Sly Winkle exited the Coco Club with mixed feelings. On one hand, he was feeling good that he was able to get the band he managed, the California Dreams, a concert date at the club, albeit three weeks from now. On the other hand, he struck out big time with a comely young waitress there and was still feeling her right hand on his cheek where she smacked him.
His job done, Sly looked around for a place to grab a quick bite or a soda. There were so many places in southern California to do either or both. But he was out of his comfort zone, going into suburban Los Angeles, many miles away from Malibu and the beach, where him and his friends went to high school.
He was walking down the sidewalk when he saw a theater façade on the other side of the street from where he was. He looked up at the marquee and saw the name of the place. It read in cursive red neon, The Palace. But the first ‘a’ was burned out, so it read ‘The P lace.’
Below it said on the marquee in red letters: Now Playing KIDS INCORPORATED.
Sly crossed the street and opened the door to go inside The Palace, or The P lace. Immediately, he heard a female voice singing Amy Grant’s “You’re Not Alone.”
He ventured into the building, and saw it was a combination of a malt shop and a concert hall. As he entered, there was a counter, where apparently the malts, shakes, and sodas were made. None were being made now, as the audience was watching the show on the stage.
The audience was made of all kids, no one older than fifteen years old. Sly looked at the stage, and saw that the band up was also made up of kids no older than fifteen.
The girl singing was probably fourteen, with short dark hair, wearing a blue top knotted at the waist, and jeans. There were two other girls, a little shorter than her, on either side of her. One was a cute golden blonde in a gunny sack like dress; and the other, an African American in pink overalls. There were two boys as well on stage – another African-American, playing a handheld keyboard and wearing a banded collar shirt just as colorful as the one Sly had on (but not as loud) and black slacks; the other boy, dark haired and wearing a red hooded shirt and blue jeans, and was playing a zebra striped guitar.
Behind them was another boy on bass guitar, another boy on drums, a girl playing an electronic keyboard, and two girls dancing on platforms on either side of the drummer.
When the song was over, the audience in attendance – Sly wondered if he was in some kind of advanced day care center, since he felt like he was the oldest one there, and probably was – cheered for the band.
Sly went over to the counter, as the band went backstage. Behind the counter, he finally saw an adult, who was serving up a malt to a customer.
The man, somewhere in his early twenties, saw Sly as he sat on a stool. “What can I get you?” he asked Sly.
“Just a soda,” Sly replied. The man placed a soda in front of him. “Nice place you got here.”
“We call it home,” the man said. “Welcome to The P*lace. I’m Flip. And you are?”
“They call me Sly, Sly Winkel.” The two shook hands.
“Short for Sylvester, I take it?”
Sly frowned, as he didn’t like the sound of his birth name. “Don’t call me that.”
Sly took a drink of his soda, then asked, “Any other bands play here?”
“Nope,” Flip replied. “Just Kids Incorporated. They’re pretty much the house band here. Why do you ask?”
“I happen to represent the best band in all of southern California,” Sly said. “The California Dreams. I was wondering if they can play here for a night or two.”
“Thanks, but no,” Flip said. “Standing agreement between the owner and me. Kids Incorporated is the only band on stage here.”
“Pardon me for saying so, but your audience looks like they’re from Romper Room.”
“It’s a hangout for the after school crowd,” Flip said. “There’s an elementary school and a middle school within walking distance of The P lace, so they all congregate here after classes. They order sodas, malts and milkshakes, and listen to the band whenever they play. We close up shop at eight, nine on Friday and Saturday.”
Sly asked, “So, this Kids Incorporated, how long have they been around?”
“Long before I got here,” Flip replied. “They started back in 1984. They’ve changed kids every year, because someone’s getting older or moving away. Two of the kids, Jared and Nicole, came aboard this year after Eric and Robin left. And this might be Kenny’s turn to say good bye next. He’s almost sixteen.”
The band came back on stage and they started another set. Flip pointed out who was who on stage. Kenny was in the stylish shirt similar to Sly’s, Jared had the hoodie, Haylie was the cute blonde, Ana had the short dark hair, and Nicole was in the pink overalls.
“Nice talking with you Sly,” Flip finally said. “Gotta get back to work.”
