Legs McNeil– Still Punk After All These Years

Legs McNeil Still Punk After All These Years | In episode 61 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits sits down with punk rock documentarian Legs McNeil.

Legs McNeil literally wrote the book on Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll. He called it “Please Kill Me, an Oral History of Punk Rock.” That is to say he is an expert on this era of punk rock history that laid the foundation for the evolution of music and counter culture today. Legs joins us on Light Culture to talk about why the Ramones hated the Sex Pistols, New York then and now, founding Punk magazine, Lenny Bruce, porn star Ron Jeremy, Charlie Manson, and pop culture, good and bad.

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Q&A

David: [00:00:00] 

When it comes to sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Legs McNeil, along with co-author, Gillian McCain, literally wrote the book. Please Kill Me:The Uncensored Oral History of Punk tells the story of New York City in the 70’s, when downtown was a scary place of burned out buildings, open air drug markets, record murder rates, and a place called CBGB’s – where The Ramones, Blondie, Television, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Talking Heads, and other now legendary bands rocked out. Legs, in his De Rigeuer black leather jacket, embraced punk, generally a term of abuse to describe a worthless person, and turned it into a point of pride. As a co-founder of Punk Magazine, with the title Resident Punk, he keeps his legacy alive with PleaseKillMe.com. A website that chronicles a life and times, and inevitably the deaths of those original punks that set off a cultural revolution that reverberates to this day, as well as others who have come to embody the spirit of the times. He’s also the co-author, again with Gillian McCain, of The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry. Welcome, Legs McNeil.

Legs: [00:01:23] 

Thank you for having me.

David: [00:01:24] 

I just wanted to start out, just basically, what does punk mean to you today? Has the definition evolved over the years? I know you’re still holding onto that title, Resident Punk, so I guess you’re the man to ask this question.

Legs: [00:01:43] 

I think it keeps evolving, which is great. We try not to make it too political, or maybe even a little bit politically incorrect. But we try to keep Punk about the music, and about art and- and poetry, and photography, and film. And, you know, bad pop culture. Comic books and bad TV shows. I think it’s enduring and it’s grown. And, uh, it’s evolving. Punk is whatever you want it to mean, as long as it’s not, you know, stupid. [laughs] You know?

David: [00:02:24] 

Stupid. Well, that’s a word in itself that has evolved over time, because, you know, so many of the things that we thought were stupid have since turned out to be, really important. You know, “Maybe this was the most important thing of its time.” I just read a quote from Joey Ramone, who I know was someone you were friends with, and I believe even inspired the book originally, in a way. Because you had been thinking about writing something on him, and then it turned into Please Kill Me.

Legs: [00:03:06] 

Well, actually, the book came about, Dee Dee called me when he left The Ramones.

I was more friendly with Joey than I was with Dee Dee. So when he called me, he just came over to my apartment on Saint Mark’s Place and I turned on the tape recorder, and he just talked for ten hours. And I kind of launched his literary career because I published it in Punk, and I just used his words. I didn’t add any narrative or anything. I think I just wrote a little introduction. And it was, My Life As a Ramone by Dee Dee Ramone. 

And the editor and publisher of Spin at the time, said, “Legs, you did this. Why didn’t you put your name on it?” And I said, “I don’t want the Ramones to hate me more than they already do.” Because every time you wrote about the Ramones, they hated it. You always did something wrong. They were never grateful. They were great guys and a lot of fun to be with, but they were just bitter. In the 80’s, the Ramones were treated like shit, they really had a rough time. Everyone says, “Oh, the Ramones are gods.” But they weren’t really taken too seriously. And they’re only selling a hundred thousand albums every time they came out. And, Boston, who no one really remembers, was selling like two million records. 

So, the Ramones really didn’t get their due until after they retired and then they all died. So, just when they are getting a chance to enjoy their success, after being on the road three hundred days a year for twenty-two years, they died. It was awful. It was like a cop who was a cop for twenty years and then retires and has a heart attack. You know, buys a bar down the street and then has a heart attack and dies. It was kind of that. Very, very sad. 

David: [00:05:17] 

But they were hugely influential. When they went to England, for example, everybody had to come see them. They blew minds, among the musicians. Sort of the way with Lou Reed, I think, everyone says that  The Velvets never really sold a lot of records, but everyone who bought one turned into a musician or started a band.

