Posts by admin

The Life, Music (and Costumes) of Stevie Nicks, rock’s still-reigning witchy queen

Gold Dust Woman is a cradle-to-golden years slog through the singer’s life

Being a Stevie Nicks fan has always required reconciling the conflict between thinking that her Sisters of the Moon act was somehow both empowering and a little embarrassing.

On the one hand, there has been much to like about this singer and songwriter who first projected her gauzy light into the world in 1975 as the de facto front-person for the rock band Fleetwood Mac. Within the band’s framework — and later, working with producer Jimmy Iovine and musicians Tom Petty and Don Henley — her vague poetic imagery was complimented by a real rock power that turned her ladylike musings on love, loss, witches and gypsies into her own variety of feminist anthems. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, clad in diaphanous shawls and platform boots, the diminutive singer made being female seem mysterious and powerful. It was no wonder that her fans were mostly young women who copied her thrift-store, hippie princess wardrobe and thrilled to song lyrics they could have pulled from their own velvet-bound journals.

That Nicks’ early heyday also coincided with the emergence of punk rock made her seem slightly silly and retrogressive. She was the tea and sympathy those girls sipped in secret when they needed a good cry, but not what they admitted to in the mosh pit. Still, there was an authenticity to her constantly-twirling version of being a woman. She was the contrasting lace to the leather of contemporaries like Chrissy Hynde.

However, by the grungy 1990s her brand of girl-rock would become largely irrelevant. As Steven Davis tells it in his unauthorized, 2017 biography of the singer, Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks — a cradle-to-golden-years look at, arguably, America’s preeminent rock goddess — this diminution of her flame was as much due to changing tastes as it was to the singer’s struggles with that old rock ‘n’ roll bugaboo, drug addiction. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Gold Dust Woman, begins with the childhood of Stephanie Nicks, born in 1948 and raised in various cities across the Southwestern U.S. (Arizona, Utah, California) by parents who recognized their daughter’s talent from the start. When she was five-years-old, her grandfather, a bar singer, began taking her to saloons to provide harmonies to his country stylings. By the age of 16 she was writing her own songs. ‘“I knew from that second on that I was not going to sing a lot of other people’s songs. I was going to write my own.”’

During her last year of high school, in San Mateo, California, she met Lindsay Buckingham, who recruited her to sing with his band, Fritz. The sextet played increasingly high-profile gigs throughout the Bay Area, first at college campuses and later opening for acts like Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

But, by 1971, along with Hendrix and Joplin, Fritz was kaput. By then Nicks and Buckingham had become romantically involved and headed to Los Angeles to record as a duo.

Nicks spent her first two years in L.A. juggling songwriting with cleaning houses and waitressing — while Buckingham filled his days with smoking hash and writing music. She was willing to do the drudgery and put up with an increasingly verbally, and sometimes physically, abusive boyfriend because she believed it would be short-lived. Indeed, by 1973, they had a record deal with Anthem Records and released their first album, the eponymously titled, Buckingham Nicks. It went almost nowhere.

Stevie Nicks, 1977. Wikimedia Commons.

Stevie Nicks, 1977. Wikimedia Commons.

 

Then Mick Fleetwood entered the picture. The beleaguered head of the British blues band Fleetwood Mac had just lost front man Bob Welch — who had already been a replacement for two others guitarists, founder Peter Green and later, Jeremy Spencer. Fleetwood had some gigs looming and immediately recruited the American guitarist and his “attractive girlfriend” to round out the band.

The succeeding half-decade — featuring a lineup of Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass), Christine McVie (keyboards/vocals), Nicks (vocals) and Buckingham (guitar/vocals) — would be Fleetwood Mac’s glory years. Starting with the album Fleetwood Mac (1975) and progressing through Rumors (1977) and, to a lesser degree, Tusk (1979), the band would ride the top of the charts, with Nicks’ songs, “Rhiannon,” “Dreams,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Sara,” predominating.

Davis gives us a pretty good view of what it was like in the studio and on the road with the famously fractious band — and their ever-changing alliances — during those years. The McVies broke up. Christine had an affair with the sound man while John drank. Nicks and Buckingham broke up. Nicks surrounded herself with an ever-widening coterie of girlfriends, got breast implants and had affairs with Fleetwood, Don Henley and others. Buckingham started a relationship with the recording studio’s receptionist and raged uncontrollably — over loss of control and fury that Nicks, not he, was the fan favorite. Fleetwood filed for divorce from his wife, slept with Nicks and one of Nicks’ friends. And they all spent too much money — on things like redecorating hotel rooms for short tour stays, on houses and cars and on cocaine. They sucked up a lot of cocaine.

The author exhaustively recounts every fight, toot and affair from this era employing historical interviews published by other writers and a few he conducted with the band (but notably, not Nicks) while writing Fleetwood’s 1991 “autobiography,” Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac. The anecdotes illuminate the chaos. Yet the minutia of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll playbook begins to wear.

The next phase of her life, according to Davis, “had its beginning in Stevie’s new clothes.” With the help of her costume designer, Nicks switched from witchy black ensembles to looser, more colorful clothing made of “crepe, leather organza, satins.” Really? It began with more organza? Not with the realization that she didn’t want to be abused by Buckingham anymore?

More saliently, in 1979, she met publicist Danny Goldberg, who, along with Paul Fishkin (who Nicks also dated), would help her found Modern Records, the label under which she released her first solo effort, Belladonna. It was her manager, Irving Azoff, who connected her with Tom Petty, beginning a long association with the musician and his band, The Heartbreakers. It was Petty who then connected her with legendary producer Jimmy Iovine. Iovine would steer the Nicks ship, taking “control of Stevie’s recording sessions with a steely will,” and more intimately, as her boyfriend for the next
few years.

Belladonna put Nicks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1981. But she was also committed to travel to France to make a fourth Fleetwood Mac album, Mirage. In fact, during her entire career, Nicks would juggle her solo work with her Mac duties.

It was during these sessions, weary, in a drafty French chateau, that Nicks realized she was much more famous than her bandmates — most particularly, her ex-boyfriend Buckingham — and began a realignment of the power dynamics. Flexing her new-found muscle would lead to years of break-ups and reconciliations within the group but would somehow also produce 40-more-years-worth of music.

GoldDustWoman

Nicks spent the rest of the 1980s engaged in a flurry of successful and/or messy ventures including: marrying her deceased best friend’s widower (annulled after three months); having a relationship with “the love of her life,” Joe Walsh; investing in a concert promotion business; and releasing four solo albums that produced a dozen songs that charted in the Billboard Hot 100.

Significantly, she also checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, California because years of cocaine abuse had left her with a hole in her nasal passage. She ended the decade battered, but coke-free.

Then came the 1990s, during which the formerly-diminutive pixie would balloon to “175 pounds and was smoking three packs of mentholated Kool cigarettes per day.” This deterioration was partly the result of Nicks having become addicted to Klonopin. A psychiatrist had prescribed the powerful tranquilizer on the heels of her stay at Betty Ford. She spent the next seven years (ages 39-45) stumbling around in a haze.

‘“That was the worst period of my life. They stole my forties. I might have met someone, had a child, become a mother, made some great music,”’ Nicks explained after another medical withdrawal.

The music she made during the Klonopin era had declined in quality but still sold. Yet, reviews of contemporaneous tours emphasized her weight and personal problems over the songs. Nicks was mortified. She quit smoking, bought a treadmill and went on a diet. ‘“I would never sing in front of people looking like that again,”’ she said. She also had her breast implants removed.

