Natalie Stoogeling is one of the GREAT Fans Of Bands ever!! Funny, smart, creative and resourceful, Natalie invented the very first punk fan club, Stoogelings Courageous!
Danny Fields has been Natalie’s#1 Fan since the Stooges got their first record deal. Now, Danny asks Natalie, “What the hell happened back then??” and more…
Interviewers note: Natalie and I met when I was working at Elektra Records in the late 1960’s. I’d just persuaded my reluctant bosses to sign Iggy and the Stooges, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to a recording contract by presenting them as part of a “package deal.” The aim of Elektra was really to get the MC5, who were EXPLODING in the Midwest, signed to the label. The MC5 were sort of the Stooges “Big Brother” band, we all claimed.
That is the back-story of this interview. Natalie and I got together at my apartment in New York in the summer of 2012 to recall “those days,” and the ones that followed.
When I began with the standard question: “How Did Please Kill Me Change Your Life?” Natalie replied: “Please Kill Me did not change my life, because the music that inspired the book had already changed my life many years before.”
– Danny Fields
(Originally published here in 2013)
OK: Begin Tape– DF
Danny Fields: OK, before we tap your famous memory, can you tell me what you’re doing these days?
Natalie (Stoogeling) Schlossman: I’m what you’d call in early retirement from an important job negotiating contracts for the U.S. Navy.
NS: Yes, I had an executive job in the federal government. Also, I started to do photography professionally about 25 years ago. I did weddings, parties and portraits, one of which is used by a famous author in her best-selling books. These days, I do mostly music photography because music always has been one of my main passions.
DF: Are you still doing graphic designing, like you did for that Stooges collection on Easy Action Records?
NS: I didn’t design it. I did all the photography for the booklet and I wrote the liner notes. I had input on the layout but Easy Action’s graphics guy did it, not me. And I’ve been designing jewelry for about 10 years. I work mainly with semi-precious stones and silver, and I do jewelry sculpting in clay. Plus, I do a lot of volunteer work for the Obama campaign.
Danny Fields: What do you call yourself?
NS: Recently I was called “The First Stoogette,” and I love that. But I think you should say Natalie (Stoogeling) Schlossman.
DF: And you are from?
NS: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I went to school in Philadelphia, and also took art courses in London.
DF: And you and I met when?
NS: In the fall of 1968. When Josephine (Mori) started to work for Elektra Records, you were working for Elektra as well, and that’s when we met.
DF: How did you know Josephine?
NS: I met Josephine the summer I came back from London. And it was at some rock concert, I don’t remember which one now because there have been so many millions. When I was in London, I had a lot of clothes made for me, the Carnaby Street thing, that was the thing to do. And when I met Josephine, I had green satin bell-bottom pants with purple piping. I designed them myself and had them made for me. She loved my pants and she loved my hair, and she started to talk to me, and we were really good friends for about five years.
DF: Do you know where she is now, or how she is?
NS: No, I’ve lost complete track of Josephine. I looked her up on Facebook, I Googled her a couple of times, but nothing.
DF: OK, Josephine was working for me at Elektra then.
NS: No, she wasn’t working for you yet. But I’d met her before when she was working at Elektra. I’m not sure what department. Steve Harris [Elektra Promotion VP] told Brendan [Toller, film maker] that when he interviewed her, she didn’t know anything about the music business, but she was so bright he hired her, just like that.
“I was smart enough to know that the Beatles wanted to hold my hand, but the Rolling Stones were going to make love to me.”
DF: Did you and Josephine have the same tastes in music?
NS: Oh yes. We went to Chicago to see the Doors together. (Laughs) And a couple of years later you and I and Lisa [Robinson] went to Chicago to see the Stooges together. You remember that.
DF: Oh yes, I taped it, I still have the cassette.
NS: Josephine and I went to see the Who, we loved Sly and the Family Stone. I was living in Philadelphia, but I was in New York every weekend. Josephine was still living with her mother in Brooklyn, so I’d take the subway to Brooklyn and stay over. And then, when she moved to Manhattan, our friend Jeanne had started to work for Elektra, and they got an apartment on 17th street. It was very small, two tiny bedrooms, a tiny living room and a kitchen. But when she was living in Brooklyn, we used to go to the Club Dynamite.
DF: What was that?
NS: Oh, so many Elektra artists played the Dynamite. Do you remember the Soft White Underbelly before it became the Blue Oyster Cult? Well, Josephine liked the lead singer at the time, Les Bronstein, he was gorgeous! So went to see them at Dynamite. It was like a pre-disco discotheque, it was a mosh pit, and you could dance, and you could hang out up against the stage, and that’s what we did.
[DF talks about meeting the Doors, Jac Holzman, etc.]
DF: Who were your favorite artists then?
NS: Definitely the Rolling Stones. Definitely.
DF: When did you start being a music fan?
NS: My father was a music fan. When I was eleven years old, he took me to New York to see Gene Krupa. It was in a little club, and that was the first live show I ever saw, it was a jazz club, and there were all these beatniks. My mother was having a fit, she was going, “What are you doing?! Natalie is eleven years old, you can’t take her into New York!” And my father said, “This is my one opportunity to see Gene Krupa, and she wants to come with me, and I’m taking her.” So that was the first time I ever saw anything live.
