I have an advanced degree in anthropology, so I might be forgiven at first for assuming that I had a slightly better understanding of why human beings act the way we do. And yet I quickly realized that this couldn’t be true as I prepared to press the play button on an audiotape that I hadn’t had the guts to listen to for over ten years. It’s physical evidence, basically, of me semi-stalking a member of the 80s band Duran Duran.
I’ve tried, over the years, to come up with a nicer-sounding label for myself than “semi-stalker”. I’ve tried out “Duranie” and “really big fan”, but they never quite captured the essence of my fascination with the band’s bass player, John Taylor. The trouble is, that even at the height of the story I’m about to unfold, I never felt like anything was amiss in feeling love for a man I had never even met. Everyone I knew had, at one time or another, been infatuated with someone. My best friend in high school used to break into the soccer star’s locker to read through his notes and leave him Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups anonymously. My best friend in college dragged me to every hockey game and after-party because of her obsession with the team’s goalie. She also bought him sweatshirts and baseball hats as gifts (and she was NOT his girlfriend). Girls did things like that to express their, well, great affection. Or something. Maybe it reflected an adolescent need to be closer to someone, to know something intimate about someone else, or possibly even to know something deeper about ourselves.
The fascination with Duran Duran began in the early 80s when I was twelve-years-old and they were at the height of their career. Imagine the scene: me and my best friend, C, sitting on the carpeted floor in my den with a pink ghetto blaster nestled between us, an open Tiger Beat magazine on my lap, the tape recorder running. We are flipping through a special issue and taping ourselves talking about Duran Duran. Using seventh-grader logic, we have decided that Duran Duran would naturally be fascinated to hear what we are saying about them, so we are planning to ask my mom to send the tape to Duran Duran’s fan address. *
What I am about to listen to now, however, is not that tape. The tape we made in 1984 would have been cute or funny or more easily forgivable. The tape I have here, that I’ve been afraid to replay ever since it was recorded nearly a decade ago, when I was 27 and living in New York City, is far less adorable.
The British voice in the recording belongs to none other than Duran Duran’s John Taylor. In 1998, and after months of scheduling and rescheduling with his PR manager, John Taylor finally called me. Our conversation, an interview for an article I was writing about him for Time Out Magazine, lasted a total of 30 minutes. There were only two problems with this scenario: I wasn’t a reporter anymore and I didn’t work for Time Out Magazine. To be fair, the interview wasn’t based on a total lie. I did have a degree in journalism, I had once been a reporter, and I did know an editor at Time Out. But the article I was writing hadn’t exactly been accepted. I was writing it “on spec.”
Whenever I think back on my not-so-logical reasoning for prevarication to get an interview with John Taylor, I always end up asking myself the same set of questions: Why did I go to such extreme lengths just to talk to him? What is it that drives us to do things that we would never otherwise do? Obsession? Desire? And, maybe even more importantly, why was I holding on to a mirage? It was 2011 and I was still purchasing Duran Duran albums, going to their concerts, and wearing their t-shirts (occasionally in public).** Why do women, in particular, seem to form such strong attachments to one member of a band from their youth and then hang onto that infatuation for decades?*** What is it, exactly, that we are holding on to? I was hoping that listening to this tape might provide me with some answers.
My voice sounds strange to me, like I’m a teenager trying to sound like an adult. Talking to John Taylor has sucked me into a time and space warp. I’m desperate, at this point, to keep it together. The last thing I want to do is to blurt out something ridiculous like “I love Duran Duran.” Or worse, just “I love you.” It isn’t audible in the tape, but I know I’m sweating. By this point, I’m fighting an intense urge to explain everything to him. Not only about how I’ve lied to get him on the phone, but about how my brother died in an accident, and then my mom in another car accident, about how I went to live with my alcoholic father in a strange city after my mom’s funeral at age 14. That the only thing that made getting through everything easier was listening to his band, Duran Duran, locked away in my bedroom, staring at his pictures and dreaming about a better life.
In the background on the tape, I hear the voice of John Taylor’s small daughter.
Instantly, I cut to a memory of me carrying file folders down to the trash can in the basement. I’m crying bitter tears as I pass my dad on the stairs. “What the hell is going on?” my dad says. I snuffle and say, “John Taylor is getting married. It was on MTV News. I’m throwing out all my Duran Duran stuff.” My dad is so stunned by this revelation that for a second he doesn’t say anything at all, then shakes his head. As he gets to the top of the stairs, I hear him tell my stepmother that I’ve finally gone completely nuts.
To be continued. . . .
*[Footnote: C and I maintain that my mom never actually mailed the package, despite the fact that we never found it in her belongings.]
** [Footnote: Duran Duran recently released their new album, All You Need Is Now, and are on tour to support it. Go to their website for more info.]
*** [My best friend, C, had a serious obsession with Michael J. Fox that continues to this day, so I don't mean to exclude actors here. However, there seems to be something in particular about members of bands or singers that makes teenage girls especially insane. See Justin Bieber and "Beliebers" for a recent example.]