“Thanks for chatting. Hey, if you change your mind about California Dreams performing here, here’s my number.” Sly handed him a business card with his phone number on it.
With that, Sly headed home to Malibu, as he heard the boys singing “The Right Stuff” as he departed The P lace.
The next day, Sly arrived at the Garrison home, where his friend Matt Garrison, his sister Jenny, and their friends Tiffany Smith, and Tony Wicks, were in the garage rehearsing for their next show as The California Dreams. Matt played guitar, Jenny was on the keyboards, Tiffany was on the bass guitar, and Tony played the drums.
They were in the middle of a song, a beautifully played melody of sound about young love. When the song ended, they turned their attention to their manager.
“So, did you find us a new place to play our next show?” asked Matt.
“I actually did,” Sly replied. “You’ll be playing at the Coco Club. But you’re gonna have to wait three weeks. There were other bands ahead of you.”
“That’s good enough,” Tiffany said. “We got that show at the Malibu Piers this weekend.”
“I almost got you a second gig in the same neighborhood.” Sly said. He proceeded to tell them about The Palace Theater and their house band made up of middle school kids.
“Just middle school kids, huh?” Tony said. “Sounds like something extra curricular or for extra credit for a music class.”
“The audience looks like they’re from a day care center,” Sly remarked, “and the band are the babysitters. Except they’re not singing ‘Old McDonald.’”
“What are they singing?” Jenny asked.
“Look at the Billboard Top 50 and pick a song,” Sly answered. “They do cover tunes. That’s what I heard when I was there.”
“Well, whatever works for them,” Matt said. “Sounds like something Dennis might be in to.”
As if on cue, Dennis, Matt and Jenny’s younger brother, came into the garage. “Hi guys,” he said. “What’s up?”
“We’re just talking about this other band made up of little kids like yourself,” Sly said. “They’re at this place called The Palace Theater.”
“You mean The P lace?” Dennis said back.
Everyone else in the garage looked at Dennis. “You’ve heard of this band? Kids Incorporated?” asked Sly.
“I’ve seen them,” Dennis replied. “Just once. Me and one of my friends got dropped off there by his parents for an hour and we saw them perform. This was about two years ago or so.”
“What did you think of them?” Matt asked.
“This one girl, Stacy,” Dennis replied, “she was gorgeous. Blonde hair, legs out to there….”
“You sound like Sly,” Tony said.
“But she was too old for me,” Dennis concluded. “There was this other girl. Robin, a real cutie. She was about the same age as me now.” He looked over at Sly. “Either one of them still there?” Sly replied that neither girl that Dennis described was not among the girls he saw at The Palace.
“There was this one girl,” Sly added. “I think her name is Haylie. She might be your type.”
“If it’s a girl, it’s his type,” Matt said.
The Dreams rehearsed a couple of more songs before taking a break. They all went inside to the kitchen, where Matt and Jenny’s mom had just hung up the phone.
“Oh, good,” Mrs. Garrison said to them. “I just got a message for you. That was the Malibu Piers on the phone. They just confirmed your show for Saturday for the Concerts on the Pier.”
“That’s great,” Matt said.
“He said that California Dreams is scheduled for the two o’clock slot,” Mrs. Garrison said. “You’ll be on before this other group. They’re called Kids Incorporated.”
“Really?” asked Matt. The members of the Dreams all looked at each other.
Jenny said, “Maybe we’ll get to see what this Kids Incorporated is all about.”
On Saturday, The California Dreams packed their instruments and equipment into Matt’s Volkswagen microbus, and took off for the Malibu Piers for the concert. They, along with their manager Sly, were in the VW van, while Mr. and Mrs. Garrison, along with Dennis, followed in their car.
They parked the cars in the lot next to the piers. The marine layer of fog had lifted, giving way to an already sunny day on the southern California coast. The temperature was already warm and would be getting warmer but comfortable as the afternoon would go on. The beach was already full of sunbathers catching some sun on the sand, and surfers heading out to the water to catch some waves.
The Garrisons said they and Dennis would walk around and take in some shops along the boardwalk, but return for the California Dreams concert. They departed, as Matt, Jenny, Tony, Tiffany, and Sly began to unload the instruments from the van, and headed out to the stage on the pier. Tiffany’s surfboard was on top of the van, just in case Tiff wanted to do some surfing before or after the show.
