Thursday, August 27, 2009

June 2, 2000 -- But Can You Sit On It?

The week's story isn't exactly a Runaways story, but it involves our good friend, Hernando Courtright, whom I have known since before I joined the band in 1975 and who is a dear friend of mine to this day. Hernando spent a lot of time with the band, doing everything from rescuing Joan and me from the airport when we flew back from San Francisco without supervision, to loaning us his clothes to wear on stage, to accompanying us on various adventures, some of which I've set forth in this week's installment. In a way, Hernando is the 6th Runaway, and this week's story is his story.

Joan, Kari Krome and me with Hernando
backstage at the Noel Redding show, early 1976
(click thumbnail to see a larger version)

Before I joined the band, I would take the bus into Hollywood and hang out at various clubs -- The Rainbow, The Starwood and The Whiskey were my favorite hangouts. In particular, I used to love to see bands and go dancing at The Starwood. My best friend from high school, Vicki Tornabeni, and I would hitchhike into Hollywood and hang out with the guys in a really strange band called Zolar X that played the Starwood regularly and would get us in for free even when they weren't playing. Zolar X was unusual in that they wore prosthetic ears, heads, etc., way before prosthetics were common. Vicki and I lived in the San Fernando Valley and I will never forget the night Zolar X showed up at my house during one of my mother's dinner parties, wearing full prosthetics, to take Vicki and me out to see some band at the Starwood. I don't remember what band we saw that night, but among the bands I saw there in the 70's were Van Halen and Devo. In fact, Lita and I were the ones who brought Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley to the Starwood to see Van Halen, and Gene was so impressed with the band that he produced their demo tape, the one that got them a deal with Warner Bros. Records. But before I joined The Runaways, I would go the Starwood and the other clubs with Vicki, or with my friends Trudi and Helen. In fact, I was dancing at the Starwood with Trudi and Helen when I met Rodney Bigenheimer, who told me about the Runaways and Kim Fowley. But that's another story.

One day, Trudi asked me if I knew Hernando. I didn't think I did, so I asked her who Hernando was and she told me "he hangs out at The Rainbow and he looks gay but he's not." So a few nights later, I'm at the Rainbow and I see this guy walking down the stairs. I walk up to him and say "Excuse me, are you Hernando?" He said he was and asked how I knew. I said "a friend of my described you." It was until many, many years later that I told him the actual description! We didn't get to be friends that night, but I would run into him around town, and one night, at a party for The Sweet at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, I wrote my phone number down on a piece of paper and gave it to him. He never called.

Cut to a few months later, and the 3-piece version of the Runaways (Sandy, Joan and Mickey Steele) are playing at the Whiskey. There weren't very many people at the show, but one of them was Hernando. When I went up and reminded him of who I was, he told me that the night of the Sweet party he had gotten trashed and gotten phone numbers from about 8 different girls, and that he managed to figure out who all of them except me were. I never ended up dating Hernando, but he became one of my closest friends. His father owned the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and he lived in a room there, but since I was too young to drive, he would drive all the way out to the far west end of the San Fernando Valley to pick me up (a good half hour drive out of the way), and we would drive back into Hollywood to hang out and see shows.

One night, Hernando took me to the house of an early Bowie-esque musician named Jobriath.

Someone had rigged Jobriath's telephone so it bypassed AT&T's sensors making it possible to call all over the world and not get charged for the call. So all kinds of freaky Hollywood rocker types would hang out at Jobriath's house making phone calls to Japan, England, wherever. The day Hernando and I visited, Jobriath was telling a crowd of people about his new method of doing drugs -- putting them up his rear. Some guy started telling Jobriath about a great, new, synthetic heroin he had tried, to which Jobriath responded, "but can you sit on it?" At the age of 15, this was a memorable experience. Because Hernando lived at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (Warren Beatty lived there, too, and during the '70's the hotel was a real hot spot for bands and actors) he seemed to know everybody, and we had lots of memorable experiences. The adventures didn't stop once I joined the band.

Hernando would often get mistaken for Freddie Mercury of Queen, and on occasion he would take shameless advantage of the resemblence. There is a famous restaurant in Los Angeles called The Palm, which has on its walls drawings of famous actors and Hollywood executives and directors, many of which have been autographed (the drawings, not the directors). I think it has since been painted over, but there used to be an autographed drawing of Freddie Mercury on the wall there. Only the autograph wasn't Freddie's, it was Hernando's, and Hernando got a pretty good meal on the restaurant's tab on the night he signed it.

One night, Hernando and I were having a late night/early morning dinner at a coffee shop in the San Fernando Valley called DuPar's, another late night hangout of musicians and music industry people. We were with a friend of ours, Jeff Colburn, who edited Rock magazine, and he was in a mood to make trouble. The Runaways had been profiled the night before on a local 11:00 P.M. news program, and when our waitress tried to get us to make a little less noise in the restaurant, Jeff pointed to me and said, "Don't you know who that is? That's Jackie Fox from the Runaways." It turned out the waitress had seen the newscast the night before and was suitably impressed. So Jeff decided to really make her night and tell her Hernando was Freddie Mercury. Since she'd already recognized me, she had no reason to doubt that Jeff was telling her the truth about Freddie. "What am I doing standing here talking to you?!?" she said, "I should be sitting next to you," and she sat down next to Hernando. A few seconds later she said, "What am I doing sitting next to you? I should be kissing you" and, much to Hernando's chagrin, started passionately kissing him. She was so overwhelmed with awe that she didn't try to stop me when I decided to see if I could shoot my scrambled eggs into the overhead lamp with my fork. In fact, we were getting away with some really obnoxious behavior, when Jeff decided to press his luck and set his napkin on fire in the middle of the table. At which point not even our waitress's deep, abiding love for Freddie Mercury could keep us from getting thrown out of the coffee shop.

Anyway, the Hernando stories could go on and on, but that's enough for this week. On a final note, I thought it would be really cool to put up a picture of Zolar X, but I can't find any. If anyone has one, or knows where to find one, please send me an e-mail. And for those of you who are interested in the British glam rock scene, The Glam Page and are good places to start.

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