In Defense of Hair Bands

This, dear friends, is the exact moment that a frontman in a hair band locked eyes with me for the very first time.  (Please note the super boss Metal Edge magazine t-shirt.)

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This particular frontman is CJ Snare from Firehouse.  A great triumph of mine in recent years was finding a karaoke list that included Firehouse “Don’t Treat Me Bad”, and I sang the shit out of that song.

I’ve drifted apart from many things of my youth – things that I thought I’d love forever.  Winn-Dixie Superbrand individually wrapped cheese slices, white Fayva high-top sneakers, respect for Corey Feldman as a dancer, but the one thing I’ve never parted ways with is hair bands.

If you’re wearing red and black tiger-striped spandex leggings and suspenders with no shirt and preening around a stage singing songs about (a) strip clubs, (b) the Sunset Strip, or (c) strip clubs located on the Sunset Strip, then hell yes.  Count me in.

If your band name is filled with deliberate misspellings and needless accent marks, names of cities in east Asia even though you’re from Scandanavia, or is simply the last name of the person who has the coolest last name in the band – I’m all about it.

I was thinking about it last month when Anne and I went to see Poison for the tenth time, or as most of my “cool” musician friends refer to them, “Do you seriously like those bands?  I have lost all respect for you.  Don’t ever talk to me again.  Ever.”

Fact:  The only reason I ever took my Poison door poster down was to put up a Skid Row one, that I promptly covered with red lipstick kisses.  The Skid Row door poster was surrounded by posters of Kip Winger.  I bear no shame, and I shame no bears.  Related, Kip Winger is an unapologetically hairy man.

My cool friends will often accuse me of just trying to be “ironic” by liking these bands, even after I assure them that I’m not, and pull out my collection of Winger t-shirts, much to their horror, as proof.  My love for all things hair band runs as deep as the swimming pool in the L.A. Guns video for “The Ballad of Jayne”.

It blasts forth from my heart like a fire hydrant in the Slaughter “Up All Night” video.

It is as pure and platinum as Matthew and Gunnar Nelson’s long, blonde locks.

That’s right.  I’m at Nelson level hair band fandom.

Nelson.

I feel like you really need to know the depths to which my feelings lie, or else this entire conversation will be for naught.  I don’t want you walking away from this thinking I’m talking about rock bands like Van Halen, a band that managed to be the perfect hybrid of wicked fun and incomparable talent.  I don’t want you to think, “Hey, that Maggie sure does like AC/DC!  What a cool lady!” and then call it a day.

Motley Crue is, in fact, the most cerebral band I like from the 80s.

I want you to know what you’re getting into here.  If you put on an Enuff Z’Nuff video, my eyes will glaze over and I will sing along.

Hair bands came along at a time in my life when things really couldn’t have been worse.  Poison, in particular, came around when I was in middle school, the literal worst.  The god awful, miserable, worst of the worst.  The onset of the hideousness that was puberty, living in a house with caved-in bathroom walls and falling-down ceilings, carpets blackened with ground-in cigarette ashes, and piles of old furniture rotting in the yard.  Where when you flipped on the kitchen light, you could be assured that at least 200 cockroaches would scatter for cover, and at least one of them would stand there, defiantly, like “Fuck you, kid.  This is my house,” and you’d know that, deep down, they were right.  Getting shipped off to live with out-of-state relatives when the shit really hit the fan at home.  Getting groped in school nearly every day when the going attitude was, “Ignore it.  Maybe all these guys with their hands all over your body just like you!”

Having a goddamned perm at the exact same time as 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner became popular.

Mr. Belvedere being cancelled.

Middle school in the mid-to-late 80’s:  It was a real crap festival.

No matter how shitty things got, when I turned on the television, I could be assured that Bret Michaels would be there wearing leather chaps, fingerless gloves and a bandanna, literally humping his way up a microphone stand while singing about bops that were unskinny and dancing with laser beams in the shape of ladies.  You could always count on fun times with those bands.  And as a matter of fact, as a singer my entire vocal affectation can be directly attributed to the thousands of hours I spent singing Poison songs as a tween/teen.  I wanted to be Bret Michaels.

