photo by Anton Perich

A bloody chance encounter in 1973, when The Stooges were in New York to play Max’s Kansas City, led to a lasting friendship between Bebe Buell and Jim Osterberg that included some highs and lows and near misses with tragedy.

In the right light, he could look like a California surfer boy. Toned body, kinda tanned skin and stage gear that resembled something an exotic dancer would wear. James Newell Osterberg, the Sonic Iguana, was platinum blonde the night I picked him up off the floor at the Felt Forum—the concert venue located inside Madison Square Garden—on August 3, 1973, and wiped his bloodied head with a moistened white towel from the New York Dolls dressing room.

The Stooges were fresh off a two-night—which was supposed to be four-night stand—at Max’s Kansas City. Those July 30 and July 31, 1973 shows will forever be in the top three live musical experiences of my life. Right up there with watching the Rolling Stones rehearse in Montauk in Andy Warhol’s grand front room or David Bowie with The Spiders From Mars at Radio City Music Hall from the second row. Yep, the Stooges blew everyone’s minds!

As it turned out, Osterberg had cut himself pretty badly earlier in the week at Max’s Kansas City—forcing the Stooges to reschedule their final two nights at Max’s to Aug. 6 and Aug. 7—and he had reopened the wound that night at the Felt Forum. This stint was Scott Thurston’s first gigs with the band. What a baptism by fire!

The New York Dolls performing “Pills” at the Felt Forum, Aug. 3, 1973:

While wiping the blood off Iggy’s head, I realized that he was high yet able to speak and stand. He was sweetly not sober yet articulate and thanked me for caring about him being stepped over by high-heeled-wearing rockers. It appeared he’d hit his head on something and head wounds always bleed a lot. Once I got him cleaned up, I could also see the cut was not going to need stitches.

I told him where Todd [Rundgren] and I lived on Horatio Street when he asked, not thinking he’d remember a thing I said. But, lo and behold, this is the brilliance of Iggy Pop: he hears and sees everything…very clearly. I learned early on to never underestimate him, his talent or his will to survive. But most of all, his authenticity.

Todd introduced the New York Dolls at the Felt Forum that fated night before they hit the stage opening for Mott The Hoople. It was a big slot for them and everyone was feeling festive and happy. I was a tad sad because Todd was leaving for San Diego the next day to visit his best friend Randy and his wife, Linda. He didn’t invite me, so I wondered what he was getting up to. These were silly young girl thoughts but likely not unfounded as Todd and I had not pledged fidelity, even though we lived together, had two dogs and a townhouse. I had found our new rock star pad on Horatio Street at his instructions/request on an apartment hunt with Liz Derringer, my best girlfriend at the time. Todd wanted to get out of 13th Street, and it was fun for him to be able to afford to upgrade. I was happy that he wanted me to find us a place. That made me think maybe we were getting closer to a commitment? We’d been together for over a year at this point.

To me, The Stooges, the MC5 and early Alice Cooper were hitting the pulse of rebellion like no one else. That was my first taste of Punk Rock. It started there for me—upstairs at Max’s Kansas City.

I found us a three-story townhouse, three bedrooms, two living rooms, a fireplace, dining room, two bathrooms, window in the kitchen… all for $600 a month! In 1973, that was considered a steep rent! Oh, how things have changed. It was in the heart of the meatpacking district on the West Side and not the safe, sought after neighborhood it is today.

Liv Tyler and Iggy

Iggy arrived at the townhouse the following morning. He simply showed up, like clockwork, as Todd was leaving to pick up a few things to take on his trip. Then he was off to San Diego telling me to be careful and not too trusting of Mr. Iggy Pop! Obviously, Jimmy Osterberg retained every single thing I said the night before at the Felt Forum. Including our address.

I was feeling raw and a bit jealous when Todd left so the genuine affection I was getting from Iggy felt almost comforting. I told him he was welcome to stay at the house in the guest room. Well, that didn’t last long because we ended up in the same bed the next night.

Youthful hormones were raging then and it was a unique time in history—sexual freedom and allowing your feelings to show was the mantra of the era. Plus, I knew Todd wasn’t sleeping alone either.

But, in all honesty, I really fell for Jim. We had so much fun over those next couple of days, going to the movies to see Paper Moon, eating at fun diners and him teaching me the art of Tabasco sauce. Because of him, to this day, everything I eat must be smothered in hot sauce! We watched TV and he vacuumed. What is it about the soothing effect of vacuuming and why are so many creative people I know into it? Including me…

During this short period of time with Jim in New York, an incident occurred that has become folklore in rock & roll circles. I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. It’s one of those tales that as it gets told again and again, gets embellished and becomes one of those legendary rock fables.

