AN IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH A FORMER MODEL, BUT FIRST AND FOREMOST A SINGER, A MUSICIAN AND AN ARTIST.
“Music is my soul. It’s the thread that connects everything in my life and my personal journey on earth. Music is the connection to my destiny and why I’m here. For me music is LIFE itself. “
The life story of Bebe Buell – a former model, but first and foremost a singer, a musician and an artist – is not only thrilling and inspiring, but widely rich in terms of life experience. It is not possible to map her life in one interview. Bebe Buell was born in Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, United States. Her mother, Dorothea Johnson, is considered as an etiquette expert who also founded the Protocol School of Washington. Her father, Harold Lloyd Buell, was a highly awarded naval officer and renowned World War II veteran. Bebe, however, did not grow up with her father. He left the family when she was only two years old. They are very close to their mother, and perhaps their father’s departure strengthened their bond. Father’s love cannot be replaced by anything, and the soul of a person who does not know it will remain scarred somehow forever. Fate, on the other hand, is extremely generous to Bebe and has performed many miracles for her. It has sent many precious souls and opportunities into her life.
Fate plays a vital role in Bebe Buell’s life. After discovering THE ROLLING STONES as a little girl, she immediately knew her direction and knew where she belonged. She was given the gift of extraordinary beauty, refinement and elegance, so it was only.a matter of time before she was noticed. At 17, she was discovered by a prominent fashion industry agent, Ellen Ford who offered her a contract. And that was exactly the impulse for Bebe to move to New York in 1972. One thing leads to another, and so important doors were opened for her to the artists, but mainly to the rock elite, where she immediately dived in. With her looks, fashion style and impeccable manners, she attracted attention wherever she appeared. She didn’t belong to average girls that quickly fall into oblivion. She got to know everyone who meant something on the scene, but also those who were still waiting for success. In November 1974, she became the first Playboy Playmate. She was dismissed from the agency for her controversial image on the cover of the magazine. No wonder she has enchanted Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Rod Stewart, Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page, Jack Nicholson, Andy Warhol and many others. She had a deep friendship with David Bowie, not an affair, as it is often spread mostly by the tabloid media or other judges. Her list of friends also includes the acclaimed poet and singer Patti Smith and Debbie Harry (BLONDIE).
In her private life, Bebe Buell is primarily the mother of a beautiful and successful model and actress, Liv Tyler. It is no secret that Liv’s fatherhood was originally granted to the musician Todd Rundgren, with whom Bebe lived for several years. Although Todd was not Liv’s real father, Bebe decided to protect her only child by hiding the identity of the real father. Liv’s biological father, AEROSMITH’s front man, Steven Tyler, was struggling with drug addiction at the time. The truth came out after a visit of the AEROSMITH concert in the summer of 1988, when Liv first met her older sister Mia. At that time, Liv was 11 years old. At the concert, she asked her mother, “Steven Tyler is my father, isn’t he?”
Bebe Buell witnessed the golden era of rock’n’roll and belonged to the community that most fans around the world would like to be part of. Her closeness to artists has fascinated many, and for others, she has been the subject of creating distorted theories and prejudices, as well as an impetus for hatred, in most cases caused by their own complexes and envy. And perhaps those who criticize most would like to fully enjoy the freedom and opportunities offered to her at a time when things were not taken so seriously, and when everyone enjoyed the freedom and magic of the moment their own way. I should point out that her taste in men is as brilliant as her taste for music, art and fashion.
After completing her engagement in modeling, passionate music lover Bebe Buell embarked on a dream musical career. In 1981, she released her first EP “Covers Girl” with four songs produced by Ric Ocasek. In two songs, Bebe was accompanied by his band THE CARS. Ric Ocasek was one of her close friends and music mentors. Thanks to him, Bebe Buell met his longtime partner, Czech supermodel Pavlina Porizkova who became a close friend of the family and played an important role in the modeling beginnings of Liv Tyler. The music career of Bebe Buell has started to grow up, and several major record labels have shown interest in her. She founded a hard rock band THE GARGOYLES, with which she impressed Joey Ramone who took them to several concerts with his band THE RAMONES.
