"A Roller Story" by Loraine A. Koski (8/24/96)

Part I            Part II

 The following is best set up by a couple of comic strips I saved year ago...In the first, "Hobbes" is telling "Calvin," "The problem with the future is it keeps turning into the present."
The second is from a comic strip called "Shoe" where one character says to the other, "You're writing your autobiography?"
"Yep," is the response, "I think I'm at the perfect age to put it all down onpaper."  Next frame.  "-I've forgotten all the bad parts."

     Enough said.  Read on for this girl's Roller fable.....


  "If we close our eyes, and believe it might come true..."  In your dreams, you weren't the awkward kid who got lockjaw whenever anyone but family and closest friends spoke to you...the years between 1955 and 1963 weren't a lifetime...a song called "My Lisa" could have been for you...and just for fiction's sake, the quiet Roller could become the conniving one, and the extrovert could become your friend
     Roller Day, August, 1977.  The sea of frantic teenage girls surged forward.  "Derek doesn't have a big nose!", I wailed to Melissa as tears streamed down my face.  Under normal circumstances, she would have disputed the point fiercely.  Instead she only replied weakly, "I know!"  Then Eric yelled, "Cut the music!" and the size of Derek's nose was no longer of any importance.  Meanwhile, our friend Pam, dressed in full Rollergear and clutching her plaid stuffed animal Erica, promptly swooned.  Her dramatic performance as the police carried her from the crush earned her a spot on the local news and a picture on the front page of the Detroit Free Press.
     In Reese, Michigan, one could see for miles and miles across flat farm fields, a position made only slightly more bearable in a 13-year-old's mind by the town's ten-minute proximity to Bay City.  On this particular August day while mature-beyond-her-years Melissa and our new, "together" Roller-friend Christy were shopping for clothes and good-looking boys in an air- conditioned shopping mall, I was climbing trees and the walls while memorizing Top Forty hits generated by my ever-present AM/FM radio.  Leaving my 15 and 10-year-old brothers behind, I wandered to the small woods beyond our backyard, retreating among the rocks and logs I called my secret corner where I hummed a few tunes, lost in my imaginings.  I was still buried in this state of reverie, picking wildflowers by the pond, when I heard the tire-crunches of approaching vehicles.  Safely hidden by the greenery, I experienced near heart failure as the doors to the two sedans opened and out stepped Leslie McKeown, Eric Faulkner, Derek Longmuir, and Stuart "Woody" Wood of the Bay City Rollers along with their manager and a most excited real estate agent.
     Newspaper passages and magazine quotations skipped into my mind about British taxes on entertainers, tax shelters, "Taxman" by the Beatles...and U.S. citizenship?  Even pop stars need a place to retreat to, a place where"nothing happens."...Melissa and Christy didn't believe me of course. Thewoods remained undisturbed for the rest of the summer.  Then in September, a chain link fence was installed, but I was a climber, you'll recall. Alone I watched as the dozers dug and four skeletal frames filled out and took shape. The pond had to go, yet the suspense outweighed any loss I felt.  October was nearly over with no Rollers in sight.  Only a sign at the gate that read "Edinburgh Estates."
     One blue-skied Indian Summer day after a particularly trying afternoon of ninth grade, I slipped into my secret corner and heard voices...distinctly Scottish voices...in the distance.  Having always prided myself on my near-
silent surveillance tactics, I moved slowly closer.  Almost within earshot... Unexpectedly, I heard the snapping of twigs behind me.
    Leslie McKeown said, "Well, well, who do we have here?", sounding highly amused.   I waited to be reprimanded, and bit my lip frightfully as I turned around. "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me so long as our secret is safe with you," he continued with a wicked, let's-make-a-deal smile.
     I breathed a sigh of relief and somehow managed to stammer, "Are you really going to live here?"
     "We certainly are!...At least some of the time.  That's my future 'castle' right over there," he replied, pointing proudly in the direction of ponds past.  At that moment, the rest of the guys began calling his name so he shouted back, "I'll be right with ya," offered me a wink and the warning that I'd better run along "before the others catch ya."
     "See you later--What was your name again?"  Swallowing hard, I told him and made a mad dash for the fenceline.
     "Who's there?" and "What's that?" echoed through the trees.
     "Just a scared little rabbit running home," Leslie McKeown chimed.
     Minutes later, shaking with disbelief, I dialed Melissa's number.  Would she believe me now?
    Let me tell you about my atypical family...I'm the middle child, wedged firmly between my tormenting, KISS-Army-type brother Tim and my sometimes-Roller-fan, baseball-loving brother Joe.  My mom has dibs on being the first upwardly mobile wife in town, the full-time office manager at one of the larger business firms nearby Saginaw has to offer.  Her idea of guidance to me in this confusing time is "Just be yourself."  How can I be myself when I don't know who that is?  But she's not around to ask.
     And my blue collar dad while an all-around great guy--even though he'll undoubtedly strike up a conversation just when I'm tape-recording the Rollers on TV--isn't the man to plague with teenage angst.  So while I hope to become a beautiful flower someday, right now I feel like more of a weed.
     After my encounter with Leslie McKeown, I fancied what I'd say to any of the guys in the group in an attempt to make intelligent, adult conversation, particularly drummer Derek.  But I was stymied.  They surely wouldn't want to hear about how my mother wouldn't let me stay home from school to watch their weeklong appearances on "Mike Douglas" or the "Dinah Shore" show ...Or about how Melissa and I were at Bay City Hall to see them hours before they even appeared ...A bit desperately, I knew Melissa and Christy wanted me to be a "normal" ninth-grader but it just wasn't happening.
     FIRST MEETING.  Melissa was planted on the sofa reading a Mad magazine as if her life depended on it, Christy was calmly absorbing Roller music, and I was at the front door when the hour of truth arrived.  By one minute past four, the three of us were beginning to experience excessive doubt.  Christy forced me to have a seat and listen to "Dedication" so I sat, far from relaxed and nervously chewed at my fingernails.  Tires on the driveway.  I screeched first then we all ran to look.  Derek Longmuir driving a metallic blue Z-28. And he was alone!  I let him in, blushing hotly, expecting to hear Melissa go nuts.  She didn't.  She was almost too quiet.  Christy appeared a little unnerved at first but quickly took control of herself.  I noted that Derek was wearing a white, plaid-trimmed shirt, and jeans with thecuffs turned up.
     Twenty minutes later, the group of us was smuggled through a discreet side door of the Rollers' downtown Saginaw hotel, and to the proper floor by service elevator.  From there Derek breezed us past hotel security to the BCR's adjoining rooms.  I felt like I was dreaming when Tam Paton, the band's manager, swept us through a quickly opened door and Melissa, Christy and I were confronted by the remaining three Rollers who were glued to the television and in the process of dining from room service.  Derek took charge of the introductions and everyone was soon fast friends.  Except I couldn't find the courage to speak one word to lead singer Les McKeown, intimidated by the pre-sold notion "Les loves excitement" or the even bolder "Sex is Les."
   "Tony," my mother called, stopping my typewriter fingers cold, "Time for dinner!"

LATER THAT NIGHT.  Derek and I left in the same metallic blue Z-28.  We tried talking but couldn't think of anything to say.  I just wanted to kiss him and that was all I could think about.  He finally understood, and once you start, it's hard to stop.  I hadn't sent away for one of those Roller Kissing Kits, and now I wouldn't have to!  Some time later, Derek reached into the backseat and handed me an autographed copy of "Once Upon A Star," a BCR album released only in Great Britain.  Then he handed me the lyrics of a song, the only one he had ever written, and he said it was for me.  Driving back to the hotel, he asked what scent I was wearing.  "Love's Baby Soft," I told him.
     "I like it," he said approvingly, "And I like you too."
     Trying to hid another blushing attack, I conjured up the first time I'd seen Derek Longmuir on "Howard Cosell's Saturday Night," pounding away on the drums, wearing the biggest smile I'd ever seen.
    "Tony," my mom called, "It's your turn to unload the dishwasher!"
Reluctantly, I left my typewriter for lower priorities like chores, homework, sleep and another day at RHS.

THE REHEARSAL.  Comparing notes by phone from the night before, I told of my signed album.  Melissa's tale of going home with a box of Woody's old plaid scarves brought tears to her eyes, reported Christy, who would only admit to several Eric kisses of the world's record variety... My ride arrived.  Les was at the wheel of the blue "Z" this time.  Derek and I sat in the back.  Once again, I was too bashful to speak to Leslie McKeown, although to my delight he greeted me brightly by name and asked, "How are ye this morning?"
