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Essay

Kissed by a Rock Star

A Newcomer Basks in the Glory of L.A.'s Night Life

September 05, 2004|Tricia Toney | Writer Tricia Toney moved from Denver to Los Angeles last year.

Maybe everyone who lives in L.A. has kissed a rock star, but it was new to me. I kissed my first one a few months ago. OK, maybe he isn't a rock star. But yet, I feel one step further initiated into the L.A. experience.

Being single and new in town, I tried to find a group that met regularly, was open to the public and required nothing of me in the way of homework or addiction. Nirvana Ranch, a hemp clothing store in Venice, hosts "hippy happy hour" on some Thursdays. It features sangria and friendly strangers. I had found my group.

One Thursday, a rock-star-in-the-making appeared among us hippies. He wasn't announced with a drum roll or smoke or spotlights, but it didn't matter. His embroidered gold silk jacket, spiky white hair and micro-mini aviator glasses screamed rock star. He might have been walking a runway, except that he was standing next to me, whose clothing is a statement of timeless blandness.

This bright light of a man turned to me. "Alestar Digby," he said, taking my hand. "Nice to meet you."

"You look like a rock star," I said.

"Thank you. I am a musician," he offered. "In fact, I'm doing a show at the Roxy tomorrow night. Would you like a couple of tickets?"

Digby reached into the front pocket of his gold brocade jacket and brought out two tickets and a business card featuring an onstage photo.

"The Roxy." I had heard of it. I was sure it was a glamorous place where hip L.A. people hung out. For me, the invitation meant that I wasn't going to spend another Friday night on my couch with a rental movie. I was going to the Roxy to hear a band.

The vibe on the Sunset Strip did not disappoint. Hip-looking people gathered underneath flashy lighted signs advertising funky-sounding bars such as the Whisky a Go Go, the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Roxy. Hipsters in slouchy jeans mingled with those in little black dresses and others who were apparently wearing Halloween costumes in March.

All of this made me feel better about having chosen my Boogie's Diner jacket. It is airbrushed denim, gilded with hundreds of rhinestones, circa 1987. It is the most over-the-top piece of clothing I have ever owned. It comes out of the closet every couple of years. I wear it cautiously, like a date to a good friend's wedding. I wonder if it makes me look old or out of touch. Conversely, I worry that the jacket is actually cooler than I am. Maybe it makes people wonder not who I am, but who I think I am. I wear all of this as an identity crisis on my back.

A respectable number of stragglers are gathered outside the Roxy, making it appear as if the joint is jumping. I enter. Onstage, Alestar Digby and band are doing their thing. They produce ear-splitting levels of rock music. I apply my squishy earplugs, rendering the music only moderately too loud for my taste.

The Roxy is outstanding in its ordinariness. It is not the Studio 54 glamour that I had imagined. It is a dark room with a decent-sized stage and an open area where people stand in clumps. Black-and-white photographs of musicians I don't recognize adorn the walls.

Alestar Digby, in a fitted hot pink shirt, looks every inch the rock star. His fingers fly along the neck of his electric guitar. He commands the microphone. He is probably on-key, at decibel levels above jackhammer, although I have no idea which words he is forming. I recognize a few of them as English. The shirtless bass guitarist sports exceptional muscle tone. The visual aesthetic of his bare chest and ripped abs holds my attention through one song.

Unfortunately, this whole rock-star scenario is taking place in front of an audience of no more than 125 people. Most of them appear to be enjoying the performance in a mildly disinterested way. Some are bobbing their heads to the earth-shaking drums. Some are sitting at the back tables, tending their drinks. None are dancing in self-involved ecstasy. None are waving their arms as seen on rock videos. In the relative quiet between songs, there is clapping and a sole "yeah." The band rocks on as if music is its own reward.

At the end of the set, a heavy curtain envelops the stage. Canned music takes over at freight-train volume. My eyes adjust to near total darkness. I finish my $10 amaretto sour.

Alestar Digby appears from backstage and works the crowd. Everyone is drawn to him. Either Alestar knows every person in the room, or he is a pro at handling attention from strangers. Perhaps both.

He hugs, kisses or handshakes those who surround him. Four or five words are exchanged with every other one. This glowing center of attention is six feet from me, greeting his way in my direction. I want to thank him for the ticket.

Alestar Digby catches sight of me. I smile. I prepare to say "thank you" or "excellent job," but he jumps in. "You look fantastic. Thanks for coming," he says. He is a foot away, and closing fast. He leans in. I open my arms for a hug. Alestar heads for my lips. His aim is quick and dead-on accurate. Instinctively, I close my eyes.

We kiss on the lips for what may be a second. He lets go, already looking over his shoulder for someone who has tapped him on the back. "I have someone I want you to meet," says a tall man in head-to-toe black. Alestar Digby does not say goodbye. He follows the man. I watch them glide away, momentarily stunned. Months later, I will learn the truth, that fledgling rock bands often give tickets to warm bodies likely to fill seats and buy drinks at the Roxy. But for the moment, I am basking in the glory of L.A. night life. I have been kissed by a rock star. I feel ever-so-slightly giddy.

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