Author Debra Sharon Davis knows what it’s like to be "almost famous." Her upcoming book, Backstage Pass VIP, is based on her early experiences as a young freelance journalist touring with the Rolling Stones.
The book reveals a slice of pop culture from the 1950s through the 1980s with a contemporary perspective, and illustrates behind-the-scenes stories that challenge a lot of what people think they know about the legendary icons.
Davis interviewed the superstars and members of their entourages to gain a humanistic and poignant view of the life of a celebrity. The book features such legends as John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and, of course, the Stones.
Backstage Pass VIP has become a hot bidding item in the publishing industry, and her observations about "Mick Jagger being a closet conservative" was recently covered in the media from the Today Show to the international press.
Davis, who raised her two daughters in Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, recently sat down with Agoura Hills Patch to discuss her controversial book, scheduled for release sometime in 2012.
Agoura Hills Patch: What was it like touring with the Rolling Stones?
Debra Davis: It was like a Fellini movie in the sense that it was surreal and I was very young, really a fish out of water. I didn't grow up with the Rolling Stones and wasn't really familiar with their music. In fact, when I first went to Europe to tour with them I had five note cards in my pocket with their names and pictures on them, because I was worried I wouldn't be able to tell them apart. It made me all the more powerful, though, because I went, not as a music fan, but as a storyteller and social philosopher really looking for what celebrity was like behind the looking glass, and not the usual stories.
Patch: Was there any one instance that made you realize, "Wow, I'm with rock stars?"
Davis: What I found fascinating—and I'll never forget this—I was permitted to accompany them as they played stadiums around Europe. They allowed me to sit on the stage with them in front of a stadium of 60,000 to 80,000 fans. I sat behind a little mesh screen and was right up there with them. What always stayed with me was when you're up on the stage together with the band and the side men, you feel this incredible intimacy that it's this group against the world. The key thing was when I looked out at the swarms of people, it literally looked like footage from a movie. It didn't seem real. It was a unique experience, and the fact that I had the opportunity to witness this, as very few reporters have, gave me the chance to see the world from their eyes. It enabled me to make their stories authentic.
Patch: What does Backstage Pass VIP really speak about?
Davis: There are so many music icons in [the book] from Buddy Holly to Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, and all these stories are intertwined. It is vital to remember that rock n' roll as an art form came from blues and jazz in the 1950s, and great, pioneering African American artists are the backbone of rock n' roll. It was important to me as a journalist and pop cultural observer to link the larger-than-life talents and the musical evolution.
Patch: Why has this book already drawn such media attention?
Davis: I'm sharing stories about music icons that most people have never heard about from a perspective of what it was like to juggle frenzied fans, pressure of success, wives, girlfriends, image, parents and personal demons and make an indelible mark on popular culture during times of great social change. The book goes against everything we thought we knew about these celebrities. [I go] behind the public facades, such as Mick Jagger worrying about his parents' disapproval or his equating manhood with wealth and discipline. During the 1960s and early 1970s, most of the rock stars, even John Lennon, were really closet capitalists while they were telling all the young people not to worry about money and go against the ideals of their parents. Today, artists are more open and realistic about these things without hiding or apologizing for them. But one needs to remember there is always the public brand of the celebrity and the private world. Backstage Pass VIP gives you an inside look of rock icons' marriages and interaction with their children. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles were men that became rich in their 20s in the 1960s. They were essentially the first wave of young moguls prior to the technology evolution, decades later.
Agoura Hills Patch: What did the Rolling Stones do to create their vast appeal?
Davis: Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones built their brand by creating a generation gap and saying, "Don't trust anyone over 30." Almost 50 years later, Jagger and the Stones are responsible for closing the generation gap and redefining age. Today, in their late 60s, the Stones concerts attract everyone from tweens to great-grandparents.