     "Good," I said, most brilliantly.  He just grinned and I looked down toward the floor.  After that, he asked me all kinds of polite questions in a failed attempt to break me out of my shell...Our complete entourage entered the Civic Center via an obscure door in the back of the building.  Roadies, crewpeople and others were present, yes, but words cannot describe what took place-- A whole informal concert performance, wackiness and moments of petulance included, just for us!  Eric's eyes were either closed in concentration or focused on Christy throughout...Woody put his heart and soul into the music but he was singing and playing solely for Melissa.  And Derek? Well, Derek made those stupid faces when he played the drums as Melissa would forever remind me.  I decided those stupid faces were only endearing and turned my full attention to the closing moments of the rehearsal.  When the guys were finished, everyone in attendance gave them a standing ovation, and the Rollers bowed like a bunch of hams, exept for Derek of course, who was too serious for such behavior.  Tam had someone drive us back to the hotel while the band attended a press conference.  Woody bid us farewell with instructions to open all the presents that had been sent too their rooms--except for the letters.  So guess what we went after first!
     Christy, Melissa and I couldn't believe we were alone in the Rollers' hotel rooms...but we controlled our curiosities for the most part and sat down to sort through the countless gifts that had arrived since the BCR checked in. When the guys returned from their long afternoon, I handed Les a stack of letters that he thanked me for and tossed into a wastebasket.  Woody saw the astonished, hurt expression on my face and said, "Don't mind him. He's just a bit cranky, and I'm sure he didn't mean to upset you."  After a nap in the next room, Les returned stretching and yawning only to have his mates drag him back behind closed doors.  They announced they were writing a song for us.
"We are?", Les quipped, once again himself.  Tam ran a film for us, some old western.  He said it was the Rollers' favorite.
     When the locked door reopened, a complete wardrobe change had taken place.  Eric was wearing a white '78 tour t-shirt and cut-off jeans bearing the message "Spank Me!"...Les was relaxed in *no* shirt, *just* a pair of cut-offs...Woody wore cut-offs, a blue and green striped rugby shirt with a white collar, and a pair of Eric's toe socks...Derek wore the usual jeans (darn), and a plaid shirt...The song was a complete secret, and no matter how much we pleaded, we were told it would be sung for us the first time at the concert Thursday night.  24 whole hours later!
     I still slept with a smile on my face, as a photograph my big brother took that night clearly proves.
    Tony called it quits herself this time, and sat beneath the willow tree in her backyard listening to the radio, staring at the long gravel drive from Reese Road into Edinburgh Estates.
    At 7:45, we kissed the guys goodbye, excepting Les.  He looked at us in mock sadness and asked, "Don't I get one too?"  I was the first in line! Our guide directed us to our front row seats which were only about five feet from the stage.  When the announcer emerged, everyone screamed, then chanted, "We want the Rollers!" at the top of our lungs, almost obliterating the news that the concert was being taped by ABC to be shown on national television, live album to follow.  As the sell-out crowd counted down the last minute, you could feel rampant anticipation in the air.  Finally we were down to 3-2-1! *ROLLERMANIA!*  In a big flash, the four Bay City Rollers appeared before our wondering eyes.
     Simultaneously, the first song--"You Made Me Believe In Magic"--began. The screaming was absolutely deafening unless you were screaming too.  "It's A Game" followed the opening number.  Les was having a great time in front of all those people.  He loved it, I could tell.
     When Eric and Woody did "Shanghai'd In Love," we were all believing in magic and the screaming level rose to new heights.  All the girls around us were crying, including ourselves.  Once I was sure I saw Woody wink at Melissa, then she really fell apart.  The guys did some old songs and everyone kind of sang along, at which point Les revealed they were going to sing a brand new song for the first time.  He said it was for some very special girls, "And you know who you are!"
     As the pretty melody reached our ears, the Civic Center became strangely quiet, as if everyone wanted to catch each word. Woody sang the first verse, which was obviously for Melissa...Les sang lead on the chorus...then Eric sang the second verse as he gazed down upon Christy with those intent blue eyes. He got a *real* reaction, and not just from Christy!  I saw about five girls carried out to the first aid station. Following Les' chorus run, something incredible happened.  Derek Longmuir sang!  For *me.*  Of course he remained hidden behind his drum kit, but still...
     Suddenly the song was over.  Les followed up by crooning out "Dedication," and immediately kicking into "Yesterday's Hero."  Then he shushed the crowd as best he could to say, "This next number was written by
Derek Longmuir.  It's his first song, and he wrote it just for you!", pointing right at me and laughing.  The slow music began and I fell back into my seat. I couldn't believe this whole song was just for me. I realized how much Derek must really like me to be doing all of this.
     When Les sang the last word, I recovered from my quiet hysteria with "Rock 'N' Roller."  The front man soon had the entire audience screaming and clapping.  The songs continued in that frantic fashion.  Nobody got hoarse, nobody got a headache--although many girls fainted.  Others looked as if they had gone insane.  I doubted I'd ever see anything like it again, especially while witnessing the reaction to "Saturday Night," the group's first American hit. With its last note, the Bay City Rollers were gone, leaving thousands of their crying fans behind.
     10 p.m. was the readout on her clock-radio.  Completely drained, Tony called herself another time-out, not feeling up to typing any "Melissa, Christy, and I" goodbyes right then.  Her fairytales were far from over anyway.  What about the Rollers' plane, and the trip to Scotland?  Scotland was where Woody would discover Melissa's future-hit singing abilities and become her manager, Christy and Eric would become engaged, Derek would introduce Tony to his faithful dog Jamie, and Leslie's mum would feed them all Irish stew.  Stays in New York and Los Angeles would surely follow...
    Sneaking into the backyard once more, safe in the Friday night darkness just past the willow tree, she could swear she saw a light in the drive of the house where the pond used to be. Indecision loomed and temptation gnawed just as the nocturnal distance from point a to point b gave her the willies.  She allowed herself a few moments to procrastinate by returning to the house for a jacket, noting that no one stopped her on her way back out.
     The light still glowed in Leslie's drive.  Music, she needed music, and then she could walk...Rollers music. Something quiet and dreamy.   So her accommodating brain cued up "La Belle Jeane," the longer version from "Once Upon A Star"--"Feel the air, this night is for romance..."  By the second time through the verses, Tony was halfway there.  "Paris by moonlight, you shine out like starbright..."  Climbing that nasty fence, seeing demons hiding everywhere.  "Silently spinning, you dance the night away."  Dashing through Derek's backyard, past his garage toward the light now a couple deep breaths away.  "Jeane, Jeane, Jeane, Jeane..." The song faded away just as she reached the front door.
     And lost her nerve.  The tiny bulb in the doorbell pushbutton glowed and still she stood frozen while inside she heard the continuous thump of a stereo very much in use.  And someone, must be Leslie, whooped loudly in time. Great, now she could stand there grinning *and* frightened.  Slowly, one hand positioned the index finger of the other in front of the button and pushed. The thudding stereo stopped as an intercom she hadn't seen clicked to life and asked her to identify herself.  Oh, God.
      "It's Tony...the rabbit.  Tony Dixon."
     More "Oh, Gods," a whole symphony of them as footsteps approached, the door swung open. A barefoot Les McKeown, pack of Marlboros in hand, unbuttoned dress shirt hanging open, jeans on, slightly rumpled hair...and an abrupt stop to singing "You Made Me Believe In Magic" when he saw her.
     "Ho, ho!  Tony the frightened rabbit, what brings you here?"
     He must not be upset or he wouldn't have been the one smiling just then.
     "I saw the light."
     A collection of moths quickly flocked around his front door, so he motioned her in, mindblowingly explaining that he was only there for the night, and that the other guys had already gone on to Minnesota for shows at the Met Center and the DECC in Duluth.
     "Is our little secret still safe?", he inquired innocently.
     With effort, she met his eyes shyly and confessed, "I tried to tell my friends Melissa and Christy but they wouldn't believe me."  His look of amusement encouraged her to continue.  "Melissa likes Woody, and Christy likes Eric."
     "Who do *you* like then?", he grilled her.
     "Derek, I guess.  My mom says he's too old for me though."
     She counted the precious seconds spent in her idol's front hallway, feeling equally selfish for taking his time. Fumbled for an exit line.
     "Well, I just wanted to stop and say hi...I'd better head home now.  My mom and dad don't know I'm
out..."  She turned only to have him stop her with an offer for a ride home that left her sucking air.  Yet she felt like such a kid.  "I can just walk."
     "It's okay.  Think of it as another secret."  He was already reaching for his keys. Minutes later, she was in her own warmly lit kitchen, clutching a scrap of paper with Leslie's private phone number at Edinburgh Estates.  Leave me some messages, he had said.  And this was an even exchange.  He'd scribbled down her number too, but pop stars like the BCR must be handed a thousand such scraps of paper a day.  Que sera, sera.
     If truth be told though, her mind was racing as it never had before.  She longed to reconcile the face she'd just seen with the one on the album covers in her room, but even with them spread around her on her bed, she couldn't fathom that the two men were one and the same.  Things like that just didn't occur.  Plain and simple. This was Tony Dixon.  This was Reese, the town where *nothing* happened.
