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If you haven't heard of us, your friends probably have. You might have a copy of our album, We're Masterful Johnson. But there are a lot of bad rumors and gossip about us and how we became famous and what happened, so this is for the record.
The most untrue thing said about us is that we're rich kids, which makes me and Daisy so mad we can't talk. The snobbery in that suggestion is maddening. Plus it implies lazy afternoons by the pool waiting for our favorite video to come on MTV. We resent that. Anyone who's ever done anything knows it takes a lot of hard work and always a little luck and when someone is an overnight sensation they've really been at it for years.
Just because we rode around Phoenix in limousines people assumed we were rich. But no one ever knew where the limousines dropped us off at the end of the night, at my house at Estrella, where I lived with Ma Bell and Birdy, two tip-top guys me and Daisy met after dropping out of high school.
Me, Ma Bell and Birdy lived in the only finished house in the development, which had been deserted since the guy who owned it went to prison. Estrella was supposed to be a dream community for affluent families who wanted to live west of Phoenix, away from the center of the city which, since the earthquakes in California and the floods in the Midwest, was spreading like a stain. Estrella was hidden by the Estrella Mountains and far enough out that we never saw anyone except ourselves. Once in awhile a car would park on one of the deserted streets on a Friday night and we could hear the radioblastingfrom the car while who-knows-who made out. All the paved streets had names like Buena Vista and Morning Glen, or Wonderview and Cactus Wren.
Like I said I lived there with Ma Bell, who was twenty-three and worked for Motorola, a huge technology company. I'm not sure what exactly they make or do, but Ma Bell was the first to move into the house. He had the master bedroom upstairs, which someone had tastelessly decorated in blue pinstriped wallpaper (to match the blue carpet). It could've been black for all you knew, though. Ma Bell never turned on the lights because his bank of computers gave off enough light for him to see by. He worked from generators (we didn't have any electricity) and cell phones (or phone service). Anytime I asked him what he was working on all he said was, It's something for work.
Birdy, on the other hand, didn't have a job. He was seventeen and he sometimes lived with his family, who I guess didn't care much for him. He had dropped out like me and Daisy and he mostly listened to his music or slept during the day because he was out all night tagging underpasses with his name, which he could do very elaborately in multicolored spray paints.
It was Birdy who got the limos for us. His old man ran a limo company, King Limos, and all we had to do was call up and a limo would come for us. Practically every Saturday night me, Daisy and Birdy got picked up by the limousine—sometimes white but usually black and stretch—and we cruised the malls until they closed, hanging out the window, yelling at people we knew, or cuties, and then on to Mill Avenue where we usually attracted everyone including the cops, who told us time and again that we couldn't hang out the windows.
Me and Daisy felt famous in the limo and it was part of how we fantasized it was to be famous, which was having nice cars, wearing really nice clothes, living in a nice neighborhood and basically just having the things you wanted. And people would give you things. In magazines and on TV it never looked like any celebrity was hurting for anything. We couldn't imagine Madonna eating a hot dog at an A&W, or waiting in line for tickets to a movie. Not that she couldn't do those things if she wanted to, but Madonna wanting a hot dog wasn't the same thing as me and Daisy wanting a hot dog.
Daisy lived at home with her mother, who was a stewardess and was never home. I spent a lot of time at Daisy's house, which I liked for a number of reasons including the fact that I could take a hot shower. I'd come over and the limo would wait while we got dressed to go out, Daisy always wearing her mirrored sunglasses that I kidded her by calling her serial killers. Eventually I just moved all my stuff into Daisy's bedroom.
