When my X and I were dating, he was in the middle of a meteoric rise to what I considered at 21 to be “fame” in a former punk band turned heavy metal riot rock band.
Tours went from playing with local Orange County and Los Angeles punk favorites to playing with Guns and Roses in venues that held well over a thousand spectators as GNR was about to reach their peak in the late 80’s … early 90’s.
When I tell my students the stories of these days, they look on with a sort of adoration mixed with total disbelief. They can’t imagine me in THAT setting. It’s not exactly that they can’t believe that I ever had a life… I’m pretty open, as a teacher, about sharing stories on living that I believe may help to educate or inspire “better choices than I made” decisions in my students.
But… they picture me now: no make-up on, hair pulled back in a pony tail, conservative clothing, a picture of maternal warmth, and find it hard to believe there was ever a: nightclub make-up, big haired vixen, scantily dressed, sex kitten hidden somewhere inside of THAT teacher’s body… and you know what?
That’s really a good thing.
You don’t NEED high school students thinking of you that way. You need high school students to see you as Mrs. Stay-Puff Marshmallow and keep the lines drawn firmly in the sand, wait strike that… CEMENT… as you grade their essays with a bright red marker and give them demerits for chewing gum or sleeping in class.
SUCH a meany!
I do however, like to shock them with my past every now and then… and watch as they cock their little heads to the side, their confusion just so palpable and adorable as they try to make meaning from the oxymoron they are actually looking at: The Cool Rocker Stay-Puff Marshmallow Teacher known as…Ms. Wood.
You can hear their little brains ticking…
It doesn’t fit…
That just doesn’t make sense…
I smile just to think of it.
I was in my early 20’s when my X’s band was moving it’s way through the Los Angeles Rock Scene… my X was very handsome… in an animalistic sort of way… dark, beautiful gold eyes, growling voice, women loved him or should I say, fantasized about him, and although I was very street smart at the time, I was very naive when it came to love… I honestly believed that I would be the only woman he would have eyes for as he rose to stardom.
He tried… don’t get me wrong… X did love me.
But if you know anything about Guns and Roses in the late 80’s early 90’s then you know that women… at the shows and on the road… were abundant and that ANY band touring with them would be sharing in that “abundance.”
I’d like to tell you that I enjoyed this “behind the scenes” rock and roll period of time in my life, but really… I didn’t much.
And I still have a hard time reconciling myself to that past today.
On this particular occasion though… it was not X’s women or X’s drug addiction getting under my skin… it was Axl Rose.
Yes… Mr. Axl Rose.
Mr. Slithery snake dancer, bandana wearing, ginger haired, 80’s bad boy.
What… a piece of work.
I was in college at the time and had gotten in the habit of bringing my books with me to shows.
That way… when X was in the middle of sound check, I could sit in the auditorium seats, study for my classes, and not get behind in my work.
I was alone that day, sitting in the theater watching Guns and Roses sound check when Axl took the stage.
Now, the guys in Guns and Roses had already shown some interest in my looks. Probably because I was a baby, barely of age, had jet black hair, white skin, dark purple lipstick lips, and tried to never speak in their presence… what a perfect 80’s girl: attractive and mute.
They would often walk by and smile or wave at me and I always waved back, but other than that… I had given them little attention, having grown up in a world of music where most of my friends and family were already Punk Rock Legends or just “notrious.”
I was mid-way through a textbook chapter on God knows what subject… when I realized that Axl was saying some really dirty words from the stage. At first, I thought it was just some part of a song he was singing… but a few seconds later… when I heard, “And she sits in the auditorium in front of me, reading her books, as I imagine myself naked on top of…”
I looked up and watched as he slithered his way back and forth across the stage, microphone stand in his hand, his mouth seductively moaning out sexual innuendoes to his “chosen” and supposedly so “adoring” audience and I thought… Jesus… fuck… Where the hell is X?”
