Category Archives: groupies

I Did NOT Lose My Virginity To a Rock Star!

Thanks to Lori Majewski, I read a fascinating interview yesterday on thrillist.com, titled, “I Lost My Virginity to David Bowie.” I know many a Duranie has had their moment(s) fantasizing about the “what-ifs”, and perhaps many of those moments have also included what I like to call (facetiously, of course) “The Ultimate Autograph”.  Well, what if you had your moment? Would you take it? And what if that happened at 14….and you were a virgin? With David Bowie?

Lori Mattix did. Mattix was a groupie, and at 14, her playground was the Sunset Strip alongside other groupies like Sable Starr, and Bebe Buell. This interview on Thrillist describes her experience as a groupie, and I think it’s worth reading for any of us who have ever wondered, “what if?”

As I read, I really tried to capture my own thoughts. At first, I read it as any “fan” might, except that I’m not really sure Lori Mattix was really a fan in the same sense that I may have been at 14. To begin with, when I look at Lori’s photos – she’s gorgeous. Very bright-eyed and young, but beautiful all the same. In one of the photos included with the article, she’s wearing platform heels that I am pretty sure are higher than any I’ve ever worn. I, on the other hand, was a frizzy-haired awkward mess at 14. Heels? Are you kidding me? I would have been photographed wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and probably a pair of Vans. (In the early 80s when I was 14 – Vans were king. Bonus points if they were custom – which mine typically were.) I’d have never talked my way into a club (which still holds true today), much less asked to return back to a hotel with a rock star.

In fact, I can attest to the fact that I have been at a specific bar (not even a club…we’re talking a dive bar here) after a show in a large city (that was not Los Angeles or New York) here in the US, and the bouncer dude at the door (who was not even really a bouncer, just a bartender that had to stand there because the bar was so full) wouldn’t let me in, even though about 50 of my friends…and members of Duran Duran….were already inside. I stood outside shivering as friends saw me and waved through the window. That’s right people of Duranland…I really AM that uncool. Never one to be deterred, I just walked across the street and had drinks in a hotel bar instead. No Duran Duran, but better drinks. 🙂

Mattie explains she didn’t even really go to the shows, she would wait at the hotels or wherever she needed to be, for the rock star she was with at the time. I think that’s where we differ, because I really am a music fan. I’d hate not being at the shows. The music comes first for me. For example – I don’t think I’d travel to wait outside of a venue for Duran Duran without actually seeing the show. That’s crazy, even for me. At some remote point within me though, I wonder.

What is it really like to be a groupie? Do they feel as used as feel they’re being used when I’m reading their experiences? I doubt it. Why can’t I understand that? What is it about these women, these girls, that make them unable to see the same things I see. Why don’t I see their experiences as amazingly wonderful the way they seem??  Am I the more well-adjusted one, or just a very sheltered, prudish, middle-aged, MOM?  (You were all thinking it!) Perhaps then I’d understand. I would love to have some of Lori’s devil-may-care attitude, though. I always worry about what people might think.

It’s not that I would want to be that girl…. that groupie. (never mind the whole “I’ve been married for 20 years….and I’m 45 years old”, thing.) In fact, if I’ve ever said “Hey, I’d love to see you!” to a member of a band, they would have been incredibly, ridiculouslywrong to assume that I was just out looking for a thrill. I know it’s hard to believe (which is a curious question in and of itself), but maybe I’m just that kind of person that just wants to hang out, have some drinks and talk….like a normal human, no less. Imagine that?? If I could just have the same sort of self-confidence as someone like Lori Maddox, without the automatic assumptions that I’m looking for a night with a rock star, that’d be great.

As I replied to Lori Majewski and several others on Facebook, “I was never going to be a groupie [back when I was 14], and probably to the great relief of every single member of Duran Duran and beyond – I’m never going to BE a groupie. LOL I feel better now that’s out.

I’ve written about the whole groupie label and context many times. In many ways its unfortunate because any time a woman such as myself makes the overture to even get remotely near a band – any band – whether that’s Duran Duran or otherwise – the assumption is that she must be looking for “something”. Perhaps that is a reaction that has been “learned” over the years by men, or it is a label thrown around by other female fans, or it’s the very idea that a woman can’t possibly want or need anything else.  Maybe it is just the whole fan/band member screwed up relationship thing. Perhaps it is difficult to decide who is truly a fan, who is a friend and who really IS trying to be a groupie. I’m not sure, and it’s probably beyond the scope of this particular post to go much further. I just find it one of the more uncomfortable parts of fandom at times.

I am sitting here thinking back to some of the very reasons Amanda and I wanted to start Daily Duranie. Both of us felt there were labels and images being applied to fans that were so incredibly incorrect (in many cases)…and the “dialogue” between the fans and the band was nearly non-existent for all but a sacred few. We may never sort  out every assumption and label completely. Groupies exist, fans exist, and fans who have sometimes fantasized about what it all might really be like exist – and the lines between it all are pretty blurry at best. Not an easy fix. Amanda and I liked to characterize fandom as a type of dysfunctional family – which still seems to sum it all up fairly well. For me personally, I’ve enjoyed observing the fan community on this level for the past several years (even prior to beginning the blog). It has forced me to continually re-evaluate my own feelings and biases, and some things that I felt certain about on Daily Duranie Day One, are now notions that I see completely differently now on Day Whatever-This-Might-Be. My only hope going forward is that we continue to be unafraid to broach the “hard” subjects. No, we may not find the right answers – but if we don’t even bother to look, what point is there?

