It is almost impossible to capture the remarkable life and career of Bebe Buell. Discovered by super agent Eileen Ford who relocated Bebe from herhometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to New York City where her passion, charisma and stellar looks propelled her into the limelight of Manhattan's music scene. After meeting musical geniusTodd Rundgren, the two moved in together and began a steady relationship. When Bebe posed for Playboy in 1974, she became the first fashion model to become a Playboy Playmate (MissNovember), but her controversial layout caused her to be fired by the prestigious Ford modeling agency. Affectionately called “Friend To The Stars,” Bebe earned the title because of her closeness to everyone from Jack Nicholson to Andy Warhol, and her carte blanche access to rock’s elite royalty including relationships with Mick Jagger,Iggy Pop,David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart, Stiv Bators, Jimmy PageofLed ZeppelinandSteven TylerofAerosmith. Bebe’s musical career jumpstarted with her first release, “Covers Girl” (1981) produced by Ric Ocasek and RickDerringer and featured legendary group The Cars backing her on twotracks. She formed TheGargoyles; the female-fronted, hard rock unit that was ahead of its time and caught the eye of Joey Ramone who had the band open for The Ramones. Soon, offers ofrecord deals followed. But when Bebe’s daughter Liv found out her father was actually Steven Tyler, and not Todd Rundgren, 1991 became a year of big changes. Well documented in the media, Bebe has said that she didn’t want to tell Liv who her real fatherwas because of Steven’s heavy drug addiction at the time. Todd had known that he was not the biological father of Livbut had kept the secret in order to give both Bebe and Liv some semblance of a stable home. As Steven got sober, thenews of Liv’s parentage was no longer a secret. Bebe withdrew from the public eye to focus on raising herdaughter. Seven years later, after a series of live shows at famed downtown mecca Don Hill’s, The Bebe Buell Band was born. Around this time, Cameron Crowe released the film “Almost Famous” which is heavily based oncertain elements of Bebe’s life. Crowe crafted some of the film’s dialogue from Bebe, which heremembered during their friendship on the road with Todd Rundgren in 1973. Released in 2001, Buell's autobiography “Rebel Heart; An American Rock And RollJourney” (St, Martin’s Press) was a New York Times Bestseller. For almost 20 years she has been married to Jim Wallerstein of Das Damen andVacationland fame. A musician, mother, muse, model, celebrated lover, manager, best selling author, and popculture icon, music has always held her deepest passion. Boy Scout talked to Bebe about and spirituality, sex, and Patti Smith.
Boy Scout: If you arrived in New York City in 2019 filled with great ambition, how might you ascend to your artistic summit?
Bebe Buell: I can't even imagine being a kid in 2019, there's just way toomuch stimulation. The stimulation that I got as a young person wasthrough art,through music.
Now we have smartphones, and we have computers, and all the otherinstant gratification fixes that, in some ways, has becomethe new drugs. And thereason why I think people are hooked on opiates is because we have to turn that out of our minds. I'm nothooked on opiates but I'm talking about the peoplethat are in the epidemic that we're having in our country.. I've learned to turnmy mind off through meditation. If I was a young 18-year old kid, like I wasback in 1972, coming to New York City, I would want toknow where the artistsgather. Where do they gather? That's probably what I would seek, is findinglike-minded people, finding mytribe. That's what I would aspire to. If I waslucky enough to be coming to New York with a scholarship or. going to NYU, orgoing toa fabulous art institute, or something, then I would make sure that I lived in a dorm so I could meet everybody.
Boy Scout: The late Harry Dean Stanton believed “Everything is predestined. Nothing is important. Life is an illusion. It’s all a movie. Nobody’s in charge” which is lovingly referred to as his Appreciation of Nothing. Do you have a guiding life philosophy that keeps you on the path?
Bebe Buell: I'm still leaving my mind open. I still want to know if there is apossibility that we can have a part in the change of destiny, but Ithink wechoose our bodies, and our lives before we even arrived here. I think we chooseour you know our destiny, and itwhatever reflects our karma, I think we have tocome here and we have to fix it. We have to work on it. We have to learn fromit.
I was told by a psychic when I was 20-years old that I was a manin my last life and I broke many hearts (laughs). You know, it's just arevolving arevolving circle, and we have to learn to acknowledge and see what is beinggiven to us. It's a gift this learningprocess, this universe, thesynchronicity of it all. I definitely think it's all one big thing but I don't thinkit's death that weexperience when we are finished with our birth experience.I think it's just onward to the next experience that our karmic choiceshasgiven us.