     Her Roller albums were precious to her.  She knew her mother thought differently but time would tell.  She wished so much that the records' vinyl surfaces would never become worn.  Each and every time she played them...Maybe someday there'd be Bay City Roller albums that lasted forever. One by one, she studied the cardboard covers.  "Wouldn't You Like It?" was missing since the 8-track tape was actually her younger brother's, but she wondered briefly if she was the only fan who thought the song title "Derek's End Piece" sounded kind of perverted...
     "Rollin'"--Leslie's likes included touring and Spiderman comics, but he looked thin as a rail in that v-necked sweater.  "Once Upon A Star"--The only one not wearing plaid.  "Bay City Rollers"-- First U.S. album, so fresh-faced and innocent!  (Probably not.)  "Rock N' Roll Love Letter"-- Leslie's pants were snapped and zipped, Woody's weren't.  "Dedication"--Looking more like men than boys now, Les wearing a button that said something about getting excited. Plus 60,000 people in Toronto, Ontario hidden inside.
     And "It's A Game", whose rear cover took some getting used to--Best inside photos ever?...There--That time-exposure of Les!  She flopped back on the bed clutching the album close to her, kicking her feet a few times.  "I *met* this guy!  I stood right in his hallway and *talked* to him!"  This was going to be a long night.
     High school took the shine off her adventure.  Her locker-partner had left her for someone else the first week of classes so there was no captive audience to talk to.  Turned out Melissa was in one of her indifferent moods. Christy had a different lunch hour, and lately had taken to hanging around with the sluttier girls in the ninth grade although when pinned down still swore her devotion to Eric.
     Tony was beginning to get the message that it wasn't *cool* to like the Bay City Rollers at RHS, at least not publicly. How could these people have changed so much from June to September?  Well, she wasn't having any part of it.  Be true to yourself and all that.  But being true to yourself didn't save you from catty remarks in gym class even if you knew you could leave those girls in the dust when a race was on. Taking another quick glance at the Roller pictures inside her locker door,she shut it with a firm clang and headed toward first hour.
        AFTER THE GOODBYES.  Melissa, Christy and I listened to "It's A Game" with heavy hearts.  I couldn't help crying when I heard "You Made Me Believe In Magic."  As we sat on the floor of Christy's room, we talked about the night before.  Melissa was first.
    "We watched a movie in the hotel room and Woody was holding my ha-ha-hand."  A brief delay as she burst into tears. "He had on a pair of those funny glasses with the nose and the fuzzy mustache.  He tried to kiss me but his mustache got in the way."  She laughed with the tears still on her face. In her mind, she recalled the tender moments they had shared, and how easily he could make her laugh, make her happy.
     Christy began, "Well, Eric wanted to talk to my parents about us. Tonight, he gave me this ring and now we're *pre-*engaged."  He was so lonely and so in love with her!  When he spoke of becoming engaged, it was fearfully, as if she might change her mind while he was away.  He had taken the tiny box from his pocket, but before he even opened it, he told her, "I'd like you to wear this so you'll always know I'm thinking of you.  I'd like us to be together someday, but if you have any doubts, tell me now.  I couldn't go on if you--"
     "Hurry up and put that ring on my finger before you miss your plane!", she'd answered affectionately, kissing him.  As a result of her reply, he'd almost missed the plane anyway.  Now she was wearing his ring, and wherever he was, he was thinking of her.
     As we crawled into bed, "You Made Me Believe In Magic" came on the radio for some listeners in Reese.  In the darkness, I felt suddenly very safe and wanted.  Derek could have gone out with more wordly, more beautiful girls, but he had chosen me.
     Another Friday afternoon, and Tony was boycotting the last RHS football game of the season. Melissa would be there with her new honey from Saginaw, but even more frighteningly, Christy was apparently in-like with big brother Tim's mocking friend Rodney.  Confusion *and* blech!  And one girl feeling ever more left behind.
     Chilly night anyway.  Good for staying home and watching "Dallas."  Her folks had made a dinner-and-the-mall run, and both her brothers were out having lives when the phone rang midway through another cheesy hour of "Donny And Marie."  A man calling on behalf of Mr. McKeown to please let Ms. Tony Dixon know he would be arriving at Edinburgh Estates around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.  How handy that no one was there to see her leaping on the sofa or dancing and shouting around the living room!
     An entire Saturday to be spent tied up in knots...Tony pow-wowed with her brother Joe in her room to cough up the latest on Leslie.  He in turn handed over his Les button from Roller Day in Bay City.  The 8-track remained non-negotiable.  She noticed he seemed to look at her with a certain amount of awe and respect now.  *The way it should be,* she chuckled to herself.  If only Melissa and Christy hadn't checked out on her.  They could be in on this adventure too.  Instead to them, Edinburgh Estates was as fictional as Tony's BCR concert in Saginaw story. She had taken the 8:30 p.m. arrival time completely literally which meant shivers when he hadn't arrived by nine.  Hard to believe she held on for ninety more minutes.
     Figuratively trying to keep her chin up while huddling deeper into her jacket and sweatshirt for warmth, she stood up stiffly from the doorstep of Mr. McKeown's house and began walking.  To hell with navigating through trees and brush then climbing fences.  This time she was going over near the road, beyond caring if anyone nosy enough to look could see her!  She shuffled down the gravel drive, kicking stones and cursing herself for believing. Reese Road was only a few yards away when a car turned in, paralyizing her in its high beams.  Tony Dixon was about to be busted by the cops for prowling!
     Not the police after all.  An apologetic Les McKeown driving a rental car, and he pulled her into its warmth.  Now he swore at himself for getting his time zones screwed up, and his plane being late as well, both nearly freezing her to death. Did her folks know about this?  She said her folks were fine.  They trusted her completely, and no doubt assumed she'd gone to Christy's but she couldn't be at Christy's because Christy was out with Rod who know where...Rodney the KISS freak, she added.  By then Leslie was laughing.
     A timidly voiced, "I thought you weren't coming."
     She wanted to say that was understandable.  The schedules of big stars must change constantly, and should never be counted on not to, by anyone...But she didn't speak that part.
     "I may not always get here, but I'd never intentionally..."
     She nodded and he skipped the rest. He said the other guys would be arriving Sunday, revealing he happened to be the least fond of hotel rooms.  "I'll introduce you to Derek," he told her with feigned innocence and a twinkle in his eye, braking the car at the garage door.
     Tea in the kitchen.  Tony felt almost human again, enough to want to smother giggles as she watched this famous man who'd been on TV *and* the radio perform un-starlike domestic tasks like filling his tea kettle, operating the stove, and struggling to install a new trash bag in the empty wastebasket before stowing it in the "cupboard."
    She in turn plied him with stories of being terrorized by her older brother who liked to call the BCR "The Bay City Tumblers" and threaten the Roller posters on her bedroom walls with Magic Markers...which was why only a select few posters were still tacked up.  The rest were carefully counted and safely hidden in two unblemished school folders in one specially designated dresser drawer.
     How strange to be here babbling about herself when normally her waking hours were spent quietly, almost wordlessly, listening to others...To an extent because no one was interested in hearing her-- Anymore.  Time and again tonight, her simple stories made Leslie laugh.  Shy Tony Dixon had a friend.
     "Sorry again about this evening," he told her when the car was parked at the curb outside her house.
    "That's okay," she reassured him.  Held her breath for a moment then added, "Sometimes I just need a place to go...to get out of my house."  He looked at her thoughtfully, gave her a smile.
     "Tell you what, Ms. Rabbit, why don't you stop by tomorrow afternoon, meet the other guys?  And tell your two friends to come 'round as well. We'll have a bit of fun, what do ya say?" Tony had head-spins...Too late to call Melissa and Christy tonight!...best combatted by escaping from the surreal to the imaginary.
     Flicking her typewriter on, she combed through pages to find where she'd left off.  Air travel to Scotland (Woody continuously shuffled his favorite deck of cards.  "Watcha gonna do?  Play strip poker?", Les joked.).  Melissa signing a recording contract with Arista ("Party at my house!", Woody was yelling...All the Woody-burgers you could eat, and a bottomless bottle of champagne.).
     Private moments (The Scottish sunshine served as an alarm clock..."Come in," Eric replied to Christy's knock.  He had no shirt on, and was just zipping his pants.  Christy blushed and he smiled devilishly, yet a little sleepy-eyed.).  And a band rehearsal where the Rollers were rejoined by Derek's brother Alan ("Les put so much energy into each word...I *always* loved the way Les dances when he sings...").  Right.  Time for...
     DINNER AT THE MCKEOWN'S.  The evening promised to be a chilly one so I dressed warmly in a new sweater and corduroys.  Derek told me I looked nice, then he presented me with a beautiful satin tour jacket like the one he wore all the time.
     We reached Les' house early, but he was right at the door waiting for us.  Both his mum and dad were friendly people, and I felt quite at ease in their home.  When dinner was finished and Derek was occupied by a conversation with the folks, Les took me upstairs to show me his room.  He told me his dad hadn't seen much of the entertainment page for the last few years, revealing a stack of newspapers in his closet.  The rest of his space could best be described as an organized mess, much like my room back home.
