Roller Coaster Ride

I hung my hope on the next day.

Dawn came over in the morning and we quickly wrote our script out to call the hotel again. This time, we’d speak with Rick’s tour manager and try and set something up.

I was shaking as I dialed the hotel and asked for the tour manager’s room. He answered on the third ring.

I looked up at Dawn with the deer in the headlights look. “He answered!” I mouthed. I was sure I’d be leaving a message and didn’t really expect to actually speak to him.

“Hi, Mr. Miller. My name is MFL. I wanted to talk to you because I’ve written a book about Mr. Springfield, and am nearing the time to submit it for publication. I wanted to have his permission prior to then so that it would be that much easier for a publisher to accept the work, knowing that it wouldn’t have to go through a lot of back and forth. Since you are here in town, I thought it might be easiest if I came by and was able to discuss it with you further.”

It was a good thing we’d written it all down. I was sure it sounded like I was reading, but it was better than being completely unable to speak and having him hang up the phone on me.

“Really? That sounds interesting. Sure, you can come by the hotel, bring by the manuscript. We’d love to see it.”

I couldn’t believe my luck! He wanted to read my book. He was ASKING me to stop by the hotel. Incredible!

“Thank you so much Mr. Miller. I’ll be by later this morning.”

Oh my goodness!

Now, how would we get there? My sister was already gone, and my mother was obviously at work. My brother didn’t have a license yet, not that he would even think about doing me a favor. Dawn’s sister was also working. Her mother?

A quick phone call later, and Dawn’s mother was on the way over to pick us up. Their car wasn’t the most reliable, so we were a bit worried about driving the half hour to the hotel, but we were all willing to take the risk of breaking down on the way there. We were so close. We had to try.

We made it to the hotel without incident. I couldn’t believe how small the lobby was. It was very tiny, for such a large hotel, with a small desk in the corner. What should we do?

I looked over at Dawn for direction. In that time, about ten seconds, a beefy man in a blue blazer came up to us and asked us our business at the hotel. We told him about our previous conversation with Rick’s tour manager, and I showed him the blue box that contained the manuscript.

“No problem. We’ll be happy to deliver this to him,” the man told us, reaching for the box.

“But Mr. Miller asked us to come. We were really under the impression that we’d be meeting with him personally. Can you at least call his room and ask him if he’d come down?” I gave him my best “please help me I am just a young girl who has a big crush on a rock star” look.

“Sorry. This is the best I can do for you. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they get it.”

I looked helplessly over to Dawn. This was not turning out the way I’d planned. She shook her head slightly at me, as if to say, “Nothing more we can do here.”

I handed the box over. It was clear we weren’t going to be allowed to wait around in the lobby, use a house phone, or anything else. I felt the same sense of deflation I’d felt the night before rising in my chest.

“Thank you. It’s really important, so please be sure he gets it.”

Dawn and I walked back out to her mother’s car in silence. She didn’t ask, and we didn’t say a word.

I could feel a chunk of my innocence fall away as we drove out of the parking lot.

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Don’t Walk Away

Rick played all of the hits that the crowd wanted him to that night: Affair of the Heart, Living In Oz, Souls, Human Touch, Don’t Talk To Strangers, even Love is Alright Tonite and Jessie’s Girl. But as the songs played on, and I stood staring in awe at the man I’d idolized for the last year, the man who had distracted me from my brother’s hospitalization and my father’s homosexuality, the man who I’d invested my heart and energy with, I found myself…descending.

I should have been happy. I should have been dancing and singing and enjoying the live music and the show. The show was intense, Rick hardly stopping to speak to the crowd, just going song after song and looking beautiful. I could see him clearly from my spot in the thirteenth row, right there on the aisle, an empty expanse of space right between from him to me. This was my first rock concert, and I was sharing it with my best friend. We were in great seats in a great venue.

I’d thought that once I was in the same space as Rick that he would somehow find me in the crowd. He’d be drawn to me somehow, that fate would somehow show him the way to the girl who needed him, depended on him, who he would want to help if he could just see her in the crowd. I know that sounds like absolute insanity now, but when you’re fourteen years old, that kind of thing seems possible and real to you. As the songs played on and I realized that Rick was never going to venture out into the crowd, was never going to even realize I existed, that I was there in the same place and time as him, I started to hate the show. I hated the vapid girls that were crowding past me to get closer for the encore. I hated the fact that there were thousands of people just like me here. I wasn’t special. I wasn’t unique. He was never going to find me. He was never going to know I existed. There was nothing here. Nothing special. Nothing that made me separate from the rest of the girls here.

