On one fateful evening at the state convention of the International Order of Rainbow Girls in Kansas City, a debutante society of sorts aimed to help girls “experience the excitement of what a productive life has to offer,” Alycen Rowse got her first taste of rock n’ roll. The year was 1984 and ironically enough, Van Halen happened to be staying at the very same hotel. The Hyatt Regency included a rooftop spa of sorts with a workout facility, sauna and a hot tub. While Alycen and a friend were chatting away in the tub, who else jumps in but David Lee Roth? And the rest is history…
[Alycen Rowse w/ B-Real of Cypress Hill]
“I was still 14, but nobody asked back then,” Alycen laughs. “It was the don’t ask, don’t tell policy.” Twenty-five years and 75 rock stars later, Alycen Rowse has become one of the more well-known groupies in the history of rock n‘ roll, due in large part to the fact that she spent the night with John Entwistle of the Who on the night he passed away.
After such a traumatic event as being attached to the death of a rock pioneer, one might think she’d call the groupie lifestyle quits, but Alycen still believes in her scene and believes with conviction. It’s her social circle, not some seedy world of drugs and dishonor, just an exciting way to live. “There’s been a lot of gossip due to John. I’ve been called a hooker, prostitute, murder, and druggie. That has all followed me around. It’s something that will never go away.”
READ ON for more of Ryan’s chat with Alycen…
“I have no regrets,” she proclaims. “The thing about the night with John and the morning after, mind you, which is when the shit hit the fan so-to-speak, is if it was anybody else they probably would have stolen stuff out of that room; gone straight to the press; and made a big debacle about it. I was 17 years into my groupie life at the time, so I was so integrated into the rock n’ roll family. I don’t want this to sound egotistical, but he couldn’t have gone with a better woman, because I know how to keep the privacy. I didn’t even think about touching anything in the room, except for the body and doing mouth-to-mouth. I don’t regret one second of it.”
It’s long been a source of gossip amidst rock n’ roll circles and in the “back lounges,” but according to Alycen, who plans to release a full book detailing her complete groupie story, that evening didn’t unfold with debauchery, but she did sense something wasn’t quite right.
“You know that gut instinct that sometimes eats away at you, but you don’t know what it is? That was eating away at me all night. Even when John and I were just kind of lying in bed, I was on top of the covers, thinking, ‘I just want to go home to my own bed,’ but John was like, ‘Come on darlin’, stay the night.’ Well, something inside me, which I couldn’t pinpoint at the time was just eating away at me.”
The Hierarchy of Groupies
In an effort to drum up interest for her forthcoming book, Alycen keeps a blog called We’ve Got Tonight, which serves as an outlet for selected anecdotes as well as a sort of battle ground between Alycen’s fans and haters. In the more snarky content, she often speaks of the “hierarchy of groupies.”
“I’m not one of the Backlounge Bettys,” she defends. “The back lounge more comes into play when you’re hanging out after a show or or driving down a 15-hour tour bus trip to Fargo or whatever. I don’t see back lounges that often. I see the hotel rooms.”
[Rowse and Friend w/ Jake E. Lee]
In talking about the different eras of groupies, she adamantly believes the ’80s groupies were the real deal. The Band Aids and Almost Famous movie gave the ’70s girls the limelight, but she thinks of the ’70s girls as more just a foundation for what came next. And the current era, amateurs.
“The girls in the ’70s, I mean they had fun with it, but we took it to the edge. We lived it with the boys, and we put our foot down with the boys,” she pronounces, getting progressively more animated. “Those girls following Pamela Des Barres and Almost Famous, they are living a lie. Be out there; be in the now; and be yourself, because that’s the beauty of it all, music changes and attitudes change. In the ’70s, it was the Sunset Strip with groupies all over the place and it was considered women’s lib. In the ’80s, we were fighting the stigma that we were dragging women down, but we weren’t doing anything different.”
Nowadays, it’s a whole different ballgame. The girls tend to be more territorial and catty with attitudes. She still hangs with bands and will never give up the rock life, but as she points out, laughing “There’s more star fuckers and Backlounge Bettys than ever. We didn’t turn our nose down at anybody.”
The Unwritten Rules
You better believe there are rules to being a groupie, or at least a “real groupie.” What’s interesting about Alycen is you can easily tell she cares for the people in this life of hers, understands her role and takes it seriously. To an outsider, the whole idea of the groupie may seem morally questionable, but through her descriptions and anecdotes, it easy to see that she’s an easy-going person, simply living for the excitement of being around music and she treats these rules as scripture.
“You don’t mess with your friends’ guys, especially when they are involved. Because, whether anyone likes to admit it or not, there are emotions,” she rattles off rule one.
Rule two, “You never leave your man. Always leave the party with who you came with. There’s manners; there’s etiquette. If you’re being the road wife, it’s your job to take his drunk ass out of the gutter. You have a certain role to play, it’s not just about the sex.”
Then there’s the issue of the married men, also a no-no. “The wives and kids come on tour, but not very often. The groupies are usually out on the road more. I was never really one to get involved with a married guy, but it does happen from time to time. It just causes too many problems. If they show up unannounced, you’re sitting there like, “Oh, hi.”
And finally, when it comes to drugs and alcohol, “You don‘t want to be the sloppy drunk groupie. Who wants her?” she jokes. “I don’t have an addictive personality and none of the guys I was with really went on the big downward spiral, not even James Hetfield.”
The Don’t Forget List
So who’s on the list besides Entwistle and Hetfield? Alycen reserves that certain things need to be saved in her back pocket for the book, but she’s not terribly shy about it, “I have the full list written down. I call it the ‘do not forget list,’ because sometimes you do forget. There’s around 75, which in 25 years of hanging around backstage is really not that bad. Some were long relationships, a couple I’ve lived with, and a few I had long-term road relationships, one for eight years, one for five, one for twenty. “I guess when you look at the list, it does seem like I am kind of slutty,” she laughs.
Still, as long as there is rock n’ roll, there will be groupies. Let’s face it, music fans are a lot of things, but boring is not of them. Groupies are as much as a part of music culture as obsessive fans, crazy fashion, and touring itself. “That’s the great thing about rock n’ roll, it’s accepting of whomever and however.”