Legs: [00:05:39] 

Yeah. Started a band. Yeah. That’s what happened with the Ramones too.

David: [00:05:45] 

So what was it about the Ramones that appealed to you mostly?

Legs: [00:05:52] 

Well, they were funny, they were smart, even though they, you know, they came across being very dumb, which was part of the act, you know. They were a great rock and roll band, and there were no long guitar solos. [laughter] And, you know, used to tell me that, you know, when Led Zeppelin, when they go on for a drum solo – it was the days before cell phones – he would go out and make a funk, make his phone calls, business phone calls, while the drum solo was going on and come back a half hour later and the drum solo would just be finishing. The excesses of stadium rock in the 70’s were quite [laughs], um, quite excessive. 

David: [00:06:36] 

Yeah. And that was a big impetus, wasn’t it? To go back to the roots of rock and roll, before it turned into all of that?

Legs: [00:06:44] 

Yeah. I grew up on, and most of the people hanging out at CBGB’s, grew up on Top 40 radio. And Top 40 radio of the 60’s was brilliant. You know, you had The Kinks, you had, you know, Hendrix, you had all the Motown stuff cut in with The Stones and The Beatles, and all the great garage bands of the 60’s. There was a lot of shit in there, but there was also a lot of great stuff. And I think when we all came of age in the 70’s, we said, “Where’s this great rock and roll?” 

And it was all The Eagles and all this country western bullshit. It wasn’t Street Fighting Man and You Really Got Me, and The Animals, We Gotta Get Out of This Place. You know, it was like, “Where’s that?” So, CBGB’s, all these people kind of met up got back to good rock and roll. The Ramones, The Dictators, The Dead Boys. Besides Patti Smith, and Television, and Talking Heads, and Blondie. There was some great music going on there.

David: [00:08:11] 

In the 70’s a lot of the energy moved to the West Coast. Like you mentioned, The Eagles. It was a whole different sound and experience. When the punk rock brought the energy back to New York. To what extent did New York play a role in contributing to that?

Legs: [00:08:35] 

I believe that New York had been the center of pop music in the early 60’s, and then it moved to Los Angeles when Jan and Dean, and The Beach Boys, and The Birds started that whole scene. Even though the writers like Carole King, were still writing hits for all these West Coast bands, like Paul Revere and the Raiders, and The Monkees, and those people. But it moved back to New York when Rolling Stone moved back in the late-70’s, early-80’s.

David: [00:09:24] 

Punk Magazine, that you started with John Holmstrom, which was a very unusual publication in its right, because it didn’t really have a real magazine feeling. It wasn’t thick with ads. It was an indie magazine.

Legs: [00:09:52] 

No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t thick with ads at all. [laughter] Much to my disappointment.

David: [00:09:59] 

But you had comics in there, you just had a whole different way of approaching information. Like John’s lists that he did was brilliant.

Legs: [00:10:11] 

Yeah. His top ten list. Yeah. Yeah, that was fun.

David: [00:10:15] 

What was your background for doing something like that? Is that something you had played with as a kid, what were your interests when you were growing up?

Legs: [00:10:25] 

John was older than me. He graduated from high school, I think, the year I was a Freshman. So, he was working in town. He was, trying to be a cartoonist. And he got a job drawing for this Scholastic magazine, called Bananas. It was a middle school magazine. He had a cartoon in there, and he hired me to write some of the comic strips. We’d get a hundred and fifty a strip, and if I wrote them, we’d split it seventy-five and he’d take seventy-five for drawing.

David: [00:11:08] 

Not bad for a high school kid back then.

Legs: [00:11:10] 

Well, seventy-five dollars bought a lot of beer and cigarettes, so…

David: [00:11:14]

[laughs] What about the records, man?

Legs: [00:11:17] 

John had all the records. I couldn’t afford records. I had my brother’s and sister’s Steppenwolf, first one or two Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath. You know, Paranoid. What else? And my sister listened to all the girl groups, starting with Joan Baez, going with Carole King, all of them.

David: [00:11:45]

Joni Mitchell?

Legs: [00:11:46] 

Yes. Joni- the whole progression of interesting female singer-songwriters, which was, you know, coming around then. So, I had those albums, but John had Chuck Berry. And more importantly, he had the complete Lenny Bruce albums. You know, where Lenny Bruce is having a picnic in a cemetery. You know, the sick humor of Lenny Bruce. John was interesting. John was a real original thinker, so it was easy to hook up with him.

