Live From The Grayish Carpet

Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Dickheads

chilipepperssock

It just happened again. I read a news story about Flea playing the national anthem as a bass solo at Kobe’s final game with the Lakers and I went nuts. Every time I’m reminded that the Red Hot Chili Peppers exist, I lose my mind. It’s been a frequent occurence lately. They’re about to release a new record and the promo machine is gearing up.

25 years ago, when I worked at Epic, I had a fucked up experience with the Chili Peppers. The incident was about a 3 on the 1-10 scale of sexual harassment in the music business of the 80s and 90s, and I never consciously thought it was that big a deal. I wasn’t even aware of how intensely I hated them  until a couple of months ago, when the kid that works the desk at my gym played “Can’t Stop.”

I was furious;  I felt like my blood had been replaced with a million small bombs and all of them were about to explode.  I threw my weights to the floor mid-rep and pounded to the desk. Just before I screamed the only words I could come up with —  NO. MORE. CHILI. PEPPERS. — I realized I had to leave. I knew I’d be unable to restrain myself if I had to hear Anthony sing  “mop tops are happy when they feed you” or “can’t stop, addicted to the shindig, chop top, he says I’m gonna win big.” When  I calmed down, I thought about how overblown my reaction was, and allowed for the first time that maybe I didn’t hate them simply because they suck.

I heard stories about the Chili Peppers and the way they treated women long before Anthony was convicted of sexual battery and indecent exposure in 1989 and Chad and Flea were arrested for lascivious behavior, battery and disorderly conduct in 1990. No one in the music industry really gave a shit.  As their legal issues made headlines, they  left  EMI, and every label, including Epic,  wanted to sign them. I was horrified.

I initially refused to even go to a meeting with the band. The  A&R guy was a friend, though, and after an hour of talking about it,  I reluctantly agreed to attend.  At the meeting, I did a credible impression of a person who didn’t think the Chili Peppers were complete shit;  I talked enthusiastically about strategy, artist development and press campaigns, and I presented ideas on further establishing their image.  None of them involved wearing socks on their dicks.

After the meeting,  I took two of the Chili Peppers to the storage room, where we kept the box sets and CDs,  to get the standard sign-with-us swag.  As we looked in a cabinet, they pressed up against me and told me about all of the ways we could make a super sexy sandwich.

At first I thought they were joking. When I realized they weren’t, I ran from the storage room to my office, where I closed my door, sat down at my desk, and cried. I was humiliated and weirdly ashamed, and embarrassed that I was humiliated and weirdly ashamed.   I thought I was a badass. Being a victim didn’t fit my self-perception.

When the Chili Peppers’ then-manager knocked on my door a few minutes later, I stopped crying and let him in. He offered an apology that sounded memorized; it was one he’d obviously offered many times before. The A&R guy apologized after the Chili Peppers left, and I decided to get over it.  I told myself that I knew what I was getting into when I started working in the music business. I was used to the shit that happened  late at night,  back in Boston, when I was wasted  and hanging out at gigs and after show parties. I wasn’t cool with any of it, but I accepted it, and even though the incident with the Chili Peppers  took  place when I was an executive at a major label, sober and doing my job at 2:00 in the afternoon, I decided to accept that, too. It was just the way things were.

Most of the women I know who worked in the music business in the late 80s and early 90s put up with sexual harassment. We didn’t talk about it to our friends, for the most part, and not many of us took any action.  We were ashamed or afraid or didn’t think we’d be believed. We thought we’d be blamed, or worse, we blamed ourselves. We didn’t want to be perceived as weak, and we thought that in order to succeed, we just had to put up with it. Sexual harassment came along with working in the music industry — it was an everyday reality — and a lot of us didn’t even realize that anything was wrong. Most of the reasons  we kept quiet will never stop being reasons —  shame and fear aren’t going to go away — but at least now we know when we’re being harassed.

I started writing about sexual harassment in the music industry in January, just after Amber Coffman tweeted about Heathcliff Berru.  I knew I had something to say, but I didn’t realize that it was about the incident with the Chili Peppers until I heard “Don’t Stop” at the gym.   I didn’t understand why my response was so extreme, and then, this weekend,  I talked to people I was close to at Epic.  One was my boss.  I never told him what happened,  and with the exception of two close friends,   I never told anyone else.   And that’s what disturbs me most.

Fuck the Red Hot Chili Peppers and  the misogynistic culture of the music industry that kept me from speaking up in 1991.  I wish I had.  I’m not naive enough to think it would have made much of a difference, but if it kept just one person from having to hear “Californication,” it would have been a start.

