Life can be rolling along at a pleasant pace, everything falling into place as you planned when suddenly the walls come crashing in and things just spiral out of control. Now, one can argue that these occurrences are meant to be, and that without them life would be controlled and dull. But I always liked controlled. I didn’t like surprises, even good ones. I needed to know what was going to happen three days from today, or next week. I kept a journal and documented and planned my life, and always had.
As a child I’d day dreamed about my future husband, how many children I’d have, even their names, that constantly changed, but id even kept records of that. My prince charming was going to be my life. Each boyfriend was the one. I’d put his image into the slot of my perfect life. He’d be the man of my dreams, and father of our four children, who’d all be born two years apart, two girls two boys.
Then I’d met Del. And my life changed, I changed. It was an instant attraction. I was new to the whole music scene, and Del was a lead singer of an up and coming band. I was thrust into the whirlwind life of the band/wives club. The women who live behind the star.
* * *
It began, and ended on a September afternoon.
I’d begun unpacking our three suitcases into a single dresser I’d bought at some junk store on Avenue A, I’d even helped lug it up our four flights of stairs. I now finally had a place to put some of our clothing into. I wanted to set up our new home and have everything in order before my husband came back from his East Coast tour.
I’d lived my entire life with my father in a large Victorian house in London. So moving into an East Village flat that I could barely swing a cat by its tail, needed some getting used to.
I thought I was beginning my life as a real adult, because I was now married, it was an adventure, and this was Del and my first home together. It was going to be perfect. I’d cook for him, well, learn to cook. That was something I certainly had to work on. I’d do laundry, and be blissfully happy, as every other married couple are, or should be. I mean, I had found my soul mate.
I loved many things about America or New York City, it was so, modern. Shops stayed open on Sunday, bars were still pouring drinks at three AM, and the selection of breakfast cereals in the local supermarket were gloriously overwhelming. The invention of cable TV was so impressive, I’d become obsessed. I’d grown up with three TV channels in London, two of which were useless, being basically educational. I kept MTV on constantly, even though it was on a five hour repeated loop. It was a new invention, and what could be better than endless videos of bands previously unattainable?
These new luxuries in my life had made me love my new home, and I felt life in New York City was the beginning of something great.
Until…one afternoon. As I unpacked our clothing into the new dresser, MTV droning on in the background. Kurt Loader, MTV’s news anchor caught my attention. In his typical stoic style, I heard the usual…beep… beep… beep…News Ten minutes after the hour-every hour…I heard Dels name. I looked up excited, expecting to see the usual promotion of their single and tour, instead I saw a Breaking News flash.
…Del West and (stripper) ‘wife’ in car accident…
Del West of the new Brit pop sensation The Westlanders was in a car wreck on Sunset and Vine, with his stripper wife. His wife was naked and the two had been drinking heavily. Luckily no one was hurt, badly, but they both remain in hospital until further notice. No mention of whether tonight’s show is canceled…
The blood had drained from my face. The room actually spun, or maybe it was my head doing a Linda Blair Exorcist thing. As I went from confusion, to panic, to blind rage.
Accident! oh my god! is he alright? My poor husband is mangled and torn apart in some hospital, and I’m not even able to be by his side. I must call him… I don’t have his number, or even know what hotel the band are staying in. He always calls me. OK. I’ll sit and wait, and he’ll call me. But how can he call me if he’s in a hospital bed?… Oh God! what do I do?
I went into some sort of shock and panic. I certainly wasn’t prepared for any accident, and like ive said I’m not good at surprises.
Then, the next part of the breaking news flash finally connected in my brain….Wife? What? I’m not in L.A … I wasn’t in any god damn accident. Who the hell is this wife? I sat on the edge of the bed, my heart began racing, my face felt hot. How dare he…. Oh, it must be some mistake, those stupid reporters got it all confused. I jumped up, paced back and forth, through to the kitchen and back through to the front room. Wife? Wait a minute did he say stripper? By the time I focused back on the TV, Kurt loader was saying-
See you next time at ten minutes past the hour, every hour…
Just as I was reaching for the phone to call Virgin Records and demand Simon Dysick, the bands managers whereabouts, the phone rang. I grabbed it.