We liked to dress outlandish like rock stars, which is what we wanted to be. We wanted to be a real band, for sure, but we weren't really musical, that was the problem. That was the problem from the beginning, when it was the three of us. Me and Daisy and Stella wanted to be just like our favorite band—probably the best band in the entire world, Bananarama. See it was perfect. Me and Daisy are sort of opposites like how Sara Dallin was the blonde one and Keren Woodward the one with the dark hair and exotic features. And Stella looked just like Siobhan Fahey (it's spooky how much she resembled Siobhan: she had the same small mouth and wide eyes, except her eyes were blue. That's what guys liked most about Stella, her eyes. Guys said she looked like a doll, and Stella liked that). Most people don't know Bananarama's real names, but there you are. So our idea was to start an all-girl band in America (little-known fact: Bananarama is in the Guinness Book of World Records as Britain's most successful all-girl group) and become famous, maybe do a tour with them. We wished we were aware of Bananarama when they were in their heyday, but me and Daisy were just born when their first album, Deep Sea Skiving, came out in 1983. We're pretty sure that like everything else from the `80s, Bananarama will have a renaissance. It just feels like the right time. Everyone is sick of today's hyper-ironic music. People crave fun, we think. And the music of the '80s was fun: `The Perfect Way' by Scritti Politti was a song you could dance your ass off to, and `Safety Dance' by Men Without Hats was another one. Me and Daisy do like some `90s stuff, but most of it isn't fun. And the Spice Girls are shite. (We don't acknowledge the Spice Girls, who are basically ruining the advancements Bananarama made for all-female groups.) Putting the fun back into music is the answer. Fun: `Love Shack' by the B-52's. Not fun: anything by Metallica. Fun: `I Want Candy' by Bow Wow Wow. Not fun: Smashing Pumpkins. The all-time most fun song ever: `Come On Eileen' by Dexy's Midnight Runners. Whenever me and Daisy hear that song we dance our asses off. If the music makes you want to jump out of your skin and dance (for instance, anything by Madonna from the `80s and early '90s), then it's good. `Too Shy' by Kajagoogoo comes to mind, too. That's my and Daisy's opinion.
A little known fact about Masterful Johnson is that we made a single when it was the three of us, long before We're Masterful Johnson. Stella's father loaned us the money to do it and we spent months on the lyrics. I can take credit for the first line, `You are my end,' which wound up being our title for the song, but we were stuck after that and Daisy and Stella helped out by looking up some poetry. We studied Yeats and Keats and Wordsworth; those guys knew how to melt hearts. I don't know how much it helped us in the end, though. We paid some studio guys to come up with the song, which was called `What the—, Who the—, Hey!' I think between me, Daisy, Stella and Stella's father we still have the 500 copies we paid for. But we weren't down about our singing career. It doesn't happen overnight.
In the meantime Daisy got the idea that we should become models and found a modeling agency to represent us: StarryEyed Productions. Brad Johnson, who looked like the stereo salesman from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, told us he thought we could be supermodels. We were pretty excited about that. The wood-paneled walls of StarryEyed Productions were covered with pictures of beautiful women and handsome men, but we never saw anyone else in Brad's office except Jimmy Rider, a seven-year-old cute-as-pie punk that me and Daisy and Stella grew to hate. Jimmy's real name was Hayworth Rhoades, but his parents thought Jimmy Rider sounded more like a movie star's name than Hayworth Rhoades, which is what his parents wanted him to be.
Brad booked the four of us in a fashion show at Thomas Mall on 32nd St. Brad got a couple of the merchants in the mall to sponsor the show, so the Gap and Miller's Outpost loaned us the clothes to model on the makeshift stage put up by mall maintenance. You could see people in the mall wondering what was going on. Our dressing room was the shipping and receiving area at Miller's Outpost, a small cement room stacked with cardboard boxes. The floor was littered with that styrofoam popcorn stuff. Brad warned us we should wear deodorant so we didn't sweat up the clothes so Daisy ran to the Osco Drug in the mall to buy a stick. Antiperspirant, Brad called out after her.
