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The Ballad of Pam & Tommy Lee

And other tales from the Motley Crue dark side, told in the words of the men who did the damage

May 10, 2001
Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Steve Wayda

On April 24th, 1981, Mötley Crüe played their very first gig at the Starwood in West Hollywood, opening for the long-running metal act Y&T. The show was less memorable for the music than for its violence: Nikki Sixx smashed his bass into the face of one belligerent Y&T fan, drummer Tommy Lee nailed the guy with a drumstick, singer Vince Neil pummeled another audience member with his fists, and Mick Mars, as usual, kept his head down and just played big, bad guitar. A holy terror had been unleashed on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, which, thanks to the fistfighting, cross-dressing, Jack-guzzling antics of Motley Crue, soon became ground zero for glam metal.

With their second album, "Shout at the Devil," Mötley Crüe brought the Sunset Strip scene to the world, beginning a long string of anthemic bad-boy singles with "Shout at the Devil" and "Looks That Kill." With success came women, drugs and self-destruction. They fucked each other's girlfriends, took drugs with the best of them and were so out of control on tour that their road manager would handcuff them to their beds. More than any other band, Mötley Crüe came to epitomize Eighties decadence, and all its pitfalls. In 1984, Neil totaled his car in a drunken-driving accident, and one of his passengers – Razzle, drummer for the Finnish metal group Hanoi Rocks – was killed. Years later, Sixx flatlined after a heroin overdose, then shot up again as soon as he regained consciousness. In the meantime, hits like "Home Sweet Home" and "Girls, Girls, Girls" kept coming, earning the band the August 13th, 1987, cover of "Rolling Stone." Forced to clean up its act, the band checked itself into rehab in 1988 and then recorded "Dr. Feelgood," which gave the group its first Number One record. Mötley Crüe closed out the Eighties with some 16 million albums sold.

Below, in an exclusive excerpt from their autobiography, "The Dirt," Vince Neil recalls the chaotic early days of Mötley Crüe, back in 1981, before the band had signed to a major record label, gotten mixed up in celebrity marriages or been to an AA meeting.

MOTLEY BEGINNINGS

Her name was Bullwinkle. We called her that because she had a face like a moose. But Tommy, even though he could get any girl he wanted on the Sunset Strip, would not break up with her. He loved her and wanted to marry her, he kept telling us, because she could spray her cum across the room.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just cum she sent flying around the house. It was dishes, clothes, chairs, fists – basically anything within reach of her temper. Up until then, and I'd lived in Compton, I'd never seen anyone get that violent. One wrong word or look would cause her to explode in a jealous rage. One night, Tommy tried to keep her away by jamming the door to the house shut – the lock was long since broken from being kicked in by the police – and she grabbed a fire extinguisher and threw it through the window to get inside. The police returned that night and drew their guns on Tommy while Nikki and I hid in the bathroom. I'm not sure which we were more scared of: Bullwinkle or the cops.

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We never repaired the window. That would have been too much work. People would pour into the house, located near the Whisky A Go-Go, for after-hours parties, either through the broken window or the warped, rotting brown front door, which would only stay closed if we folded a piece of cardboard and wedged it underneath. I shared a room with Tommy, while Nikki, that fucker, got the big room to himself. When we moved in, we agreed to rotate, and every month a different person would get the solo room. But it never happened. It was too much work.

It was 1981, and we were broke, with a thousand seven-inch singles that our manager had pressed for us and a few decimated possessions to our name. In the front room: one leather couch and a stereo that Tommy's parents had given him for Christmas. The ceiling was covered with small, round dents, because every time the neighbors complained about the noise, we'd retaliate by pounding on the ceiling with broom handles and guitar necks. The carpet was filthy with alcohol, blood and cigarette burns, and the walls were scorched black.

If we ever wanted to use the oven, we had to leave it on high for a good ten minutes to kill the regiments of roaches crawling around inside. We couldn't afford pesticides, so to exterminate the roaches on the walls, we would take hair spray, hold a lighter to the nozzle and torch the bastards. Of course, we could afford (or afford to steal) important things, like hair spray, because you had to have your hair jacked up if you wanted to make the rounds at the clubs.

The kitchen was smaller than a bathroom, and just as putrid. In the fridge there'd usually be some old tuna fish, beer, Oscar Mayer bologna, expired mayonnaise and, maybe, hot dogs, if it was the beginning of the week and we'd either stolen them from the liquor store downstairs or bought them with spare money. Usually, though, Big Bill, a 450-pound biker and bouncer from the Troubadour (who died a year later from a cocaine overdose), would come over and eat all the hot dogs. We'd be too scared to tell him it was all we had. There was a couple who lived down the street and felt sorry for us, so every now and then they'd bring over a big bowl of spaghetti. When we were really hard up, Nikki and I would date girls who worked in grocery stores just for the free food. But we always bought our own booze. It was a matter of pride.

In the kitchen sink festered the only dishes we owned: two drinking glasses and one plate, which we'd rinse off now and then. Sometimes there was enough crud caked on the plate to scrape a full meal from, and Tommy wasn't above doing that. Whenever the trash piled up, we'd open the small sliding door in the kitchen and throw it onto the patio. In theory, the patio would have been a nice place – the size of a barbecue and a chair – but instead there were bags and bags of beer cans and booze bottles, piled up so high that we'd have to hold back the trash to keep it from spilling into the house every time we opened the door. The neighbors complained about the smell and the rats that had started swarming all over our patio, but there was no way we were touching it, even after the Los Angeles Department of Health Services showed up with legal papers requiring us to clean the environmental disaster we had created.

The bedroom Tommy and I shared was to the left of the hallway, full of empty bottles and dirty clothes. We each slept on a mattress on the floor draped with one formerly white sheet that had turned the color of squashed roach. But we thought we were pretty suave because we had a mirrored door on our closet. Or we did. One night, David Lee Roth came over and was sitting on the floor with a big pile of blow, keeping it all to himself as usual, when the door fell off the hinges and cracked across the back of his head. Dave halted his monologue for a half-second and then continued. He didn't lose a single flake of his drugs.

Nikki had a TV in his room and a set of doors that opened into the living room. But he had nailed them shut for some reason. He'd sit there on the floor, writing "Shout at the Devil" while everyone was partying around him. Every night after we played the Whisky, half the crowd would come back to our house and drink and do blow, smack, Percodan, quaaludes and whatever else we could get for free. I was the only one shooting up back then, because a spoiled-rich, bisexual, menage-a-trois-loving, 280Z-owning blonde named Lovey had taught me how to inject coke.

At all hours, girls would arrive in shifts. One would be climbing out the window while another was coming in the door. Me and Tommy had our window, and Nikki had his. All we'd have to say is, "Somebody's here. You have to go." And they'd go – although sometimes only as far as across the hall.

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