Boy Scout: From the outset you have lived hand to heart running with some of the biggest names in Rock'n'Roll rebellion. Can you describe what this kind of music means to you?
Bebe Buell: The Rolling Stones were the one that really tapped me when I was 10-yearsold along with The Beatles. There was somethingabout the British Invasion allof that it just touched me it moved me, perhaps it's an association from aprevious life? Who knowswhy we know so early in our lives who our people are, orwhere our souls belong, but there's just a message that gets sent andwe know, we just know. It just didn't seem at all unlikely to me when I was 10 that Iwould be having tea with Mick Jagger. Iassumed that was just going to happen. There was there was no getting around it.
And then when I was in high school, my girlfriend Claire, played methe M5 "Kick Out The Jams" and you know, changed my life. Hearing "Raw Power,"hearing The Stooges, there was something about that sound that represented myneed to get out of Virginiaand be in New York City. It just represented wheremy spirit was. I guess you could call it my Rebel Heart? I knew. I just knewthat I would somehow be there. But it was the music that touched me and Iconnected with. Once I got to New York, I becameinterested in all kinds ofmusic ... I loved The Raspberries. I still put that concert at Carnegie Hall inthe early 70s as one of myfavorite shows of all time. I was one of those luckypeople that got to see real rebels. People like Alice Cooper who gave the firstreal rock extravaganza with props, it was staged, everything! It wasextraordinary. And then people just started to become morevisual. It spoke tome. It just did. But now, I'm sort of a connoisseur of new, I love classicalmusic.I love Enya, I love everything. There's just something ineverything that I find beautiful. But there's nothing like being on anisland andlistening to Bob Marley. There's nothing like it. There's something to be saidfor beautiful soundtracks. One of myfavorite soundtracks is the Stealing Beauty from the Bertolucci movie.
I think rock and roll and rebellion go handin hand foreternity. I don't think there was ever a stop or start time forthat. It's a soul journey! We're all on a different journey. And somepeople look at rock'n'roll as entertainment. Me? I look at it as a religion.
Boy Scout: New York. Asbury Park. Nashville. What feelings do these cities elicit in you?
Bebe Buell: New York City, Asbury Park, New Jersey. and Nashville.Tennessee have been my cocoon headquarters. Each one of those cities gave me opportunities to do things, artistically, that Ionlydreamed about. And respected me, and did not judge me, and did not hang labelson me, and allowed me to be an artist ---which iswhat I really am--- and that'sthe pulse of my soul.
You can be an artist and even be somebody that gives your art toanother person. You can be a patron of the Arts. There's many-many levels ofartistic integrity. Asbury Park it was just this wonderful sense of community. But I have felt a connection to thatarea since the first time I went therewith Todd Rundgren when he had a show at Convention Hall. There was thiswonderfulboardwalk and amusement park. It was funny. I kept flashing back tobeing, with a parasol and then a beautiful full fancy lacedress, and I thoughtgosh did I live here in the 1920s? But my love affair with Asbury started the instantI smelled the air. In theinstant I was in that that area. It was a connectionthat's been profound in my life. And with Asbury Park, I'd like my ashes to bespread off the Jersey Shore... Not all of them. I'm going to save some foranother spot that's undetermined at this point.
It's not easy for me to explain how you take these detours in yourlife, or why these areas come back into your life. But New York,I've done so manydifferent projects in New York. and so many different things. that I will alwaysthink it's my home Even thoughI'm not living there right now, my soul willalways be housed there in some capacity. But Nashville, it was like a rebirth, orreentry,into another phase of my journey. I found that I wanted to live here when I was 59-years old and I moved into my new househere on June 6 2013. Iturned 60 the next month and I looked upon this is it being represented of anew decade, a new era.
