Dressed up for a big date
Like Hallowe’en day, but it was Fourth of July now
Jon finds himself bizarrely pissed when Tico pays Richie the dubious compliment of “making a prettier girl than Jon”, having been told by his band and various other people that part of his image is looking, and dressing, like a chick. God knows how many times when he was younger he’d been asked whether he was “a boy or a girl” by the curious younger siblings or children of fans or people who stopped him on the street. He can’t deny that Richie looks good in the floor-length violet dress Tico had picked out (with a wicked grin, thoroughly enjoying both the humiliation of his guitarist and the sixty dollars he had somehow extorted out of them for this bet), if a little flat-chested (David offered to fill balloons with water to make convincing breasts, but Jon quickly vetoed that idea because no matter how Richie tries to be graceful, the only thing he is whilst drunk is bloody clumsy).
A car crash with a painted face
She was one of a kind
Thank God he hadn’t attempted his own makeup. Instead they’d gotten Lindsey, the tour makeup artist, to go to town on him with powder, bronzer, rouge, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, concealer, highlighter and several other dark and sinister-looking bottles and compact cases that Jon doesn’t dare look into, let alone unleash on his own face. As masculine as Richie’s face undeniably is, he almost manages to pull it off; his full lips complement the lipstick shade well and she’s carefully lined his eyes with charcoal-grey liner with a flick of black liquid liner in the corners, shimmery silver-purple shadow on the lids. He still looks like a slightly chubby fifty-year-old man dressed and painted like a girl – RuPaul he is not – but he looks like a very attractive fifty-year-old man dressed and painted like a girl.
She wears a plastic crown like Cinderella
And roller skates in bed
Some sick version of a Disney princess, maybe. Perhaps that’s why David is waltzing his six-foot, stumble-drunk belle around the room in a pair of in-line skates, showing off, singing “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream...” Richie on the other hand is giggling like a maniac, batting his eyelashes, scrambling for balance as he attempts to skate after him on rollerquads before abruptly losing the small semblance of balance he had and landing with a smack on his ass, making him laugh even harder and fall backwards onto the smooth wooden floor of the ballroom they’ve hired for the aftershow party that evening. It’s the end of the tour, his daughter is here, and Ava is partly amused by and partly cringing with embarrassment watching her father being pulled around the dancefloor by his infinitely more elegant keyboardist.
Crash rides the greyhound from his hometown
When he comes ‘round, because they don’t let him drive now
Jon eventually has to see the humour in it, and takes over from David, strapping his own rollerblades on and skating clumsily towards his guitarist. However, because he hasn’t taken stopping into account, they soon end up in a giggly pile on the floor, with Tico and David having to pull them back to their feet before Jon can engage his best friend in a dance, this time accompanied by Tale As Old As Time from Beauty and the Beast, courtesy of David on the piano. Tico grins, filming it on his video camera, before David insists that he has to take a turn too and he’s forced to rock backwards and forwards on his own quads for a couple of minutes whilst David puts on a terrible-slash-brilliant Peter Andre imitation for Kiss The Girl. Jon laughs – “Hey, Lemma, what gives with the Disney theme?” and David shrugs with a grin, continuing to play as Richie lets go carefully and sinks gratefully into a chair by the piano, trying to unlace his rollerskates.
Mixed up as a milkshake
But make no mistake
Jon skates over with only marginally more grace to sit beside him. He gives his guitarist a wide grin, relaxed despite the embarrassment of having been forced to dance, in rollerblades, with Richie, who is in drag, in front of the entire crew. He feels conversation should probably be made and offers a teasing, “You make a pretty girl, princess,” which earns him a mock-glower and a whack over the head with Richie’s little purple clutch purse. He yelps, laughing, and Richie joins in, still fighting with “these bastard skates!” to get them off his feet.