By the time she hit her 50s, a clear-headed and healthy Nicks was ready to complete the rehabilitation of her image. In part, she would do what other aging artists had done, and aligned herself with younger talents. In Nicks’ case, it was Sheryl Crow, with whom she would record and tour. Crow, like many female musicians, (notably The Dixie Chicks) grew up admiring Nicks. She also worked with Dave Stewart, of Eurhythmics fame, who produced her seventh solo turn, In Your Dreams. In 2015 Fleetwood Mac successfully reunited after years of estrangement. The tours that followed would play to sell-out stadiums across the globe. And in 2017, she teamed up with another old broad, Chrissy Hynde, for a world tour. Maybe she was not so embarrassing after all.

Fan or no, for a reader who wants to understand the definitive Stevie Nicks story, Gold Dust Woman has little in the way of real insight to offer. While the author expounds about backstage shenanigans and the motivations for Nicks’ songs — like the time she was abandoned by Buckingham at an Aspen resort which led to “Landslide;” or the rainy day in Sausalito that led to the rain washing her free in “Dreams;” and, of course, the origins of the Welch witch, “Rhiannon” — it’s fairly dull reading.

What is lacking from this biography is the sound of Nicks’ voice. (Or, for that matter, the voices of those with whom she is closest.) While there are descriptions of her actions, they convey no palpable feeling of agency. While we are told she had a large circle of friends and lovers, there are no reflections of the kind of personal appeal that would explain why those friends hung around all night and did so for decades. (Was she fun? Was it just the free coke?) The Stevie Nicks who emerges from the musty, second-hand quotes is almost entirely petulant, humorless and moons like a teenager over the guys enlisted to steer her career. Surely, there is more to this wildly successful woman who won the adulation of millions with a little poetry and a shawl, started her own record label and resurrected herself from the ashes more than once.

If we’re left with anything that sounds like a truism, it’s that Stevie Nicks — who is turning 70 this year — is, as Christine McVie once put it, ‘“a tough little thing.”’ That’s a paltry insight for a 300-page investment.

Record Collector News, May, 2018

Foxes on the Run

From The Bystander Effect to Stockholm Syndrome: Sexual and psychological abuse in Rock and Roll cast a 40-year shadow

joan_jett-patty_hearst
(Left) Joan Jett post-Runaways, circa 1980s. (Right) Patricia Hearst robs the Hibernia Bank, 1974. [Wikimedia Commons Public Domain]

On New Year’s Eve in 1975, Jackie Fuchs (a.k.a. Jackie Fox), just 16-years-old and a member of the all-girl band The Runaways, was drugged by a roadie and then raped in a motel room by the band’s notoriously sleazy manager, producer and all-around-Svengali, Kim Fowley. The story of a young woman’s assault by a 36-year-old man — revealed this past July in a Huffington Post exposé, The Lost Girlsis sickening. But what makes Fuchs’ tale uniquely chilling is that, as she recounts, the rape took place in a roomful of other people, including two of her fellow band members, Cherie Currie and Joan Jett.

Her revelation of this 40-year-old crime reminds me of the saga of another fox on the run from that era: Patricia Hearst. She was also a teenage girl who appeared self-possessed and revolutionary to a public riding the first swell of feminism’s second wave and hungry for depictions of women who stood up to “The Man” — but who was, it would turn out, a victim of abuse and manipulation by those men. Moreover, the mea culpas, continued denials and psychological justifications offered by primary witnesses to Fuchs’ rape that have come in the wake of The Lost Girls, are redolent of the courtroom defense that followed Hearst’s SLA crime spree: that she was not entirely culpable because her felonies were enacted while she suffered from a little-known disorder called Stockholm Syndrome.

From Patty to Tania

To refresh your memory, in 1974 — a year before Fuchs’ joined The Runaways — Hearst, a 19-year-old publishing heiress, was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, CA, beaten and kept in a closet for several weeks by the homegrown revolutionary group, the Symbionese Liberation Army.

While incarcerated in her claustrophobic cell, SLA members ratcheted up the terror by repeatedly threatening the teenager’s life. She was given an explicit choice: to either to join her captors or to die.

Hearst chose life.

New recruit, Patty, was immediately renamed “Tania” and trained in the use of weapons and other martial arts. Also, according to Hearst, Angela Atwood (her new SLA “sister”) informed her that, “the others thought she should know what sexual freedom was like.” While girls her age were becoming radicalized through benign activities, like “Take Back the Night” marches, she was receiving “sexual freedom” education from two of the SLA’s male leaders, Donald De Freeze and William Wolfe — in the form of repeated rapes.

She was then reintroduced to the public by way of stylized makeover photos and proclamations denouncing the values of her wealthy family. These images of the newly militant Tania, wearing a jaunty beret and brandishing an automatic rifle at crime scenes, held the nation rapt for more than a year. Finally, after more than 19-months on the lam, Hearst was apprehended by FBI agents and tried for her participation in the SLA’s robbery of the Hibernia Bank.

It was at her trial that Hearst’s defense lawyers first introduced the American public to the concept of Stockholm Syndrome, a psychiatric condition, they explained, in which hostages form a traumatic bond with, express sympathy for, and even protect, their captors. In other words, while Hearst looked like she had been a willing participant in the SLA’s crimes, her willingness was merely a survival tactic.

Meanwhile, Back at the Motel

In an interview with KCRW’s Madeline Brand, Fuchs said, that after being given Quaaludes (possibly several) at that New Year’s Eve party: “The next clear memory I have was lying on the bed propped up on the pillows, and a roadie came over and asked me if I was okay. And then Kim Fowley showed up behind him and he said, ‘Do you want to [blank] her?’ And then he said, ‘go ahead, she won’t mind. Will you?’

“And I found that I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move a muscle. That the drugs had rendered me incapable of doing anything but silently pleading with the roadie to say no. Which fortunately, he did.”

Unfortunately, Fowley wasn’t finished. In his Huff-Po article, reporter Jason Cherkis recounts what came next: “’I remember opening my eyes, Kim Fowley was raping me, and there were people watching me,’” Jackie says. She looked out from the bed and noticed Currie and Jett staring at her.” That was her last memory of the night.”

queensbookRape ‘n’ Roll stories are nothing new to music lore. The exploitation of young women and men is, in some ways, well documented and was recently recapped by noted rock writer and NPR music critic, Ann Powers, in “The Cruel Truth about Rock And Roll.” Even Fuchs’ rape story has been told before by The Runaways’ lead singer Cherie Currie — first in recorded interviews soon after she quit the band, years later in her autobiography, Neon Angel, and later still in former bandmate Victory-Tischler Blue’s disturbing Runaways documentary, Edgeplay. However, in none of these versions does she name the victim.

Instead, in language hauntingly similar to Angela Atwood’s, Currie called the incident, “Kim Fowley’s Sex Education Class.” The story of how Fowley taught “you dogs to fuck,” would be recounted again to music writer Evelyn McDonnell for her 2013 biography of the band, Queens of Noise: The Real Story of The Runaways, by both Currie and Kari Krome, one of the band’s founders.

Although McDonnell says she was told it was Fuchs under “deep cover,” she couldn’t reveal the information without Fuchs’ corroboration (which she didn’t have) and for legal reasons (Fowley was notably litigious). When McDonnell asked Fowley directly about sexual abuse in the band, he told her, “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.” Yet, hinting at the truth, McDonnell ends the chapter that contains these conflicting allegations with the strong disclaimer, “Maybe somebody is lying.”

