Authors: Nikki McWatters
Published by Black Inc.,
an imprint of Schwartz Media Pty Ltd
37â39 Langridge Street
Collingwood Vic 3066 Australia
email: [email protected]
Copyright Â© Nikki McWatters 2012
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior consent of the publishers.
ISBN for eBook edition: 9781921870583
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry (for print edition):
One way or another / Nikki McWatters.
ISBN for print edition: 9781863955560 (pbk.)
McWatters, Nikki. Teenage girls--Queensland--Gold Coast--Biography. Groupies--Queensland--Gold Coast--Biography. Teenage girls--Sexual behavior--Queensland--Gold Coast.
Cover design by Thomas Deverall
For Ben and Toby, the best things to come out of the eighties
My first orgasm shocked my system with a welcome surprise as I writhed beneath a giant colourful stuffed rabbit named Andy Gibb. I was thirteen. Perhaps the association of extreme pleasure with rock stars began then. I had not actually been thinking of anything other than the physical sensations, but every time I watched Andy Gibb on
after that, it brought a smile to my face. Rock and roll was the only sensible sex education I had.
Admittedly my parents, both school teachers, had sat me down with a âbirds and bees' book and given me a Catholic version of âthe talk'. I was shown infantile pictures of plants being pollinated, chickens and dogs jumping on each other's backs and finally a series of cartoon reproductive organs. The actual mating of humans was cloaked in secrecy and innuendo. The picture that accompanied the stilted text was of a couple having a cuddle under a blanket. It didn't dawn on me until some time later, when I discovered
, that penetration was part of the deal. There was no mention of pleasure and certainly not of passion. My parents had taught me, very capably, how to make babies â but rock and roll was to teach me how to have sex.
It was in 1981 in sun-drenched Surfers Paradise that, at the age of fifteen, my lustful rock and roll dreams began to manifest. I saw a bumper sticker once that declared, âYou must have one grand passion.' Mine was rock stars.
With my Flock of Seagulls hairdo, a slash of red slicing my cheekbones and a pirate shirt puffed up over black leggings, I waited at the cafÃ© in Southport for my posse to arrive. A milkshake wand whirred in the background, competing with Freddie Mercury's falsetto from the radio. The bored waitress, her zippered yellow uniform stretched uncomfortably across her ample chest, gave an eye-roll of disapproval as Rhonda, Tammy and Caroline arrived like a sirocco of colour. While my hair was teased spectacularly into its lopsided shape, it was still a forgettable shade of mouse. Rhonda had gone one step further and had tips of bright red feathered through her dark hair. We all wore make-up like it was war paint. We were teenage Amazons.
Like a secret society, Rhonda, Tammy, Caroline and I would meet for milkshakes on the weekend and talk music. They were boarders at one of Queensland's most prestigious girls' colleges, or âprisoners', as they were referred to by the day students. I was enrolled in another Catholic school nearby, but tonight they had invited me into the inner sanctum of their dormitory for an evening of fun. It was Sunday and Dad was collecting me from outside their school at nine.
After slurping down our bubbly vanilla froth, the girls and I made our way past âDero Park', so named for the transient drunks that littered the benches. One old fellow thrust his urine-soaked crotch at us and shouted something unintelligible but clearly pornographic. The streets of Southport were hushed and eerily empty on a Sunday. On weekdays they were filled with the chaotic bustle of suits and uniforms, squealing school buses and impatient traffic.
We passed the Gold Coast Hospital and the used-car yards and eventually reached the white picket fence surrounding the school. The historic building sat primly as an old English schoolmarm. St Hilda's. As I was not only not a boarder but not even a student there, we had to be covert. Head down, eyes averted, heart sparring with my ribcage, I was bustled into the dormitories without being identified as an alien intruder.
Inside, their three-bed room was divided by strategically placed wardrobes. Posters adorned the walls and funky bedspreads and photo boards gave the place the vibe of an adolescent cubby house. I was pickled with jealousy. It was a far cry from the Dickensian boarding schools we'd read about in English class. Spot checks and routine visits from the dorm mother occurred every hour or so, but the girls in the next room had been instructed to bang three times on the wall to warn us. I would slither under Rhonda's bed until the danger passed.
