My Pacific Northwest

by Rose McGowan

Memoir   |   June, 2016

The cult actress turned filmmaker pens a poignant reflection on a turbulent passage during her coming of age in the rains of rural Oregon.


y one and only school dance took place in a squatty brown building surrounded by pretty, forest-like grounds. Inside, the room was lit up with inappropriate mood lighting and cut-rate decorations. I was skirting the crowd trying to dodge Linda, my annoying Mormon friend, when I came face to face with Tracy Lariat, the most popular girl in eighth grade. She held a grudge and, oddly enough at this time, a chocolate truffle. She lifted her hand and smashed the chocolate into my face, then said, “That’s for stealing Mark!” I wasn’t upset about the ambush, I just remember trying to figure out who Mark was and why someone would bring truffles to a dance.

I was wiping my face clean when I heard a gravelly voice say, “Heyyyy, you wanna hallucinate?”

His name was John Fufrone, Jr. and he had a curly oiled mullet and that downy molester mustache young rednecks like to cultivate—kind of like perverted peacocks. It was clear this teenage drug dealer had been held back a few grades. He tore off a tiny piece of paper and told me to put it under my tongue. I had no clue what acid was, I’d never done drugs before, but I was all in for the adventure.


he music started to pulsate off the rec room walls, and even the smallest sounds were being amplified in my head. I left the dance to wander the grounds; trees started to breathe, my soft young mind was on fire. Linda the Mormon took me home and unceremoniously dumped me on my front lawn. My mother dragged me inside the house and started to interrogate me, but the acid had rendered me mute. She was exhausting me with her questions.

I marshaled the strength to speak. I looked her in the eye and said, “Fuck. You.” It was like a silence bomb went off. Two weeks later I was locked up in a drug rehab center, and for the unforeseeable future my home was now the top floor of Sacred Heart Hospital in miserable Eugene, Oregon.

I told the doctors that I wasn’t a drug addict, that I’d only ever taken that one hit of LSD, and they would say you’re in denial and therefore could not possibly not be an addict. Hats off to them, there was no way out of this one. So I knew I had to take matters into my own hands, that there was no way I was going to spend months in that hell.

My first attempt at escape was disastrous. I made it out to the street and just ran wildly. No small feat considering I was wearing those flimsy hospital sock booties with little gripper pads on the bottom. I quickly made friends with a homeless girl. Later that day she introduced me to two older punk rockers named Slam and Mayonnaise.

It rained hard my first night as a homeless teen, so the four of us sought shelter in the cold dirt under a church porch. It was the oozing mud that woke me up first, it was seeping into my ears and distorting my hearing, but I could still make out warbly high-pitched screams. Slam the punk was on top of the girl, raping her. Mayonnaise was still asleep. I slowly slid out of there, inch by muddy inch, losing my booties in the process. My ears were killing me, my vision was starting to double. The only place I knew to get help was the hospital I’d just escaped from.

My father had told me to never befriend anyone with popcorn ceilings, but this was not the time to be elitist.

Barefoot and covered in mud, I ran into the emergency room
and saw a nurse with perfectly feathered hair, then collapsed at her feet. When I woke up, I was back in my room on the sixth floor rehab center. No one believed me—I tried, believed me, I tried.

One week and many educational drug movies later, I got away for good. My compatriots were begging me not to go; my roommate even gifted me her too big shoes. My first stop was a nearby coffee shop, where I met James. He wore a black turtleneck, a long black skirt, and Doc Marten boots—it was love at first sight. He turned to his female companion, a chubby goth named Amy, and promptly broke up with her. She burst into tears, her white powdered makeup running down her face. James turned back to me and asked if I’d go to Portland with him. He’d stolen a hatchback and was wanted for auto theft, necessitating his spontaneity. I took a dramatic pause and said, “James, I’d go to the moon with you.” His newly acquired hatchback took us from Eugene to Portland. We listened to The Cure the whole way while Amy cried in the back seat.


eing homeless in Oregon is deeply unpleasant and inhospitable. There’s the rain, always the rain—gnawing hunger and wet jeans perennially clinging to my legs, that was my northwest. One night while piercing my nose in a coffee shop bathroom, I met a pasty Nancy Spungen lookalike with a mane of fried white blonde hair. Her name was Tina and she told me she was a stripper. I’d once seen a movie about Gypsy Rose Lee with my dad, so I was pretty sure I knew what her industry entailed. I asked Tina if she could spin her tassels for me and I was rewarded with a blank stare. She took me back to her place to stay. My father had told me to never befriend anyone with popcorn ceilings, but this was not the time to be elitist. Plus, Tina was nice, and gave me Top Ramen when she remembered. But then she told me I had to put in money for the heating bill. Shit. Money. Christmas was coming and even though I probably wouldn’t eat that day, I did want a roof over my head. In rehab I’d met a charming young burglar who told me all about pawn shops, so I knew exactly what I was going to do: I was going to rob my mother’s house.


Chinatown, New York City.

I hopped a bus and made my way back down south to Eugene, driving through small green town after small green town. It was a weekday so I knew everyone was out of the house, but I still spied through a hole in my neighbor Babette’s bushes, just to make certain before I made my move. I crawled in through the cat flap, just as I’d done many times before when I was locked out. The house smelled like Christmas. Fuckers. I picked through the presents, still taking the time to be offended that none were marked for me. In the movies there would have been, and the runaway daughter would have stopped in her tracks, her eyes filling with tears, then her mom would have walked in the door, also crying, and embraced her.

But in reality, there was no sign I’d existed. Merry Christmas to me. I loaded up the wrapped presents satchel style and shimmied out the cat flap, like Santa in reverse. I thumbed a ride back to Portland in a Datsun 280Z with a guy that looked like Weird Al Yankovic. He dropped me at Pawn N Such, where I charmed the owner into buying some of my brother’s Nintendo games. I got $27, enough for Tina’s heating bill and a dry Christmas.

I was thirteen years old and punk as fuck.

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ROSE MCGOWAN is a filmmaker, singer, entrepreneur, activist and actress. Having starred in such cult classics as JAWBREAKER and PLANET TERROR, she recently directed the critically acclaimed short film DAWN and the video CATMAN for a track by Yoko Ono and Miike Snow, and is gearing up for her feature film, SYNESTHESIA. Grateful for an upbringing that challenged conventional norms, the artist now resides in NYC. Follow Rose on Twitter.