Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Town Called Malice

Topic: Mags' Pop Culture Obsession, The Origins
Title: Part II, The Pink Hair Gel Years

Suburban Kansas City, Missouri, in the 80's, was the absolute middle of America. Smack-dab in the center of the country, it's one middle-sized city, with middle-road values and politics. The "aware years" started there. (However, as previously discussed, my "aware years" clearly started WAY after those of my peers.)

After the Shaun Era came late elementary school and junior high school. Somehow, in those years, I managed to become unbearingly unpopular. (Now I'm well aware that everyone says that, but I'm pretty sure I hit a nadir that not too many of my friends reached.) I had a couple of on-and-off friends; one of whom was "bad," and whom I gladly followed to misadventure when available, Largely I was alone. (Or, at least it seems that way now.)

I did, of course, have a family, and a sister who still lived at home up until I was 11. My sister seemed to have good music - the B52's, Queen, Meatloaf. The Ramones, Cat Stevens - so I was kind of well-off there. She also had great taste in movies and TV, so we watched Soap and SNL, usually taping episodes on our first-generation Betamax and watching them over and over again until we had committed them to memory. I snuck in her room and stole her Monty Python records, who I heard for years before I had ever watched. We went to see a lot of movies, and most of the best ones. (Reading this, it sounds like I should have been cooler, but I was also watching and The Music Man and Oklahoma! and Guys and Dolls, and I don't think I could then differentiate between the hip and the dramatically un-so.)

But, Kansas City reveled in that Bob Seeger, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner/Journey/Boston sort of mindset. It was so...macho, so AOR. (I'm totally not insulting lovers of those bands; Boston is a guilty pleasure, and god knows Steve Perry is my personal karaoke idol.) I did not catch on to this Truth be told, I didn't notice anything about what was going on outside my own head a good deal of the time, so I kinda missed that era altogether. When I came around enough to try to conform, it just never really worked out for me.

Somewhere in the haze in which bad permanents and braces were just cherries on the cake of my life, I got cable. We got Showtime and The Movie Channel, and I started to really watch even more movies (some with soft-core! Woo!). Finally saw Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Showtime used to play music videos in between their movies. The first video I ever saw was "Once in a Lifetime," by The Talking Heads. (Somewhere around the same time, I also saw "Private Life" by Oingo Boingo, "AEIOU Sometimes Y" by EBN-OZN, and "One Step Beyond" by Madness. (And I just realized that I still have all of those albums!)

I got MTV a year or so after we got cable - it was originally a pay channel, you know, and damned if my parents were going to pay for THAT. I believe it was right about then that I demanded to be taken to - oh CRAP, what was the name of that mall store that sold "new-wave clothing? Not Chess King, that was for guys. Karla, help! Anyway, I would only buy clothes atTHAT place- and I renounced my mother's K-Mart shopping. I grew my horrible perm out and my bad friend cut my hair into spikes, which I began to tip with that red hair gel. And, logically, I discovered Duran Duran.

Lord, let it be known that I would STILL, to THIS DAY, drop my pants at any place, at ANY TIME, for Simon LeBon. I saw their concert tour two years ago, and I LOOOVED IT. Needless to say, the fixation on them left Shaun in the dust. (To see them on their 1984 tour, I made my mother drive me downtown at like 7 in the morning so I could get in line for line tickets. Now that I'm looking back, she was way nicer than I thought she was.)

Somewhere in there, I had more seminal movie moments - Stripes, Tootsie, not quite to John Hughes yet - but I think the apex was Valley Girl. First of all, there had been no doubts about my sexual orientation - at least, not by me - up until that point, but seeing a 19-year-old Nic Cage without a shirt pretty well cemented it. And, of course, there was that amazing soundtrack. You see, you youngsters out there will have heard all those songs eight million times on 80's compilations by now, but you have to remember, there was a brief time when those songs were not mainstream. Having cable and a Betamax, I watched that movie until I had committed it to heart, and knew all the songs before a copy of the soundtrack of the movie was ever available in the mall record stores.

For what it's worth, that movie seemed to represent a turning point. I was still not cool, but at least I started to feel more like a human, and I started to be less concerned with looking like the cheerleaders. Somewhere in there, friends started to happen, several of whom are still here.

Thank you Martha Coolidge, and of course my darling Nic. No matter what crap you're in nowadays, I am yours forever. If you ever need me and Simon for any kind of fun, you know, call me.

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