The ups and downs of fame have always fascinated me. What does it take for a man or a woman or a band to connect and capture the attention of so many people.
What does that experience do to ordinary people?
Moreover, when you think you’re famous, but the rest of the world doesn’t get it…how does that make you feel?
I guess that’s the experience we’re exploring at the moment.
Enjoy the chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
“Mate, I can’t thank you enough for doing this for me.” I still couldn’t believe that Liam would even entertain the idea of coming with me downtown to find the reporter who’d interviewed us. “Alannah’s some kind of special lady,” I added as an afterthought.
“Alannah’s a cool chick and she understands,” Liam said, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his ripped jeans. We continued to walk the chewing-gum speckled street to the somewhat rough looking offices of the magazine headquarters.
I’d had some crazy idea in my head that the grandeur of LA would mean that everything around us would reflect the glamour that the rest of the world associated with the city. I found it strangely disappointing that at its core, it was simply another city in the sunshine—not unlike my own city of Auckland—but on a much grander scale.
The reporter we were seeking out seemed to me to be the only sensible way I had of getting Ruby’s personal details. Relying on social platforms wasn’t going to do it for me and besides, I knew I needed to make some kind of big gesture to get this woman’s attention. Begging for scraps on social wasn’t my style—nor was it ever going to work.
“This is the place, right?” Liam stopped and stood in front of a blue doorway which looked as if it were jammed in an alleyway between two much larger buildings.
I checked my phone. “This is it.”
We went to make for the door and a security guard who wasn’t quite a big as Liam stepped out of nowhere.
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
I pasted the most respectful look on my face that I could muster, looked past the green of the guard’s uniform and eyeballed him.
“We’re here to see Bev Kingston.”
The guard consulted a largish tablet that seemed to appear from nowhere and ran his finger up and down the screen.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Not as such,” I replied, “but she’ll be more than happy to see us.”
“Really?” Head cocked to one side, the mountain that stood between us and the door didn’t seem to think that Bev would be happy to see us at all.
“We’re from Yellow Lady,” I offered helpfully.
The security guard stared at me as if I’d just suggested that we’d arrived on a Unicorn and we had a monkey out back waiting to see Bev.
“Yellow Lady, huh?” He rolled the two words around in his mouth as if he were checking the vintage of a fine wine.
“A band,” I offered, “we’ve been playing the clubs downtown.”
Didn’t this guy know who we were?
“A band, you say?”
Was he going to repeat everything I said?
I clenched my hands at my sides and fought the desire to grab the security guard by his shirt and give him a good shake.
Instead I took a deep breath and worked hard to remain calm. “That’s right. Bev has just interviewed us for the magazine and we need to talk to her.”
From the guard’s blank expression, it appeared that my explanation had fallen on infertile ground.
“And your manager hasn’t got her number right?” The guard cracked a half-smile his features suddenly taking on some kind of animation that, until now, had been lacking from his demeanour. He reminded me of a cat playing with a mouse. I had a sinking feeling that he wasn’t about to let us through that door and what was the likelihood that Calvin would give me Bev’s number so I could chase after the photographer?
Liam stepped in front of me, not quite encroaching on the guard’s personal space, but he wasn’t far away from it.
“You going to let us in or not?”
The aggressive tone of his voice wasn’t going to get us anywhere. Clearly, Liam had had enough. I began to wonder why I’d even bothered bringing him. I could have faced this kind of outright rejection on my own and I wouldn’t have aggravated the security guard.
The guard stood his ground, having been confronted by Liam’s apparent assault on his masculinity, the animation immediately disappeared from his features.
“Negative, Sir,” he said his face once again an expressionless mask. “You’re not on the list and it’s not worth my reputation to let anyone through that door who isn’t on the list.”
“Come on,” Liam said to me, his irritation at standing out on the street coming off him in waves. “We’re wasting our time here.”
I had one more try. I turned to the security guard again, “You’re sure you’ve never heard of us, Yellow Lady?”
He shook his head. “Sorry.”
“Looks like you’ll have to work with Plan B,” Liam said as we turned our backs on the security guard and began to walk away from the reporter’s office.
“Well you were no fucking help,” I complained.
Liam ignored me and just kept on walking.
My real problem was that I didn’t have a Plan B.
Liam and I got back to the house in time to be told that Calvin had called a meeting. It was the last thing I felt like dealing with after my failed attempt to find Ruby.
It still stung that security wouldn’t let us into the reporter’s building.
Here I was, thinking that we were eventually getting a name for ourselves in this town and it turned out that no-one knew who the fuck we were.
I shook my head at the memory of the blank look on the security guard’s face when I mentioned the name of the band.
At least back home, in New Zealand, we’d be somebody. Hell, I consoled myself with the fact that I knew we were somebody back home. The first thing you had to do to ‘make it’ in New Zealand was go off shore.
I saw the fan pages on social. I knew what Calvin had done for us. The brilliance of putting me and Liam with the genius songwriting combination of Dylan and Marty. The two of them might have been a couple of wet-behind-the-ear middle-class kids, but damn, they could put a song together.
