Don't start me talking.
Oh, I could talk all night.
My mind was sleepwalking
While I didn't know what to write . . .
-- Elvis Costello, "Oliver's Army"
She is a respected Atlanta businesswoman now, but after reading the story I had e-mailed her, she felt the need to call her old classmate from Turner Middle School and Lithia Spring High. Bad boy though I was, Vicky remembered me as having been a nerd -- a "brain" -- in middle school, which may explain how I eventually became so dangerous.
What kind of hoodlum plays trombone in the school band? Actually, lots of us, although bad as the trombone section was, we weren't total outlaws like Mike Stevens and the drum line.
For some reason, low brass and drummers were always the evil guys in band. Whatever happened to my hoodlum buddy Bo Collins, who was also so talented on the French horn, baritone and flugelhorn? Bo's sister was a majorette, as was Susan McDade and . . .
I digress. By eighth grade, when I managed to sneak a peek down Vicky's blouse -- a glimpse that permanently etched itself in memory -- her days as a nice girl were rapidly disappearing in the rearview mirror.
Vicky and I talked for more than an hour Friday afternoon, and at one point she began naming her boyfriends in consecutive order, beginning with Forrest Bennett, the first boy she ever kissed. Forrest, whose good looks I always envied, was probably the first kiss for a lot of girls in Lithia Springs, and more than kissing, too. He died a few years ago when he dove into a too-shallow swimming pool and broke his neck.
Vicky named Forrest and about three or four other guys as having been her boyfriends up through seventh grade. Then, one day she and Ginger Whiteside did some blotter acid.
"After that, I was pretty much everybody's girlfriend," she said.
Ah, Vicky -- but you were never my girlfiend!
Bad Boys, Wild Girls and Cool Cars
Bad as I tried to be, I never had a cool car, and girls like Vicky only rode with guys who had cool cars. Even after I grew my hair down to my shoulders, learned to play guitar, and became running buddies with one of the biggest dope dealers at Lithia Springs High (a saxophone player and math geek who bought his first ounce of Columbian goldbud from me) I was never cool enough for Vicky.
Kirby, however, was that cool. In high school, my older brother drove a red Mustang with a 289 V-8 -- a few years later, it was replaced with a green Chevy SS -- and he also had dark hair, a mustache and a cool charm that his goofy younger brother could never quite match.
Vicky and I had talked for more than an hour, and I had already twice said, "Well, it's been nice talking to you . . ." when I mentioned Kirby, who still lives in Douglas County.
"Oh, yeah, I remember Kirby," she said. "One time, I had a menage a trois in a motel with Kirby and T----- G-----."
Like Vicky, TG was a former cheerleader. The threesome occurred, Vicky said, about 1978 or '79, in a motel off Thorton Road. Her mother had finally kicked her out of the house, and Vicky was dating a South American gentleman who was in the import-export business, so she had a lot of cocaine. Also, she had a supply of valium to take the edge off, as necessary when she needed to get some sleep.
So naturally, Vicky managed to hook up with Kirby. By 1979, my older brother had already been in the Army (101st Airborne), been married, fathered a son named Tony, and gotten divorced. Exactly how Vicky's menage with Kirby and TG came about . . . well, the details are kind of fuzzy in Vicky's memory.
Puking and Other Memorable Events
That's one thing about being a survivor of the '70s. You know you engaged in some bizarre decadence back in the day, but the details tend to be a bit sketchy. For example, I mentioned to Vicky that 1977 Led Zeppelin concert -- the last time Zep played the old Omni in Atlanta, on their last world tour before John Bonham died -- a memorable occasion of which I actually remember only bits and pieces.
"Oh, yeah!" she said. "I went to that with Tim Foreman and his brother John. I don't remember anything from that. Except I'm pretty sure I puked."
Puking at rock concerts was routine back in the day. I puked at my first concert in 1975 -- Rod Stewart and the Faces. Jeff Beck was also on the bill and the opening act that night was a band from Boston that was just then becoming nationally known for songs like "Sweet Emotion" and "Dream On." I went to that concert with an older guy named Tony Wheeler, whose skinny redheaded sister, Becky, played flute in the band. I'd briefly gotten to second base with Becky our freshman year, on a band trip to Florida, but don't remember exactly how I ended up hanging out with her older brother a year later when his date for the Rod Stewart concert called to cancel.