For the record: Iggy Pop never harmed my dogs Puppet and Furburger. As a matter of fact, he was excellent with them and they liked him. I felt perfectly fine leaving them with him for a few hours while I did a modeling job for Avon UK.

As the story goes, he fell asleep in the third-floor bathtub and there was some water damage which I discovered, upon my return home, by it dripping down into the second-floor bedroom onto my head. I ran up the stairs and there they were, the three of them peacefully sleeping in a nice warm tub which just happened to also be overflowing. Puppet and Furburger cradled in Jim’s upper arms and exposed chest. Their faces nowhere near the water but resting on his body.

I turned the water off, woke Jim up and picked up my tiny dogs. Jim said that they were being hyper and barking a lot so he gave them each a tiny bit of Valium. They were deeply asleep and I panicked and thought they had OD’ed. I saw the blue pills sitting on the toilet lid and he assured me it was just a quarter of a quarter, not enough to hurt a flea.

I overreacted and ran out the door with them straight to St. Vincent’s Hospital which wasn’t that far from the Horatio Street house. I ran up the emergency ramp and screamed that my dogs had OD’ed on Valium. One of the paramedics explained to me that they only took care of people, not dogs but nicely asked me how much they had in their systems. I told him not much, a quarter of a quarter and he told me to relax and take them home. That, he assured me, was not enough to kill anyone or any little dogs either. If anything, they’ll sleep through the night and be good as new tomorrow.

I ran up the emergency ramp and screamed that my dogs had OD’ed on Valium. One of the paramedics explained to me that they only took care of people, not dogs

The irony? They actually prescribe human anti-anxiety drugs to dogs today. Every dog I know these days is on the CBD (Cannabidiol) oil, an extract from marijuana.

In the end, everything was fine, even the drip damage dried and I had it covered and fixed before Todd got back to New York.

I felt bad that people were given the impression that my dogs were harmed. If anyone has seen Jim Osterberg with his pet cockatoo, you know instantly how much he loves animals. But, back in 1973, he liked drugs, too. However, he also knew a lot about dosage and when I look back on this incident now, I’m not upset nor do I have any anger toward him. I’m much more concerned that he isn’t misrepresented. I don’t think he even remembers it, which is fine. But even in such an unusual situation, he was a good person. A decent, salt-of-the-earth young man with a hell of a lot of class mixed with the naughty boy thing. We both had these huge blue eyes and I saw a lot in his. I saw his soul which to this day I will respect and honor.

The Stooges at Max’s Kansas City:

August 6, 1973 arrived quickly and there we were, all back at Max’s Kansas City to see The Stooges scorch the stage again! It was exhilarating being bathed in danger like that. James Williamson’s guitar sounded like voodoo and the overall aura was edge of your seat, ‘am-I-going-to-make-it-out-alive?’ vibe. You really had no idea what might happen and Iggy’s erratic movements and tribal, animal-like dances, exclusive only to him (then and now) were unpredictable and sexy. Jim even looked sexy sporting his stitches that, thank goodness, Alice Cooper and Nite Bob forced him to go to the hospital that July night a week earlier and get. Once again St. Vincent’s got a visitor but this time of the alien ilk! The cut he got, or was that inflicted (?)  will forever be one of the things people talk about the most. He would have kept right on playing if he hadn’t been forced to stop. He was oozing blood. It will be forever etched in my freshly 20-year-old mind. And somehow, I knew he’d be okay. But I also knew it wasn’t just an act. It happened in the moment. Raw Power indeed!

The thing about Iggy Pop as an entertainer, his sense of rhythm is unlike anyone else’s. You can see the music enter his body and his writhing feels unforced and natural. It’s almost like he has no control and just lets it rip! People often compared Stiv Bators to Iggy, but to me they have very different body languages. I suppose you could say they are both limber and daring, but Stiv stands on his own as his own unique presence. I sometimes hear people compare Iggy to Jim Morrison—here, again, very different energies to me.

Iggy Pop stands alone in his outrageous delivery of pure rock fuel! Forever! He’s the steel in Detroit. To me, The Stooges, the MC5 and early Alice Cooper were hitting the pulse of rebellion like no one else. That was my first taste of Punk Rock. It started there for me—upstairs at Max’s Kansas City.

Anton Perich took a photograph of me and Jim that ended up for two weeks in the coveted spot above the cash register at Max’s that greeted everyone as they entered and exited the front door. Max’s rotated and changed the photos twice a month and it was considered very cool to be the shot chosen. Iggy was wearing Todd’s blue jean hat and I had just removed all my eyebrows! It hangs in my home to this day in the original frame from 1973, a gift to me from Anton. I once had a serious collector offer me $10,000.00 for that piece. I’ll never sell it.

I get it when Iggy comes out onstage with nothing more than a pair of jeans and an attitude. He stares life and death square in the face without any hesitation.

