By Mark Pittman - Book Critic/Reviewer -
The first thing to catch the eye of prospective readers of “Runway RunAway” may not be the stunning image of international couture model/muse Lorelei Shellist flourishing a zebra-striped skirt atop a matching outfit, it is the words: “A True Story.” Far removed from the “tell-all” books written in supermarket tabloid-style by former hangers-on and groupies in order to line their pockets or relume imagined celebrity status, “Runway RunAway” is also atypical in the realm of public figure autobiographies by delving into the secret pages of a private diary. Lorelei includes more than a dozen journal passages — some happy, some hurting — revealing her innermost and private feelings, many of which were originally meant to be read only by God and herself.
Nearly a decade in the making, “Runway RunAway” can trace some of its roots to an avid Def Leppard fan, the late Mike Ripepi. He encouraged Lorelei to let mourning Steve Clark fans know why a guy who seemed to have it all — guitar hero status and a model fiancée — would destroy his mind and body with alcohol and drugs. While shopping her Steve Clark manuscript to literary agents in New York, Lorelei was met with closed doors along with a dose of constructive criticism. She also discovered that the market couldn’t absorb another book about a deceased rock star who had apparently thrown life away in the spoils of stardom.
Accustomed to opening closed doors, Lorelei acted on the advice, which was to tell her story of survival from neglected youth clear up to her years with Steve. Lorelei went one step further — she became a publisher and skipped the standard publishing process altogether. By the young age of 14, she became autonomous by running away from home. Determined and headstrong well beyond her years, Lorelei decided the divorce and pregnancy paths chosen by her parents and sisters weren’t compatible with her future ambitions. Armed with nothing more than a dream in her heart, Lorelei wasn’t worried. It’s that gutsy attitude and fearless mindset that would pay dividends many times over as she experienced stratospheric highs and unfathomable lows in both career and love life. The cold, cruel world can swallow up even the most seasoned of streetwise kids — but then again, the world had yet to experience the likes of Lorelei. Initially, her worldly adventures didn’t stray much farther than her own Los Angeles area backyard. They also weren’t as glamorous as the magazine cutouts of top models taped to her bedroom wall. In short order she found herself waitressing at the “House of Pies,” earning measly 25-cent tips. Decked out in a white uniform, shoes, and cap, it wasn’t quite the modeling wardrobe she’d imagined.
Lorelei’s luck would soon change in the form of a chance meeting with Eagles drummer Don Henley. He helped unlock some of the famous and fortunate’s hardest to open doors. Although Lorelei openly entertained an on-again, off-again relationship with the rock icon, she kept him somewhat at arm’s length to ensure her dreams stayed in focus. While collecting tear sheets for her modeling portfolio, Lorelei continued to pound the pavement in Los Angeles before heading east to New York City. From there it was time to cross borders into foreign territory: England, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and many other exotic locations. “My European sabbatical lasted for 10 years and introduced me to a world that I had never known,” Lorelei adds. By January 1984, Lorelei had been living and modeling abroad for several years when she received a phone call from reappearing friend, Peter Mensch, one of Def Leppard’s managers. Peter was looking for someone to babysit two guitar players from the band: Phil Collen and Steve Clark. As the telephone rang, the furthest thought from Lorelei’s mind as she stirred a pot of homemade ratatouille in her Paris kitchen, was chaperoning heavy metal rock stars known by the moniker “Terror Twins.” After some long-distance persuasion, she finally agreed to help out her friend. Author’s Note (Handle With Care), Chapter 1, and Chapters 16–24 are about Lorelei’s relationship with Steve. Chapters 2–15 are what led Lorelei to the fateful telephone call that changed her life. Lorelei describes the emotions she felt on the stairwell of her four-story, walk-up apartment as the duo reached the top of the Tudor-style wooden staircase. “I’ll never forget the moment I met Steve. Our attraction was surreal and intoxicating. He had an ardor about him that reminded me of a peacock spreading its feathers. It was love at first sight.” While making room for Steve in every aspect of her life, Lorelei continued visiting a long list of go-sees — including the biggest names in fashion: Christian Lacroix, Bob Mackie, Giorgio Armani, Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, and Geoffrey Beene.
Lorelei had fallen in love and wanted to share life’s offerings with Steve in every way imaginable. What she didn’t bargain for was becoming his caretaker — something she’d done as a young girl taking care of her sister Corinne’s children. In all her relationships with men it seemed she was solving their issues, healing their wounds, and quieting their fears — all the while putting her own needs and desires aside. Steve’s addiction to anything that would numb the pain became a controlling factor in virtually every aspect of their relationship. With a family history of playing the hero child, Lorelei attempted to fix Steve’s missteps and unknowingly became his enabler. Eventually, both Lorelei and Def Leppard reached a point where enough was enough and the final “I’ve quit drinking for good this time” fell on deaf ears. Turning the pages of “Runway RunAway” is like reliving Lorelei’s past life through her eyes. She mentions “eyes” in one form or another more than 100 times throughout the book to describe the scene — allowing the reader to “see” what she was feeling (Steve Clark: ocean-blue eyes; Valerie Mazzonelli: brown Bambi eyes; Don Henley: iridescent blue eyes; “ pain in my father’s eyes ”). Instead of feeling removed from the story, Lorelei makes you feel like a friend is telling you what’s been bothering them — allowing you to be her confidant. At first it’s all so hard to believe, but you’re so riveted to the story that you keep reading. By the final chapter you realize that Lorelei has bared her soul and in many ways, exposed and mirrored the hardships you’ve been through in life. “Runway RunAway” isn’t just for Def Leppard fans or teenage girls dreaming of strutting down the catwalk with cameras flashing. In fact, to pigeonhole “Runway RunAway” into a neat and tidy category would do it an enormous injustice. The book is about people who’ve lived life to the fullest, and those who fell short and suffered the consequences of their choices. “Runway RunAway” is about all of us.