||TALES FROM THE PIP
ANTHONY KIEDIS: STAIRWAY TO HOLLYWOOD '91
26th August 2011
As the CHILI PEPPERS release their new album, 'I'm With You', PIPPA LANG recalls her interview with ANTHONY KIEDIS in 1991. Half-an-hour late after the long climb to his Hollywood mansion, she knocked on the front door...
The stairway to Hollywood is a long and winding road to Anthony Kiedis' big white mansion.
It is August 1991. I've finally reached his big white front door, but I'm dripping with sweat and fear. The door swings open, as I slump in an undignified heap upon the doorstep.
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"You're late," a stern voice announces.
From my ground zero position, the figure framed by the eerie white light in the doorway reminds me of the Mother Superior in 'The Blues Brothers'. Is she about to dish out some admonitory Holy advice, before gliding on supernatural wheels back into the house as the door slams shut in my face?
"Your photographer's already here. Come in," the voice commands, with a smooth, rather sexy LA twang. Definitely not the Mother Superior. As I stand up, the illusion melts into the tanned, tattooed and impossibly toned physique of Anthony. The 'eerie white light' turns out to be the pristine white walls inside his house made all the brighter by the photographer's lights.
Between the snapper and Anthony, they've decided to take advantage of my 'tardiness' (Yank speak) and get on with the photo shoot, which makes me feel slightly better. However, I'm virtually blinded by this dazzling display of whiteness, not just from the walls and lights, but from the glowing teeth displayed in grudging but courteous welcome. LA is, after all, the 'City Of Teeth'. (Why else did Lemmy move here?)
I wish I'd brought my shades.
Having dragged myself from the doorstep, still puffing and panting and red in the face, I smile wanly:
"I'm sooo sorry... Everybody told me 'just follow the Hollywood sign' and so I did, only I didn't realize it's not quite as glamorous or visible as in the movies... err... and the directions weren't as straightforward as they seemed and I missed the freeway entrance... and your steps, too, well they're so steep... erm..." I blather pathetically.
But there's more humiliation ahead. As I step over the threshold, Anthony looks at my shoes - high-heeled white stilettos designed to elevate me to the height of normal people - with metal heels.
"Can you please take your shoes off."
Having already acquired a complex about my British dental job since being in LA, now I have to take my shoes off and expose this godlike creature to my sweaty feet. And shrink back to my five-foot nothingness.
"Yes of course...", I mutter in embarrassment, reluctantly removing the offending shoes, and wishing I could nip to the 'john' and wash my feet, but I'm late already.
All of this is Jackson's fault. A wannabe musician with a cupboard full of gadgets in his bedroom (another story), he'd assured me last night that the route to Hollywood was a 'cinch'... though this assurance was, I must admit, made with a nonchalant wave of a nicotine-stained hand, leaving a virulent trail of weed smoke. Jackson had also assured me he'd ride me to 'his buddy' (bollocks) Anthony's mansion on the back of his Harley. I should perhaps have taken precautions as he sank back into his four-poster bed, and opened the cupboard again.
Luckily, I had a car, thanks to the wondrous hospitality of Michael Kenney, Iron Maiden's long-term roadie/keyboard-player, otherwise known as Michael 'The Count' Kenney, who'd been taking care of me since I'd been here (three days). Jetlagged, boggle-eyed and wired from squinting at three movies in a row on the flight to LAX Airport, he'd chucked me a set of car keys as soon as I'd arrived.
"Here, drive!" Michael said, in his customary gung-ho fashion. Michael believes in the 'Trial by Fire' theory. But he was/is right. By the time I had to drive to Anthony's 'pad', I'd mastered the techniques of driving the wine-red Chevy on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road.
But heading for the Hollywood sign was slightly more complicated than simply teleporting myself in the vague direction of a luminous sign that's actually much shabbier than you might think.
By the time I arrived, after taking half a dozen wrong turns and missing the freeway entrance (which was down some side street), I was panicked beyond belief, and crammed the Chevy into a space that looked big enough to me, ramming the car into reverse and drive and fiddling with the steering wheel until I'd squeezed it in between the two cars outside Anthony's house. A few dents in a few bumpers but, hey, that's what they're there for (bumping), and I was insured, and anyway these Hollywood people are loaded, so – bollocks.
So, finally, here I was, sat in his beautiful mansion, barefoot and anxious and, if that wasn't bad enough, the red Indian tattoo on Anthony's shoulder was scowling at me. What did Jackson put in that 'reefer' last night?
All was cool in the end, though, once awkward conversation turned to casual chat and, eventually, relaxed discussion about the Chili Peppers' impending album, 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik'.
Recorded at LA's The Mansion, where Harry Houdini once lived, this was the first Chili Peppers album produced by Rick Rubin, and the gift from funk rock to Metal that would gain them entry into the genre, and acceptance by more open-minded rock and Metal fans. 'BSSM' broke the Chili Peppers, particularly in the UK, spawning some of their most enduring hits: 'Give It Away', 'Under The Bridge', 'Suck My Kiss'...
I remember Anthony revealing that 'Under The Bridge' was a commentary on the lowest point in his life. We talked about Chad Smith's reluctance to stay at the Mansion (where the Beatles used to hang out, and where 'BSSM' was recorded) because he reckoned it was haunted. And, of course, we talked about tattoos.
Having cooled down considerably – Anthony's disposition, my body temperature and mental state - we managed to achieve a certain rapport and posed together for photos round Anthony's pool table.
I look forward to hearing the new album. I don't reckon they'll ever better 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik', but they can try, although not with that ridiculous 'working title', 'Dr Johnny Skinz's Disproportionately Rambunctious Polar Express Machine-head', now thankfully ditched in favour of the more prosaic but rather whimsical 'I'm With You'.
And so, back in '91, I bid Anthony, photographer and (now smiling) red Indian adieu and headed back down the perilous steps from Hollywood to Hell. East LA, that is, where I was about to get lost, in the dark, with very little 'gas' in my tank. But that's another story...
(Anthony Kiedis interview was featured in Metal Hammer's October 1991 issue.)
(More 'Tales From The Pip' when she can remember them)