I think one of the things that I love about Nashville, is the no BS. You come to this town, you throw your stuff against the wall, if itsticks itdoes. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But here, the thing that's beautiful is when youthrow your stuff, people either catch it... you don't need to worry about the wall or if it's going to stick. They either catch it, or they let it flyby them and they let the personbehind them catch it. Because, there is amusical divinity here. It's almost like a vortex. I can see why people come hereand theycan't leave. Because the inspiration is off the charts, and thecamaraderie, and the community is beautiful.It reminds me of the early 70s in New York. But I caution thosethat think they can come here thinking that it's going to be aninstantband-aid, or an instant fix, to a life that they might feel stuck in. BecauseNashville is not for everybody. You have to sort ofbe called here. I know thatit might sound a little wacky to people but I don't think you choose Nashville,I think it chooses you. Iwas invited to come down here in 2012 and sing on anEddie Arnold tribute album and it was at that moment that I knew that thiswaswhere I needed to live. I don't know if it was the smell of the Magnolia thatbrought me back to my childhood, because I'm asouthern girl, I grew up inVirginia, North Carolina, people don't realize that. A lot of people think I'm aNew Yorker, but, I sort of am... It's wild. I don't think we can just stick ourselvesin a corner of where were you born.
I'm an "Nash-Yorker" that's what I see. I'm a little bit of both.
Nashville has been incredibly healing for me. I had to take a lot ofslings andarrows when I was a young girl, and I always have to be reminded of that. Sowhen I came here. nobody really caredabout it about that. It sort of remindedme in the 70s when I posed nude, I couldn't get work in America anymore exceptforCosmopolitan and sexier magazines, until my agent Wilhelmina, sent me toEurope. She said "Oh, they don't care about nudity inEurope" and instantly, I wasworking for Vogue.
There's something to be said about the harsh judgments of othersthat make us make our left or right turn, and what we have tolearn is to justnot be detoured by somebody else's anxiety. For me, Nashville has been a big, bigband-aid. So, I had all theseepiphanies and all these incredible fingers thatwere going okay, "this is where you need to go." So, you have to learn to listentoyour finger. If it points a certain way there's a reason and if you're tooscared to try it, research it, and maybe it'll trigger somethingin you, thatwill make you know inside if you need to go there or not. I had friends tell meI was nuts. Nobody could believe that Iwas going to move here on a lark likethat just because my inner voice said do it, but it was the best move, one ofthe bestmoves I've ever made.
Boy Scout: Punk, which crystalized in New York, was angry, hilarious, incisive and immediate. Much like your sense of fashion. What does personal style constitute for you?
Bebe Buell: I've always wondered myself where it comes from? How we want todress, how we want people to perceive us, how we want topresent ourselves? I'vealways wondered where that comes from but I guess it just boils down to either,you have a sense of styleor you don't have a sense of style. Either you're atrendsetter, or you're a trend follower. One or the other is going to apply toeverysingle person on earth, and I think we've all been a little of both. But,you know, I witnessed people like David Bowie walking into theback room of Max's Kansas City,looking like something that none of us had ever seen before.Richard Hell, holding his shirts together with safety pinsbecause he didn't have the money to buy more shirts. The thingabout fashion, and about where it comes from, it's got to be real. It's got to be authentic. It's got to come from who you are. Youknow, what do you see in a store thatmakes you want to go for that as opposed to this other thing that 20 people mightgo for? Withme, I always liked something that made me feel comfortable, and of courseyou always want to look attractive, you want to lookattractive to others. Butit always blew my mind when I would show up in a pair of little lace gloves,maybe 12-years before otherpeople, or when I would wear corsets-- although, I'mcertainly not the first one-- I mean, I saw Cherie Currie in a corset whenshewas sixteen! There are certain things we wear that, we might do them first, but itwill take a Madonna to make it something that isuniversal.
As we know, Madonna is the master at taking all the streetideas and homogenizing them into something that'scommercial. Some people mightbe angered by that, or might think :Why is she getting the credit?" but it's alwaysbeen that way. Ithas always been that way as far back as Van Gogh. The fashionis "What you can afford," basically. Fashion is how do you feelwhen you putyour clothes on? And some people go to extremes. Some people want to wear tonsof makeup and wear costumeryoutfits. There's movements... but the bottom line? Punkrock was all about what can you afford. So, here come the English, andMalcolm McLaren,and they take the essence of punk, which I think real Punk is Iggy Pop,The MC5,Alice Cooper, that that's the realpunk rock to me. The second wave of punk iswhat came to New York City... The Ramones, which to me werejust one of the greatest rock and roll bands. I don't know if I really eventhink The Ramones were punk? The Dead Boys.Blondie (that really wasn't punk tome).... but I think what happened was, that a whole scene got tagged as punk. And thenthe English, theytook it to the fashion place, I think because in New Yorkeverybody was just wearing, once again, what they could afford and theygotcreative.