-R

Media Representations of Fandom: Groupies (1970 Documentary)

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Kitty, posted, on Facebook, the youtube to link to the full 1970 documentary on Groupies.  I didn’t have time to watch it at the time, but did save it to watch later.  After all, our book does discuss groupies, to some extent.  I will go so far as to say that this is one term that fans, especially female fans, get labeled.  There are a lot of definitions of the term out there and, for most people, fans and non-fans alike, the term is not necessarily one that is positive.  Often, when non-fans say it to fans it is said as judgement, as criticism, as insult.  Of course, I have also heard it said or written about fans from other fans.  Now, of course, there is a long history behind the term and one that has been written about in a variety of sources from magazines to books to personal memoirs.  So, what does this documentary show?  Is there judgment given?  Who is telling the story, so to speak?  Is it accurate from other research I have completed?  Here is the youtube clip, if you, too, want to watch it for yourself.

It seems very clear to me that the makers of this documentary did not want to have anyone except for the people directly involved to tell the story.  Instead, they wanted to film, often in a real time scenarios, and just see what happened.  There was no storyline or agenda.  It seemed to be a let’s film and see what life was like for the groupies and the men around the groupies.  Now, before I go any further, let me be clear.  These groupies fit the definition of people who have sex with male musicians/rock stars.  They do mention that there are male groupies, especially in San Francisco, but they are not filmed.  So, how did it work to have the camera just on without a script or plan?  On one hand, there was no judgement given by this method.  They simply showed and allowed the people involved to see and do what they would, normally, or so we, as viewers, can assume.  I like that there wasn’t an agenda to either prove that they are terribly immoral people or to prove that they are cool beyond belief.  The viewers could decide that for themselves.  Yet, at the same time, I wonder if there was enough information given for the random viewer.  I know quite a bit as I have done plenty of research so I was able to put what I saw in context and it gave life to many of things I read about.  Would others be able to follow as easily?  For example, the documentary mentions the “Plaster Casters” but truly doesn’t give enough information until the end about what that was.  (It was a group of women who made plaster casts out of the anatomy of male rock stars.)

Despite not having an organized flow, there were certain aspects of the groupie lifestyle that the viewer could conclude.  First, it showed that “groupies” often hung out with other “groupies”.  It seemed common for them to live together and spend the majority of their time together.  Second, it showed that the lifestyle had both its ups and downs, its positives and negatives.  On one hand, groupies might get with rock stars who have a lot of money and then can stay with them for weeks in super nice hotels and party all the time.  There was a sense of superiority in women in those situations.  They viewed it as a challenge to get the best rock stars and if they made it, then it felt very glamorous.  It was like they were the top of a very exclusive club.  On the other hand, they might also find themselves in tough spots.  They might be in gross hotel rooms or apartments.  It is possible for the men to abuse them or just use them.  This seemed particularly problematic for underage girls, especially under the influence of drugs.  There was plenty of alcohol and drug use shown as well.   Underage girls also faced difficulties with parents who described them as “immoral” and “embarrassments”.

Did the documentary give enough information for the viewer to determine why someone would want to be a groupie?  I’m not sure.  Yes, it presented the competition aspect and even the social scene aspect.  It presented the idea that they wanted to be around their heroes, their idols and they wanted to be surrounded by music.  Yet, what it didn’t explain is why the sexual aspect.  Certainly, there are a lot of fans who want to be around their idols and want to be around music but don’t perform any sort of sexual act.  Why did they?  Is that superior feeling of being in an “exclusive” situation really all that?  Is the social scene and belonging that significant?  I found myself asking more questions after having viewed the documentary.  Perhaps, if there was more of an organized format, I would have had my questions answered.

-A

 

