The Biggest Controversies Surrounding Motley Crue

If the dictionary had a picture for the word "controversy" Mötley Crüe's image would be right next to it. As individuals or as a group, they have never shied away from the limelight or the headlines. There's an argument to be made that they are better known for their outrageous antics than their actual music. After all, this is the band that has an autobiography called "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band," which they co-wrote with author Neil Strauss and features shocking recollections of their most infamous moments.

Having been in the game since 1981, Mötley Crüe has had a wealth of time to accumulate scandals and strife. While there was a moment in 2015 when they "retired" and it appeared like the true end of an era, they made a swift comeback in 2019 — along with the opportunity to create new controversies. In fact, it looks like these rockers are here to stay until their hearts can't be kickstarted anymore.

From countless lawsuits to tragedy, let's take a look at the biggest controversies that Mötley Crüe has found itself embroiled in. Be warned, though: It is a lot, and some of these stories are not for sensitive readers.

The sex assault scandal

Mötley Crüe has always embodied the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll ethos. Even their 2001 autobiography, "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band," boasts moments of extraordinary excess. However, there's a specific incident that raised the eyebrows of readers. In the book, bassist Nikki Sixx discusses an evening when he engaged in intercourse with a woman. At one point, Sixx left and returned with his bandmate Tommy Lee, whom he encouraged to engage in intercourse with the woman, who had no idea there had been a switch in partners.

In the book, Sixx mentions how he had the realization he had committed sexual assault the next day. The contents and shocking nature of this story became a major talking point. Speaking to Rolling Stone years later, Sixx said the book featured a lot of exaggeration from both the band and author Neil Strauss. Later, he released a statement to the publication, apologizing and stating: "I don't actually recall that story in the book beyond reading it. I have no clue why its in there other than I was outta my head and it's possibly greatly embellished or [I] made it up. Those words were irresponsible on my part. I am sorry."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Mötley Crüe got their former manager arrested in Japan

When a headline flashes about a Mötley Crüe member being arrested, not an eyelid is batted anymore. What is surprising, though, is when one of their crew also gets thrown in the slammer because of their bad behavior. In fact, Mötley Crüe managed to get one of the most successful and iconic music managers locked up too.

The band's former manager Don McGhee spoke to Rock Candy about a 1987 Japan tour that resulted in him being arrested. McGhee explained how the band was on a bullet train to get to a show when Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars started nonsense. They were throwing items at each other before Sixx flung a bottle that hit a male passenger on board and caused his head to bleed.

"When we got to Tokyo there were a couple of hundred Japanese police with riot gear on waiting for us," McGhee said. "I went up and said, 'I'm Doc McGhee, the manager of Mötley Crüe.' They grabbed me, threw me on the ground and zip-tied my hands behind my back. Then they went and got Nikki. They dragged him out and threw him beside me and took the two of us off to jail." McGhee added how it was the promoter who helped them get out of jail and they were required to write a letter of apology — something that Sixx didn't want to do.

The public callout of Axl Rose

The bad blood between Mötley Crüe and Guns N' Roses can be traced back to an incident when GNR's former guitarist Izzy Stradlin reportedly accosted and assaulted Vince Neil's ex-wife Sharise Ruddell at a club. A while later at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989, Neil is alleged to have punched Stradlin. The drama didn't end there, though, as the two bands continued to throw barbs at each other in the press for years — with even Axl Rose weighing in on it with his opinion.

In 1991, Neil appeared on "MTV News" and decided to use the platform to challenge Rose to a fight. "Right now, I want to put an end to this," Neil said. "What I want is: Axl, if you're watching this, I want to challenge you to a fight. I'm going to give you the time and I'm going to give you the place, and there's no backing out now, buddy. And it's time to put up or shut up." Neil added that he wanted this clash to be televised and at a venue where anyone could come out and watch it.

In the end, the two never slugged it out for the masses.

Mick Mars sued his former bandmates

Like many of its peers, Mötley Crüe has experienced inner turmoil among members. Both Tommy Lee and Vince Neil have departed the band, only to return later on. In fact, the only two constants in the group during the glory years were Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars. This changed in 2022 when Mars retired from touring with the band due to his ailing health. Mötley Crüe issued their own statement, wishing Mars well; however, they also listed that Mars was leaving the band altogether.

