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If any one figure in early punk embodied the healthy Valley Girl gone very bad, it would have to be Cherie Currie, the lingerie-clad, platinum-blond jailbaitery who fronted the legendary Runaways. So it’s oddly fitting that Currie’s current occupation is chain-saw artist. With Makita in hand — or maybe an Ekko — Currie can reduce a piece of redwood, pine, palm, elm or cedar into a carefully carved work of art, generally at the rate of about two a day when she’s really cranking.
Still, there’s some serious cognitive dissonance when one first meets the former teenage “Cherry Bomb” snarler and encounters the amiable Chatsworth soccer mom who appears at the door. Inside her Southwestern-style home, her work abounds — from the colorful relief images that adorn her walls (the “relief carvings,” as she calls them, are one-dimensional and done with a dremel tool, a kind of rotating blade with different bits) to the completed and in-progress pieces of full-on chain-saw art, which are generally wooden animals and, more specifically, cute renditions of bears.
“Most of my clientele commissions the bears because they’re very cute,” she says. “They can sell for $250 and up — I’m busy all year with them.”
Carefully goggled and gloved, she strips the bark off a log via chisel and then commences to chain-saw and talk about her art.
“Haven’t killed myself yet with the saws,” she says. “But I have been winged by flying pieces of wood that hit you at 150 mph.”
Luckily, Currie is in excellent shape, possibly as a result of her mid-’80s, post-Runaways career as a personal fitness trainer. In fact, after a couple of hours talking with her, it becomes clear that there’s little she hasn’t done. After she parted company with the Runaways (“We hated each other. The abuse was unreal because I was the singer and always getting photographed. The others were jealous”), she acted in many movies, including Foxesand a turn in ThisIsSpinalTapas the source of that cursed band’s herpes outbreak.
“That scene was on the cutting-room floor,” she says, “but made it to DVD.”
She came upon her new career as a craftswoman, artist and entrepreneur completely by chance. “I was driving over Kanan Dume Road one day and saw these dudes doing chain-saw carving by the side, and I knew I had to get into it. I started interning at the place, the Malibu Mountain Gallery, and before I knew it, I was doing it.”
It wasn’t all that different from her start with the Runaways. “I dropped out of high school to go on the road, and they promised they’d help with my education,” she says. “Of course, the education I got was nothing like the one you usually get.”
For now, her future as carver is bright. She even got a spot recently on the Discovery Channel’s MonsterGarage.In her episode, called “The Logsplitter,” she says, “I got to chain-saw carve next to the legendary Bob King, who’s the best carver out there.”
Currie’s present dilemma is that she can’t do much carving at home because of the noise and wood-chip refuse — all these years later, she’s still the queen of noise — but the West Valley real estate boom has made a move to a workshop or storefront difficult. No matter, she loves her work.
“I was told when I started that all you had to do was visualize something in the wood and do it,” she says. “If you can’t do that, you can’t carve.”
As for the inevitable question of a Runaways reunion — she and Joan Jett did “Cherry Bomb” onstage in Anaheim about three years ago — it is unlikely to ever happen.
“Lita Ford is the main reason,” she says, sadly. “Seven years ago, she set up this reunion thing and we had to talk Joan into it and that was hard, but Joanie finally said she would do it. A tour, a record deal, everything in the works was a go, until Lita heard Joan’s voice on the conference call and then freaked out.”
Apparently, Ford didn’t sense enough enthusiasm from the band’s most famous alum.
“Lita basically says, ‘Hey, if you don’t wanna do double backflips over this, I won’t do it.’ Joan [told her] that she was just off the plane from Hong Kong and was a little tired, but that wasn’t good enough for Lita. Lita goes, ‘I’m a household name, I don’t need this,’ and that was that. She did it again four years ago when we were offered $3 million for a 40-date tour. I think it was a setup from her to kind of string us along and drop it, because she’s still angry.”
Currie isn’t, which is a good thing — she’s got a chain saw and she knows how to use it.