Cherie Curry: An Exclusive Interview

Confessions of a Teenage Rock Star

    icon Jun 14, 2001
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Only 15-years old when the band first formed, The Runaways served as the 'Queens of Noise' from 1975-78, knocking down barriers as one of the first all-girl groups to both sing and play their own instruments.

Cherie recorded three albums with The Runaways before leaving the group and pursuing a short lived acting career. As an actress, she starred in numerous films, including the coming of age tale Foxes with Jodi Foster, Parasite with Demi Moore and Wavelength with Robert Carradine.

Cherie also appeared in This Is Spinal Tap, Twilight Zone (The Movie), Rosebud Beach Hotel, Rich Girl and many others.

Cherie's autobiography, 'Neon Angel', is considered one of the best Rock 'n Roll biographies of all time. Recently, a resurgence of interest in both Currie and the band has occurred with the release last year of the bio-pic The Runaways starring Dakota Fanning.

Back in 2001, The Review spoke with Cherie Currie in an exclusive interview about her teenage years in a Rock 'n Roll band and what her life is like today.

Review: You've revised your autobiography recently by adding some new material. That book came out about 10 years ago, didn't it?

Cherie: It came out in 1989, but I have rewritten that book. I've added a lot more stories and I've brought it up to the present. It was a young adult book and I've made it more of an adult tale.

Review: Specifically, what's been added to 'Neon Angel'?

Cherie: A couple more Runaway stories. Some things that were very serious that I couldn't address. There were a lot of details left out that I have put back into the book. I put in a couple of stories that really needed to be told.

Review: Are you working on getting a new record deal?   Cherie: Right now there's something pending, yes.

Review: Would that be as a solo act or part of a group?

Cherie: Well, Chuck Wright who was the bassist for Quiet Riot and House of Lords and Lanny Cordola who is an absolutely wonderful producer and guitar player and has a huge resume asked me to do a Blondie Tribute album which they were producing. As it turned out our song was one of the best songs on the record. The guys just decided after working with me that one time that they wanted to do a project. They've been the ones approaching the record companies.

Review: So, what have you been doing with yourself the last 10 years?

Cherie: Basically, I've been raising my son, who turned 10 in February. I do shows here and there, but to be completely honest, I've basically been a full time Mom, which is a big job.

Review: And a very important job as well.  

Cherie: Truly. The most important job I've ever had. But now my kid is old enough where I can start thinking about me again, so that's really what I've been doing. I've gone through a divorce and all of that kind of stuff, but I'm just concentrating on life in general.

Review: Did you miss not being onstage?

Cherie: Oh, sure of course. But I still get an opportunity to do that every now and then. Whenever I do get that bug where I want to do that, the situation always arises where I can, so I don't really feel deprived of that. Again, I'm constantly reminded when I see Joan Jett and how successful she is. It's a very difficult and hard life. It's very demanding. To be honest with you, I've really enjoyed just raising my kid and making a stable home and things like that. I miss acting a little, but not enough where I would jump in and try to pursue it whole-heartedly. It's not something that I have that strong a desire for, but if ever the opportunity came about, I would love to.

Review: You said that being in the Runaways was hell. How could doing what you do be hell? I would bet that millions of girls envied you.  

Cherie: Oh, well it was hell because first of all it happened so fast. We were all kids. The people that were supposed to be taking care of us, Kim Fowley, Scott Anderson, really were abusing us. It was verbal abuse on a daily basis. We were working our butts off, going from one town to another, not having our family or anybody but each other to keep ourselves going. It wasn't a whole lot of fun. We made the best of it that we could. It was hard, plus being The Runaways and an under-age all girl band on the road in a very male-dominated business was also pretty tough.

Review: Would you have been better off had you been older when you went on the road and enjoyed it more?

Cherie: I think I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if we would have enjoyed better management, and if we would have had people that really had our best interests in mind instead of their own pockets. It's sad when you don't make a dime, working for years and everybody else is making all this money and you're broke. You don't get it and don't understand why it's the way it is. The sad thing is when you trust people. It was pretty devastating.

