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Bebe Buell - Rebel Behind The Music, Nov. 2001

Ever wonder how the likes of Steven Tyler could produce an offspring as flawless as Liv? The answer is Bebe Buell. The inspiration for the Penny Lane character in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, Beverle "Bebe" Lorence Buell left behind her life as a Virginia military brat in the early Seventies and descended on New York City. Snapped up by top modeling agent Eileen Ford, the leggy 19-year-old and her incredible mane cut a wide swath down Seventh Avenue. Her future as a supermodel was assured, but Buell sought a different kind of satisfaction. Seduced by the siren song of rock 'n' roll, she ferreted out the New York music scene and never looked back.

Hanging out with the likes of Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol, Buell's sexy, sloe-eyed cool helped her to bed some of the rock world's greatest talents. Those acid-infused connections and her arresting looks eventually led her to Playboy and a November 1974 Centerfold. Buell's tumultuous five-year relationship with live-in love Todd Rundgren is legendary -- as is her tryst and subsequent love child, Liv, with pouty Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.

These days, the formidably 48-year-old Buell has come full circle, forming a band and watching her daughter become a star in her own right. In Rebel Heart, her soon-to-be-published rock diary, Buell offers up a pleasure chest of anecdotes about her days among rock royalty. We sat down with this melodic muse to talk about her book, her boyfriends and her badass reputation.

Playboy.com: How did you become a Playmate?

Bebe Buell: In 1973, Lynn Goldstein came over to the flat where Todd and I lived in New York and took some pictures of me. She was making a name for herself at the time as a young rock photographer and we just set up something very informal -- no big deal. We started drinking chianti, one thing led to another, and before I knew it we were shooting nudes. Lynn and I were so blown away by the pictures when she got them back that we shot a second set. It was her idea to send them in to a men's magazine. About a week after she sent some shots to Playboy, I got a call from [Playboy editor] Hollis Wayne.

PB: We've seen your pictorial -- incredibly sexy. Did you ever have a fling with Hef?

BB: Never even kissed him. Hef never showed any interest in me sexually. I think he's a sexy man. He was very, very hot in the Seventies. I just wasn't his type. Platinum blonde, thin eyebrows, big boobies -- those were the kinds of women he dated. People just assumed that all the Playmates slept with him. Back then, the magazine used to have stars on the cover that were supposed to indicate how many times you'd slept with Hef. [Editor's note: In fact, the stars indicated the domestic or international advertising region for that edition of the magazine.]

PB: Any stars on your cover?

BB: I don't remember. If there were, they weren't legitimate. I embraced the whole Playboy philosophy, but I never bought into the Playboy world. I never did Playmate promotions, I never wore those little [Bunny costumes]. Hef always looked at me as the nonconformist Playmate.

PB: You mentioned in the book that after your Playboy pictorial you developed an unsavory reputation. Any truth to the rumor?

BB: Unfortunately, doing Playboy carried a stigma [in 1974]. Now if you do Playboy you can become Pamela Lee. But because I was a fashion model when I did my pictorial, it ruined my reputation. And, you know, concepts like "ruined my reputation" should not even exist! I still don't regret doing the pictorial. I'm glad I did it! I can show my grandkids. Wasn't your grandma hot? I have absolutely no regrets about my affiliations with the Playboy family. I wanted to be the one you unfolded from the middle of the magazine. But my earning capacity completely plummeted after that.

PB: Your doing the pictorial must have been a novelty with your crowd. There really weren't any Playmates hanging out with you guys.

BB: I think I was the first successful model/girlfriend of a rock star to do Playboy. Todd dated Marlene Morrow [Miss April 1974], but she wasn't a famous model or anything. She hadn't merited any publicity in that arena. Playboy was probably the biggest thing she ever did. Todd was really the first rock star to do the Playmate thing. He's been a pioneer of many things in music and video -- why not be the first one to start dating Playmates? I mean, he had two Playmates in one year. I can't say the same for Tommy Lee. And Todd found time to fit Patti Smith in there, too!

PB: You describe your relationships with guys like Steven Tyler, Mick Jagger, Bowie and Jimmy Page as "sweet, normal, romantic and nice." Sounds positively missionary -- not at all what anyone would expect from these guys.

