Straight Man: Will the real Stephen Pearcy please stand up? 

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Who knew Stephen Pearcy was multifaceted? Years ago, when the singer’s band Ratt infested MTV with its banging singles “Way Cool Jr.” and “I Want a Woman,” I spent a few hours with the metalhead who made Beavis and Butt-head look erudite. At the time, Pearcy had allowed his soggy perm to relax and dry out. But like most men who fronted 1980s commercial metal bands, Pearcy still wore a little makeup, as well as tight pants and blousy shirts, and continued to dance in a way that made repressed homosexuals, blasting Metallica as a show of hetero force, feel threatened. Like this guy, who proclaimed—suddenly, and without provocation, interrupting his a cappella version of Metallica’s “Creeping Death”—that “Stephen Pearcy is as queer as a three-dollar bill.” n

It was the late ’80s, so AIDS paranoia and homophobia were about as popular as hair metal. Only Ratt fans, mainly the female ones, objected to the rumors—and even they may have harbored doubts about his orientation. Twenty years later, Rob Halford is out and most metal fans just care about the music. Perhaps not coincidentally, somewhere along the line, butt rock came back into vogue.

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Don’t get me wrong: Arena rock is nowhere near its previous pinnacle, and may never be again. But one thing is clear: Whether its adherents were dolled up and effetely gyrating, these bands—Ratt among them—had some great songs. And it’s pretty cool to be on the phone with Stephen “Three Dollar Bill” Pearcy.

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I caught up with Pearcy again, expecting his machismo to ooze through the phone. But the first thing I notice is his speaking voice. It’s nowhere near the reedy chainsaw rasp you hear on “Round and Round.” It’s just a dude’s voice, colored by a bravado that mixes Lead Singer Disease and Has-Been-itis, befitting his rock-star status—at both wax and wane.

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Even when he plugs—”I just released a third solo record, Under My Skin. We’re excited about that. Real good stuff”—it’s in a friendly way, like he knows his time ruling the cock-rock roost is over, but he’s still proud of his accomplishments and his capabilities and, when necessary, he can summon The Rock. There’s no defensiveness, which I’ll tell you from experience is often present when talking to a “heritage” act—sometimes if you even threaten to broach the subject of Has-Been-itis, even non-threateningly, it raises the hair farmer’s hackles.

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Some sources—like MetalSludge.com—have spanked Pearcy for being a drunken asshole, so I was braced for it. Yet, when I asked if there are still two versions of Ratt (there was a period when Love/Hate’s Jizzy Pearl fronted one Ratt, and Pearcy another, which was just his solo band), he failed to melt down. He equivocated some (“No, there never really was [two Ratts]”) but admitted it’s kinda true (“That was seven years ago”) without indignation.

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And while I ask several times for stories of debauchery—an easy and well-received interview subject for rockers of Pearcy’s ilk—he demurs, giving only general confirmations of “debauchery.” He tosses out a couple of gems, telling how he watched Ozzy defecate in someone’s shoes, and how he and late-Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby pioneered the “three-person pussy patch,” only to lament that his daughter might find out. “Oh, man. I don’t want her to meet some pig like me.”

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In the end, all Pearcy wants, really, is validation. Maybe he’ll be forever typecast as a flamboyant cock rocker—so what? What’s real for him is the music. “I played three-quarters of the guitar on the new solo record,” he says. More than being the lead singer of Ratt, he’s proud that he was one of the principal songwriters, not just a face and voice. He’s thankful that Ratt is back, touring and recording a new album for 2009. Oh, and he’s writing an autobiography, tentatively called Ratt Tales—which he admits may be part of the reason for his party-story reluctance. The point, he says, is to show, “I’m not just that guy that screams at you.”

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STEPHEN PEARCY
nClub Vegas, 445 S. 400 West, Sunday, Nov. 30, 9 p.m.

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