DF: So your father was a jazz fan?
NS: He liked Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., all the big bands, from when he was young. So I was hearing all that kind of music, plus a little bit of classical music, which I’ve always loved classical music. Beethoven, Debussy, all on 78 rpm records. But the first record I ever bought was Peter Paul and Mary, their first album. And the second album I bought was the Beatles. My father could handle Peter, Paul and Mary, but when my father saw the Beatles album, he was not happy. He thought he’d been training me the right way, and then I liked the Beatles.
DF: What was your father so unhappy about, the music, their image?
NS: I think it was a little bit of everything. Now, as much as I hate to admit it, when I hear some new music, I think, “This is horrible! I hate it!” and then I think, My god, I’m turning into my parents, and I don’t like that. But that’s what it was with my father, he’d been guiding me towards what he liked, and then all of a sudden the Beatles came out, and I liked them, and they were cute. From 1964 to 1965 I was a Beatles fan, that’s when I was really young. But once I heard the Stones, forget it. I was smart enough to know that the Beatles wanted to hold my hand, but the Rolling Stones were going to make love to me. I wasn’t sure I knew what that meant at that age, but I sure knew I liked it better than just holding hands. And I’m still a Stones fan, I’m really excited about them doing that 50th anniversary tour, I just hope I can get a ticket.
DF: There were no fan magazines for the Stones back then, how did you find out the stuff that fans always want to know?
NS: I had about 50 pen pals. I had pen pals in Italy and England. So I used to get all the European stuff on the Stones, and I would send all the American Beatles stuff over to those foreign countries. Now, my friend Helen was from London. And Iggy was doing Swift Insurance Commercials in England, so Helen says to me, “Every time I see Iggy’s image on the subway”—of course she says, the Underground—“I think that I never met him, but I saw him naked.” And I’m like, “Helen, what are you talking about?” She had to remind me that when she was working in New York, and you said to me, “Come over!”—I think it was ’73 or ’74, and there was that painting in the middle of your living room, a picture of a naked Iggy, and she was quite shocked. And years later, when she saw the ads in London starring Iggy for an insurance company, she thought, “I never met him, but I saw him naked.”
DF: OK, let’s go back, so you’re first a Beatles fan, then a Stones fan, so how did you hear about the Stooges?
NS: Oh, because of you. You came back after Christmas, in 1968, and you’re going, “Iggy this and Iggy that, blah blah blah,” and Josephine and I are going, “OK, we wanna meet this band.” Don’t you remember that you decided they needed a welcoming committee when they came to New York to record their first album? So you rented a van, and Jeanne, Josephine and I went with you to LaGuardia Airport to meet the band!
DF: Errrr, really?!
DF: Who was driving?
DF: I can’t drive a truck.
NS: No, it was a van. And we all piled into the back, we were the welcoming committee you decided the Stooges should have. You and the three of us. We helped them carry the luggage, and you’d booked them at the Chelsea, so we went there with them and sat around talking for a few hours. I don’t remember whose room it was, but we were all lounging around the bed, talking. I think it was March 31st, 1969, because they started recording the first album on April Fool’s Day. Read your old issues of Popped, I documented all this. And they were writing the songs, because when they got to New York, they only had four songs.
DF: Jac Holzman [Elektra Records president and founder] still talks about that.
NS: Jac was wild! He was ready to kill YOU! “What do you mean, we brought this band to New York and they only have four songs?? You’re a lunatic!”
DF: Yeah, they wrote most of the first album that one night in New York.
NS: They were writing songs until the wee hours of the morning! Ha ha ha! Getting ready to go into the studio!
DF: So you met them, but you had not seen them play?
NS: I had not seen them play.
DF: You hadn’t heard them at all at that point?
NS: No, all I heard was you, raving about them.
DF: Uh, what did I say?
NS: Oh, “Wait till you see this singer, wait till you hear them, they’re f-a-a-bulous.” Because that was the word at the time, “f-a-a-bulous.” But when we first met them, I thought they were intelligent, and they were all cute, I mean one was cuter than the next. Think about it, they were a good-looking band. So, I was interested. And then, a week or two later, Jeanne and I were in Central Park, at the Bethesda Fountain, and we ran into them, and Ron [Asheton] said, “Give me a call.” So I called them at the Chelsea one or two times to see how the album was going. But then I didn’t see them until they played at the Pavilion, at the World’s Fair grounds. And that was the first time I saw them live.
DF: That show! The MC5, the Stooges, and David Peel and the Lower East Side. I kind of put it together.
NS: That was the first time I saw them live, in September 1969. By that point I’d already decided to start a fan club for them.
DF: Wait, go back. When did you first hear a note of their music?
NS: When you gave me a copy of the first Stooges album that August.
“Forty years later, we were right, weren’t we?”
DF: Just a minute… [goes away, comes back] Jesus! Why is the Museum of African Art calling me?
NS: They want money, obviously.
DF: OK, I gave you the first album.
