Lita Ford Opens Up About the Runaways, Her Estranged Children, and Her Rock 'n' Roll Life

Lita Ford picked up the guitar when she was 11 and has been shredding the hell out of it ever since. As a kid, she was inspired by classic rock and spent hours learning her favorite songs, and jamming with other musicians in her California neighborhood. In 1975, at age 16, she joined the legendary all-girl band, The Runaways. In the 1980s, she had a solo career that featured hits like "Kiss Me Deadly," and "Close My Eyes Forever,"� the latter a duo with Ozzy Osbourne. She will be at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe at 7 p.m. on March 3 to sign copies of her new memoir, Living Like A Runaway, which offers an honest, fun, and poignant look at her life, and her decades-long career in rock 'n' roll. 

The book is such an interesting tour through your life — a lot of ups and downs. Did you write the book as therapeutic exercise?
Not intentionally, but the therapy is happening now that I am doing the interviews for the book and the book tour. While I was writing, I did reminisce over good times and bad times, but I was really trying to put things in chronological order. I was having to remember which came first, the chicken or the egg, or vice-versa. It was like starting out with a big pile of puzzle pieces and then asking myself, "Okay, where the hell does this piece go?"

Had you done any writing previously?
No. I did try to find someone to help me but I couldn't find anyone who could really capture my voice. I ended up just writing it myself. I did not expect to but I am glad it happened that way because it just feels right. And, if something is screwed up, I have no one to blame but myself.

Writing it, did you realize how much you forgot?

Yes! The whole time I was writing it. Interviewing people I hadn't talked to in a long time was a great way to get those memories refreshed. Like, my drummer Dusty Watson had some good stories that I'd forgotten. Once we were driving 100 miles down the road and we looked at each other and then I turned out the lights on the car. You forget, but when you hear it, you're like, yep, that sounds exactly like something I would do! When the book was done, I read it and thought, "Wow, I did a lot by the time I was 18!" I was sucked in reading about what I did and I realized that the book was interesting and could captivate readers.

It was great to read about how completely supportive your parents were, which was the most supportive parents could be when their young kid tells them they want to be a musician. 

Yeah. I was really blessed with my parents. I had no idea they were an exception; I thought all parents were like them. They were naive about things like drugs and sex. They didn't really have a clue as to what was out there, so they couldn't tell me about it. I had to find out for myself. But musically, yes, they were really supportive. They wanted me to play. They never got in my way in the slightest. They put my guitar playing before homework.

Like going to Hollywood for your first Runaways audition. They didn't even blink.
I was shocked. For one thing, Kim [Fowley, who put the band together] was a little scary — very odd and eccentric, but they let me go audition for this guy who called and gave a big spiel over the phone about me becoming a rock star. They totally let me go. They didn't even go with me. Usually in a case like that, it would be dad going along with you and bringing a shotgun.

Do you think you would have still pursued music even if they hadn't been so supportive?
I do. I would have found a way. I'm one of those that finds a way around things to get to what I want. But having their support gave me more confidence and made it okay for me.

Speaking of the Runaways, do you think there's a chance you will ever reunite?

I would love to do it. I think the Runaways fans would love to see a reunion. Goddamn, come on, yes! I would just love it.

Are you all on good terms?

Well, it is pretty weird. We have bizarre relationships but that isn't anything new, we've always had bizarre relationships. I know Cherie [Currie] and I could work together. We did a Christmas single together a couple years ago.

Were you involved with The Runaways, the movie?

No. I've never even seen it. Joan Jett and her manager, it's really their film. I don't want to see it. I think it would piss me off. I don't like drama and I don't want it in my life. It's not in my best interest.

The casting choices were surprisingly good
Yeah, the casting was great. I love Scout Taylor-Compton, who played me, as a person and an actress. She's awesome. I'm sure the movie isn't accurate, though. It's made to have one member in the band look better than another. I did get to read the script and gave some feedback on some things I thought were really wrong. That said, I'd love to play together again as the Runaways. I think it would be really fun and the fans would love it.

Toward the end of the book, you touch on the situation with your sons and ex-husband in a very powerful, yet gracious, way.

My sons are alienated from me, against my will. One is underage and the other just turned 18. My ex took them. I haven't seen them in five years and I have no idea where they are. I was a good mom. I wanted to be the mom I had. It was one of those situations for me growing up where everyone knew you had a good mom. The girls in The Runaways knew that, all my relatives knew that. They were wonderful parents and I wanted to be just like them. This is a terrible situation; my kids have been brainwashed. People who have never experienced anything like this think, "Well, she must have done something wrong." That's the mentality, they don't get it. I didn't get it. I didn't come from that. I didn't know that the legal system would allow it. Our family law system is awful. I had nothing by the end of my divorce. I'd given it all to attorneys and therapists and in the end no one really did anything to fucking help me.

Are you just up against a wall now?

Yeah. I don't give up hope, though. What I'm going through has a name: "parental alienation." And I want to bring attention to it. In my situation, it comes down to a person reacting to me not wanting to be in a relationship with them: You left me so I'm going to hurt you. And it's a person who grew up in a family where alienation was the norm and now they're perpetuating this horrible cycle. I'm trying to bring it to light. 

Your album touches on the situation, as well, right?
Yes, it is one of the reasons I wrote the Living Like A Runaway album, to express what I've been going through. All of the songs on it are true, they're not just made-up lyrics.

Are fans coming out in droves to the book signings?

Yes, it's been so great; so many supportive people, a lot of whom are also going through or have experienced parental alienation are coming out and sharing their stories with me.

You have played with so many greats. Is there anyone you'd love to work with that you haven't yet?
I love Steven Tyler, would love to do something with him or Alice Cooper. I'm in the process of writing a new album to follow this 1980s throwback record. We have a lot going on. I also wouldn't mind doing a major motion picture based on parental alienation.

What's next for you?

We're doing the book tour right now. I have an album coming out on April 15 called Lita Ford's Time Capsule. It was recorded in the '80s. I put it together and produced it. Great songs made with a lot of awesome musicians when they were in the prime. There's Gene Simmons on one track. We've got Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick on another. Dave Navarro is on it — a great list of people that goes on and on. We start touring on April 1.

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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young