Authors: Jaime Clarke
For David Ryan
If you haven't heard of us, your friends probably have. You might have a copy of our album,
We're Masterful Johnson
. But there are a lot of bad rumors and gossip about us and how we became famous and what happened, so this is for the record.
The most untrue thing said about us is that we're rich kids, which makes me and Daisy so mad we can't talk. The snobbery in that suggestion is maddening. Plus it implies lazy afternoons by the pool waiting for our favorite video to come on MTV. We resent that. Anyone who's ever done anything knows it takes a lot of hard work and always a little luck and when someone is an overnight sensation they've really been at it for years.
Just because we rode around Phoenix in limousines people assumed we were rich. But no one ever knew where the limousines dropped us off at the end of the night, at my house at Estrella, where I lived with Ma Bell and Birdy, two tip-top guys me and Daisy met after dropping out of high school.
Me, Ma Bell and Birdy lived in the only finished house in the development, which had been deserted since the guy who owned it went to prison. Estrella was supposed to be a dream community for affluent families who wanted to live west of Phoenix, away from the center of the city which, since the earthquakes in California and the floods in the Midwest, was spreading like a stain. Estrella was hidden by the Estrella Mountains and far enough out that we never saw anyone except ourselves. Once in awhile a car would park on one of the deserted streets on a Friday night and we could hear the radio blasting from the car while who-knows-who made out. All the paved streets had names like Buena Vista and Morning Glen, or Wonderview and Cactus Wren.
Like I said I lived there with Ma Bell, who was twenty-three and worked for Motorola, a huge technology company. I'm not sure what exactly they make or do, but Ma Bell was the first to move into the house. He had the master bedroom upstairs, which someone had tastelessly decorated in blue pinstriped wallpaper (to match the blue carpet). It could've been black for all you knew, though. Ma Bell never turned on the lights because his bank of computers gave off enough light for him to see by. He worked from generators (we didn't have any electricity) and cell phones (or phone service). Anytime I asked him what he was working on all he said was, It's something for work.
Birdy, on the other hand, didn't have a job. He was seventeen and he sometimes lived with his family, who I guess didn't care much for him. He had dropped out like me and Daisy and he mostly listened to his music or slept during the day because he was out all night tagging under
passes with his name, which he could do very elaborately in multicolored spray paints.
It was Birdy who got the limos for us. His old man ran a limo company, King Limos, and all we had to do was call up and a limo would come for us. Practically every Saturday night me, Daisy and Birdy got picked up by the limousineâsometimes white but usually black and stretchâand we cruised the malls until they closed, hanging out the window, yelling at people we knew, or cuties, and then on to Mill Avenue where we usually attracted everyone including the cops, who told us time and again that we couldn't hang out the windows.
Me and Daisy felt famous in the limo and it was part of how we fantasized it was to be famous, which was having nice cars, wearing really nice clothes, living in a nice neighborhood and basically just having the things you wanted. And people would give you things. In magazines and on TV it never looked like any celebrity was hurting for anything. We couldn't imagine Madonna eating a hot dog at an A&W, or waiting in line for tickets to a movie. Not that she
do those things if she wanted to, but Madonna wanting a hot dog wasn't the same thing as me and Daisy wanting a hot dog.
Daisy lived at home with her mother, who was a stewardess and was never home. I spent a lot of time at Daisy's house, which I liked for a number of reasons including the fact that I could take a hot shower. I'd come over and the limo would wait while we got dressed to go out, Daisy always wearing her mirrored sunglasses that I kidded her by calling her serial killers. Eventually I just moved all my stuff into Daisy's bedroom.
We liked to dress outlandish like rock stars, which is what we wanted to be. We wanted to be a real band, for sure, but we weren't really
, that was the problem. That was the problem from the beginning, when it was the three of us. Me and Daisy and Stella wanted to be just like our favorite bandâprobably the best band in the entire world, Bananarama. See it was perfect. Me and Daisy are sort of opposites like how Sara Dallin was the blonde one and Keren Woodward the one with the dark hair and exotic features. And Stella looked just like Siobhan Fahey (it's spooky how much she resembled Siobhan: she had the same small mouth and wide eyes, except her eyes were blue. That's what guys liked most about Stella, her eyes. Guys said she looked like a doll, and Stella liked that). Most people don't know Bananarama's real names, but there you are. So our idea was to start an all-girl band in America (little-known fact: Bananarama is in the
Guinness Book of World Records
as Britain's most successful all-girl group) and become famous, maybe do a tour with them. We wished we were aware of Bananarama when they were in their heyday, but me and Daisy were just born when their first album,
Deep Sea Skiving
, came out in 1983. We're pretty sure that like everything else from the '80s, Bananarama will have a renaissance. It just feels like the right time. Everyone is sick of today's hyper-ironic music. People crave fun, we think. And the music of the '80s
fun: âThe Perfect Way' by Scritti Politti was a song you could dance your ass off to, and âSafety Dance' by Men Without Hats was another one. Me and Daisy do like some '90s stuff, but most of it isn't fun. And the Spice Girls are shite. (We don't acknowledge the Spice Girls, who are basically ruining the advancements Bananarama made for
all-female groups.) Putting the fun back into music is the answer. Fun: âLove Shack' by the B-52's. Not fun: anything by Metallica. Fun: âI Want Candy' by Bow Wow Wow. Not fun: Smashing Pumpkins. The all-time most fun song ever: âCome On Eileen' by Dexy's Midnight Runners. Whenever me and Daisy hear that song we dance our asses off. If the music makes you want to jump out of your skin and dance (for instance, anything by Madonna from the '80s and early '90s), then it's good. âToo Shy' by Kajagoogoo comes to mind, too. That's my and Daisy's opinion.
