Abused child and lover of many a rock star puts her life down on paper.
James first hit the music scene in the 1960s, when the Gods of Rock still blazed paths of wanton devastation across America before retiring to their well-appointed British castles for heroin and philosophy. She came from a Southern California kind of nowhere, raised by a speed-freak mother of uncommon brutality and a mostly absent, alcoholic father who later became the world’s ugliest transsexual (we learn this in a shocking flash-forward that opens the book). Sent to an orphanage at age 12, James managed to get out one weekend and make friends with 22-year-old Bob Dylan, who was playing a gig in Santa Monica. In 1964, still only 14 years old, she lit out for Greenwich Village. Being someone who makes things happen, she remade herself into a fabulous It girl, landing a screen test with Andy Warhol and partying with rock stars. Two years later, involved in a romance with the Moody Blues’ Denny Laine, she forged papers to get a passport and joined him in London, where she bore his child. More harrowing abuse, a whirlwind romance with Mick Jagger, infatuation with Jimmy Page and plenty of Performance-like decadence followed. Her later years were calmer, as she concentrated on raising son Damian Christian and finding odd employment as a model, a movie scenery painter and a stand-in for Diane Keaton, but she still found time to fall hard for Jackson Browne. James is no prose stylist, but she cuts to the quick with an admirable economy, treating the mundane passages of her life with the same sanguinity as the ones littered with the rich and famous. There’s plenty of pain here, but little wallowing.
The rare celebrity-crammed memoir that would be worth reading even without the bold-faced names.