Marisa Tellez's New Memoir on Coming of Age During the Sunset Strip's Heyday
When your glam-rock boyfriend needs a girl to lie across his lap at a photo shoot, posing as if she's about to be spanked, do you abandon your principles and do it yourself? Or do you maintain your dignity — but allow the eager groupie who clearly has a crush on your man a chance to rub her body all over him?
Questions like these used to confront Marisa Tellez on a daily basis. At the ripe age of 14, Tellez found her place among the musicians, misfits, teens and scenesters who stalked the Sunset Strip each Friday and Saturday night in the late '80s and early '90s, going to shows at such clubs as the Whiskey A Go Go and the Roxy while also checking each other out, showing off and putting themselves squarely where the action was.
With her braces, dorky mittens and less-than-revealing outfits, Tellez, who lived with her mother in Rosemead during those high school years, soon became a sort of kid sister to many rockers, including The Glamour Punks, Blackboard Jungle, Swingin Thing and Brent Muscat of Faster Pussycat.
She also took meticulous notes amidst the drunken ruckus, documenting the five-year period before the ascent of grunge and irritated neighbors put an end to the freewheeling, outdoor glam-metal party. The result? Rock and Roll High School: Growing Up in Hollywood During the Decade of Decadence, an account based largely on her teen diaries and peppered with quotes from friends like Screaming Boy Mandie of The Glamour Punks.
Now a 39-year-old production coordinator at a video game marketing company, Tellez says she wrote the book to show that not every fangirl in Hollywood becomes a junkie or a groupie, even if she endures a series of unequal relationships with the musicians she worships. Pretty much every other chick on the scene, it seems, tried to sleep with Tellez's rocker boyfriend or, as it turned out later, was already sleeping with her rocker boyfriend. Dirty looks are thrown and dagger eyes are shot, but Tellez stays loyal, incredibly, even as it becomes obvious no one stays loyal to her.
Tellez released the book through Amazon's CreateSpace, which costs writers nothing and prints books on-demand as they are ordered online. (Physical copies also are available at Book Soup.)
Hers is just the kind of unpolished yet idiosyncratic and engrossing tale you'd never see from a mainstream publisher; Rock and Roll High School often feels less like a memoir and more like a historical document, one that belongs in the Sunset Strip time capsule alongside those Terry Richardson photos of Lindsay Lohan at the Chateau Marmont and a copy of Ed Ruscha's iconic 1966 photobook, Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Because how else would we know that during the L.A. Riots the members of Swingin Thing protected their apartment building and the liquor store next door from looters by throwing glass bottles filled with pebbles down from the roof?
These days, Tellez prefers Slipknot to Mötley Crüe and lives in West Hollywood with her boyfriend of two years — yes, he's in a band. But she doesn't go to the Strip much. She tends to avoid, in particular, the Rainbow Bar and Grill, where as a teen she once saw Axl Rose walk through the parking lot drinking a can of Cherry Coke.
"It is 1986 every day in there," she says. "It's just kind of depressing."
Amanda Lewis on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Twitter:
Follow Public Spectacle on Facebook