Their sexy combination of funky grooves and urban soul made them the biggest band on the planet virtually overnight. Three months later, they were broke, drunk, hounded by PETA, strung-out on cough medication and selling back-hair to pay the rent. Now, on the eve of their first comeback tour, the band swears nothing will come between them and stardom (or at least a hot meal) this time around. This is the story of Lisa Marie & the Codependents—Beneath the Music.
Lisa Marie Woodkovich, the youngest daughter of the world-famous Woodkovich Family Circus & Sideshow clan, had always dreamed of becoming a rock & roll singer. Her strict parents, on the other hand, wanted her to join the family circus as her older 12 siblings had done before her.
Lisa Marie: “Here I was, listening to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin in my little corner of the trailer, and my mom and dad—she was a sword-swallower, he was the Human Flame-thrower—want me to join the damned show! I’m like, screw that! I’m gonna be a rock & roller, man! Besides, the only job left for me as the youngest was biting the heads off chickens. Sorry folks, I ain’t down with that.”
When the Woodkovich Family Circus & Sideshow tour passed through the state of Utah, Lisa Marie made the life-changing decision to escape her poultry-mutilating future by becoming the first youngster to ever run away from the circus. Unfortunately, having been home-schooled in geography by parents who eat cutlery and fart fire for a living, she believed herself to be in California, just outside the star-making city of Hollywood. Too late, she realized she had just run away to Salt Lake City.
Lisa Marie: “How stupid is that? [Laughs] Hey, I was carny folk, I didn’t know any better. At least it wasn’t Canada.”
Living on the mean streets of Salt Lake City, Lisa Marie became fast friends with another hopeful rock & roller, bassist Rich “Dr. Funk” Daigle. Together, they shoplifted, performed on street corners and sold “hot” appliances to get by and help finance their musical ambitions.
Rich Daigle: “Those were good times, good times. Lisa Marie and I both wanted to be rock stars, period. She had the pipes and the looks, I had the chops and the overactive sweat glands—it was fate, I’m tellin’ you. We were selling industrial-size refrigerators out of the back of my Dodge Dart, which was tough, because the fridges were usually bigger than the car. But we didn’t care. We just needed money to pay for a demo of our music—and to get me a new pair of underwear. Lisa Marie refused to go into the studio with me unless I bought some clean drawers. That’s how I got the nickname ‘Dr. Funk’—it wasn’t about my bass playing. [Reflective pause] Changing underwear just takes time away from the music, you know?”
Lisa Marie: “I love the guy, he’s an amazing musician [holds nose] … but damn, dude.”
The duo entered Salt Lake’s Lympe-Dhick Studios—an inexpensive recording facility founded by Mormon Tabernacle Choir singers DeVerle Lympe and LeGrande Dhick—and laid down what was to become one of the most sought-after original rock & roll recordings since Elvis’ Sun sessions, or even Jennifer Lopez’s shower tapes: Lisa Marie Woodkovich Blows You. The album title was meant to be Lisa Marie Woodkovich Blows Your Mind, but a printing error in the L-DS studio’s graphics department omitted part of the phrase. Project recording engineer Dhick remembers the fallout from the fateful mistake.
LeGrande Dhick: “Lisa Marie was quite angry, throwing things all over the studio and screaming ‘I’m not some [bleep]ing whore’ over and over again. She even kicked DeVerle in the, uh, groin area so hard that he wasn’t able to father his 22nd child. Darn shame.”
Lympe-Dhick Studios session keyboardist/saxophonist Dana Gress: “Yeah, Lisa Marie was pissed, but the title actually helped sell more copies of the album—we couldn’t press ’em fast enough. She thought her artistic vision had been compromised or some crap like that. Then I pointed out to her that the entire inside album sleeve was nothing but nude pictures of her covered in whipped cream playing with a boa constrictor, and she calmed down and said, ‘You’re right, it’s the music that matters.’ That lady’s got integrity, man.”
The Band, The Manager
Since he played on Lisa Marie’s album, Gress was asked to join the band they were forming to take the music onstage. Having spent years under the Federal Witness Protection Program for ratting out mobsters in Michigan, he was reluctant to perform in public for fear of being recognized. Daigle eventually convinced Gress to sign on.
Daigle: “I just told Dana, ‘Be real, no one’s going to be looking at you onstage.’ With the band we were putting together, it was obvious where all the attention was going to be focused—on me.”