     His most prized possessions were his collection of musical instruments, and his expensive, top- quality stereo system.  I told him this was the best night of my whole vacation, and he laughed in an embarrassed way.  He kissed me goodnight when Derek and I bid the McKeowns goodbye at the front door, but Derek didn't mind.  Les and I were only friends.
     Back on planet earth--or somewhat anyway, Tony daydreamed about a bonfire in the woods of Edinburgh Estates.  She, her two friends, and the four Rollers...the strumming of acoustic guitars, songs being sung, romance in the air...
    Destiny did not cooperate.  Melissa was stuck at home in Indiantown without a ride and sounded dubious anyway.  Christy was babysitting her younger sister and wouldn't be available until after 3 o'clock.   Lissa's absence was a real disappointment because Tony had pictured herself blurting out to Woody, "She wants to be a singer!" Melissa's rendition of "Mandy" in the eighth grade talent show had made very girl in the crowded gym weep so that must be worth something.
     Only a couple hours later, Tony vowed never to forget being introduced to the rest of the Bay City Rollers.  Eric, leather jacket and intimidation, regarding her suspiciously...and her most intelligent thought--"Faulkner is in the dictionary!"--was so dreadful she kept it to herself.  Woody looked at her evenly and with interest, expressing disappointment that Melissa would be unable to join them.  Tony looked at him, she saw Stan Laurel.  And her first Roller-love Derek, completely gracious, every bit as economical with words as she had heard, and the most difficult to understand, thanks to his Scottish accent.  She snuck long looks at him as all four Rollers conversed than decamped to their own dwellings, and thought he would be worth the effort to know better.
     "Holy cow!", she scribbled in her diary that night, "For however brief a moment, the Bay City Rollers knew who I was!"
     Christy could now say the same, and was probably on the phone to Melissa with all the exciting details.  Oh well, so much for them all being "fast friends."
     One dream down, but another dangled from a length of string in front of Tony's face, soon to hang around her neck.  As she and Christy were leaving Edinburgh Estates that afternoon, Les had pulled her aside with a sweet smile and handed her a shiny silver key.  "Come in through the gate next time."
     Months later, a Friday night in September found Tony Dixon gaping in horror as Hollywood put the Rollers through their paces in a preview of "The Bay City Rollers Meet The Saturday Morning Superstars."  Much worse than Erik Estrada's attempt to sing or Scott Baio's hand-jive was the choreographed routine the BCR performed with slicked back hair, plenty of invisible non-BCR background singers, and a batch of scantily clad dancing girls who among other things leaped on the guys from behind for a piggy-back ride. Tony seethed with jealousy and then remembered with great satisfaction where she was viewing this definitely-career-turning program.  Leslie's living room at Edinburgh Estates!  She removed the string from around her neck to dangle the *two* keys now attached.
     She thought back to Leslie first telling her about the Saturday morning show, and about how a voice coach was going to scale down those Scottish accents.  On behalf of all Roller fans, Tony had begged her friend to quickly develop his acting skills and "fake it."  She smiled at the time he drove her to hysterics with his "singing" impression of Van Halen's David Lee Roth...Or how dumb she'd been the day Leslie picked her up after school only to be mobbed inside his car.  "I only told one person!", she insisted as he politely signed autographs through the opened window.  Tell one, tell them all, was his summation, complete with a forgiving shrug... Les never spoke of Hollywood in a worshiping way so much as a mocking one.  A city of debauchery, he'd say.  Going to Hollywood to be "debauched."
     Stretched out on his sofa with a diet soda, listening to the FM album rock station's Friday night jams, Tony tried to reflect further but couldn't bring herself to think about Les just then.  Partly her fear of fashion models and actress-wanna-be's who preyed on the (already) famous, and partly because she didn't know how long this friendship thing was going to last. "Once Upon A Star" could take on a whole new meaning...
     Like Christy who sat behind Tony now in home ec II, whispering and talking to her trampy friends about the new boyfriend with the Peter Frampton hair.  "I love it when he *rubs my neck*," she'd titter.  At times like that, Tony felt like--despite her A's and B-pluses and goody-two-shoes attendance record--the only person she knew who didn't have a personality.
     Now Melissa had personality.  She could mope about for days in the hallways and classrooms of RHS then suddenly appear one morning dazzling everyone with her smile, her charisma, and her suddenly stunning, photogenic face.  Melissa often modeled for a department store in Saginaw, but was exempted from Tony's "fear of fashion models" wrath, having been a best friend since fourth grade.
     When Woody and Melissa had finally met, romantic sparks had not ignited, sad to say...but perhaps even more interestingly, a trust had developed through recurring conversations that took place when Mr. Wood was in town. Tony's Roller story now paralleled the path the real band had taken in a highly fictional sort of way.  Melissa's pretend recording career took all three girls to New York City where they were special guests at a Shaun Cassidy concert ("As Shaun ran past her at the end of the show, he threw her the silk scarf he'd been wearing.  She clutched it for dear life until it was safely packed away in her suitcase.").
     Then the setting switched to Los Angeles where a certain future starlet's producer/fiance was more available, and Tony worked some extreme melodrama into the plot. Derek, it seemed, was having an affair with--horror of horrors--one of those up-and-coming, man-stealing fashion models while Tony was innocently befriending such young celebrities as Scott Baio from "Happy Days" and Triple-Crown-winning jockey Steve Cauthen.
     THE BREAKUP.  Les didn't take long to arrive at all, and he found me exactly how Christy had left me.  Clicking on my bedside lamp and shutting the door, he surveyed my disheveled appearance and red-rimmed eyes.
     He sat down next to me and said, "I'm really sorry."
     I hung my head and felt the tears blinding me once again as his arm came around me and hugged me tight.
     "Did Derek tell you he's having an affair?"
     Shocked to sobriety, I shook my head and asked with whom.
    "She's a girl a lot like you, just a few years older, insecure, lonely. Only this girl wants to be a model, and thinks Derek is going to do great things for her...but he's just using her."
     "He said it was my fault we were breaking up--because of Scott and Steve...And you know who told him? Melissa!"
     "Here's a suggestion, in case you want to get Derek back.  Your friend Scott can help you since he'll be taping our show next week.  Act as if you really are a couple, and see how old Derek reacts."
     "Right now I think I just want to go home."
     Giving my arm a squeeze, he said, "You're not giving up *that* easily, are you?"
     Finally, I managed a smile and shook my head.  Of course Mr. McKeown was right.  And when Melissa's first single was ready for release, Clive Davis would throw a glitzy party for her then she would stay on the glamorous/debauched west coast while Christy and Tony flew back to the *un*glamorous vacuum of Reese, Michigan.
     GOING HOME.  Eric arrived for Christy, leaving me alone in the silent apartment.  I could hear happy voices drifting in from the beach and wistfully imagined being a part of them.  Les arrived with a "Good morning," apologized for being late, and said, "Write to me.  I'll miss you," handing me a small slip of paper then kissing me goodbye.
     "Aren't you taking me to the airport?"
     "No," he replied quite matter-of-factly, "Derek is on his way over right now.  Bye!"  With a wink and a super-mischievious Les McKeown grin, he was gone.