After the press release of the real father of Liv was published in 1991, Bebe decided to withdraw from the public eye and, for a few years, stopped her career in the music business. Bebe was fully devoted to her daughter Liv and fully supported her career despite her young age. She also became her manager for several years. Bebe returned to the music scene in 1997, when Liv left her home and began to pursue her acting career. Bebe Buell released New York Tines Bestseller, “Rebel Heart: An American Rock’n’Roll Journey” in 2001. Bebe Buell is not one of the people who live from the nostalgia of a time that is long past. She fully enjoys the present and every moment with her loved ones. Since 1999, her life mate has been musician Jim Wallerstein who is also a member of Bebe’s backing band. Jim also produced her latest, so far most personal album, “Baring It All – Greetings from Nashbury Park”, which was released in 2018. Currently, she still continues her music journey but is also writing or mentoring young talent she likes to support. Other artists such as the American band THE DANDY WARHOLS also invited her for a collaboration. The result of their mutual collaboration sees the light of the world in October 2020 in the form of single with the release of the cover version of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s famous – “Femme Fatale”. She is not indifferent to the fate of our planet Mother Earth, and actively supports projects to save animals and oceans as well as trying to improve the environment.
THE ARTICLE IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN DIGITAL FORM (20 PAGES) AND IS ENRICHED WITH LOTS OF BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS. TO VIEW IT, CLICK ON THE BUTTON LOCATED BELOW.
I N T E R V I E W
What are the memories you treasure the most from your childhood, and how do you remember those years when you still lived in Virginia Beach as a kid and teenage girl?
The memories I most cherish are my days of being near the ocean. In the summer, we spent the entire day at the beach, the pool. I was what you call a “water baby”… By the time I became a teenager I was going to a Catholic Boarding School also in Virginia. I’ve always loved animals and music, so both were a big part of my life and daily routines. By the 9th grade, my stepfather was stationed in Newport Rhode Island, so I was there for two years before returning to the South for my 11th & Senior years of High School in North Carolina. Right after graduation, I was summoned to NYC by super agent Eileen Ford and by 1972, my life was forever changed.
You were born as Beverle Lorence Buell, but you are known as Bebe. How did you come up with this name?
I have never been known as “Beverle”… it’s just the formal name on my birth certificate. I’ve been “Bebe” since the day I was born on July 14th 1953. My father was in Korea at the time I came into the world, so my Mother wanted to wait and give me a name when he returned three weeks later. They almost named me “Courtney”… but in a nutshell,
a nurse first called me Bebe as I was born on Bastille Day, the French 4th of July, and Bebe means “baby” in French. It just stuck, and I’ve always been called Bebe or “Baby” depending on what country I’m in. My middle name Lorence is after my grandmother who was named Florence. My mother took off the “F” and just changed it to Lorence.
Your parents got divorced when you were only two years old, so you can’t consciously remember the moment your father was leaving the family. Did you miss his presence in your childhood, or did you become more aware
of it later as a teenager or grownup?
I think I’ve blocked a lot of that time frame out of my memories. I remember the last time I ever saw my father. It was on my 5th birthday. He came to my party and when he left, it was the last time I saw him again until I was 8 months pregnant with Liv in 1977. I’m sure any child who doesn’t have a father is affected in the way they process male role models. I was always looking for that dashing man in a uniform. My father was a highly decorated Naval hero, so he seemed almost untouchable or otherworldly to me. In many ways he was.
Your father was a highly awarded war veteran. Did you have the chance to talk to him about his experiences, did he share some of the stories with you?
In the last five years of my father’s life, we reconnected. So yes, he told me tons of stories, and he also wrote a highly respected account of his time as a Helldiver pilot called “Dauntless Helldivers” which you can still find if you google it. Amazon might even have some used copies. Daddy, Harold Lloyd Buell, died on August 14th 2014 just shy of his 95th birthday which would have been November 4th. At least Liv got to meet him once. It’s not a subject that brings me joy. There’s a lot of pain that goes with not understanding why you don’t have a father like all your friends do. If he were alive today he’d be 101 years old!! I am still very close with my Mother who is 90 years old.