“Err… Brooke, ello love… Morning… is it morning over there? how are you then… umm feeling? Did ya, by any chance ‘ear about our Dels accident ‘in all?”
Simon had managed the band since its incarnation three years ago, he was very protective, and baby sat the guys like a loving mother. Often shielding them from bad press. Such as a drunken naked romp through Trafalga square. Even though Simon tried hard to avoid bad press, a few months ago someone had managed to snap a picture of Del and Bruiser, the bands drummer, both sitting on top of one of the four majestic lions at the feet of Napoleon, in Trafalga Square, stark naked, with cans of lager in their hands looking mighty proud. The picture found its way onto page three of the Daily Mirror.
There were plenty of embarrassing situations that Simon successfully intervened and defused, in the nick of time.
I knew from Simons voice he was treading cautiously, trying to figure out my degree of despair, or rage. In his typical English, chin up, everything can be managed, fashion, he preceded to tell me that my rather challenged husband, had apparently got into a minor fender bender in L.A. while driving some balloon chested blond strippers, Trans Am.
I was to find out later on, although I could have done without with imagery. That, Del had his pants down, and this life sized Barbie doll was naked, and she was blowing him! All while he test drove her Trans Am, along Sunset Boulevard.
First of all, who on earth drives a Trans Am in this day and age? I mean it is 1984! She’d apparently had accidentally or whatever, bitten his dick, causing him to swerve into a parked car. That’s karma for you. The press had hopped on it, and assumed the female was me, as Del had just gotten married, and a picture of us had made the tabloids. The fact I had long black hair, and didn’t have triple K tits and an orange tan, might have tipped off most reporters, but apparently not in this case.
I knew I’d forever be traumatized by Kurt Loaders face, and breaking news reports. Now if that wasn’t enough, I was going to have to dodge questions about my apparent stripping career!
While this whole drama unfolded, my fathers face floated through my mind. He must be totally humiliated. He didn’t know what MTV was, or anything about music, past The Beatles. In his mind people from Los Angeles might as well be from Mars. Hearing his thoughts on his only daughter now being linked to stripping and sex and Los Angeles, was all to much for me to think about, I wanted to literally die.
My father was a typical English man. He had worked as a General Practitioner, in an office on the ground floor of our house in London. Patients had been coming to see him their whole lives.
He was a quiet, very conservative man who wore a suit and tie seven days a week, well, he took the tie off on weekends, but wore the shirts and suit jacket. When he finished seeing his last patient of the day, he’d loosen his tie, that was as old as me, hang up his jacket, and sit in his straight back arm chair in our antique filled drawing room and read The Times. Afterward he’d walk downstairs to the kitchen and eat dinner, which was left in the oven by Maria, our housekeeper. He’d then do the crossword puzzle, some paper work, watch the news, and head to bed. His routine never varied, nor would he have liked it to. Everything was exactly the same everyday.
I worried about my father. When I’d told him Del and I were leaving to move to America so their band could try their success over there, he’d looked up from the newspaper, forced a smiled, and said “America, Oh. New York, goodness Brooke, are you sure you want to live amongst those types of people…?” Under his breath I heard him say, ‘at least its not Los Angeles…’ I never knew what he meant exactly, but he didn’t care for Americans. Strange as it might be, because he worked as a doctor, my father didn’t really care for anyone.
Now, I was completely and utterly humiliated that my poor father was going to have to answer questions about me being called a …stripper. He probably hadn’t much clue as to what a stripper even was.
I imagined him to have some old fashioned idea of a tarty wench, with a feather boa, someone who looked like Clara Bow wiggling her arse in front of sailors. I could never forgive Del for this.
My parents had had me late in life. My father had been fifty one, and my mother twelve years younger. She’d died of bone cancer when I was five, and suffered greatly, so my father told me. He had been the only family I’d ever had, it was just the two of us in a large cold Victorian house in Queensgate, London.
Maria our house keeper had been hired a year after my mother died, and she’d taken care of me. She really had been my nanny but we called her the housekeeper. She was a loving warm older women from Ecuador, who had no family of her own in London, and loved me as though I were her daughter. I was thankful Maria had come into our lives, although my father said little to her, I think he privately in some area in his head loved Maria.