NS: Yeah, and you convinced Josephine and me to go this party where they were filming for the movie that eventually became “Groupies.” And that was the night you gave me a copy of “The Stooges.” Josephine said to me, “You know, neither one of us are groupies, but let’s just go, it’ll be fun.” And I was always up for anything, you know. I said, “Sure, we’ll go.” It was a party at a hotel for all these groupies, and they were filming the party for the movie. The reason I decided to go is that you gave me the album, and I thought, “I’m gonna get this album in this movie if it kills me!” Ha ha ha. I was a wild one! So there I am, holding up The Stooges album, pointing to it… and there I am IN the movie!
DF: That must have been the first public exposure of that album, ever.
NS: Probably. I’d heard the album at Elektra at that point.
DF: What did you think of it, do you remember?
NS: I remember that I thought it was absolutely crazy, and I loved it. Immediately. And of course, forty years later, we were right, weren’t we?
DF: What had you known about the live show before the Palladium?
NS: Just what you told me. That he was a wild man. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for the Stooges live. I thought you were exaggerating, because if you remember, “f-a-a-bulous” was every other word that came out of your mouth. And I thought, “Yeah, OK Danny, sure.” And I was like, “He did not lie!” I was right up against the stage, and I have some photos I took that night, with my Instamatic camera, and the flash cubes! Ha ha ha!
DF: How was it compared to what you were expecting?
NS: It was much better than I even thought it would be. Absolutely. Much better. I loved it all. I loved the back bends and the moves and the drumming, everything. Now I’m more sophisticated, and I can recognize different sounds, individual instruments, real music vs. electronic music, but back then, I was just going with my gut, and I loved the music.
DF: Did you go backstage that night?
NS: Yes, we went backstage. I never saw the MC5 that night, we were all backstage laughing and giggling about how much we loved the show. You probably were out front for the MC5, but I wasn’t. The second night I saw the MC5.
DF: When you went backstage, did any of the Stooges ask you how they were, if they were OK?
NS: They didn’t ask. I don’t think they ever asked those questions. You know, when Iggy got off the plane, he said, “Hi, I’m Jim.” And I’ve been calling him Jim ever since, except when I talk about him to people who don’t know him. Anyhow, Jim always used to ask me, because he knew I was a big Stones fan, “Oh hey, did you see the Stones? What did they do? What were they wearing, what was the stage like? Are they still your favorite band?” He always wanted me to tell him that the Stooges were my favorite band, and I would never tell him that. I would always say, “The Stones are my favorite band, and you’re my best band.” I would never tell him they were my favorite band, because I didn’t want to give him that satisfaction!! Ha ha ha! But that just wasn’t part of their M.O., they never asked how they did.
DF: They’d never ask you that?
NS: No, did they ask you?
DF: In a more roundabout way, not “Were we OK?” but, “Hey, do you think we’ll get invited back to play here again?” or if someone important was in the audience.
NS: Were you honest with them?
DF: I’d usually say “That was great,” before anything else is said by anyone. But they’d never ask, “What did you think of the new song?” or anything like that. They were never looking for approval.
NS: And it certainly wasn’t for lack of ego, because one ego was bigger than the next, although of course Jim’s was bigger.
DF: When did your Stooges newsletter, Popped, begin?
NS: I wrote the first Popped after I saw them. But I don’t think I did anything about sending it out until maybe early ’70, because you got me published in 16 Magazine—I don’t think you were working for them at the time but you were friends with Gloria Stavers.
DF: Published as what?
NS: The Stooges Fan Club information, you know, write to Natalie Stoogeling, with my address and the whole thing, and then you got me interviewed for Rock Magazine, which was really a newspaper. You got me a couple of interviews where my name and address were published, and I started to get some mail. By the summer I had put out the first Popped, and I was going to Michigan almost every weekend and giving out a card with the address of the fan club, because I was under 21, and with half-price fare it would cost $40 round trip.
Blond Iggy. Photo by Natalie Stoogeling.
DF: But how did you arrange it? From the airport, it’s twenty miles west to Ann Arbor where the Stooges lived, and twenty miles east to Detroit itself, so where did you go when you landed?
NS: I had a friend who lived in Detroit, Pat—I met her through the Stones. But I never went to Ann Arbor the first few times, until I went to Stooge Hall, which was also called the Funhouse, which became the title of their second album.
DF: Where did you see them play, do you remember?
NS: I think the East Towne Theater, were you ever there? It had been a church, it was beautiful, but I don’t think it’s there anymore, they had a fire.
DF: All of Detroit had a fire.
NS: No, this was recently; it was destroyed in the last five or six years.
DF: Tell me more about that van, when we met them at the airport.
NS: Maybe it was a Hertz rental small truck, because I remember piling in the back with everyone, you were driving.
DF: And then we all went to the Chelsea Hotel? Did I park that thing?
NS: I don’t remember if you parked, Danny!! Look, at least I remember some of this stuff.
DF: And what did you think of them, what was your first impression?
NS: I thought this was a really attractive looking band, and we were young women and they were young men, and we were checking each other out, let’s face it. I do remember thinking that the conversation was good, they weren’t dummies. I knew immediately that Jim was bright, and of course he did most of the talking.
