Nikki Sixx's tragic real-life story

Anyone in Motley Crue will tell you that hard rocking comes with a side order of hard partying, but even the other band members might find it difficult to top the sheer debauchery of bass player Nikki Sixx. The main songwriter of Motley Crue and a major troublemaker, Nikki Sixx's is one of the first names that springs to mind when you think of pure rock 'n' roll madness.

Although his act is considerably cleaner these days, the man born as Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr. has spent a significant chunk of his life as the ultimate embodiment of the guy your parents warned you about. He has tried pretty much any rock star vice you can name and has even written a book (The Heroin Diaries) about his favorite one. Unfortunately for him, this kind of lifestyle is not all parties. As Sixx himself has told the Guardian, there's a price to pay, and at least one aspect for him was 15 years of nearly constant hangover, and that was just the surface stuff. Let's take a look at the tragic story of Nikki Sixx.

​​The turbulent early years

Before he became Nikki Sixx, young Frank Feranna Jr. had quite a childhood, and it turned him into a hellraiser of an adult. Biography describes his childhood as fairly traumatic, as his father left the family shortly after he was born. Sixx was raised jointly by his grandparents and his mother, and had to move a lot — in a span of 11 years, he attended seven schools. This turbulence did not mold him into a particularly law-abiding young man, and when he was living with his grandparents in Jerome, Idaho, his school expelled him for selling drugs. This was the last straw for grandpa and grandma Sixx, who sent the young man to his mother in Seattle.

According to Blabbermouth, living with his mother was no picnic for Sixx, as it came with a side order of violent men. By the time he was 17, the budding musician finally had enough, so he left his past behind and took his bass, his new name, and his big dreams to Los Angeles. Still, his experiences as a young man have influenced Motley Crue's music. Sixx has said that the song "Live Wire" in particular is about domestic violence and specifically mentions the assorted stepdads that used to beat him.

That sexual assault story

During the promotion of the 2019 movie adaptation of band autobiography The Dirt, one particularly vile passage from the book started making rounds in the media. The Independent reports the offending story features Nikki Sixx reminiscing about a party where a woman he knew pulled him into a closet and they started having intercourse. Midway through the act, Sixx told the lady that he had to visit the bathroom, but instead of doing that and coming back like a normal person, he went to find drummer Tommy Lee. He told Lee to follow him to the closet, and when he gave the signal, they … switched places. Sixx stood directly behind Lee, so according to him, the woman was still able to grab his hair and didn't notice a thing. Sixx then continued the party and forgot the incident, until the woman called him the following day and told him that she had been raped that night. Although she didn't name Sixx and/or Lee as the rapist — this had actually been a separate incident where a man had attacked her as she was trying to hitchhike home — this made the bassist realize he had gone too far. He had also essentially raped her.

Consequence of Sound say Sixx has apologized for the damning story, though he says he doesn't recall the incident. He now says he believes he may have greatly embellished the events or even made up the story during his less than sober interviews with writer Neil Strauss.

His "death" from a heroin overdose

Nikki Sixx was a particularly enthusiastic drug user during the band's glory days, so he's had more than his share of close calls. Still, none of them can hold a candle to December 23, 1987 — the day he died. Ultimate Classic Rock says after a night of hard partying with some hard-rocking friends, including members of Guns N' Roses and Ratt, the festivities were slowly winding down. However, Sixx decided to treat himself to one last hit of heroin before bedtime. This proved to be a fatal mistake because as soon as he was injected with the syringe, he passed out and started turning blue. Paramedics arrived to Slash vigorously thrashing in a hotel bathroom while his girlfriend, Sally McLaughlin, frantically administered mouth-to-mouth to Sixx, but for a while, it looked like even the paramedics could do nothing to save the bassist. Sixx was loaded in an ambulance and given shots of adrenaline, but he was already dead — or so it seemed. Hours later, he unexpectedly awoke at a hospital, cursed at a cop trying to ask him questions and wandered out, wearing nothing but leather pants. He got a ride home (and a lecture about drugs) from two fans, who had just heard on the radio that he had died.

Sixx has described dying as a fairly typical out-of-body experience, and he's also said that death just "hurts."

