Read The Sunset Strip Diaries Online
Authors: Amy Asbury
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Women, #Personal Memoirs, #Social Science, #Women's Studies
The Sunset Strip Diaries
© 2011 by Amy Asbury. Published by Estep & Fitzgerald Books. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, other than brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews, without prior written permission of the publisher. Any use of trademarked or copyrighted names of movies, television shows, songs, products, etc. are used purely for descriptive purposes and are property of their rightful owners.
OTHER BOOKS BY AMY ASBURY:
CONFETTI COVERED QUICKSAND
VALLEY GIRL: CHILDHOOD IN THE 80’S
SMELLS LIKE: MUSIC, DRUGS, AND LIFE IN THE 90’S
with Becky Asbury
This is the story of my teenage years as I remember them. Some names and minor characteristics have been purposely changed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This Can't Be Happening
Balls of Steel
Down the Rabbit Hole
The Mental Ward
The Tattoo Shop
The Sunset Strip
Valley of the Dancers
Will She Be Chopped to Bits in There?
gly Drunken Spectacle
Enter Heroin, Stage
So Fun After All
on't Ever Be Normal
How It All Died
This Can’t Be Happening
My childhood ended the day I woke up with my underwear missing.
I was eleven years old, almost twelve. I got up to go to the bathroom and as I started walking, I realized I was not wearing underwear and my girl parts felt smooshy and puffy. I knew I wore underwear to bed; I never slept without underwear. I looked down and realized that not only was I not wearing underwear, and not only was I all weird down there, but I was wearing some sweats that were way too small and also way too hot for summer. I had no memory of changing myself or being changed. I didn’t tell anyone.
I turned twelve in September 1985. I went on with my life and tried to ignore the incident as I entered the seventh grade that fall. I was nervous because I knew I wouldn’t know anyone at the school I was going to attend. My friends were all going to the local public junior high schools, and I was enrolled at a private school called Middleton, because my mother had heard horror stories about the other schools. I decided to wear my floral cotton pants (tapered and rolled at the ankle) and a white tank top with a pink fishnet shirt over it for the all-important first day of school. I wore pink karate shoes with white fishnet bobby socks and my hair was a little below my ears. I thought I looked like Madonna, but I am sure I just looked like a hot sack of crazy.
Middleton Christian School was very different from any school I had ever attended. It was still in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, as my grade school had been, but it was a private school- something to which I wasn’t accustomed. It looked like an office building inside; I was expecting to see some cubicles and insurance salesmen with files in their hands. The whole place was air-conditioned (what?!), properly insulated and professionally painted. That really threw me off. It didn’t have that familiar school smell of dusty books, musty classrooms that smelled of mildew, or cheap cafeteria food; all of which would have comforted me in some way. Instead, I smelled new, sour paint and that chemical smell of newly-cleaned carpet.
There was even fluorescent lighting overhead; no natural sunlight against faded, mint green walls. The place was
There was a fish-eyed receptionist in the lobby with some potted palm plants next to her desk and, for visitors, a few couches that were nicer than the ones in my parent’s living room. There was an elevator that was supposed to be for wheelchairs, but it ended up taking lazy teachers to the second floor. As I passed them waiting for the doors to open, drinking their coffee and avoiding eye contact, I often noted that I made it to the second floor via the stairs before the elevators doors even opened for them.
There were bright yellow bathrooms that had a little foyer separating the sinks from the stalls. The stalls had working locks and there was no graffiti to read while I was peeing. There was green grass and climbing trees out front, and even a little marquee that stated it was the new fall semester.
There was a shrew of a woman named Mrs. Baxman who was the bell. By that, I mean she used a big old bullhorn to call everyone back in from recess and lunch. She was fucking
. She always looked disastrous in a denim shirt, jeans, beat-up tennis shoes and some do-it-yourself orange peroxided hair. The kids looked nicer than she did, but no one ever made fun of her or crossed her. There is an instinct in kids that tells them who they can pick on and who would beat them upside the head with a shoe- and she fell into the latter category.