Lisa Marie: “I don’t know where the hell he got that idea. He is one sexy bitch, but I’d like to think the audience is going to be looking at the singer. I didn’t mind then, because he talked Dana into joining. Later on, though, Dr. Funk’s ego was going to get out of hand, and we all knew it.”
With a hot-selling indie album and considerable critical buzz culminating (Rolling Stone called Lisa Marie Woodkovich Blows You “nearly listenable”), the trio decided they needed to hire a manager to handle the business side before rounding out the band. Michael Hunt Jr., the son of legendary rock & roll impresario “Big Mike” Hunt, answered Lisa Marie’s ad in the Thrifty Nickel immediately.
Michael Hunt Jr.: “I was looking for a way to break into the music business without the help of my father—I didn’t want people to say ‘Oh, you’re just using Mike Hunt to get ahead.’ ‘Big Mike’ managed the Stones, Pearl Jam, Busta Rhymes, Korn, Moby and Kathie Lee Gifford, so everyone knew who he was. I needed to make my own name, and I could tell that Lisa Marie was going to make Mike Hunt huge. Don’t know why they were advertising in the Thrifty Nickel instead of Billboard or something, though.”
Lisa Marie: “That’s how my folks advertised the circus, so I figured it was the way to go. Besides, I sold an old waffle iron with that same ad, so it all worked out cool.”
The first thing Hunt Jr. told the still-embryonic band was to shorten their original name for the group from Lisa Marie Woodkovich & the Codependent Slackass Beeotches With Attitude to the more streamlined Lisa Marie & the Codependents. Then, he hired guitarist Mike Malloy and drummer Jon Belgique away from a band playing a neighborhood child’s birthday party to complete the Codependents.
Mike Malloy: “Mike just came into the kid’s back yard, started waving $100 bills in our faces and said, ‘You wanna be rock stars, or do you wanna play ‘N Sync songs for these little snots for the rest of your miserable lives?’ It was a pretty easy choice, but I wish he hadn’t made all those kids cry like that.”
Jon Belgique: “Screw the kids—I gots to get paid! I could finally move out of my parents’ house and be in a real band. Mom still does my laundry, though.”
THE BIG SHOW
After weeks of intense rehearsals, as well as choreography drills and breast implants for Lisa Marie (not to mention calf-muscle implants for Gress), the band was ready to unleash its powerful blend of funk and soul live and onstage for the very first time. Since Lisa Marie Blows You (now minus the Woodkovich) had been picked up by Wanker Bros. Records and re-released to multi-platinum international sales, demand for a live performance had reached a fever pitch.
Instead of sending Lisa Marie & the Codependents out on tour, Hunt devised an unusual strategy: Lisa Marie & the Codependents Blow You Live, an exclusive pay-per-view TV concert that would reach all of the band’s millions of fans simultaneously. While the plan seemed sound, Hunt’s insistence on charging a $200 fee per viewer didn’t sit well with the band. The month-old professional relationship was on the verge of falling apart.
Lisa Marie: “What the [bleep] was that about?! After weeks and weeks of hard work, clawing our way to the top to become the biggest band in the [bleep]ing world, this jerk-off manager was going to piss it all away with this [bleep]ing idea. Man, I just said, ‘If anyone lets Mike Hunt backstage, I will personally beat the hell out of him! I will pound Mike Hunt into submission!’ [Sad pause] That’s when I took my first hit of Robitussin … I just needed something to take the edge off … too much was happening, too fast …”
Daigle: “Personally, I knew the fans would gladly shell out 200 bucks apiece to see me, so I didn’t see what the big deal was. If you want to see Dr. Funk in action, you’ve got to pay the cover, darlin.’ It’s all about me.”
As the savvy Hunt predicted, millions of fans paid the cover to see Daigle and the Codependents’ debut. Though some attribute Blow You Live’s record subscription sales to the fact that Hunt fraudulently promoted it as a pro wrestling/monster truck/nude Playmate bowling event, the show went on as planned. By the time opening act Cher finished her set, Lisa Marie had shotgunned 35 bottles of Robitussin cough syrup to steady her nerves. Lisa Marie & the Codependents were minutes away from playing together onstage for the first time, in front of an audience of millions, and the singer was reeling in a cherry-flavored haze.