1979. Tony declared early on that this would be the year she learned what cynicism was... Les McKeown had left (or been kicked out of) the Bay City Rollers. Their manager, Tam Paton, was given the boot. And the group's name henceforth would simply be The Rollers. All that Tony could say for certain was her older brother, Mr. KISS-freak, had never asked to listen to "Strangers In The Wind." He had sheepishly borrowed "It's A Game" several times. Even scarier, now that every 8-track tape machine in the Dixon household was in need of repair, little brother Joe had handed over "Wouldn't You Like It?" for Tony to keep. BCR 4-Ever. Friends 4 Life. Baloney! Why did people say those things? Tony meant to keep her promises even if no one else lived up to them...Christy was a goner now. The latest rumors around school involved an aborted pregnancy. So much for neck-rubbing. Personally, Tony would take her own "sheltered" life any day...She removed "Rock N' Roll Love Letter" from the turntable in her room and replaced it with Barry Manilow's "Even Now" LP. Leslie's split with the Rollers defined the word acrimonious. He hadn't left, they said, he'd been asked to leave. Hollywood had gone to his head. Solo-artist-to-be McKeown's final words to Tony on the falling out were these: "One day bands and managers will study this group's history and make themselves a five-year plan--if it lasts that long. A *three*-year plan might be better. The faster the electronic media grows, the shorter-lived that fame will be." Strangely, Tony became better acquainted with quiet drummer Derek *after* the split while Les was in London recording his first album without the BCR. She listened to the Rollers' unofficial business expert talk about financial woes, travel itineraries, and his longtime interest in, of all things, the medical profession. Eons ago, Tony and Melissa would have delighted in cracking jokes about Derek Longmuir's bedside manner, but in this more adult day and age, Tony just focused in respectfully on his monologues the same as she would her father when he talked about assembly lines at General Motors. Leslie, as he now liked to be called, kept in touch with his Reese pal by phone, eventually causing Tony's mother to remark, "He's kind of old for you, isn't he?" That would be the one time Mrs. Dixon's uninformed pestering drew return fire from her daughter. The truth was no matter how rarely Les McQ might blow into town these days, he remained her champion. When she decried her classmates for repressing her with their collective superior attitude, he challenged her to compete on a playing field tilted her way--The track team! He bought her a new pair, her first pair, of Adidas running shoes, and Tony had completed a very promising first season last spring in her sophomore year. When she moaned about her long, fly-away hair, he packed her in the car and hauled her to the nearest salon for a makeover. When she contemplated her future, he encouraged her to think for herself, but when she couldn't see past two years of community college because of lack of finances, he assured her a four-year school was within her grasp. "I'll put you to work on my tour crew if I have to," he promised. What career path was she looking at anyway, friends and several family members had asked as her high school junior year approached. "I don't know," she'd reply every time, "Maybe a radio deejay." Great idea, Tony, she'd belittle herself later. A person without words magically becoming a chatterbox in front of a microphone. But at the same time, she'd reflect on all the countless hours spent listening to the radio over fifteen years and what those voices on the other end had meant to her when it seemed no one else knew she was alive. Maybe she could do the same for other people someday, a reasoning never volunteered to disbelieving eyes. In the fall of '79, Christy came back transformed. Older, wiser, calm and patient. Caring. In yearbook class where most days were slow days, Tony learned of the new man in Christy's life who had helped her save herself from the destructive road she had been racing down. Jason. Tony mostly talked about missing Les although he had sent her copies of all his solo recordings so far, and still phoned every few months. Right now, he was supposed to be touring Japan. Which started Tony on one of her Japan-envy rants that dated back to early Rollermania days. As for the new Rollers, they had cancelled their show at the Saginaw Civic Center, where new lead singer Duncan Faure would have been introduced to the locals, due to lack of interest. Anyway when Tony was feeling low, Christy was there every fifth hour with an abundance of kind looks. Egads! Upwardly mobile Mother Dixon's idea of showing support was uttering outdated "Reader's Digest" cliches like, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar," when Tony had a bad day at school. Then Tony would quietly close her bedroom door, take a deep breath and cue up an album like the Eagles' "Hotel California." "The autumn leaves have got you thinking about the first time that you fell...", Don Henley's ragged-with-emotion voice would emanate and she'd feel better. When the kitchen had cleared for the evening, Tony would try to call Melissa or one of her new friends Debra or Peg. Debra the neurotic with "turd curls" and a comb...whose mother only allowed her to be addressed by her full and proper first name, and who cried on the first day of cat dissection in tenth grade advanced biology because their monstrous, deceased alley cat looked "just like my Blackie at home!" Peg had been Tony's assigned lab-table partner for ninth grade biology class, and had turned out to be endless barrels of laughs disguising a sensitive heart and soul. Peg could erupt an entire classroom including an always forgiving teacher with her jokes, but like Tony she was also a diligent student. The problem with Peg and Debra, as with Melissa and Christy before them, was their convenient way of forgetting Tony when activities outside of school took place. The Class of '79 yearbooks arrived, and among the "always and forever" notations in Tony's book, her big brother Tim scrawled the words, "To someone who I 'think' is my sister because she spends so much time in her room listening to the radio. Maybe it will pay off." Sometimes Tony would borrow her mom's tape recorder and pretend to be the announcer backselling the Little River Band or the Bee Gees, always using the call letters WLMQ...Keep it on McQ! Only when she missed Les the most would she reach for her keys and hike to Edinburgh Estates where she never could count the number of messages flashing on his telephone answering machine. Fall of 1980. Leslie was on tour in Japan--again, and Tony finally had the hallways of RHS to herself, older brother now enrolled in an engineering program at Saginaw Valley State University. The new senior Dixon had a balanced schedule of one wicked government/economics class and tough senior English with an hour as a teacher's aide, and a final two hours each day of yearbook followed by journalism. Christy hadn't returned to graduate with the class of '81, instead attending adult education with Jason, her fiance, so they could earn their G.E.D.'s together, and be married at the end of the summer. Melissa shared Tony's English and yearbook classes but they usually only conversed at any length when one of them had news about the Rollers visiting Edinburgh Estates. Woody would often invite Melissa to housesit on weekends, his way of sparing her from two days in her own home where life was not so rosy, information gleaned by Tony from Mr. Wood, not Melissa. Just a few days after Tony's 17th birthday, Les followed up his care package of new album and latest publicity photos with a call proudly announcing his first singing engagement in the Bay City area, with or without the Rollers. He wanted her to be there, he said, energetically providing the date, time and place. Snag number one, Tony did not have her driver's license and mom, dad and brother all said, "Not I." Well, actually brother Tim said more than that, and snickered right in her face. Snag number two, Melissa could drive, in fact probably would--if someone else, say Woody, was going to be there as well. And any hopes of Peg driving her were dashed when Peg was diagnosed with mononeucleosis. As the December 8th club date drew nearer, Leslie promised to send a car for her. "Screw them all." He ended the call muttering to himself that they really needed to get her that driver's license. Miss Anal-Retentive out on a school night, Tony mulled in anxious anticipation from her table as near the stage as possible, Les' orders. She felt kind of odd sitting alone the way she was. Conspicuous...until the manager of the establishment stepped up to introduce the band to a now packed house. Rock 'em, sock 'em! How would she ever have known this ex-BCR friend of hers was so great? Talented? He left her speechless! She didn't give her table for one a second thought... After a short break around 10:30, Les brought his musicians out to play another set to an even more packed, appreciative audience, complete with girls dancing between the tables and guys holding their beers unconsciously tapping their toes. Just after eleven p.m., the manager motioned the star attraction to the side of the stage between numbers and shouted something into her friend's ear over the din. The expression on Leslie's face turned from electrified and confident to completely stunned, maybe even griefstricken...but why? Slowly he straightened, turned toward the drum kit for a few seconds with head bowed then moved toward the microphone on its stand. Seemed to hold his breath for an eternity before announcing, "Shortly before eleven tonight, John Lennon was shot outside his home in New York City. John Lennon's dead." His voice cracked on the word dead, each word ringing with disbelief. The barroom clientele reacted as one, at least a couple of people letting out strangled cries, and Les stood before them all, looking helpless. Behind him, the guys in the band were already grouped together discussing something, nodding to each other as they separated then broke into a choppy intro of a song each person soon recognized as the Lennon classic "Imagine." The front man found strength in the music and led an impromptu house choir through all the verses, and left most of his voices quietly crying. Les was driving. Tony didn't know where they were going. This was not in the original plans. So far he had stopped at a liquor store for a fifth of vodka and packed his band off to their economy hotel, saying he'd meet them in the morning at the airport. On the car radio, shaken overnight-shift deejays were reporting the sudden and tragic news to their equally shaken listeners...John Lennon--dead, shot seven times by a man from Honolulu named Mark Chapman who was unhappy with the way Lennon had signed an album cover for him earlier in the day. All the way down the dial, AM or FM, stations were cuing up "Starting Over," "In My Life," "A Day In The Life." All he was saying was give peace a chance. Flying down I-75 south with Leslie's silent thoughts as Tony sifted through her own memory banks...Her mother's silly-sounding complaint about too many "yeah, yeah, yeah's" in "She Loves You"...Pretending to be John and Paul in the Dixon kitchen with her brother Joe, jamming on homemade air-guitars while their scratchy, second- hand Beatles records played...A to Z Beatles radio specials on holiday weekends and "A Hard Day's Night" on Movie 5 at 4..."Mind Games," "#9 Dream," "And so this is Christmas..." Les swung the car onto Saginaw's Tittibawasee Road exit, the one by the mall, and with barely a pause, whipped across five lanes into the parking lot of the Sheraton- Fashion Square. Tony followed his instructions to pay a quick visit to the gas station convenience store for a couple of large bottles of Coke--for him, while he checked in at the front desk. He said he'd meet her at the elevators. Waiting to hand over a couple of dollars to the convenience store clerk, Tony was torn. After midnight was too late to be calling her folks and waking up the whole house, but at the same time, how could she not call? If she called, what the hell would she say? "This is something I have to do," made perfect sense to her, but moms and dads are more apt to jump to conclusions, scream "Sex with a minor!", and start calling the police. "He knows me better than that," she scolded them silently on Leslie's behalf. "If you trust me anywhere near how much I trust him, you'll leave him alone tonight. He needs a shoulder to lean on, maybe a hand to hold, not someone to mess around with. I promise I'll be home as soon as I can, and bring home everything I left with..." Impulsively, Tony grabbed a snack-size bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies on a bit-of-Roller-trivia whim, stopped by the pay phone outside before she lost what little nerve she had and told her folks she couldn't talk but she'd be home in the morning to explain, would her mother please call RHS for her and say she'd be in at lunchtime. Gotta go. Miss Anal-Retentive about missing school placed the phone on its hook and didn't look back... Once in the door of the (thoughtful even at a time like this) double room, the TV was locked on to an all-news cable channel as Tony took a seat on the end of the bed nearest the set, clutching her winter jacket in her lap. Behind her Les tossed off his shoes, loosened his shirt and poured himself a drink before grabbing both pillows and stretching out. Neither of them said much, except for angry reactions when Chapman's named was mentioned. Tony could hear Les lighting cigarette after cigarette (smoking did not spell refreshment or any of those other print ad adjectives to her mind or senses), and repeatedly filling his drink glass but she was afraid to look at him too often. The TV stayed on until some unknown time when the talking heads stopped telling them anything they didn't already know and Leslie abruptly raised himself to turn off the set, the lights. The curtains he left slightly open. Awkard moment for Tony. What did she do now? Calling someone a good friend, thinking of someone as a good friend was one thing but when that person has only ever been at arm's length...Follow your heart, perhaps? She tossed her coat on the empty bed by the window, and collected its two pillows, carrying them with her to Leslie's side of the room. He was lying flat on his back watching the flame burn on his lighter, apparently through with his "voddie and Coke." He reached out his nearest hand and said, "Come join the party!" She sat up next to him, sinking into their sea of pillows, shocked (in a good way) when he cuddled his head against the pantleg of her Levi's. "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you... Remember I'll always be true...", he sang out of nowhere, "And then while I'm away, I'll write home every day, and I'll send all my loving to you..." He finished with a rather glassy-eyed smile. Tony answered with the first verse of "Eight Days A Week." Their goofy, drunken John Lennon wake skipped over the "Helps" and "A Day In The Lifes" in favor of the upbeat tunes, until Leslie's head was cradled in Tony's lap and their duet on "In My Life" had trailed into McKeown's sleepy rendition of "All You Need Is Love" at which point he plain passed out, leaving Tony far beyond resisting the urge to gently caress his hair and touch his face at will. What a face...but she was tired too, and lifted his head long enough to stretch out next to him, wrap both arms around him, say a prayer for John, Sean and Yoko, then close her eyes. He hadn't told her about the 9 a.m. wake-up call. Oh, God. He had to get to the airport a.s.a.p., barely had time for a shower. Told her she should take her time, but she would feel much too weird about it. The sooner home the better... In the parking lot waiting for her ride to show, munching on the last of the much-appreciated chocolate chip cookies, he handed her a wad of cash. To trot out an old cliche, he didn't look the worse for wear...How to say goodbye? Leslie reached out and held her tightly (Damn those winter coats!). "I'd go anywhere with you right now if you needed me to," she pledged passionately, loyally, "Burn candles outside the Dakota Building...Anything." "Yes, I know." He gave her a squeeze. (Double-damn those winter coats!) Followed by a very honest, "I can't let go." She tried to laugh. "I know...but I think your taxi is here, my friend." He freed her slowly and asked, "What will you do now?" "Catch what's left of school, I guess...Face my folks. It was worth it though...not John dying, I mean.....I'd do it again." He kissed her cheek and opened the taxi door for her. He was still smiling at her as her car entered the roadway. Life would go on, she knew, but she'd never feel the same--about L.R.M. About anything. Fall-out from the Night the Beatles Died...Grounded for all of Christmas vacation, which was a moot point because Tony's social calendar was its traditional complete blank. She suspected the action taken was more to ward off potential appearances by a certain Scottish singer, so she blustered at her parents for a few minutes just to make them feel good. And she listened to "You Made Me Believe In Magic" way too bloody many times. After her sentence was lifted, she exercised her Les-fed appetite for rock guitars at his place, cranking the volume on Jackson Browne's "Hold Out," Pink Floyd's "The Wall," and the Eagles' "The Long Run" albums. She penned Leslie letters about the doors of her senior year closing behind her, including her last ever high school dance. To Tony a Friday night dance at RHS had three parts...Phase one was "Babe" by Styx on Peg's car radio, when the night held great promise for all. Phase two was snagging that Guy of the Month as the deejay segued into "Sailing" by Christopher Cross, knowing your guy knew you were interested in him but no matter how friendly, he never would reciprocate. Which by the end of the evening directly led to a deflated phase three...Peg dropping you off at home feeling equally dejected, and "Dreaming" by Cliff Richard was your companion for the rest of the night. At least this final soiree ended kind of full circle. The transfer student from sophomore year she'd had such a crush on, now one of the most popular guys in her class, had asked her to dance--"Lead Me On" by Maxine Nightingale--and they talked their way through the whole song, laughing about old (and much geekier) times! Tony's track career ended with her breaking the string in a fast heat of the 1600 meter relay at the Thumb Meet of Champions, one place out of medal contention, and while she had collected some hardware, along with several school records, and earned numerous points in her three workhorse seasons for the Rocket "thinclads" (She'd always hated that word), she guessed she'd always wish she could go back and start with the team her freshman year. Much better memories than her dateless senior prom though, that was certain. She could still picture riding there in a friend of a friend's car, Debra and The Friend in front smoking a joint. Peg in the backseat with her head stuck out the window... For what it was worth, she mailed a graduation announcement to Mr. Leslie McKeown marked "Attendance Mandatory!" The evening of Friday, June 5th, 1981...Picture-perfect weather outside which meant women fanning themselves fiercely in the high school gymnasium. The seniors lined up in the hallway alphabetically in their caps and gowns, Tony feeling slightly miffed that her younger brother had preferred to play baseball tonight. Bigger news than an RHS diploma had arrived in the afternoon mail anyway, a letter from the local community college awarding her a two-year tuition scholar-ship. The certificate would be presented to her during the ceremony. "Pomp And Circum- stance," time to go...She saw him in the doorway right in the middle of Ms. Valedictorian's speech, looking a very sexy kind of "hot" in fashionable black and white, completely erasing what small amount of concentration she had left. And when his eyes found her and he flashed those little teeth of his at her in a smile... At last the just-commenced senior class was freed into a receiving line in front of the school, Prince Charming standing near to sweep Tony's folks and whoever else off their feet. Tony was overwhelmed by photo-op's -Parents, friends, a couple of aunts and one grandmother. Even one of her teachers! Several friends whispered, "Go for it, Tony!", giving LRM the once-over. Leslie offered to squire her off to the big graduation bash on a nearby farm, which she giddily accepted, making no secret that she planned to "Yo-ho-ho" that pint of Bacardi that her dad had slipped her for this night. She lost her composure to mirth when she caught sight of their transportation...Not one of Les' usual model-year sedans, but a slightly-used-looking Chevette. "Where'd you get this?", she choked uncontrollably. "It belongs to a friend," he answered rather cryptically. "I spoke with her parents about it last week, and they agreed it would be a wonderful graduation present. Now there's *no* reason for you not to get that driver's license," he scolded as she leaped up to hug him. He fished in his designer jacket and handed her a set of keys. Planted a big kiss on her cheek...Normally reserved Tony was a whirlwind at the party, leading Leslie by the hand, smooching all the guys. *She* was the DCC scholarship girl, and with her was the handsomest man on the planet! On the drive back to Edinburgh Estates, Leslie--playing designated driver--watched Tony's radio radar lock onto ABBA's '79 anthem for jailbait teenagers everywhere, "Does Your Mother Know?", and she blasted it from the speakers of her new car, shouting, "Hey, it's our song!" "I can see what you want but you seem pretty young to be searching for that kind of fun," she zealously sang along. "...Well, I can dance with ya, honey. If you think it's funny, does your mother know that you're out?", she continued, leaning toward the driver's seat, not the least bit concerned about acting like a total goof. The wacky festivities continued in Leslie's living room where he surprised her with a borrowed Japanese karaoke machine and unlimited requests for all her favorite Roller tunes. "For my final number," he announced as his voice was beginning to fade, "for my favorite RHS graduate ever, going all the way back to 'Dedication' which she sometimes claims to be her favorite, this is for Tony... Congratulations!", complete with sly lounge-lizard wink. Oh, my God, he was going to sing "You're A Woman" for her! She