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I'm with the Band Confessions of a Groupie
By Barres Pamela Des
Chicago Review Press Incorporated Copyright © 2005 Dave Navarro
All rights reserved.
Let Me Put It In, It Feels All Right
I get shivers whenever I see those old black-and-white films of Elvis getting shorn for Uncle Sam. When he rubs his hand over the stubs of his former blue-black mane, I get a twinge in my temples. In the glorious year of 1960, I was at the Reseda Theater with my parents, and I saw the famous army footage before the onslaught of Psycho. I don't know which was more horrifying. I hung on to my daddy's neck and inhaled the comforting familiarity of his drugstore aftershave and peeked through my fingers as Norman Bates did his dirty work, and the army barber did his. I tried to believe that Elvis was doing his duty as an AMERICAN, but even at eleven years old, I realized his raunch had been considerably diminished. I tacked my five-and-dime calendar onto the dining-room wall and drew big X's as each day passed, knowing he would let his hair grow long when he came home from Germany. Being an adored only child, my mom let me keep the eyesore on the wall for two years. I was always allowed to carry out my fantasies to the tingling end, and I somehow survived several bouts of temporary omnipotence.
All my girlfriends had siblings they had to share with, and since I had two rooms of my own, my house was where everyone wanted to bring their Barbie dolls. I ruled the neighborhood until I entered Northridge Junior High. It turned out to be the real world, and was I surprised! My lack of breasts took precedence over my grades, and actual real-live boys loomed before me, loping around, too tall for their own good. I wanted to make my parents happy and get an A in Home Economics, but boys and rock and roll had altered my priorities.
I was always in awe of my big, gorgeous daddy. He looked just like Clark Gable, and disappeared on weekends to dig for gold way down deep in Mexico. He had always wanted to strike it rich, so right before I was born, he and my mom left Pond Creek, Kentucky, heading for gold country, which allowed me to come into the world as a California native. We lived right off Sunset and Vine, in a dinky little hut on Selma Avenue, and after a series of unilluminating vacuum-salesman-type jobs, my daddy made his way farther west into the wild shrubbery of the San Fernando Valley suburbs, to seek his meager fortune bottling Budweiser. He splurged out and bought his very own cream-colored Cadillac that he paid for in seventy-two monthly installments, and we lived in the same split-level for twelve years, so I felt very secure. I had two parents, a dog, a cat, a parakeet named Buttons, and three good meals a day. In my early years, my sweet mom made sure that my wild daddy came across as a tame, devoted father-figure, but no matter how much she buffered and suffered, it couldn't alter the fact that he was from the Old South, and I was from the New West.
* * *
Two incidents occurred when I was fourteen that had a profound effect on my life. The first was when my dad relented and let me remove the wisps of hair from my very thin legs (he did not, however, let me place the Lady Schick above the knee), and I had a moment of independence alone in the pink-tiled bathroom that will never be equalled for as long as I live, squirting a pool of Jergens into my palm and slathering it all over my hairless, shining Barbie-doll calves. Compared to getting my period, the first shave initiated me into the elementary stage of womanhood with a much more exciting sense of adventure ... going forth into the world with no hair on my calves — Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness! The second incident involved a stolen car, a bad boy, and the song "He's a Rebel." Dennis MacCorkell was the slump-shouldered, shuffling, cigarette-dangling, pit-faced bad boy found in most junior high schools in 1962. He would shout to me whenever we passed in the hall, "Hey! No Underwear!!" I took it as an endearment and blushed appropriately. He had the same seat in his homeroom that I had in Biology I, and one Friday morning I found "No Underwear" carved into the table. I hoped it was a secret message of adoration, even though he was going steady with a tough Chicano girl named Jackie. Over the weekend, Dennis and two other bad boys from another school stole a car and smashed it to pieces and they all went straight to Teen Angel heaven. Jackie came directly to school so we could all see her suffer. She was wearing a black tulle veil, and her friends held her up all day as she staggered from class to class. She broke down during Nutrition, and every girl in school secretly wished that Dennis MacCorkell had been her boyfriend. "He's a Rebel" became associated with Dennis, and rebellion turned into infamy in my teenage mind. Twenty years later, my mom was cleaning out her drawers and came across a little box with a dead rose tucked inside, and a slip of paper cut out of my 1962 yearbook: "Hey, No Underwear, good luck with the boys, Dennis MacCorkell."
Nobody ever forgot Dennis MacCorkell at Northridge Junior High.
"He's a rebel, and he'll never ever be any good, he's a rebel and he never ever does what he should ... and just because he doesn't do what everybody else does, that's no reason why I can't give him all my love."
I began to associate the Top 10 with events and boys of the moment. My transistor became an appendage, the goopy-haired heroes crooning in my ear became all the boys who ignored me during "I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag." Lyrics were taken seriously. I walked in the rain, crying, listening to "Crying in the Rain" by the perfect-haired Everly Brothers, imagining that I had just broken up with Phil "Caveman" Caruso, the Italian hunk in my Creative Writing class. When Vance Branco didn't show up for my backyard luau, I joined Leslie Gore for the chorus, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, DIE if I want to ..." I stood by the screen door in a real honest-to-God grass skirt that my daddy brought back from Okinawa, fiddling with my fake lei while all of my guests twisted the night away ... "You would cry too, if it happened to you."