You Know There’s No Escape from Me

I had many reasons for wanting to write our book analyzing fandom.  For the most part, I wanted to understand fans and fandom and I wanted others to understand it, too.  I get so tired of trying to explain myself and what it means to be a fan, what it means to be part of a fan community.  Sometimes, this misunderstanding is exactly that—a simple misunderstanding.  At other times, this misunderstanding leads to judgment and negative conclusions about fans.  These negative conclusions often form into stereotypes about fans.  These stereotypes include ones that I’m sure many/most/all of us have heard at one point or another when we reveal that we are fans.  There are less significant ones like “fans have no lives” or “fans haven’t grown up yet”.  Then, there are the more significant ones like “stalker” or “groupie”.  Part of me, a big part of me, wanted to write the book to stop these horrible stereotypes.  I wanted non-fans to see that we were normal and that being part of a fan community didn’t make us weird, stupid or scary.  Yet, I have to wonder.  Are any of these stereotypes true or somewhat true?  How did they come into existence?  Why?  If they are there, then, we are all suffer.  
Are any of the stereotypes true about fans?  Let’s look at them one at a time, but before we do, I openly admit that this post is as much about me trying to figure this out as much as anything I have written.  I absolutely realize that what is extreme to one person might not be to another.  I also admit that some of my behaviors might be seen as over-the-top by some fans but not by others.  It seems to me that stereotypes are based on one’s perception and are truly relative.  Yet, are there some behaviors that go too far, that go beyond common fan behavior?  That’s is probably a discussion in itself.  Yet, I bet that most of us would say that do go too far.  These non-common fan behaviors, it seems to me, are the ones that form the real significant stereotypes.  
So, are there fans that have “no life”?  All of these stereotypes are based on one’s perception and truly is relative.  That said, this negative assumption obviously says that a fan spends all of his/her time on whatever s/he is a fan of.  This is not only about the time spent but also the lack of time spent in reality with elements of life like family, friends and career.  I’m willing to bet that there are some fans who spend very little time a week with their fandoms.  Maybe there is no time spent on fandom unless something special comes up—a TV appearance or a new album.  Of course, there are some of us who spend a lot of time on our fandom.  How much is spent?  I don’t know.  Are there some people who spend HOURS each day on their fandom?  I’m sure that they are.  Are there people who will choose to do something related to their fandom over spending time with friends or family in real life?  I am sure that there are.  Does this stereotype seem accurate then?  Like many stereotypes, there is an element of truth to it.  There are people who spend a LOT of time on their fandom.  I know that I do.  Of course, the way I could combat this stereotype, though, is to point out that many of us are able to have real life relationships, keep jobs, fulfill responsibilities, and more.  Does every fan, though?  Probably not.  There are probably some that don’t maintain a balance.
On top of the frequently thought of stereotype of having no life, fans are accused all the time about being immature, not grown up.  I think Duranies probably hear this one a lot since many of us became fans when we were kids.  The assumption here is that we should have “grown out” of being a fan.  For people who think this, they often think it is fine to be a fan as a kid but an adult should have better, more important things to worry about.  Again, I have to wonder if there are fans who meet these negative assumptions.  If so, how would we tell?  Would it be because they live in their parents’ houses still?  Could it be stated when people don’t have jobs or don’t have the jobs to sustain themselves?  I don’t know.  Would it be that people still live that teenage fantasy that one of the band members might become the love of one’s life?  If these truly are the signs of fans that haven’t grown up, are there fans like this?  I suppose there probably are. 
This, of course, brings me to the dicey topics of “stalkers” and “groupies”.  Both of those stereotypes are well-known and documented to exist in the world.  After all, there have been “stalkers” who have been so obsessed about the celebrity of choice that violence has resulted even, but those are obviously the truly, truly, truly, truly extreme cases.  Even though, those are rare cases, are there behaviors that would fit into this category that aren’t necessarily done by violent people?  For example, John tells how in the 80s there were fans outside his house, in his autobiography.  He describes most of these fans as good, well-meaning kids but he was bothered by the fan that went through his trash and found some journaling he did.  Then, of course, there is the song, Be My Icon, which describes similar situations.  Clearly, some of the behaviors that would be considered by many as stalking, including being at someone’s personal house, going through belongings, etc. have existed in the past.  I’m willing to bet that there is some now.  Of course, and this is where it gets dicey or hard to discuss, but there seems to be a fine line between say walking past a celebrity’s house and hanging out there in order to see the idol of choice.  What about hanging out in public places?  What about showing up where they work?  Is it stalkerish or not to show up at say a lot where a TV show or a movie is being filmed, a rehearsal studio, or a hotel?  Does that make it less stalkerish?  Is it stalkerish if the behavior is only done a few times or does it have to be a constant, repeat behavior?   Like the other stereotypes, my guess is that there are fans in any given fandom that might fit the stereotype of stalking, at least to some extent, especially depending how someone defines the term of stalking.
Likewise, I am guessing that there are fans out there that might fit the “groupie” label.  Of course, this one, being that most people define groupie based on sexual behavior, might be the most difficult to determine its existence within fandom.  We know that there have been people who have openly admitted to having sexual relations with celebrities, including rock stars.  Heck, Pamela Des Barres has written many books on the topic.  Yet, does it still exist?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that the accusation still exists.  I know that people are accused of it when they do things like always have front row or other perks connected with seeing one’s idol(s).  Maybe it is stated when the fans seems to hang out with the celebrity of choice or someone who works for the celebrity.  Does that mean that they are actually participating in that assumed sexual behavior?  Again, I have no idea but people have and do make the assumption about fans.  It isn’t uncommon for non-fans to ask fans if they are groupies if they have traveled a lot to see their favorite celebrities.  I’m willing to bet a lot of Duranies have been asked that, if they travel to shows.  Do those groupie-assumed behaviors exist?  Probably. 
So what if some element or elements of these negative stereotypes are true about fans?  Who cares?  I do.  I think we all should because those stereotypes affect ALL fans.  How many times have you had to explain that being a fan doesn’t mean that you stalk the celebrity of your choice?  How many times have you had to clarify that going on “tour” or traveling to see shows doesn’t mean that you are a “groupie” and all that goes with that label?  I have been asked those questions many times.  I have seen others asked that many times.  I have seen the little flicker of judgment that passes over people’s faces when you say that you are a fan.  I have felt the disrespect increase from others.  So, how do we combat this?  One way to fight this is to do what I have attempted to do in our book, which is to point that MOST fans are normal.  They love their idols but they are able to maintain a balance between fandom and real life.  They understand that fandom should be one part of their lives but not the biggest part of their lives.  They are able to do many other things besides be focused on the celebrity of choice.  Yet, this effort of mine only goes so far if there are other fans who do demonstrate some of the over-the-top behaviors.  Non-fans won’t listen to my argument if it seems false, if fans seem to fit the stereotypes.  I suffer and every fan suffers when fans chose to demonstrate behavior that could be construed as being stereotypical.  I know what many of you are thinking.  Who cares what people think?  While I won’t disagree with that on some level, I still think it would be nice for it to be considered “normal”, acceptable, and RESPECTABLE to be a fan.  I would love for people to just think of fans as passionate, dedicated and loyal.  As someone who feels like she is doing her best to have fans viewed in the most positive of lights, fans who demonstrate behavior that might be stereotypical or extreme makes it all the harder.  Thus, it seems to me that we fans have to work hard to ensure that our behavior does not become too extreme.  Be enthusiastic but maintain that line of balance and help your fellow fans do the same.
-A

