I headed south to Los Angeles California. Hollywood specifically. While this trip wasn’t for an actual music concert, this show was “music adjacent”. Riki Rachtman was an important part of the 1980s and 90s music scene. He, along with Taime Downe (Faster Pussycat) ran the iconic rock n roll dance club Cathouse and into the 90’s was the host of Mtv’s Headbangers Ball. This was the final stop on his ‘One Foot In The Gutter’ tour and promised to be the most special stop because, A). he was in his hometown and B). the people who were in attendance.
The Bourbon Room was the host for this stop and couldn’t have been a more perfect venue. Located right on Hollywood Blvd, it is also just blocks from Riki and Taime’s old apartment from back in the day. The Bourbon Room has an old Hollywood feel and with a 200 seat capacity, it provides an intimacy that was perfect for this kind of show.
Riki was introduced by his wife, tattoo artist, Lea Vendetta. He came out on stage via a staircase on the side of the stage to a karaoke version of the Doobie Brothers “What a Fool Believes” and within a few lines, the audience was singing along with him. When the music stopped, he said that he decided to come on stage to a karaoke so that the rest of the show only got better. And the better it got.
In attendance was Taime Downe, Gilby (Guns N Roses) and Daniella Clarke (fashion designer), Todd Singerman (Motorhead’s manager), Matt Pinfield (120 minutes), Jay Bentley (Bad Religion), Joseph Brooks (Vinyl Fetish records) as well as other key Cathouse friends and family. Riki said he was, understandably, nervous about this show because many of the people in the stories were in attendance.
The show started out with him telling stories of him as a teenager, growing up in Van Nuys California, a suburb of Los Angeles. How he became a DJ because a girl he was dating was into dance music. He would go with her to be with her but, ended up hanging out with the DJs instead. That in turn, led him to DJing Heather Locklear and Tommy Lee‘s wedding. That wedding sparked the idea of a rock n roll dance club that would eventually come to fruition as The Cathouse. This also put him on the path to meeting his future roommate and business partner, Taime Downe. After the first Faster Pussycat show, Riki pitched the idea of opening the Cathouse.
From there, it was a myriad of Cathouse stories including The Guns N Roses record release party, celebrity attendees, and the strippers and porn stars that hung out there as well as Slash falling down the stairs holding a plastic plant. All this was happening while drug and alcohol use was out of control and debauchery was the norm. It then morphed into how he ended up getting sober and the first time Taime mentioned his name on MTV.
Just before the intermission, he shared his two favorite Cathouse stories. The first one was when Alice Cooper‘s manager asked Riki if Alice could play the Cathouse on Halloween night for the record release party for Trash.
The second was when Guns N Roses played a friends and family show and David Bowie showed up. Bowie insisted on playing on stage with GnR and was turned down. He then said something inappropriate to Axl‘s girlfriend. Axl ended up chasing David Bowie down the street saying he was going to kill him. On this night, the GnR video “It’s So Easy” was filmed for a future home video release. On a side note, GnR’s manager said this was the best show they ever played according to Riki.
After the intermission, he talked about when things got weird. Notably, when Axl Rose and Vince Neil were threatening to fight each other over an incident at the Cathouse. Fortunately, it never happened.
He also explained how he got the gig on Headbangers Ball. Axl Rose had made a phone call to MTV and set up an interview. They then flew out to the interview together and he eventually got the job. He played a bunch of clips of some of his favorite parts before talking about how important Lemmy was to him. His love for Motorhead is unmatched.
Back to Headbangers Ball, he was saying how accepting heavy metal fans are. Until, about 2 years into filming, he cut his hair. Not acceptable….haha. Also, at this time the Cathouse was getting bigger. He also said while the club was 21+, there were 2 minors that were regulars. If you want to know who, you should have caught the show.
While talking Headbangers ball he talked about interviewing Nirvana and being in the November Rain video. After that, he talked about his favorite episode with Alice in Chains at Action Park waterslides and how dangerous that place was. He then played some never-before-seen footage of the episode including Layne Staley losing his shorts on one of the slides.
Riki then brought up the fact that, never once, did he ever pick a video that appeared on Headbangers Ball. Yet, he took the brunt of the hate mail for it. As the music started changing, the clubs he owned slowed down and eventually closed.
From there he discussed becoming a host on Loveline with Dr Drew Pinsky and how he met Julio Iglasias. He talked about how Julio ended up being the best man at his wedding and paying for the whole thing. From there, he went in to him starting a talk radio show in LA, getting divorced and dating Janine Lindemulder. He also went into getting arrested for punching his radio coworker that was insulting him on the air. He said he was then blacklisted from radio and ended up becoming a car salesman.
Eventually, he started doing a NASCAR radio show that was eventually picked up nationally as well as doing a couple of VH1 reality shows. During this time. he also started boxing training and was asked to do a celebrity boxing event fighting Benji Madden from Good Charlotte. The ending was not what he expected.
Riki, from there, talked about passing the information on bands to the youth. To stop saying “Name three songs!”. Instead, say, have you checked out X, T, Z? Also, he talked about being patient and sometimes you must go through some crappy things to move forward to better things. Basically, everything happens for a reason.
I would like to add that this show was filmed and, while I don’t know what will become of it. I do hope it will be released at some point so the world can see it. I would also like to add, while this show was about him, it was also a live documentary of the mid 1980’s to the mid 1990’s Los Angeles rock and roll scene. I am so glad I made the trek down to catch it. So, in the words of Riki Rachtman……..”Keep one foot in the gutter, and one fist in the gold.”
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Photographer of about 10 years, I have been shooting concerts for about 8 of those years. I started to get serious about concert photography about 6 or 7 years ago and now try to shoot as many as I can. I shoot mostly rock but, have done some country and big band stuff. I love music and since I am nowhere close to being a musician, this is a way I can be a small part of what, in the words of Henry Rollins, “gets me through the highs, the lows and everything in between”.