Monthly Archives: October 2012

The day John Taylor gave me heat stroke

In 1985, Duran Duran splintered into two side projects. John and Andy Taylor worked with
Robert Palmer and the guys from Chic to create Power Station, a down-to-earth rock band.
Simon le Bon and Nick Rhodes went to Paris and spent a million dollars on their side project,
Arcadia. Guess which one made huge pots of money? (Hint: not the pretentious, arty-farty
album that was recorded in Paris.)

To be honest, I enjoyed the Arcadia album more than the Power Station because I am not really that much of a rocker. Power Station was “rawk and roll” with actual guitar solos and stuff!
Poor Andy Taylor. He was so repressed in Duran Duran, and finally he could let it out and be himself.

The fans worried that the band was going to break up forever. I was especially worried, because I hadn’t seen them play in concert yet, and it was my life’s goal to see them in person. That
summer, my mind was set at ease a bit, because Power Station was coming to Phoenix!

My friends and I were extremely excited and immediately began drawing up battle plans. The concert was at an outdoor venue, with no reserved seating. Even though seats were not reserved, we all decided we needed to camp out at the box office in case the show sold out. We were absolutely positive that the tickets would be gone in a few minutes.

Buying a concert ticket in the pre-Internet era was a huge pain in the ass. The ticket box office closest to my house was inside a Diamond’s department store in Phoenix. Every Saturday at 10 a.m., the box office would open up to sell tickets. This was the on-sale date for every new show in town. We weren’t sure if there was another event we’d be competing against to get a ticket, so camping was the best alternative.

Lisa and I met up with a few other people there to sleep for the night. We told our mothers that we were sleeping over at each other’s houses because there was no way they would approve of us sleeping in the parking lot of a mall like hobos.

We brought blankets, snacks, boom box radios, packs of cards, and other things that would
amuse us while we were waiting. Of course, we weren’t the only fans who had thought of doing this. We weren’t even the first in line! There were probably about thirty people there altogether. The group formed a quick bond through Duran Duran singalongs. We also looked at photos of the band that the other girls had brought with them, and we screamed bloody murder when we saw one that we liked. I can only imagine how annoying that was to anyone who happened to pass by. I can’t remember if we actually slept or not. I am sure we did, eventually.

Finally, the magic hour of 10 a.m. rolled around. Lisa and I linked arms and started praying for a ticket. The line seemed to move so slowly. Five whole minutes had passed, and we were still in line. I worried that it was going to be sold out. My senses were highly attuned to any signs that the tickets were gone, but people were streaming out of the store with smiles on their faces. In what seemed like eternity, but was probably just a few minutes, it was our turn. We bought our tickets and ran out of the store shrieking with joy.

I knew how Charlie Bucket felt. I had a golden ticket.

Sometimes the best part of going to a show is the planning and anticipation that goes on
beforehand. Since it was July, and school was out, Lisa and I had plenty of time to plan things
out. The show was at Compton Terrace, a large outdoor venue that was about 30 miles out of
town, on the Indian Reservation. We knew our friend Christine had a driver’s license so we were going to ride with her. There were about six of us going to the event together. None of us had ever been to a general admission outdoor show, so we weren’t sure what it would be like. The decision was made to get to the venue at 10 a.m. and wait all day for the show to start, so that we could be right up front.

Being naive teenagers, we had no idea what was in store for us on a sunny July day in Phoenix, with the predicted high temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

The six of us piled into Christine’s car. None of us had brought any water or food along. There was no way we’d be able to eat – we were going to see John Taylor in the flesh! If you want to see God, you have to fast.

We were the first people to arrive at Compton Terrace for the show. I realize this was not a huge surprise to anyone but the six of us. We were overjoyed that we were the only people smart enough to plan ahead so well. We were goddamn geniuses!

The six of us walked triumphantly to the gate, which was closed. Doors didn’t open until that
evening. We had imagined that we’d be let in and then we could roam the grounds freely, and that they would have water and food for sale. This was reality check number one. At this point, a sane person would have left and perhaps gone to lunch, returning later that night.

We were not sane. We were Duranies. We had carried all the gifts we wanted to throw on stage at the band – teddy bears, letters, flowers, etc. etc. I don’t think any of us had panties to throw to them; we weren’t those types of girls. We sat down in the dirt in front of the gate and examined each other’s gifts approvingly. It was going to be mind-blowing to actually interact with John Taylor! (At this point you should realize that none of us really gave a hoot about Andy Taylor, although I was always one of his greatest defenders. He just wasn’t as cute as John.)

