Monday, May 04, 2009

Book: The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star

...or, A Year In The Life Of A Delusional, Self-Absorbed Jerk (I would use another word, but this is a family blog). Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. Like a train wreck, I couldn't turn away. I mean, come on! Rock n' roll bad boys at their worst, a coke-crazed rock demigod who is declared dead at the end of the book? What is not to love? I ask you!

Confession: at the height of hair metal (1986-1989) I was a complete fan. Not a concert-going fan, because I lived in a tiny logging town in Oregon and was 13 and a good-girl kind of girl. BUT, I had my entire room papered in hair band photos from fan magazines, and I loved all the bands. Poison, Motley Crue, Cinderella and Whitesnake were among my favorites. I practically wore out my cassette tapes because I played them incessantly. I stayed up late to watch Headbanger's Ball on MTV. I wrote fan fiction about Bret Michaels, also starring (who else) myself. Sample line:

"Just before the show, Bret came running down to the hall to borrow my mascara and lipstick because CC had stolen his! Of course I let him borrow it, he has to look good!"

OMG. The embarrassment.

So. While the Crue were not my #1 favorite, they were definitely in the top 5. I didn't have a favorite band member but it probably would have been Tommy Lee, the crazy drummer. I remember vividly when Girls Girls Girls came out. I was visiting my friend Jennifer in Eugene, and we went to the U of O campus and went to the cool record store, and I bought a cassette single of the song. I loved it sooooo much. Who knew that at the height of their success, their founder and bassist, Nikki Sixx, was dying from heroin addiction?

Sixx kept a journal all throughout his career, and in the early 2000s he found the one from 1987, the worst of his addiction. Sober now and shocked by the contents, he decided to release the journals as a book, in the hopes that it may help other struggling addicts. A fascinating mix of actual journal entries and current-day commentary by the people who were there (including bandmates, managers, and the backup-singer-formerly-known-as-Vanity), this gripping story doesn't hold anything back. You get it all. The cocaine psychosis, the paranoid delusions, the rush of being a rockstar and putting on a great show, the groupies, all the mounds and mounds of drugs, the grind of being on tour, the decidedly unglamourous life of being a heroin addict, all the way up to his shocking death (for some minutes) by overdose (the aftermath is shocking -- it's not shocking at all that he eventually dies for a little while -- we're just surprised it doesn't happen earlier).

The shocking part: after he is declared dead, then brought back to life somehow by one last try, Sixx tears out his IV and tubes, stumbles out of the hospital clad in only filthy leather pants, to be picked up by two teenage fans, crying in their car while listening to his obituary on the radio. They give him a lift home, where he shoots up again and falls asleep.

Some other favorite scenes: Sixx repeatedly forgets to buy household necessities such as food and toilet paper. He's living alone in a huge Gothic mansion and has no toilet paper. I guess I thought rockstars would have assistants or something to keep the house going, but maybe that's too sissy for the ultimate rock bad boy. Anyway, more glamour: he and the other bandmates routinely neglect to shower for weeks. At one point he mentions oozing sores on his legs and a rash across his torso, but figures it's just from not bathing. "I've seen it before and it always goes away after a couple showers." At another point he is back from a few weeks on tour and hasn't washed his clothes the entire time (I'm assuming both stage and 'real' clothes). He comes home, disappears into a drug haze for a few days, then wakes up a few minutes before he's supposed to head out on the road again. He just shrugs and picks up his unpacked bags and goes back on the road. I wonder if the groupies ever pinched their noses. Gross.

Anyway. Sixx comes off as a royal jerk who, at times, has a kind and sensitive heart. He's also completely self-absorbed, oblivious, clinically depressed and suicidal. It's fascinating to read his real-time journal entries and then to have current-day Sixx and bandmates comment on the incidents and thought process that was happening. Thankfully Sixx seems to have cleaned up and seems like a decent guy now. The after-death part sums up the last 20 years, and the ride never stops. I can't imagine a life like that, but it sure makes compelling reading.

In an interview I watched with Sixx, he made an interesting point that part of the reason why the bands were able to go so crazy back then was that there wasn't this insane focus on celebrities. If a singer crashed his car, you might see a notice in a fan magazine or on MTV News, but nobody really cared, and it was sort of expected. But now, it would be all over the tabloids and Perez Hilton, etc. You can't get away with anything. Personally, I think this is sad. A world without crazy bad-boy rock stars is a sad place. Drugs are bad, sure. But come on. Without them acting out our shadows, we get even worse characters.

Interesting side note: Sixx released a soundtrack to the book by his band, Sixx A.M. A year or two ago, Terri had made me a mix CD which included this great song, The Girl With Golden Eyes. Turns out, it's actually from the soundtrack and contains lyrics derived from the journals. So now I have to check out the whole soundtrack.

Also fun bonus: after reading about Sixx's state of mind while making various videos and such, I had to go look them up and watch them again on YouTube. Completely fascinating.

And one last note: I hesitated to check out this book (library, of course) because of the really crazy formatting. I thought it would be difficult to read, but it was actually pretty easy to follow, and the story is so, well, addicting, that you just get sucked in and want to read it regardless of funky layout and distracting graphics.

So now I have to check out the other book about the band, The Dirt. I hope my library has it.


Lara Starr said...

You are a brave girl to not only admit to, but quote from your fan fiction about Bret Michaels. Eww.

I was never into hair bands, but I once when to a taping of a TV show where Motley Cru performed and I got the pair of drum sticks that Tommy Lee threw into the crowd.

Miss D. said...

I know! Gross, right? But back then..

And I don't actually still have the thing I wrote (now THAT would be troubling). Unfortunately I just remember -- all too embarrassingly well -- what I wrote. God.

Susan said...

Daphne, I've given you an award! and I hope you like it. you deserve it :-D