Jackie Fox Of The Runaways Comes Forward About Being Raped By Band Manager Kim Fowley
Huffington Post’s online magazine Highline has got a brutal must-read by Jason Cherkis about Jackie Fuchs aka Jackie Fox, former bass player for ’70s girl band The Runaways, who describes, for the first time, being brutally raped by band manager Kim Fowley. Now in her mid-50s, Fuchs tells her story of being discovered by Fowley, joining the girl band, which made her and fellow teenage members Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie famous, and eventually being raped by Fowley at a party, in full view of spectators who did nothing to stop it, after being drugged with a handful of Quaaludes. For decades Fuchs kept quiet about the assault, even after deciding to quit the band, but she decided to come forward after being inspired by the bravery of Bill Cosby’s victims. Cherkis writes:
[Fuchs] told me she never thought she’d go public with her rape, but last fall, she started seeing similar stories everywhere. More than a dozen women had come forward against Bill Cosby. Kesha filed a lawsuit alleging that she had been drugged and assaulted by her producer, Dr. Luke. And there were so many undergraduate women who were finally speaking up about sexual assault. “I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is what’s happening on college campuses,’” she said.
Jackie saw herself in those young women and knew all the hurt and shame that awaited them. “They have to be making the same value judgments about themselves as I made about me,” she explained. “I know from personal experience how all those things can eat away at you. They can take vibrant young people and turn them into something else.”
What’s especially heartbreaking about Jackie’s story is that it should come as no surprise that Kim Fowley was a sexual predator with an eye for teenage girls. Fowley, who died in January of this year, made no secret of his desire for jail bait both sexually and monetarily, and The Runaways were literally assembled as a band to exploit that taboo. “As he would admit to anyone, Fowley was mostly after teenage girls, or, in his words, ‘young cunt’ or “dirty pussy,’” writes Cherkis. The piece goes on: “In the June 1975 issue of Back Door Man, an influential L.A. ’zine, he spelled out his desires in a personal ad that included a cheesy photo of him in a white sport coat and white pants. It began, ‘If you are eighteen and like it or if you are under 18 and legally emancipated (with paper work) then you may have just stumbled upon the opportunity of a lifetime.’”
And that was Fowley being subtle. A friend also describes doing high school drivebys with Fowley, looking for teen girls to pick up. By all accounts, those who were friends, aquaintances and business colleagues of Fowley’s did nothing about it, even when he began to “court” a 13-year-old singer-songwriter named Kari Krome, who would later discover Joan Jett and encourage Fowley to sign her, getting none of the credit for launching The Runaways herself. Years before Fowley raped Fuchs, he repeatedly sexually assaulted Krome, who told Highline, “In his mind, he thought he was having a relationship with me, like a romantic relationship,” she says. “He didn’t care what I thought about it. He just decided.”
Fowley was just like so many other powerful men who are serial predators – he used his influence, his connections and straight up threats to prey upon young women. “So many people in the industry knew what Fowley was like, what he was capable of,” Cherkis writes. “But he had just enough clout to convince the naïve and the desperate that he could make them stars. It was too risky to cross him.”
Fowley’s slick manipulation worked hand in hand with a society that all too frequently blames victims for their assaults, leading even those who knew exactly what was going on to turn a blind eye. Fuchs says she told Jett and Currie, who, in fairness, were teenagers themselves at the time, what Fowley was doing to her. “I told them he’s abusing me. I’m powerless, and I don’t know what to do,” Krome says. “They just looked at me blankly like I was the idiot. … I remember getting really mad and saying, ‘You know what? Watch your ass, because you might be next.’”
The Runaways, with hits like “Cherry Bomb,” would eventually be Fowley’s biggest success story, but getting there meant dealing with Fowley’s rage, never knowing when he might throw things or call them names like “dog cunts.” He and the band were often in the studio or on the road together, far away from their parents. On the last day of 1975, when Fuchs was 16, The Runaways played a New Year’s Eve set at a small club in Orange County; afterwards, Fowley and the band, minus Lita Ford, celebrated with a party at their motel, where Fuchs was given a Quaalude by a roadie and told to take it, “no questions asked.” Others in attendance — most of whom were teenagers at the time — said there were rumors Fuchs was actually given 5-6 Quaaludes that night and by the time a few of her friends arrived, she was almost entirely incoherent, which was a surprise because she was normally very “in control.” What happened next changed her life forever.
Fowley, in full view of many partygoers, proceeded to rape Fuchs, offering her to another roadie at one point, as if she were just a piece of meat. The roadie refused, but also did nothing to stop Fowley’s continued assault on the girl, who was unable to move or speak because of the drugs. “You don’t know what terror is until you realize something bad is about to happen to you and you can’t move a muscle,” Fuchs told Highline. “I can’t move. I can’t speak. All I can do is look him in the eye and do the best I can do to communicate: Please say no. … I don’t know what it looked like from the outside. But I know what was going on inside and it was horror.” (Many of Cosby’s victims say they were also given Quaaludes.)
Fowley’s public assault on Fuchs included penetrating her with a hairbrush and making a spectacle while he raped her, “gnashing his teeth and growling like a dog.” All the while, partygoers watched — one spectator was heard yelling, “Kim’s fucking awesome!” — though some of Fuchs’ friends were disgusted enough to leave the room. (Yeah. That’s it.) Jett, Currie and Khrome were there too, at some point, Fuchs recalls, though Currie claims she “spoke up and stormed out of the room.”
“It turned into this really disgusting Grand Guignol–like theater performance that he put on,” Krome told Highline about what she remembers of that night. “And Jackie was dead, dead, dead drunk—like corpse drunk. She was just laying down on her back, sound asleep, out of it. … He had to manually move her body parts into positions that he wanted for himself.”
Khrome, herself a victim, knew what was happening was wrong, but felt powerless to stop it and didn’t want to call the police. As for Joan Jett, who became the most famous member of the band and went on to a successful solo career that landed her in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? According to Cherkis, “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.’”
It’s important to remember that many of the witnesses that night were teenagers themselves, Jett included. The band never discussed what happened that night and Fuchs took their silence to mean she should keep quiet too, internalizing what happened to her and blaming herself. “I knew I would be treated horribly by the police—that I was going to be the one that ended up on trial more than Kim,” she said. “I carried this sense of shame and of thinking it was somehow my fault for decades.”
In spring 1977, Fuchs officially quit The Runaways, and returned home to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, a witness to the New Year’s Eve assault received a photo call from Jett (who was 18-19 at the time), warning him that Fuchs parents might file a lawsuit and that he should deny being in the hotel room that night. Jett’s spokesperson declined to comment on this point when contacted by Highline.
Fowley, for his part, denied ever engaging in any sexual impropriety with members of the Runaways, including in a 2013 biography of the band, in which he is quoted saying, “In my mind, I didn’t make love to anybody in the Runaways nor did they make love to me.”
He’s not lying. As Highline’s excellently-reported feature makes clear, what happened to Fuchs was the furthest thing from “love.” It was rape. And I certainly hope her bravery in coming forward results in those who let Fowley get away with and profit from sexual violence – including Joan Jett, now a grown-ass woman who dares to call herself a feminist — being held accountable.
Update: My autocorrect got aggressive and changed The Runaways to The Runways a few times in this post when first published. Those errors have since been corrected.