Cherry Vanilla - on David Bowie, Sting, Madonna Vangelis and a solo career
Cherry, you were born and lived most of your life in New York, apart from time spent in France, Greece, Los Angeles and Albion. Tell me, does the rhythm of life in New York, sometimes referred to as "the centre of the universe", bear a certain resemblance to the nature of your work, which you yourself describe as "blade-running"?
I have felt New York as the centre of the world since I was a child. And I've always been grateful for the opportunity to be in those high circles, and for the abundance and respect for art that exists here.
I was exposed to performance art and the backstage life of show business. My mother worked at the famous Copacabana nightclub, and my sister worked as a nanny for the daughters of the actor Don Amici. To survive and become successful in New York, you have to be quite smart, talented and, most importantly, resourceful. This city requires maximum dedication in any field. There is fierce competition, but there is also a community of artists who support each other in their endeavours. This incredible energy can still be felt today.
- You started your career in the far 70s, when society was on a wave of public protest. Tell me, did you sincerely deny the double standards of morality prevailing then and now, or was it all part of a PR campaign?
No way! Things are very different now. I was brought up in a strict Irish Catholic family where certain topics were taboo. But instead of being brainwashed by the rules of religion and society, I simply followed my own beliefs and was free to do so, despite the endless reproaches I received. Being honest with myself is my eternal mantra, which has done no harm to anyone.
I was something of a pioneer, because then a revolution in this area hit the world. I wasn't really a feminist or a political activist. I just did what was close to my heart. So, I inadvertently gave opportunities to many women, especially women artists, who were given various freedoms. And PR... Most of it is true.
The '70s anathematised the autocephalous past. The new era introduced a whole new palette of genres and a whole galaxy of young stars, including you. For example, in one photo taken in 1976 you are posing with Mick Jagger, in another with Ringo Starr. Who other legends of that time did you get to see? Did you know Elvis, John Lennon or Paul McCartney? If yes, in what way did you interact with them: as friends or as business partners?
I saw a lot of stars, some of them long before they were famous. Mick, Ringo, Lennon, McCartney... I knew them all, but mostly we met at parties and nightclubs. In the book Lick me, I tell how I composed a poem for John Lennon's birthday in his New York flat. It was a great honour for me.
Some of the stars I had a closer connection with. Among them are Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell, John Hammond and Burton Cummings. Of course, when it came to David Bowie, we combined business with pleasure. There are many stories in my book about interactions with him. I had a similar experience with Vangelis, who I worked with for 20 years. Sting played bass for me, but he wasn't my type, contrary to popular opinion. And I was dating and living with the guitarist Louis Lepore at the time.
I was friends with Mott The Hoople member Ian Hunter, this glam rock band represented David Bowie's management. It's so marvellous to see Ian still performing and still doing so well.
I just love going to his concerts and interacting with him, his crew and his entourage backstage. It gives me a warm and so "rock'n'roll" feeling.
The new music did not find itself in academic circles - it spilled out into squares and stadiums, huddled in club basements, where creativity and love were at arm's length from each other. Time coiled into a hoop of fire that everyone had to jump through. Tell me, Cherry, being in the range of the most popular slogan of the protest generation "Create love, not war", would you be able to answer the question who is less adequate - the world or you?
There are many terrible wars going on in the world these days, some world leaders and leaders of terrorist groups act like they want war. I can win without putting so much effort and resources into it. That doesn't mean I don't have my own personal little wars with some people and their beliefs. But I prefer to win with creativity and humour rather than bullets and bombs.
According to your statement, "music is the glue that keeps the soul apart and the cherry vanilla that gives life its flavour". As you may have guessed, my next question concerns your stage name: apparently you stopped being Kathleen Dorrity in the early 70s. Cherry Vanilla was already in the scandalous production of Pork in London. It's easy to assume that this was a marketing move, but how did it actually work out? Was it your wish or the director's demand?
