Shoreworld: Bebe Buell: Air Kisses For The Masses

Bebe Buell has been a star since she was a 10-year-old choir singer, moving fast from small town high school to the big world of fashion modeling and Playboy before discovering the lure of New York’s underground rock movement. Her tumultuous affairs with rock’s biggest names and the scene’s boldest leaders led to her own journey into a musical world that continues till this day. From records to lives shows to best selling books and backstage hierarchy, Bebe Buell is indeed the queen of the East Coast scene. She took some time out from recording recently to speak with me on her interesting life.

‘Air Kisses For The Masses’ marks your return to recording after 10 years. What was the inspiration for this?

My friend Dean Johnson from the Velvet Mafia wrote ‘Air Kisses.’ He was a seven-foot-tall drag queen; he looked like a giant alien, (laughs) and obviously brilliant if you listen to the lyrics of the tune. He passed away and his band and family asked me to play a memorial concert they were doing for him at Don Hill’s. They said pick one of Dean’s songs and I picked that one. And when I played that with the velvet mafia I went, ‘Oh my god I must record that,’ almost like Dean was in my head going, ‘Get in the studio.’ (laughs) It’s a pretty radical little song and when people hear it they’re like oh this is a cool dance record then all of a sudden (mimics her vocal) I come steam rolling in on ‘em. (laughs)

Your first studio issue like Covers Girl and A Side Of The B Sides had some very interesting backing musicians and producers on them. Can you tell the readers who they were?

I did Covers Girl with Rick Ocasek and The Cars were my back up band. And Rick Derringer produced and played on the tracks as well. Todd Rundgren produced The B Sides EP picture disc. Liv (Tyler) calls me the ‘Cult Mommy.’ (laughs) I like that status, working with cool musicians and putting out my own records but the thought of working with a label doesn’t frighten me so I’m just gonna move forward and actually, I have a few meetings this week so I should have some good aggression for playing. (laughs)

How did The Gargoyles hook up with the Ramones?

Joey saw us play and I don’t want to sound immodest but he went bananas. (laughs) He was really into showcasing new bands. He wanted people to hear the bands that he liked. And if they weren’t famous enough to fill a room he would throw a party and put a bunch of people on one bill and turn it into an event. The biggest one he did in the ‘80s was called the Holy Inquisition and he did that at the Ritz. I had some great moments on that stage, too bad it’s not the Ritz anymore.

You withdrew from music at a focal point in your career. What was the major reason for that decision?

Just as we were getting ready to seal the deal and go on tour, my daughter’s (Liv tyler) paternity situation became public. And I had to really sit down and find that place inside of me that wasn’t going to be a narcissitic rocker and say, ‘Okay, what’s important right now?’ and because of Liv’s age at the time (14) when all this went public, I had to be there for her or she would have had a warped identity I think—what if I said, ‘Oh, I’m going on the road for two years, see ya honey. By the way, you have two dads’ (Steven Tyler was the actual father, Todd Rundgren raised her as his). So I had to kind of put everything on hold. My guitar player freaked out and went back to Virginia, my relationship with my bass player that I’d been with for years imploded, yeah there was a lot of stress, they were like how can you do this to us? But it happened and I started thinking a few years into it, Liv was fine and turned out to be the most beautiful human being on Earth, quite sucessful. She’s really got her head screwed on right, she doesn’t have all of those issues that a lot seem to have and I’m proud of her, so I said to myself I still have rock-itis, I would hear the opening bars to an AC/DC song and I’d start weeping. (laughs) So I decided that I had to get back into it. Liv left home around ‘96, she was doing pretty darn good, we protected her money and she left the nest quite wealthy so I started sneaking back down to the Squeeze Box, jumping up on stage with people.