By the afternoon, we were hungry, thirsty, and hot. It was probably around 3 p.m. when I staggered over to a corner and vomited, then passed out from heat exhaustion. Luckily by then there were actually some employees around who gave me some water. In fact, the employees were really concerned about our group, most of whom were about to suffer my fate. By the time the gates opened, we had all either fainted or thrown up. That did not dampen our determination to see John Taylor up close and personal.

As soon as the gates opened, everyone rushed to the stage and staked out their territory. It was like Pa Ingalls staking his claim for the Little House on the Prairie. We had claimed our turf, and nothing was going to keep us away. I knew from seeing Power Station perform on TV that John would be standing at stage right, so we all huddled in that section. As the hours passed, we noticed a huge crowd assembling behind us, and we were smug in the knowledge that we had the perfect viewing spot.

The opening act was Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark (or OMD, as they were better known). I was fully prepared to hate them for making me wait for John Taylor. Instead, we all became huge fans of their music and I developed a crush on Paul. (It was just a minor distraction from Duran Duran, who held the lock and key on my heart.) Their sound was very loud, though, and I did get a huge headache.

If you’re keeping track, I had a headache, a stomachache, dehydration and heat exhaustion. I think I was starting to hallucinate at this point, but there was no way I was leaving my perfect viewing spot to go to the medical tent.

Approximately one hundred years later, Power Station took the stage. Robert Palmer wasn’t able to tour with the band, so the replacement singer was Michael Des Barres, who is better known for his role as Murdoc on MacGyver. I’m glad he decided to become an actor later in his career, because his voice sounded like the cries of a wounded cat after a bad Halloween. The songs sounded terrible, and I was deeply disappointed.

Despite the shitty sound, the crowd began pressing in closer and closer to the band. I could look up and almost touch John Taylor (at this point when you read his name you should imagine glitter and flying hearts, and hear angels singing) himself, as he loomed over me. I watched in fascination as his fingers played the bass, and imagined those fingers touching me. It almost made me forget how terrible the music was.

Soon enough the crush of the crowd was becoming very painful. I was having trouble breathing and my knees were buckling. John Taylor noticed the way everyone was pushing and asked the crowd to take “four steps back” so that the people up front could breathe. As soon as this happened, I suddenly felt myself being sucked into the crowd by some law of physics, and ended up much further back. I had also lost my friends.

Just then, the band launched into “The Reflex”. I burst into tears. How dare they play this song without any keyboards — it’s as if Nick Rhodes had never been born! I made my way to the back of the crowd and sat down in the grass, crying hysterically. This is how I spent the rest of the concert.

Eventually we all found each other in the parking lot and had a somber drive home. Each of us had our own personal nightmare: fainting and being carried to the medical tent and missing the show, losing everyone in the crowd and spending the night looking for them, getting stepped on by strangers, throwing up on the stage barrier, and so on.

Looking back, it was one of the best nights of my life. I had seen John Taylor (cue glitter, flying hearts, and angels) live and in person!

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The day I was kicked out of the mall

The clip above showcases the mall where I spent most of my youth.  Metro Center Mall – yes that’s where they filmed the mall scenes for the Bill and Ted movies!  Before I got a job in the mall, I spent many hours loitering there.  I got a two-dollar-a-week allowance and I could only spend it all in one place!

If you think that Bieber and One Direction fans are annoying online, imagine how it would be if they were inescapable while you were trying to do your Christmas shopping.  Yes, Duranies roamed the mall like brainless zombies…wandering from one end to the other in search of Duran Duran lookalikes.

There was always at least one boy at the mall who did his best to look like John Taylor or Simon leBon.  (No one ever tried to look like the other guys – isn’t that weird?) My friends and I would find one and trail him around the mall from store to store, giggling and elbowing each other.  I am sure he enjoyed the attention.  Why else would he dress up like that, right?  (We were totally creepy.)

The best store at the mall was called The Merchant.  They sold posters, tee shirts, and photos of your favorite bands.  They would also turn your photos into buttons (badges) that you could wear on your jacket.

If you didn’t have at least 20 badges on your person at all times, you had failed as a Duranie.  I had hundreds of them that I put on a rotation schedule.  I bought sets of badges, as shown above, but the coolest ones were the ones I had made from magazine photos or photos I bought at The Merchant.

Yes, it’s pretty sad, but we didn’t have tumblr, so we had to actually buy pictures.  I was my own walking tumblr page if you think about it.

