Music with Melinda Newman
Posted on Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010 By Melinda Newman
So just how accurate is “The Runaways,” the new movie
celebrating the pioneering female rock group that included Joan Jett,
Lita Ford and Cherie Currie?
Hitfix got the chance to
ask Currie when we sat down with her during the Sundance Film Festival,
where the movie premiered Jan. 24. Were she and Jett lovers, as the
movie implies? Did Kim Fowley have local boys throw dog poop at the
girls to toughen them up? How did Robert Plant’s advice land
the girls in jail? What shocking tragedy did the film makers leave
out? What misunderstanding did she and Jett resolve last month, 30
years after the band’s break up?
The film, based on her
autobiography “Neon Angel,” opens wide March 19. Currie
is also preparing a new version of “Neon Angel” that comes
out March 17.
Q: What did you think when
you saw the completed movie?
A: I haven’t seen the completed movie yet. The sound hadn’t
been laid in. I just thought that the actors were incredible. I love
the soundtrack, of course. I’m partial. It’s a cautionary
tale. It’s a parallel narrative, as Joan puts it. It’s
not the real story, but it’s not far from the story either.
Q: What really struck me
was that the movie tells a really grim story. There’s not any
point where you seem to be enjoying the ride.
A: And that’s not true at all. How do you shove two-and-a-half
years into an hour and a half? That was tough because we had a lot
Q: But the movie doesn’t
A: No. And again, it says we got a record deal on the road. We had
the record deal like two weeks after we’d been together. So
there’s some inaccuracies about the film. No, we had a great
time. It’s hard for me to be objective because it’s my
life and Joan’s life that we’re talking about here. Of
course, I was sitting there going, “No! It didn’t happen
that way. No! Wait a minute.” But it was still very entertaining
and it flew by.
Q: Did Kim Fowley really
gather local boys to throw dog poop at you when you rehearsed?
A: No. And the thing is when Kim would have those days of just trying
to prepare us for what was really out there; he just wanted us to
be so ready for the impossible. Just once in a while. He didn’t
bring in kids to do it, he’d just do it. He’d just grab
a can and whip it.
Q: But not dog poop.
A: No, we would have drawn the line there.
Q: What the movie really
does show is how at 15, you haven’t developed a voice to stick
up for yourself, and you turn to the drugs. You have no coping skills.
A: Absolutely. And again, right when I had gotten into the Runaways,
I was just treading water. Also, being a twin, its not easy, there’s
the constant competition thing. Who’s the prettier one? Marie
was the more popular one and I was just kind of lost. And what they
don’t show in the movie as well is Marie’s boyfriend,
who picks the girls up [in the opening scene], he raped me. He took
my virginity. He raped me and that’s when I cut my hair off
and became an angry…I wasn’t like that. I was a really
nice surfer girl. Loving Bowie and loving sticking my toes in the
water and just trying to break away from being a twin. At that point,
you go through puberty and you just don’t want to be connected
at the hip all the time. Yeah, so that was not in the movie as well.
They didn’t want me to lose my innocence so early in the film.
I felt, “Gosh, that doesn’t really explain why I take
that turn.” That’s why I said the book really explains
in depth a lot of things that we went through and especially on the
road. We were arrested in Europe for possession of hotel room keys.
A: Back then, they threw us in jail: Me, Joan and Sandy, because Robert
Plant had told us to save our hotel room keys. We went to Europe and
he had his in shadow boxes, so of course we’d do anything that
Robert Plant told us to do. Who wouldn’t? And they busted us
in Dover on the way to Paris before we jumped on the ferry. Threw
us in jail. And [road manager] Scott Anderson had stashed some of
his cocaine in my makeup case…We signed off on all our luggage
and all of a sudden it occurs to me while I’m sitting in this
cell with the girls, “Oh my God, his coke is in my makeup case
and I’m going to stay in Europe the rest of my life in prison!”
Q: What happened?
A: What happened was this really nice guard felt sorry for us because
they were really treating us badly. He could tell that I was just
coming apart. Europe was really tough for me, The punk movement had
just come into play and they were violent and they were throwing knives
at us on stage and I was just really homesick…But this guard
just became very protective of me and he was the one that searched
the luggage and he found it because he was looking at me. I was having
seizures practically I was so scared and he just kept looking at me
saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay. “ And when
[his boss] came in, he said, “I’m disappointed to say
we didn’t find anything” and it was sitting right…When
you opened that thing, there it was. Wonderful guy. I was a scared
little girl, just turned 16, terrified.
Q: How did you feel about
how they handled your love scenes with Joan? Did you feel that was
A: No. A little overplayed. I mean, Joan and I just had a great friendship.
I clung to her. She kept me sane. She had this vision. All her life
she knew what she wanted to be. I wasn’t quite sure until I
saw my first Bowie concert, which was a few months before I joined
the Runaways. We were just best friends. And there were some drugs
going on. Back then in the ‘70s, if you didn’t do drugs
they thought there was something wrong with you. So, and at that time,
bisexuality, David Bowie, Elton John, people were coming out of the
closet. It was just right in that time when the experimental factor
kicked it. That’s really all it was, just a couple of girls
having fun. No in-love relationship kind of thing, girlfriend/girlfriend,
it wasn’t that way. We were just coping with having fun. And
we had a lot of fun on the road, we really did.
Q: What do you think when
you see Dakota Fanning on screen playing you?