Queens of Silence

As recently as three years ago when The Queens of Noise was being researched, and almost four decades after the deed, Fuchs was not yet ready to come forward. She had her reasons, most of which were rooted in fear. But, primarily she remained mute because, even though this horrific crime happened in a roomful of people, nobody had stopped it — and tellingly, nobody present that night offered to talk about it afterwards. Certainly no one proffered comfort.

As Cherkis tells it, “Jackie showed up at the next band practice some days later, not ready to stop being a Runaway. Although she was nervous about how her bandmates would treat her, she at least expected them to acknowledge that something bad had happened. But the girls hardly registered her presence.

“Jackie took her bandmates’ silence to mean that she should keep quiet, too. ‘I didn’t know if anybody would have backed me. 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.’”

There were other reasons to remain silent. As Cherie Currie says in Edgeplay about the well-documented verbal and emotional abuse the girls suffered at the hands of Fowley: “I knew what was happening to me was wrong. I knew what was happening to Joan, Lita, Jackie — that was wrong. But we couldn’t do anything about it because he was producer. He was manager. And he said, without him we would go nowhere.”

The-Runaways-Music-Life---June-422321Fuchs, like the other teens, wanted success. Such was Fowley’s sway that — even though the majority of his musical accomplishments resemble a collection of bizarre novelties hawked by a carnival barker — she remained convinced he could make her a star. So, she “compartmentalized” her feelings and played on for another 18 months. Fuchs says she remained as much to keep her bandmates’ dreams alive as her own. She didn’t quit until 1977, when during a tour of Japan she suffered an emotional collapse.

Ironically, Japan was the only country in which the band ever achieved legitimate stardom, complete with screaming mobs of fans. If Fuchs had been less traumatized, the adulation of thousands of devotees could have spurred her to soldier on despite the myriad dysfunctions rampant in The Runaways’ exercise. After all, this is what they had been working toward. This is the reason she’d maintained her silence.

Denial

Fuchs’ disclosure in The Lost Girls landed like a firecracker in the drought-parched Hollywood hills, sparking an immediate conflagration of media outrage from voices within and outside the music world. Many were supportive of Fuchs and others condemned Fowley — who died of bladder cancer this past January. Los Angeles music writer Chris Morris spoke for many when he wrote:

“I had no love for the man. I always viewed him as a viper that walked upright. Though I found myself in the same room with him on innumerable occasions for more than 35 years, I always gave him a wide berth. His reputation preceded him, and it was not one I found attractive.”

The online conversation quickly devolved into a “she-said, she-said” clash over whether or not Curry and Jett had witnessed the rape — and if so, why they hadn’t tried to stop it. In response, both women issued statements on their Facebook pages denying that they had observed a criminal act on the night in question.

Currie, who has spent a lifetime on the fringes of Hollywood chasing the dream of a musical career said:

“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.”

Jett, the band’s most famous alumnus and 2015 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued this terse comment:

“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.”

Read carefully, neither of these statements disputes that such an incident occurred.

The Bystander Effect

pressplayFuchs seemed mostly baffled by the denials — particularly since her version of events had already been corroborated by several people present — markedly by Kari Krome, who was both in the hotel room that night and who revealed that she, too, was sexually abused by Fowley, beginning when she was only 14.

In her own Facebook statement, Fuchs said: “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.”

That the former bass-player was able to acknowledge the deniers with such equanimity, may be due to the fact that, before revealing her secret she had researched and found a plausible justification for the passive behavior of the onlookers that night: a phenomenon called the Bystander Effect. As with Stockholm Syndrome, the Bystander Effect is a psychological experience that produces inverted behavior in response to a crisis. In this case, when multiple witnesses are present at the victimization of an individual, they fail to act in the victim’s defense — and the more spectators present, the more pronounced becomes the abnegation of responsibility to help.

As she said on KCRW, until she read an account of the night of her rape in McDonnell’s book, “I had directed my anger at the bystanders for not intervening. That was when I first began to realize that perhaps, it wasn’t really their fault and I should be directing my anger at the man who raped me.”

Like the Harvard trained lawyer that she became after she left the band, Fuchs worked tirelessly to provide that roomful of New Year’s revelers — most of them teenagers and likely drunk or hampered by chemically-induced inertia — with a plausible defense. “One of the things I’ve tried to do with every bystander,” she said, “is let them know it’s not their fault.

It’s a good argument. It might even be true that no one stopped the proceedings in that hotel room in 1975 because of the discouraging influence of the Bystander Effect. However, the fact that no one in her band mentioned it, commiserated with, or offered comfort to Fuchs in the 18 months that followed — nor in the 40 years since —  is in need of additional analysis.

A Family Affair

For starters, as Fuchs posits, all five members of The Runaways were Kim Fowley’s victims. As their ersatz guardian he kept them hungry, both emotionally and literally, rarely paying them enough money to buy food. Fowley also regularly demeaned his “Fab Five” by hurling everything at them from foul invectives like “dog cunt” to handfuls of garbage — in what he called, “heckler’s drills. And, according to drummer Sandy West (who died in 2006) he took particular relish in abusing Currie and Fuchs.

Currie contends that Fowley used the tactic of dividing the girls to conquer and control them. First, as with Patty Hearst, they were removed from their families and sources of emotional support. Later they were separated from each other, which was easily accomplished with a group of girls who, in many ways, had nothing in common but a desire to be famous.

It has been noted, that in cases of familial child abuse, a parent need only mistreat one child to control the rest. In a The Kansas City Star article titled, “It isn’t rare of a parent to single out one child for abuse,” Debra Wolfe, the executive director of the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research at the University of Pennsylvania says of children who must watch the abuse of a sister or brother: “For them to be witnessing this and feel powerless to protect their sibling is really daunting.”

“In the most severe abuse cases,” the article continues, “siblings are sometimes forced to participate. Siblings might be told by their parents to withhold food from a targeted child. [And] being asked to isolate the targeted child from family activities can cause profound guilt later for the other siblings.

Fuchs was already the odd-woman-out in The Runaways. She did not take drugs. She was the one with the “girl next door” look. She was also, by all accounts, the smartest member of the band and the one “with a mouth on her” who challenged Fowley over his mismanagement of the girls’ earnings and career. It makes sense, that if he were to choose a single person to break in order to control the others, it would have been Fuchs.

With one vile degradation, he was able to neutralize her, separate her further from the others and to achieve complete domination over the teens. For the remainder of her time in the band, Fuchs would be further marginalized — often by her bandmates —until, by the end, she was nothing but the butt of the joke.

As, Tischler-Blue (a.k.a. Vicki Blue), who replaced Fuchs on bass when she quit the band recounted, “I heard about that [the rape] nonstop. They would talk about Kim fucking Jackie like a dog. It was kind of a running joke.”

Neon Angel

neonIn Edgeplay, Currie states that, though she kept lines of communication open with her family during her years as a Runaway, she didn’t tell her father everything that went on with Kim Fowley. If she had, says Currie, “He would have pulled out a gun and blown his [Kim’s] brains out. I still hope someone does. Because I think if anyone deserves it, that man does.”

If she felt that way in 2003, why in 2014 would Currie invite her former tormentor to live in her home and to nurse him through the final months of his terminal illness? Why in 2015 would she deny a horrific and memorable incident that she’d previously (and repeatedly) written and spoken about?

