Cherie Currie wanted nothing more to do with the music industry. During a fleeting but influential stretch as a teenager singing for the all-female punk group the Runaways, Currie became a rock star overnight. But just as suddenly, she quit the band, tired and strung-out.
Then, 33 years after she last scandalized North America in sexy corsets and jumpsuits, while screeching alongside Joan Jett and Lita Ford, Currie reunited with Jett onstage for a one-off performance of Runaways classics in August 2010.
Currie, now 53, says the 2010 feature film "The Runaways," starring Dakota Fanning (as Currie) and Kristen Stewart (as Jett), sparked the concert and kindled the record deal that followed, including the possibility of a Runaways reunion tour with Jett and Ford.
"I've been out of the scene for so long. I mean, I've been a freaking chainsaw artist for the last 12 years," says Currie, speaking from her home in San Fernando Valley, Calif. "Lita was thrilled. The holdout is Joan. I buried the hatchet with Lita last year, and we met up — I hadn't seen her since I was 17, 18 years old — and we have been wanting it over the last year. She understands what it was like being 17 years old, being in a band and having nobody in our corner to help us with feelings and emotions and insecurities."
For the first time since she split from the Runaways in 1977, which soon after disbanded under the weight of drugs and infighting, Currie is hitting the road on a solo tour, which includes a date Thursday night at the Harriet Himmel Theater in West Palm Beach. The need to tour is a familiar and exciting urge for Currie, who at 15 left her twin sister and alcoholic father behind in Los Angeles to plug in with the first all-female American punk band, which sold out concerts from South Florida to Japan and pumped out a memorable roster of hits ("Cherry Bomb," "Queens of Noise," "You Drive Me Wild").
While the Runaways turned heads with sex-kitten posturing and rebellious nonchalance onstage, Cherie says the backstage dynamic buckled fast and early under teenage hormones and jealousy.
"When we were on the road, we only had each other," Cherie recalls. "When you're having a problem or feeling insecure, or you're on your period — we just started our periods, for chrissakes! — it was too much responsibility to depend on each other only for months at a time. We didn’t know who were were. Joan was a Suzy Quatro knockoff and I was a David Bowie knockoff. Lita was a [Deep Purple guitarist] Richie Blackmore fan. We followed our heroes until we could figure out who we were. We leaned on each other, even through the drugs and pills.
"Everyone was getting rich, but we were still asking for money for Tampax or a dollar for a cheeseburger, all the way up to the end," she says. "There were too many jealousies at the time and no mediator to sit us down to show how much we were being manipulated."
Curating the Runaway's success, along with their blitz of bookings and overseas shows, was tour manager Kim Fowley, an enigmatic and Svengali-like producer who would have sex with women in front of the girls to keep them on edge, as well as pit their insecurities against each other.
"We hated each other by the end," says Currie, who wrote an autobiography, "Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway," detailing the band's rise and fall. (The book was the basis for "The Runaways" movie.) "[Kim] verbally abused us on a daily basis. He kept us fighting because it was real rock 'n' roll to have that F-all attitude."
Currie's falling out with the Runaways precipitated years of cocaine abuse, which lasted until her marriage to actor Robert Hays (of "Airplane!" fame) and the birth of her son, Jake, now 22 and a guitarist with Currie's solo act. If the underage rock 'n' roll rebellion Currie found in the Runaways could be a cautionary tale for Jake, she shared it as soon as her son begged to go touring with a cousin at age 16.
"I asked Jake then, 'How do you like your 'no,' fast or slow?' " she says with a laugh. "It's a blessing. He's an incredibly talented kid. I didn't have a security blanket back then. Now, I do. I know I only have a few years left in me, and then I can sit back and watch my kid do what I was incapable of doing."
Currie's current tour will include several Runaways hits, along with new material recorded for an unreleased album produced by drummer Matt Sorum, of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver. She says the release, featuring vocals by GNR's Slash and Duff McKagan, the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan and others, may never materialize because of disputes over record royalties.
"It's part of the reason I went touring again," Currie says. "The album is now out of my hands. When someone takes my art and covets it, in order for me to be free, I have to walk away and start over. Nobody should be controlled by anyone in this life, be it a tour manager or record company."
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29
Where: Harriet Himmel Theater at CityPlace, 600 Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach
Cost: $40, $125 VIP includes hors d'oeuvres, champagne and photo op with Currie
Contact: 561-366-1000 or CherieCurrieConcert.com