29 Feb Living Like a Runaway: On Meeting Lita Ford, Rock Mama and Metal Goddess
As I awaited the flesh-and-bones arrival of rock legend Lita Ford at the signing for her newly released memoir “Living Like a Runaway” in downtown Manhattan, I had no idea what to expect.
Sure, I knew I’d be among aging metal heads and middle-aged, black-clad dorks at a spacious and brightly lit Barnes & Noble. I also and that “Kiss Me Deadly,” her 1989 solo hit, would stream through the speakers at some point. But I didn’t know what kind of woman I’d encounter at showtime.
Would one of the baddest bad-ass women of rock and roll whose guitar shredding capabilities would put mine to shame roll her eyes at my surface-level experiences? Would the rocker mom with gnarly battle scars from the rough and sexist 1970s be approachable? Or, would the “mother of metal” possess a narcissistic demeanor instead of one of humble gratitude?
As I chatted away with one of the dudes sitting near me, Ford emerged from the back of the store in her skintight jeans and black stiletto booties, flanked by female journalist Jeanne Fury, who would engage in a Q&A with the singer. Immediately, I was taken in by her striking beauty. At 58, Ford— with her eyes lined in black and signature blonde hair that flowed behind her shoulders — is breathtaking. And as I would soon learn, she’s outspoken, intelligent, and pretty funny, too.
“It was just like I had this gift from God or something, that I was supposed to play heavy metal,” she told the small crowd after joking with the reporter that it was “first gig at Barnes & Noble.”
Like the new memoir, most of the talk focused on Ford’s rise stardom as the only female guitarist who could hang with the likes of Black Sabbath and would give Jimmy Page a run for his money (in the book she tells a funny story about meeting Robert Plant and being asked to play bass for Led Zeppelin).
She took the audience through her early years, when a-holes at bars would try to spill beer on her or guys from other bands would accuse her of swiping their guitar cables.
One of the best stories was her first memories of experiencing metal at her Black Sabbath show. “I wanted to make the audience feel what I felt at that show that night,” she said. “When I saw them, I thought, ‘that’s it.’ This is what I’m meant to do.”
Throughout Ford’s talk, it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room: The muddled circumstances of her divorce, and separation from her two young sons with whom she no longer has a relationship. It’s particularly heartbreaking to me, as I can’t imagine my tiny toddler boys shunning me in that way. It must be hell living with this aspect of reality, not being able to hold her sons as they grow into young men, or taking part in their day-to-day lives.
But if Ford is an angry woman who isn’t fit to be a mother, as her ex-husband has suggested, I didn’t see it, nor did I sense it (and I have pretty good instinct). Instead, I witnessed a wizened lady enjoying her well-earned fame. Still, I told her I’d think “positive thoughts” and I did. Truly, I hope she gets to see her grown boys again, and experience their love.
Anyway, I’m so psyched to read the rest of this book!
When I got home from the NYC reading — and going home is a two-hour trek, mind you! — I found myself making more time to strum my chocolate-brown Gibson SG (which also happened to be the color and model of the first guitar she bought with her own money). I also felt younger, at heart. For all of the expectations imposed on older women, that we ought to dress in Chico’s once we hit 50, or develop a liking for Opera, I felt excited by the notion that older age doesn’t have to be boring or un-sexy. Cheers to Lita Ford for giving me that feeling!