Photo courtesy of: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Pamela Des Barres’ Tribute to Kim Fowley in Billboard Magazine

Here’s my Billboard piece on my dear old pal, Kim Fowley:


Photo courtesy of: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo courtesy of: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tribute to Kim Fowley: ‘He Had Faith in Humanity and We Constantly Disappointed Him’

The Runaways svengali and L.A. scenester Kim Fowley, who died of cancer Jan. 15, is remembered by his friend of nearly 50 years, ‘I’m With the Band’ author Pamela Des Barres

You know how some moments are burned into your psyche like an eternal Technicolor snapshot? I was a 17-year-old Sunset Strip newbie back in that dreamy molten year of 1966, wandering in my vintage velvets like a fawn in Caddy headlights, traipsing toward that mystic mecca: Ben Frank’s Coffee Shop. I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, almost ready for the multitude of temptations headed my way, when I noticed a small crowd gathered around a very short fellow with perfect bangs and an extremely tall praying mantis of a man, all angles, teeth and bravado, spewing vivid commentary to the hippie throng.

Intrigued and caught up, despite my shyness, I edged into the colorful fray and tried to look as if I hadn’t just arrived on the scene. Within seconds, the smaller fellow approached. “I’m Rodney Bingenheimer, mayor of the Sunset Strip. I double for Davy Jones on The Monkees. You’re pretty.” He hustled me closer to the angular speaker and put his arm tightly around me. Suddenly the very tall man’s eyes settled on my face and blazed into me with spiky pupils of curiosity and recognition, sizing me up and down, inside and out. I held my breath for an endless moment, then he spoke: “I’d rather be married to you for 40 years than f— you for 40 minutes.”

It was startling, yes, but somehow that statement put me at ease. I thought it was profound and deep, and quite a twisted compliment. I can still see his eyes splattering my tender Valley heart all over Ben Frank’s parking lot, almost 50 years later.

This was my introduction to Hollywood and its cast of characters, and Kim Fowley was proudly the leader of that particular pack. He insisted on that lofty role and no one questioned his authority. He held court at Canter’s, The Trip, Whiskey A Go Go; at love-ins, parties and concerts, towering over all and sundry without fear, remorse or shame. The man’s IQ was intimidating and irritating, and his exquisitely honed ego tortured those who took him too seriously. He demanded the best you could offer and wreaked havoc with his uncanny wit when you came up short. He actually had faith in humanity and we constantly disappointed him.

Kim believed in the best and the worst in people, and he included himself in that bunch. I know several people who had trials and tribs with him, but Kim always stuck up for me in various peculiar and unexpected situations — with a wink, a cackle and piercing understanding. He was my friend for almost 50 years and I’m honored that he saw the real me all those decades ago, and ushered me into utter unfettered rock’n’rollness with such insight, encouragement, conviction, hilarity and grace.

And it never wavered or waned.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Billboard.

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