The Merchant had huge photo books out on their counters, and we fans would page through them and plan our future purchases.  We would giggle, and sigh, and squeal as we discovered a photo we hadn’t seen before.

One day, when I was feeling particularly hopped-up on Nick Rhodes obsession, my friends and I headed to The Merchant once again.  I made a beeline to the photo albums and feverishly thumbed through to the new photos.

I saw some concert photos that actually showed Nick’s FLESH.  This man was usually covered up from head to toe.  He even wore hoods and scarves to cover his face.  Seeing his actual ARMS and CLAVICLE was like a glimpse into the gates of heaven.  I reacted like a Victorian gentleman who glimpsed a shapely ankle.

From deep within me came a roar of delight…a scream so raw I tore my throat up.  I screamed as if Freddy Krueger had just appeared before me.  It was better than feeling myself up in the store, right?  (Probably not)

The next thing I knew, security was escorting me out of the mall.  I had taken the bus there, so they walked me out to the bus stop.  I was probably banned from The Merchant but the staff turnover was so high, it was never really enforced.

I didn’t even get to buy the picture!  It would have taken my entire allowance, but it would have been worth it.

That time I crashed my car because of Scritti Politti

The year was 1985.  I had just gotten my driver’s license and was terrorizing the streets of Phoenix, Arizona in my beige Dodge Omni.  (My dad always bought the most Al Bundy-esque cars…)

Yes, the Dodge Omni was ugly.  No, it was not the most reliable car I would ever drive.  Yes, it had a cassette tape deck.  That was all I cared about.  My cassette collection was impeccable. If a band was featured in Star Hits magazine or on MTV, I most likely had their cassette.  I joined the Columbia House record and tape club, and then quit, and then rejoined, so I could keep getting 12 records or cassettes for A PENNY.

However, sometimes a band was so important, I had to actually go to the record store and buy it on the release date.  Scritti Politti was one of these bands.  I had a very dangerous crush on the singer, Green Gartside.  (Now that I think about it, he kind of looked like Nick Rhodes, who was my scary obsession in the 80’s.)

My parents had gone out of town to Las Vegas (some of you may remember my dad’s gambling problems, as mentioned in my earlier post about the the time I went to Las Vegas to see Barry Manilow with my parents). Since I was the oldest child, it was my responsbility to be a grown up and so I was allowed to drive the car in case of an emergency.

What could be more of an emergency than buying a brand new cassette of the new Scritti Politti record?  Plus, the record store was only a couple of miles away, I rationalized to myself.

I headed to Zia Records, where all of the clerks would give you a hairy eyeball if you bought disposable 80’s pop, such as Scritti Politti.  It was very much a “John Cusack in High Fidelity” atmosphere.  At sixteen years old, I really didn’t care what a bunch of old hairy dudes thought of my dodgy record-buying habits.

Shiny new cassette in hand, I headed back to my car and ripped the wrapper off.  I popped the cassette in and listened through the car’s tinny speakers.  The sound of Green Gartside’s voice was like a balm for my soul.  He sounded like he had been filled with helium.  He sounded like the aural equivalent of spun sugar, and I was bursting with joy.  I sat in the parking lot and listened to the first song, and then I decided to head home.

You know those ads that say “Don’t text and drive”?  Well, I should have been told not to listen to music and drive.  I was so absorbed in what I was listening to, I didn’t realize that the car in front of me had stopped.  This car was driven by a little old lady and she had stopped in the middle of the road for NO REASON.  There was no light, no stop sign, nothing.

BANG!  I rear ended her car with the old Dodge Omni.  I didn’t have my seat belt on (Wear your seat belts, kids) and my chin slammed against the steering wheel.

I was freaking out because I had only gotten my license a few weeks earlier, and now I already was going to get a ticket.  The car was not too bad, at least, but I knew my parents were going to be so disappointed and angry.  I started crying, and I threw the door open to take a look at the situation.

The old lady was already out of her car.  As soon as she saw me, she pointed at me and started screaming.  I looked around.  She told me to look in the mirror.  I sat in the driver’s seat and looked in the visor’s mirror, and there was blood dripping down my chin.  It didn’t hurt, probably because I was in shock.

I WAS WEARING MY “FEED THE WORLD” LIVE AID SWEATSHIRT AND THERE WAS BLOOD ON IT.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Then I realized I was bleeding because my teeth had cut through my chin and punched a big old hole in it.  Hooray!

The police came and gave me a ticket.  I tried to act brave, but then the cop said they were going to bring the paramedics and that I should go to the hospital.  They asked me for my parent’s phone number to get medical consent.