"Pork" was directed by Anthony Ingrassia. He actually put the whole play together using transcripts recorded on his phone by Andy Warhol and Bridgid Berlin. He was the only theatre director I was working for at the time, and I trusted him unconditionally. Of course, he was a mad, mad creative genius. I loved acting in his plays and working with wonderful artists like Tony Zanetta and Jane County. At the time I didn't feel confident enough to go on stage performing my own poems, songs and stories, but I really enjoyed being an actress and having the great experience of bringing to life lines written by someone else, especially incredibly creative creators like Andy Warhol.
I suggest going back to the beginning of your career: if we talk about you as an actress, your date of birth is the early 70s. That's when you, taking part in a "bad play", became the object of Bowie's attention, from which he couldn't take his eyes off. You were in a team where David was already a star: he was born that way, and your stardom was just beginning. You have to agree that David was far from punk music, he was an educated man with creative ideas. Whose influence was stronger: you were a ray of sunshine that allowed him to really grow, or David met you like Professor Higgins met Eliza Dullittle? You came to him as his assistant, part of his magic machine.
When I met David, he had had a few setbacks in the music world. In modern show business, he would never have been given as many chances as he was given then. Bowie was the one who saw me in the scandalous play Pork. And he accepted it...just as he accepted me being a part of that play.
We were already formed individuals, and neither of us really changed the other. He really didn't help me with my solo progression, but for quite some time I devoted my life to promoting him. I knew from the beginning that he was worth it. After devoting a few precious years of my life to making sure the world recognised David for the star he was, I started working on my own stage image as well as poetry and music. One day he offered to produce my first album, but it never happened. I didn't get any substantial support from him once I started doing my own art.
Perhaps an unexpected question: you have a profound influence on everyone with whom you come into creative contact. Tell me, do the difficulties arise because the stars are very capricious? You were going to be Bowie's guiding star. Did something push you to lead, or did events set the pieces on this interesting board?
I knew from the beginning how talented Bowie was and accepted the fact that he would be a better musician and singer than me in the long run. My mission was to bring him to the attention of the world, to prevent him from failing again, to make him number one. I put my own creative endeavours on hold as I helped "Bowie's rocket" take off.
I never counted on him to help me in my own rock and roll career. I was good at doing my job for him. He's become a big star. Of course, it would have been nice to have him help me in my endeavours, but I never asked for it. And I feel like I've done well on my own. I'm proud of the fact that without any help from him, I managed to get a record deal with RCA Records and released two albums with that company. It wasn't easy being a woman leading a group of ungrateful male musicians: I paid all the bills, made all the decisions, had us travelling the world with almost no money, especially since I was pregnant most of the time. But I was able to do it. That's the story, and nothing can change it. I now feel immense satisfaction in what I was able to accomplish.
I guess your relationship with Bowie had to end at some point anyway - you were different people and different artists. David didn't have his "fire" or your freedom. As I understand it, he remained a slave to convention, a fan of discipline and didn't go beyond the boundaries of the genre? It seems that you even had plans for an electronic album with him, but since some time Bowie started to avoid the subject. What's your version of what happened? Perhaps it was the beginning of the end of your collaboration, when you couldn't understand and he couldn't explain the misunderstanding between you?
I'll always wonder what happened. You know, rock stars always have an entourage. I was part of his management, the one who took him from relative obscurity to great worldwide fame. But as it happens, rock stars like to draw energy, enthusiasm and knowledge from their environment, and then move on to another environment, with new energy and fresh ideas.
That's just the way it is. And sometimes the new entourage will do and say anything to get the star to favour them. Often these people vilify members of the original and previous entourage to influence the star. This tale is often repeated in the rock and roll world. Someone "poisoned" David's mind towards me. I don't know how or why, but I know it happened. Maybe because of the misleading quotes people attributed to me.
Journalists have their own interpretation of how celebrities speak. And they seemed to want to make my words about Bowie sound a little too crude. I don't talk that way. Maybe Bowie just believed some lies he read about me. I just wanted him to give me a chance to tell the truth, to get those journalists to show the interview tapes... But since the press so often misquoted him himself, I just assumed he wouldn't be so naive as to accept those quotes as the truth. Who knows? For whatever reason, he decided not to let me into his life anymore.
I did it too and I know all about it. I just accepted the situation and moved on. It was the only right thing to do.
Is your desire to start investing talent into your creative destiny and your breakup with Team Bowie related?
