25 Years of memories with Jani Lane & Warrant.
Classic Warrant Erik, Joey, Jani, Jerry & Steven
THE G-SPOT COLUMN
By Gerry Gittelson
Jani Lane is in the news again – not good — and so is Warrant with a new CD, so I starting thinking back. It’s been nearly 25 years since I first met the band that I would eventually become identified with by writing so many stories about them, and through the years I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Lane, guitarists Erik Turner and Joey Allen, bassist Jerry Dixon and drummer Steven Sweet about as well as anyone – plus their assorted managers, record-company execs, parents and extended family, girlfriends, wives, et al – and my Warrant memories that stretch back for a quarter century remain utterly vivid and endearing.
– I’ve got to start with Jani Lane. I met him for the first time backstage at the County Club – I was there to see Poison, and Warrant was opening – and I remember being totally impressed, particularly with a great version of the Who’s “Squeeze Box” because it was the only song I knew. Jani did not have the world’s most powerful voice, but there was something about the way he moved, the way he commanded the stage, the way he played to the crowd, that I knew he and his bandmates were going to be big stars.
Bret Michaels & Jani Lane getting buddy buddy
– In the beginning, Warrant looked great – all of the members were handsome, and they had a great clothes designer named Heidi Richman – but so did a lot of bands, and the difference with Warrant was the songs – "Heaven", “32 Pennies,” “Down Boys” and “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” were all the live set before the group was signed, and “Big Talk” was called “Backin’ it Up” back then.
– I can remember sitting in the Rock City News offices with photographer Rob Jones – he got hired after shooting album covers for Poison and Dokken, and we used to hang out together all the time in those days – and we listened to Warrant’s yet-to-released CBS recordings. I was totally blown away. I knew this band was going to be HUGE. “Wow, this is really commercial,” is how Jones put it.
– I did several interviews and cover stories with Warrant, and eventually I started hanging out with the members and was even invited into the home they shared in Northridge, where they had some great parties back in the day. That’s where I introduced Warrant to a tough friend named “Rocks” who would become their first official bodyguard before being fired for eating their food in the dressing room while the band was on stage.
– Jani’s alcohol and drug problems have been well-founded, but that was never an issue when the band was building and even during the first few years of their biggest success when “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” and “Cherry Pie” both went double-platinum.
– I really got to know the band well when I flew to Phoenix to do an on-the-road story with them. At the last minute, I asked Lane’s girlfriend, Bekka Bramlett, if she wanted to fly there with me (with Jani’s permission, of course), and we barely made the flight but ended up having a great time. The band was doing a small-theatre tour with Kingdom Come, who had been around longer but was getting killed by the Down Boys at the merchandise booth.
– Things got a little crazy one night at a small after-party in Hollywood at the home of porn starlet Heather Torrance and her hot friend, Amy McInthosh. It was me, Jani, Steven Sweet (we all called him Sticky back in the day), Rob Jones, myself, and the girls. Jani found himself in a compromising position with Heather, and he let me take a few pictures (his expression was priceless). Once we all sobered up, Jani was worried the pics might get into the wrong hands because he was still with Bekka, so I ended up giving him the negatives to ease his mind. “OK, now we’ll be friends forever,” he said.
– When Warrant was still trying to make a name for themselves, I got a job working for HITS magazine, a very respected trade publication, and I convinced my editor, Roy Trakin, that we should do a big story about Warrant because “Heaven” was going to be a hit. I had just done Cinderella for HITS, so he said OK, and sure enough, the story came out and “Heaven” soon became huge.
Warrant counting to five
– Ruben Blue, one of my early mentors at Rock City News, had a simple explanation for Warrant’s success: “You see Jani Lane smile, and you love him.”
– Warrant’s manager at the time, Eddie Wenrick, was quite a character. He always wore fancy suits but with brand-new white Reeboks, and naturally he encouraged me to write as many stories as possible, even mailing me a Warrant tour laminate so I never had to hassle about being on a press list. One time, I asked if it would be OK for Warrant to play one of the G-Spot Jams at Gazzarri’s, and Wenrick said no problem – if I paid $50,000.
