Monday, 29 August 2011

Sorted for E's and whizz on Planet Neptunes

Britain's famed, filmed and fantastically infamous Summer of Love strikes in 1988, centered on the legendary Hacienda Club in Manchester, or 'Madchester', as it is rechristened; a house etched in acid, baptized in the blood, sweat and cheers of a happy throng of hooj loons, and propped up by the profits from New Order's back catalogue. Hong Kong's very own sweat-drenched lovefest strikes some years later, midway through the naughty nineties. With copious quantities of Amsterdam’s finest ecstasy pouring into the place along with a steady stream of the world's best DJs, the entire island suddenly goes stark raving mad.

Despite my innocence and sheer ignorance of the scene, I quickly become intrigued. It is my duty, I decide, to chronicle this weekly descent into shamanistic trance states that seems to have seized some of the territory's best and brightest, along with its worst and dumbest. The film of Irvine Welsh’s book Trainspotting has just erupted onto Hong Kong screens, and buoyed by repeated viewings, as well as a careful reading of Ecstasy, Welsh’s seminal short story collection, I feel ready for my first rave. It is at Jimmy’s Sports Bar, a long, narrow afterthought of a place overlooking the Hong Kong Stadium behind Causeway Bay. For its standard crowd of thirsty rugger buggers, it will just about do. But stormed by a teeming league of dancing, drug-twunted nutters, it hums with an ever-present hint of panic and a sense that things could go awry at any moment. Tonight, the DJ hails from none other than the Hacienda. Graeme Park is headlining.

As I stand in line to get in, I notice people surreptitiously rummaging in pockets and wallets and ingesting what I presume to be the drug du jour. Inside, a great pulsating bass slaps me in the face, as a smoke machine burps and hisses and strobes stutter. On the narrow catwalks that skirt the bars, bottlenecks are already forming as punters swig from bottles and neck pills. I say hi to some faces I recognize, then run into Biscuit in a darkened corner, nattily attired, kangol-bonced, saucer-eyed, and with a pink plastic container hung around his neck. We have met once or twice before, in my quest to procure some of his powdered good times. He is the man in demand, the hero of the hour, the cat in the hat. He's your pusherman.

   'Hello old mate, old mucker, old son. You sorted or what?'
   'Er, not really mate. It's not like that. I'm here working. Doing a story on the rave scene.'
   'Heavy, geezer. Tell you what, you probably want one of these then, innit?'
He unscrews the tiny tupperware and hands me a small pink tablet. It doesn’t have any kind of logo pressed into it – I was expecting a Dove, or a Mitsubishi or a Barney Rubble, the pills I had been told were doing the rounds.
    'You sure this is real?’
    'Would I lie to you, mate? Three hundred, yeah? Cheers.'

Biscuit, I later learn, makes regular trips to Amsterdam to bring back hundreds of pills embedded in plaster casts. I hand over my cash as sneakily as I can, which is not very sneakily at all, and expect to feel the grip of a detective’s hand fall on my shoulder like an executioner’s axe. But nothing happens, Biscuit fades into the crowd and I decide I’d better buy a beer so I can take my pill. I hesitate for a moment, wondering if I’m about to become one of the rare ecstasy casualties you read about, overheating in a corner and going into a coma. Then I think: cover the story. So with a quick glance around, I gulp the pill and wonder if I'm really in for Welsh’s 'rocket ride to Russia’.

Ten minutes pass, fifteen, then I feel a queasy churning in my bowels. I weave across the staggered platforms of dance floor, stumble up and down darkened steps. Writhing bodies have begun to coalesce into larger organisms, as if controlled by some benign hive mind. I'm vaguely aware of dilating pupils, goofy grins, hugs, affirmations of everlasting affection and the ridiculous, ubiquitous glow sticks. Finally I burst into the men's. As I perch on the porcelain throne, my loosened guts giving way, I’m overcome by wave after wave of euphoria. It’s nothing like the sharp crystalline kick of coke. This is all warm and fuzzy and gooey. I almost keel over on the crapper, enjoying the greatest dump I've ever taken.

I wash my hands and marvel at the mystery of water, its soft liquid kiss on my skin. But some insistent force has taken over my body, impelling motion, propelling me to the dance floor. I pass a mirror and pause. A silly rictus has meandered across my mug. My pupils have waged war with my irises and won. I stare, mesmerized, thinking, damn, I’m really looking quite splendiforously spiffing. Then some idiot throwing crazed shapes careens into me, and I resume my mission. Which is … er … who cares when you feel like this? Forget the story. I'm looking for a friendly face but it's needles and haystacks because they are suddenly all friendly. The entire dance floor has been engulfed by this wild tide of good vibes and smiles, as cascading slabs of synth fall from towering stacks of speakers and gut-busting bursts of bass crash through thudding cones.

I spot a couple of friends from work, who judging by their deranged grins are as off their tits as I am. Without a word, we’re suddenly pogo-ing about in a group hug, all sparking teeth and flashing eyes. Time passes, how much is anyone's guess, and the initial rush recedes enough for me to remember I'm supposed to be working. I spend the rest of the rave quizzing clubbers about their experiences in the scene in between bouts of inane jabbering and bursting bubbles of glistening bliss. I can see what this is all about now. I blink, wipe the sweat from my face, and it's four in the morning. Bodies in varying states of undress buffet each other, little eddies and swirls form in the crowd. The DJ is dropping rapid fire depth charges which shudder through my belly.

Around five, a new current begins to sweep through the crowd. I keep hearing the same name. 'Neptunes.’ 'You lot off to Neptunes?’ 'Neptunes, innit geezer.’ Neptunes? I’m wondering about this sudden enthusiasm for a grotty basement bar in Wan Chai usually filled with off-duty maids, decrepit hookers and beer-swigging businessmen hoping to get lucky. But I go with the flow, my brain still surfing a serotonin tsunami, piling into a taxi with a bunch of smiling strangers.
    'I think Hayden is spinning tonight,’ says one of the women, heavily made up, dressed in Adidas track suit pants and a halter top, sporting clunky looking Reebok trainers.
    'Hayden?’ I enquire.
    'Yeah mate,’ says one of the blokes. 'Best fucking DJ in Hong Kong.’
    'On the planet,’ giggles the chick. 'Planet Neptunes, anyway.'

