Guns N Roses had three “intimate” Los Angeles performances the second week of March.
Now, to define “Guns N Roses”: a music band including only two remaining members from the original group; Axl Rose and Dizzy Reed, the keyboardist from ‘Use Your Illusion I and II’ through the ‘Chinese Democracy.’ I use the word “original” loosely with Dizzy.
I bought the ticket knowing, no matter what, seeing Axl Rose was worth it. I heard the stories, he doesn’t perform until hours after the show is supposed to start, then belligerent, short tempered and a little sloppy. It didn’t matter. I wanted to see Axl before I died.
Here is a little back story on my love for Guns N Roses:
My sister is five years older than me. It is hard to bond with someone five years your elder, it is just old enough to live two totally separate lives but close enough in age to force you under the same roof for most of your childhood.
I idolized my sister. She was cool. She brought boys over to the house who made my hands sweaty. She unapologetically showed me horror movies that scared the living shit out of me. I liked her clothes and her toys, but most of all, out of everything, I loved her music.
In her room, there were large posters of Bon Jovi, Cinderella and Guns N Roses.
You can imagine being 9 years old and hearing ‘Appetite for Destruction.’ It rattled my cage.
Down stairs, in my father’s study, I properly molested his vinyl collection of early Beatles, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. I can still smell the dust flying in the air off of polyvinyl with that sweet sound of paper sliding off the record.
Upstairs, in my sister’s room, there was something called a cassette tape. So, we pushed aside the Wham! and Boy George records and popped in this new, raw, angry sound called Guns N Roses and I fell in love.
I studied the art work on the album, there was a woman collapsed against a wall with her panties ripped down around her knees. A flying orange monster with daggers as teeth. I didn’t know what that meant, but it was provocative.
I remember the clatter of the tape inside the cassette just before three pops: slide into player (pop), slam player door shut (pop) and press down on play (pop) then ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ came on.
It was faster than the Monkees, who I was obsessed with 1st through 3rd grade, and the singer was furiously telling me something important.
I would have to sneak into my sister’s room to listen to the music over and over or wait for her to play the videos, which were doubly exciting. And that is when I saw Axl Rose move. He was so pretty.
That year, I was sent off to Girl Scout camp . . . often I was sent off to one camp or another. I wore my handkerchief headband around my head like Axl and asked the girls to draw a Guns N Roses tattoo on my arm. They thought it was amusing at the time, later they would ignore or ridicule me when we started school again in the Fall.
A year later, they performed at the outside concert grounds near our house in Wisconsin and there was no way I could go, being only 10. But, I laid in bed and listened very carefully to hear the echo of music drift into my open bedroom window under the ice cream orders announced over megaphone from Gilles, the local custard shop.
“You’re fucking crazy! Crazy! Oh my . . .”
“Order number 55, 55, you’re order is ready.”
I was so eager to grow up so I could see all the great music and movies that were being kept from me, little did I know, by the time I grew up, rock would be dying and my legends would be fading.
It was my night for GnR, so I dressed in a black and pink pin-striped skirt, a GnR tank top, fishnet stockings with arm stockings to match. Heavy eye liner. And red lipstick that always fades before I remember to touch it up.
I picked up my ticket at the Wiltern’s will call when the box office opened. A friend told me that wrist bands for the pit were given to the first group of people to pick up tickets, but this show required specifically pit tickets to stand close to the stage.
No one was friendly, waiting in line. A group of fans lined the first half of the block blasting vintage Guns N Roses music off a boombox.
My drug of choice for the evening: whiskey.
First, I grabbed a veggie burger at a cafe next door and sat next to an old man, hiding behind a book. And by hiding, I mean every time I looked over he hunched down to cover most of his face with the book.
I ate, and eventually he asked to use my phone to call his daughter.
He would be home in an hour and was wondering if she could make yams tonight.
Handing my phone back, he thanked me. I said, “Sure. So . . . yams tonight, huh?”
I was lonely. It was 3 1/2 hours til the show and I was looking for a friend.
He asked me what I was up to, and I told him. He said he heard of Guns N Roses, then asked if I liked to read.
I could tell just from the way he asked a question and then cowered behind his book cover before I could answer that he suffered from some kind of mental illness.
I said I loved to read.
He asked what type of books I liked. Cowered.