I closed my books, gathered my things, and exited my way out the side entrance as Axl stopped mid sex-rap and looked at me just as my students look at me today…. head cocked to one side… a bit of disbelief… his confusion palpable and adorable as he watched the oxymoron that was once sitting in front of him exit the building: An 80’s rock chick that didn’t want to have ANY thing to do with Axl Rose.
And there goes Axl’s little brain ticking:
This isn’t happening.
She’s just pretending…
She has to like me…
I wandered off to find X who was eating some tacos with the guys in the band around the corner from the venue.
Of course, when I told him what Axl had done… he wanted to go beat him… this was nothing new (see story about the time I brushed Anthony Kiedis’s hair for confirmation if needed)
But X calmed down and we went on with our evening and enjoyed the show.
I was still out front after the performance, thanking some friends and family who had come to the event before heading back stage to be with X when, I said my goodbyes, flashed my backstage pass, and headed down the narrow hallway to the Green room.
Unfortunately, as I rounded the first corner, I came face to face with not only Axl Rose but David Lee Roth.
My first thought was one of shock.
David Lee Roth always looked so sexy in his videos but I had never seen Van Halen perform live… never seen David live.
He was shorter than I had imagined… a bit chubby at the time… and his hair, though still long, was thinning on the top giving the appearance of a balding mullet.
I wasn’t sure how to react.
Here were two internationally known sex symbols standing in the hallway of this venue, and I felt like I was in the Ozarks about to hear the theme song of, Deliverance, begin to rise in the background as I was begged to play the “little piggy” game with both of them.
It was horrible.
Axl was leaning into the corner of the turn… sweaty from his set and smirking at the fact that I was going to have to make my way past both of them by squeezing through the middle of their conversation.
I knew that either way I turned… I was in trouble…
If I was face to face with Axl as I passed by… he would just say a bunch of dirty things and try to get me to want him… and if I was face to face with David Lee Roth… Axl would grab my ass while I had to think of something nice to say to David about my admiration for his talent… while trying to ignore the thin, balding mullet and Axl’s creepy little hands on my butt.
It was definitely a rock and roll gauntlet.
I thought about just turning around and going out the way I came in but if I didn’t find X… he would probably come to the conclusion that I was with Axl and then there really WOULD be a brawl… and David Lee Roth would lose ALL of his hair… and it would be ALL MY FAULT when he had to accept his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame TOTALLY bald.
I was trapped.
I decided it was best to face Axl head on and leave my butt for David Lee Roth.
I strided forward with purpose before wiggling my way through the two of them.
Axl locked eyes with me as if he thought that he could somehow “voodoo spell” me into wanting him.
“Like the show?” he whispered in his most seductive voice.
I rolled my eyes as I felt David Lee Roth put his hands on either side of my hips and say in his “comic” goofy stage voice, “Excuse me..”
I almost ran down the last third of the hallway turning back only once to see them both admiring the jiggle and the shake.
I felt flushed with embarassment as I turned the last corner and ran right into X who was talking to Slash.
My face must have registered shock at being confronted with yet another “Gun,” since I was barely recovered from my brush with Axl, and Slash looked amused by my entrance.
“This is D.D.,” X said.
“Hey,” I said as I reached out my hand to shake his, still a bit breathless from the incident. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Oh man,” Slash said. “We all thought you were Russian.”
“Russian?” I said.
“Yeah, the way you look and all.”
Suddenly… it clicked.
I bet Axl thought I couldn’t understand a word he was saying at sound check.
“Ty che blyad?”
X of course was just pleased that GNR thought that he was dating the hot foreign chick and I wondered if I might be able to keep the farce going by practicing a thick Russian accent and learning a good selection of Russian vocabulary. That way, I could basically make my way through the Rock World without talking to any of the key players if I didn’t want to… the thought of it was quite enticing…
“Ready to go?” X asked as he wrapped his arm around my waist.
“Nice to meet you,” I said to Slash as X grabbed his guitar case.
He lead me back down the small hallway and I watched as both Axl and David stepped aside for him.
“Good show,” X said as we walked by.
David shook his hand, Axl gave him a nod… and I just kept stepping… no turning around…. no looking back….