If there’s a movie made of her life, Vicky Hamilton thinks Amy Schumer should play her.
Judging by the salacious stories the former Guns N’ Roses manager tells in her memoir, the aptly titled “Appetite for Dysfunction,” Schumer has plenty of material to draw from, and her role in “Trainwreck” should have her sufficiently prepared to play the fiery Hamilton.
She has one heck of a story, set on the Sunset Strip during the ’80s. Hamilton helped bring bands like Motley Crue and Stryper bigger acclaim at the beginning of their careers and managed Poison, helping propel that band to the point that it was poised to reach platinum status. She went on to work with an array of other acts like Faster Pussycat and June Carter Cash, in addition to a stint in A&R for Geffen Records.
Although some of those early relationships didn’t end as favorably as she would have liked, many of the musicians she worked with back then still hold Hamilton in high regard.
“When it came to working with record companies and their respective A&R departments,” Poison bassist Bobby Dall writes in the book’s intro, “Vicky Hamilton was way ahead of the curve in finding and working with many of the up and coming bands on the Sunset Strip. No one had their finger more on the pulse of the L.A. music scene than she did.”
While the whole memoir makes for an entertaining read, Hamilton’s most riveting regaling comes halfway through, in Chapter 15, when she talks about the time Guns N’ Roses took over her one-bedroom apartment. When she picks up the story, Hamilton had already signed on to work with the group.
After being cold-called by Axl Rose himself, proclaiming that his group Hollywood Rose was about to become the biggest band in town, she signed on to start helping the guys line up gigs. Soon she was helping the group, which had changed its name to Guns N’ Roses, with much more than that. She basically became their benefactor.
Looking to avoid police who were investigating an alleged sexual assault, Axl needed a place to lay low for a while. Slash called Hamilton and asked if Rose could stay at her place for a while. “He had a girl up in the loft, and I guess they had sex,” Hamilton writes of the explanation she received from the guitarist. “But then he got mad at her and locked her outside without her clothes and she went to the cops and said that he raped her.”
Hamilton agreed to let him stay there, and the next thing she knew, not only was she was helping hide a lead singer on the lam, but most of the other members had followed Rose to her place. From the sound of it, the musicians brought mayhem with them and sharing space with them heaved holy havoc upon Hamilton’s home life.
“Over the next couple of days, my apartment was turned upside down,” Hamilton writes. “All the band members were running in and out of my place. Axl spent most nights, into the early hours of the morning at the Rainbow, and then often after-hour parties would follow. He would then sleep on my couch until late in the afternoon.”
Before holing up at Hamilton’s and completely hijacking her space, most of the members had been living out of their rehearsal space somewhere off Sunset, where they were already used to living like squatters apparently. So when they helped themselves to her apartment, they basically turned the place into a fire hazard.
“At this point in time my apartment looks like a cyclone had hit it,” Hamilton relates in the book. “There were McDonald’s cartons, cigarette butts, cigarette burns, and empty alcohol bottles everywhere … I would wake up in the morning and step over bodies in sleeping bags to get a drink of water. Most of the time, I could tell that they had company in their sleeping bags as I could hear them having sex.
“The bathroom was the worst of it. The walls had caught all the blue/black hair dye from Slash and Izzy dye jobs. The bathtub had an indefinable scum on the inside surface. You couldn’t sandblast that stuff off. I got in the habit of taking a trash bag to the shower with me to stand on while showering. Yes, living with Guns N’ Roses was that glamorous.”
And that’s to say nothing of the, ahem, creatures that came along with the guys uninvited, organisms that made Hamilton avoid sitting on her own couch, a piece of furniture that, not surprisingly, she opted not to bring with her when she later moved out.
“I left everything,” Hamilton says by phone. “The only thing I took was the table, which was still … if you read the Music Connection article in the middle section of the book, Karen Burch did a great job of describing that apartment, because she did that interview on the floor of that apartment.”
That’s just one of the many stories that Hamilton shares in her book. There’s also a section that details how she helped the band set up showcases for major labels, which eventually led to securing its first advance. A sizable sum that the band members split evenly, it paid for at least one of those famous tattoos that Axl Rose has adorning his arm, according to Hamilton.
Along with a treasure trove of vintage photos and fliers from that era, Hamilton includes a copy of the $37,500 check, drawn on a Security Pacific National Bank account belonging to Geffen and made out to all the band members under their given names, except for Slash and Axl. The former is listed as “Stash,” and the latter is listed by his stage name, which apparently presented problems when it came to claiming the cash.
But while Rose and company went on to sell millions of records, Hamilton ended up being left behind, not unlike her previous projects that left her with little more than memories. Hamilton eventually sued Guns N’ Roses to collect the $25,000 she owed to Howie Hubberman, the co-owner of a music store who had helped her finance everything from equipment to clothes. The money she was awarded — what she was owed, plus $10,000, half of which covered legal fees — has long since been spent.
Believe it or not, speaking now to Hamilton, who’s still active in the entertainment business, between managing bands and writing, she has a positive perspective on the whole thing.
“It was a different time in the ’80s,” she explains. “It was pretty hard on women in general, I think. It was the MTV generation that sort of painted women as strippers in their videos. It was during the time period when there was a lot of sexual harassment cases and stuff. Prior to that, women were basically thought of as secretaries or somebody to fetch coffee. There weren’t a lot of women doing what I was doing. Hopefully I kicked the doors down a little for girls in this generation.”
Putting the pieces of her past together in the form of a book has been therapeutic, says Hamilton, who’s slated to read from her memoir Saturday at Guitar Center at Town Square — even as two of her famous former bands, Guns N’ Roses and Faster Pussycat, are scheduled to perform in town. “It was the best therapy anyone could ever have,” says the author, who’s sober these days after spending much of that era abusing various substances. “If you relive your life over and over again for seven years, it’s like, ‘OK, I don’t want to do that again.’ ”
Just the same, what a life Hamilton has lived.
“I definitely have tried,” she concludes. “It hasn’t been easy. I still struggle, but I will not die saying ‘what if.’ If there was something that I wanted to try, I did.”
Read more from Dave Herrera at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow @rjmusicdh on Twitter.
What: Vicky Hamilton book reading
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Guitar Center, 6587 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Admission: Free (702-450-2260)
Who: Guns N’ Roses, Alice in Chains
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: T-Mobile Arena, 3780 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Tickets: $79.50-$350 (sold out)