– But then one night, the guys said it would OK for them do a show for me, but I couldn’t advertise the name Warrant. I was thrilled that word got out, and Warrant did in fact play a G-Spot Jam with Hardly Dangerous, Black Cherry and Hyde supporting. Just before the show, Jani whispered in my ear, “Gerry, this is going to be the best G-Spot Jam ever,” and he was RIGHT!
– When “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” broke, Warrant sent me a Gold record, and I was totally surprised and utterly thrilled. I’ve gone through some major ups and downs through the years, and that Gold record – and later a platinum “Cherry Pie” – have been on my bedroom wall forever. I remember my name being the very last “thank you” on the liner notes for “Cherry Pie,” and Joey Allen used to joke that I had barely made it.
– Warrant toured for a long time off the first record, and they played three big homecoming shows. The first was at Universal Amphitheatre headlining over House of Lords and Pretty Boy Floyd, and that night they got their 50K. The second was a secret show at Gazzarri’s billed under the name “Wad Squad,” and I can’t tell you how many beers and cocktails we shared together that night, first backstage and then at the Rainbow, where Jani paid for everyone and ordered his usual large meatball pizza. The third was at the Santa Monica Civic with the Zeros opening; Jailhouse had wanted to open, but at some point someone said members of Jailhouse had been talking shit, and that’s when they invited the Zeros instead. At Santa Monica, the band gave me a stack of backstage passes to hand out to whomever I wanted – I was in heaven!
Zakk Wylde & Michael Kelly Smith of Britny Fox with Eric Turner & Joey Allen
– On “Dirty,” I knew Allen and Turner did not play the lead guitar parts, and it was a secret that I kept forever, though through the years others have found out it was really Mike Slamer, who played guitar for Eddie Money. Also, most people don’t know that the first copies of “Dirty” continue a different, lesser version of “Heaven.” Once they realized it was going to be a big hit, the band re-recorded it with bigger backgrounds, but the first 100,000 copies or so have the original version.
– After a long night of drinking with New Haven’s Todd Lane (no relation to Jani), one of my best friends at the time, introduced me to Shake City singer Adam Shore, who had left an early version of Warrant and was replaced by Lane. I blurted out something really obnoxious to Shore like “Wow, you really blew it, dude,” and I remember feeling really bad afterward; but that was me, I didn’t have good filtering device, and my big mouth was always getting me into trouble.
– Through helping to discover Warrant, Pretty Boy Floyd and a few others, CBS A & R manager Ron Oberman invited me to his office to ask if I was interested in being the executive producer of an album featuring all unsigned bands playing one song each. For some reason, we never got around to finishing the idea, but Oberman remembered me during the “Cherry Pie” recording sessions, and I was among the first to hear the new tracks, and this time Joey Allen was playing leads after more than a year’s worth of improvement on tour. I was mesmerized. “Cherry Pie” was even better than the last one.
– Jani had bought a modest house in Sherman Oaks off Valley Vista Street once he cashed in on “Dirty” (he had totaled the new Corvette he bought with his signing bonus), and he had a big party catered by one of his favorite Mexican restaurants. There was also tons of alchohol, and my roommate at the time, Waddell Solomon from Razzle Dazzle, was in rare form after a couple of bottles of wine.
– Warrant played a benefit show in San Francisco one night and said I could invite anyone I wanted, and I arrived with Big Bang Babies singer Kit Ashley, his tech Phil Stolo and a hot groupie named Missy Marks who occasionally hung with Erik Turner. Bad English and Enuff Z’Nuff were playing, too, and before the show, Enuff singer Donnie Vie was taking a pee in the bathroom as he turned to Jani and me and playfully said, “Hey Jani, is this where the Down Boys go?” Jani was not amused
Jani Lane back down to one
– Once grunge set in and Warrant fell out of favor, I didn’t have as many opportunities to hang with the guys. But when Jani, down on his luck, needed some press for a VH1 Classic project and tour (it turned out be a disaster, but that’s another story), I was there for him, again, with a feature in the Los Angeles Daily News, and he really appreciated it. He was struggling with sobriety at the time and gave me his latest cell number, and we talked about doing a book together, but years later it’s still in the planning stages.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org