SUICIDE BLONDE: FALL 1990
“My name’s not on the list?”
“I’m looking … Shannon Bradley … Shaaaaa … nnon Bradleeeeey …” mutters the security guard as he flips through the papers on his clipboard to affirm I’m not a spurned groupie strapped to a bomb.
I wait outside the backstage entrance of the Universal Ampitheater where I’m meant to dance as a Suicide Blonde for INXS at the 1990 Video Music Awards.
Time passes. Frown lines form between my eyebrows. My neck flesh sags. Osteoporosis sets in. Shingles break out across my back as my knees collapse. My heart develops age-related arrhythmia. I die, am cremated and sprinkled onto Tawny Kitaen’s grave.
“No. Still not on the list,” says the capacious, tufted, woolly security guard.
“But, I got a phone call last night at midnight from the casting director’s assistant saying I was supposed to be here at seven a.m. It’s seven a.m.”
“A midnight casting call?” says Woolly, “Sounds bogus to me. But I’ll check.”
He moves off grumbling something defamatory about me into his headset.
I was least attractive at Thirteen.
Puberty ensnared me in its sebaceous, cyst-y, unsightly, hairy grip.
I was too tall, too skinny, my face hadn’t grown into my teeth and my hair resembled a Brillo pad.
I outgrew thirteen, but she lives on inside me like a succubus ever draining me of my joie de vivre.
There is no fucking way I’m a Suicide Blonde on that list.
“I don’t know if you’re the right girl,” says Woolly, returning from whatever security guard dungeon he’d slunk off to, “But they say only two girls have shown up and there’s supposed to be three.”
“So I’m three?”
“I’m not saying you’re three, I’m not saying you’re not three. What I’m saying is you might as well go in unless another girl shows up who’s on my list. Then you’ll have to leave.”
Armed with the knowledge that I may or may not be kicked out of the VMAs at any moment, I storm the backstage circus at the Universal Amphitheater.
Five hours later, I’m still cooling my heels in the Green Room.
Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown mingle with Sinead O’Connor. Rachel Ward has quite obviously never been thirteen.
Sinead – if I may take intimate liberties – is a transfixing Celtic songstress who uses Caoineadh a.k.a “crying/weeping” ululations in her singing in Nothing Compares 2 U.
I wonder if she slept with Prince, who wrote the song.
And if so, does he have a very tiny penis, and does he wear man-pumps to bed so he can reach the baseboard to use it as a springboard for his puny thrusting movements?
I’m not intimidated by any of these famous bastards.
Because, I belong here and am fabulous in my own right. After all, I’m an expert at tying lobster bibs and tableside filleting of white Dover Sole in my day job at a culinary establishment of the seafood genus.
I might have to pee, but there don’t seem to be any bathrooms in the Green Room. Perhaps celebrities have intra-defecatory bowels?
I could ask Pauley Shore, who’s yacking it up with Phil Collins, just where the hell the bathrooms are. He’s likely been in one with a porn star and some Bolivian white.
Unfortunately, I’m in demand.
“Is there a Suicide Blonde in here?” yells another one of the ubiquitous Men With Headsets of the primate order.
“I’m a Suicide Blonde,” I offer.
Inexplicably, MC Hammer asks if I need to shout so loudly in his ear. What’s his problem? Did some Maharajah with a harem steal his pants?
I join Hairy Headset.
“Where’ve you been?” he yells, “You’re supposed to be in the INXS trailer!”
“Of course, I am,” I rejoin, “Unfortunately, I was waylaid by Madonna who wanted me to Vogue and I couldn’t extricate myself.”
“Just follow me and don’t trip on any of the TV cables because we’re not insured.”
Australian pop sensation, Kylie Minogue, greets me at the door of the INXS trailer.
She’s instantly jealous and does her best to keep her boyfriend, and INXS front man, Michael Hutchence away from me.
It isn’t an easy feat. I’m fairly certain he fondles the back of my head with his eyeballs. I can’t be sure since my back is turned. But I sense he’s immediately taken with me.
I, on the other hand, am unimpressed.
First of all, he’s barefoot. I saw all the bird crap and hypodermic needles on the ground outside. Who knows what he might transmit on those feet? Avian heroin?
Then there’s the silky blouse open to the navel. It’s a little too Pirates of Penzance for me.
And it’s very hard to find a man attractive when he won’t look you in the eye on introduction. Because he’s so smitten. Shy men just don’t do it for me.
And where are the two other Suicide Blondes anyway? Am I the only one after all the controversy at the security gate?
“Hello,” says a silken voice behind me.
I spin to see a sloe-eyed, sensually lipped, high-cheekboned man oozing sex. He’s INXS drummer, Jon Farriss.
What is it about drummers? Why are they so much hotter than front men, flautists, xylophonists and oboe-thornologists?
Perhaps it’s the driving beat they keep with their sticks which suggests they’d be very good at … finger snapping.