The show ended, and I smiled and laughed with my friend and her sister because I couldn’t admit to them, not to anyone, how bereft I felt about the whole experience. We went to the backstage entrance we’d found on our hunt earlier that day, with my box and my note, and waited to talk to the bouncer looking guy blocking the way. Girl after girl was turned away before I finally got my turn to say my piece. I told the guard that I’d written this book, it was here in the box, that I’d communicated with Rick’s management about it already (total lie, but we did call them, that sort of was communication, though we’d hung up). The guard gave me no points for creativity or preparation, because he pushed me away just like everyone else.

“Don’t worry,” said Dawn as we walked slowly back to her sister’s car. “We’ll go to the hotel tomorrow and try again. Anything has got to be easier than dealing with all of these people.”

I hung my hope on tomorrow and walked away from the place where Rick Springfield was.

You’ve Got It Made With the Guy In Shades

I’m not going to lie, I had insanely high hopes for my encounter at the Rick Springfield concert. I had zero idea of what to expect standing in a venue along with 20,000 other fans, but I was pretty sure that Rick would sense that his kindred spirit had somehow arrived on the scene (despite a: being 21 years his junior, b: him being off and on with one pesky make up artist named Barbara and c: me being a minor) and that light would appear from above and suddenly we would connect on a very spiritual level.

No, I’m not exaggerating.

We entered the gargantuan amphitheater, which was miles wide (or so it seemed). A huge area ringed the seats for lawn seating, and blankets were being set up in the areas with the best sight views. The lawn was impossibly far away from the stage, I thought, why would anyone even bother? But there were hundreds of people already staking out their spots near the edges. Hm.

There were even more seats than I had imagined in my minds eye trying to prepare myself for the concert. My heart sank. How would he ever find me with so many people here? The rows started at ZZ, meaning 52nd row (26 plus 26). I lightened; Row M couldn’t possibly be all that bad, then. We descended down the ramp towards our seats. Lower, lower, and lower. The security stopped us often to make sure that we were in an area we had tickets to be in; if you had seats in the nether regions, you weren’t even allowed closer to the stage.

Finally, we arrived at Row M. It was close in comparision to the many rows behind us. Still, I thought, thirteenth row in a place this large was still miles away from the stage. However, our seats were right on the center aisle. The sight line was fantastic. Even if someone tall stood up in front of me, I could inch out into the aisle to get a better view.

Slowly the crowd filled in and the opening act began. I was impatient for it to be over, because I just wanted to finally see Rick Springfield, live in concert. I was surprised to find myself very much enjoying the opener, despite my high anxiety levels. The opener was Corey Hart, who had just bubbled up into the Top Ten on Casey’s American Top 40 with his first hit, “Sunglasses At Night”. He was young, in just his early twenties. I found myself actually listening to his songs. By the time he ended his set with the crowd pleaser, I was hooked and determined to go out and buy his cassette, “First Offense” on my next trip to the mall.

The wait seemed interminable. But finally, the lights started going down and the pulsating sounds of electric guitars and synthesizers heralded the arrival of the man we’d all been waiting for. I slowly turned my gaze behind me; the crowd was quivering, and immense. I’d never seen so many people in one place in all of my life.

I closed my eyes for a second, and waited for the world to change.

Outside Looking In

So we figured out a plan. I’d take a copy (thanks to Saturdays at my mother’s law office, I had several copies made on their Xerox machine) of what I had done of my novel to the show. I’d dress not like a crazy love sick teenager, but as a respectable teen with business to attend to, and I’d march up to the guy at the backstage door and explain my situation. He would relay the information, that I needed to speak with at least Rick’s manager regarding the important matter of a novel with Rick Springfield as a character, and surely the manager would then, in turn and after some conversation, get Rick to come join us. I was all set. I was ready to go.