In a 2010 Spin article Currie said, about her relationship with Fowley: “It’s like battered-wife syndrome. Some women love the abusive men they’re with and that’s kind of the way I was with Kim. I really wanted his approval.”

Dr. Frank Ochberg, M.D., a psychologist who worked as a consultant with the FBI in the mid-‘70s on hostage cases [such as Patty Hearst’s], and who interviewed victims of such crimes says: “A terrorist or a criminal (or, for that matter, an abusive spouse or parent) may be a source of terror and then a source of relief from the state of being terrified and infantilized. That person, by not killing you, by giving you the various gifts of life, evokes a primitive and profound feeling… often difficult to put into words.

“These positive sensations could last a long time. Months. Years.”

Maybe Currie’s late-life largesse toward Fowley was simply the result of her ability to forgive. “He apologized to me on the phone a year ago,” she said in Spin, “saying if he had to do it over again he wouldn’t have treated us that way. He didn’t know how to handle 15-year-old girls. In his own crazy way, he loved us.”

Or maybe Currie forgave because Fowley spent his final months producing Reverie, her first new album in over 30 years — an album that she hoped would finally get her name onto the star maps and out of its decades-long exile in obscure Hollywood limbo.

She Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll

And what of Jett’s denial? “Anyone who truly knows me,” begins her statement rebutting Fuchs’ allegations. With her guitar slung butchly over her shoulder — reminiscent of Patty Hearst posing with her machine gun at the Hibernia Bank — Joan Jett has long been the picture of cool and has inspired more than one generation of girls to start their own bands. Unlike, Currie, the multi-million-selling rocker has enjoyed a stellar career. Also, unlike Currie, she has always kept mum about her personal life — employing a sometimes-refreshing throwback persona: the strong, silent type.

Silence has been golden for Jett and is likely one of the behaviors that has helped her to outlast many other performers. She did not appear in Edgeplay to dish about the past with her old pals. In fact, she actively obstructed the film’s making — as she would later obstruct involvement by other band members in The Runaways, the 2010 Kristin Stewart-starring biopic. She has never conclusively confirmed nor denied the ongoing speculation about her sexual orientation and seems content to weather gossip and bad publicity by waiting it out.

In a spinner.com interview, explaining part of her enigmatic persona — namely her ambiguous sexuality — she said: “If you open up a door to your whole life, once that door’s open, you can’t shut it. You can’t open it up for some parts and keep it closed for others.

“It really boils down to this: I want to please everybody. I want every guy and every girl thinking that I’m singing these songs to them, because I am. If I make a hard, fast case on where I stand then that takes away a lot of the fantasy. Music entails a lot of fantasy… Some people might think it’s a cop-out. I don’t care. That’s how I feel.”

jettspeechHer April 2015 acceptance speech at the induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, likely didn’t please everybody when, in remembering her first band, Jett commended its producer by name.

“If Kim were still with us, he’d be here, sitting at my table and probably taking bows on this occasion. Rightfully so. Thank you Kim.”

She makes other notable assertions in that speech, too.

“I come from a place where rock and roll means something. It means more than music, more than fashion, more than a good pose. It’s the language of a subculture that’s made eternal teenagers of all who follow it. It’s a subculture of integrity, rebellion, frustration, alienation and the glue that set several generations free of unnatural societal and self-suppression.

“Rock and roll is political. It is a meaningful way to express dissent, upset the status quo, stir up revolution and fight for human rights.

“Rock and roll ethic is my entire life…”

Jett has performed many commendable acts. She’s toured extensively with the USO, lent her name and efforts to charities to benefit people and animals and provided a leg up to other female performers entering the music business. When considered exclusively through her official words and deeds, the adult Jett seems precisely like the kind of person who, if she witnessed “a friend or bandmate being violated,” would “not stand by while it happened.”

In a Jezebel piece, biographer Evelyn McDonnell recounts that Jett has always denied witnessing Fuchs’ rape. “Jett told me while I was writing Queens that she had absolutely no memory of the incident as described in Neon Angel; her spokesperson told the Huffington Post the same thing.”

She goes on to note that, “Joan was also 16, perhaps stoned, possibly traumatized. She is not the villain here.”

To be clear, Jett is also not defending Fowley in this matter.

Since most of us, by her design, do not “truly know” Jett — or what she saw in that motel room 40 years ago — the only thing that can be ascertained for certain about her motivations regarding almost anything is that she “loves rock and roll” and has lived most of her life in service of its fantasies and “ethics.”

While Currie will probably continue to post confusing screeds that simultaneously confirm and deny Fowley’s monstrousness, Joan Jett, the rock star, will likely “put another dime in the jukebox” and wait out the speculation.

Dead End Justice

In 1976, Patty Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and using a firearm in the execution of a felony and sentenced to seven years in prison. The jury didn’t buy the Stockholm Syndrome defense.

This was also the year that The Runaways’ eponymous debut album dropped. Along with the band’s one hit, “Cherry Bomb,” The Runaways features a classically ludicrous Kim Fowley concoction called “Dead End Justice.” Sung by Currie in a kind-of first-person narrative style, the song follows the trials of a sexy, jailbait teen, a “dead end kid in the danger zone,” who parties, runs wild and is eventually arrested and thrown into juvenile detention. The music peters out towards the end, culminating with Currie’s melodramatic recitation of her escape from juvie, along with fellow detainee, Jett. The final dialogue goes like this:

But Joan I’m getting tired
I’ve run out of fire
I can’t go any farther

But Cherie you must try harder

Joan, I’m down, it’s my ankle

I can’t go on, but I can’t leave you

What do I do?

Save yourself, you know what you gotta do

After 40 years, Fuchs finally knew that she had to “save herself,” and maybe a few others along the way. As she told Yahoo’s Chris Willman: “Sometimes it’s really hard to know what to do and when to do it. But it is never too late to try to do the right thing.”

The Neverending Story

In the wake of Fuchs’ disclosure, it’s important to note that a violation like this should have come as a surprise to no one. In fact, the only surprising thing is that we hadn’t heard about it earlier.

Except, we have heard it. For the past three decades, countless outlets, from cable news networks and well-publicized court cases to Lifetime channel movies and tragic memoirs, have reiterated that girls and boys are routinely sexually abused by adults (mostly men) who hold sway over them. It happens in suburban rec rooms; it is perpetrated by the leaders of every major religion; it is hidden in the ledgers of the Boy Scouts of America; and it happens throughout the sports and entertainment industries. The reports of these abuses are so numerous that to hear one more is almost mind numbing.

Documentarian Amy Berg, best known for her Oscar-nominated film Deliver Us from Evil, about the abuse and rape of 25 children by a single Catholic priest, has recently released, An Open Secret. This 2015 documentary recounts the personal testimonies of five child actors and models who were sexually abused by the managers, publicists and agents with whom their parents entrusted them.

Of course, there is the case of comedian Bill Cosby, who is currently accused of serially drugging (with Quaaludes, the same drug given to Fuchs) and raping upwards of 50 women — at least one of them, Judy Huth, only 15 at the time of the assault.

tattooTo take this story to the music business we need only look to the case of British television personality Jimmy Savile. Savile was best known for hosting two shows on the BBC: the music showcase, Top of the Pops, and the long-running children’s program, Jim’ll Fix It (1975-1994) on which he promised to make children’s “dreams come true.” His death in 2011 unleashed a tsunami of deferred survivor testimonies regarding Savile’s decades-long sexual abuse of hundreds of boys and girls. The wave of allegations also brought down a network of fellow pedophiles who hail from the music world, such as rocker Gary Glitter — who coincidentally wrote the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ hit, “Do you wanna touch me?”

