You Only Live Twice (part one)

 

Six magical months, I’d fallen down the Rabbit Hole, one that would be free of mean queens and weird eggs. Fairy tales converged. I came face to face with The Pied Piper and fearlessly followed him. Wait, where did the Piper take all those people? He was Peter Pan too. What the hell happened to Peter Pan again? This was a boy who ate candy for breakfast and took a bath before he went running, “I don’t think like that.” Six insatiable months lead to 16 months suffering from a heart so shattered I’m not sure it ever healed, and twenty-five years later I’m okay with that.

I was crazy with love. I will never forget that feeling, but I can still feel the pain. Painstakingly physical and unfathomably psychological my love affair was an impassioned journey. It was so easy for me to love someone who hated me, and hate someone who loved me. Denial and desire make harrowing bedfellows. In the end, I felt like I’d been burned at the stake, nothing left but ashes in the image of a girl. Years after the embers were cold, I went back and found a dead boy grinning.

My life was normal, well normal for a female A&R executive, until a frustrated songwriter whose daddy started an empire showed up to buy a new toy; all the Polygram Distribution labels. I was an employee of A&M Records, people lose their jobs during corporate mergers. The money was frozen. Everywhere I turned my colleagues were freaking out. I had a quiet confidence, but I was bored. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Then again, the universe loves fools, drunks and dancing girls. Out of thin air, or Avenue B, a beautiful blue-eyed boy came along.

Months earlier Monster Magnet was performing at CBGBs, the record on the verge of radio play. I was wearing a blue slip dress with great big red flowers on it, twenty-five years later and I remember that dress. “You turned around and smiled at me. The whole world disappeared.” I don’t remember him, yet the dress remains indelible. “You were always alone.” I didn’t like baggage or negotiation. I liked everything in its right place. He ruined the groove of my life.

Ginger hair, big blue eyes, a young Lou Reed, and accordingly, “everyone wanted to fuck Lou.” I was at The Continental with Jesse on what appeared to be a normal Sunday night. Cid was performing, and there he was sittin’ on a toad, I mean barstool, and I’m sure he was waiting for me. “I know someone who has a crush on you.” “The bartender on Avenue B… he thinks you’re really hot.” I found it hard to believe, we had him listed as one of the 5 cutest guys on the lower east side. Within thirty minutes I was sitting on his lap. Fifteen minutes later I was straddling him. I grabbed Jesse’s whiskey and downed it as I walked out wrapped up in a beautiful blue-eyed boy.

We commenced to eat each other up.  Rubbed raw, knowing it was going to hurt, yet not able to stop. Night to morning to day to evening, someone had to make it stop, “Baby I think we ate too much.” What happens after you’ve been consumed? When we weren’t together, we were coming from, going to, waiting for. On first look, our friends saw the perfect couple. Imaginary worlds only exist until someone finds their way back out of the rabbit hole, or chances upon the ruby shoes, or ends up in the oven. Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf got so comfortable eating candy in their Avenue B cottage, they forgot about the blazing ovens.

Together we upended ghosts.  Sharing spent, sweating, closeness we ventured into dark places and survived them. We fit into each other whether we were fucking, walking, or sitting across a room from each other. Spanning from one to the other existed an invisible umbilical chord. We drank coffee laced with condensed milk, and danced to “You Only Live Twice,” while the smell of homemade bread smothered us. Made love on the couch listening to Nina Simone, “I’ve listened to this record a thousand times and it’s never sounded like this to me before.” Obliviously holding hands. If one let go, the other might float away. Walking through Tompkins Square Park singing “Perfect Day.” The lyrics still describe us.

 

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Just a perfect day/ Problems all left alone/ We can do this on our own/ It’s such fun

 

Back then he was a sober bartender (I still don’t understand how people can do that), and of course he had a band. I knew he’d been a junkie and a street hustler. I wanted a street hustler. I wanted perilous. I wasn’t built for insipid experiences. This Hackensack girl craved vicissitude. Metamorphosis is painful, and in that I wasn’t alone. In the end I was left burned up and scarred. And it really hurt.