Your mother is considered as an etiquette expert. How much did she influence your fashion style and your manners, and what
are the most precious recommendations
she has given you?
I will eternally be grateful for all the things my Mother taught me about etiquette and social behavior. Her influence is enormous! I was able to fit right in when I went to NYC and London because of the skills she engrained in me. My fashion style was just something that I felt inside. The way I dressed was a part of who I was. I always kept it elegant even during my most rebellious years. Momma taught me how to sit like a lady, speak at a calm volume when dining, and impeccable table manners. My life would have been very different
if not for her influence.
You often say you recognized your tribe at the age of ten, and you immediately knew the direction you wanted to follow. How important a role do you think fate plays in your life, and how much do you believe in destiny?
I’m a firm believer that we’re all here for a karmic reason. We’re here to work out our past life karma and to fulfill our destinies. We’re here to LOVE and learn and evolve spiritually. Every single thing in the Universe is connected. Even though there’s billions of planets, stars, and galaxies, each serves a purpose in the connection. There are no accidents. We meet who we’re meant to meet.
Music became your deepest passion since your childhood, and you are a musician yourself. What is the meaning of music in your life, not just the music you personally create, but music in general?
Music is my soul. It’s the thread that connects everything in my life and my personal journey on earth. Music is the connection to my destiny and why I’m here. For me music is LIFE itself.
You had the chance to become a close friend of many versatile iconic personalities such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Rod Stewart, Steven Tyler, Patti Smith and many more. You shared, and with many of them are still sharing, mutual respect. How much have they shaped you as a human being and as an artist?
I think we meet those who we’re destined to meet and know. I knew instantly who my soul tribe was the second I landed in NYC and even before that. Everyone I was moved by as a child or young girl ended up becoming someone I know in my life. I knew when I was 10 years old, on some level, the direction my life was going. Birds of a feather flock together.
You are deeply connected with Steven Tyler mainly because he is the father of your only child, and you also have a great relationship together lasting for decades. You are both musicians, and you even appeared on the stage with him. Why haven’t the two of you done any duets together so far?
It’s funny you should ask that because I get asked this question daily! It seems that all the fans really want it! It’s a great idea and one I’d love to pursue. You never know. Fingers crossed! If the letters I’m getting from the fans are any indication of how it will be received, it would be a HUGE HIT!! Maybe it’s time for me to suggest it to Steven? Yes? No? I say YES!!!!!
You witnessed an era that is never ever going to be repeated. What do you think are the main values that shouldn’t be forgotten, and which artists will still have their music and art played and remembered from that period of time?
I don’t think we can define exactly what happened in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. It will never happen again. There will never be another Hendrix, and I don’t think there should be. But I don’t think we should just forget the music that is getting made now. I’m still excited by new bands. Bands like STARCRAWLER and THE STRUTS… There‘s a new band I’m madly in love with that are just about to debut called THE SCENT. THE BLACKFOOT GYPSIES… we’ve got so many great bands right here in Nashville. I’m just so glad I was alive for those innocent days of yore. THE ROLLING STONES are my Beethoven!
Modern technologies and the internet have changed everything in a fundamental way. As a music and art lover, how do you feel about the future from the point of view that everything could be replaced by artificial intelligence one day, and the human creative force might not be needed anymore?
It’s a terrifying thought, and I pray it never happens. Things on our planet need to change. We are at risk as a species because of what’s being done to Mother Earth. We can’t just keep taking. My hope is we wake up, that we get a new Democratic president in the USA, and we start to take steps to rid the world of pollution and fossil fuels. I’m most concerned about the oceans and all the toxins being dumped into our sacred waters. It MUST end. People like Greta Thunberg and Jane Goodall keep me filled with HOPE. We have to change the way we treat animals, too. They are not food – they are individuals who have just as much right to LIVE as we do. Empathy must be restored. I feel that technology has taken feeling and empathy away from our youth. Wasting away on a computer is not healthy. Children need to play outside and use their brains and imaginations.
