Miss Mercy: A Tribute to an American Original

Miss Mercy: A Tribute to an American Original…

As it’s known, ones knows,

or one does not.

You get it, or you don’t…

Then there are the ones that,

get much more than most…

If you are fortunate enough…

You get the chance to meet one…

When you meet one of the greats,

you then realize the difference.

Something about them is off, and truly ON…

An understanding much deeper and prolific…

Willing to realize what others don’t quite get.

Miss Mercy was one of those people.

Beyond in touch with her knowledge of importance…

Whether it be in fashion, music, or whatever it is…

Miss Mercy was proof that whatever that special something is Special;

From an amazing ear for music, to that of different trends..

From experimenting with herself, to living life on her terms…

As a mother, she loved her son, Lucky, an incredible musician… 

She loved her son, like only she could, 

Right or wrong, love was obvious…

There’s a lot more to be said, but it’s unnecessary, 

Miss Mercy was and always will be an Original, One of a Kind…

And I will deeply miss my friendship…

with one of the most interesting, and intriguing people I’ve ever met.

I LOVE YOU Mercy… Always & Forever…

– WORDS BY STEVE OLSON

R.I.P. MISS MERCY [FEB 15, 1949-JULY 27, 2020]

L.A. TIMES TRIBUTE TO MISS MERCY

ROLLING STONE TRIBUTE TO MISS MERCY

MISS MERCY

INTERVIEW AND INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON

PHOTOS BY DAN LEVY AND COURTESY OF MISS MERCY AND PAMELA DEBARRES

JUICE MAGAZINE #64 (2008)

When they say ‘been there, done it’, it applies to Miss Mercy… From Acid to Rockabilly and back… some get the chance to see the amazing, some get only to read about it. Some just know, some just think they do. Miss Mercy—there’s only one, now you get the chance to read about it… It only happens ONCE.

STEVE OLSON: What is your name? Ravee Raveon?

MISS MERCY: That was my hair name. Ravee Raveon. During the punk days, after Miss Mercy, I was a hairdresser. I was “Rave On” from Buddy Holly and then I put Ravee with it. My original name was Judy Peters, but that had to go. It couldn’t be Lesley Gore. Who’s gay by the way… whoops.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Burbank and then we moved up north.

So you’re a Californian?

Well, I lived in Florida and Texas for a little while. We lived all over the place. My father was a gambler, so we went everywhere the racetrack was. He was deep into gambling, so every place we lived had a racetrack, and a dog track. That was my life. We lived every place. Then he’d always have to leave.

Did he owe some money?

Someone tried to put cement shoes on him, so we split. My mother was a registered nurse. Then dad got into taking diet pills. He was a speed freak. He was also dating a top Vogue model. She was taking diet pills, so he started taking them. I think that I inherited that need for speed from him. When I was 15, I was fat, so they gave me some diet pills, too. Then we moved to San Mateo, California, which had a racetrack.

You weren’t too far from San Francisco.

We were close enough to get on the bus and go to North Beach.

For the jazz scene?

No.

For the beach?

At first, I went to North Beach. In 1965, I went to North Beach to City Lights. I went to the first love in. It was an experimental drug thing at Fisherman’s Wharf.

What do mean the first “love in”?

It was the first experimental LSD party. The first guy I went to bed with was a beatnik named Frank. At least, that’s what he told me.

How old were you then?

I was fifteen. I was listening to Wolfman Jack on my radio. There was a record shop there in North Beach that played John Lee Hooker, so that’s where I first heard that. Then I had a girlfriend that gave me some LSD. This was before LSD really came out. My girlfriend Monty Moore was the only beatnik in my high school. Her mother was a junkie, a morphine addict, so Monty was always by herself. We ended up in juvenile hall together, time and time again.

Why were you ending up in juvie?

[Laughs] One time, I turned myself in. I didn’t want my parents to own me. That caused me trouble, so I turned myself in and the authorities took over owning me. I was an incorrigible ward of the state. Monty Moore was from across the tracks. It all happened very quickly. Then I was with Tom Donahue who was mixed up with Sly Stone. Anyway, my girlfriend Monty Moore dressed with these crazy elf shoes and a magician cape. It was very David Crosby in a female. I was in love with her. She gave me a ride home one day to San Mateo after we had been hanging out with the beatniks. She hands me a little pill and says, “Take that.” So I take it. She says, “You’ve got lemons in your mouth.” All of a sudden, I tasted lemons. Then she dropped me off at my house and didn’t tell me a thing. There was no media on LSD yet. I’m in my apartment with gypsy bracelets all the way up my arm that started turning into snakes as I was looking at my arm. Then I was getting into my radio. I was crawling into my radio. Then I looked out my second story window and saw a carnival, which in reality was a carport. Then the walls started breathing. I almost lost my mind. That’s how I got on LSD. In North Beach, I was hanging with the beatniks, but I was also into the blues. Then the beatniks’ hangout became a tourist spot. There was a lot of nude dancing.

What else did you get to experience besides the lemons in your mouth?

I was getting away from conservative San Mateo. It could have had something to do with the diet pills they gave me because they thought I was fat, but I was into music. I got to meet Tom Donahue and I was into KYA radio. Then I followed the Beau Brummels and met them.

What do you mean you followed them?

I was a groupie. I followed the Stones all the way to Sacramento and ended up in a room with Brian Jones.

What do you mean? I know what you mean, but elaborate a little more.

My girlfriend and I went to Sacramento to see the Stones. Patti Labelle and the Bluebells were on that show. It’s the show where Keith got electrocuted. He went like ten feet in the air and they closed the curtains really fast. Everything broke up. As soon as Keith got electrocuted, we jumped in the car and followed the Stones’ car. We were following them and then they stopped at one spot, got out of the car and got into a limousine to fool people, but we were still hanging in there right behind them.We get to the bungalows and I heard Mick saying that the police beat Keith up. I’m not sure if it’s true, but Mick was flipping out that Keith had gotten arrested. He flipped out at Altamont. He was a flipper-outer, but I loved him. I ended up in a room with Brian Jones going through his suitcase. The other one, Charlie Watts or Bill Wyman, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two, got locked out of his hotel room, so he’s there with Brian. I’m not on a sexual trip yet. That started six months later, when my beatnik came in.

What year was this?

1965. I was in love with Brian Jones. There was no doubt in my mind. He was just there going through his suitcase calmly. I think he was stoned, so we just hung out in the hotel room with him.

How is it that you ended up in the hotel room with him?

He let us in.He was very sweet. I had a cute girlfriend, but he didn’t hit on anybody. We just ended up in there. That was the beginning of my real groupie-ism. It started with The Rolling Stones and the Beau Brummels. I wanted everything I heard on the radio to be accessible to me. I wanted to be there. I wanted to know the people on the Ed Sullivan Show or whatever else. Then the beatniks moved over to a coffeehouse called the Blue Unicorn, which was right next to “Panhandle Park” in Haight-Ashbury, so I start going there and hanging out. That’s where I met the beatnik guy named Frank. We had sex and I said, “Is that all there is? It hurts.”[Laughs] I’m hanging out with beatniks and, suddenly, Bob Dylan plugs in his guitar and the whole Blue Unicorn changes. You could see the hippies come in and the beatniks going, “No, no, no.” The hippies came from that whole plug in for some reason. I believe that Dylan started it by plugging in with Bloomfield, so they started playing that kind of music at the Blue Unicorn. Everything started rolling and then the hippies were there, but we thought the hippies were un-hip. That’s what the beatniks used to say. I don’t know where hippies came from, but I know for a fact that Hollywood had the motion picture business as a tourist attraction and New York had Broadway. San Francisco had Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, but that wasn’t really drawing in the tourists, so they made hippies the new tourist attraction. I believe it was a media thing.

Where else did you go to see bands?

Well, then the Fillmore and the Avalon opened, so I was at those gigs. I was taking acid like crazy and I kept going back to juvenile hall. Linda Yacoubian, who became Texacala Jones and, in the punk scene, became the chick lead singer of Tex & the HorseHeads, was my best friend at the time. We were in juvenile hall together. We were best friends and almost got married, but I married Shuggie instead. She came to LA after I came to LA. During the San Francisco hippie trip, I got on the sixth cover of Rolling Stone with my boyfriend, at the time, Bernardo. That’s who I followed down to LA.

What was the hippie scene like?

I was shooting speed.

That’s not very hippie like.

[Laughs] No.

That’s more Beatles-ish.

No, that’s not Beatles-ish. The Beatles only smoked pot then. They were very against other drugs. I don’t remember them doing any. I think the speed came in later.

I thought Abbey Road was written on speed.

You may be right. You also had William Burroughs on heroin. Most writers were on speed. Tennessee Williams was on speed. John F. Kennedy was on speed. He had Hitler’s doctor over there, Max Jacobson. Jacobson was a doctor in New York that had Kennedy injecting speed. I met Jacobson and went out of my way to know him.He was a wonderful man. Amphetamines had been around since the Japanese fighters. The kamikaze pilots used it.