No, I would never have left MainMan if Tony Defries hadn't fired me.
I used my experience in advertising/film production to make low budget films for MainMan, and if Tony hadn't decided that I was spending too much money and getting too much power in the organisation, I would have continued doing those things. The films I was making for pennies because of my expertise in the field would be worth a fortune now. Tony was shortsighted in stopping me from filming back then. A lot of that creativity was dedicated to Bowie. There were other performers I filmed, but any footage of Bowie, especially from that time, would have been of immense value now. And it would have extended my relationship with David, probably to the time when he himself decided to leave MainMan and Defries. I pretty much started working on my own singing career when I lost my job with the company. It was the way I needed to do it. It was the only way I could think of to survive at the time.
In any case, after the break-up of your relationship with David, fate smiled on you again - you became a self-sufficient star with your own musicians and an unexpected repertoire. Rock'n'roll, which had once been your first great love, didn't consume you. You needed a different kind of freedom. Eventually your search for yourself led you into the punk rock milieu. Tell me, Cherry, did Dean Martin play a role in that choice or did it all fall back on fate?
Creativity Dina Martina had an influence on me since I was a child. I loved his low, cool voice, his casual elegance and his attitude: he never took himself too seriously. I could never be as cold-blooded as Dean Martin, so I didn't try. I just put myself out there in the rawest, most unconventional way I could and hoped that it would appeal to at least some of the rock 'n' roll audience of the time. I was the exact opposite of what was called cold-blooded. I wasn't afraid to do anything stupid. I just did what came naturally to me and tried to make sure the show kept going. I probably could have done much better if I had found an experienced manager who took care of all the business and financial aspects of such an endeavour.
But I could only count on myself and I did my best. I'm very proud of that. Even though my songs didn't make it to the top of the charts, I don't care. Maybe, given times of failure like Bowie's, I could have had a "shot." But instead of looking for more opportunities to pursue rock and roll, I just decided to leave it for good after the RCA Records connection. I decided that I had clarified the rock star experience for myself and it was time to learn something else.
So, your activities under the name Cherry Vanilla led to the release of two solo albums and a reputation that put you at the forefront of the UK and New World punk scene. This was your finest hour, wasn't it? Kudos for finding you. Tell me Cherry, what helped you first provoke her and then resist her dictates?
In fact, I feel like my true stardom is yet to come. Okay, back then I was young, fit and attractive.
But now I'm really fulfilling my longest, deepest dream of becoming a writer. In a way, it's always been at the core of everything I've done. My life was a fantasy that I lived mostly in order to write about it. I improvised every day, used creative visualisation, and exciting things happened in my life. Seeing what it was like to be a rock star was just one of many items on my wish list. I was fascinated by the possibility of being a producer, a DJ, a poet, an actress, a PR lady....
It's funny that people think of me as a punk singer, because in reality my music at the time was like garage pop and my style was glam. But because my most popular song was called "The Punk" and I would sometimes perform it wearing only shorts and a T-shirt that said "Lick me", and because I was one of the performers on "One Hundred Days at the Roxy", I was dubbed a punk. If you talk about punk as a rebellious spirit, I've always been that way. However, at this stage in my life, I would also add "published author" to my resume, as I am currently working on my first theatre piece. Despite all my many incarnations, deep down I always wanted to be a writer.
And now I know better who I really am. My novel with words on pages probably represents the deepest relationship I've ever had. And entering this world of fiction and dialogue is a real daily love-hate challenge for me. And I don't need a band, a manager, a producer, or anyone else to do it. Only my good friend Scott Wittman, director of Hairspray, Smash, Mary Poppins and other plays, guides me with his insightful notes along the way. It feels like a gift from God, which I humbly and gratefully accept. And when Scott produces my play in New York soon, I think it will be my finest hour. If I'm lucky enough to see it in a full-scale performance one day, even far from Broadway, it will be the best event of my life.
While I don't mind being as energetic as I was in my punk days, it's easier to accept my years and down-to-earthness now because I feel like this play is my best work. And I wouldn't have been able to complete it if it weren't for the times I live in now. I finally feel like a writer.