Debbie could make an outfit out of garbage bags and look gorgeous. DebbieHarry that is. Patti Smith learned very early, all youneed is a good pair ofblack jeans, an incredible black jacket blazer, and a couple of cool shirts, andyou are a rock star. It doesn'ttake a whole lot Then you get the English andthey created the fashionable part of it. The Malcolm McLaren part. The partwhereeverybody was very, very very flamboyantly dressed. And then I started tothink to myself "Is this as inexpensive as it was on theLower East Side?" I wondered if thesekids were spending all of their money on clothes?
So, back to the original thought: Personal style is what it is, either you've got it or you don't.
Boy Scout: From the Bowery Boys to Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Johnny Rotten, there is something innately important about troublemakers who aspire. In finding your way with little in your pockets, was desperation ever a great motivator for you?
Bebe Buell: I immediately was working as a model and Ialso met Todd Rundgren not long... I think it was a few months after I moved to New YorkCity. I just never felt a sense ofdesperation. Some of my friends did whodidn't have families and who didn't have moms and dads. There was a lot ofpeople that like in New York City in the early 70s. The "homed homeless," they were to me. They were people with homes, but theywere homeless because theyhad no connections. I've always had a very close family, what it representedanyway. I didn't growup with my father. My parents were divorced when I wastwo. So, I had my mother and my cousin Annie, who's 10-years older thanI am,who was raised as my sister, were sort of my anchors. I had a strong grandparentpresence in my life too, until I waseight, but my grandmother died when I wasvery young, so I lost all that very young.
So, I had to start my own tribe. My ownfamily. But desperation? I don't know. I think I ever felt that way. Ithinkthe only time we ever feel desperate is if we are frightened and we don't knowwhat's going to happen next to us... and Inever knew what was going to happennext, but I am grateful that I always had people I could turn to when I wasfrightened. I neverturned to heroin, or needles, or ugly, unattractive, disgustingdrugs to make me feel safe. That was the common thing that all myfriends thatdid those kind of drugs, they would say to me. That it was like being wrapped ina warm blanket and I just didn't get it. I'm very grateful that I didn't getit. That I never went down that path. I never understood it. And those that arethat were part ofthat, are they're dead now. Are not alive. They're gone. And I just want to be alive. I want to live for as long as Ican.
And if there were ever desperate moments in the future, I would notbe afraid to seek some kind of grounding, and some kind ofhelp. I'm just lucky.I have a wonderful husband. I have an incredible daughter. I'm not trying tosound like my life is all bright andperfect because I've had incredible lossesin my life, and I've also had a lot of cruelty thrust at me, and I have had tolearn how tomaneuver it. I've had to learn how to rise above it and make it be fuel for my art.
Boy Scout: Anthony Bourdain’s wrenching “Parts Unknown” finale takes place in New York’s lower East Side where a good deal of your history resides. In that episode, Lydia Lunch says: “People were beautiful, doing things because they had to do it—not because of any other grand idea. Happiness was not the goal; satisfaction was the goal, as it still is. . . . We had to do something because we were burning; our blood was on fire.” Lunch made very clear that in the present day, she wastes no time pining for that bygone time—but Bourdain seemed a little more wistful. As a cultural significant, are you ever wistful for an older, grittier New York?
Bebe Buell: I don't think we even noticed that it was gritty in the early 70s. We just walked down the street in our platform shoes and bootsand went toMax's and wherever we went.... I really wasn't a frequenter of the early CBGB's.I didn't really start going to CBs untilI started my own band, when Hilly andLouise invited me to play. So, really I didn't start going to CBs and playing atCBs until theearly 80s. Eighty or Eighty one, around that timeframe. I went a couple of timesin the late 70s, and I went one time in the early 70s but it wasby accidentbecause somebody just pointed me to go peek in this dog-poop-ridden club wherethese really great bands wereplaying. I remember the stage was over on theother side, if I can vaguely remember. It wasn't where eventually becamelocated. I remember seeing The Ramones one time and just walking away from thatexperience thinking that "Wow, that wasamazing, that was exhilarating, that waslike you having a beautiful dinner, or getting a giant Christmaspresent." Itjust made me feel great inside. I don't know what it was exactly, and of course Joey (Ramone) went on to become one of my best friends,and one of mylifelong friends, until his untimely passing.
