Painful as it is to admit now, when I first saw the guy in the above picture I thought he was so hot. In case you’re having a hard time figuring it out, the guy is the one in the middle. Let’s call him William Jenkins. And when he first walked into Northeast Philly’s women’s clothing store mecca Clothes To You where I was employed part-time, I was instantly attracted. Within a few days of knowing him, however, I was overcome with shame for ever having found him the least bit desirable. Now I think it’s just hilarious that this type of pretty boy sissy pants ever turned my head, but it was the late eighties, a time when your boyfriend was just as likely to borrow your clothes, eyeliner and hairspray as he was your body. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was on heavy radio rotation and every girl, including me (shudder, gag), thought Bret Michaels was Mr. Dream King. I jumped off the Bret Michaels train right around the time Richie Kotzen joined Poison and never caught another ride, even through all his Rock of Love and Apprentice comebacks over the past decade (although I do sympathize with his medical woes. I may find him repulsive and despicable, but he is a daddy and his little girls are better off with than without him). Speaking of Bret, this would be a good time to segue into the inspiration for this blog, my former muse and sexiest guy on the planet icon, Brett Scallions.
No, I don’t find Brett Scallions repulsive. It’s more of what he represents, what I see of my former self when viewing him now. Kind of like looking at William Jenkins and seeing the me of that time: who I was, what I put up with, what I thought I wanted. After seeing a recent picture of Brett on his band website, I realized he was still selling the same message he was selling over a decade ago; before the rise and fall of Fuel, getting married, becoming a father, moving through drugs and alcohol. I thought he’d come out of that a little more seasoned. But instead there he was in his Britney Spears hipster leather pants, pelvic pokey pokey jutting out, rock star sneer, force feeding the same image we got tired of eight years ago. In seeing the picture I realized I had changed, my tastes had changed, but Brett–or at least public Brett, the one he wants us all to connect with and throw our devotion and money at–hadn’t. And because of this I also knew I couldn’t take him into the future with me. Even though my goal in seeking out some new information on him was to get a new jolt of creativity flowing, I found I couldn’t resurrect the muse.
In case you haven’t read any of my past blogs dealing with Brett as my muse (and I suggest you do, it’s a pretty trippy ride), Brett Scallions was–and remains–the best muse I’ve ever known. I completed two novels because of him, got an agent, made it to a publishing board, moved to Vegas, got my job at HOB. With a Brett-fire under my ass I worked very hard and basically came back to life. When I finally met him–officially, the second time–he couldn’t have been sweeter to me, which is why it was so devastating to find out he doesn’t do it for me anymore. In fact, he does the opposite. I realize this is a product of my making, just as was all the positive stuff: muses are all about the head, the soul. If I see Brett and hear his music and watch him move and something inside me is switched on, I can pursue that anywhere I want, as a person and a writer. The message is what I see, what I turn it into. It may have very little to do with what Brett is presenting; it is what I want to receive that is key. And right now I perceive and therefore receive a forty-one-year-old father dressing like a turn of the century pop princess (which he loathes, by the way), playing amusement parks and dive bars under the name of a rock band that hasn’t been relevant since 2003 who needs to save money by having his wife snap their promo pictures. Hey, Brett may be a very happy man right now, happier than he’s ever been, but if that’s not what I see, then I can’t pull from it. His face is still absolutely beautiful (wifey must be good at the photoshop); I’m sure I could pull out a winning paragraph or two. But when it would come down to constructing the story, I see a character broken and alone, a depressing, dark, hopeless story. I’ve got plenty of muses fitting that bill. And as broken and alone as I like my characters, there still has to be hope in there somewhere. Promise to the reader that it will get better, all is not lost. I don’t see it in where Brett is taking me.
Since I want to make this a full-circle journey, let me take you back to William Jenkins, he of the teased C.C. DeVille mullet, Drakkar cologne and Z. Cavaricci pants. He entered the store that day with a resume and portfolio, kind of like entering a Kansas local playhouse with your Oscar credentials. I begged my boss to give him the job and she did. He was quite an arrogant chatterbox, came to work in designer clothes (our designer jeans we sold were called Roberto Orsini), didn’t lift a finger, called sex “the nasty” and would tell anyone within earshot how he and his girlfriend liked to do it in his car. I started to hate him, and myself, for ever being taken in by his slick packaging. I began to imagine him as one of the hot dogs on the metal spits at Roy Rogers, turning and turning until he achieved that perfect golden brown casing. To find some kind of redeeming quality in him–and therefore myself–I tried to use him as a male sounding board, asking him “why did Jimmy do this?” and “how do I get him to not do that?” when I’d come in on a Sunday after a Saturday night band thing. His answer: “Why do I cheat on my girlfriend? Men are pigs. Get used to it and become one, too.” Over fifteen years later I was working at Wawa and who comes walking in to buy ciggies? William Jenkins. Same hair, same leather skin but a lot more roller marks on the casing. Acid washed jeans with a black turtleneck tucked in. White Members Only windbreaker. Indeed, I doubled over with laughter. Not only at William–who everyone else laughed at once he left for all the obvious reasons–but for the nineteen-year-old I’d been when I first saw him and deemed him the second coming of Miami Vice. I didn’t tell anyone I knew him when: they wouldn’t have understood. And really, they were seeing him when. Because William Jenkins never changed. And not that that alone makes him repulsive, but it does make him stagnant. Predictable. Sad. Okay; repulsive.