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Blame it on Rio

How Duran Duran put a mullet on my head.

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I'm on a ride and I want to get off but they won't slow down the roundabout.

-- Duran Duran's "The Reflex"

Duran Duran is coming to the Horseshoe Casino on Thursday, March 8th, but according to their publicist, since the wild boys aren't touring in support of a new album, they aren't giving interviews either. Unfortunately, without an interview I have no choice but to share with you, the reader, my personal remembrances of the fab five from back in their heyday. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart.

It's been almost 20 years since I stood in front of the mirror in my tight, black leather pants and my shiny, gray plastic Sergio Valente shirt with the Western details, gobs of smudged eyeliner, cherry-red lipstick, and an extra-spiky mullet singing at the top of my lungs into a day-glo Goody brush. No doubt I was waving my arms in the air and making the anthemic declaration, "I'll light my torch and wave it for the new moon on Monday and the fire dance through the night. I stayed the cold day with a lonely satellite."

I didn't know what the words meant then. Still don't. Doesn't matter. All that mattered at the time was this: I wanted to be Simon Le Bon, the lead singer for Duran Duran. I had all his moves down: the hop, the sneer, the pucker, the squint, and most importantly, the mullet flip. I shopped at Chess King, where I bought synthetic vests like Simon wore, skinny ties like Simon wore, suits with shoulder pads like Simon wore, you name it. I raided my mom's makeup frequently. I didn't want to be the president of General Motors or a fireman or an astronaut. I wanted to be, or at least look, talk, and move, just like Simon Le Bon. In the mid-'80s he was the coolest guy in the universe, and I practiced a lot because all the chicks dug him the most.

It was nineteen-eighty-something. The speed limit was 55 (Hagar couldn't drive it), Reagan was trading arms for hostages, and everybody was on the cocaine-fasttrack to unfathomable gaudiness. The tune on the radio was by a new group called Duran Duran. It featured big guitars and bold synth licks. It had more guts than most of the empty New Wave schlock that was being floated about, but it wasn't exactly rock either. It was "Hungry Like the Wolf," and it described perfectly the direction the world was moving in. We were all hungry for power, money, drugs, and sex and ruthless when it came to obtaining any or all of the above. Excess was everything.

Factually, the fab five weren't all style over substance. Thanks to keyboardist Nick Rhodes, who was fascinated with the possibilities of electronic music, the group pioneered sampling. They blended club beats with rock guitars. They crooned important-sounding nonsense lyrics a la Brit-punks the Damned over dark but melodic pop. In a number of ways Duran Duran seemed like great innovators in a time when popular music needed a shot in the arm and arena bands still ruled the airwaves and the concert circuits. Still, they didn't really have the chops to steal Van Halen's thunder.

Enter the music video.

Think of your favorite Duran Duran song: "Girls on Film," "Planet Earth," "Union of the Snake," "Rio," etc. Now try to think of that song without the accompanying video. It just can't be done. Their tunes became synonymous with outrageous fashion, exotic locations, and extremely hot, often wet, women. No doubt Duran Duran is responsible for selling more ugly clothes, not to mention bad ideas, than Crockett and Tubbs combined. Goodness knows that within a year of "Rio"'s release, even Patrick Nagel, the artist who designed the album cover, was a household name. If you didn't have one of his prints featuring a busty nude female as pale as the grave hanging in your dorm room, you just weren't cool. If you didn't have a mullet, a dangling earring, and a double-breasted shirt, you weren't ever going to get a date.

My senior portrait hangs in my family's foyer, and it mocks me every time I return home to visit. Who is that boy with the Japanimated eyes and over-sized Adam's apple? He's glowing with optimism in his gray, collarless, plastic shirt with Western detailing by Sergio Valente, his shiny black pants, and a big, spiky mullet: all business on top and a long flowing party in the back. Call it what you will: cooter-cut, bi-level, mullet, Missouri Compromise, or just a big mistake. At the time, it was, as one author has proclaimed, "the hairstyle of the gods." It was Simon's haircut. Damn you, Duran Duran.

Now, nearly two decades since his star ascended and a good dozen years since Duran Duran recorded anything of relevance, Simon Le Bon won't give me an interview. After I bought all that hair mousse you'd think he would feel obligated. After the parachute pants you'd think he'd have some sympathy. But no. Please, Simon. Please tell me now. Is there something I should know? Is there something I should say that would make you come my way?

Duran Duran

Thursday, March 8th, Horseshoe Casino

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