No one lived larger than sexy heavy-metal guitarist and singer Lita Ford.
When Ford recorded her 1984 album, “Dancin’ on the Edge,” in New York, Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora were -recording nearby, and would -often hang out.
After a night out at the club Traxx — with Ford’s best friend Toni and keyboardist Aldo Nova also in tow — Ford brought the crew back to her room at the Broadway Plaza Hotel.
Ford and Bon Jovi were making out in one bed and Sambora and Toni on another, as Nova “watched, sipping his red wine, as we tried to fit him in, too.”
All the wine got to Bon Jovi, who “began puking in the corner, right on the bedroom carpet.”
At that point, Toni felt generous. “Toni hopped off Richie,” Ford writes, “as if to say, ‘Here, Lita. Try mine.’ So I got in bed with Richie.”
The room then turned into a scene from “Caligula.”
“Holy s–t,” Ford writes in her new memoir, “Living Like a Runaway” (Dey Street). “Richie Sambora is the king of swing, I must say. Jon recovered from puking and Aldo finally made his way into the action, and it turned into girl-on-guy fun at the Broadway Plaza Hotel.”
Lita Ford was a rarity then, and now — a female solo artist in hard rock, a style of music that enthralled her early on.
She was just six days past her 13th birthday the first time she saw Black Sabbath in concert, and was taken with the godlike figures in shadow on the stage before her, “massive piles of thick, black hair.”
“My life flashed before me as I focused on the guitar player, Tony Iommi,” she writes. “He seemed superhuman, almost godlike.”
Ford, who began playing guitar at 10 and writes that she mastered Led Zeppelin’s licks by 13, would learn disgusting truths about this god in time. But first, at 16, she was brought into the world of rock ’n’ roll by another man with serious issues, Kim Fowley.
The 36-year-old Fowley — who she describes as “tall, skeleton-like and looked a bit like Frankenstein but with blue eyes” — was putting together a teenage girl band, and had heard about Ford’s playing. He got her number in Long Beach, Calif., and called her out of the blue.
He told her about himself and the band, and said, “I can make you into one of the biggest rock stars in the world. You will f–k the best rock stars. You will tour the biggest arenas. You will be on the cover of every magazine. You will become a legend.”
Lita Ford poses for a portrait in her bedroom at her family’s home in 1976.Photo: Getty Images
Ford was in, and joined the Runaways along with bandmates that included rhythm guitarist Joan Larkin, who changed her name to Joan Jett.
As the band rehearsed, it struck Ford that Jett and singer Cherie Currie were “always -together and chummy, not in a friendly way, but in a romantic way.” When she learned that all but one of her bandmates were gay, she quit the band, thinking “one of the girls might make a move on me.”
For the next month, though, she had nightmares about the Runaways achieving success without her. She returned to the band and now regards that stance as youthful ignorance.
Fowley educated them in his hardcore version of the rock ’n’ roll life. “You gotta think with your crotch,” he told them. “You have to think with your p—y.”
“That was the tame side of Kim Fowley,” Ford writes. “It wasn’t long before he was calling us dog meat, dog bitches.”
Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Cherie Currie and Joan Jett of The RunawaysPhoto: WireImage
The band’s first headlining show, at an LA club, found bold-faced names in attendance, including Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Plant posed with the band in a Runaways T-shirt, then took Ford aside. “[He] asked me if I could play bass,” she writes. “‘For who?’ I asked. ‘Led Zep.’
“He might have been drinking or pulling my leg, but he seemed to be dead serious in the -moment,” she writes. Ford heard nothing more about it, but while it’s little known, Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones had briefly left the band around that time.
The Runaways were opening for bands like Rush and Cheap Trick and embracing antics out of the ’70s rocker playbook.
“We would walk into radio stations and destroy the place with fire extinguishers and use the fruit platters in dressing rooms to see if they’d stick on the walls or the ceilings,” she writes. “The deli trays were good for ceiling decor, especially the cheese.”
Throughout the book, Ford details a series of mentors and lovers — often the same person — that reads like a who’s who of rock royalty.
She got crabs from Dee Dee Ramone and freaked out Who bassist John Entwistle when, after removing her pants, she had black and blue marks along her legs. While “John was looking at me like I was into sadomaso-chism or something,” the bruises had come from horseback riding, and ultimately gave Entwistle no pause about spending the night.
