Lita Ford: Still A Runaway and A Survivor

Lita Ford: Back in the fold.
(Photo credit: Mark Weiss.)

Iconic hard rocker Lita Ford is synonymous with the Eighties, from her agile axework and fierce vocals to her blonde mane and leather outfits. From the mid-Eighties through the early Nineties, she was one of the most prominent female faces in rock, churning out catchy anthems and ballads and dueting with Ozzy Osbourne on the hit “Close My Eyes Forever”. After the release of her 1995 album Black, Ford went into seclusion in the Caribbean for a decade as she and her then-husband Jim Gillette started a family, raising two sons away from the spotlight of the music business.

But music has always been in Ford’s blood, and by the late ’00s she was ready to rock again. She and her family moved to Florida and with Gillette, the singer/guitarist worked on a new album called Wicked Wonderland. But the industrial-influenced album, ripe with raunchy sex lyrics, confused and turned off many expectant fans upon its 2009 release; as Ford explains, her ex dominated the writing and recording process, and after awhile, she just gave in. The subsequent marital strife — including Ford’s claims that Gillette turned her children against her, even inspiring physical violence towards her — lead to an antagonistic divorce. At the same time, she was also free of the oppression she had experienced. Talked about a mixed blessing.

Lita Ford’s latest studio effort Living Like A Runaway — a reference both to the group she played in as a teen and with regards to her current status as a divorced mother estranged from her children — is her true comeback album. Rife with melodic hooks, attitude and soul-searching lyrics, it’s the darkest and most mature album yet from Ford that even touches upon her Runaway roots. Prior to embarking on tour with Poison and Def Leppard, she opened up to A.D.D. about her marital breakup, her children and embracing her musical history. For her thoughts on her new CD, check out our Aquarian interview.

Ford is now following new tracks.
(Photo credit: Mark Weiss.)

It sounds like you went through a lot in your marriage. Obviously a lot of parents stay together for the sake of the kids, but sometimes it’s not always best for the relationship.
There’s that saying if you love something, set it free and it will return to you. Don’t hold onto it for dear life and so fucking tight that it can’t move. If you go back and look at the interviews that I did for Wicked Wonderland, I had him [Jim] with me 24/7. He was so close to me he was practically on top of me, and I was being smothered. It’s obvious and all over the press. I couldn’t do an interview by myself. I wasn’t allowed to do an interview by myself. I couldn’t talk and say what I wanted to say. I would get in trouble after getting off the phone. I would get reamed: “Why did you say that? Why did you talk about that? You don’t know how to do an interview!” You know what, dude? I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have. You need to shut the fuck up and just leave me alone.
        I have got to be Lita, I’ve got to be able to play music, and I’ve had no support. I didn’t have somebody in my relationship having patting me on the back saying, “That was an awesome guitar solo”. Instead, I had somebody saying, “You know, that guitar solo really sucked. I think you should bring in somebody else to get that solo down.” It’s like, “Why did you marry me?” I’m not a fucking housewife. I’m not a maid. I’m not a doormat. I don’t want to live my life that way. I want to play rock ‘n roll. That’s who I am and that’s what I will always be.

How long were you guys married for?
17 years. It was like an Ike and Tina Turner scenario.

“I remember when I was 32 and on tour with Bon Jovi, I was thinking that I was too old to be on tour with Bon Jovi. Those were great days. What the hell was I thinking?”

It probably didn’t start that way.
No. As a matter fact, he changed. We lived in the Caribbean for a long time, and it was very isolated. There was nobody there. There was no FedEx, no Starbucks, I didn’t have a cell phone. You were lucky to get a TV channel. There was no post office. I couldn’t accept mail. So when we were on that island, he didn’t have to worry about anything. He didn’t worry about me because nobody could get to me on that island. I was isolated, and to me that was my asylum because I felt like I was in fucking Alcatraz.

Did you want to live out there originally?
No. It’s a great place to visit, but I had enough. I need some life and some civilization. I need to order Pizza Hut. The first thing I did when I got back to Florida was to order pizza and have it waiting at the house when I got back there.

