"Hey lady you got the love I need~maybe more than enough~oh darlin darlin darlin walk a while with me~oh you've got so much..."
July 30, 1988
In the summer of 1988, a few friends and I took a long road trip to Val-Du-Lakes Amphitheatre in Mears, Michigan to see my new favorite band, Guns N Roses, who were the opening act for an old favorite band, Aerosmith. We arrived very early and wandered around the grounds in the sweltering heat. I walked up a hill with a friend hoping for a better vantage point to view the area where the bands' tour buses were parked behind a tall fence. At that moment a bus door opened and someone came out. The next thing I knew, Guns N Roses' guitarist Izzy Stradlin was propped up over the top of the fence pointing at me and wiggling his finger to come over. I looked all around me in disbelief but he really was pointing at me! I ran down the hill to the spot where he instructed security to let me through. We spent the afternoon talking to each other through the fence. Security wouldn't let him take me to the other side without a pass so he sent a crew guy to find one. Izzy kept running back and forth from the bus like a show and tell, displaying clothes and jewelry he'd bought on tour and telling me stories about some of the places he'd been. We had to tilt our heads slightly to see each other clearly through the fence. I was entranced by his eyes, glowing with the most magical olive and amber tones I had ever seen, as the glaring sun reflected down into them. I remember at one point he asked a road crew guy to help him rip the tag off his brand new pair of black jeans. His personality was bouncy and silly and uninhibited. We could pass things back and forth through the fence and touch each others hands but it was torture...or maybe it was like a teasing foreplay buildup...that neither of us was allowed to go to the other's side. Finally, right before he had to be on stage, one sticky pass was found and given to me.
My friends and I went out into the crowd and watched the show. It was a typical Guns N Roses live performance for that time--really bare bones, raw and raunchy sounding. This was only a short time before GnR Lies was released and they tried out a few songs none of us had heard before called "One In A Million" "Used To Love Her" & "Patience". The crowd, which was much bigger than the venue anticipated, went nuts and began tearing down a chain link fence that separated the VIP section from the GA section. It was scary. My friend Jynni and I were in a crush of people and had lost track of the friends we came there with. The agreement was for the car to be our meeting place if we lose each other. When the time came for me to go meet Izzy backstage, I was really scared. I was taking a big risk leaving my friends behind--we didn't have cell phones back then, you know!
Sure enough, Izzy was there at the fence waiting for me. As he was digging for the bus key in his pocket, he unknowingly dropped guitar picks in a trail behind him (and I tried to be sneaky and pick them up). Something about that was incredibly adorable to me. This must have been during a short sober faze because he had no drugs or alcohol and he offered me a 7up to drink on the bus. I think Aerosmith had a strict no drugs policy on that tour perhaps? He showed me more stuff he'd collected on the road and some live photos of Guns & Roses in LA. He had me pick out a photo and on the back of it he wrote "to Cari with lust...Izzy." He kept playing with my hair, piling it all up on top of my head then leaning back to look at me. Was he trying to see how I would look with an up do?? So playful and lovable, that Izzy. He told me his real name and that he grew up just a couple hours south of where I was from in Indiana. He talked about all his hats and how he wanted to buy more but hat boxes take up way too much space. He had just gotten the newly released Cinderella tape "Long Cold Winter" and put it on. We were having some serious music and philosophy talk and he said that I'm not like the other girls he meets on the road, that I actually have a brain and was really cool to talk to. He had me write my contact info in an address book for him.
At one point he started to kiss me but I was chewing gum and had yet to master the art of making out with gum in my mouth, so in a very parental way he put out his hand for me to spit it into and went to throw it away. Hello awkward moment! I couldn't have felt less sexy. Then again, what does a 17 year old really know about sexy anyway? For the sake of Mr. Stradlin's privacy, I will refrain from sharing the intimate details of our sexual encounter. I will, however, say that I was a clueless, naive little Indiana girl who had no idea what I was doing. Izzy, on the other hand, being almost 9 years older than I was, knew exactly how to do it right and I learned a thing or two. Izzy was a vision of perfection, with such smooth skin and a youthful god-like body, wide shoulders and a narrow waist. It was while he was laying back that I noticed for the first time his beautiful mouth, delicate, sweet and angelic, curled upwards slightly at the corners. Izzy and I had a lot of fun and even took a little nap as the summer heat had worn us out. We kept getting pestered by Steven Adler (whom he lovingly referred to as "Stevie"). Steven was bouncing around excitedly, pounding on the bus windows yelling that there were 14,000 people in the crowd! This must have been one of the biggest crowds they'd ever played for at that time.
It was dark by now and Izzy changed into some running pants and a jean jacket and we went outside for a walk on that perfect, magical, warm summer night with the full moon over our heads. We stopped by the hospitality tent for some pizza and there were Slash & Duff, kickin' back on a sofa having a deep conversation about drugs. Ok, now I was starstruck, and I stood there staring like a dumbass.
Duff: "You still have that shit man? What are you saving it for? If I had that *sssssnniiiiifff* it woulda been gone a long time ago!" Slash: "You can't do that much, man. You only need a little bit." I interrupted with "Slash, dude, you are so cool." (Somebody shoot me! I'm an idiot!)
Slash said "thanks" and Izzy dragged me out of there to the side stage to watch Aerosmith's encore under that amazing full summer moon. I'd never seen so many people in one place in my life--a sea of faces as far as the eye could see! Standing on the stage just a few feet from Joe Perry, I could imagine how it felt to be a rock star. Suddenly I realized in that moment that out of the 14,000 fans in that crowd, I was the only one backstage. Why me? And that's when the magic feeling came over me, showering me like fairy dust...Why not me?! I was different. I wasn't like anyone I knew, not family nor friends--no one I knew saw the world the way I did. I realized that for the first time, I was amongst my peers there backstage. And if I had the privilege of spending a day with the hottest band in the country at age 17, someday I would be doing a lot of other cool things all the while making my own dreams come true too!
Izzy asked me to ride on the bus with them to Cincinnati, but in the days before cell phones, I had no way to reach my parents back home nor my friends who were waiting in the massive parking lot to make the 3 hour drive home with me. What if I ditched everyone only to have the band's management say "no way, this groupie is not riding the bus with us!" and then I'd be stranded in a field in the middle of nowhere. What if I ditched everyone and they thought I got abducted and called the police? The deep shit I would have been in from every angle. I was helpless. He begged a security officer that was on a horse to escort me to the car--maybe I could tell my friends and then go back to meet him--but the "mountie" was a jerk and he refused to help us. I had no choice but to say goodbye and that's my biggest regret to this day. I'll always wonder about all the "what ifs".
The phone woke me up the next morning and it was Izzy. It sounded as if he were whispering. He said, "Listen...." I heard him press the play button on a tape player and then heard a clip of "Over The Hills and Far Away" by Led Zeppelin, a band we'd talked much about the night before. Then he clicked the tape off and said, "Bye...." and I never heard from him again.
That one magical summer night is what led me down the path to becoming the independent, confident, dream chasing woman with rose-colored, heart-shaped glasses that I am today. I'd like to thank Izzy for making me feel so special...he might not remember me but I'll never forget him and how for one day I was "one in a million".