Ten Life Lessons I've Learned from Being a Die-Hard Duranie
1. No Matter How Much You Love Someone, You Cannot MAKE Them Love You Back
Determined to become Mrs. Simon Le Bon come hell or high water, I was pathetic, but extremely hopeful for a life as Simon's number one lady. Never mind that he was surrounded by a bevy of beautiful models (and eventually married one) or that I was an unsightly thirteen-year-old burdened with braces and bad posture; I was resolute in my mission to capture Mr. Le Bon's heart. I had it all planned out. I would have to wait until I turned fifteen in order to start working, but once I did get a job at the local Roy Rogers, I would save up enough money for a plane trip to England. Of course, that would be all I needed. Once I was there, my love for Simon would be enough to bring us together, forever.
Unfortunately, this plan didn't work out quite as I had
hoped. Before I could even turn fourteen, Simon was engaged to an eighteen-year-old
Canadian babe, Claire Stansfield. She was a model, of course, and I was
a devastated Duranie with bad skin. I do remember at the time, however,
that she needed a good eyebrow tweeze. Despite her Frida Kahlo look, I
was no match. Like any obsessed Simon fan, I cried myself to sleep for
nights on end and vowed that I would rise above this dire event and that
in just a few years, I would outgrow my gracelessness and blossom into
a sultry hottie just in time to steal Simon away from Claire.
2. Being a Drama Queen Will Get You Nowhere
Being infatuated with Duran Duran was very conducive to any teenage drama queen's theatrics. The band members were constantly becoming engaged, breaking up, getting married, filing for divorce, wrecking their yachts, and it was all chronicled in every trashy teen magazine. After learning about Simon's engagement to Claire Eyebrows in BoP! magazine, I proceeded to tear down all the Duran Duran posters from my bedroom walls (they were completely covered) and collapse on the floor in a pile of adolescent anguish. After temporarily pulling myself together, I grabbed a suitcase from my parents' bedroom and threw clothes into it while my mother looked on with concern. As I marched down the driveway into a violent rainstorm, curious neighbors peaked from their respective windows. My mother called after me from the front door.
"Where are you going?!" she shouted over the din of the rain hitting the pavement and the roofs of houses.
"To England! I have to stop the wedding!"
I made it as far as the neighbors' back yard at the end of our cul-de-sac, where I crumpled beneath their swing set and let the rain soak me from tip to toe. It was a remarkable performance deserving of a Teen Choice Award.
My friend Jodi, who lived across the street, was equally infatuated with John Taylor and experienced similar trauma when John became engaged to a model, Janine Andrews. Unlike my blatant outburst, her performance was tense and controlled, conjuring visions of Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons. After calling me and whispering, "John's engaged to the bitch," she proceeded to walk out to her front yard, root herself against an oak tree and hang her head solemnly. She stood like that for hours on end, not moving, occasionally nodding to herself as if she were experiencing some sort of internal dialogue. Every once in a while I would walk outside to hand her notes I had written containing inspirational messages like, "WE WILL RISE ABOVE THIS" and "THAT STUPID BITCH COULD NEVER LOVE JOHN LIKE YOU DO."
My sister, infatuated with Nick Rhodes, found out about his engagement to model, Julianne Friedman later that summer. I remember that Nick and Julianne looked frighteningly alike, apart from the fact that Nick was usually wearing more makeup than she was and appeared to be about half her height. Not nearly as dramatic as Jodi and I were, my sister didn't know what to do with herself. Fortunately, Jodi and I had a few suggestions, one of which involved getting her angst out through containment in a giant cardboard box. After dragging a refrigerator carton from Jodi's garage, we encouraged her to get inside and let herself begin the grieving process.
"Just go insane," I pressed. "You know you need to."
We sealed the box with electric tape and pushed it down the slope of our front yard with my sister inside it. When it reached the bottom and we opened the box to check on her, she seemed dazed but elated.
"I think we should do it again," she said.
We repeated this inane form of therapy for the next two hours as the ever-perplexed neighbors looked on curiously.
4. Never Take Your Mother for Granted
My poor mother. She handled the job of being mother to a Die-Hard Duranie with grace and patience. When I think of the things I said to her during that period and some of the things I did (see Drama Queen above), I shudder. After discovering the Claire and Simon alliance, I outdid myself as a drama queen, being sure to recline catatonic for hours, staring up at my Duran poster on the ceiling and refusing dinner. I remember throwing a head of lettuce at her one time when she asked me to help her make a salad. "Make a salad?" I cried. "Can't you see I'm dead inside?!" I remember the glazed look she gave me after the wad of iceberg just missed her face. I am now convinced that if I ever have children, I will produce a female as dramatic and demanding as I was. As they say - payback's a bitch.
Jodi's mother was equally tolerant. When the big D finally did roll into our area, Jodi's mother was kind enough to take us to see them. She deserves a medal for her bravery. Not only did a major snowstorm hit the greater Hartford, CT area that evening, but the three of us were so wound up, it was amazing we didn't faint before we got into the coliseum. Once Simon and company took the stage, it didn't take long for us to get so hysterical that Jodi's mother needed to escort us out into the lobby. I remember a security guard asking Jodi's mother if we were okay (we were basically on our hands and knees, gasping for breath). Jodi's mother smiled politely and said something about the situation being reminiscent of the Beatles. When the security guard laughed and agreed with her, we berated them both.
"How can you saaaayyyyy that? It's not the saaaame! They're our liiiives!!"
