Just what I needed, Part 1 of 3

When I was a teenager, the rock band the Cars were my everything.  When I discovered their first album within the record collection of a Tennessee cousin, I didn’t know how I had lived eleven whole years on this earth without them.  To the back of the stack with you, Donna Summer and Olivia Newton-John albums, Fame soundtrack and the like!  (P.S. I still have all of those.)

Good thing all I needed to know about this exciting new band (it was 1981, the record was released in 1978) was right there on the album’s sleeve: their names, what instruments they played. Right away I had a favorite Car – Elliot Easton: guitar, backing vocals. I started to fantasize about how I would meet him: I’d be picking out earrings at Miss Bojangles.  Elliot would be lurking behind a kiosk, watching me entertain friends with a really funny story.  Lots of friends.  Then he’d walk up behind me, and when everyone stopped laughing and widened their eyes, I’d turn around and he’d take the cigarette out of his mouth and introduce himself.  For much of my teenage life, this is the kind of thing that would fill my thoughts as I would listen to The Cars’ music.  Especially in times of great emotional distress — which was most days for me, as the girls at school were what would later be called “mean girls” and my mother was what would later be called a “hoarder.”  Also I ripped my shorts in gym — that could not have helped.

So in 1985 when Elliot went on the nationally syndicated radio interview show “Rockline” to promote his new album Change No Change, I was totally stoked.  What if I could actually talk to him on the phone?!  And what if he’d ask to talk to me privately afterward?  What if what if what if?!

Patty Smyth of Scandal was on before him, but I knew I should go ahead and start calling because I am most comfortable being steps ahead of things.  After a few busy signals, the line started ringing.  I thought maybe I had misdialed, but I did not want to hang up just in case.

I had the volume on my shitty stereo very low so as not to wake up my mother.  I say shitty because the knobs on it were clearly not the knobs it came with — Mom had given me some song-and-dance about how the store didn’t have the knobs in stock on this model, but they’d be getting them in and I would get them later.  There is no second part to this knob story.

Back to me, phone clutched to my face, waiting.  Ringing ringing ringing.  After Patty Smyth of Scandal’s interminable interview, which I believe was 30 minutes in length, someone finally answered the phone.

“Rockline, what’s your question?” said some man.

“I… I don’t know!”  How could I have forgotten to have a question ready?  This isn’t how I am, see ‘steps ahead of things’ comment earlier.  The man was really nice, as I was crying now — excited and also worried he would hang up on me and my conversation/life with Elliot would be not happening.

“Well… he doesn’t sing lead any Cars songs, does he?” said the man.

“No!” I said, getting where he was going with this — he was like a beloved teacher who knew I had the answer all along.  I thanked the living shit out of that man and waited my turn in the cue.

Mom yelled at me me to turn off my stereo and hang up the phone.  I didn’t have time to explain what was happening or the irreparable damage she would to if she barged in and did those things herself.

The recording below, done by putting a transistor radio on top of a tape recorder, is of me asking my question and only part of his answer:

Mom always said I’d outgrow this.  And, to her credit, I thought I had.  But a few years ago, I went to the Chin Chin in Beverly Hills, and guess who I totally spotted not ten feet from me oh my gosh y’all I spotted Elliot Easton.  I’d recognize that buttoned-up polo shirt and round-framed glasses anywhere.  I knew this getup well, because I had more than once dressed up like him for Halloween.

Read all about this encounter in Part 2!  Vote in Part 3!  It’s like the Hunger Games trilogy but no children get murdered!

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The spirit of ’83

I’m going to be honest with you: no matter what, I am probably going to keep this Esprit Holiday 1983 catalogue.  Purely for sentimental value, since it’s been a few years since any of these clothes were even available.

I remember giving this very catalogue to my stepmother when she asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I had circled numerous items and was like, “fly little bird.”

I wanted this entire outfit on the right:

Notice the four layers: a cardigan over a vest over a sweater over a collared shirt.  Styled with a pair of slouchy men’s pants.  The model looks like a linebacker.  I wanted all of it.  My stepmother did find the cardigan, and I wore that damn thing everywhere.  Weddings, bar mitzvahs.  I’m kidding, there weren’t any Jewish kids in Fort Worth in the early 80’s.