We pile out of the taxi into early morning Lockhart Road, dodging packs of drunks. We float and stagger down the stairs. I’m struck by a strange changing of the guard. Pie-eyed posses of ravers are arriving, as the thinning legion of housemaids drift off to get ready for church, leaving floundering beer-bellies clutching at thin air. Stygian scarcely begins to describe the gloom, but pockets of ultra-violet light illuminate psychedelic swirls on the walls. At the decks is an aloof and impossibly pretty fellow who is wearing an expression of rapt concentration as he prods at vinyl, stabs at buttons and gives vicious little tweaks to dials.

The music is beautiful, washing over the crowd. Hands wave in the air. It’s Sunday morning, and I wonder why the maids are leaving. This is church. The flock has gathered to worship at the altar of ecstasy, although by now people are drifting off to the toilets to do little bumps of coke to keep the buzz going. The music and the drugs seem like some great egalitarian leveler, at least for a few more precious hours, until the comedown comes calling and the piper has to be paid. For now, every man is Everyman. No one cares how much you earn or what you do for a living, hot topics of conversation in Hong Kong's more conventional nightspots.

I drift towards the back of the club, where pretty young things in various states of disarray slouch into moth-eaten sofas. I’m just taking it in, sucking on a beer, enjoying the fading final stages of the high and beginning to ponder what damage I may have inflicted upon myself when suddenly out of the shadows Biscuit materializes.
   'How was that then, eh mate? I told you the pills were sound.’ His eyes are almost popping out of his head. I do believe he’s been getting high on his own supply.
    'Yeah,' I nod. 'I can see what all the fuss is about.’
    'Word to the wise, though, eh? Don’t overdo it. Law of diminishing returns, innit.’
    'What do you mean?’
    'You'll find out.'
My eyes are drawn to the pink plastic container still dangling around his neck.
   'Got any left,’ I ask, suddenly desperate to recapture the rapture.
   'How about a cheeky half?’
    'Yeah, cool, cheers.'
He fishes another pink pill out of the container, blatantly bites it in half without even bothering about who might be watching, swallows, and hands me the remainder.
    'What do I owe you?’
    'Nothing mucker. It’s on the house. Just remember your old Uncle Biscuit next time you need some gear. Ok?’

Neptunes is now heaving. I push my way out to the dance floor and wait for the freight train to hit me again. And of course it does. But it's not quite as good this time. I'll dance like an idiot until some ridiculous hour, then venture vampire-like into the lost weekend. It will take a couple of days before my brain feels normal again and I can attempt to pen my piece (which will be published in the local rag to no little ruckus, mainly thanks to some disarmingly candid quotes from local DJ stalwart and star in the making Lee Burridge). There will be a day of fuzzy muted numbness, a faint echo of the euphoria, then a day overhung by dark clouds of depression. None of which will stop me doing it again the very next weekend. But it won't be as good next time. Or the next. And it never really is, ever again. But I'll keep on trying, at least for a couple of bent, mental years which will be the best of times and the worst of times. The next rocket to Russia is leaving. All aboard. Everyman for himself.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Confessions of a mullet head

In rap lyrics and as fodder for stand up comics, and from serious academic studies to spoof movies to society's swankiest salons, the mullet has become the hairstyle that just keeps on giving. Every three or four years it barges back into fashion and the popular culture, prompting fresh bouts of hand-wringing, head-shaking and head-banging. In her 2001 documentary American Mullet, filmmaker Jennifer Arnold suggested the mullet had become racially and culturally charged like never before, as the preferred hairstyle of working-class Southern men, lesbians and Mexican Americans.

Just last year the 'Kentucky Waterfall' was back in the headlines when it was banned in Iran as decadent. I don't recall if they actually caught a mullah with a mullet (although I now keep singing this in my head to the tune of The Smiths' Vicar in a Tutu). Perhaps it was all Andre Agassi's fault. Anyway, in the name of Method Journalism, some years ago in Hong Kong I had the most hideous mullet wig made and sallied forth to see how many 'don'ts' you can get from one do. Here's the story:

'One on the sides/don't touch the back
Six on the top/and don't cut it whack, Jack ...'
The Beastie Boys, Mullet Head

It's almost 11pm and I'm standing in a half-empty carriage on Hong Kong's MTR subway train. A creased grandma peers at me sadly and shakes her head. Two young Chinese couples exchange puzzled glances and start giggling behind their hands. A snooty western businessman in a grey suit shoots me snide looks over his magazine.

As the train snakes and wobbles from Kowloon to Central, a breeze luffs my mane, ruffling the short blond spikes on top and transforming the long golden tresses caressing my neck into a billowing bouffant. I sneak a peek at my reflection in the tunnel-blackened windows. I look like the improbable lovechild of Ziggy Stardust and Martina Navratilova. Tonight, you see, I'm a mullet head.

Of all the ridiculous coiffures down through the ages - powdered periwigs, shock-therapy afros, pink punk spikes, vertiginous beehives - none elicits such instant contempt and hilarity as the mullet. Beloved by footballers, heavy metal guitarists, country singers and the sort of people who attend monster truck shows, the mullet, which for years teetered on the brink of extinction, is making a comeback. The Beastie Boys rap a paean to it. Catwalk models flaunt it. Websites paying tribute abound. The Prozac-popping mafiosi on The Sopranos even discuss its merits at length. You may not know the name, but you know - and probably once sported - the look: short or cropped on the top, long and luxuriant at the back.

What better place to test the powers of the mullet than amidst the packed pubs and clubs of Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong and Soho districts? Sporting a truly hideous example of the genre, painstakingly crafted by a wig-maker in the bowels of Kowloon city, I'm venturing into the night to see what a difference a mullet makes. To collect evidence of mullets past and present. To test its reputed pulling power. And to find out why for some, this rug is a drug.

Let us pause, however, to bring readers up to speed on the history of this tonsorial travesty. According to Mark Larson and Barney Hoskyns, authors of The Mullet - Hairstyle of the Gods: 'It's the hairstyle that dare not speak its name.' Perhaps not, but a veritable mullet lexicon has evolved, lovingly codified by websites like 'What's all this madness?' it asks. 'Everybody knows the mullet by a different name. There's the SFLB (short front, long back), the short-long, or the two-haircuts-in-one. There's the Tennessee top hat, the Kentucky waterfall, or the Canadian passport. Whatever you and your friends choose to call them, these lovable, furry friends are plentiful and spotting them can be fun for the entire family. Don't forget your mulletcam and send us your best pix.'