I said, “James Baldwin is my favorite, have you heard of him?”
He said, “Yeah, black guy from the 60s, right?”
Hall-le-fucking-lu-jah. Someone other than my mother knows who James Baldwin is.
He talked a lot, as I drank my first pint of beer. Sometimes I like letting people just talk to see what floats out of them from seemingly nowhere.
Old Guy, “Five years ago, I almost died of a stroke. Then a year and a half ago, I almost died of diabetes. Now, they tell me I have cancer.”
The first words to escape me was a sarcastic, “Oh good!” from the Sascha School of Sarcasm. You work around under paid, over worked, hilarious cynics and you forget conversation etiquette.
Jesus. That was rude.
But he laughed.
I apologized, and said, “I’m sorry.”
He said, “Eh, whatever.”
I got the feeling he was kind of done. Now he was reading his final days away and that made him happy.
He said, “Am I bothering you? They told me not to talk to the customers because I might bother them.”
I said, “Are you kidding? You are the first nice person I have met all night.”
I told him I had to go get tanked on whiskey. He asked me to be careful. I said I knew what I was doing. I hoped I did, after all, I was dressed like a whore.
I smiled and left him with his book.
Jerry, my friend/guardian angel, texted me that there was a bar very close to the Wiltern called Frank N Hank’s. I was there a couple years ago when my wallet was stolen. The rumor about Frank N Hank’s is that Charles Bukowski used to hang out there. When I walked in and sat down, I saw the small illustration hanging of Charles behind the bar. I forgot about his little shrine.
I ordered a beer and a shot of whiskey. The City of Angels indeed. My rock stars and writers might be dead, but their ghosts are still hovering over in little corners of the city.
Cue drunk, middle-aged Hispanic guy sitting next to me. I guess they come with every dive bar . . . ?
We spoke a little. He was trying to feel out if I had a boyfriend. I told him about my ex- and we had a circular conversation about how I should get over it, when I kept stating that I was.
Man in broken English, “You are very beautiful, anyway.”
Me, “Beautiful anyway?”
Me, “Beautiful despite what?”
Man, “Exactly! Hahahaha!!”
I rolled my eyes and waited for my free drink. Call me unethical, I call me poor.
First there was an older guy who smelled of cigarettes and hadn’t seen a dentist in 20 years at the end of the bar, watching me. He came by to chat with me a little. He offered to buy me a drink. I took it.
Someone was playing great tunes on the juke box, “Indian Summer” by the Doors.
I complimented him and said I didn’t have to put any money in because his choices were stellar. Then he bought me a drink.
I was ready to go. It was almost 11 and thought the band was supposed to be on around then, but knew they would be late.
I thanked everyone for the drinks and Cigarettes approached me and said, “What do you say we sell your ticket and you spend the rest of the night with me?”
I said, “HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!”
Axl Rose was calling. I said Goodnight, Mr. Bukowski and jogged a block back to the Wiltern in the freezing cold.
I walked in with my cheeks burning from cold Los Angeles air and alcohol. The opening band was some over-medicated, droning version of pop. I got as close to the pit as possible, flirted with security, he smiled and said I couldn’t come in.
I found the first opening I could before the pit on the landing and met two Irish-American guys taller than me. I said, “Can I stand here?”
They said, “PLEASE! This is gonna be awesome!” Ra ra ra. Yada yada yada.
I said, “Ok, hold my spot while I go get a drink.”
Dancing up the steps to the small bar, I got Robert’s attention, a bartender. He liked my name and made me the best Jack n Coke of my life.
I danced back down the steps and returned to my two thick, white American boys. We were talking to a small, twenty something, Indian guy with a cute (by all standards of proportion and general aesthetics) cute, blond petite girl.
She left and somehow we got started on how he wanted to have sex with the girl. The Indian guy gladly threw himself into the conversation, leaning in, shouting and slurring, wildly moving his arms in the air out of sexual frustration.
He said, in a full American accent, “I asked her if she would be more than a friend and she said she doesn’t have those feelings for me.”
I said, “Don’t be discouraged, just touch her. Put your arm around her. Kiss her. She might change her mind.”
Thick Guy #1, “Yeah man, get out of the friend zone.”
He said, “I bought her this ticket. I BOUGHT her this ticket! And she says she still just wants to be friends.”