DF: Did you mimeograph Popped?
NS: No, first I typed it, on my very horrible typewriter, and then I’d send it to Elektra, and Jeanne would make me a hundred copies of each page and then she’d send them to me and I’d collate the pages and staple them and mail them. I paid the postage. The only thing Elektra did was, they gave me publicity shots, and they made the copies. Everything else I did myself. I folded it up and put it in envelopes.
DF: You didn’t fold the pictures.
NS: Most of the time I sent it out in big envelopes. The first time, Elektra sent me ten publicity shots, and they’d all signed them, and Jim signed “Iggy Stooge,” but the next set of publicity shots I got, he signed “Iggy Pop.” And that’s when I named it Popped.
DF: Tell me what was in a typical issue.
NS: Don’t you have copies? I know you do!
DF: Yeah, but I want you to tell me.
NS: I just wrote what was going on. Their schedule, what they were wearing, the new songs, it was all newsy, chatty fan stuff.
DF: How many did you do?
NS: Well I started writing them in late ’69, and then ’70, ’71. Then they imploded, and when they got back together in ’73, I wasn’t doing it any more.
DF: Yeah, in ’73 they reploded.
NS: I think we just made up a word, “reploded.” Ha ha ha! Well, they broke up in ’71, and by December of ’71 I think you had introduced Jim to David Bowie, then Ron and Scott went to London and they played there, and started playing again in ’73, after “Raw Power” came out.
DF: Were you aware of all the difficulties they had getting played on the radio, getting shows?
NS: Oh yes, in one issue I told people that they needed to call all the radio stations, and threaten them if they didn’t play the Stooges records, ha ha ha! I can’t believe some of the things that I wrote. I can’t believe how wild I was then, the things that were coming out of my mouth… I just was nuts.
DF: Did you have a job then?
NS: Of course. There were two Natalie’s; I was a dual personality. I worked for the IRS, and I was the Stooges Fan Club president. It’s since been said that I wrote the first punk fanzine. You don’t remember half of this, do you?
DF: I certainly don’t remember picking them up at the airport. Maybe some day I’ll take the right drug and it will all come back to me.
NS: Yes, of course you greeted them first, and then immediately afterwards Jim walked right up to me and put his hand out and said, “Hi, my name is Jim.”
DF: Who were you friends with in the band, did you have any one in particular?
NS: Yes, Ron and I became very good friends. We wrote to each other after he went to LA, and then came back, and started New Order, and was living with his mother, and we still wrote to each other, probably until around ’78. And I stayed in touch with Scott [Asheton] for a while too. When Dave [Alexander] was dying, I went out there.
“We were Stooge fans and we were courageous, because at that point I realized that we were in the minority.”
DF: What did Dave die of?
NS: I think it was alcohol poisoning. Scott and I went to the hospital to see him just before he died.
DF: You have to drink a lot of alcohol to have it poison you to death.
NS: After he died, Ron told me that Dave had started drinking when he was twelve or thirteen, he was always drinking beer. We didn’t know it, he was certainly functioning… until he got too drunk to play, and he was fired from the band. But yes, it was basically because of alcohol that his body stopped functioning, and he died. I met his mother and father at the hospital, they were so nice and sweet.
DF: And they knew he was dying?
NS: I remember calling my friend Debbie and saying, “Fly out there this weekend if you want to see Dave alive.” I don’t know how I knew it, it was just intuition, I just knew. And obviously his parents knew, they were very sad when I met them. And they knew who I was, Dave had told them who I was. I never met Jim’s parents, but I talked to his mother once on the phone, because he made me.
DF: What do you mean, he made you talk to her?
NS: Well, it was in Philadelphia where I live, they were playing there, and Jim called me at three o’clock in the morning, he wanted to see all of my photos. So after the concert I went to their hotel with my photo album, and his mother called, and he said to her, “Guess who’s here? Natalie is here, why don’t you say hello to Natalie?” So I talked to her. And of course I knew Mrs. Asheton, I went to her house in Ann Arbor several times. She worked in the hotel there, and she’d get us a discount on the room.
DF: I was so stunned when Dave died, I had no idea he was so sick, and suddenly he was dead, I couldn’t believe it.
NS: You know, once the band broke up, Ron went to LA, and Scott stayed in Ann Arbor, and Scott and Dave became very close. Not that they weren’t friends before, but now that they had become “the two former Stooges”… so yes, it was very, very sad; it was horrible. And I never… to be honest with you, I never got over that they ousted him from the band. At Goose Lake, it was a festival, they fired him right on the spot, they said he was too drunk to play.
DF: How old was he when he died?
NS: 27. He’s part of the 27 Club. That seems to be the fatal age for so many of them.
DF: When did you get the name “Natalie Stoogeling”?
NS: I named myself Natalie Stoogeling in the summer of ’69.
DF: And did you sign letters that way?
NS: No, I used a stamp. I still have it. When I used to send the newsletter out, you must have it on some of the stuff that you saved, it was “Stoogelings Courageous, Care Of Natalie.” But I did sign the newsletters Natalie Stoogeling.
DF: Where did the “courageous” come from?