What I remember is that we bootlegged a pint of Canadian Mist whiskey into the concert, shared it with some guys behind us who reciprocated by sharing their weed, and. . . Well, I don't remember Aerosmith at all. I remember that Jeff Beck was a jerk who stormed off the stage after complaining of problems with the P.A. system. I remember Rod Stewart's encore was "Twisting the Night Away." And I remember puking.
That's how the '70s were. So, of course, my older brother's three-way with Vicky and TG remains in Vicky's memory only as fragments.
"I remember doing it in the bathtub with Kirby," she says. "And I think it was just like, hey, let's get T---- in here so she can try this."
Vicky did, however, recall a certain detail -- some traits are hereditary -- which confirmed her story to the necessary degree of certainty required by a professional journalist. And a phone call to Kirby added more details.
First of all, Kirby didn't remember the names of either Vicky or TG. He vaguely recalled TG having been a cheerleader at Douglas County High, but did not realize that Vicky had been a former classmate of mine.
Kirby was in a bar -- probably the Crystal Palace, a rowdy Southside after-hours club on Stewart Avenue -- when he met Vicky and her friend. He invited them to go smoke a joint.
So, Kirby says, they were riding around getting high in his Chevy when Vicky said, "F--- this smoking-a-joint stuff. I've got a bunch of coke. Let's go get a hotel room."
Kirby got home about 1 p.m. the next day and was cooking himself something to eat when the phone rang. It was Vicky saying, "Hey, I got some more coke. You want to come over again?"
When he went back, Kirby said, Vicky was there with a different girl than her girlfriend from the night before. Evidently, Vicky had been telling another one of her friends about the wild ride on this thoroughbred champion -- "Give him some coke and he'll go all night" -- which had occasioned the invitation for a repeat performance.
Vicky definitely remembered Kirby, and when I called her back to tell her Kirby's side of the story, she was a bit hurt that he'd forgotten her name. (As I said before, she is no longer known as "Vicky.") She didn't remember how she'd ran into him and had forgotten the name of the Crystal Palace, but she did remember that her rendezvous with my brother lasted more than one night.
"Oh, we might have partied for two or three days," she said. "I did that all the time. It was crazy back then."
Survivors, Casualties and Mysteries
A few weeks later, Vicky moved in with that South American businessman, who had a mansion in Midtown, and things got even crazier. The mansion was often the scene of wild coke-fueled orgies and one day Vicky regained consciousness -- "I didn't wake up, I came to" -- and looked around.
Naked bodies were sprawled everywhere, and there were still two big lines of coke, apparently laid out the night before by someone who must have passed out before snorting them.
"I remember saying to myself, if I don't get out of here, I'm gonna die," Vicky remembers. And soon she moved away to Athens. She didn't quit partying, but she had passed a turning point. She had made the decision that led to her survival.
"It's only by the pure grace of God that I'm still here," she says.
When I got that glimpse down Vicky's blouse during an eighth-grade class at Turner Middle School, that must have been about May 1973. She had already taken fateful steps, beginning when she dropped acid with Ginger Whiteside.
Ginger was killed instantly in a car accident while we were in high school. She was 15 or 16, I think. Vicky said she's still got the obituary somewhere, but she remembers something odd about Ginger: She had often predicted she would die young, as if knowing she was doomed from the day she was born to be riding in that brand-new Corvette that wiped out on Sweetwater Road. And at Ginger's funeral, the song they played was "Time" by Pink Floyd:
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.Ah, memories. It was the '70s, so the details of some events are sketchy, and lead to mysterious questions. For example, why did I never get past second base with Becky Wheeler? And whatever happened to Bo Collins?
Fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town,
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Still, I do remember Ginger's sad eyes. And I remember Vicky when she was a pretty blonde cheerleader at Turner Middle School.
She was naturally thin, with a delicate bone structure and long slender legs. For some reason, however, Vicky had never been one of those girls I had crushes on, like Carol Purdy. Until that spring day in 1973 when she wore a certain blouse and leaned over a certain way, so that at a certain angle I could see . . .
Oh, some things you never forget.
* * * * *
All Girls Names Tonya (And Other Lessons of a Misspent Youth) -- click here to read Part One -- is one of those books that no publisher in their right mind would ever pay me to write. But if you don't think these stories are completely worthless, please hit the tip jar.