Media Representation of Fandom: Bull Durham

It has been awhile since I wrote a post about media representation of fans so I figured it was time.  Plus, in my usual rebellious fashion, I figured it would be good to watch, write and talk about a movie on baseball on Superbowl Sunday.  You can guess that I won’t be tuned in to that tonight.  Football isn’t high on my list and it is even lower if the team I root for isn’t in it.  Back to the topic at hand, Bull Durham is a movie starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.  The title comes from a minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls, located in Durham, North Carolina.  The movie follows 2 minor league baseball players.  One player is at the beginning of his career with enough talent to be able to make it to the major leagues.  The other player is at the end of his career but can offer wisdom to the upcoming player.  Of course, these two also have to contend with Annie, a very knowledgeable woman and baseball fan, who chooses one player per season to hook up with.  Now, of course, you might all wonder how in the world this connects to fandom.  While it seems obvious to me that Annie represents the “groupie” as does another character, “Millie” whom Annie seems to be training/mentoring.  Annie loves the sport (she is a fan) and will go after one star player as does Millie.  They, generally, match the typical assumptions about groupies.

We have talked about groupies before on this blog.  Typically, groupies get defined as fans who offer sexual favors to their idols.  We have also talked about how it is often assumed that any female fan who follows her idol(s) is a groupie or wants to be groupie going after the ultimate autograph.  On top of these stereotypes, there are stereotypes about groupies, themselves.  Some of these stereotypes or assumptions include that these women (and they are almost always assumed to be women) are only there to have sex with the famous men and aren’t there because of the fandom.  They, in fact, don’t know or care about the fandom or anything really related to the fandom.  They aren’t there because they are fans.  Then, of course, is the assumption about what the ultimate goal is for groupies.  Some think groupies want to marry one of the subjects of their affection.  Others think that they just want the status of having sex with a long list of celebrities, as in the more celebrities, the better and the more famous the celebrities, the even better.  So, how does this movie show the fans/groupies in the movie?  Do they match the typical definition of groupies?  If so, then, how do they compare to the assumptions about groupies?

Do the female characters in the movie, Bull Durham, match the assumed definition of groupies?  They sure do.  Annie is very honest that she chooses one ball player a season to “hook up with”.  She points out that her role is to make them “feel confident”.  She is attracted to both the rising star and the experienced veteran.  The choice is made in the beginning of the season after she watches the players both on the field and off the field at a local restaurant/bar.  During this movie, she brings both the rising star, Nuke, and the veteran, Crash, back to her house to do an interview of sorts.  In this case, Crash leaves and says that he has been around too long to audition.  Thus, Annie chooses Nuke.  Meanwhile, Millie, the younger “groupie”, seems to be interviewing candidates as well.  In some cases, she tries them out like she did with Nuke before he got with Annie.  In other cases, she talks to the baseball players while they are sitting on the bench.  Eventually, she, too, settles on a religious ballplayer by the name of Jimmy.  These women do seem like groupies as they are focused on hooking up with a player or more.  Their worlds seem to be focused on this goal as we know nothing more about them. 

While these characters definitely seem to fit the idea of groupies, do they match the other assumptions about groupies?  In some ways, they do and, in other ways, they do not.  The first assumption about groupies is that they really don’t care about their fandom.  They know nothing and don’t need to know anything.  They only focus on getting the guys into bed.  Annie and Millie do not match this assumption at all.  First of all, Annie is definitely a fan.  We know this right away when she starts talking about how the only church she goes to is the church of baseball.  She mentions that baseball feeds her soul.  Later in the movie, Nuke decides to refrain from having sex to keep his winning streak.  Annie’s reaction to this is mixed as she loves that the team is playing well but the other part of her misses having a man in her bed.  The second assumption is that “groupies” don’t know anything about whatever their fandom is.  Thus, if they are music groupies, they know nothing about music.  In this case, the groupies wouldn’t know anything baseball.  This is definitely not the case as Annie often gives lessons to the players about what they need to do or what they need to do differently and when the players listen to the advice, they do better.  Both Millie and Annie watch the games, intensely, and even take down statistics while there. 

What is the goal for these female characters?  It doesn’t seem obvious.  Annie, in particular, seems very content to live her life as she always has.  The only reason that might change is because this particular season does not go according to plan as the one player she chose resists her half way through the season and the other player still interests her.  Millie, on the other hand, does seem happy to follow in Annie’s footsteps but is pretty happy to marry one of the players.  This assumption that groupies are after a commitment from the idol matches as Millie marries her hookup. 

