The Huffington Post’s new longform section has a fascinating, deeply disturbing feature today about the Runaways, the all-girl rock band that rocketed Joan Jett and Lita Ford to fame. The group’s former bassist, Jackie Fuchs, has spoken for the first time about her exploitation by producer Kim Fowley, who she says raped her in front of the entire band.
Fowley, who died in January of this year at 75, was a legendary producer and musician, involved in a string of 40 hits, helping to shape glam rock as a genre and even appearing in a Beyoncé video (“Haunted”) not long before his death. “The Lost Girls,” by reporter Jason Cherkis, is one of the first stories in HuffPo’s new Highline section; it clearly outlines how Fowley groomed 15- and 16-year-old girls, talking all the while about his fondness for “young cunt” or “dirty pussy.” His behavior was both sexually abusive and outright violent, several women interviewed say:
The musicians and journalists who formed Fowley’s inner circle back then wanted to see his menace as an act, a test to weed out the weak. But some of his behavior was simply too violent to dismiss. In September 1975, Audrey Pavia, who had just turned 18, ended up backstage at an early Runaways show, when the band was just a trio. Without warning, Fowley ran at her from across the room.
“He threw me up against the wall and he put his arm across my neck,” Pavia remembers. “Then he hammered his knee between my legs.” Fowley lifted her up off the ground and licked her face. He bit and sucked on her ear. She says she struggled to get away, but he pinned her to the wall for five minutes, telling her all the things he was going to do to her.
“I was terrified. I was embarrassed,” Pavia says. “This is the part that’s most embarrassing for me. … I was a virgin. This was the most physical contact I’d had with a man.” Afterward, she noticed that her hair was matted with his spit.
Another aspiring musician/songwriter, Kari Krome, says she met Fowley at Alice Cooper’s birthday party when she was just 13, and that he groomed her for months, talking to her on the phone for hours about music. He signed her to a contract before she turned 14, and, soon after, took her to his apartment, which everyone referred to as the Dog Palace, and sexually assaulted her:
When Krome asked what was going on, he said something like, “It’s time for dog worship” and told her if she didn’t give in to his sexual demands, she’d have to go back to Long Beach. Krome thought about leaving, calling someone for a ride. But her family was poor and didn’t have a telephone. She had nowhere to go. That night, Fowley masturbated on her.
“I didn’t know how to say, ‘I don’t want you to do this,’” Krome says. “I did not have that voice. … I was also scared of him. He could be really scary.”
Fowley sexually assaulted her several other times, Krome says. “In his mind, he thought he was having a relationship with me, like a romantic relationship,” she says. “He didn’t care what I thought about it. He just decided.”
Fuchs formally joined the Runaways in 1975, when she was 16, becoming known by the stage name Jackie Fox. At a party soon after, she says, she was given a Quaalude by a roadie and lay immobilized in a room full of people as Fowley raped her.
Cherkis reached out to Joan Jett, who was supposedly at the party and in the room, for comment:
Jett, through a representative, denied witnessing the event as it has been described here. Her representative referred all further questions to Jackie “as it’s a matter involving her and she can speak for herself.”
Krome, though, recalls Jett and Cherie Currie nearby and “snickering” during the attack, and Cherkis reports that it appears to have become a running joke with the other band members (who were, let’s remember, young girls themselves):
Victory Tischler-Blue was Jackie’s replacement on bass, and one of her main memories from her time as a Runaway was how some of the other members made fun of what happened to Jackie. “I heard about that nonstop,” she says now. “They would talk about Kim fucking Jackie like a dog. It was kind of a running joke.”
Cherkis points out, too, that Fowley always denied sexually abusing The Runaways, quoted in a 2013 band biography as saying, “They can talk about it until the cows come home but, in my mind, I didn’t make love to anybody in the Runaways nor did they make love to me.” And that may be right, in that “love” is no one’s term for what Fuchs says happened to her.
The Runaways in 1976. Fuchs is top right, above Joan Jett. Image via Getty.