It's hard to say "do I longed for it" because I try not to do that.I try not to sit around and pine for the way things were. I try to findsituations that make me feel like those situations made me feel, then. Or, I getthat Lydia would say we were "always on the questfor the next"... I forgot whatword she used. I think that my quest was a little different and that's thebeauty of the Lower East Side, isthat everybody's Lower East Side is adifferent Lower East Side. There were no two Lower East Side's that are alike. For me, I think I was always looking for love. I always just wanted tobe loved. I wanted to find that love that was not going tohurt me and thatI wasn't going to hurt. That it was not going to become like a basketball game.
One might think "Wow! it's kind of crazy to look for love in NewYork City, or on the Lower East Side, or in the rock'n'roll world." Yup,Isuppose they're right. But love? Everybody wants love, so there's going to be a way to find it.
Boy Scout: In a time of faltering news platforms, transient facts and generations who opt for digital currency over great literature, how will the stories of those that came before us survive?
Bebe Buell: I'm in the process right now of writing my next book and I havedecided that it's so important to make sure that part of historydoesn'tget pushed in the back room, so as it were. I mean some people look at the 90s,like we look at the 70s and that's insaneto me. I I'm like "No, no, no... youhave no idea what it was like in the 70s!" That's never going to be duplicated. Never, never, never. Maybe on another planet, but here, it's just not goingto be duplicated. I felt a sense of relief when I walked into Max's because I metmy tribe, or a lot of it anyway. I met people that thought like I did. Goingover to Patti Smith's house the first time. She put on arecord and Iremember we started dancing around the room. And I picked up her hairbrush andused it as a microphone, and shepicked up something and used it as a microphone....and I thought to myself "Gosh! Wonder how many more of us there are they getupin front of the mirror with our hair brushes...?" and this was before she became asinger, when she was a poet.
So, I think it's important that storytelling, and songwriting, andfolklore exists. The thing that's so funny about rock'n'roll isstories, bythe time they go down the pike, they've been told so many different ways, thatthe only way for the outcome to come, is back to the truth. There's always goingto be storytellers. As long as we've got storytellers we're going to be able tokeep all thehistorical value, the value of the era, the value of everything. Ijust don't want any of this to be lost. None of it.
I feel I can still beexcited by the "now." I went to see The Struts a couple of weeks ago and they wereso good, and it was so inspiring, and it just mademe realize that there's alwaysgoing to be something great. There's always going to be a needle in a haystack,you just have tofind it. The stories, they'll survive. They'll survive through people like me.
Boy Scout: The last couple of years has seen a country divided. Has the current political climate inhibited or infused your sensibility?
I feel like it's the Fall of Rome. This guy's like Nero, playing thefiddle. I'm sucking it all in. I'm watching it all. I'm in awe of those thatare brave, and they get on the internet, and really fight this. I just think thatthis is leading to the end of all of this kind of way ofthinking... I don'tthink we're going to have fossil fuels in another 20 years. I don't think we'regoing to be killing a billion cows aweek in another 10 years. I think that allof this is changing. This is the apex of the change. It had to come to this, Iguess. This isour Armageddon. This is our part of the Bible where the shit hitsthe fan. It's going to be the battle of good versus evil. I firmlybelieve thatand I believe the good wins. I think we're going to beat this.
People like Donald Trump, they aren't going to be making anydecisions for anybody in 10 years. So, ease your mind. Just knowthat. Knowthat a change is coming, it's exciting. I feel it, I feel the change coming. Ithink people are becoming more spirituallyenlightened. More people arebecoming vegan and vegetarian. More people want to stop using these horriblefossil fuels that arekilling us, destroying our planet. Why would we want todrill in the only pure place left on earth where he just said it was ok todrill? The whole thing is frightening. It's scary. but I look at it this way.I'm alive. I'm witnessing this. I was alive at the same timePrince was alive,that David Bowie was alive, even Picasso was alive when I was a little girl.
So, I look at being in a part of history, and in the part of time,that is magical. Im so thrilled that this was the time that I lived in. All ofthis. All. I hope I get to live to be very old. I really want to see how this all turnsout because I know it's going to be magnificent. Iwant to take one of those shuttles to Mars, I'm looking forward to it.
Boy Scout: Has your bravery grown through the ages?
Bebe Buell: I think when you're younger, you dive into things headfirst. Some people might think "That's brave! Oh, gosh! That was really brave of her. She just burst through that door!"