I don’t remember much of what happened on my first day of school, with the exception of that entirely ridiculous outfit, for which I should have been issued twenty-five fashion police citations. I just remember that most of the kids knew each other from the previous year. I was one of the outsiders, along with a big-mouthed girl named Jennifer Bettina, who took to me and stuck by me. I thought she cramped my style even worse than it already was, and I tried to get away from her. She finally dropped me, and before I could even smile with relief I was quickly irritated: she started hanging with one of the popular girls and the whole class started calling her “Bitsy.” I was shocked that they accepted her. I was like,
She is a
But her confidence made her surpass me in the social scene, despite her buckteeth and Sun-in’d hair. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone and had my head down all of the time, so I was ignored. I knew I was no beauty, but I was convinced I was better than
Bitsy was always talking about guys and sex and things that embarrassed me. I was always terrified that she would ask me if I had ever kissed a boy or had a boyfriend. I didn’t want to be put on the spot and that type of girl was always the first one to call me out. I ended up hanging out with another shy girl by default. She had no one else to hang with and didn’t even like me; there were just no other choices. We barely spoke to each other. Her name was Marcia Alvarado and she was very small and Latin, with very big bangs and a moustache that would have made Tom Selleck jealous.
The majority of the girls at Middleton were white, pretty and rich. They were mostly German and Scandinavian blonds, with the exception of Kelly Fiorella, who was brunette, Italian, and channeling Annette Funicello. They grouped up while walking to the P.E. field to play softball, singing the Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls.” I would trail behind them, wondering how I could learn the words, too. They must have had the tape and could really listen to the songs. I didn’t have any tapes. I would wait until a song came on the radio or on MTV and record it with my tape recorder, hoping to get it from the beginning, without the DJ talking over it. The girls also grouped up and sang Wham! and Madonna songs. There was nothing worse than crunching on the little rocks behind them, all the way to the field, looking at their cool rolled-up sweats and perfectly worn T-shirts. I always had dorky socks and stiff, new-looking (read: cheap) sweats.
The band A-ha was the biggest deal that school year. It was all about their song “Take on Me” and the accompanying music video, which was
, like, the craziest thing any of us had seen in the way of special effects. Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” was the other big video, along with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”
The Middleton girls were all into New Wave or mainst
ream pop. There was no love of rap like there was at my grade school, Tadley, where the black kids breakdanced to Run DMC and sang LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells.” There were no rocker kids: no one who wore Ozzy or Def Leppard concert T-shirts, or brought Mötley Crüe records to school or sang Van Halen and Quiet Riot songs. I missed the mixture of different cultures and ethnicities of kids.
Middleton had a strict dress code. You couldn’t wear T-shirts or any of the stuff people wore at Tadley. I wondered what the hell kind of choices that left for me. I remember looking around at the clothes the girls wore; they looked really fancy. It took money to acquire the things they had. They all had elaborately styled hair and polished accessories (well, if huge geometric shap
es could be considered polished). I never saw so many fashionable and brand name items of clothing at once. They wore the pants that were rolled at the ankle, little ankle boot type shoes, big colorful shirts, hanging belts and big earrings. Their hair was usually worn short (just past the ears). They wore Swatch watches, sometimes two or three at a time. Even their sweatshirts (which had to be worn with a collar) were expensive: Ton Sur Ton, Guess?, Esprit or Benetton. My stuff normally came from Marshall’s, so I was very uncomfortable. I thought it was why I didn’t fit in with the other kids.
I didn’t know how I wanted to look. I still kind of wanted to hide my body. A boy in class named Chris
Shivas made a comment about me having big boobs, and I felt very uncomfortable. I took to wearing my dad’s big shapeless sweaters and shirts. I felt disgusted with my body, ashamed of it.
We had to visit an “old folks’ home” to do some charity work that year. We were to bring either
a) a hairbrush/comb set; b) slippers; or c) some other shit that I don’t remember. My mom wrapped a pair of slippers and off I went. Each of us was to find a random old person and give them our gift. I felt shy and nervous looking around the room at the elderly men and women, many with canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. I decided someone in a wheelchair was the worst off. I approached a woman with a pink blanket over her lap and gave her the slippers. She looked at me as if I were the biggest asshole she had met in her 105 years. She yanked up the blanket to show me she had no legs, let alone feet. Some of the kids around me snickered. I wanted to dissolve into the linoleum. I went off to hide behind a group of eighth graders who were in a semi-circle, singing the theme song to
as if it were an award-winning Broadway melody. The elderly people just stared at them. A few old men yelled and cursed at them, which is what I would have done.