And let us not forget Lou Pearlman, the man who created the boy bands ‘N Sync and The Backstreet Boys and who “allegedly” used some of its young members for sexual favors before stealing their earnings.

These are just the incidents that we know about. These are the ones in which the victims faced their rapists, or in which the powerful perpetrator died and could no longer pose a threat.

In a 2002 interview with CNN’s Larry King, Patricia Hearst responded to a question about whether or not it would be “hard to look at” her former captors when called as a witness at their upcoming trial for a 1975 murder:

“…for any victim of a violent crime, when you actually get to go in and realize and see their faces and know that they can’t hurt you any more, there is no feeling like that. It finally frees you from a lot of demons.”

With her exposure of a 40-years-old rape, Jackie Fuchs has both faced Kim Fowley and re-branded his posthumously engorged legacy as effectively as does the protagonist in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — when she retaliates against her sexual attacker by etching the indelible words, “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert and a rapist” into his flesh. More importantly, this revelation has initiated a conversation that may lead to a much larger story.

After all, The Runaways weren’t the only girl band Fowley managed.

Record Collector News, September, 2015

 

 

Steven Robins

SteveRobinsSTEVEN ROBINS has been an astrologer for over 25 years. Based in Santa Cruz, CA, Robins’ practice is grounded in his observation of nature’s cycles — from the simple turning of the tides and seasons to the evolution of the epochs — and his interest in how these cycles affect our lives. Contact him at cosmiccircumstances.

What got you interested in astrology to begin with and how old were you at that time?

In 1974, when I was graduating the University of California at Santa Cruz, working on a senior thesis about the interrelationship of natural and social systems, a guy I met made a comment about that night’s full moon, which resonated with me. He said we take for granted how the alignment of the sun and moon affects the sea tides, and that the rest of the solar system creates energy tides on other levels. Made sense. I was 21. A couple years later I bought Jim Maynard’s “Celestial Influences” calendar, where the introductory material described astrology as musically counterbalancing planets moving through our natural seasonal cycle. Have followed it ever since.

What is your specialty (mundane, natal, financial) and why?

I am most interested in how the alignment of the solar system is creating tides of energy influence in our world, and how these developments are playing out in global developments and for individuals and their relationships. Whatever our unique inclinations and differences, the trends we are all living with are what most matters to me.

What do you think is the role of astrology in the modern world?

To explain how patterns of planetary alignment are creating natural influences in our lives, and to help people find comfort and support through understanding and acceptance.

What is your personal ethos regarding giving readings? For instance, do you believe you have a responsibility of some kind to instill hope in a client who may be coming for answers to difficult life crises?

While I only explore the unfolding energy tides and what influence they might bring, without giving specific advice or predicting outcomes, what is gained through understanding the unique ways this is affecting people, encouraging them to go along with the flow of nature for peace and success, with increased clarity, is inherently hopeful and helpful. That’s enough for me.

Are you able to make your living primarily from astrology? If so, how long did it take to get to the point where astrology provided an acceptable wage?

I do astrology for part of my income. It has taken many years of experience to feel comfortable giving personal readings, perhaps leading to more.

Has knowing what’s on the horizon for you astrologically ever functioned as an impediment to your spontaneity — for instance, knowing a potential partner’s chart?

If anything, having some knowledge of shifting energy tides and personal inclinations has sharpened my appreciation of the need to always be fresh and spontaneous, trusting the flow of nature. I once discovered a correction in someone’s chart and realized I had been “seeing” them incorrectly, and it reminded me to always respond to things as they are, whether we think we understand them or not.

What do you say to people who say they don’t believe in astrology?

It’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity. Reality doesn’t require proof to be true, though you might need proof to even think about it. In contemporary culture, astrology is popularly understood to mean predicting and prescribing according to the alignment of the planets (“stars,” as they call it), but in its essence astrology is merely the observation of how the unfolding patterns of planetary alignment seem to have consequence for life on earth. If science means drawing conclusions about nature based on systematic observation, then astrology is the first science (Genesis 1:14). It is reasonable that people without understanding of how it works (which I am glad to explain, without folklore or mythology), would fail to see how it could. In my view, it is not necessary, just interesting and helpful, to follow astrology.

 What sign are you?

I am Libra Sun, Pisces Moon, Aquarius rising. September 1952, heading into the conjunction of Saturn and Neptune in Libra — reinforced dreams of love and harmony.

Nadia Gilchrist

NadiaGilchristNADIA GILCHRIST is a Canadian astrologer and tarot reader who has been practicing professionally for 19 years. Her work is focused on practical solutions because, as she says, “I believe that past lives, karma and spirituality are valid and powerful, but not much use if you can’t make sense of them in the context of your daily life.” Read her well-written and exceptionally useful weekly horoscopes and astrological essays — and find out about her consultation services, too — at her website Ruby Slipper Astrology.

What got you interested in astrology to begin with and how old were you at that time?

I think I was in my early thirties. I was having some difficulties in my personal life, and was trying to understand events that felt like they were beyond my control. So you could say I was initially drawn to astrology as an attempt to impose order on chaos, although now I see that “chaos” is really in the eye of the beholder.

What is your specialty (mundane, natal, financial) and why?

I’m interested in the impact transits and progressions have on personal lives.

What do you think is the role of astrology in the modern world?

The same role it’s always played: it gives people a context to put fear and change into, while allowing them to understand their reactions to fear and change.

What is your personal ethos regarding giving readings? For instance, do you believe you have a responsibility of some kind to instill hope in a client who may be coming for answers to difficult life crises?

I want to empower my clients by presenting them with the facts, and then encouraging them to make their own decisions. I try to balance hope with reality, and a large part of reality is accepting what’s happening in real life. Astrology is an adjunct to real life. It’s my job to tell the truth about what I see in the charts, but at the same time, I try to give my clients some tools to work with (based on their natal potential, and how that interfaces with real life). Not every situation is going to work out the way a client wants it to, but I do not believe that anyone is “doomed” to be unhappy.

Are you able to make your living primarily from astrology? If so, how long did it take to get to the point where astrology provided an acceptable wage?

I first launched my business in 2010 (although I’ve been practicing for 19+ years). I would say the wage I make now far exceeds my expectations.

Has knowing what’s on the horizon for you astrologically ever functioned as an impediment to your spontaneity — for instance, knowing a potential partner’s chart?

Nope, never. My heart and instincts always dominate. I look at the charts after the fact, and so far they’ve always supported what’s happened.

What do you say to people who say they don’t believe in astrology?

Nothing! Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and I’m not here to prove astrology’s merits to the skeptics. Those that do believe in astrology end up crossing my path, and that’s good enough for me.

What sign are you?

Virgo.

Peter Stockinger

PeterSockingerPETER STOCKINGER first trained as a Cosmobiologist in Austria, continued his studies in Great Britain and has been practicing in the field for 25 years. Stockinger is a Master Astrologer with the Society of Astrologers and has published several books including, William Lilly: The Last Magician and an English translation of A German Stargazer’s Book of Astrology (Astronomia Teutsh Astonomei – first published in 1545). He has also written for the Journal of the Astrological Association of Great Britain and The Tradition Journal. His study of English Renaissance astrologers led him to concentrate on the practical aspects of astrology with a focus on the traditional natal, electional and horary disciplines. His website contains a trove of his historical astrological knowledge, as well as information about his consulting services. Find him at: Peter Stockinger’s Traditional Astrology Weblog

What got you interested in astrology to begin with and how old were you at that time?

