All the male stylists were gay. Super gay. And their clients were famous. Super famous. The female stylists were polite, no-drama Asian gals. The sun poured in through the front windows and bounced around the chrome and white surfaces like a spotlight on a diamond. The beauty business is a breeding ground for insecurity and self-doubt and the need to look flawless is all-consuming when you spend 8 hours a day drenched in unforgiving light. I was tweezing a client's brows one afternoon when I saw a petite female hastily vacating a Volkswagon Beetle just outside the salon. She flung open the door, made herself known to the receptionist and plopped onto a bench in the waiting area behind me. A stealth glance at the mirror in between plucks allowed me to get a better look. I noticed that her creamy-white legs were dotted with bruises of varying sizes and stages of healing and she appeared disheveled in her hi-top Chuck's and thin sundress. She seemed out of her element yet utterly, even enviably, comfortable in her own skin. It took me a minute to realize it was Madonna. My only familiarity with her was via a poster that hung in Social Distortion guitarist Dennis Danell's bedroom and the incessant fanboy gushing he and Mike Ness displayed whenever they were near it.
A ripped Naugahyde booth in the moldy basement of a long-gone Hollywood restaurant was no place for a young lady from the westside to be spending time in 1981. Not at midnight, not with the antiseptic burn of cocaine in her throat, not with her vengeful heart doing paradiddles against her ribcage and especially not with a potentially lethal weapon in her grip. When you're 18 years old, punk, and in love, it feels good to tighten your grip around the smooth neck of a beer bottle. And when the decreasing proximity between your boyfriend and a blonde named Stacy has reached critical status, broken glass seems like an efficient way to set limits. Especially with the wail of a live saxophone urging you from the stage. Fred was my first . . . everything. We had the kind of mad chemistry that makes for transcendent sex and dramatic exits.
The Plugz at the Cathay de Grande, February 1982, photo by Vincent Ramirez. (Greg Hetson and Alice Bag in foreground.
Our unhappy Hollywood ending took place at the corner of Selma and Argyle, at a punk club called the Cathay de Grande where years later I would witness heroin-addicted Social Distortion heartthrob Mike Ness take on two beefy skinheads simultaneously, leaving them both bleeding on the sidewalk. (But that's another chapter.)
The California sun is a many-faced God and summers spent beneath it tend to overstimulate the pituitary gland. All that vitamin D and bare skin can make a teenage girl behave recklessly. (Case in point: the Manson girls.) For me the sun was intoxicating, and intoxication usually had regrettable consequences often with regrettable men. The only thing I ever regretted about my time spent with Anthony Kiedis was not fulfilling his request for a kiss.
Just before the Red Hot Chili Peppers bubbled out of the primordial funkadelic onto the streets of Hollywood, the four of us assembled in Alison's living room to drop the needle and dance 'round the fire. Someone produced a jar of mushrooms that we passed between us like a ceremonial chalice. All the honey in the world couldn't make them palatable, but we didn't care—the turntable was eager to get to work and so were we.
Alison carefully slid the vinyl out of the protective paper sleeve and cued the groove. "Wild and Peaceful" was the soundtrack to our communal plunge into the psychedelic boogie, Kool and the Gang our party ambassadors in the cosmic get-down.