TUFF DIARIES (Entry #1)
How I Made My Way To Hollywood California, 31 Years Ago Today.
By Stevie Rachelle
31 YEARS AGO TODAY I BEGAN MY FIRST 24 HOURS IN CALIFORNIA! June 25th 1987
A childhood friend I had known since grade school (Al Eid Hussein) had just returned from his visit to Hollywood California.
Al was from Egpyt, and since 2nd grade I heard he knew Karate. So the whole school was scared to death of him, lol.
As we grew up, somewhere along the line Al started playing the drums. He was a huge Neil Peart fan and could play a lot of Rush.
Al wanted to see what was happening on the Sunset Strip.
He called me to tell me how cool his trip to LA was and invited me over.
He was so enthusiastic and told me all about the clubs, the bands, the girls and the fliers.
He had a huge stack of colorful paper, magazines, tickets and other promotional items the bands handed out.
I was SO stoked to go to his house, and hear all about it. I was all ears and eyes.
Al encouraged me, “Check it out” as he handed me a pile of stuff as he talked about what he experienced.
As I sorted through fliers, etc.. a few things stood out.
“Wow, these guys look crazy!”
As I pointed towards a picture of The Zeros, who had purple hair and nipples sewn onto their stage clothes.
Years later we would play shows together, and I still call these guys my friends today. Danny “Fucking” Dangerous is legend.
Most of the bands had the look, or some of the members did, but then there would be some oddball old dude, in his late 20’s in the photo. lol.
Most of the bands were a mix of everything that was hip at the time, cowboy boots, bandanas, make-up, long hair and some even had their listed endorsements on the bottom of the page.
I was like, “Wow…they are endorsed, how awesome.”
At first glance, as I looked over each bands flier I would immediately size them up.
“Hit N’ Run? That name sucks”
“Reinkus Tide, what the fuck does that mean?” I thought to myself, but then thought “This guy looks like David Lee Roth”
That guy was Ray, the guitarist, who I would later meet.
Ray was the NICEST guy ever. He was rad and so was his band who were a regular at Gazzarri’s.
As I peeled through dozens of papers I suddenly stumbled across a logo that jumped off the page.
“Hey, I know that band” I said to myself.
Rewind to late 1986.
An ex-girlfriend of mine from Berlin Wisconsin (Julie Reed) had come out to California for a visit.
When she came back for Christmas, she told me all about her trip. And she had met and hung out with the band Tuff.
I thought they looked very pro, cool graphics and a really good logo.
A lot of the bands had really basic, or in general shitty looking promo.
Tuff in my eyes, stood out as one of the better looking bands across the board.
I remember Julie telling me the Tuff guy’s brother – was in Keel.
To which I probably thought “Awesome.”
Even though I barely knew anything about Keel, I had seen them in Hit Parader.
I also remember her telling me: “The singer got hair extensions now, and his hair looks totally real.”
That singer was Jim Gillette, who I would later meet on my journey in the near future.
I am still friends with Jim today, he is an amazing guy and we’ve remained friends the whole time.
I would get hair extensions myself at some point, more on that later. 😉
The Tuff flier that Julie showed me was the one inset right for their Dec. 6th 1986 show at Troubadour.
Back to Al’s Tuff flier in Oshkosh (June 19th 1987).
The Tuff flier was 4 boxes.
1 box had Todd’s picture in it, another had Jorge’s picture, then Michael in the other.
There was a middle box, a 4th box, that was empty.
Except it said something like: “Singer wanted. influenced by David Lee Roth, Vince Neil, Bret Michaels, Robin Zander”
My immediate reaction…
My eyes lit up.
“Al, can I have this flier?”
“Sure man. Take it. Take it all” as he pointed towards the stack of fliers.
I didn’t give a fuck about Hit N’ Run’s flier, I wanted the TUFF flier with the phone number and contact info to audition.
Al and I talked for another hour or so and I left.
