HardRockChick Interviews Roxana Shirazi, author of The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage

This past holiday weekend, in between my own rock ‘n’ roll moments, I could not put down Roxana Shirazi’s newly released memoir, ‘The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage‘.

After reading the press release and the intro, I expected the book to be one salacious story after the other. But very early on I realized that it was going to be much different. In fact, the whole story really got under my skin. Is it a loss of innocence, coming of age, falling in love with the wrong guy story like Pamela Des Barres’ books? In a way, yes. But Shirazi tackles very current and extremely heavy topics at the same time: Middle Eastern cultural issues, immigration, sexism, abortion, and feminism, just to name a few. It’s smart and it’s shocking; it’s entertaining and thought provoking.

I spoke with Roxana on the phone last night from her hotel room in LA about how she wrote the book, her favorite stories, regrets, advice, and plans for the future.

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HardRockChick: I read your book this weekend and couldn’t put it down…it was really unexpected, the way that it began. It almost felt like two books in one….which made me wonder what prompted the timing of you writing the book, and if you started out in one direction and went into another. What was your initial plan?

“I just thought, OK, I guess this is my life.”

Roxana Shirazi: I actually started it at university, because I was speaking at a lot of women’s conferences. I started writing this book at university because I wanted to write about my childhood in Iran. It had a lot to do with gender issues, identity issues, and lots of things about the war and revolution. So it was purely that; it was going to be something about growing up in war-torn Iran and about revolution and how politically active my family were. And at the time I was seeing a lot of bands. So someone said to me, it would make a really interesting book if you put both lives, because it’s like a secret life you have, and you kind of write about that, too, with rock bands. And I was like, wow, it’d be weird, because I don’t know how to merge the two together. I had a really great tutor who said to me not to censor myself- he said just write everything you have about your childhood, how you were sent to England, and then start going into how you got into rock ‘n’ roll. And I guess it kinda went on from there really. I just thought, OK, I guess this is my life. The rock bands are a huge part of my life, so I might as well put that in as well.

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HRC: So how long did you write for before you got to the point where you felt ready?

“…so I was writing about it as it was happening..”

RS: Well, I wrote the parts about my childhood in Iran, and took me only two to three months. When I started writing about the rock ‘n’ roll stuff, the thing is it was going on, so I was writing about it as it was happening. When I started the rock ‘n’ roll stuff, everything had happened up to the point of Brides of Destruction, just before Dizzy, I think. And then that year I went on tour with Guns n’ Roses, so…then stuff happened and I wasn’t writing anything. Stuff was happening and I was in a really bad state of mind. And then I went back to writing the book. And I wrote everything that happened to me and things after that as well. All in all, the thing was a year and a half, maybe? With lots of breaks in between.

HRC: Oh wow, that’s really interesting; so it was almost written as it was happening instead of looking back, except for the part about your childhood.

RS: Yeah, the band stuff…it wasn’t like a diary where I wrote as things happened. Because when I went through the stuff with Dizzy, I couldn’t write at all…I was kind of really depressed. I left it and didn’t write, and then went back to it.

HRC: Well hopefully it was therapeutic for you to write about it.

“I was like ‘oh my god, did this really happen to me? Ick’.”

RS: Actually it wasn’t. I was like ‘oh my god, did this really happen to me? Ick’. It was like an icky experience. Or, I wish this hadn’t happened. It felt really uncomfortable and afterwards I was really nervous, thinking, you know, what have I done to myself. But looking back now I think, well, you know…I guess….I’m glad I put it down on paper to make some sort of sense out of it.

HRC: I know you are getting a lot of comparisons to Pamela Des Barres‘ books and things like that, but she wrote that many years after the fact and it was obviously a very different time. So I think it’s very interesting because now there are things like text messages and emails that record everything as it’s going on, I could see that you were putting some of that into your story. I was wondering how that helped you keep the memories?

“So, I always thought rock ‘n roll was a very free spirited place. It turned out to be not as wild as I thought it would be.”

RS: Well, I never thought I’d be compared to a groupie. I don’t like to be compared to a groupie…I think I’m too wild to be a groupie. I don’t want to be subservient and meek to other men. I want me to be the one calling the shots. So, I always thought rock ‘n roll was a very free spirited place. It turned out to be not as wild as I thought it would be. So, I don’t really like to think of me being compared to someone who is a groupie. I’d like to be compared to someone who is a very strong woman, and who’s in charge of things she does. I love Madonna. Some of my idols, people I look up to, are very strong women. But back to your question about the internet and stuff, I think it’s easier to get in touch with people, obviously. If you’ve got Internet, and now that people have these social networking sites; if you’ve met someone on tour and you’re trying to get a hold of them, you can try and find them and contact them. Where as maybe before, it wasn’t that easy. But then there’s also the added thing of internet and stuff that it has lost it’s mystique. So as maybe in the ’70s, everybody went on tour together and they shared things together, everything is so much like technology-technology now. Maybe it’s lost some of it’s romanticism in some way. I don’t know. It’s become too sort of ‘out there’…I don’t know, maybe I’m an old romantic at heart, but it just seems to me that in the ’60s ad ’70s it was much more free love, open, everyone was like together…and now it’s so corporate, the rock ‘n’ roll world. Very corporate, like an office.

