Lick Me – How I Became Cherry Vanilla
By Madeline Bocaro
Cherry Vanilla’s new book is so delicious, that I devoured it in one day. This is a long awaited tome from someone who was in the midst of all the mayhem – a fearless, sweet and vivacious groupie who became a ‘superstar’ – the nicest ‘bad girl’ around. It is sprinkled with name-droppings which include Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Cousin Brucie, Eddie Munster, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Warren Beatty, Don Johnson, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger David Bowie and Andy Warhol, to name a few. The back-cover praises are sung by filmmaker Tim Burton, Kate Pierson (B-52’s), groupie extraordinaire Pamela Des Barres and Countess Luann De Lesseps (Real Housewives of New York City)…from the sublime to the ridiculous! The intro is by Rufus Wainwright. Cherry’s book is even more exciting than her Scoops For You column in Creem magazine!
Cherry’s mission statement: ‘…the passion of the groupie is probably the purest, holiest thing in all of rock and roll.’
Born Kathy Dorritie in New York City (1943), she grew up in Woodside, Queens – just one train stop from Manhattan. The mystique, lights, grit and glamour of the city drew her in. Her mom worked in a hotel above the famous Copacabana nightclub, where young Kathy witnessed 1940s and 50s old school glamour first hand – velvet mink, dazzling diamonds, expensive perfume, famous singers and movie stars. These textures and people shaped her life, and all the kinky details are gleefully revealed in her book.
Cherry speaks innocently of learning to enjoy and appreciate the fervent Catholicism that was forced upon her. ‘It was the first live dramatic theatre I knew…but my true religion was rock n’ roll.’ Amidst some touching and naive childhood stories are instances of brutality on behalf of her un-glamourous dad who worked at the Dept. of Sanitation. His savage abortion of her pet Dalmatian’s puppies resulted in little Kathy’s OCD, and later manifested as nymphomania, an illness that she enjoyed with flair and gusto!
With show biz in her heart, Kathy started DJ-ing in the 1960s at a New York nightclub, spinning soul, R&B, Motown, Janis and Jimi. Honing her social networking skills by working at Madison Avenue ad agencies gained her newer and gayer friends. Weekends on Fire Island brought new drugs and more VIPs. Cavorting backstage at the Fillmore East allowed many more rock star encounters and conquests. Kathy’s passion for words, poetry and music fueled her zeal for Public Relations. She became lover and friend to the famous and infamous at Max’s Kansas City, and everywhere she went. She joined the Dadaist performance troupe Theater of the Ridiculous (described in her diary as ‘tragedy disguised as comedy.’)
One of her clever ruses was ordering printed cards at Tiffany & Co. which read, “You are beautiful, so am I” with her name and phone number. This ensured liaisons with many beautiful strangers. But Cherry admits, ‘good old-fashioned lovemaking, both in body and spirit…despite all of my experimentations and petty perversions, has really always been my favorite kind.’ After narrowly escaping yet another dangerous predicament (her love of NYC is apparent here) she says, ‘New York City cops are so great. Without treating me like the dumb slut I obviously was, they escorted me back up to my apartment…’
In the early 70s, Cherry Vanilla lived and worked in the best of both worlds. She was among Andy Warhol’s factory superstars, and also was present at the beginning (and instrumental in the climax) of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust fame. When worlds collide, fabulous things happen! The Warhol entourage was in London performing Andy’s play Pork. The Bowies attended, and essentially hired the entire cast on the spot, as their publicity crew. Cherry was appointed as Bowie’s spokesperson at his PR firm Mainman. She spun his decadent debacles into humourous headlines, and became lovers with David and his wife Angie.
Upon realizing that she was an artiste herself, a succession of performances ensued (starting with a poetry reading and book, Pop Tart Compositions). Mick Jagger & David Bowie attended one of her comedic cabaret shows at NYC’s Reno Sweeny’s. Her first UK touring band included Sting of the Police. She also released a few albums and was a part of London’s early Punk scene.
My fondest memory of Cherry was walking past her buttocks and hand-prints in cement, hung outside the entrance of Trude Heller’s nightclub Greenwich Village for many years.
Congratulations Cherry on this super sweet book. You are a Rock Star!