In the mid-’70s, the music business was wild, decadent and definitely dangerous. There was plenty of sex and drugs to go along with the rock n’ roll, and the party simply went on and on for years.
In the midst of this mælstrom of hedonism, producer Kim Fowley and teenage superstar in-the-making Joan Jett hatched a plan to put together a sexy band that was composed entirely of 16 year-old girls with a rebellious sound and attitude that seemed guaranteed to captivate h***y male rock fans with overactive imaginations and large disposable incomes. That band was the Runaways.
Jett and Fowley combed the underage rock hang outs in Los Angeles, before walking into a club called the Sugar Shack and immediately offering the job of lead singer to a gorgeous blonde teen named Cherie Currie. Miraculously enough, Currie could actually sing and the Runaways–including future metal maiden Lita Ford–were quickly signed to Mercury Records.
Currie stayed on board for three albums–including “Live In Japan”–before tensions between her and Ford precipitated her departure and the start of a solo career and an unexpected acting career.
Currie’s autobiography “Neon Angel” (originally published in 1989) has been rewritten and is due to hit bookshelves later in the year. “(It’s) 100% factual, even down to the names,” says Currie.
“There was some slight fabrication with (original co-author) Neil Shusterman’s writing of the first book to make it more ‘interesting’. This time, I thought it was important to really dig deep and not pull any punches.”
With frank discussion of her failed marriage to actor Robert Hays (“Airplane”), drug abuse, rape, adultery and the oft times debauched revelry of the Runaways, it seems a safe bet that Currie is being extremely candid this time around. She says the 1989 edition “was written for a young adult audience. Now it is more for mature audiences, and I have brought it up to the present time.”
Currie appears unfazed by a lengthy statement posted on the website of her former Runaways bandmate Jackie Fox (www.jackiefox.com) that disputes some of her accounts of the band’s wild times. “This was my life, and I wrote about it,” she says. “I am coming from an honest, truthful place and sometimes that will rattle a cage or two.” Along with her wicked, wicked ways, Currie discusses her extremely interesting acting career.
Her big break came in 1980 when she was cast in the teen sudser “Foxes” alongside another 16 year-old superstar in-the-making, Jodie Foster. “Jodie was so down to earth,” says Currie. “She really put me under her wing and showed me the ropes. Such a class act.”
In the role of “Annie”, a lovable but tragically wayward vixen–with a serious drug habit–Currie turned in an amazing, critically-acclaimed performance that she admits was drawn largely from her own tumultuous life. Roles followed in such films as “The Twilight Zone Movie” and “Parasite”, but none with the kind of range she got to exhibit in “Foxes”. “I was burned out,” Currie explains. “Drugs were a main part of the burn out.”
It wasn’t until 1982 when Currie met up with a fledging filmmaker and ex-sitcom star named Rob Reiner, that she finally seemed ready to follow-up her fantastic debut. Reiner cast Currie in his low budget classic “This Is Spinal Tap” as the lead singer of a band opening for the Tap who enjoys a dalliance with Tap keyboardist Viv Savage (who’s perhaps best remembered for his sage advice “Have a good time all the time.”)
Currie came through with a strong performance, but fell victim to one of the harsh realities of feature filmmaking: time constraints. “Rob actually said on the ‘Whoopie Goldberg Show’ that it was a shame to have to edit my character out,” notes Currie. “But the film ran about four hours.”
The fickle winds of cinematic fate have been kinder to Currie in the long run, however. “It ended up on the cutting room floor, but has resurfaced in the ‘out-take’ version of the movie and I believe some of it is in the newly-released longer (DVD) version.”
In addition to Currie’s tell-all book, she’s also appearing in director (and former Runaways bassist) Vicki Blue’s upcoming documentary “Edgeplay” about the guitar-slinging bad girls from Hollywood. Currie is contributing songs to the film, and after over twenty years away from the band sees things in a mostly positive light. “I’m proud that I was in a band that was a ground breaker for women in rock, she says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Cherrie Currie can be reached via her official web site.
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