Fun was always part of the package with hair bands.  They were like a candy necklace around the bag of garbage that was my life.

I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy for my troubles.  I’m telling you this to get your sympathy for hair bands.

Hair bands provided me with an escape from the misery of my life, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  I know it because I can see it on the faces of the thousands of people who still show up for the reunion tours, who still scream like it’s Beatlemania when Kip Winger walks out onto a stage in his leather pants, and to women like me who feel proud to see Lita Ford still tearing that shit UP.

It’s the pageantry.  The wink-winkiness of it all.  The pointy guitars and choreographed moves while ripping out scales at nearly supersonic speeds.  The men in frosted pink lipstick and thigh-high red boots and the women in flamey leather jumpsuits pouting for the photographer in Circus magazine.  The frontman wearing a pair of cow-print chaps and doing high-kicks onstage.  My god, how could you not love it?  How could you not love every single second of it?

I mean, it’s just rock ‘n roll. Why you “cool people” gotta be so uptight about it?

And I’ll tell you this much, smartypants, the fact that I love hair bands doesn’t detract from my love for “ooh serious bands” like Wilco and Dinosaur Jr even one little bit.  Just because you love sumo wrestling doesn’t mean you can’t also love greco-roman wrestling, or professional wrestling, or mud wrestling.  The love for one thing doesn’t detract from the love for all the other things.

That being said, if Jeff Tweedy from Wilco and CC DeVille from Poison were both tied to train tracks and I could only save one of them…

I’m just saying the guy doing the high-kicks in the leather pants is probably not going to be the one who ends up becoming train meat.

Old Man Yells At Cloud

I feel sorry for you Millennials with your student loans.  As a solid Gen-Xer, I was fortunate enough to not have to bear the burden of having student loans.  I know.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.

What’s my secret?  How did I manage to escape the burden of such heavy debt?  How rich are my parents?

Were my high school grades just that outstanding and I got a scholarship?  I mean, my extensive knowledge with regard to the 1982 NBC primetime line-up alone…

All good questions.  Every last one.

I managed to escape the student loan trap by being a goddamned dirtbag who never went to college.  I do not recommend this as an approach to avoiding student loan debt.

Not attending college was a “bold move”, in that I had no money to go to college.  Since nobody else in my immediate family had gone either, there was nobody to tell me how I could have even done it, anyway.  There was no internet to find this information.  We were poor as fuck, so nobody knew the first thing about crazy shit like “applying for financial aid”, or “talking to someone about your future”.  When you grow up poor, you are acutely aware that you don’t have a future.  It was just assumed that if you didn’t have $40,000 in cash lying around, then you didn’t go to college.  Go find yourself a jobby-job.  End of story.

As the brilliant Ted Knight so eloquently says in Caddyshack, “Well, the world needs ditch-diggers, too.”

When people asked me on my graduation day from high school what I was planning on doing after school, my answer was that I was going to, you know, hang out.  See some bands.  That’s exactly what I did, too.  I hung out.  I saw some bands.  I had no car and no job.  Had my mother not gotten remarried and moved out of the house, I would have had nowhere to live, either.  She let me live rent free in the old, falling apart house for six months as a graduation gift to me, thank god.

After lying around on the couch doing nothing for months on end and slowly descending into a flaming bout of mental illness which was akin to those scenes in “The Aviator” where Leonardo DiCaprio is crazy as fuck, manic with OCD, stops bathing, and keeps repeating the same sentences over and over while twitching, I finally pulled myself out of it and got an entry level full-time job that paid me $6.00 an hour, through a friend who could also give me a ride there.  My two-week paycheck, after taxes and whatnot, for 85 hours of work, was $373.00.

Anne eventually moved in and we split the rent at the house.  We relied heavily on the Burger King “Two Cheeseburgers and Two Fries for $2.22” deal for meals, and ate at our parents’ houses whenever we could.  I still didn’t have a car and instead had to pester everyone I knew to give me rides.