HRC: Absolutely. How does it work legally with including the names of these people in your book? Did you have to ask their permission?

“I had so many guys say, ‘can I be in your book?’.”

RS: Yeah. I had so many guys say, ‘can I be in your book?’. And I’d be like, ‘uh yeah- there’s nothing that’s happened with us’. There are so many that I haven’t written about because there’s nothing exciting to talk about. Like members of Whitesnake and Def Leppard, it was really so dull when I went on tour with them. But in terms of, I told a lot people before when I was writing about it, that you will be in this chapter. I even actually gave their chapter to them. A lot of them were cool with it. There was one person that I didn’t name. I said which band I was with but I didn’t name who he was because he asked me not to, and I absolutely adore him so I didn’t. There was one other guy who I have a very close friendship with- I mean he’s absolutely adorable- I have named him, but I think that he looks really good in it. And I said, you know, he’s going to get more chicks, really, so I think he should be happy and flattered.

HRC: In terms of editing the book down to what got included, was there any part that got left out that you wish you could have included?

“And when you read present tense, as if it’s happening, it’s a lot more powerful.”

RS: Yeah…well, obviously there was a lot of stuff about guys and rock bands that I didn’t write about. But, there was my style of writing, which was slightly different from the edited version. Mine is really heavily poetic, and I’ve written a lot of poetry throughout my life and childhood. And they kind of have to make it less dense and less poetic to appeal, to make it more accessible to the reader. I wish, like for example, there’s parts about my abortion, and especially my childhood, with the child molestation- were very painful points in my life which I had written in a very raw, in the present tense. And when you read present tense, as if it’s happening, it’s a lot more powerful. And it’s not present tense now; they’ve edited it to make it- it’s a lot sort of like happened in the past. I wish I could have kept my way of writing. Maybe in my next book I’d have more power.

HRC: I think I can probably guess what the hardest part to write was; so what was the easiest or most fun part for you to write?

“They said, we want to call your book ‘Are You Fucking Man Enough? The Legend of Roxana’.”

RS: Oh, well there were so many fun things that happened, like with Matt Sorum and Tracii Guns and Jeremy Guns from L.A. Guns. There was the stuff on Kid Ego, that young teenage band who I had a lot of fun with. There was stuff like with Avenged Sevenfold, which was not very nice, but it was just some crazy nights. I liked writing about, like, I love Buckcherry, and they sort of renamed my book…they said, ‘we want to call your book ‘Are You Fucking Man Enough: The Legend of Roxana”. I wish I could call it that. I liked writing about fun times that spontaneously happened with lots of bands that didn’t have any emotional attachment. Where there was no love or anything involved, it was just a good night out getting drunk, dancing, and having great fun. So those were like…funny, made me laugh..I was like, this is cool to write about. Those were good, and there’s a few of them, I guess.

HRC: Do you have any regrets- like a missed opportunity…I’m trying to keep it positive here- about anything that happened along your journey that you covered in the book?

“It was something I did without really thinking about it.”

RS: Well, my regret was having the abortion. I wish I hadn’t. It was something I did without really thinking about it. I feel like I was never really given any- I mean, no one sat me down and was like ‘are you sure?’ I mean, I would have thought there would be people who at the clinic would talk to you about it, and not just take you into the room. So I wish I hadn’t done that. And obviously, I wish I hadn’t done drugs. I used to do cocaine, and I had a seizure on it. I wish I hadn’t damaged my body. I don’t touch drugs at all now. I hardly ever drink. I have one glass of wine and I’m completely drunk, it’s so embarrassing. I wish I hadn’t- and I think I’m wild enough that I don’t really need to do a lot of drinking and taking drugs. So those two things. I don’t really have any other big regrets, I guess, no…I guess maybe with some of the really boring rock bands I wish I had made them be a bit more fun.

HRC: That’s what I was getting at there. You alluded to the fact that there’s more to the story and that the story continued on past what you’ve covered. So, I was wondering what your future plans are from here?

“I’d love to still have a bit of rock ‘n roll fun.”