The names don't stop there. The ape drape. The soccer rocker (think Robert Baggio or Glen Hoddle). The hockey head (check out the Pittsburgh Penguins' Jaromir Jagr). Then there's the mud flap, the squirrel pelt and the either-or. You get the idea. The mullet knows no borders and spans class, age and race. 'In Holland, a friend told me the name,' writes Larson. 'It has lots of consonants but basically means carpet neck.' In German it's accorded the acronym Vokuhila, for Vorne Kurz, Hinten Lang, or short front, long back.

According to the book, Neanderthal man, ancient Egyptians and Assyrians, Visigoths and Vikings all appreciated the aesthetics of the mullet. Buffalo Bill reputedly hid one under his 10 gallon hat. But the authors lay the blame for its massive resurgence in the 1970s on one man - David Bowie. 'Perhaps he would not like to be associated with something so passe,' says Hoskyns. 'But he had mullets in three separate eras.' Ah yes. What serious student of the mullet could forget Bowie's blond masterpiece, cascading down the back of his lime-green jumpsuit on the cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars? Or the blow-dried puff-ball he sports on Aladdin Sane? Or the transdogrified fur-ball of his Diamond Dogs do? 

Billy Ray Cyrus, the redneck with the Achy Breaky Heart, proudly waved the Confederate flag for his Tennessee top hat. Tennis star Andre Aggassi's was a beauty, until it started to fall out in clumps. Wrestler Hulk Hogan, as his dome thinned, did his best to popularise a sub-species: the skullet (none on the top, long in the back). Other mullet-men past and present include Mel Gibson, Michael Bolton, Kurt Russell, Michael Keaton, Mike Myers and Patrick Swayze. Prodigious goal-scorer and substance-abuser Diego Maradona not only had the 'Hand of God' but for a time affected the hairstyle of the gods.

Hong Kong's hairdresser to the stars, Kim Robinson, is a big fan. 'Every hairstyle has its place. The mullet can be ugly, but it can be beautiful as well. You have that nice, short choppy top and nice and shaggy at the back.' Has he ever worn one? 'Of course. I think it suits me. It can be really sexy.'

Larson and Hoskyns trace the term back to 19th century England, where the epithet 'mullet-head' was on a par with cretin or fool. In the 1930s, they say, the term was used to mean 'curling the hair'. They write: 'The mullet’s genius lies simply in the opportunity it affords one to become two people: someone who from the front looks like a regular person but who from the back is an untamed party-animal-cum-guitar-hero-cum-Viking-warrior. There are two keys to recognising the mullet. Does it look like two hairstyles on one head? And are the ears showing?'

I peek into the train window again. Two hairstyles? Check. Ears visible? Check. Then the doors hiss open and I take a deep breath and plunge into the crowds of Central station. A quick pause to adjust my rug, and I'm striding confidently through the throng, drinking in the admiring glances. Ziggy's wheedling, reedy riff whines in my ears. In my wake I hear whispers, snickers and guffaws, but I leave them in my silken slipstream. Out of the station and I aim my mullet up the hill until I come to Vodka Bar, an uber-trendy watering hole with 99 varieties of vodka and a likely mullet-count of zero. 

Make that one. 'Is that real? Jesus mate, you look like an idiot,' says Richard, 26, a London limousine driver with a head full of vodka and a mouth full of opinions. Er, thanks, Richard. Confidence dented but mullet defiantly erect, I puff out my chest and try to look as hard as one can in a long blond wig. OK, Richard, pop quiz. Name your top five mullets of all time. 'Er, right. David Bowie, of course. Who else? Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones? Chris Waddle and Glen Hoddle, definitely. Great footballing mullets. Shit, that's only four.' 

Nice try. I ask him what it is about the mullet that gives it that certain je ne sais quoi. 'It's just because they're so offensive, innit?' He claims that he's never had one. I charitably fail to point out that this is probably because he's bald. After two vodkas, I notice that I'm not exactly beating the women off with a stick. It's time for a proactive approach. I saunter up to a pair of busty babes knocking back what appears to be vodka-soaked Mars Bars. 'Ooh, gross,' squeals one. The other simply stares with a disconcerting blend of pity and icy contempt. 'My brother had one of those once,' says the first. 'We held him down and shaved it off.'

The bartender, another chrome-dome named Oggy, wanders over. 'What the fuck is that on your head?' he wants to know. I deem the question rhetorical, and decide to take my mullet where it will be more appreciated. 'Ere, hang on,' says Oggy. 'You look a bit like Steve Coogan? The comedian? That character that drinks lager from cans. A Rod Stewart wannabe. Limahl, too, he had a good one.'

I leave Oggy and his snobby posse to join the al fresco revellers in nearby Le Jardin. Oasis is pumping from the speakers and men in expensive suits shout loudly over inane lyrics in between gulps of pricey red and puffs of stogeys. Not a single mullet adorns the bar, bar mine. 'Hey,' says Alex the Bartender, as I strike a jaunty pose and toss my locks, 'you look like the guys on Chucklevision.' This means nothing to me. 'It's a UK kids' show on the telly,' he explains. 'Two blokes with mullets jump around and act stupid.' He leans over the bar and pats my spikes. 'It's very eighties hair metal. Why would anyone want one? It's the antichrist of haircuts.'

A couple of beers and umpteen brush offs from members of the opposite sex later, I stumble down the hill to Insomnia, a noisy late-night meat-market in the middle of the Fong. If a man with a mullet can't make his move here, he might as well give up. The hard man on the door gives me a long, hard look, but lets me enter. I notice in the mirror my mullet has become skewed. I ponder whether the biblical Samson rocked the mullet, but resist the temptation to get in a brawl to test whether my do has given me new powers.

As I attempt to realign my wig, a hulking great chap wanders over and introduces himself as 'Sasquatch'. Conversation seems preferable to lone mullet-topped booty-shaking, so I join his group. In my best Austin Powers voice, I leer at one of the females and inquire 'Do I make you horny baby? Do I?' She laughs and her face goes red. At last, a reaction. 'I had a mullet once,' says Sasquatch wistfully. Why? 'I dunno. I guess I wanted a bit of that Mel Gibson/Wayne Gretsky kind of sex appeal. To show my wild side.'