What about Rommel the Desert Fox? He was the ultimate conquering general and he had a lab on the frontlines. The enemy troops were falling to the wayside because they were tired.

Everyone was using it. Don’t think that Elvis didn’t get some shots. Nixon was the other president that got treated with amphetamines. They injected him too. He had a psychiatrist that was Shuggie’s psychiatrist. He told him that Nixon was being treated for taking too many amphetamines. They had been using amphetamines on presidents for years. Jacobson had Jackie Kennedy on speed too. That might explain all of her changes of clothes and decorating.

She could change fast.

Yes. The CIA brought over Jacobson. He was a German Jew, which was really interesting. As soon as I got to meet him, they took him away. They also took his formula. He had a new formula to get people off speed and heroin. Jacobson wanted to talk about what he had done to people, including his own daughter, and he had this new formula. We went over to Jacobson’s house and he said, “I want to show you what I’ve done.” He brought in a heroin addict who had no recollection of doing heroin after the injection of this formula. He could do these injections and say, “You no longer need heroin.” And it went away. He was so happy about it, but then they took away his license and his formula. Right after that, you had Jim Jones come up in Guyana. He was also, supposedly, a speed shooter. There was all that stuff in the Kool-Aid that you would use when you mind-alter people. Charles Manson was another one. There were a lot of drugs involved with that and I believe they were all formulated from Jacobson’s formula.

So you’re at the Fillmore and the Avalon. What kind of bands were you seeing?

They had the greatest array of bands. My favorite group was 13th Floor Elevators, but I had a bad acid trip when I went to see them at the Avalon. Someone had given me LSD with strychnine. I had just come back from juvenile hall. I was taking this girl on her first trip, but I got the bad half. The guy that ran the Avalon saw that I’d been poisoned. Chet Helms took me and put me in a room and turned 13th Floor Elevators on. I went through all the greenness of being poisoned and then came back out of it. He went downstairs and was talking to my friend. She was having the best trip in the world, but I got poisoned. A lot of people died from getting LSD with strychnine. Then I got into shooting meth amphetamines, which was a big drug then. Don’t let them fool you. There were hippies that were all about peace, love and flowers, but there were also the freaks that fashioned themselves after Fellini, Aubrey Beardsley with the vintage velvet and flowers in the hair. There was a whole other scene there. I was one of the freaks. Then the mob moved in and took over the LSD trade. I’d go and visit my boyfriend Bernardo when he was in the hospital with hepatitis. He was very bright yellow. They called it “mellow yellow”. He looked like a damn banana. I would go into County Hospital and they would come down from the psychiatric ward and show me their acid. The government had tried to give LSD to the army, but instead of making them more like warriors, they were all putting down their guns. The Army was like, “This is not working.” So they gave the LSD to the psychiatrists. That great looking dude actor, Cary Grant, was on LSD.

They were testing it on him?

The psychiatrists were using it on patients. The psychiatrists would have to wait days for them to come down. It was like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It really was like that. When I visited Bernardo in the hospital, they would come down from the psych ward and sell LSD to me for $5. I was like, “I’m not taking this shit. I know what the government is trying to do.” The government and the mob got in there and Haight-Ashbury got taken over very quickly and became very dark. I met Charles Manson there. I heard Manson talking to someone and I was on acid in the other room. Bobby Beausoleil was there too. Manson was talking about how it was going to go down. I think he got blamed for a lot of shit that the CIA did. I think they used Manson. He was talking about how there would be blood in the streets. It started to go through my head, but I was trying to throw it out because I was on the really good acid. I took the original Sandos LSD from Sweden. They were handing out the Owsley acid. You could get free food from the Diggers and the punch at the Avalon.

How did you know Beausoleil?

Bobby Beausoleil was my neighbor when I was in LA. He was going out with my girlfriend at the time. I don’t know what happened there, but I still believe that Manson was under that formula that came from Jacobson. It all tied in somehow. I still think Manson was trying to be a revolutionary and not a killer. I don’t know what they did to him. I don’t know what happened to him to make him like that. He was never there at the killings. Beausoleil has said in interviews that he killed a guy over a drug deal with the Hell’s Angels. A guy had sold the Hell’s Angels some bad drugs and they were really pissed and they were going to come after him. Beausoleil was over there trying to talk to the guy about fixing it, but the guy wouldn’t fix it, so they killed him. In order, to cover it up, they used the girls. All the girls had a crush on Beausoleil, so they went over and killed these other people to cover up what Beausoleil had done. They were like, “He couldn’t have done it, because it’s been done again.” Manson was never at any of the killings, but, supposedly, he made all these people do these things. I still have questions about that. I really do.

So then you had to get out of town.

I had to leave and I’ll tell you why. The juvenile authorities went over to my mother’s house in San Mateo. My dad had left. He was out gambling all over the place and he left my mother alone with her nursing. She took pills too.

There were a lot of drugs going on back then.

It wasn’t just hard drugs. The pharmaceutical companies were giving you diet pills to lose weight. They were handing out Valiums as tranquilizers. Then you’d have a few martinis in the evening and then take a sleeping pill. How many drugs is that? How far gone was America, at that point, in the ‘50s?It was martini hour. Anyway, I was all tied up with the juvenile authorities. And that’s where Yacoubian and I kept meeting. She was great. She was a little hippie chick. When I was with Shuggie, she became involved with “Blackbyrd” McKnight who played with George Clinton. They tried putting him in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but that didn’t last long. She had moved in with him by then.

I heard that.

At one point, after I got out of juvenile hall, my mom called me. She had told the juvie hall people that I was missing because I hadn’t been reporting to her. They told her that they just wanted to talk to me. Of course, when I walked in there, they arrested my ass. They put the handcuffs on me in front of my mother. I was like, “You know what? I’m crazy. Take me to the nuthouse.” I didn’t want to go back to juvenile hall because you couldn’t do anything in there, but they sent me back to juvie first. When I was in juvenile hall, I got a visit from a flying saucer. It landed in the playground. We were up on a hill. It woke Yacoubian and me up. The UFO talked in lights and it said, “Walls cannot hold your soul.” That was the message I got. From then on, I could astro-project myself outside. People would say, “Hey, I saw you at the Avalon the other night.” But I really wasn’t there. I was in juvenile hall in my cell.

[Laughs] What bands were you seeing in the hippie days?

I started getting really into the blues. At that time, Chet Helms and Bill Graham ran the Avalon and the Fillmore. I saw 13th Floor Elevators and Quicksilver Messenger Service, which was my favorite. Then I saw Bo Diddley with an arrow shooting out of his guitar. I remember that. I was high as a kite because they kept putting acid in the punch everywhere. Everybody was there. Janis Joplin was there. That’s when I first met Janis. The shows were very versatile. Then Jimi Hendrix walked in.

How was Jimi?

He was amazing. I talked to Jimi at the Fillmore, because he came up to me and he was talking to the girl beside me that was from Hollywood. I told Jimi, “You don’t want that broad. She’s fake.” Then I met him again at Monterey before I was in the GTOs.

You were at Monterey?

What happened was that I got put in the mental hospital and cut my wrists and then some girl followed me. I did it so I could stay in there and keep my freedom there. Juvenile hall was like jail. I wasn’t trying to commit suicide, but they were very hip to me. They were like, “We’ve got your gimmick, but do you realize that you made this other girl cut her wrists?” I was like, “I’m sorry about that.” So they sent me back to juvenile hall. In juvenile hall, I had a great P.O. that loved to hear all about Haight-Ashbury and kept me going with the news. She said, “I’m going to do you a favor. We’re trying a new program here, so we’re going to let you go home for a day, get your clothes and get your stuff together. We’re sending you to LA and you’re going to be in the juvenile hall down there and you won’t be able to see anybody.” So they gave me a day off and I ran away. I was in Laguna Beach with a girlfriend and we were doing speed and then we went to the Monterey Pop Festival. For some reason, someone said, “Do you want to go back stage?” So I went backstage and I drank the punch and I was so high. The government had put STP in it or something. It was a three-day high. Nobody had STP except the government and the CIA. They were trying to get rid of the Black Panthers and eliminate anyone from uprising, but it got out of hand.It’s kind of like the war in Iraq.Actually, in the movie Panther, they say it in the end, when they show them in the boat and the CIA is there. They say, “Let’s distribute the drugs now.” They knew what they were doing. I loved the Black Panthers. They all died of drug use. I think the government fucked them up.

Let’s go back to Monterey. You’re backstage drinking the punch.