I was fortunate that my mother’s husband surprised me with an awesome used car one day when I was 21 years old, that he let me pay him back for over a five year period at $100 a month with no interest, otherwise I would have never been able to get a car on my own.  I was never able to put more than $5 worth of gas into it at a time.  The first time I could afford a full tank of gas, I was 26.

In the end, stuff worked out, and by “worked out”, I mean I spent decades of my life not even having $400 to my name.  If I had to estimate how much money I spent cumulatively in overdraft fees at my bank, it would be in the thousands.  Sometimes I overdrafted on purpose, and took the max amount of cash out as sort of a gonzo loan until payday, where I would deposit my paycheck at the end of the week and it would just take my account back up to $0.

After working full-time for 16 years, the first time my checking account had $1,000 in it, I was 34 years old.  I felt like a millionaire.  I opened my first savings account when I was 36, and didn’t start contributing to a retirement account until I was 37.

When the subject of my lack of higher education has come up at job interviews over the years, it makes me feel like I want to literally die right there in the interviewer’s office.

“You mean you didn’t go to college…at all?”

Then they make the face.  The face that, if I’m lucky enough to be hired, makes me feel like I have to work ten times harder than everybody else, just to prove that I’m worthy of the position.

That’s why it is incredibly insulting when someone asks you what college you went to, and when you tell them that you didn’t go to college, they say, “Good for you!  I wish I hadn’t gone!”

It’s like telling someone who has polio that you wish you could go back in time and not get vaccinated against polio.

Why am I regaling you with all this nonsense?  Because I want to impart one large piece of wisdom on you.  GO TO COLLEGE.  A CHEAP ONE.  FOR A DEGREE THAT WILL SOMEDAY HOPEFULLY MAKE YOU SOME MONEY.*

“Okay!  I’m thinking of majoring in philosophy!”

No.  If you tell me that, I will push you into a fire and walk away.

You can toss any arts degree in there while you’re at it, and I say that as someone who has both tried to make a living as an artist and is a huge, huge supporter of the arts.  Someone whose friends are almost all exclusively artists.  Someone who believes art is the most powerful language in all of humanity.

Had I had the ability to go college when I got out of high school, I surely would have majored in some broke shit like creative writing, or painting, or poetry.  You know, things you absolutely do not need a degree for in order to do them.

Get an accounting degree.  Major in international finance.  Medicine.  Science.  Engineering.  Something with computers and whatnot.  You can work your job and still write poetry in your spare time.  Also, your poetry sucks.

That was uncalled for.

I guess what I’m really saying is loans or no loans, nearly everyone is fucked unless they’re born with money.

 

*This is just one humble dirtbag’s opinion.  Your anecdotes where you fully disagree with me or show me your student loan bills will be printed out, put through a shredder, and then used as kindling for a drum circle bonfire, which I will not actually be attending, because “drum circle”.

It’s a Cruel. Cruel Summer.

Let’s talk about the kid with the pool.

Everyone knew this kid, and maybe you were this kid.  I’d be surprised if you were, because I rarely associate with demons from Hell.

At least not since I got out of the music and insurance businesses.

The kid with the pool could be a girl or a boy, black or white, rich or poor.  The kid with the pool could be anyone, anywhere.  The one common theme among all kids with the pool was that they never wanted to go in the pool.

I hated the kid with the pool.

Let’s call them KWP for short, because I am already tired of typing out “kid with the pool” and we’re only getting started here.

KWP never had a regular, everyday pool, either.  KWP had an awesome pool.  A pool with a slide and/or a diving board.  A pool with one of those hot tubs that spills over the side into it.  A pool that’s screened in so you don’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes.  A pool that had a sweet boombox on the porch where you could listen to your Beastie Boys License to Ill cassette all the live-long day and gloat about how awesome sixth grade is going to be next year.  An awesome pool.

An awesome pool that they “weren’t in the mood” to go swimming in when you came over.

On any summer day in South Florida, it gets so hot that you literally contemplate suicide.  Then you think, “Nah, it’s not that bad” and decide to go on living, and then take one step outside and think, “I wonder how much carbon monoxide it would really take to kill me?”