'I had a mullet about 10 years ago,' volunteers Paul, a lawyer who also stars in a local drag revue and stands about six foot five in high heels. 'It was when I was in London and I was going through a gothic phase. I had a jet-black mullet and black eyeliner. Actually, it was cut by Vidal Sassoon and cost me 60 quid. The very thought makes me cringe. I must have been very brave.' Could the mullet make a comeback? 'Did it ever really go away?'

Good point. Perhaps the mullet is always lurking in our collective unconscious, never far - quite literally - from our thoughts. Mine, though, is now a mess. It has become a tangled thatch that stinks of smoke and itches like a bastard. It has moulted stray strands all over my face. I reach up and rip it off. There's an immediate blast of cool air and a sense of relief. But I'm also no longer the centre of attention. The jokes dry up, the anecdotes stop. I'm just another bloke with a boring barnet. I make my excuses and leave. I slump in the back of a taxi, wig resembling roadkill on the seat beside me. I think I miss my mullet already. 



Friday, 19 August 2011

Not the World of Suzie Wong

Wan Chai is Hong Kong's black hole. I don't mean in the Calcutta sense, a Kafka-esque penal colony where broken people do their penance, or some latter day remix of the Kowloon Walled City. I'm not talking about a tired nod to Conrad and his 'earth's dark places' or the Blade Runner cliches beloved of hacks who have run out of credit at the metaphor bank. I mean a real black hole.

Wan Chai has a specific mass heavier than the other locales that flank the flagrant harbour; it exerts its own gravitational pull. Your night might begin in some swanky Lan Kwai Fong bar, sipping caviar mohitos drizzled over ice chipped by Eskimos from the Arctic's oldest glacier. You might hob-nob with the snobs in a tony eatery, fawned upon by peons in Prada as you pick at some fussy fusion concoction. You might even drop by this week's must-visit club to bust an elegant, Moet-fuelled move. But sooner or later, most probably later, you are going to end up in Wan Chai, swirled around its fringes, sucked into its downward spiral and then engulfed by its gaping maw.

It's inevitable. Inexorable. Ineluctable, even. Basically, it's physics. Just as fraying galaxies at the edge of the universe cannot resist the crushing pull of the absence of matter, so the average Hong Kong party animal, absent of sense, is drawn to the dense centre of Lockhart Road. Once you have been subsumed by this dark mass, different laws apply. A cruel and selfish calculus dictates the behavior of those who go looking for love, or just a cleansing ale, in all the wrong places; the trawling and brawling, the chat-ups and put-downs, come-ons and comedowns. For you are now where the wicked things are, a netherworld where big-livered shellbacks and other rough beasts slouch towards bedlam as temptation importunes at every turn. 

These mean streets are not the civilized boulevards of Central, the bohemian byways of Soho, the upwardly mobile Mid-levels or some quaint cobbled petticoat lanes. This is the Wanch, and its concrete canyons and greasy alleys are awash with gang-bangers and glad-handers and game-riggers and dope peddlers, brokers, bankers and other wankers, drunken sailors, dai pai dongs and all night discos, wizened Vietnam War whores, chattering packs of maids on the make, triple-trio triads and bus uncles who hawk smack in the shadows of basketball courts. Wan Chai at night is where China jumps from dusk till dawn, enough to drive the average Joe bananas. Listen carefully and you can hear the whispered myths of late lamented emporia of bad behavior: Neptunes and the Big Apple, Strawberries and La Bamba, the Bridge and the Beer Castle, and of course the Hong Kong Press Club. Each with its secret history, all part of a litany of lost nights and long gone brain cells. 
If you've lived here, you know the drill. There you are once more, inexplicably it seems, in some subterranean den of insanity, sneaking furtive glances at your watch and counting off the diminishing hours still available for sleep as you get another round in. You wince as your credit card takes another body blow. You cruise. You wander. You pose. You want to stop the madness and get off. But you don't. You order another beer, or a shot of tequila, or both. You slope off to the Worst Toilet in Hong Kong, paddling through puddles of piss to clog your sinuses with another rail of crap coke. You look at your watch again. How could it be 5am already? 

But you see, time behaves strangely the closer you get to a black hole. It compresses, distorts, folds in upon itself. You might as well be wearing one of those melted Dali timepieces. You pat your pocket to see if you've remembered your sunglasses. You know it's almost light outside, and you also know your shades are like a superhero's cloak of invisibility, shielding you from the withering stares and disgusted snickers of the early birds. You are in the wormhole. A smoke machine hisses and through harsh neon and fits of strobe, you discern sinister leering faces of people who are not your friends. There is no quantum of solace. Nothing much happens as you approach the event horizon. You are way beyond vanishing point. You are in Wan Chai, fucked up and alone. Again. The baseline thump echoes your agony. Wanton piranhas swim the fringes of desultory dance floors. Perhaps Kafka is apt, after all. You're certainly trapped. Punishment is in the post. Techno prisoners. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

My life in tights

I knew that eventually I'd have to go shopping for a pair of proper ballet tights. What I hadn't figured on was the attractive assistant at the dancewear store twirling an elaborate jockstrap around in front of a bunch of suburban ballet mums and their daughters, bellowing: 'You'll be needing one of these. What size are you? Medium … or small?'.

'These' were supports, elastic contraptions devised to hoist the family jewels out of harm's way as the male dancer plies, jettes, pirouettes and attempts other potentially nut-cracking manoeuvres. The support accounts for the lumpy bulge you will no doubt have noticed about the nether regions of male dancers. You may also have noticed that some boys are bigger than others … although it was not unknown for cheats to resort to stuffing their support with a sock or two. Such were the initiation rites awaiting a boy bitten by the ballet bug in the back of beyond.

I grew up in Townsville, North Queensland, by all accounts a very pleasant seaside burg these days. Back then it seemed like a bit of a shithole. I'd gotten into ballet on a lark, and as an arcane way to impress a girl. Donald, a school mate of mine, was keen on one particularly tasty Grade 10 girl. I fancied another.

And as sophisticated men of Grade 11, we figured a surefire way into their leotards was to impress them with our graceful terpsichorean prowess. Unfortunately we couldn't just talk the talk; we had to dance the dance. And so we signed up as extras for Cinderella, the annual gala performance by the North Queensland Ballet, now bolstered by a couple of ungainly galahs. 