We each had two outfits for the show. But we didn't really have any idea about runway work. Our only reference was what we saw on House of Style on MTV and that looked pretty easy. You just sort of went out there and had a rhythm. But because the stage was so small, me and Daisy and Stella had problems keeping the right amount of space between us. And that pip-squeak Jimmy Rider was doing some sort of gymnastics routine between us. The fact that the speakers pumping out the music above us were weak didn't help either. People stopped to look but between Jimmy Rider thumping the stage with his somersaults and the three of us dancing into one another, no one was particularly interested. Brad thought it went off great and beamed at us that the show was the start of our careers, but we knew better. Brad wasn't so happy though when he collected our outfits. Which of you is wearing perfume, he demanded. We sniffed ourselves and just then noticed we smelled like lilacs. Daisy pointed at the stick of antiperspirant: floral scent.
We laughed about that story for a long time and any time we laughed it made me and Daisy miss the old days, the three of us. We agreed we'd visit Stella (who moved to Hollywood to become an actress) after we'd restarted Masterful Johnson as a duo, like Bananarama had to do when Siobhan left the group to form Shakespear's Sister. We weren't really in touch with Stella then because we resented Stella selling out Masterful Johnson and moving to California. Plus Stella's obsession with celebrity deaths creeped us out. Stella keeps three separate notebooks, a Murder Book, a Suicide Book and an Accidental Death Book. At first she just had the Murder Book but when we met her, when she was nineteen, she had just added the other two. She used to let us bring the Murder Book to school. The first half was dedicated to details concerning John Lennon's death outside the Dakota in New York, with subsections on Mark David Chapman and The Catcher in the Rye. (Chapman was reading Alice and Wonderland before Catcher and just happened to finish it the day before he shot Lennon. Stella found that out.) The second half is all about celebrity murders. Political murders don't interest Stella. JFK. King. Bobby Kennedy. Gandhi. People killing other people over ideas was an historical fact, Stella said. None of it interested her, except Hitler. Stella was fascinated by a story about how Hitler almost committed suicide before he really rose to power. The Munich Post, an anti-Hitler paper, printed a story about how Hitler's beautiful half-niece was found dead, a bullet through her chest. The bullet was fired from Hitler's gun, which lay at her side. The death was called a suicide but people had heard Hitler and his half-niece arguing at his apartment the day before she died. There were rumors that Hitler and his half-niece were sexually involved, a rumor some people believed when it became known that the half-niece's nose was broken when they found her.
What if Hitler had committed suicide, Stella liked to ask. Can you imagine?
It was too big of an idea for us to imagine.
Right after Lennon in the Murder Book was Bob Crane, Colonel Hogan from Hogan's Heroes.
Stella used to visit the site in Scottsdale where the colonel was murdered. It's right by the all-time best mall in Arizona, Scottsdale Fashion Square. Once she dragged me and Daisy out there and we stood next to the irrigation ditch and tried to look in over the trees. The place has been remodeled since, Stella told us, but it's basically the same layout. She pointed to the bungalow where Hogan was staying. She told us how he was in town that summer in 1978 to do a play called Beginner's Luck at the Windmill Theatre on Scottsdale Road (the theater isn't there anymore). The Windmill put the star of their plays up in the bungalow and when Crane was in town he rigged the bungalow with then state-of-the-art video equipment so he could videotape himself having sex with various women. (Stella was on to a bootleg of one of the tapes, but me and Daisy don't know if she ever got one.) Stella didn't believe the theory the cops came up with, that it was John Carpenter, a friend of Crane's from L.A. who ran a video equipment business, who killed him. The police said Carpenter was a hanger-on who Crane included in his partying. But Carpenter was also bisexual and, according to the police, Crane sensed some weirdness—or maybe there was a bad party scene—and he started to distance himself from Carpenter. So Carpenter, feeling pushed out, bashed Hogan's head with a tripod. The police never found a murder weapon, but they knew enough to know it was a tripod (a corner of the flower print sheets on the bed where Hogan lay in his own blood, his temple crushed, a cable wrapped around his neck, tied in a bow and cut cleanly with a knife showed where the killer had wiped the murder weapon clean. The police originally suspected a tire iron or pipe). And there supposedly were swatches of blood taken from the trunk of Carpenter's rental car, brain pieces maybe, but true to the law in the wild west, the police couldn't get it together enough to prosecute Carpenter (though they did finally try in 1994, but Carpenter was found not guilty).