RS: I have so many things that I really want to do. I just have some much stuff I hope I can do them all. I’d love to continue- I want to do my Ph.D. and do more teaching at the university on gender and feminism. I absolutely love teaching. I’d love to write more- because I’ve written from a young age. I do a lot of animal rights work, anti-fur stuff. I’d love to still have a bit of rock ‘n roll fun. I’ve done a lot of theater work in my life- I did the Vagina Monologues, Dracula, and lots of Shakespeare. When I was young I went to drama school. Basically anything creative- I love creativity. I love art, I love painting, sculpture and stuff. I’d love to be able to actually have a profession being creative. And also I’m academic. So if that could all happen it’d be really ideal.

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HRC: What music are you listening to nowadays?

“…I have these funny little phases where I just get crazy and I like something really weird.”

RS: Wow, gosh. You know what- this is going to sound really funny. I’ve always loved musicals, and recently in England there was a show that they were auditioning girls for- a Wizard of Oz show, Over the Rainbow. I think it’s just a little sort of passing phase- I don’t think it will last- but I have these funny little things where I get into something for a while and then I get bored of it. But I’ve been listening to any sort of Broadway musical soundtracks, and it’s really fun and happy. My first love is rock ‘n’ roll- I always listen to Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin…my absolute love is classic rock. Love Leonard Cohen. I love The Beatles. So that’s always there, but I have these funny little phases where I just get crazy and I like something really weird.

HRC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and what’s a good piece of advice that you could give to other women out there?

“We need more characters in this world- we need more individuals.”

RS: Oh, that’s a hard one. The best piece of advice I ever received is to be myself, and not to give into peer pressure and society’s ideals of how to be. Just not to censor myself. I think I’ve always had difficulty with being…I’ve never had any friends that were kind of a dork and a nerd and I always worried that I wasn’t cool enough and I wanted to be like them. I’ve stopped wanting to be like others. So I think the best thing I can say to other people is, don’t worry if you’re different or don’t think you have to be this same, homogenized version of what society wants you to be. We need more characters in this world- we need more individuals. Human beings are very complex; you can’t stereotype people. Like for example, I have come to live with the fact that I’m very academic, but I’m also very, very sexual. And I don’t have to be one or the other, I can be both. So just be yourself and embrace what you feel and what you love, and love yourself, basically.

HRC: My final question is what do you want, and what do you expect, to come from people reading this book?

“I mean, a bad human being should be measured by how cruel or selfish or horrible they are, not what they do in bed. “

RS: Ideally, well, I’d like a couple of things. I’d like them to understand that to, break stereotypes- I know that there’s a lot of people who think, ‘oh, she’s from Iran- so she’s a Muslim’, and no, I’m not. ‘Oh, she’s from Iran, she must be a terrorist’. Well, no, I’m not. ‘She is very sexually active so she must be a bimbo’, well, no, I’m really academic as well. So I hope to break these stereotypes of people’s limited way of thinking about humanity that you have to be- if you’re one thing you can’t be another. I want people to understand that human being can be multifaceted and very complex. And, you know, to be able to open their minds and know that if a girl’s really sexual and she loves being wild, she also can be a humanitarian and love people and do charity work and be completely academic and be a complete feminist. You know, I hope to change people’s way of thinking- that would be my greatest achievement, you know, if people can start to see things and be more open minded and aware. And also I’d like for people to see that women can be quite sexual and be quite happy. When they read the parts about my experiences and think well, you know, she’s not a victim. She controls it, she enjoys it…so what’s the harm in that. And if you’re sexually active it doesn’t make you a bad human being. Your sex life doesn’t reduce you down to a bad human being. I mean, a bad human being should be measured by how cruel or selfish or horrible they are, not what they do in bed. Maybe, hopefully, people will be able to see something in that when they read the book.

Buy ‘The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage’ on Amazon here.

Roxana’s MySpace
Roxana’s Facebook Fan Page

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2 Comments

  1. Dermis0

    06.03.2010

    Reply

    Fantastic interview! I really want to read this now. Seeing as music is kinda my life and I talked with lots of women when I was in Egypt about growing up in their atmosphere. It was heartbreaking and sickening stuff to be honest. But women's rights are really taking off there. I hope to return to Egypt again as I fell in love with the country and the people there.

  2. GNRgirl

    08.22.2010

    Reply

    I think there is nothing feminist about this low life slut. She sleeps with men that she has no interest in, lets them urinate on her, does all kinds of things that are degrading and then calls herself a feminist b/c she sleeps with tons of men the way men sleep with women. Men who sleep with women do it b/c they enjoy it, not to please anybody. Also there are male sluts that get treated like shit – its the gay male prostitutes. I dont have any respect for them either.

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