Even as extras, we had to take classes at the leading regional ballet school so we wouldn't flap about like total spastics. The first few times we wore shorts. We began to learn the basics, how a ballet class unfolded. You began at the barre, and progressed through a sequence of bends, twists, glides and stretches. Then you moved to the centre, and the tough stuff began.

Naturally, we were terrible. We fudged and fumbled, groped and giggled, gawky, uncoordinated fools that we were. But from those first faltering steps, I also felt the stirrings of something I couldn't quite put my finger on, that quivering, queasy tingling that marks the start of an infatuation. After a couple of classes, it was whispered in our ear that proper male dancers - or danseurs if you wish to get technical - wore tights.

Pulling on your first pair of tights is a weird moment in the life of a relatively normal suburban small town Australian boy. It felt dangerous. Subversive. And likely to earn me some painful schoolyard taunting, if not a beating. At my high school, the real men played rugby, and possibly a spot of cricket. Also-rans like me opted for soccer (and boy, did I suck). The nerds and geeks fiddled about with Vic 20 and Commodore 64 computers or joined the chess club. Ballet was so far removed from anyone's imagination that it had no real place on the totem pole, but doubtless it was so far beyond the pale as to be underground. Basically, I was Billy Elliot.

Dancers wear tights to highlight the unadorned beauty of the human body and the purity of line ballet requires. The sheer clinging nylon prevents attempts to hide faulty technique from the hawklike gaze of the ballet master or mistress. I pulled on my first pair in the studio's little-used male changing room with trembling and trepidation.

But like some lithe Narcissus gazing into his pond, I slowly raised my eyes to the full length mirror and noticed that my legs looked rather fetching clad in navy cotton lycra. It turned out that I'd been blessed with the right kind of body for ballet: flexible hips, long legs, tapered torso. I had flat feet, but exceptionally loose ankles (which would cause me no end of heartache later but made my toes look freakishly pointed, another highly prized asset by ballet's strange standards).

But this was Australia's far north, you understand, the antipodean answer to America's deep south, where men were men, cows were cautious and sheep were scared. Townsville in those days was a hard army town with a thriving yobbo culture and an undercurrent of violence simmering beneath the surface. A town where the local weekly free-sheet once splashed with the headline: 'Poofs in the Park'. Just re-reading this paragraph makes me cringe and whisks me back to a heady, hormonal and very confusing chapter in my life. 

Over the next few years, I would watch my father struggle with alcoholism, locking myself in my room to study so I wouldn't have to witness my parents' marriage teetering on the brink. I'd see my dad resurrect himself from the edge of suicide with born-again Christianity and I'd give it a whirl myself, joining the happy-clapping hordes who flocked each Sunday to church. And I'd take to ballet like a swan to water. I became obsessed. I pored over ballet books, watched countless films of the Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and other legendary companies, and attended class compulsively. Our neighbours must have thought I was nuts as they watched through slats in the fence as I practiced my leaps in the backyard.

My twin heroes were Rudolph Nureyev, a coruscating genius with a magnetic stage presence who would meet a tragic end with AIDS, and Mikhael Baryshnikov, the other Russian defector, technically Nureyev's superior and captured at the height of his powers in The Turning Point, a movie I watched and watched until the videotape wore out. Much to my parents' displeasure, I would also turn down the chance to study law at the University of Queensland to take up instead one of the dozen or so spots handed out to boys each year at the Australian Ballet School. 

Donald and I didn't win rave reviews for our clumsy waltzing and precarious presages in Cinderella. But we did get to enjoy a bit of rough and fumble - or 'full crumpet' as it somehow became known - with our shapely ballerina crushes in the back of the bus as the show went on the road weekends to a succession of country towns. I was also offered a year's paid traineeship with the North Queensland Ballet (which was in the throes of becoming a proper professional outfit as Dance North. These days, it sports the trendier moniker dancenorth and enjoys a reputation as one of Australia's most innovative contemporary dance troupes).

Part of the funding came from the Queensland Arts Council, which meant we had to embark on a succession of school tours to some of the most remote outback towns and rugged mining outposts imaginable. I was teamed up with Trevor, fresh from a stint with Sydney Dance Company, short, floppy-fringed, acid-tongued and enormously doe-eyed, possibly the campest thing ever to flounce out of Oxford Street, and Susie, a small but perfectly formed ballerina who was sex on well-defined legs.

There were bigger performances with the full company but the arts council odysseys account for my most vivid memories. We would roll into town, locate the school, set up the stage and get our costumes ready. Then we'd slap on some pancake and ham it up in front of the bemused and wide-eyed students, and repeat the whole process one or two more times before calling it quits for the day. 

Now in towns like Mt Isa, Richmond, Hughenden, Cloncurry, Longreach, Winton, Blackall, Barcaldine, Charters Towers and Ravenswood, and many others besides, there wasn't a great deal to do at night. You drank, or you slept. So we would find ourselves in some local pub or other, where the locals congregated in sweaty wifebeaters, Stubbies shorts and thongs (the kind you wear on your feet, not the kind Trevor sported beneath his flamboyantly multicoloured overalls).

The men didn't dress up either. They would ogle Susie over their pots of XXXX beer, and she took a twisted delight in twisting her pretzel limbs into impossible shapes just to watch them pant. But they would also shoot dirty looks at Trevor and I, arty outsiders and no doubt poofs, and therefore to be reviled if not bashed.

Unfortunately, the filthier the looks became, the more outrageously Trevor would camp it up. You could see it in their eyes; torn between paroxysms of lust over Susie and the urge to beat down on Trevor and I. On more than one occasion we had to hightail it out of town at peril of grievous bodily harm, sprinting for our battered van as the lynch mob formed. This was pre-Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but the shoe certainly fit.

The Australian Ballet School was another adventure, not necessarily from the Boys' Own oeuvre. In my day, it hadn't yet taken up residence beside the Yarra River in the posh Performing Arts Centre; rather, it was accommodated in a converted tyre factory on Melbourne's Mount Alexander Road. I was lodged in a mouldy ground floor flat in North Melbourne, near the Queen Victoria Markets and amidst a burgeoning Vietnamese community. My flatmates were Brett, a second year student beset by worries about his acne, thunder thighs and child-bearing hips (his descriptions), and Bruce, a talented fellow first year, and a lovely bloke from the outskirts of Adelaide.