The movie, Bull Durham, definitely shows baseball “groupies”.  On one hand, it is nice to see fandom, of sorts, shown in sports.  On the other hand, the focus is on “groupies”.  These fans are focused on having sex with the subjects of their fandom.  While they are true fans of baseball and know a lot about it, their focus isn’t on cheering the team.  These female fans couldn’t be just fans of the game.  Nope, they had to be groupies.  Now, of course, I realize that there is supposed to be a sort of love story within the movie, but that love story could have taken place without having Annie be a “groupie”.  She could have just been a knowledgeable, dedicated fan.  Obviously, some may argue that Annie’s character is one of a strong woman who goes after what/who she wants and that she isn’t following society’s expectations of womanhood.  I won’t argue against that.  I will also point out that the assumptions about “groupies” absolutely are tied to women’s rights and society’s expectations of women.  Yet, my goal here isn’t to focus on the larger issue of sexism but to examine how the fans are shown.  In this case, the fans probably had to be groupies in order to make the storyline work.  I get that, but I do wish that they could have just been fans.  Annie could have been a strong woman and baseball fans without being a “groupie”.

-A

Media Representations of Fandom: Almost Famous

I’m continuing the series about media representations of fandom with the movie, Almost Famous.  This movie came out in 2000 and the story is about a young boy who has a chance to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine about a rock band on tour.  Of course, on tour, he not only gets a chance to get to know the band but he gets to know some of the “groupies” or “band-aids” on tour.  Here’s the trailer, for your viewing pleasure:

This movie provides a great deal to write and think about.  On one hand, there is the boy who wants to be cool and wants to write about music.  It seems to me that there are parallels between his story and the story about becoming a fan.  What does Will’s story tell us about what people think of fans?  Then, there is the story of the girls, especially the main female character, Penny Lane.  Obviously, the question with Penny is the question of that pesky groupie label.

When we first meet the main character, Will, he is a young boy who is definitely NOT cool.  Yet, he spent his childhood reading rock magazines and listening to rock albums.  (Does this sound like anyone familiar?)  He is so into this that he sends articles to editors until he gets assigned an article to write.  His mother is less than thrilled about him going to concerts or going on tour to write this article.  Yet, she allows it simply because it is a “hobby”.  During his quest at getting in with the band, he meets the “band-aids”.  From them, he learns to just enjoy the show rather than spending the time at a concert taking notes.  Eventually, of course, he gets to know the band where he learns that there are all sorts of rules regarding what he can and cannot write about.  He also gets to witness fans reacting both to the band he is covering and other artists like David Bowie who they see on the road.  That Bowie scene shows fans who are chasing Bowie to the elevator and are dressed just like him.  At the end of the story, when he returns home, he discovers that it is really hard to write about his experience.

What does Will’s story tell us about how fans are viewed?  Obviously, those David Bowie fans were shown to be pretty extreme.  After all, not every fan would chase his/her idol to the elevator or would dress like the object of his/her fandom.  Then, of course, there is Will’s mother.  She dismisses what he is doing with writing the article.  On one hand, this seems logical since he is so young!  On the other hand, does she dismiss it because writing about a rock band shouldn’t be taken seriously?  I mean…come on…who would want to write about a silly, little band?  Oh wait…does a blog count????  Then, of course, Will learns to just enjoy the band and the music from the “band-aids”.  After all that he saw, heard, and felt, he struggled to put it all into words.  I understand that feeling completely.  I try to write about each show and each tour and yet, I often feel like what I say barely scratches the surface as to what happened during a show or a tour.  I know that there was a lot more I wanted to say about that Biloxi show last August, for instance.  Yet, I lacked the words.  On a larger scale, I think it is hard to explain what it is like to be a fan and hard to explain about fan experiences, no matter if those experiences are listening to a particular song alone in one’s room or rocking out in the front row.  Those experiences, when you are a fan, take on a larger than life significance.  Thus, I thought Will’s story as a fan was fairly accurate.  Was the scenario of a 15 year old writing for Rolling Stone magazine logical or likely?  No, but, many of his experiences were ones that fans of all ages could relate to.

Is Penny’s story equally as accurate?  Right away, I admit that I’m nervous by her presence.  When we meet Penny, she is with a group of friends who are all “band-aids”.  She explains the difference, groupies have sex with rock stars to be famous.  Band-aids are there for the music.  Does this mean that they don’t have sex with the rock stars?  Nope.  They do.  Yet, are they there for the music as they claim?  On one hand, they do teach Will to just enjoy the show as he watches it.  On the other hand, the rock stars, themselves, use them and throw them away.  During one scene, various rock stars are playing poker.  The girls became part of the ante to play.  Oh boy.  An interesting scene takes place at the end of the movie when new groupies arrive on the scene.  A groupie who has been around dislikes these new girls simply because they don’t care about the music.  They aren’t fans.

