CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 


I think I've just committed some sort of eighth-grade crime. I just had dinner at an Indian restaurant off I-Drive where there was a framed, signed photograph of The Cure (and one of Bill Frist, oddly), and now I'm about to sit down with super-suave crooning coif Martin Fry of ABC, who would never be caught dead with egg in his hair. My life has come full circle.

It goes without saying that tonight is the Velvet Sessions at Hard Rock, and for once I'm not here dripping scribble-puss irony but rather the flop sweat of actual starstruck nervousness. I know the drill, but tonight the drill is spinning a disco ball on its tip while simultaneously rubbing my nose in gold lamé and flipping out words like, "If you judge a book by the cover, then you judge the look by the lover; I hope you'll soon recover; me, I go from one extreme to the other!"

Anyway, nerves stimulated by the curry, eggplant and ground beef swirling around both my and my forever-best-friend Taylor's bellies, we opt for a poo once inside the Hard Rock lobby, choosing stalls next to each other and passing a tiny bottle of mouthwash back and forth underneath. "We're like bulimics, only sitting down," I giggle to myself.

Pipes cleaned, we rustle about in the gathered throng, picking up many of the observations I've picked up before about people of a certain age feathering their 14 hairs, but I write none of it down. I'm not here to dis the Velvet Sessions tonight. I'm here to bow at its feet and lick between its toes. I'm meeting Martin Fry and I can't even stand myself.

After a short period of contrived mingling involving photographs and a woman who could do the best Charo impression ever, we're told that Martin is indeed ready for us. Yippie-aye-yippie-aye-yayay! Or something.

Outside the greenroom, I get into perhaps the only known ABC lyric duel ever with a fan who's there to get his record signed.

"Well I hope and I pray that maybe someday, you'll walk in the room with my heart …" I croon.

"Drop your pants," he concedes.

No, thank you. Not now. Not when Martin Fry is brushing by in a shiny purple suit.

"Looks like somebody found a sale at the Men's Wearhouse," somebody says.

Inside we're greeted by Martin with all of the expected arm flourishes that typically accompany hors d'oeuvres trays and a wet bar. He is the perfect host, offering me whatever it is that I want. Food? No. Drink? Yes.

And then I sit down on the couch with Taylor, and the oddest thing happens. Martin grabs an ottoman and pulls it up right in front of me. That's right (and I know you don't care), the glamour king of my childhood who was not Nick Rhodes just pulled up in front of me ... to talk to me. I'm dying.

"It's nice to do some shows here. I've been doing loads of shows in England with people like Robbie Williams, who's not big here, but is huge in Europe. Sort of stadium shows," he gets into it, dropping names into the carpet.

"It's been interesting the past couple of years, because the '80s has become, uh, revered. There's a generation that is kind of bamboozled by the shoulder pad. There's a generation that's into myself and my contemporaries."

Omigod. He's going to say it. I know he's going to say it. OK, go ahead and say it.

"Bands that sound a little bit like Duran Duran, y'know, that kind of thing."

I have no idea who he's talking about. And then follows a mouthful of Spandau Ballet and an upchuck of Rod Stewart.

"I just did about 70 shows with Tony Hadley. This is just kind of warm-up, really. David Palmer has been playing a lot of shows with Rod Stewart lately, so it's great that we were able to get together."

Palmer, the original drummer, is here to tickle the high hat, and my fancy, too. And then this happens.

"Skyscraping was the last album," I pluck at my research and my hair.

"YEAH," he interrupts me. "We did that on Deconstruction …"

"In '98 …."

"YEAH. YEAH. YEAH."

"Are you going to reco …"

"YEAH. We got nine songs. Just gotta write some more to finish it off. YEAH."

This isn't an interview. I'm just flypaper for staccato spitballs of '80s grandeur, and of course I couldn't be happier.

"Our responsibility is to play 'The Look of Love' and 'When Smokey Sings,'" he seems very responsible.

"And 'All of My Heart'?"

"Oh, yeah."

Happier now.

"I never undervalue that. It's a real privilege to get up there and sing 'All of My Heart.' Some people from my generation are out there and a little bit jaded. But some people are out there still kicking it 30 years older than me. It's really interesting. It's been an interesting ride."

The conversation percolates into something involving the shifting tides of the music industry and that peculiar '80s spirit that made people just "throw it together" – names like Boy George, Human League and Frankie Goes to Hollywood are sputtered out over my head and into my tape recorder, while I relish this unique opportunity … and my drink. It's time for Martin and David to hit the stage, so we jockey our way to the front and spend the next hour bouncing and spilling like we always do. Martin cleans up "Poison Arrow" by removing my favorite refrain ("Stupid, stupid") but the rest is pure genius, even if it is played twice.

But my heart has already been poached, gloriously, as my eighth-grade crime has met its true, fabulous punishment.

billymanes@yahoo.com

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