Tommy Lee is awesome, dude

11/4/04

By Jamie Sotonoff Daily Herald Staff Writer

After standing in line for three hours just to meet him, Mike Mourning of Kenosha, Wis., walked up to Tommy Lee, said hello and pulled up his shirt.

The crowd gasped.

Tommy sprung backwards in his chair.

"That's crazy, dude!" Tommy shouted, rising to his feet and pointing at Mourning. "That's (expletive) amazing! Wooooo! Dude, that's (expletive) unbelievable."

Mourning's entire back was covered with a colorful tattoo featuring Lee's former band, Motley Crue. While Lee is no stranger to a tattoo needle himself, the art display impressed him. Then he autographed Mourning's leg, so the signature could be transformed into another Crue tattoo.

"I still can't believe that guy. It's freakin' me out, dude," Tommy mumbled to himself later.

Judging from the crowd at Borders in Oak Brook on Sunday, tabloid reporters aren't the only ones obsessed with Tommy Lee. As he signed copies of his new book, "Tommyland," a Wayne's World-like crowd gushed, professed their love, and snapped pictures of themselves making the "Motley Crue rocks" hand sign with him.
With men, Lee exchanged loud, slappy handshakes and hearty hugs. They said things like "You are my (expletive) idol, man," "You are holier than anyone," "Rock on, dude," and "I really love your art."

One guy handed him a CD of his band's music and asked if he would listen to it. Lee said sure. Another asked Lee if he remembered him, since they met backstage at a show five years ago. Lee said yes so convincingly that it's possible he may have actually remembered.

There were plenty of girls, girls, girls, too. Many wore tight jeans and low-cut shirts in hopes of getting Lee's attention (they did). He flirted with a few, and kissed several on the lips. Some squealed with excitement as they walked away. He autographed several breasts. Kelly Chamber of Zion, who is eight months pregnant, had Lee sign her belly.

Crue songs like "Shout at the Devil" and "Smokin' in the Boys Room" blared through the store's sound system while Lee looked each person in the eye, shook his hand, greeted him with a phrase like, "What's goin' on, bro?" and then chatted for much longer than his manager wanted him to. He repeatedly said thank you, you're welcome, "Bye you guys" and "Take care, man."

But the word of the day was "awesome."

Example:

(Fan hands Tommy a purple pen to use for an autograph)

Tommy: Purple rules!

Fan (nodding): Awesome.

Tommy (nodding): Awesome.

An hour into the book signing, Lee asked his manager if there's any chance he could get "a cold one." Twenty minutes later, he was handed a Corona beer in an insulated Borders coffee cup.

Lee worked the crowd for three straight hours without a break. He posed for at least one picture with every single fan - a dreaded chore for many celebrities, but Lee seemed to enjoy himself.

"I don't know if I'd say it's fun ... I mean, there are things I'd rather be doing ... but I do enjoy meeting the fans," he said afterward. "There are always a couple of goofy people, a couple of shy people, and then there's the crazy ones. And then there's the grandmas. That's crazy, too."

And none of them can get enough of Tommy.

"If you've ever seen him on TV, he's exactly what you would expect. He's genuine. He doesn't hold back," said Ron Toma, 33, a drummer from Wheaton who is inspired by Lee's music and waited in line for four hours to see him Sunday.

"He's like a 6-year-old in a 40-year-old package. It's awesome," Chambers added.

What is Tommyland?

Lee wrote "Tommyland" - his first book - as a way to clear the air about his "(expletive) insane life."

That's actually a decent way to describe it. His life has a lot to do with Xs. He's the ex-drummer for the 1980s metal band Motley Crue, where he lived the rock 'n' roll life of excess to the hilt. His three ex-wives include a Penthouse centerfold and extra-hot Hollywood babes Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson. He starred in a widely distributed X-rated honeymoon video and he is an ex-con, having recently served jail time for domestic abuse.

He's not going to be about Xs anymore, though. Jail gave him time to sort it all out, he says. So he's put his thoughts into this book and set his sights on the future. He's back in school now, starring in a new NBC reality show where he attends the University of Nebraska and is a drummer in the school's marching band. He's also working on another solo album and contemplating a Motley Crue reunion.

"I don't know. We have to get together in a room, sit down and see what happens," he said.

Tabloids and television cameras have been there for all the highs and lows of his life. Still, Tommy insists he has secrets to share. Emotions to express.

"There is a lot of stuff in (the book) that people don't know," he said. "They're going to get some truth about some of the things they think they already know about. They're going to say, "That's what happened? No way!" And they're going to trip. People are going to trip."

So, what kind of things do we not know about Tommy Lee?

"I love trees," he said. "Like, I'm a tree freak. I don't know if in another life I was a tree or a plant or what the hell it is. Every time I go outside, the first thing I look at - I don't look at the sky - I look at the trees."

Wouldn't know that from watching his honeymoon video, now, would you?

While "Tommyland" might not contain any insightful and enlightening life lessons, it's written just like Tommy talks. It's that straight-talking, inhibition-free style that made Norma Maxa, 58, of Wheaton, a fan. She was one of the people who lined up to see him Sunday.

"I saw him on Larry King Live last week and I liked the way he spoke. It's refreshing, given what's happening politically right now," she said. "So yes, I'm here for the book. I don't know anything about his music. My kids are fans, though."

Late Sunday afternoon, after all that book signing and schmoozing, Lee is tired. He's been on a whirlwind schedule and hasn't slept much. But rather than disappear into a limo to catch his flight to Toronto, he ditches his handlers, rounds up a few of the store's employees and walks out to the loading dock. There, he shares his Winston cigarettes and what's left of his Corona. Everyone toasts "to craziness."

He chats casually about his hemp-made gym shoes, his kids, and once again, patiently listens as people tell him stories of when they first fell in love with the Crue.

"You guys are awesome," he said.
Tommyland: a definition and a warning

An excerpt from "Tommyland" (Atria Books, $26):

"The word means many things to me: It is the name of my studio, my home, my hard drive, and the place where my nerves and pleasure centers freak each other inside my skull.

Tommyland is where my boys were born, it's a playland that my ex-wife Pamela Anderson built for my thirty-third birthday, it is where I lose myself most days making records, having sex, and sleeping. It's the only word I've found to describe what makes me up and what makes up my state of mind.

All right, it's time to start the ride now so please take your seats. I advise you to keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. If you have a pacemaker, a heart condition, or if you are pregnant or too short to reach the safety bar, I ask that you turn back immediately. Same goes for those with weak stomachs, strict morals or chronic indigestion. In fact, you people might want to just put this book down now and slowly back away or return it to your local bookstore.

I hope those who remain enjoy their tour through Tommyland. If all goes according to plan, expect that you'll leave with side effects, including pure fear, a perma-grin that requires corrective surgery, and a true whiff of me. Consumption of Tommyland may create the urge to get all "woo-hoo" with your friends.

Be warned, Tommyland may cause involuntary tears and infrequent vomiting, because Tommyland is a loop-de-loop corkscrew brain masher that Six Flags wished it had."