‘Not Under the Thumb of the Cynical Few.’
Tuesday, 29 September
I’ve often thought about writing a massive tome about my coming of age musings in the 1980’s. My 80’s was unique to me—lost somewhere between a John Hughes film and the ‘Cuts You Up’ music video by Peter Murphy. I started the 80’s like ‘The Geek’ from Sixteen Candles and become something of the order of a Bauhaus Mod/Goth.
It was an avant-garde decade for me.
My 80’s was filled with learning, wonderment, travel, style, romance and at times utter disbelief by my good fortune. In 1980 I was in Bloomfield Hills. By ’85 I found myself in Salt Lake City. By ’89, L.A.
And all thanks to Howard Jones.
Strange as it sounds.
Michigan radio in those days was terrestrial and awful. It still is. An endless rotation of 70’s and early-80’s rock anthems by the Romantics, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams with his first real six string bought at the five and dime. Not my scene.
So one day in July of ’84 I found myself driving Southbound on Woodward Avenue into Birmingham to visit Jacobson’s Department Store. On the local FM station came a song like nothing I’d heard before, yet, instantly it filled my soul with emotion and happiness. Turning down Old Woodward I had to await a string of less than clever songs by untalented musos before the DJ revealed the song title. Turning into the Jacobson’s parking garage I found an unoccupied spot on the first level of the structure.
‘New Song,’ said the DJ.
Really? By Howard Jones. A British New Wave singer. From his album Human’s Lib. This was everything and more I adored in music. I did not know exactly what New Wave was. Duran Duran? Sure. Spandau Ballet? Of course. But this was altogether different.
The moment changed the direction of my life.
Miami Vice would not premiere until September 1984, yet style already was an active part of my consciousness. Dad was a member of the local golf club. His contemporaries a who’s who of yuppie excess. I dug their Ivy League style: plaid long shorts and Polos shirts with popped collars for golf. They wore penny loafers without socks, club ties with untucked oxfords and blue dinner jackets with their university crests on them. Ralph Lauren rules. On the weekends these Lordly preps bust out their sports car of choice—Mercedes 560sl convertibles. Guards Red 944 Porches (As Jake Ryan drove ‘Sixteen Candles’), 328 Ferraris (Magnum PI style) and Jaguar XJS’. These guys were teflon. They knew they were never going to get so much as scratched by life. I would later learn they were wrong. Detroit dominance of the automobile industry died in the 80’s.
Summers were hot and humid. As Michigan summers are. I was alone. My best friend gone to France for two years. But I was not especially lonely. I had my writing. I had my music. New Wave. In it I found myself. Howard Jones led me to Thompson Twins, who led me to the Fixx, who led me to Devo. M-TV appeared and I discovered the brilliance in British Music Videos. ABC led to English Beat.
As 1984 drew to a close, Christmas in Naples, Florida sealed my first transition. I grew my hair out—filling it with Paul Mitchell sculpting foam—and butch wax and shaved down the back and sides of my head. I spent two weeks in the sun getting lovely and brown. I discovered—quite unexpectedly—girls began looking at me in grocery stores and restaurants. And not looks of derision either. This never happened to me before. On New Year’s Eve, as ’84 became ’85, I went to Marco Island with a girl and ended up snogging with her. And her two girl friends.
Life became a series of transitions. From warm tropical breezes to mountain snow. A drive from Michigan to BYU in Utah a transition in and of itself. Into the car in Bloomfield Hills I was the me nobody paid notice of. The farther West I transited the more the old was left behind. In the West I could be who I dreamt I could be.
I started Uni. January 1985. Winter. Especially cold in Utah. The legendary mountains filled with snow. I wore a long black cashmere trenchcoat and combat boots. Preppy became Mod. The opposing sex smiled. Everywhere. Sometimes I took off my Wayfarers and smiled back. But hardly ever.
Alphaville became my solace. The entire album. Forever Young for some. Jet Set Society for me. On a balmy July evening in Provo, Utah, the BYU (ASBYU) student government Organisations Director—a Junior with wavy locks and wicked frame— seduced this motorbike riding freshman on a grassy slope, hidden from prying eyes near the Botanic Trails behind the Smith Fieldhouse.
1985 became 1986 and the seminal ‘Summer of ’86’ at Brigham Young University summer school- where everything was possible-and this nerd fully transitioned to the person he wanted to be. On the cusp of 21 years in age I touched an assassin. Fair hair and suicide frame mine to have. And like most university romances it wasn’t built to last.
At times I spent more time fussing with my hair than studying. At Von Curtis Salon a teacher asked me to sit as a hair model for one of her classes. A dozen girls, their own hair kissed by the California sun smiled. One smiled most. Her blonde hair, sun tanned legs and blue eyes my personal Belinda Carlisle. For my 21st birthday she took from me what I really wanted taken.
That summer I went to San Francisco with my friend Memo. Returning to Michigan for August break before the Fall Term, I struggled. I only felt happy at St. Dunstan’s theatre or hanging around the boathouse with my thespian friends of an evening overlooking Cranbrook Lake, smoking cigarettes and going on endlessly about things unimportant. Past. Present. And future.
By 1989 I found myself living in Los Angeles. By 2001 I was living in Studio City and became involved with the president of Rock & Republic. Married. Moved to Sherman Oaks. The company soared. My style became Sid Vicious met posh schoolboy gone to seed. The Crisis of ’08 struck us all down.
Single in Los Angeles. Next transition. 2009. A most crazy year. I have been fortunate not to have been the type of chap who spent his time trying to meet girls. I’ve always been aloof and perhaps a bit disinterested. Instead, they sent me drinks with notes scribbled on cocktail napkins.
After a year of hedonistic LA excess another transition. Relationship with a woman too young for me. Moved to England. Lived a very British life againfor two years. The relationship soured. Left her. Moved to the Costa Brava in Spain where I wished to live since 2008 when I first visited Catalonia.
Single in Spain. Barcelona nights. Europe beckoned. Travelled the Continent: Belgium. Holland. Finland. Norway. France. And, of course, many trips to London and Folkestone for Euro Militaire.
Whilst in Valencia, Spain for a concorso I met a stunning blonde from Buenos Aires. Daiana. Immediately we fell in love. We moved in together in the Costa Brava and began Grand Tours. Fell in love with the Meat Packing District in Manhattan again. We married and I transitioned away from the wild life and nested in the happiness of parenthood with a baby boy named Tom.
The world IS my oyster. Really, I don’t need that 1988 red 944.
I have me. I have my wife. I have my little boy. It’s more than I could have dreamt.
I still listen to Howard Jones.