The Time: June 1984
The Place: London, England.
The Cast: Me, a twelve year old daddy’s little girl, donning acid wash Guess jeans with pockets on the knees and my hair in a high and tight ponytail angled just perfectly on the right side of my head, who would’ve much rather been back in the States hanging out at the mall; And my mom and dad, two well meaning parents who were hell bent on seeing EVERY cathedral EVER erected.
The Occasion: A European Vacation, as full of high jinks and high drama as the 1985 movie, which was probably based somewhat on this very trip.
Cut to our closet-sized hotel room, where a pint-sized me stood staring pleadingly up to my dad. Zoom in on the brochure in my right hand; a brochure for the “Duran Duran Fan Club” located in Birmingham, England.
Being only twelve years old, the words, “One hundred and sixty kilometers out of the way,” did not register. All I knew was that I was in the homeland of my idols and nothing was going to shut me up until I touched their home turf.
Cut to my dad, trying hard to fight the good fight, staring at his map of England, and weighing the consequences of driving 160 kilometers out of our way, just to go to visit a silly fan club hub of some of the strangest characters he had ever laid eyes on.
Only two months prior my parents had accompanied my friend Zoe and me to the Duran Duran concert in San Diego. They had witnessed first hand my undying pre-pubescent love and longing for these weirdos in black leather and died, long hair. They had been accomplices in the wallpapering of my room with Rio and Ragged Tiger posters and had paid for my extensive vinyl collection of every Duran2 album known to man. So my dramatic pleading to stop by their HOME of Birmingham, England should not have been a surprise.
I begged and pleaded.
And somehow, they caved.
After ten consecutive days of riding in the back seat of our rental car, listening to my walkman blasting Duran Duran music, I was finally going to get MY vacation highlight and maybe even hear them sing in person.
I clutched my Fan Club brochure, the one which identified me as a LIFETIME MEMBER, and stared longingly out the window wondering which cheek Simon LeBon was going to kiss upon meeting me (though my Bonnie Bell chapstick was cherry flavor, just in case he decided to plant one right on my lips). Thoughts of what I would say and do in their presence filled my mind as my nerves began to push my breakfast up to the point of danger territory.
Pulling into Birmingham, England, home to the synthetic superstars that had permeated my every waking moment for at least a year, I was a bit disappointed; It certainly was not as beautiful or awe-inspiring as all the cities we had previously visited. But that was none of my concern. “Just get me to that fan club,” was my only thought.
As the car came to a slow stop in front of an industrial storefront covered with graffiti, I asked my dad, “What are we doing?”
“Well, Mary, this is it.”
“Huh? No way!” I looked to the line of store fronts, double checked the address on my prized LIFETIME MEMBER FAN CLUB brochure that was by then wet and crumpled from being gripped in my hands during the excruciatingly long car ride and then methodically cross-checked each number. Sure enough, that was it.
I hopped out of the car, ran over to the single mail slot just left of the door, turned to my dad and said, “Well, do you think they’re inside?”
I can only imagine what must have been going on in my parent’s minds. They knew full well the devastation I was about to feel and there was no way they were going to stand for that.
My dad said, “Well, yes, maybe. Let’s knock.”
The three of us proceeded to pound on the door like a Summer Solstice drum circle. My dad shouted down through the mail slot with his booming, deep voice, but to no avail.
Dejected and devastated I turned to walk back to the car. My dad gave one last yell and then turned towards the car as well.
Just before we reached the car, the door opened up and a young hipster popped her spikey-haired head out. She looked at us with annoyed, questioning eyes. We all but jumped on her. My dad proceeded to tell her why and what we were doing there and how FAR we had traveled to see Duran Duran. I provided the sweaty brochure as exhibit A. She looked at the brochure, looked at us, back at the brochure, back at us, and opened the door.
With her multiple piercings and studded pants she led us down a circular metal staircase to…a mailroom. No lie. A mailroom.
Posters of all sorts of contemporary artists filled the walls, not just Duran Duran, but also David Bowie, The Clash and the Pet Shop Boys. Though I was not in the presence of Simon, Nick, John and Roger, I was in heaven. She proceeded to give us a tour of the punk rock mailroom and put together a swag bag of sorts with every bit of Duran Duran paraphernalia they had lying around.
Twenty-six years later I don’t have any of those swag items, except a few buttons in a box and a crumpled up poster in the bottom of a keepsake trunk. But what I do have is the memory of my parents agreeing to take me there, despite the inconvenience and inanity of it all, the anxious drive there, the pounding on the door. That day was a gift to me in so many ways. I will never forgive them for letting me wear such a hideous outfit, but I will cherish the memory of that day, and all that it stood for, forever.