Oquirrh Times ~ BOOK REVIEW 01/05/12:
Runway RunAway: A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance & Rock ‘n Roll By Mark Pittman - Book Critic/Reviewer
The first thing to catch the eye of prospective readers of “Runway RunAway” may not be the stunning image of international couture model/muse Lorelei Shellist flourishing a zebra-striped skirt atop a matching outfit, it is the words: “A True Story.”
Far removed from the “tell-all” books written in supermarket tabloid-style by former hangers-on and groupies in order to line their pockets or relume imagined celebrity status, “Runway RunAway” is also atypical in the realm of public figure autobiographies by delving into the secret pages of a private diary.
Lorelei includes more than a dozen journal passages — some happy, some hurting — revealing her innermost and private feelings, many of which were originally meant to be read only by God and herself.
Nearly a decade in the making, “Runway RunAway” can trace some of its roots to an avid Def Leppard fan, the late Mike Ripepi. He encouraged Lorelei to let mourning Steve Clark fans know why a guy who seemed to have it all — guitar hero status and a model fiancée — would destroy his mind and body with alcohol and drugs.
While shopping her Steve Clark manuscript to literary agents in New York, Lorelei was met with closed doors along with a dose of constructive criticism. She also discovered that the market couldn’t absorb another book about a deceased rock star who had apparently thrown life away in the spoils of stardom.
Accustomed to opening closed doors, Lorelei acted on the advice, which was to tell her story of survival from neglected youth clear up to her years with Steve. Lorelei went one step further — she became a publisher and skipped the standard publishing process altogether.
By the young age of 14, she became autonomous by running away from home. Determined and headstrong well beyond her years, Lorelei decided the divorce and pregnancy paths chosen by her parents and sisters weren’t compatible with her future ambitions.
Armed with nothing more than a dream in her heart, Lorelei wasn’t worried. It’s that gutsy attitude and fearless mindset that would pay dividends many times over as she experienced stratospheric highs and unfathomable lows in both career and love life. The cold, cruel world can swallow up even the most seasoned of streetwise kids — but then again, the world had yet to experience the likes of Lorelei.
Initially, her worldly adventures didn’t stray much farther than her own Los Angeles area backyard. They also weren’t as glamorous as the magazine cutouts of top models taped to her bedroom wall. In short order she found herself waitressing at the “House of Pies,” earning measly 25-cent tips. Decked out in a white uniform, shoes, and cap, it wasn’t quite the modeling wardrobe she’d imagined.
Lorelei’s luck would soon change in the form of a chance meeting with Eagles drummer Don Henley. He helped unlock some of the famous and fortunate’s hardest to open doors. Although Lorelei openly entertained an on-again, off-again relationship with the rock icon, she kept him somewhat at arm’s length to ensure her dreams stayed in focus.
While collecting tear sheets for her modeling portfolio, Lorelei continued to pound the pavement in Los Angeles before heading east to New York City. From there it was time to cross borders into foreign territory: England, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and many other exotic locations. “My European sabbatical lasted for 10 years and introduced me to a world that I had never known,” Lorelei adds.
By January 1984, Lorelei had been living and modeling abroad for several years when she received a phone call from reappearing friend, Peter Mensch, one of Def Leppard’s managers. Peter was looking for someone to babysit two guitar players from the band: Phil Collen and Steve Clark.
As the telephone rang, the furthest thought from Lorelei’s mind as she stirred a pot of homemade ratatouille in her Paris kitchen, was chaperoning heavy metal rock stars known by the moniker “Terror Twins.” After some long-distance persuasion, she finally agreed to help out her friend.
Author’s Note (Handle With Care), Chapter 1, and Chapters 16–24 are about Lorelei’s relationship with Steve. Chapters 2–15 are what led Lorelei to the fateful telephone call that changed her life.
Lorelei describes the emotions she felt on the stairwell of her four-story, walk-up apartment as the duo reached the top of the Tudor-style wooden staircase. “I’ll never forget the moment I met Steve. Our attraction was surreal and intoxicating. He had an ardor about him that reminded me of a peacock spreading its feathers. It was love at first sight.”
While making room for Steve in every aspect of her life, Lorelei continued visiting a long list of go-sees — including the biggest names in fashion: Christian Lacroix, Bob Mackie, Giorgio Armani, Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, and Geoffrey Beene.
