Backstage, young Axl Rose was pacing the floor, like a hungry lion, whilst his band members gathered their instruments and tuned up. Being a singer meant he could warm up his voice a while before a show and relax until it was time to go on, unlike his friends.
The room backstage wasn’t particularly big, with just a sofa and a wooden chair inside, but for a group of 5 boys living under one roof in a 1 bed-roomed pig sty, personal space was never really an issue.
‘2 minutes, guys. Get ready,’ the stage assistant said sticking his head around the door.
The 5 ruffians huddled together and wished for a good show, in their own unique way, which involved plenty of profanity.
‘What a fuckin’ turn out!’ Gasped Steven as he peaked beyond the curtain. That was how they knew their shows were getting better, a curtain. Most bars they’d played in barely had a stage big enough for the drum kit, let alone the whole band. Being in a struggling rock band and having a curtain before you came onstage was practically The Grammys to these boys, even though the pay was shit and they usually made no profit after printing flyers and buying new equipment.
‘We have a treat for you guys tonight. Please give a big welcome, Troubadour, to the latest bad boys of rock ‘n’ roll….Guns N’ Roses!’
There was loud cheering, a number of girls screaming, and they crashed into their set with Reckless Life. It was a hard-hitting, fast-paced, heavy song about desperately struggling to survive on the streets of L.A, and being, would you believe it, reckless.
They’d gained quite a reputation around local places as the “bad boys” on the strip. Drinking, partying, getting high and playing was all they did, and people loved it. They were a breath of fresh air compared to the thrash metal bands dressed in drag. With catchy songs, and a growing fan base it was astonishing they were still struggling to survive. Surely they should’ve been headlining festivals and having their own worldwide tour by now. Though their reputation was what held them back the most, no record companies wanted to sign them because they were such a risk. So whilst the fans and groupies loved them, the suits and talent scouts did not.
Sat at the back of the club was young, naïve Erin. A Los Angeles native who’d moved from her home town to the big apple at the tender age of 16 to follow her dream of becoming a model. She’d had minor success being signed to Wilhelmina Models, starring in a number of small ads. Her claim to fame was small though, and she was usually recognised and most known for being daughter of Don Everly of The Everly Brothers.
She didn’t know it at the time but the crazy man screaming on stage was soon going to steal her heart. He knew it though. He hadn’t been able to prise his eyes away from her all night. Her hair was wild and curled, and her piercing blue eyes glistened under the dingy lighting. She wasn’t his usual type, but there was something child-like about her, her fragile face and the ‘protect me’ vibe she oozed made his heart warm.
An hour later and the climax of the show had calmed down and people began to disperse and leave the club, except Erin, who was still sat alone sipping her cranberry juice.
Whilst his band mates shot up, snorted, and hooked up with the grimy groupies backstage, Axl abandoned them and decided to introduce himself to the lovely lady.
She looked up from her drink and invited the sweaty singer to sit down. ‘Hi, I’m Erin.’ Her voice was almost as fragile and sweet as her face and he experienced a feeling he’d never felt before, a feeling to protect and yet a feeling of needing to be protected. It was an awkward moment as he stared at her intently and her cheeks flushed.
‘These streets are a dangerous place for a beautiful girl like you.’
‘I used to live round here, just down on Melrose; I know these streets like the back of my hand.’
He was thrown off slightly as his chat-up line had failed and he wiped his clammy hands along his leather pants. ‘I’m Axl; do you wanna go get some dinner?’
It was a long shot and he wasn’t sure she’d take the bait but surprisingly she did, and they enjoyed a plate of pancakes between them at a cheap breakfast diner and went back to his. Luckily for Axl, hoping to get lucky, his friends were still out and probably would be for a long time, that was if they even came home tonight.
After shows the boys nearly always hooked up with groupies and fans, and stayed at theirs. It was like a show ritual. They’d perform, collect their pay, blow it all on puff and crack, and then get laid. Axl usually did the same, but tonight was different, she was different.
‘Hey, what’s your name?’ Steven asked eyeing up the potential plaything.
Jessica looked at the 3 men who had rudely interrupted her dinner and politely asked them to leave. They didn’t.
‘C’mon, we just wanna know your name.’
‘And I just want you to leave.’
They sighed and left her alone to finish her meal.
‘Fuck! She’s loaded!’ Slash shouted rifling through her purse he’d pick-pocketed as his friend had distracted her. They gathered around him like a pack of savage dogs as he split the notes between them. This was a usual thing for them, thieving from innocent strangers, but they’d never managed to steal this much before.
Their minds travelled to what they’d each spend their share on. Slash’s eyes lit up as he realised he could buy a boat load of brown and split it, half for him, half for his customers, like a criminal entrepreneur. Steven’s dick began to ache thinking of all the whores he could buy. And Izzy, being the semi-sensible one of the group would use half for drugs, and half to buy food for their hell house.
‘I swear I must have left it at home.’
The owner gave the young girl a stern look and warned if she didn’t have any money to pay she’d have to wash dishes and work off her bill.
She sighed and rummaged in her bag and coat pockets one last time, searching for any money, even coins at this point. ‘How humiliating.’
‘I’ll go and fetch you an apron, Miss.’ His tone was smug.
She sank further into her seat and buried her head in her hands. Then she noticed her bag full of clothes she’d bought earlier sitting next to her. She re-traced her steps today, ‘I went to the grocery store, then bought clothes, and then came here. I had my purse before coming in here because I had been shopping.’
It was then she realised what had happened. The only time her bag had been out of her eye line was when those rough boys were harassing her. ‘Those bastards,’ she muttered under her breath. Not only did her purse have her holiday money in it, but it also had her favourite photos, student card, and most importantly her passport.
Frank had always warned his daughter not to carry her passport around with her in case it got stolen; now she could see why. ‘How am I supposed to get back to Connecticut?!’
The tears pricked her eyes and she started to bawl, not caring the other diners were laughing at her misery.
‘Okay, you can go. Don’t worry about the bill.’ Had the owner had a sudden change of heart seeing her crying? Had he let her off the hook?
‘What?’ She asked, confused. ‘But what about paying for my meal?’
‘It’s been dealt with.’
He pointed out the window to a tall man walking across the road. Who was this mystery man that had come to her rescue?
To her surprise, as she caught up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, she recognised him. ‘Flyer man!’
‘My name’s Duff, but flyer man, sure.’ He’d remembered her from this morning; she was the only one who’d accepted a flyer on the street, although he didn’t recall seeing her at the show tonight.
‘You paid for my dinner? Why?’
‘You were crying. I can’t stand to see girls crying.’ His voice was quiet and sweet.
As they walked along Sunset Boulevard, side by side, she explained how her purse had been stolen and this wasn’t just something she did for a free meal. He seemed sympathetic and understood, after all, he knew how dangerous these streets were for someone travelling alone. He’d come all the way from Seattle with hopes of finding fame, like most young musicians.
‘I didn’t get their names. But one of them had crazy blonde hair, like yours but darker, and bushier…and another had jet-black straight hair…’
He listened as she painted a mental portrait of the thieves, who were, to Duff’s disappointment, sounding a lot like his scavenging friends.
‘Oh!’ She gasped, ‘One of them was wearing a hat.’
Duff rubbed his forehead and sighed, ‘I think I might know where your purse is…’