Imagine the horror I felt last month when I realized that we had spelled our dearly departed soul-sister Jackee Lenchner’s name wrong on the dedication to her on the liner notes of “Meltdown…” I will take the blame for this, but not before I explain that it was the zero hour before the album’s artwork went to press, when I quickly texted Chris Rager if there was any time to squeeze a dedication into the album credits. Before he had a chance to reply, “Yes, but real quick!” I had already texted him her name, relieved that Jackee could be that much more immortal, in an afterlife limited to 500 pressed full of the same gusto she contained. The autocorrect somehow left out the “N” in her last name, and didn’t realize it till I had the record in my guilty but well meaning, sentimental hands. Luckily, it was while the record was at press when I realized that Jackee was also one of the record’s hidden muses, something I hadn’t thought about since I had actually written “Dead Celebrity Party” two years prior, in the way songs and their initial inspirations may mutate and bleed into another, much like death and dreams have the tendency to. Allow me to explain…
It was some kind of January on a night that was suspiciously chilly for Los Angeles usual short sleeve evening wear. Luckily, I was wearing a wool suit and keeping one ear warm with a hearing aid I borrowed from this Mexican single mother that I’m close to. You see, my friend Alice was having a “Dead Celebrity” party for her birthday over in her new pad in Highland Park and I was gonna dazzle the pants off everyone with my hyper-original Johnnie Ray get-up and obviously be the hit of the whole soiree. I had to be, cause I happened to be in the most foul, desperate mood I had been in for as long as I could remember, and if it wasn’t for this, I would have let everything get in my way.
Around 9:30 I barreled down the unkempt danger of the 10 freeway and exited one of the Ave’s in their 50’s. I parked on the side and slowly walked up to Alice’s two story craftsman I prayed hadn’t turned into another punk rock crash pad. The party was in full-swing, guests in all sorts of dated disguises already spilled out into the porch, stairs and street. My sour mood had already painted me into a corner and I hadn’t even entered the house yet, as I realized I only knew a diminished percentage of the party and I was feeling shy and intimidated by this new, younger crowd that had recently planted their flags in the slowly shifting landscape of Highland Park. I felt like damaged goods, realizing I was an older vet presenting myself in a costume of such obscurity and line-in-the sand taste that I felt like I had somehow subconsciously sabotaged myself, opting for wearing something you had to be some kind of pop culture archeologist to grasp instead of picking a more obvious, well-worn touchstone.
I spotted some drizzling of familiarity walking through the crowd. There was Wendy, adorably androgynous as Anton LeVey and her brother in drag as Frida Khalo. There was Alice The Birthday Girl, her delicate old soul decked out as one of Golden Girls that had died that week. Then Edgar, pulling a desperate attempt at a Mexican Orson Welles, but even when he was obviously annoyed when people kept asking who he was masquerading as, he used the opportunity to engage in the conversation with confidence and genuine curiosity. Not me. By the time the 5th person asked who I was supposed to be, I had dried out my tongue with embittered explanations and insulting layman’s clues like the line in Dexy’s Midnight Runners “Come On Eileen.”
“Poor old Johnnie Ray…”
“WHO ELSE IN HISTORY WOULD BE THIS GOOD LOOKING WEARING A FUCKING HEARING AID?!?” I came dangerously close to pompously shout. I was the living example of social fascism born of low-self esteem. And I hadn’t even begun drinking yet.
I quickly whittled down reality and decided that was my main problem – that everyone there had seemed to be way ahead of me in some collective alcoholic bliss-dream, so I went right for the handle of whiskey and began pouring copiously into a red plastic cup, then gulping heartily but compulsively refilling before I had drained each drink. And as I was lifting the cup to my thirsty face, I heard a familiar voice enter the front door.
It was my old friend Jackee, someone that knew me better than anyone there and I was suddenly elated as her appearance met with my heartily growing buzz. She looked around as I waited for her to notice me, her wide-eyes searching making it clear that she didn’t know anyone else there. I noticed she was in her street clothes, in beautiful ignorance or else lone defiance of not wanting to play our fucking reindeer games. As she got warmer she zeroed in on me.
“Hey! What the hell, Johnnie Ray? Dude, Gabe…So good to see you. I didn’t have time to make a fucking costume or anything…”
I gave her the biggest hug I could conjure, finally knowing someone understood not just my mask, but the complexity underneath that was slowly making me a fool of myself.
“You’re just fine, Jackee. Please, don’t ever change…”
She quickly made a catty comment why no one was dancing to the high caliber of tunes that were being spun. I grabbed her hand and we began to cut the goddamn rug, quickly re-decorating ourselves right into the spiked punch bowl.
There is a Mexican saying that a person dies three times. The first - when your heart stops, the second - when they bury you, and the third is when they finally forget about you or when a person says your name for the last time. So may “Dead Celebrity Party” be one of her many portals between her new world and ours, cause something tells me Jackee’s only dyin’ twice. xoxoxoxo gh