It feels like spirituality plays an important part in your life. Do you believe in any existence other than just this life, and what is the knowledge you gained throughout your life thanx to your personal experience?
My beliefs are vast and I’m certain there’s more to our existences than just this life. In my opinion we live many lives and come back over and over… our connections span many lifetimes. My personal experiences are varied, and I’ve had so many miracles happen at this point that I’ve lost count. I stopped trying to control everything and just work hard on being the best person I can be. To bring as much love and positive energy as I can. Not only to those I love but everyone I come in contact with. I ask my angels to guide me and protect me. I firmly believe in extraterrestrial life and that we are all part of the Pleiades star system, the Seven Sisters.
You are also interested in astrology which, on one hand became a very popular topic, but on the other hand, many people don’t understand the complexity and the messages this science offers. How much do you believe people can influence or change their lives by knowing their personal horoscopes?
There is a mathematical perfection to the Universe so therefore astrology makes perfect sense. It’s yet another tool to study and use to make our lives better. Not everyone takes it seriously, but I find that it’s all connected by a thread of knowledge. I like to keep my mind open and educate myself on many topics. I don’t define myself by my birth sign, but I do find it all fascinating and interesting to partake in. I love metaphysics and all things that search and seek knowledge. Or the quest for God and our Creator.
Your zodiac sign is Cancer, and people born under this sign are strongly family-based.
What does family mean to you?
Not only am I a Cancer but so is Liv, Todd and my first best friend from 5th grade, Joanie Gross Baum. Then Liv had Lula, and she too is a Cancer born on July 8th. Even my Pug Lola is a Cancer – July 15th. I do feel a great sense of family, and I love my home and treasures. The sanctity of my abode is how I stay grounded. I love to cook for my loved ones and friends, and cleaning is how I relax. Nothing relaxes me more than a good vacuuming session, HA! The meaning of family is something that has to be found in each individual person. Sometimes you have to create your own little family if you come from an abusive or traumatic upbringing. Family is whatever makes you feel loved and safe.
You got married in 2002, and your husband, Jim Wallerstein aka “Jim Walls”, is also a member of your backing band and the producer of the album “Baring It All – Greetings From Nashbury Park”, released in 2018. How did you two get together?
It was love at first sight for us. We saw each other across a crowded room in 1999, and I think we both knew we weren’t strangers. We may not have known each other, but it felt like we did – more like a return to something pure and good. Jim quickly became someone who protected me, and I’ve never met anyone more loyal. It was my destiny to finally find my life mate. The person who I know will love me till the end. And it’s a bonus that he’s multifaceted and can really lead the troops. He’s a leader and a musical genius. So many more wonderful things are coming his way because he works harder than almost anyone I’ve ever known.
Your relationship has lasted almost two decades. What are the things you value the most about Jim and about the connection you have together?
We’ve been together for 20 years and will have been married 18 years this August 25, 2020. We’ll have been married 20 years come 2022… anyone that knows my relationship with the number “22” will see the synchronicity in that. I wake up every morning happy to see his face. There’s no one who makes me feel more beautiful or safe. Jim’s heart is pure so his word is gold. There’s just not many people, let alone men, like him. Sometimes I think he’s an angel. An Archangel… powerful and good!
Most of the big media need to create stories based on sensation. Since the 70s, you have been connected mainly with famous rock stars or celebrities. I can imagine many men would have a problem with this. However, Jim seems to be a person who takes life with his own detached view. How is he taking all of this?
