In the mid-'80s, Nikki Sixx would return from another Mötley Crüe tour and soon his home phone would ring. It would be Tommy Lee calling, asking Sixx if he was bored. Sixx, Mötley’s dark, spiky-haired bassist, would answer in the affirmative. Lee, the Los Angeles rock band’s rangy, live-wire drummer, would suggest something like, “You wanna like grab our bikes and go grab a beer?”
“Even though at that time in the band’s career we had become so successful, we were still sort of in a little bit of a gang mentality,” Sixx says now. “We were so used to being together, all four of us, that off the road was kind of the same.”
That lifestyle is vividly displayed in Mötley’s now-classic “Girls, Girls, Girls” music video, which along with the Girls, Girls, Girls album turns 30 years old this year. The video depicts the Crüe’s Sixx, Lee, singer Vince Neil and guitarist Mick Mars carousing at Sunset Boulevard strip club the Seventh Veil and riding their motorcycles around the Sunset and La Brea area.
“It basically came down to just doing pretty much what we were doing at that time in our life,” Sixx says. “Which was hanging out, playing rock & roll, riding motorcycles, going to strip clubs.” The "Girls" music video helped millions of dudes in 1987 imagine how much fun it would be to be a member of Mötley Crüe, even just for those few minutes.
Mötley Crüe made the “Girls, Girls, Girls” video with director Wayne Isham, with whom the band had previously collaborated on hit clips for transcendent road ballad “Home Sweet Home” and raucous Brownsville Station cover “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Isham had actually worked with Mötley even earlier; as a stage manager, he'd “cleaned up the floor” at the post-apocalyptic video set for metallic 1983 Crüe hit “Looks That Kill.”
In 1987, Isham recalls now, he and the band did some “scouting” for the “Girls” video, riding their motorcycles to various Los Angeles strip clubs, including Jumbo’s Clown Room and Gold Diggers. They found several strippers they wanted to cast in the video, but not all of them were also talented dancers, so Isham called in at least two professional, non-exotic dancers. One of these ringers, Isham says, was a fishnet-clad brunette named Connie (he can't recall her last name) heavily featured in the "Girls" clip. Those are Connie’s legs at the very beginning of the video, right before Lee’s dirty brown boot cranks up his motorcycle.
“We were trying to create a burlesque atmosphere,” Isham says. “That’s why ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ to me is so successful — it has the value of burlesque and it’s dance and that’s what it’s about, not just standing up there and taking your clothes off.”
Indeed, the dozen or so dancers shown performing in the video look just as badass as the band. By the Girls, Girls, Girls album, Mötley had ditched their glitz and glam Theatre of Pain look for grimy leathers. The band members arrived at the “Girls” shoot as they appeared in the video and weren’t styled on-set. To film his sequence for the song’s boogie breakdown, Neil grabbed a metal chair many of the dancers had used earlier as a prop. It was the singer’s idea to turn the chair around. “Vince just hit the chair and it’s a very masculine position,” Isham says.
The schlubby customers in the “Girls, Girls, Girls” video were all extras. The first time Lee’s switchblade was thrown into the red cocktail table it struck straight into the top — but they hadn’t started filming yet, so the stunt had to be repeated.
Isham shot the “Girls” footage himself, using an Arriflex 16mm camera. For some of the motorcycle sequences, he filmed while riding on the back of Lee’s bike, “which is always awkward.”
Even in a video filled with beautiful dancers, it’s Mick Mars who eventually steals the show. The guitarist, whose love of the blues heavily influenced the Girls album, is shown playing his solo while seated, wearing shades and smoking a cigarette, in the strippers’ dressing room, surrounded by dancers putting on makeup and negligees. Neither Mars nor the dancers ever acknowledge one another in the scene.
“It’s one of my favorite images of my career,” Isham says — a particularly noteworthy statement, considering the director’s staggering videography also includes Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and later Crüe videos for “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart.” (And on the pop side, Isham also directed *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” and Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me.”)
After shooting at the Seventh Veil, Isham and Lee took off to Isham’s soundstage to shoot the black-and-white performance clips mixed into the video’s outro. They decided to stop off for margaritas first. “Everybody’s like, ‘That’s not a good idea,’” Isham says. “We pull in and Nikki’s there with my partner and they’re having a drink already.”
The “Girls, Girls, Girls” video lit up MTV’s request lines in summer 1987, but that was not the first cut submitted to the network. An early version (viewable below) featured several dancers getting topless. Sixx says Isham purposely sent MTV this naughtier initial version, which the director knew the network would ban, after which the band sent the version they actually wanted to use, which was already edited and in the can. “We felt that if we would’ve sent the ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ video that you see now, at the time [MTV was] under a lot of scrutiny and they would’ve said no,” Sixx says. “And we would have maybe ended up with too sterile of a video.”