Who wrote the music and lyrics for you? Maybe your own talent easily handled these creative moments of activity?
When it came to songwriting, I usually wrote the lyrics myself and then got one of my musicians to turn the words into songs. Sometimes both lyrics and music came to me at the same time. But the melodies were often corny, childish, not very rock and roll or sounded like songs from a radio station. I really had to work hard to get my session musicians to write the music.
Most of them, although they played their instruments beautifully, were reluctant to compose music for me. It was the same with the backing vocals. I begged them to sing with me in the choruses, and we practised it in rehearsals. But when it came time to go on stage, they let me down and I felt devastated without the backing vocals. All these musicians seemed to think they were going to be rock stars themselves one day. And they were so resentful of all the media attention I was getting. They couldn't understand why I was always the one being interviewed and photographed, why it wasn't happening to them. It was like they were competing with me and refusing to recognise that I was the machine that drove us all to success.
Yeah, I've had some really great musicians. But it takes a lot more than just being a good musician to be a rock star. Anyway, whenever one of them came up with a decent tune for me, or even just a riff to work with, it was pretty easy to find the right set of words.
Can you characterise this time for yourself? The Beatles era was gone, a powerful hippie movement was born against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, punk rock replaced rock'n'roll, there was music that didn't know its own face, and in all this you were able to liberate yourself not only internally but also externally... You were probably compared to "Emmanuelle" from the film of the same name. Did you try to resemble Sylvia Kristel? Or maybe it was the other way round: did Sylvia take a cue from you, and then she played it brilliantly?
I loved those Emmanuelle films, but honestly, I never tried to be like any character or actress. I've always just listened to my own instincts. Of course, I suppose psychologically and subconsciously these characters had a huge influence on me. But I've always believed in my uniqueness - something that each of us should always believe in.
I just hoped that my perspective and personal beliefs were as valuable as what was offered from the stage or screen. I believed that there were people out there, especially women and girls, whose characters would be to my liking. If there was one character I myself connected with as a child, it was Nancy Drew from the early series of books about her. Even though she is fictional, I loved how the stories emphasised her ability to solve mysteries, use her brain, resourcefulness and ingenuity. You see, instead of focusing on her looks or boosting her male ego and showing how smart male detectives are, she solved mysteries on her own.
The first Nancy Drew book I read was The Clue in the Crumbling Wall. I think Mildred Wirt Benson (Carolyn Keene) was the first writer whose work was quite close to me. I was maybe only ten or eleven years old when I was introduced to these books, but I remember even at that young age realising how Ms Benson portrayed Nancy and her friends dressed in an almost masculine way (in trousers, shirts and sturdy boots), whereas the book cover depicted them all in dresses. And I just realised that the book cover must have been drawn by a man.
And in the 80s you didn't burn with the desire to repeat the way of Madonna, who, as I think, at the beginning of her creativity was inspired by you a lot?
Again, during those years I had already learnt the way of the rock star: on tour, where you stand on stage in front of a drum kit and hear sounds from huge speakers, you have to shout as hard as you can and then suffer from hearing loss. If the performance goes well, you feel uplifted. But if it went badly, the humiliation is devastating. So all the hours offstage were very stressful: I was trying to keep the musicians from leaving for better-paid gigs, I was dealing with all the business matters myself....
Madonna must have been present at one or more of my concerts, but it has to be said, Madonna is more about disco than rock 'n' roll. She flaunted her attractiveness and positioned herself as an active feminist, like me, but in those days she was more creating for a different audience that was more into disco than rock 'n' roll. And I think for that audience it was easier to accept an outspoken singer than it was for punk fans.
I think she got what she wanted - she ended up at the top of pop music, whereas I wanted to learn a lot of things along my life path.
The whole world is a theatre and the people in it are actors. We all follow Shakespeare to the best of our ability. What happened next was a repeat of Bowie's situation. Only this time the masks of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were worn by members of your team - Stuart Copeland and Sting Sanner. It's no exaggeration to say that their leaving you for The Police was like running away? Don't you think, Cherry, that the reason for both demarches lies in your sincerity? Maybe it's this characteristic of yours, as many people notice, that makes you pay dearly for the opportunity to be yourself, because people don't know how to be grateful?