How was Penny portrayed?  First and, obviously, she was a groupie.  Maybe, they tried to give her and her friends more complexity by making them actual fans who care about the music.  Heck, maybe, people who do define themselves as groupies, do love the music.  I know that Pamela Des Barres, famous groupie, stated that in her books.  Should they have included groupies?  I think that they should have since there is lots of documentation that there were groupies in the rock scene in the 1970s when this movie took place.  Did they feed stereotypes about them?  Not really.  Yes, they showed them as young.  Yes, they showed their focus was on getting close to the male rock stars.  There wasn’t much judgement with those images, which I appreciated it.  That said, do the characters of Will and/or Penny show what it really means to be a fan?  I think it must be very difficult to show all types of fans.  In this story, they had to choose fans who lived, ate and breathed fandom.  Fans like myself who dedicate a ton of hours but not every hour wouldn’t have been as interesting.  Thus, they had to include the extremes.  I appreciate that the characters, the fans, generally, seemed intelligent and complex.  I think that is all we can ever hope for.

Next Sunday, I will continue the series with the indy movie, Trekkies.  I believe that this movie was made in the same vein as the Duran fan documentary, Something I Should Know.

-A

That pesky “Groupie” label

A few weeks back I was in the middle of some research I was doing for my writing when I came across a subject I kept in the back of my mind for later mulling. The article I was reading was an essay printed from Bitch: The Women’s Rock Newsletter with Bite. This was a rock ‘zine printed back in the 80’s, and while at the time I probably wouldn’t have identified myself with much if any of the female rockers or people pictured in the magazine, (At the time I was in my teens, my hair was either blonde or brown depending upon how much Sun-In I’d used in my hair – I have pictures that won’t ever be printed here to prove it – and I wore mainly pastels as opposed to black leather and lace. I was truly the “good-girl” antithesis of a rocker, saccharine-sweet as possible.) secretly – as in “in my room, late at night, I would whisper to my stuffed animals before I went to sleep” that I wished I was brave enough to step outside the box a little. I didn’t really hit my hard-rock music edge until college – the early to mid-90’s (I graduated from college in 1993), although even then, I was in a sorority and was far more apt to follow along with wearing my ZTA letters – Zeta Tau Alpha – and just be one of the crowd than stand on my own. I kept my love for Duran Duran, AC/DC, most of the hair bands, Aerosmith, Led Zepplin and even Ozzy well hidden from friends and fellow sorority sisters – who tended to favor top 40’s sticky bubble-gum pop. Even so, as I accompanied my then drummer boyfriend to his gigs on the Sunset Strip, I secretly admired those girls who would stand in the front of the crowd, daring my boyfriend and the other guys in his band to lose their concentration just long enough to flirt. They could get away with the hard-edged image and not look completely ridiculous. I wanted to look and have the attitude of some of those women, but on my own terms I guess. I just didn’t fit in, and sadly – I think my rocker boyfriend recognized this as well. He soon ran off with one of his groupies, who was way more to his style than I ever was. We’d been high school sweethearts and had been dating for nearly five years. How utterly cliché. Maybe that is why I never became a groupie?

I digress.

The point, and yes – there really IS a point here, is that in this essay I’d come across, the author (Cheryl Cline) comments on adult fandom and groupie behavior – and yes, there is a difference. Even back in the 80’s writers contemplated the boundaries of fandom and groupie behavior. The idea of an adult confessing her crush on a rockstar “is to overstep the bounds of proper feminine behavior.” She continues, “It’s a sign of maturity to pack up all of the posters, photos, magazines, scrapbooks and unauthorized biographies you so lovingly collected and shove them in the back of the closet.” Ok, so mine are at least in the closet…hung up so I can see them, and displayed so I can find them….*coughs* for when I’m doing RESEARCH, of course.

Hardly.

“If you’re under thirteen, you’re supposed to have crushes on rock stars. It’s normal, so it might be a good idea to babble on about Duran Duran….” So is she saying that I should have already given this up by now?? Fear not, my friends. Read on..

(this is the part that ties into my original paragraph, I promise!)

“True groupiedom is a tough business and not everyone is cut out for it. For one thing, not everyone looks like Britt Eckland.” Keep in mind, this was written in the 80’s. If you don’t know who Britt Eckland is – Google awaits. Count me amongst the zillions who do not look like Britt Eckland, or even Sable Starr. (Again, Google her if you don’t know…) I just don’t think any guy, any rock star for that matter, would look my way even once as they passed me by. I just have that “any other girl” look, and I accept that. However, and this is a big however… I don’t know that I’d want it any other way. Would you?

“Even girls who indulge in the hardest core fantasies about a rock star and who occasionally (say, four, five times a day) fantasize about being his groupie do not, in real life, want to be groupies.” If that sentence somehow confuses, here’s something slightly more blunt to try on for size, “A desire for sex shouldn’t be confused with the desire to get fucked.” (Lori Twersky; ‘Devils or Angels? The Female Teenage Audience Examined’, Trouser Press, April 1981)  Of course, I can hear the men out there protesting with vigor, “Yeah, but that article was written about teenagers. You are grown women.” This is true, but the notes still carry with resounding power.

