Monday, February 13, 2012

From The Library: Lick Me by Cherry Vanilla

Cherry Vanilla, my lovelies, has lived several lifetimes in her current incarnation. Sex? Yes. Drugs? Oh yes. Rock’n’roll? Oh hell yes. A lady after my own salacious heart, she’s well-known for her penchant for band boys and the marvelous music they make. In Lick Me, Vanilla (given name: Kathleen Anne Dorritie) offers up a brazenly charming account of her multitudinous exploits, happenings, and dirty deeds, painting quite a picture of the abstract, madcap, hedonistic universe that was (and probably still is) NYC. And LA. And Paris. And London...

From her days as a Mad (Wo)man (Vanilla was definitely a trailblazer on the male-centric Madison Avenue ad scene) in the 60s to her saucy romps with musicians (Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferon, David Bowie, among others) to her globetrotting time in PR, writing, acting, cabaret, and eventually as a lady crashing another man’s party, punk rock, the book leaves nothing out.
I had first heard mention of Cherry Vanilla along with the certain cadre of legendary groupie ladies of the period (Pamela Des Barres, Lori Lightning, Sable Starr, Catherine James, Bebe Buell…), and was initially surprised by the fact that unlike most other famous groupies, there was a lot more to Ms. Vanilla than the typical trappings of groupiedom.

Some of her wilder moments (sex with a stranger on a table in the middle of a party in the Hamptons, for example) would make any rock god worth his salt proud, and she didn’t limit herself to simply pursuing her favorite musicians.
This was (and is!) a woman with an attitude, big ideas, gumption, and a heart. Even when faced with dark situations, she didn’t break, coming out on the other side even stronger (and usually with a story to tell). Her anecdotes are told with affection, humor, and charm, and even when making you blush with the unbridled, sordid details, Vanilla can manage to make you smile. There’s a humility and rather human quality to her debauchery.

Among my favorites of her many neon vivid recollections involves participating in Ringo Starr’s annual birthday surprise for John Lennon, when she and a friend went to the Dakota to perform a naughty poem for Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon recorded the performance, and gave Cherry a bottle of booze for her trouble. Her glee at the Beatle knowing who she was and liking her poetry is so giddy and so pure, it’s just another thing about her that makes the madame impossible not to like. She's candid and forthcoming, seeming to almost want you to be as excited about her stories as she is.


Lick Me is one heck of a page-turner, a memoir told with disarming honesty and unashamed openness. Cherry Vanilla’s adventures in the music world of the 60s and 70s come across as a whole lotta love letter to a time long since gone, when life was a lot more free and the livin’ was summertime easy (even if it really wasn’t). This one is well worth your time, y'all.

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