What it was like: I arranged for Miles Copeland, Stuart's brother and manager of The Police, to go to London and play some gigs with Stuart and Sting as my rhythm section. They did their jobs well while they were with me and then became giant stars. I never expected them to repay me in any way for the opportunity I gave them," I said. they were my opening act.. I was very hurt and disappointed when they said some nasty things about me in the press and largely tried to cut me out of any biographies written about them.
Since then, I've bumped into Sting a few times, and he's said that I provided the launch for their career. But all this was said in a small circle of people. Publicly, he never acknowledged my help. But that's the case with many successful musicians that I've helped in one way or another over the years. It's okay. They're just not as generous, unlike me. And I've accepted that because I know the truth. And what I have to live with is my truth, not theirs.
To finish this topic, I would like to ask: how do you remember Bowie, who unfortunately is no longer with us? Why, with a professional PR manager like you, is Bowie still a "mysterious stranger" for many fans?
Francis Bacon once said: "The work of an artist is always to deepen the mystery." I believe that's exactly what David Bowie did, and brilliantly at that. And look at the impact it had on the legend. He is now known as a world-class, game-changing artist, right next to Andy Warhol. Even Vangelis, for whom I worked for twenty years, agreed with me that, especially nowadays, mystery is the new advertising.
Just a few more questions. We know Miss Cherry Vanilla quite well. What was Kathleen Dorrity like? What did this future "naughty girl" dream about, what did she do, what music did she listen to, who inspired her to take up the pen?
Little Kathleen Dorritie from Woodside, Queens, was largely influenced by the artists she saw at New York's Copacabana nightclub in the 1950s... They were Erta Kitt, Jimmy Durante, Tony Bennett, Martin & Lewis and especially The Copa Girls, a chorus of scantily clad girls with lightened hair. Then, in the 60s, Kathy Dorritie took the pseudonyms Thistle Dorritie, Indian Summer, Party Favor and Charlotte Russe, and she was already into rhythm and blues, which I still love, as well as jazz and folk music, and her favourite artists were Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Judy Henske, Eric Anderson, Miles Davis, Fats Domino and Ray Charles.
But of course it was in the 1960s that most of my favourite rock singers like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Joni and James Taylor came to the fore. I was immersed in their music completely.
You grew creatively over the years and could afford to do things the way you liked. Cherry Vanilla must have become just a fashionable musical pseudonym for you. Did you ever have an idea to take up a new musical project? After all, you were working without a producer.
I'll never say no to music, but I really don't focus on that area right now.
Perhaps public writing at this time had already taken hold of you as a way of realising creative ideas?
Right now I'm doing the most playwriting. It's a whole new form, a new challenge for me, and I love it. Every day I go into a little fictional world I'm creating and see what my characters get into. It's like they're living their lives, and they're writing the dialogue, not me. Sometimes it doesn't feel like fiction at all, but more like reality. A reality that exists parallel to this one. And what they say and do there seems perfectly natural and logical to me. Although I'm willing to agree that for a theatre audience it might seem a bit phantasmagorical.
Are you in touch with anyone from the punk past? What role do you see for this genre in contemporary music?
Andrew Hoy, who took me to RCA Records and produced both my albums, is still my best friend, even though he lives in the UK and I live in Palm Springs, California. Occasionally, I get to see Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke from Blondie. Clem even played drums for me a few times when I performed at some nostalgic live shows in Los Angeles. The last time was after Bowie died. I was supposed to sing the song "Heroes" for the finale of the show. Everything was fine at rehearsal and soundcheck. But when I went on stage to perform it, a heartache that I didn't even know I had, suddenly made itself known. And I just couldn't take it anymore and I cried. I couldn't seem to find the words to start singing. I was just overwhelmed with sadness. Of course I was sad, and I felt doubly guilty because Clem had been kind enough to give me his time and bring the drum kit for me that night.
There have been times in my musical career when I have falsified, forgotten the words or something else has happened. But never when I was crying and couldn't go on singing. It was like Bowie himself took over my body and my mind. And all I felt was the pain of his loss, for me and for the world.