pinched herself, making sure this wasn't 1977 and she was not dreaming. Unreal...but so right. He even danced with her near the end. "No more....." "Could I bother you for some of that yo-ho-ho?", he inquired, shutting down karaoke for the night. She fished the bottle out from behind the sofa cushions and tossed it to him. All good things... "Tony, there's something I have to tell you. I'm in a bit of a bind right now...I'm going to have to sell the house." Long pause, uncertainty. "Take all the albums that you want--They're just as much yours as mine anyway. The stereo, if you can lift it over the fence..." He followed up his humor-check with a wicked gleam in his eye. Tony attempted a grin that looked more like a grimace. She listened and he talked for a few more minutes then he left her looking through the stack of records and went to his room to start packing. Kneeling on the floor in her graduation dress, she clicked on the radio for comfort. Oh, no. "Babe" by Styx. The one with the long intro...She tried to keep her crying to herself, even turning her back to the doorway to hide her face, but he found out anyway and wrapped his arms around her. Kept saying he was sorry, resting his chin on the back of her head. "What was it all for if you were just going to go away?", she sobbed. "Hey," (Beautiful Dreamer?) he said gently, "You'll be the first name in my address book (pronounced more like 'bewk'), I promise...And don't say you won't think of me everytime you drive somewhere in the McKeown Mobile." Another attempt to disarm her--and her sniffles--with his humor. He kissed away the tears from her face ("Babe, I love you...") and, she was sure, meant to stop there but she took the reins for once in her life ("Babe, I love you..."), meeting his lips with hers. And letting them linger "Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, Babe." Dueling realtor "For Sale" signs marked the drive and fences of Edinburgh Estates, as the other ex-Bay City Rollers followed Les' lead. To her journal, Tony confided--God bless him for leaving the romantic dreams in her head intact...and for trying never to say words that would break her heart. College was the place where Tony Dixon decided it wasn't cool to say she'd been a Roller fan. This was a time of Who farewell tours and the Go Go's. In addition to her first broadcasting class and a required semester of composition, Tony headed straight for the creative stuff--a poetry *and* a short story class. E.Y.B.S., she called herself smugly--Enterprising Young Broadcasting Student. Primarily surrounded by fun-to-interesting-to-attractive males, she soon made many friends in the television environs. By-The-Book-Bob, who was anything but, stood out as the only guy who gave her trouble. One of the major drags of being Tony Dixon was always being the youngest member of her class. Here she was, a 17-year-old college freshman. Most of her new pals would have transferred from DCC or graduated by the time she turned 21. Because of that, boy, did Bob razz her! She needed to read *"Cosmo.* She needed to get "wild and crazy." As if he--this late 20's TV engineer--and he alone was qualified to advise her on the most personal aspects of her life. However, broadcasting classes required a minimum number of hours of observation at the master control switching console, and Tony saw "student employee" in her future, so By-The-Book had mega-chances to charm, tease andsuggest. At semester's end, she made turnabout fair play and said she was taking him up on his offers to "educate." He handed her some excuse about not dating women younger than himself. She didn't budge. Finally he relented and said he'd give her this one night...which meant drinking wine until all hours to Air Supply in his parents' furnished basement where she could have but didn't. Surprisingly, Tony's folks were not upset about her late return. She figured they were just relieved that she went out *somewhere*...with *anyone.* Semester two was where the Radio/TV friendships really formed. While Tony was steering clear of the now renamed *Obnoxious* Bob the Engineer, she posted chatty school-themed letters to Leslie. "Dave let me run camera one today!" "Audio for pledge drive...Six and a half hours of it!" "Benny and I had a major ink battle in MCR this afternoon!" "New P.R.--5 rum and Cokes!" She strove to recreate all the various personalities she'd encountered on paper like Dave the cool director saying, "Tilt down your audio there, sport." Or M. Andersen, the dignified (to the point of being egotistical) talk show host, telling her, "Everytime I see you, you're either eating or being molested by a bunch of guys." She withheld Obnoxious Bob's innocent verbal slam, "You're like a sister to those guys." To herself, she acknowledged that even though so many months had passed since June 5, she still found irony in the cover of "(You Left Me) Just When I Needed You Most" on Leslie's most recent LP. Spring break. Great TV Auction time at the station for staff and students alike. Les was darn lucky to catch Tony at home. Safe banter, surface stuff. And then he stopped the world. He said the g-word. A Japanese recording artist. "She's incredible." Recording *star*, actually, as Tony would find out later. The bad news, he continued, (huh?) was her job on his tour crew for the summer wasn't going to be happening. The gig that was to help pay the bills when she transferred to her four-year school, not to mention one hell of an adventure--Kaput. "There might be a wedding, you see." And he was right, in hindsight. Tony's first glimpse of Leslie's mate was in their wedding photo. Tony's folks had unfortunately witnessed her end of their entire phone conversation. "You look like you just lost your best friend," her father observed lightly. She popped the top on a bottle of diet soda from the fridge, feeling glum. "I thought you were a career girl?", he persisted. For heaven's sake...*He was right!* Career girl, overachiever if neccessary--Her torch carrying days were over. Furthermore, she made a stubborn and firm (albeit secret) decision to take that two-year free ride then proceed directly into the workplace. Where she would hurt inside, she still had music. She doubted she'd ever forget the night of Leslie's phone call, after mind-numbing hours running cameras on the DCC Great TV Auction floor...flopped down on her bed, and the same album rock station she'd listened to the night John Lennon died playing a suspiciously message-like Beatles song that mesmerized her. "Dear Prudence open up your eyes Dear Prudence see the sunny skies The wind is low the birds will sing That you are part of everything Dear Prudence won't you open up your eyes?" Sophomore year, some friends already moving on to new posts, a change in career paths, or to four-year universities. Tony's letters to Les reduced in frequency, but ultimately she found she still needed that outlet to voice her frustration, confusion, and passion for the line of work she had chosen. "Sooner or later, you go as far as you can go in DCC broadcasting, and it's the same place that was reached by all the Skorys, Ken Smartts and Mark Dorceys who came before you," capped by a few grumbles about too many incompetent new people on the student employee payroll. "B.B. says to keep my avenues open--Don't rule out a career in radio. Meyer, however, says to stay away from radio as a career. The fame and fortune aren't worth all the crap, and that announcers are nothin'!" Entry level positions at local radio and TV stations, even for a few hours a week, were highly coveted and Tony was passed over for a great part-time opportunity at the local NBC-TV affiliate after being assured she was a prime candidate. "I love the Business--did even before I got paid--but how I envy those people with the divine luck and uncanny timing who always get what they want." In the late summer of '83, certainly thanks in part to her friend Brian,Tony landed her first radio job at WMBC, a joke of an AM, broadcasting from downtown Bay City. According to legend, local stations liked to hire DCC students because they were used to "working with junk," and Tony was more than happy to join their minimum-wage ranks even to work lousy weekend afternoon and evening shifts comprised of syndicated programming and live professional sports fed out of Detroit. More interesting to the new hiree, however, were the high-tech computer terminals recently installed in the WMBC office. Ask Tony about the wave of the future, and she'd point to those bleary, orange-on-black-displaying monitors. A third fall semester at DCC found Tony paying tuition out of her own pocket for the first time in order to complete her final two broadcasting requirements for college graduation--Producing & Directing, along with several credit hours for serving as Dave the cool director's assistant for a few months, definitely the top of the mountain in Tony's higher education. Yes, she'd admit, she was tired of all those years of school, and pushing to get somewhere. Enough already! But over was forever, and she'd miss favorite catch-phrases like providing "continually usable shots" while running studio cameras, Ray the cranky chief engineer having to say "We thank you for making a maximum effort," the day she showed up (but no one else did) for her sign-on master control shift despite severe winter weather, long days and nights during pledge drives, and the insanity of being on the Great TV Auction floor that left you hearing directors barking over headsets in your sleep. "Okay, now remember divine luck and uncanny timing?", the freshly degreed member of the Dixon family wrote to Leslie McKeown in January 1984. "You're communicating with WMBC's new full-time commercial copywriter and production director." As the months flew by, Tony would describe her sense of accomplishment at marching into the production room with a stack of copy sheets and agency dubs then marching back out again with a stack of carted spots--numbered, labelled and ready to air. She prided herself on her tight board work running network talk-radio, local sports, and mixing the weekday noon farm show live in the studio The live announcing part was where she *knew* she fell short. "I have the *voice* but not the *words*...", she'd lament to her distant confidant, recounting how she had to write out even the tiniest weather update. Then there was Roy, the pencil-tapping afternoon guy, who could key out the mic, cough or clear his throat, and key the mic back in without missing the beat of an eraser. Tony did her best to improve (in her eyes) in that area while learning everything she could about those office computers. After all, the greatest life lesson that L.R.M. had taught her was when fate--or the Business--knocked you on your butt, you got back on your feet and kept trying. June arrived and with it a new WMBC news director named Ted. Tony would always look back on the ensuing time as the Summer of Her Distraction. Ted was on his second marriage to, if you believed him, a petite shrew of a woman and Tony quickly became a member of the single- female sympathy club. How could anyone be coldhearted to such a dedicated, intelligent, nice- looking man? Conveniently her height, around her every day, so worldly...She felt herself falling for him. Tony's not-extensive dating history was marred by something she called the Ick Factor-- Guys who were interesting until you were *on* dates with them, then Wham!