I was in my early twenties when I first became interested in astrology. At that time I was collecting esoteric and occult books, with the intention to eventually open a specialist antique and secondhand bookshop in Austria. Amongst the books I bought were many astrological titles; reading those piqued my interest in astrology.

What is your specialty (mundane, natal, financial) and why?

These days I am mainly concerned with predictive astrology. Horary astrology is probably ranking in first place, followed by predictive natal astrology. I undertake electional work to establish the most auspicious times for any kind of business, surgery, relationship, and so forth. I also keep a regularly updated weblog with mundane astrological articles.

What do you think is the role of astrology in the modern world?

I think that astrology is as valid today as it has been hundreds of years ago. Modern people are still trying to find answers to their three most important questions, health, sex and money, just as our ancestors did. Astrology can still help to find answer to these questions.

What is your personal ethos regarding giving readings? For instance, do you believe you have a responsibility of some kind to instill hope in a client who may be coming for answers to difficult life crises?

What I would like to highlight here is the fact that it is the astrology itself that provides the answers. The astrologer is only the facilitator, who, by interpreting the astrological symbolism, predicts a possible outcome. I would agree though, that it is the astrologer’s responsibility to thoroughly study astrology, enabling them to give the best possible judgment.

Are you able to make your living primarily from astrology? If so, how long did it take to get to the point where astrology provided an acceptable wage?

As this was never my intention, the question is not applicable.

Has knowing what’s on the horizon for you astrologically ever functioned as an impediment to your spontaneity — for instance, knowing a potential partner’s chart?

No, this has never been a problem. We all have free will, which also includes the possibility not to look at the future if we choose to do so.

What do you say to people who say they don’t believe in astrology?

I ask them what their judgment is based upon, and if they have studied astrology so they can express an informed opinion. I also try to point out that sun sign astrology, as found in newspapers, has not much in common with in depth delineations, tailored for the individual and undertaken by a trained professional.

What sign are you?

My Sun is in Leo.


This interview is part of The Stargazers series.

Jim Sher

JimSherJIM SHER is the founder of the Sher Institute of Astrology and Metaphysics in Los Angeles, CA. He became interested in astrology while studying for his Masters degree in Social Work, and later began to incorporate astrology into his therapy practice, bridging the gap between traditional therapy and transpersonal and depth psychology. Currently he teaches astrology, meditation and philosophy through his institute and also continues to work with individuals as an astrological counselor. Find out more about Sher, his services and Sher Institute courses at sherastrology.com

What got you interested in astrology to begin with and how old were you at that time?

When I was getting my Masters degree I met someone who wanted to do my chart and I agreed. I was very casual about it, but the feeling of it did have an air of familiarity. A year later, on a visit with a friend from college, another person gave me a chart to look at and this time, I kept it and looked at off and on for the next few years. That was weird to me, but I couldn’t let it go.

Things got serious when I was 26 and got a full reading from an astrologer and this time, I was very moved. I felt I knew astrology already and wondered two things: I wondered why I was so certain that astrology was real and then I truly was bewildered as to why everyone didn’t make astrology real. The combination of these two thoughts caused me to feel very weird and different. But it didn’t cause me to doubt what I now had begun to recognize as true and real. From then on I took astrology very seriously and it became a very significant part of my life.

What is your specialty (mundane, natal, financial) and why?

I was trained as a therapist and began using astrology with clients early on in my practice. So, at first I combined astrology and psychology as a therapist. I have studied financial and mundane astrology but it did not fascinate me the way astrology combined with psychological counseling did.

Also, I have come to see that astrology is an incredible tool for increasing self-awareness. This, in turn, has the potential to cause a person to want to begin a spiritual path. In fact, I have seen that astrology itself can be a spiritual path, if approached in the right way. I know that it is rare to regard astrology as having this kind of purpose. But for me it is, as it connects us to Cosmos itself and that changes our consciousness drastically.

What do you think is the role of astrology in the modern world?

I do not expect astrology to become mainstream in my lifetime or perhaps in the next 30 years or more. There are two major reasons:

  1. The biggest religio/philosophical battle right now is between science and the fundamentalists of religion. Astrology is ridiculed or worse by both sides. 400-500 years ago astrology was often practiced, even by great scientists such as Kepler and others. But, right now, astrology is regarded either as mere superstition or as the so-called working of the ‘devil.’ Either way, astrology is not likely to gain any traction in the foreseeable future.
  2. The way astrology is being practiced. This might seem like an odd thing for an astrologer to say, but I am not the only one. In a talk by Richard Tarnas to an astrology conference, he openly stated that the way astrology is often practiced trivializes astrology. He even went further to say that the best minds of our present culture do not go into the field of astrology. I doubt most astrologers appreciated his viewpoint, but I did. I believe as he does that astrologers need to become masters of astrology AND in at least one other field.  I do not assume that astrology is a ‘stand alone’ field. Again, most astrologers did not like to think this way, but as long as astrological practitioners do not have more training, their consultations will reflect that.

I would like to add that one reason I began teaching astrology was to attempt to raise the bar of astrological education.

What is your personal ethos regarding giving readings? For instance, do you believe you have a responsibility of some kind to instill hope in a client who may be coming for answers to difficult life crises?

I do not give readings. Also, the ‘consultations’ I give are not monologues nor do I give advice. I gave a lengthy talk at Antioch University that went into the nature of an ethical consultation. I showed that making predictions or even suggesting that one can make predictions is actually dangerous for the client. This shocked the audience. Though many loved the lecture, I attempted to put astrology on a completely different footing.

So, yes, the astrologer has great responsibility for what they say to a client. But, as to the importance of hope? Now the questioner has dived directly into very important issues facing the astrologer or any counselor. The answer to this question cannot be answered in a brief way. Why? Because first one must explore the nature of hope itself. What is it? Is it a lie? Is it authentic? Can a person truly give hope to another person? What is the purpose or value of hope? Does hope lead to understanding or the seeing of a bigger picture? Why do we rely on hope? What does it truly give us? Can we trust it? Do we ever really trust it? These questions are just the beginning of an important examination of the question.

Finally, the interviewer referred to ‘difficult life crises.’  Yes, people often do consult astrologers at that time. And that is itself an important thing to recognize. Why would a person put such faith in an astrologer about such important matters? What are they doing when they engage in it? Do they really listen to the astrologer or are they merely looking for validation for whatever they’re already thinking? And if the astrologer doesn’t tell then what they want to hear, what do they do with that information? Ignore it? How serious does a client really take the words of the astrologer?

And most importantly. How does the conduct of the astrologer determine how seriously their words are taken by their client?

Are you able to make your living primarily from astrology? If so, how long did it take to get to the point where astrology provided an acceptable wage?

I feel it is very difficult to make a living as an astrologer. To do so in the present climate one would need to have many sources of income, such as from talks, books, articles, as well as consultations. Because I owned a business at one time, I do not need to make my living from astrology. My aim is to break even in the sense that teaching astrology is meant to help me pay regular monthly bills at a minimum level. For more than that I would have to do all of the things I have mentioned. It isn’t impossible, but it is very difficult.

