by Aime Joseph
It was quite late, almost 4 am and my diet Mountain Dew buzz was wearing thin. I had been editing a video in Kim Fowley’s living room. In true Fowley fashion, he had wanted to save money, so instead of booking time at a post house he rented some grade “B” equipment from one of his cronies. So there, I sat, on his dusty carpet editing what would soon become one of the largest teen appeal groups of the ‘90s, Hanson.
After two days straight of video editing and Fowley, my head began to droop and I passed out on the dusty carpet. Just as I embraced the zzzzzz, Fowley’s loud monotone shot at me like an army Sergeant’s. “You Encino Princess! I need this done in three hours and you fall asleep on me!” “Kim,” I pleaded, “I’ve been at this project non-stop for two days!” “That means nothing to me! You think anyone at Geffen Records gives a damn how long it’s taken li’l miss film student to edit this piece of shit? If I walk into Geffen this morning without a tape, I’m going to have no gig. Which means no money and no dirty pussy!” “But Kim, I just can’t do this any longer. It’s just about finished anyway!” “Fuck the just abouts up the ass with a broken bottle! You’re only as good as what you create, whether it’s editing a video full of brats or producing an album full of junkies, without a complete creation, you’re as in-demand as dog shit on the street. Now get your teenage Encino ass off my smelly floor and finish this piece of dog shit!”
IN THE BEGINNING
Before I had ever met Kim Fowley, I was well aware of his notorious reputation. Despite all things crass that went hand in hand with the mention of Kim Fowley, I was still quite intrigued by his endeavors and hoped to meet him someday. That day finally arrived in 1989. A friend of mine, who was sleeping with Slash, dragged me to a Guns N’ Roses party at a plush hotel on the Sunset Strip. I was beyond bored with the general vibe when this 6’5’, gaunt, yet charismatic, character approached me. Lo and behold, it was the legendary Kim Fowley. After about five minutes of conversation, he handed me his business card and offered me a job as his personal assistant. Then he added, “If you can last with me, you’ll be able to endure anything. See you tomorrow at 11 am — and don’t come any earlier unless you want to stand outside my door.”
Over the next four years I worked for Fowley on and off. To say that it was a surreal experience would be a grave understatement. People often ask me what Fowley is really like. No article, description or array of words could begin to describe this multi-faceted, extremely talented, unpredictable, wild, brilliant, intuitive and morbidly crazed individual. To really comprehend Fowley, I strongly suggest that you make it a goal to set aside at least fifteen minutes of your life and spend it in the man’s presence!
One of my first Fowley assignments was to re-edit this painfully awful Canadian girl video that Fowley had financed. The singer was stunning, but her crackling throaty vox could slaughter a cow. As if Fowley were aware of my thoughts, he blurted out exactly what I was thinking. “Learn from me. When you get in a position of power, think with your head not your c**t! I financed and produced this piece of shit because I thought she was a dirty bitch.” I looked Fowley straight in the face and asked him if that was what he also did with the Runaways. “No, they actually had talent. They were bitches and they were dirty, but they weren’t dirty bitches!”
I’d be painting a gravely inaccurate picture if I were to say that Fowley was always a wonderful boss, friend and mentor. Actually he was more like a Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde, and definitely a subscriber to the bipolar school of mentalness. Although Fowley did possess a certain level of sincere kindness and loyalty, his world-renowned crass persona was more often the norm.
When Fowley got on one of his brutal rampages, he could give Hitler a run for his money.
The first time I personally experienced Fowley’s cruelty was a few months into my job as his assistant. I was quietly filing some of his ASCAP songwriter forms, when he reasonlessly started in. He sadistically grabbed my file folder and dumped the contents onto the floor. “All you pimple-faced students living off your parents’ money, attending your U.C. universities, you know nothing about real life!” At first I was confused and taken aback by his unexpected attack. “I don’t have any pimples, and if I were living off of my parents’ money, I wouldn’t be working for you!” “Shut up, fuckie! You know nothing about life and I am a genius. That’s why you follow me around and let me work you to the bone with the most menial of tasks.” “I don’t think what I’m doing is menial. It’s better than working at Macy’s or Warehouse Music. At least I’m learning about the music industry. You’re a great teacher.” “Then your parents should be paying me $40,000 a year, not U.S.C.” “Why are you being so cruel?” I started to cry. “Mean! You think I’m mean, and you want to be a woman working in the music industry? Well you’d better learn how to be tough or get a tit-job and start working out so you can fuck your way to the top!” “You’re sick and I quit!” I began to gather my stuff up. Fowley stopped me. “Are you going to cry in the middle of a big business meeting with Warner Brothers? Are you going to cry when the band you got signed to Interscope calls you a cunt in the feature article of Spin magazine?” “I’m sorry, but I was just working and you started laying into me for no reason.” “If I was your boss at Warner Brothers and you talked back to me, I’d fire your ass and hire another pimple-faced college graduate who could shut up and take better orders.” “Well, this isn’t Warner Brothers and I quit before you fired me.” All the rage in Fowley’s face left and was replaced by a sadistic grin. “You’re okay, but you gotta get tougher. You gotta start listening to what you know, because in this business the second you turn your back, they’ll be there to mutilate you. Now get back to work.”
