Like a lot of readers on this site I am in love with a pretty brunette from Los Angeles. No, no, no…it’s not Melina, although I will admit she is pretty sensational. Great looking, great worker. But c’mon, she defeated my beloved Glamazon at the 2009 Royal Rumble and stole her Women’s Championship. An egregious crime that I may never get over. Not only do I look more and more like an elephant as I get older, I have a memory like one too. Sorry Melina…it still hurts.
No, this particular brunette has been a part of my life for 23 years now, and to this day she still gives me butterflies and makes me feel light-headed. It all started back in the summer of 1987 when I was attending basketball camp at Franklin & Marshall College. At the end of the week my parents took me to the school bookstore so I could get a t-shirt or pair of shorts. As I was making my way back to the clothing section I passed the magazine rack and…BAM…something hit me right between the eyes. I felt like I had been hit by a bulldozer. Staring back at me was the most picturesque, beautiful woman I had ever seen. There she was, like an angel, on the cover of that month’s SPIN magazine – Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles. I’m not sure I believe in love at first site…but that was definitely the first time I felt incredibly attracted to a woman. I didn’t know a lot about the Bangles in general, but I knew I would soon be finding out much, much more.
By the summer of 1987 the Bangles had become a solid mainstream band. The group originated in 1980, when Susanna Hoffs and sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson started performing together as part of LA’s Paisley Underground, which featured garage bands playing a mix of 60’s innocence and punk rock. The trio went through a variety of names (The Colours, The Supersonic Bangs, and The Bangs) before settling on The Bangles. They added a fourth member, Annette Zilinskas, but she didn’t stay long, leaving to focus on her own music career. The band replaced her with Michael Steele and finally the group was complete. Their first full-length album, “All Over the Place”, was released in 1984, but it wasn’t until the release of “Different Light” in 1986 that the band gained world-wide fame. “Manic Monday” (written by Prince) and “Walk Like an Egyptian” became huge hits, and as a result the girls were legitimate stars. They were sexy, talented, and had a unique style (an all-girl band that blended beautiful harmonies with a variety of lead vocals.) The sky was the limit!
Unfortunately the band didn’t handle their fame very well. Tension started when the media began referring to Hoffs as the lead singer, which was somewhat understandable since she sang lead vocal on their most famous songs and had tremendous sex appeal. She also starred in the 1987 feature film “The Allnighter” (which I loved but even I’ll admit it is a C- movie…at best) which further singled her out from the group. The band continued to fracture even as they were experiencing commercial success with their Simon & Garfunkel cover “Hazy Shade of Winter” and their 1988 album, “Everything”, which contained their biggest-selling single “Eternal Flame” (to this day, “Everything” is still my favorite LP of all time). By 1989, the band couldn’t overcome Susanna’s fame, as well as the intense pressure of touring and recording, so the girls went their separate ways. To say I was devastated, well, that would be a huge understatement.
After seeing Susanna on that magazine cover I became fascinated by her and the group. I bought all of their previous albums. I watched MTV every day to see the “Walk Like an Egyptian” video (YouTube it – it’s a classic, especially Susanna’s eyes at the end which became the single biggest moment of her career). When “Everything” was released I rushed out to grab my copy. I listened to the new album all day, every day, until I knew every song by heart. The split in 1989 was depressing for all of their fans. I knew that Susanna was out-shining the rest of the girls (at least in the media), but what was so wrong with that?! She brought a lot of attention to the group. Admittedly I didn’t understand the music business very well, all I knew was my girls were all going their separate ways. And sadly, so did I.
Over the years I remember thinking how much I missed their music; how I wished I could look forward to new recordings, new albums. I was also heart-broken that I never got to see them perform live. When the group was touring in the 80’s I couldn’t afford the tickets for their shows (and my parents would have had to take me anyway…yeah, that’s a rockin’ time.) Now they were off playing with other bands or releasing solo albums. I gave up all hope that I would ever see them back together.