My father and I weren’t terribly close, we didn’t have that daughter father relationship where I was the apple of his eye, or daddies little girl. He certainly never spoiled me or showed me much affection. I knew he loved me, not that I was told, it was the kind of love that you’re supposed to just know about. I think I was a consent reminder to him of my mother, and I made him sad. I’d been told he’d sort of withdrawn from the whole world after her death, never showing any interest in seeing another women, or socializing at all for that matter. I rarely saw him smile, and can count only one time my father laughing, really letting it go and laughter over taking him, and I was shocked, almost scared that he’d gone mad. It was over some cartoon in a magazine, a cartoon had cracked this stern unfazable man.
* * *
I was alone. It hadn’t meant to be like this. The plan had been to come to New York with my husband, set up our small, cheap East Village apartment while he went on tour. I never contemplated needing anyone or anything more than Del. The rest of the band had girlfriends, they always had some new girl hanging around them all, but no one they lived with. Bruiser, Dels best mate had just broken up with his girlfriend who he had a child with, but the women I’d known from the fellas in the band were back in London. I felt thoroughly abandoned.
During the following days I’d gotten phone calls from every rag, tabloid and bored reporter asking me about my stripper career.
Did I strip in London? Did Del and I have a kinky sex life? and what did my quiet middle-class Doctor father think of me stripping? Hurt turned to anger, anger to rage, now I was a puddle of humiliation and tears on my unfurnished bedroom floor.
I called my oldest and dearest friend in London. I whined, cried and screamed for forty five minutes. I regretted the day I’d set eyes on this rotten little prick. Lucinda listened to all my verbal vomiting. Ideas were coming to me left and right. I could stalk him, watch his every move and sabotage his career. I’d go to the press and tell them he was lousy in bed and couldn’t get it up. I’d send them his childlike poetry, that he thought was brilliant and let them see what an awful song writer he really was. I’d tell the world the bands closely guarded secret, that they had paid an unheard of song writer to write Dels big new hit. Yes! I’d tell them everything.
I took to bed. The big brass bed, the only other piece of furniture apart from the draws, I’d bought, and did what I had done as a child when I was lonely and scared. I pulled the covers over my head, curled into a ball, and there I stayed fully clothed. I did not want to come out. I was alone. I couldn’t eat, and couldn’t leave the house to buy any food, even if I was hungry. I hadn’t yet figured out that in New York City they will deliver to your door anything your heart desires.
Images of that woman with the biggest roundest circus like breasts jutting out from the middle of her chest kept popped into my mind.
Ok, go to your safe place… I told myself. I’d read some self help book last month that talked about visualization, and safe places.
I remembered a chilly summer at Brighton Beach an hour outside London. I must have been seven or eight, my father had taken me and Maria to a small bed and breakfast along the Broadwalk. I’d enjoyed the smell of the crisp salty air, the sounds of the seagull’s over head, and the dark wide ocean, that lapped calmly at the pebbles. It had been a memorable peaceful time.
I fell into a restless night sleep. Dreams of running along cobbled streets somewhere over on the West Side, by Fourteenth Street where it’s dark and scary even in day light.
A few days before Del left, we’d taken a cab to look at an artists new work. Del had heard about this guy and wanted to buy a painting because the man painted in his own blood.
We drove past the men working in these meat warehouses. They looked like demented doctors, in white lab coats, splattered in blood from the raw carcasses of pig and cow.
With the sun setting on the Hudson River, flashes of orange shot through the dark shadowy streets blinding me. There were no people apart from the butchers and I guess the images had stayed with me, and were drifting through my subconscious dreams.
How had my fairy tale plan gone so terribly wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Last week I’d been virtually a newlywed, about to embark on life as a grown up, a married woman. This week the world had completely changed.
I hadn’t spoken to Del. Of course I’d called him a million times only to get an endless ringing phone or a hotel operator asking me to leave a message. I’d finally lost it and started screaming at one of the hotel operators at The Sunset Marquis where the band had been staying. Although Simon told me he’d have Del call me as soon as possible. I knew Del was basically going to be scared to. Never being one for confrontation, he was the type to just disappear rather than talk out a simple situation, not that this was simple. But I was his damn wife and I needed to talk to my husband…. and where the hell was he? I was yelling to a total stranger to ‘get him on the phone immediately, I’ll come over there and rip your head off if you don’t!