How long did you live in the Caribbean?
Almost a decade.

You were interviewed for VH1 out there, right?
That was in Florida. That was the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of people thought that was in the Caribbean, but it wasn’t. Nobody ever came to the Caribbean. We never had any press in the Caribbean.

When did you get back to Florida?
We came back in 2007. We bought a house in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, and we went back and forth from the Caribbean to the house in Miami. Before that, we rented a condo for a year and went back and forth, and before that we would stay in motels and went back and forth. Finally I got sick of going back and forth, so we just stayed in the house in Miami. He didn’t want to stay there. He wanted to stay in the Caribbean.
        That’s when we did Wicked Wonderland, and it was out of my control. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I couldn’t play any of the songs I wanted to play, I couldn’t use the people I wanted to use — the producers, the record company, the managers. Everything was Jim. He wanted to do everything. He wanted to be the record company, the producer, the background singer, he wanted to write the songs. I was like, “Okay, go ahead. I’ll just sit here and watch.” And that’s what I did.

A lot of people don’t feel Wicked Wonderland is as much of a Lita Ford album as compared with your previous work. It sounds like that was reflected in how it was made.
You can tell when you listen to it. It’s a completely different record.

By the way, even despite all of your recent stress, you continue to age really well. It’s funny, you can look at certain people and tell who’s done some hard living. You quit booze and drugs early on in your career, and there are a lot of people who kept doing it. When they hit their 40s and 50s, it showed.
Some people don’t age well. It’s all genetic too. My mother had cancer at 64, and she died when she was 67. She’d gone through chemotherapy, and she still looked great. She didn’t even have any wrinkles at 67 having cancer and [gone through] chemotherapy. She looked beautiful.

What is your ethnic background?
My mother was born and raised in Rome, and my father was English-Irish. In other words, my ethnic makeup is piss and vinegar.

“He didn’t worry about me because nobody could get to me on that island. I was isolated, and to me that was my asylum because I felt like I was in fucking Alcatraz.”

When you became a parent, did you suddenly think differently about yourself and your life? Or was it just another part of the equation? Did you feel you had to “grow up” like people do when they have kids?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t want to grow up, and to this point I still don’t want to grow up. You have to be responsible when you have kids. I’m responsible enough. Like I don’t drink and drive. Before I had kids, I would drink and drive. Guilty. But you put your children before yourself. That’s what changes. You stop putting yourself first and think about them first. James is hungry, I need to get James some food. It’s not “I’m hungry,” it’s “James is hungry”. I don’t know if all parents do [it], but I would always put my sons before myself. He’s cold, he’s hungry, he doesn’t feel good, he needs to asleep. I would always put them first.
        Until one day I decided there’s a point where they become of age where you have to turn around and start looking at yourself again, and I think people sometimes forget to do that. That’s when they start letting themselves go and become old. You’ve got to back up away from your children and let them become themselves. Let them grow into themselves. Then look back upon yourself and go to Victoria’s Secret and take off that extra 5 pounds. Get your hair done and do things for yourself because you forget when you have a newborn child. You forget for the first 10 years when you have that child.

Lita impressively still looks like she did 20 years ago.
(Photo credit: Mark Weiss.)

How old are your kids now?
Rocco is 11, and James is 15. They’re still young, but they’re not that young. I can’t turn my back.

You have said that your ex-husband has turned them against you, and that you haven’t had contact with them. Hopefully you’ll hear from them at some point.
I love them, they’re my life. I put them before anything in the world.

It’s interesting how time puts things in perspective after you’ve gone through different life experiences. The things that bother you when you get older are different than the things that bothered you when you were younger. A lot of things you blew out of proportion when you were younger don’t mean so much when you are older.
Yeah, right? I agree. I remember when I was 32 and on tour with Bon Jovi, I was thinking that I was too old to be on tour with Bon Jovi. I look back at those shows and playing Wembley Arena and think that those were great days. They were awesome. What the hell was I thinking? I’m still doing it, so there has got to be something okay with what I’m doing now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.