Although I bought Bobby Vee records and wanted to put my head on Paul Anka's shoulder, I counted the minutes and seconds until Dion DiMucci, suave and greasy, wearing a shiny sharkskin suit, came gliding into my living room via American Bandstand, admitted by Uncle Dick Clark.
May 9, 1962, Dear Diary ... DION!!! Oh Help!!! I'm so excited, I think I'll just DIE!!! I was runnin' around, chokin' and cryin' and yellin' and screamin'. wow wow cute cute CUTEl! you woulda died how he said "dum didla dum didla dum didla dum." I was rolling over inside, I was cryin', I love him so much ...
I would sit cross-legged on the floor in front of our big blond box, dribbling tears of teen love into my Pop Tart while my mom looked on, shaking her head in amazement the way moms do. I had a shrine to Dion on my dresser, and I wore a locket around my neck with his picture clipped from 16 magazine and swooned over his slippery, sexy cool. It broke my heart when he married Sue Butterfield. I guess he was just pissed off at her when he wrote "Runaround Sue."
* * *
I was truly boy crazy. My first boyfriend happened in the eighth grade. Darrell Arena was a half-semester behind me, but he made up for it with a shiny, hairless, muscular chest that I gazed at while we swam in his big Canoga Park swimming pool. The most we ever did was kiss without tongues up in his maple bunk bed.
May 28 ... When he put his musclie arm around me, I died!! I hope it's not dumb to put your arm around a boy when he has his arm around you. Wow, he has a build and a half. If I don't see him tomorrow, I'll croak
Darrell rode show horses, and his mom would pick me up in the family Buick so I could be present when he trotted by in his sateen horse-show outfit and pointy-toed boots with spurs. He would smile down at me from lofty horsey heights, and I was in giddyup awe of my very own boyfriend. I wore his big baseball jacket to school, and took deep whiffs of it constantly. After so much dreaming about being near male flesh, just to breathe the male scent brought me to a near faint.
The summer of '62 was about to heat up to a rolling boil. Rock and roll became flesh and bones when the Rainbow Rockers started to rehearse in the garage directly across the street from my house. Jamieson Avenue became a danger zone. I didn't think anymore about Darrell Arena, or any of the other ordinary schoolboys at Northridge Junior High who were barely starting to shave. Breathing, sweating MEN, with shiny black pompadours and guitars, were playing rock and roll right outside my bedroom window!! Never having heard a band tune up before, I was jolted awake one July morning by disjointed twanging and an amplified voice: "Test ... testing ... one ... two ... one ... two ..." I ran out to the front yard and leaned against the chain link fence in disbelief. A neon-green sunflaked '58 lowered Bonneville gleamed hotly across the street, and a black-haired beauty was pulling a candy-apple-red guitar out of the trunk. Three guys were already gracing the garage, setting up drums, tuning guitars, and a magnificent tall creature was crooning into a microphone: "I had a girl, Donna was her name, since I met her, I'll never be the same." Neither would the neighborhood. It didn't take me long to make their acquaintance. In fact, all the girls on the block became an immediate and constant audience.
July 13 ... They played, and me, Iva and Linda listened. Robby sure is a doll, I talked to him a lot, he's 18 and his shirt was way way open wow! I left at 11 at nite and Robby said "goodbye my love." I sure hope they make the big time!!
The lead singer, Dino, worked out with weights, and by the end of the day, stripped down to his peg legs, driblets of sweat struggling down his biceps, clutching the mike like it was Brenda Lee, he groaned about his lover leaving him while I leaned against the screen door in a legitimate swoon. He was twenty years old and beyond my teen reach, but a couple of weeks later, I got my first wet kiss from Robby. He was the lead-guitar player. It was on the way back from Pacific Ocean Park, where my girlfriends and I had spent the entire day with the Rainbow Rockers, clutching and grabbing on them, round and round, up and down, on the rickety roller coaster, squealing with newfound pubescent frenzy. Just to get my hands on a thigh or a shoulder and squeeze hard was worth ten thousand trips on the scariest ride in the universe.
We crammed into the backseat of the Bonneville, the sea breeze pouring in the windows, and took off for the Valley, eating cotton candy and caramel apples. I could smell Robby's manly manliness; it wafted over me and I collapsed into his English Leather lapels with the giggles. I'll never forget this: He cupped my chin in his hand and pulled my face up to his lips, opened up my mouth with his tongue and slid it right in! What an amazing sensation! It was so wet, and he moved his lips all over, and his tongue poked around inside my mouth like it was trying to locate something. When I had to come up for air, we were in front of my house on Jamieson Avenue, and I felt like I had taken a trip around the world. I flew into the house, threw the door open, and my mom was standing there, kind of tapping her foot because I was a few minutes late. Breathlessly excited, I said, "MOM!! Have you ever been French-kissed!!?" She demanded all the details and proceeded to ground me for an entire week, adding that I could NEVER BE ALONE WITH ROBBY AGAIN!! What transpired is a historical piece of typical teen torment. I stormed into the kitchen, got a massive butcher knife, lay down on the floor, and, clutching my snapshot of Robby and sobbing hysterically, announced that I was going to stab myself in the heart.