NickCave

Music: Sexual Harrassment (from Entertainment Weekly in 1991)

238 comments on “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Dickheads

  1. Gidget
    October 20, 2017

    I saw them hanging out alot in the eighties and nineties..i worked in a club in sf..one night anthony had a group of barely of age girls at a table..he was pretty pompous to others around him..i wasnt working and standing near the bar next the table..something about him gave me the willies..it never felt right and it bothered me. My guy friends laughed it off that i was creeped out..but yea i got shivers watching the exchange.. it was odd. Everyone was catering to him and i was really feeling ill…i never listened to the band again and i have idea what my empathy picked up but i hear the band and i feel ill.
    Your article kinda makes me feel less nuts about it..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Red
    October 30, 2017

    Hello Julie,

    I commented on this thread a year ago, but…I was wondering if you were considering bringing this incident to light again now that the chickens of Weinstein, Toback, Taibbi, et al, have come home to roost. Seems like an opportunity to talk frankly about the way things are in the entertainment business, and this post certainly fits right in with all that.

    Like

    • Julie Farman
      December 14, 2017

      Hi. I’m sorry about the delayed response. The very delayed response.

      I saw this today: https://www.villagevoice.com/2017/12/12/the-flaming-habaneros/

      So many women wrote about their experiences of harassment and assault with the Chili Peppers here, in the comments. I need to point it out to some journalists.

      Like

      • Sherri
        January 10, 2018

        Omg…. ya know, I wished he would’ve drawn a sick on my forehead and instead of making dp other things with it…. 😦

        Like

      • Sherri
        January 10, 2018

        Omg…. ya know, I wished he would’ve drawn a sick on my forehead and instead of making dp other things with it…. 😦
        Also, I’m willing to help in anyway I can with my story.

        Like

  3. Pingback: Callwood at the Cooler #33: Can We Separate Art From Crime? | idobi

  4. David
    November 30, 2017

    hey Julie …. don’t blame the ‘misogynistic’ culture for your cowardice.

    Like

    • Julie Farman
      January 1, 2018

      Hey David, always so good to hear from you! Thanks for staying in touch and send my love to your Mom.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yejin Jeon
      January 2, 2018

      Hey david shut the fuck up and
      don’t blame anybody except the criminals

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dimitra Rose Love
    February 10, 2018

    Very sorry about this, Julie.. Are there any other sources found where people have claimed to have been harassed by RHCP? I’m interested in the subject as i have heard about quite a few of them so far, especially within the rock and roll industry, but haven’t seem to find any more information online, unless i’m not looking hard enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Julie Farman
      February 12, 2018

      Hi Dimitra, and thanks. If you go through the comments here you’ll read other stories from women and girls about their experiences with Chili Peppers. Mind blowing.

      Like

  6. Anonymous
    May 12, 2018

    Speaking of the Chili Peppers this way is blasphemy. You are a disgrace to music, to greatness, and all of humanity. A thousand years of unspeakable agony is better than you deserve you disgusting, abhorred, disgraceful cunt.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ben Morris
    May 15, 2018

    Hi, Julie. I’m a long-time RHCP fan, and I want to say I 100% believe you. I’m saddened to learn about what these guys did not just to you, but to the other people you mentioned in your article. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to go through that and then feel like you can’t speak out about it or that speaking out about it would make no difference. I’ve read Anthony’s biography and knew about his and the band’s incredibly lurid past, but I didn’t know how far it went. Looking back, it seems naive of me. Thank you for speaking out. It takes immense courage to bring matters like these to light, especially when other people and “fans” throw their anger and confusion back in your face.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. joancrown
    August 5, 2018

    I actually was trying to comment just you and would prefer this not to be published in the blog if possible. But I’d love to have a dialogue with you.

    Like

  9. joancrown
    August 5, 2018

    Thanks. Emailing you now.

    Like

  10. kidagainsttrump
    August 16, 2018

    Hi, I just discovered the RHCP and this post today. I feel disgusted by their inappropriate behavior. I like their music, however, and I feel like I need to know your opinion about hating the singers but loving the songs. Should I continue to listen to them? Should I never listen to another song again?

    Like

    • Julie Farman
      August 16, 2018

      Hello! I’m conflicted about this – not with RHCP – but with other artists/musicians/writers. I try to keep the art separate from the artists – there are writers and artists I love who are utterly revolting in their behavior/beliefs. I would love to say not to listen to the Chili Peppers, but it’s a personal choice.

      Thank you for reading, writing, and being disgusted.

      Julie

      Like

  11. Anon
    November 7, 2018

    Wow. Absolutely disgusting. Thank you for sharing your story; I was always more of a Faith No More fan anyway 😉

    Like

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