Her friends with benefits -included Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore and Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton, both of whom she describes as perfect gentlemen, and Edward — not Eddie — Van Halen, as she says he actually disliked his commonly used nickname.
Ford shares the time in 1980 that she and Van Halen were drinking vodka and trying on each other’s clothes in her living room. Ford had a T-shirt that read, in part, “Beat me. Bite me. Whip me. F–k me,” among other such sentiments. They were fooling around on the floor when she felt someone kicking her ankle, and found Mark, a large man she had recently broken up with, staring down at them. He had “climbed up the balconies and came through the sliding-glass door.”
Van Halen, drunk, freaked out. He “backed his way toward the bathroom and said, ‘Well, if you’re going to kill me, just bury me with my guitar.’ Then he slammed shut the bathroom door and locked it.”
Ford got Mark to leave, but when she checked the bathroom, Van Halen was gone, despite the only exit being one “tiny, tiny window” over the shower.
He had, in fact, “managed to squeeze his body through that window, scraping up his entire stomach, [and] dropped down four stories.”
At the height of his fame, he had to borrow a dime from a kid on the street — while wearing Ford’s T-shirt — to call 911.
Years later, Ford’s rock life came full circle when she got to open for Black Sabbath, and spent time after with her idol, Iommi. “He seemed so charming, confident and handsome,” she writes. “I would later find out that looks are deceiving.”
They “fooled around a bit” that night, but “that’s as far as he was able to get because he was so high,” she writes, having noted the copious amounts of cocaine present.
“He was impotent from his constant drug use, and he was very embarrassed. I felt bad for him and didn’t really know what to do. Eventually, I got him off.”
They stayed in touch, the relationship progressed and she was thrilled when Iommi invited her to England to meet his “mum.”
The couple were on the plane, and as soon as it started moving, Iommi, “out of nowhere . . . hauled off and punched me in the eye.”
She was now stranded on a 10-hour flight with a man who had just mysteriously transitioned from lover to abuser, and spent the entire 10 hours in the flight attendants’ station. She planned to fly right back to LA when they landed, but Iommi acted like nothing had happened, and she decided to stay, she writes, “like a moron.”
Iommi’s mother saw her black eye, and Ford learned that abuse ran in the family, as the guitarist’s father used to do the same.
She and Iommi were eventually engaged, and he would go on to physically abuse her four or five times during their relationship. The worst came shortly after he gave her the ring.
“After snorting tons of blow, he got angry and choked me unconscious,” she writes. “When I woke up, I saw him holding a chair above my head. It was a big, heavy leather chair with studs around the arms, and he was about to smash it over my face. I rolled over, and luckily I moved fast enough that he missed me and the chair smashed into the ground.”
She ran outside and thought of the safest place she could go. Eliminating her parents’ house, since her father would have “murdered” Iommi, she drove to the home of ex-boyfriend Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe.
Sixx told her, “I’ll be right back. I have something that will help make you feel better.” He drove, Ford writes, to the home of Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby, and returned with heroin. While not her drug, Sixx told her it would take the pain away. She snorted some and fell asleep.
She broke with Iommi — who, in a final indignity, recruited her band to work with him instead behind her back — but he wouldn’t be the worst she would face.
About 50 pages before the book’s end, Ford includes an Author’s Note, stating that, “out of respect for my children, I have chosen not to write in detail about their father, my husband of almost 18 years.”
Ford was married to Jim Gillette — she refers to him in the book by his last name only — who previously sang for an impossibly screechy ’80s metal band called Nitro.
She strongly implies that many of the changes in her life — from a move to Turks & Caicos, which she hated, to her getting four tattoos that paid tribute to her husband, to the release of a 2009 comeback -album, “Wicked Wonderland,” that was quickly regarded as her worst — were happening under coercion.
At one point, Ford flew to LA to meet with TLC about a possible -reality show for the family. She claims in the book that upon her return, both her husband and her two young sons refused to speak to her. That was six years ago, and her sons have not spoken to her since. She’s now divorced.
Today, Ford is back in the heavy-metal mainstream.
She released the “Living Like a Runaway” album, with songs inspired by her marriage, in 2012, to solid reviews. She’s back out on tour and has found that the metal scene has one essential advantage compared with her early days in the industry.
“The rock world has evolved into a universal language that’s no longer just for the testosterone-driven,” she writes, noting that the days of her being one of the only female musicians around are long gone. “The path is carved, and now it’s free and clear for anyone who wants to walk it.”