Even though as a young woman I looked at those women and admired them for not being afraid to step out of the female box and dress with quite a bit more edge and attitude than I had at the time, I don’t know that I really wanted to BE a groupie. “The idea that women rock fans want to be groupies of the most craven sort is a strictly masculine daydream – Them as the rock stars surrounded by Us, the groupies.” Cline continues to a place where I think we as fans tend to struggle with the whole concept – I’ve seen it discussed angrily here on the blog whenever we’ve dared to bring the subject up, and I have no doubt that it will continue from here. ‘Groupie’ is a slippery term. Strictly speaking, a groupie is a person (a woman, usually), who ‘chases after’ rock stars, as my mother would say. But ‘groupie’ is also used more or less synonymously with ‘girl Rock fan’, ‘female journalist’, and ‘woman Rock musician’; it used to mean anyone working in the music field who isn’t actually a Rock musician; its used as an all-purpose insult and a slur on one’s professionalism; it’s used as a cute term for ‘hero-worship’; and it’s used interchangeably with ‘fan’. To some, the phrase ‘fans and groupies’ is redundant.”

I don’t argue that the term ‘groupie’ is interchangeable with the term ‘fan’ for many out there, whether you’re female or male. I’ll even go a step farther – there are some fans out there that really are groupies whether they want to admit it or not. That’s how they choose to “get ahead” in the business. Whether or not they’re actually getting ahead isn’t for me to say, because let’s face it – I’m just a blogger, and I’m sure as hell not getting paid to heave up my opinion each day. I pay for my own gigs on my own steam, and that’s the way I want it until Duran Duran starts paying my way. (It’s a joke, people!)

The funny thing about these rock ‘n’ roll fantasies, at least for me, is no matter how much I fantasized about Duran Duran back in the day – never once did I think about it as a quickie night on a tour bus or even more bluntly – on my knees somewhere in a dark, or not-so-dark corner backstage. (I’m cringing just as you are, but sometimes you’ve got to go with the really raw, really blunt imagery. I’m sorry. I’ll go wash my brain with bleach now, and I expect you’ll do the same.) My little-girl fantasies were about the long term, or God-forbid, about actually meeting and just talking to them! I certainly never thought much about the scene that might have unfolded backstage at one time. And now? I guess I wonder how I’d even begin to respond if I really had the chance? I suppose that after I got finished picking myself up off of the floor from shock, I’d have to wonder why any of the band would be that desperate for company at this point in their lives, and why on earth they’d think I’d want to destroy a thirty-year relationship to accompany them back to their hotel room for a single night.

A thirty-year relationship you ask? Yes. Because for me – that’s what I’d be ruining. My own fandom. I mean, how does one go from being a fan who merely fantasizes about the idea of MEETING them to someone who has actually slept with one of them and come out of it feeling OK and not the least bit awkward? It isn’t as though it’s a relationship that would last.  How would you go to another show and not feel used or know they aren’t snickering behind your back? I don’t know. Becoming a friend, and I mean a genuine friend, has far more appeal. Not that I expect that to ever happen, but I think some of you will understand my point. I just don’t think you can ever come back from being labeled a groupie, and once that label has been smacked upon your forehead – what then? Do you move on to other musicians? Other bands? At what point does this stop working for you and begins locking you out of the world you want to desperately be in? I really don’t know, which is probably a sign that I was never cut out for that scene.

In hindsight as I think back to those days when I would sit in the back of The Roxy or The Whisky-a-gogo waiting for Brian to finish his set, I think back to how much I would admire the girls that had the nerve to dress like hell-on-wheels with an attitude to match. I think part of me still has admiration for those who can and will step outside the box of “mom”, or “wife” or any of the other feminine ideals that get thrust upon us once we’re grown. I’ll still go to concerts or other events and look at some of the more harder-edged women around me and sort of long for the audacity to wear leather, dye my hair unnatural colors beyond just the vivid red streaks I’ll have at times, and look like I’ve lived my life in a club on Sunset Strip, but the fact is – I just haven’t.  I’m the mom you might see wearing Doc Martens to a PTA event; the girl who once bopped around town in a Suzuki Samurai with chromed wheels and a custom turquoise paint job, “blonde” hair up in a high ponytail; and the person you might see smiling up at the band at a Duran Duran show. I’ve never been one to talk my way backstage, and chances are, I probably never will. I’ve been known to have great admiration for some who have the look and the attitude along the way, only to find they bend the rules at will. While the ends may seem to justify the means to many, it isn’t who I am, and it’s not something I can indulge.

-R

Are You a Groupie???

Last night, I was with some friends at a local comedy club.  Before and after the show, of course, we talked about what is new in our lives and plans we had for the summer.  When I was asked that question, I hesitated.  Do I tell them about the tour I have planned next month?  It is certainly on my mind as Rhonda and I were on the phone, right before I left, talking tour and other things.  Why hesitate?  Why not share something that I’m looking forward to?  Well, I think I gave that some thought before responding about touring because non-fans might not understand.  They might think it is crazy to fly into New Orleans, drive to Biloxi for a show, drive to Atlanta for a show, drive to Durham for a show and then drive to Portsmouth for a show before turning around and going back to Durham to fly home.  Worse than crazy, they might ask one question I always dread:  “Are you a groupie?”  Luckily, they didn’t ask that question and seemed generally excited for me.  That said, there have been times I have been asked that and I’m sure there will be more in the future.