We came together wounded. I was living hard, fast and drunk. Relinquishing the streets left him with run-of-the-mill STD’s. He hated the dick that fit me perfectly. It never occurred to me that he was ceaselessly plunging an instrument of hate into me. I was a clueless, inebriated “angel.” Perhaps being loved and hated conjointly made me the perfect fit. Add in denial and a bartender could mix one gorgeous Molotov cocktail. “You are so perfect for me. I can’t believe I found someone so perfect for me.” I filed “perfect” next to “I adore you,” and that next to “I love you,” and that next to “You make me more human.” Although, “I wish I could crawl up inside you and live there,” was perplexing.

My friends were sending smoke signals. Jesse, “doesn’t it feel weird that your boyfriend had sex with my (male) bass player?” My assistant Ellen, “You’re never in the office. Everyday someone asks me where you are, and I have to tell them I guess she’s fallen in love…” Kelly (rip), “I watched that guy fall head over heels in love with you with my own two eyes, but I should have known something was wrong.” My brother muttered something about, “the wrong side of the tracks.” Ryan, “Be careful. He’s a bad guy. He’s dangerous in ways I’ve seen, and you haven’t.” Dave, “He’s too young for you. You’re playing house.” Dana, “Is this really the life you want? Quit your job, live in a tiny apartment on the lower east side and get pregnant?” Cid, “I hate that guy.”

I found a green camisole in our bed. “If I didn’t know this was yours I would be furious.” I honestly didn’t care. Our sex life was transcendent, so why let a cheap green camisole get in the way? If you could end up in the ER suffering from too much sex we’d have side-by-side gurneys. I found the hidden chicks with dicks magazines (they were under all the pots and pans in the cabinet above the stove). That apartment was all about him, the smell, the stuff, even the single bed we romanticized. John and Yoko needed a king size bed to intertwine, it’s much easier in a single. All his other porn was exceptional, thus I mentally obliterated chicks with dicks. I wasn’t paying attention at all.

There was a box shoved in the back of his closet filled with woman’s clothing. One night he took it out, and started dressing me up. I love clothes. I loved my leather pants, leather midriffs, cowboy hats and boas. Little black dresses with mules. My Levis (or his) with heavy metal baby tees and motorcycle boots. Slip dresses ala Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a knock off Liz. Those were my feathers. The things flying out of this box were hooker clothes. Cheap clothes the Puerto Rican girls left at the Salvation Army. Those big blue eyes turned feral. He was screaming while pulling out awful whore skirt after whore dress, disgusting polyester halters. He called a friend over. I was put on display. My tears held tight like a corset, which I would have preferred to this. Arms flailing as I tried to cover up the same body that was perfectly comfortable sitting naked in his kitchen. “Oh God, please let this end.” Anal sex never felt like a violation. This did.

We went to Paris. We went to Boston. We went to L.A. We found hideaways in the countryside. We had funny interactions with Legs McNeil, and plenty of New York’s demimonde. We met the parents. A song was written for me. He witnessed the beginning of the next era in my career. I vomited tequila all over him. There was ‘not my lingerie’ in the bed. Looking back he saw details while I saw scope. Not seeing the details propelled me. If I were cognizant of each separate element I never would have seen that they didn’t fit together. All of which to say, I am here and he is not. All of which is for later.

Four months in, “I knew while I was gone you were going through my closets and wearing my clothes!!! Why?” I didn’t understand why we couldn’t work this cross-dressing situation into our sex lives. Shuttered tight, this part of his life was off limits. For me he was all boy, muscle cars, hot musician, punk, flirt, and girl crazy. Playing with sex was a no brainer for us. Which made this piece incomprehensible. “I was doing a lot of acting out around then.” Cross-dressing was his drug. Drugs are a secret. They give us relief from the unaltered world. Drugs demand we isolate. For three solid months were using. Our drug of choice was the relationship. Now he was using something else. If I was heroin, cross-dressing was crack. But I had my own secrets too.

Four months in, the real world came knocking. Twenty-five out of 200 people at A&M Records kept their jobs. Tom Whalley liked the rock chick, Ted Fields liked my knowledge of the roster, and Jimmy ran by screaming, “I’ve heard she’s terrific! She stays!” I was going back to work, and I was psyched. Even though I had the perfect boyfriend, momentum was pushing me out of the rabbit hole. The one with secrets in the cabinets and Pandora’s Box in the closet. My two worlds collided. While I was traipsing to my office in a mid-town high rise my boyfriend was at home wearing my clothes. Still, I was living the dream and he was still living.