​His arrest in Japan

To illustrate how out of it Nikki Sixx was during the late 1980s, look no further than the train incident during Motley Crue's tour in Japan. Ultimate Classic Rock reports they took a bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka for a concert, but as it turned out, it was not a good idea to put the world's most dangerous rock band on the same train as mere mortals. During the return trip, Sixx was out of his mind, while Mick Mars was busy swimming in a bottle of Jack Daniels. The two started to get on each others' nerves, and Sixx started throwing donuts at Mars. After a bit of that, the bassist decided to graduate to throwing bottles but misjudged the throw and hit a random man in the head. As the bloodied collateral damage was helped away, authorities were contacted. When the train arrived in Tokyo, "a couple of hundred" cops were waiting in riot gear. They arrested Sixx and the band's manager, who both spent hours in jail as a local promoter tried to resolve the issue. Somehow, he managed to persuade the police to release them … on the condition that Sixx write a letter of apology.

Sixx refused initially, but he was released in the end, so someone must have caved. Regardless, the manager said if it weren't for the valiant efforts of the promoter, they'd "probably still be there."

His darkest moment as a drug addict

During his worst heroin abuse years, Nikki Sixx had near-death experiences and went through pretty much all imaginable terrors that come with drug addiction. Still, he doesn't consider any of his assorted dramatic drug-using incidents as his rock bottom. For Sixx, his absolute lowest point was a fairly uneventful and intimate moment that only registered as an absolute darkest hour because he finally realized the hopelessness of his situation. According to the Fix, the realization came when his dealer was temporarily out of stock, and he had no access to heroin. The bassist spent a day and a half without heroin, in terrible, painful withdrawal that he likens to hell, before his dealer was able to come over and resupply his addiction. This incident made Sixx realize he couldn't get out, and that information hit him so hard that he describes the sensation as an almost physical feeling of being stuck.

​His disastrous relationship with Vanity

It's easy to assume that Nikki Sixx is always going to be the most debauched person in any given relationship, but as the Daily Beast describes, he once met his match in a pop star known as Vanity (above). She was a model, actress, and singer who was originally discovered, mentored, and dated by none other than Prince. By the time she met Sixx her career was already dwindling. The two shared a mutual love (of crack cocaine), and got engaged in 1987. This was not a good move, as both of them were extremely fond of rock star excesses and enabled each other's bad behavior. They would stay up all night freebasing, and in the morning, Sixx would throw Vanity out because she started acting too crazy for him.

Vanity eventually moved on from her famous fiance who, as Hollywood Reporter notes, was ultimately just one link in a long chain of celebrity boyfriends that also included Adam Ant and Billy Idol. She continued her hard-partying ways until 1994, when a massive overdose caused a renal failure that nearly killed her. After that, she abandoned her stage name and became a Christian evangelist under her real name, Denise Matthews. Unfortunately, her years of abuse had wrecked her health beyond repair, and she died at age 57 in 2016.

​Divorces and secret lives of ex-wives

A marriage to a young, restless Motley Crue member has all the stability and security of a one-legged porcelain statue at an elephant enclosure, and Nikki Sixx has the divorces to prove it. Although he's a dedicated family man these days, the bass man had to trudge through two failed marriages to get there. According to Blabbermouth, his second marriage, to Donna D'Errico (above), ended in 2007, and the divorce proceedings turned nasty when Sixx testified that he had discovered that she had previously been a stripper and even done some "high-end call girl work." This sordid past thoroughly freaked out noted saint Nikki Sixx, according to … Nikki Sixx. D'Errico's lawyers, on the other hand, dismissed his claims as little more than an amusing attempt at character assassination.

The fate of Brandi Brandt, the musician's first wife and the mother of three of his children, was less amusing. Biography says her seven-year marriage to Sixx ended in 1996, and perhaps not coincidentally, Sixx married D'Errico just one month later. Brandt's life then took a very dark and strange turn. The Sydney Morning Herald says the former Playboy cover girl became involved in a large cocaine smuggling conspiracy, and she was sentenced to several years in prison in 2014.

His struggle with depression

Nikki Sixx has been open about the fact that he struggled with depression in his youth, and he says taking drugs was partially an attempt to self-medicate the condition. He takes depression very seriously, to the point that he even included its medical definition in the glossary of The Heroin Diaries. Still, his most public foray at addressing the subject was actually prompted by Gene Simmons. In 2014, the KISS ringleader made some typically controversial comments about depression, dismissing its validity as a mental disorder and saying that people who claim they're depressed should just kill themselves.

This was a colossally stupid comment, and Sixx immediately jumped in the fray. According to Rolling Stone, the Motley Crue man labeled Simmons' comments moronic and pointed out that some kid might actually hear his words and believe that suicide is the only way out. Sixx then went on to carefully explain that there are many, many ways out of depression, and the last thing any depressed person should have to do is hear some rock star claiming that there is only one, final way to deal with the situation.

