1984 was the year we moved from Vegas to Ventura, the year I was four, the year I was introduced to the Southern California culture that would come to be the only home I knew. We moved to a tiny duplex on Pierpont off of Seaward, two blocks from the beach and next to two surfers who were either in their late teens or 20s. Two surfers who would seem to define what I found attractive in the opposite sex. I was scared, shy, and completely enamored by them.
I had vague memories of Vegas before that. Mainly that it was hot, there were killer red ants that would bite and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents who lived there. The cartoons went off at 10am and football came on, our dog Pepper ran away, and my best friend was my beautiful towhead cousin, Jasmine. The other staple in our house besides football and cartoons was MTV. My clearest memory from Vegas was the debut of Thriller. I watched in my Michael Jackson t-shirt, and yelped at the end when Michael grinned at the camera with his cat eyes. The living was dimly lit yellow and smelled like smoke and a relative continued to ash his cigarette on my parents’ carpet. There was an underlying eerie tension throughout that evening and all of our time in Sin City.
In 84, we finally got the hell out of Vegas.
We came out west before the summer, when the sun and the sky glowed pink and light blue at night, dissipating parched ominous memories of Vegas. I danced in the living room to Bowie and Flock of Seagulls. The Ghostbusters theme played notoriously at the Skating Plus roller rink. Gus Christie, the president of the Ventura Chapter of the Hell’s Angeles participated in the Los Angeles Summer Olympics torch relay. And Madonna released Like A Virgin.
And I began to notice things.
“Well now that I’m successful I have a million other things to worry about. Before I was just basically interested in my survival, like, what I was going to eat, and what I was going to wear when it got cold outside and where I was going to live. But now I have to worry about who’s ripping me off or is my accountant paying all of my bills and is my lawyer making all those deals for me and um,” she pauses and rolls her eyes, “you know, boring and mundane things like that.”
She has a large black bow in her dirty blonde hair which is highlighted and dark red lipstick and she keeps twirling her hair in her fingers and grins sheepishly at the camera while her green eyes seem to be saying something else entirely.
“What made you come to New York?” the interviewer asks.
She was smiling flirtatiously towards the interviewer, but her expression turns thoughtful when he asks this, as if she was caught off guard. She bites her lip and looks down. She fidgets with her hand. “I don’t know,” she says softly.
“When I was five years old,” she starts, “I just woke up one day and I had this idea that I was going to come to New York. I just had to, so I graduated, or, as soon I graduated from high school I came here. I graduated, like early, and I just, kind of ran away.” There is a pause of reflection, then a gleam in her eyes, a naughty smile.
“Came here as soon as I could.”
“When you came here, was there something you were looking for, or trying to achieve?” the interviewer asks.
She rolls eyes up, almost embarrassed, it’s hard to tell, and then closes them. “Fame and fortune.” And then she giggles. “Yeah.”
“I think that the world sees images. I mean, you build an image for yourself and the world ends up seeing only that aspect of you. Maybe eventually there…a person, every person is multi-faceted and hopefully, the longer your career goes on the more you can get that out of you, but I,” a pause, then a grin, “I couldn’t begin to tell you what the world doesn’t see of me right now. There’s a million things.”
“What I would like to ultimately achieve I already told Dick Clark on American Bandstand.” She twirls her hair and sighs. “So I’ll repeat it again, and um, and annoy everyone who was annoyed before when I said it.” She looks directly into the camera, into our eyes. “I want to conquer the world.”
The girls in the Legs video by ZZ Top, one that I witnessed more than numerous times throughout that year, 1984, I wanted to be them. I wanted to wear stockings and high heels and dance around and have people notice me, have boys notice me even though I was so young, and somehow those images of those girls, the ones with the legs, is embedded in my mind and as I watch this video thirty years later, I realize just how much it had an impact on me, despite its overwhelming cheesiness and despite that back in the day it was considered sexist, it’s a classic story of a woman realizing the goods she’s had along.
“You know sometimes people think that if you’re a girl you’re going to be a pushover and they can get away with more. They can kind of pull the wool over your eyes, you’re not going to be as strong as a man in getting what you want, demanding what you asked for, but um…I just surprise them and they see that they’re wrong. And on the other hand, the advantages are the um…the charms, you know, that people always fall for.”
Besides the surfers next door, the only other man that made my stomach twist with butterflies that year, was a blonde rocker from England who sang on TV about a song I couldn’t understand, White Wedding, and a song that seemed beyond naughty at the time, Rebel Yell. He was tough and hot and pure and I wanted to be the bride in his White Wedding video. I wanted to marry Billy Idol when I was four.
“You’ve come a long way since the days of Generation X and the only, uh, hangover from those days would appear to be your tough image…is that really you?” The interviewer is from New Zealand where the interview is taking place and while she seems to be trying awfully hard to be “cool” her vibe reeks “librarian” and disapproval of the rock star in front of her.
Billy smiles, dazed or maybe annoyed, and then his expression turns serious.
“Well I’m not really a tough person in the sense of being violent or aggressive physically. But I’m, uh, kind of tough about my attitude because that’s the only thing that kind of keeps you going in society is if you have your attitude together and you know what you think and you’re confident about what you think and you can make it work because otherwise people just walk all over you. Especially in an industry that cares the least about music. They care about money making, not about music, well I care about music. Keep that together, alright? You have to have a pretty heavy attitude,” he nods. “And people wonder why I stand there shaking me fist.”