When I have been asked if I was a groupie, I never know how to respond.  First, I never know how they are defining a groupie.  Is it the female lead character in a movie like Almost Famous?  Is it like Pamela Des Barres in her books?  Do I assume that?  If so, then, I assume that they are asking if I follow the band in order to get the ultimate autograph (some sort of sexual contact).  Obviously, the answer here is no…but my answer is really not the important part.  Of course, some may use the word to describe someone who just follows a band.  Nonetheless, the term never feels good.  It never seems positive.  It always feels like some sort of put down. Then, I wonder if I’m the only one who has been asked this.  Are other fans asked this?  What about male fans?  Do they get asked this?  Do fans of actors or sports teams get asked this?  Certainly, movies like Bull Durham would say that there could be sports fans who follow a team in order to have some sort of sexual contact.

Do you know what I think is really strange?  I have seen and heard other fans call each other groupies or have implied that other fans are displaying stereotypical groupie like behavior.  At those times, they certainly aren’t using the term to tell someone that she is fabulous.  Nope.  They used them as insults.  Why do this?  Why would other fans use a term like groupie?  What purpose does that serve? 

So, let me ask the rest of you here.  How do you define “groupie”?  How do you think others typically define it?  Is it a term used only for females?  Is it a term used only for fans of rock/pop bands?  Have you been asked this question of whether or not you are a groupie?  What do you think the best way is to respond to that?  Have you seen fans call each other groupies in an insulting fashion?  Any ideas why fans would do that?  Obviously, I would welcome any and all answers to this.  On top of my concern about having to respond last night, I’m also working on a chapter in the book that mentions groupies.  I generally would like to know how people define it and how it comes up in our fandom, in Duranland. 

-A

Stereotypes about Female Fans

It isn’t easy to be a female fan of a band.  I certainly have experienced some rather unpleasant looks and statements when people find out that I’m a fan of Duran Duran.  Of course, some of those negative reactions are specific to Duran Duran.  In those cases, the people just don’t like Duran so they think I’m dumb to be a fan of theirs.  Yet, beyond those Duran haters, I still get negative reactions for just being a female fan of a band.  Some people assume that this means that I haven’t grown up, at best, and others assume that I’m either a stalker or a groupie.

It seems to me that it is generally socially acceptable for girls to be fans of a musical artist in the US.  No one thinks twice if a kid says that she likes Justin Bieber, for example.  They may even find it cute that a kid would have posters of him and other merchandise advertising him.  Yet, an adult female doing something similar is thought to be weird.  While people don’t openly say that this must mean I’m immature, I have gotten statements like, “You haven’t grown out of that?”  Of course, it isn’t helped that new young artists are always advertised specifically to young people.  The assumption there is that the only market for this type of artist is young people and that young people will buy and buy and buy some more.  Heck, Duran did this themselves or allowed this to happen to them.  They were interviewed by teen magazines and allowed their image to be placed on everything from kid pajamas to a board game.  While this type of merchandise is welcome both then and now, I realize that it doesn’t help to give respect to adult female fans of theirs.  It reinforces the stereotype that female fans are stuck in some sort of perpetual childhood.  Of course, there are way worse stereotypes.

One of the most common stereotypes I think female fans experience is the assumption that one is a stalker.  Rhonda talked about the definition of a stalker in this blog post here.  The negative assumption is that female fans will do anything and everything to get to the band.  Of course, the negative assumption may not think through the action to answer the question:  Why?  What purpose would fans have to get to the band?  Do those who criticize fans as stalkers think that they are doing it because they are groupies, which I will get to in this post, or do they think they are out to get the celebrity(s) of choice?  Of course, it is possible that they just don’t understand why anyone would go out of their way to be near a celebrity.  What I find interesting about this stereotype is that I rarely if ever hear it used towards male fans?  Why is that?  Why aren’t male fans criticized for being stalkers?  Certainly, there are male fans who might show up at the band’s hotel or at their studio?  Why aren’t they stereotyped in the same way?  I also find it interesting that fans will call other fans stalkers.  Why use this stereotype?  Of course, as Rhonda pointed out in her post, the definition of stalking isn’t really clear.  So, if the definition even within fandom or Duranland, in particular, isn’t clear, why use it?  Obviously, it seems like people use it because they think it will hurt those who are being called stalkers.  Perhaps, they are using it because it is a way to show that they ARE NOT stalkers.  It is a way to show that they are different from those other fans.  Of course, the same thing happens with the other really horrible stereotype–that female fans are groupies.

A groupie is another term that has multiple definitions.  Is a groupie simply a female fan who follows a band or is it a female fan seeking the ultimate autograph?  Got me.  Obviously, well-known and proud groupie, Pamela Des Barres, wrote about being a groupie in her books.  In her situation, it was more of the later definition.  Books like hers, I’m sure, does not help the outside world understand that not all female fans are groupies.  Obviously, if people believe that all female fans are groupies, they must think that we are in it for sex as opposed to actually enjoying the music.  Again, then, I wonder why fans use this insult on each other.  Is it just to hurt the other fans?  Is it just to show how one fan is different from the other?

It seems to me that when you really begin to analyze these common stereotypes about female fans, they are all really about demeaning women as we are immature, have no life or are just seeking a sexual experience.  It can’t be that we are have a valid opinion, in which we believe that someone or something is valuable.  It can’t be that we find this band, or any other band, talented.  It can’t be that we want to just express our thoughts and opinions.  No, the stereotypes say that something has to be not quite right with us.  This leads me again to wonder why female fans use these stereotypes on each other.  What purpose does it serve?  Does it help to destroy these stereotypes or perpetuate them? 

-A