The School, as we called it, attracted a certain species of ageing queen which couldn't resist the bulging legion of young men in tights. I suppose they fancied themselves as patrons of the arts, but patrons of the arse would be closer to the truth. They would offer meals and lodgings to young fellows who were down on their luck, with an unspoken agreement requiring payment in kind.

My circumstances were fairly exigent in those days but I eschewed the importuning of these 'Uncle Monty' types and managed to make ends meet working in a succession of Melbourne's grand old hotels at night, prowling the corridors doing turn-downs, pilfering wine, cheese, chocolate and the odd bathrobe, and almost nightly managing to barge in on people mid-bonk. As I was still a virgin at the ripe old age of 17, this turned out to be a handy crash course in sex education.

One of the most active patrons was a gravel-voiced old luvvie named Maximilian, Max for short, maximally interested in the contents of one's boxer shorts. Maxmoid, we called him, if we called him at all. Why, I have no idea.

In his wisdom, he sometimes saw fit to donate his swanky South Yarra pied-à-terre to the school's students for parties. I remember my first. A callow lad straight off the bus from Townsville (literally - a hellish three day trip that nearly ended my budding ballet career before it had begun), still settling into the big city, I overindulged in spirits and became tired and emotional.

In those days I was a pretty young thing, and in between fending off the unsolicited ministrations of Max, managed to capture the attention of a third year man-eater with the unlikely name of Cherie Dick, a willowy sexpot with big breasts and a creamy olive complexion. It was a nailed-on dead-set cert, and my best opportunity yet to rid myself of my virginity. Instead I burst into tears and demanded to be taken home. Brett was only too happy to oblige and tucked me into bed, listening to my sobbing litany of suburban dislocation and teenage angst. Our briefly flowering friendship was to end when some hours later, I thickly awoke to find him trying to wrestle my trousers down.

It wasn't to be my last brush with Brett. He became obsessed with me, and I took to spending as little time in the flat as possible. I'd loiter after class, practicing my spins and leaps. I'd dawdle at the hotel, drawing out my shifts as long as possible. Things finally came to a head about eight months into term, when Bruce and I heard a faint rustling in our cupboard. Smelling a rat, I put a finger to my lips and crept out of bed. I put my ear against the door and discerned a muffled groaning. I grabbed Bruce's cricket bat and flung the door back. There, with his hand down his pajama pants and a stricken rictus on his face, crouched Brett. I screamed. He curled up into a catatonic ball, star of his own fetal attraction. A week later, Bruce and I moved out.

I shacked up with Joanne, a lissom, Barbie doll blonde who would later become my wife. I'd study diligently and make good progress but somehow my infatuation was running out of steam. I'd have the opportunity to see the stars of the Australian Ballet up close and personal, extra-ing in performances of Swan Lake, Giselle and Don Quixote. I'd meet a doddering Sir Robert Helpmann, impossibly frail and literally on his last legs. I'd witness my favourite teacher and one of the best danseurs of his day, Kelvin Coe, wither away from AIDS. And I'd win the favour of Maina Gielgud - 'Mainly Feelgood' as we called her - the company's artistic director and niece of uber-thesp Sir John. After I announced my intention to hang up my tights, passion spent and beset by niggling injuries, she'd pen me a lovely letter, urging me to reconsider.

Some time in second year, I would finally lose my virginity, fumbling beneath a fluffy doona to the crooned strains of Julio Iglesias (Joanne's choice, not mine). I'd also have one more run in with Max, in the toilets of an inner city shopping mall. Pants around my ankles, going about my business, I suddenly felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise and was seized by the conviction that I wasn't alone. I raised my eyes and leering over the cubicle wall were the beady blue eyes and Father Christmas eyebrows of Max. A grimace of recognition swept over his features and, no doubt, my own. I leaped from my porcelain perch, arse unwiped, and burst from the stall like a racehorse erupting from the Melbourne Cup gates. As I threw open the bathroom door, grabbing at my pants, the last thing I heard was a stupendous crash and an anguished moan from Max.

Two months later, I found myself in Brisbane, ballet bug cured, pondering just what the hell I would now do with my life.

Monday, 15 August 2011

And now for something completely different ...
It's my blog and I'll mix if I want to. First return to the decks (well, laptop these days) for DJ Love Handles, aka Jason G, in a while. Enjoy, download, whatever. Thanks to DJ David Lam for some stonking new tunes ...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Pumping idiocy ... the short life and strange death of Zyzz

It might just have been one of the most beautiful bodies ever laid out on a Bangkok mortuary slab. At least on the surface. Underneath the perma-tanned skin, stretched taut over bulging muscles, was a 22-year-old heart that exploded, or simply gave out, and a system most likely ravaged by a toxic cocktail of steroids, testosterone and growth hormones.

'Bodybuilder found dead in Bangkok sauna' blared the headlines. The bodybuilder was Aziz 'Zyzz' Sergeyevich Shavershian, an exotic looking fellow of Armenian, Kurdish and Persian heritage, born in Moscow, resident of Sydney's suburb of Eastwood and bronzed habitue of Bondi beach. He was in Thailand for a month-long holiday, where he had planned to spend his time getting shredded in the gym, strutting shirtless in the streets and getting off his nut in techno clubs where he could go hog wild with his bizarre fist-pumping, grind-and-bump dance moves. He expired last Friday evening, slumped in an as-yet-unnamed sauna. Dead on arrival at Camillian Hospital in the beating heart of trendy Soi Thong Lor.

Zyzz was the typical skinny wimp of a thousand Charles Atlas ads, who, tired of getting sand kicked in his face, decided to get big. Notes Zyzz: 'Throughout high school, I was ridiculously thin, I'm talking the skinniest guy in my grade in school; people always commented on how skinny I was and I hated it. I remember feeling like a little bitch when I was out with girls, walking next to them and feeling the same size as them.'

The death of Zyzz has left his brother and fellow bodybuilder, Said Shavershian, bereft. 'I miss you sooo much my baby brother. I can't live without you comeback please. Don't do this to me,' said sad Said. Said, better known as - and I'm not making this up - Chestbrah, was another pumped up Adonis. The pair, and their coterie of acolytes and imitators, were a new breed of bodybuilder who eschewed competition to pursue pure admiration via social media (Zyzz's Facebook page has 72,314 likes), viral videos and sheer persistent ubiquity at beaches, rave parties and anywhere else that offered an excuse to go shirtless. 'Aesthetics', they dubbed it. It was all about getting shredded. Ripped. And to inspire 'jelly' (jealous) followers into frothing bouts of 'mirin' (admiring). It wasn't about getting roid monster huge. At least, not at first.

