Dishing “The Dirt” on Mötley Crüe: From high school dropouts to platinum metal masters

By on March 29, 2019

“Mötley Crüe, four high school dropouts from Southern California, follow in Wendy O. Williams’ footsteps as the leading metal masters whose worldwide message is ‘Don’t Conform,'” says Pat Prescott during her introduction to Night Flight’s hardcore video profile featuring three of their music videos.

This episode — which originally aired on September 20, 1985, and is now streaming on Night Flight Plus — features another look at Tommy Lee & Vince Neil’s exclusive 1985 Night Flight conversation with black leather bra-wearing former sex queen Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics.

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We previously shared parts of this “Radio 1990″ interview in our 2015 post by Night Flight contributor Curt Gooch.

Lee and Neil were in Night Flight’s NYC studio promoting their then third album Theatre Of Pain at the time.

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You’re probably aware that The Dirt — an “unflinching and uncensored story about sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, fame, and the high price of excess,” based on Mötley Crüe’s 2001 best-selling autobiography with Neil Strauss — was released on Netflix last Friday, March 22, 2019.

Anticipating The Dirt‘s inevitable stupidity, Night Flight contributor Chris Morris recently said “Those dudes may still be the dumbest musicians I’ve ever interviewed” (his “Partying With the Children of the Beast” profile ran in the L.A. Reader on November 25, 1983).

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Mötley Crüe in The Dirt (photo by Jake Giles, Netter/Netflix)

Told in voice-over narration from bassist Nikki Sixx’s perspective,  The Dirt shows us how Sixx (Douglas Booth), Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon), Tommy Lee (Colson Baker, a.k.a. Ohio rapper Machine Gun Kelly), and Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) turned Mötley Crüe into the world’s most notorious rock band.

Sixx ended up becoming a junkie, which he detailed in his autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.

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The Dirt (photo by Jake Giles, Netter/Netflix)

We actually enjoyed The Dirt (made with Mötley Crüe’s full cooperation), all the stories about partying, groupies, drugs and strained friendships.

There were even occasional flashes of ribald humor, like the poolside scene where Ozzy Osbourne snorts ants and laps up mouthfuls of his urine.

Speaking of piss takes, the plot behind their “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” video is based around a high school student named “Jimmy” being sent to the principal’s office.

The principal is a be-wigged Michael Berryman, probably best known as “Pluto” from Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

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After Jimmy is whipped, he retreats the boy’s room where he discovers Mötley Crüe residing in the bathroom mirror.

Jimmy is sucked into their world, where we presume he’ll be shown how to properly respond to authority figures who give him shit.

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Plus, the Crüe just might teach him how to correctly apply mascara, rouge, lipstick and fake eyelashes.

Berryman — with a lookalike puppet — offers an apology to Jimmy, but he’s scorned, now that L.A.’s bad boy high school dropouts have shown Jimmy the light.

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“The Crüe carefully cultivated an image combining Satanic symbolism, whips and chains, and loud fast rock ‘n’ roll,” Ms. Prescott continues.

“In three years, they transformed themselves from L.A. garage rockers supporting themselves on twenty dollars a week to platinum superstars.”

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Read more about two more Mötley Crüe videos below.

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“Heavy metal and black magick often go hand in hand,” says Ms. Prescott. “The Crüe have been criticized for their black magick symbols.”

We segue into an excerpt from Wendy O. Williams talking about their use of an upside-down pentagram.

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When she asks what the pentagram meant to Mötley Crüe, Neil responds:

“You know, when we put it on the Too Fast For Love album, our first record, actually all we wanted to… we wanted a symbol, that when you saw the symbol, you thought of Mötley Crüe, and so we looked at a lot of different things and, you know, experimented with all kinds of different things, but that was just the most strongest symbol we could find, so a lot of people took it wrong and said we were devil worshipers, and we sacrificed virgins… well, we tried sometimes…”

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“The Crüe’s sexual exploits are legendary,” Ms. Prescott says, “but in ‘Looks That Kill,’ they meet their match.”

We learned from Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks’ I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution that the video had been shot on the soundstage at A&M on La Brea, in Hollywood, CA, where they’d previously lensed their video for the blatant Christian Rock anthem “Shout at the Devil.”

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Stage manager and future music video director Wayne Isham (“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room”) — whose office was next to their dressing room — says this about the experience of shooting “Looks That Kill”:

“During the shoot they came up to me and said, ‘Dude, can you get us some Jack Daniel’s and keep it in your office?’ I go, ‘Yeah, sure, no problem, man.’ Unbeknownst to me, they weren’t allowed to drink at the time.”

“So I bought of Jack for them, and between takes they’d stroll into my office with all their makeup on, do a big hit, and go back to the set.”

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Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee, also quoted in I Want My MTV, says Isham “was like the fifth Beatle.”

Isham — noted for his experimental directorial style — would ended up also directing videos for Judas Priest, Howard Jones, Rod Stewart, George Clinton, Heaven and the Psychedelic Furs, among others.

Watch Mötley Crüe’s hardcore video profile and 1985 interview with Wendy O. Williams on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.