Jim is always the voice of reason. He loves who I was and who I am. He too had lived an exciting life before we met. We came from the same circles so it’s odd we didn’t meet sooner. It further proves that everything happens when it’s meant to. Jim doesn’t do any social networking because that, he feels, is what sucks the wind out of people’s sails. The way he looks at it, we only need one person working social profiles per family. Like I said before, Jim is a rare bird. They don’t make people like him every day. He’s a diamond in the rough. A gem. My Jim…
Many people can see only one side of you, and their opinions are very often distorted. They don’t care that you have much more to offer as a human being and as an artist. If you had the opportunity to reprogram this kind of concept in people’s brains, what would the new one look like, how would you wish them to think and feel about you?
I can change someone’s mind in five minutes once they actually meet me. Or better yet, come see me perform onstage. Sexism has been around since the beginning of time, so there will always be those who waste time and energy being judgmental and unkind. People are going to think whatever they think. You can’t control that. They can follow me on Instagram if they want to get to know me through my social media.
You had your own music career that could have just continued to grow, but you stopped it for some years to devote yourself to Liv. How difficult was it for you to make this decision?
I did what a Mother is supposed to do. I put her first. Yes, I gave up a lot of years of hard work and goals to be there for her, but I have zero regrets. She turned out so beautifully, and her well being is the most important thing to me. You can’t look back on life decisions with regret. You have to realize that it’s all part of your personal life’s journey.
I wouldn’t change anything because everything that has happened has led me to NOW, and I like to live in the now.
On the other hand, you also inspire many people and, I would say, there are more and more, especially younger people who follow you and who are fascinated by your life story. What are the most important things you wish to share that can positively influence others’ lives?
I can only be myself and hope that it helps in some way. When I post my spiritual projections on Instagram, I see how much people respond to that. How much it helps them get through a rough day. Sure, it’s fun to post pictures from long ago, pictures of last week’s gig or birthday, but basically Instagram is almost like a daily diary for me at this point. I try to use it as a tool to uplift others and communicate with my fans.
You grew up in Virginia Beach, then, for many years, you lived in New York. In 2012, you decided to move to Nashville. Would you say Nashville is, in some ways, the mixture of both of these cities, or does it have a completely different spirit, and what led you to such a major life change at the age of 59?
Nashville tapped me on the shoulder, and I walked right in. It was yet again another spiritual connection for me. I followed my inner voice and decided to let go of fear and dive in! I feel inspired in Nashville and I feel part of a community like I did in NYC back in the day. I’ve chosen it as the place I’ll probably live for the rest of my life.
For me, Nashville is a little like all my favorite cities – London, NYC, Asbury Park NJ, Portland Maine… all it’s missing is the ocean, but I can drive 7 hours south and be on the most beautiful beaches in the world.
In 2018, you released your most personal album up to date called “Baring It All – Greetings From Nashbury Park”. How much did your new life in Nashville influence the final sound and the whole atmosphere of it?
The whole album, all the songs, etc. were created here in Nashville. I needed to get some things off my chest so I did it through music. It was a healing experience for me and living here has been, too. A lot of relationships are represented on that record. The good parts and the learning experiences of the not so good times… all represented. I hope when others listen to it they can find a place for their own experiences through the honesty and bluntness of the lyrics. It’s a record for everyone to get something from. I love performing “Cross My Legs” live – it’s like an autobiography in one song. It’s a good set starter!!
You have experience in modeling as well as in the music industry and in show business where jealousy and envy are many times worse nightmares than in common life. You give the impression of a friendly person who is trying to get along well with everyone. How did you deal with all of this, especially in the early years?
By getting my heart broken many times and learning the hard way that not everyone has your best interests at heart. Experience is a good teacher. I’ve never understood jealousy or envy. I feel sorry for people who get eaten away with that. I always say “just be YOU… just do YOU”… or as Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
There is a beautiful metaphor you use in the song “By A Woman” which is we (women) don’t have an expiration date. What is your recipe for people in terms of how they can enjoy every phase of life, keeping young in spirit and not being afraid of getting older?
We really don’t have a choice. We ALL get old, and we all pass away. It’s what we leave behind that carries our legacy. We’ll be remembered for how we treated others and how we made others feel. We’re all just walking each other home… in the end we’re all born, and we all die. I choose to live as long as I can and relish each and every second of time I have with those I love.