I was clearly pushed to the edge and completely out of my mind. I wasn’t really a screamer, and certainly not to a stranger who had no way of knowing or understanding what in gods name I was screaming about. She barely understood my English accent, which was making me feel even more ridiculous repeating my snappy threats.
Bawling and slobbering like a mental patient off her meds…Who could I blame for all of this? If I can’t get to Del, I’ll, I’ll blame… Simon….! Then that’s when I got a knock on my apartment door.
I stopped yelling to the hotel operator in mid sentence. Silence. No one had knocked on my door before. I didn’t know anyone.
I hung the phone up as quietly as possible, and tiptoed over the bare wooden floor boards, that I now noticed made a hell of a lot of creaking noise. I peered through the peep hole and held my breath. Who was this? I saw an attractive brunette with heavy straight bangs and red lips standing at my door.
Agh! What to do… what to do? Do I open the door? No I can’t, I’m a mess. Well I must be a mess, I’ve been crying for…a day or two. Ive slept in my clothes, and am possibly hallucinating… She knocked again.
“Hello…” She said, and peered back through the peephole. I jumped back and fell back onto my flat feet.
“I heard you…come on open the door…I live next door.” She said in a sing song voice.
Should I, should I? Oh what the hell. If she’s a serial killer, it will probably save me the trouble of offing myself, and if she’s not, then I won’t be killed, and I have nothing to be scared of.
I unlocked the door, and came face to face with a girl, roughly my age.
“Hello, I live next door, and I know you just moved in and everything. I don’t want to be annoying, but, you seem to be having a rough time… you know… thin walls.” She smiled lopsidedly, and swayed her arms back and forth, “if you want to err… have a coffee or whatever, I’ve got some…”
Being English this outgoing display of kindness from a total stranger was foreign to me, and took me by surprise. After my ravished, destroyed, mental state, slowly processed this thoughtful request of a cup of coffee, I said, “why sure, that sounds just… lovely.” I sniffed back tears, and my neighbor walked into my home.
“My names is Lydia. I hope you don’t think it weird me kinda inviting myself over and all, but…”
“Oh no not at all, hi I’m Brooke.” I held out my hand and we awkwardly shook. I excused my sweaty palms, and turned my back to blow my nose.
“I’m sorry but I can’t offer you anything, I have nothing in the fridge, you know…haven’t been shopping today.” Or in a few days I thought as my stomach growled.
Where’s the coffee she mentioned?
I looked around the empty apartment. Dels clothing trailed through the two rail road rooms, to the window facing the street, where I’d thrown out armfuls of his best stage gear. I knew he’d die when he realized his Vivienne Westwood ‘Sex’ T-shirts and Stephen Sprouse silver pants were gone. All expensive stuff. Throwing out his favorite clothing was a double edged sword, and was bothering me now way more than it would effect Del. as I’d been the one to dress him, and turn him onto the coolest fashion designers around. Now I’d totally regretted dumping Vivienne Westwood onto the dirty streets of the East Village. Those clothes deserved better, my heart raced with regret as I thought about the two thin homeless guys I’d seen from the window collecting armfuls of custom leather, and vintage collectibles.. Oh my god what have I done….I’m such an idiot, this is all Dels fault…. Those clothes…
“….Err, I like how bare your place is.” Lydia said looking around with a relaxed smile.
It was only bare because we didn’t own anything, not because I was a minimalist or had a cleansed uncluttered Zen life. Quite the opposite, left to my own devices I collected tons of bits and pieces. I loved my photography books and posters. I and had an endless collection of snow globes from the 1970s that I’d collected for years, none of which I could bring with me, I would have Dad send it at a later date.
Lydia knelt down to a stack of the black and white framed photographs of our heroes, that I’d insisted on packing. Keith Richards was mine, Joe Strummer Del’s, Jim Jarmush and Lenny Bruce mine, Pamela Anderson Del, Burkowski mine, the Monte Python cast and Benny Hill Del.