But the last Facebook posts of Zyzz and the recent arrest of Chestbrah for steroid possession tell another story. Chestbrah was fined A$4,000 in Parramatta Local Court for possession of anabolic steroids, along with three members of a biker gang, and looks set to lose his job as a personal trainer at Fitness First. Zyzz, meantime, was on a mission. His last Facebook posts chart his looming demise. In between links to trance and techno tracks introduced with his trademark 'fuaaaaaark', he writes on July 13: 'Off to Thailand for a month this weekend, any traveller tips so I don't get raped by ladyboys are appreciated.' ('No homo' was another of their war cries, despite their high camp, oiled-up pouting and posturing).

On July 17: 'Walked around Bangkok all day with no shirt and muay thai shirts (sic) = thai girls mirin brah. BRB massage.' On July 31, after being sent a link to a story about him in a Sydney newspaper, which details his brother's drug bust and suggests Zyzz is also into steroids, he notes: 'Second page of australias biggest newspaper. hahahaha. mainstream zyzz is mainstream. They clearly mirin.' A post on August 2 hints at a darker path: 'one year ago, and 10kgs lighter. 100kg now (90kg here) this size is the sweet spot for girls but fuck that, arnold status here I come.' Arnold Schwarzenegger was his all time hero. There is pathos and a hint of obituary in his final post on August 4, where in a shill for his own brand of protein shake, Protein of the Gods, he notes: 'Tasted like the heavens fuaaaaaaaark.'

The other chief activity in the lives of Zyzz, Chestbrah and fellow aesthete Narcissus was 'trolling', similar to the annoying internet pursuit but apparently carried over into real life. Check out their puerile, self-obsessed exploits here (Zyzz): here (Chestbrah): and here (Narcissus): Indeed, amongst the 'mirers' of Zyzz, his death is still suspected of being the ultimate troll. The Bangkok Medical Examiner thought otherwise, confirming a massive heart attack, although thus far no autopsy report has been released to reveal what might have been circulating through Zyzz's stretched network of veins.

His parents believe a recently revealed 'congenital heart condition' was to blame. A close friend thought otherwise. New Zealand mate Tim Sharky said he had urged Zyzz to slow down. 'This is a warning for any of you boys coming to Thailand. Thailand is a country with it all … girls, steroids, growth hormone, it's all here and it's cheap. I spoke to him the other day and he looked like a kid in a candy shop.'

With their peacock preening and strutting and flexing and pumping, Zyzz, Chestbrah and Narcissus represent an Australia I scarcely recognize. Their bizarre lexicon and idiot savant social media savvy is as fascinating as it is repulsive. But their admiration of mythology and ancient gods should have warned them of the perils of hubris. Mirin? No, just sucked into the mire.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Primal screaming and a stoned rose … Fuji, Mani and Me

Just what is it that you want to do?
We wanna be free.
We wanna be free to do what we wanna do.
And we wanna get loaded.
Primal Scream, Loaded

Japan's Fuji Rock festival is something of a misnomer. It's been a long time since anyone rock and rolled upon the hallowed slopes of Fuji-san. The festival is now held every August at
Naeba ski resort in Niigata Prefecture; a brisk shot on the bullet train out of Tokyo. But you can see why the name stuck. Better to identify your festival with a world famous icon that is firmly wedged in the id and an integral part of the Japanese psyche, even if it means telling a geographical porkie pie. After all, it's the place that launched a thousand guidebooks.

Fame is funny like that. The trend justifies the means. Fame can cause dislocation, alienation, loneliness - and many have sought to fill those hollow places with chemicals of every description.  Fame can also make you act like a complete asshole. Lady Gaga made one of the few sensible comments of her short public life when she dubbed this effect: 'The Fame Monster'.

Fuji Rock is mostly good, clean fun, with the merest smattering of mud; a kind of Glastonbury-lite, featuring three days of world class acts, tens of thousands of people braving the inevitable rain to have the time of their lives, lashings of fast food and cheap beer, all set against Japan's unfailing politeness and unquestioned weirdness. For evidence of the former, I cite the calm and orderly queues to use the relatively spotless port-a-loos - not, I suggest, an experience familiar to those who go to rock festivals in America or Europe. Even the Fuji mud seems more civilized somehow, compared to the seething bacterial ooze that poops the Glasto party.

So I'm slogging through a better class of bog as misty drizzle descends on this humid August night, at my first ever Fuji, on the way to the White Stage to watch the incredible double-header of Coldplay and Foo Fighters. Chris Martin is in rare form as he romps through the band's impressive oeuvre of Everyman anthems, stopping between songs to throw in the first bit from Best of You, the Foo's huge new hit at the time. 'I've got another confession …' Martin growls, Grohl-like.

Grohl-like. If it was a Facebook button, we'd click it. We all would. Everyone loves Dave Grohl, the easy going and uber-talented former Nirvana drummer who by now had cast off Kurt Cobain's long shadow and become a rock colossus in his own right; a goofy, goateed yet mesmeric figure with an uncanny ear for a power chord and a pithy lyric. Grohl refuses to wear his angst on his sleeve, and looks like he can't quite believe his luck. He is approaching the height of his powers, and on this night we all know we've seen a special show. As the last hands-in-the-air anthem fades, a surging human tide sweeps us towards the exit. The faint remaining traces
of riffs rumble like distant thunder in the hills. The mist suffuses everything with an otherworldly glow. It's an awesome moment, floating along on air, far above the mud, high on the fine rare rush the best live music elicits; that adrenalized endorphin alchemy that sadly is all too fleeting. Later, there may be other chemicals in the mix. A big Hong Kong contingent has come over to let its hair down, and it is strongly rumored that among their number are lovable rogues and purveyors of proscribed substances. Some of our posse elect to rough it, erecting tents amongst the bedraggled muddy multitudes squatting on steep wet hillsides. I manage to bag a futon at a friend's place in town (though sharing a basement shoebox and its unventilated toilet with three big ugly blokes subsisting for days on a diet of beer and kebabs is rough enough stuff).