NS: We were Stooge fans and we were courageous, because at that point I realized that we were in the minority.
DF: So you were aware of the negative feedback?
NS: Of course. Now, doesn’t it make you feel good that thirty-five years later, we have our retribution, that we were right?
DF: Yeah, but sometimes you get impatient waiting thirty-five years.
NS: Well that’s true! Ha ha ha!
DF: When I see someone who’s good, I say, Oh, just be patient, you’re so good, but you may have to wait 35 years…
NS: Until people start buying your records! Now people say, “How does it feel to know that you were right?”
DF: But I always knew we were right.
Natalie Stoogeling: “Music was my life; it is my life.”
NS: Exactly! You and I, we KNEW we were right!
DF: What do you think people mean when they say about the Stooges, “You were right, all those years ago”? There must have been other devoted fans back then.
NS: They definitely had their fans, and they definitely had the writers and critics who liked them, mostly from Detroit at first. I used to love Lester Bangs. I used to go to Creem magazine all the time when I was in Detroit, just to say hi to the guys, because they liked the Stooges and they gave them publicity. When people say “How does it feel to be right?”—I guess it’s a backwards compliment? It’s an acknowledgment that all those years ago we knew they were good, but nobody else wanted to listen to us, or them!
DF: So why do people now say you were right? What do they mean?
NS: Because now they’re popular; the albums are considered classics. You know, when people tell me, “You must have really liked the punk movement,” I think that it wasn’t that I didn’t like some of the music that came out of the punk movement, but I had the best, I didn’t need the rest.
DF: You realize that the Stooges, plus the Velvet Underground, are kind of at the heart of Please Kill Me. Those are the pillars. But I know you tell people that you’re not comfortable with the book. Why is that?
NS: You know what I’m not comfortable with? If I was a newer music fan, like I was thirty years old, and I wanted to learn what happened in the 70’s, about the music…
NS: I didn’t learn about the music from that, I learned about the sex and the drugs, but I didn’t learn about the rock and roll.
DF: Music isn’t words in a book, you can’t really ever write about music.
NS: Right, but as far as I was concerned, when I read the book there wasn’t enough stuff with musicians talking about when they wrote songs or how they felt. I wanted more, I wanted a little more meat. That’s what made me uncomfortable about the book.
DF: There’s nothing more boring for the interviewer and the artist than, “Tell me about your songs.”
NS: I guess what I was hoping for was not somebody talking about his influences, but how they felt when they were on stage playing. I thought that could have been incorporated into it a little more.
DF: Who do you know that talks about that?
NS: Maybe nobody, but that’s what I wanted.
DF: I think if you asked somebody how they felt onstage, they could only say something like “Words fail me.” And, I would HOPE so. There shouldn’t be words for that. It should come through their performance, not through words describing it afterwards.
NS: There probably are no words, or they don’t know the words.
DF: No, many of the musicians we love are very intelligent.
NS: Most! But like I said, for me, I guess I wanted it so that younger people could know how I felt listening to the music. The joy it brought me. I might have become a banker. But years later, I became a photographer, I designed jewelry. I might not have done that had I not been as much into music. Music was my life; it is my life.
DF: But what can a book do that would make you feel the way music does?
NS: Maybe nothing, but I’m just telling you the way I felt when I was reading it. I wanted more.
DF: You wanted more. So you wanted less drugs and sex?
NS: No! Not less drugs and sex. My god, I certainly saw enough of it.
DF: So it’s not as if you thought there was too much drugs and sex in the book. You thought there was not enough… something else.
NS: Right. I was with the Stooges for five years, do you think I could be shocked about anything?
DF: So you think it was a squandered opportunity? There were all these musicians talking and none of them talked about… how they wrote songs, how they felt while they were performing?
NS: I just think they could have talked a little more about the music. I don’t know if you want to put this in the interview, but somebody told me they talked for about five hours, and the only thing that got in the book was maybe two sentences, and it was smut. They had an agenda, and that’s fine.
DF: Oh, whoever it was must have been very boring for five hours, probably trying to talk about writing songs, and probably the only interesting thing he said was about sex.
NS: Well, I’m sure the book sold many many many copies. And for many people, that could be their bible, I don’t know. But for me, I wanted more.
DF: You know Natalie, I’m sure that thrilling five hours still exists, and some day, if you tell me who said that, I’ll check it out with the authors, and I’ll ask them why five hours became two sentences. Maybe it was TOO wonderful to go in the book, maybe it was a book unto itself; or so powerful that it had to remain unrevealed, forever. Like the real name of “God.” I don’t think there are hundreds of hours of people saying what you say you wanted to hear.
NS: No, I’m just quoting one person.
DF: Sounds like a loser to me. Talks for five hours, and there are only two sentences worth publishing?
NS: Yes, but if they interviewed him for five hours, he must have been saying something important, or they would not have continued to talk for five hours. That’s the way I look at that. And I think that most of the people that identify with the book didn’t live it, so it’s a vicarious way of living through the 70’s. And they’re disappointed that they were born too late, so they can live in that world reading the book.