David: [00:12:30] 

It’s funny because we forget the importance of those comedy records back then, because that was really something that you had to listen to and you couldn’t hear anywhere else. Especially if it had any kind of material like Lenny Bruce and, you know, most comedians had material like that that they couldn’t perform on the Ed Sullivan show.

Legs: [00:12:51] 

Right.

David: [00:12:52] 

And you had to listen to those, albums back then. How do you- Do you- Are you into comedy at all today? Of like what passes for-

Legs: [00:12:59] 

Oh, yeah. I love comedy, you know? I don’t follow it as much. Um. There’s a lot of bad comedians out there, let’s just put it that way.

David: [00:13:09] 

Yeah. Like how many fart jokes can you fit in a bus, right?

Part of the story of the whole punk era, for me, is very much about New York City, as well. And to the extent that that enabled or nurtured or facilitated this whole culture. Because it was so rundown, and it was so abandoned, and rents were cheap.

Legs: [00:13:43] 

Well, no one wanted to live there. It was the end of White Flight. All those people, their dream was to move to the suburbs. And growing up in the suburbs was our nightmare. I moved to New York in ’74, and we started Punk Magazine in ’75. New York was abandoned at night. Downtown New York– there was no one out, you know? It was like this giant movie set. You know, with these great buildings and these great alleyways, and the destruction on the Lower East Side was amazing. It was like Dresden after the firestorm. “Wow. This is fantastic. You know, to be living here in this- in this destruction.” It just seemed like everything was so cheap and you could afford to live there, that it just seemed rife with possibility, you know? And it was.

David: [00:14:47] 

Really? For someone like you, perhaps, but obviously for all the others who fled, it was rife with danger and, you know, and-

Legs: [00:14:55] 

You know, fuck them. Who cares about them? They wanted to move out, we wanted to be there. It was exciting. You know, it looked like Batman. you grew up watching Batman and, uh… All these other great TV shows, cop shows. New York looked great. And everybody said, “How can you live there? There’s so much crime.” Well, there was some crime, but if you were smart, if you had any amount of street smarts at all, you were fine. You know? No one bothered you.

David: [00:15:28] 

Well, flash forward. Today, so much has happened to the city, there’s gentrification obviously, changing the physical landscape to an extent that it’s really unrecognizable for people like us who remember what it used to be. And even today, when I try to tell younger people what Soho was like, or what the East Village was like, you know, it’s impossible to really, uh, explain that. But here we are. People seem to be fleeing again. And, you know, there’s a back and forth taking place is it the end of New York? You know, cancelling New York. And, of course, it’s the people who really set roots in the city to begin with who are most likely to leave now. With regard to that? Where do you live now, and how do you experience urban life?

Legs: [00:16:27] 

I’ve lived in Pennsylvania from about 2004 on. I just left the city cause it was becoming stupid, you know? And a lot of people who I thought were doing interesting stuff- I mean, there were still people doing interesting stuff, but it wasn’t on a level that we were doing it. So, I thought it was time to leave, you know? I’m only two hours away. So, I can jump in the car and be there in two hours.

David: [00:16:58] 

Of course. But the scene, you know, for me, it was always, you know, what Brian Eno called the Scenius. The genius of the scene that was bigger than any individual that really made what people refer to as this golden age of New York creativity and culture. Especially if you go beyond CB’s out into the Mudd Club, and the art scene, and film, all these other areas that exploded along with the music. 

Legs: [00:17:33] 

What people forget about CBGB’s and Max’s, besides the music, it was also the conversations that were going on. There were great conversations, when you have a room filled with David Johansen, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Clem Burke, and Lenny Kaye, and Jonathan and Andy Paley, and Danny Fields, and Lisa Robinson, and all these people in one room, you’re gonna have good conversations. There’s gonna be, you know, interesting stuff going on. 

David: [00:18:09] 

Well, you mentioned Danny Fields, who I’ve had on the show, and partly thanks to you, I’m sure, because it went on the Please Kill Me website. And, a lot of fans were very happy to hear him talk and tell his, you know, his adventures and experiences from back in the day. So, how did you and Danny hook up originally? And what was the attraction there?

