Update (1:40 PM EDT): Jackie Fuchs has written a lengthy, eloquent statement on her Facebook regarding others’ reactions to her coming forward with her story. Most pertinently she writes, “I know some people watching the online drama unfold have been discouraged by the lack of support I’ve received from my former bandmates. To which I can only say that I hope you never have to walk in their shoes. My rape was traumatic for everyone, not just me, and everyone deals with trauma in their own way and time … I only wish that if my bandmates can’t remember what happened that night — or if they just remember it differently — they would stick simply to saying that. By asserting that if they’d witnessed my rape, they’d have done something about it, they perpetuate the very myth I was trying to dispel when I decided to tell my story.”
Late last week, The Huffington Post published an article about original Runaways bassist Jackie Fuchs that contained a deeply disturbing report: the man behind the all-female teenage band, their recently deceased manager Kim Fowley, fed 16-year-old Fuchs (then performing as Jackie Fox) a steady stream of Quaaludes and booze until she was practically unconscious and raped her on New Year’s Eve 1975 in front of her bandmates and friends, who supposedly did little to stop it. Now, those reportedly in the room at the time of Fuchs’ rape (as well as others close to the story) have come forward with new statements regarding that aspect of Fuchs’ claims, which somewhat resemble an incident referred to as “The Sex Education Class” in Runaways singer Cherie Currie’s memoir, Neon Angel and in the Runaways documentary Edgeplay. Until last week, the woman at the center of Fowley’s characteristically inappropriate demonstration to “teach you dogs how to fuck,” as Currie writes in her book, was kept anonymous.
In his investigative piece for HuffPost’s Highline longform section, reporter Jason Cherkis not only told Fuchs’ story for the first time, he tried to place its public setting — an after-party for a Runaways show, in an Orange County hotel room — in the context of the bystander effect, the phenomenon in which witnesses are psychologically paralyzed to the point that they are unable to help victims in the midst of trauma. Numerous people present that night — including Currie and one of Fowley’s other young female proteges (and sexual assault victims), Kari Krome — corroborate key aspects of Fuchs’ story, though Currie claims to have “spoke up and stormed out of the room.”
“I remember opening my eyes, Kim Fowley was raping me, and there were people watching me,” Jackie says. She looked out from the bed and noticed Currie and [Joan] Jett staring at her. She says this was her last memory of the night. Jett, through a representative, denied witnessing the event as it has been described here. Her representative referred all further questions to Jackie “as it’s a matter involving her and she can speak for herself.”
Now Jett and Currie have released more extensive statements on the incident, both claiming not to have witnessed the horrific acts.
Jett said, via her rep:
Anyone who truly knows me understands that if I was aware of a friend or bandmate being violated, I would not stand by while it happened. For a group of young teenagers thrust into 70s rock stardom there were relationships that were bizarre, but I was not aware of this incident. Obviously Jackie’s story is extremely upsetting and although we haven’t spoken in decades, I wish her peace and healing.
Currie wrote on her Facebook page:
All I can say is if Joan, Sandy [West, Runaways drummer who passed in 2006] and I saw an unconscious girl being brutally raped in front of us, we would have hit him over the head with a chair.
I have been accused of a crime. Of looking into the dead yet pleading eyes of a girl, unable to move while she was brutally raped and doing nothing. I have never been one to deny my mistakes in life and I wouldn’t start now. If I were guilty, I would admit it. There are so many excuses I could make, being only one month into my 16th year at the time, that people would understand but I am innocent. When I return from Sweden I will seek a qualified polygraph examiner to put to rest any and all allegations. I will make public the questions, answers and results of that test. I will prove I am telling the truth. I will not allow anyone to throw me under the bus and accuse me of such a foul act. I will fight for myself. It is the only thing I can do and I’m glad to do it.
Kari Krome, who was 14 at the time, told Cherkis that Currie and Jett were “sitting off to the side of the room for part of the time, snickering,” while she claims to have left the room unable to figure out the best action to take given her age at the time (14). Meanwhile, Fuchs’ Runaways replacement following her 1977 breakdown and subsequent departure, Victory Tischler-Blue, remembered the way Jackie’s rape became a “running joke” within a band that had stayed silent in light of the horrifying events. “I heard about that nonstop,” Tischler-Blue told HuffPost. “They would talk about Kim fucking Jackie like a dog.”