BB: I like missionary. I think those guys are probably different sexually with each person they're with. Sexuality is a meeting of the minds, not just a meeting of the bodies. And I think that however you perceive yourself is how you're going to be treated.

PB: So you think they were responding to you -- to what you liked.

BB: And to what was inside of them when they were with me. I had a very animal attraction to my daughter's father. But I didn't have an animal attraction to Todd. There's a picture of Steven and me in my book, and the caption is "Born to breed," because I think that was really what was meant to happen between us.

PB: There's a passage in the book about Jimmy Page's weird penchant for "spewing saliva" into your mouth when you were having sex. Was that a control thing?

BB: I think that was his way of putting some of himself in me. But, really, it was very romantic. Jimmy was very romantic. [Most of the time] these guys were with women who would do anything. I think it was refreshing for them to entertain that romantic, little-girl fantasy I've always had. It was like a vacation, a day off. They didn't have to get out the whips.

PB: The Penny Lane character in Almost Famous is adamant about her status as a "band aide" rather than a groupie. Define the difference.

BB: Groupies are girls who hang around and just want to have sex with rock stars. It's really kind of a gross tag. Band aides and people like that are there because they love the music. I think women have a right to an affinity and a love for music just as much as men do. I mean, no one calls Keith Richards a groupie just because he goes to see Chuck Berry -- because he hangs on Chuck Berry's vibe every second of being there. It's really no different. I was really, really very much in tune with the music. Courtney Love and Chrissie Hynde have dated a lot more pop stars than I have, but they've got on their penises -- their guitars -- and nobody says anything about them. If it was a guy, nobody would notice [his presence]. There were plenty of guys hanging around my boyfriend. There were just as many guys trying to get backstage as girls.

PB: What's the most unlikely place you ever had sex?

BB: An airplane. That was back in the days when you could smoke on a plane and when two people could go into a stall. I went in with Todd. And also one time with Stiv [Bator, of the Dead Boys]. I've been pretty traditional in the places I chose to have sex -- cars, beds, couches. The most unusual place for me was the bathroom. And, of course, because I'm five foot ten everybody had to stand....

PB: Did you limit your boyfriends to musicians?

BB: Not really. There was [British fashion photographer] Clive Arrowsmith. I dated him in 1976. Isn't that weird that I dated a guy named Arrowsmith, then a year later I hook up with Steven Tyler? Talk about synchronicity.

PB: Tell us about having sex up against a car with Jack Nicholson.

BB: I've known Jack since 1980. [Designer] Diane Von Furstenberg introduced us. The first time I hung out with him was with Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger. He's a great guy. We dated for about a year. I was dating him at the time the car thing happened. It was very cool. My first sex-against-the-car lesson with Jack.

PB: Any reaction to the book from any of the guys you mention in there?

BB: Well they haven't read it yet, but I don't give a flying fuck what they think. This is not 1987 when Pamela Des Barres wrote I'm With the Band. I'm hoping everybody will be happy with the way they're depicted in the book. If they're not, go write your own book. This is my life. I wrote this book to liberate myself and hopefully help other women to know that life isn't over when you reach 40, life isn't over if you don't have the perfect relationship, life isn't over if everything doesn't work out like the textbook says it's supposed to. Go deeper. Reach deeper. Go after it!

PB: Do you think today's Playmates are treated more like superstars than they were when you did your pictorial?

BB: Absolutely. They can do anything they want. You can do Playboy and be a movie star, star in a TV show, do anything you want. It holds no restrictions anymore. I'm actually surprised that more rock 'n' roll people don't do Playboy. I mean, you don't see Stevie Nicks in there, you don't see Debbie Harry, because they're afraid it's going to ruin their careers. But look at what it did for Kim Basinger's career. I love Belinda Carlisle's pictorial. To me sex, romanticism, rock 'n' roll...it all goes together. Why do you think these guys [musicians] all want to go up to the Mansion? I'm just waiting for somebody like Sheryl Crow or Stevie Nicks to get up there and strip. And if I have to do it again, if I have to pick up the sword again, I'll do it.

Taken from Playboy.com
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