5. Emulating Your Idols Will Only Make You Look Like an Ass
Whoever coined the phrase, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" clearly never got a good look at a Duranie. For the most part, we were pubescent girls, which meant a lot of oily skin, gawkiness, and a host of other imperfections. Add fedoras, trench coats, and angular haircuts, and it becomes pathetic. Somehow, I never considered my wardrobe to be a problem or realized that you never saw Claire Stansfield or Simon's wife, Yasmin Le Bon, or any of the other model Duran crew dressed in jean jackets bedecked with pins of their boyfriend's/husband's band. These women were graceful and classy, clothed in Armani or whatever designer was hot at the time. Meanwhile the men in their lives looked like a bunch of new wave drag queens. But that was okay; they were the band. Being the band gave them license to look like asses and get away with it, get loads of respect, and even worship. Think about it: who in the "real world" can pull off wearing billowy white poet shirts and curtain tie-backs around their necks and still pull in a multi-million dollar paycheck and loads of swooning fans?
6. Keep Things in Perspective. Twenty Years from Now, You Won't Give a Flying Flingdoo Anyway.
I used to vow that I'd "love Simon foreeeeever!" Similarly, later in life I thought I'd die before my feelings faded for a guy I dated - a good-looking yahoo with cow dung for brains and a penchant for hitting on my mother. Turns out it would become great writing material and something my friends and I could laugh about for years to come. Likewise, when I think of myself sobbing in the middle of a coliseum lobby over a rock star with a flaxen mullet, I get a good chuckle. This is not to say that I've forgotten about Simon completely. In 1999 when the band (sans the Taylors) played L.A., the three of us Die Hard Duranies united from our separate corners of the country to witness the spectacle once again (minus Jodi's mom). Like the other now-adult Duranies around us, we screamed our heads off and reached longingly toward the stage. Luckily, we had excellent seats and I finally got very close to Simon - if you count his crotch, which he kept corkscrewing in the air just a few feet away from my face.
7. You're Really Not that Special
I used to think I was unique, despite the fact that I dressed like most other Duranies and had the same inelegance as most teenagers. I believed that Simon Le Bon would spot me across a crowded room in the near future and know that I was "the one" because my love for him was so intense. Yeah, right. Years later, I would meet one of my best friends and learn that she was equally obsessed with Nick Rhodes in 1983. She would tell me that she, too, thought she was the only person in existence to love Nick with as much passion as she did. (She and my sister have since agreed that it was a good thing they didn't know each other back then or they might have ended up mortal enemies as there can only ever be one "Simon girl" or one "Nick girl" in any pack of Duranies.) Like my sister, my friend Cat mourned the marriage of Nick and Julianne. She didn't try to squelch her grief by allowing herself to be thrown around in a cardboard box, however, favoring a more subtle and traditional approach. She told me upon reading the news in Smash Hits, she lit some candles, put on some Roxy Music, and stared out her bedroom window, trying to torture herself with visions of Nick and Julianne wrapped in each other's arms. We would also learn that we both tried to live out our tortured fantasies through novels we wrote that involved each of us and our Duran man. I'm sure there are thousands of former Duranies out there that did similar and possibly even stupider things. Unfortunately, individuality is hard when the object of your affection is a famous rock star.
8. Your Teen Dream is Never as Amazing as He Seems
Jodi finally met John Taylor, years later in L. A. after a solo show he played at the Viper Room. She related the story to me over the phone, anxiously recalling the details.
"The backstage area was so small, it was like the size of a cubby hole. He was sitting in a chair surrounded by security guard types."
As she told me the story I imagined a washed up rock star with a flailing solo career sitting on an imaginary throne. While she continued, I noticed the tone in her voice change from excitement to disappointment.
"I had these photos with me that I had taken of him at a previous show and one of the guys standing nearby was really impressed. I showed them to John and he just sort of shrugged and was like, 'eh, whatever'. Then he asked me for a cigarette."
She told me at this point she gave him a cigarette and made sure to lean over in her low cut blouse as she handed it to him. SCORE! Jodi got to show John the goods after all these years! Too bad he was too wrapped up in himself to notice.
9. Birmingham England is in the West Midlands between the M5 and the M4
When I went to school for a semester in England, my sister came to visit me after I finished my classes. We rented a Peugeot, started in Scotland, and followed the M5 all the way down the length of England to Wales, where we put the car on a ferry to Ireland. On our way, we got pretty loopy as sleep became a luxury we couldn't afford (we literally couldn't afford it and decided we were going to drive through three countries and ferry into a fourth all at once). On our way, we realized we would be driving right by Birmingham - homeland of the big D. Immediately my sister popped Rio into the tape deck (yes, we still listened to Duran Duran). We ended up singing the album from start to finish repeatedly all the way through South England. As we passed Birmingham, we could see the buildings in the distance, but couldn't stop due to lack of time. For a moment, I looked over, realizing that when we were hysterical teenagers, we would have given anything, ANYTHING to get there and now we were just whizzing past. This was where I wanted to go when I had found about Simon and Claire. This was where I was going to stop the wedding!
10. Don't Lose Yourself in Someone Else
When I think of all the time I wasted obsessing over Mr. Le Bon, I feel stupid. While I realize I was only thirteen and that preoccupying myself with a man who didn't even know I was alive is probably a normal teen rite of passage, it would unfortunately be the start of a destructive trend (obsessing over boys) that would follow me until I wised up years later. Being infatuated with Simon left me little time for myself. While I should have been concentrating on school and developing social skills, I was killing time worrying about crap that had absolutely no bearing on my real life like whether or not Simon would come out of his yacht accident all right. Years later, when I found myself in actual relationships, similarly, I would spend too much time obsessing over the other person and the relationship: Is he mad at me? Does his mother really like me? What if he breaks up with me before Christmas? It was a hard habit to break, but once I was able to do it, I found an abundance of time for more important things in life. While I'm still catching up on things I should have caught up on long ago, I suppose my initial dive into the world of the opposite sex could have been worse--I could have wasted all that precious time fixating over Hall and Oates or Huey Lewis and the News.
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