DF: Yes, that’s exactly true! And they can hear the music wherever they listen to music, which is not IN a book. But they can’t be at CBGB’s on a great night, so they’ll have to take other people’s words for what it was like.
NS: But I lived it, so I didn’t need to know about that world.
Danny Fields: “My god, we were hoping to have a headline for this fucking interview and now you won’t say it.”
DF: But you didn’t live in all of it at once.
NS: What I’m saying is, had I been thirty-five and reading the book, and had not lived through the music and the drugs and the rock and roll and the sex, I might have liked the book more; I might not have been as disappointed as I was.
DF: What disappointed you?
“OK, (screams) I HATED IT!! Hahahah, I’m SORRY! Here goes: I HATED THE FUCKING BOOK! OK??”
NS: I told you. Had I not been there, and decided to read this book, I would have liked to know more about the music. That was my disappointment.
DF: But you were there, so wasn’t it interesting to you to learn about all these other people who were there, and what they thought about it?
NS: You know, it’s as subjective as a song. Maybe some people like a song, and some people don’t.
DF: OK, what if someone said to you, “Oh, here’s a book called Please Kill Me and it’s all about the people you knew, the people you talk about, the scene you were in, so do you think I should read it to find our more about it?” What would you say?
NS: I’d say, “Absolutely, read the book. And then when you have questions, come ask me.”
DF: And then they’d say, “Natalie, what did YOU think of it?”
NS: Well, you’re the one who asked me what I thought of it.
DF: My god, we were hoping to have a headline for this fucking interview and now you won’t say it.
NS: OK, (screams) I HATED IT!! Hahahah, I’m SORRY! Here goes: I HATED THE FUCKING BOOK! OK??
DF: OK, we have it, we have the quote!
NS: (SCREAMS AGAIN) I HATED IT!!!!! (Choking with laughter)
DF: You know, the book seems to have a message for succeeding generations; they like this book, starting with teenagers, in twenty different languages.
NS: Yes, it does have a lot of redeeming qualities, I’m not saying that it doesn’t.
DF: Also, that era was well over when people sat down and were interviewed for that book. And now it’s another fifteen or twenty years after that. So people had time to live through it, if they did, and recall it, kind of accurately or at least kind of personally.
NS: I think it’s an accurate picture of the sex and the drugs. I don’t think it’s an accurate picture of the music.
DF: There’s no such thing as a picture of music, or a book about music, that’s why it’s music.
NS: And I realize all that. Don’t different songs evoke different feelings in you?
DF: Yes, but no book is going to evoke the feeling of a song. It can only evoke whatever it is about as a book. It’s not going to sing, it’s not going to light up; it’s a book.
NS: We certainly lit up hearing some of the music, didn’t we?
“It wasn’t my mission to say that somebody was stoned out of their mind, or running around the hotel naked.”
DF: What did you know about drugs then, did you think they were rampant?
NS: Absolutely they were rampant.
DF: And what did you think about that part of the rock & roll world?
NS: When I first met the Stooges, I hadn’t even smoked pot. I was a nice middle-class Jewish girl from the suburbs. And as the music evolved, and I evolved, I was more accepting of it. People ask me why I didn’t write about the drugs, and I tell them that wasn’t my mission. My mission was to write cute funny things, and to make sure that everybody had the touring schedule, and when the new album was coming out, that kind of thing. It wasn’t my mission to say that somebody was stoned out of their mind, or running around the hotel naked.
DF: Yeah, or that they missed a show, or got fired, or fell off the balcony or fucked twelve-year-olds.
NS: A couple were thirteen, but I don’t think anybody was twelve.
DF: What was your drug education like? Did you think, Omigod, there are all these illegal drugs?
NS: No, I was never that uncool! But at first I thought that everyone seemed pretty normal, and if they smoked pot, then I should try it.
DF: Did you ever see people shoot up?
NS: Of course.
DF: And what did you think of that?
NS: I thought that I don’t want to SCARE anybody while they’re shooting up, but I didn’t like it. I did not like it. At all.
DF: Do you want people to think that you never even smoked pot?
NS: You could say that I smoked pot. And you could say that I did smoke pot with the Stooges, if you want.
DF: You know that the Ramones knew each other because they were the only four people in their high school who liked the Stooges. And people who came later would know that from reading Please Kill Me.
NS: If somebody asked me to recommend a list of books about music in the 70’s, I’d certainly tell them to read that book. But it wouldn’t be Number One.
DF: What would be Number One?
NS: If somebody wanted to learn about the Stooges, I’d definitely recommend Paul Trynka’s Open Up And Bleed. That’s my top choice. And I’d recommend a couple of autobiographies.
DF: Well that’s going to deliver more lies than a hundred Please Kill Me’s!! Autobiographies are self-serving first and foremost.
NS: Did you read Eric Clapton’s book?
NS: Well, he does talk about the music. And he talks about his insecurities, and you do get some insight into his personality. I think that’s more important for learning about music, to learn about the ego and the id of the musician, than it is to learn about the drugs that they took.
DF: OK, so somebody is a talented musician and they get famous and rich and write a book about how god made them a special person. But that’s by the special person about himself, and you’re getting his special point of view, but what about the rest of the scene in which he lived? Of course, you could suggest they read lots of copies of Rock Scene magazine. By the way, have you seen it online?