So, I think it's how you define bravery. I think what happens, asyou live your life, is that you start to not care as much about otherpeople'sbitterness, or other people's negativity, or people saying bad things about you. You just have to remember the old saying "whatever they're saying about you isreally a reflection of themselves." Look at bravery as being able to carry on. Just keep going! People kill themselves over things, of about pain issues. Imean we were talking about Anthony Bourdain, killing himself, it's sotragic. Just stick it out. I want to tell people "Don't take your life! Life is aprecious gift. You chose this. You chose to be here. See itthrough. Even in theworst point, see it through. See it to the end. Try to be a healer." That to meis what bravery is, not being afraidto be a healer. Taking the slings and the arrows, taking it on the chin, not letting it ruffle you, and moving on.
Boy Scout: In a media mad world, can sincerity still be a virtue?
Bebe Buell: Sincerity can only be a virtue in person, and through the pen, andpoems, and prose. When you read something Patti Smithwrites, for instance,it's sincerity. it's sincere. I don't know if you've read her book "Just Kids," butit's probably the best bio ever writtenabout the early 70s in New York, in myopinion. But sincerity in the media? Yes! There's Rachel Maddow, there's ChrisCuomo. We've got sincere people in the media.
Boy Scout: Abraham Lincoln said: “To summon up our better angels.” What are the words you live by?
Bebe Buell: The words that I live by change every single day.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I say myself is "I've got to get through this day but I've got to do something goodfor somebodyelse, and I've got to do something good for myself." These are the two goals. They say you're supposed to putyourself first but you have no idea how muchhappier you become when you do something for somebody else first. It puts anentirely different slant on the day for you, when you do introspection, or whenyou do your meditation, or whatever. It puts a differentslant on yourperspective. On what you need to do to become better. That's basically it for me. It's just each day becoming better. Iguess that's it! That's my that's my "BB," my "Becoming Better," B & B.
Boy Scout: What is your greatest fear?
Bebe Buell: Dying without making amends with certain people, or having them diewithout making amends with me. That, and the death of ouroceans, our selfishnesstowards our planet, the extinction of beautiful animals. Those are my top fears, right there.
Boy Scout: How would you like to be remembered?
Bebe Buell: I'm hoping that I will one day be remembered for a book I'vewritten that has helped people or change their lives.
Well, in a case like mine, people are always going to think you'rethe person you were in 1972. It's just inevitable, and of coursethat'simpossible. When we're 18 our beauty is at its apex, our hormones areat their apex, are our actions are theirmost selfish. Youth is fleeting and youth iswasted on the young, I think we know that.
I think I'm always going to be remembered as "girlfriend of...," Playboy...certain things that are going to always come up. And it's okay. When you look atsomebody like Jane Goodall, she spent her entire life in the jungle fightingfor the great ape. Fighting forchimpanzees, fighting for these animals and sothat's what she's going to be remembered for. I just don't even know how towrapmy head around the past anymore. Because sometimes it hurts. It's verypainful. Because you have to you have to be aroundpeople that don't tell thetruth about you. You have to be around the public scrutinizing you, saying badthings... and I'm not a realfamous person, I'm only moderately famous. So, I canonly imagine what it's like for somebody that's extremely famous. You justhaveto just have to look at the source and try to understand why they're hurting.
Usually, when people are mean, they're hurting. They're hurtingand they want to hurt you back. I get a lot of that. I get a lotof that. Especially since I've moved to Nashville. A lot of people from my past. Peoplefocus on that stuff because that's the glitzand the glamour, but I also like toremind people that we flock with those of like-minded spirits. We're broughtinto the universe ofthose that are like us. I never looked at myself assomebody "tagging along" or "somebody just there...." The thing is, about that, that'spainful is that Todd was my boyfriend and I probably wouldn't have had thatsecond, third, or fourth date if I had been in what wasconsidered "a realrelationship." Because I loved Todd. I don't want people to think I didn't loveTodd. People think "Oh BB, she didn'tlove him, she was running around" but Toddwas not faithful to me on the road. He wasn't a faithful boyfriend, either. Ithink it'samazing that society doesn't even look at the behavior of the man. They just look at the behavior of the female... and I just reactedto thesituation I was in. I was an 18-year old girl. I might have been a little inover my head. I might have been in in a worldthat I had channeled andvisualized since I was 10.So quickly, that I didn't have all the tools to do everythingperfectly. I was a competitive basketball player in high school. So, ifa guyhurts my feelings, I'm going to like get him back. Not in that mean kind of way,it's like meaning like "Okay! If you're going todate on me, I'll date on you!" Youknow? It's so childish and horrible how we think when we're young, before we learn, totake it to a higherplace.