Stella said, Let's walk by the room. The three of us snaked single-file down the narrow sidewalk, stopping in front of what would've been #132A, Colonel Hogan's apartment. Me and Daisy were standing in front of the door thinking about Stalag 13, about Schultz, Colonel Klink and his monocle, Newkirk and Sergeant Carter and Kinchloe. We could hear Major Hochstetter; we could see the impatient look on General Burkhalter's face. We remembered noticing when Klink's original secretary, Helga, was replaced by another actress, her character name switched to Hilda. That was his wife, Stella said, and when Crane was killed they were getting a divorce. Stella thinks Hilda had something to do with Hogan's murder. She also thinks the colonel knew it might end badly in Phoenix. Stella said Crane had messed around with a married woman in Phoenix in the early seventies and the woman's husband was someone rich and powerful. Whoever it was that killed him, Stella said, Crane knew them. She paused and let us think about that. Crane was obsessive about locking his door, Stella went on, but when they found him his door was unlocked with no signs of forced entry. She walked us through the facts. Crane was killed in his sleep and then strangled after he was dead. That morning's paper was inside the apartment. Crane was killed around 3 A.M. A mystery bag that everyone knew held a photo album filled with Polaroids of women, the face-out photo a clothed shot with a nude shot tucked behind it, was on the bed, empty of its contents. Most of the pornographic tapes and photos were gone too but a tape of Saturday Night Fever Crane had edited for his son remained (Crane edited out all the cursing and questionable scenes). Undeveloped photos were left behind in the makeshift photo lab Crane had set up in his bathroom. Crane didn't use drugs and drank infrequently, yet there was a six-pack of Coors in the refrigerator and on the kitchen counter a bottle of gin and an opened bottle of Scotch. Sixty cents had fallen out of a pair of white trousers draped over the back of the couch. The Colonel's wallet was still in the pants. Crane himself was found in the master bedroom in a half-fetal position, his right hand under a pillow. Dried blood was crusted around his head. Fresh blood ran from his nose. On his left thigh were blobs of semen. Daisy turned her back on the door of #132A but I stared at it, imaging the long hall behind it, past the kitchen on the right, the guest bedroom on the left, past the living room, towards the television and video camera against the far wall, towards the master bedroom—like I'd seen it diagrammed in Stella's notebook. I wondered what the walls knew. Daisy pretended to be interested in the sky and the three of us moved down the sidewalk, away from the secrets kept behind the gold-curtained windows.
So the next thing that happened was we met Rick, who saw us dancing at Planet Earth, and we thought he was just another perv but he turned out to be this really sweet, sad kind of guy who just wanted to help make us famous. `If that's what you want,' he said when we told him. `I can tell you have your heart set on it.' Boy, did we. Daisy told him sometimes she fell asleep with her fingers crossed.
We flat-out asked Rick if he had connections and we appreciated his honesty when he said he didn't. Rick said he lived in Chicago and only came to Phoenix in the winters to golf and that he'd only been to California once in his entire life. Imagine only ever going to California once in your life. We didn't see the logic in Rick's travel pattern. Me and Daisy wanted to be buried in California.
`Some guys I golf with have a recording studio in their house though,' Rick said and we got pretty excited.
Rick's friends, Elliot and Hunter, lived in one of those two-story tract-type houses on a street where all the houses looked the same and most of the yards were still dirt.
Elliot and Hunter said they were pleased to meet us. Hunter couldn't take his eyes off Daisy, who twisted shyly on the carpet in the furnitureless room.
