Monday, December 28, 2009
So, I finally got around to starting Bebe Buell's autobiography (with Victor Bockris) the other day, 2001's Rebel Heart. I haven't finished it, so I suppose I can't give a thorough "review" of sorts, but I thought I'd scan the photos from it and make an entry anyway. Bebe, of course, was a legendary "groupie" (she agrees with the legendary part, but not the groupie bit) of the mid-1970's, bedding everyone from boyfriend Todd Rundgren to childhood crush Mick Jagger, to Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, Steven Tyler, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Stiv Bators... I'm probably forgetting some. She was a staple at Max's Kansas City, a model with a wild side and a deep love of rock n' roll and the men who made it (a sentiment I can surely agree with). When she was growing up in Portsmouth, Virginia, she idolized Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull, was awed by their beauty and the sheer amazingness they must have had to have been with their Rolling Stones boyfriends. She wanted to be just like them. "Hmm," I thought when I read that, "I'm probably going to like this woman." Eh, not so much. I certainly think that many of the best muses of the 60's and 70's were unfairly labeled groupies (since groupie has a somewhat negative connotation), but Bebe's constant reiterating throughout the book of how wonderful she was gets unbelievably tiresome. That is my main complaint. It's obvious to all who read this book that many rock stars desired her company, which in and of itself is a testament to her appeal; nonetheless, we are constantly reminded of how beautiful and important Bebe was. I find something about writing, "I was the most beautiful girl in New York City", or "After Playboy came out, I was the most desirable girl in rock n' roll" (and there are dozens of examples of this) just a bit... odd. Of course she was beautiful; there's no denying that. But I appreciate her beauty less and less by reading such statements countless times. Vanity I don't take issue with; I like looking in the mirror more than most people I'd say, but conceit is another matter, and Bebe definitely is armed with both, at least that's how she comes off in this book. Part of me thinks, "OK, so what if she brags about her relationships with these guys? It is pretty impressive, if you're into that sort of thing, and why shouldn't she be proud of it? Mick, Steven, Rod -- they were sex symbols, the cream of the crop. Good for her." And of course, when one grows old and is no longer 21, I'm sure it's glorious to re-live those memories of when life was grander, so maybe she's just taking a trip down memory lane and making sure everyone knows, "Hey, I was THIS AMAZING". But it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Bebe has no great talent for writing, although throughout the book she also mentions how smart and witty she is. Maybe this simply doesn't translate on the page, but is evident in real life. I've never met her, so I can't say. The few times I've seen her interviewed on TV, she comes off likeable enough, so who knows? Her stories are often entertaining, especially the bits about Mick and Keith, as they came off very much like I imagine they would be. It was interesting to read of her affair with Jimmy Page, and how into him she was. However, her relationship with Todd seemed to be plauged by infidelity from the very beginning, and quite possibly, it was her infidelities more than his. Yet she still seems to act like the only reason she went off and dated or fucked other guys was because he was having affairs with other women. So far, I've only read of his being with two other girls (that I can recall), whereas she's been with four or five other men. I know the 70's were a different time with a more casual attitude towards sex, and maybe it's just me, but even if Todd cheated first, the fact that she did it over and over again doesn't condone it. She talks of how she'd cry endlessly over his affairs, which made me wonder, "Uhh... did you give a shit about how he was feeling when you did the same thing?" So I don't really feel sorry for her, and I think I'd emphasize more if she just said, "It was a cruel thing to do, childish and stupid, and I regret it". In Marianne's autobiography, for example, she was always quick to point out errors in her judgement and cruelty in her behavior. Here, I don't feel that as much. She also seemed to have issues with many other women on the New York / Max's Kansas City scene - rock writer Lisa Robinson, Cyrinda Foxe (ex of both Steven Tyler and formerly of David Johansen of the Dolls), and Elissa Perry (thus far in the book - and I should say, I didn't care for Cyrinda's autobiography much either). To this she simply attributes jealousy on their parts. Perhaps farther along in the book she becomes more compelling to the reader (I hope so), but for now, the self-centeredness of her overall tone and the quality of the writing serve as major detractors. Have you all read it? What do you think?
All photos = my scans from Rebel Heart