I came by invitation
When I was in middle school, my experience as a fan pretty much consisted of buying teen mags, searching for pinups I didn’t already have, gabbing with friends about Nick’s seemingly new (to us) hair color, John’s fedoras, or maybe even Simon’s tiger baby pendant. I would listen endlessly to the Duran Duran albums I had, and whenever my friend Marsha’s mom agreed to take us to Tower Records, I’d search the record bins and inevitably I’d find new Duran Duran singles in there that I’d never heard of prior. As MTV arrived in my town and Friday Night Videos or Video One became a thing, I spent a fair amount of time waiting for the next video to arrive, or calling in to local radio stations, begging the DJ’s to play a request. Concerts weren’t really a thing for me, although I would sit and listen intently to friends who had either already seen the band at the Greek theatre (not many of us were that lucky), or were planning to go to the Forum in 1984.
I didn’t really have stories of my own to tell. No descriptions of late nights, running into a band member as he walked out of a club. There were no tales of sitting in lobbies, or trying to tail them from Milwaukee back to their hotels in Chicago. There were just the pinups, the music, the videos, my friends, and me.
Going on to somewhere
In many ways, those times were easy. The only way we could truly “compete” for Duran Duran real estate, so to speak, was through knowing everything there was to know about the band, and whatever we owned – pinups, music, t-shirts, and other merchandise. We’d each lay claim to our favorite band member, and hope no other friend decided to make a contest out of it…although I suspect that even then, we knew there was almost zero chance of any of us ever meeting the band, much less marrying one of them!
Decades later – and in a lot of ways it pains me to type those words (how can I really be nearing 50 anyway??) – fandom, or at least the practice thereof, has changed a bit for many of us. Hannah Ewens wrote in Fangirls, “Fandoms are a sphere where contribution increases with age, the more stories the better, the more access, the more information, the more gossip, the longer loving.” I’ve been thinking about quote that a lot this morning.
Back in 2003 as I attended my first Duran Duran fan convention, I can distinctly remember being fascinated by the stories. So many people I met had their own Duran Duran tales to tell. Stories of traveling, of meeting them in the 90’s, running into them in bars, hotels, restaurants. I wasn’t jealous, I was shocked. The world I never thought would collide with my own was right there, almost within reach.
A crush panic
I can’t really argue that as I’ve aged, I’ve done things that would have seemed completely out of this world in 1984. The very idea of ever being in front row, for example. In late 1983, as tickets for the Sing Blue Silver tour went on sale – my parents were dead set against the idea of even trying to get a ticket. My dad felt that I was far too young, and without having any older siblings (he absolutely wasn’t going to be taking me), I was pretty much sunk. My friend Marsha’s father stood in line the day they went on sale and came up completely empty. The tickets sold out very quickly, and she was sad when she came to school the following day. We stood around at break, listening to some of our other friends squeal in delight that they had not only gotten tickets, but their mothers – clearly wiser and far more hip than our own – had called a local ticket agency and gotten even better seats. Some of our friends were as close as third row, and their moms had no issue with forking over $100 or more to be up there.
This was 1984, I’ll remind you. One of my friends went to the Forum show, and I believe her seat was $11.00. Comparatively, $100 seemed like a fortune. It absolutely did to my dad when I told him later that night! After watching my dad’s face go from his regular ruddy complexion, to tomato red as he gasped in horror at the ticket price, declaring that he would never be “the kind of fool to pay those kinds of prices just so his kid could sit near the front of a damn rock concert!”, I figured front row wasn’t going to be an option. Hell, even just going to a concert was a long way off as it was. Little did I ever realize that someday, I would do exactly that…more than once!
My stories aren’t that amazing in the sense that no, I don’t have tawdry backstage tales, or memories of hanging with the band. I do, however, have some wonderful friends I’ve made. We’ve traveled to far off places that, back in 1984, wouldn’t have ever been in my biggest daydreams. My fandom is so much bigger at 48 than it was at 12 or even 13 – I wouldn’t have ever thought it possible.
Midnight traffic in her eyes
My tears during Seventh Stranger in Las Vegas were as much about my youth and experiences along the way as they were the band’s. Seeing the images I remember of Duran Duran from the 80s, bigger-than-life onscreen, combined with the Duran Duran I know from today felt like a lightning strike on my heart. We’ve walked a lot of miles together. Duran Duran created a safe place for me during my most awkward years. They gave me a place to grow, to feel connected to others, and to be understood. They still do.
When I’m in the audience at a Duran show – I can see thousands of different versions of myself in the audience. The shy introvert, the confident mom, the girl who saved up extra change from lunch to buy her first Duran Duran t-shirt, the new mother who survived post partum depression, the middle-aged woman that isn’t completely satisfied with her life or marriage. The seventh grader who just wants to be accepted. We’re all out there, living the music, enjoying the moment, together.
“Being a fan means you don’t have to be the person you are in this moment, restricted by time, space and circumstance, rather you can be strengthened by and exist through all the others you’ve been.” (Ewens)