on her Facebook page. So it looks like she’s on board. Who will play bass? And drums? Laurie McAllister and Sandy West are no longer with us. And Jackie Fox and Vicki Blue have not been on Joan’s good side. Tell me what you think below.
Before Sandy Pesavento became Sandy West, Runaways drummer, she was a Huntington Beach surfer. So I suppose there’s a logic in casting her as a mermaid. She makes a beautiful one, in the statue that her bandmate Cherie Currie carved with a chainsaw, that stands outside Kenny’s Music Store in Dana Point. I finally visited there for the first time yesterday. I picture Sandy with drumsticks, not a guitar, and a bass drum, not a tail. But Cherie knew her better than I.
Guitars-as-art adorn Kenny’s, a rocker heaven that offers lessons for local kids on various instruments. In a similar vein, I plan to donate my fee for the Best Music Writing anthology to the Sandy West scholarship fund at the Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls in Portland. Teaching the next generation to rock on.
There are precious few movies about women rockers: The Girl Can’t Help It, What’s Love Got To Do With It, The Rose, Dreamgirls, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. This paucity is just one of the reasons that Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways — which opens nationwide today — is so important. The first-time film director hones right in on the feminist issues of the Runaways’ story — sexism, sexploitation, girl love, etc. It’s also just a really fun, raunchy roll through the LA glam/pre-punk scene. Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie have a hot kiss to the Stooges’ “I Just Wanna Be Your Dog.” What else do you want?
Of course, while that titillating scene generated a lot of publicity heat for the film, it might also have kept the hoped-for Twifans away. As has been reported elsewhere, the planned wide release of the film has been scaled back to art houses after disappointing turnout at its initial foray into major cities. This isn’t really a big surprise and is probably where the R-rated movie should have started anyway. Rock films rarely make big bank. Unfortunately, The Runaways is now tainted with a cloud of disappointed expectations. All the more reason you should see it. Support girl love, as the Riot Grrrls used to say.
I have serious issues with the film as a historical document. But as a feature film, it’s pretty great. It shouldn’t be called The Runaways, as it leaves out the stories of band members Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Vicki Blue, Kari Chrome, etc. But if it were called The Cherie and Joan Show Starring Kim Fowley, I’d retract my reservations and completely endorse it.
I talk about the film, my LA Weekly story on Sandy West, and other matters on this weeks Podlicks podcast. Listen, and then go find your local art house this weekend and do rock and women a favor.