A: First of all, she was my favorite actress on the planet and I ended
up finding she had been cast through [entertainment reporter] Sam
Rubin on Channel 5 News and my knees literally buckled because I couldn’t
have imagined anyone better than Dakota. No one can hold a candle
to her. She was so receptive and quick. I mean if there’s any
little thing, I’d say it and Boom, it was done. She got it.
Q: What about Kristen Stewart
as Joan Jett?
A: I thought that she was just amazing.
Q: She looks so much like
A: And that was not an easy task. You know Joan is very unique. And
she has a personality like no other and Kristen worked really hard
to achieve what she did in this film. I take my hat off to all of
them. And even Riley [Keough] playing my sister Marie, just exceptional.
Q: You have a teenage son
and he’s in a band.
A: He’s here actually. He’ll be 19 next month.
Q: But when he was a minor
and already in a band….
A: Not a chance. I’d never let him do what my… again,
my parents were getting a divorce right at the time the Runaways happened.
My mom was contemplating getting remarried and moving. It happened
very fast between my mom and my stepdad. My father wasn’t even
living in California, he was living in Texas.
Q: So that part is fiction
where Marie has to take care of him?
A: No, that absolutely happened. My dad moved back to his cousin’s
house…that was all true. And Marie had to stay behind and she
took care of Dad and my grandmother and Aunt Evi did as well. But
my dad, he started going downhill with the drinking and it was hard
on my sister. Very hard.
Q: When your son got into
a band at 14, did you say “do not do as I did?”
A: I don’t have to. That kid has grown up… his favorite
book is “Neon Angel.” He’s read it. He’s the
hippest, coolest. My ex-husband is Robert Hayes, from “Airplane,”
incredible dad, he’s my best friend. There’s alcoholism
on both sides of the family, so immediately we’re instilling,
“Hey you’ve got the double whammy. You gotta be careful.”
My son has just risen so far above it. He’s just not even…
he’s not interested.
Q: When I interviewed you
in 2006, we talked about a possible Runaways reunion and you said
you came very close, but then Lita backed out. Given this film’s
coming out, any chance?
A: She is claiming she will have nothing to do with anyone that had
to do with this film and we have no idea why. She has an issue with
Kenny [Laguna, Jett’s longtime manager] early one when Joan
and Lita both had [solo] hits and Lita wanted to use the same photographer
for her album cover that Joan had used. And Kenny, being a good manager,
said I don’t think it’s a good idea for this album. We
shouldn’t have the same photographer. And she wanted to use
the same writer. And Kenny said, “You know what, not this record.
Next record, but not this record. You guys shouldn’t have two
records coming at the same time with the same album cover, the same
photographer, the same songwriters. I don’t think that’s
a good idea.” And Lita took that as a personal attempt to ruin
her career. It’s just, again, you look at the chaos of us growing
up in the insanity of Kim Fowley and you see that it’s very
hard to let go of that, even as an adult, if you really get damaged
by it all. I just look at it that way.
To me, it’s like
can’t we all just get along? We’re grown. She and I are
the only two who have children. I just thought it was ridiculous.
Q: That’s a long
time to hold a grudge.
A: Oh, no kidding.
Q: Did the phone call happen
as it did in the movie where you called Joan when she was visiting
a radio station?
A: Yeah and that was a little upsetting to me as well. Yeah, I did
call. I didn’t call from the bakery they had me working at.
At that time, I was working as a drug counselor and I’d made
“Foxes” and I’d taken the dive and got out and was
working with kids. And I called Joan and I had a lot to say. I said,
and I remember clearly, so does she and Rodney Bingenheimer. I said,
I just gotta tell you from the moment I saw you, I knew you were a
superstar. I’m so proud of you Joan. You are finally getting
what you deserve and I love you, and that was the conversation. In
the movie, I guess they didn’t think that was a good way to
end it. Why? I don’t know.
Q: Are you and Joan in
A: Yeah, we talk, of course. She’s just great. I just want to
say that me and Joan finally, just in the last month, I heard how
upset she was that I had left the band and that she was really hurt.
I thought they wanted me out. And I said, “Joan, I thought you
guys hated me. I thought you wanted me out.” She said, “No
man! We were so crushed. We just thought that you thought you were
better than us.” It’s like, no. I thought Lita was going
to fricking kill me. Physically, I was going to be dead. You have
to get to a point where it’s like, you know what, I just can’t
take this anymore. I’m afraid of my life at this point.
Q: And you really were?
A: Totally. At the end of the movie, the actual story is we were doing
our third record cover photo session. I came in early. Lita was a
couple of hours late. I needed to leave to give my sister the car..
Lita threw a fit and kicked down the door and came at me and pushed
me in the wall. And it’s like, you know what? Sorry. Enough.
We were out of our minds.
Q: What do you want people
to take away from the movie?
A: Wow… But the book. You know, you can survive anything if
you just don’t give up. You know, Joan had her dream. Her dream
came true. What meant the most to her in her life happened because
she didn’t give up. I survived as well. I have a wonderful kid,
a great ex-husband, a wonderful family. I’ve got Kenny who worked
so hard to get this book. Who ever gets to write the same book twice?
I’m a chainsaw carver and proud of it. Now all of a sudden I
have this movie that depicts my life and Joan’s life and I have
another book, the greatest kid in the planet. My God, just hang in
there, even if you think it’s the darkest day of your life.
Just stick around. Hey, if we could live through this, you can [too].