`Did you bring some songs with you,' Elliot asked.
Rick explained the situation, practicing his golf swing with a club from a bag leaning in the corner. He hit imaginary golf balls and watched each one's flight until it was time to tee up another. `These girls need some material,' he said.
`Let's get high and we'll write some songs,' Elliot said.
Me and Daisy thought that was a pretty good idea and Rick went out for Doritos and Mountain Dew while the four of us hunkered down to do some songwriting.
Maybe because of the equipment or maybe because Elliot and Hunter knew how to produce, our singing didn't sound all that bad and even though we were fried out of our gourds we managed to each come up with a song. Daisy wrote `I'd Kill You if I Thought I Could Get Away with It' and I wrote one with Elliot called `Do Fuck Off,' a love song.
Elliot and Hunter kissed us goodbye and promised to make copies that we could send around to record companies. `They're good guys,' Rick said as we pulled away. Rick had to catch a plane back to Chicago but before he left he told us we should probably think about finding an agent to represent us. We liked the idea of having an agent, someone who could get us parts in movies and who could arrange to pick us up in limousines and take us anywhere we wanted to go. `An agent looks out for your interests,' Rick said. We said we wanted Rick to be our agent because he seemed to be looking out for us but he told us no, he wasn't an agent, but he'd try to find someone to represent us. Maybe we'd see him in a month or so, he said. Goodbye, girls, he said. He looked sad.
Daisy's mom could get us tickets to fly for free, and when Daisy's brother Chuck called from New York and said he wanted us to be in a film he was making, her mom came through with two roundtrip tickets. Chuck is Daisy's identical twin. He's a film student at NYU and Daisy loves him like a brother.
Neither of us had ever been to New York City before, even though we'd seen it on TV (we love Letterman). Our plane tipped its wing and the black night outside the window was suddenly lit with a million lights so bright we thought we were landing on the moon. Daisy said, Look, there's the Empire State Building and I followed her finger towards the skyscraper lit yellow.
Chuck met us at LaGuardia and we got a cab into Manhattan. Chuck lives in the West Village and the cab driver let us off right where Sally let Harry off in When Harry Met Sally, at the Washington Square arch. `You were the only person I knew in New York,' I said as the cab drove away and Daisy laughed.
Chuck's roommate, Bertrand, was a film major, too. Bertrand was a lot older than Chuck. He said he had four degrees already: a bachelor's in creative writing and another bachelor's in philosophy; he also had an MFA from Vermont College in poetry as well as a Ph.D. in American history from a college he kept calling Ball State. He had another year to go at NYU. Daisy asked him why he had so many degrees and he said, I have to stay in school until I get my big break so I can pay off all my student loans. Plus, he said, you get all the great connections in school.
Where Chuck wanted to be a director, Bertrand wanted to be a screenwriter. Together they were working on Chuck's student film, Plastic Fantastic, which is also the name of Chuck's all-time favorite Flesh for Lulu album. Chuck and Bertrand's friends were helping on the film. A girl named Chloe, a sociology junior from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was playing the lead, a girl whose name was also Chloe and who was also from Mississippi and was also a sociology major at NYU. Chloe's friend in the movie was a character named Melinda, whose name was really Melba. She was a film major too and me and Daisy suspected she was Chuck's or Bertrand's girlfriend, we couldn't tell which. The film took place inside this New York night club called XOXO in the movie but was really called The Cellar. It was in the meatpacking part of Manhattan. Bertrand knew the owner who let us film while the bar was open. Me and Daisy played friends of Chloe and Melinda's at the club and the movie was about how men see women in bars and, as Bertrand explained, `how that translates to life.' We liked Chloe and Melinda a lot so it was easy to act like we were their friends. Chuck said it was okay if our characters were named Paque and Daisy, so we went with that.