Jim spent the next couple of nights at the house with me before he was off to Canada, Arizona and St. Louis with The Stooges for gigs before the much anticipated August 19, 1973 Kennedy Center show in Washington, D.C. Everyone was going to be taking the train from New York to Washington for this show and I was deliriously happy to be seeing him again. We had talked on the phone a few times after he left New York and planned to go to DC together.

The train ride down went smoothly enough and everything seemed business as usual until we got to the hotel. A friend of Cindy Lang’s, her constant sidekick, had brought a drug with her that was way out of my league and I’m certain at this point, even out of Iggy’s, too. I was not feeling real trusting of Cindy at this juncture because she had pulled a cruel joke on me a few weeks earlier where she laid out a line of white powder she claimed was coke, but it was really elephant tranquilizer. To put it mildly, she could have killed me. To this day, I still sometimes cry and feel trauma when I think back on the incident. Being that high was not fun. It was scary. It was dark. I didn’t like it and that’s why I’ve never been a junkie. It’s not for me.

It didn’t take long before Cindy’s friend was offering it to Iggy. I told him not to take it because it was too strong. He asked her if she had anything else and when she said no, I started to get really upset. I ran down the hall to grab someone from the band and that’s where I made my biggest mistake. I left him alone with the devil and soon he was slurring his words and stumbling around.

At the venue, he wasn’t getting any better. I tried to get him to drink a Coke and eat something, but he was just gone. I’m sure the band was not happy. His attempt at being onstage was quickly aborted as he was unable to perform. I felt helpless and completely embarrassed for him, to have seen this happen to him. I wanted to punch that girl. I told her to get away from us before I did. I wanted to rip her to shreds!

I’ve always felt guilty about this fiasco and wish I had been a bit more savvy regarding this level of drug use. I was into the fun stuff, but this was the dark side and I did not have the experience or the tools to handle the situation. It was guilt by association because I was with him. But I never gave him any scary, hard drugs. I cared about him and loved him onstage. I wanted the show to be amazing, not a horror show.

I just wanted to get Jim out of there and someplace where he could relax and sober up. My friend Michael Berkeley from DC, who was with me at the gig, invited us to escape to his family’s Georgetown mansion and we stayed there for two days.

Jim’s next leg of the tour was going to be in Los Angeles, and I knew things would drift apart because Todd was returning to New York. I knew life would just go back to the way it was. Jim and I went back to the City, had a nice Japanese dinner and said goodbye.

Within a couple of days, he was calling and telling me I should come to see some of the LA shows. I was glad he called because I wanted us to be friends. I still truly cared about him, had real feelings but I also knew it would never work out. It was officially a fling. A fling with feelings—and I’ll never regret it.

When I got to Los Angeles, I was picked up at the airport by someone Ben Edmonds had sent and taken to my already paid for room at The Hyatt House (the Riot House) on Sunset. Ben also kindly got me a car to drive and paid for my airline ticket. I was a little taken aback that he did all that, but he told me it was easy because his friend was a travel agent who worked for one of the record labels and he was able to slide me through the system.

It was September 1973. There were three nights coming up at The Whiskey A Go-Go (Sept. 15-17) and there was a buzz in the air. The lobby of the Riot House was more like a nightclub than a hotel.

The Stooges at The Whiskey, September 1973:

The first thing I did was dial the number Jim had given me as soon as I got to my room. We arranged for me to pick him up and go out for Mexican food.

He’d been in LA for a couple of weeks, so I assumed he had a place to stay but he had me pick him up on the corner of Sunset and La Cienega. We had a great dinner and things seemed okay. We were having fun.

On the way to Ben Edmonds’ house, Jim asked me to make a stop at what I think was a gas station and little store. It had a bathroom and he seemed to know it. I pulled the car up next to the outside door and he went in to get a key. He said “come in with me… I’m just going to do a little bump before we get to Ben’s so I don’t have to share it all with him.”

It didn’t take long before Cindy’s friend was offering it to Iggy. I told him not to take it because it was too strong. He asked her if she had anything else and when she said no, I started to get really upset. I ran down the hall to grab someone from the band and that’s where I made my biggest mistake. I left him alone with the devil and soon he was slurring his words and stumbling around.

He reluctantly offered me one too and I didn’t even think twice about doing it. I assumed it was coke but it wasn’t. It was heroin. Before it kicked in, I managed to somehow drive us to Ben’s, right up the street, but when I got there I started to hurl! And, yes, I got as sick as a dog! Ben suggested tossing me in the shower with a bucket and there I stayed. I must have puked everything I’ve ever eaten in one purge! It was epic. To his credit, Jim got right in the shower with me and held my hair. He took good care of me and kept telling me how sorry he was over and over again.

“Just throw up on me,” he would say. “Just throw up on me, I deserve it.”