We had decided to go to the show first, and then if we did not get in touch with Rick and crew at the show, we’d try at the hotel the next day. We spent the afternoon alternately getting ready for the show and making hotel phone calls at Dawn’s house. It took us ten phone calls to find the hotel. Sure enough, we got the “We’ll connect you with Mr. Miller’s room in just a moment…” at the Somerset Inn, a nicer hotel about twenty minutes from the amphitheater. We hung up when we were put on hold and squealed loudly at each other. We knew where he was staying!

I dressed in my nice white pants, a button down white oxford shirt, and a button down lavendar oxford shirt over that. Sleeves rolled up to my elbows. I curled my hair carefully in the feathery waves on either side of my face. Dawn dressed carefully too and we each took photos of each other in the living room of her house. In mine, I am holding a big blue shirt box with an envelope attached to the top explaining about the book manuscript inside.

Dawn’s sister picked us up, we stopped to get film for my Disc Kodak camera, and headed up the highway to the amphitheater. We were going early; it was about 5pm. We knew we would be early, but we figured this would allow us plenty of time to figure out how to “run into” Rick.

When we arrived at the show, I was unprepared. I had no idea what a 20,000 seat venue was like, but the parking lot was bigger than anything I’d ever seen. Our walk from Dawn’s sister’s car to the front entrance took ten minutes. I looked, crestfallen, at the entrance.

This was not a theater on the street where you could hang out in the back alley trying to figure out which door was the backstage door. The huge fence was miles long; this wasn’t a small theater; this was a huge, protected space where all we could do was mill about while we waited for the doors to open. There wasn’t even anyone to ask about getting backstage to discuss my Important Business; the doors were shut and locked and no one was even in sight that might possibly even work for the theater.

We were about twenty fifth in line, though, which was good. I consoled myself into thinking that this would give us time to scope out the inside of the theater and devise our next move.

Naive, Much?

It had been an eventful summer. I’d gone to camp, I’d made out with a boy for the first time, I had nearly finished my novel.

It had been mostly a peaceful summer. My brother was home from his time away out east before I left for camp, but my two weeks away pushed us to nearly the end of August. His time at the hospital and away seemed to help; he was calmer and friendlier to me than he had been since I could remember.

I was tanned, I was blond, and I was starting to grow taller, which meant my body was thinning out. I was in short, nearly ready for high school.

There was just one thing left to do before school began.

RICK SPRINGFIELD IN CONCERT!!

A girlfriend of mine had a father who had connections at our local amphitheater. She was able to score three tickets (one for me, one for Dawn, and one for her much older sister who would drive us there) to the show on the center aisle in the thirteenth row. The show was Labor Day weekend, 1984. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to be in the same place, at the same time, as Rick Springfield. It was just too immense a thought to comprehend.

The possible scenarios danced around in my head. Would we run into each other out back by the tour bus? Did he ever come out before the show? Maybe incognito to absorb the crowd as a regular guy? Maybe we’d see him at a restaurant nearby? I wondered what hotel he was staying at.

Hm. What hotel would he stay at? That would have to be the best possible way to meet him, by hanging out at the hotel waiting for him to come and go. I could use the house phone in the lobby to dial up his room. That was it. I would have to simply figure out what hotel he was staying at.

As the days drew closer to the concert date, Dawn and I established a plan to sleuthing out the hotel. We decided that we would simply call all of the possiblities, one after another. But since we sure Rick would never use his real name upon check in, we decided to call the hotels and ask for his tour manager’s room. “Can I have Dana Miller’s room, please?” Then, as soon we found the hotel that responded with, “One moment please, I’ll connect you now” as opposed to “I’m sorry, we have no guests by that name”, we would know where they were staying.

It really did seem a genius plan.

A Brave New World

My late night experience with a Real Boy freaked me out enough to remind me why it was safer to be infatuated with a rock star 21 years my senior. Rick Springfield didn’t expect things, didn’t mess with my head, and certainly didn’t touch me in ways that my fourteen year old self didn’t really understand. It was safer to listen to my favorite rock star serenade me in my darkened bedroom than sitting in the backseat with a Real Live Boy who didn’t choose words nearly as well.