I also liked this ensemble:

… because we all know how flattering pant pleats were.  And shorts that cut you off mid-thigh.  And layers of boxy tops were.  Maybe it was the old-timey toothache bow that put it over the top for me.

These pages are where most of my energy was placed:

I ranked these sassy flats in the event my stepmother found them in multiple hues.  Say she’s at Sanger Harris and she sees they have the lavender and blue pairs — how does she choose?  I took the guesswork out of that because I’m nice.  And for the record, I still want all of these.  Except the grey, yeesh, it’s at the bottom of the list for a reason, am I right?

For fun, and because this is how this blog is set up, go ahead and vote.


Let’s get physical

Here’s what we are dealing with today: a second place ribbon from the Fort Worth Independent School District’s “Fitness Festival.”  What that was was an aerobic dance contest.  My 4th grade class at Tanglewood Elementary had a routine to the Bee Gees “Night Fever,” which was already 3 years old by that time but still going strong, at least to the P.E. teachers at Tanglewood.  I say routine, but it was really just a couple of grapevines, then a couple of kicks and then we did a quarter turn and started the sequence all over again.  We repeated this on all four sides, over and over.  We thought we were hot shit.

The night of the program (I seem to recall we were at the Tarrant County Convention Center or at least somewhere else crazy big), were were nervous but confident.  We were set to “perform” second to last.  All the other schools were not even trying in the choreography department.

It was hard to hear our song at first, the space was so big and the PA was so loud and distorted. But we got it the hell together.  After the song had faded and the last kick and half-assed shuffle was managed, we were happy that all those other schools got served by us.

But then, hold up a min… Eastern Hills Elementary took the floor in full-on costumes.  Leotards, sequins, the whole nine.  They had a full routine choreographed from beginning to end.  Those kids were dancing like they were in a dance class, not an aerobics class for old ladies.  We were all “did we just get served?”  We knew we had.

Epilogue: That following year, I moved out of the Tanglewood area and to — you guessed it — the Eastern Hills area.  There was a whole dance program there at EHE and a big show called the “Dance-a-rama,” performed near the end of the school  year.  I danced the “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Shaft,” and “Disco Mickey Mouse” dances (the last one was a hand-selected group and was the feature dance in the Dance-a-rama, y’all; P.S. it was already 1981 but we were still all about disco).


Quiz me! No, don’t. Yes, do!

This is my only trophy ever, for being a member of the district-winning Whiz Quiz team at Monnig Middle School.  I was an alternate; I played in a total of 2 games and answered a total of zero questions.  I even did that thing where someone buzzed in, and I buzzed in right after them and made a big show pretending I knew the answer but was beaten to it.  It was humiliating not knowing a single answer to anything.  My favorite teacher Miss Janice Dilworth from “spirit leading” was the sponsor and she recruited me because she thought I was smart.  Ha!  I showed her!

So years later, I didn’t know what I was thinking when I signed up to take the test to try to be a contestant on VH1’s “Rock and Roll Jeopardy.”  I mean, I thought I knew a lot about rock, but I had never been called upon to prove it like I always dreamed.

The tryout was at 8 in the morning, which was the crack of dawn for me at the time.  Oh, those days! Anywhuh, we hopefuls sat in the real Jeopardy audience, a seat or so apart, and were handed a questionnaire about our connections to music and our favorites and all that.  Then they gave an oral test, and I missed some easy questions about Michael Jackson and Alabama.  Like I said, it was early, but also… I choked.  I choked!

Then they called out the names of the people who were moving on to the next level of testing.  As more and more names were called, not mine, the hope started draining out of me, as happens in these situations when I’m trying for a spot among a group of people.  I have never in my life been that last name called.  Until that day!

I squeaked by to the mock game portion by the skin of my teeth, obvi.  Because I was the last one on the list, and because of the numbers, I had no one to play against, which was fortunate for me.  It gave me plenty of time to get accustomed to that whole “What is…?” bullshit.  I tried to give them some personality, which may have come off as desperate, but I had to do something make up for my low oral exam numbers.  I went home and then weeks later, I got the message that I was to be a contestant!  Yay, me!

On the day of the show, I located and joined the other contestants right outside the parking structure, there on the Sony lot.  This one gal brought her notes with her and was being really demonstrative about them.  It worked — I was intimidated.  I had nothing and had done nothing to prepare, aside from trying to name artists real fast when they came on the radio.  Radio, oh, those days!