Thick Guy #2, “Chicks want money, man. Its all about the money.”
Indian Guy, “I’m a FUCKING doctor! I make a shit load of money! Ok. WHAT THE FUCK!?”
We were laughing our asses off.
The girl came back as the lights dimmed, and I took his arm and dropped it around her waist. She looked over right at me and gave me a look of poison. Then shrugged her shoulders and stepped away from the Indian. He turned around to exchange a look of frustration and threw his arms up in the air.
I noticed a joint in Thick Guy #2’s ear, and said, “Hey, can I get a hit off of that?”
He said, “Yeah, we will share . . . the three of us, after . . . you know, things get started.”
Around this time, I accidentally spilled my drink all over my tank top. The men stepped back and said, “Ohhhhh!”
I looked up and said, “NOW, I am really ready for rock n roll.”
Thick Guy #1 gave me some money and said I should go replenish my drink.
I approached the bar, and the other bartender approached me first. I said Robert made me the best Jack N Coke of my life- the other bartender tossed his hand up in the air to Robert and walked away from me like I had somehow rejected him.
Robert said, “This one’s on me. Keep your money.”
I said, “Robert, are you involved with someone?”
He smiled and nodded.
I said, “Is it serious?”
He said, “Well, we are living together.”
I said, “Damn it, I need a man like you to make me drinks like this.”
He handed me a drink and smiled. Men. Jesus. I hate them, I mean, they drive me insane with their stupidity . . . but they are God damn beautiful creatures.
I found my spot and the lights went black. We screamed.
Axl came on and I saw him. I saw my love. Handle bar mustache, cowboy hat, sunglasses . . . that was him . . . the man I lusted for before I was even capable of making children.
He opened with Chinese Democracy. Then ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ came on. My mantra.
Welcome to the jungle we’ve got fun and games,
We got everything you want, honey, we know the names,
We are the people that can find whatever you may need.
If you got the money, honey, we got your disease.
Jesus. Talk about a prophetic song from my childhood. He was singing about Los Angeles. I learned the words before I could ever realize what the song was about, and understand, eventually, the song would be about my life. A hard life here, but a life I love.
And you’re a very sexy girl,
That’s very hard to please.
You can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free.
In the jungle,
Welcome to the jungle . . .
I stopped dancing and I stared at him. I thought about everything, how I was killing myself to stay here, killing myself for a career and all the men who ordered a slice of my body like it was a pie on display at the local diner.
Welcome to the jungle,
It gets worse here every day,
Ya learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play.
If you hunger for what you see
You’ll take it eventually.
You can have everything you want but you better not take it from me.
In the jungle,
Welcome to the jungle . . .
Watch it bring you to your knees, knees.
Everyone was singing and dancing. The words fell out of their mouths without taste. They all had jobs, wives and homes to go back to the next morning.
I stood silently in the song until it ended. That song was written for me.
The lights dropped and the guitar for “It’s So Easy” came on, I sang word for word happily, and didn’t miss a beat to “Mr. Brownstone.”
People around me were happy. Eventually, hands came on my body from various directions. I felt a hand on my hip, then a hand on my butt . . . hands sliding up the side of my bosom.
It felt good. It was Guns N Roses. I didn’t mind.
The hands tried to go up my skirt, that is where I stopped them, only about three or four times before they withdrew entirely.
I do remember making out with the guy next to me around “Used to Love Her” briefly. When “Nightrain” came on, I couldn’t be bothered. Whoever he was, he slipped away for the rest of the night and I didn’t see him again.
Axl did piano on “Another Brick in the Wall” and a version of “Yellow Brick Road/Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”
His energy was unwavering. He danced, slithering around his microphone stand, using it to balance as his hips and shoulders wrapped around the music.
Axl would stomp in a circle, moving his head with the steps and I realized he was borrowing from Native American War dances. Its something Jim Morrison did, as well. Its a rare sight now, amid the guitar solos and screaming vocals.
He had control of the show. In between chorus, he would stand on stage and move his hands with the swells of music, like he was conducting a grand orchestra. He was inside the music he made, like a whole new world of Fantasia was in front of me.
No matter what they say about the temper tantrums, the drugs, the band, the cornrows . . . never doubt, Axl Rose is brilliant.