Per Variety's reporting, Mars filed a lawsuit against the Crüe a year later, claiming he had been pushed out and the band was trying to withhold his future earnings. The band's lawyers disputed this, stating Mars had signed a document saying he was completely out after he announced he would no longer tour anymore.

In Mars' filing, he also claimed he was the only performer to actually play his part of the music live in every show, while alleging his former bandmates didn't do the same. Mötley Crüe's attorneys again denied this allegation, suggesting Mars was actually the one who struggled to play live and couldn't remember his sections of the songs.

Mötley Crüe is sued by their former manager

In the music industry, one of the biggest pieces of advice given to bands is: Get a manager. Throughout their tenure, Mötley Crüe has had more than a few, as these individuals manage the business side of the operation, while the musicians are supposed to focus on the music. Well, sometimes, these relationships go sour too. In 2008, one of their former managers filed a lawsuit against the band. However, it was a tricky situation since he was still serving as Vince Neil's personal manager.

Per the Nashville Post, Burt Stein alleged the Crüe and its new management were trying to prevent him from receiving his share of the pie. Stein claimed that he was supposed to earn 1.875% as Neil's business manager; however, the band's new manager Allen Kovac had started to threaten legal action.

Mötley Crüe and its management did file their own suit against Stein, suggesting that he had no claim to further revenue since the band had employed new management to replace Stein.

The band versus a security guard at a concert

No one can ever be certain about what will go down at a Mötley Crüe concert. From concertgoers flashing the band to Tommy Lee dropping his pants and mooning the crowd, anything can happen. It's also possible that violence can break out, as what allegedly happened during a 1997 gig in Phoenix, Arizona.

According to MTV, Mötley Crüe performed to 5,000 attendees at the American West Arena. As the show was about to wrap, the band was reported to have encouraged the crowd to join them on stage. According to the police report, the incident kickstarted the chaos and a fracas broke out with the Crüe and their fans as they battled with the venue's security.

The Phoenix Police Department's then-public information officer Mike Torres stated that an 18-year-old security guard was assaulted by two members of Mötley Crüe during the event. "Two of the band members, [Tommy] Lee and [Nikki] Sixx, tried to overpower the security guard, and assaulted him," Torres said. "They kicked him, punched him, and spit at him." Both Lee and Sixx were arrested and served a few hours behind bars before being released on bail.

The death of Hanoi Rocks' Razzle after a party

The '80s were alive with the sound of hair metal. One of the most underrated acts from the era was the Finnish outfit Hanoi Rocks. In 1984, the band landed in the United States for a tour that was meant to take them to the next level. In the end, the tour changed everyone's lives forever — but not in the way they may have imagined.

When Hanoi Rocks arrived in Los Angeles, they befriended Mötley Crüe, and the two bands partied together. With the drinks running low, an inebriated Vince Neil decided to head out in his 72 Ford Pantera — along with his passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle — to get more booze. Not long after leaving, they were involved in an accident, which ultimately claimed the life of Razzle and injured the occupants of another vehicle.

Discussing the incident in his autobiography "Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock's Most Notorious Frontmen," Neil wrote: "Down at the station, it never dawned on me that Razzle could be dead. I just assumed somehow he was in another room giving his statement. I kept asking, you know, 'How's my friend? How's he doing?' The cops didn't answer me for a long time. Nobody would tell me anything." Neil would serve 20 days in jail and have to pay $2.6 million in damages to those injured, but he never apologized for the incident.

An opening band sued Mötley Crüe for $30 million

Opening a show for a legendary outfit like Mötley Crüe is something that most bands can only dream of. For The Raskins, it became a reality, as the group paid $1 million for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour with the Crüe in 2014. Yet, the dream quickly turned into a nightmare, according to The Raskins.

Per a Loudwire news report, the band alleged they were intentionally forced to play to empty venues, weren't allowed to sell their own merchandise or even use the dressing rooms, and had their performances tampered with. They even claimed that Mötley Crüe filled water guns with urine and hosed down The Raskins on stage.

