It was a definitive passing of an era, or two or three or four: L.A. music impresario Kim Fowley was laid to rest Thursday at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
More than a hundred mourners -- representing multiple generations of rockers, movers and shakers -- overflowed the chapel, as friends including singers Joan Jett and Michael des Barres eulogized the inimitable impresario, who died Jan. 15 at age 75. Or, as the program put it, the producer/performer/songwriter/manager/filmmaker/memoirist “left for his final tour.”
The service drew industry executives, musicians, fans and friends, including Rodney Bingenheimer, Howie Pryo, members of the Fowley project Black Room Doom, Johnny Echols of the band Love, Kenny Laguna, and Dan West.
FOR THE RECORD
Jan. 26, 10:33 a.m.: This article contains a misspelling of the last name of Howie Pyro as Pryo.
Like their subject, the remembrances were both moving and prickly.
“He made fun of what he adored,” said des Barres, the English rock star and actor who had been one of Fowley’s friends and confidants for decades. “He was a star-maker ... His greatest production was Kim Fowley.”
Jett described the life of the notorious showbizzer, who discovered and made her a star of the Runaways when she was just 16, as a “wild ride.” “I love you Kim,” said Jett, who also credited Fowley with launching the career that will see her inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this spring. “Stay teenage,” she added.
Fowley was a prolific, complicated, provocative figure who maintained a six-decade obsession with youth and talent. The service’s other two speakers, veteran pop producer Michael Lloyd and BMI executive Doreen Ringer Ross, were also teenagers when they first met Fowley. Ringer Ross recalled turning down the advances of the then-thirtysomething glam-rock legend, but maintaining his friendship because she had a car. (Fowley, the child of minor Hollywood stars who was at times raised by foster families, suffered polio twice and due to resulting nerve damage, was unable to drive.) She also noted Fowley’s tumultuous upbringing and resulting inability to connect with people: “He had fundamentally always been alone,” she said.
But Ringer Ross and others said that in the last years of his life, as he grew increasingly ill with bladder cancer, the raconteur found true love. In September, from his hospital bed, Fowley married Kara Wright, a young woman who works for Peer Music, Fowley’s longtime music publishers. “She took care of his ailing body and mended his broken heart,” Ringer Ross said.
Lloyd, who knew Fowley since the 1960s, marveled at how wide-ranging his career was, from the Rivingtons, to Frank Zappa, to the Runaways, to Ariel Pink.
The producer told a story of Fowley introducing him to yet another group of teenage musicians, and how Lloyd was unable to get anyone to sign the pubescent boys. The group’s name was Hanson and, like many acts Fowley worked with, went on to great fame without him. Unusually for a Hollywood showman, Fowley almost seemed to deflect success, promoting careers but showing scant profit for his talent-scouting skills. “He gave me the chance to be a success,” Lloyd said.
Not that the man who recorded several infamous (if obscure) albums didn’t crave attention. Des Barres recalled meeting Fowley in an English manor; he was seated on a throne with “perfect lighting.” As the former front man of Power Station said those words, the sun shot through a clerestory window in the chapel, illuminating his face.