He ended with “Rocket Queen”, that is what I remember anyway.
I see you standin’
Standin’ on your own
It’s such a lonely place for you
For you to be.
If you need a shoulder
Or if you need a friend
I’ll be here standing
Until the bitter end.
(change here to higher pitch)
No one needs the sorrow
No one needs the pain
I hate to see you
Walking out there
Out in the rain
So don’t chastise me
Or think I, I mean you harm
Of those that take you
Leave you strung out.
Much too far
He does vociferate with the instruments, kind of like a hard rock scat:
Oh oh oh oh oh
Nanahow nanahow nanahow nanahow nonononono
Oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh, whoa whoa
Oh oh oh-oooh, baby yeah.
Then he climbed the highest point of stage against the pit, looked up to the lights for the final note.
And when that last sound escaped his mouth, the lights flared up and lit up his face. His eyes were wide, his mouth agape. It looked for a moment like he saw God. Then the lights spilled to darkness with red confetti.
I had to make love to him.
The house lights went up and I stood there as fans fought down to the pit for memorabilia from the band, and others got on their hands and knees to collect the red confetti like dollar bills.
I stood there.
This show was everything I could have wanted. Ideally, I would have seen them all on some reunion tour. Slash said that probably wasn’t going to happen unless Axl issued an apology. Jesus Christ.
I thought about how the Doors at the Whiskey A-Go Go in August was the exact opposite musical experience. I was oddly disappointed. Jim was the music in the most important way. You need the front man to usher the audience to the music.
Now, without Slash and Duff, God Bless them, still . . . Axl brought the music to us in a way Velvet Revolver just can’t. The front man is the face, the arms and the legs of the music. The heart is still there in the band, but the singer needs to combine the godliness of sound with flesh. What the Pope is supposed to do for Catholics, Axl Rose did for me.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that . . .
Ya get nothin’ for nothin’,
If that’s what ya do,
Turn around bitch I got a use for you,
Besides you ain’t got nothin’ better to do.
And I’m bored.
. . . is divine lyricism. I am saying that his voice and that music taps into the beast, whatever it is as a whole, I may never know. This music will survive us.
A security guard smiled and leaned up against the railing. I approached him.
Me, “Would Axl Rose require any lady company for the night?”
Security Guard, “I am sure. He is Axl fucking Rose.”
Me, “May I . . . volunteer my services?”
He said, “Yeah. Just go behind the building and look for a Black Tahoe. He should be out in about an hour.”
Well, that was easy.
So I went back to my car to smoke a cigarette or two as the radio stations played Guns N Roses for all the fans, walking off the booze and magic. It was 3:15am in Koreatown and it was fucking cold out. Not to mention, I was half naked.
An hour. Sigh. What to do . . .
So, around 4am, I strolled behind the building and saw that about 30 other people had the same idea. My competition was crap. Most of the girls were overweight, too much make-up, and older. What were they eating? I was skinny, and my make-up was smudging under my eyes, my bangs were hanging over my eyes, flat from the sweat and my stockings were sliding down my thighs towards my knees.
I wore a black hoodie, with the hood over my head to keep warm. That’s all I had. Nothing to sign, just my milky, white thighs.
TMZ was there, present in two assholes holding records for Axl to sign. They were complaining.
TMZ Douche #1, “He makes us wait on purpose. He loves doing this to us. Its a power thing.”
The dude just played almost 4 straight hours of music for us, let him have a drink of water and collect his shit. Jesus. FUCK YOU!
One drunk guy lit up a smoke too close to TMZ Douche #1, and he turned to confront him, “Hey, can you smoke closer to the street, your smoke is blowing in my face.”
He furiously fanned over his mouth and nose.
Drunk, “I am just chillin’ man, why can’t you?”
TMZ turned to get in his face, “Because you’re making me breathe in your smoke?”
Drunk, “What are you going to do about it?”
I backed up behind a group of men and watched as the two guys waited for someone to step in and break it up. No one did. So TMZ turned back towards the Wiltern, and the Drunk smoked his cigarette closer to the curb.
He looked at me and said, “Did you see that?”
I said, “Too much testosterone. Just take it easy. Its only the chemicals in your brain.”
His girlfriend turned to me and said, “That’s what I think!”
