After Dark: Cherie Currie
06:00 PM, Nov 06, 2013
If you go
What: Cherie Currie, with Methanol and Amanda Ashley.
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Lovin Cup Bistro & Brews, 300 Park Point Drive, Henrietta, near the Rochester Institute of Technology campus.
Tickets: $25 in advance ($35 the day of the show) at Lakeshore Record Exchange, Bop Shop, the venue and lovincup.com.
Looking out the window of her car while driving near her California home, Cherie Currie saw a couple of guys hovering over chainsaws, wood chips flying, carving a tree trunk into art. “I couldn’t get that out of my head,” she says.
This was more than a decade ago, and a couple of more decades after she’d entered the public consciousness as the lingerie-clad lead singer of The Runaways.
An all-girl band, for sure. Guitarists Joan Jett and Lita Ford were 16, Currie only 15. But she’d already experienced plenty of trauma, having been raped once. And before leaving the band after three albums, she would fall into heavy drug and alcohol use, have an abortion, be kidnapped by an obsessed fan and raped again, and find herself pimped out to a record exec by the band’s manager.
All of which makes another phone call in the midst of this telephone interview all the more amazing.
“That was Kim,” she says, after checking her other phone.
Kim Fowley. The manager whom she accuses, in her autobiography Neon Angel, of urging her to climb into bed with the record exec, as it might be helpful to The Runaways’ career. Now at age 54 her lithe, blonde looks merely a more-mature version of the kid singing “Cherry Bomb” Currie is working with Fowley again. Writing and recording, reviving a career that brings her to Lovin’ Cup on Sunday.
“My life has always seemed to move at a fast pace,” she concedes.
It seems to have accelerated once again, after a post-Runaways period in which Currie faded from public consciousness. She recorded two albums, one of which was never released in the U.S. She acted some, including a role opposite Jodie Foster in the 1980 film Foxes, and appeared in TV shows such as Murder, She Wrote. In 1990 she married actor Robert Hays you’ll remember him in Airplane! and, although they divorced seven years later, she still refers to him as “my best friend in the world.”
That catches you up quickly on Currie. But just like the movie, we’ve left out a lot. Neon Angel seems to be the spark of her revival, as the basis for the 2010 film The Runaways, starring Dakota Fanning as Currie and Kristen Stewart as Jett.
When Jett offered Currie the chance to open for one of her shows in 2010, Currie accepted. That led to recording a new album. She got a lot of help. Slash, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and Juliette Lewis. It’s sitting on a shelf, and Currie has moved on. “I have no control over that record, I’ve agonized over it for three years,” Currie says. “I realized waiting isn’t doing us any good. I can’t control anybody but myself.
“When you’re my age, one year is like five.”
No time to wait. So now she’s working with Fowley. Currie calls this, “Accepting responsibility for my life and the mistakes I made.”
“I’d been out of the business for a long time,” she says. “And I was outraged until seven years ago, and I saw him at a party. I realized all of this animosity wasn’t doing me any good at all. I said, ‘Let’s talk,’ and we did. He expressed his apologies. Being a mom, I did understand. I do understand how difficult it must have been for a man with no children, who had a rough childhood, to deal with five girls 15, 16 years old.
“He apologized profusely and cried.”
Currie and Ford had also not parted well. But Ford called earlier this year and asked Currie to sing a duet on a Christmas song she’d written, “Rock This Christmas Down.” Currie agreed.
Healing has been a big part of Currie’s post-Runaways Renaissance. Always artistic, she had been working with two-dimensional wood carvings when she spotted those chainsaw artists at work. “I couldn’t get it out of my head,” she says. “That voice in your head, that voice, saying, ‘You must go back.’ I did. I walked into the gallery. What I saw was not these sculptures done with crude cuts. I saw smooth lines. And this voice told me: ‘You can do this.’ I asked the owner if I could apprentice there.”
He took her on. Very quickly, Currie became very good at it. Her third piece was accepted into an art show. “It was my main source of income for the last 12 years,” she says. “It was either that, or working at Rite Aid.”
For Currie, chainsaw sculpting seemed to come from a more positive place than punching a Bozo the Clown figure, part of her therapy at a Santa Monica clinic following her second rape. Currie says she simply walked away from Bozo and left the building. “I’ll never forget walking down that hall, feeling so tiny,” she says. “Then feeling myself growing, growing, growing. Realizing it was a terrible thing that had happened, but I survived, I was blessed. I survived when I shouldn’t have. This man had told me he had killed six women.”
That man was her kidnapper, an obsessed fan who urged the 17-year-old Currie to get into a limo that he was driving, then took her to an abandoned house where he kept her imprisoned, raping her, until she found a knife, stabbed him and escaped.
“That same little voice that told me to go back to the chainsaw gallery told me to not get in that car, told me I shouldn’t,” Curry says. “I did it to people please, please this guy, be nice.
“I don’t do that now.”
Now Currie chooses to listen to voices of experience. The one in her head, for sure. And the voice of her wood-sculpting instructor. “He taught me how to not kill myself with a chainsaw,” Currie says. “For that I am eternally grateful.”