‘The magnitude of Kim Fowley’s monstrosity’


Jackie Fox

[Editor’s note: Allegations by former Runaways bassist Jackie Fuchs (Jackie Fox) that she was raped by band manager Kim Fowley continue to reverberate in the media. Reporter Jason Cherkis’ original “The Lost Girls” is a must-read, as is Jessica Hopper’s interview with Cherkis on Pitchfork about the reporting of the story. Several have asked my opinion, but having starting circling the L.A. music scene relatively late (2002), I have no insider stories. I was warned off any dealings with Fowley by a couple of wiser-than-me L.A. Times colleagues back then, and I met Fowley only once, outside the Knitting Factory as he stewed about a young band failing to put him on the guest list. It was an unmemorable encounter. Not so for many others who have chronicled music in L.A. Chris Morris, currently a contributor at Variety, former senior writer at Billboard and ex-music editor at the Hollywood Reporter, is one. Morris, whose new book “Los Lobos: Dream in Blue” comes out in September, published his reaction today on his Tumblr blog “Chris Morris’s Wasted Space.” Titled “Victim,” it is retransmitted here with his permission:]

By Chris Morris

More than three years ago, in February 2012, after word spread that Kim Fowley was suffering from cancer, I drafted an advance obituary for Variety. It finally ran this January after Fowley expired. I had advised my editors that it was natural to write an obit about Fowley given his role as Svengali of the Runaways, whose cachet rose in recent years thanks to the 2010 biopic and Evelyn McDonnell’s 2013 book about them.

I believe I dispatched Fowley in print with some professionalism, but inside myself I did not mourn. I had no love for the man. I always viewed him as a viper who walked upright. Though I found myself in the same room with him on innumerable occasions for more than 35 years, I always gave him a wide berth. His reputation preceded him, and it was not one I found attractive.

I had only one direct encounter with him. One night sometime ca. 1979, I was in the Whisky A Go Go with the club’s late booker Michelle Meyer, who was a close friend of Fowley. I made some drunkenly indiscreet remark about Fowley presiding over the assembly of a Bride of Frankenstein-like consort fabricated out of the body parts of teenage girls. I believe I also said that the only thing missing on him were bolts in his neck.

The next night, I received a call from Fowley, to whom Meyer had undoubtedly reported my comment, at home. “You motherfucker, I can have you killed,” he told me. I hung up on him. Fortunately I never heard from him again.

It should be obvious from the remark I made to Meyer that Fowley’s routine was already well known around Hollywood. His appetite for underage girls was the stuff of legend, and one he boastfully spun himself in the many motormouth interviews he gave to writers who dutifully burnished his self-inflated and sleazy profile in their rags. There was no genius in him, and much infamy.

However, the magnitude of Fowley’s monstrosity was finally measured in this week’s Huffington Post story “The Lost Girls” by Jason Cherkis. The piece details the rape of Runaways bassist Jackie Fuchs (aka Jackie Fox) by Fowley at a party following a 1975 New Year’s Eve gig at an Orange County club called Wild Sam’s. Many of you have doubtlessly read the story already; if you haven’t, it can be found here.

I’ve sat on my hands for a couple of days as people have reacted to this story, watching things unfold on the web. Some of the reaction has nauseated me. In some cases, people have expressed doubt that the assault actually occurred. This notion infuriates me. Two of the eyewitnesses who spoke to Cherkis, Helen Roessler and Trudie Arguelles, have been friends of mine for decades. I know them well enough to know they are not lying, and have no reason to lie.

Some have asked why none of the people in the room that night did anything to stop Fowley’s assault. It’s simple: Fowley was an imposing and ever-controlling figure, and the night he drugged and raped Jackie Fuchs he was probably the only adult in the room. He was 36 at the time; most of the witnesses Cherkis interviewed were not old enough to drink yet.

Multitudinous testimony has shown that Fowley surrounded himself with two kinds of people: sycophants, and the young, weak and helpless. Neither would be likely to interfere in an act of sexual violence.

Cherkis reports in his story that Fuchs’ band mates Cherie Currie and Joan Jett were both in the room when the assault occurred, and that Currie fled the scene. Jett’s representatives issued a denial to Cherkis; on Friday on her Facebook page, she denied that she was in the room, contradicting Fuchs’ own account of the attack. I have no reason to disbelieve the account of the victim and other witnesses in this case. You may make what you will of Jett’s denial. I have lost all respect for her.

When Fowley died, I shuddered at the outpouring of admiration and praise for this man, who to me seemed no more than the poster boy for the bottom-feeding, manipulation and self-promotion omnipresent on the Hollywood rock scene, writ on the most grandiose scale. Though he was indeed a Zelig-like figure for decades, always cropping up at the right place at the right time with a quote dripping from his tongue, he was in the end a man of few enduring accomplishments. As people were celebrating him after his death, I found myself asking: What are these people on about?

Some of these same people have been chiming in, asking, “Why now? Why is this so-called story only coming to light six months after Fowley’s death?” The answer is simple: The only time a rape victim can feel truly safe is after the perpetrator is dead.

This is a point that Queens of Noise author Evelyn McDonnell suggests but does not state outright in a long and highly defensive blog entry about the HuffPo scoop that was posted on Friday. McDonnell, who is now a journalism professor at Loyola Marymount University in L.A., was a copy editor at Billboard many years ago when I worked there, and as such I spoke to her on the phone in the course of business. I have not read her book. I do not know her personally. But I think it is lamentable that a woman who describes herself as a feminist critic chooses to lodge charges of “male bullying” and “sensationalism” in a critique of a story that did something she was unable to do in her own work – bring the whole story home.

In the end, it’s a horror story, one of extreme violence perpetrated by a man who made a career out of hucksterism, exploitation and domination. I am glad Jackie Fuchs stepped forward to tell it now. I would hope Fuchs’ story will shame some of Kim Fowley’s myth-making apologists into silence, but I’m sure I’m hoping for too much.

I know that the rock culture in which Fowley enjoyed prominence and success is not, as some have maintained, merely a thing of the past, an artifact of the distant ’70s when the Runaways reached the Strip. It abides in Hollywood today. Only three weeks ago, I was standing outside the entrance to the Greek Theatre smoking a cigarette, waiting for Brian Wilson to take the stage. Glancing over at the press gate, I saw one of Fowley’s closest associates entering the venue, accompanied by a girl who couldn’t have been more than 15 years old. Recalling that moment now, a shiver runs down my spine.

[Update: Cherie Currie has issued a statement.]

[Also: Fuchs will discuss the matter on CBS’ “The Insider” on Monday night.]