We were big news back home, but we were still nobodies here in the States.
I thought about sending Ruby a link to one of the articles that had been written back home about our rise to fame, but that seemed crass. Like so many of my fellow Kiwi’s I struggled with fame—as much as I could have done with its clout outside the reporter’s office—fame still remained something strange and mysterious.
Not unlike Ruby.
I’d have to come up with another plan if I wanted to see her again.
Maybe I’d fucked up. I began to wonder what the chance was of getting the reporter’s details out of Calvin. I’d barely thought about that before the man himself arrived.
He still had the strange ability to fill a room, no matter the size.
Calvin wheeled himself into the centre of the space where we’d assembled and a ripple of something filled the room.
The man had an air of authority about him that I’d never experienced in anyone else.
I knew I should quit feeling like a fake—I mean, I couldn’t let my experience with the security guard knock my confidence—I needed to get on board with the program and begin believing the bullshit that the press back home were publishing about us.
But that still seemed like some kind of slippery slope that I’d never be able to come back from. The tired voice in my head continued to try and warn me about the horrors of fame. I didn’t have to look far to see what life on the road did to people.
Those stories were all over the news, and then there was Steve back home. Who knew when, if ever, he’d make it out of hospital and when he did, what damage had he done to himself?
“Jesse, you here with us, or off somewhere else?” The sharp rasp of the sound of my name coming from Calvin brought me right back to where I sat. He had the ability to make me feel like an errant school-boy when I wasn’t paying attention.
Those were feelings from my past that I didn’t want to explore any more. The rejection at the door of the reporter’s office had obviously affected me a hell of a lot more than I’d expected.
I needed to shake off these dark feelings from my past and focus on whatever future Calvin was bringing for the band. Any more of this self-indulgent shit and I’d find myself on the first plane home. There were plenty of bass players in LA with twice my skills that he could replace me with and I’d been around Calvin long enough to know that all he cared about was the future of the band.
“Here, boss.” I flicked a salute in Calvin’s direction.
“He’s just pissed because we’re not household names in LA yet,” Liam added.
“Give it time,” Calvin said his eyes focussed on mine like laser beams, “and you will be, but you’ve gotta do the work, okay?”
I nodded, “Yeah. You got my undivided attention.”
“Good,” he said rearranging the way his chair sat in front of us so that he was no longer addressing just me but the band as an entire group.
We all sat in a small semi-circle around him in the living area that he’d adopted as his office space. At least five times the size of the office that he had back at the hotel in Auckland, it served well as a band meeting room. For some strange reason, I missed the comfort of the paraphernalia of Calvin’s touring days that adorned the walls of his office back home, but I couldn’t let my mind wander again. I needed to concentrate of what Calvin had to say to us all.
Dylan and Marty sat to the left of Calvin and Liam and I to the right, all wearing our unofficial band uniform of blue jeans and white or black t-shirts. A hangover from our collective Kiwi summers, not a single one of us, except for Calvin, wore shoes. It was something that the household staff struggled with, our walking around the house and the grounds without shoes.
“As much as I don’t like to blow smoke up the collective arses of you all,” Calvin began, “I think it’s fair to say that you’ve been filling the clubs and that you’re in hot demand.”
Marty and Dylan fist-bumped each other.
Liam remained passive and unmoved by the statement. I never knew what was going on in his head and that was probably a good thing. He and I had been here before. On the cusp of something amazing, only to have it ripped away.
Calvin continued, “On the back of the success of the club circuit, I’ve been able to negotiate a six-week tour around the East Coast, with a rider that if it goes well, then we can continue on.”
I felt the speed of my heart beat increase, struck by a moment of I’ve been here before that was so strong I thought I’d sat in this exact room before and heard those exact words.
“Yes!” Dylan said and he pulled his tight fist back down into his chest.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Liam sounded a warning rattle from across the room.
Calvin turned his chair toward me and Liam, “Let him enjoy the success,” Calvin warned, “You’ve all worked hard for this and you deserve it.”
“Any word on the next album?” Marty asked.
Calvin moved his chair back to centre. “Keep writing and we’ll let you know.” With a nod of his head he added, “A successful tour does wonders for loosening the wallet of record companies.”
“When do we leave?” I asked. What I really wanted to know was how many days did I have to try and find Ruby.
“Three days,” Calvin replied.
“Fuck,” Marty muttered, “not much time to prepare.”
“What’s to prepare?” Calvin asked. “You’re a working band, you take what you’ve been doing in the clubs on the road.”
“You did okay back home,” Liam said, “you’ll have no idea where the fuck you are after a few back-to-back nights on the road.”
Great. I was on the road, living my dream life. I needed to concentrate on that, but I still couldn’t escape the nagging thought of Ruby.
“One other thing,” Calvin said. “The execs want to document your first big tour, so they’re sending a reporter along to follow the entire trip.” He wagged a finger at me and Liam, “So I want you all on your best behaviour.”
Holy shit, how did I feel about living life under a lens?
* * *
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