While the next three days will get decidedly messier in many silly ways, at this point there is nothing stronger than a couple of Kirin beers under my belt as we wander into the Palace of Wonder - a bohemian collection of tented bars, carnival barkers and burlesque reviews set amongst giant apocalyptic sculptures welded by real gypsies from car parts. This has become our rallying point, watering hole, and a suitably surreal setting for what happens next. For no sooner have I secured a seat and procured a drink than I become aware of a loud voice behind me, making derogatory if not defamatory comments about some poor fellow in a flat and whiny Mancunian accent.

I wonder if the cast of Corrie is in town for a jolly. But even the most shocking dialogue on Coronation Street would pale before this stream-of-stupidness ranting. I turn around to see who is making all the noise and I am gobsmacked to realise that it is being directed at me. I do a double-take, befuddled by this utterly unprovoked attack. My friends have not yet joined me. Is it, to paraphrase Dave Grohl, because I'm alone and an easy target?

To this day, I don't know what set Mani off on his mother of all rants. Had I pushed in front of him to buy a drink? Stepped on his toe?  Perhaps the melted years of gargantuan drug guzzling had finally come home to roost and his brain had broken. The only other possibility is that he took exception to my very lairy shirt; a horrid floral thing I picked up in Phuket, emblazoned with outsized orange hibiscus: 100% Mambo meets Magnum PI.

I size up my tormentor, who is now giving me a very slow motion, exaggerated version of what English and Australian readers will know as 'the forks'. It's basically flipping the bird times two and it doesn't carry a pleasant connotation. He then launches into a groin-grabbing, pelvic thrusting routine, executed with such glowering malice that my sphincter gives a twitch and I feel Michael Jackson turn in his grave.

Mani is not a huge chap. He doesn't look terribly fit either. But what he lacks in size he makes up for with an aura of demented bravado and a scary saturnine stare. This is the face of Caligula, of a man who has journeyed to the outer limits of debauchery and returned, damaged yet hardened to the point of being indestructible. He's wiry and almost certainly wired on something. His shapeshifter face is the hue of a ripe tomato, his hair the matted, sweaty remnants of something Moddish. Call it the lunatic fringe.  Most unsettling of all are his truly, madly, deeply-disturbed eyes. They are cartoon crazy eyes set in diseased dark circles that could have been inked in by Dante. He continues to carry on, shouting and gesturing, and none of it strikes me as the product of a sane or rational mind. Nearby, a band launches into its set and a wall of harsh chords advances. I'm stuck between rock and a nutcase.

I turn back to my drink, hoping he will go away if I ignore him. But the gobby fucker just won't stop and finally I snap. I'm against violence as a general principle, but I also support the maxim that if push comes to shove, it's advisable to hit first and hit hard. Which isn't to suggest I am some sort of hard man - however I did spend some time at the boxing gym as a younger man, in between ballet lessons. But the red mist is most definitely descending. I ask him what his problem is, but he continues to mug and gurn and gesture. I can't fathom it. Is he trying to provoke me into punching him? I summon all my powers of rapier repartee, and snap: 'Why don't you just piss off.' Adrenaline surges, but not the nice kind. I clench my fists and scan his face, both for targets and for some sign that this has all been a silly misunderstanding or a prank. Is someone getting the best of you? Not tonight. Especially not this rude punk runt, who has now officially asked for it with a gilt-edged, handwritten invitation. Call me the Fool Fighter. Let's get it on.

But my sucker punch is still born, as not for the first time during these mad three days at Fuji, the weirdness deepens. A gaggle of Jap girls into synthesizers interrupts this shrieking of nothing. They are dressed in their Madchester Hacienda best, acid house smiley face t-shirts nd leggings, football casual shellsuits. One girl even totes some glow sticks. And they are all screaming something at the rude runt. I can't quite make it out. It sounds like 'Manny' or 'Mini' or 'Money'. 'Stoneru Roses,' one nods approvingly, waving an original sleeve of the Stone Roses' self-titled first album. 'Foors Glod,' asserts another. 'I am the Lesserection.'

I'm starting to get a bad feeling about all of this, cogs slowly clicking into place in my head, when one of my best mates leans over and whispers, 'That's Mani! From Primal Scream? They're playing tomorrow night. Shit, man, what are you trying to do, beat up their bass player?' I need a quick reality check. Am I really in some far flung Japanese valley, surrounded by retro ravers, getting ready to take a swing at genuine rock royalty?

I mean, Mani, man! Of course I'd heard of Mani. Gary 'Mani' Mounfield, party animal non pareil and partner in crime of ex-Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. Mani the member of Freebass, a supergroup also featuring New Order's Peter Hook. Mani of the hammered cameo in 24 Hour Party People, the Madchester movie. Mani whose driving, funk-laced bass grooves set the mood for two of modern music's most important bands.

But I'm confused. How can a major dude like Mani behave like such a low-rent thug? Surely even by the television-defenestrating standards of rock star bad behavior, there can be scant kudos for wandering a rock festival alone, looking for random strangers to humiliate. Primal Scream. Now I remembered; they were last minute additions to the bill after some other band dropped out. I look over at Mani, mobbed by fans, happy as, well, Mani. He still looks wrecked, but now he's purring like a pussycat, getting his ego tickled. A loopy, shit-eating grin plastered across his ravaged dial. I consider saying something to him, but the moment has passed, and he probably wouldn't even remember. What if I had hauled off and thumped him? Would a posse of bodyguards have materialized; beefy genies summoned to rip me limb from limb? Would a punch have been pointless in any case? In his righteously twisted state, normal rules of pain likely don't apply.

Primal Scream played the next night, and they sucked. Maybe Mani was still mid-bender, or in the grip of some crushing comedown. Perhaps their last-minute inclusion found them under-rehearsed and ill-prepared. It was a disjointed, shapeless and largely groove-free performance. Even their rabid Japanese fans were bewildered. They would play at Fuji Rock again, a few years later. They would redeem themselves with a mental, epic set that would blow the roof off.

Hard to fathom, but I guess the rock gods don't always let the sun shine upon their chosen few. And Mani? I didn't see him again, apart from onstage. I have read a couple of dozen interviews with him since, and he does a fine line in gnostic gibberish and musical babble, but I'm no closer to knowing what makes him tick. I never did find out what I had done to earn his ire, or if I had done anything at all.

I suspect, like so many fame monsters who thrive on attention, who outside the limelight are ciphers, Mani feels a bit empty. Maybe what it all boils down to is this: he wants to be adored.