They took us to a green room and looked through our outfits — they had told us to bring 3 options.  They chose my first option — a yellow sweater set from Rampage and a pair of plaid brown pants from Rampage.  Then we were each individually approached and asked questions about what we’d said on our questionnaires.  They asked if it was true that I quit guitar lessons when I became a cheerleader.  I said it was, because it was, I think.  The person then said, “do you remember any of your cheers?”  I said “no,” and the interviewer moved on to the next person.  I thought to myself, what an idiot!  I took improv, I should have known to “yes, and” the question; keep the improv going.  There were a couple of extra contestants there, and I worried my abrupt end to this tete-a-tete would cost me a spot on the show, or at least make these producers I’d never see again not like me.

Then we were all ushered down to the “Jeopardy!” stage, which was re-dressed for the rock version.  We were randomly selected to go and test out the buzzer situation and get used to what the whole deal felt like.  There was this one guy who was super-quick at the buzzer, it was ridiculous.  I was the person who buzzes in furiously but too late.  When the practice was over, we were told they were going to put us in groups of three, and that would be our show groups.  I hoped to not get stuck with either Notes Girl or Buzzer Guy, but I ended up with them both.

Our group ended up being the first out of the gate, so I had no frame of reference as to what types of questions were going to be asked.  I got into position and quickly developed a crush on host Jeff Probst.  I mean, hubba hubba, right?

The first thing we had to do was the most nerve-wracking.  It was where they say “a homemaker from Reading, Pennsylvania” or whatever, and the camera is on you to just be.  I waved at the camera, doing a “what, am I on camera now?” face.  After I did it, I knew it was wrong.  Also, the set was yellow, or some shade of something that I knew was not going to pair nicely with the sweaters.  So already, everything was awesome.

The game started, and let me tell you — those first-round questions were E to the Z.  So much so that we all knew them.  Good news for Quick Draw McGraw, bad news for Betty Slowthumb.  At the end of the first round, I was in last place.

During the break, I did my best to maintain my composure, i.e. not cry.  I was joking with my competitors, trying to laugh away that $5000 like it wouldn’t seriously help my financial situation.  But it wasn’t about the money, as those who know a lot about rock and have always wanted to prove it can attest.

Hot Jeff Probst headed over to me for the interview portion.  Here was my time to dazzle/seduce him.  He asked me if it was true that I quit guitar lessons to become a cheerleader.  I said yes.  He asked if I remembered any of my cheers.  I said yes.

“We’re the best there’s no debate!  Yay, seniors eighty-eight!” I kind-of-yelled, swaying side to side to the beat.  “I can’t believe I remember that!”  I said, which was a bold-face lie.  As Jeffy moved on to the next contestant, it dawned on me that this display of total assiness was going to be broadcast on television.  Plus it was no way for the love of his life to behave.

I couldn’t dwell on my questionable choice, I had a game to finish.  I had not yet burst into tears, so there was still hope for me to pull it together.

I knew there must have been a secret as to how McGraw was buzzing in so early.  Here’s how the game worked: after a question was asked, white Christmas lights that encircled (ensquared?) the board would light up.  You had to wait until you saw the lights come on to buzz in, or you were frozen out for 3 seconds.  I figured out that my competitor was listening for the end of the question as his cue, anticipating the light by a fraction of a second.

At the beginning of round 2, I was armed with this realization.  Oh, and also, I did another queer thing: after I answered a question correctly about Van Halen (in the category of “Devil Music,” I said “What is ‘Running With The Devil’?” — which I was technically wrong on, the answer is “Runnin'”  not “Running”), Jeffy said “They were never better then, huh?” and I was all “Um… no!” or something to that effect.  It was cut out of the broadcast.  I imagine the editors going, “This dork will make America uncomfortable.”

So, like Cliff Clavin on that “Cheers” episode, most of the round 2 categories were in my wheelhouse.  They were like, “Who’s buried in Lubbock, Texas?” and anyone who has been there knows it’s Buddy Holly.  But most people have not been there, see.

