Music is ubiquitous and confusing. Twice a month, Eric Spitznagel stares into the bottomless chasm of new (and old) songs, albums and musicians that permeate our lives, and tries to pretend he has any idea what it all means.
When I saw that Ke$ha has a memoir coming out today, I had two thoughts. One: a 25-year-old pop singer should be writing a memoir like a 95-year-old should be buying condoms. And two: she probably slept with her writer. I mean really, why else would someone write Ke$ha's memoir? It's not my idea of a good time, but the world is filled with authors who need a paycheck and aren't married and, what the hell, there are worse ways to be a freelancer than picking glitter out of your pubic hair. (That's not a joke. There really are worse ways.)
I say this as somebody who has been in that situation before. Not sleeping with a celebrity, but writing a celebrity bio. I've done some I can't contractually tell you about, and some that I can. I came dangerously close to writing Tila Tequila's memoir, which is the very definition of the proverb "There but for the grace of God, go I." And I wrote porn star Ron Jeremy's memoir, The Hardest (Working) Man In Showbiz. (Did you catch the erection reference in the title? It's kind of a thinker.) I did not, for the record, sleep with him. But I did almost get into a hot tub with him, until I got a whiff of what smelled like chlamydia pea soup and thought better of it.
So Ke$ha wrote a book. Which means somebody else wrote the book for her. Except Ke$ha is the only one credited for writing her book. It's a curious omission, and frustrating to me as a journalist, as I was hoping for a scoop. There's been a lot of chatter in the news lately about former CIA chief General Petraeus (rhymes with "Rock Me Amadeus") sleeping with his biographer. Perhaps you've heard about it? The more I've read on their alleged affair, the more I'm convinced that theirs is hardly the only extramarital dalliance happening in the memoir/biography biz. If writing a military bio leads to cheating, can you imagine what happens behind the scenes in the making of a typical rock bio, a genre built on regrettable sexual behavior?
Probably the reason we don't hear about it is because rock stars and their literary lovers, unlike military generals and their literary mistresses, are much better at keeping dirty secrets secret. Did you read Pete Townsend's memoir? When I got to the chapter about how much he wanted to fuck Mick Jagger, all I could think was, "Whoever wrote this book is a pro, and obviously not stupid enough to do a Daily Show interview in a sleeveless dress and pretend he or she wasn't used as a sexual rag doll in between drafts." But if the book's credits are to be believed, Pete wrote his memoir alone, much like Ke$ha did.
Here, I took a closer look at seven rock memoirs and/or biographies published in 2012, and tried to determine just how much sex happened between the lines.
1. Adele: The Biography by Chas Newkey-Burden
You don't even have to crack the spine to realize that a sordid affair almost definitely kinda maybe took place during the writing of this book. The proof is in the author's photo. As televangelist Pat Robertson so eloquently explained when dissecting the Petraeus affair, Paula Broadwell is a "good-looking lady." What was Petraeus supposed to do, NOT have sex with her? When writers are too attractive, it's only natural that the people they write about will try to fuck them. Chas Newkey-Burden is just such a hottie writer, what we call in the journalism trade "begging for it." He bears more than a passing resemblance to Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. Google his mug shot and tell me you can't imagine him in a New Mexico meth lab with Adele, saying something endearingly badass like, "Yo, Gatorade me, bitch!"
The problem comes when you actually read the book. It's not scandalous stuff. Adele shares non-bombshells like how much she loves her mother, how she used to smoke cigarettes, and why she thinks Prince Harry is a cutie patootie. Oh, and she was in love with an older man once, but then he broke up with her and she tried eHarmony and oh my god was that a nightmare! In other words, exactly the details you might share on a first date in your late teens.
"When I was a girl, I loved love songs," she confesses in one chapter. Me too! I also loved pizza. Did you love pizza? We're so much alike! We should totally go to prom together and then dry-hump in the back of my dad's Yugo.
2. Bruce by Peter A Carlin
I haven't read this yet. (It's 494 pages. That's like two Infinite Jests.) But I did read the reviews, and the word "access" is mentioned numerous times. Carlin's access to Springsteen was "unfettered," we're told. There was an "unprecedented" amount of access. How unprecedented? It was "full" access, which is "rarely, if ever, given." The Boss doesn't give unfettered, unprecedented full access to anybody. Until now.
Carlin has given subtle hints in interviews about the sexy nature of his relationship with Bruce. "He welcomed me into his world, spoke at great length on more than a few occasions, and worked overtime to make sure I had all the tools I'd need to do my job." Oh my god, he totally went there! He practically admitted that they're married! The "tools" he'd need to do his job? Get a room, Peter and Bruce! (If you're unaware of the double-entendre meaning of "tools," please consult any pre-teen boy. He'll explain it to you. Tools! LOL!)
"Most people will dismiss my theories as "speculative at best" or "not based on facts" or "borderline litigious." I'll be the first to admit that I don't have much evidence, or any evidence, to support anything I've written here. But I have my gut suspicions. And more importantly, I have the journalistic ambition to uncover the next big scandal and exploit it for my personal gain."
3. Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper, Jancee Dunn
I have a difficult time accusing Jancee Dunn of sexual wrong-doing. She's a legitimate journalist, with stories published in Rolling Stone and the New York Times and other magazines I'd love to write for because their per-word rate is awesome. But she's also been a sex columnist for GQ, using the pseudonym Dr. Sooth. So I don't know what to believe.
I haven't read the book, because I don't care enough about Cyndi Lauper. I don't own any of her music, so why would I want to read 352 pages about the woman who sang "True Colors?" But after visiting Dunn's website, I'm reconsidering my decision. She shares a few juicy tidbits about her friendship with Lauper, including Lauper's habit of greeting her with the over-familiar pet name "Doll," and answering the door "in a Chinese robe and lady bug slippers."
Lady bug slippers? That's adorable ... and painfully obvious. You know what it reminds me of? That old joke about lady friends who are more than friends. It went something like this: What does a lady author bring to a first date/story meeting with a kooky female pop singer from the 80s? A U-Haul!
4. Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll by Ann and Nancy Wilson, with Charles R. Cross
I'm convinced that the Wilson sisters had their way with Mr. Cross, and nothing can convince me otherwise. I've actually been reading up on the Petraeus affair just for clues on unlocking the secrets of this far more interesting writer/famous person sexual rendezvous. You know how Petraeus and Broadwell shared a Gmail account, and wrote love letters to each other that they saved as email drafts so there wouldn't be as obvious a data trail? I spent the better part of a week trying to guess the password for firstname.lastname@example.org, which I assume exists. I was convinced I had a winner with "MagicMan123," but nothing. The mind boggles at what sort of filth they wrote to each other. "Hey Charles, here's some notes for our chapter on the time Nancy and I stalked Paul McCartney. Why don't you come over later and we'll do some line-edits and then make you the meat in a Heart sandwich."
Don't tell me that's just fiction and it never happened and I'm making things up. I don't want to live in a world where "Heart sandwich" is not a real thing.
Two KISS memoirs in one year? There's no way that happens without somebody getting gonorrhea. That's a mathematical fact.
Why do I suspect that Frehley and Criss has sex with their co-writers? Because they're Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. In a book market already over-saturated with rock tell-alls, the former KISS members have upped the ante for nightmare-inducing tales of sexual debauchery. They will, and have (if their bios are to be believed) had sexual relations with just about every and anything, including each other. "Ace and I became famous for taking out our dicks at the drop of a hat," Criss shares in his bio. "Then we'd grab each other's dicks. It wasn't sexual, just stupid adolescent tomfoolery."
If their respective co-writers are my age or thereabouts, they were kids in the '70s, when KISS was actually cool, and Frehley and Criss were unironic rock gods. And that can cloud your judgment. Let's say, hypothetically, that you're a 40-something writer, and you're working on a book with Peter Criss, and at some point he grabs your dick and says, "Just kidding, man! Hey, don't be weird about it! Space Ace and I did it all the time!" If you're of a certain age, your first instinct might be "I'm getting fondled by the Catman," but your immediate second thought would be "Well, he did write 'Beth.'"
6. My Crazy Beautiful Life by Ke$ha
Ke$ha's memoir is 192 pages long. That may seem short, but that's 192 pages supposedly written by a woman who once rhymed "famous" and "anus." Yes, the book contains a lot of photos, but even assembling photos requires a level of cognitive thought. I've interviewed Ke$ha before, and I can attest that she's funny and quick on her feet and sincerely entertaining. But that doesn't mean I think she's capable of writing a book. This is a woman who claimed recently that she's had sex with a ghost. I've been on this planet long enough to know that a person who thinks they've had sexual intercourse with a poltergeist is incapable of putting together 192 pages of anything, including crayon drawings, without outside assistance.
I can't offer an opinion on Ke$ha's memoir until I read it. But if it's any good, or even manages to be the kind of page-turning best-seller that nobody can put down, there's some great Oz behind the curtain. And whoever he or she is, they've done things with
Ke$ha in the coat check of at least one Los Angeles nightclub that's going to require at least a few years of therapy to forget. It's called "paying your dues." Shit just got real, son.
Most people will dismiss my theories as "speculative at best" or "not based on facts" or "borderline litigious." I'll be the first to admit that I don't have much evidence, or any evidence, to support anything I've written here. But I have my gut suspicions. And more importantly, I have the journalistic ambition to uncover the next big scandal and exploit it for my personal gain. I'll just keep making semi-educated guesses until something hits.
Hey, didn't Rod Stewart publish a memoir this year? And isn't there an old urban legend about him orally pleasuring a bunch of sailors and then having his stomach pumped to remove the gallons of semen? Ipso facto, he probably orally pleasured his ghostwriter, right? It's so obvious, I can't believe I'm the first to connect the dots. I can practically smell the journalism Pulitzer!