DF: Isn’t it fabulous?
NS: Yes, I agree. How about Star magazine. Somebody put that online.
DF: Were you friendly with any of the legendary groupies?
NS: Not really, but for a while I was kind of friendly with Bebe Buell, because of the Stooges. I also knew some of the Stones groupies, like Emeretta, and Heather, who I believe married Roger Daltrey.
DF: But Emeretta was a singer, she sang with Blood Sweat and Tears.
NS: Oh, Emeretta was wonderful, but she was a groupie in that she was into the music scene, and she had more than one musical partner, let me put it that way.
DF: So was Linda Eastman a groupie?
NS: Don’t get me started on Linda. Another funny story, Jeanne and I were at the Fillmore East, in the lobby, and Linda comes along with Steven Stills, and we started to talk. She told us that she was going to London and staying at Paul McCartney’s house, and she said, “I’m going to marry him.” She told me that. And within a year, she married him, and I thought, Damn that girl is good! There she is with Steven Stills, telling me she’s going to marry Paul McCartney. She looked me right in the eye when she said that.
DF: What about the Stooges groupies, what did you think of them?
NS: There weren’t really any Stooges groupies. I always said, when I used to go to Michigan, that all the girls wanted to fuck Iggy and all the guys wanted to be him. I was a little bit shocked when one time I went to see them at the East Towne, and right in the back, up against the wall, there were two people going at it!
DF: What was shocking?
NS: Public sex at a concert! I was shocked. But I got UNshocked quite quickly, going to Michigan as many times as I did. You wouldn’t see that in New York City at a concert. Not right up against the wall, and the guy with his pants down. You wouldn’t see that.
DF: I wonder why, come to think of it.
NS: Did you ever see it?
NS: Me either! Only in Michigan. They were a loose crowd.
DF: You have to write a book.
NS: I started to do one, just about the gigs.
Natalie: “Talk to me… I’ll tell you about the walls spinning because the music was so intense. I’ll tell you about the elegance of the chaos”
DF: OK my dear, we have an hour and half, this is going to take me ten hours to transcribe.
NS: So we’re done?
DF: It’s not that we’re done. I just want to get a picture of what we’ve got. And I’m sorry that Please Kill Me is not Number One on the books you’d recommend to someone who wanted to know what happened.
NS: Oh, of course I’d recommend it. But I’d also recommend, here comes my ego: talk to me… I’ll tell you about the walls spinning because the music was so intense. I’ll tell you about the elegance of the chaos. You don’t need to read it in a book, you can talk to somebody who was there.
DF: Guess what, all those people in Please Kill Me were there. And people don’t last forever; books do.
NS: They weren’t there the way I was there.
DF: That’s why we need your book. Just let me ask if you’re happy about what you’ve done and who you’ve been.
NS: I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
DF: Are you proud to have been Natalie Stoogeling?
NS: One hundred abso-fucking-lutely percent.
DF: Are you still Natalie Stoogeling?
NS: Probably not. If I force the issue, I can still get a photo pass. I can remember when I was the ONLY ONE taking photos, you can put that in there.
DF: Did the band ever thank you for what you did for them?
NS: Danny! Did they ever thank you? (Both laugh) What makes you think that I got treated any differently than you? You once told me a story that years later Jim asked you, “Hey, do I owe you any money?” And you told him no, even though they did. Well, you should have said, “Yeah, you owe me a hundred thousand dollars with interest, you asshole!”
DF: How would you describe your relationship with the Stooges?
NS: I was their unpaid publicist. And Mother Superior.
DF: You once told me that you washed their costumes.
DF: And they never thanked you.
NS: Oh, they’d say “These cookies are good,” but never “Thank you.” But you know what, I didn’t expect it, because I knew what I was dealing with. You have to know your customer. I knew that they appreciated it, and the fact that I stayed friendly with Ron and Scott after the Stooges broke up, you know, I knew that they had affection for me. So it’s not like it wasn’t ever appreciated, but they never sat down and said, “We know that you’re doing all of this, and that you never get paid, but we want to thank you.”
DF: Did you do this by yourself, or did you have a little team?
NS: It was just me. But I was the Energizer Bunny back then. Hahahah! Not any more, but I was—think about it! Was I not the Energizer Bunny when you met me?
DF: How is Iggy now?
NS: He had some problems with his foot you know, but I think he’s OK.
DF: You are so fabulous.
NS: So are you, dear. You still can amaze me. You have been the power behind the throne for so many successful people!
DF: What is your favorite record of all time?
NS: If I were stranded on a desert island what album would you bring? I know what I’d bring. Funhouse. I would absolutely bring Funhouse, because that is my favorite. But right under Funhouse would be Raw Power. And then probably Exile On Main Street.
DF: Is there anything you think you left out, or you want to tell me?
NS: Don’t you enjoy going down that road?
DF: Especially when they’re memories that I didn’t have. Like going to pick them up at LaGuardia.
NS: I don’t know why I have that kind of recall, but I do. I have friends who call me about things we did together, but they want to know what happened, because they can’t remember.
