Randy Rhoads: Hollywood Knights
GW And from there you went on to play the legendary Rodney’s English Disco, ground zero for the L.A. glam scene.
GARNI Yeah, Rodney Bingenheimer [L.A. rock scenester and influential DJ] was actually a good friend of mine and Randy’s. We had a band called Smokey that was kinda the house band at Rodney’s English Disco. One of the acts we opened for was Shaun Cassidy [bubblegum pop star and brother of Partridge Family singer and teen idol David Cassidy]. Me and Randy were about 13 and 14. Smokey was the name of the lead singer. He was a really girly looking guy. Very glam. He was very, very tall, wore all black leather, had beautiful hair and a beautiful face. Really a pretty boy.
GW What kind of material did you do with him?
GARNI I would describe it as hard rock. Very Stooges-like.
GW Did you write your own stuff?
GARNI Yes, we did, and Smokey had some song called “Leather” that he claimed was a big hit somewhere—I think maybe he was from Detroit or something—so we had to learn that. On the flyer we have from a Smokey gig, it says “Hear ‘Leather’ performed live.”
GW Did you ever record anything with Smokey?
GARNI We did, actually. Smokey had a boyfriend named EJ who was a sound engineer, and I remember doing some recording with him in a house—maybe four-track or eight-track stuff. Whatever happened to that recording I have no idea. It would be incredible to have something like that. Who knows, maybe Smokey or EJ will read this.
GW I wonder if Rodney would know.
GARNI That’s a possibility. Rodney was really good to me and Randy. When we first got with Smokey, we didn’t have a place to rehearse, and Rodney let us use his club. We used to keep all the amps down there; Rodney had a killer P.A. in the place. We would go there during the daytime and set up. We had free reign of the bar. He basically gave us the keys to the place; he wasn’t even there. After rehearsal, we’d go home and get all dressed up—all Hollywood-ed out—and come back that night and hang out. It was really an incredible place. The girls were amazing, all dolled up in their little hot pants and miniskirts. Most of them were, like, 12 or 13, but they looked like they were 25. You’d walk in the place, look in the VIP booth and there’d be Led Zeppelin sitting there, or Lou Reed, Bowie, Sweet, T-Rex, Slade…all the glitter bands. That was the big hot spot.
GW Did you get to meet any of those bands?
GARNI We weren’t allowed to go up and talk to them in that booth—you left them alone—but later on, when Randy and I were in Quiet Riot, we got to meet Robert Plant and John Bonham. It was at the Starwood, where Quiet Riot was kind of the house band. Plant and Bonham came there to see a band called Detective that they’d signed to their label, Swan Song. [Actor/Power Station vocalist] Michael Des Barres was the singer in Detective, and they had Tony Kaye, the keyboard player from Yes. The L.A. Times said that we blew Detective out of the water that night. So we were in the dressing room and in comes Robert Plant. He was really nice to us, kept telling us, “Great show. You guys are really great.” We were thinking, So how about signing us then? Then in came John Bonham, totally drunk, being carried by two guys almost as big as him. He just kind of nodded and waved, “Good job, great show,” and then they carried him out.
GW Speaking of the L.A. Times, how was Randy with journalists?
GARNI Real good. He was a good speaker. And funny, too. He’d be real serious, but if he saw an opportunity to mess with the guy’s head, he’d do it. He loved being funny. In any kind of serious situation, he’d be particularly prone to get out of line. In Quiet Riot, we’d always be called in for meetings with management, where we’d have lawyers explaining all this paperwork to us. We didn’t understand any of it. We were just kids; it was all we could do to keep awake. So Randy would start making faces and doing things with his hands. He liked to pretend he was shaving while people were talking serious to him. He’d pantomime that he had a razor and he’d rub it under his chin and all.
GW Sharon Osborne told me Randy had a wicked sense of humor and liked to play pranks on girls in particular.
GARNI Really pretty ones, yes, especially if they had any kind of attitude. If they acted like, “Boy, I’m too hot for you,” they became an immediate target for Randy. He wasn’t intimidated or impressed with beautiful girls. Most guys get kinda tongue tied around a pretty girl. They don’t know what to say. Randy wasn’t like that because he didn’t care. He wasn’t trying to nail ’em or anything. He didn’t want a date with them.
GW So there was a kind of power there.
GARNI Yeah. He would say things that would embarrass a girl like that, and do things to her, like write something on a piece of paper and tape it onto her back without her knowing it. And when she’d be walking around the room, he’d point it out to everybody.
GW At that age, when a guy’s hormones are erupting, how was he able to be so indifferent to the allure of beautiful women?
GARNI Well, he never hurt for girlfriends. There were always girls around that he could have anytime he wanted, and he knew it. Way before Quiet Riot, back when we were in junior high school, he had little going-steady-type relationships that didn’t last for long—I mean we’re talking two or three weeks—and they were always with very pretty girls. One was Theresa Pope, who became the actress Theresa Russell. That was in the eighth grade. They’d go to Disneyland, walk around, hold hands, go on a couple of rides and, at the end of the night, maybe kiss. And that was pretty much it.
GW That’s all, huh?
GARNI Well, Randy did have a fling with a girl who was in the next grade up. That was something more. Her name was Cookie. She was a big blonde with real big boobs. She’d developed way before her time, and she would often wear tops that accentuated that. It was very common for her to get sent home to change into something less revealing. But she’d never learn. She was a really pretty girl, but a little on the rough side; sort of a trailer park kind of girl. She had an older boyfriend, who would drop her off at school everyday on his motorcycle. He was sort of a badass kind of guy, but this girl thought the world of Randy; thought he was real cute; flirted with him constantly. And finally, he did have a dalliance with her that went a little further than holding hands and kissing.
GW This would be Randy’s “first,” then?
GARNI I believe so. I’m almost positive. I can’t really tell you for sure, because he was so embarrassed about it he wouldn’t go into great detail. But he gave me enough detail to let me know he definitely did some exploring; he got some education. This was still the eighth grade. And then her boyfriend found out about it and was gonna beat Randy up. So now not only did we have to worry about the jocks beating us up ’cause we had long hair, we also had to worry about this hoodlum guy with a motorcycle.
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