The band that was on stage, a fivesome who called themselves The Young Savages, had just finished up their set, and that was a good thing. The crowd who had seen them had been booing them so loudly, the jeers could have been heard in Palm Springs.
“How bad were these guys?” Jenny wondered aloud. The Young Savages were dressed nicely, maybe too nicely, in pressed slacks, and lettermen sweaters.
She got an answer. One of the concert organizers got in the face of one of band members from The Young Savages and read him the riot act. The band member, who the Dreams assumed was the lead singer, looked completely clueless, as the organizer told him, amongst the vile epithets, his band just plain sucked.
After The Young Savages departed, the organizer saw the California Dreams. He quickly walked up to them and just as quickly changed his demeanor.
“I’m Joe Dannon, organizer for Concerts at The Pier,” he said. “Am I glad you’re here. You might get to go on a little early. This last band stunk and that’s an understatement.”
“That bad, huh?” Tony said.
“They had in their set ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?”!” Mr. Dannon exclaimed. “They were singing standards from before rock and roll! The crowd booed them and they kept playing! They were oblivious and clueless! They forgot what decade they were in!”
“Don’t worry, we know it’s the 1990’s,” Sly said. “Our music is fresh and real.”
“And it’s rock and roll,” added Matt.
“That’s good,” Mr. Dannon said with a sigh of relief. “Set up, make a sound check, and we’ll get you going when you’re ready.”
The Dreams set up their instruments. Jenny’s keyboards were set up in fifteen minutes, and Tony’s drum kit was up in twenty. Matt and Tiffany plugged their electric and bass guitars, respectively, into the amplifiers, and tuned them accordingly. When they were done, they did their sound check to “This Time.”
“Sounds good,” Matt said when the song was finished. He checked his watch. “It’s about twelve forty-five.”
“Maybe I can get some time out on the surf,” Kelly said.
“That’s cutting it too close,” Matt said. “Go out if you want, then come back here around one-thirty, maybe one-forty.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Tony said.
Matt and Jenny opted to stay close to the stage on the pier, while Tiffany and Tony went down to the beach.
Brother and sister sat down on the stage, taking in the sunny day, as Sly went out among the people on the pier to drum up interest in the band, while simultaneously strike up a conversation with a girl without getting slapped. As they did, two teenagers, a little younger than Matt and Jenny, came up to them. One was an African American boy, the other a girl with short dark hair.
“Hi there,” the boy said. “So, you’re the California Dreams?”
“Two of them,” Matt replied. “What can I do for you?”
“We’re just waiting for your show,” the short haired girl said. “We heard you’re pretty good.”
“We like to believe that,” Jenny said. “And you are?”
“I’m Kenny,” the boy said. “And I’m Ana,” said the girl.
“Nice to meet you,” Matt said. “Are you in a band?”
“We are,” Kenny replied. “We’re after your band on stage.”
Matt and Jenny stood up. “You’re with Kids Incorporated?” asked Jenny. Kenny and Ana nodded, as Sly returned to the stage. “Hey, Sly,” Matt said to him, “these two are with Kids Incorporated.”
“Really?” Sly said. “Hi there. I saw you guys last week. You’re pretty good.”
“Thanks,” Ana said. “I heard you want to play at The P*lace.”
“We were told we couldn’t,” Matt said.
“We could make an exception,” Kenny said.
Sly’s ears perked up. “That would be great!” he said, as he sidled up next to Ana. “By the way, are you –“
“I also heard about that waitress from the Coco Club,” Ana quickly said to him. Sly just as quickly took two steps back.
“Where’s the rest of your group?” Jenny asked.
Kenny looked around. “They’re all over the pier and the beach right now…”
Meanwhile, the Garrison parents, Richard and Melody, were over on the boardwalk, taking in the shops along the way. Their youngest, Dennis, stayed close, but inched further away as his parents continued slowly down the boardwalk, hand in hand.