I silently went back to the filing. At 7 pm Kim turned to me and said “You’re released unless you want to file papers the rest of the night.” On my way out the door Kim said “Stop! I’m not worried about what you do right. It’s the wrong that needs the attention so it will become right. Hollywood, the city where only perfection is acceptable. Hate me, but learn from my mistakes, fuckie, and you’ll go a long way.”
Fowley was like tarnished silver, in desperate need of cleaning! After years of cooking him tuna or halibut with steamed broccoli and carrots covered with two pats of butter and chocolate pudding for dessert, shopping for Italian fabric for his $1500 custom-tailored suits, taking him grocery shopping, driving him to every record label in Hollywood and booking and keeping him on schedule with his daily appointments, I became privileged enough to know another side of Fowley. When he was in a good mood, he’d call me “mommy!” He’d tell me that he’d always had surrogate mommies because his real mother divorced his actor father when he was a little kid. I was mommy #4. Usually his “mommies” stayed with him for five to ten years! Then they went on to do other things, like Mommy #1 who was the legendary clothing designer, Edith Head. Fowley often compared himself to a dog and his “mommy” to the dog’s master. When I once asked him why he was so brutal and vile to other people and so nice to me he answered, “Dogs don’t shit where they eat.”
Kim was quite a clown. His Hollywood Hills office and residence was always a mess. I used to spend at least an hour cleaning off his desk each day, only to find it in shambles the next morning. Years after I’d left his employ, Fowley was offered a job at Peer Music Publishing in Europe. At this time he insisted that my husband Lee and I come to his house five nights a week and spend hours going through every demo tape, concert flyer, receipt and every piece of correspondence from the late ‘70s to the present.
One evening, Lee asked Fowley why he didn’t keep things organized. Kim simply answered “If I could put things in a file folder instead of on the floor, I’d have been David Geffen.”
In retrospect, two of the most fascinating things about Fowley are his take on music and how he scouts new talent.
Kim Fowley’s entire record collection, consisting of close to 500 releases, all bear his name on them in the form of writing credit, producing credit, arranging credit or publishing ownership. Fowley brags that these are the only albums that he owns. When asked if he is a record collector or who his favorite recording artists are, he’ll always answer in a similar fashion. “A music fan, not really. A talent scout for great music, yes! A salesman, yes! I just give the public the dirt that they want to see and the sounds that they want to hear. Sure the Beatles were great, but not as great as their salesman, Brian Epstein. Mick Jagger was a better businessman than he was singer or songwriter,” states Fowley.
A businessman! Was Fowley ever one. Even in his spare time he was hustling a potential deal. When things began to get dull for him, he’d have me drive him around Hollywood and play his favorite game: “The $500 Hustle.” This consisted of me videotaping Fowley approaching musician-looking folks. Fowley would brag about who he was, what he’s done and how he could turn them into a star. Sometimes, Fowley would have the band sing on camera, other times he would tell them what was right or wrong with their look, then he’d pull the video tape out of the camera and offer them his videotaped advice for $$$! Then he would give them his card and tell them to call him. If they called, he would tell them that for $500 (or less if they couldn’t afford it) he could teach them all the tricks and secret ways to become a “rock star.”
The first time I videotaped an actual $500 Hustle, I was mortified. I felt as if Fowley was ripping off poor innocent musicians, and simply refused to take part in such a scam! “If BMI paid you $25 an hour to videotape one of their songwriting seminars at the Marriott Hotel, would you feel as if you were taking part in ripping off an artist?” “No.” “Well, this is no different. At least I’m honest and give them legitimate contacts.” When Fowley put it this way, it did make sense, but something about it being called a $500 Hustle never sat well with me. Fowley swears this is how he hooked up with The Runaways, Poison and The Orchids. Go figure!
Unlike the list of famous people (including Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Lou Adler) that have publicly complained about Fowley’s financial dealings, in his defense I must state that he was always very kind and generous with me when it came to money. I remember in later years, telling Greg Shaw from Bomp Records about the time I was in dire straits and Fowley had his business manager hand me a check for $500. When I asked how long I had to pay him back, he simply said that KISS had just re-released a best-of box set on CD and Fowley had received a generous advance for his songwriting on three tracks. Shaw was in shock. He said that in all of the years that he had known Fowley, he had never heard of him making such a gesture when it came to money! Like a true chameleon, Fowley often did what was least expected of him.
And that, my friends, is the beauty, contradiction, charm and brilliance of possibly the most notorious person in rock ‘n’roll.
FUCKIE – A flunkie
URINE STAINED – A beautiful yet kinky or bad girl i.e.:
URINE GODDESS – Pamela Lee, Anita Pallenberg, Madonna, Lucy Lawless
DIRTY BITCH – Any girl who may have even the slightest sexual interest in Kim Fowley
PUSSTICLE – A nagging or annoying person
ENCINO PRINCESS/ AN ENCINO LEVEL -Upper-middle class semi-conservative girl
DOG BOY – A man who takes crap from women
HUSTLE – To scam money out of musicians, music industry executives or in business deals
$500 HUSTLE – Fowley charges a novice band or songwriter $500 for five hours of his time and music industry knowledge
TEENAGE LEVEL – youthful, free spirited