There’s nothing new about the sexual exploitation of young female stars.
Last week, the Huffington Post published an account of a rape so callous, it was hard to read.
What made the story even more shocking was that it was alleged to have happened to a former teenage rockstar in an iconic “girl” band. While her bandmates watched on.
Runaways’ bassist Jackie Fuchs says that she was assaulted in front of her bandmates, the feminist icon Joan Jett and lead singer Cherie Currie.
In fact, Fuchs says she was raped by Kim Fowley, the band’s manager and producer, in front of a hotel room full of people at an after-gig party, while Jett and Currie watched, snickering, in a corner.
It was 1975 and she was 16 years old.
The entertainment industry is rife with starry-eyed teens – and adults ready and waiting to take advantage of them.
In the past few years alone, pop star Kesha, child actor Corey Feldman and Lady Gaga have come out with allegations of rape and abuse by men in positions of power in their early careers.
And the Bill Cosby, Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile sex-abuse stories need no elaboration. Back in the 1970s, when these men were at the peak of their powers, they were using their clout to take advantage of girls and young women – and no one said anything about it.
This same silence surrounded the shocking behaviour of Kim Fowley.
The piece by Jason Cherkis, called The Lost Girls, describes how Fowley conceived of the idea of an all-girl rock band (unheard of at the time) and actively recruited the members, grooming the girls and sometimes their parents to allow them to play in the Runaways and tour overseas with him as their sole guardian.
Fowley was a songwriter and producer, a band-manager and hustler who managed to get his name on the liner notes of hundreds of albums from Helen Reddy to hair-metal. His last appearance, in a wheelchair, was in Beyonce’s video for Haunted.
He was openly interested in teenaged girls, and what he called “young c*nt” or “dirty pussy”.
A friend of Fowley told Cherkis that the two of them used to drive to high schools to try and pick up teenagers.
The rape of Jackie Fuchs allegedly happened in a hotel room in Orange County. The Runaways had played a New Year’s Eve gig there at a tiny club called Wild Man Sam’s and Fowley had invited a group of people to celebrate back in their dingy hotel room.
Fuchs was feeling elated after this gig – she finally felt part of the band.
At the hotel, a man who she thinks was a roadie approached her with a Quaalude and told her she was to take it, no questions asked. She did. A witness, Brent Williams, says she was given up to five or six Quaaludes that night.
“It was a date rape situation,” he told Cherkis.
Fuchs never discussed what happened that night until now, 40 years later.
Friends of Fuchs at the party were concerned by how out of it she was. Fuchs wasn’t a drinker and never took drugs, preferring to be in control.
She eventually had to go and lay down, unable to remain on her feet. That’s when Fowley offered up her body for sex to a roadie, who declined the offer.
“You don’t know what terror is until you realize something bad is about to happen to you and you can’t move a muscle,” she says. “I can’t move. I can’t speak. All I can do is look him in the eye and do the best I can do to communicate: Please say no. … I don’t know what it looked like from the outside. But I know what was going on inside and it was horror.”
Fowley began undressing Fuchs, unbuttoning her blouse and pulling off her pants. Fuchs’ friends, unable to bear it a moment longer but too intimidated by Fowley to stop him, left the party.
He began having sex with her, while others crowded in to watch.
On the bed, Fowley played to the crowd, gnashing his teeth and growling like a dog as he raped Jackie. He got up at one point to strut around the room before returning to Jackie’s body.
Fuchs says her last memory of that night is looking up and seeing Joan Jett and Cherie Curry staring at her.
The Runaways… post continues after gallery.
After that night, Fuchs remained in the band. She never discussed the rape with her bandmates and they never talked it over with her.
“I didn’t know if anybody would have backed me,” she says. “I knew I would be treated horribly by the police — that I was going to be the one that ended up on trial more than Kim. I carried this sense of shame and of thinking it was somehow my fault for decades.”
Watch The Runaways performing Cherry Bomb… Post continues after video.
Finally, while on tour in Japan, Fuchs broke down. She called her mother and arranged a trip home.
She was still only a teenager. She’s never played in a band again.
Fuchs was replaced by Victory Tischler-Blue on bass, and she says that despite never talking about it with Fuchs, Jett and Currie discussed the rape openly among themselves.
“I heard about that nonstop,” she says now. “They would talk about Kim fucking Jackie like a dog. It was kind of a running joke.”
Fowley, in his 2013 biography, denied ever being sexually inappropriate with the Runaways.
“They can talk about it until the cows come home but, in my mind, I didn’t make love to anybody in the Runaways nor did they make love to me.”
Cherie Currie and Joan Jett have also addressed the issue.
After Cherkis’s HuffPost story was published, Currie took to Facebook to deny she’d witnessed the rape.
I have been accused of a crime. Of looking into the dead yet pleading eyes of a girl, unable to move while she was brutally raped and doing nothing. I have never been one to deny my mistakes in life and I wouldn’t start now. If I were guilty, I would admit it. There are so many excuses I could make being only one month into my sixteenth year at the time that people would understand but I am innocent. When I return from Sweden I will seek a qualified polygraph examiner to put to rest any and all allegations. I will make public the questions, answers and results of that test. I will prove I am telling the truth. I will not allow anyone to throw me under the bus and accuse me of such a foul act. I will fight for myself. It is the only thing I can do and I’m glad to do it.
Her protestations and willingness to undertake a lie-detector test are really strange. In addition, such a test, after 40 years, would be rendered inaccurate.
Jett also posted on Facebook about the story, after being bombarded with demands for a comment. The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee wrote:
“Anyone who truly knows me understands that if I was aware of a friend or bandmate being violated, I would not stand by while it happened. For a group of young teenagers thrust into 70s rock stardom there were relationships that were bizarre, but I was not aware of this incident. Obviously Jackie’s story is extremely upsetting and although we haven’t spoken in decades, I wish her peace and healing.” – Joan Jett #JoanJett
Fuchs has addressed the lack of support from her former bandmates in her own Facebook post.
“I know some people watching the online drama unfold have been discouraged by the lack of support I’ve received from my former bandmates. To which I can only say that I hope you never have to walk in their shoes. My rape was traumatic for everyone, not just me, and everyone deals with trauma in their own way and time.
“I only wish that if my bandmates can’t remember what happened that night – or if they just remember it differently – they would stick simply to saying that. By asserting that if they’d witnessed my rape, they’d have done something about it, they perpetuate the very myth I was trying to dispel when I decided to tell my story.”
Fuchs, emboldened by other sexual assault victims coming forward in recent times, finally spoke to her attorney about her rape last year.
She wanted to meet with Fowley, to tell him “he is not forgiven”. She never got her chance because he died in mid-January.
In February, Fuchs finally told her mother about the rape.
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