Thursday, August 27, 2009

April 21, 2000 -- Hotel Hell

As with all rock bands, a lot of the Runaways time spent together was on tour. A lot of a band's time on tour is spent in hotels. Spending time in hotels in strange cities gets really boring. Especially when you're sixteen and you can't leave on your own. What do you do with all that time? Read on!

Meet the Dead BoysMy favorite all-time hotel incident took place in Cleveland in 1976. At that time, every rock band that played in Cleveland stayed at Swingo's Celebrity Keg & Quarter, a hotel known for being rock group tolerant. After our show at the Agora Ballroom, we gathered in the hotel bar with Ace Frehley from Kiss who had come to see the show.

Ace was well-known at the time for his Rodney Dangerfield impressions. So we're in the bar being chatted up by a guy who claimed to have invented the radial tire, when Ace starts doing his Rodney routine and cracking up at himself. Or perhaps I should say cackling, because Ace has this loud, high-pitched laugh which is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. So we're all getting drunk, Ace is laughing his head off, and the rock band-friendly hotel staff actually kick us out of the bar. But we're having too much fun to stop the party, so we decide to continue it in one of our rooms. We get off the elevator, and since my room is closest to the elevator, I unlock my door. No sooner is the door open, than three guys I've never seen before burst through the door, push the two beds in the room together in the middle of the floor, set up a film projector, and start showing porno movies on the wall. At that point I finally managed to get my wits about me and say, "Excuse me, who are you guys?" To which they loudly replied "We're the Dead Boys!" I had no idea who the Dead Boys or Stiv Bator were so I asked them to leave and we continued the party without them.

The next morning I woke up in the middle of the room surrounded by a sea of empty liquor bottles. Ah, Cleveland.

Afternoon Delight at 3:00 A.M. Alot of our hotel adventures, including this one, seem to have happened in Cleveland. But this story starts in L.A.

Before our first tour, the record company advanced us the whopping huge sum of ,000 for equipment and clothes for the entire band. So our roadie (more on him below) sheparded us around in his van to thrift stores all over Hollywood looking for cheap clothes we could wear on stage. We would always listen to the radio in our roadie's van and in 1976 there were some really good songs to be heard -- "Lido Shuffle" (which we used to sing along to as "Lita" Shuffle) and "Play That Funky Music White Boy" were two of our favorites, along with the usual rock-and-roll suspects like Aerosmith and Deep Purple. But the song that was played on the radio most was "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band, and I absolutely hated it. It was on all the time and I would always beg our roadie to change the station. And of course he would always leave it on and turn up the volume to torture me.

We drove around to a bunch of stores, buying items here and there, and toward the end of the day, Cherie found some clothes she really liked. It was getting late, but we still needed a few more things so we made some more stops. We were all getting tired and our roadie was getting really impatient. So we finally find the last few items we need, when Cherie announces that she doesn't like the things she bought and wants to take them back.

At this point our roadie is furious. He races back to the store where Cherie wants to return the clothes, and as we pull into the parking lot, "Afternoon Delight" comes on the radio. Our roadie screeches to a halt, opens the door, rips the speakers out of his dashboard shouting "I will never hear that song through these speakers again," and hurls the speakers as far as he can into the parking lot.

Cut to Cleveland several weeks later. Being the paranoid person that I am, I always made sure to lock and deadbolt my hotel room door. But Cleveland was the first stop on our first tour, and in the excitement I forgot. The outfit I had worn on stage that night was white, and since we were going to be at the hotel for two nights, I decided to wash it in the sink and lay it out on the floor to dry when I went to bed.

Naturally, our manager and the other band members picked that night to play a prank on me. At around 3:00 in the morning, they got an extra key to my room, and holding on to each other's waist, line danced all over my clean, white laundry loudly singing the chorus to "Afternoon Delight." Sky rockets in flight... AAGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Berkeley BlackoutThe Runaways first trip outside of Southern California was the trip we made by motorhome to Berkeley to play at UC Berkeley. I had developed a bad case of bronchitis before the trip and the doctor has presribed a medication called Aminophyllin which makes it easier to breathe. What I didn't know when I left on the trip was that Aminophyllin also has a serious adrenalizing effect, kind of like drinking an entire pot of coffee, and the doctor had prescribed twice the usual dosage. I later found out that I can only tolerate about one-quarter of the normal dosage. So I had eight times the amount of the drug I could handle in my system and spent the entire 8-hour trip throwing up.

Before we had left on the trip, Kim Fowley had told us that we had been receiving death threats from militant lesbian and feminist groups in the Berkeley area. The day we played, it was over 100 degrees and we were playing outdoors. So there I am, throwing up in the 100 degree heat waiting for a militant lesbian attack. As it turned out there were no angry women at the gig, but I passed out and we blew out the sound system. So our set was only about 20 minutes long and then we went back to the hotel.