They were still in sight as Dennis came upon the boardwalk’s ice cream shop. He asked the counter person for a cone full of fudge ripple, and paid for it. He was savoring the ice cream when he saw a girl, maybe a year or two older than him go up to the counter. She had blonde hair, up in a pony tail, and she asked for a cone with vanilla ice cream.
After she paid for the cone, she left the ice cream place. She had taken a few licks when she began to feel an unwanted presence coming close to her.
The girl quickly turned around and saw Dennis stopping just a couple of feet in front of her. She didn’t see him right away, and had to look down before spotting him.
“Hi there!” Dennis said to the girl.
“Hi there yourself,” she said back, albeit a little confused.
“What’s your name?”
“Haylie. And you are?”
“I’m Dennis.” He took a step closer to Haylie. “And I just think you’re beautiful.”
Haylie gave him this look. “You’re not the first one to say that, and not the first one under ten years old to say it to me, either.”
“So, I’m a little young. Gotta start sometime. By the way, I am ten years old.”
“I’m twelve,” Haylie said, “but still, thanks anyway.”
“For what?” Dennis said. “I haven’t asked you out yet!” But by then, Haylie had begun to walk away.
“Shoot!” Dennis said to himself. “Asking girls out is tough.”
Tiffany and Tony had gone back to the van. Tony gave her a boost up to the top of the van so she could release the latches which held her surfboard.
“Are you sure you want to ride a wave before our show?” Tony asked her from the side of the van.
“I’m just gonna take it down and bring it back to the pier,” Tiffany replied, as she released the last latch on the rack. “When we’re done with the concert, I’ll ride a wave or two.”
Tiffany picked up her surfboard, but the board slipped out of her hands. Tony reached up to grab the board, but it went down the back of the van instead over the side.
There was a dull THUD followed by the sound of someone screaming in obvious pain and agony.
“Oh my God!” Tiffany exclaimed as she looked over the back of the van. Tony quickly went behind the van to see who got hit by the surfboard.
A young boy about twelve was sitting on the ground, grabbing at the top of his head, grimacing in obvious pain. Alongside him, an African American girl about the same age as the boy was kneeling next to him, trying to comfort him.
“Jared, are you okay?” the girl asked him.
“I don’t know!” the boy said back. “If my life flashes in front of me, call 9-1-1!”
Tony helped Tiffany down from the top of the van. “I am so sorry!” Tiffany said as she went over and knelt down to the injured party. “It just slipped out of my hands!”
“This is why I don’t like surfing!” the boy said through the pain. “In Texas, you don’t have to worry about things like this!”
“I’ll go get some ice,” Tony volunteered.
“No, that’s okay,” the boy said. He tried to stand up, but quickly sat back down, his eyes circling around in a daze.
The girl asked, “Jared, should I get the others?”
“No, Nicole,” Jared winced. “I’ll muddle through.” He slowly got up again, still wincing but not as much. His eyes settled into place, as he looked over to Tiffany, and his mood changed. “You know, if all surfers are like you, maybe I can learn how to surf.”
“Why not?” Nicole said to him. “You learned a little bit of ballet.”
Tony raised his eyebrows. “He took ballet?”
“It was over a girl,” Jared replied.
“Good excuse as any.”
The girl said, “By the way, I’m Nicole, and this is Jared.”
“Nice to meet you,” Tiffany said. She introduced herself and Tony. “Sorry about my surfboard.”
“It’s fine really,” Jared said. “Just out of curiousity, what are surfboards made of anyway?”
“Mine’s made of fiberglass.”
“Well, I’m just glad it didn’t crack my skull,” Jared said.
“You’re not dizzy, are you?” Nicole asked Jared. “You can’t perform if you have double vision or falling off the stage.”
“Perform?” asked Tiffany.
“We’re scheduled to perform later today on the pier with our group,” Nicole replied to Tiffany.
“Well, we’re supposed to perform soon,” Tony said. “Why don’t you come down to the pier with us?”
“I’ll put my surfboard back up,” Tiffany said.
“No, you better take it with us,” Tony said.
“I’ll just stay behind a few feet while you lead the way,” Jared said.
Five minutes later, everyone converged on the pier. Haylie came over to the stage, and found Kenny and Ana conversing with Matt and Jenny. A couple of moments later, Tony and Tiffany, and Tiffany’s surfboard, arrived with Nicole and Jared, as his head was feeling much better. Soon, all parties realized that the California Dreams and Kids Incorporated were together.
“So, you’re Kids Incorporated,” Matt said. “Nice to meet all of you.”
“And Kids Incorporated is nice to meet all of you as well,” Nicole said. “We’re looking forward to see you perform.”
“Likewise,” said Tiffany.
Soon, Matt and Jenny’s parents and Dennis came on to the scene. “We haven’t missed anything yet, have we?” asked Richard Garrison.
“Not yet Dad,” Matt said. “Show’s about to start.”
Dennis saw Haylie again and walked up to her. “Hello again, beautiful.”
“Oh, it’s you,” Haylie said reluctantly.
“Don’t worry, he’s only Matt and Jenny’s brother,” Tiffany told her.
“It could be worse,” Ana said, pointing to Sly. “It could be him.”
“Well, now that we’re all acquainted,” Matt said, “it’s time for the show.”
With that, Matt, Jenny, Tiffany, and Tony went up on stage, and the others found places to sit on the chairs set up for the show.
The lead organizer, Mr. Dannon, came up on stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, people of all ages, please welcome to our Concerts on The Pier series…..THE CALIFORNIA DREAMS!”
The audience in attendance, peppered with teenagers from all over Malibu, cheered as the foursome launched into an eight-song set, including “This Time”, “One World”, “Everybody’s Got Somebody” and “Rain”, and they finished off with their self- titled “California Dreams.”
When the concert was over, the crowd applauded as if the California Dreams were a headlining act at a rock festival at Fontana Speedway instead of the Malibu Pier.
After the show ended, the Kids left the audience to get ready for their own concert. Some time later, Matt, Jenny, Tiffany, and Tony were seated with Matt and Jenny’s parents, Dennis, and Sly. After sitting down, Matt noticed there was a decided change in the audience. Where they were mostly high schoolers for the California Dreams show, there were a large number of elementary and middle school aged kids, between the ages of ten and fourteen, maybe fifteen years old, in the crowd. But a majority of them, specifically the younger ones, had their parents along as well.
At four o’clock, Mr. Dannon once again came on stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, and kids of all ages, please welcome to the Malibu Pier, the coolest kids band around….KIDS INCOPRPORATED!”
There was a hearty cheer from the audience as the Kids, along with their backup musicians and dancers, came upon the stage.
For their set, each song showcased each of the Kids’ individual style and voice. Each of the Kids had a solo for “The Great Pretender” (Ana), “That’s What Love Is For” (Kenny), “I Like to See Your Smile” (Nicole), “Teenager In Love” (Jared), and “Every Heartbeat” (Haylie). The girls had one set for themselves (“Baby Baby” and “I Just Want to Celebrate’), as did the boys (“Overkill” and “Penny Lane.”) And, like the California Dreams did, Kids Incorporated capped the show with the own self-titled song.
When the show ended, the audience’s cheers was just as rousing for Kids Incorporated as they were for the California Dreams. As for the Dreams, they were mighty impressed with the style and professionalism of a group of performers who weren’t exactly of high school age.
After the crowd dispersed, the Dreams waited for the Kids to come over, so they could heap praise upon them.
“You guys were great!” Jenny said.
“Thanks!” Kenny returned. “So were you guys.”
“You should be more than a house band,” Matt said.
“Well, we have our audience, you have yours,” Ana said. “Like Kenny said, your group was awesome.”
“Maybe we can do a double bill one of these days,” suggested Jared.
“If that’s the case, then give me a call,” Sly promoted, handing over a business card. “And if you ladies need a date – ”
“Forget it, Sly,” Jenny quickly said. “They probably have boyfriends anyway.”
Ana, Haylie, and Nicole nodded. They actually didn’t, but they’d rather stay single than go out on a date with Sly. Besides, they were too young by a couple of years anyway. Dennis, on the other hand….
Matt extended his hand. “Maybe we’ll see each other down the road.”
“Let’s hope so,” Kenny said, shaking Matt’s hand.
Soon, the two bands headed off into the southern California late afternoon. Both different in styles and ages, but both providing music to their generation in their own way.