Sometimes the best look into history comes from those who actually documented the events. Gerry Gittelson might not be a name you instantly recognize from the glam Metal scene, but he definitely had a role in shaping the acts on the Sunset Strip in the late 1980s. In the past, Gerry was a rock journalist and band manager. These days, he's returned to his writing roots and also covers sports in Los Angeles. Gerry found Bring Back Glam! and wanted to share a few personal stories. Transcription follows.
Bring Back Glam!: Gerry, tell me about your behind the scenes history of the glam Metal scene.
Gerry Gittelson: I started out writing for Rock City News. I was the first columnist for them. Glam was my specialty. Later, I started my own magazine Hollywood Rocks. That’s how I met Pretty Boy Floyd and stuff. I went on tour with Pretty Boy Floyd, came back and met Kerri Kelli and Kit Ashley, they were just stating the band Big Bang Babies. They had a few songs, and they were writing new songs, Kerri Kelli was so talented, even at that level. So, I managed Big Bang Babies…and then I managed Queenie Blast Pop. I’m well schooled in glam!
BBG: How did you make a jump from journalism to band management?
Gerry: It was from meeting Kit Ashley outside of a club. The Red Light District. Kit had a lot of money. He flashed a bunch of hundred dollar bills at me and said “We want to be on the cover of Hollywood Rocks!” I thought he was kidding. Still, I thought I could sell him some advertising because the band (Big Bang Babies) was just starting. He came in, we met and I listened to their stuff…and I eventually got to manage that band. They were like the biggest band in Los Angeles, but they were just a little too late. The last platinum bands through the door was Warrant and Slaughter. Big Bang Babies was like six months to a year too late and they never got signed. Still, great music. Big Bang Babies music will live forever in underground circles. That pink CD we made sells for $100 dollars on eBay. I wish we would have made more of those! I also managed a band named Angel, but that didn’t work either. They wanted to make a comeback but didn’t want to play in clubs. After all that I went back into journalism, and started writing for the Los Angeles Daily News, which is the second largest paper in L.A. I still cover rock, and I do a little sports, too.
BBG: What are some of your crazy backstage moments?
Gerry: What really got me into music was a backstage moment involving Guns n’ Roses. The band was playing a club called the Street Scene. This was way back in 1987 when they were just starting to become popular before Appetite (Appetite for Destruction, debut effort) really broke. You’ve got to understand this was 20 some years ago and the political times were a little different. People were also a little more crazy back then. Anyway, a girl was with Steve Adler…she ripped down her shirt, showed Steve her breasts and was like “sign them.” I was standing like next to him, 23 years old and Steve was so cool and I thought “Wow, this is much different than sports!” The parties are better and longer and I thought what made me a good columnist is that I was willing to live just like those young rock stars that were willing to make it big. I did the whole bit, including dressing up on Friday and Saturday nights. Didn’t have a lot of money. None of us did…it was the style to live off the kindness of friends. I did a lot of drinking and a lot of drugs, just like everyone else did back then (Editor’s Note: Gerry is now sober). One of the memories that is truly special was partying all night long with John Entwistle of The Who. The Who and the Rolling Stones are in a different class, but it was the classic “right place, right time” moment. I was with a lady and her friend, and John Entwistle liked the friend and the next thing you know I’m hanging out at the Sunset Marquee, and he’s playing bass, we’re drinking and doing lines until seven in the morning. He was telling me to call all my friends, invite them over. I had a lot of good times with Warrant, too. Jani Lane was a really good friend and I really loved the guys in Warrant. I have a few gold records from the early days when I helped bands, and they were the first band that ever gave me a gold record, saying thanks for helping them out. By then, I was writing for a few national magazines. We put them in Hits magazine and it really helped their career, when “Down Boys” and “Heaven” were breaking. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Warrant and Pretty Boy Floyd. Those guys were like my best friends. I’m thanked on all those records. I came a little late, just like Big Bang Babies. All the bands I was really tight with…never quite made it that big. They were my best friends, the people I was most loyal to. I was too young to be that involved with Poison and Motley Crue. I’m very happy and healthy, and just glad to enjoy the music and look back because…when glam was so big, and the Strip seemed so wild, we never thought it would be a momentary thing. These other clubs starting popping up…business changed, and grunge came in. There was nothing like prime-era Sunset Strip of the late 80s and early 90s.
BBG: Do you think grunge killed glam?
Gerry: In some ways. It was popular. I just think it was so cool for bands to dress up, put on a huge show and sing. Bobby Blotzer of RATT explained it so well: “We sang about girls, cars and having a good time and the grunge and rap sing about killing and hate.” [Like Bobby] I can’t understand why that is a better topic to write songs about… I kept saying glam would come back…it sure is slow! I guess Vains of Jenna is carrying the new torch.
BBG: What’s your educated opinion on modern Metal?
Gerry: I’m not that into. I did sort of like Creed, but a lot of people seem to hate them. Its hard rock, it’s melodic. I like songs where I can understand the words: songs that have a great chorus, great singing and good guitars. There are very few of those around any more. When I was coming up, in high school and college, it seemed like there was a great new song every week. You could watch MTV for an hour, see new videos and it was great. I think that the music from those years (the 1980s) will last longer than all that disposable pop from now. You’ll see. All those bands like Motley Crue, RATT and Poison will still be around ten more years from now.
Photo credits: Gerry Gittelson.
Top, Gerry with Jani Lane. Bottom, Gerry with Big Bang Babies.