There were enough drugs. There’s Brian Jones and I’m talking to him. I was high as a kite. Everyone was walking around in the back. I remember seeing Otis Redding there. I looked up the stairs and at the top of the stairs, I was so high that I thought I saw Mick Jagger in black face, but it was really Jimi Hendrix.Backstage was great. It was beautiful. It was something else back there. Then I went way out in the fields and heard this really weird noise. I came back and it was Jimi. I thought it was silly, but you have to realize how high The Who and Jimi were at that show. They were trying to outdo each other, but they were really, really high at that gig. Monterey was a really amazing time. It was great.

How did you end up in Los Angeles?

First, I ran from San Mateo to Laguna Beach with Bernardo. Then he went to LA, and even though I hated LA, I followed. Then I met Jim Morrison and The Doors, because the drummer’s girlfriend was staying at my house. That’s when I first realized that maybe something good was happening in LA. Jim’s girlfriend, Pamela, was staying at our house and she was trying to crawl into a little hole because she was so high. I ended up in Los Angeles, because I couldn’t go home to San Mateo. The minute I went back, they would arrest me. Bernardo, my boyfriend, who I was madly in love with at the time, had all these girlfriends that were hookers. They were great. We all wore long velvet dresses from the ‘40s, but they took their dresses and cut them into mini-skirts. They all worked the streets. Through those girls, I met Miss Christine who was living next door. She became Frank Zappa’s housekeeper. She was a total speed freak. She made all her own clothes and she was fabulous. She’s the one on the cover of Zappa’s Hot Rats. She was the one that found Alice and made him into AliceCooper. Between my makeup and her clothes, he became Alice Cooper. His name was Vince when we met him.She thought he was hot. She found an array of people. Miss Christine was living with Todd Rundgren and that’s how I ended up at the recording sessions in Woodstock with The Band when they were doing Stage Fright. I was sitting there with Rick Danko when he was writing the lyrics for Stage Fright. I was trying to help him. If I had realized who Rick Danko was I would have been on top of him in a minute. He was beautiful. I loved the Band. They were the greatest group from America. They had it all. They were brilliant. So then, back in LA, Frank Zappa sees me. I was all dressed up in this garb with the heavy eye-makeup because I never washed it off.

You had the raccoon eyes.

I just kept my makeup on all the time. It was actually kohl from India. I got that from Theda Bara. I had all the gypsy clothes on. I wore five or six dresses at a time. I would put on everything I could think of because I was on speed. I just kept putting on more dresses. Then Frank Zappa says, “We have to put her in the GTOs.” The GTOs had started out as a ballet company. He said, “We want her and Cinderella.” So then we became the GTOs.

That’s how it started?

Yeah. Pamela [Des Barres] and I became very good friends. We went to this movie and Gram Parsons walked in. She knew all about him, but I didn’t know anything about him. I loved country-western music. I loved any kind of roots music. I said, “Who’s that guy?” She said, “That’s Gram Parsons.”

What other recording sessions did you get into?

The sessions that I’ve been at that were really important were with The Stones when Mick was mixing down Beggars Banquet. “The one who shot the Kennedys, after all was you and me.” I was in Muscle Shoals with Shuggie [Otis] and Ahmet Ertegun. Muscle Shoals is one of the great studios [Fame Studios]. I was out in the middle of fuckin’ Alabama in a dry county, with Ahmet Ertegun. It was crazy. I was in Stax Records. I was in Royal Studios when Al Green was cutting his stuff. I was with Johnny Otis when he redid Louis Jordan, Charles Brown and Big Joe Turner. He redid all their hits. It was all the original rock n’ roll that I had no idea about. Then I came back to LA and there was a punk scene. It sounded like they were trying to strangle the lead singer, but there was energy there.

It was amazing.

I met you there.

We’re going so far ahead in time. We have to go back in time.

I hitchhiked with Rod Stewart. All sorts of crap happened. I was at Frank Zappa’s house when Rod came over with the Faces.

How amazing was that?

It was amazing, but Jeff Beck was the big thing in that group, but if you said that to Rod, boy, what an ego, what a fuckin’ ego.

He had Ronnie Wood in there too.

Ronnie and I were good friends. I used to stay with him in his hotel room. It was crazy. Rod Stewart would listen to David Ruffin over and over and over again. Women would be flowing in and they’d go to bed with him, but Cinderella and I would still be sleeping in the same bed with him. We’d just get out of the bed for a minute. There were so many groupies that I idolized. The one that I think was the best was Fayne Pridgeon. She was Sam Cooke’s girlfriend. She introduced Sam Cooke to Jimi Hendrix. Then she was Jimi Hendrix’ girlfriend. When you see the Jimi Hendrix movie, that’s Fayne in there. She was going out with Shuggie at the same time that I was. The competition was fierce.She was in Muscle Shoals with Ahmet Ertegun because he was recording her. She could sing her ass off. I just loved her. Kudos to that woman.

How do you hook up with Shuggie Otis?

Oh, that’s a crazy story.

Shuggie said no to the Rolling Stones.

Yes. He said no to the auditions. They were all in the room with Billy Preston when he called Shuggie. We were at my mother’s house when the phone call came. Shuggie just said, “No.” He had his own shit going. Billy Preston was pushing for Shuggie. I think Billy Preston had a big crush on him. The Stones were very hip to Shuggie. It was an audition in France that they wanted him to go to. He just said, “No.” He wanted to do his own stuff. Sometimes I was really pissed at him because I really wanted to be the wife of a Rolling Stone.At the same time, when I think about it, I would have been dead. You can’t hang with Keith Richards. Keith would have gone after that boy in a minute, because he was beautiful. There was no doubt about it. He was kicking off women. Shuggie was so stunning. He was unbelievable. They had a lot of plans for him, but he wanted to do shit his way.

How did you hook up with Shuggie?

Pamela and I were in the car with a reporter on our way to see Ringo Starr. Shuggie was on an album cover that the reporter was reviewing, but I didn’t know who he was. I took one look at him and said, “Who is that? That guy is stunning.” The reporter said, “You’ll never get near him. That guy’s father, Johnny Otis, is strict.” So we’re at the Ringo Starr press conference. Later on, we were up at Ahmet Ertegun’s room. Ahmet hadn’t come in yet, but he was with Graham Bond. He was releasing his album. He’s another unknown person to America, but anyone that knows who he is knows that Graham Bond started the whole blues thing. In fact, he played the Whisky one night. He snuck in there because he’s a heroin addict. Hendrix got mad at me because I was talking. He was like, “Don’t you know that the greatest guy in the world is on stage?”So we’re at this table with this guy and we were smoking hash. Ahmet got high. Everyone got high. I asked this guy what he did and he said, “I write songs.” I said, “Name me a few.” And he started naming them, “Jailhouse Rock” and almost every hit on the charts. It was Mike Stoller, but I didn’t know that. That was part of that whole night with Mike Stoller of Stoller & Leiber.

That’s insane.

So I’m sitting there with a lawyer that became a judge, and ended up with Aileen Getty. I love him. He lives in the house where they used to shoot the propaganda films in Laurel Canyon. It’s the most famous house and has the most property. It just goes on and on up at Lookout Mountain. So I’m staying at this house and I have this vivid dream. I see this guy on the album cover and it says, “You’re going to marry this guy.” The next day I woke up and said, “I know who I’m going to marry.” At the same time, Frank Zappa has found Johnny Otis who has left show business to become a politician. He said that some idiot told him not to use the name Johnny Otis, but to use his real name John Veliotes. He lost. Anyway, Frank brings him in with Shuggie and puts them on Hot Rats. I end up going to some spot that Shuggie had just gotten hired to record in for Columbia Records. That’s when I met Shuggie, and it just started from there. I was telling him stories, but when I get to Rainbow Bridge with Jimi, because he’s a big Jimi fanatic, it just went on and on. I ended up living with him. After a while, I went to Florida to get away from Shuggie. I first went to Memphis to get away from him. That’s where I met Al Green. I ended up going out with Al Green when he came to Los Angeles. That’s when he was really big. Then I went to Florida with my dad to get away from Shuggie, but I couldn’t, so I went back to LA and Shuggie picked me up at the airport. I moved in with him again, got pregnant and then married him. It was mainly because Johnny’s mom was a Greek. She was like, “She can’t live here, unless they’re married.” So we got married. Shuggie was the main thing in my life. He was the one that I loved the most. I’ll never love anybody like I loved him. I’m still in love with him. We’re friends now. I’m trying very hard to repair the relationship with my son and his father. He’s trying to come back up too. You’ve got to hear Shuggie’s new stuff. It’s amazing. Did you know that Beyonce did his stuff? That’s how he got paid big. She did “Strawberry Letter 23”. I was watching a TV show about the Pepsi thing. She was on the show talking about Shuggie Otis. I was like, “Oh my God.” She did two of his songs. She did “Rainy Day”, which was an all instrumental and put her own lyrics to it and she did “Strawberry Letter 23” and put her own lyrics to it, so he got doubly paid.