At 6.30 we switched on the television set in the corner of the room. The TV event of the year was about to hit Channel 2 â the
Awards. Tammy cracked open a bottle of contraband Dimple Scotch and we grimaced and giggled at the horrid burning taste. When the
intro appeared on screen with its hypnotic disco lights, we were entranced. Count-dooowowowown. Each of us had adopted a favourite band. I cheered on Australian Crawl. Rhonda championed INXS, thinking Michael Hutchence the bee's knees (he was a little too pale and weedy for me). Caroline liked the rough and tumble of Cold Chisel while Tammy had her sights set on Mondo Rock. As we scoffed jelly babies and freckles and furtively swilled the Scotch, our voices crept dangerously louder. There was one close call with a dorm teacher and I banged my head hard when I scampered under Rhonda's bed with the bottle.
âNot bloody Cold Chisel again. They're awful,' Rhonda whinged as they romped home with several awards. I got up and shimmied when Australian Crawl's frontman, James Reyne, won best male artist and I entertained lusty thoughts as the band bumped out a performance of âThe Boys Light Up'. The song spoke of a flat in Surfers Paradise and I wondered if I'd ever get to see it. We stared in silence as Cold Chisel destroyed the stage during their final number and then sat around for a while, finishing the Scotch and analysing our heroes and their big night.
âRock stars will sleep with anyone and they love schoolgirls,' Rhonda whispered.
âHow do you meet one?' Tammy's wide brown eyes flickered.
âJust turn up at the backstage door looking slutty,' Rhonda grinned. âI'm up for it.'
âI'm up for it,' I sang back, feeling the alcohol pulse through my bloodstream like a slow bluesy rhythm. Rhonda gave a devilish smirk.
âLet's make a secret club. A rock-star fan club but ... different.'
âYeah,' I smiled and nodded. âLike a collectors' club. We'll set targets. Rock stars. And see how close we can get to them. We'll collect them like butterflies!'
âYeah,' Rhonda's eyes and teeth looked ghostly in the dimmed lights. âWe'll hunt 'em. Like prey. A bronze medal for seeing a rock star in person. A silver medal for talking to them. And a gold one for ...'
We all did our own version of simulating sex and laughed way too loudly.
âThe Vulture Club,' Rhonda raised her empty glass to ours.
âThe Vulture Club,' we clinked back.
And so the Vulture Club was born.
Surfers Paradise was a tacky whore of a town. A voluptuous mass of white beaches and verdant hinterland, she had sold her soul for a few strings of sequins. The rickety fibro beach shacks could still be found cowering between the towering monstrosities that reached greedily to the sun, but they were drowning in the deepening shadows. Surfers had taken her first taste of glitter and she was addicted. Her breasts were still perky and her bloodshot eyes glistened, but an emptiness was invading her soul. She was already jaded.
While my schoolmates were bobbing beyond the breakers on salty surfboards, I was huddled in a darkened room listening to music and indulging in sordid fantasies involving entire rock bands. The anthemic sounds of the seventies had mellowed through the years into a flaccid digital drone, with only sweaty, testosterone-laced pub rock for relief. Bad skin and a cockatoo hairstyle were my uniform and I wore them with self-conscious pride. I was sitting on the ledge of life, eager to free-fall into my future.
The mirror in my suburban bedroom revealed a strangely interesting face. Pretty but in a flawed way, put together like a hasty collage. Almond-shaped green eyes that were often described as catlike. Childish, striking, but with a sinister sharpness. My breasts leapt into rooms ahead of me yet I was chicken-leg thin. The gaps in my teeth meant I smiled and spoke through tight lips, smearing my face with a permanent look of disappointment.