Okay, finally -- the hotel part of the story. Since it was our first trip out of town, the band wanted to go out and celebrate and explore Berkeley. Since I wasn't in any shape to party I stayed back at the hotel. Alone. Just turned 16 years old a few weeks before. And a couple of hours after everyone left, all the lights in the entire city went out. So I spent my first night on the road alone in a pitch black hotel room.

Getting Shafted Another early Runaways road trip was to San Diego, California, where we opened for the band Boston. We spent the night, and the following day stayed around for interviews. Around 9 P.M. we left our rooms to go down to the car for the drive home. Only Cherie, who was going to drive, accidentally dropped the car keys down the elevator shaft. It took the hotel until almost three in the morning to retrieve the keys and we didn't get back to L.A. until the sun was coming up the next morning.

Ro Rutt Rucking in Motel 6 In 1976 Rockford, Illinois might have been the most boring place on earth for a touring rock band. We stayed at the local Motel 6. The phones in the rooms were turned off at 10:00 P.M. and the television in the room Lita and I were sharing didn't work. We were getting really bored, so we walked down the outdoor hallway to our roadie's room to borrow his tape deck.

This particular roadie liked to do Scooby-Doo impressions while saying really filthy things. So before we could borrow his tape deck, we had to listen to his advice in Scooby voice, which concluded with the admonition "Ro Rutt Rucking in Motel 6."

Lita and I went back to our room and turned on the tape deck to play one of our roadie's homemade compilation tapes. I sat on the bed and read while Lita put on make-up out of sheer boredom. While she was putting on eye-liner, Deep Purple's "Highway Star" came on. Lita took her eyeliner wand and wrote 'Highway Star' on the mirror. I saw her doing something to the mirror and got up to see what she was doing. I took the wand from her and drew, er, let's just say a body part on the mirror. All of a sudden Lita and I looked at each other with a grin and without saying a word to each other, ran out and covered the outside of the windows to our roadie's room with, er, colorful drawings and the all-important warning, "Ro Rutt Rucking in Motel 6."

The next day, when we got back from our sound check, we found we had been double-locked out of our rooms. Not the last time this was to happen. Our manager had not paid our bill for the last few nights, and between that and our decorations the management had had it with us. But they had messed up the double lock on the door the room Lita and I were sharing and we were able to get in. When they found out about it, they accused us of breaking in. They threatened to call the police unless we paid in full and cleaned up our artwork. So Lita and I had to go around with a rag and a bucket full of soapy water, scrubbing the building, until the management was satisfied.

Shaving Cream While I'm on the subject of decorating hotel rooms, I can get into the first story of things we used to do to get back at our Scooby-loving roadie.

In 1976 we played a couple of nights at a club in Cincinatti called "Bogarts." This was the gig that earned us the review calling us "putrid and repusive" and saying the only thing it looked like our lips hadn't embraced was the front bumper of a Mack truck. The band spent the entire rest of the tour looking for a Mack truck we could all get down and kiss so we could satisfy the reviewer that we hadn't missed a thing. Anyway, our gig at Bogarts coincided with some sort of convention and we couldn't get a hotel room in Cincinatti. So we had to stay at a really cheap motel across the border in Highland Heights, Kentucky, where the only restaurant was a Burger King three miles away that required us to walk past a graveyard. But that's another story.

In honor of our roadie's birthday, we once again looked to our handy-dandy hotel room decorating skills and covered our roadie's walls with shaving cream happy birthday slogans. We got into hot water again, but this time our roadie had to clean it up.

Roadie Revenge, Part II We tortured our Scooby-loving roadie but he deserved it. We are, after all, talking about the guy who intentionally set off the fire alarms in the middle of the night while we were staying at a large hotel in England, scaring the crap out of everyone in the hotel and necessitating an evacuation. So we tried to "get" him every chance we could.

Every once in awhile I would get tired of rooming with another member of the band so I would room with one of our roadies. It was always a pleasant break. They were seldom around, and I'd always get to use the bathroom whenever I wanted without a fight. One time I found myself sharing a room at the Lexington Park Hotel in New York City with our "Ro Rutt Rucking" friend, a few years after a fire had caused serious damage there.

The fire damage had been repaired, but apparently not too well, because the bathroom door stuck and when you closed it too hard, soot came out of the vent over the bathtub. So the day after I discovered this, I came back to the room to find our roadie taking a bath. The door to the bathroom was closed but not locked. So I kindly said, "here, let me close the door for you," and slammed the door shut as hard as I could. When I opened it back up, there was our roadie, in the bathtub, covered from head to foot with black soot. If only I'd had a camera.