How do these people get ahold of his stuff?

Six years ago, David Byrne re-released Inspiration Information. I named that album. That was a name of one of the songs. I said, “Why don’t you name your album that?” So they re-released his album and he started to become big. He’s been coming up and up and up, so people started hearing it again. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t hear “Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson.

The Brothers Johnson, “Get the Funk Out Ma Face”?

Yeah, they did “Strawberry Letter 23” and it was a huge hit. I hear it by Tevin Campbell, which was the one that Quincy Jones did. Then I started hearing Beyonce’ doing it. It’s crazy. I hear it over and over again. The new stuff that Shuggie is doing was started in 1977 and he finally finished it.

How does it sound?

There’s one song on there that I think is going to do it. He can do everything now. He’s got a real voice. Before, he was a kid. He was only 15 or 16. Back in the day, Buddy Miles, Shuggie, Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield tried to cut a session up in Mill Valley in the ‘70s when I was with him. The egos were so big that it went nowhere.

[Laughs] Egos can be so destructive.

Oh my god. Those people all talk about each other like they’re enemies. I put Arthur Lee and Shuggie together in 1990. I was dating Arthur and I said, “You need to know Shuggie. You’re Mr. “Orange Skies” and he’s Mr. “Strawberry Letter.” There was no doubt in my mind that they would hit it off. So I put them on this TV show together and they played together. Those two would call you every name in the book, but they never had a bad thing to say about each other. Arthur was an absolute genius. He could play keyboard too. When Arthur was with Sky Saxon, it was amazing. It was Arthur, Sky and me at the sessions for The Seeds. I saw Arthur play keyboards, which he never did as Love or anything. Arthur went from A to Z. He put Jimi Hendrix on his first record. Jimi got a lot from Arthur, but Arthur never got the credit.

Didn’t Jimi play with Little Richard?

Yeah. He came from the Chitlin’ circuit. They were all from the Chitlin’ circuit.

Lee Allen also played with Little Richard and with the Blasters.

Lee Allen played with everybody. The Stones may have even used Lee Allen. They might have done like they did with Bobby Womack on “Harlem Shuffle”. That’s him yelling in the background. That was another session I was at. I was crazy about Bobby Womack. He was the guitar player for Wilson Pickett. He also married Sam Cooke’s wife. We got picked up in a limousine one day and went over to the session when he was doing “Stop on By.” I flipped. Womack is so amazing. Sly was mixed up with Bobby Womack when I was going out with Arthur Lee. They were in the same studio that we were in. He’s very big into crack. All three of those guys were into crack. The Stones were very hip to Womack. He wrote “It’s All Over Now”. “I used to love her, but it’s all over now.” That session was amazing. He did all the voices and everything. He’s still alive. He hangs with Sly. They’ve been together for years. They’ve been smoking together for years. It’s amazing he’s still here. I love him.

What about Arthur Lee?

In 1990, he walked in after he’d been in prison for seven years and when he saw me, he just flipped. We’d met each other in the ‘60s. I met him with Jimi Hendrix’s girlfriend Devon [Wilson], “Dolly Dagger”. She brought him over and we loved him. He was incredible. When he was with my girlfriend, he was still into crack and pornography and all of that. When he saw me, he was like, “Oh my god. You’re great.” He was trying to score a bag of crack after being locked up for seven years. He went straight back to the drugs, so I stayed away from him. I was off crack because I’d just gotten arrested. So anyway, my girlfriend would do anything for him, but one day she decided to throw him out, so I went with him. I told her that the minute she let him loose, I would take him. So Arthur and I went to a hotel and smoked. We were back on crack again at that point. We started a relationship. It was weird. He had a girlfriend at home that was a nurse. He ended up marrying her. He always loved her because she always took care of him. I didn’t like cheating on her, but what can I say? It was a physical thing on his side. For me, I had a great love for him. I’d have to jump out of cars a lot because he would fall asleep at the wheel. They were giving him drugs to stop him from doing crack, but he would take too many and pass out. He was so talented. Then I ran into my next husband. He sold me a rock and I married him. That’s when Arthur and I split up. He died in 2006. He would call me and we would talk. I saw him put together Five String Serenade in 1990. I was at the session. He did some amazing stuff. He was famous. He was touring Europe. Then Arthur went to jail for four years for firing a gun. Before he moved back to Memphis, I went over to his house and spent some time with him. As I left, I said to my girlfriend, “I have a feeling that’s the last time I’ll ever see him.” Later on, I called him and he had moved back to Memphis. He was in the hospital. He said, “Mercy, I have leukemia, but I’m going to fight it.” He made the records for stem cell research in that state. He had cirrhosis and hepatitis C. He didn’t have a chance. Then I went up to my sister’s and I had a vision of Arthur. I had this dream and he visited me. Pamela got a hold of Robert Plant for me and he was going to do a benefit for Arthur to try to save him because Robert idolized Arthur. When I called the manager, he said, “Arthur passed away last night.”

Oh, no.

That was that. I ended up going to the funeral and I spoke at. Tears welled up.

What about the GTOs?

The GTOs were really fun. We only lasted a short time because of the drug use. Christine and Shuggie had some dope one time in our bathroom. The police were running through the alley and they saw Christine and arrested her ass. I got arrested for morphine, which they changed to heroin, because if you got arrested for morphine, you had to do time. So they lied for me in court. Frank was very anti-drugs, and because of our drug use, he had to get rid of the GTOs.

How did the GTOs come together? What did GTO stand for?

It’s Girls Together Outrageously or Girls Together Obnoxiously or anything else you can think of.

How did it happen?

Frank had formed the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company. It was Miss Pamela, Miss Mercy, Miss Lucy, Miss Sparky, Miss Cinderella, Miss Christine, and Miss Sandra. Sandra was a real case. She’s dead now too. She moved to Seattle to be next to Jimi’s grave. She started thinking that her and Jimi were connected. I showed up at her house once and she had this picture of Jimi. She was talking to it. I thought she was doing it to act crazy to get social security benefits, but she’d torn her house apart because she’d had a big fight with Jimi. But there was nobody there. The police came and she told them she’d been fighting with Jimi.So anyway the GTOs were Pamela, Lucy,Sandra, Sparky, Cinderella, me and Christine. When I showed up on Zappa’s doorstep with Cinderella, he said, “I want a commercial group. We need Mercy and Cinderella because they’re far out.” He told the other girls that they weren’t far out enough. The other girls were straight Reseda girls. They were girls that dressed up and wanted to be in the in crowd, but they weren’t the real deal. Cinderella was from Manhattan Beach and she definitely wasn’t straight. Pamela really was the real deal. Sparky wasn’t. She quit the group. Lucy quit before we got to the commercial group. Then there were just the five of us that were the GTOs.

Is that when you end up hitchhiking with Rod Stewart?

Yeah. I ended up hitchhiking with Rod Stewart, basically because he was poor when he was with The Faces. We hitchhiked and got him clothes. We got him all these little boleros. I remember on the car ride, he would say, “I would sing with Long John Baldry.” They ended up hiring Jeff Beck and Nicky Hopkins, who was also with The Stones and played on everything. I listened to Beggars Banquet with Nicky the first time he ever heard it. He said, “Well, they fucked that up.”We were cutting the GTOs record and we go to our session and there’s Jeff Beck on guitar, Nicky on piano, Aynsley Dunbar and the rest of the Mothers of Invention. Frank Zappa was producing. I was singing “Shock Treatment”, which I wrote about Keith Richards. I had a big crush on Keith Richards. I wrote these lyrics and we’re doing this song. “I see all these people I want to see.” It’s very dreary. All of a sudden, Rod Stewart, who nobody knew, walks up to the microphone and starts singing. I was like, “You know what? This guy can sing.” He ended up singing my song. I did the very opening of the song and then you hear Jeff Beck come in and then it’s Rod Stewart singing. That’s what happened at that session. At another session that we had, Gram Parsons came in and said, “Can I play something?” Frank wouldn’t let Gram play, so he went down the hall and played piano by himself.We cut that album and I worked with Lowell George from Little Feat. I had two songs that I wrote on that album. I wrote “Shock Treatment” and “I Have a Paintbrush in My Hand to Color a Triangle”. It was a fictitious imagery of me, Brian Jones and Bernardo.I sang the melody and then Lowell George came in with his country-western “Yee-haw”. It was all in the mix. The album was getting pushed. We were on our way. We played one gig at the Shrine. Gram Parsons showed up at that gig and Chris Hillman was there. They took us out and got us high. Pamela and I were so high. I remember walking back into the Shrine and there was Alice, Frank, the Mothers of Invention and Rodney Bingenheimer. Miss Christine looked at me and said, “If you fuck this up, I’ll kill you, bitch.” I was like, “Whoa.” That was the only gig that we ever really did, except for the one that your brother Bucky went to where I showed up on heroin. I was living with the Otises and Shuggie didn’t want me in the GTOs.