This is when I started crying really hard, because I didn’t have a number for them.  They were in Vegas, and this was WAY before cell phones were invented.  I told the cop what was going on and he told me that he couldn’t leave until he knew I had medical attention.  I told him maybe we could go to my friend’s house, because her mother would be at home.

I remember that I was shaking, freaking out, and bawling as I headed to my friend Sue’s house, which was just down the block.  Her parents were home because they weren’t degenerate gamblers that were enslaved to the one-armed bandit.  (Thank God this was before Indian casinos, because we would probably have been homeless.)  The cop told Sue’s mom what happened, and she hugged me, cleaned me up,  and took me to the emergency room.  She told the docs that she was my aunt so I could get stitches.  She also gave me a ride home afterward, and got my car back to me the next day.  Sue’s mom was the best.

I had stitches that looked like giant black hairs growing out of my chin like an old Russian lady, which is just what you want in your junior year of high school.

I decided that I wanted Green to send me a letter or a card or something.  I had no idea how to reach him.  (Remember, no Google back then)

Who could help me?  Oh yeah, Star Hits magazine!  I should write to Jackie and ask her!  And I did.  And it got PRINTED!  I was printed in Star Hits!  My first publishing credit…under an alias…which is how I prefer to live my life.

I never heard back from Green.  Maybe he will see this post and send me a note…

David Byrne and St. Vincent

During the 1980’s, I was into new wave and pop music.  I regarded the Talking Heads as arty farty bullshit for people who were older than me, although I did like the hit songs such as “Burning Down the House”.  Up until the other day, I regarded David Byrne as one of the most pretentious bastard in the world, except for perhaps Lou Reed.

Well, my opinion has changed.  I got a chance to see David Byrne and St. Vincent because a friend had an extra ticket.  I didn’t have to pay for it, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I hadn’t bought a ticket to see them because I had those aforementioned prejudices against David Byrne, although I love St. Vincent.

I listened to their album on Spotify (Love This Giant) and I liked it.  I am a sucker for anything with a horn section.  I was also hoping he would play a few Talking Heads songs – the ones I like

After getting lost (as usual), I found the venue.  I missed all of my freeway exits, because the freeways in Austin are marked for people who already know where they are going….I was really frustrated and stressed out because I was half an hour late to meet my friend.  Finally, I found my seat and I was immediately soothed by the sounds of birdcalls and rain, which was playing before the show started.  I liked that a lot.

David Byrne made an announcement over the loudspeakers before the show saying that photos and videos are allowed, but asking people to please not take photos with their iPads and to please not view the entire show through a gadget.  This announcement should be made before every concert EVER.

Everyone walked out on stage, and it was so low key that I didn’t even realize that David and Annie (St. Vincent) were also on the stage.  There were a lot of people, as you can see from the photo above.  I knew that they were not fucking around because they had a guy playing a sousaphone on stage.

The show was really visually interesting, because there was choreography from everyone on stage and it was different for every song.  At one point everyone was lying down on the stage and playing, including the horns!  Lying on the floor playing a horn!!  I have never seen that before.

Annie would do this little dance where she’d stutter-step across the floor. It reminded me of something Prince used to do, but she was less filthy about it:

David Byrne was really gracious and would step back when Annie sang.  He would blend into the background and maybe do a funny dance but he let Annie have the spotlight.  It was the most generous and gracious thing I’ve seen someone do on stage, and I was very impressed by that.  He didn’t seem pretentious at all – he seemed humble.

I was pretty annoyed that everyone was sitting down during the show.  I kind of figured this would happen since it was mostly greybeards and hipsters.  After a pretty subdued number, everyone spontaneously erupted into a standing ovation, and the band just stood there.  The longer it went on the more awkward it was, so they started bowing.  You could tell that they weren’t sure what to do, so they walked off stage like it was time for an encore break.  I am not sure if we missed out on some songs because of this affectionate outburst.

Then when the band came back, everyone was standing up and stood up for the rest of the night.  Fucking finally!

I have to admit that when they played “Burning Down the House”, I lost my shit.  I mean, I danced like no one was watching – I did the pogo, I sang along, I might have had a tear in my eye.  That song was my JAM back in the day.  (“The day” being my freshman year of high school.)

They ended the set by singing “Road to Nowhere”, and everyone marched off stage.  All I could think about was that the people in the horn section were probably all in marching bands when they were kids and that was why they could remember all the crazy choreography for every song.  It was kind of a heartwarming thought.