Royal Oak Theatre Marquee, 1976
I'm glad someone got a picture of this, otherwise, no one would ever believe it.
Royal Bull at the Royal Oak I've mentioned before that one of the highlights of my time in the Runaways was playing the Royal Oak Theatre in Michigan with Cheap Trick and Tom Petty opening for us. Anyway, after the show, the guys from Cheap Trick decided to come back to the hotel with us to celebrate and hang out. So we get to the hotel and, once again, our manager hasn't paid the bill so when we get up to our rooms we discover that we've been locked out. So I pick up the phone in the hall, call down to the front desk and, lying very calmly, tell them that I'm diabetic and can they please unlock my hotel room so I can get my insulin. They showed up in less than two minutes! Once the door was unlocked, all four members of Cheap Trick, all five members of the Runaways, and various other crew members and hangers-on piled into my single hotel room, where we spent the next few hours getting to know each other (no, not that way -- get your minds out of the gutter).

Wahh, Cherie-San Arriving in Japan in June of 1977 was an awesome experience. We were greeted by swarms of photographers, journalists and fans, we were swept out of the airport without having to go through customs, we were followed to our hotel by rabid fans on motorcycles with our names taped to their helmets. For the first time in our lives, we were stars. We even got our own hotel rooms instead of having to share.

We arrive at our luxurious Tokyo hotel to find that our record company in Japan has filled the rooms with flowers, fruit and champagne, along with all the Japanese magazines doing feature stories on the Runaways. Imagine my chagrin when I picked up a magazine devoted solely to the band, to find that without the band's knowledge, after a photo session at my mother's house, Cherie had done a private session with the photographer and the entire first half of the magazine is filled with photos of Cherie half-naked. The band was furious and didn't speak to Cherie for our first three days in Japan. Fortunately, the overwhelming support of the Japanese people and being truly famous for the first time put is all in such a good mood we were able to forgive Cherie and get on with the tour.

A portion of the cover of the Japanese Runaways magazine
The entire picture is too large to scan, but you get the idea.

Pop Girls Face Theft Probe The Runaways first trip abroad was a trip to England in 1976. Of course we didn't know what to bring with us to England and we weren't allowed to leave the hotel unescorted so our big problem was hair dryers.

We stayed at a hotel in London called The White House, a dreary place but they tried. For a five pound deposit and your signature, you could borrow a hair dryer. Well Cherie forgot to give hers back when we left the hotel. This probably wouldn't have been a big deal, except some of the other girls were collecting hotel keys as souveniers. Unbeknownst to us, there had been a rash of hotel robberies in England shortly before we arrived, and since rooms hadn't actually been broken into, it had to be someone who obtained keys to the various hotels. We were instant suspects.

A Scottish newspaper report on the arrests

Our stop in London was the last on our tour before going on to Belgium and other places in Europe. We drove to Dover to make the channel crossing, but when we got to the port, Scotland Yard stopped us and searched our cars. They arrested Sandy, Joan and Cherie for the theft of hotel room keys and hairdryers.

Sandy and Cherie were thrown into a cell together and Joan, who was legally an adult in England, was placed in a separate cell, until she started singing "Dead End Justice" at the top of her lungs and the police finally agreed to put her in with Sandy and Cherie. The band had to hire a barrister to appear in court with the girls the next day and my mother, who was along on the tour as our chaperone, was so rattled by the day in court that I found her in the hotel bar at the end of the day kicking back drinks like there was no tomorrow.

Sandy and Cherie were released without penalty, but Joan had to pay a fine before they let her go. We ended up having to cancel our entire European tour because of the delay. But since the English press had dubbed us jailbait rock before we even got there, the jailbait rockers getting thrown in jail got us some amazing press.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Who's the Baddest of them All? I'll finish up this week's (very long) installment with a couple of great Lita stories. We were all '70's party girls on the road, but Lita could out-party us all. One night in Cleveland, Lita got tanked and went up to her room and got mostly undressed for bed. She got confused and thought she was in our manager's room (which was across the hall from her room) so, wearing nothing but her underwear, went out to the hall to go back to what she thought was her room. She gets across the hall, realizes that she had, in fact, been in her own room, and turns around to go back, only to find she has left her key inside and is now stuck in the hallway in her underwear. Even Lita thought it was pretty funny.

A not-so-funny Lita story comes out of the time she and I shared a room in Texas and Lita stayed out all night partying. She came in about 9:00 A.M. and got into bed. I had gone to bed at a more-or-less reasonable hour, so I woke up a couple of hours after Lita came in. I sat around in the dark for awhile, and then at around noon, picked up the phone to call a friend in L.A. I turned on the light beside the bed to dial. Lita woke up and started screaming at me. When I tried to tell her it was noon and I had promised to call this mutual friend of ours, she picked up the telephone, hit me over the head with it, and tried to strangle me with the cord. I got my things together in a hurry and spent the next four hours in the lobby waiting for everyone else to wake up and check out so we could leave. The whole thing wouldn't have been a big deal, but the "Rutt Rucker" sold the story to Zig Zag magazine, which printed an R-rated comic-book style version of the story with illustrations in which all the Runaways are naked and have really large breasts. Needless to say, the Runaways don't have fond memories of this guy.

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