Why?

He didn’t want his wife to perform. For our last gig, Cinderella and I decided to go at the last minute. I told Shuggie that I was going to the movies. He said, “Can I go?” I said, “No. You stay here.” Then she brought this china white heroin over. Then we went to that gig where your brother was at the Shrine with the NY Dolls, Peter Ivers and everybody. We were high as kites. We stepped on that stage and did, “Mr. Sandman.” I was wearing this big black wig and looked like a Korean prostitute. I was very skinny. I looked great actually. Then I was backstage throwing up like a son of a bitch. I was stoned out of my mind. I went back home and walked in the door and Johnny Otis said, “How could you do that? I saw you on TV. How can you embarrass the family like that?” I was like, “Oh my God.” That’s the last gig we did. We were supposed to do another gig after that. We were going to play at the Palladium with the Cockettes. It was a great combination, but there were no more GTOs. Miss Christine went to England. She had scoliosis of the back and we had heard that she killed herself because the pain was too great. But then, one day, she walked in and said, “This is a piece of shit and I’m not going to do this.” Then she went back to wherever she went and committed suicide. She worked for a dentist and she collected the one drug, Phenobarbital, which if you keep taking it, collects in your system and kills you. She started building it up and committed suicide. So that was the last gig that we were going to do, but it was too controversial anyway, so they cancelled it. The Cockettes were a bunch of drag queens. Actually, I had a boyfriend in the band. His name was Reggie. He looked like a little kid. I just loved him, but you can’t trust a transvestite. They will go from being a man to a woman in a heartbeat. You can’t compete.I have a story about Jobriath. If you go online, he has a website with a fan club and everything. I went to see Hair before I started seeing Shuggie.

Wait. So I interviewed this woman LaLa Brooks.

LaLa knew Jobriath. She sang with Jobriath. He was working with Robert Stigwood. He had the most money given to him for an artist at that time. He was supposed to be the biggest thing there was. He was the first person that I knew that died of AIDS. LaLa and Jobriath were singing together. They’re doing two books on Jobriath right now. Velvet Goldmine was based on Jobriath. He was living in hell. They had a bunch of promotion and money behind him. He was on buses in New York and on that big billboard in Times Square. That’s how much money he had behind him, but it all fell to pieces. A lot of people copied him. Axl Rose sounds a lot like him. Another one of his biggest fans was Morrissey. So I go to see Hair. It was really big at the time. It was huge. I was sitting in the second row with Miss Christine. Bianca Jagger was there. At the close of the show, this kid is second lead, Woof, that’s Jobriath. He had actually gone to the audition, not to audition, but to play the piano. He was the greatest classical piano player that I ever heard. He was beautiful. He was AWOL from army. He gets up there and sings, so that’s how he got put in it. So I’m watching Hair. I don’t say a damn thing about it. By the way, he’s totally gay. At the end, they pulled you on stage. So here comes this blond boy from the stage and he’s coming straight at me. He hauls me on the stage and I ended up moving in with him. He’s gay, but we were in love. It was the most insane scene.I had no idea how big he had been with his records, because I didn’t like his records. I liked his first record that he did when I was with him. He was really great then. Then he got so influenced by the rock world and then I hated his music. He was as bizarre as Bowie on stage. He was just this bizarre person. I couldn’t take it, so I ended up marrying Shuggie. Later on, he ended up living with the guy Chuck Wein and Barry from Rainbow Bridge. He had all this speed from the doctor. They were getting the speed shots. That’s when I met Jacobson. All of Broadway was doing speed.

How did you get into punk rock?

It was from Shannon from the Castration Squad. This is what happened. I was living with my mother in Santa Monica. I had just come from the halfway house and I hadn’t seen the Sunset Strip in ages.

Weren’t you with the GTOs when they were cruising the Sunset Strip?

Yeah, but they had nothing to do with punk.

I’m talking about when you opened up The Whisky with Johnny Rivers.

When I was in the GTOs, we were on the Strip all the time. We would go wherever we wanted. We were part of the scene. Everyone wanted to meet us. We would cruise the strip and walk in the Whisky and get on stage or dance in the cages. Johnny Rivers was there. The Doors were there. Jim Morrison was a skinny as a rail. Four months later, we’d see him and he looked like a lumberjack.

[Laughs] What about Zeppelin?

We all loved Zeppelin.

You were groupies, right?

Of course, we were groupies. We were the queens of groupies. At the age of 24, I read in a magazine that I was over the hill and then a younger bunch of groupies came in. There were the young ones like Lori and Sable. They were in the Rodney Bingenheimer harem. I was in the middle of the real thing. One night, I went with Jimmy Page in the limousine to The Experience. Jobriath was there. He slapped me and I was crying. Bo Diddley was playing inside, so I missed the set. Jimmy Page was like, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I’m okay. I just missed Bo Diddley and I’m sad.” Jobriath had slapped me because he loved me, but he was jealous and he was gay. There was a guy named Marshall Bremens that had The Experience nightclub, which was taking people away from the Whisky. Marshall showed me this note that he got. It came from the Fire Department and it said, “You better close your doors soon or you will be fined.” In other words, they were part of the mafia deal with the Starwood. You would go to the Starwood and they would push you out the front door so the second set could come in. They wouldn’t let Robert Plant in the door. They said, “Oh, you can’t come in. Are you on the guest list?” I was like, “This is Robert Plant!” Those idiots wouldn’t let him in. The mafia ran the Starwood. You had Eddie Nash in there. Eddie Nash was responsible for the murders up there in Laurel Canyon with John Holmes. Eddie Nash ran the Starwood. That was his club. Think of it. That’s pretty fucked up. If he could kill all those people, you can imagine how much power he had. The Starwood was so fucked up. He had bouncers in there that were chicks that looked like Arnold. That was another one I said no to – Arnold.

What do you mean you said no to Arnold?

Well, when I first moved into my mother’s, I was watching TV all the time and I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger on TV. He had just done Stay Hungry and he was becoming a celebrity. I’d walk down two blocks from the house and there was Arnold. I walked up to him and said something. Then he picked me up my belt loops and invited me over to his house. And I’m stupid. There’s a naiveté in me. So I say some naive thing about how all body builders are gay. So I go over to his house and the guy is beautiful. Lou Ferrigno, the Incredible Hulk was there too with a couple other guys. We’re smoking and getting high. Then I go upstairs with Arnold and he tells me everything he’s going to do. He says, “Stay Hungry is only the beginning. I’m going to be a movie star. I’m going to become a politician. I’m going to do all of it.” He basically had his whole life planned out. It was to the point that I thought he was some kind of experiment. It was like they had put a chip in his brain or something. He had a wonderful sense of humor though. He was hilarious and he was getting high, but he still seemed unreal. Then he pins me up against the wall and says, “I’d like to know what it’s like to go to bed with you.” I said, “Well, you’ll never know.” And I left. Later on, I was thinking about it and I was like, “Maybe I’ll change my mind and marry him.” He wasn’t as big as he seemed on screen. Unless he was flexing, he wasn’t that big, but he was really good looking and smart. Then he moved his mother in. I went over there again and she answered the door. She reminded me of Johnny Otis’ mother. They were both really tiny women. Then he got another girlfriend, so it never happened. I never pursued it. When I met Bob Dylan, the same thing happened. I was working at this antique store on Sunset that had moved over to Strand Street in Venice. I told the guy that ran the place that I thought Dylan was around. Then across the street, there was Dylan at the door of the studio. He had just done Renaldo and Clara. He was on TV with the gypsy shit on. We went to his studio and somehow I get in the building. Dylan’s bodyguard is crazy about me and wants to take me out. He’s into the Soulstirrers and all that stuff, so I ended up hanging out with him. I still hadn’t met Dylan yet and then they all come walking out. One of them says, “Hi Mercy.” I said, “You remember meeting me with Jobriath? I want to meet Dylan.” He said, “Well, you can’t. He won’t let anyone up there.” He was running around with a black woman called Queen Bee. He was also taking care of this woman called Clydie King. She is one of my idols. I met her with the Otises. She was a background singer that was trying to get her own career going. She’s Indian/Black and she’s really beautiful. He had all these women and he’s running around with all these people. So one day I’m sitting there and he walks out of the studio. And he’s got blondish hair. He gets in the car and I wave down the car. I had this bright red hair now because the hairdresser wanted to try it out on me. They had gotten the color from New York. Anyway, I flagged the car down. I was going to Santa Monica Junior College at the time trying to become a hairdresser. So he rolls down his window. You always knew Bob to run away, but he rolled down his window. And I said, “Don’t be paranoid.” He said, “I’m not.” At the time, I had this big crush on this gay dancer at school. Renaldo and Clara had just come out, but I hadn’t seen it yet. I told him, “I know this wonderful dancer that should have been in Renaldo and Clara.” He said, “Have you seen it yet?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “You need to come and talk to me after you’ve seen the movie.” But I never did. I should have, but I never did. Regret is ridiculous. Whatever. That’s one of my weird stories.

