Now there's no looking forward. Now there's no turning back.
Pat Benatar is, obviously, the piÂegrave;ce de r?eacute;sistance in the aging girl-rock circuit, and I really need to sit on a couch with her. It's just that her manager, some hairpiece named John, isn't so hip to the idea at all. A preshow call to his cell phone produced an answer of "Why?" in between wet calzone chews.
"Well, I suppose she could use the press," I jeered. "I mean, she's Pat Benatar. I just need five minutes."
"You and everybody else," he lied.
So, suffice it to say, the fact that he is actually buzzing my cell as I uncomfortably linger in the backstage periphery of http://www.orlandoweekly.com/calendar/clublist.asp?c=967House of Blues (lost amid a throng of brown-bottle boozers) comes as a surprise. Our meeting brings only more weirdness, with John stammering at my apparent invisibility.
"This is my third time coming out looking for you," he scolds. "Just wait here ... Barry."
Still, Pat remains a charming figurine of a woman, measuring a scant 2-foot-2 and hardly showing a minute of her age. Next to me on the couch, Lady "Heartbreaker" is as pleasant as a woman in her situation can be. In fact, she's happy to talk to me.
"Actually, I have a room full of family next door," she corrects. "So you're giving me a couple of seconds for reprieve. I don't want to go back out there."
I wouldn't either. During my waiting vigil, I counted at least 30 patterned beach shirts among the supposed Benatar kin, and I began to fancy myself a modern-day Jimmy Buffett messiah. Family reunions obviously involve some sort of pig-in-a-pit roast and lots of awkward talk about tire rims and divorce. Pat just wants to cozy with her still super-hot husband (and guitarist/producer), Neil Giraldo, and their rock & roll spawn.
"It seems you've found the perfect balance in your professional and personal life," I obviate.
"Oh, yeah. Life is good," she sighs. "It was a goal. I was working towards it. Y'know, it's not always perfect, but most of the time it's pretty good."
Now that's not the feisty Pat I remember -- a woman whose headband-and-fist man-hater rebellion influenced everyone from Janet on "Three's Company" to Jo on "Facts of Life." Benatar is sifting herself back to the middle ground these days, carrying no cultural torch. Relevance is no longer her game.
"I don't really want to chase that anymore," she bows out. "I mean, if it happens, great. But it's 24 years for me. I'm not really interested in riding that train again. I'm really happy the way things are right now."
Pretty good. Really happy. Pass the Dramamine.
"Well you've obviously been an inspiration to a lot of people," I cooh, holding on to my illusions, and my headband. "How does that feel?"
"It's kind of a cool thing to be part of an era where females kind of broke out and did it."
But the headbands! You inspired no less than three of the coolest girls of Ridgemont High to shear their locks and gloss their cheeks in bitch-girl reinvention! You must feel something.
"I always say that you wear one thing once that will immortalize you forever," she regrets. "Just make sure that you really love it because you're going to see it always."
Would you ever wear a headband again?
"I don't think so," she scoffs, with a difficult and nervous laugh. "I think I only had it on one time."
Novelty aside, I lean into the curt chanteuse for a little memory-lane strolling, hoping maybe some "Behind the Music"-style oral-sex or substance situation will surface. Then, maybe some of the beige will wash away. "Do you ever wax rock-star with your peers?" I quiz. "Y'know, like Debbie Harry?"
"We were labelmates in the beginning, but not really," she snores. "But, you know, my life is pretty much around my kids and I'm not in the whole scene."
It's fast becoming clear why the management goon chuffed at my interview request in the first place. Miss Benatar doesn't really have anything to say. Neither, really, does she have anything to promote. A superfluous new album, titled (rather boringly) "Girl," is set for release in September, pending her husband's completion of production duties. Can we expect any surprises?
"No," she yawns. "It's guitar driven. It's not a blues record, it's a contemporary record. You're just gonna have to hear it. It sounds like us, like we're supposed to be."
How you're supposed to be is retired. What keeps you going?
"Him," she chuckles, pointing at her asshole manager, who's raising his hand like a back-of-class New Jersey brat with a bladder-control issue.
"He's got a big whip!"
Eew. He's also got a big wig.
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