Q&A

'Nobody in that room knew what to do': Former Runaways bassist Jackie Fox discusses rape allegations

In a new interview with The Times, former Runaways member Jackie Fuchs further explains the rape allegations she made recently against the band's former manager, Kim Fowley.

Rumors have long circulated around the late Los Angeles rock impresario. Last week, though, a new chapter was opened when Fuchs, the former bass player of the 1970s teen group, claimed that Fowley, the band's manager, raped her when she was 16 years old.

Fuchs made the allegations after Fowley died in January, and she also said that some of her bandmates witnessed the alleged assault. Her recollection in the Huffington Post last week prompted responses from former bandmates Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, who said they did not witness the alleged attack, as Fuchs claimed.

"Anyone who truly knows me understands that if I was aware of a friend or bandmate being violated, I would not stand by while it happened," Jett said in a statement.

Currie issued an equally strong denial. "I have been accused of a crime," she wrote. "Of looking into the dead yet pleading eyes of a girl, unable to move while she was brutally raped and doing nothing." She added, "If I were guilty, I would admit it," and she offered to take a lie-detector test.

The all-female band burst out of Los Angeles in the mid-1970s with underground successes including "Cherry Bomb." Fuchs, whose stage name was Jackie Fox, made her last appearance with the band in 1977. The band eventually fired Fowley and later broke up.

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FOR THE RECORD

July 15, 11:39 a.m.: An earlier version of this post said that Fuchs quit the Runaways before the band's debut album came out in 1976. Her last appearance with the band was in 1977.

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Fuchs said the assault occurred on Dec. 31, 1975, when, after a concert in Orange County, the group and Fowley's entourage (he was 36 years old at the time) went to a hotel to party. While there in one of the rooms, Fuchs was reportedly given Quaaludes until she nearly passed out.

"I remember opening my eyes, Kim Fowley was raping me, and there were people watching me," Fuchs told the Huffington Post, which then corroborated her story with many who claimed to have witnessed it.

On Tuesday, Fuchs spoke about the responses, both positive and negative, to the allegations. What follows is a condensed version of that conversation.

Why did you decide to come forward now?

About a year and a half ago, a book about the Runaways came out ["Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways," by Evelyn McDonnell], and it had [Runaways affiliate] Kari Krome's version of what she had seen, and for the first time I read an account that jibed with what I did remember of that night. It started to shake loose some memories that I had worked really very hard to forget.

I'm getting a lot of heat for having waited 40 years, but I had to wait until I remembered what happened to me enough to even know there was a story there.

The environment now is also different than it was back then.

Right around that time [of McDonnell's book] a bunch of Bill Cosby's accusers were coming forward, and I learned that there was this exception to the statute of limitations for a civil suit for rape, and I started looking into it with the idea that since Kim wouldn't talk to me, maybe he would talk to me if he knew I was willing to sue him if he didn't.

I went and met with a lawyer, and that was at the end of last year. The lawyer thought I had a case but didn't think it was the best way to move forward for me personally. But before we could get much further into the process, Kim died. And I was left with a great deal of anger about not being able to confront him about what he had done.

Are you angry at the other people who were there?

The people in the room were scared. There may have been alcohol and drugs involved for them. Kim was an authority figure. There were other adults in the room who weren't doing anything about it. They may have been taking their cues from them. They were so young. So while I can wish they would have done something, I completely understand why they didn't. I'm certainly not angry at anyone in the room for not having stopped it.

Still, it's hard to imagine now that no one intervened.

I revisited this question, which was, "How could I be raped in front of a roomful of people and none of them stop it when they could have very easily?" I started doing some research and I learned about the "bystander effect," and I started putting myself in the shoes of the people who had been there that night and imagining how I would have felt carrying around that knowledge all this time.

I thought I had an opportunity to speak up and make people aware of how difficult it is to be an active bystander. That is really why I'm doing this. Nobody in that room on that night knew what to do, and if someone had been teaching them how to be active without endangering themselves, it could have played out very differently.

I'll give you a for-instance: People were walking in and out of the room. If someone had walked in and said something like, "Hey, you guys, the person across the way just said he called the police." That could have shut the whole thing down because Kim was very much afraid because of my age. It would have stopped it.

Did you try confronting Kim before he died?

I tried to meet with him. I wasn't at the time even aware that that's why I wanted to get together with Kim, but I think Kim was. I actually just went back and looked. I had sent him a Facebook message in 2011 asking to meet with him, and I sent him another last year. And [former Runaways member] Vicki Blue and I phoned him and asked to get together with him. He used his illness as an excuse and said, "Hey, when I feel better let's get together." But at the same time, he was meeting with Cherie and [bandmate] Lita [Ford] and posting pictures of them on his Facebook page. So I think he knew before I did what I wanted to talk about.

Do you think he actively avoided you?

Yes. I would much rather [have] confronted him privately, but when he died I had no place to go with my newfound anger. And when I say it was newfound anger, it's because up until then I had been putting my anger on the bystanders. I had been blaming them because I expected more of them. Because Kim was not a good person, but I believed that they were. And it turns out that even good people don't often know what to do when something like that happens.

What has most frustrated you about the response to your story?

I'm disappointed by the lack of support from my bandmates. [Fuchs declined to elaborate on the record about the contradictory statements by Jett and Currie.]

Until Kari's account came out and I started thinking about this, and remembering a few things about that night — not much. I want to be very clear about what that class of drugs does. You don't hallucinate things. You don't imagine things. Your memory of certain things is just gone. I had always questioned whether my memories were accurate, and I've never pretended to remember anything I don't. I only have a few clear memories of that night, but those are very clear. And they've since been validated by other witnesses.

What has most surprised you?

Mostly that I'm just really saddened by how many other people have gone through something similar. I hope that by coming out, I somehow give a voice to people who still don't feel safe telling their stories, if vicariously they can feel like they've spoken out. And by other people who have emailed saying, "You've given me the courage to tell people what happened to me." That's the part that makes it worth enduring the haters.

It must be tough to endure them, though.

I'm focusing on the supporters, because there are thousands of them. And for a lot of people, it's a relief to hear other people talking about rape in such an open fashion, because there are a lot of silent victims. It's just the more people that are willing to talk about it, the easier it will get for victims of rape to speak up and to speak up earlier.

randall.roberts@latimes.com

Twitter: @liledit

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