On this date, seventeen years ago, I was in a ballroom at the Hotel Monaco in New Orleans with tens of other fans, other Duranies. We had gathered at that hotel, in that historic city to celebrate our fandom. The year was 2004 and fans were shaking with anticipation over the upcoming reunion album, Astronaut, and the presumed tour that would follow. In many ways, it was truly a magical time to be a Duranie and I’m very lucky that I can say that I was there.
The Duran Duran reunion, initially, did not get much attention from me. I had heard vague rumors and had seen some people in my local circle of friends discuss going to a show or two in the fall of 2003. If memory serves me right, I remember glancing at emails about those Chicago shows and quickly dismissing them. I would not even allow myself to fully look at them and think about what exactly that meant. I didn’t have time to be a fangirl then as I was busy trying to finish up my Action Research Project for my Master’s Degree on top of teaching full-time. I had to be focused.
In January of 2004, the master’s degree was earned and I could breath a little easier. Still, I did not go back to those emails about the shows or even look up what Duran was doing. Yes, obviously, I knew that I had loved the band since I was a little kid but I wasn’t sure that I loved them as much or in the same way. Then, one day, I was driving in my car with some friends of mine (ha!) when a Duran song came on the radio. One of the friends made a comment about how much she loved the band. I felt myself tingle a little. Could I have found a fellow Duranie? Soon enough, the conversation turned towards the band and our fandom as kids. The ride proved to be far too short and we made plans to get together in an upcoming weekend to do nothing but talk and remember Duran Duran. That’s all it took. I was right back in it. I began searching online for any and all information I could get. I turned over my closets in the quest to find any and all Duran memorabilia I had still. Soon enough, the only music I was listening to was Duran or their related projects. After all, I had much to catch up on.
Through this process, I learned about the reunion and the upcoming album and tour. This led to a mission. While, yes, I had this nearby Duranie friend to attend a concert with me but would that be enough? In the back of my mind, I already started to wonder if one show would satisfy me. Would one Duranie friend feed my need to talk Duran all the time? I suspected that I needed more Duranie friends to chat with, to squee together, to plan get togethers, and to attend concerts. Once I had a mission, I had to figure out where to find my fellow fans. Message boards! Yes, that’s the answer! So, I did what many others before and after me did. I first tried the message boards connected to the official website. Not only did I hate the look and formatting but it seemed..unfriendly to people like me who had to take a break due to life. Next up was the board attached to the official fan community. Those fans all seemed super connected to each other and there were simply too many people, which meant that my easily overwhelmed self backed away. Finally, I found the one. It was a small but mighty message board with a core group of people who seemed intelligent, funny and welcoming. Yep, DuranDuranFans became my Duranie home (while it lasted). I was well on my way to completing my mission.
I was not on DDF (DuranDuranFans) for long before I found myself reading about a little convention happening at the end of September of that year (2004). Immediately, I started going through the necessary questions. Could I afford it? Could I leave work? (I had never taken off for anything other than being sick at that point in my career. My, how times changed on that front!!!) Could I get my friend to go with me? I had two reasons for wanting to go. First, I, of course, wanted to bask in all things Duran for an entire weekend with a ton of other Duranies! Second, I wanted to expand my connections so that I would have people to join me for shows. Long story short, I figured out a way to get there and dragged my friend along with me.
Was the convention what I was expected? I don’t even know what my expectations were but whatever they were, the convention far exceeded them. Much like the convention that Rhonda and I organized in 2013, it had a number of similar activities, including get to know you happy hour, pin exchange, vendor fair, games, a dinner and dance, breakfast and more. I remember the first night (Friday) being a little awkward for me. Clearly, there were people there who knew each other really well. I wasn’t certain how to squeeze my way in and the friend who went with me was even more shy and awkward than I am. Slowly, though, through Saturday’s activities, I started to warm up and meet more and more people. The dinner/dance, though, was when everything changed. When I say that everything changed, I mean everything changed.
I had decided that I was going to dive in and do the best I could to meet people and have fun. My friend and I found spots at the dinner table with some of the more well-known people from the message board, including Rhonda. If that was not enough to help get me over my hump, so to spoke, the bar did it. I found myself ordering more than one vodka tonic and soon discovered that Rhonda also shared my love for that drink when she ordered one as well. The mutual love for vodka tonics and Duran helped getting conversation started and when that group ventured out into the New Orleans nightlife, I joined them. The night turned out to be a long and fun one as we walked up and down Bourbon Street, stopping at many places along the way. One of those establishments turned out to be Howl at the Moon, one of a chain of piano bars all across the country. For those unfamiliar, the set up is such that a couple of piano players (and other band members) perform covers of well-known songs, usually by request and usually with a tip offered. Somehow, the group convinced me (I can be gutsy at times–just ask Simon about me hinting on a setlist about the need to include Planet Earth) to go up and ask for Duran. Soon enough, Rio began with an invitation for us to join the musicians on stage. Yep, Rhonda and I were up on stage along with some friends singing Rio in a crowded bar. Good times.
While nothing was explicitly stated, the group stayed in touch on the message boards and planned to go to at least one show together once the tour was announced. The chosen city was Chicago and Rhonda and I roomed together along with a friend of ours. That was another amazingly fun weekend in which we got little sleep, laughed until our stomachs hurts and tears were rolling down our faces and had so much fun that we have never really gotten over it. The rest, they say, is history.
Did that convention change my life? Absolutely. One hundred percent. Would Rhonda and I have become such good friends without that weekend in New Orleans? Probably not. Would my fandom be alive and well today without going there? I don’t know but I doubt it. This means that this blog probably wouldn’t exist and that Duran Duran would not have had to put up with the two of us as long and as much as they have. When I registered to attend the convention, all I hoped for was to get a couple of friends to go to a couple of shows with. I never imagined that it would start me down a path in which fandom would be such an essential part of my life. It was a mega turning point for sure and one that I’m forever thankful for.