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Evelyn McDonnell

Evelyn McDonnell is assistant professor of journalism and new media at Loyola Marymount University. She’s the author of Mamarama, Army of She and Rent by Jonathan Larson and coedited Rock She Wrote and Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky. She has been the editorial director of www.MOLI.com, pop culture writer at The Miami Herald, and senior editor at The Village Voice.

 

Abstract:

"The Roads to Ruin"

In 1975 five teenagers from disparate ends of the Los Angeles sprawl converged on a North Hollywood mobile home with dreams of becoming the first all-girl rock-star band. Joan Jett, Sandy West, Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, and Jackie Fox didn’t know each other before slimeball genius Kim Fowley brought them together. They grew up in far-flung neighborhoods of a city defined by far-flung-ness. The members of the Runaways were San Fernando Valley girls and Orange County surfer girls; they were a Jew, an immigrant, and three daughters of white middle class families who had been drawn to Southern California by promises of aerospace jobs, celluloid stardom, and bohemian lifestyles.

“The Roads to Ruin” is an essay exploring the ways in which the story of the Runaways is a story of Los Angeles in the mid 1970s -- a parable of feminist praxis in post-Title IX suburbia. By this pre-punk era, the Sunset Strip had already become the place where Sunshine daydreams darkened into what Mike Davis has called LA noir. The Runaways were adolescents who, emboldened by Second Wave rhetoric, grew up believing they could do whatever boys do. They hitchhiked, rode buses, and borrowed cars to escape to Hollywood (“it feels so good,” they sang). And to the ruin of at least some members, they fell into a show-biz system still mired in the age of casting couches, and a scene changing from Quaaludes to coke, from folk to punk.