A normally serene New Orleans suburb near Lake Pontchartrain saw its share of unusual activity this past week.

A shaggy-headed guy dressed in all black roamed a pop-up cemetery near the levee and drove a crazy-cool vintage black car.

A striking blonde woman in a green bikini and black high heels strutted among a gaggle of twenty-somethings in throwback 1980s tube socks and jean shorts.

And a raucous, rock 'n' roll pool party took over a mid-century modern home — on a Monday afternoon, no less — in the 700 block of an otherwise sleepy Lakeshore Parkway.

Blame Mötley Crüe, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

“The Dirt,” a Netflix original movie based on Mötley Crüe’s best-selling 2001 autobiography of the same name, kicked off a two-month shoot in New Orleans last week in the leafy Lake Shore/Lake Vista neighborhood, nestled north of Lakeview between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Lake Pontchartrain.

Already, the shoot has made Mötley history. Bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee, whose drug- and alcohol-fueled excesses as the Terror Twins are extensively chronicled in the book, apparently reunited recently in New Orleans for the first time since Mötley Crüe’s farewell tour concluded on Dec. 31, 2015. A photo of the duo in New Orleans, posted to Lee’s Instagram account Feb. 24, has already received more than 32,000 likes.

motley crue Instagram

A post from the Instagram account of Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, left, shows him reunited in New Orleans with Crue bassist Nikki Sixx during pre-production for the movie version of the band's memoir, "The Dirt." 

In the movie, Lee, Sixx, Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil and guitarist Mick Mars are portrayed by actors. According to published reports, Douglas Booth, a Brit who previously starred as Culture Club frontman Boy George in a BBC film, is Sixx. Welsh-born Iwan Rheon, best known as Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones,” is Mars. Australian actor Daniel Webber, who played Lee Harvey Oswald in Hulu’s “11.22.63,” is Neil. Heavily tattooed Colson Baker, aka rapper/actor Machine Gun Kelly, is the heavily tattooed Lee. (The real Lee, now back in California, alleged this week that he was assaulted by his 21-year-old son Brandon).

Additionally, Tony Cavalero, star of the TV adaptation of “School of Rock,” is Ozzy Osbourne, with whom Mötley Crüe toured and misbehaved in the mid-‘80s.

The New Orleans shoot for "The Dirt" is scheduled to wrap at the end of April. At least one infamous incident from the Crüe’s checkered past could be filmed on location here.

On Feb. 19, 1984, Mötley Crüe opened for Osbourne at the UNO Lakefront Arena. While in town for that show, Sixx, Lee and Osbourne's guitarist at the time, Jake E. Lee, got into a bloody brawl with bikers at the late-night French Quarter bar The Dungeon. Ozzy's disciplinarian wife, Sharon, was not amused.

Sixx briefly recounts that French Quarter fight in "The Dirt" book. As far as memoirs go, it is not for the faint of heart.

Veteran New York Times music writer Neil Strauss, the book's co-author, spent many hours interviewing the musicians and their associates to compile an extensive oral history. The protagonists snipe at one another as the narrative bounces back and forth between points of view; Strauss frames the stories with just the right amount of snark.


An actor portraying Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, at far left, in a scene from the film adaptation of the Motley Crue bio-pic "The Dirt" that was shot in a fake cemetery erected near the Lake Pontchartrain levee in the Lake Vista/Lake Shore neighborhood of New Orleans on Friday, March 2, 2018.

They relate alternately entertaining, horrifying and amusing accounts of the fights, overdoses, sexual adventures and, yes, music that made Mötley Crüe outrageous even by the standards of the decadent Los Angeles hair metal scene of the 1980s.

Concocting ever more creative ways to degrade apparently all-too-willing women was a favorite Crüe past-time. Sixx overdosed on heroin and briefly died. The upside? The incident inspired the adrenaline-rush anthem “Kickstart My Heart,” one of the best songs in the Crüe catalog.

At their best, Mötley Crüe was a hard pop band in the tradition of Van Halen. The band's biggest commercial and creative triumph, the multi-million-selling 1989 album "Dr. Feelgood," also proved to be their undoing, as the band collapsed under the weight of success, drugs and drama.

The movie version of "The Dirt" will apparently not shy away from the band's bad behavior. In a recent tweet, Lee promised “The Dirt” will be “the realist (sic), dirtiest, rock ‘n’ roll movie you’ve ever seen. Trust me!!!!”

Sixx, in his own tweets, is equally enthusiastic: “I am blown away by every person on this film ... We were a unique group of humans who took on the world TOGETHER like a gang. We didn’t kiss ass or play by the rules. Neither is Netflix, our amazing director, producers, etc.”

He continued, “It's on and it ain’t politically correct.”

If the movie is even partly true to the spirit of the book, it couldn’t be.


Extras in the film adaptation of the Motley Crue oral history "The Dirt" take a break outside a house where they were shooting a pool party scene in the 700 block of Lakeshore Parkway in New Orleans on Monday, March 5, 2018.

At least one cast member seems capable of raising hell on par with the Crüe back in the day. Machine Gun Kelly’s excesses and penchant for outlandish behavior have been chronicled in Rolling Stone and elsewhere.

But portraying the Crüe in a big-budget film requires non-Crüe-like professionalism. It was on display last week in Lake Vista.

On the first day of shooting on March 2, the film crew created a cemetery on a grassy expanse adjacent to the levee where General Haig Street curves into Lakeshore Parkway at Amethyst. The tombstones looked like stone but were constructed of wood and Styrofoam.

In the scene, the black-clad faux-Sixx visits the gravesite of the real Sixx's father, Frank Feranna, who, according to the fake headstone, died in 1978. The scene also featured a rare black 1974 Stutz Blackhawk, a handmade luxury car favored by rockers and actors in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

Early this week, the shoot, with its armada of trucks, lights and gear, shifted a half-block away to a house on Lakeshore Parkway that could pass for a southern California home circa 1981. A couple dozen young extras dressed in early-‘80s casual wear populated a pool party at which Lee watches Vince Neil’s pre-Crüe band. The music and cheers contrasted with the more typical suburban sounds of children playing nearby.

Between takes, the extras relaxed under canopies set up across the street in the grass. The aforementioned blonde in the bikini and high heels who mingled with them is not a common sight in Lake Vista.

But neither is Mötley Crüe.

Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.

Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids.