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Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Pizzazz couldn’t quite believe she had agreed to do this. She had sworn off music when the Misfits ended, but somehow she had let Stormer sweet-talk her into being a celebrity judge on a music-contest reality show. The things a person did for friendship, she grumbled as she sat in the back seat of the limo – at least there were some perks.

She had loved being the Misfits’ lead singer, loved letting out the sexy, confident bad girl inside her who didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought. She had loved the rush, the thrill of performing in front of screaming crowds, feeling the stage vibrating under her feet, but she had not realized how much she would miss it when it was over. Everything had to come to an end, no matter how much she wished it could have lasted just a little longer. Looking back, it had been one of the best times in her life.

At least the Misfits had gone out with a bang, instead of fading away into the obscurity that found a band's Greatest Hits CD cluttering up the $1.99 clearance bin. Their farewell tour had played in a string of sold-out venues. Pizzazz could still remember the last concert of the tour like it had been yesterday, even after twenty years. The crowd screaming, singing along, people trying to climb up on stage, demanding encores – and they had done the encores. None of them had wanted that last concert to end.

They’d even gone to a nightclub after the concert, and taken the stage there in an intimate concert that went until almost three in the morning. The concert had been Stormer’s idea and it had gone over very well. Fans still wrote to Pizzazz telling her how incredible it had been.

The recorded version of the final concert had gone double platinum. Ironically, their last year of business had been the only one in which they had outsold Jem and the Holograms.

The timing of the end, of course, could be blamed on Eric Raymond. It was his greed for more money that had led to him embezzling from the Misfits, in order to keep yet another scheme in the air. Her accountant had spotted the discrepancy, and had naturally reported it straight to her father. Pizzazz thought bitterly that Harvey Gabor had probably spent more time talking to his employee about her music career than he had ever spent with her.

It had been a betrayal that Pizzazz simply could not forgive. She had never really liked Eric, but he’d helped make the Misfits stars. Pizzazz had always known that he couldn’t be trusted any farther than she could throw a champagne glass, but she had never believed that he would deliberately cross her. It wasn’t the money – Pizzazz had plenty of that – but she had always thought that she and Eric were partners of a sort, uneasy allies with the same set of enemies.

***

Eric’s betrayal had been the beginning of the end. Her father had refused to bankroll her music career, although Pizzazz thought he was more upset that she hadn’t noticed Eric was stealing from her than about the money. He couldn’t understand that she wanted more than just money – she wanted that connection when the fans were screaming her name, demanding autographs, showing how much they loved her – even when she could hardly be bothered to give them the time of day.

Pizzazz didn’t need to work for financial reasons, but she couldn’t stand staying home and being idle. The quiet was uncomfortable for her, but there was only so much partying and shopping that one woman could do. She was also smart enough to know that a girl had to be careful when it came to relationships, whether it was someone pretending to be her friend or trying to get her in bed. Not that she hadn’t had some stupid moments on that score – thinking about her lovesick behavior over Riot was embarrassing now – but Pizzazz had plenty of experience protecting her heart. Her parents had seen to that.

Much to her surprise, Pizzazz had been offered a role on a new daytime soap opera – The Loud and The Lovely – a year after the final concert. Her only previous acting experience had been their music videos and the disastrous Misfits movie, the one that they’d made to spite Jem and the Holograms. The role of fabulously bitchy music promoter Cassi Long had been intended as an occasional guest role, but the response to Pizzazz had resulted in a recurring role for the twelve year run of the show.

Of course, she thought with a laugh, she had essentially been playing herself – a scheming prima donna who was willing to do whatever it took to be on top – and she had loved every minute of it.

The show had been incredibly fun, especially when actual musicians were cast in guest roles. Of course, the usual sort of over-the-top drama had surrounded her characters, especially in the season where principal star Rob MacDuff had decided he was tired of playing clean-cut music star Patrick Southworth. They had obliged him by writing him out of the show, having a failed musician gun him down outside his recording studio.

Halfway through the season, MacDuff had put out feelers about coming back somehow. An enterprising writer that Pizzazz had enjoyed working with had come up with the idea of making the current season a dream sequence. The other people working on the show had embraced the crazy challenge, writing a storyline that would allow them to bring him back and fulfill some of the discarded ideas for characters. Pizzazz had enjoyed her storyline of falling in love with a European prince. It had been fun, right up to the finale involving a bombing at a charity concert honoring Patrick Southworth. She had been sad to see it end, but she had to admit the moment when the camera cut to MacDuff in the shower at the end of the finale had been pretty good.

Crazy as it sounded, that dream season had been the high point of the show, and it only ran for three more seasons. Pizzazz had done a few guest spots on Loud and Lovely’s spinoff, Valencia Harbor, as well as guest spots on Killing, She Typed and Colt, PI. There had been other projects, including an offer to write a tell-all book, but she had risked any attempts to get her to pick up a microphone again. After singing with the Misfits, she refused to settle for less.

Pizzazz wasn’t the slightest bit interested in contributing to the amount of bad music out there now, especially bad revival attempts. When the Misfits’ catalogue had come up on uTunes, there had been some interest in a new collection, but nothing had come of it.

But aside from the show, she had avoided music for the most part. She was still good friends with Roxy and Stormer, but she had no desire to enter into any of the nostalgia-driven projects that were hot right now. Roxy was doing C-level reality television now, making her money off being outrageous. Jetta had been sent back to England, and was still working over there.

Stormer had always been the serious musician in the Misfits. She and Kimber Benton had done more albums together, after the spectacular success of Back to Back (not to mention their long-standing more personal collaboration). The two of them had found it easier to keep on working and evolving their style as a duo than either of the bands they had belonged to. Pizzazz had to admit that of the Holograms, Kimber was probably the one she liked most. It had been a little awkward in the beginning, but neither of them wanted to disappoint Stormer.

And Stormer was the reason she was here, in the limo that was taking her to the venue where they filmed Ready to Rock. The show had been a huge hit in its first season, giving viewers the chance to watch four-person bands competing against each other for a splashy contract. Kimber Benton was one of the celebrity judges, along with Lindsey Pierce and former British teen idol Sean Harrison.

Pizzazz had watched some of the first season episodes to get a feel for the show, and she had to admit that she liked it more than she had wanted to. Sean Harrison’s flirty manner with Kimber and Lindsey was one of the things that made the show fun to watch, and there had been much made of their former romantic relationship. Pizzazz was looking forward to flirting with him a little herself again.

So Pizzazz had agreed to come on as a guest judge for the evening, along with Jerrica Benton and Riot. The week’s theme was the music that “made the 1980s”, especially since nostalgia was in. Pizzazz wondered if they were hoping for some in-fighting among the guest judges. Anything for ratings, she knew.

The limo stopped and Pizzazz smoothed her sleek green shag.

Time to take the stage again, she thought. She had missed it.

***
She couldn’t believe how little Jerrica Benton had changed. The huge revelation that glamorous good girl Jem (or as Pizzazz preferred to call her, Little Miss Pink Hair) was actually plain Jerrica Benton had come out the year after the Misfits’ farewell tour. Pizzazz had never bought the line that a body double had been involved, thinking that it would take more than a wig, makeup, and actual fashion sense to turn Jerrica into Jem. She had no idea how the Holograms had pulled it off.

They had lasted for another year or so, but musical tastes had started changing and the Holograms had gone their separate ways. Jerrica, of course, had continued running Starlight Music – probably a much less stressful task once Misfits Music/Stingers Sound had gone away. She had signed Kimber and Stormer, and continued to find new acts that kept Starlight Music at the forefront of the business.

There had been a few special-event reunion of the group, generally for charity. Aja had married Stormer’s hot brother Craig (that had been a hell of a wedding reception, Pizzazz thought with a smile) and the two lived in London. Shana had married Anthony Julian, and founded her own design company. Her focus was on fabulous evening and formal wear – Pizzazz owned one herself, and they had used quite a few on Loud and Lovely. Raya had founded a group devoted to getting music into disadvantaged schools – Pizzazz had even anonymously donated to the cause.

Riot was still sexy as hell, though he had cut his flowing blond locks (and started wearing shirts with buttons). He’d gone solo under his own name, Rory Llewelyn, and was still going strong. He’d made a guest appearance on Loud and Lovely that Pizzazz had enjoyed, but music was where he belonged. Of the three of them, he had the best voice and music skills. He had done a smoking hot duet with Kimber a few years ago that had gone to the top of the charts. Pizzazz had no idea what had happened to Rapture and Minx, but she hadn’t been sorry to see either of them go.

There was the requisite recap of the previous week, in which a male quartet had gone out during Broadway week. The competition was down to just three bands, and the tension was high. Pizzazz had to admit they were all pretty good.

There was also a video montage featuring the three judges in their hey-day, for the people watching the show who’d been in diapers when she had been rocking stages. It was a little odd to see herself in action on the screen again.

The first group was a syrupy-sweet girl band that did a take on Jem’s “People Who Care”, a song Pizzazz hadn’t liked the first time around. Of course Jerrica liked it, she thought as she waited for a chance to give her opinion. Pizzazz would have rather listened to the Limp Lizards doing “Broken Glass” on repeat, and counted the fact that she made the lead singer cry as a bonus.

The second group was a boy band with a poppy take on her own “Makin’ Mischief” that she also hated. The lead singer – Justin B. – obviously thought he was every girl’s dream, but the whole effect was just bland. Pizzazz couldn’t imagine how they had made it this far, unless there were a lot of preteen girls voting. He was desperately trying for the cool androgynous look that Gavin Zowie had been so successful with, but it didn't quite come off. Instead he looked like a too-skinny boy with bad hair.

They had fallen into a rhythm on their remarks. Jerrica talked about the overall sound and performance of the band, while Riot talked about the singing. She noted he hadn’t lost the art of making a snide remark that left people not realizing they’d been insulted – although he did try to compliment each group as well. Pizzazz dealt with performance, or lack of it. She wanted to see someone with some real passion, not stupid dance moves.

The last group blew the other two out of the water, in her opinion. It was a mixed group, with a male and female vocalist who did a duet version of the Stingers’ song “It’s A Hard, Hard Life”. They had talent, she had to admit, and she wondered what the male singer could do with some of Riot’s other stuff.

When the song ended and the three bands were on stage together, Pizzazz wondered how the phone voting would go. She would actually have to tune in tomorrow to see who the winner was. If it was the boy band, she was going to be sick. To her, it was everything that was wrong with music anymore.

Then came an off-camera chance for the contestants to mingle with the celebrity judges. Pizzazz found herself signing autographs, and even talking to the girl who played the guitar for the girl group. She wasn’t so bad, even when she told Pizzazz how she’d loved dancing to the Misfits’ songs when she was a little kid, because “her parents had loved the oldies”.

Finally, when it was all over, she found herself walking out with Riot to wait for their separate limousines. Now she could talk to him without acting like an idiot, she thought as they discussed the third group. Pizzazz really hoped they did win.

Especially when Riot asked her to come over and watch the results show with him.

She wasn’t one for reliving the old days, Pizzazz thought, but maybe everything didn’t need to be left behind.