Tag Archives: Chuck E. Starr

The Runaways’ LA

The old Sugar Shack

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

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Summer of the Runaways

“1776: Bicentennial. 1976: Bisexual.” So said a T-shirt that  rock-star groupie turned rock-star DJ Chuck E. Starr liked to wear during what he calls the summer of the Runaways.

“That’s when all the magic happened,” he told me recently as we met for coffee in the desert, where the one-time LA nightlife legend now tends to others’ health needs, as well as his own.

One of the great pleasures of researching Queens of Noise, my book on the Runaways, is getting to meet the colorful survivors of an era of great freedom and indulgent excess. In the last month, I’ve joined Rodney Bingenheimer, the other DJ who spun “Cherry Bomb” as if it were a number-one hit, for his daily supper at a Hollywood IHOP. He remembered how great the band’s music was — and the hostility the all-girl group could provoke: “The only time I got offered payola was NOT to play the Runaways.”

Germs drummer Don Bolles praised Joan Jett’s production of the band’s album GI: “She did help us make a better record.” Journalist and one-time garage rocker Don Waller  showed me the early coverage of the Runaways in Back Door Man, the seminal fanzine he helped put together. “I feel like I ran away and joined the circus,” Waller says of those days.

That sense of having lived through something special — and maybe still living through it — permeates the interviews. What that something special was — the era, the place, the people, the politics, the music, the drugs, the fashion, the freedom — is what I’m trying to document and analyze. I’m going to try to start posting updates regularly to this blog. Coming up: The managers take credit — what Kim Fowley and Toby Mamis did for the Runaways.

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