When Portland, Ore., orchestral outfit Pink Martini was seeking a temporary replacement for frontwoman China Forbes — who was sidelined after vocal cord surgery — bandleader Thomas Lauderdale chose an unlikely candidate: Storm Large, a bawdy blues belter known for Bay Area rock combos such as Storm and Her Dirty Mouth, as well as a stint on the CBS reality show “Rock Star: Supernova.”
His gamble paid off.
“Because five days after I called Storm, she was onstage with us at the Kennedy Center for four sold-out shows with the National Symphony,” he says. “It was just a process of trying to figure out how to, umm, wrangle her a little bit.”
Large — whose rocking solo tour hits The City Thursday, behind her new tell-all memoir “Crazy Enough” and its “soundtrack” CD of the same name — agrees with her mentor.
She never planned on becoming a big-band singer. But she learned the necessary restraint.
“Now with Pink Martini, I sing in eight different languages, and I understand everything I’m singing,” says the quick study, who even asked Forbes’ permission to stand in. “Because it was a very strange situation, like ‘Hey, while you’re in a coma, do you mind if I sleep with your husband?’ But she was very supportive.”
Few aside from Lauderdale (and maybe Large’s fiancé, local musician Michael Shapiro) have tamed this feral kitten, judging by her autobiography, which opens with the line, “When I was 5 years old, I had my first orgasm,” then keeps upping the shock quotient.
It’s all there: Her debauched hypersexual/punk rock years in New York. Her 1991-2002 period spent in San Francisco, where she sank into heroin addiction before finding her brassy bellow. “I wanted to be Joey Ramone, not Judy Garland,” she writes in one get-clean chapter.
“Crazy Enough” began as Large’s one-woman live show in Portland; Now it’s being retooled for Broadway. An author chum saw a book in the sizzling script, and passed it on to a publisher.
“I wrote a sex advice column in Portland, but I never thought I’d write this,” she says. “So I just wrote how I speak, and I wasn’t afraid to show the warts, the bumps, the scars, the scratches. Because that’s what’s interesting about people.”
How did Lauderdale rein in Large, 42?
“His main concern was my va-va-voomness onstage,” recalls the vamp, who will continue part time in Pink Martini. “He pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen — wives are our bread and butter. And if the husbands start being more excited to see us than the wives? We might have a problem.’ And I was like, ‘I get it, I get it.’”
IF YOU GO
Where: Red Devil Lounge, 1695 Polk St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (415) 921-1695; www.ticketfly.com