The reality television series Ex-Wives of Rock might arguably be described as a real-life version of Desperate Housewives. The show chronicles the ups and downs in the lives of four women: Athena Lee, previously married to James Kottak, drummer for the Scorpions; Sharise Neil, previously married to Vince Neil, vocalist for Motley Crue; Bobbie Brown, formerly married to the late Jani Lane, who was the vocalist for Warrant, and Blue Dixon, who’s ex-husband is Jerry Dixon, bass player for Warrant.
The producers of the show are Lorraine Lewis, Lisa Brucker and Pete Mervis (also director). Brucker has a deep background in the entertainment industry, and Lewis knows a thing or two about rock stars herself—she’s a star in her own right, being the singer for the 80’s metal band Femme Fatale.
For those unfamiliar with reality television, the concept seems simple enough: Start the cameras rolling, get enough footage to compile a series of episodes, edit the footage and voila! Instant TV show! The reality (pun intended) is much different.
Asked how long it took to get the show off the ground, Lewis explains. “Lisa and I developed the concept in her apartment in 2008, started casting in 2009, and we didn’t sell it until the end of 2010. We had actually started filming in January 2010. It finally aired in late 2012. It’s crazy! That’s a long time…it’s a super long time! Here’s the thing: Lisa and I have been best friends for 20-plus years. We knew that we loved the idea, it was our baby, we weren’t going to give up, and we just went for it. And so with my background in music, and Lisa’s in theatre, it didn’t matter. We believed in the idea, found a great cast, put it together, and then started knocking on doors.” Brucker continues: “Of course we’d be bummed when we’d get ‘No’s,’ but we never thought ‘Maybe this idea isn’t any good.’ We never thought that. We just thought ‘These people don’t get it. Someone else will.’”
With the four ex-wives in the cast come four different personalities. Asked if some of the wives were more comfortable in front of the camera than others, Lewis explains: “The first person we contacted was Bobbie–we had always had her in mind. I think Bobbie was wild about it from the get-go. Sharise really had to warm up to the idea. She’s been a businesswoman for so long, and the way she tells it is that she was so used to Vince getting all the attention that she’s always shocked when people ask her for her autograph. She really didn’t like the limelight, she likes being able to go to the grocery store and not be recognized. She was really nervous about losing her anonymity. The rest of the girls…what would you say, Lisa?”
Brucker continues: “I’d say Athena wasn’t completely ready, but she did get up to speed pretty fast. Athena’s great on camera, she doesn’t hold back, she is who she is, and that’s one of the things we love about her. She’s just amazing. She just puts it out there. When we first met her, she was going through a pretty tough time, so it was hard to get a read on how she really felt. She was not doing super great. The marriage was falling apart, but now, having come full circle, she says it’s one of the best things that ever happened to her. She says it saved her life. It’s helped her quite a bit. It gave her focus, gave her friendships, rekindled ties with old friends and family.”
“It’s easier for a couple of the girls, and harder for the other two. For Athena and Bobbie, I think it’s a little easier. They’re open books. It doesn’t mean they don’t watch an episode and cringe, or say ‘That was painful.’ They’re just so willing to be honest. With Sharise and Blue, they’re a little more guarded, a little more conscious of what’s going to be put out there. They think a little bit more before they do. But the best stuff we get is when they just do, know what I mean? When they lose themselves, when they forget that the cameras are there, that’s when we really get the best stuff. And that happens a lot, because we’ve got a great team. Our director, Peter Mervis, he’s their friend, they feel safe with him, so I think more times than not they forget the cameras are rolling and they just go for it and they are themselves. What you see is what you get when it happens, and we love it. Those are the most compelling moments. “
The four girls add their input into the conversation. Dixon says: “It’s been interesting. And weird. And it kind of forces you into a vulnerable place that you wouldn’t normally want to be in. You kind of have to push yourself. I love these three more than I can tell you. I’m so proud of Bobbie with her book [more on that later]. I’m doing clothing with Sharise, and I’m so excited for Athena for moving on without James. I love them all. I’m super blessed to have them in my life, and I grow and learn from them every day. I think we’re empowering each other, and that’s awesome.”
Neil adds: “It has been a fabulous chapter in the book of my life.” Lee continues with: “It’s been cool. I didn’t expect it. Honestly, these girls got me through probably the roughest year of my life. I didn’t have to go through the last year alone, because that’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. I learned to depend on people, which I never did before. Now, if I have a problem, I just give it to Bobbie!” she laughs.
To which Brown says: “I am grateful every day of my life for this experience. I feel blessed that I get paid to hang out with my friends. If you can get paid to hang out with your friends and be yourself, there’s no greater definition of happiness. It’s like a family. “
When asked if any of their marriages ended amicable, the answer is unanimous. Lee says: “No. I found out there was a complete other life going on without me…another house and everything, so when I found out I filed for divorce.” Brown has an equally depressing tale: “No. It was not an easy parting. All of my things were burned in the front yard. He wasn’t very happy about splitting up, but we became friends somewhat after that.” Neil says in a similar vein: “There’s no amicable split when someone cheats. You hate them–they betrayed you. Why would you want to be friends with them?” Dixon continues with a sweet and sour tale of her own: “When someone cheats, how can you end amicably? I nearly drove over him on the driveway on the way out. But for our son’s sake, I felt we should make it amicable and get along, and that’s been great for us. He’s a great dad, so while I can’t forget what he did, I can forgive him.”
Questioned about how much time the show consumes of their lives, Lewis and Brucker laugh. Brucker says without hesitation: “Lorraine and I, this is 24/7 for us. The girls, they’re working a couple of days a week. We stick with them daily, depending on what’s going on with the series, and we really like to talk with them often, because we want to know what’s going on in their lives. We hate it when we look on Facebook and see something that we don’t know first. That bugs me! So we really try to keep in close contact with them as much as possible. Let’s throw into the mix that Lorraine and I also represent Bobbie and Athena now, so we’re managers. It’s nonstop all the time. Seriously, this is probably the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time! We’re sitting on the couch together, and it’s like high school. We’re on our phones, and she’s in her socks, I’m in my leather—just kidding!”
As fierce as the competition is for airtime–especially with the increased popularity of reality shows—the fact that the show was renewed for a second season is very gratifying to the producers.
“It speaks volumes, because that means people are watching,” says Lewis. “We’ve got a lot of people on Facebook that are diehard fans who are just jonesing to see season 2, and I think that we are gathering friends and fans all the time. When we’re on shoots with the girls, people will come up to them; they get recognized all the time. There has also been one very big, very nice surprise. We knew the show would be fun, but we didn’t realize how it would help people. People are writing to the girls saying ‘Thank you so much, your story has really helped me through my hard times.’ We’re getting a lot of emails like that, particularly Athena and Bobbie. We didn’t expect that, and it’s a really nice twist. A lot of women can relate to how the four girls, no matter what they go through, at the end of the day they’re all good friends. Our show really depicts that…you have a falling-out with a friend, but then you talk it over and work things out and you patch things up.”
People do look at reality shows with more than a bit of skepticism, but the ex-wives vouch for the fact that their reality show is in fact…real, to put it bluntly. “I wasn’t gonna do it if it wasn’t,” says Lee. “They follow our lives and they film what’s going on in our lives, but they don’t give us scripts or tell us what to say or what to do. They have so much more footage of us screwing around than they can use. They might give us a subject, but it’s like four ping-pong balls bouncing around. They’ll say ‘focus, focus, focus,’ because otherwise it would make no sense. There’s no such thing as a normal day of filming. We always walk away saying ‘that was unexpected.’ If they’re filming a whole day, they’ll spend a few hours with each of us. We all live within ten minutes of each other.”
“We don’t come up with the subject matter for the episodes. They ask us what’s going on in our lives and we tell them. If something crazy comes along, we let them know. ‘My ex broke into my house and stole something…’ and then they’ll say ‘Let’s film it!’”
Each of the girls has very active lifestyles off camera, too. Lee says “I play drums with Lorraine in Femme Fatale, and I also like to make decorative candles.” Brown is working on her autobiography: “It’s coming out in December, and the title is Dirty Rocker Boys. It reads like Hustler Forum.” Lee interrupts: “Not too many things in life freak me out—this book freaks me out! I couldn’t believe she told it all—I certainly wouldn’t tell it all.” The four girls share a good laugh, and Brown adds “Check it out—it’s gonna be a great read.”
Dixon says cryptically: “I’m hanging upside down from an aerial apparatus most of the time.” After that tease she explains: “I have my own studio. It’s called Metamorphosis—Mind, Body and Pole, and we do, basically, Cirque de Soleil. Aerial hoops, cubes, straps, silks, poles. It’s a form of amazing fitness.” Neil has hew own creative outlet: “I have a line of clothing called Pink Polka Dots, which I sell to stores across America and abroad. I’ve been in business for 15 years, and I’m just coming out with my own brand, Sharise Neil Design.”
When asked what type of music they are currently listening to, the four ex-wives come up with some surprising choices, given the men they were married to.
Dixon volunteers first: “I like modern country. Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, but I’m also listening to a lot of music mixed together, such as techno and, hip-hop. Neil’s picks?: “I’m a big fan of two kinds of music: Rap, and heavy, guitar-driven rock. I love Incubus and Chevelle.” Brown adds “We like to dance, we’re hip-hop freaks, and then as far as music to listen to, we could listen to the other stuff for hours. One extreme to another.” Lee’s choices are equally eclectic: “I listen to everything. I like Bruno Mars. And I’m sick of metal people thinking he sucks—he’s talented. And for me, it doesn’t lower my ‘metal status’ because I like Bruno Mars.”
As popular as Ex-Wives of Rock has been, Lewis and Brucker aren’t content to simply sit back and enjoy their success. “We’re working on some things that are really different. We can’t tell you now, but we hope we can tell you real soon. Some is music-related, some is out there, and some is way out there. We had actually developed two or three shows last year that were focused on men, and things that men do. We’ve been developing shows all along.”
“I like to live by the motto do what you do best, and leave the rest to people who do what they do best. With our show, that’s what we get to do. We get to brainstorm and come up with ideas, and we give it to the story editor who puts it into an episode, and then the editors get it once its shot and they put their spin on it, and then we see it. We haven’t seen anything up to that point. We’d see a few things, but typically, how it went last year, and it will be much the same, is we got to watch it when it aired. We watched it with the girls. We got to see some of the episodes beforehand, and made a few notes, but for the most part, we saw it when the viewers saw it. That was interesting and sometimes uncomfortable and awesome at the same time.”
“We hit a homerun with Ex-Wives of Rock. We’re super excited about it, it’s almost a wrap, and we’re already thinking about season 3. There’s always stuff going on in these girls’ lives. I think that women can relate to what the girls have gone through, and what they’re going through. Women root for them, because they want someone to root for themselves.”
Neil says: “We love our fans, and we’re super grateful for them. It freaks me out that people care enough to watch us, because we think we’re weird, but we support the whole ‘got your girl’s back’ type of vibe.
Lee adds: “Just watch the show this season. It’s a lot different from last season. Just do it. I’m telling you, I was there, and I can’t wait to see it! It’s that crazy.”
As the old cliché goes, stay tuned for the next episode…
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