The Runaways: Cherie Currie on Dakota Fanning

The lead singer of The Runaways talks about her wild years as the world's first teenage glam-rock rebel

Text by Caroline Ryder
Cherie Currie was just 15 years old when a teenage Joan Jett spotted her at a glam rock nightclub in LA and asked her to front The Runaways, America's first all-girl rock band. As lead singer, Currie strutted her stuff in a corset, fishnet stockings, and not much else,briefly becoming the poster child of 1970s girl power before losing herself in the darker side of rock'n'roll. Thirty years later,Cherie's story is finally being brought to life in "The Runaways": the glitter-soaked rock biopic by music video director Floria Sigismundi,which stars Dakota Fanning as Cherie and Kristen Stewart as Joan. Here, Currie – whose autobiography "Neon Angel" provided the basis for the film – talks exclusively to Dazed about her life on the rollercoaster of rock'n'roll excess..

Dazed Digital: How accurate was Dakota Fanning’s portrayal of the 15-year-old you?

Cherie Currie: I have a picture of Dakota dressed as me on the set of the movie, and it’s still like a dream to me. I mean, she nailed it. When Joan (Jett) and I saw Kristen and Dakota shoot the Japanese television show scene, we both had tears in our eyes.

DD: Whatever happened to that corset?
Cherie Currie: I remember seeing the corset for the very first time – in the window of a lingerie store across from The Starwood (English Disco venue). It was gleaming like a diamond. I walked over there and pressed my face up against the glass – I just knew I had to get that corset and wear it for 'Cherry Bomb'. The other girls didn’t appreciate it. But I knew in under three minutes that was going to be the selling point. I had just turned 16 and I was wearing a corset and fishnet stockings on stage. I think I was the first rock singer girl to do that.

DD: The Runaways was based on your autobiography Neon Angel, but the film left out of the more disturbing aspects of The Runaways’ story...
Cherie Currie: Some really crazy stuff went down, but how can you put two and a half years of peoples’ lives into an hour and a half? I had a couple of meetings with Floria (Sigismondi) and I voiced my feelings. I wondered why couldn’t they put this in, or that in but she had a very clear idea of how they wanted this movie to play out. I really didn’t have the kind of power that I would have liked to have over the story. I would have included how we were arrested in England, for instance.

DD: Why were you arrested?
Cherie Currie: We were taking a ferry out of Dover to France and we got arrested for possession of hotel keys. It was Robert Plant’s fault – he had told Joan and I to start collecting our European hotel room keys. We thought that was a really neat idea. And they busted us for that. They accused us of planning to go back to these rooms and steal! They kept us locked up in Scotland Yard for 24 hours. Our manager had put cocaine in my luggage, so when they confiscated all the bags, I thought I was never going to go home.

DD: What were your feelings on punk?
Cherie Currie: Punk hadn’t even begun when The Runaways started, at least not in the US. We had our own sound, straight up glam rock. When we got to England and the punk movement was in full swing. I was shocked. I mean, I was scared. It was really heavy.

DD: Why was the punk scene scary to you?
Cherie Currie: We went to the UK to headline, and it was pandemonium – we had knives thrown at us on stage. At one point we were trying to escape a venue (I think it was the Apollo theatre in Glasgow) and there was a riot. The police came and we got into the car, and the kids tried to turn our car over. We ended up running someone over trying to get away.

DD: You and Joan did not speak for many years after you left the band. How did you come to reconciliation?
Cherie Currie: I couldn’t even listen to The Runaways’ music for about 20 years. But I missed Joan. I missed the band.  In 1990, I started going to Joan’s shows, and hanging out with her a bit. When the movie started, we started spending a lot more time together and it’s been great. There were a lot of things I didn’t know about until this production. For example, I really thought Joan wanted me out of the band. I had no idea that she was angry with me for leaving. There was no communication at all, and that was why I left. She was shocked to hear that I missed her. If I had stayed for one more record, we would have had a hit. But Lita and I didn’t get along, Lita was very abusive and threatening to me and I was so tired. We hadn’t had a break in over two years. There was a lot of resentment and jealousies. We were kids! That’s what happens with kids.

DD: How did you make your peace with Kim Fowley?
Cherie Currie: There is a chapter in my book where I talk about how Kim Fowley forced us to watch him have sex with a girl. He was so verbally abusive (he never was physically abusive) and he put us through an awful lot. About two years ago I saw Kim at a party in Hollywood. We ended up speaking on the phone and he apologised to me. I feel he has a conscience. I mean, he knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he also didn’t know how to deal with five teenage girls. He was very emotionally disconnected – he had to be, in order do what he was doing, which was basically taking all of our money! Would I ever recommend anyone working with Kim Fowley? No. But I feel that The Runaways would never have happened without Kim’s tough love, which also brought about the demise of the group.


See the new September issue of Dazed & Confused for the full Dakota Fanning interview
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