“We, ….me and my husband Del, hadn’t gotten around to buying anything yet. I dont even know if I’m staying here.” I looked deeply into her eyes to see if there was a sign that she knew anything about me or Del.
That’s the thing with being married to a musician who’s got a song in the charts, you become slightly paranoid and weary of new people. The past year had taught me to trust few and question all.
The press hounds you, and the record company loves that. The publicity agent often had sent the newspapers leads to where Del would be, and set him up to do stupid things, just to get into the papers, and sell more records. I tried to tell Del this but he really didn’t understand or care. As long as he was getting the attention he’d never ever received before in his life, he lapped it up like a starved animal. He couldn’t get enough.
Del came from East London, he lived in a rough council housing estate right up until he moved in with me and Dad, briefly before we left.
His mother had had him when she was sixteen years old, and he’d grown up being shuffled between his mum and grandmother. Both who worked under paid jobs and had trouble providing for Del, and the other family members.
His childhood had been one of ditching school, stealing car radios, and drinking cheap cider. There was something about Del that had kept him from totally spilling over into the pool of wayward teens and a life of nothingness, and that was simply his desire to get out, and a hefty splash of luck.
I met Del around the time he and his best mate Bruiser formed a band called The London Lads. Del it appeared had found a passion, and that was being on stage, and he was good at it. He was a good looking front man, and his Brian Jones hair and green eyes had gotten the attention of Richard Branson at Virgin Records. Who had replaced their bass player, who was a junkie, renamed them The Westlanders, and threw Del West to the world of post punk pop music. Which brings us to now.
“I don’t know really what’s been going on but I saw you move in, and couldn’t help but hear the drama you’ve been going through, and its seemed like maybe you needed someone to, I don’t know… I don’t want to seem pushy, I’m really not pushy…”
“No, your very sweet and your actually right…I am very glad you came over.”
Lydia smiled and seemed relieved.
“My husband is in a band.” Again I waited to see if there was a flicker of recognition. There wasn’t.
“He seems to have been in an accident or something…” I said.
“Oh no how awful, really.. you must be so worried, where is he?”
“LA” Had she seen MTV, is she just trying to pull information from me? Wow, I really have gotten so suspicious lately.
“Are you going to LA?” Lydia asked.
“No, I don’t think so..”
That was the first time I’d thought about what I was supposed to do. Am I to stay in New York?
“I hope you don’t think I’m nosy and all, but I’ve heard you crying and yelling on the phone. You know, thin walls.” She repeated that the walls were thin. How thin are they? I mean can she hear me going to the loo? And crying on the phone. Oh dear, I froze with embarrassment, which was becoming a familiar feeling lately.
“I’m err… so sorry. It’s just that well, my bastard cheating…” I unfolded from the beginning, which wasn’t so long ago.
Lydia went over to her apartment and bought back two mugs full of Hershey hot chocolate with whipped cream on top.
“This is my comfort drink. Break ups, PMS, and anything involving a man that’s caused you to go through a box of tissues…” Both our eyes went to the toilet roll I’d been wiping my eyes and blowing my nose with, and laughed.
* * *
I woke to the sound of the morning East Village orchestra. Which was more commonly known as the radiator. In old New York tenement buildings the radiators start to bang and hiss steam at certain times of the day and night. The first time, I was startled, and thought something was about to explode. Now, I came to expect it, in fact, I enjoyed its comforting clang, bang, hisss… as I snuggled under my warm bedding. The apartment was getting colder, as late September breezes turned into early October chills.
I had to get up and get going this morning. I had an appointment uptown. Lydia had talked me into seeking some professional advice or help, someone who’d help me shed my obsession on revenge against Del. Someone who’d help me find my self esteem again, and make me feel normal, whatever that was.
I’d gone to a regular doctor, having no idea how to handle this depression and feeling of abandonment. I was having difficulty sleeping and for the first time in my life, was experiencing some sort of panic attack. For no reason at all, my body began to surge with adrenaline and everything would speed up. It was terrifying and had me paralyzed in fear the first time it happened. Thankfully I had been in my apartment. I had sat down and taken slow deep breaths. My heart raced as though I’d just jogged around Tompkins Square park, which I certainly hadn’t.