I raced home…and my mind was going a mile a minute.
I got home and called the phone # on the flier. It was not the band’s number, or a hotline.
The number was for Rocking Horse Studios, in Canoga Park California.
A woman answered and I told her I saw the Tuff flier, I was from Wisconsin and I wanted to know what to do.
She told me I needed a publicity photo (8×10), a bio (resume) and a demo tape. And I was to mail it to the studio adress and they would get back to me.
My initial reaction was, “Fuck! My photos suck. My demo isn’t so good. Mail it? Hmmmm…..”
Note the photo of me in the purple head band at the top, I took myself, selfie style on Sat. June 20th 1987 with a disposable handheld camera. I was gonna send my package, but never followed through.
It was now late Friday night, and I don’t remember what I did, but I know I was thinking one thing.
Saturday June 20th, I wake up and I am at my apartment. I rented a room, in a 3 bedroom house by the college (UWO).
I live with 2 girls.
Yea, like “Three’s Company”…but not really.
No I never fucked either. One was a okay, the other not okay. Neither of the girls were my type.
My lease was something like month to month and I had a room and a bathroom to myself.
I don’t recall what I did…but I am not the type to just leave…so I do remember giving the girls my “I am moving out note” and short chat followed.
They didn’t seem to care, as they were not the landlord, but like me, both were sub-letting a room.
I put the drain hose in my waterbed, and run it to the shower.
Yes, I had a waterbed, which I used plenty. Remember, it’s 1987 folks.
You can’t move a waterbed, unless it’s empty…so here goes.
So I start packing up milk crates full of stuff, and loading it into my Ford 4-door and drive to my Mom’s house on 10th Street.
“Steven, what are you doing?” says my Mom as I am carrying boxes into the basement on a Saturday afternoon.
“I am moving my stuff into the basement, I am moving to California.”
I then explain to my Mom, “I saw a flier, I am leaving to Hollywood.”
She asks me “What about your band?” referring to guys I was playing with locally.
I don’t recall what I said, but I am sure it was probably something like “Are you fucking kidding?”
This wasn’t X-iter, this was a second band I had played with called Talon, which morphed into a new name the drummer came up with called Tomi Gun.
But after a few shows we discovered there was a Tommi Gunn in Chicago, we were in flux with our identity. More on these bands later.
Anywho, I was likely thinking to myself, “Tuff are endorsed by BC Rich, Paiste and the bassist’s brother is in Keel.”
WTF am I gonna do here in Oshkosh?
I spent the weekend moving carloads of stupid shit, albums, stereo, speakers, guitars and amps back to my Mom’s house.
All into the basement, where I had my bedroom while in High School.
I also had 2 jobs at this time. I called both places, talked to my bosses, and gave my notice.
Monday morning June 22nd.
I wake up and drive to Fox ValleyTravel Agency, just off Main Street, I wanna say it was on Waugoo Street.
I walk in, tell the lady, “I want to go to Los Angeles California.”
She asks me: “When do you want to go?”
Me: “As soon as possible.”
I think she replied with “Tonight? Tomorrow?” to which I said, “No, like in 2-3 days. By the end of the week.”
She says: “How about Thursday?”
Me: “Perfect. What time?”
“Is this a round trip ticket?” she asks.
She is now punching keys, and after about an hour I pay her $ 106.00 for a 1-way ticket, from Chicago Midway airport to LAX.
Yes. One Way. No round trip.
I am going to LA, and not coming back.
The next 2-3 days passes by and my other childhood (High School) friend Sam Gronlund agrees to drive me to Chicago.
Thursday morning June 25th, Sam picks me up at my Mom’s house.
I get in Sam’s small orange Sun Bird with 1 suitcase and a straw cowboy hat.
We get on the 41 South highway to begin the 3+ hour trip past Chicago to Midway airport.
Drive is as usual, stop for gas, grab some food and we’ve been driving 2.5 hours or so and just crossing the Illinois border.
