At some point recently, it occurred to me that I’ve never really blogged about the one and only time I met the band. This was at the Los Angeles Virgin Megastore signing for Astronaut in October of 2004, and yes – it’s the only time I’ve ever really met them.
I had heard murmurs of a record store signing when I was at the Duran Duran Fan convention in New Orleans, but I knew the signing was in Los Angeles, and in the middle of the week. I told myself there was no way I was driving up there, that I had too much going on, and that was that. At some point over the weekend though, a story someone told me just clicked. That “someone” was my friend Machelle, and I don’t even know if she remembers telling me the story of when she first ran into John Taylor. (No really, I don’t honestly know if she remembers. It was one of those weekends!) I really can’t even remember the details of the story, other than she had me almost crying I was laughing so hard, and that at the very end of it all I mentioned the signing and she said to me “Rhonda, you have to go. You’ll continue to kick yourself forever if you don’t.” She said those words with such a declarative tone…who was I to argue?
I really don’t know if I would have ever gone to the signing if it hadn’t been for that weekend and of course my conversation with Machelle. Just the act of going to the convention had been a huge step in the direction of finding myself once again after many years of just being “Mom”. But, on the way home in the plane from the convention, I gave the idea of going a lot of thought. Part of me was completely willing to put that part of myself: The Fan, back on it’s appropriate shelf when I got home. Being just “Rhonda” wasn’t especially comfortable on me yet, and absolutely not in the presence of my husband or children. I also worried about how I’d feel meeting the band. At the time (and is frequently discussed in the community), I suppose I really did have the band on their prospective pedestals. In October of 2004 I hadn’t yet heard the Astronaut album, gone to Chicago to see them with friends…or really seen them with anyone but my husband. I know that I gave thought to the idea that if I truly went to the signing and actually got past the door, that perhaps in some way the fantasies I’d had about all of them from the time I was a child would somehow change. That concerned me. By the time the plane had landed though, I had made up my mind that yes, I would go to the signing…and I’d take my daughter with me.
That’s right, not only had I decided to take my chances and go, I wanted my oldest to go along with me. There were a number of reasons I’d made that decision, but most importantly – I wanted my oldest to know her mother. I wanted her to see and maybe get a tiny taste of what I was really like as a person. After all, I wasn’t an awful lot older than she was when Duran Duran first came into my life. (She was 7 years old at the time we went to the signing. She’s now 15. Time flies!!!) After convincing my husband that I wasn’t crazy and that she and I would both be perfectly safe, we put our plans into place. She was so excited to be going along with mom, and I have to tell all of you – if I had to do it all over, I wouldn’t hesitate for a single second in asking her to go with me.
That’s the real story here. Sure, meeting the band was something I’ll never forget and I’ll get into that in a second, but the real story is how much just taking my oldest child with me changed our relationship as mother and daughter. She was just a little thing, but she has always been far more mature than her years. I wanted her to understand that it is OK to have other interests that are outside the boundaries of family or career, even as a woman. I wanted her to understand that it’s OK to love a rock band, and it’s even OK to do crazy things once in a while – even when you’re grown up. Honestly, I just wanted her to see that living can really be a lot of fun sometimes! I really think just standing in line the night that Astronaut went on sale (you had to buy an album at midnight when it went on sale, and then a wristband came with the purchase for you to come back later in the week for the signing) really taught her a lot about who I am. She listened intently as I told her stories of going to the grocery store to buy magazines each week or how crushed I was when my parents wouldn’t allow me to go to see them in concert back in 1984 for the Sing Blue Silver tour. If that weren’t enough, people around me chimed in with their own personal stories, and it became very clear to my daughter that while plenty of other people around us had met the band, gone to shows, and even traveled for them – her mom had done next to nothing. The closest I’d ever come to actually meeting the band prior to this signing was back in the summer of about 1985 when Power Station was touring. John Taylor had done some sort of an appearance at a Tower Records store in Van Nuys, and my cousin and I begged to go. Her parents took us, but the line was what seemed like miles long, and after about an hour of standing in 100 degree heat outside, John Taylor left in a limousine…taking our dreams of meeting him right along with him. So this signing for me was about finally seizing my own moment. Somehow, I was able to properly convey, in terms she would understand at the age of seven and yet still remember quite clearly at the age of fifteen, just how important it was for me to be in that line with her that evening.
The moments to midnight seemed to take forever. I was so proud of my little girl though, because she was a real trooper that night. Never once did she ask me to pick her up or tell me she was tired, even though I knew she had to have been. We talked and joked up until the time we got up to the door of Virgin Megastore, and then once inside they had Duran Duran videos running along with the music from the new album playing in the background. I was still nervous until we got up to the register though, because I recognized that there were probably only so many wristbands – and that line sure did seem long outside, stretching for a least a couple blocks up Sunset Boulevard. We did make it to the register though, and I remember her huge grin when she handed the salesperson her money and got her wristband for the signing. I was just as excited when I got my own!