I was scared of the older kids in the eighth and ninth grades; they looked like 35-year-olds to me. All of the ninth grade guys had popped collars, feathered hair, and Ray Ban sunglasses. They had names like
, names that sounded like the preppy kids who picked on the Karate Kid or some other 1980’s underdog. The boys in my grade were not like the ones I had known in the public school system. It was a different dynamic. The Middleton kids were all sheltered and had very similar tastes. It was clear none of them were “bussed in” from downtown Los Angeles, like many of the boys I used to know. It was clear they had never
on a bus, period.
I got more into the groove of the place throughout the year and made the best of it, and even had some laughs somewhere in there
, I am sure. There were boys I daydreamed and fantasized about, just like any other twelve-year-old. One in particular was an Italian boy named Mark Poletti. He was cute, social, and the class clown. His personality reminded me of Mike Seaver on the TV show
There was a popular song at the time called “How Will I Know?” by Whitney Houston, and I thought of him every time I heard it. I secretly pined after this boy all through the school year, not seeing any zits or braces or ridiculous eighties clothes. I imagined us making out for hours.
The Middleton teachers seemed strange to me. Switching classes and teachers every hour was no fun. I could never bond with the people sitting next to me, because it would be different each hour. There was a very pious woman named Ms. Cavovsky who wore not a stitch of makeup and had perfectly feathered hair. It would have looked fabulous had it still been 1981. But it was the mid-eighties and it was all about high, hair-sprayed stiff bangs. Ms. Cavovsky had big thighs and often rocked a camel toe (I couldn’t help but stare at the private parts of every one of those teachers, for some reason
). She was very, very serious. She didn’t joke around; she didn’t smile. She was all about business and was strict. She would have made an excellent nun, now that I think about it.
The person who
I most checked out was Mr. Sterling, who was the principal but taught seventh grade Bible class for shits and giggles. He loved to talk about masturbation and how terrible it was. He always smirked and looked around the room when he talked of having lascivious thoughts. I used to hold my breath and think,
Can he read my mind?! Oh no! He looks like he knows what I have been thinking!
Truth be told, he
know what we were all thinking. We were teenagers! I always looked right at his crotch and I am telling you, there was no way to avoid it. His package was smashed up in his tight slacks, causing a huge bulge that was eye level to everyone sitting at a desk. Because he was sitting and slouching over that ancient old podium, the tip of his tie was like an arrow pointing to his package. How could I not stare? It was madness. Anyway, Sterling looked and acted a bit like Richard Gere. He was cocky and confident and cool.
There was a Japanese English teacher named Mr. Isumi. He was always dragging his words and acting as if he were the coole
st thing to hit the planet. He was King Shit on Turd Island. He wanted validation from the boys and tried to flirt with the girls. He was sort of a dick and never smiled. He drew weird things on the marker boards and tried to crack teenage jokes. He was most known for saying “Hey, ah,
?” when we were not paying attention. I seem to remember him wearing a lot of light blue. His class was when I did most of my daydreaming about Mark Poletti.
There was a serious history and science teacher named Mr. Westchester, whom I a
lways pictured as one of Jesus’ disciples, dressed in a beige hooded robe, because he had that dark curly hair and a beard. He was very on point and had little tolerance for teenagers. He was always let down by our performance and irritated at our stupidity. It is crazy to think he was only twenty-six at the time, but he was, as per my diary. Mr. Westchester hated it if you closed your book before the bell rang and made anyone who did so stay one minute after class. I hated that, because I needed that minute to put on
makeup over the three pounds of makeup already on my face.
My makeup application was frightful. First of all, I wore tinted Clearasil pimple cream as foundation. Yes, you read correctly. It was meant to cover one or two zits, but I rubbed it all over my face- and I didn’t even
zits at the time. It was so thick! It crusted right over my eyebrows, which were big and sparse at the same time. I then used navy blue eyeliner on the inner rims of my eyes, which always seemed to then smear down under my eyes. I applied some chalky lavender eye shadow to top things off. And then to really get the party started, I doused myself in this cheap drugstore body spray that was a knockoff of some other reputable brand. I thought,
This is perfume and I am a girl. I had better drown myself in it.
Needless to say, I am sure I smelled like an old lady’s crotch.