I had called Lydia and she’d told me I needed to get some Valium, which she swore would mellow me out. Because I felt so alone and scared these panic attacks only magnified my feelings of depression.
After my mother died, I was so young and think I went into a type of denial. As time passed it turned into an empty feeling of abandonment, something I’d never talked about or even recognized until Lydia pointed it out. Since meeting Lydia we had become fast friends We’d spent many late nights sitting on the floor of my apartment drinking Rolling Rock beer talking about past relationships, her latest crush, and Del. Lydia had told me I clearly had abandonment issues, and we tend to repeat certain episodes in our lives, I should be aware of this feeling. She was right. Lydia was into astrology and lived by the planets. She always asked birth dates, the time you were born and where, then she’d make up an astrological chart according to your birth date and time.
I found a doctor few weeks ago, who was listed in the Yellow pages. He’d prescribed me ten mgs of Valium, without looking up at me he asked if I needed anything stronger. I didn’t know of anything stronger, but thanked him kindly to which he grunted and shooed me out of the office.
I was more than surprised at this doctors manner, as I know my father would never have given a new patient fifty Valiums, without so much as taking their temperature. But it was what I needed, right now, and put his attitude down to probably normal for New York doctors.
The Valium days ahead had begun as wonderful. They took the edge off my hurt, and made me not care. The mean things that were creeping into tabloids that had made me cringe, now didn’t matter, because as soon as I felt slightly uncomfortable I’d pop a V, which had worked at first, but it also had made me do odd things. One night I woke up sitting outside my apartment on the stairs, eating a bowl of Lucky Charms, in rain boots and my nightgown. Lydia had been scared for me when I’d told her, I didn’t remember walking out there, or really why I decided to eat cereal on the stairs in a night gown. I’d also placed slurred phone calls to Simon demanding to know Dels whereabouts. The awful thing was that I had yet to talk to my husband who was staying far away from me.
Lydia said I shouldn’t divorce him yet and should sue him. I didn’t know much about suing someone. But it seemed in this country it was the thing to do.
“Everyone does it, Brooke you better get hip to survival, girl. I mean you’re married to a rockstar, you could walk away with millions.”
“But, he’s not really a rock star, and he certainly doesn’t have millions.” I told her.
It was a common perception that anyone in a band that’s had some success is a rock star. First of all, Mick Jagger is a rockstar, Keith is a rock star, Tommy Lee is a rock star. And my idiot twenty two year old husband barely had enough money to pay his dinner bill. He owed Virgin Records a fortune from their last tour. Apparently they’d signed all sorts of wild extravagances to a bill that Simon was supposed to kept a check on. At the end of the tour, it was tallied up and taken off their earnings. They barely broke even on that first tour. As it wasn’t explained to them that everything they ordered on whim, and to impress groupies and one night stands, had to be eventually paid for, by them. I tried telling Lydia suing Del for money might take forever, as I didn’t think they had any money to really speak of, and I didn’t know if I felt I even deserved any of his money, or really wanted it.
“What ya mean you don’t deserve it..? Girl how much pain has he put you through, how much humiliation have you suffered? How nice would it be to have some money to repay you for going through such hell?”
“Well when you put it like that…”
But in the mean time these Valiums just aren’t helping. I’m just blacking out and taking more and more. So I either need something stronger, or something else… but I need something.”
Lydia was a fan of therapy and overcoming obstacles, and not repeating certain behavior was one of her focuses. A year or so ago Lydia had found a crystal healing therapy group that she had gone to and liked. It was run by a woman named Doctor Andrea Cornwell. Lydia said she was this amazing psychic who had powers to define your trouble, or obsession that you’re trying to rid yourself of, and help you not repeat these mistakes in relationships. Lydia said ten women got together once a week. A group of women dedicated to overcoming deep hurt and resentment caused by a bad break up. Sounded like exactly what I needed. However, I was bought up to dismiss any type of therapy. My father would never have considered it. There was a part of me that felt shameful at having to reach out to total strangers, and not be able to handle things myself. I was also weary of being taken by some charlatan, posing as a psychic therapist certainly sounded suspicious.
* * *