So you blew it with Dylan?

I blew it with Dylan and Arnold. Arnold is too powerful now.

It’s not even about those dudes. For me, it’s about Mercy, the girl that I adore.

That’s so nice. That was my life. I look back and wish. It’s interesting what could have happened.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. What drew you to hairdressing?

I was in Santa Monica Junior College. I figure I could be a hairdresser. Somehow, I got into punk. I still had the same friends. Marlowe was still sending me clothes and letters. He still loves me, but he’s gay. Then he introduces me to this girl. She’s the lead singer for the Castration Squad. She was living with her mother in the middle of Hollywood and somehow got involved with The Masque.

What is The Masque?

That’s Brendan Mullen’s club. He’s Scottish. He was really cute. Anyways the girl takes me to The Masque for the first time. Brendan was a sports writer and he came here for some reason and he was looking for a place to live. He fell down these stairs and ended up underground behind Frederick’s. You were at the real Masque with me when we shot that commercial that you put me in. Anyway, Brendan opens up this rehearsal hall and the Go-Gos are living down there. I was like, “What’s this?” It’s exactly ten years after the hippies and it’s the exact opposite of the hippie scene. So I’m going to hairdressing school and I’d found the most perfect place to do my ideas. I was doing Mohawks and spiked hair. I did Kidd Spike from the Gears. I did the Dead Kennedys. Everything that I was thinking in my head about hairdressing was there. The energy was there. I could feel it. I got involved with Brendan Mullen and was hanging out in this underground place. Then I start doing hair. They kept trying to throw me out of hairdressing school. I was always getting in trouble. They wouldn’t let me do the James Dean hairstyle and I wanted to do black people’s hair. They wouldn’t give me any credit. They didn’t want me to do that. I ended up in court in Santa Monica with charges filed against one of the teachers. She ended up getting suspended. Then I was going to night school because of all the trouble I caused. Then I got moved to Hollywood Boulevard, because I had to get out of Santa Monica Junior College. My grant ran out. I ended up in a hair school on Hollywood Blvd. I was supposed to be doing hair, but I did the window displays instead.

What bands did you see at The Masque?

I got to see the Consumers. They were this band from Arizona. They took us to this gig at the Whisky and actually tried to murder the lead singer. They took the microphone and wrapped it around his neck and tried to kill him. I thought it was a joke. They had a beautiful drummer named John. Then I met with Black Randy.

Of the Metro Squad.

Then I met the Mau Maus, and one of them reminded me of Keith Richards. By that time, the Whisky was a nightmare. It had only been five years ago that I was there with the Otises. I just followed the energy. Then I see these guys walk in. And I hate England. I think they ripped us off for everything. I am very anti-English, except for Zeppelin. So I see these guys walk in with these crazy hairdos. It was the Levi & The Rockats from England. I walked up to Levi and said, “Hi, I’m Miss Mercy.” And Leee Childers says, “Do you know who this woman is? Do you know who you’re talking to?” So anyway, I started doing Dibbs’ hair and Smut’s hair. So I got mixed up with them. Even though they couldn’t sing, I loved the idea. Then came the Gears. I thought they were something else. Kidd Spike walked up to me and said, “I want you to do my hair.” I said, “All right then. I’ll do your hair all right.” I chased them everywhere. I chased you too. I was chasing you. I was chasing Kidd Spike. I never got anywhere with either of you.

[Laughs] I just remember being excited that I’d met someone that was totally interesting.

You had no idea that I had the biggest crush in the world on you?

I had no idea. I thought you were into my brother.

You drove up in a car at the Other Masque. Pure Hell, an all-black punk band, was playing. Brendan says, “Mercy, I want you to know that I booked this band just for you.” I walked in and saw fire burning. I said, “Oh my god. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” I walked out and you drove up in a car and got out. You had leather pants on. I was like, “Who is the hell is this guy?” Everything seemed so ugly to me and you were so beautiful.

[Laughs] I want to know more about punk rock.

Darby used to come and visit me. That was another thing. I don’t believe that Darby was a suicide. When we did Rock N Roll High School, Darby was crying on my shoulder. I was with the Red Army. Spider that was with the Red Army wrecked his career.

I remember the Red Army.

That’s another funny story. I was doing hair on Spider and I was sleeping with him. He was a doorman at The Masque. Then he was in the Red Army. I don’t think they had any talent at all, but I kept him around. I did Brendan’s hair. I did the Dickies’ hair. I went out with one of the Dickies. So I go downtown to visit this guy. He worked for the police department. I said, “I have to go back to my apartment because I’ve got this guy in the Red Army there and I’m doing his hair.” And the guy said, “Aren’t the Red Army a political group?” And I laughed, “No, they’re a fucking band.” He said, “We have a warrant out for their arrest because we think they’re instigators of this political movement.” I was laughing so hard. I said, “Cancel it. This is a singing group!” It was hilarious. I couldn’t believe he was saying this to me. God, the cops were misled.

You must have seen a lot of good bands in that era?

I did. I saw the Alley Cats. I saw the Gears. Then you had Ray Campi and the Rockabilly Rebels.

With Jerry Sikorski?

I went out with him. He took me home and I went out with him. That was the first time I’d had any good sex in my life. He was fucking amazing. He was very fascinating.

Ray Campi and the Rockabilly Rebels opened for The Clash when they first came here.

Yeah. Okay, you led me into the Clash. They were amazing. I loved the Clash. I loved all the ska bands. I thought ska was something else. I thought the Specials were something else. That was the kind of stuff I really liked.

What about the Dead Boys?

I knew Stiv Bators. They didn’t do a thing for me. I didn’t know enough about them. Stiv was really sweet. He was a really nice guy.

What about the Heartbreakers?

I didn’t know them.

They were really good.

They probably were. That’s when they had Johnny Thunders.

You saw the Dolls?

Yeah, and they didn’t do anything for me.

Oh, they didn’t?

No. Connie had found the NY Dolls. Later on, Connie found Dee Dee Ramone before when they were doing Rock N Roll High School. Dee Dee didn’t want to pay too much attention to me. So I looked at his wife and said, “My gosh. She looks just like Connie.” He said, “Who are you?” I said, “I’m Mercy.” He said, “Oh, my God. You’re Mercy? I have your album.” Anyway, Connie found the NY Dolls. I had Arthur Kane over at Johnny Otis’ house. We were trying to get into the supermarket to get alcohol. Iggy was at Johnny’s play. I never loved Iggy either. I never loved Bowie. I thought it was all very gimmicky. I was into the guys that really started all of this shit. And that was Zolar X.

Who was Zolar X?

Zolar X came from Memphis and they were at the Canterbury. They had all the science fiction stuff going. They had been doing it for at least five years and that was in 1975.

You saw the whole rockabilly scene happen too.

Oh, yeah. I loved it. It was wonderful. I always loved roots music. You know what rockabilly was to me? It was the look. Punk was dirty. It didn’t do it for me.

Let’s talk about Spaz. He was a stuntman.

He was amazing. I loved Spaz. He was cute, too. He had a look. Toni Basil got a hold of Spaz. They were boyfriend and girlfriend. She had a lot to do with the creation. I introduced Toni Basil to Zappa. I took her over there. Basil created a lot of things from the ‘60s on. She was the one doing all the dance moves with Devo. She got to Spaz and he was a person with talent.

Spaz was in one of Devo’s little films.

That was because of Toni Basil. It was the combination of Basil and Spaz.

Did you know about the English punk rock scene that was going on?

Of course I did. I knew something about it. Why?

There’s the claim that punk rock started in England, but it really started in LA.

Hold on. That’s one of my things. It’s the same thing with R&B. It’s the same thing that Johnny Otis was doing in the ‘40s. Does he get the credit? No. Does LA get the credit for punk rock? No. The only good book out that gives credit where credit is due is Waiting for The Sun. Waiting For the Sun has Johnny Otis in it. It has the GTOs in it. It has everything in there from the ‘40s all the way up until the ‘90s. It has the whole genre of what LA did. It’s all about LA, but LA never gets the credit in the mainstream press. How the fuck did it start with Johnny Ramone? Come on. It’s like Phil Spector said, “The Ramones sound like the Beach Boys on speed.” What new thing did they do? They sped it up. Their sound is the Beach Boys’ sound. It’s sounds like the Beach Boys’ melodies sped up.

What about the whole glam scene?

I hated it. Even though I was one of the biggest gimmicks of a lifetime, I couldn’t stand it in other people. I couldn’t stand cute. I couldn’t stand it when Bowie glammed up. When Jobriath glammed up, I hated glam rock. I couldn’t stand it. I just didn’t want to look. Even though I might do their hair, I didn’t like the music.