Whatever the case may be, it’s certain there will be a story between The Drummer and me.
Just as our shared gaze is about to spontaneously combust, a gothic make-up artist in the fore cabin tells me to come get my make-up done.
I leave The Drummer standing there in a pool of his own lust.
“What am I supposed to be?” I cry, staring at myself in the make-up mirror.
My lips are the palest shade of nude, reminding me of two potato bugs blinded by the light when a rock’s been plucked off of them.
My eyelashes look like tarantulas that’ve died belly up. And the thick black liner on my lids could be runways for Boeing 747s.
“You’re a Sixties go-go girl,” says the make-up artist, Horn.
“But, you’ve blighted my natural beauty!”
“Sorry,” says she. She doesn’t sound sorry. “Send the next girl in.”
I return to the main cabin to discover a “New Development.”
Her name is Malena. She’s one of the other Suicide Blondes.
I didn’t see her because she was in the bathroom. Now she’s practically sitting on The Drummer’s lap.
She’s got thick, waist-length brunette hair, and wears a black bustier and black mini shorts.
She could be called beautiful, if you prefer Jaclyn Smith to Farrah Fawcett. I wonder if she was ever thirteen?
“Hi, I’m Shannon,” I inform her.
Malena seems taken aback, no doubt thrown off by my beauty.
“Oh no, what happened to your face?” she exclaims.
“I’m a Sixties go-go girl.” Isn’t it obvious?
“Really? Oh, yes, yes. I can see that now. Wow. Well, I like to do my own make-up …”
Now I realize why her facial palette is so understated as to be almost non-existent.
“Did you bring a cute costume to wear?” she asks.
“We were supposed to bring costumes?” (Shit!)
“Well, yeah. Didn’t they tell you?”
“No, they didn’t tell me, I wasn’t even on the call sheet … for … a kidney …”
“Never mind. I don’t have a costume!”
“I brought two. You can have one of mine.”
She’s pulling the I-May-Be-Gorgeous-But-I’m-Still-Nice routine.
It’s not going to fly with me. I know all the ins-and-outs of that routine, having deployed it against unsuspecting civilians myself.
“Here,” says Malena, “Take this one.”
“Thank you!” I sing in a sweet falsetto, using her own strategy against her.
Five minutes later, I’m wearing what looks to be a spring wetsuit — if it came with a turtleneck, butt pads and cut you off at the thick of the calve.
Just then, the third Suicide Blonde emerges from the aft bedroom. She’s African American, but is wearing an adorable little pixie platinum wig.
“Malena, you’re up next.”
So that’s how they’re going to deal with the brunette dancers, they have to wear wigs. Fortunately, my hair is a tepid beige so I won’t have to wear one.
“We’re fucked,” says the wig-tress as she stares at my hair thirty minutes later.
“I don’t see why I have to wear a wig when my hair’s already blonde.”
“You all have to match,” she shrieks, “I don’t see how I’m going to get this bush under a wig! You should’ve been here like five hours ago so I could pin-curl this mess.”
“My ears will never get frost-bite with this head of hair!”
“Five minutes, Ladies,” the middle-aged band manager has stuck his head in the room.
He’s got fat, wet lips; a sagging middle and wears a grievous air.
“Five minutes?” shrieks Herr Wigmeister. “There’s no way I can get this wig on her in five minutes. You’ll just have to go with two dancers!”
“Damn you, woman,” I bellow, “Into the breach!”
What follows is a gauntlet of rat-tail combs, boar bristled brushes, double-thick rubber bands, scalp flaying bobby pins and some kind of hairspray sealant that renders me blind and incapable of olfactory delights.
The Wig Woman spins me to look at myself in the mirror.
My peroxide blonde wig has bangs that hover a foot above my brow line. I look like a Conehead from Saturday Night Live — but wearing a bad wig.
It’s for the best.
I don’t want all the male rock stars hopped up on Black Beauties lustily rushing the stage the instant they see me in my wig, wetsuit and black, arachnid eyes.
“Michael, please, please won’t you wear shoes?” remonstrates the band manager.
“I want to feel the ground with my bare feet.”
Michael Hutchence won’t put his shoes on, causing a phalanx of woolly headsets to rush before him, sweeping the ground with little brooms on the way to the stage.
The rest of the band follows at a distance, and we Suicide Blondes follow them. Except for Malena who walks next to my love, The Drummer.
What the hell does she think she’s doing?
She just informed me that she got married a week ago! Has becoming an old married lady made her that desperate for male attention?
Besides, The Drummer might be walking with her, helping her over sprawled cables and admittedly gazing at her lengthwise, but his heart is with me.
I know this, because when he tried to drop a kiss on Malena and she rejected him, he turned to me.
I let him graze my lips briefly with his – no saliva was exchanged – because he had to know pretending to want Malena first only made me feel sorry for him.