My advice to you is that if David Byrne and St. Vincent come to your town, you should go see them.  My heart grew three sizes that day, and I no longer harbor an irrational hatred of David Byrne.

Rocky Horror Dreamcast

Thank you to @thetorontokid (twitter.com/thetorontokid) for this hilarious mockup of a Rocky Horror recast!

The other day, I was entertaining myself by wasting time on Twitter, as usual, when I came up with a (brilliant?) idea. Halloween is fast approaching, and I was wishing for a Rocky Horror tribute or recast, starring my favorite actors.

Just think about these guys strutting around in their scanties:

Benedict Cumberbatch as Frank N Furter – with that voice, those legs, and that ass, there is no doubt in my mind who would be perfect for the sweet transvestite.  And we know he’s willing to dress in drag:

Tom Hiddleston as Brad Majors – Some people wanted Tom to play Frank, but I think he’s perfect as Brad.  He’s so smiley and somewhat dorky, it would be great.  Also, just think about him in those tighty whities…and then in the fishnets at the end.  I think he would look super cute in glasses…you know I’m right.

Martin Freeman as Riff Raff – Look, we all know that Martin is a pent-up ball of rage and frustration at all times of the day and night.  He could portray the seething butler, Riff Raff, to perfection.  I also would love nothing more than to see him give the angry speech at the end…”YOU DIDN’T LIKE ME! YOU NEVER LIKED ME!”

Chris Hemsworth  as Rocky Horror – I really can’t think of anyone with a better physique than Chris Hemsworth.  He’s right out of a Charles Atlas ad, am I right?  I bet he could ride a feather boa like nobody’s business.  He wouldn’t have any lines, though….not that I would care…

I haven’t cast everyone, because I’d like to hear your suggestions.  Who would you cast in this version of Rocky Horror?  And would you donate to a kickstarter to get this made?  (just kidding…I think)

The night I prank called Andy Taylor

Because I grew up in the dark ages of the 1980’s, and had no internet, I found other means to connect with fans.  A free weekly local newspaper had become the Duranie communication hub for Phoenix, AZ. Duranies posted meet-ups, pen pal requests, and held general fan conversation through their free personal ads. It was the equivalent of what would now be a message board on the internet. I invented  an alias and joined in.

I’m sure that the publishers of “City Life” weekly were extremely excited that a frightening group of teenage girls had taken over their personal ads section.  It went on for pages and pages…messages about Duran Duran, Culture Club, Prince, Van Halen and more.  Instead of publishing ads similar to Craigslist missed connections (as was the original intention, I am sure), the paper published ads that read, “John’s Red Gloves is looking to meet up with other DEVOTED DURANIES!  Did you see the new video for New Moon On Monday? ONLY TRUE DURANIES NEED REPLY!”

Thanks to Duran Duran, I had just made a whole new set of friends who went to other schools. I would have never met them if we hadn’t all been bananas for the band.

My new friend Amy had invited a gaggle of girls to her house for a sleepover. Amy was a
little bit older than the rest of us, and had a driver’s license. She also had a basement, which was unheard of in Phoenix due to the rocky ground. We all gathered in the basement and watched Duran Duran videos on TV, and screamed to our heart’s content.

The usual sleepover shenanigans occurred, and of course we ended up playing Truth or Dare. I
was dared to make a phone call to Andy Taylor’s restaurant in London, which was called Rio
Wine Bar, of course. We had all read about it in Star Hits magazine. I can’t remember how we got the phone number – I’m sure I had done some sort of scary stalking for the number.  I think I was bragging that I had it, and that’s why they dared me.

Amy said she’d drive me to the Circle K so we could call from a pay phone. We got some
quarters from the clerk and dialed the restaurant. Amy and I were giggling our little teenage butts off. We wondered if Andy would actually be there or not.

“Rio Wine Bar.”

I put on a terrible British accent. “Toodle-oo, old chap, is Andy Taylor there?”

You could tell that this person had gotten a million crank calls from a million insane Duranies.
Wearily, he replied, “Mr. Taylor is rarely on the premises.”

“Well, then, may I ask you a question, kind sir?” I paused for effect. “Are you hungry like the
wolf?”

I hung up the phone, as Amy and I screamed with laughter. We literally doubled over, we
were laughing so hard. Okay, I’ll admit, I still think it’s pretty funny.

I figured that was the closest I’d ever come to speaking with a member of the band in person. I
was wrong about that, but it would be many years before that wish came true…