-End of Part One

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You made me forget myself/ I thought I was someone else/ Someone good

 

Drug Farm

“Got a knife in my back got a hole in my arm when I’m driving the tractor on the drug farm” Lyrics Dave Wyndorf/ Photo: Michael Alago

 

Once again Gary Harris schooled me, “Debbie stop the bullshit! Get over it. I have never known an A&R person who had hits that didn’t get high. Debbie I have never known an A&R person who had hits that didn’t get high. I have NEVER known an A&R person who had hits that didn’t get high.” This A&R executive had mad crazy skills at both. *An aside-Before this roller coaster takes off, I must confess two important factors: I lived a life where timelines didn’t exist, and I spent many years picking up and putting down alcohol. 1989 through 2004 was a fast lane. Please be tolerant.

The late 80s came with Uncle Tupelo. East St. Louis may be the most depressing place in America. I think in order to live there, which they did, you were compelled to drink. “Whiskey bottle over Jesus.” Plus the beer at Cicero’s cost about fifty cents. Eventually I could outdrink Jeff Tweedy. Although chaotic and potentially disastrous the whole gig was fun. Teenage Fanclub and Uncle Tupelo played CBGBs. My red shoes ended up on the wrong side of the bar. Tony Margherita and I spent a good part of the night shouting for more beer, trying to retrieve my shoes and more often knocking each other over. Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression started a movement, and a magazine. CMJ ruled the 80s and an indie-hit record was still a hit.

While pounding down beers at Don Hills he spoke and I slurred about the Wilco masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Also, I may have fallen off my seat. Jesse Malin was so upset he thought the logical thing would be to tell everyone how worried he was. New York City rock & roll rumors do one thing, they get back to you. “I could think of only one person I would want to take to this show.” Jesse was offering to take me to see The Stones. “You’re telling people I’m on pills??? How dare you! I wouldn’t see The Stones with you if you were the last person alive.” I was too high and too arrogant to see my favorite band with one of my favorite people. I never had a hit record with DGeneration, but I did sign them to a major label and in turn they put me on the map below 14th St. the equivalent of a hit.

Around the time Andy Gould arrived, strip bars, the Cigar Club 666, The Ivy, The Palm, chic hotel bars, anywhere fun and everywhere we could drink became the norm. Andy was a combination of Arthur, and Austin Powers (and possibly any role Dudley Moore ever played). We worked ourselves to exhaustion. We drank and joked and danced. Andy even danced like Austin Powers, I had Axle Rose perfected. Andy helped me settle into L.A. The one where you drank Bloody Mary’s at Barneys for breakfast tablehopping to kiss-kiss. Drank Pina Coladas for breakfast while Andy Gould and Bob Chiphardi cheered on that nefarious Gene Simmons make out session. Martinis were as commonplace as naked pool jumping. I was scrupulous about keeping my clothes on, even though most of them were sheer and stained with red wine, they never got wet, and they always stayed on. L.A. is manifest for voyeurism. Andy ensured us a front seat. He was a genius, and I loved being Andy’s wingman. A cheeky twosome who shot for the stars, and every album, single and video we worked on together went big. Went larger than our collective malfeasance.

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Me and Andy Gould at The Four Seasons Hotel. Last call. Good thing my leg was there…

On “Black Thursday” I landed safely and securely at Interscope Records. Eventually Andy left me for Jordan Shure, and I filled the void with Queens of the Stone Age. I was signing the most important band of my career. I was also heart broken. That’s a story for another day, but involved vomiting a great deal of tequila on one of the cutest boys on the L.E.S. One bona fide fuck up. In absolution I gave up drinking alcohol and eating food. Instead I ate pills. When I walked my purse rattled. Still good fortune shone down on me. Black Thursday + a job = major hit.

Dave Wyndorf cornered me in a hallway at The Chelsea Hotel. “Are you on pills? You look terrible!!! You think you look junkie chic? You look fucking hideous!!!” (P.s.-I’m worried about you) Of course I was doing pills. I was eating pills all the time. My jumping off point were the sleeping pills I discovered that would get me through all the sleepless nights that finally gave birth to Power Trip. Having just been pierced from tongue to toe I did what any pilled, pained, pummeled waif would do ran down the stairs. Space Lord Motherfucker getting you through Power Trip almost killed me! By the way, once we had that hit record the drug farm seemed a very nice place to hang my cowboy hat with matching boa.

Another tour bus, another OzzFest, boys jerking off to another Pantera set, Ozzy performing night after night in those awful sweat pants with that stupid hose. It clicked, “What would Nick do?” WWND? “It must be five o’ clock somewhere.” That’s exactly what Nick Oliveri would do. I was still living in absolution for the tequila incident. So when that first beer got gulped guided by a handful of klonopin my body had a party. Rated R was rearing towards Gold. I was high.

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WWND? Obviously I’d done the thing Nick would do. Photo: Lindsey Anderson

Those days felt magical. Josh and Nick showing up unannounced at my NYC office, “Let’s go do stuff.” Stuff got done. Me showing up at The Academy in London, while a still fully clothed Nick palmed off a handful of Percodan. “Want these?” Josh, his brother and Brody called from Niagara. “Okay, I’ll meet you for ONE drink.” Sitting down at the booth, Josh locked eyes, “I’m gonna get you so fucked up.” Next thing I knew it was 5:00 a.m. and I was barefoot hailing a cab. The February barefoot walk of shame is not pretty. We already had one hit and apparently I was dancing barefoot to another.

Somewhere in the midst of all this self-imposed chaos Asif Ahmed showed up dangling The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Some people black out and end up in Vegas. I ended up in Copenhagen. Asif and I wrestled on the floor of the Soho Hotel (an evil place). He broke bottles of red wine and drank from them. I drew a line. It was white. “If Jimmy doesn’t come to the L.A. show we won’t sign with you.” It takes a lot of sedatives and liquid fortitude to talk Jimmy Iovine into a rock club. “If you don’t come to the UK we won’t sign with you.” We shoved half eaten lobster shells into the Polygram executives’ man bags. Asif and I never walked into a meeting with anyone, not Jimmy Iovine, not David Joseph, not Lyor Cohen, without bringing bottles of red wine and demanding sandwiches. By this point I could lick my wardrobe and get drunk. However, somewhere between New York, Los Angeles, Lost Vegas and a whole lotta UK, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs signed with us. They delivered not just a hit album, but “Maps.” Fever to Tell made everything I did excusable (even though most of it was Asif’s fault).

QOTSA opened for the RHCP at MSG. It was Josh’s birthday. I drank magnums of champagne with Karen O and during the bacchanalia lost a couple of my hair extensions. One became the centerpiece of the big man’s b-day table. Asif notified me of the sad, sad, loss. Brody and I spent as much time in the Ladies Room as we did dancing and hugging. I was outlandishly skinny, I was highly successful and did not care that I was outlandishly high. Here’s the catch, other people did. Care.

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Me and Brody. If you’re lucky, and I am, you find out there’s a life filled with love outside of the Ladies Room. Photo: Lindsey Anderson

I fell down. A lot. I wrecked romantic relationships with my head in a toilet, a drunk- dial, or a temper tantrum. I threw money around like a member of G-Unit. I was always bruised. I wrecked thousands of dollars of Marc Jacobs clothing. Everything was excessive: dancing, sex, working, the number of people a bathroom could hold, shopping, exercising, apologizing, money, lack of money, travel, dinners, outfits, embarrassing myself…everything. But hey, I had hit records, Grammy nominations, charisma…Suddenly something stalled. I got tired. I got lonely. I’d had it with hits. I stopped getting high.

Sex, drugs and rock & roll compose a contract I signed with no legal representation. I made the mistake of believing the holy trinity must be grossly indulged. I would like to say the “Tractor” stopped there. Now and then there was a drought, or a break down. Finally the day came when the farm sold, and the tractor rotted.

Recently backstage at MSG, one of the most badass women to ever walk the earth whispered, “Debbie, sober is better.” Truth told not all A&R executives who have hits get high; it’s more like 85%. Gary knew I had something most don’t. Stories. When he demanded, “Debbie, stop the bullshit,” he was giving me permission to tell them.

-Dedicated to every person who came to my aid circa 1989-2004. Dave W, Phil C, Nicole H, Matt H, Jesse M, Danny S, Diane G, Steve K, Kristin H, Lisa B, Ellen M-P, Michael A, Thom E, Cid S, Asif A, Liz B, Julie F, Dana M, Mark W, David C, Jimmy I…more than I can list (or remember-oy the mind). I’m sorry if I’ve left you out, you are all my angels. Mom and Daryl you have the biggest wings, by far.