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The Heroin Diaries: A Heavy Metal Cautionary Tale

I like reading biographies, memoirs, etc., about heavy metal—well, about a lot of music, really, but I especially like heavy metal because of the costumes, makeup, and pageantry that was so much a part of heavy metal, as well as the decadence and excess that came along with it. Nikki Sixx is one of the key figures in heavy metal. Though quite a few sources say he wasn’t much of a bass player, he was the guy who had the vision for Mötley Crüe. He was the one who put together the band, which became a prototype for so many of the metal bands in the ’80s, and who wrote their songs. He dated Lita Ford at the start of his career, and they were supposed to be involved in black magic during that period, to the point where knives and forks would spontaneously stick in their walls and ceiling. He died of a heroin overdose, but then came back from the dead to leave a bad joke about it on his answering machine. He’s a heavy metal legend.

In The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, Nikki and others, who were a part of his life during this time in 1987, talk about that turbulent period. The first thing I noticed right away in Nikki’s diaries is how articulate and intelligent he is. Between shooting up and hiding out in his closet with his guns and drugs, he’s reading classics like George Orwell’s Animal Farm and William Burrough’s Naked Lunch while obsessively chronicling this dysfunctional year, which stands out as the gold medal winner of all his dysfunctional years.

He writes about his cohorts in drug abuse. There’s Vanity, once Prince’s neophyte who has since been ousted. She’s Nikki’s freebasing buddy and sometimes girlfriend, though she drives him and the rest of the band crazy with her exploits, embarrassing them, and you’d think that would be hard to do to a band like Mötley Crüe. She writes about these druggie years twenty years later as a Bible banger like Blackie Lawless. It’s funny how some of the crazier characters reach a point and then go in the complete opposite direction of what they were known for. (My mother still hasn’t forgiven Alice Cooper for becoming a Republican.) Slash is another one of Nikki’s drug buddies, who always end up peeing the bed or couch whenever he passes out at Nikki’s house, and was actually there the night that Nikki Sixx died. Nikki had a near-death experience that night and saw his body being loaded into the ambulance on a gurney with a sheet drawn up over his body.

Some of the most interesting parts of the book happen when Nikki goes on tour with the rest of the band to support the Girls, Girls, Girls album. First, he has to clean up slightly; he knows he can’t be strung out on heroin, traveling city to city with no idea when or where he’ll find another reliable source. But that doesn’t count cocaine or alcohol, which he considers as something like cheese and crackers, nothing to get really undone about.

During this tour, Nikki gets along best with drummer Tommy Lee, so much so that they are known as the Toxic Twins for the amount of drugs and alcohol that they do as well as their penchant for high jinks. Lead singer Vince Neil is suffering from Lead Singer Syndrome, according to quite a few sources, while Mick Mars is on Nikki’s shit list for breaking the one rule that he made—no sleeping with the backup singers.

And while Mötley Crüe is touring, there is a lot of sleeping around going on. At every venue, women are lined up waiting for their chance with a member of the Crüe; they’re waiting to service them at airports and everywhere else in between. Nikki talks about doing lines of cocaine off of groupies’ backsides and recalls a past tour where he and Tommy Lee both had a girl during a song while KISS was onstage. A lot of the bad behavior and drug use is chalked up to boredom—there’s only so much these guys can get up to in empty hotel rooms it seems.

I’ve always had an uneasy truce with heavy metal and how groupies end up being treated by members of the band. But these women allow this behavior, and a lot of the times, they instigate it. The band is inundated with willing flesh—underwear and naked pictures rain down on the stage wherever they go—so I guess I can see how they might get to the point where they would treat human beings in such a casual fashion. As for the women, I imagine that for them it is a chance to commune with their heroes, the modern poets who somehow manage to touch their souls in a way that nothing else has. Maybe they don’t think they have anything else they can offer. Or maybe it’s a badge of pride for them to be able to say that they had sex with a member of Mötley Crüe and by proxy they are a desirable person because of this. I don’t know, but somehow I feel slimy after reading those parts.

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