Photo: Courtesy Free Press

“PEOPLE THINK I’M NUTS,” writes Storm Large in the opening pages of Crazy Enough. “They think I’m a killer, a badass … a boot-stomping, man-chomping rock ’n’ roll sex thug with … well-notched bedposts….” The truth, she insists, is much more boring. And indeed, the ubiquitous 42-year-old singer’s ever-growing franchise suggests more savvy than debauchery: gigs with nouveau big band Pink Martini, appearances on Rock Star: Supernova, and even an original musical version of her life at Portland Center Stage.

In the process of reaffirming her “disenchanting normality,” Large’s memoir leaves much of her punk-rock persona intact. The tumultuous saga begins in 1974 in a small town west of Boston where 5-year-old “Stormy” is discovering orgasms while her depressed, pharmaceutical-popping mom hops between mental hospitals. As her mother’s downward slide ends in electroshock therapy and partial paralysis, Large takes up with a crowd of freaks, punks, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of sexual partners. (“If you’re going to go ho, go full-on slutbag,” she advises.)

Some of her antics are guffaw-out-loud funny. During an acid trip, Large becomes suddenly convinced that “clothes are a lie” and narrowly escapes jail time for swimming nude in a public fountain. But her later escapades take on a graver tone, as when she relives quitting heroin cold-turkey in her San Francisco apartment: “I must’ve looked like a sick, milky slug, some hollow-eyed larvae … twitching under my dank cocoon of rags.”

Large’s salvation comes after belting Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” in a San Francisco club and realizing her desire to be in a band. Lured by a lover to Portland, she put together the now-legendary lounge act Storm and the Balls. Even in her current iteration as a sleek chanteuse, Large still retains her sawtooth edge. “Somebody slap me!” she remembers yelling backstage at her PCS premiere until a willing assistant “made my right cheek his bitch.”

The 261-page memoir is graphic, tragic, and at times downright disgusting. But Large has built her brand by sacrificing charm on the altar of authenticity. With cleverness and honesty, she transforms a story that in most hands would be maudlin into yet another funny, passionate, and irreverently jarring adventure.

This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Portland Monthly Magazine.

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