Remember when I went to the Vine Street apartment with you, after I’d met you again at the Other Masque?

I was living at Vine Street. Later on, you picked me up at my mother’s and took me to the skateboard park. There was a picture of me and Lucky. You had us put in a skateboard magazine.

I cut my hair before I met you because I was into the energy of the whole scene, but then you dyed my hair. And that whole thing changed skateboarding.

I believe it.

It did. So you’re the one to blame.

[Laughs] Wow. That’s a compliment.

I cut my hair and got Skateboarder of the Year. Alva threw his trophy in the trash because he got second. He was like, “Fuck this. I should get first again. I won last year and I’m more popular now than ever. Who’s this kid that’s getting it now? Fuck this.” So he threw his trophy in the trash. I was loaded out of my mind. Instead of making a speech or saying something, I spit at the cameras and tried to flick boogers at them. They were like, “These are the two guys representing the sport?” Whatever. Then I dyed my hair and they just lost their minds. We were no longer the surfer kids with the blond hair.

It had gone a totally different direction. That was you and me together. You had the charisma and I had the creativity. Between the two of us, it was both of us. Tony Alva was nice, but he didn’t have charisma. He was more of a hippie with long hair. I don’t know what he was. He was in the music scene a little bit. I know that.

So, indirectly, you influenced quite a bit with your life.

Well, I would say that I influenced goth with the black eye makeup and black dresses.

When you were in the GTOs?

Yeah.

That was the first all girl band.

It wasn’t a band. It was a group. We didn’t play anything. We had everyone backing us up.

You had the best players backing you up.

We had the best players ever. It was ridiculous. We had Frank Zappa. I mean, c’mon.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

I didn’t grow to appreciate him until later. I spent three days with him and got to know him. He would always go to his house and hang out, but he didn’t like drugs and I was always sped out of my head. He didn’t pay much attention to me. I believe the reason the eye was on him was because of the drug usage, which he didn’t do.

He didn’t. He was straight.

But it scared him. He’s old school.

Then the Runaways came out.

That was a real group. They were like little boys. I hung with Joan a lot. She was really fun. She was gorgeous. They were very talented. They could really play. Kim Fowley put that band together.

What about Frank Zappa?

He was old school. He knew Johnny Otis from El Monte Legion Hall. That’s why you had Cruising with Ruben and the Jets. He knew Johnny Otis from a long time ago. I’ll tell you who Zappa brought out that was a real mind fuck and that was “Sugarcane” Harris. I didn’t know who “Sugarcane” was at the time. I remember being at the studio when Frank bailed Sugarcane out of jail to get him on “Willie The Pimp”. I was at the session at Columbia and here comes this amazing violinist. I was like, Holy cow! Who in the world is this?” I was blown away. Frank said, “Oh, that’s ‘Sugarcane’ Harris.” Frank put Shuggie on bass and “Sugarcane” Harris on violin. Sugarcane was part of the Johnny Otis regime. I got to know “Sugarcane”, but he was a very big junkie at that point. I loved him. He was smooth. He just died a few years ago. Delmar “Mighty Mouth” Evans was another great singer that I tried to manage. I put him with King Cotton and it was great. I’ll tell you about some insane groups, like Beachy and the Beachnuts. I had a huge crush on Beachy. He looked like the guys in the Monkees, but he used to tear the shit out of Mitch Ryder. He used to do Mitch Ryder songs like “Devil With A Blue Dress.” I used to go visit Beachy and talk soul music. King Cotton was really amazing too.

Did you ever hear this Monkees song that Micky Dolenz scats on that’s called “Goin’ Down”?

No.

It’s some obscure song that I found one time. It’s the coolest Monkees song ever.

Well, they were all musicians.

Except for Peter Tork.

He was a real musician. That’s whose house the Stones stayed at.

Mike Nesmith was the real musician.

Peter Tork was too. The only one that wasn’t was Micky. He was an actor, but he was a singer.

I’m just saying, this song is so fucking cool.

It’s on a Monkees album?

Yeah. It’s this scat/jazzy type song.

You know who I have been looking for but I can’t find is Ivy from The Cramps. The Cramps blew me away. I love The Cramps. They were a trip. About two years ago, Ivy was calling me and we would talk and talk and talk. We became good friends. Then suddenly I was looking at this new book that was written about six months ago. Ivy was supposed to be on the cover, but she didn’t show up. You haven’t seen The ramps anywhere since they did the House of Blues a year and half ago.

I think they’re recording a record.

The lady that was doing the book couldn’t get in touch with them. Even their managers can’t find them. They might be doing a record, or they may be hiding. Certain people that are supposed to know where they are don’t. Ivy was trying to say that she’d had it. She was saying to me, “As soon as we’re done, I’ll have some time to myself.” I don’t know what happened. They’re so amazing.

They are amazing. The original Cramps were really amazing. I saw them at the Other Masque with Bryan Gregory.

Do you know how Lux and Ivy met each other? They were both in Berkeley and they were hitchhiking. That’s groovy. I love Ivy. They came into Goodwill. When she’s not wearing make-up, she doesn’t look anything like the girl on stage at all. Lux doesn’t look like himself either. I was the cashier at Glendale Goodwill when I saw her. I said, “Are you Ivy?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “I’m Mercy.” She said, “Oh my god. I love you.” I hope they’re okay. I love them. They had reverb.

I love that. Who was the king of that? 

Link Wray. What about Robert Gordon? 

He’s coming back out again with Chris Spedding.

I wanted to tell you what I think rockabilly is. It’s the poor man’s jump blues. They couldn’t afford to put horns over it. A lot of reggae is the same thing. It’s the rhythm tracks without the ska, without the horns over it. It’s all rhythm. I’ll tell you who did put horns over it. Gene Vincent. I met Gene Vincent with Tom Ayres. Tom was Rodney Bingenheimer’s partner at the English Disco. Tom Ayres actually produced “Hot Pastrami”. He helped bring The Rockats to the Louisiana Hayride. The first thing that Levi said to me was, “I want to go to the Louisiana Hayride.” I said, “Okay, we’ll work it out.” So I went to Tom and said, “You’ve got to meet Levi & the Rockats.” Then Tom took them to Louisiana. That’s how they got there. Tom just died about seven years ago. A lot of people are gone. I don’t know where they went, but I hope they’re all there together. I’m so excited about Sly Stone.

That’s going to be amazing.

It’s been 35 years besides that minute and a half that they were on TV.

Do you remember when they were on the Mike Douglas Show? He had Cassius Clay and Sly Stone on the same show.

Oh my god. That was in the ‘70s.

It was insane. He was in his outfits.

Sly Stone and Tom Donahue were responsible for FM radio. Tom Donahue started FM radio and he was really close with Sly. Sly was KDIA. He was a DJ. It’s a black channel in San Francisco. Tom was the first one to start FM radio. He was really fascinating.

Why did they start FM radio?

No commercials.

What about the ‘50s rock n roll when you were a kid? How did that influence you?

My mother was a fanatic. My mother’s collection was all Sun Records stuff. She was into Jerry Lee Lewis and then later on she was listening to the Doors. My mother found KRLQ before I did. I didn’t really like it, but she loved it. She was like 65. She’s driving and singing.

What did you like? KROQ?

No. My mother did. I’ve known Rodney Bingenheimer since I was a kid. I’ve known him for a long time.

Did you see the movie?

Yeah. I’m in it.

You are? I haven’t seen it yet. I have to see it now.

They only talked to me for a minute. I was also in Plaster Caster. Then they tried to do a spin off. When they did the Plaster Caster movie, they ended up interviewing me for some reason. Those two paid me $1,000 and made me sign contracts. Their next movie was going to be my story, but then they ran out of cash.

I like your story the best. So then what happened with your whole life?

I did drugs.

Do you regret it?

I don’t want to say that. I have cirrhosis of the liver. It’s pretty amazing that I made it this far.

Do you have any regrets?

Yeah. I regret that I didn’t sleep with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Dylan and Rick Danko. I wish that I’d taken better care of my son. That’s it. I wish I’d been more yuppie-oriented instead of a hippie.

Why? Oh my god. That’s the most outlandish thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.

[Laughs] That just killed your opinion of me, huh?

No.That just would have been a wrong turn. What do you think about Rap and Hip Hop music?

When Grandmaster Flash and “The Message” came out, I thought it was fabulous. I loved it. I loved Run DMC. I was managing the rockers, the break-dancers. They all used Run DMC stuff, so that’s where I got introduced to it. I like old school rap. I liked NWA. I liked Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Wu Tang Clan. Then it all started to get bought out and commercial and now I think that most of it is a bunch of shit. My new idol is Amy Winehouse. She has so much soul. I love her. She had a crack pipe in her beehive. She’s brilliant. Of course, she’s English. Another great one is Joss Stone. She’s also English.She’s doing the Janis thing. Amy Winehouse, to me, is it. I love her look and the way that she knows how to project.She got five Grammys. She kicked ass.

