Few true tales have the power to compel and transport the reader quite like the life story of a bona fide Rock & Roll Survivor. Of Rock’s innumerable legends with stories worth telling, so many of them – Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison; the list is endless, really – never lived long enough to write their histories in their own words. And of those that have written autobiographies, no one ever really gets – or takes advantage of – the opportunity to go back and revisit his or her life on the written page, updating the tale or adding details that were perhaps forgotten or too painful to tell the first time around. Cherie Currie, former lead singer of the teenage all-girl rock band The Runaways is an exception to that rule.
Around the time that The Strokes were first being hyped-up-the-ass in the press as the Saviors of Rock – while simultaneously confounding my senses with their hopelessly derivative, shitty music – I found myself in the NYC office of that band’s publicist. This particular guy, who I’ll call Ken, because that is his name, had formerly worked as a publicist at the once mighty Atlantic Records and, in addition to working with upstarts like The Strokes, had maintained his relationships with some of that label’s artists. While being given a tour of the office, I ended up at Ken’s desk, where he had on display one of those Family Photo Holiday cards; this one depicting a couple, with the woman holding a small infant. I couldn’t help but notice that the man and woman in the picture, who looked to be in their late twenties to early thirties, appeared to be very gaunt and almost sickly. Honestly, they both looked like shit.
“I wonder who this could be?” I thought to myself. And then, because I am nosy, I picked up the card and read the inscription. A pre-printed message directly under the photo read “Merry Christmas from Scott, Mary and Noah Weiland” – Scott Weiland, of course, being Stone Temple Pilots’ sobriety-challenged lead vocalist. I remember being absolutely shocked at how completely wrecked Weiland looked; there was no way I would have recognized him had his name not been printed on the card. And, I thought, if his wife Mary was really a model (as I’d heard), I couldn’t imagine she was getting many jobs, looking as downtrodden as she appeared in the photo on their holiday card. Of course, I was already familiar with Scott Weiland’s ongoing drug problems. What I couldn’t have known at the time was that Mary Weiland was also battling assorted demons of her own.
I forgot all about that photo until a few weeks ago, when a copy of Mary Forsberg Weiland’s autobiography, Fall To Pieces, arrived in the mail. I finished the book in a few days and then lent it to Geoffrey to read. And we concur; we both love this book. Fall to Pieces – the title lifted from the name of a Velvet Revolver song penned by her husband – is Mary’s intriguing, brave and deeply personal tale of her own life that’s easily as complex and interesting as anything her husband could throw down, which is rare in the “rock wife tells all” genre of memoirs. But before Mary and Scott were ever a couple, Mary struggled through what might be called a “character building” childhood of parental divorce and financial destitution, ostracism by her peers, an innate predilection towards substance abuse, and undiagnosed mental illness. It seems the deck was stacked against her from a young age, but that makes her journey to hell and back all the more fascinating.
Mary and Scott in Happier Times
Through her own drive to make a better life for herself, Mary began a career as a highly paid print model while still in her teens. Through her modeling career, she met struggling musician Scott Weiland, whose job it was to pick up teenage models and drive them to their daily assignments. Mary fell in love with Scott at first sight and readily admits she knew in her gut as soon as she met him that the two would one day get married. Perhaps that’s a bit of a cautionary tale to be careful what you wish for, lest your wish be granted. Most of us who pay attention to the music press and gossip media know how the fairy tale turned out.
Tales of celebrity drug addiction, more often than not, fail to render much sympathy from the public, and I include myself in that demographic. They don’t seem to take their stints in rehab seriously at all; considering it more of a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I can never understand the motives of, let alone sympathize with, people who have seemingly everything going for them – talent, great careers, ass loads of money, fame, good looks, tons of friends, devoted significant others, every conceivable material luxury – but willingly throw it all in the toilet to be a loser junkie with a laundry list of “poor me” excuses that make me want punch him or her in the face. Please, spare me. The most refreshing aspect of Fall To Pieces is that Mary never lays the blame for her mental, physical and financial descent anywhere but at her own feet. Personal responsibility! I’ve read tons of biographies of famous junkies and this is the first one I’ve found that was not only wildly entertaining, but actually allowed me to feel significant empathy and compassion for its subject. Although few of us have lived the life of a gorgeous, jet-setting model married to a successful Rock Star, Mary Forsberg Weiland’s story ultimately presents a universal truth about struggle, failure, rebirth and triumph that anyone can relate to.
The Worley Gig gives Fall to PiecesFour out of Four Stars.
Do you know who Russell Brand is? He’s pretty (in)famous in England, but over here I guess he’s best known for his role as the womanizing rock star, Aldous Snow in Judd Apatow’s wildly hilarious comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or for causing a massive and wonderful ruckus as the “controversial” one-time host of MTV’s otherwise lame Video Music Awards a few years back. He also does a righteous stand-up comedy routine, which I have seen on HBO. Also, he’s dangerously good-looking – definitely my type, physically. I love him so much. Currently I am reading Brand’s 2008 autobiography, My Booky Wook, which details in wickedly clever prose the trajectory of the author’s life and career through sex addiction, drug addiction and what would appear to be flat out mental instability akin to whatever social dysfunction Tom Green suffers from. My Booky Wook is crammed with roll-around-on-the-floor hilarious tales of destruction and mayhem, more sex than in Eric Clapton’s bio (because he boinked everything that moved) and Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk’s porn-industry novel, combined, and certainly way more heroin use than in any book I’ve read previously – and I have read Trainspotting. It’s definitely a page-turner of the highest order and a book I couldn’t help but recommend to you, my dear readers.
Despite the fact that it has possibly the longest title of any book ever written, I was able to read Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones Years). A Punk Love Story – the gritty new biography by Dee Dee Ramone’s long-suffering ex-wife Vera Ramone King – in the 3 hours it took me to fly from Chicago to Newark. Let me tell you, I loved this book! Everybody knows who the Ramones were, their indelible imprint on rock history, and the importance of the role that Dee Dee Ramone – heartthrob, bassist and primary songwriter – played within the band. Most of what you already know about the history of the band gets rehashed here, not that it’s anything but completely fascinating.
But what makes Poisoned Heart such a gut-wrenching, nostalgia-inspiring page turner is Vera’s first-hand account of what it was like coming up in the rock scene of 1970s New York and her intimate decades-long, bittersweet relationship with Dee Dee. Often a loving husband who doted on Vera and showered her with gifts, Dee Dee Ramone was also a violent drug addict and extremely mentally ill individual who just as often used his wife as a punching bag, making her life quite literally a living Hell. If you’ve ever wondered why a woman stays with a man who beats her, this book will help to shed some light on the many shades of grey of that situation. Clearly it was not as easy for Vera to walk away from the relationship as it might have looked from the outside. Well written, poignant, at times hilarious and ultimately heartbreaking, I cannot recommend Poisoned Heart highly enough for fans of the Ramones and rock fans in general.
The Worley Gig Gives Poisoned HeartFive out of Five Stars!