And sometimes, I often wonder what "Would life have been like if Ihad been the suffering girlfriend that never looked at anotherman?" Would Toddeventually have married me or would we have had children? Would he have becomefaithful? You know, there'sso many questions that we ask ourselves, but at thesame time, all the pressure is put on the women for that type ofreflection, all of it: "The man" he gets to either sport his trophy, or tell his tale of woe,or be pat on the back for dating a beautiful woman. I'm sortof longingfor the day when somebody pats me on the back and goes "Wow! You had greattaste in men when you were young," Breaks my heart that nobody seems to give adamn that I have had a successful marriage to one man for almost 20-years. Abeautiful talented, gifted man with his own history, and its own background offabulousness. Everybody just wants to focus on theearly 70s. Which is fine. Iknow it's going to be one of my banners to bear for the rest of my life. Andthank God I loved the era, andthank God there was so much more that happened tome during that time, besides who I dated. They'd rather just shame me. Andshaming another person -- for me, I know that when I'm shamed--- it just makes mewant to go and write another chapter of my book. It just makes me want tostrive harder to be good. It just makes me want to work harder. It just makesme want to write anothersong. It just makes me can't wait to get back on stageagain.
Whenever I'm stabbed in the heart, it just makes me want to keepfighting.
I don't know if I would have had an opportunity to dateMick Jagger,or David Bowie, or Iggy Pop, if I hadn't just been a young pretty girl kickingaround in the right place at the right time. I could have been anybody. Thepoint is, that I left an a lasting impact on some people's lives, and they onmine. One of thethings about Bowie, and I that I'd like to make very clear,is that he was not my lover. We did not have sex. You know, we weremore justbuddies that liked running around New York together, and going to the top of theEmpire State Building. By the timethe opportunity did come up for us tohave sex, we had been kicking around as buddies for so long that .... well, solong? Ten days maybe...? That, it just seemed kind of funny, I know this mightsound hard for people to believe, but if they know new Davidthey'd understand,we just started laughing. I mean here we were, naked, and we realized we don'treally, even really... Do we reallywant to do this? I mean, David was havinggirls come in and out five times a day. He didn't need more sex. And I was livingwithTodd, and there was that part of me that, you know, didn't want to have sex withother men... There was, you know, there was that part ofme that really just savedsex for my true passion. I had to feel something deep. I had to be in love. I wasn't one ofthose people that could just "Oh! Let's go have sex!" that was neverever the waymy heart worked, or my body.... and so David and I ... it's one of my favorite momentswith him, and I'll treasure it forever. I've still got a Polaroid that I took ofhim that day. And we were at the Gramercy Park Hotel, and I remember him going "Ah,let's puton silk robes and play with makeup!" So that's what we did. We put onsilk robes, and we put makeup on, and played with differentideas on our facesfor like four hour. So that was my big sex with David Bowie.
I just wish people would take that moment to look a little deeperinto people's lives. If they're going to categorize it, or make alaundry listof humans that have come in and out of your life. I don't like the people thatI've loved, or had experiences with, beingput on a list like they're, you know,an inventory or something. Every single experience I've had, good or bad, has hada reason,and a profound impact on my life, and it's not something that I can look at lightly.
Boy Scout: Your 2001 autobiography, Rebel Heart, which was a NY Times bestseller, catalogues a life immersed in downtown New York’s music and fashion scenes. Fantastical friendships with Salvador Dali, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol, photography sessions with Franceso Scavullo and Richard Avedon. Your relationship with Elvis Costello. How Rick Derringer and The Cars Ric Ocasek produced your debut EP Cover Girl. How does your past inform your present?
Bebe Buell: I should have written "Rebel Heart" by myself. I should have writtenit alone, like I am the book I'm writing now. I am more thancapable. It wasMarilyn Manson that said to me "Good art is either loved or hated, there's noin-between" and that's the way it waswith Rebel Heart, people either loved thatbook, or they hated that book. There was no "Ah, that book was okay." Therewas noneof that. There was no "It's okay." It went straight to the bestsellers listand it probably would even climbed higher if 9/11 hadn'thappened, I mean thatwas the tragedy of that time frame in the horror of 9/11. I'm going to finallytell a lot of stories, but I'm alsogoing to share a lot of the wisdom that I'veaccumulated through this life of mine. Spiritual inspirations, I'm hoping thatit'll be abook that people can turn to in a time of need, I don't want it tojust be a story about me and a bunch of fabulous people,everybody on earthknows fabulous people. Fame does not make you fabulous. I'm ready for this book.I am so glad that I've gotthis opportunity to share what I've learned, more thanwho I've known, I want to share what I've learned. Because what I've learnedisso important, so important.It will help so many young girls get those tools they need for their toolbox.