She fucked them up.

“I don’t want to go to rehab.” That’s kicking ass. Joss Stones is really talented. She can do some of Janis, but no one can ever really do Janis Joplin.

Were you friends with Janis Joplin?

No, but I talked to her. I gave her a bracelet. I think I was too much like her. I remember being at a party with her. She was a dynamic singer. So was Etta James. You have to remember that Johnny Otis discovered Etta James when she was 12. I’ve heard quite a few great singers. That’s what’s so amazing about Amy Winehouse. She got across to the mainstream. There’s an album she did called Frank, that I’ve never heard, that’s supposed to be absolutely amazing. Of course, you’ve got Keyshia Cole who’s good. Andre 3000 of Outkast is something else. I think Erykah Badu is something too. Gnarls Barkley is great.

What about Christina Aguilera?

She can sing.

I just saw that Rolling Stones movie that Scorsese did for IMAX. You have to see it. You’ll love it. They bring out Christina Aguilera, Jack Black and Buddy Guy.

That’s another one that I missed out on. If I could go back in time, I would have jumped on Buddy Guy. Buddy Guy is the guy. Jimi Hendrix and all of them loved him.

What about Lucky Otis, your son?

Lucky is an all around musician with the genes that he has from Johnny Otis and Shuggie Otis. He can write and sing. He can produce. He can do anything.

How did Lucky come about?

[Laughs] I got pregnant and I kept him. I kind of kept him.When I went through my drug years, I left him with Johnny.

Johnny raised him?

Well, he did from when I was at Vine Street. Lucky missed getting into public school by one day and they wouldn’t make an exception for him, so I took him to stay with Johnny. He was raised all around that music and picked it up. I’m so lucky, but the guilt feelings from that are there. I just kept doing drugs, but I knew where it was best for him to be.

You kept doing the drugs to suppress?

I was just worse into it. I was there as soon as I started doing drugs. I stopped when I was pregnant. I didn’t do drugs then. Then the relationship ended after Shuggie said no to the Stones. And then Gerald Wilson’s daughter, Terri, was around. Shuggie married Terri, but, sadly, she died recently. Every time I went out, she was there. I was like, “It’s time to leave.” I knew I couldn’t take care of Lucky by myself, so I left him with Johnny. Those were the people to leave him with. Before I knew it, he was playing with Johnny Otis and his group.

He played with his grandpa. That’s insane.

That is insane. He learned. He got the background that he needed. He had the youth. He was also into Anthrax and all that stuff, which I hated. I was like, “What are you doing to me?” He’s got a combination of musical talent. He’s playing jazz. His dad is starting his career again with the new stuff. His dad is starting his career again with the new stuff and looking for a label. Lucky does many things. He also produces and plays almost all instruments.

He’s going to play with his dad?

Yeah, he’s going to play bass. He can’t play lead guitar, because dad will be playing lead guitar. He took bass up with the Johnny Otis show. He also plays keyboards. He DJed for a long time. He took over Johnny’s radio show on KPFK.

Lucky is on his way.

Yeah. He just did a thing with George Clinton. George did the vocals and Lucky did some instrumentals on it.

What about the whole music scene in general?

It’s corrupt. It’s always been corrupt.

What about the influences of what’s going on now?

What influences? It’s all formulated. There is no influence. There are just a few outsiders that get it and make it.

The formulations have been going on forever though, right?

Well, basically. When someone had a hit record, someone else would try to formulate it. Even in the ‘50s, you had a lot of that. You had payola then. People were also buying other people’s songs and putting their names on them.

Did that piss you off about how that goes down?

It’s so different and so big now that I don’t even understand it anymore. With the Internet and everything, I don’t get it. I don’t understand any of it. It’s way over my head. I just put on VH1 Classics and go back in time. I have all the music channels, so I check out what’s going on and change the channel, until I saw Amy Winehouse. Now even country music has really gotten formulated. It’s mostly awful, except for a few, like Dwight Yoakam.

He’s an actor now.

I think he plays great. I’ll tell you something. My friend Gram Parsons just gets bigger every year. It’s insane. His fan club is huge. He’s so famous. A few years ago, there was a tribute to Gram. Keith Richards played. Norah Jones played. Dwight Yoakam kicked ass. He had a bass player that looked like a punk rocker and they kicked ass on Gram’s stuff.

Have you seen Hank III?

I have seen Hank III and he’s crazy. He opened up for The Cramps. I liked Hank when he opened up with his original traditional shit, then he got too crazy for me.

What about Beck?

He’s okay. He’s smart.

He’s clever. I saw him open for Johnny Cash with just an acoustic guitar. It was amazing.

I know there are good kids. I’m just telling you about the commercial products I see.

We’re talking about kids that can play or are formulated. This kid opened up with an acoustic guitar. He didn’t do his modern stuff.

That’s the thing. He does commercial stuff sometimes though and I may not like that so much. He’s interesting. 

What do you think about Courtney Love? She loved the GTOs.

She was a big fan.

She should love the GTOs. She stole from the GTOs.

[Laughs] I was living up North and then I came back and moved in with Pamela. I picked up the phone one day and it’s Courtney Love. She said, “I just want you to know that I want to play Miss Mercy when the movie I’m With The Band comes out.”

Oh, no.

This was before she was famous though. This was before she did Sid and Nancy. Or maybe she had done it, but it hadn’t come out yet. I have to tell you that Sid and Nancy reminded me so much of me that I can’t even comprehend it. Nancy reminds me of me. I went through the blond bang phase. That movie freaked me out.

Courtney Love is on the phone telling you she’s going to play Miss Mercy in the movie?

Yeah. I said, “Well, you’re talking to Miss Mercy.” She said, “Oh, I’d like to meet you.”

[Laughs] That’s all you have to say about that. So there was something cool about punk rock back in the day.

Musician wise, Kidd Spike could kick ass on his guitar. Jerry Sikorski could kick ass. There were some people that could kick ass. And let’s not forget Exene. She didn’t do too much for me, but John Doe was great. He was gorgeous. I went to a gig with Robert Plant a few weeks ago. One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen was the “Duke of Earl” Gene Chandler who gave one of the best performances I ever saw at a gig, singing “Rainbow ‘65.” I saw him a few months ago with my son. America never appreciates its own artists.

Exactly. So now what do you do?

I’m still doing the same thing that I always did. I’m going places and meeting people. I’m a supervisor of production at Goodwill. I just transferred from Hancock Park to 6th and Union in downtown Los Angeles. It’s always a challenge. I’m lucky to have a job at my age with something that I enjoy.

What does that mean?

[Laughs] It means, because I had talent when I was a drug addict and I was digging in trashcans to find a new way to get a hit and sell things, I learned a lot about turning trash into treasure.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

[Laughs] That’s right. Somehow, for eight years, I’ve managed to hold onto this job. I got into doing eBay too. I’m just trying to make money for them. They asked me if I wanted to be an associate manager, but I turned it down, because you get fired real fast if you make a mistake. I have cirrhosis, so it’s very hard to get medical insurance and now I have it. I have to pay for it, but it’s a lot less. I also have a 401K. I do production. I’m more careful and don’t let things pass. Ageism is a hard thing. It’s tough. I’m on my feet eight hours a day five days a week. I’m just lucky that they like me.

You’re very likeable.

Not to everyone. Some people hate me.

Well, that’s just because they’re uncomfortable with themselves.

Well, thanks for that. Some people just don’t get it.

You have an eye. You can pick style. Some people can go to a shop and pick out pieces. Most can’t. Some people can put it on and put it together. Are they going to do your life story or not?

I don’t know. Those other people ran out of money for that project.

There needs to be a new one.

People keep telling me that I need to write a book, but I don’t want to write. Back in the punk days, I had all these experiences. Penelope Spheeris came after me and said, “Will you do the Decline of Western Civilization?” And I said, “Sure.” The reason that I’m not in it is because I did some speed with the girl punk photographer, Jenny Lens. I did speed with Jenny and then I had a date with Penelope Speers to be in Decline, but I couldn’t find the place where I was supposed to meet Penelope. Then I did these two other roles, but I didn’t get paid. They had the premieres, but I did speed and fell asleep and didn’t go.

Fuck speed.

It’s made a huge comeback, but not for me.

How long have you been sober?

Ten years.

That’s great. I’m so glad we had this conversation. You’re the best, Miss Mercy.

You are the best. Thanks, Steve. 

TO ORDER THIS STORY, ORDER ISSUE #64 BY CLICKING HERE…

1 comment

  • Bo Rothschild August 2, 2020

    loved this story thank you Ms Bo

    Reply

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