Be The Band

Many years ago, when work clothes meant chunky Fluevog platforms and strappy, spangly bits, I ran with a crowd of braided, dreadlocked, and otherwise exotically longhaired girls whose summer jobs included things like dancing for the Lollapalooza tour and whose primary, if unspoken, goal in life was to achieve the ultimate in underground feminine cache: becoming a rock star wife. If not that, mistress. If not that, then moll or muse, at the very least. Ava* had a thing going on with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and my dear friend Katia* had spent some quality time down in LA with Jane’s Addiction-frontman Perry Farrell and his girlfriend Casey Niccoli, with whom he created the notorious papier-mâché sculpture that was the cover for second album Ritual de lo Habitual and on the fringes of which you can see a tiny black and white photo booth picture of Katia.

Casey would have been the sort of goddess of the scene, the end-all be-all of Rock Star Musedom, so hip in her white wedding dress and braids in the Classic Girl video (really a short film of her Mexican Santeria faux-wedding to Perry), even if she did get kind of embarrassingly drunk and stupid on MTV, talking about “Perry Farrell is Jane’s Addiction!” Classy, honey. Anyway, she seemed enviable at the time, creating drug-addled art films with Perry and in general reigning as the relevant queen of art-rock (‘alternative’ being a term I associate more with college radio than the dirty, dank LA underground).

When Katia (and others) started doing heroin as a twisted effort at both early-90s hipness and kinship with Perry and his ilk, she lost her job and started lapdancing in seedy strip clubs, under the stage name…….Casey. As a non-hard drug user, I was silently shut out by the group, who were descending into a then-amusing-oh-look-at-what-bad-girls-we-are cycle of scoring, using, and dopesickness. I tried to help Katia kick once, then helped her find an apartment, and then could not help her at all, instead turning my attention to my own life, going back to school, getting a 9 to 5, and getting on with it. Years later, I see Katia on Divis once in a while. She still has pretty bones, but the joyful spark that made her so unique is largely faded. I am glad she’s alive and trying to be clean, but sad that her red ringlets and caramel skin have given way to bleached blond tresses and the dull complexion of the long-term addicted.

The other day I fell down the Google hole and typed Casey’s name into the search box. Up pops a story and as of a few years ago, it appears she’s a single mom in Bakersfield, struggling to make ends meet and just a little bitter about how Perry used her ideas and energy, promised her a share of the points from record sales, but ultimately left her in the dust, without royalties or a home or writing credits or much else other than memories. And it just made me think, and I don’t mean to be cruel about this, but, you get what you deserve.

When your role is the muse on the artist’s arm, rather than the artist, you’re not going to get the royalties or the payoff. When your goal is to be a rock star’s wife, rather than a rock star, the best you can hope for is a fat alimony settlement (unless you’re Sharon Osbourne or otherwise calling the shots and running the family business). As the daughter of a woman who chose to ally herself more with men than herself in terms of forging her identity as well as livelihood, I’ve no patience with women whose glow is only the reflection of a man’s light. Want royalties? Write the fucking song. Want a house? Make sure he puts you on the mortgage, and help him pay it. Want to get credit for your idea, painting, poem? Make sure it’s your name at the bottom of the page. Or, as Courtney Love (whose advice I’d take with a grain of salt but I agree with on this one) once said, “Don’t be with the band – pick up your guitar and be the band.”

* – so obviously not their real names!