Lorelei had fallen in love and wanted to share life’s offerings with Steve in every way imaginable. What she didn’t bargain for was becoming his caretaker — something she’d done as a young girl taking care of her sister Corinne’s children. In all her relationships with men it seemed she was solving their issues, healing their wounds, and quieting their fears — all the while putting her own needs and desires aside.
Steve’s addiction to anything that would numb the pain became a controlling factor in virtually every aspect of their relationship. With a family history of playing the hero child, Lorelei attempted to fix Steve’s missteps and unknowingly became his enabler. Eventually, both Lorelei and Def Leppard reached a point where enough was enough and the final “I’ve quit drinking for good this time” fell on deaf ears.
Turning the pages of “Runway RunAway” is like reliving Lorelei’s past life through her eyes. She mentions “eyes” in one form or another more than 100 times throughout the book to describe the scene — allowing the reader to “see” what she was feeling (Steve Clark: ocean-blue eyes; Valerie Mazzonelli: brown Bambi eyes; Don Henley: iridescent blue eyes; “… pain in my father’s eyes …”).
Instead of feeling removed from the story, Lorelei makes you feel like a friend is telling you what’s been bothering them — allowing you to be her confidant. At first it’s all so hard to believe, but you’re so riveted to the story that you keep reading. By the final chapter you realize that Lorelei has bared her soul and in many ways, exposed and mirrored the hardships you’ve been through in life.
“Runway RunAway” isn’t just for Def Leppard fans or teenage girls dreaming of strutting down the catwalk with cameras flashing. In fact, to pigeonhole “Runway RunAway” into a neat and tidy category would do it an enormous injustice. The book is about people who’ve lived life to the fullest, and those who fell short and suffered the consequences of their choices. “Runway RunAway” is about all of us.
"Some people, it seems, just can't handle the truth. Lorelei Shellist was the fiancée of Def Leppard's Steve Clark until Clark's drinking and depression drove them apart and sent the guitarist to an early grave. In writing a book about their relationship, Shellist has incurred the wrath of some who would rather not know the truth about their hero. It seems that some people would really rather not know the truth. This book, meanwhile is for the people who'd rather know the truth.
Scott Rowley, Editor In Chief, Classic Rock Magazine
Lorelei Shellist was a successful model when she met and fell in love with Steve Clark. In a new autobiographical book, Runway Runaway, she tells of her doomed and sometimes violent relationship with the late Def Leppard guitarist and his battles with alcoholism.An extract appears in this month’s Classic Rock magazine – onsale now – and we speak to the lovely Ms Shellist about the problem of telling the awkward truth below:
So what attracted you to the famous, millionaire rock star?
When did you realise Steve had a drink problem?
LS: “It was 1986 and we were in Ireland, shopping. He said: “I’m just nipping into this pub for a pint.” I picked him up later and he was pissed. He wouldn’t leave. He just wanted to drink. This was the start of it.”
And yet there are passages in the book when you seem to indulge just as much as Steve…
LS: “Yes but I always had an exit strategy. The difference between us was that he never really had hangovers. He would wake up and want to drink again.”
Do you feel you did all you could to save Steve?
LS: “I wish I could say yes. But I can’t. I thought by going back to him each time I was helping him. I wasn’t.”
Did the band do all they could?
LS: “There was a time when I might have said no. For a long time, they were like: “Aw, it’s just Steve… Don’t worry.” But no-one was to blame here. It was Steve’s choice.”
The parts of the book where Steve hit you are grim…
LS: “They were the hardest parts to write. Steve was out of control when he did that. He would drink – then blackout. He wouldn’t have done that sober. I took all I could until I had to save myself.”
People have said that you’ve sullied Steve’s memory by including those passages…
LS: “I knew some people would be upset - but this is how it happened. If it’s uncomfortable for some people, I’m sorry. But it is the truth.”
Steve would have been 49 this year. Do you ever wonder what he would have been like today?
LS: “Yes. I have a poster of him by my desk. I often sit there and ask him that question. It was such a waste.”
TRUTH BEHIND ROCKER'S DEATH
IT was no secret that Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark could party hard, but in her new memoir, "Runway Runaway," the rocker's former model girlfriend, Lorelei Shellist, reveals his tortured side. Shellist told Page Six, "I was 24 when Steve and I met . . . he was the love of my life." She said Clark's death by accidental overdose at 30 in 1991 was a result of "living on the other side of glamour. Nobody talks about the lonely side of it, traveling from city to city living out of a suitcase. I believe [Clark] had serious manic-depressive disorders and OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder]. He had a lot of voices he was trying to quiet in his head. He was a brilliant musician and songwriter, but he would wake up in the middle of the night and write. He could never get a good night's sleep . . . he was haunted." Her book, based on her life as a teenage runaway turned runway model, also tells of her longtime friendship with Eagles rocker Don Henley
"Just open this book and let Lorelei take you on the journey of her life...I guarantee you, she'll win your heart, just like she won mine."