Legs: [00:18:34] 

I used to work at the printer. Freddy Perez had this printer down, I think it was, Green Street in Soho. When Soho was still at the end of the manufacturing days of Soho. And we collated the first issue by hand. And I went out, and it was January- It was New Year’s Eve, 1975 going into 1976. I got ten magazines. Full magazines that were collated. And the Ramones were opening for the Heartbreakers at this loft called Sea of Clouds, which no one ended up playing cause they got ripped off for the money. But I brought the magazines, and I presented them to Joey and Danny. They were standing together, waiting to see if they were gonna play or not. And, they were kind of fascinated with the magazine. They thought it was great. And Danny turned around to me and said, “Can I get you a beer?” And I thought, “Wow. Holmstrom was right. People will buy this.” [laughter] I’ve known Danny since I was nineteen. And he was very patient with me, and… very generous. He saw that different people were trying to do things, and he encouraged them. And, you know, he’d stand there and be chewing his gum, being ultra hip. You knew if Danny and Seymour and Lisa Robinson came to CBGB’s, you’d have to sober up a little, stand up a little straighter, just so you could be, you know, be polite to them. And- give the respect that they deserved.

David: [00:20:30] 

You dedicate your book to him. 

Legs: [00:20:33] 

That happened at the end of the book. I said to Gillian, “You know, most of this music wouldn’t have happened unless Danny was there.” And I’m talking about, not only the Stooges and the Ramones. He got John Cale to produce the first Stooges record, and got Nico deals. He put together the Modern Lovers, you know? Danny did so much. He was the bridge between the artists and the record companies. He understood both worlds, and he could show the record companies that these were commercially viable people. Even though a lot of them didn’t seem to be at that time, but eventually they did. Danny had really great taste. In cartoons and television, and comics. Danny’s kind of renaissance guy, you know.

David: [00:21:55] 

Yeah. It was great to talk with him. Just back to New York for a minute, because I feel like I dropped the ball there. I never really got you to answer the question about New York today. Given, you know, the state of the city, the economy, I don’t know if you’ve been back since April when the whole Covid thing-

Legs: [00:22:12] 

Yeah. It’s like a ghost town.

David: [00:22:14] 

Yeah. It’s like a ghost town. You see a lot of the shops are closed, many will not reopen. It’s almost like a neutron bomb fell on New York. All the buildings are fine but the people are gone. Does that create an environment potentially for a renaissance that was kind of killed because of all the wealth and gentrification that had taken over this city?

Legs: [00:22:41] 

I hope so. I would hope so, New York is always changing. In the 60’s, it was one thing. In the 70’s, it was another thing. In the 80’s, it was another thing. You know, it’s constantly changing. That’s the great thing about New York. The great thing about the 70’s is you could be broke, you know? You could not have a job and survive. I mean, you had to eat pizza everyday, but…

David: [00:23:11] 

Yep. Pizza was good then.

Legs: [00:23:13] 

Yeah. [laughter] Grey’s Papaya, you know.

David: [00:23:17] 

Yeah.

Legs: [00:23:18] 

And an egg cream at Gem Spa.

David: [00:23:20] 

Which is now closed.

Legs: [00:23:22] 

Yeah. But you know what? I think they’ll be replaced. They warehoused a lot of storefronts and apartments in the West Village. They were waiting for the rents to go up and go up and go up, so they could charge fifty thousand dollars a month or whatever they were charging. These exorbitant prices. And maybe now they’ll be art galleries and clubs and… interesting stuff again. Hopefully.

David: [00:23:58] 

Throughout the post-war history of New York, especially downtown, you always had these sort of alternative, counter-culture scenes. You know, starting with the beats and the hippies.

But then everything changed to such an extent that that really wasn’t possible. People moved to Brooklyn.

Legs: [00:24:21] 

Yeah.

David: [00:24:21] 

And, you know, tried to do it elsewhere. But the sense of community that was so important to nurturing the whole culture and experience that, was there, disappeared.

And, you know, will that ever come back? I don’t know.

Legs: [00:24:36] 

I hope so.

David: [00:24:36] 

I mean, it’s not gonna happen overnight. But it- Maybe.