It's probably not a coincidence that Simmons released a swift and uncharacteristically humble apology.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

His assorted petty feuds

Nikki Sixx has tons of opinions and a history of substance abuse issues, and he has carved out a career in a field full of people with similar temperaments and preferences. As such, Sixx seems to attract and cultivate feuds like a gardener might nurture fine flowers. According to Loudwire, the Motley Crue bassist has varying levels of beef with Michael Sweet of Stryper (Sweet once said some of Crue's stories are B.S.), KISS as a band (Sixx feels they stole a crane trick from Motley Crue's final tour), and Gene Simmons in particular (whenever their opinions clash). According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame says he can't even keep up with all the feuds Sixx has going.

The Crue bassist's most long-term target is none other than Metallica. According to Loaded Radio, the two bands have been at odds since they rose to dominate their respective metal scenes at the same time in the same general area, and Sixx has been known to take potshots at the band's drummer, Lars Ulrich, for his appearance, attitudes, and drumming ability. Of course, this could just be because Sixx likes to annoy drummers. After all, even his own percussionist isn't safe from his inflammatory antics. According to Metal Injection, Tommy Lee says Sixx unfollowed him on Twitter immediately after Motley Crue's final show. (OooooOOOooooh.)

His isolated paranoia

The Star describes how at the height of Motley Crue's fame, Nikki Sixx spent many a long night in a way you'd never expect a rock star to. Instead of drowning his worries in a mountain of groupies and fast cars, the bass player curled up in a cold, damp closet with his drugs, his only friend a shotgun that he kept by his side.

According to the AV Club, the reason for his behavior was paranoia. Sixx was certain the cops were coming to get him, and the fact that he reacted to the imminent presence of law enforcement by getting as wasted as humanly possible and arming himself shows just how out of it he was at the time. During his worst heroin times, this was actually closer to his status quo than all the happy-go-lucky partying and gleeful depravity described in The Dirt, and his own memoir, The Heroin Diaries, functions largely as a document of this awful dark side of the rock star lifestyle.

His strange "doppelganger"

1988 was perhaps the most infamous year for Motley Crue and Nikki Sixx. The peak of both their popularity and the bassist's heroin addiction, the year was full of rowdiness, health scares, canceled concerts, and trouble with the law. On top of all this chaos, a man named Matthew Trippe emerged with a strange story. Louder says Trippe was a relatively unknown musician who claimed he had a secret history as the bass player for Crue. Not a new member, mind you — he said he literally spent a year as Sixx. According to Trippe, Sixx was sidelined due to a nasty car accident in 1982. He says guitarist Mick Mars recruited the similar-looking Trippe to take over the bass responsibilities in 1983, starting a gig as Nikki Sixx 2.0 that ended in 1984 when Trippe was involved in an armed robbery. As he was waiting for his trial, the "real" Sixx rejoined the band, and they went on to record songs that Trippe claims he wrote, such as "Save Our Souls."

Of course, Trippe's tales turned out to be tall, although he does seem to have believed the whole thing himself. He still managed to keep a lawsuit against the band's manager going for a few years, and the story received some significant publicity. When it reached the Crue crew, everyone freaked out … particularly Nikki Sixx, whose drug-ravaged mind presumably didn't take too kindly to the emergence of surprise doppelgangers.

​His extremely troubled relationship with his mother

Nikki Sixx and his mother have always had a strained relationship, and by "strained" we mean "utterly dysfunctional." According to the Guardian, their troubles started when Sixx was just 6 years old and his mother called her parents to come and take the young boy away. "I'm going to lock the door and I'll just leave you in the porch," she told her son, and cruised away with a strange man. Sixx says the moment broke him, and he could never truly reconnect with her again. It didn't help that she was extremely critical of his chosen profession. When Motley Crue was at the height of its fame and she saw his picture in a magazine, she called him up to hurl abuse at his looks. Meanwhile, she was also happy to hog credit for her son's success, and once told Sixx that she was the one who gave him "the fire to have so much talent."

This isn't one of those tales where time heals the wounds and the mother and son eventually reconcile, either. The relationship remained so sour that reconciliation was impossible, and when she died in 2013, Sixx only acknowledged the event with a simple, dispassionate tweet. He had been fully aware of her condition but opted to let her die alone because he felt that even at the brink of death she didn't deserve any attention from him.