Bart and I had lunch together in the hotel restaurant, where a burger and fries was a little pricey, but tasty. After wolfing the burger down I sat eating my fries one at a time, munching them from one end to the other. Bart had a turkey club sandwich, with ketchup.
“You know,” I said as soon as we sat down. “I really feel okay today.” Especially now that the “meeting” was over.
“Why do you think that is?” he said in his curious and bright analytical voice.
“I don’t know. Car’ and I got drunk last night. Maybe I just needed to relax.”
“Maybe we should get you drunk before you go on stage tonight.”
I said “I don’t think…” even while I half-considered it.
“I’m kidding.” He pulled the toothpick out of one section of club sandwich and scrutinized it. “But you know, Digger’s right.”
He gave me a ‘don’t play dumb’ look. “It’s pretty flippin’ obvious that Ziggy’s practically chasing you off the stage. Think about it Daron, you used to do all kinds of shit with him and that was when you weren’t…” Again, the checking to see who was near us. We were surrounded by banquettes of potted plants, a few balding businessmen in brown suits scattered in the middle distance. “You know.”
“The damnable thing about it is, that was probably the best show we’ve done in a long time. Up until the part where you ran off, I mean. Did you see the review in the paper this morning?”
I shook my head. “I only woke up a couple of minutes before the meeting.”
“It doesn’t matter. You heard the crowd last night. It was a hot show, and I mean hot in the musical, not porno sense. Listen, the Ziggy thing aside, here’s something to think about. The idea of a stage persona, I mean. One of the ways people deal with fame is by creating a persona or role that they are on stage. Let the public fall in love with that. But then keep yourself to yourself.”
“Where did you hear that?” The fries were hot and salty.
“I think it’s something Sting said in an interview. Or maybe it was… no, I’m pretty sure it was him. But it makes sense doesn’t it?”
“I guess. But it sounds sort of dishonest. Isn’t that what prostitutes say too? And then bad stuff happens to ‘Lily Lace’ and not to Kathy Jones or whoever. I mean…” I caught myself looking into the distance, instead of at Bart. I focused on him. “I mean, the whole reason I get up there is because it is me, Bart. That’s the only time I can really be me.”
He digested that thought for a moment and then said “And you haven’t been yourself lately.”
“That’s just it. The real me has been kicked out of the digs by the me I’m trying to get away from. Does that make sense?”
“Well, it explains it, anyway. Do you think Car’s going to find you a shrink?”
“Fuck if I know. I don’t think this is the kind of thing they can just look up in a book–‘Ah yes, I see here, Mr. Marks, you have pseudo-psycho-sexual personality disorder. Take this pill and call me in the morning.'”
He pulled another toothpick out and held it up to the light.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking for splinters. Who was it, some country singer last year, died in a hotel restaurant while on tour from choking on a sliver of the toothpick.”
“Jeezus, and you wonder why I’m paranoid?”
“No need to be paranoid,” he said, putting the toothpick down gently. “Just careful.”
“So tell me how to be careful about this without being paranoid.”
He took a bite of sandwich first and then chewed. “You guys can get away with murder up there, if you just do it, if you go over the top with it. I mean, who did we see last year, that concert video, Motley fucking Crue forgodsake. You don’t really think for one second that Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil are buggering each other.”
“I bet if we watch Headbangers Ball tonight you’ll see twenty images an hour that could be construed as homoerotic. But nobody thinks they really ARE.”
“That’s why there are all those scantily clad babes in those videos.” I was almost out of fries and was starting to eat those left slower and slower. “But it isn’t really fair to compare us to a metal band. Of the non-metal bands out there, who do you really get that kind of show from?”
“Well, people used to get it from us.”
“And who else? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the distinct feeling that metal as we know it is on its way out.”
“Oh surely you are kidding me. Prince has bisexual written all over him with a neon magic marker.”
“I guess I never thought about it before.” Bart moved on to sandwich quarter number three. “I mean, Purple Rain is all about him getting the girl…”
“Oh please. Prince is about as sexually unambiguous as David Bowie. The frills, the hips.” I suppressed the urge to flip my wrist.
“OK, you’re right. But Daron, come on, think about this, we’ve got a singer named Ziggy for gods-flippin-sake who was never sexually unambiguous anyway. But, I just don’t worry about what my parents think when they see him grabbing my leg from the floor in a video.”
“Your parents have seen the Why The Sky video?”
He waved the sandwich at me. “I have no idea if they have, but that’s not the point. The point is that if they have, I really don’t worry about it.”
“But your parents know you have a girlfriend. In fact, if I remember correctly your past is littered with rampant heterosexuality.”
He almost blushed and hid it with a cough. “So you’re saying that if you weren’t suffering some sexual ambiguity yourself, it’d be okay. But because you are, you’re afraid people will find out.”
“No duh, of course that’s what it is!”
“Shit, Daron, follow the logic here, though. The way it was before, with the two of you hanging all over each other, nobody had a clue, but now with you running away from him, it’s maybe more obvious that there is Something-With-A-Capital-S going on?”
“Fuck, I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Scenes of last night’s gig were flashing through my head. “But it’s not like I have a choice. I didn’t plan to bug out like that. He comes near me and I just go fucking crazy.”
“Let me throw out a crazy suggestion then. Two choices. One is, you build up for yourself a nice, rampantly heterosexual persona, and you let that persona duke it out with Ziggy on stage every night, or, number two, you make a truce with the Z-man and just stay the fuck away from each other on stage. Offstage, too, if that’s what it takes.”
“You know I hate both those choices.”
“Well, for number one, it’s the opposite of what I want to do, my whole reason for getting on the stage. Which I said already. Number two, well, I guess I’m just not up to talking with him right now.”
“And there’s the fact that you’d be fucking miserable standing in the back like some hired guitar flack,” he said, just as I was thinking the same thing.
“Yeah, there’s that too.”
“There’s a third option that I know you’ll hate even more.”
“I know what you’re going to say so don’t even say it.” Coming into the open with it, in the press. “There’s a million reasons not to, commercial suicide being only one of them.”
“If you say so.”
“Fuck on a stick, Bart, what if this doesn’t work out?”
He twirled a toothpick in his fingers, unraveling the cellophane top. “Buddy, I am not even going to think about that. If we break up, if the album dies, if Ziggy moves to Tahiti with a supermodel, take it however it comes. Speaking purely from a selfish point of view, Dar’, I think I’ll always have gigs, even little ones, and I, you know, don’t have to worry about being homeless or starving.”
“You’ll always have gigs too, if you don’t develop some kind of phobia about playing out or something. Or even then, there’s studio work. You have the chops for all kinds of shit. And you have connections.”
“Is this supposed to be cheering me up?”
“Just being realistic. I think I’m trying to say that the worst case scenario is really not so bad. Well, not taking into account stuff like heartbreak and blows to one’s self-esteem, I guess. Do you want my pickle?”
“No.” I looked around for a waiter. “Do you think we can get our check?”
“I already signed my room number on it,” he said. “Didn’t you notice?”
“You’re shitting me.”
“No, it’s already done. Really.”
“Christ, I really do live on another planet.”
“No lie, bwana.”