DF: It’s worth more than diamonds, and it doesn’t even last our lifetimes. So get it down, even if you talk it into a recorder, or a cell phone. Please, please, please. I’m going to hound you to do that; don’t worry about a market for it. Our lives are really too short to find out what’s going to happen, even with things we were close to.
NS: When I met you, you were about thirty. But you still remember a lot. When you just asked me what group I was seeing at the Fillmore when Linda Eastman told me she was going to marry Paul, I think it was the Who. But Josephine and I went to SO MANY concerts… I remember that it was late summer, and I remember that the reason she stopped to talk to me, was that she loved my hair—you remember how long it was—she loved the hair, she loved the pink, and she was like, “Where did you get those pants?” and I said, “You can’t get them, I had to make them, in London.” Oh, I remember that you were the reason I didn’t go to Woodstock.
DF: Duh, why?
NS: You don’t remember this, but you got us tickets to see Led Zeppelin at Asbury Park in New Jersey. It was a Friday night. What we were originally going to do—we were NOT giving up those front row seats!—you gave up yours and gave them to us, because you were going to Woodstock. And we were going to go right from Asbury Park and make our way up to Woodstock. But by that time all the reports were coming in that the roads were all clogged, and we just stayed in Asbury Park, and had a good time. And if I had to do it all over again, I STILL would have wanted those front row seats for Zeppelin. Because they were good then, in ’68. That was the time to go and see them.
DF: I saw them at Ungano’s, the first time they played New York I think. I worked for their record company, Atlantic. And I introduced myself afterwards to Robert Plant, and he was kind of rude. But years later I interviewed him a few times, in the late 80’s, and he was great.
NS: I never made it to Ondine’s though; that I didn’t do. I saw the Doors early on but not that early on. That was when?
DF: The winter of ’66-’67. Before their first album came out.
NS: Then I got into the Stooges, and then I was into the New York Dolls, the glam bands, Bowie. We went to Carnegie Hall, the first time Bowie played New York. You were there.
DF: Yeah, he came down from the ceiling on a swing.
NS: We didn’t go together, but I saw you there.
NS: June of ’72. I do remember a lot, but some things are a little bit hazy.
DF: The years I forget are the ‘90s, and the 2000’s.
NS: You know what, by the late 70’s I was going to school at night, and I was really focusing on my career.
DF: How would you define your career?
NS: I became a contract negotiator for the US government. I worked for the IRS for ten years, and then I went to work for the Treasury, then I worked for the Navy. I was the youngest manager they ever had, at the IRS, and that was after the Stooges. I was taking a lot of time off when I was going to see the Stooges, but once they stopped I stopped taking all that time off.
DF: Was there a moment when you knew it was over, for the time?
NS: Yes, I knew it was getting towards the end. They had no money anymore. One time James [Williamson] shot up and there was blood all over, Jim was running around the hotel stoned out of his mind, naked, and Ron was totally disgusted at that point. I knew it wasn’t going to last too much longer. You could feel it. I knew the personalities involved well enough to know it wasn’t going to last. The last time I saw them was in January of 1974.
DF: How did you feel when the band “imploded” in 1974?
NS: I felt such a sense of loss, for the guys, for myself and for the music they’d never make. My guilt stemmed from my feeling that somehow I did not do enough. Maybe if I had worked even harder to get them well known, things would have worked out. It took me many years to come to the realization that they were all grown men and they made their choices and nothing I could do would have changed anything. It also took me many years before I put it together that they were just ahead of their time. Proof is that the songs still sound so modern and contemporary today.
DF: But you did re-connect with them after 1974, right?
NS: When Ron passed, in 2009, I did not have Internet service so I was not aware what happened until a month later. I missed his funeral so when I discovered that Scott and his daughter were sponsoring a tribute concert for Ron in LA, I felt compelled to go. I already had bought tickets to the London gigs they were doing the summer of 2010 and was anticipating the reunion concert of Raw Power with mixed emotion.
DF: So you went to the tribute concert in LA?
NS: It was very important that I pay my respects to Scott, especially since I missed the funeral. The gig was fun. Steve MacKay, Scotty Thurston and Mike Watt played with Scott. Scotty was sitting in for James because James had a previous commitment. After the gig, I made my way to the backstage area to talk to Scott and pay my respects. I told Scott that I was attending the London gigs and he offered to get me in his words “VIP.” As it turned out, I was granted a photo pass and an invite to the after-parties. I loved those concerts and it truly was a homecoming for me. They sent me on such a spiral upward that I attended gigs later that summer in Atlantic City, Chicago and Boston. I’ve seen them live eight times in the past two years. It’s still magical.
DF: I remember you were kind of bitter when I saw you at the Max’s shows in 1973 about Ron being switched to bass, and James Williamson doing lead guitar. Have you changed your mind about James?
NS: You know they say that with age comes wisdom. My epiphany occurred in London after that first gig. I never admitted it to myself in 1972, because of all the controversy surrounding the Ron-switching-to-bass thing, but James saved the band then and he was saving the band again in 2010.
Interview originally published ©2013 Danny Fields / PleaseKillMe.com