Thursday, June 28, 2007

Love Letter to Duran Duran

It was perfect timing.

Duran Duran came to play at the Hammerstein Ballroom on June 17, 2007. Perfect because I wanted to plunge into a chapter about my adolescent obsession with them, but I was having trouble.

I just couldn't cross over into that state where the writing flows and the reality of the room around me simply vanishes. I knew I had a lot to say, but each time I tried to begin, words landed on the page with a splat. There was a complete lack of depth. It read like a recipe for orphanage gruel.

I even tried changing things up – instead of typing, I wrote by hand in a notebook. It was agonizing. This was a subject of considerable passion – at least for my teenage self. Why
did I feel so stalled?

When I was in junior high, my best friend Charlene and I built our worlds around Duran Duran. They weren't just our favorite band; they were an entire (future) lifestyle, about
which we dreamt constantly. During the final months of 8th grade, we co-wrote an entire novel in which we created characters based on Duran Duran (in our book, "Tibetan Red"), and idealized grown-up versions of ourselves. "Charli Austin" and "Madeley Fairchild" were private detectives who shared a four-story brownstone in Manhattan. Our book begins when they're hired to go on tour with Tibetan Red to protect its lead singer from the insanely jealous and murderous jilted ex of his supermodel girlfriend.

When I went to see Duran Duran two weeks ago, (alone, because it's getting increasingly difficult to dig up a Duran Duran fan who doesn't have to stay home with the kids), I was
transported back in time to 1983.

Those familiar faces. Better known to me than my own, I think. Shadows falling slender beneath their cheekbones, the touchable slopes of their jaws. Impish grins branded onto my brain from hours of staring at pin-ups from Bop and Star Hits. Like a cozy sort of déjà vu, I revisited a parade of postures, scowls, plump lower lips, knock-knees, sharp elbows, boyish cheeks and funny walks that once represented burning hope. Five imperfect but undeniably cute Englishmen, a collective channel for my desire to grow up, be free, feel deeply, see the world, and have a fabulous wardrobe.

I'm a great big dork and I know it, so I have no problem telling you this: during the concert, I decided to play a little game with myself. In the middle of "Wild Boys", I thought, "For the next two songs, I'm going to pretend the band on stage is not Duran Duran, but Tibetan Red, and that I'm actually Madeley Fairchild, and I'll really psyche myself into believing I'm living inside the book."

And as I stood there, I morphed into Madeley Fairchild 2007, attending a Tibetan Red reunion concert. And an entire sequel to my junior high book spilled forth in my mind, like a hundred Technicolor daisies erupting from the ground in some psychedelic animation you'd see on Sesame Street.

Madeley and Chaz divorce in 1986. They had been madly, deeply, lip-bitingly, gut-achingly in love, but she refuses to stand by and watch him coke himself to death. After the divorce, Chaz nearly has a nervous breakdown, but his best friend and band mate Tyler comes to his rescue and forces him into rehab in the nick of time. (Duranies, find the wink in that last line.) Tibetan Red disbands, and the London tabloids break the news in big block letters across their front pages. Women and girls from Texas to Tokyo weep.

Years pass and one day, Madeley runs into Tyler. He has aged, but so has she. There is a joyous embrace and their cheeks ache from uncontrollable smiling. Intimate meetings in bistros ensue, with much reminiscing and rediscovering one another. Madeley ends up marrying Tyler, her true soul mate after all, who was once such a dear
friend to her, and inarguably the best friend her ex-husband ever had.

VH-1 proposes a Tibetan Red reunion. Madeley and Tyler now have to face Chaz as husband and wife. How will he react? How will Madeley feel about Chaz after all these
years, even though she's in love with her new husband Tyler? Will those old passions be rekindled? Will they be rekindled in Chaz, too?

I looked up at "my" dear husband Tyler on stage and smiled. I caught the eye of "my" ex-husband Chaz and saw him smile, and knew everything would be OK between us all.

It was scrumptious. I must've had a ridiculous grin on my face. It was just like the old days. I was digging Duran Duran on dual levels.

When I was fourteen I thought I loved the men of Duran Duran, personally and specifically, based on all their favorite things as listed in Superteen. ("Simon's FAVES!!!") But by high school I recognized them for what they are -- an entertainment product. Not my best friends. Not my boyfriends. Not necessarily even people I'd befriend under different circumstances. And my imagination and I have enjoyed them lustily – received double our money's worth. If I sound cold, make no mistake: I love Duran Duran. I love them for the music they've made, and the images they've created around themselves, because as a package, they've been a beloved template for my dreams.

The morning after the concert I woke up and started typing like a madwoman – about Duran Duran, about Tibetan Red, about being young and discontented because I felt trapped in a bleak suburban existence and wanted to grow up so badly so I could move to New York City and be the Madeley Fairchild I knew I was meant to be.

My brain was working faster than my fingers could type. The clouds parted; I was on a roll.

There won't always be a concert to take me back, but I've got two boxes of diaries, scrapbooks and magazines in storage – highly efficient fuel for my time machine. When I need
to get into the right mindset to write about, say, my pre-Duran preoccupation with S.E. Hinton and "The Outsiders", or my days performing in children's theatre, or my 5th grade fascination with the Holocaust, I'll have plenty of resource material.

I can't wait to remember what I forgot.