Just as we start hitting the crazy busy freeways and toll boths, Sam’s car gets a flat tire.
It’s now about 1:00pm, ish. We’re still about 45 miles (an hour) from Midway.
We jump out, open the trunk, jack up the car and begin to spin the tire iron.
Spinning, spinning, spinning!
The lug nuts are STRIPPED.
We cannot get the fucking tire off the car.
Unreal…as we check the time…I start to worry…”Great…I have a tix to LA, and now what…”
After numoerous attempts to get the tire off, it’s not working.
So we walk to a call box. Remember, it’s 1987, there are NO cell phones.
Call box operator orders us a tow truck, to the mile marker we are stranded by.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, a tow truck pulls up.
The driver tries to help with the lug nuts, no such luck. He informs Sam, he’s gonna need to tow his car to a shop.
All good…fix the car…but…wtf am I gonna do.
So…not bragging, but I have always been one to “think fast” and I did.
So the tow truck driver has NO clue what the deal is, so I tell him.
He tells us the next toll booth is 5 miles up and that is where he will exit to go to the garage.
In short, I said, “Drop me at the toll booth. I will figure it out.”
“No, I will get out at the toll booth” and I don’t recall what I was thinking, but I saw pay phones, and taxi cabs, etc.. if worse came to worse, I would hitch hike.
We drive a few miles and I jump out just as we pass the toll booth.
I shake Sam’s hand, and he asks: “Are you gonna be okay?”
“Yup. I am good.”
I watch Sam get back in the tow truck and they drive away.
I am now standing on the side of the 94 freeway, it’s about 6-8 lanes wide and cars everywhere.
I have no clue (really) where the fuck I am, but know I need to get to Midway airport within the next 2 hours or less.
I see a pay phone and go call a taxi cab.
Yes… I literally called a taxi, to the freeway toll booth.
Taxi Operator: “Okay, what is your pick up address?”
Me: “Ummm, I have no idea, (giggling), I am standing on the freeway, right past the toll booth.”
“What Toll Road sir?”
“Fuck…I don’t know…(as I look around for signs)”
Suddenly I see some stuff. “There is a Burger King, blah blah..” and I give them the exit number.
Operator: “What are you wearing?”
Oddly, I was not the only person standing on the side of the road: “Ahh, jeans, straw cowboy hat, red tshirt, and 1 suit case, I am in the South lane of interstate 94 , on the shoulder just past # toll booth”
“Okay, a Cab is on the way sir.”
Now I stand there, looking like Axl Rose in the Welcome to the Jungle video.
10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, as I look at my watch it’s now closing in on 2;00pm.
I have the original flight info, and receipt somewhere, but of couse now I am typing this I can’t find it to add those amazing details.
I am pretty sure I landed around 7:00pm at night which was 9:00pm (CST), which meant my flight was probably like 3:45pm or 4;00pm departing.
Finally a Indian man cab driver pulls up, “Are you the guy going to Midway?”
“Yup! Am I gonna make it?”
“When is your flight?”
I tell him and he looks scared …ugh!
We jump in, and he takes off.
Zooming thru traffic and he’s def speeding, but we finally pull into Midway about 45 minutes later.
I wanna say my cab was like 60 or 65 bucks. Because I left the house with $ 175.00 in cash and by the time I got to LA it was roughly $ 100.00 that I had to my name.
I get on my flight and fly to LAX.
Oh, and there was a stop. Not change of planes, just a “direct flight”…so Chicago to Phx to LAX.
We land in Phoenix, some people get off, a few more get on and onto LA we go.
So…we’re at the gate, in Phx, and a cute blond girl sits next to me on the short 1 hour flight into LA LA Land.
I wanna say her name was Denise.
We chat…she asks me what do I do, where am I going. I tell her, she smiles, tells me good luck and I remember she asked, “What if you don’t get the gig?”
I don’t recall my answer…I am sure it was something cocky. Lol.
