What ever happened to Toots DeVille? (Did Heroin kill her?)
Willy DeVille died on August 6, 2009. He had contracted Hepatitis C and, beginning his treatment, doctors found he had pancreatic cancer. That was in June. R.I.P Willy DeVille.
Browsing his bio on Wikipedia, I stumbled upon a peculiar character, Toots DeVille, and decided to do a little research on her. It isn’t much I have yet found out, but I am going to to continue on this article. So far, I have in particular brought together images – I wanted to know what she looked like.
EDIT: Please be sure to read the comments too, as the opinions about Toots seem to be rather controversial.
EDIT: Also keep in mind that some people who comment here have their own agenda, and each their own perception of how things are and were. I have now closed the comments (stopping at a whopping 441) as I grew irritated by the number of people who claimed to have ‘insider stories’, but mainly used this blog post as a means to come to terms with some stories in their own lives. As neither Toots nor Willy can comment anymore on some of the claims that are being made, I do not want to encourage further speculation, seeing that this thread has meanwhile turned into a gossip mill, with the occasional nastygram from the past.
- Do not send me mails to ask that I open the comment section again. I won’t.
- Do not send me mails to tell me that there are errors in what people wrote. This is exactly why I closed the comments – because people spread rumours, hear-say, and lies, and I have no means to find out what is true and what isn’t.
- Don’t send me mails demanding that I delete any comments. While the comment section was open, it was open to everyone – I am not going to censor anything retroactively, I simply ask you to keep in mind that there is no guarantee that any of this is true.
- Don’t send me insulting mails, because you think it’s outrageous that I don’t believe you – I don’t know you, and I cannot tell from an email address whether someone is telling lies or now. I am not publishing your comments, just like I am not publishing anybody else’s comments. It’s got nothing to do with you. Go start your own blog if you feel you need to have your say on what happened in Toot’s and Willy’s life. It’s free on www.wordpress.com.
THANK YOU FOR READING CAREFULLY AND THINKING FOR YOURSELF!
Who was Toots DeVille?
“Willy DeVille was married in the late 1970s to Toots, with whom he had a son, Sean. Alex Halberstadt, Doc Pomus’s biographer, wrote about Toots, “Half French and half Pima Indian, Toots favored a pair of nose rings, snow-white kabuki make-up and a Ronettes-style beehive the color of tar. She’d once put out a lit Marlboro in a woman’s eye just for staring at Willy.”Halberstadt, Alex (2007) Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus. New York: De Capo Press. p. 214 (Wikipedia)
In a 1996 interview with a Sheila Rene, Willy was asked:
Have you seen Toots lately? She was one fascinating character.
Willy: Oh, I really don’t know. I haven’t seen her in over ten years. I ran off on her, I guess. She was fascinating, all right. She loved to fight and pull knives out. She used to get me into a lot of trouble.
I worried a lot about you during those years.
Willy: She did some serious damage to my career. (laughing) It took me ten years to get it back on track.
So little can be found out, it seems, about Toots DeVille! The first photograph of her I found in a forum where she is presented as Amy Winehouse’s paragon: “Before Amy Winehouse, there was Toots DeVille“:
I used to road manage Mink DeVille in the late 70’s .This is Willy DeVille on the bench, “Toots” and Chris the band manager.He found a wheelchair at the airport and was messing around. I think Toots & Amy came from the same mold.
This message has been edited. Last edited by: LarryR, March 21, 2009 12:28 AM
An article from a Dutch fan page states that her real first name was Susan (and the comments offer a variety of views on Susan’s last name, most likely Berle oder Berlinsky): “Willy […] was accompanied by his wife “Toots” (Susan) who was dressed like one of the Ronettes with a beehive hair-do and tight dress. ” It also included a picture where the couple can be seen, with Susan ‘Toots’ DeVille sporting her do:
This one is from a NY Times Punk rock piece:
The legend of her rather implacable character is either confirmed or reiterated in another blog post on The Belly of The Beast, which reminisces the Fast Lane Summer of 1980; the Fast Lane seems to have been a concert house:
The Fast Lane was a magical place and a magical time, inhabited by a denizen of characters with a capital C.
We had the janitor, Louie La Buff, great name, full-time drunk with a mutt named Dukey that was amazing and haggard all in one. There was a WW2 vet named Tim, with a fake ear, a prosthetic thing made of God knows what, that he lost in my car one night.
There was the fabulous wife of Willy Deville, Toots Deville, who would punch out female audience members for staring at her husband, and she never failed to ask me if I was “holding,” even though she knew I never did heroin. She also used to ask me if she could cut my hair, which was as scary a thought as could be. It was a cast of characters and clowns.
And in the comments, radiogirlpnr adds:
Dear God, I remember Toots – when I worked at WBCN in Boston, Willy came in for a chat, and Oedipus (whose show I produced) pulled me aside and warned me NOT – under any circumstances – to give even the slightest appearance of flirting with Willy.
DrumBob toots the same horn (sorry for the pun:)
The truth is, I knew Willie was using hard drugs back in the 70’s. He may have straightened up as the years went on. We hung out a few times after and before shows. I was at his apartment on the Lower East Side one night, and Toots said to me, “Do you have any drugs?” I said, “I have a joint.” She said, “NO, I mean DRUGS!” She meant heroin.
More Trivia: The shoulder and panther tattoo on the Mink DeVille cover of Le Chat Bleu (1980/81) belong to Toots DeVille.
This scan of a magazine spread (couldn’t find out which mag) shows that Willy and Toots shared the tattoo:
EDIT Please take the time to read the comments below – they’ve got many useful links!