Isn’t it true that you were the first successful fashion model to make that transition to Playboy?
Yes. It was 1974 and very taboo to do something like that. Not like now. I mean Cindy Crawford did it in the ‘80s, Naomi Campbell, Kim Bassinger, and then it became prestigious. When I did it even a little nudity would send people into a tailspin. I respect Mr. Hefner, I didn’t call him Hugh. (laughs) The rumors and stories about him are completely false. He’s a brilliant man that loves to play chess and monopoly, and he’s just fabulous to talk to. I think the ruckus that it caused was much longer than the time I was a playmate. I’m kind of fond about it now. I mean my grandson will be able to show his friends that his grandmother was a centerfold playmate! (laughs)
What’s Jack Nicholson like?
He’s a dear thing, he’s a sweetheart! You know, when you get past being his girlfriend and become his friend, boy, he’s a hoot! He met my daughter once on a private plane and Jack and Warren (Beatty) were on the plane and Liv called me when she got to Vegas and was like, ‘Oh my god mom! Jack Nicholson said, “Say hi to the Beeb for me.”‘ (laughter) She said, ‘Mommy, that’s so cool that Jack Nicholson calls you the Beeb!’ It was fun that I could impress her a little bit with Jack. Hollywood is great but my heart always drifts back to NY—if I had a fancy party Uptown I would do that then jump in the car and head downtown to a rock club.
In the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous the character Penny Lane is based off many elements from your actual life. How did he come up with those inspirations for the film?
A lot of people say is that you? And I have to remind them that it’s just a movie. I think the biggest thrill for me was him calling the singer in the movie band Jeff Bebe which is a combination of Jeff Beck and myself, and there’s a scene in the movie where he has a t-shirt on that says ‘Jeff Bebe’ and Cameron gave me that actual shirt, one of my prized possessions. We met in ‘73 when I was out on the road with Todd Rundgren; he came out for a couple of weeks. And the movie band Stillwater was actually a combination of every band that Cameron had ever interviewed. It’s a fictitious smorgasbord of bands, and the music was all written by his wife Nancy (Wilson).
I found your book, Rebel Heart: An American Rock And Roll Journey, to be quite an historical journal. When you were writing it did you ever stop and say, ‘I cant believe I was there for all of this?’
Of course. But remember, at a very young age I thought I was entitled. I felt like something was wrong that I wasn’t there already. My mom would keep Vogue Magazine in the house and I would see these people and go my god, I’ve got to be there. I would see Andy Warhol and Pattie Boyd and knew that’s where I needed to be. I think my artistry and who I was developed very young. Kids I went to school with are writing me on Facebook reminding me that I taught them how to do the dirty dog (laughs) and I turned them onto the Stones. I would always get out my scissors and make everybody cut their bangs. (laughs)
You’ve covered just about every art form in the visual, literary and audio world, what’s next on your list?
I think I’m just gonna keep doing this. If people tell me to get lost I guess I’ll do the right thing and get lost but right now everybody seems to be interested in what I’m doing and I’m just grateful for that. As long as that continues, I’m gonna keep doing what I love to do.
Bebe Buell will be at The Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, on Aug. 20 along with The Creamsicles, Jack Brag and Frankenstein 3000. bebe-buell.com.