Has knowing what’s on the horizon for you astrologically ever functioned as an impediment to your spontaneity — for instance, knowing a potential partner’s chart?

I do not ever feel I know what is on the horizon. What astrology can reveal are probabilities and possibilities. I do not think that astrology is capable of making concrete predictions. What it can reveal is an archetypal understanding of the forces in play in a person’s life. Humans do have the freedom to make choices. The higher the quality of consciousness of the person, the greater freedoms one has as to make optimum choices, ones that lead to a better future than one has in the moment.

As far as examining the relationship with others, or synastry, people frame the question in terms of compatibility. This is unfortunate. I regard this as the wrong question in the first place. The inference of this view is that whether or not something feels compatible is only based on one’s likes and dislikes rather than on the question of what is the value of the relationship — can it contribute to one’s own growth as well as to the other person’s.

Therefore I do not assume that looking only at the chart of the other person will tell me how the person is manifesting that chart. So, no, it does not limit me or reduce my spontaneity. Astrology does not prevent me from enjoying the mysteries of life and its constant surprises.

What do you say to people who say they don’t believe in astrology?

It depends on who is asking and how serious they are about their question. If they are not really inquiring into it as your question implies, then it not an important matter for them personally. Their opinion is not important, as it is just a mere opinion. So, I tell them I don’t know much about astrology and that ends the silliness quite quickly.

If, on the other hand, it is an important matter to the questioner, then I enjoy going into it with them. I tell them that if one studies astrology, it is probably because they ‘believe’ there is enough to it that they feel it should be explored. Why would anyone study astrology if they didn’t feel it was likely that it had some validity? Belief is perhaps necessary in the beginning.

But when one studies it sufficiently, then it is possible for belief to give way to knowing. I do not believe in astrology anymore. But, even so, it does remain an amazing mystery to me. Its secrets sometimes unlock themselves to me and at other times, I just don’t understand. The approach towards astrology is an important matter. I try to approach it as a sacred, magical study that can be grasped not just mentally, but within one’s own Soul. We are changed by what it reveals to us, when we are given such a gift. We study and put in all kinds of effort and then we humbly wait until more is revealed.

What sign are you?

“I” am not a sign. My chart is composed of a complex interplay between the Sun, Moon, planets, signs, houses, aspects, and much more and even the sum total of all of that, is not “Who I Am?” My answer is not meant to be inflammatory, but that question is enormously misleading. Of course, it is common for people to ask such things, but it is coming from a severe misunderstanding of what a chart is. In other words, with all due respect to the questioner, this question is one of the ways that astrology becomes trivialized.


This interview is part of The Stargazers series.

April Elliott Kent

April KentAPRIL ELLIOTT KENT has been a professional astrologer since 1990, specializing in the astrology of weddings and personal eclipse cycles. Kent is the author of three books, The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology, Star Guide to Weddings and the upcoming Astrological Transits (available in June 2015). Her astrological reflections have also appeared in The Mountain Astrologer, Dell Horoscope magazine and Llewellyn’s annual Moon Sign and Sun Sign books, as well as MoonCircles.com, Beliefnet.com and AOL Horoscopes. Her consistently thoughtful insights into astrology plus information about purchasing her new book and other services can be found at her site: BigSkyAstrology.com

What got you interested in astrology to begin with and how old were you at that time?

I was 12 years old when a copy of Linda Goodman’s “Sun Signs” beckoned to me from my stepbrother’s coffee table. I had always been interested in what makes people tick, and I immediately recognized that astrology could be a great tool for that. Impoverished and growing up in the pre-internet age, I spent years loitering in the aisles of my local bookstore, reading any astrology books I could get my hands on! It wasn’t until I was 28 years old, just before my first Saturn return, that I began studying with a teacher.

What is your specialty (mundane, natal, financial) and why?

I used to specialize in electional astrology (choosing good dates and times for taking action), particularly for weddings. I stumbled into electional work completely by accident, and it suited me perfectly while I was in school because I found it less emotionally demanding than other astrology work. Last year, after 14 years, I decided to take a hiatus from it. At this point, I’m between specialties, although I do love talking with people about their careers.

What do you think is the role of astrology in the modern world?

The modern world is a complex place. Astrology can’t offer the same thing to impoverished rural people of Guinea that it does to American suburbanites who want to become more self-actualized. Astrology can perform many roles, as your question about specialties implies. It can help you figure out what to do and when to do it, understand your own nature and those of others, plan your farming, anticipate global conflict, and even predict the weather.

But astrology’s greatest contribution is that it helps us understand the quality of time. If you understand the quality of a moment in time, you gain insight into the people who were born at that moment, the events that are initiated, and the promise and challenge that the moment holds. Then, it’s a question of applying that understanding to the specific needs of an individual, a family, a corporation, a country.

What is your personal ethos regarding giving readings? For instance, do you believe you have a responsibility of some kind to instill hope in a client who may be coming for answers to difficult life crises?

When you’re learning to do readings for people, there is a dilemma: Do you tell people the truth, or tell them what they want to hear? With a strong Saturn, I used to come down a little hard on the former. These days, I hope that I present reality in a way that allows for hope, choice, and possibilities. I find people appreciate hearing the truth, even when it’s unpleasant, but it’s important not to leave them there on their knees. You have to help them to their feet and get them walking again, toward the best possible future.

Are you able to make your living primarily from astrology? If so, how long did it take to get to the point where astrology provided an acceptable wage?

Astrology is my full-time job. It was a great day when my astrology income exceeded the federal poverty guidelines. Technically, my husband and I could eke out a living on what I earn, but there would be a lot of Top Ramen involved. As it is, he has a conventional job that pays a much more acceptable wage, so we enjoy a more varied diet and get to travel a little.

It took many years to reach this point. I began practicing in 1991, had a setback when I moved to a new city (again, pre-internet it was harder to move a practice), took some time off in the early 00’s to finish college, and spent five or six years supplementing my income with website design and freelance PR writing. I’d say it’s probably in the past seven years or so that I’ve gone from being humiliated by my astrology earnings to merely disappointed.

Has knowing what’s on the horizon for you astrologically ever functioned as an impediment to your spontaneity — for instance, knowing a potential partner’s chart?

Here’s my favorite story about that. I met my husband when he came to me for an astrology reading. We became great friends, then eventually fell in love and decided to get married. Like a good astrologer, I asked my teacher to choose a date for the wedding. As he overheard me giving his data to her, he stopped me: “That’s not the right time zone.” Turns out I’d been calculating his chart wrong all along! When I calculated it using the right time zone, our charts clicked together in an amazing way. Had I not made that mistake when I met him, and given all the other marriage indicators that were stacking up in my transits and progressions, I might have recognized him as my partner much sooner. But it’s probably best I didn’t, because the beauty of our relationship was how gradually we came to know and love one another, without any other expectations.

I don’t use astrology much for myself these days. Oh, I do adjust the timing of things on occasion, as a ritual to invite a better outcome. And when I’m unsure about what course of action to take, I refer to my chart for insights. But in the end, I see astrology as a friend. When I’m drifting off course, an hour spent with my chart will usually pull me back to onto my path.

What do you say to people who say they don’t believe in astrology?

They never say that to me anymore. That’s mostly because I work all the time and most of my socializing is done with close friends. On the rare occasion I find myself in other social settings, I’m extremely cautious about disclosing my profession. For years, I found that the minute I told someone I’m an astrologer, they either dismissed me as an idiot or hounded me for insights into their Scorpio boyfriends. These discussions did nothing to further astrology’s image or mine (I did my best to redeem Scorpio whenever I could), and led me to drink too much at parties. So these days, I size up my audience, then often hedge and say I’m a writer, which is perfectly true.