Legs: [00:24:38] 

I hope so. But it will come back different and it will be someone else’s scene, you know? And they’ll go through all the, uh, trials and tribulations that we did. [laughs]

David: [00:24:49] 

One of the trials and tribulations that I’m particularly interested in and- let’s make you go back in the time machine.

The Sex Pistols, are curious to me, because I was actually working at the Soho News at that time.
Legs: [00:25:44] 

Right. Yeah.

David: [00:25:45] 

One of my first big assignments was to try to figure out what happened and write a piece about that. I still wonder who killed Nancy? We know the Sex Pistols broke up, Sid Vicious came to New York- was living with Nancy Spungen at the Chelsea Hotel doing drugs. And then, you know, she was found dead in the morning. Do you know who killed Nancy?

Legs: [00:26:15] 

It could have been Sid. It could have been, um, it could have been Nancy. Nancy had a lot of suicide attempts. She could have stabbed herself and… thought Sid would come and rescue… I think that’s-

David: [00:26:41] 

That’s one of the stories. 

Legs: [00:26:42] 

That’s kind of one I believe. There’s also a story about a heroin dealer. I guess they had eighty dollars in their drawer. And when they took them out it was gone. So maybe someone came- But Sid was passed out. I don’t think he was doing too much moving, you know? He didn’t know what happened. He really didn’t, you know?

David: [00:27:16] 

So you don’t know either then. You know, there is no answer at this time. There is still no answer.

Legs: [00:27:21] 

I think if Sid had gone to trial, he would have been found innocent.

David: [00:27:35] 

Yeah. He died before that from an OD.

Legs: [00:27:37] 

Yeah.

David: [00:27:40] 

Were you into the Sex Pistols, particularly? Or did you feel that this whole, like, British punk rock was an imitation? Or exploitation of what was happening?

Legs: [00:27:51] 

You’ve gotta remember, I was friends with the Ramones. And the Ramones were aligned with Warner Brothers at this time, and the Sex Pistols were on Warner Brother. And the Sex Pistols were getting all the money for their promotion, and the Ramones were getting shit. The Ramones hated the Sex Pistols. I was in Los Angeles. And when Holmstrom and Roberta went on the whole tour, and I was with the Ramones in Los Angeles and, John called me up at the Tropicana Motel and said, “Legs, you gotta come to San Francisco for the final show in the Sex Pistols tour.” And I said, “John, I can’t do that. The Ramones will kill me. I can’t go to see-” So we had a big argument about that. 

To Joey’s dying day, he’d always say, “Oh, yeah. There’s Legs going on about his favorite band, the Sex Pistols.” I mean, the Ramones hold grudges forever. Forever. Forever. And I had to go on the Sex Pistols tour. Luckily, I picked up the receptionist for Playboy Magazine and spent a lot of time in the hotel room. Because it was a nightmare. And the Sex Pistols sucked that night. They really sucked. Sid couldn’t play the bass. They had turned into this punk spectacle, you know? And it wasn’t about the music anymore. Although John said at Randy’s Rodeo, I believe, John said there were two dates when they were really, really quite good. I forget which. It might’ve been Baton Rouge and Randy’s Rodeo in Texas. But the one I was on, they sucked. They really sucked.

David: [00:29:47] 

And Malcolm McLaren would- Did you feel that he was part of the scene?

Legs: [00:29:53] 

I loved Malcolm. He was such a hustler, you know? He was such a [laughs]. Malcolm was fun.

David: [00:30:02] 

I was just relistening for a minute to his opera album, which I actually enjoyed listening to once again. There’s some really interesting stuff going on there. I taught your book, Please Kill Me, at Queen’s College last year or two years ago.

Legs: [00:30:22] 

You did?

David: [00:30:24] 

Yeah. [laughter] I know, you’re laughing. Cause I hadn’t read it in many years. So when I assigned it to these kids, you know, and then I went home to re-read it myself. And then I go, “Oh my god, what did I make these kids do?” Because this is like so much sex and drugs. Like page after page after page. So, how did that become the story? You know, was that just there. That you couldn’t ignore it?

Legs: [00:30:55] 

We didn’t know what the story was. Our main objective was to go back and talk to as many people that were there, they’re gonna tell you what the book is. We didn’t go there with any preconceived notions other than, you know, “What the fuck did you do then?” You know? “Did you fuck her? Did he fuck her?” You know, what was going on? “You were in the room, you know, when Iggy calls Ronny and Scotty, you know, in Ann Arbor and tells them to come over to England. You know, what was going on?” You know? What were you thinking? It was such an enjoyable process. To listen to people and then to say, like, “Wow. That sounds kind of cool.” Or, “Wow. That sucks.” You know? Whatever they were talking about. That’s what’s fun about my job. I get to ask people really what happened.