It turns out they were apart 10 years. Ironically this time apart was good for the girls…they got married, settled down, some had children. Basically they matured. Susanna Hoffs married film director Jay Roach (who directed “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents”) and one day he suggested the girls reunite to record a song for one of his movies. The Bangles re-formed in 1999 and recorded a song for the “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” soundtrack (Susanna was also in the movie). The girls loved playing together again, so much so that they eventually agreed to record some new music and book some concert dates. In 2003 the Bangles released “Doll Revolution”, an excellent album that unfortunately got no attention from the music industry, or from me. The girls had been apart for so long I had buried my love for them. They were a part of my past, I had moved on to other interests.
Then fate intervened. My college roommate, Tim, is a Seattle Seahawks fan. So when Seattle qualified for Super Bowl XL we decided to head to Detroit for the big game. My other roommate Matt worked for the NFL (he was a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs), so he got us good tickets and the three of us were on our way. The game was played on Sunday February 5, 2006, but truthfully I don’t remember much about the game itself. The previous night we went to the NFL’s Saturday Night Super Bowl Party and my life changed forever. The theme that night was a tribute to 40 years of music, which included live performances by artists from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Well, guess who was booked to represent the 80s? Adam Ant? No. Culture Club? No. Wham? No. Representing the 80’s was the holy sh*t freaking Bangles!!!! All of my love quickly came rushing back.
I couldn’t think about anything that day except I was finally going to see my idols play live and in person later that evening. I took extra special care to make sure I looked nice, I double-checked my camera battery 43 times, and I brought a handful of Sharpies in case I could get some signatures. Saturday night finally arrived and I headed to the party…alone. Yep…alone. It turns out that the OWNER of the Chiefs took 2 of Matt’s party tickets, leaving us with only 1. ONLY 1! PANIC!!! (If the owner would have wanted that last ticket, he would have had to pry it out of my cold, dead hand.) Matt and Tim knew how much that concert meant to me, so they graciously said I could have the one ticket and they would just go out and grab dinner (which sucked for them because it was 10 degrees in Detroit that night and they froze like popsicles walking around the city…something they still remind me about.) The party itself was very nice…great food, great champagne…and finally the music acts started to take the stage. The Four Tops played some of their 60’s hits, Joan Jett played her 70’s classics (she still looks great), and then the curtain closed as they changed out the instruments and got the stage ready for the next act. At this point I slid up to the stage, wedged my way in, and was standing right in front. What followed was the longest 15 minute wait of my life.
Finally the curtain opened and standing right in front of me was Susanna Hoffs and the Bangles (well, 3 of the original 4, Michael had since retired). They broke right into “Hazy Shade of Winter” and played a set filled with their greatest hits. It was one of the most glorious moments of my life…not too far behind my wedding, the birth of my children, and Beth’s Extreme Rules victory (in some order). To put it in “wrestling speak” I marked out…HUGE…the entire time. I was practically in tears because I never, never, NEVER thought I would see them play. Never. Being given this gift was a little overwhelming at the time. I did get some nice pictures and a Suzie autograph which made the show even more special. I made a vow that night that I would see them play again, somewhere, somehow.
It turns out I would have more opportunities that I thought. The group now books several tours a year and they are currently in the studio recording a new album. In the 4 years since that night in Detroit I have seen them play 15 times, enjoying each one more than the next. However, two shows in particular stand out. In August of 2007 I finally got to meet the girls after their show in Cleveland (I befriended someone who knew the band…strategy!) While I was waiting to get my picture taken with Susanna, he warned me, “Don’t tell her how beautiful she is. She hears it all the time and you’ll be asked to leave.” (Gulp) So when it was my turn I walked up to her, put my arm around her, and told her to “stand up straight and open your eyes” just as the camera snapped a perfect picture of us. She laughed and we chatted for a few moments. Then I got a nice photo with her and the Peterson sisters (which I had them all sign the following year when I met them again, this time in Las Vegas.) I floated back to my hotel that night.