Lisa Marie: “I walked onto the stage, heard the crowd, heard the band kick off the first song behind me … after that, nothing. I can’t remember a thing, except waking up in jail the next day.”
Belgique: “I’ll never forget what happened. I still wake up nights screaming and wet. Well, the wet part is mostly my own problem, but it’s still scary.”
Malloy: “Did something happen? Man, I musta missed it.”
Somehow, a member of the audience had sneaked a live chicken into the concert hall and thrown it onstage just as the Codependents were starting their opening number. Doctors said later that in her dazed condition, Lisa Marie reverted back to her days with the Woodkovich Family Circus & Sideshow and just did what came naturally: She bit the head off the unfortunate hen, with millions looking on in horror.
The now-famous picture of Lisa Marie covered in chicken’s blood and grinning maniacally made every newspaper and magazine cover from Time to, ironically, the Thrifty Nickel. The album immediately dropped from No. 1 to minus 125, thanks to a special Billboard category created specifically to chart consumers returning (and, in most cases, burning) Lisa Marie & the Codependents records. At this point, even Marilyn Manson refused to go on the road with the band, prompting manager Hunt Jr. to cancel Lisa Marie’s proposed “We’re So [bleep]ing Sorry” tour. The band’s month-long reign at the top of the pop world was over almost as quickly as it had begun.
Lisa Marie: “Howard Stern wouldn’t even let me on his show after that! I just wanted to set the record straight. Yeah, I bit the head off a chicken, but at least it wasn’t a rooster—no one can ever say that Lisa Marie eats cock, no way. [Wipes away a tear] I’ve kicked the Robitussin monkey off my back, but some people just won’t let me forget what happened … I can’t even drive by a KFC without crying, you know?”
Daigle: “My moment was shattered. Everyone on earth was going to be exposed to my genius, but nooo, Lisa Marie had to get loaded on cough syrup and decapitate a chicken! It’s the oldest cliché in the rock & roll book, and we were living it. It took me a long time to forgive her, a long time. [Reflective pause] I even bought new underwear for that show, too …”
Daigle didn’t change his underwear, or anything else, for months after the pay-per-view disaster. Holed up in a rundown Salt Lake City motel room, the bassist lived on a diet of Funyuns and tequila, refusing to speak to any of his bandmates—especially not his one-time best friend, Lisa Marie. Since Hunt Jr. had absconded with all of the Codependents’ royalties shortly before being gunned down in a Magna drive-by shooting, Daigle and the rest of the band were flat broke. Selling his abundant back-hair to balding businessmen via the Internet, Daigle made a comfortable, if desperate and lonely, living.
In a strange twist, the bullets that took out Hunt Jr. in the drive-by were intended for his new “discovery,” hip-hop star-in-the-making, Plain White Rapper—a.k.a. Codependents keysman Dana Gress. Sean “Puffy” Combs was later cleared of all charges in the shooting, and Gress’ new career as MC PWR, the voice of the burgeoning “Salt Coast” hip-hop sound, never took off.
Gress: “Yo, I was jus’ tryin’ to represent, ya know whut I’m sayin’? Chillin’ on tha new flava an’ … I’m sorry, the whole situation was just traumatic. How is an educated Caucasian male supposed to get ahead in this world, anyway?”
Meanwhile, guitarist Malloy went back to playing kids’ birthday parties, and Belgique recorded the vision that had been his lifelong dream: an all-drum solo album. The triple-album set, Belgique Beats Off, was released to lackluster reviews, and went on to break the Codependents’ Billboard record for negative sales, bottoming out at minus 218.
Belgique: “I guess the public wasn’t ready for a four-hour percussion album [shakes head]. My mom started using copies of it to scrape cat poop off her throw rugs, so I got the idea to sell ’em all in bulk to PetsMart to at least break even.”
Against all odds, in late 2000 Lisa Marie & the Codependents were reunited—in court. Internet music-trading site Napster, the subject of much litigation and controversy already, had made the unilateral decision to accept any and all music from all artists and bands, save one: Lisa Marie & the Codependents (and, naturally, Belgique’s solo project).
Charging artistic discrimination, Lisa Marie and lawyer Lon Rengich filed a multi-million-dollar suit against Napster. In its defense, Napster claimed it didn’t have to carry the music of a “chicken-molesting geek show” if it didn’t want to. Citing the inclusion of several tracks by bluegrass group Jimbo & His Chicken-Molesting Geek Show in the Napster