A little known fact about Masterful Johnson is that we made a single when it was the three of us, long before
We're Masterful Johnson
. Stella's father loaned us the money to do it and we spent months on the lyrics. I can take credit for the first line, âYou are my end,' which wound up being our title for the song, but we were stuck after that and Daisy and Stella helped out by looking up some poetry. We studied Yeats and Keats and Wordsworth; those guys knew how to melt hearts. I don't know how much it helped us in the end, though. We paid some studio guys to come up with the song, which was called âWhat theâ, Who theâ, Hey!' I think between me, Daisy, Stella and Stella's father we still have the 500 copies we paid for. But we weren't down about our singing career. It doesn't happen overnight.
In the meantime Daisy got the idea that we should become models and found a modeling agency to represent us: StarryEyed Productions. Brad Johnson, who looked like the stereo salesman from
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
, told us he thought we could be supermodels. We were pretty excited about that. The wood-paneled walls of StarryEyed
Productions were covered with pictures of beautiful women and handsome men, but we never saw anyone else in Brad's office except Jimmy Rider, a seven-year-old cute-as-pie punk that me and Daisy and Stella grew to hate. Jimmy's real name was Hayworth Rhoades, but his parents thought Jimmy Rider sounded more like a movie star's name than Hayworth Rhoades, which is what his parents wanted him to be.
Brad booked the four of us in a fashion show at Thomas Mall on 32nd St. Brad got a couple of the merchants in the mall to sponsor the show, so the Gap and Miller's Outpost loaned us the clothes to model on the makeshift stage put up by mall maintenance. You could see people in the mall wondering what was going on. Our dressing room was the shipping and receiving area at Miller's Outpost, a small cement room stacked with cardboard boxes. The floor was littered with that styrofoam popcorn stuff. Brad warned us we should wear deodorant so we didn't sweat up the clothes so Daisy ran to the Osco Drug in the mall to buy a stick. Antiperspirant, Brad called out after her.
We each had two outfits for the show. But we didn't really have any idea about runway work. Our only reference was what we saw on
House of Style
on MTV and that looked pretty easy. You just sort of went out there and had a rhythm. But because the stage was so small, me and Daisy and Stella had problems keeping the right amount of space between us. And that pip-squeak Jimmy Rider was doing some sort of gymnastics routine between us. The fact that the speakers pumping out the music above us were weak didn't help either. People stopped to look but between Jimmy Rider
thumping the stage with his somersaults and the three of us dancing into one another, no one was particularly interested. Brad thought it went off great and beamed at us that the show was the start of our careers, but we knew better. Brad wasn't so happy though when he collected our outfits. Which of you is wearing perfume, he demanded. We sniffed ourselves and just then noticed we smelled like lilacs. Daisy pointed at the stick of antiperspirant: floral scent.
We laughed about that story for a long time and any time we laughed it made me and Daisy miss the old days, the three of us. We agreed we'd visit Stella (who moved to Hollywood to become an actress) after we'd restarted Masterful Johnson as a duo, like Bananarama had to do when Siobhan left the group to form Shakespear's Sister. We weren't really in touch with Stella then because we resented Stella selling out Masterful Johnson and moving to California. Plus Stella's obsession with celebrity deaths creeped us out. Stella keeps three separate notebooks, a Murder Book, a Suicide Book and an Accidental Death Book. At first she just had the Murder Book but when we met her, when she was nineteen, she had just added the other two. She used to let us bring the Murder Book to school. The first half was dedicated to details concerning John Lennon's death outside the Dakota in New York, with subsections on Mark David Chapman and
The Catcher in the Rye
. (Chapman was reading
Alice and Wonderland
and just happened to finish it the day before he shot Lennon. Stella found that out.) The second half is all about celebrity murders. Political murders don't interest Stella. JFK. King. Bobby Kennedy. Gandhi. People killing
other people over ideas was an historical fact, Stella said. None of it interested her, except Hitler. Stella was fascinated by a story about how Hitler almost committed suicide before he really rose to power. The
, an anti-Hitler paper, printed a story about how Hitler's beautiful half-niece was found dead, a bullet through her chest. The bullet was fired from Hitler's gun, which lay at her side. The death was called a suicide but people had heard Hitler and his half-niece arguing at his apartment the day before she died. There were rumors that Hitler and his half-niece were sexually involved, a rumor some people believed when it became known that the half-niece's nose was broken when they found her.
What if Hitler
committed suicide, Stella liked to ask. Can you imagine?
It was too big of an idea for us to imagine.