--The Ick Factor. Ted, Ted, Ted was different. He innocently pursued her as she had never been pursued before. He flirted with her--in writing. "Bear in mind, I am stuck in the middle...Between a T.V. freak and a person who is little...To break the ice I cannot do...The final move is up to you." But this dogged suitor made one major mistake--inviting Tony to his Labor Day bash where she met the Mrs. and found out who the schmuck *really* was..... A fall Friday night, post-high school football playoff game with Tony on the board. The request line began flashing just as she was about to backsell Sinatra's "Summer Wind." She punched a button and gave the caller an exasperated, "WMBC--Please hold." Then in a much more pleasant voice, she opened the mic to announce, "AM 1420 playing more of the *Good Stuff*..." She was mortified to find Leslie on the telephone, very long distance. He thought her rudeness was hysterical. She enjoyed his wit and his stories more than ever, loved that he still obviously cared for her, but she missed the days of sharing the real "inside stuff." She supposed he saved that part of himself for his wife (and his son). She talked of clipping "Sally Forth" (career woman) and "John Darling" (fictitious television station) comic strips from the newspaper, bemoaned the lack of report cards in the real world, and mentioned the news that John Lennon's son was to release his first pop single and album very soon. Les said he was basically busy and happy, spending a lot of time performing in Germany and Japan.....The Julian Lennon single was called "Valotte," and the young artist was both hailed and criticized for sounding like his famous, deceased father... 1985 brought to fruition all the electronics industry talk about digital audio on shiny discs. Affectionately referred to as "D.A.D.'s" by Tony's DCC engineering friends, music sold on compact discs instead of pressed vinyl and the cost-prohibitive players with which to listen to them had arrived. Tony literally cried when a first-of-its-kind Sony Discman and a compact disc of Julian Lennon's debut album were delivered to her at home with the enclosed note: "Tony's wish comes true--The machine may not last forever but the music will. LRM." Spring, 1995. Tony Dixon had long since left the farm fields of Reese, Michigan for the asphalt and concrete of the Chicago suburbs. Of her brief stop in independent television in '86, she would recount only three things--How much she hated living and working in Flint, Michigan; a very strange pact she made with Keith the commercial copy coordinator (to "lose their innocence" together if neither had found someone by the time he or she had a chance to escape-- *She'd* never tell!); and the "help wanted" ad in Electronic Media that got her the heck out of there.--Take the software experience and run! Julian Lennon instigated these occupational changes by posing the musical question, "When do I find out what I'm doing right?" Tony had decided there was no answer but to make the progress you sought happen yourself. Today she held the title of Radio Traffic Manager/Promotions Assistant at WCMX-FM (Chicagoland's Mix), a hot A/C station headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois. She also earned a lucrative side-income as a freelance voice-over announcer, paying a nominal fee for production time at The Mix then sending her recorded work by courier to the appropriate ad agency or office She hadn't heard from Leslie since '89 when her parents forwarded a package containing an album called "It's A Game," and a hasty note that said--"Still an entertainer, still a husband and father, maybe I'll see you in the States someday." She'd always remember being in her car later that same afternoon and hearing an oldies station play the Guess Who singing, "No time left for you..." Despite the urban sprawl around her, Tony kept life simple in Oak Brook. "Just give me a video store and a shopping mall!", she liked to tell people. Except for owning a purchased-new, reliable car and leasing secure living quarters, she didn't have expensive tastes... Musically, she had lived through a U2 phase (Pontiac Silverdome, April '87) and a New Kids phase (Alpine Valley Music Theater inWisconsin--Attendance 65,000--Twice...), leading to the Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" tour stop at Alpine Valley where the new material was exciting but Joe Walsh grabbed her by the heartstrings with his "Pretty Maids All In A Row" declaration: "...Heroes they come and they go...And leave us behind as if we're supposed to know--Why..." While not public information, Tony shared her condo with cassette copies of all her Bay City Roller albums (Shouldn't she have worn out "Don't Let The Music Die" and "Write A Letter" by now?), the "16" magazine centerfold with Roller Day in Bay City on one side (and KISS on the other!), and her two most cherished photos--One of her running camera on the DCC Great TV Auction floor, and the one (etched in her psyche) taken with Leslie on Graduation Night, 1981. A new and interesting aspect of Tony's days at WCMX involved assisting the promotions manager in answering e-mail sent to the station through America Online, a fast-growing computer online service. When conditions were favorable, Tony would sign on to AOL and explore. She was astounded when her "Where Are They Now?" message board posting from March regarding the Bay City Rollers drew an e-mail response in October directing her to a board dedicated solely to her favorite group. Which led her to the next logical step--purchasing her own home computer. So much for inexpensive tastes...Her BCR message board fanaticism found her collecting cost-no-object, Japanese-released Roller CD's piecemeal with help from fellow fans in faraway places like Georgia, Connecticut and Toronto, Ontario. November found her still wanting "Wouldn't You Like It?" and "Dedication." Meanwhile, during sweeps weeks that month ABC Television aired its blatantly-hyped "Beatles Anthology," heralding the release of a remarkable (Tony thought) "new" Beatles single called "Free As A Bird." Listening to the song gave Tony a peculiar feeling, chills even. If there was a downside to the Fab Four's technological collaboration though, the enormous, empty place inside her where Leslie used to be seemed to grow larger whenever McCartney wondered, "Can we really live without each other?" 70's nostalgia was a preferred topic at WCMX, but Tony just as often reserved the right to remain silent for reasons she'd refuse to discuss. March 7, 1996. A late afternoon visit to the AOL Roller message board...Big news. BIG BIG news! One of the regulars--somehow, someway--had just been on the phone with Leslie Richard McKeown. Fanning everyone who had passed out was right. Tony was reeling--This BCR loving comrade was about to share Leslie's e-mail address. Good luck getting through, the post duly noted. Apparently Mr. McKeown's local computer service left something to be desired--Beware of "Failed Mail." Despite Tony's delight, she held a wait-and- see attitude about joining in the e-mail assualt, but one by one her online sisters shared their success stories and LRM responses. Her first couple of attempts were returned to her so she widened her efforts by e-mailing from home *and* work. And then.....Frankie, the Mix's promotions "whiz kid," could have passed for one of Tony Manero's disco- happy friends in "Saturday Night Fever." This morning, the resident encyclopedia of pop culture references had all the office assistants laughing *again* with his impression of Scotty from "Star Trek" done with a thick New York accent. Women loved Frankie...The secret to shutting him down was the maxim--If you're not interested, you're not interested. He skipped the Joe Cool act with Tony, and treated her instead like a kid sister. Such is life... Eventually he wandered into his office with a fresh cup of coffee andlogged on to AOL ("You've got mail!"), only to loudly announce, "E-mail from the U.K.--What are you not telling me, Ms. Dixon?" Except for almost knocking over her chair in a scramble to get to the computer monitor, she didn't think she displayed sheer panic...much. Sure enough, "To Ms. D in IL" was the subject heading. Fanning everyone who has passed out..."It's probably just junk mail from the internet," she informed Frankie blandly, "I've been getting a lot of that lately. Save it for me and I'll take a look at it later." Like when he was out to lunch, which comprised most of his working hours. "To Ms. D in IL"--He thanked her for her thoughtful message, and said he was very happy to hear he had been such a positive inspiration to her. He hoped the years had been kind to her, as they had been to him. "Regards, LESMAC." She next experimented with a list of inquiries about his past and present, waiting impatiently as other AOL'ers received their responses from the only Roller on the internet. Someone reported him as having joked that his fingers were falling off one at a time from long sessions on his computer keyboard. Finally he waded through to her letter. No, he hadn't seen "Braveheart" yet. Said his songwriting was not acceptable "in the old days" but there were never-before-heard BCR tracks in *his* vault. And as for the blue Ford Mustang-- that was in the scrap heap a long time ago. "Busy, busy me...Regards, LESMAC." Tony longed to reveal her true identity--even her online friends were not privy to her Les history (& yes, she carried a guilty conscience about that)--but too much time had passed, too much effort applied to building a life without him. Maybe this whole e-mail/message board thing was a mistake... Then unexpectedly, the remainder of her CD dreams came true--"Lovely To See You" *and* "My Lisa" to infinity. From Leslie's lips to her ears, as was meant to be for close to 20 years. Now if she could only ask him--Did you mean it when you sang those words in some recording studio so long ago? 96-08-15, "To Ms. D In IL: I *always* 'mean it' when I sing..." Stand by to o.d. on every syllable ("One more time for old time's sake..."). That enormous, empty place stretched for eons. By some mystical chance, Melissa from the days of Rollermania and recently divorced, called to say she'd be in Chicago for a couple of days to attend a business seminar. No, she didn't need a place to stay, but she'd sure like to see her old school friend! Which was how Tony came to be pouring out her should-have-been-dead-and-buried-long-ago Les McKeown miseries over stuffed pizza on Michigan Avenue one late summer afternoon. "He doesn't know anything about me except my screen name." Melissa hesitated for a moment before delicately prying, "Did you two ever..." Tony choked. Smiled her biggest, most idiotic smile in weeks. "*ARE YOU KIDDING?*.... There was one pretty terrific kiss though." She'd lived for years on that one kiss. The discussion continued, tipping the scales from light-hearted to the more serious. "You know, you only ever saw that one side of him," Melissa pointed out. "Maybe you need to start all over again." But I *liked* what he was, the lost child in Tony wailed silently yet stubbornly. 96-08-31. COMPOSE MAIL. Re: The Truth... Hi, Leslie--I have a confession to make...My real name is Tony Dixon........" (Loraine Koski 8/24/96)