Boy Scout: Your grandfather played the banjo. Your grandmother played the comb. Music has driven you to relocate to Nashville after spending most of your life in the Northeast. How does it feel to bring the spirit of music alive through performance?
Well I I've always been a performer... and I think when I was 18 and Iwas dating Todd, I was a bit of a performer even then because I had to looklike a grand royal lady on his arm, youknow? I was living in the era of therock golden couple. Mic and Bianca, Todd and Bebe, Angie and David, Alice andCindy. I hadto learn pretty early how to present myself, and as a model I hadto learn how to sell a garment, or sell makeup... and it was alwayspeople that Iwas very close to that had heard me sing. It was always, you know, my boyfriend's,bor my girlfriend's "BB, you reallyshould make a record you. You've got such anunusual voice." It was Ric Ocasek and Rick Derringer that finally said we'regoingto take you in the studio. I will even get the tracks and it allstarted to play itself out. I think what happened with me isthat people got toknow me so well as the ornament, as the girl on the arm. They got to know me sowell as the fashionstatement, as the trendsetter, or whatever. They got to knowme so well as that... so when I finally started to show everybodywho I was,it made my road very difficult. Even though it showed that I had good taste incovers, or that Ric Ocasek had a goodidea with a cover, "Little Black Egg", peoplewanted to know "We'll, can she write?" So then, I started writing my own songs, and Iwas Ihad been writing poetry most of my life. So a lot of the very first songsI wrote were bits and pieces, and scrapes and scraps, of allmy poems, and then Ijust started to actually live that life.
Once the 80s came, you didn't hear so much about me on somebody'sarm. Then when Joey Ramone took me under hiswing in 1989 and I moved backto New York City again, after having moved to Maine for several years. Everything just took a bigturn. And the spotlight on me again as an artist. Andit was a really good feeling. It was a good feeling to finally just be me. Tobewho I was....
And then, suddenly, out of the karmic side-street, outof the wormhole, came the issue of Liv (Tyler's) paternity...which I wasn't certain wasever going to be something that I would have to face, one day. But I knew theday could possibly come. And it changed everything. It took my chance of beingan artist again, which I don't regret, I'm not saying that with bitterness, I'mjust saying that the recording contract I could have signed with The Gargoyles,suddenly had no legs. Because, I had my big meeting andwhen they told me I was going to be on the road for the next three years aftermaking analbum, I knew that I couldn't abandon Liv. I knew it. I just knewthat if I walked away from her at that moment, when she's justfiguring out whoshe is, and her identity is being formed, and then she finds out that her fatheris not this man, but this man ... it wasimportant to me to keep her healthythrough that. I had to keep her healthy because my childhood trauma was notsomething Iwanted to see on anybody else, even though I came from a close,beautiful family, I did have a lot of childhood trauma which I don't want to getinto. I don't do the #Metoo thing. I fight my own things, privately.
Buthere weare in a situation where I had to make a choice because I didn't make perfectchoices when I was a 22 year old kid. Sohere was my chance to do exactly whatI should do, and that was be the best mother I could be, see her through this,help herto love both of them. I wanted Todd to feel loved, and I wantedSteven... I wanted them both to feel loved, by all of us. I wantedeverybody tofeel loved. Sadly, Todd wasn't on the same path with me and he was very angry atme. Very, very mad that I wouldever tell... that I would ever reveal... because hefelt that I had made a promise to him when Liv was born, and he signed her birthcertificate at the hospital, that I would never tell that Steven was her father.I was supposed to never tell, well, I told. And I'm goingto pay for that for therest of my life from Todd. I am going to pay for that. But at the same time, I'mwilling to, because I did, in myopinion, I did what was best for Liv. I did whatwas best for Liv and I'm sorry that I didn't do what was best for Todd. I didwhatwas best for Liv.
So, I carry a lot of pain, as well, along with the imagery thatpeople have created, there is that little girl in me that mighteven haveto stop talking right now because I feel like I'm going to cry...
To learn more about Bebe Buell, visit her here Photograph of Bebe Buell by Mark Weiss Photography | Artistically reimagined by Marcel Mutt for Boy Scout Magazine