Believe in yourself: Matters of the heart with Runaways rocker Cherie Currie
Cherie Currie definitely knew that rock ‘n’ roll was in her DNA after witnessing David Bowie soundly trounce his would-be competitors on the hallowed Diamond Dogs Tour in 1974. Within a year and a half, at the urging of controversial manager-producer Kim Fowley and the incomparable Joan Jett, the all-female, still influential Runaways were born. While immediate bona fide success eluded them in the states, Japan was another story, with sold out concerts, all-night parties, trashed hotel rooms, and intoxicating drugs on every corner.
Inner band turmoil, financial mismanagement, and substance abuse governed Currie’s hand-wringing decision to leave the band in late 1977. A largely unrealized short solo career and a stalled acting career — although Foxes with a teenage Jodie Foster is worthy of rediscovery — gave way to wilderness years in the ’80s. Currie found personal happiness when she beat her addictions, became a mother, and gained a handsome paycheck to boot as a talented — believe it or not — chainsaw chick.
In 2010 the punk rockers were immortalized by Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning on celluloid, reviving interest in Currie’s musical aspirations. She experienced a tentative return to recording with digital singles “Some Velvet Morning” and the piston pumpin’ “Rock This Christmas Down“ three years later, the latter a fun duet with longtime friend and former band mate Lita Ford, best known as the lead guitarist in the Runaways.
Reverie, Currie’s third solo album and first in an astonishing 35 years, was self-distributed quietly in 2015. Notable as the last record overseen by Fowley, Ford supplied lead and background vocals to three cuts. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Currie remains grateful for her fans’ unconditional love and support throughout the mire.
The fiercely independent realist digs deep for a rare look into her wildly compelling life below. Currie candidly discusses meeting singer-songwriter John Denver, the eclectic music she would take with her if stranded on a desert island, whether there is such a thing as the perfect mate, what she is most passionate about, what makes her angry, facing online criticism, the tragedy of living on pipe dreams, and why she sincerely values her fans.
The Cherie Currie Interview
Are you a John Denver fan?
Funny that you should ask that. I was a big fan of John Denver during my teenage years. Last time I saw John, he was playing at the Summer Pops Bowl in San Diego [either September 15 or 16, 1995]. My son, Jake, was four years old and still kinda clingy to Mom, but he absolutely loved John Denver as a baby.
Anyway, I went backstage to meet John. He reached out to hold Jake, but Jake turned towards me and hid his face. He’s never forgiven himself for that because he wished so much that he would have let John hold him. It was a pleasure to meet him [Author’s Note: In “Chris Nole Applauds Masterful Troubadour John Denver 20 Years After His Death,” Denver’s final touring keyboardist speaks candidly in an exclusive wide-ranging conversation regarding his anecdote-laden four-year friendship with the “Sunshine on My Shoulders” songwriter].
If you were stranded on a desert isle, what music would you want within arm’s reach?
Of course, I would want my son’s music with his band, Maudlin Strangers. I’d also be pretty satisfied with the Beach Boys, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, David Live [David Bowie’s debut live album, 1974], and Suzi Quatro’s Your Mamma Won’t Like Me .
God bless Joan Jett. When were on tour, I always had to bring my turntable. We would get on an airplane and I somehow managed to haul that d — n turntable with me. Lita constantly rolled her eyes [laughs]. I played my worn-out copies of The Best of Bread and Streisand Superman [Barbra Streisand, 1977]. Joan was so forgiving for all that kind of stuff.
This is gonna bring a tear to my eye. When we were on tour, Bread was playing somewhere with opening act Jelly. They invited us to see their show. Sandy West [drums] and I sat on the side of the stage as their guest and watched the concert. Bread had this big disco ball in the arena. When it was time for David Gates to deliver “If,” Sandy and I both started crying. I miss my friend so much. She was unequivocally a great woman [West succumbed to lung cancer on October 21, 2006].
Is nervousness a factor in your professional career?
It’s funny because I’m not nervous before I get on a stage. Of course, there are exceptions. I felt a little bit of nervousness before doing my very first show in March 2013 after not doing any full shows in decades. Now I don’t experience any at all after these last few tours that I’ve done.
Have you met the perfect guy?
