Rachel Bussel's Reviews > Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway

Neon Angel by Cherie Currie
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's review
Mar 17, 10

Read in March, 2010

This wild ride of a memoir takes us from Currie's suburban upbringing as a young rebel, dyeing her hair red, white and blue and dressing up as her idol, David Bowie, to, in a turn that is dramatically sudden, being asked to audition for The Runaways by Kim Fowley and Joan Jett while at her local hangout. All of a sudden, she's thrust into the big-time world of rock music, and the pace is hectic, with fame, and drugs, chasing the band.

The heart of the story is Currie's quest to find a family who'll appreciate her for herself; her dad does, and, to a large degree, her twin sister, Marie, and older sister, Sandie, but she contrasts them with the sisterhood, of sorts, she finds with her bandmates. The growing infighting amongst the band, in large part of what was perceived as Currie's starring role in the press, along with her own increasing reliance on drugs and exhaustion from touring, help drive them apart. Her life post-Runaways finds her acting (in the film Foxes, alongside Jodie Foster), recording solo albums and, mainly, figuring out who she is...all while still in her twenties. So much happens to Currie while still a teenager that it's sometimes hard to remember that she is so young.

This is often a dark story, including rape and attacks that read like something out of a true crime book. Her evocation of shows overseas, in Europe especially, are some of the most vivid, including garbage and knives being thrown onstage as punk hit; you can practically feel the anger hurtling toward the stage, and Currie documents these times as vividly as she does the wildness of setting out on the road for the first time.

Kim Fowley emerges as the villain who turned a group of young, talented teens into a world-famous band, and while his actions speak for themselves, Currie also details the mixed feelings she had about him, at once abhorring him and appreciating the opportunities he gave her. Sadly, her teen devolution into a range of drugs continued for a while as she tried to break free of their grip, even after watching her alcoholic father die. This Currie, the one struggling for her place and her pride, is as much a player here as the one brandishing glitter and attitude onstage.

She is circumspect about some moments, such as her relationship with Joan Jett, writing, "She was my anchor. How do I explain about a person that was my best friend, someone I would confide in like a sister, someone who to me became a strong, sexual attraction? Well, it's easy. Just like how easy it was to be that way with her. I can leave it by saying that I had moments with a friend that quake me to this day. And they were some of the most satisfying moments of my young life."

These tender moments are few and far between in Neon Angel; much more drawn out are some of the horror stories that illustrate the dark side of fame, or rather, fame under the iron fist of Fowley. Currie's transformation from Bowie-wannabe to Cherry Bomb through recovery to mom, actress and chain saw cutter is fascinating and riveting.
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