The only time I spoke and laughed freely was on stage, with the audience too far away to notice the mess behind my lipstick. I had inherited my father's love of theatre. He had hung up his acting dreams and become an English teacher, nurturing a new generation of dramatists and tackling the odd amateur role at the local playhouse. A sense of safety and warmth washed over me on stage; it was a place of high visibility and invisibility, simultaneously. A hushed auditorium with all eyes trained on me, staring through the darkness up to that one spot of light â it was an addictive sensation.
From the age of ten or eleven I would ride my Malvern Star pushbike to Broadbeach at first light a couple of mornings each week. Spiral notebook tucked under my arm, biro jabbing me through my back pocket, bell-bottom jeans flapping like the clappers. Kicking off my shoes, I'd stab my way up and over the empty dunes to the beach, the soles of my feet biting into the soft sand, sounding like tiny squeals of pain.
Watching the sky change colour while noisy seagulls scattered like silver confetti, I wrote poetry. It felt like Shakespeare in my heart but when I read my words back they were forced and awkward; I was trying on emotions that didn't quite fit. My dreams on that beach were of fame and fortune. An Oscar. A rock-star lover. Perfect teeth. I filled pages and pages with manic doodles until the sun warmed the morning and the grey of the ocean began to stir itself into a sparkle of lapis lazuli. Then a quick pedal home through the morning traffic crush, a piece of burnt toast topped with peanut paste and a cup of Milo, and I'd pack my port and get dressed for another day of school.
By 1981, however, my morning routine had begun to change. It was no longer so cool to ride a Malvern Star and the beach was becoming crowded with early joggers, tourists washing away hangovers and southern retirees walking overweight Labradors. High-rises popped up like warts along the esplanade and a slick of coconut oil stained the water's edge. At fifteen I found that I preferred to be in my warm, musky bed, thinking about sex, wondering what it might be like, creating erotic poetry in my head.
My parents had a very definite idea of what path my life should take: I was to be a Catholic schoolteacher, married to some well-heeled professional. My protestations that I wanted to be a famous actress were met with comments such as âThat's not real life' and âYou don't have Hollywood teeth.' I felt like a pressure cooker of repressed potential. To be ânormal' or âsensible' was intolerable. I wanted to be loud, unpredictable, sassy and spontaneous. I wanted to shine like a beacon, not sit quietly under a lampshade.
At school, I played the game and appeared to bow to the will of the nuns, who taught us that boys were evil and sex was a terrible ordeal women had to endure in order to populate the planet. The Sisters of Mercy taught us that Lucifer himself had designed condoms and that so much as to touch one would ensure eternal damnation.
I didn't have the tools or the confidence to take on the nuns or my parents to their faces. They were like huge pillars of righteousness throwing giant shadows across my spotlight. But deep inside me, a burlesque showgirl was tapping her heels, waiting for her chance to do some shocking high-kicks. I would bide my time and look for my opportunity to escape.
My parents insisted that I play the church organ at St Vincent's every Sunday. The wailing of the talcum-powdered biddies and the discordant din of my pedalling turned me off Christianity for life. Some Sundays I had to do a Bible reading from the pulpit as well. Then there was the rote confessional and repetitive, meaningless penance. I usually lied about my sins to the priest, just made them up, until eventually I had to say, âBless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession. These are my sins. I have lied about all previous sins.' Ten Hail Marys or so and the slate was wiped clean.
Lying seemed preferable to confessing my real sins, most of which were only thoughts about sin, but those of course still counted. âThese are my sins. I rub myself up against a giant rabbit called Andy Gibb for pleasure. I dream of shallow fame and fabulous wealth and I have a list in my underwear drawer of all the rock stars I would like to bed.' That might have resulted in a stricter penance.
My parents' academic expectations were not reflected in my term reports, which unanimously observed that I was a dreamer. In 1981 my marks in every subject except drama fell somewhere in the alphabet below the letter D. Diverting my mid-year report card from the mailbox to my bedroom, I forged my mother's signature and returned it to the school as required. Of course the head nun did not believe my parents could be so blasÃ© and telephoned my mother. Mum was inconsolable and I feared she might disown me.