Even though he and I hadn't spoken in years, I felt like I had lost my closest friend in the world, or my husband, or my brother. I can never get over the embarrassment of that moment, even though Clem and all the other artists were so kind and hugged me and told me it was okay, because they all knew it was totally real.
Why didn't you visit Russia, didn't perform in the USSR? Maybe the popular opinions about the USSR at the time did not allow you, as an icon of rebellious style, to think about travelling to that country?
I would love to perform in Russia. I would love to visit your beautiful country one day. I adore ballet and would love to see a production at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. I once saw Rudolf Nureyev dance in New York and I even managed to have a little chat with him at the Aux Puces disco in the city where I was a DJ in the 1960s.
He was larger than life, both on stage and in the club. He was absolutely charming, not to mention handsome and attractive. Anyway, I've just never been invited to perform in Russia. Maybe that's for the best. Who knows, maybe I would have ended up in prison like Pussy Riot.
Speaking of Nureyev. I think you've heard him mentioned in my song "Hard As A Rock": "He was small, about nine inches tall with false teeth... He moved like Rudolf Nureyev and played like Keith Richards..."
Cherry, I'm sorry, I know the subject of Vangelis is the most painful in your career and maybe in your destiny. You have cut the maestro out of your life, but despite the declared taboo, I would be very grateful if you could explain to me some aspects of this period of your life.
I'm over it. It's all good now. The problem was that he took me on officially when I was in my fifties, and I thought then that I had a job with him for life. And when he suddenly left me after twenty years of working for him and without any severance pay, it was absolutely devastating. For a single woman in her seventies to find herself without that kind of income to pay the rent is really scary. He said. bankruptbut now seems to be living the high life in Paris, oblivious to my existence. If all this hadn't happened, I could have stayed in Los Angeles, where the rents had become outrageous, but the traffic had always been incredible.
Instead, I now live a very modest but very happy life in an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world, where there are flowers, palm trees, snow-capped mountains right outside my door, and rent costs a pretty normal amount of money. It's a fantastic place to write. But I don't want to talk too much about my beloved Palm Springs because I'm already worried it's getting overcrowded, I don't want to tempt more people to move here. So you see how life works... I came here kicking and screaming because I had no other choice, but as it turns out, it was the best option available. So in a way, Vangelis really did me a big favour. He says he's going to pay me a severance package when he sells his mansion in Athens, and if that ever actually happens, and it's been five years, it will be a huge miracle.
I still think he's an honourable man. I may be foolish to think that I will ever see the money I deserve, but somehow I believe that one day it will be paid. In the meantime, I will be reading my play at New York's prestigious La Mama Theatre, directed by my very experienced and dear friend Scott Wittman. So I no longer complain about Vangelis leaving me. It turned out to be a blessing of sorts.
When evaluated as a whole, did your collaboration with Vangelis give or take away more?
I will always be proud to have worked with a brilliant musician like Vangelis, no matter what eventually happened. And my relationship with his lawyer in Greece, Vangelis Kalafatis, is something I have always treasured and will always treasure. Mr Kalafatis is one of the most brilliant, generous and kind people I know. And despite the fact that he is much smarter and more educated than I am, he has always treated me as a colleague, an employee, an equal to himself. I am no longer in touch with Vangelis Papathanasiou, but I am in constant contact with Vangelis Kalafatis.
And I hope it continues. Let's face it: if this Vangelis house in Athens is ever sold, and it's worth many millions, the person who sends me the cheque will be Mr Kalafatis!
There is no doubt that your first meeting could have taken place already in 1979, during the recording of his album "See you later", for which he needed your voice. I wonder if you have heard his recordings before, because he had already changed his musical outlook and image several times. Who was the Greek composer Evangelos Papathanasiou to you, until he became Vangelis and then, for the inner circle to which you will be admitted, simply Elis?
Vangelis and I were both artists on the UK arm of the RCA Records label when I met him at the company's offices in 1978. I was loyal to Louis Lepore at the time, but I admit that Vangelis and I flirted a lot during these meetings. We had the same A&R producer, Andrew Hoy, who hosted many dinners and social events that we both attended. At some point, when Louis and I broke up, my relationship with Vangelis turned into an affair.