I land in LA and my friend (Pam from Milwaukee) comes to pick me up.
She’s been bugging me to move here for a year or so, “Steve, ALL the girls will love you. You GOTTA come here.”
It was all complaints from her. Lol.
And she now had a Boyfriend.
He was the keyboardist in St. Valentine.
My thoughts. “Keyboards are gay, he must be a dork.” I wasn’t far off.
Fast forward in time, I met Scott from St. Valetnine, cool guy, kind of a dick, with perfect hair. He’s still a dick on FB (hi Scott) and still has all his hair too. Yay.
Their bassist was a guy named Marc Simon, who later was in Young Gunns, who later became WildSide.
You all know that story…love that band.
So… I am staying with Pam, and she says “You gotta meet my neighbors…they are in a band.”
This is Thursday night. June 25th, about 9;00pm.
I have been on the ground (at her apartment building on Shermany Way in Van Nuys to be exact) for about 2 hours and she says “Cmon, I will introduce you.”
We walk over a few apartments, and she introudces Fredy Lazo (singer) and Greg Wasilchen (Drummer) from Krystal Gem.
I am in their apartment for about 30 seconds, when Pam says “Steve is a singer.”
Fredy: “Dude. You’re a singer. Let’s hear what you got?”
I am standing there in their living room, kind of shocked, but looking at his afro ish hair.
Freddy Lazo tells me with force: “Cmon. You can’t freeze up dude, it’s LA.”
“Cmon let me hear you”
I am in LA for 2 hours, and I got a Mexican guy with an afro yelling at me to sing. Lol.
“I am not gonna sing right here…” as I look over and Greg snickers and smiles.
Greg would later be the drummer in Sister Whisky. He passed away a few years ago… I cried. He was FUCKING AWESOME. Anyone who ever met Greg, knew it. He ruled. RIP Greg!
Fredy busts me for a minute or two…and then realizes…he’s being a dick. “Cmon man, sit down..it’s cool. Where ya from?”
I am 21 years old at this point and feeling good about my move…but man…it’s about to get nuts.
“Tomorrow night…we’ll take you out…show you a REAL band.”
Krystal Gem inset right: Fredy is top left, and Greg is top right. These 2 were partners in crime.
Friday comes…I wake up and Pam is at work. I make toast…and drink some orange juice.
I walk down Sherman Way, to Van Nuys Blvd. I went South, towards Vanowen, etc..and just walked.
Seeing Palm Trees alone…was a huge win for me.
I have waited my whole life to see Palm Trees in California…now I am here.
I go back to the apartment, and that afternoon I call Rocking Horse studios …”Hey this is Steve, I am the guy from Wisconsin. I called last week.”
The lady tells me. “We never got your package.”
“I never sent one. But I am here. In California.” I then give her my 818 #, and tell her to tell the band TUFF, I want to audition.
Pam comes home from work and is now talking to our neighbors, directly below our apartment. She introduces me to Robert and his wife, or girlfriend.
She tells me, “He is in Hurricane.” to which I don’t react, as I had never heard of Hurricane. Then she said “It’s Rudy Sarzo’s brother, Robert is.”
I am now impressed. Lol.
Silly things…but just being honest. More impressive than Krystal Gem at this point. Haha. I kid…I LOVE those guys, Fredy is amazing… and is truly a FUCKING GREAT singer.
Over the years whenever I would see Fredy or Greg, we laughed, hugged and high-fived.
Those 2 were the very first rocker guys I met in Los Angeles.
So Fredy and Greg promised to show me a good time, Pam says, “Yeah, go with them, they will show you around.”
It’s Friday night. June 26th, and I am getting ready…wearing some whack ass shit, and my pink boots.
Not Vinnie Vincent pink, more like Eric Brittingham Cinderella looking boots.
The guys load me into Greg’s shitty used car, and there must be 5-6 of us in the car. Including Greg’s GF Sherrie who I had a crush on from the second I saw her.