âYou've brought such shame upon the family. I don't think I can ever hold my head up in public again. This reflects upon your father and me!'
My punishment was a solid period of grounding and a Cinderella-esque list of household chores, from scrubbing mouldy shower recesses to collecting ten large buckets of leaves from the garden. I suffered my sentence in characteristic sullenness and came out the other end of it full of repressed resentment and not an iota of remorse.
As I toiled, daydreams of fame and fortune brewed. A shrink might have diagnosed me as a schizoid narcissist during adolescence, but let's just say I had a vivid imagination. Scrubbing the bathroom tiles with an old toothbrush, I drafted my Academy Award âthank-you' speech, a scathing attack on all the bastards who had not believed in me or my teeth. I imagined grinning with a mouthful of porcelain chompers, my bosoms bursting boldly from a red sequinned number. There are those who act purely for the love of the art. I was not one of them. I craved global adoration and enormous amounts of filthy lucre. I wanted Rod Stewart on my arm, crooning his latest love song in my ear.
In the evening my penance continued with babysitting duties, giving my parents a night off at the cinema.
âWhat did you see?' I asked when they returned.
,' Mum responded dreamily. âIt was wonderful. The girl in it was so beautiful. She had such lovely teeth.'
I went to bed with a scowl and read about the actress in
the next day. Gia Carides. And yes, she did have lovely teeth!
At night I dreamed of losing my virginity to a rock star. Sting was a possibility. James Reyne was appealingly tanned. Rick Springfield was pretty. David Lee Roth might make me laugh and Michael Hutchence looked like he knew a few moves. But Rod was always top of the list. I had loved him since I was twelve. To my teenage mind, there was nothing sexier than a leather-trousered rock star. Schoolboys were gangly and spotty and stupid. I wanted a real man, not an embryonic one.
Nevertheless, schoolboys would have to do in the meantime. For real flesh and blood boyfriends, I looked to the theatre. The annual inter-school drama festival, organised by my father, was the pinnacle of my social calendar. Backstage I found my first fake kisses and first false declarations of desire. My first crush on a real boy ended tragically when he hanged himself from a rafter in a school theatre. I had barely spoken to Chris but we had all admired him from a distance. Huddles of schoolgirls cried with melodramatic anguish. Suddenly he had been everyone's best friend. The bell tolled for us all.
Teachers avoided any discussion of the subject, fearing a rash of copycat behaviour. Chris had been an exemplary student â gifted at music, academics and acting. Talk was that he had had his heart set on being a Shakespearean actor and was gutted when a teacher told him to forget the dream. Chris was of Chinese heritage and it was pointed out to him that there were no Chinese characters in Shakespeare's plays. It might work in the school theatre, he'd been counselled, but not on the world stage. If this was his dramatic answer to such narrow-mindedness, I thought, there was something poetic and noble about the act. I made Chris my patron saint of schoolboys for a while.
My tight-knit group of girlfriends from my Catholic college, Star of the Sea, had little time for the lads from our brother school, Aquinas. We preferred a better cut of meat: the boys from The Southport School. There were four girls and four boys in our little tribe and over the course of year eleven we paired off with each other in turn. I held hands with Alan, went boating with Richard and then doe-see-doed into Sean's arms in time for his school formal. We never really dated in the traditional sense. No moonlit dinners or romantic strolls on the beach. Instead we groped and fondled with naÃ¯ve and apprehensive hands in borrowed bedrooms and the back seats of cars. Despite my interest, I never managed to get past about second base.
By the end of year eleven my final marks were dismal and the principal, Sister Annette, dropped a bombshell: I lacked the âemotional maturity' to move into year twelve and would have to repeat. Horrified, my parents decided I should transfer to the rough-as-guts public school where my father taught. It was pointless to argue: the gavel had struck the bench and my sentence was not open to appeal. Besides, I had bigger issues on my mind. As I contemplated the long summer holidays and swapped torrid fantasies with the Vultures, my lust throbbed along like a thumping bass section. It was time to turn my rock and roll daydreams into reality.