Please be advised that some of the content in this article may be triggering for some readers.
When music industry figure Kim Fowley died this January from bladder cancer, The New York Times described him as a “svengali”: a person who “manipulates or exerts excessive control over another.” Never has that term seemed more fitting than it does today, in light of a lengthy, reported piece published by the Huffington Post, which outlines numerous allegations of sexual assault committed by Fowley. Fowley is probably best known as the force behind mid-’70s teenage girl rockers the Runaways, though he was also a producer, songwriter, publisher, and promoter for countless acts throughout his career. He’s also well-known for his reputation for despicable behavior. In the HuffPo story, Runaways bassist Jackie Fuchs and songwriter Kari Krome came forward for the first time with accounts of Fowley sexually assaulting them.
The central figure in Huffington Post’s story is Fuchs, who went by Jackie Fox while she was a member of the band. She was 15 when she met Fowley and joined the group. The Runaways played a marathon four-set show on New Years Eve in 1975. Fuchs had just turned 16. After the show, Fowley took the band to a nearby motel. According to allegations made in the story, Fuchs was given a Quaalude and instructed to take it. In the motel room, Fowley first offered a groupie the chance to have sex with a near-unconscious Fuchs, who declined. Then Fowley penetrated her with a hairbrush in a room full of onlookers, and finally began to rape her. The article includes accounts from several other witnesses who confirm these allegations and add their own memories of the incident: Helen Roessler and Trudie Arguelles, who are friends of Fuchs, and a man named Brent Williams. Contradicting reports suggest that other Runaways members including Joan Jett and Cherie Currie were present. Krome was also present, and in the story, she speaks out about her memory of the night. All accounts state that Runaways member Lita Ford was not present.
Fuchs said of the moment:
You don’t know what terror is until you realize something bad is about to happen to you and you can’t move a muscle. I can’t move. I can’t speak. All I can do is look him in the eye and do the best I can do to communicate: Please say no… I don’t know what it looked like from the outside. But I know what was going on inside and it was horror.
I remember opening my eyes, Kim Fowley was raping me, and there were people watching me.
Krome also described the situation:
It turned into this really disgusting Grand Guignol–like theater performance that he put on. And Jackie was dead, dead, dead drunk — like corpse drunk. She was just laying down on her back, sound asleep, out of it. [Fowley picked up Jackie’s arm] and it flopped down like a marionette. He had to manually move her body parts into positions that he wanted for himself.
According to all accounts, no one spoke up or stopped the rape. Fuchs’ last memory of the night is looking over and seeing Currie and Jett watching while Fowley raped her. Jett denied witnessing the rape through a representative, who verbatim stated, “It’s a matter involving her [Fuchs] and she can speak for herself.”
Additionally, Krome details her own stories of Fowley sexually assaulting her, prior to this incident with Fuchs. Krome claims she tried to tell Jett and another Runaways member, Sandy West, about the abuse:
I told them he’s abusing me. I’m powerless, and I don’t know what to do. They just looked at me blankly like I was the idiot. I remember getting really mad and saying, ‘You know what? Watch your ass, because you might be next.’
In the piece, Fuchs’ said her decision to go public about her rape was spurred by stories about the overwhelming allegations against Bill Cosby, Kesha’s allegations of drugging and assault by super-producer Dr. Luke, and the outbreak of college students speaking out about their sexual assaults. She said:
I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is what’s happening on college campuses.’ [Those students] have to be making the same value judgments about themselves as I made about me. I know from personal experience how all those things can eat away at you. They can take vibrant young people and turn them into something else.
After the alleged assault, Fuchs stayed in the band for a while, and went on an international tour to Japan with the group. But she left soon after, and enrolled at UCLA, and later, law school. She’s had success in her career as a lawyer, but she says, the effects of this trauma linger. Fuchs says she hasn’t slept soundly for 30 years. However, she also says:
One of the things I’ve tried to do with every bystander is let them know it’s not their fault. I also have to not blame myself for what happened to them. We are all victims of what Kim did.
You can read the entire piece here. Please be advised, it is very graphic.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673), or visit Rainn.org.