Book Review: Phases and Stages
Rebel Heartby Bebe Buell with Victor Bockris
St. Martin's Press, 320 pp., $24.95
In a Houston hotel in 1979, the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler excused himself from my friend's clutches. "I have to call someone," he mumbled, tucking the phone between his chin and shoulder and dialing. "Do you know Bebe Buell?" Butler asked me as I was kissing Furs bassist Roger Morris. No, but I knew who she was -- as did anyone who read Creem and/or followed the New York press and its sprawling rock scene. Buell was the ultimate band accessory (Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger), not a groupie, the perfect rock & roll model girlfriend (Todd Rundgren), and a dream muse (Elvis Costello). Her adventures and misadventures are documented in Rebel Heart, where no Stone is left unturned, no Rods left reeling, no Elvis is left in the building when Buell gets done spinning her tale. And it's an unapologetic tale of sex (but nothing overly kinky), drugs (but no real tragedies or overdoses), wild (but not that wild) rock & roll nights, and the attendant hard (but never food stamp/ shoplifting hard) times. As Buell reminds us repeatedly, her looks kept her in business, and when her looks stopped paying the bills, her daughter did. That's the tender side of Buell's story, her daughter, actress Liv Tyler, who grew up believing Todd Rundgren was her father until she saw her mother and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler together. Rebel Heart has taken a critical drubbing for being flat and joyless, but Buell maintains an appealing, sexy, confessional tone. She was the Seventies It Girl who lasted more than 15 minutes and earned her right to kiss and tell.