Tower Records: A Place To Be Seen

“Olive” (not her real name) is a woman who worked at Tower Records on Sunset Strip for two-and-a-half years in the 1980s. In honor of the premier of ABC’s Wicked City, a new TV crime drama that takes place on the Sunset Strip during the early 1980s, we asked her about her various brushes with the rich, the famous, and the intoxicated. Let yourself be transported to this debaucherous decade, then catch the premiere of Wicked City, Tuesday, OCT 27 10|9c for more gritty glamour from the era when anything could happen.

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Alan Light / CC BY http://2.0 / Via flickr.com/photos/alan-light/2034726801

David Lee Roth

“I remember one day when David Lee Roth came in looking high as hell. His album Skyscraper had just come out, and the album cover is him mountain-climbing somewhere, like on the side of a huge rock face, and we had a wooden version of the album cover on the roof of the building, and he showed up for a meet-and-greet thing, an autograph signing, and he was so wasted he said, ‘I’m going to climb the Matterhorn,’ and there were people from the record label screaming themselves because he could have fallen and killed himself, and amazingly, he didn’t. He was a very nice guy. He took you out for ice cream. He would often come in the store, glad-handing people. One time he came in and was talking to a bunch of us and he was like, ‘Hey, ice cream sundaes for everyone at Barney’s!’ He took 15-20 of us for ice-cream sundaes at Barney’s.”

Slash from Guns N’ Roses

“I met Slash the day that I got hired. I met him and Vanity. She was there visiting the manager who hired me. The manager’s name was Kevin; he was this black guy with a very bad Jheri curl. With the shag in the back. Very typical bad Jheri curl. Longer than Lionel Richie’s. I was interviewed in one room and then Kevin waked me back to the manager’s office and we opened the door and Saul—his name wasn’t ‘Slash’ yet—he was sitting behind the manager’s desk and leaned back in a chair. I couldn’t tell if he was asleep or not, because he had the stupid hat on and sunglasses. He even wore that stupid hat there. It kind of looked like he was sort of sleeping. Kevin told him to get out of the office. ‘You gotta give me a minute,’ Slash says. He sits up in the chair and kind of adjusts himself, and then a girl crawled out from underneath the desk.”

The rest of Guns N’ Roses and the hair-metal scene

“It wasn’t only Slash who worked at Tower—Axl Rose worked there, too. I knew both of them. And that other guy—Taime Downe. He had that band Faster Pussycat. They were all friends. All those rocker dudes that hung out at the Roxy and Gazzarri’s and the Whisky and the Rainbow.

“So it was a whole Peyton Place soap-opera scene. Everyone who was in a band was begging you every five minutes to buy a ticket to go see them play. They were in your face three times a week.

“I saw Guns N’ Roses like, I don’t know, a hundred thousand times because it seemed like they played every other day at one of those places. Same with Motley Crue, because they lived up the street on Doheny.

“Guns N’ Roses were like every other dude who got in a band and got rich—they were all jackasses, completely egotistical, all they were into was themselves, they really couldn’t give a shit about you. Most of them worked either at Tower or the rock ’n’ roll Ralph’s supermarket on Sunset. The way they survived and paid their rent was there was a whole network of groupie girls and these chicks basically took care of them, so it would be two to three girls for one guy. One would do their laundry, another would have sex with them, and another would buy them food.

“Those chicks were all annoying because they were all in competition with each other. It was a precursor to Bret Michaels’s Rock of Love—all these girls fighting over these guys trying to be the #1 girl so they could get rich off these dudes.”

Vanity

“The first person I ever met was Vanity. It was at work, and I’m going back in the office, it was the same day I got hired, and then I went to the bathroom and came back and Vanity was in the office with my manager Kevin. They were close friends. So I walk in the room and I see this kid in a full-length black mink coat. And this is Los Angeles and it’s summertime. So I see bare legs and high heels and this mink coat and long hair. She turned around and it was Vanity, and I was completely gobsmacked. She was wearing lingerie underneath the coat. Basically a teddy and a thong. Her eyes are swirling around independently in her head in all different directions. She asked me if I’d like a piece of candy: ‘I have all kinds of candy.’ She reaches in her pocket, grabs a handful of something, opens up her hand, and it’s unwrapped lollipops, Tootsie Rolls, chewing gum, all unwrapped and covered in pocket lint and fur: ‘You want one?’ I was like, ‘OK, no thanks.’”

Michael Jackson

“The most dramatic thing would be whenever Michael Jackson would show up. He would always come in wearing a costume so he could be anonymous. But the giveaway was that he would have on those loafers with ‘MJ’ in gold on the top of his loafers. And you’d just know it was him because he’d be so freaky-looking and he’d send in recon before his visit, and they’d warn us he was coming in, and he’d always come in with his assistant. It was a game that he played. He’d come in wearing these crazy costumes. One time he had on this big Afro wig and these crazy false teeth, but you knew it was him. You know how some celebrities have the X factor? Just the energy coming off him, you knew it was Michael Jackson. The workers knew it was him because he came in every fucking week. But he’d always fool all the customers, because everyone in Hollywood is a little weird-looking, so nobody looked at him twice.”

A place to be seen

“Tower was a respite for people. You’d come there and see some celebrities walking around—Brian Setzer, Bruce Springsteen, Whoopi Goldberg. Everyone came to be seen. You buy records, maybe see a celebrity, maybe get an autograph, and that would make your day.” TC mark

Click To Explore More From The Dark Side Of The Sunset Strip

This post is brought to you by ABC’s Wicked City. Don’t miss the Series Premiere – Tuesday, October 27th at 10/9c.

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Jim Goad

Stop worrying about good and bad...and start thinking about true and false.

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