- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

LOS ANGELES He was one of rock's bad boys, a guitarist with a penchant for earsplitting riffs, drugs and girls.

At 38, Cecil "CC" DeVille says he is older and wiser. Clean and sober for five years, he has formed a new band, Samantha 7, with a decidedly different pop-music sound than the power-rock ballads of his '80s glam-rock band Poison, known for its members' makeup and long hair as much as for its music.

Sitting alone at a conference table at a Hollywood studio, Mr. DeVille, dressed in leather pants and a sleeveless shirt, his hair bleached white, looks back on the past and ahead to the future.

"I've had five years to look at what I had done," he says. "There wasn't much to be proud about other than the music … and even that wasn't the best I could have done."

Yet his gravelly voice, flailing hand and body gestures, and rapid-fire conversation paint a picture of a guy who still loves performing before an audience of thousands or just one.

"He's always up," says bass player Krys Baratto, who along with Mr. DeVille and drummer Francis Ruiz form Samantha 7. "That was CC on like level two. You should see him when he's a level 10. It's nonstop."

Mr. DeVille was born Bruce Anthony Johannesson in Brooklyn, N.Y. At 19, he moved to Hollywood and took the stage name Cecil DeVille, a play on the name of director Cecil B. De Mille.

In the mid-'80s, he joined singer Bret Michaels, drummer Rikki Rockett and bassist Bobby Dall to write "Talk Dirty to Me," one of Poison's first hits.

Within years, though, the union was falling apart. Known for his over-the-top antics, Mr. DeVille played a different song than the rest of the band during a live performance on an MTV awards show. He was booted off the tour bus in a swamp. By the early '90s, he had been kicked out of the band and was battling drug and alcohol addiction.

"It took a long time for me to realize I was unhappy. I wasn't doing the music I wanted to," Mr. DeVille says.

Last year, he reunited with Poison for "Power to the People," the band's first new album in nearly eight years, and he toured to promote the CD.

"Poison's my day job. I do that so I can do this Samantha 7 thing at night," he says.

With Samantha 7's tour in support of its self-titled debut album, Mr. DeVille has the opportunity to put on his own show.

He's starting at the bottom of the ladder: no stadium tours, no hit songs. "You can't fall down from zero," he says. "I knew I had to do something different, playing less pyrotechnical guitar and performing less cowboy-rock ballads."

The outcome is a balance between the show-driven spectacle of Poison and music-driven grunge performances.

Mr. DeVille, who wrote and sings all the songs on the "Samantha 7" CD, uses his stories of fame, loss and redemption and adds a touch of humor.

"Framed" is the story of a man who gets caught cheating and tries to talk his way out of trouble by telling his girlfriend he was framed.

"I Wanna Be Famous" is "very anti-rock star," Mr. DeVille says, because saying you want to be famous "is the one thing you aren't supposed to do."

For all the album's light touches, though, the song that reveals Mr. DeVille's depth is the darker track "Hanging on to Jane," a song about parent and child and the pain that comes from growing up.

While Mr. DeVille says these songs aren't likely to reach the rock-anthem stature of Poison's "Unskinny Bop" and "Something to Believe In," he's confident they will stand on their own merits.

"Look, I used to think success was measured by how many No. 1 hits you had. How much money you had, how many girls you had.

"Now I know success is the journey."

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