David: [00:32:07] 

You said, I think you said, that people were so frank with you because they didn’t think the book would ever be published? [laughs]

Legs: [00:32:12] 

No. No one thought it would be. You know, I mean, the last time most of these people saw me was probably on the floor at CBGB’s passed out drunk. And then here I come, you know, it’s twenty years later. I stopped drinking, you know, in 1988 and went on through all that bullshit. And I worked at Spin. I mean, I really worked. I was there seven days a week, you know. I was on deadline constantly. Once I stopped drinking, it was really when I pulled it together. Things happened very quickly once I stopped drinking. I wrote this article, called Yuppie Like Me, and it was bought by a movie company, and they gave me a preemptive option of like a hundred thousand dollars. And suddenly I’m making all this money and stuff. And, after I left Spin, they gave me my own magazine. And, um, I was really unhappy. Really unhappy. I was really depressed too. And I wanted to get back to, um, what I loved about writing. At that time, it was in the 90’s, and the scene was so- It was becoming more and more yuppified, more gentrified. I mean, they put a Gap on the corner of Saint Mark’s and Boadway. It was becoming very commercial. 

It felt like, oh my god, this dream of the 70’s that I had, that was just amazing is kind of evaporating. So why don’t I go back? Well, Dee Dee came to me – I’m sorry, I’m rambling. Dee Dee came to me first and wanted to do a biography. Wanted me to write his biography, or something. And I said, “Well then why don’t we do it as an oral history?” And I started interviewing Danny Fields, cause I knew Danny, whatever we were gonna say about the punk scene, Danny was a major figurehead and I needed to get his take on what had happened. You know? Cause like with Dee Dee, you never knew what to believe. You know, half the stuff you didn’t believe turned out to be true, and the stuff you thought was true turned out to be lies. I mean, he never knew. [laughter] So, I went to Danny. And Gillian and I were friends at the time, and she was working at the Poetry Project and working very, very hard. And I would show her the Danny Fields transcripts. I would go over to Danny’s once a week, and do about two ninety minute tapes with him, and then I’d go home and have those transcribed. And, Gillian was reading them and she was circling everything, and she said, “This is much bigger than Dee Dee. You gotta tell the whole story, the stories that are coming out of this.” And I said, “Well, then you gotta help me. Then you gotta do it with me.” And that’s how we first started. You know, probably, Gillian and my relationship started over the book Edie–the Edie Sedgwick book. 

David: [00:36:07] 

No, of course. I love it too. Yeah.

Legs: [00:36:08] 

It’s by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. It was so immediate. You know, you felt like you were right there. And we were thinking, Gillian and I, were kind of imagining, “Well, could we recreate the scene in a realistic way that you felt like you had experienced it, even if you’d never lived in New York or anything?” But, you know, to answer your question. No one thought it was coming out.

David: [00:36:48] 

No one thought about it. And did the publishers, when you took it around, were they interested right away? Or did they ask you to take stuff out? Was it too much for them?

Legs: [00:36:59] 

Knopf wanted to publish it. I wanted to go with Knopf. Grove, Morgan Entrekin at Grove, was the guy who put it out, published it. We thought what we had done was pretty good. So the thing then was to preserve what we thought. Like, our first meeting with the girl, the editor at Grove, who was [laughs] you know, this twenty-four-year-old preppy girl, just gotten out of NYU with a, you know, Master’s in English. She was assigned to be our editor. And the first thing she said was, “I don’t know about the sex in this book.” [laughter] And I just looked at her. I just looked at her, really, and I said, “I know about the sex in this book. And if you touch a word of it, I’ll kill you.” [laughter] And that ended the conversation.

David: [00:38:10] 

[laughs] Did she remain your editor?

Legs: [00:38:13] 

No. Eventually there were some very nice people at Grove. 

