& Rape: Cherie Currie's Untold Runaways Story
SPIN Interview By Phoebe Reilly on March 3, 2010 12:58 PM
As risqué as it
is, the upcoming movie The Runaways (in theaters March 19)
barely touches on the most harrowing experiences of the band's former
lead vocalist Cherie Currie, who joined the all-girl proto-punk group
in 1975 and quit two years later.
In Neon Angel,
an expanded edition of her 1989 book on which the film is based, the
singer/actress-turned-chainsaw artist reveals how the liberated life
of a 16-year-old rock star in Los Angeles included many dark moments,
among them rape, abortion, and a nearly fatal addiction to freebased
Here, she talks with SPIN.com
about the film, her friendship with Runaways' co-founder Joan Jett,
and the disturbing scenes Dakota Fanning, who portrays Currie, didn't
have to play.
What did you include
in this new version of the book that you couldn't in the original?
I named names. For example, the story where [Runaways manager/producer]
Kim Fowley held a sex education class for us was a little more than
the publishers could stomach at the time.
In that scene,
Kim has sex with a woman in front of the band in order to, as you
recall, "teach you dogs how to fuck." You seem to remember
him as a nasty guy but Joan Jett calls him a "close friend."
Does it bother you that she likes him?
No. It's like battered-wife syndrome. Some women love the abusive
men they're with and that's kind of the way I was with Kim. I really
wanted his approval. And he apologized to me on the phone a year ago,
saying if he had to do it over again he wouldn't have treated us that
way. He didn't know how to handle 15-year-old girls. In his own crazy
way, he loved us.
to imagine an underage female rock band today having the same freedom
the Runaways had. People freaked out at a mildly suggestive Miley
Cyrus magazine cover. Do you wish you had been better supervised at
Well, I don't think the Runaways could have happened under those circumstances.
And our band was a milestone. Thank God we had the parents that we
had because I can tell you, being the mother of a 19-year-old, there
isn't a chance I would have let that happen. But we made history.
So it's a double-edged sword.
What was your reaction
to the film when you saw it for the first time?
I was stunned. When you live something, your first reaction is to
say, "Well, that's not right" or "Wait a minute, it
didn't happen that way." Then Joan and I saw it again and thought,
"Wow, this is really good." It takes time for it to sink
in. I thought the performances were just incredible. I'm so glad Kristen
[Stewart] and Dakota became good friends because the friendship between
Joan and I was so important.
In the movie, your
character initially has a problem singing "Cherry Bomb,"
particularly the line "Have ya, grab ya, till you're sore."
Were you really that naive?
Not at all. I had no problem singing that line. The filmmakers took
a lot of liberties. If you read the book, then you'll know that my
twin sister's boyfriend had raped me and took my virginity. That's
why I was angry, that's why I cut my hair to look like David Bowie's.
I really felt that detail was important. The filmmakers didn't. They
did not want the Cherie character to lose her innocence so early in
Joan writes in
the book's intro that you had a "flair for finding yourself in
dramatic situations." Do you feel like that minimizes any of
your traumatic experiences?
I was very touched by what she wrote. She told me the book gave her
a new appreciation for some of the stuff I had been through. That's
the beauty of this movie and everything happening now: Joan and I
are really getting to know each other all over again. It's so funny,
in the forward, Joan admits how angry she was with me for leaving
the band and I was like, "What? I thought you wanted me out."
We never talked to each after I left and it's water under the bridge
now but we both wish we had spoken before.
Joan was actively
involved as executive producer on the movie. Do you feel that she's
more protective of the Runaways' legacy than you are?
Of course. The Runaways were Joan's creation. She's going to have
a more vested interest in it. But you would never want to cross me
when it comes to this band. We fought so hard and we went through
Your former bandmate
Lita Ford made it clear that she had nothing to do with the film and
isn't pleased about it. What do you make of that?
Lita has no one to blame but herself. Joan asked her to be involved
and had she done so it would have been a different film. But you can't
get blood from a stone and that's what Lita is.
The book doesn't
detail the physical relationship you had with Joan but your characters
make out in the movie. Did you feel that was an exploitative?
At first, I would have agreed with that. But no, it tells the truth.
First of all, back in the mid-'70s, Bowie had just come out as bisexual
and so had Elton John and that was really intriguing. We experimented.
We weren't in love with each other. We just had fun. I like that it's
in the film. So many kids go through these serious guilt trips. I
want them to know it's okay.
What is chainsaw
art and how did you get started doing it?
Well, chainsaw art is when you pick up a log and carve a mermaid or
a dolphin or dogs or bears or whatever. I saw some people doing it
in Malibu in the early '90s and I couldn't get it out of my head.
I found it far more difficult than I thought it was going to be. It's
extremely dangerous. A master carver just died when his saw gave a
kickback and sliced an artery. But I love it.