For some reasons that I prefer not to voice, we did not make a good couple. To be Vangelis's girlfriend, I would have had to play the role of a woman in his life, standing behind a man, attracting attention, instead of being the independent, free-thinking, responsible woman I had already become. But after the affair, our relationship easily returned to one of friendship and partnership. And we enjoyed that special friendship, even while I was his official representative in America for twenty years, right up until he left me without a severance package in 2014.
Since then, I have not been in direct contact with Vangelis. But if and when he fulfils his promise to establish a relationship with me, I will certainly call him and thank him.
At the end of the 80s, something broke. As you yourself admitted, you were on the edge of a deep abyss, from falling into which you could be saved by something big but calm. You're used to working with big stars. Tell me, Cherry, did choosing Vangelis as your safe haven really solve at least some of your immediate problems? Was it the only way out or did you go through several options?
I was in a deep depression in the 90's while I was living in Connecticut. But thanks to friends, therapy, and my writing abilities, I was able to get out of the dark place I was in and move to Los Angeles to start a new life. It was thanks to Tim Burton and the work he gave me there that I regained my former confidence in myself and my talent for meeting the needs of these creative geniuses. This strength I put into this movement, and perhaps a little jealousy of Tim on the part of Vangelis, combined with the fact that Andrew Hoy was stepping down as that artist's representative and recommended me for the job, allowed me to be contracted to open "Europe" as Vangelis' US office.
You have changed a lot since coming to this other world - it is very similar to the famous transformation of Magdalene. Tell us about how difficult it was for you to change from being a "menace of the streets" to a "good girl"? Did something happen to the truth that you had always been committed to?
Firstly, I do not believe in the transfiguration of Mary Magdalene. I don't believe she was a woman of low social responsibility at all. I think that the men who wrote the Bible and told the stories of Jesus were simply not prepared to accept that a woman could occupy such a prestigious place in the life of Christ. I believe she was a friend and lover whose judgement and intelligence he trusted and admired.
The writers of the Bible would have seen this as a threat to patriarchy. And unfortunately, there are still echoes of that in the world today. And my truth is that I myself believe that I have always been a good girl and I am now.
Yes, I was a bit obsessed with showing off my attractiveness for a few years while my hormones raged. I was seen as a "bad girl" by unreasonable critics. I, on the other hand, titled my first album to ironically send them off. And by doing so, I felt I was disempowering those who labelled me as such.
Music always belongs to a certain time: Bach composed for the future, Mozart for the present, Salieri wrote music of the past. What time does Vangelis remind you of?
That's quite an interesting question. When I first heard Vangelis' music, I thought it must be from the future. People were calling it new age, and I felt they were labelling it that. With its electronic instruments, meditative melodies, cosmic themes and mysterious personality, it was, in my opinion, on par with composers like Isao Tomita, Kitaro, Andreas Vollenweider, Jean-Michel Jarre, John Cage and the rest. And unlike many composers of the new age genre, I think Vangelis had something more unusual. He had the ability to reach so deeply into the emotions of the listener, despite the fact that the music was coming from a multitude of oscillators, modulators, transistors and other components of a synthesiser, which itself is not particularly associated with romantic mysticism. Vangelis has a knack for extracting extra notes. His work is not music, but a fusion of beauty and technology.
Up until a few years of working for him, I assumed he was quite content with his many accolades in the new age genre. But after witnessing him manually transcribing scores into sheet music, something he himself had never learned, I understood his deep desire to become a recognised classical composer akin to most of those we revere from the past, such as Beethoven and Bach.
He wanted these notes to be available for orchestras to read and play in the future. On some recordings you can hear full acoustic orchestras playing his works. This track was then mixed by Vangelis with his original compositions on synthesiser and released in this format. It all seemed so useless, old-fashioned and expensive selfishness to me, because after all this music conversion you could hardly tell the difference between the finished mixes and Vangelis' tracks. He has a unique system of recording sounds, but hardly anyone but him can read it.
So, to answer your question, I have to say that while some of his compositions may still seem futuristic to me, I can't deny that he himself is very much a man stuck in the past.