One thing I learned that night was a most important lesson. Never touch heroin again. I never wanted to be that sick and that high ever again. I never went near it again.

I fell asleep on Ben’s couch and felt fine by the time I drove back to the hotel.

The next day all the gang started to descend on my room at the Riot House. Iggy showed up with this beautiful 14-year-old girl who was the sister of Sabel Shields, aka Sable Starr. Her name was Corel and she had long brown hair down to her waist and beyond. I really liked her, too, and before I knew it, their buddies, a 15-year-old Shaun Cassidy and a very tall kid who became my friend, Steve S., were in my room.

When it came time to go to sleep, everyone just stayed with me. Iggy and Corel were in the other double bed and Steve slept in my bed. He was gay, funny and 6′ 8″ tall! No romance there! Shaun slept on the floor and that’s also when I met Lori Mattix for the first time.

I had just turned 20 and all of them were between 14 and 16. I felt strange in this situation, but I really wanted to stick around for the shows. And I am glad I did. They were everything the DC show should have been so it was a relief to see the band so on fire and basking everyone in their full frontal warfare! Iggy Pop was slaying the stage and, really, that’s what I needed to see. It helped ease the guilt I felt about what happened the month before. He was in love, too, so that was adding to his sparkly glow.

It was obvious Jim really liked Corel but it didn’t feel odd. I knew he and I were just friends at this point and, honestly, none of these kids seemed as young as they were chronologically. They seemed much older and wiser than your typical 15-year-old.

I was happy to get back to Horatio Street, and even though Todd was away a lot, I was hoping maybe we could try to be a real couple. Not just “Todd & Bebe” in all the pictures or adorning the party circuit. A series of events would continue and by 1974 there had been a few affairs on both of our parts. Mine a bit more public than his but, nonetheless, we had a unique relationship. Something kept us together for four more years, so destiny has a way of taking over what you think you’ve planned. We always ended up back together.

The next time I saw Iggy live, he had the Sales Brothers for a band and he wore a horse tail onstage. I knew Hunt and Tony Sales from when they were Todd’s rhythm section, Hunt on drums and Tony on bass. Lust For Life, the classic album on which they played, was a masterpiece and it seemed like Iggy was going to be unstoppable.

Another memorable show I saw was when Iggy opened for The Pretenders in Portland, Maine. He blew a hole in the sky that night and when Chrissie hit the stage, she said to the audience, “And I have to follow that!”

Over the years I would run into Iggy in New York at various events and shows and met all his serious girlfriends—Esther, his ex-wife Suchi and his current wife, Nina Alu. I liked them all… especially Nina because of her warmth and obvious genuine love for Jim. She’s truly lovely and watching the videos he sometimes posts of his life in Miami is heartwarming. Does that sound mushy? Well, it is… Iggy Pop is someone I want to be around for a LONG time. Seeing him happy, loved and ALIVE is what I want to see.

In 1981, I released my first recordings, an EP called Covers Girl, on Rhino Records. It was produced by Ric Ocasek and Rick Derringer. The two songs I did with Ocasek had the Cars as my backing band. One of the covers we did was the Iggy Pop/David Bowie song “Funtime”.  I burst into screams and tears when Bowie told me how much he liked the version we did. He said that Mick Jagger had told him about it. I had played it for Mick, Jerry Hall and Jack Nicholson one night in New York before the record’s release. He said he actually went down to Bleecker Bob’s and bought one.

I saw Bowie many times over the years and one time in 2003 at my daughter Liv’s New York wedding celebration with her now ex, Royston Langdon, he reminded me again how much he liked the way I did “Funtime.” I’ve never known how Osterberg feels about it. I’ve always hoped he liked it, too. I also like to whip out “I Wanna Be Your Dog” live because it’s a natural for me. I think the work Bowie and Iggy did together still resonates as some of his best. At one point I played in a band with Pete Marshall who played with Iggy for a decade on both bass and guitar.

FLASHBACK: I’ll never forget the day my girlfriend Claire played me Fun House by the Stooges. We were in the 11th grade and that album was our favorite, along with the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams. These were the days you could turn on your radio and hear “Eighteen” by Alice Cooper! When they played “Layla” and The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” so much you could sing the guitar parts, too! I almost wrecked my VW when I heard “I Got A Line On You” by Spirit jump out of my little Beetle speakers!

Music enters my body the same way I imagine it enters others of like-minded spirit. I get it when Iggy comes out onstage with nothing more than a pair of jeans and an attitude. He stares life and death square in the face without any hesitation. Watching his body weave and contort in effortless abandon is how he feels the music.

For those of you who think he needs to put a shirt on, let’s let him be the judge of that. He’s a beautiful warrior however he chooses to present himself. However he chooses to keep bringing the music is just alright with me!


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