Actresses and vampire lovers Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are on the big screen now as singer Cherie Currie and singer/guitarist Joan Jett in band bio The Runaways. But Currie's new memoir (on which the film was based, goes even way further than what's up there. What doesn't this book have in its tale of the rise and fall of the '70s all-girl teenage rock band that actually rocked? Shameless jailbait sex promotion, rape, abortion, suicide attempts and near-death experiences, world travel, drugs (LOTS of drugs), booze, sex (straight and gay), catfights, exploitation, family desertions, secrets and blow-ups. And that's just from the "Cherry Bomb" Currie, who may have only joined the group at 15 and left at 17, but managed to pack enough into that time period to make any teen girl's father shudder. And while it shares a title and some chapters with Currie's 1989 Neon Angel, this one is practically a new book, filled with way more article-headlining behavior - Currie and Jett's sexual encounters among them - than in that original slim volume.
Between all the substance/skin abuse and the battling among the original five Runaways (Currie, Jett, guitarist Lita Ford, drummer Sandy West and bassist Jackie Fox) is a full-steam-ahead-no-stopping tale in which Currie's stories of her troubled family just as compelling as the studio-and-stage rock and roll retelling. With what Currie was experiencing at an age when most girls are picking a prom dress, it's amazing she (and the rest of the band) made it to the other side at all.
But if the cleaned-up Currie - who would quit the group before it imploded, and eventually work as a drug counselor and tree-carving artist in addition to acting and singing - emerges as her own heroine, then the role of villain is lain squarely on Runaways creator/manager/abuser/Svengali Kim Fowley.
Between his constant screaming and belittling his young charges as "dog cunts" (one of his nicer terms), highly questionable guidance and financial practices, Fowley also manages to actually pimp out Currie to an unnamed teen idol of the day and conduct a graphic "sex class" for the band in which he and a giggling, drugged up whore are the professors.
Of course, this is the '70s. But even by the loose standards of that decade - if Currie's recounting is to be believed - it's amazing what the producer/songwriter and current Sirius/XM DJ got away with.
Currie, Jett, Ford, and Fowley have all gone on record with Rolling Stone, alternately praising and criticizing The Runaways for its veracity and how they and certain situations are depicted in it. But that is a movie, whose main concern is telling a good story. Neon Angel manages not only to do that, but provide enough cinematic grist for at least another whole film.
It Books, 368 pp., $24.99.
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