‘My father was very proud of the elaborate manicure on his ‘coke nail’. But I also realised that he had another nail that was clearly shorter than the others.’
‘What’s up with that nail?’ I asked him.
‘It’s so I don’t hurt the ladies down there when I use my finger.’
‘Dude, that comment was burned into my mind. He had a special finger for vaginas.’
(Anthony Kiedis, Red Hot Chili Peppers).
‘You don’t know my mind / You don’t know my kind / Dark necessities are part of my design’
Dark necessities, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Not long after singing these lines in the album, The Getaway, Anthony Kiedis published his autobiography, Scar Tissue (Capitán Swing). In it, the Red Hot Chili Peppers singer reveals his mind, his character and, above all, his dark necessities: the addictions he’s carried with him ever since he was the pre-adolescent son of a drug dealer in Los Angeles.
At first look, the life of Anthony Kiedis seems like that of any other luck-stricken performer in the US. At just 21, after taking his first steps as the frontman of a rock group with his friends, he joined Flea, Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak to sow the seed that would become the Chili Peppers.
Throughout the group’s history, Kiedis and company lived in the same way as countless other bands of a similar style, including Slovak’s death by overdose in 1988. But, what few knew until now is that, since he was a very young child, the singer was already destined to be a rockstar, with all the pros (and, above all, the cons) that go with it.
Kiedis was born in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, as the unwanted child of the young Margaret “Peggy” Idema and John Kiedis, known in Hollywood as Blackie Dammet. The couple’s relationship couldn’t have been more toxic. John had become a drug dealer with no life goals other than to have a lot of sex while working as little as possible. Naturally, it didn’t take long for Peggy to get tired. When Kiedis was only four, the couple divorced and his dad went to Los Angeles to live the life of a movie star.
Little Anthony was was raised by his mother in Michigan, where he soon began to show worrying signs, influenced by the times he’d spent with his dad in California. The petty thefts he committed and the fights he repeatedly got into served as a warning for Peggy that he wasn’t growing up in the right environment. But he made up for his rebellious tendencies by getting excellent marks at school.
When he turned twelve, however, Kiedis began to insist on going to live with his Dad in Los Angeles. His paternal figure was everything that he wanted to be when he grew up. He admired him – more for what he represented than for any kind of loving relationship the two had – and he knew that living in Hollywood would be just like a dream. So he managed to convince his mother to let him go and live with the man who was then known as Spider.
And so, with a new childhood adventure, begins the story of the youth who wanted to have the world at his feet… and ended up doing just that.
(Below are some of the most striking excerpts from Scar Tissue, in which Kiedis narrates his childhood):
The first joint
‘I’d only been there for a few days when my dad called me into the kitchen. He was sitting at the table with this really cute eighteen year-old girl that he was dating that week.
“Do you wanna smoke a joint?”, he asked.
He lit the joint and passed it to me. “Careful, don’t inhale too much or you’ll cough your lungs out”. He passed it around the table a few times and soon we were all smiling, laughing and totally relaxed. That’s when I realised I was high. And I loved the feeling.
Then, my dad handed me an Instamatic camera and said “I think my friend wants you to take her picture”.
“Will you lift up your shirt and let me take your picture?”
“OK, but I think I should only show one breast, to make it more artistic.”’
My first time
‘My dad started seeing a girl called Kimberly. She was eighteen and beautiful. She had a smooth voice, red hair and huge, perfectly-shaped breasts. A little before I turned twelve, we were all in the Rainbow. I’d taken a Quaalude and I was messed up, and I summoned the courage to write a note to my dad:
“I know she’s your girlfriend, but I’m totally sure that she’s down. So, if it’s OK with you, can we fix it so I end up doing it with Kimberly tonight?
The deal was made in a second. She was willing, so we went home and my dad said: “Well, there’s the bed, do whatever you want”.’
And the first father-son experiences
‘The bond with my dad became stronger and stronger. We were a team. One of the experiences which helped to strengthen that bond was, of course, selling pot together. I became his excuse for those trips. We’d take seven huge Samsonite suitcases and fill them with marijuana. We’d land in a major airport, collect all the bags and continue in the car until reaching some place like Kenosha, Wisconsin.’
‘When I went out with him, he’d give me a glass of beer. Then he’d split a capsule of Tuinal. Because the Tuinal powder had such a bad taste, he’d cut up a banana and put the broken capsule inside. He’d take the part that had the most powder and I’d get the smaller piece. And then we were ready to go out.’
‘The night was never complete without cocaine, and seeing just how discreetly you could snort a line turned into a kind of game. The seasoned coke-heads were easy to spot because of their long pinky-nail, the coke nail. My father was very proud of the elaborate manicure on his coke nail. Although I also realised that he had another nail that was clearly shorter than the others.
“What’s up with that nail?” I asked him.
“It’s so I don’t hurt the ladies down there when I use my finger.”
Dude, that comment was burned into my mind. He had a special finger for vaginas.’