Because the owner was letting us film in his bar, Chuck had to give the owner's son Jeff a part so Chuck made Jeff one of a series of assholes who were to appear throughout the film. In the scene at The Cellar me and Daisy are dancing together and Jeff comes up and starts dancing with us and we innocently dance him into our circle. But when the song is over and me and Daisy have said thanks, Jeff won't let us alone and he harasses us out of the club, onto the street and into a cab. Chuck and Bertrand wanted Jeff to follow us in a cab, but Chuck decided that was too difficult and expensive an idea to shoot.
We had to admit that we were bored much of the time. Chuck would spend a half an hour fiddlefucking around with the lights and microphones while me and Daisy just stood there. Finally we asked the DJ to play some music so we could dance, just to keep warmed up. Chuck said, OK, let's shoot and we went in front of the camera but had to stop right away. You're dancing out of the frame, Chuck said to Daisy. But that's how I dance, Daisy said. Chuck explained to us that with the one camera if we danced too far apart he wouldn't be able to get us both in the scene. So the DJ started the music again but this time we were so nervous about staying close to each other that we didn't look natural and Chuck made us stop. He told Bertrand to tape a square this long by that wide on the floor. Just stay in the box, he said. That helped us out and we got a glimpse of how good a director Chuck is going to be one day. He already knew what me and Daisy learned, that it isn't so easy to be a movie star. You have to worry about a lot of things that people who see your movies sort of take for granted. We didn't talk about it, but after spending hours just to get two or three minutes worth of film, we felt a deeper appreciation for what Bananarama had to go through to make all those wonderful videos.
Chuck told us we were really great and me and Daisy decided to go out and celebrate. We hopped in a cab and told the cab driver to take us to Times Square. We felt like Alice in Wonderland when the cab let us off right by the giant, flashing Cup-O-Noodle and the big screen TV showing the news. Even though it was after midnight the sidewalks were jammed with people. We passed a guy selling nuts but didn't get any because some of the nuts had burned and it smelled like shite. We had to put our hands to our mouths in order to get by him.
Daisy grabbed my arm and said, Look. She pointed at the numbers 1515 on the building in front of us and it gave us the goosebumps. We were standing in front of MTV, the all-time best channel on TV. We tried the doors but of course they were locked. We put our hands to the glass and peered inside but couldn't see anything. Neither of us said anything as we silently thought about all the famous people who had passed through those doors. Daisy touched the handle again and just held on to it. I started singing, `Video killed the radio star' which made Daisy laugh.
Our next cab driver was a little bitter when we asked him to take us to the Ed Sullivan Theater but we didn't know it was within walking distance. We were amazed at how it looked exactly like it does on TV. Standing under the glowing yellow and blue neon sign we had a past-life feeling, a feeling that we'd stood where we were standing a hundred times before. We have to get tickets, Daisy said. The sign taped on the door told us to try waiting in line early in the morning, that we had to write in six months in advance if we wanted guaranteed seats.
We agreed we would come back and stand in line around 2 A.M. but until then we should go out and see more of New York. We went to Rockefeller Center and pressed our noses against the Today Show studio glass window. It looks like a small apartment, someone walking by said. The flags around the ice skating rink flapped loudly like applause.
We walked up Fifth Avenue. Daisy pointed out Tiffany's and we stood in front of the sign and said `oh dahhling' over and over. Daisy's neck is long and smooth like Audrey Hepburn's, which we noticed on our ten millionth viewing of that movie (Daisy's mom owns it).
Me and Daisy skipped the block between Tiffany's and Central Park when Daisy stopped cold. Look, she said. She pointed at a hotel that looked like a castle. What is it, I asked. It's where Gatsby confronted Tom, remember, she said. Then I figured it out. The Plaza Hotel. The Great Gatsby is Daisy's all-time favorite book; she's read it more times than some people have read the Bible. She was in the middle of reading it the first time when we dropped out of school. Sometimes guys accuse us of being dumb and if they do, Daisy starts right in talking about how many times she's read The Great Gatsby.