By Tommy Lee with Anthony Bozza
Atria, 288 pages, $26
With "Survivor," "The Bachelor" and even "The Apprentice" seemingly on the decline, a new crop of reality "stars" has bum-rushed their way into the nation's twisted heart: Sly's Amazonian ex, Brigitte Nielsen; the still clock-sporting Flavor Flav; the only sports owner to make Daniel Snyder seem likable, Mark Cuban (Whoops! Already off the air); dashing Virgin magnate/maniac Richard Branson (any mogul savvy enough to have signed the dearly departed Verve and the great Paul Weller to his record label must be afforded some respect); and even, no kidding, the Amish.
Recently, NBC announced a new reality show featuring the former Motley Crue drummer and amateur porno star Tommy Lee. He will go to college, attend classes and most likely re-create the Girls Gone Wild series in his dorm room (whatever freshman is assigned Lee as a roommate is one lucky guy).
As a precursor to the Lee media blitz comes the obligatory autobiography-cum-simplistic-pontification-opportunity. Titled "Tommyland" (perhaps "My Endowment" was taken), Lee's opus was co-written with rock writer Anthony Bozza. While it is unclear how much of the writing is Lee and how much is Bozza, what is certain is that the style is often riotously laughable, and not necessarily when the authors intended it to be. The meanderings of Lee have an almost Zen-like stupidity about them, creating a text that borders on the fascinating. Here is one of Lee's choice contemplations:
I thought about a lot . . . in jail, but when I was in that cage, I couldn't think about anything else but freedom, about how much of it I've had all my life and how much freedom anyone who isn't in jail takes for granted. Other than that, nature to me was reduced to cockroaches and flies. I'd get all excited when I saw them in my cell. I'd talk to them, I'd get down on the floor and watch them walk around. They were my friends. There were three that lived with me and I named them, Manny, Moe, and Jack -- they were the roaches who lived in my trash.
Not quite rivaling Alexandre Dumas or even the oddly incarceration-obsessed Stephen King in terms of gripping prison narratives, Lee's tale of cockroach-human solidarity is, at the very least, original.
A personal favorite section is Lee's occasionally surprising list of music that has changed his life, the real shocker being his love for the stunning Icelandic geniuses known as Sigur Ros:
That band sends me back to my womb, and it's scary -- One of the greatest things about their music is that they called the album "Untitled." It leaves everything open, letting the listener paint the sound canvas however they want to -- that is what froze me in my tracks. It sent me into myself, very powerfully and immediately.
Even Lee's raves make little sense. However, the section is strangely enlightening. Who would have expected any Motley Crue member to wax eloquently about the soaring melodies of Sigur Ros?
For those hankering for Lee's methods of seduction, here is the tome you've been waiting for. Tommy's patented love techniques are wild enough to make Dr. Ruth contemplate life in a nunnery.
"A good idea to fire up your relationship is to drive down the highway at about 65 mph and have sex with your girl."
"While we're on the subject of smells that inspire love and sex, Dr. Lee would like to recommend the gardenia, one of his favorite flowers." And, inevitably: "I have been with two chicks many, many times, and it isn't all it's cracked up to be."
The rest of Lee's tips are a bit too risque for the Sunday paper.
Also included (I can see your eyes widening) are descriptions of Lee's array of bodacious lovers, including Heather Locklear, Carmen Electra and, of course, Pamela Anderson. The story behind the couple's videotaped sex tryst is a doozy.
The book does contain several semi-serious sections, especially the chapter describing one of the darkest moments of his life: the death of a little boy in Lee's pool at his son's fifth birthday party.
The accidental drowning became a tabloid frenzy, and even though Lee was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing or neglect, the incident further damaged his already tarnished reputation. "For an entire week afterward, I stay locked in my room," he writes. "I had spent the last three years doing my best to clean up the mess in my life, and I had made myself a better person. I felt that all I had done, in one instant, because of one unfortunate accident, was meaningless."
It is hard not to feel for Lee at times such as this. The book makes very clear that his personality is an honest, loving and likable one. Full of adoration for his children and family, and even quite kind toward his exes, it seems that for all Lee's successes, and he has had many, it's not easy being Tommy.
Perhaps he is on the path to nirvana, perhaps more tragedy awaits; perhaps no one really cares except him. One must ask the obvious question: Who was the book written for? Motley Crue fans most likely could care less about how Lee spent his prison time. Anderson freaks won't find any pictures, and the majority of salacious details have already appeared in the pages of the National Enquirer and on the Howard Stern Show.
Yet, it seems pointless to come down too hard on "Tommyland." It is, after all, written by the drummer for Motley Crue; how much can one expect?
Many will find Lee's slightly crazed, Spicoli-at-age-40, happy-go-lucky voice refreshing, and in many ways, it is, albeit with an aftertaste akin to chugging a mug of stale beer and cigarette butts. At times, the book is a reasonably enjoyable voyage into the mind of a man who is the poster-child for America's B-list celebrity worship. And it's got to be less depressing than a Vince Neil bio.
Christopher Schobert is a Buffalo freelance reviewer.