He was going to have to man-up and claim me if he wanted me to capitulate.
I’m sure this fact is sinking in – albeit somewhat slowly.
Just as I’m pondering the inevitability of him spurning Malena and inviting me to tour with INXS for the next five years, and eventually marrying me as I bear his children, we are all ushered onto the stage.
The band members quickly take their positions on a dais where their instruments and microphones have been set up.
Malena’s ushered to a ladder she must climb to a little go-go girl platform one story up.
The African-American dancer is positioned downstage left, and I’m positioned on another little dais downstage right.
It’s obviously the most coveted position. I’m standing right behind the show MC, the obsequious Arsenio Hall.
“Hello, Mr. Hall,” I allow.
“Hell—oohhh?” he twitches a bit when his eyes lock on mine. An involuntary spasm of awe, no doubt.
I imagine the camera will start on him as he makes his introduction, then pan up to my undulating, sinuous, phantasmagorical form.
I wonder if they’ll even cut away from me to the band?
This is how Courtney Cox was discovered at a Bruce Springstein concert. JLo was a fly girl before she was J Lo.
I get ready to burn the house down.
“And we’ve got seven, six, five…” the stage manager counts us down to live TV, “two, one!” He points at Arsenio.
“And now from Down Under with their latest number one hit …”
I can see Arsenio on the monitor. They’ve got a tight shot on him, so I’m not visible. Still, I’m sure they’ll use the patented MTV camera move and pull out and pan up to me …
“… it’s INXS with Suicide Blonde!”
This is my moment. I fly into a wildly convulsive, blisteringly seductive dance still managing to look at the monitor.
Wait a minute! What just happened? They didn’t pan up to me. They didn’t even pull out to me, or track to me, or dolly, pull focus, fade in on me.
They cut directly to fucking Malena!
What the hell? She can’t even dance. She’s up there kick-ball changing, while I’m the one … I’m the one … Oh shit, my wig is sliding.
I’ve named my wig Doris; a tribute to Doris Day’s hair in By The Light Of The Silvery Moon.
Doris is definitely tilting to the right. I’m sure no one is noticing.
Yes, Slash is sitting in the front row pointing at me and laughing, but I’m sure it’s just because … two bobby pins hit the floor next to my wildfire feet.
Doris heads due south, past my right eyebrow, down past my right ear, heading toward my wiggling right shoulder.
With the smoothness of an Astair/Rogers mambo, I readjust Doris. I don’t miss a beat. I’ll just keep my hand on top of my head as I dance, so Doris will stay put.
People will think the hand-on-head is my signature move.
I’ll be emulated by the likes of Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson in all their next videos having stolen the idea from me!
The VMA director still hasn’t cut to me on camera. They keep cutting between all the INXS band members and that ridiculously unshod Hutchence.
Now they’re on the African American dancer.
Defying her heritage she’s got no rhythm whatsoever!
The song ends without me ever having been on camera, except very briefly in a long shot from the rafters of the Universal Amphitheater.
A greater disservice to raw talent has never been done in the pantheon of Hollywood history. This will be the story I tell when I receive my first Emmy.
“You wanna dance?”
The now-intoxicated INXS band manager yells this into my ear at the VMA after party.
I crane my neck about to see what’s become of The Drummer. He’s dancing suggestively with married Malena.
Obviously he’s got a thing for unavailable women. I can’t be expected to get involved with a man who has such low self-esteem, and who can’t see past the dead tarantulas on my face to the beauty within.
I dance with the band manager, not wanting to cruelly spurn him, which could result in a full-blown erectile dysfunction episode.
He pulls me against his ponderous belly and I discover he has full-blown erectile function.
Only a woman of my great spiritual stature would be able to hold her head up after all of these indignities and courteously take my leave of the dance floor.
“That’s alright,” yells the band manager, “You weren’t my first choice anyway!”
“Are you lost?”
It’s one in the morning. I’m standing in the miles long, fully packed, parking lot of Universal Studios.
I’ve been looking for my Honda Civic for two hours. Now, I’m peering into a limousine.
“Are you lost? Do you need a lift?” asks the A-List director from the backseat of his limo; a cadre of lovely Asian women pour him champagne.
I think about it. Do I need a lift from one of the greatest Hollywood directors of all time?
He could probably use an actress of my stature to elevate his next film and help wean him off the booze and hookers.
Haven’t I rescued enough damaged men?
“No,” I say, pulling off both eyelashes with a skin-flaying Rip. “But thanks.”
“Just yell if you change your mind.” The door slams shut and the limo pulls away.
I resume the search for my car.
I know I’ll find it now, because I’m Thirteen again, and I’m ready to go home.
For more of Shannon’s Hollywood D-List mishaps, her book is here:
Smash, Crash & Burn: Tales From the Edge of Celebrity. As of 2021 there are new PHOTOS inside the ebook and a Paperback version is coming this summer.
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