By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Hickey promptly spent the $1,000 on drugs. For many years, he had preferred pills and powder over needles, but now he was shooting up heroin on a regular basis. With money scarce and his habit growing increasingly expensive, he moved into an underground, dungeonlike storage space in the back yard of a porno-loving dentist’s house in 1998. “There weren’t any bathrooms in it, so I had to piss in a bottle because I was always too high to leave my room,” Hickey says. “After a while, I realized my addiction had taken over, and I needed to get away from Los Angeles. When I got an offer from the band Quicksand to go on tour with them, I took it.”
Quicksand’s offer was only slightly more lucrative than the $10 a day that Megadeth had paid him in 1986. “I got one month’s rent and $15 a day,” Hickey says. But that gig led to a job with Buckcherry, and then a series of other gigs as well. In early 2000, Hickey got a call from the Motorhead roadie who 15 years earlier asked him to help unload the band’s equipment at the Channel. He was recovering from surgery, and wanted to know if Hickey was interested in replacing him as Lemmy’s bass tech for the band’s upcoming tour.
“Of course I wanted to replace him,” says Hickey. “I was fucking psyched. I mean, 15 years ago, I was happy just having Lemmy sign my record. And now I’m going to be teching for him for a whole tour — it was like the coup de grâce.” In an article that had appeared in Sex, Tattoos & Rock ’n’ Rollin 1994, Hickey had fantasized that Lemmy was his real father. “In my eyes and ears, Lord Lemmy is louder than Evel Knievel, stronger than Gorilla Monsoon and smarter than Mr. Wizard,” he rhapsodized. Now, as the tour started up, he was working for him every night, keeping his bass in good repair and making sure he had a lit cigarette and a glass of Maker’s Mark and Coke waiting at the end of every show.
In Canada, however, a customs agent threatened their nightly routine, refusing Hickey entry because of a prior conviction. As everyone else in the entourage moved onward into British Columbia, Hickey had no option but to retreat to a nearby motel. Twice over the next 24 hours he tried to make it through customs, but he was thwarted both times. Finally, he decided to simply walk across the border illegally. “It was only a hundred feet away from my motel room,” he explains. “I could look out my window and see the Canadian license plates on cars that were parked across the street.”
Crossing through a playground, then over a 1-foot ditch, Hickey ventured into Canada. Unfortunately, Vancouver, the site for that night’s show, was still more than 20 miles away, and Hickey had no money left. “I just started walking,” Hickey says. “After a couple hours, I found a cab that was willing to take me the rest of the way on the promise that I’d pay when we got there.”
Impressed by Hickey’s long march in the name of rock ’n’ roll, Lord Lemmy rewarded his loyal charge with a big lump of speed. Then, he says, Motorhead’s guitarist Phil Campbell offered him a hamburger. “I was starving because I hadn’t eaten for a long time, so I said, ‘Sure,’” Hickey says. “And because my nose was so torn up from all the speed I’d just snorted, I couldn’t smell.” He could taste it, though, and high as he was, it only took him one bite to realize that Campbell hadn’t given him a hamburger at all, but rather a patty of shit stuck between a bun. “That was my appreciation for being so dedicated to the band,” Hickey says. “A shit sandwich.”
Hickey says Campbell’s prank didn’t really bother him. “I mean, that was just Phil Campbell being Phil Campbell, you know? The guy’s twisted. Really twisted. He’s English. He sticks Sharpies up his ass to sign autographs. He sells ass art at the merch booth.” Even so, Hickey’s ex-girlfriend, Rachell Burns, believes the incident hurt him much more than he’s willing to admit.
“He would have done anything for those guys, and they literally shit on him,” she says. “After all the dealing, all the pimping he’d done for them, that’s what he was worth? It broke his heart.”
IV. True Romance
Long before they’d ever met, Rachell Burns had been a fan of the articles Hickey used to write for Sex, Tattoos & Rock ’n’ Roll. “His sense of what life should be like is so distorted, and yet he makes it real,” she says. Inspired in part by his writings, Burns became a tattoo artist herself. Years later, the pair met when a friend of Hickey introduced them. “He said he knew this chick who could do some tattoo work for me for free,” says Hickey.
Burns was in town for a convention, staying in a suite at the Safari Inn in Burbank. “When I went over there I said, ‘Do you have any idea where you’re staying?’” Hickey remembers, referring to the motel’s role in Quentin Tarantino’s lovers-on-the-lam screenwriting debut, True Romance. Burns, it turns out, had chosen to stay at the Safari because True Romance was her favorite movie.