Saturday, December 21, 2013

For Mr. Spector


By Elizabeth Dunphey

You have the most gorgeous voice I have ever heard, this man told me once, as he was walking up the steps of his apartment, groceries in hand.

His name was Jason Kerrigan, music lawyer. 

It was 1978, and I was standing outside my stoop with three or four of my seventeen year old friends, humming a few chords from Neil Young’s  “Lotta Love.”   It was an atypical choice.  My stunning raven haired Spanish friends all liked disco.

 But to hear this smooth and easy pop 1970’s number off my bee stung lips shocked Jason.  I was his girl. 


I often played a Motown song in my room, and fervently dreamed of meeting Phil Spector on a big break.  Phil Spector liked classy types.

The first girl was Ronnie, and the second girl was Lana.  The two poles of light and dark.  Lana Clarkson was the blonde.  That came later, in the 90’s though. That vibrant, posh looking, honey hair, the bright blue eyes and perfect teeth.  Miss America, basically.   

As for Ronnie Spector?  She was pure East Coast: just listen to “Be My Baby.”  She wore this thick jet mascara and her dark hair, Cherokee in origin, rippled down her back.   I loved her coolness. 

Ron loved Phil.  Her boy genius, with his glasses and studio.  And Phil loved her, deeply, maybe because of her voice, or her beauty, but he did, in a way that only pain could express at the end.
Back to 1978, Harlem.

Jason Kerrigan was half besotted when he asked my name.

“Bianca, huh?”  He wiped his eyeglasses. I noticed his eyes at once. Brown eyes.  I liked them.  “Like Bianca Jagger?”

“I wish!” I cooed.  “I’m just plain old Bianca Marcella, from Spanish Harlem.”

“You’re prettier.  How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

Then I turned on my booted heels and ran away.  I just ran.  I fled from the feelings I could feel at once for him.  Despite his paunch, the glasses, the hair a touch salt n’ pepper.  I felt something.  And that mattered.

Maybe I’ll give you a contract!  Jason cried cheerfully to my receding figure.  The spring light glowed amber over the skyscrapers.

Right. I’ve got community dance tomorrow!  I shouted calmly back, running to my home, next door.

So, this community dance.  
This is how I got ready for the prom held in a hotel in midtown: hours.

I took a hot iron and flattened waves of my ebony hair to my hips.   It was silk.  Then I slipped on a green faux Halston, and under that Diane Ross style lingerie, straight out of Mahogany.  I hoped they played the Bee Gees that night.  And SOS Band.  Andrea True Love.  And maybe even a few folky choices, like Todd Rundgren.  I doubted that though.

As for the boy who took me, he was nobody and I felt nothing.  He was doing his duty.
Iago, I hissed.  We stood on the 6 train subway, and I leaned against his shoulder. He loved me a bit more, than I liked him.   In the car, I could see a reflection of us and our youthful Latin perfection.  Iago Lucio in a beige suit with a red bow tie.  And my slithery green dress with an orange yellow flower in my lush raven hair.
 
Later that night, after the dancing, the friends, the drinks, and the platonic kiss on the cheek, I raced home to her apartment to tell Jason.

Jason was waiting outside on the stoop. Waiting for me.  Waiting for us.

It was 11:00 pm at night.  I supposed he wanted to see my filmy beautiful prom dress.  He was dressed very 1970’S sleazy lawyer, in a silky disco button down blue shirt and amber cordoroys.  No eye glasses.
“Hey you” I crowed, spinning in a circle before him.  “Take a look!”

I was blushing.

“Say, Bianca, would you care to join me for a cocktail in Westchester.  I have a home there.  Well, Diane does.”

“Sure,” I gulped, not thinking, putting my house key back in my jean purse.

“Mind if I wear this dress?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jason  brought me back to Westchester, to his wife's pad.  They were always, always  fighting.  She was like ice to me though, on the occasions I had seen her.  Be it stress or gene pool, she had matured.

The place was a mansion actually, and the scent of that frosty WASPiness permeated everywhere.  From pictures, the lady -- Diane Brett -- was a rich English woman, and quite good looking, in that cold way.

Drink bourbon, he sighed.  You must.  Do it!

He played some songs on his piano all throughout the balmy spring night.  I let the strap of my green gown slip.  My dusky olive skin exposed at the shoulder, and he clearly noticed. It was an arresting difference in skin tone and I felt hot with the love Ronnie Spector had for Phil.  This moment was mine.

Halston, he said.  I recognize that from Diane’s closet.

And I smiled, saucy:

It's a fake Halston.

Oh, for you, my darling, only the best.  Perhaps, more to drink?

Stop plying me! I winced.

Sorry. He shrugged and said: I hate to seem so creepy older man.

We kissed in the light of a dim song by the Stones, and I rested my black maned head in his lap. I felt his love for me.  And I felt so in love with the moment I could die.  On his wooden wall was a poster of a model, with wavy blonde hair. 

Who’s that?

My first wife, Ali.  She was a model.  Midwestern girl.  Making a name for herself now.

It was nearly the 80's, when that look would rule and end the regime of Son of Sam stalked brunettes on the street.  The ethnic De Niro movies would die.  The street would simply fade.  It would end, all like this sultry warm night in June.

Goodbye, honey, he said to me, reaching to push back my damp hair.  I guess I’d like to take you home -- but I’m a bit drunk.

I tried not to look sad.
I can do it, I told him.  

I boarded the train from Westchester.  It was mostly isolated with a homeless lush on board.  I stood up firmly, when the spot hit the right destination.  Nobody was gonna mess with me.  My mascara was running.  I would have something to tell the girls.  I, the prettiest girl in the hood, had scored.

And yet I had to keep mute.

Walking against the blaze of skyscraper lights, I hummed the last tunes to Neil Young, and knew this was part of some electrifying memory, in the constellation of my life, one night at a time, somehow forever.


Elizabeth has modeled, written stories forever, and loves winter.  Read more of her in the Eunioa Review and Milk.


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