At the time Sixx was working on Girls, Girls, Girls, he was living off of Van Nuys Boulevard, in a home later immortalized as “the Heroin House” in his harrowing 2007 book The Heroin Diaries. His TV there was constantly tuned to MTV. “It was the world’s biggest radio station and it was on 24 hours a day,” Sixx says. (He checks in for this phone interview while driving his Jeep down Haskell Avenue.) “I’d get turned on to so much music. Different genres of music, too. Maybe something you would have never have bought, but visually you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s like really cool.’ When we were growing up we would go into a record store and you’d hear a song on the radio and the album cover was like the final nail in the coffin to make you pull out your hard-earned money and buy that record. With MTV it was the next step. I think it was really an important tool, and I miss it.”
Martha Quinn worked at MTV as a VJ and host from 1981 to 1992 and recalls being totally scared before interviewing Sixx and Neil in 1983. “Turns out it was one of the most fun, charming, engaging interviews I’ve ever done,” Quinn says. “I’ve been a fan and supporter and well-wisher for all those guys ever since.” Her favorite style of rock video is more along the lines of Mötley’s “Wild Side,” another Girls single and Isham clip, or Van Halen’s “Jump”: “Guitar-solo bands chucking storyline videos in favor of seeing them up-close doing what they do best, rocking out and having fun.” Still, Quinn, now a personality on the Bay Area's 103.7 FM iHeart80sRadio, jokes, “I’ve never done a survey on it, but my guess is for guys the winner between [the ‘Wild Side’ video] and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ would be the latter.”
The Girls, Girls, Girls album gets the 30th-anniversary treatment with an Aug. 25 reissue. The set includes bonus tracks, among them a live version of “All in the Name of ...”, a song inspired by ’80s adult-film star Traci Lords and opening with the lyrics, “She's only 15/She's the reason, the reason that I can't sleep/You say illegal/I say legal's never been my scene.” Now 58, Sixx, the band’s principal lyricist, says, “I have a daughter that’s 16. That’s fucked up.” Asked if a huge band could get away with those lyrics in 2017, Sixx says, “I don’t think I’d recommend it at this point.”
Mötley Crüe famously wrapped their “Final Tour” with an emotional New Year’s Eve 2015 Staples Center show and now say they have disbanded for good. Sixx can be heard on his nationally syndicated radio program Sixx Sense, and is prepping a Heroin Diaries graphic novel adaptation. Isham continues to be a highly sought-after music video director; his clip for Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells” won Female Video of the Year at the 2017 CMT Music Awards.
But what about the dancers from the “Girls, Girls, Girls” music video? Sharise Neil, who was featured in the clip and is now Vince’s former spouse, went on to star in reality TV show Ex-Wives of Rock and declined to be interviewed for this story. Another "Girls" dancer L.A. Weekly tracked down is now a born-again Christian and also declined to be interviewed.
The most enduring myth about the girls of "Girls, Girls, Girls" involves Marjorie Ann Orbin, a former dancer who worked at “Thee DollHouse in Fort Lauderdale," one of many strip clubs around the country immortalized in the song's lyrics. Orbin is currently serving a life sentence in an Arizona prison following her 2009 conviction for the murder of husband Jay Orbin, whose dismembered body was found in a container wrapped in heavy black plastic in the desert.
Orbin told true-crime author Shanna Hogan, who interviewed Orbin for her 2011 book Dancing With Death, that she had appeared in the “Girls, Girls, Girls” video. It’s difficult to confirm if Orbin is in the brief exterior shot of Thee DollHouse, which was actually located in Fort Lauderdale suburb Pompano Beach and owned by famed gentleman’s club impresario Michael J. Peter. Or if she might be one of the few on-screen dancers whose faces are not clearly visible in the "Girls" video — although she would have had to have been in Los Angeles at the time, as that's where all of the dancers were shot.
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Peter maintains Orbin did not murder her husband and is only guilty of helping her then-boyfriend to cover up the crime. He claims he’s spent $800,000 on her defense. He’s been a friend of Vince Neil’s ever since the singer, a fan of Peter’s clubs, invited Peter to the studio while the band was recording the Girls album and played him the title track, according to Crüe memoir The Dirt, on his Lamborghini’s stereo. This prompted Peter to have all his 80 or so clubs play “Girls, Girls, Girls” for “up time,” when every dancer in the house would all take the stage at once. “It became the national anthem for our industry,” Peter says.
Neither Sixx nor Isham recalls seeing any of the “Girls, Girls, Girls” dancers again after the shoot.
Sixx, who says he hasn’t been to a strip club in years, knows what some people probably think of the "Girls" music video now: "'Oh, these womanizing, drug-taking pigs.’ But my question’s always been to people: Wouldn’t you do it, too? If you could hang out in strip clubs, play hard rock, ride motorcycles, be in a gang, tour the world?”
For more on the 30th anniversary edition of Girls, Girls, Girls, visit motley.com.