Tell Robby I love him
And I couldn't go on
Knowing he's across the street
That our love is gone
Tell Robby I miss him
Tho' he won't miss me
The tears I cry each night
Just bring misery
My life will be ending now
I know it won't be right
I am just a fool to him
I cry each day and night
This bottle that's in my hand
Will stop my hurting heart
From beating without use
Since we had to part
Tell Robby I love him
And I couldn't go on
Knowing he will love someone else
That our love is gone
I gave up on the butcher-knife idea pretty fast.
RESOLUTIONS FOR 1964
1. Don't hang on boys
2. Be serious when it's called for
3. Try harder on my complexion
4. Get better grades
5. Concentrate on my figure looking better
6. Don't rat my hair so much
7. Try to be more feminine
8. Be cute every day
9. Don't use vulgar language
10. Let nails stay long and polished
11. Pluck eyebrows every four days
12. Shave legs and underarms every week
13. Deodorant every day
14. Brush teeth twice a day
15. Don't waste money on trash
16. Don't ruin boys [What could I have possibly meant by THAT??]
It was a rough life, wasn't it?
I had a disturbing lack of mammary glands when I started high school. It was soooo important to entice the ogling high school boys with at least some semblance of cleavage. The lack of a C cup, or even a B cup, was one of those unfortunate things that I had to live with. I remember a matching pair of particularly silky yellow scarves that I wadded up very carefully to stuff into one of my many "slightly padded" Maidenforms. I had to make sure the shape was exactly the same in each cup; the placing of the scarves in each gaping slot was crucial because it had to look like I was bulging with cleavage. I was once called "the stacked girl down the street," and felt a combination of pride and guilt that I still find hard to comprehend, kind of a falsie pride! I hated Gym because you were required to shower and it was a difficult task to hide my stuffed bra under that skimpy school towel! A couple of the older girls must have seen my scarves trailing behind me, because when we passed in the halls, they would punch my chest and yell, "Falsie!" It must have pissed them off that the boys believed I had a bosom bigger than theirs. I can't really blame them.
There was a girl at Cleveland High that I'll never forget, Nicki Petalis. I once saw a cute guy ask her to look down at her feet to find out if she could see them. She cast her doe eyes downward and giggled, "What do you know, Ican't see them!!" There was a majestic mammary mountain in her way. I console myself with the fact that Nicki's envious proportions are probably swaying at waist level by now, but to this day I look down at my feet and wish I couldn't see them.
C-C-C-L-E-V-E-L-A-N-D, CLEVELAND CLEVELAND YAYYY!!!
Despite the fact that I had small titties, I was nuts about my high school. I had a crush on the head yell leader, Frankie DiBiase, and hoped against hope that I could become a cheerleader and toss the pompons all around his skinny body.
January 11, 1964 ... I sure do love my golden idol, F.D. Man, don't ask me why, but every time I think of him I get chills, and that adrenalin runs through my body ... ooooh! OK enough of this, my heart is dying chunk by chunk.
I often got crushes on the wrong people. This yell leader was much too squeaky clean for me, and deep down I knew I'd never get him. I was already on the verge of weirdness, and these types went for the perfectly bouffanted cover girls with little hair bows that matched their little shoe bows, and even if I found the bows that matched, they somehow always came out looking crooked.
Frankie DiBiase actually did invite me to his pool one afternoon, and I panicked. I said could I please come tomorrow, and spent that afternoon cruising Reseda Boulevard looking for a bathing suit that would accommodate my scarves. I finally decided that the scarves would constantly drip and might feel like small boulders when sopping wet, so I spent the entire evening sewing puffy pads into a little pink-checked two-piece. I had only been in the pool for three minutes when I realized that Frankie's gaze was penetrating my bosom. I just knew the puffy pads hadn't fooled him, so when he tried to put his arms around me and squeeze my shoulders together to peek down into nonexistent cleavage, I wriggled away and announced I was going home. After that, whenever we passed in the halls he had a knowing smirk on his face. I was chagrined, but the idea of running for cheerleader never entered my mind again.
I still wore the school colors, got B's, and was trying to figure out what kind of boy was right for me when I got a fatal dose of Beatle-mania. The Fab Four entered the atmosphere at exactly the right wide-open moment for Pam Miller of Reseda, California, to become a complete and total blithering, idiotic Beatlemaniac. Paul McCartney personified the perfect MAN, and once again the dumbbells at Cleveland High who didn't ask me to dance at sock hops faded into oblivion. I had been searching for some new idols anyway. The Beachboys and Jan and Dean weren't my teen cup of tea, and Dion had disappeared after getting weird on national TV. There was a rumor going around Reseda that Bobby Rydell had gone and married the massive-titted Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, and besides, his records were getting lamer and lamer anyway; and Paul Anka had gone right into the middle of the road and stayed there.
Excerpted from I'm with the Band Confessions of a Groupie by Barres Pamela Des. Copyright © 2005 Dave Navarro. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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