Tischler-Blue, who also directed Edgeplay, released her statement via Facebook, as Runaways biographer Evelyn McDonnell points out on her blog (where she has also posted Krome’s statement standing by Cherkis’ piece). At her most incisive, Tischler-Blue writes:
Stripped down and raw – a 16-year-old girl was raped in front of her peers by a 36-year-old man who held the perceived key to all their future hopes and dreams. It’s not about the Runaways or Joan Jett or ‘Dog Stink,’ ‘Failure Cock’ or ‘Dirty Pussy’ (all Kim Fowley idioms). It’s about a 16-year-old girl being drugged and sexually assaulted against her will, and the other kids who happened to have been there and witnessed it. This is just so incredibly sad and wrong. […]
To be clear, all of us in the Runaways have always been aware of this ugly event. I don’t see this as a ‘witch hunt,’ or a ‘criminal accusation’ or a ‘blame game’ — this is one rape victim’s personal story of how she is beginning to come to terms with what happened to her so many years ago, while also trying to let the others, who were innocent bystanders, know that she has never held them responsible in any way.
During his life, Fowley denied sexually abusing the young members of The Runaways. He said of the claims in Queens of Noise, McDonnell’s 2013 biography of the band, “They can talk about it until the cows come home but, in my mind, I didn’t make love to anybody in the Runaways nor did they make love to me.”
Brett Williams, another friends of Fuchs who had never attended a rock ‘n’ roll after-party before, were characterized by Cherkis in a recent Pitchfork interview as thinking (before the rape), “Maybe this is kind of how things are.” “One person that I interviewed, he cried,” Cherkis said of another bystander to Jackie’s rape, adding that Fowley had a way of taking total control of whatever room he was in. “He was really shaken up by it and said that it took him decades to get over it. He really felt guilty about it. He was devastated.”
The final surviving Runaways member, Lita Ford, claims not to have been at the party that night and added nothing else in Cherkis’ piece nor in the subsequent days. Cherkis told Pitchfork of band members’ corroboration:
They have such a complicated history. I wish they’d resolved their differences a long time ago, because I think the resentments are still there, and still at play. I wish Lita Ford gave a shit because she doesn’t and doesn’t care at all. I brought it up to her, and she says, “I heard about it, obviously, but I don’t have a comment. You can talk to Jackie.” You could tell she had to force herself to say, five minutes later, “Oh, and rape is bad. It’s a bad thing.” But she didn’t care to talk about what happened with Jackie. She just wasn’t interested. At all. And Joan doesn’t wanna talk about it at all. It wasn’t a total surprise that she didn’t. I think that she…I think the story speaks for itself in terms of what we say about her in the story.
Joan very much believes in that rock myth Fowley [perpetuated]. In the L.A. Weekly [in a 2010 interview with McDonnell] she said, “These girls, they wanted to make him out to be this bad guy, but they’re just blaming him for their own failure.” That was the gist. “Was there abuse? If there was, why did we take it then?” So she was sort of defending him in this story. I think it was the one about Sandy West.
Finally, McDonnell, who wrote a piece that carefully navigated Fowley’s thorny legacy for Flavorwire after he passed in January, unpacked the backstory and validity of Cherkis’ piece on her blog. While she was writing Queens of Noise, McDonnell was told on “deep background” that Jackie Fuchs was the girl in question from “The Sex Ed Class” incident, “but to me, Jackie explicitly dismissed Cherie’s recounting of the incident, and told me that she was not at any event like it,” she writes. “I interviewed her a couple times for several hours, and tried in various gentle ways to get her to speak about this, but apparently she was not ready.” McDonnell continues:
I also suspected that Kim’s aggressive and vulgar behavior toward women might have crossed the line between offense and assault on other occasions. I repeatedly asked almost everyone I interviewed — including Runaways members Fox, Currie, lyricist Kari Krome, Joan Jett, and Blue — if they knew if Kim had ever crossed that line, with anyone. Almost everyone said no, perhaps because Lesson #1 [“the dead can not sue”] applies to civilians too, and Kim was usually lawyered up.