I walk into the club, and I am not in the buiilding 10 steps or 10 seconds, and 2 girls come up to me, “You look like Bret Michaels”
And another, and another, and another. Soon I have the attention of 50 hot chicks all telling me I look like Poison.
Of course…I had now been hearing this since 6 months earlier when “Talk Dirty To Me” exploded on MTV.
Before that it was Vince Neil, or David Lee Roth…but now..it was Bret Michaels…night and day.
Oh well…they were the hottest band in the land at the time, and I guess better than being compared to Jeff “Woop” Warner of Black N’ Blue with his severly balding head.
That would be me as well, in time.
So…the guys take me up stairs, and at some point introduce me to the singer: “John, this is Steve, he’s from Wisconsin.”
As I exchange hand shakes with ANGORA and their respective crew, friends, etc..
John’s girlfriend Val was friends with Greg’s girlfriend Sherrie, etc.. as I hear them gushing: “He’s a cutie.”
The night goes on and the band is great, my first thought was John Corabi is a COOL motherfucker. And a GREAT singer.
He was like Steven Tyler meets Tom Keifer.
I am still friends with Crab today…it’ll be 31 years in about 24 hours from typing this very sentence.
No I didn’t get laid that night, but I guess I had my first real taste of Hollywood.
24 hours after landing I was in the world famous Troubadour where John Lennon use to hang, and if I read it right, he was kicked out for figthing.
Add to this, Guns N’ Roses did many of their earliest shows here along with Motley Crue, Ratt, Poison, along with thrash bands like Slayer and Metallica.
Sadly, I also froze up and failed on my first real Hollywood audition as Fredy Lazo busted my chops 2 hours after landing at LAX!
What next….well in a matter of days…I would meet Tuff…and then, a laundry list of shit that happened that would blow your fucking minds.
More to come….hopefully you will enjoy it.
Message from the author.
People have said to me for years, “You should write a book, I’ll buy it.”
That’s not likely going to happen… not anytime soon at least. But if you are down with my blogs, my band or my various projects – I say thank you.
I have self-released roughly 50 projects on CD. Cassette, VHS, DVD and Vinyl since 1994. All on my own. Without any label support. None.
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If you want to support in anyway, buy a CD or Vinyl record from me, or a T-shirt. Or send me something direct via Pay Pal.
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Thank you for all your loyal support of my projects.
There is more to come, more blogs and more music too. I have something in the can now it just hasn’t been packaged just yet.
Thank you again and all of your support is greatly appreciated.
Read my previous blogs linked below, numbered and dated.
Entry #1 How I Made My Way To California, 31 Years Ago Today (June 25th 2018)
Entry #2 My First Meeting With Tuff, “Is That All Your Real Hair?” (June 29th 2018)
Entry #3 Tuff audition, Jim Gillette screams, a near fist fight & our debut show (July 5th 2018)
Entry #4 The Metal Years, Famous People, Cocaine, Kiss & Sex with a Miss Gazzarri’s Dancer (July 14th 2018)
Entry #5 Guns N’ Roses, Del James, 1988, Sound City, Strippers, Crabs & You’re Fired! (July 30th 2018)
Entry #6 Summer on Sunset, Vinnie’s Invasion, Tracii’s Glue Gun, Vain & Sex by a Dumpster (August 11th 2018)
Entry #7 MTV’s NYE Big Bash, Riki & Taime’s Cathouse & My Girlfriend was a Poster at Spencer’s (August 20th 2018)
Entry #8 Jon Bon Jovi, Sebastian Bach, Rick Rubin, Howie Hubberman, BulletBoys & Gazzarri’s (Sept. 16th 2018)
Entry #9 Summer Tour ’89, Andy McCoy, Def Leftovers, Max the Model, Z-Rock, Tommi Gunn & Lit (Oct. 10th 2018)
Entry #10 The end of 1989 and into 1990 we go…