I just FORCED myself to finish Let’s Spend The Night Together. I tend to do that with books I’m not enjoying; my sister is the same way. We’re gonna get through it if it kills us, just for the perverse satisfaction of saying we read an entire book that sucked real hard.
ANYWAY. If you didn’t bother to click through to find out what it is, it’s a paean to the groupie, a collection of sordid stories and interviews conducted by the self-proclaimed Groupie Guru herself, Pamela Des Barres.
I do, actually, happen to enjoy Miss Pamela, both as a “celebrity” and as a writer. In her glory days as a groupie, she was delightfully uninhibited and wacky, certainly wacky enough for Frank Zappa to find her worth documenting as a member of The GTOs. Her memoirs are unapologetic (and for the record, I don’t believe she has anything to apologize FOR) and honest. If you’re not familiar with her, she was the consort/companion for some of the Big Names in “classic rock,” wed a rock star, and learned the hard way that sex, drugs and rock-n-roll don’t make for a particularly stable marriage. Despite it all, she remains dedicated to the music, and strikes me as being a kind – if somewhat flighty – soul who’s eager to hear, and help with, the stories of others.
And this collection certainly starts out interesting enough, as she spends time with the more infamous women of backstage lore, such as Miss Mercy, Lori Lightning and Cynthia Plaster Caster. But as it goes along, the groupies get less and less interesting, and by the end, it’s downright depressing.
There’s the woman who, despite working on a Master’s degree and parenting an autistic child, truly believes she’s achieved her wildest dreams by orally gratifying a member of INXS on the tour bus. Look, I’m no prude by any means, but really?
There’s another who spent some “quality time” with Kurt Cobain before his ascension/descension into Rock Immortality. I think this is where I started getting really irked. She says something to the effect of: “Ohhh, he was such a tortured soul and he was in such physical AND psychic pain that he HAD to do heroin. In fact, I don’t think he could’ve written all those amazing songs if he HADN’T been on heroin.” Blah blah blah blah. I’ve said it before (and as a recovering addict I feel like I have every right to say it): enough with the tortured genius crap. You are not any more “in tune” with your tortured insides, or the torturous world around you, by dint of being a goddamn junkie. You don’t abuse drugs and alcohol because you’re an “artist,” you abuse drugs and alcohol because you’re an ADDICT. Period. I have empathy AND sympathy for addicts who are struggling. I have not one iota of either for people who romanticize this shit. William S. Burroughs, the lordgodkingofthejunkies, said himself that “addicts are as boring a bunch of people as I ever encountered.” So kindly fuck right off with this Addict Glorification fetish you’ve got going on, sister.
Finally, there’s the young lady who’s come thisclose to having sexytimes with Marilyn Manson (the Greeks had a word for it: ick), but has managed to overcome those banal, human impulses because she and the former Brian Warner have something much more profound on a much higher plane, or something. I’m all for not leaping into the feathers (or the back of a tour bus, or the keg room, or someplace equally distasteful) in pursuit of a more substantive, intellectually stimulating relationship. But, um, it’s Marilyn Manson you’re talking about here, not Václav Havel.
The biggest lesson I learned in my twenties was to not demand that your musician boyfriend write a song for/about you. Because 1) you simply don’t put that kind of pressure on an artist if you have any understanding of the art, and 2) the end result is more than likely going to SUCK. I believe that art comes from somewhere else, and that artists are the antennae, or the channelers. That’s about as frou-frou metaphysical as I’m willing to go, because I definitely get strange deliveries that I didn’t order, word-wise, and have no way to explain it, other than the well-documented fact that my cheese is in more or less constant danger of falling off my cracker altogether.
But you don’t get to decide that you’re a muse. That’s just a nice way of wanting to believe you have control over the uncontrollable.
At any rate, I finished this book. Its epilogue was a brief interview with Cameron Crowe, who also happens to know a thing or two about getting involved with rock stars. He speaks of Penny Lane, the character he created in Almost Famous, an amalgamation of old school groupies like Miss Pamela and Bebe Buell: “She’s not in a crumpled heap by the side of the road. She’s more rock than the band, and that was always the point.”
And that, perhaps, is what I simply failed to sense in some of these women. Or perhaps I’m now too staid and “comfortable” to remember what it’s like to be that immersed in something. But I think it may be because I don’t see much point anymore in deifying people who’ve had the good fortune to make their living as musicians.