It was with that frame of mind that I packed up my things to head off to my two week stint at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, four hours northwest of where we lived. North of Muskegon, the camp was a throwback to an earlier time when sleepaway camp filled kids’ summers with new skills and fun, outdoor activities. You had to purchase uniform shirts, and wear the uniform at most times. We packed towels, sweatshirts, and jeans, as well as flashlights, toothbrushes in plastic containers and shower shoes.

I was registered for a cabin, which made me one of the lucky ones, because some kids had to sleep in tents on wooden platforms. All of us, except for a few lucky kids, had to share communal bathrooms. Which is why the girls lived on one side of the camp, and boys lived far away on the other side of the camp. All of your lessons and activities existed in the common areas in the middle.

I got the bottom bunk in my cabin, and tucked my trunk underneath. I had my small boombox with a pared down collection of Rick Springfield tapes, plus a few of my favorite photos from my walls at home. I was thrilled to have two weeks to learn new things about writing, and acting, and hoped I’d come home with an edge that would set my writing apart. I was nearly done with my novel about Rick Springfield, but I knew it would need editing and work before it was any sort of ready to go further.

I discovered, when I arrived at the camp, that very few kids actually signed up for writing. Most kids were there for music, and some for drama. But mostly it was the sound of instruments and singing that filled the woods around the big lake. I felt out of place without my flute, but I loved the hours I could spend by the lake writing poems. I shared my vignettes and short stories to our small group and slowly felt a confidence building that I had been lacking. These were people who were so serious about writing that they left their homes for two weeks to do it. And they liked what I was doing too.

Most girls went to Blue Lake looking for a boyfriend and putting in their time on their instruments because their parents made them. I went to Blue Lake to find peace and courage to continue my craft. I found it. By the time I left I was making sure that the writers I had gotten to know were all coming back the following year. I finally had something concrete, something real to look forward to. Here, in this place, where no one knew my brother, my sister, my crazy family story and my whole history, I found people who liked and respected me for what they found in…me.

I still loved Rick Springfield and my fantasy world where everything was easy. But somehow, the real world had a new shine to it after the two weeks at Blue Lake.

Lucky Girl

The boy held my hand. The boy kissed me. And he was OLDER. I wasn’t even sure how to think about this, the feelings I was feeling. I should have been scared. This was the kind of thing that could end very, very badly. I was out late, with my mother having no idea where I was, with a boy I’d just met a few hours ago, and he was touching me and kissing me. It was very compromising, and I was just shy of my fourteenth birthday.

I was extremely lucky. This was actually a nice boy. This story could have ended very differently, but strangely, here’s how it ended.

The boys dropped Dawn and I off around three in the morning in our neighborhood, at Dawn’s friend Shawn’s house. Of course neither of us could go home, so we found a hidden spot to talk for a few hours about what had happened. The Boy had asked for my phone number and wanted to call me. Which, all things considered, was kind of amazing. I had never “made out” with a boy before, but I was pretty sure that when you got to first base with a girl that you’d just met and didn’t go to school with, it would be pretty easy not to follow up on that. So for him to want to call me at some point was really something. I wasn’t sure at all how I’d explain the “how we met” part to my mother, or the “yes, he’s three crucial years older than me” part. By the time we both wandered home at seven in the morning (me timing my arrival to take place just after my mother left for work, because my sister would still be asleep, so there would be no questions as to why I was coming home so early), I was smiling with anticipation of what it would be like to date. I’d never had a boyfriend before, ever.

And sure enough, the boy did call me, a few days later. On the phone, he admitted that he wasn’t three years older than me; he was six years older than me. Anticipation turned to fear. I made out with a nineteen year old? What would he expect from me? I knew what boys that age expected from their girlfriends. What would we have in common? He told me he worked at a gas station and where he lived, which was not far at all from where I lived. My fear turned to panic; I didn’t want to date a nineteen year old who worked at a gas station! I wanted to date a nice, high school boy who studied but knew how to have fun too. This was not at all what I bargained for.

I told The Boy politely that I didn’t think it would work out for us to date, that the age difference was too great, and that we couldn’t possibly have very much in common. I felt kind of creeped out that this guy would have made out with me all night; what kind of guy that age likes a fourteen year old girl? I was relieved when he agreed.

I had to be nuts. A good looking older boy wanted to date me, the first guy who ever had, and I turned him down.

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