Can't Find My Way Home; writer/producer/commentator, VH1's The Drug Years, and Sex--The Revolution.
"I read Lorelei's book during roundtrip flights from LA to NY. Exciting, Emotional,Real.... an incredible story told with intimate reflections of vulnerability and courage.
I was drawn in by to the humor, the sadness and the love, and put the book down feeling like I had been personally a part of it."
--Lauren Monroe Recording Artist
"Put an evening gown on Miss Lorelei and watch this adorable, goofy, “wild child” morph into the most beautifully elegant of fashion divas. I always thought she must have an interesting back story, but who knew? This woman is a force of nature and a genuine survivor."
Oscar Award recipient & Celebrity Fashion Designer
“Runway RunAway” author to sign books with special guest this weekend in Nashville~by Stephanie on June 18th, 2010 www.stephinthecity.com/
Shellist, a former Nashvillian, shares her journey from the streets of Los Angeles as a teenage runaway waitress, to the catwalks of Paris working as a model, as well as the highs and low’s as the fiancé of the late Def Leppard guitar great, Steve Clark in the book. The world of fashion and rock collide in Runway RunAway, hear the story from the gal that lived to tell it.
TENNESSEAN.COM - Morsels, June18, 2010:• Def Leppard's Phil Collen will be a guest for author/model Lorelei Shellist's book-signing and reading for Runway RunAway: A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance & Rock 'n Roll at 2 p.m. Saturday at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills Mall. Phil will read and sign books, as well. According to the book's publicity material, Lorelei "chronicles her journey from teen runaway, to international success on the runway, to her ultimately tragic relationship as the fiancée of the late Def Leppard guitar great Steve Clark." Lorelei lived in Nashville from 1995-2000.
Runway Runaway reveals true story of life, love and untimely death of Def Leppard's Steve Clark June 19, 5:04 PM
I had an opportunity to speak with Lorelei about the book and was impressed with her candor. I can only image the difficulty of retelling the events that would lead to Clark's alcohol abuse and eventual death. "There were memories that were oh-so great and then there were the ones that were extremely challenging, not only to remember, but to write and share for all to see," admitted Lorelei. "I knew that if I were to write my story, I had to be completely honest and authentic, otherwise, why bother?"
Based on the book's full title, Runway RunAway: A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance & Rock 'n Roll, readers might initially compare it to the countless sleep-and-tell model-meets-rocker bios out there. It's a far cry from the likes of Pamela Des Barres' I'm With The Band, the trashy, bedpost-notch-gathering tale of an 80s super groupie. "I have read Des Barres book, and I was quite entertained by her candidly honest stories of her adventures. Running with rock stars seemed to be a sort of hobby for her, perhaps more of a conquest and more about quantity than quality," revealed Lorelei.
In her book, Shellist provides a rare glimpse beyond the glitz and glamour of fashion and rock and quickly reveals a common thread--whether you're a fashion model living a dream life in London with your rocker boyfriend, or just an average girl from the streets of LA--everyone is searching for the same ultimate goal, to find true and lasting love. Lorelei mirrored that feeling when she said, "I was always looking for the one, and I am a die-hard romantic. I believed in happily ever after, and so, I gave my heart completely."
While reading the book, I wondered if Collen and the other members of DEF LEPPARD accepted Lorelei from the beginning. "The band had their own relationships and issues to deal with. For the most part, they minded their own business," she recalled. "Phil was Steve's best friend and we were always together so when Steve's disease began to spiral out of control, Phil was usually around to witness his erratic behavior, even when I wasn't."
Steve Clark and Lorelei Shellist
Of Collen's continued friendship, Lorelei offered, "Phil has always supported me in my dreams from my writings to my own music. After Steve died I began songwriting as a way to heal myself and Phil bought me a beautiful 12 string Guild to play and record my songs with. It was the most generous gift I have ever received from a friend". She then thoughtfully added, "His participation at my book signing in Nashville will probably top that. He is giving me his full support and his precious time just at the kickoff of yet another tour. I value our friendship probably more than even he knows".