The Notes Gal blew it when she got both Daily Doubles and lost.  She had a audio clue for one — they played “How Soon Is Now?”  And she said it was Morrissey, solo.  She did some other stupid things like say it was called the Fillmore West.  Whatever, by the end of the 2nd round, I had enough points to not bet anything in Final Jeopardy.

Now, when you’re about to win $5000, a strange kind of stupidity comes over you.  During the second break, when my competitors didn’t want to pal around anymore, I kept asking the stagehands that were going to and fro if I needed to bet anything, or could I just bet zero.  No one would answer me.  I mean, I had seen the show a zillion times, I knew the rules.  P.S. in this rock version, you just won $5000 (and didn’t get to come back) — you didn’t win your score or whatever.  I bet 10 just to make it fun for me.

The Final Jeopardy category was “Song Inspirations.”  Now, I knew a lot about big famous songs.  I say “knew” because my mind is like a sieve now.  I have actually forgotten all the Rainbow-Sabbath-Dio, etc. lineups that I worked for years to have down.  The question was something like, what Bangles song was inspired by symbols found at a synagogue and at the JFK gravesite?  Even though we had those separators between us, I knew my competitors were both writing “Walk Like An Egyptian,” because I could hear their markers writing a lot.  That’s what I wrote, too, because that was the only Bangles song that came to mind.

It was wrong.  As Jeffy Poop got down to me, asking what I said and how much I bet, kind-of jokingly, he saw that I had the worng answer, but no matter, I had won.

They had warned us about the zoom-in once you were declared the winner.  I knew the camera was on me, but I couldn’t “Yay!” or anything — that would be too “in-your-face!” to those other two.  My win meant that they lost.  So I did a big “Whew!” like I had made it through an ordeal and was just glad to be alive.  My father taught me to be humble, and humble I was.  And good for me.

Okay, so… the trophy.


I learned the truth from Seventeen

Ah, my old Seventeen mags from the 80’s.  The crazy eyebrows, the glove with the ring on top, the head bow that you usually only see on babies — this look unapologetically says, “Notice me” and “I’m not looking for a boyfriend” and “Step away, hobos!” all at the same time.  I especially love that they thought teenage girls described clothes as “marvelous,” a word I would’ve only used when imitating that Billy Crystal character.

And remember when not being sluts was cool?  I would say I love the message of abstinence on the cover, but 2 pages in, there’s this ad:

It says, “Nuance says yes.  But you can always say no.”  “Um… okay.  You mean, say no to drugs, right?” my 13-year-old or so self says.  And this gal’s wearing a negligee — like we all did as teen and tween girls.  I mean, I had the pink underwear that said “I’m Baby Soft,” as in the Love’s perfume, but that was also creepy.

Back then, we wanted to be and look older — er, “sophisticated.”  Get a load of these gals:

I imagine the casting call was “20 to look 45.”  An unexpected surprise in this particular issue was this ad, for the Columbia Record N Tape club:

These were some of my picks, had I been brave enough to get in on this insane offer:

This is how I know my husband and I were meant to be together:

Here’s a weird ad for tampons:

I don’t remember them ever touching the tampon.  I don’t know how much that sells it.  Speaking of ads, here’s one…

… for your HOPE CHEST!

Makeup… fashion… articles about baskets… Seventeen has it all, girls.

Pack light, but don’t forget your granny panties!

I still want every single one of these shoes.

My 10 or so 80’s Seventeens.  Should they stay or should they go?


This shirt is rockin’

Good weekend everyone.  Here’s my next thing:

I fear I originally hung onto this in case I got a job at another Foot Locker; that it would have kept my new employer from having to procure me another one.  Maybe I thought it would be a good Halloween costume?  Which it totally would be, now that I think about it.

It does bring to mind one of the greatest nights of my life.

It was my buddy Chris Hunter’s 17th birthday, in Fort Worth, Texas, circa in 1987.  Because I was working, I was going to have to arrive at his surprise party at Mama’s Pizza after the surprise.  This was fine by me — I always fear I that I will be the first person that the person sees after the surprise, and if I’m not in that person’s top tier of friends, I feel like a real jerk.

So that night we were closing up shop at the Foot Locker when my friend Jennifer called me on the telephone and said I needed to get my fanny down to the party quick-like.

“Stevie Ray is here,” she said.