They’re shooting for the stars
“You okay, man? It’s been a while since we got a chance to, y’know, sit and catch up. I know how tough tours can be on you,” Jon tries to broach the topic gently, but Richie’s unnatural ESP immediately picks up on the heading of the conversation and narrows his eyes. “I’m fine, man,” he says, a little too nonchalantly. “I like how you said ‘you’ there and clearly actually meant me, rather than you as an Everyman figure.” He’s been set on the defensive already, and Jon sighs. “You know I didn’t mean it like that–”
You and me
We’re invincible together
“Enlighten me, man, how did you mean it if not to imply that I’m weaker than you guys because I fall off the wagon more?” Richie hisses, the alcohol infused on his breath making Jon’s heart ache; this wasn’t his Richie, who acted like a wounded bear whenever Jon even thought about raising the issue of his troubles with rehab and booze. His Richie would laugh it off and crack a beer open... which was probably the problem in the first place. “Rich, please – I just meant that it can be hard for all of us, and... and for you especially–”
We can be so tragical, whatever
Dressed up just like Ziggy
“Hard doesn’t even begin to cover it. I reach for one beer and you guys look at me like I’ve contracted the fuckin’ Bubonic Plague or something–” he snarls furiously, standing up on still-unsteady legs, nevertheless easily towering over Jon, who cowers in his armchair. His voice gets louder and louder the more he seems to grow, until he fills Jon’s entire line of sight, a burly six-foot giant in a purple marquee and smudged, clownish makeup. “You guys can all sit and have a few drinks and nobody bats a fucking eyelid, not even when you’re weaving all over the place and can hardly say your own name without slurring, but if I so much as tweak a ringpull I’m being shipped back off to rehab–”
But he couldn’t play guitar
Captain Crash and the beauty queen from Mars
Jon looks stricken, pinned to his seat by the ferocious gaze of his best friend, who was looming over him like a tree about to be felled. The fury rolls off him in pungent waves, so potent Jon can almost smell it over the scent of Jack Daniels and soap still clinging to Richie’s skin after his post-show shower. “Rich, that isn’t fair – we never want you to have to go, we never wanted that – we’re just trying to help you, trying to keep you away from the things that’re gonna stop you getting better and getting back on track and getting back into the swing of the band, where you belong–”
They’re as drunk on love as you can get
Getting high on lust and cigarettes
His words fall on deaf ears as Richie pulls a packet of Camels out of his pocket and sparks up, ignoring Jon’s confused “I thought you didn’t?” with a curt ‘Leave it,’ shake of his head. The smoke curls out of the corners of his mouth like tender, caressing fingers over his tan cheeks, and he stares at the glowing end of his cigarette as he takes another deep drag, drawing the nicotine deep into his system and closing his eyes. He needs something to keep his hands busy so that he doesn’t bust out the bottle opener, and his guitars are safely locked away in travel cases or back at the hotel. That reminds him; he’d better pack before tomorrow, before his plane leaves and he has to go back to that shithole clinic in California to be told how weak he is for giving in, again, to the demons he can’t seem to purge from his soul.
Living life with no regrets
At least they’re gonna try to fly
Jon carefully takes hold of the cigarette and stubs it out, his blue eyes pleading with Richie as he sweeps them over the handsome, if marred by the running mascara and bloody gash of lipstick, face in front of him. He looks down at the smouldering crumpled little stick and sighs heavily as Richie reaches obstinately into his purse for another, this time nicking his lighter. “Listen to me when I’m talking to you, dammit.”
You and me
We’re invincible together
“I’m not gonna let you die of lung cancer the way your Dad did,” Jon says sadly, “I need you, Rich. Why don’t you see that? Every time I see you drunk again it tears a piece outta me – you don’t know how much it hurts to see somebody waste their lives like that, throwing a marriage and a kid away on something as idiotic as booze–” He has crossed Richie’s line in the sand, the guitarist staring at him with eyes like hot coals, burning into him from across the small gap of air between their faces. He gulps and quickly backpedals.
We can be so tragical, whatever
“Yeah? You think I planned for that to happen? Alcohol is a coping mechanism, Jon, not a reason for the divorce,” he spits, eyes glittering. “I know exactly what I did to my family because I can’t find my way back out of the neck of a bottle, Jonny, but that don’t give you free rein to go rubbing my nose in it under the guise of “trying to help” because we’re “friends”. With friends like that – like you – who the fuck needs enemies?”
We’re Sid and Nancy
Fred and Ginger
Jon flinches. “Richie, I’m sorry. All I meant was that I need you, man, I can’t stand seeing you tear yourself down like this. You don’t need the booze, Rich, you’re so much better than that. Where’s my Richie gone? I miss the guy who could stand at my right hand with his six string and take on the whole damn world with me – I want him back–” At this, Richie snorts. “You do? Go looking in the garbage compactors in the West Hollywood area. You might find him.”
Clyde and Bonnie
Liz and Richard
Jon’s eyes prickle in the corners as he sees matching tears pooling in Richie’s eyes, welling up behind thick dark lashes as they threaten to spill over. He pulls his best friend into a hug, allowing Richie to cry on his shoulder, and strokes the smooth caramel-brown locks beneath the palm of one hand, shushing him soothingly as though he were one of the children. “Hey, don’t cry, Rich... Everything’s going to be okay... Everything’s gonna be alright now, I promise... Don’t cry...”
Kurt and Courtney
Bacall and Bogie
Richie almost collapses against him, face buried in Jon’s shoulder. His daughter comes over for a moment, curious, but is easily gotten rid of by Jon telling her that he’s sad so her daddy’s giving him a hug, and making up some mindless excuse to be upset – a distant, fictitious family member kicking the bucket, or a worry that his voice is going to crack out on him again next tour. She skips off happily to check out the hors d’oeuvres, and Jon continues to hold Richie until he’s strong enough again to stand up, if not to hold himself together. “I’ve got you,” he murmurs, “it’s alright, I’ve got you.”
Joltin’ Joe and Ms. Monroe
Here’s Captain Crash and the beauty queen from Mars