He said, “Its not like I was bothering anybody.”
I said, “Dude, how are you still drunk? Its 4:30am?”
He said, “Didn’t you drink in there?”
I said, “Yeah, I was drunk. Now I am hung over.”
He said, “Well, you didn’t drink enough.”
The guitarist came out and the security told everyone to relax. I backed away. WHY is he wearing a top hat? I am sorry you have to follow Slash, which is fucking impossible to do unless you are one of the top five guitarists in the world, but a top hat ain’t gonna get you any closer.
We waited some more. I saw the Tahoe pull out, engine running. I walked towards it to feel the heat against my legs. The security guard spotted me and smiled, he waved me away. I wrapped my legs around each other like I was a standing vine and pleaded. I was hoping I could just slide into the back seat when Axl came out.
He said, “Sorry, I know you’re cold. I am cold and wearing pants.”
I slowly walked back towards the barricade. Someone saw a small dog and said, “That’s Axl’s dog!! See it!! He is coming!!”
Wait . . . Axl has a small dog? This little brown fluffy thing came prancing out with a smile and happily jumped into the back seat where I was supposed to go.
Axl came out, lifted his water bottle and we all cheered.
As he approached the barricade, everyone shoved vinyls in his face. Some didn’t say anything.
Others said, with perfunctory tone, “Great show, Axl.”
“New Mexico misses you, Axl.”
“Great show, Axl.”
“Love you, Axl.”
I could see as more things were shoved in his face, his eyes widened and that porcelain face of his turned to the side in overwhelmed exhaustion. It was after 5am and people just wanted his signature. Well, I can tell you I wanted something else.
In a moment when the crowd was quiet, I stepped forward and said, “May I offer you my body in thanks?”
I didn’t know how else to go about this in a short amount of time. I, too, was dead pan. We were all tired, but I was pretty sure with a bottle of water and a disposable razor, I could do something amazing for him in the next two hours.
So, again, there I was. There he was. My voice rang out, “May I offer you my body in thanks?”
His head was down, signing something, and he smiled then chuckled.
Then he lifted his head, looked and me and cackled for what felt like a full minute. Other people started chuckling. He was looking at me. I smiled and stepped forward again just as the crowd collapsed on top of me. TMZ douche elbowed me in the side of the head and I slipped backward.
Axl quickly surrendered the moment to finish a few more signatures.
Shit. TMZ just cockblocked me.
As the crowd won, and I was pushed backward in the tide, the drunk said, “Did you hear what he said?”
Me, “You mean when I offered my body? No. What?”
Drunk, “He took one look at you and said, ‘Yeahhh’”
I smiled, clapped my hands over and over, gave a showgirl kick and said “Alright, how do I make this happen?”
The car pulled up and he backed away with a wave to the crowd and got inside. He rolled down the window to raise a glass of something to us. I did a little twirl curtsy, making my skirt fly up a little and smiled.
He drove away.
At least I made him laugh.
A laugh from the gut like that is second best to an orgasm. And, lets be honest, if I did have intercourse with Axl, a number of scenarios could play out where I could be offended, objectified, or otherwise disappointed.
Someone mentioned he left the Friday night show with eight girls. If anyone is a nesting ground for STDs, it would be someone like Axl Rose. Would I risk genital herpes for a night with Axl? Um . . . I think I would.
He truly is the last rock star.
I walked away and another security guard said, “How did it go?”
I said, “I offered him my body. He laughed.”
He said, “That’s not good.”
I said, “Well, I made it sound funny. I guess I make everything sound funny. Oh well, what was he going to do, sweep me up off the street and take me away?”
Security Guard, “Stranger things have happened.”
I smiled and crossed the street, “Oh well.”
I climbed in my car and smiled . . . for a week. I finally got to see Guns N Roses. I made a little girl’s dream come true . . . mine.
“I wrote this song for this girl who was gonna have a band and she was gonna call it Rocket Queen. She kinda kept me alive for a while. The last part of the song is my message to this person, or anybody else who can get something out of it. It’s like there’s hope and a friendship note at the end of the song. For that song there was also something I tried to work out with various people—a recorded sex act. It was somewhat spontaneous but premeditated; something I wanted to put on the record.”
—Axl Rose An Interview With The Gunners, Hit Parader – March 1988