The fact that we didn’t have air-conditioning in my house growing up made this red-hot strife approximately one billion times worse.  We were so miserable inside that ramshackle sweatbox, a slow gas leak in the kitchen would have done wonders for morale.  I bet at least half of the fist-fights in my house would have never happened if we had just had stupid air-conditioning.  And also if we weren’t born mean assholes.

You would wake up on any summer morning, drenched in sweat from sleeping in a 90 degree room all night, and call up KWP.  The conversation would go like this:

“Hey, it’s Maggie.  Wanna hang out today?  It’s supposed to be really hot so I was thinking we could go swimming and lay out.”

KWP:  “I don’t know.  I may feel like swimming later.  You can come over now, though.”

You don’t want to seem too eager when you show up at KWP’s house, because the more you let on that you want to swim, the more KWP will resist the idea because, as I may have mentioned earlier, KWPs are demons from Hell.

In an effort to not appear too eager, instead of showing up in just your bathing suit with a beach bag full of stuff, you just tie on your bikini top and then put a t-shirt over it so that the strings hang out the top of the collar in the back.  Bikini bottoms go on under your regular shorts.  No pressure, KWP.  The bikini top strings hanging out the top of my shirt are merely a visual hint that pool-partaking might be a fun thing to do.  KWP did, after all, say that they may want to go swimming later.

Then when KWP opens the front door, they look you up and down and say, “Oh, hey.  Come on in.  I just put on The Goonies.”

Then you say, “Oh, wow.  Haven’t you already watched that like fifty times?  I just rewatched it for the tenth time last night!”

This has no effect on KWP.  Nothing doing.  You’re sitting through that whole movie, in your bathing suit, eyeing the glistening pool just outside the sliding glass door behind you.  KWP will pause the movie to take phone calls, make a sandwich, play an Atari game, and stretch out this 51st viewing of The Goonies to a three hour affair.

As the credits roll, you stretch out a little when you stand up and say, “Man, the pool looks really good today.  Wanna go jump in?”

Then, naturally, KWP says, “Oh, my mom said nobody’s allowed to use the pool for a few days.”

Damn you to Hell, KWP.  You could have said that way, WAY earlier.  But no!  Heavens no!  KWP has to string you along all day.  And to top it off, when KWP’s mom comes home, she asks why you’re not in the pool on such a hot day.  KWP looks away and says nothing.  Oh ho hooo, KWP!  On top of being a pool-tease, KWP is also a filthy liar.

Hey, look.  I’m not an idiot, despite what “college admissions officers” may tell you.  I know that KWPs are afraid that everyone is just using them for their pool and they want you to prove your friendship to them before they’ll agree to go swimming.  I assume all KWPs were emotionally damaged by having a pool as kids, and grew up to be those non-committal types in relationships who never trust anyone’s motivations and they eventually turned their angst into one of those awkward early Sex and The City episodes where people still talked at the camera.

Here’s the thing, though, KWP.  I’m going to save you a ton of time in therapy:  People can like you and still want to swim in your pool.  The two things are not mutually exclusive.

So let me in your goddamned pool.  How can you live in that house and look at that pool all day long and not want to get in it?  What are you, sick?  Are you SICK?  You get some kind of cheap thrill off of dangling pool time in front of people and then snatching it away?  What is the big deal, KWP?  LET’S JUST GET IN THE POOL.  It’s not like I’m going to get in the pool and then ignore you.  I’m going to get in the pool and then we’ll play Marco Polo or some shit.  I’ll even let you be Adrock when we pool-rap to “Brass Monkey”.  We’re still hanging out together!  We’re having fun!  Why do you slam the door in the face of fun, KWP?  WHY DO YOU REFUSE TO BE HAPPY?

If you don’t work this stuff out, you can probably count on dying alone, KWP.  I don’t want to have to be the one to tell you that, but it’s true.  Let me be your friend.  Let me be your pool’s friend.  Learn to trust people again, KWP, because you deserve it.

And because you’re annoying the shit out of everyone.