The other show that stands out was when I saw them in Atlantic City earlier that same year. I was enjoying dinner at the House of Blues in the Showboat Casino, just minding my own business and thinking about the show. Two guys were sitting at the table next to me and they started to talk to me here and there. After a while I could tell they were picking on me for some reason. Then the one guy said, “Wow, your shoes are really shiny, you must have polished them huh.” (Laughter) I said, “Yep, it’s important to look good.” The guy said, “Really? For who?” (More laughter) I looked him dead in the eye and said proudly, “For ME.” (Silence) They left me alone after that.
So what the hell does this have to do with women’s wrestling? I’ll tell you. My story is very similar to the emotional journey many Melina fans experienced in 2010. After Melina tore her ACL last December, her fans expressed tremendous support and wished her a speedy recovery. She vowed to return. However, down deep, you never KNOW how an athlete will respond to a major injury (God please let Beth’s knee heal properly…) Basically Melina was going to be out of the ring for a long time and that was the painful reality no matter how optimistic her fans might have been. It happened so quickly too, on TV one week, on the operating table the next. Like my favorite band, Melina disappeared from the scene right as everything seemed to be going her way (remember, she was the current Diva’s champion.)
Would Melina ever return? If she did, how would the WWE book her? Would she immediately be pushed into the title picture?
Her fans waited anxiously…anticipating the excitement of seeing the paparazzi roll out the red carpet for the first time. Or maybe Melina would make a surprise run-in during a big match. However it was handled it should have been an amazing moment (like my concert in Detroit). Sadly Melina’s return was somewhat disappointing because it was shown on tape delay. The Internet covers wrestling so closely that as soon as the match was taped it was immediately reported online that she would be returning to Raw the following week. Her fans were obviously happy to see her back, but, really, didn’t she deserve a more exciting return? I wouldn’t have been as excited to see the Bangles play on television. The intimacy of live entertainment can’t be matched and I feel the WWE bookers dropped the ball on this one.
Then Melina was pushed right over top of several other Divas who were currently in the title picture, culminating in a championship match vs. Alicia Fox at this past SummerSlam. To no one’s surprise Melina recaptured the Diva’s title that night in Los Angeles in a storyline that just seemed rushed (I made the comment it was like being served dinner before the appetizer). Alicia was building herself as a solid champion only to have her title reign cut short. Plus other Divas, like Natalya, seemed to be knocked further down the totem pole and further away from title opportunities. I was very critical of the way the WWE handled Melina’s return. After SummerSlam I was so grumpy I even took shots at Melina’s chosen ring gear that night. I didn’t care for the nude colored pants. I didn’t care for the big yellow fuzzy boots. Judging by the buzz on the Internet, I wasn’t the only person who thought her outfit was strange. But then a fellow DD writer said, “You know what David, at least she tries. She always tries to be original and put some thought into her outfits, especially for big matches.”
That comment took me back to that evening in Atlantic City. Your damn right I polished my shoes that night. It was my moment. I was getting ready to see my favorite band and every detail was important. SummerSlam was the same for Melina, a chance for her to be part of a special evening. So she went out and tried to look fresh, original, and exciting. I didn’t care for her choice of clothing that night but now I know that’s not the point. Regardless of how I feel about the booking, or about her ring outfit, or about her upcoming unification match with LayCool, I need to respect what these MOMENTS mean to Melina. She HAS proven to be passionate about her career, especially after fighting back from her serious knee injury, and so she deserves a great deal of my respect. I tip my cap to her.
I can imagine that she would say to me, and to all of her critics, the reason she got all dressed up that night in Los Angeles was…“For ME”.
— Mr. Glamazon
PS – I thought it was funny that Smashmouth was the musical act booked to represent the 90’s at that show in Detroit. Smashmouth?!? What, Lou Bega wasn’t available?
PPS – I want to say “thanks” to the Diva Dirt staff that attended the recent SHIMMER tapings. They provided great coverage of the event all weekend and it sounds like everybody had a great time!
PPPS – I also want to thank all of you that sent in good questions for my second mailbag. I’m looking forward to working on that next week.