The book tells of Lorelei's beginnings as a young runaway and her determination to make it in the world of high fashion. Determination that lead her from LA to New York and eventually to Paris and London, where she meet and fell in love with Clark. Along the way, she worked with a veritable who's who in the world of fashion, from Karl Lagerfeld, Yves St. Laurent and Christian Lacroix to Bob Mackie, Geoffrey Beene and Giorgio Armani. All the while, Steve and his band mates were creating what would arguably become the definitive 80s rock band. Shellist's insight is without question, honest and revealing. "I was with Steve through the writing and touring of Hysteria. The record took four years to make and 2 years to tour and the last year of Steve's life was spent in and out of treatment centers following the tour," disclosed Lorelei. "In that time-frame the focus was always on the success of the Hysteria record sales, filling the seats in the arenas and surviving a fast paced lifestyle," she continued.
In addition to more than 100 never before seen personal photos, handwritten journal entries there are recollections of conversations with the likes of Don Henley, Darryl Hall and John Oates, Mutt Lang and, in one of the lighter moments of the book, a chance encounter with Cher, while in designer Bob Mackie's Hollywood boutique. Lorelei was shopping for something to wear to the MTV Awards, when she heard Cher in the next fitting room. Cher offered her assistance, and this bit of advice, "'You want to look sexy, but don't overdo it. You don't want to show too much cleavage, that's what everyone in Hollywood does', Cher warned." This, from the woman who wore a belly revealing beaded Mackie gown with feather headdress to the Oscars.
Its recollections like that mixed with painful memories of their volatile relationship that keep the reader engaged. Lorelei's book is the sometimes painful, but always realistic look at a seemingly perfect life and how one woman chose to rise above the bad to continue on and learn from the past. "I hope my readers are touched and moved to look into themselves. I have learned that we are here to parent ourselves. Our parents did the best they could. Now it is up to us to pick up where they left off, at whatever age stage that was and do our best to nurture and heal ourselves. No blame, no shame," implored the author.
In the years since the death of her beloved Steve, Lorelei is now a family counselor and life coach based in California. She ventured into her current field in the 90s, while living in Nashville. Of her time in Music City, Lorelei fondly revealed, " I loved it and I was blessed through many deep friendships. The people I am friends with here are diverse and multi-talented. However I am a mermaid, an ocean girl - I need to be by the water."
Lorelei Shellist today
When asked about her switch from model to counselor, Lorelei recalled, "I began my career in counseling and life coaching while volunteering at the Oasis Center with the At-Risk Teens," she said proudly. "I developed a workshop called Dreams With Wings. Using my own life experience as a runaway teen who followed and achieved her dreams as an inspiration to them. I was very clear about what I wanted and I believe that is the key to success."
She credits her success to the following, "Clarity and action steps. I realized my process as I was writing my book simultaneously," she confessed. "Once I discovered that my life was my purpose, I knew I had to share my skills and tools with others. I have since received my Master's in Spiritual Psychology, taking my counseling and coaching career to a much deeper level."
In addition to an extensive promotional tour that will take her to Ohio, Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Florida, Lorelei sees working with Siren Star, the small indie publisher of her book as another great opportunity, "I will continue to promote Runway RunAway through independent bookstores around the country. Siren Star is a grass roots publishing company and we are creating new ways to market the book. I think it is an opportune time to do things differently. I see the major "corporate" bookstores are thinning out. The ones who ate up the little guys. Well, the little guys are back! With the help of my readers around the country we are putting together a great team," she said proudly. "If anyone has connections with indie book stores, head shops, coffee houses or boutiques that would like to host me...I'm there," she added, only half-joking.
A final note on what she hopes the reader will take from her book reiterates a simple, yet important life lesson, "Never judge a book by its cover. That goes for people too. Take the time to look inside, the book, yourself/and or others." When the book tour ends, Lorelei will return to her home on the coast, where, as she boldly said, "My intention is to continue to inspire and motivate others through speaking, counseling, coaching and loving." This simply stated, but highly focused and sincere mission is exactly why readers of her book will discover that Lorelei Shellist is a Runway Runaway success!
Model-turned-counselor-turned-author, Lorelei Shellist and DEF LEPPARD's Phil Collen will be at Davis Kidd Booksellers in The Mall at Green Hills tomorrow, Saturday, June 20 beginning at 2:00pm
Click here to read Lorelei's interview with the Def Leppard E-Street Team
Below Steve and Lorelei in Vanity Fair in the 1980s