The only man you mention in the song “By A Woman” is the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. What fascinates you about his personality and about his connection with Lillie Langtry whom you also sing about in the song?
I’ve been fascinated with Oscar Wilde and Lillie Langtry since I was very young. I saw a picture of Oscar when I was about six, and I was drawn to him. I started to read all I could find as I got older on his life and his relationship with Lillie. I would hope that others will do a google search and read some of the fascinating stories of both their lives – as friends and as individuals. In the context of my song “By A Woman”, I’m talking about Oscar being inspired by Lillie’s wit and humor. Some say she even wrote some of his best lines. He would go back after a champagne fueled visit with her and write down everything she said. Resulting in some of his best anecdotes.
I would like to mention your song “Can You Forgive” (“Baring It All – Greetings From Nashbury Park” album). Every time I listen to it, I think about why exactly you are asking for forgiveness from the one who probably first of all must forgive himself. Can you explain what you have done wrong just because you were protective of your child?
I don’t think it’s a secret that Todd didn’t want the truth about Liv’s paternity to be known. He never forgave me for coming clean and to this day, he’s still very angry. Even almost 44 years later! The term “forgive” in this context is just me extending an olive branch of peace and healing. Forgiveness needs to come from another person. He has to find that in his own heart.
I understand the relationship with Todd Rundgren is an important part of your life, but are you also prepared to accept that he doesn’t have to be interested in solving it anymore, and maybe it will not change between the two of you in this life?
Oh, of course I accept that Todd may never make amends or heal. It’s very sad really. I feel nothing but empathy for him, but I’m not going to lie just to make him happy. He has Liv’s love and mine, too. If he doesn’t embrace the gift of that love, that true pure love, that’s his own choice. It’s not mine, and it never will be. But yes, I’ve absolutely accepted that.
You have done the cover of the song “Yesterday When I Was Young” (“Baring It All – Greetings From Nashbury Park” album), and I have to say it’s one of the most beautiful cover versions of this song I’ve ever heard. Why is this song so special for you that you have decided to cover it?
It was my Mother who asked me to sing “Yesterday When I Was Young”. It’s one of her favorite songs, and I wanted to learn it and do it for her as a birthday gift at one of my live shows a few years ago. The audience reaction was what made me know I should record our version. It’s really a love letter
to my Mother. I did it for her.
If you stop for a moment and look at Liv as her mother and also look at her from an artistic point of view, how would you describe her, and what do you think makes her different from other actors?
Liv has an ethereal quality, and I think that all actors are different just as all people are not the same.
Liv has a natural grace, and her talent comes from deep inside her heart.
We have already talked about the fact that you have met many iconic personalities, but if you could choose the one who is not that well-known and famous, but deserves it in your eyes, who would it be and why?
Remember, a lot of the iconic personalities I’ve known were not famous when I met them. Fame is just a part of success. It’s not important, and I believe that it only comes to a chosen few. I much prefer for those who I appreciate for their talent to be happy and successful.
What stage of your life are you at now, who is the current Bebe Buell?
The Bebe who is at peace and loves her life and all the players in it. I can honestly say these are some
of the happiest days of my life so far. I hope I live to be 100 so I can have many more years with those I love.
What I really do appreciate about you is the fact that you are very active in so many ways, and an inspiration to many people. You have the band, you also write a lot, and have a lot of other activities. Many of your dreams have come true, but I guess you still have more. What else would you like to achieve in your life, what are your biggest wishes?
I want to finish another book and a photo book, but my biggest goal is to write a movie that makes it to the silver screen. And guess what? It’s in the works. And I, of course, want to keep mentoring young talent and making my own music. I want to rock for as long as I can. I want to always have my finger in the artist pie because that’s what makes me complete. I also want to continue to fight for the rights of animals… and of course equal rights for woman once and for all. But the most important thing for me is to see world peace in my lifetime. A planet that is free of corporate greed and hatred. Respect for Mother Earth!!!