Runaways’ veteran, Victory Tischler-Blue chats about the new band biopic; her 2003 documentary, “Edgeplay: A film about the Runaways;” and Andalusian horses
In 1977, when 17-year-old Vicki Tischler joined the all-girl rock band, The Runaways, she had no idea that she was becoming part of a sisterhood that would influence the rest of her life. The Runaways, best known for the song “Cherry Bomb” and for launching the musical careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford, was the brainchild of rock impresario Kim Fowley. Rechristened, Vicki Blue by bandmate Joan Jett, Tischler toured with the group for nearly two years and recorded the albums: Waitin’ for the Night and And Now, The Runaways.
After landing a small part in director Rob Reiner’s classic rock mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap , Tischler-Blue began to switch her focus from music making to filmmaking. She eventually settled into a role behind the camera as a television and film producer and founded the production company Sacred Dogs Entertainment Group. In 2003, she made her documentary debut with a labor of love titled, Edgeplay: A film about the Runaways.
The gritty, behind-the-scenes band documentary enjoyed critical acclaim, despite relentless legal obstruction from Jett — who refused to appear in it and actively blocked the filmmaker’s ability to use Runaways music in the film. Edgeplay survived the setbacks and ran for two years on the Showtime Network.
And now, there is a new Runaways movie — this one sanctioned by Ms. Jett. Written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, and loosely-based on Cherie Curry’s torrid memoir, Neon Angel: The Cherie Curry Story, the feature film follows the fictionalized rise and descent of the band. The Runaways stars Kristin Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Scout Taylor-Compton (as Joan Jett, Cherie Currie and Lita Ford, respectively).
Since the movie’s January debut at the Sundance Film Festival the band’s members have been back in the spotlight; Urban Outfitters stores are selling Runaways T-shirts; and Twilight bloggers can’t stop marveling at Kristen Stewart’s transformation from lamb to lesbo; and all of this fuss, before the film has hit a single multiplex screen.
Victory Tischler-Blue is sanguine about the current commotion. She’s been here before. In an interview from her ranch in Palm Springs, she discusses filmmaking, music, horses and her ongoing journey as part of the karmic sisterhood she joined as a teenager.
Q. What are your feelings about the new Runaways movie?
A. I think it’s fantastic on more than one level. I love that this current film is bringing more eyeballs and awareness to our band and to all of our personal projects as well. After 30-something years — how amazing is that? For me, the Runaways has become the gift that keeps on giving.
When Lita and I were in Lake Tahoe filming some scenes for The Gillettes [an upcoming reality series executive produced by Tischler-Blue and starring Ford], Scout Taylor-Compton, who plays Lita in the film, drove up to meet us.
She said that the way the actresses learned about the Runaways — despite the near-constant presence of Joan Jett and [her business partner] Kenny Laguna on set — was that they sat down together, on their own time, without the director and learned about everybody from watching Edgeplay. In fact, even the director mentioned in a recent L.A. Times article that she pulled the film’s most talked about and anticipated scene — the Joan/Cherie lesbian pussy bump — from Edgeplay.
That said, I’m not really sure why the filmmakers felt the need to create a composite bass player character named Robin — when they had Jackie [Fox] and me to pull from. It’s also ironic that the only two band members who actually remember everything, because they didn’t get high or drink, are the two that are excluded from the story. It’s a well-documented fact that Joan, Cherie and Lita have very few, if any, memories of being in the band.
Personally, I’m amazed at how much sweat equity these actresses invested in the project and how much it meant to them. Scout was also incredibly forthcoming when she told me and Lita about how oppressive the atmosphere was on set. I really want to acknowledge what the actresses went through because they were paid far less than they would normally earn, but it was important to them that they do it right. Much like it was for us in the band.
Q. There was a lot of press coverage of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie at The Runways film premiere at Sundance in January. Where were you?
A. I was in Palm Springs, Lita was in Miami and Jackie was in Los Angeles. We were not invited to any of the screenings. There’s a running joke within the band that the subtitle for the new Runaways movie is “Revenge for Edgeplay”.
Joan and her partner have serious issues with the fact that I popped the Runaways movie cherry with Edgeplay and have spent a lot of time and resources trying to legally derail my projects and me. And it’s not just me; she’s gone after Jackie and Lita too.
The Christmas before last, Joan Jett sent me a gift in the form of a lawsuit — with regard to the domain therunaways.net — a site I’ve always owned. The claim was that I was operating the site in bad faith. FYI: the “site” was a one-page placeholder that was a memorial to Sandy West, our drummer who passed away in 2006 from cancer. But my story isn’t unique. The bottom line is that Joan is known throughout the music and film industry as being extremely litigious with claims that don’t hold water — especially when there’s been a lull in her career.
Q. What is it about The Runaways that you think people are still responding to 35 years after the band’s breakup?
A. I don’t know. I’m really surprised by it. Jackie, Lita and I are all kind of shocked about the attention this is getting.
I think there are a couple of things people respond to. First, The Runaways captured teen spirit. I have the double-edged viewpoint of having watched them as a fan and later having been part of the band. When I used to watch them, I thought they epitomized all the things that I was about and loved — the rebel thing. When I made Edgeplay I tried to capture that same rebel feeling.
Also, I think people like to watch teenage girls morphing into middle-aged women. Whatever it is, I’m fascinated, grateful and blown away by the interest and attention.
Q. You’ve recently reunited with Lita Ford to make, The Gillettes: An Extreme American Family — a reality show about Ford and her rock ‘n’ roll clan. Whose idea was it and what can viewers expect to see on The Gillettes?
A. The idea came out of a conversation I had with Lita and her husband. They asked me to produce it. So, I came up with a concept, wrote the treatment and we started shooting footage last December. What you can expect to see is the daily life of a family that is outwardly extreme but really, pretty conservative and normal. The show follows Lita pulling it together to go back on the road after ten years of living on a Caribbean island, home-schooling her sons and making sure everybody’s Mohawks are standing stiff.
Q. You’ve had a passion for horses since childhood. What’s in your stable now?
A. I raise, breed and train Andalusian horses. They’re a beautiful breed and somewhat rare in the U.S. The three I currently own are from the purest Spanish bloodlines and worth a small fortune. But, I made a huge mistake – I got attached and fell in love with them and can’t look at them as commodities anymore. They’re my children.
Q. What’s your next project?
A. I’m currently executive producing an episodic television drama titled Rarebirds. I’m also developing a film and book project celebrating the life and work of 1960’s male physique photographer, Mel Roberts. Plus, I’m putting together a book of Andalusian horse photographs titled Pura Raza Testosterone and having a gallery show to launch the book.
Q. Knowing everything you know now, what would you say to a teenage daughter who ran away to join a rock band?
A. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously!THE RUNAWAYS opens nationwide, March 2010. For more information on EDGEPLAY: A film about the Runaways, go to sacreddogs.com
Story in Record Collector News, March 2010
Read about Runaways drummer Sandy West in LA Weekly.