David: [00:38:31] 

Sure. But the oral history is a huge undertaking, as well. I mean, it looks easy when you actually read it and it’s well done, because everything’s been edited to tell the story. Whereas, before that, you have, you know, hours and hours of tape to go through and edit, and hone it down. I would think it’s a monumental undertaking. Yet you went ahead and tried it again, and now I understand you’re doing it a third time. You have the oral history of the Hollywood porn industry. 

Legs: [00:39:08] 

The Other Hollywood.

David: [00:39:09] 

The Other Hollywood. So what was that like? I mean, you went on the sets? Or how did you approach that?

Legs: [00:39:18] 

I became friends with a really good, um, porn producer, by the name of Jane Hamilton. A really good friend of mine. I didn’t want to come in as a fan, cause the porn fans are just geeks. I knew I had to come in kind of in the industry. So, Jane hired me to write the Marilyn Chambers comeback movie, Still Insatiable. So, I became friends with Marilyn.

You know, Marilyn was about fifty-years-old at the time. And she put on a little weight. She still was very attractive. But she was a hell of a nice person, I must say. You know, she was- she was dating like this black guy who was really interesting. He was like a conductor at some symphony orchestra in Chicago

David: [00:40:39] 

Was Ron Jeremy in your book?

Legs: [00:40:42] 

Yes. Yes, he was.

David: [00:40:44] 

Cause now you know he’s being, uh, charged with all these sex crimes.

Legs: [00:40:48] 

That’s not the Ron I knew. I mean, he was always kind of a sleazy guy. The first time I met Ron Jeremy, I was the assistant director on a porn film. I was eighteen-years-old. It was 1974, and it was called Blow Dry. And it was shampoo teases, blow dry pleases. And the first time I met Ron Jeremy, this is a true story, I was working at this hippy film commune. It was a nightmare. That’s where Mary Haron was working too, by the way. Um. And they were doing auditions for the porn film, and Ron Jeremy, who was not Ron Jeremy yet, came into the audition. And he blew himself. I watched- That was my first introduction to Ron Jeremy. But I liked Ron. I knew about other people in the industry that the girls were told to stay away from. Ron wasn’t the only exploitive and abusive guy in the scene. 

I feel badly for Ron. I knew him as a nice guy. But, he wasn’t grabbing my crotch, you know? If he had. If he had been inappropriate with me, that would have been another story.

David: [00:42:41] 

And now you’re onto another oral history, aren’t you? The Manson family murders. Is that still a project in the works?

Legs: [00:42:47] 

Yes, it is.

David: [00:42:49] 

A lot of these people are probably very old or dying at this point or dead. Or in prison. So how- how are you able to do it?

Legs: [00:43:05] 

We just went back and talked to the people that we could talk to.

David: [00:43:09] 

So there are enough of them still around?

Legs: [00:43:12] 

Yeah.

David: [00:43:13] 

And what about Charlie?

Legs: [00:43:15] 

No, Charlie’s the least interesting part of the story. He’s the kind of thing inside the spoke that everything revolves around, but the story is much more interesting about the girls and what was going on with them.

David: [00:43:46] 

So, is there something you could tell us? 

Legs: [00:43:48] 

No. No, I can’t. No. I’m sorry.

David: [00:43:51] 

Because you’re saving it for the book?

Legs: [00:43:55] 

It’s explosive.

David: [00:44:03] 

So, it’s gonna change what we understand? Cause there have been some movies recently, you know, there’s some, uh, depictions of the story. Tarantino played with it.

Legs: [00:44:11] 

Tarantino wasn’t doing the story. He was doing the story about rawhide or something with Brad Pitt and Leonardo. You know? He wasn’t doing the Manson murders. I mean, he was doing a movie with a guy who- who torches Susan Atkins and she jumps into the pool with- that was great. You know, it was Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. It was a fairytale about Hollywood, you know? And I think he did a good job. But it had nothing to do with the real story.

David: [00:44:54] 

And there was another movie. Also on the Mansons?

Legs: [00:45:00] 

Yeah. I think all the others are- are…

David: [00:45:04] 

Fairy Tales.

Legs: [00:45:07] 

Well, there’s a huge part of the story that’s never been told.

David: [00:45:14] 

Can you just give us a little?

Legs: [00:45:16] 

No. I cannot. I cannot give you anything, David. [laughter] And you’re not getting it out of me.

David: [00:45:28] 

Alright, Legs. Maybe next time, when the book comes out, I can get you to come back and tell us more.

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