As a result, The Raskins sued Mötley Crüe and their management for $30 million in 2016. Despite the unpleasant experience, The Raskins continued to perform and tour thereafter, teaming up with acts such as Ted Nugent and Yngwie Malmsteen for shows.

A pyrotechnics accident resulted in litigation

Mötley Crüe's stage shows are extremely elaborate. Many people are aware of Tommy Lee's spinning drum setup and the eruption of fire that blazes out of Nikki Sixx's bass guitar. The over-the-top and explosive action has been a vital part of their concerts for decades now; however, there was a purported 1985 pyrotechnics incident at one of their shows that landed up in the courts.

As per The News Courier, two teenagers filed a lawsuit against the band after they claimed they were injured by pyrotechnics during a performance at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama. One man alleged to have lost an eye, while the other party stated to have had his lip split in the incident. It was reported the men claimed $2.2 million and $400,000 in damages respectively.

The trial took place in 1988 and brought a degree of attention as Nikki Sixx attended a court date. Reportedly, the matter was settled a month later when the men received over $175,000 from the band's insurance company.

The bizarre Nikki Sixx doppelganger story

There is no disputing that the world of rock and heavy metal can provide some of the strangest stories around. From legendary feuds about seemingly nothing to outlandish on-stage meltdowns, there's never any shortage of entertainment. However, one of the weirdest tales that did the rounds in the music press was about Nikki Sixx's alleged doppelganger who replaced him in the '80s.

A man by the name of Matthew Trippe claimed to have performed as Nikki Sixx in Mötley Crüe from 1983 to 1985. Trippe came forward with this allegation and spoke to Kerrang, where he told his side of the story. According to him, he was approached by Mick Mars first, then the band's management, and asked to perform as Sixx, even signing contracts under the name. "Just after that, Mick [Mars] came up to me and I ask him about this Nikki Sixx that was before me," Trippe stated. "Mick said, 'Well, he got in a car wreck,' and added, 'he was on drugs.' He really wouldn't tell me much about Nikki."

Trippe claimed he wrote some of the band's songs and was booted from the group when the original Nikki Sixx recovered and came back into the fold. In the end, Trippe's disputes were never proven as fact and this was chalked off as one of those bizarro events from the music industry. In 2014, Trippe passed away.

The Dirt crew member who suffered electrical burns

In 2019, Mötley Crüe's biographical film "The Dirt" arrived on Netflix, starring Douglas Booth, Machine Gun Kelly, Daniel Webber, and Iwan Rheon as the notorious foursome of Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars respectively. Much like the group the film is based on, the production had its fair share of controversy too.

As per The Advocate, a crew member named Louis DiVincenti sued the musical outfit and Netflix for $1.8 million in damages over the injuries he reportedly suffered on set. DiVincenti served as a rigging grip on "The Dirt" and worked on the New Orleans-based production.

According to DiVincenti, he experienced second- and third-degree burns on his body after an electrical accident. Asa result, he endured several surgeries, skin grafts, and had to have his foot amputated after the incident in question. DiVincenti's legal team claimed that both Mötley Crüe and Netflix didn't adhere to safety protocols nor take the proper measures to ensure his safety in the production; therefore, believing they should be held liable for his injuries.

Mötley Crüe versus NBC

Despite the subject matter of Mötley Crüe's music, there are many people who are surprised by the obscenity. For the most part, the band has been on their best behavior when they make television appearances and tone down the profanity and vulgarity. However, there was an incident on New Year's Eve in 2004 that got them in hot water with the NBC network.

As per CNN, Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil swore during a live performance on "The Tonight Show." Finding that the band violated protocols, NBC chose to not invite the Crüe back onto any show — effectively banning them from the network. The band didn't take kindly to this and filed a suit against NBC in 2005, claiming free-speech violation and also citing other musicians who had not been banned for breaking similar rules.

It became an interesting discussion among legal experts, as many pointed out how this could be a test of the parameters of free speech and indecency laws. In the end, the outcome of this battle wasn't publicized, but it appears as if Mötley Crüe made nice with NBC as they appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in 2015.