No, there’s no perfect guy. To be honest, I haven’t dated in years. I used to believe that I had to have a person in my life to make me whole. I felt that was the truth until I was alone and got comfortable with who I was. There’s no way I ever would have been able to find out nor would I have ever been able to have the guts to do what I do today if I had been in a relationship. That’s just me.
I had a wonderful husband, actor-comedian Robert Hays, who remains my best friend. Even though we’re divorced, we love each other more now than we ever did when we were married. We do everything together as family.
I don’t think about dating. I feel like that time for me has passed. I’m a very solitary person. Relationships can sometimes take time away from something that I need to do. I really don’t know what it is that I’m going to do every day, but I know that I absolutely have to do it. Does that make any sense?
What are you most passionate about?
People believing in themselves, believing in who they are, believing that they are unique and that there’s no one like them on this planet. If they feel in their heart there’s something that they wanna do, they can do that, and no one can tell them different. You can survive anything if you believe in yourself. That is what I am the most passionate about.
What makes you angry?
People telling others how to live their lives or telling others that they can’t do it because they’re the ones that are afraid. The only reason why anybody ever gets into anybody else’s business is either because they’re afraid or they don’t believe they can do it themselves so they have to stop their friends or loved ones from pursuing their dreams.
We’ve become a mediocre society because of Facebook and all these social sites where everybody has to ask permission or ask everybody’s opinion on whatever issue. It is not supposed to be that way.
We’re a distracted society now. People are missing out on who they are because they have this public forum that they can just ask any Tom, Dick or Harry, ‘Should I do this or should I do that?’ They weigh it all out and in the end you lose.
Go out, take a hike, go in the mountains somewhere, or camp for a few days. Ask yourself this important question: Why am I here? What do I want to do with my life? Because the answer is there, and it’s been there since the day you were born. There’s just so much noise that we allow to come in and drown out all those things.
For the longest time I refused to get an iPhone or even allow Internet on any phone [laughs]. I cling desperately to privacy and to those moments where I can feel what my next move is or what am I going to do tomorrow. It’s a feeling. You’re guided through these minefields. If you aren’t tapped in, you’re gonna hit a mine. People would really like themselves if they just let themselves get to know who they are.
How do you handle online criticism?
If we stopped looking at all the negative and looked at the positive of all of it, what a different world we’d live in. Trust me. I deal on Facebook with people writing, ‘She doesn’t deserve to be singing. She left the Runaways. She left them selfishly. She doesn’t deserve to ever be on the stage again.’ It’s like, ‘My God, you can’t be serious.’
As much as social media can be fun and a good business tool, some people should never have a soapbox to stand on. I’m just so glad that my son is grown now because I can’t imagine how some of these young kids have to deal with cyber bullies.
You don’t even have to say your real name or put your real picture up there. You can be somebody else and avoid people. They don’t even have the guts to say who they are. That’s the scary part. It’s a crazy world we live in. But the thing is — I’m glad that I see through the bulls — t. I know so many people don’t and that’s what worries me.
What would your perfect day consist of?
Hiking in the mountains with my son would be a very perfect day.
How do you feel about your fans?
In this business people forget why they’re where they are. They’re there because the fans cared enough to put them there. That’s why Lita and I wanted a Runaways reunion so badly because we care about what the fans want. It’s not up to me to turn around and say, ‘Oh well, it might not be exactly what you want.’ If you want it, I’m gonna give it to you.
I’ve also learned that philosophy being a chainsaw artist. When you live alone with two dogs and a kid, you’ve got to do something with your life. You can’t live and pay bills on pipe dreams. The chainsaw carving is the reason why I have my house. I’m a realist with everything. You don’t get a perfect credit score or record by living on pipe dreams. You have to do what you have to do to survive.
When I carve a piece for somebody, they have to be over the moon and then some. It’s gotta be a thousand times better than what they expected. I gotta give them everything I’ve got. I don’t do anything in this life half-assed because it’s gonna be around long after I’m gone.
I also want to leave this world not hurting anybody and not doing anything selfishly for myself. I’m astounded at how many people rip other people off and steal. They’re all in this business, too. I’ve been very lucky that my fans have enabled me to experience a degree of success as an artist in various forms.
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