Review: I don't suppose you'll ever see any of that money.

Cherie: Me and Joan and Sandy and Lita ended up suing Kim Fowley and Polygram Records. Jackie behind our backs had cut her own deal, without us knowing about it. She had been collecting royalties for quite some time before we even decided to pursue Kim and Polygram. We ended up getting a very small amount of the money, but then we had to give 50 percent to our lawyers, so in the long run it was basically just stopping them from continuously ripping us off. After I left The Runaways I was hit with a huge tax bill for money that I never made. In the end it took 12 years to pay it off, but it was like 30 grand and I never made a dime with The Runaways, really, except for Japan, where I made $2,600 doing that tour, and that was it. It certainly would've been nice to recoup some of the money that came out of pocket just being in that band.

Review: Do you think we should stop the practice of having kids perform in bands that tour and from being on TV shows and in the movies?

Cherie: No, I can't say that. I know Bill Mumy who was in the TV show 'Lost In Space'. He had a very good career and still has a good career, but it takes people with a really solid head on their shoulders to be able to survive it. You've seen a lot of child survivors basically succumbing to pressures later in life and not being able to live with it anymore. It's a very testy situation. In television you need young actors, and also in music. I see some very talented young people. Again, it's just done differently I would imagine. So differently from us, because we were like the 'pioneers'. There weren't any kids out on tour when we were doing it.

Review: Before The Runaways were you in a band?

Cherie: No. I'd really come to the conclusion after seeing a Diamond Dogs concert by David Bowie at the Universal Amphitheater that music was something I really wanted to do. I really wanted to be onstage. Then it wasn't more than just a few months later that I was approached by Kim and Joan, auditioned, and became the lead singer of The Runaways. It all happened so fast. I had never even considered putting a band together. I was very young and I wasn't even experienced as a singer. So it was a trip. Now, I can actually say I can sing today. But back then my voice was changing all the time. We were going through puberty.

Review: According to the Rolling Stone Rock 'n Roll Encyclopedia The Runaways only real audience was in Japan. Is that true?

Cherie: Well, no. I don't think that's entirely true, but that was where we were very strongly recognized. We were like The Beatles in Japan.

Review: So you couldn't leave your hotel room and go shopping?

Cherie: No. We were chased down the street.

Review: You had male groupies waiting at the door?

Cherie: Well, female too. The girls went nuts for us because it's a very male dominated country. We were a phenomenon. We were the first to be young and all girls. Of course, Suzi Quatro was out there. It was great. I had a lot of fun when I went to Japan.

Review: And yet you could remove yourself from the rock scene and not miss it?

Cherie: I'm grateful for that. I think it would be very difficult to live with if I didn't have that perspective on it. I was tired at a very young age, and all the drugs that were involved really carried on way past my exit from The Runaways, which I think caused my demise as an actress. There was just a whole lot of fallout from that period in my life. And now, to see my son and some of the things I've accomplished like the book means a lot to me. It was very difficult to write and is pretty intense. I'm very proud that I wrote the whole book myself. After reading it, I can't actually believe I sat down and wrote it. I was very afraid to even attempt it. Nobody wants to go back and think about the things that have happened in their life - good or bad. It's very tedious. I would live in the past for weeks at a time, walking around my house, being in the '70s.

Review: Do you think The Runaways would' have been more successful today than in the 1970s if they were starting out?

Cherie: Oh, yeah.

Review: But then the all girl line-up wouldn't be as novel today as it was in the 1970s.

Cherie: That's so absolutely true. I think that's probably one of the most profound questions anyone has ever asked because I've never thought about it. Again, because we opened the door. I think we would've had a better shot today. It's crazy for me because it seems like now everybody's starting to see the importance The Runaways had in the music business.

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    Bob Hausler

    Nice article. Well written. Thanks