To finish the topic, I can't help but ask: who were some of the interesting people you met while working with Vangelis? Were there any personalities that corresponded to the idols of the 70s? For example, composers like Mike Oldfield, Robert Miles, Yanni didn't change their mannerisms for 40 years, while you started every project from scratch. What's the reason for that? Have you had a change in outlook?
While I was working for Vangelis, I met two interesting people. Boy George and the singer Marilyn. And they were only interesting because they stole a vintage item from me. One night we were together in Vangelis's flat on Queensgate in London. I had left my new Thierry Mugler jacket on the bed in Vangelis's bedroom. It had a huge vintage brooch pinned to the lapel with rhinestones in the shape of a question mark. It meant a lot to me because it belonged to the mother of a dear friend of mine whom I adored. George and Marilyn left the flat before I did. And when I picked up my jacket from the bed, the brooch was no longer on it, it was nowhere to be found. I never forgave those two for what they stole from me. And I bet they didn't even set out to do that, but rather just wanted the money they could get for it to get another dose.
As for starting every creative project from scratch, I think that's how it is for a person who is exploring different things in different worlds in search of themselves.
It is, of course, no coincidence that I called this story of yours "Blade Runner". During your time as an artist, you constantly had to balance the desire to be yourself with the outside world's desire to impose its agenda on you. How relevant are the prescriptions for your extraordinary resistance to outside stimuli to the new century?
You know, when I see everyone hanging out on their smartphones except me, I realise that the attitudes that were close to me are no longer suitable for modern society. I've come to terms with this and even feel proud of myself because I don't like what I see at all. Fortunately, I have found a way to be happy with my small income and savings as well. So now I no longer have to go out into the world and compete...not for money or recognition. The play I am writing is primarily for my creative fulfilment.
And if the world doesn't recognise it as relevant to our times, then I'll accept it just as I'll accept that I myself may not be as in touch with the present. I don't have social media, I don't need it. And if my ideas about life are considered outdated, and some people say they are - I take that as a compliment.
For someone other than Bowie and Vangelis, have you managed to be a publicist for anyone else?
One summer I worked as a publicist for the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Your artistic partners have always been very successful with the public. Tell me, Cherry, whose work is harder to sell: Bowie, Vangelis or your own?
All three of them at some point: Bowie in the beginning, Vangelis in recent years, and mine probably always. The thing is, I've never worked as hard to sell my own work as I did for David or Vangelis. There's something about promoting yourself that I find tasteless and vulgar. I think it's better, if you can afford it, to let someone else promote your work. It somehow makes people think more about you as an artiste.
It's hard to list all the roles you've been in. You're a surprise, you've been and are running around the world of show business like a comet. If this has been your form of self-discovery, can you say that you have already found what you were looking for?
I've found quite a lot for myself, but I'm still waiting and hoping we all find a kinder and more peaceful world. Unfortunately, that is not what I foresee. And I would like to learn the secrets of the Egyptian pyramids and all the other unsolved mysteries of our planet before I enter the next world.
How do you manage to combine a tough punk past with a squat present, when in your heart you still feel like the same wildflower with an intimidating scent?
I don't even know how to answer that, but it's certainly a poetic question.
Art is becoming more and more about money, and that's why its level is falling - we continue to sink into the "musical Middle Ages". In your opinion, what was there in the music of the 70s and 80s that is missing in today's compositions?
What modern music lacks is heart and soul... and a wholesome message. It seems to me that most modern music is just an accompaniment to fashion shows, TV adverts and disgusting twerk dance routines. I can't say there was much of a message in punk, except, of course, the lack of a future. And that seems to be turning out to be true, at least for this beautiful blue planet we live on. But I don't want to demonstrate only a negative view here. Here, for example, Brandi Carlisle's "The Joke" came out in 2019, and it was enough to give me hope for the coming years.
Thank you for the interview, Cherry. Your life journey is fantastic, and a story I've been wanting to hear for a long time, hopefully helping to clarify a lot of things.
You're welcome!!! The questions were interesting and intriguing. I apologise if some of them I couldn't answer in detail, but I hope readers enjoy the interview.
Material provided by Igor Kiselev