(What I used to say was that I don’t believe in astrology either – I see it not as a belief system, but as a language for describing life.)

What sign are you?

All of them! But when I was born, the Sun was in Leo. 🙂


This interview is part of The Stargazers series.

The Stargazers

Ever since I picked up my mother’s copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs at the age of 11, I’ve been reading about or studying astrology. I’ve tired of many interests over time, but my passion for astrology abides. I still read dozens of columns, buy books and compare and contrast astrologers’ ideas about how every transit, eclipse and grand T-square will affect my life.

For some, astrology is a tool for prognostication — let’s face it, we all want to know the future. For others, it’s merely entertainment. But, I’ve come to see it as a fascinating framing device through which to view the world. Much like Thomas Aquinas used the framework of Christianity to structure his thoughts, astrologers use the zodiac, with its particular cast of mythological characters and arcane symbols and language, to create a cosmic order to our world.

The best modern astrologers describe the human condition and environs with depth and, when we’re lucky, lyricism. They let us know that the fault is never in our stars, but in our inherent tendencies to make particular choices. Even within the constraints of monthly, or even daily, horoscopes, their insights can shine a light on essential truths. All of which makes astrologers our most unsung philosophers, writers and sometimes, therapists.

So, who are these modern practitioners of an art that has been around since the 3rd millennium BC? “The Stargazers,” an interview series with working astrologers, is your chance to find out all the whos, wheres and what-signs-they-are (though I doubt most will tell). You will find that they are a diverse group, with different specialties, modalities and voices.

The authority of astrology has waxed and waned over the centuries. You may not believe in it. You don’t need to. Because, when astrologers get it right, it doesn’t matter how they got there. Their wisdom can still elevate your perspective — and that’s why they remain relevant. Or, as Oscar Wilde wrote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Read the interviews here, starting with astrologer, April Elliott Kent.

Shirley and I

The morning I read about Shirley Temple Black’s death, I called my 79-year-old mother to offer condolences.

“Of course, I thought of you first,” I said.

“I knew you would.”

***

Shirley Temple was the patron saint of every girl in America who took tap dancing lessons during the half-century that stretched from the Great Depression until the resignation of Richard Nixon. The cherubic tot, who became a dancing and singing sensation in films for Twentieth Century Fox at age six, was America’s sweetheart during the black days of the 1930s, imploring those who were economically hard hit to “Be Optimistic” and “Look On the Sunny Side” in a series of cinematic confections. She received more fan mail than adult stars of her era and topped Hollywood box office sales lists for four consecutive years. But to me, though I never met her, she would always be like a sister — a sister who was better than me in every way.

That’s because my mother was obsessed with Temple. The diminutive star’s fame was so vast that even my mother, a child born in Hamburg, Germany in 1935 — who spent her earliest years hiding in World War II bomb shelters — could hum the melody to “On The Good Ship Lollypop.” Temple, in all her precocious, curly-haired glory came to represent everything wonderful and unavailable during Mom’s war-torn childhood. And for most of the rest of her life, happiness remained bound to two things: tap dancing and one day making it to the charmed world represented by Hollywood, California.

I won’t belabor the idea that parents give their children the things they always wanted and never got — whether or not those things interest their kids. Let me just say that, such was the power of my mother’s dreams that I ended up artlessly stumbling through many years of unwanted tap lessons during my childhood in 1960s Hollywood — a childhood in which Shirley Temple was omnipresent.

She smiled at me from tables and shelves in the form of antique dolls and autographed photos and record albums my mother dug up in junk stores. She sang to me about “animal crackers in my soup.” And she lorded over every Sunday afternoon when Mom and I — along with my actual sister — watched her old black and white movies on the family television set.

“Hurry.” Mom would call out to us from the couch where she was already ensconced with a TV dinner in her lap, “Heidi’s about to start.”

We’d scramble to join her, even though we’d already seen the movie so often we could recite its dialogue.

“Grandfather, grandfather!” we’d call to each other, mocking the implausible montage from the film in which the tot searched for her amnesia-addled caretaker who always seemed to be in the next room or just around the corner and unable to hear her cries. We found it hilarious.

***

Later, during my adolescence, Mom collected Shirley Temple figurines and “limited edition” plates sold by the Franklin Mint, depicting scenes from Heidi, Captain January and Curly Top. They hung on the walls with my Dad’s nautical artifacts — like a sort of off-kilter display from the HMS Lollypop.

By then the torture of my enforced dance lessons had ended. Mom had conceded to my innate clumsiness and concentrated her energy on rolling my sister’s hair into blond ringlets.

“Hold still, I need to get this right,” she’d say to my sister through a mouthful of hairpins while I curled up in a corner to lose myself in a book.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure we were not the only members of this cult. Celebrities as diverse as Barbra Streisand and Whoopi Goldberg have claimed in interviews that their mothers put their hair in ringlets, too. My years in moldering dance studios also provided me with substantive anecdotal evidence that the Temple-worship lasted for decades and affected the lives of thousands (maybe millions) of girls.

I could have resented Temple, the perfect child who continued to hold my mother’s attention and embodied her fantasies in a way that I never would. And I wanted to. But who could hate that dimpled moppet? It would be like the moon being jealous of the sun.

***

When I was in my twenties, I noticed that my mother had begun splitting her affections among other child performers. Mostly, she fixated on young figure skaters. Our phone calls would often be dominated by animated conversation regarding one or another former gold medalist’s post-Olympic troubles.

“I don’t know what Oxana is thinking when she drives around drunk. After all she had,” Mom would say disapprovingly. “Throwing it away like that. I wish I’d had half her success.”

I disliked that she spoke about these Oxanas, Taras and Katerinas with the same fervor she had once reserved solely for her Shirley. After all, what were these girls after their time in the ring? Drunks? Ice Capades performers? After Temple’s child stardom she had become an international diplomat. There was really no comparison and I didn’t approve of the disloyalty.

***

On a visit a few years ago, Mom led me into her bedroom to reveal a stack of boxes neatly stacked in the corner of the closet.

Gesturing toward the pile, she said, “Those are all my Shirley Temple things. I want you to have them.”

This was stunning news and it scared me. I worried that giving away the things she had cherished for a lifetime was tied up with a sense of her own mortality. What would she do next, I wondered; give away the clay handprint I’d made when I was five?

“You should sell them,” she continued. “They must be worth a lot by now.

“You really want me to take everything?”

“Not the dolls,” she smiled. “I’m keeping the dolls.”

***

“Are you sad?” I asked her, the day Temple died.

Mom was surprisingly unemotional. I could hear the unmistakable sound of the television tuned to the Winter Olympics in the background.

“She was 85. She had a good life. Maybe I would have been sad 20 years ago. But I don’t have that passion anymore.” Then added wistfully, “The passion I had since I was a child.”

The funny thing is, I was sad. I’ve experienced a similar amorphous sense of loss when other celebrities of my childhood have died, leaving me feeling older and slightly unsure of my place in the scheme of things. But Shirley Temple was more than a celebrity to me. She was like a sister who could always best me with a shuffle-ball-change and a smile, and, more importantly, she was the patron saint of my childhood. I may dislike figure skaters, but I could never hate little Shirley.

However, I’d be happy to sell those worthless plates.