Cherie Currie is many things to rock music fans: The 50-year-old blond bombshell who made out with Joan Jett, the front woman for the rock ’n’ roll band that changed the way women were perceived in music, and now the author of a book that brings us The Runaways, a biopic that opens March 19 and is based on her just-published memoir Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. The accomplished chain saw carver (Currie was rated number 7 in the world in chain saw competition in 2008) was inspired by her son, Jake (his father is Robert Hays of Airplane! fame) to revisit and expand on her 1989 book, Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story, only this time including the dark events that occurred behind the scenes of The Runaways — the band’s rise to fame and demise, Currie’s struggles with drugs and being raped, and how she overcame everything.
Currie to discuss her triumphant return to the studio with Jett, working with Dakota Fanning (who plays her in the film), and that kiss between Fanning and Runaways costar Kristen Stewart.
The Advocate: Why were you forced to omit so much from 1989’s Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story?
Cherie Currie: First of all the 1989 book was for young adults. It was the publisher’s first young adult book. The first book had so much in it for that audience that they felt, hey, this is good enough. And around 2000, with my son being a teenager at that time, I decided I wanted to rewrite the book; I read the book again — I hadn’t read it in a few years — and I just wanted to tell the stories I couldn’t tell in the young adult books.
What are the primary differences between this memoir and the 1989 book?
It’s completely different; it comes from a different point of view. It comes from a 50-year-old woman instead of a girl in her 20s. I have no fear in this book. I really have had all this time to think and revisit what really happened. I don’t care what people think; I think that just comes with age.
How much influence did you have during production of The Runaways?
Not a whole lot. They were receptive to some things that I felt could be changed, but again in the end they had the final say, as always. I was so blessed to have worked closely with Dakota, and I was always there for her — I was there with her in the studio, she came to my home. We worked really hard on the songs and on her stage performances. We were under quite a time constraint as well. We gave it our all. Joan was there every day as much as she could be.
What was it like working with Joan again?
We’ve been able to rekindle a friendship that was lost when I left the Runaways, so there’s a lot of unfinished issues that neither one of us were aware of. When I left the group, I really thought that she wanted me out, that all the girls wanted me out. It turns out that that wasn’t the truth and that Joan was really pissed, that she didn’t want me to leave. It was a complete lack of communication by that time. We were all so tired. We never had a break.
What was it like returning to the studio — as the Runaways — with Joan after more than 30 years to record the film’s soundtrack?
It was like time stood still. We never missed a beat. We went right in and cut the songs like we did 35 years ago and it was fantastic. Our voices still blend so well together. Literally it was just a take or two and we were done. [Laughs]
Would you ever record with her again?
Of course! Absolutely! Working with Joan is just incredible. She’s a fantastic artist. There was always this magic there with the Runaways and it’s still there.
What was it like being at the Sundance Film Festival in January for the big premiere party for the film?
It was great to sit there watching Joan, one of the greatest female performers of all time, with Kristen and Dakota. It was absolutely fantastic. I’m living my dream. I’m living the dream that I gave up on 35 years ago, and it’s just remarkable that the Runaways are getting the notoriety now that we deserved back then.
Would you ever consider reuniting the Runaways?
Well, without [drummer] Sandy West it’s kind of impossible. Sandy was ... there’s just no one like her. When Sandy passed away, that whole idea kind of went with her. But you never know in life. We never thought this film was going to happen. I never thought I was going to have the opportunity to write a book twice and get a second chance. I don’t ever say no, something could never happen, because this movie and what Kenny Laguna did with my book, it just shows me that anything is possible. But we kind of knew that when we were in the Runaways. We kind of knew that anything was possible. We just didn’t think it would take 35 years! [Laughs]
The Internet has been ablaze with news of the Dakota Fanning–Kristen Stewart kiss from the movie. How much of what’s in the film is accurate?
Oh, it’s all accurate. Joan and I were best friends back in the ’70s. Back in the ’70s, David Bowie and Elton John had come out — even Mick Jagger was talking about it. It’s what was happening back then. There wasn’t any stigma. There wasn’t any kind of prejudice like there is now about that. It was great, and Joan being my best friend at the time, we just had a lot of fun.
How did you get into chain saw carving?
It was just a fluke. I was working in wood at the time, doing relief carving, and was driving over to Malibu beach and saw a couple of guys chain-saw carving on the side of the road and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It just kept irking me. The next weekend I went over there. I talked to the owner, and he looked at some of my artwork, and I went to work there the next day. And he taught me how to not kill myself with the saw, and for that I’ll be forever grateful! [Laughs]
What new projects are you working on?
I’ve been working on the book, and there are a couple of other irons in the fire. I’m still carving, which keeps me very sane in this wonderful craziness. And I’m going to go in the studio and I’m going to do some shows this summer. It’ll be fun. I’ve got my kid up there in the band with me, which is a blast. He was giving Lita [Ford] a run for her money when he was 15.
Will you be touring?
I’m going to be doing some shows, but I don’t know to what extent. But I am going to be doing some shows.