I could hardly believe my ears.  Mainly because it was very loud in the area where that pay phone was in Mama’s Pizza.

(Stevie Ray was Stevie Ray Vaughan, y’all.  Chris’ mother Barbara Logan was married under the common law to Doyle Bramhall: a collaborator of Stevie Ray’s, he wrote “Change It,” “Lookin’ Out The Window” and co-wrote “The House Is Rockin'” among others.)

I almost didn’t want this news to be true, as it would mean I’d have to abandon my closing duties, which wouldn’t sit well with anyone, including myself, because responsibilities.  I was tremendously excited that I was going to get to see SRV in person.  If I could get there in time, that is!

I explained quickly what was going on to my boss.  Miraculously, no grief was given to me and I squeezed under the mostly-closed metal gating and ran to my car (I was wearing sneakers, so.). Once I got in, I remembered my original plan was to stop off at home to change clothes.  I did not want to take the time to do this.  Could I show up in my uniform…?  No, I thought, Stevie Ray Vaughan was not going to fall in love with me in this uniform.

Thank goodness I had a random change of clothes in my car: a men’s fair isle sweater-vest that I had given my step-brother for Christmas that he didn’t love so I kept; a men’s Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt (mine); and a denim skirt from el cheapo Show Off fashions.  I was actually pretty okay with this outfit — boxy, shapeless menswear was a look that was very me at the time.  I changed in the car, and after a few strategic fluffs of my perm I was off!

Once at Mama’s, I raced upstairs to the private room and greeted Jennifer.  She pointed into a darkened area where Stevie Ray sat with a beautiful woman (hey, wait!) and others.  I said “That’s not him!” because it really didn’t look like him, it was dark.  But once my eyes adjusted, it was pretty unmistakably him, and I had a hard time processing the whole deal.  I now wonder what he must have thought when this weird girl in a men’s vest appeared in the doorway and stood staring at him for many minutes.

At one point, I remember having the opportunity to chat up the beautiful woman.  She was maybe European?  She said she first met Stevie Ray in the street, getting off a bus in her foreign land, and they were smitten.  I was like, “Aww…” because even though she was my romantic rival, I still wanted to be her best friend, because how amazing would that be?!

Later, Stevie Ray played a whole set — for about 30 teenage kids — with my buddy Chris on drums. I was so physically close to him, I could have reached out and grabbed his hat scarf.

My friend Emily and I decided that since technically we were newspaper reporters for the AHHS Jacket Journal, it was our duty to write an article documenting this event.  We decided she would be the one to do it, as I was barely able to pull my shit together for the convo with the European lady.  After the set, Emily and I got close enough for her to lob one question at him, which was something like, why would he do a gig like this?

“Friends,” was his answer.  What a doll!

You are voting on the shirt and the name tag together.


Earrings for Pantera

Here’s another questionable thing I’ve held onto for ages:

It’s an autographed photo of the band Pantera before they were famous.  In a frame with no glass. And no backing.

I acquired this in 1982, when they were hanging out at Hastings (Hasting’s?) records in the Ridgmar Mall to promote their debut album, Metal Magic.  My buddy Suzie and I didn’t know who they were, but they were a rock band, and we therefore loved them instantly.  The album cover art was a picture of a panther’s head on a man’s body drawn by a… like a teenage boy.  It seemed very homemade, like my Patriotic Fever record a few posts back for the 12 of you keeping up who I love more than anyone.

The band members were asking girls for their earrings.  Suzie and I either weren’t wearing them or the ones we were wearing were shitty.  So we went shopping in the mall for earrings to give to the band Pantera.  We went to Miss Bojangles, Accessory Lady — all over.  We found just the right ridiculous dangle ones.  They thanked us and were real nice to us, even though we did not buy the album.

My dad got me Metal Magic for my birthday or something, and boy, was it terrible.  There is an actual song on it called “Ride My Rocket.”  Even at 12 years old, I knew that was less than artful.  I was so disappointed — they were so cute!  Oh, well, there goes me getting in on the ground floor of a band that turns out to be famous.  What’s that you say?  They did become famous?  Gadzooks.

Please keep in mind that that one guy’s dead, and I’m a bit superstitious about throwing away things that dead people have signed and that also has their faces on it.  And P.S. I think that’s known as the Pantera font.