In the few days leading up to the signing, she had listened to the album nearly non-stop, making sure she knew each song. (Or wait – was that me??) She’d already announced that Sunrise was her favorite, and she was really thrilled to have the chance to see the band and have them sign her CD. We spent several hours over the course of the days leading up to the signing talking about how my room looked as a kid, and what I did to find out what the band was up to. (No internet in those days!) She was surprised at how much work it took to be a fan back then. (Me too!!) We talked about which band member was my favorite, and how much her dad – my husband Walt – looked like Roger Taylor. (Huh. Interesting coincidence I suppose. He doesn’t really look THAT much like him any longer, but the olive skin, dark eyes and dark hair seems to be a common theme. Go figure.) In fact, one night she asked me aloud at dinner when her REAL dad would be coming to pick her up. Of course, she said this just to yank her dad’s chain – and to her surprise Walt responded “Well, whenever he does show up here I’m going to show him the bill for your dance classes. ‘Bout time that man starts paying up!” She collapsed in a fit of giggles that night, I’ll never forget it. (Of course we were all joking and nobody, least of all ME, thinks Roger Taylor is my oldest’s father!!!!)
The day finally arrived and after driving up to Los Angeles, we waited in another very long line. After what felt like an eternity, the line slowly began to creep up Sunset, getting ever so slightly closer to the side door of Virgin Megastore. I could feel my nerves heighten as we crawled closer to the door, and I got very quiet. Mostly, I was doing some serious “self-talk” before I got anywhere near that door. Wanna know what I was saying to myself?
Rhonda Lynn (My middle name and how my mother still refers to me to this very day). You have been waiting for this moment for over twenty-five years now. You will not make a fool out of yourself. There will be no giggling, no requests for a hug, marriage proposals or anything else that will make you appear stupid. You will smile, speak with intelligence, and most of all – there will be absolutely no fainting. NONE. Furthermore, under no circumstances will you forget that your oldest child – your only daughter (at the time) is with you. She will remember every silly thing you say or do and use it against you later, so do not let that happen!!! (I was totally right about that, by the way.)
Once we’d gotten to the door, my daughter stood in front of me and I had my hands on her shoulders, both to keep her from running in there as well as to steady myself. I could see all of them, huddled over the table hurriedly scribbling their signatures over the albums and CD’s put in front of them. Nick looked up, gave a big smile to my daughter and called her over. I could have died right then. We both went over, and he took her CD and signed it – sending her down the line. Then he looked at me and asked if she was mine. I said yes, that I was doing my part to raise her right, and he smiled. Next was John. John didn’t even see us – he was doing what *I* would have done had I been on his side of the table, which was keeping his head down, signing the damn CD’s as they went by, and not looking up to see the wall of people closing in on him. I did say that the album was beautiful, and to that he did look up – but he had no idea who had said it and just said “Thank you” to the air. Next was Simon. Now, I’d heard outside that Simon arrived in a somewhat pissy mood that day (by this point in time the stories of Simon’s moods had made it to my little spot in the community), but he’d had some red wine and seemed to be a bit better by the time I got to him. Hey…he’s a scorpio. So am I. I get the moods. Anyway, he was busy quizzing my daughter when I turned to look at him. She had carried her book in with her, and he wanted to know what she was reading. So, she showed him and then he guessed her age. (Good guess, Simon. She was dully impressed.) Then he narrowed his eyes at her and asked what her favorite song off of the album was. I think Simon thought he was going to catch her, but guess what Simon? My daughter is wicked smart! She smiled with her “You think you’ve got something on me, but actually I am way over your head” smile and said, “Sunrise is my favorite off of THIS album, Simon.” She even used his name, I was so proud. He grinned and pushed the CD down to Andy. Oh, Simon didn’t even bother looking up at me. Andy was amazing though Easily the best reaction of the night because he literally jumped out of his chair and practically dove across the table to shake hands with my daughter. She was giggling like crazy and saying hi. I loved it. He seemed so happy to see a little girl there, and it warmed my heart. To this day she remembers Andy, and he is still her favorite. Finally, there was Roger. This was the one *I* had been waiting for. My daughter knew this, and she stood off to the side of the table waiting for me. I asked him if he was tired, and he looked at me and said “Yes”, but quietly as though he didn’t want to make a fuss. Then I thanked him for doing the signing, explaining that I’d never had the chance to see them as a kid and that I was really glad they were back together as the original 5 member band. Then I lost all of my senses (no, I still don’t have them back, I guess) and told him that he had always been my favorite for all of that time, and that he still was.
Hey! Hey!!! I hear the groaning back there!! Knock it off!
Time stopped at that moment, as Roger looked up at me, smiled the *best* smile ever, and said thank you, that it was really sweet of me to say. Then I said goodbye, collected my daughter and floating out of the Virgin Megastore.
As we got out of the store and I regained the feeling in my body, my daughter leans over and says “Wow mom, thought for sure you were just going to propose marriage to the guy right then and there.”
She was just seven then…. Just imagine how much worse she is now at fifteen and you’ll know why I travel so often.
All of that aside, I’ll never forget that experience. Meeting the band was amazing even though I was just one face of hundreds that night, it meant the world to me. My daughter and I still talk about that week from time to time because as she puts it – it was the first time she got to really know me. Since then I’ve taken her to see them in Vegas (odd place to take a kid to see a band, but we were already there for a dance convention!), and out of everyone in this family, she is the one who understands me most. She still thinks I’m insane, but I know somewhere behind those teenage eye-rolls and sighs of annoyance – she thinks I’m pretty cool.
At least, that’s what I tell myself. 🙂