Motley Crue has always been an equal-opportunity employer.
The Los Angeles-based metal band includes in its lineup a real savvy, smart guy (bassist Nikki Sixx), a guitarist who would never appear in Cosmopolitan or any other fashion magazine (Mick Mars) and an overweight, nearly middle-aged biker dude (vocalist Vince Neil). Oh, yeah. The band has, at one time, also employed an incompetent social misfit (former drummer Tommy Lee).
But when the band made its trip to Salt Lake City . . . er . . . West Valley City last week, the equal opportunity thing went one step further — drummer Samantha Maloney.
The Hole drummer filled in for the band's ailing new drummer Randy Castillo, who was out of commission for a few weeks because of a perforated ulcer.
And to tell you the truth, Maloney played better than a lot of male drummers on the circuit. But it was rewarding to see her upstage Lee, who has sunk to an all-time low as a tabloid and gossip-column poster child.
While Lee was a strong rhythm guru on the Crue's first three albums — "Too Fast for Love," "Shout at the Devil" and "Theatre of Pain" — he reduced his stage presence to a bunch of gimmicks in his later years with the band.
The first time I saw the Crue was back in 1985, for the "Theatre of Pain" tour. Lee's drums were attached to a moving platform that rose forward 90 degrees, allowing the audience to see his set from the top down.
He was fast, but very basic. It was the visual of the massive stage rising forward that got the Salt Palace audience excited.
I missed the "Girls, Girls, Girls" tour in 1987 because I was in Japan pulling church duty. But I had heard from various friends and relatives that Lee took the flop-top stage one step further and found himself in a metallic tumbling cage, not unlike the rotating wire baskets that are used by many bingo callers, or small rodents like rats and hamsters for that matter.
A couple of years ago, the Crue made an infamous stop at the E Center that nearly caused a riot. Lee, after a smoke-and-mirrors disappearing act, stepped off his drum throne, pulled out a mini camcorder and filmed various women in the audience pulling up their shirts.
"Don't worry about the security," he said. "Let's all just come on the floor and have a party."
As many fans rushed the floor, I was pinned between two rows of interlinking chairs. While I fell under the surge of the crowd, I kept thinking — other than "I'm a dead man" — "He's no drummer, he's an idiot."
Well, the now-blond Maloney brought back the groove to the band. She didn't need no steenkin' props and effects to upstage her other three male bandmates. All she needed were two heavy drumsticks and her set.
She matched Lee's riffs hit by hit and even threw in a couple of extra-high hat tricks in between.
Lee's testosterone-filled posing was soon forgotten as Maloney surged ahead with "Live Wire" and pounded away with "Shout at the Devil." Her no-frills approach to the head-banger anthems was softened a bit only because of the pink bubbles she blew with her bubble gum.
It was a refreshing change to see a woman treated with respect at a Motley Crue show. Sure, the concert featured scantily clad backup singers and such, but having Maloney up there holding her ground with one of the more politically incorrect bands in the business brought an interesting attempt at dignity to such male-oriented tunes as "Looks that Kill" and "Girls, Girls, Girls."
Maloney will be a hard act to follow. Hear that, Castillo?