I was 11 when my mom and I moved to Las Vegas. We lived in a small apartment around the corner from the Liberace museum. And while the first album I ever bought was Journey’s Escape, my next 10 were all Duran Duran. My girlfriends and I spent countless days behind the Burger King fantasizing about specific band members—Simon le Bon 4Ever!—and bragging about which imports we had. We simulated their video choreography, which basically consisted of lots of stiff pouting and offbeat finger-snapping, typed up all the lyrics in computer class, and talked to each other in British accents whenever possible.
God I hope no one actually reads this…
When I started junior high, I got into a heavy mod and ska phase. I watched Quadrophenia endlessly, listened to the Jam and the Specials, saw the Untouchables, Roman Holiday and Jo Boxers. I’d wear pillbox hats, long gloves and dresses only from the 1950s. My Grandma especially enjoyed this phase as she used to take me to all the thrift shops in Long Beach when I went to visit.
The New Waver
I had a great time in Vegas. Even though it’s known for its adult activities, us kids had lots to do and a bevy of underage clubs we would visit every weekend to dance, smoke cloves and hook up.
We listened to The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, New Order, Cocteau Twins, Yaz, Kate Bush, Wolfgang Press and the Smiths. That was when MTV actually played videos. And it was “cool” for teens to be sexually ambiguous. It wasn’t just the girls who wanted to be Madonna, and there were plenty of Robert Smith, Prince and Boy George wannabes to steal our makeup and hair products when we weren’t looking.
The Punk Rocker
After I got sick of all the hair spray and morose whining of mamby-pamby new wavers, I shaved my head and started checking out the myriad punk shows in downtown Vegas. I saw GBH, TSOL, DI, DRI, Alien Sex Fiend, the Misfits, the Dickies, Dead Kennedys, Social Distortion and the Vandals.
Because I was still such a school nerd, I used my status in the various “clubs” I was in—Science, Math, Ski, Thespian—to gain access to the field trips, where I would sneak off to see more shows and go shopping for those hard-to-find laces for my Doc Martens. I also thought it would be really fun to try out for the cheerleading squad. They didn’t think it was so funny.
I was 15 when my mom decided to move us to Palm Springs, California. And I was pissed. By this time, I had had it with all the moving. Just as soon as I’d develop a circle of friends, an identity, a comfortable lifestyle, we’d have to split.
It was around this time that I got into Joy Division, Bauhaus, Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Lords of the New Church. I donned the obvious black attire, was obsessed with vampires and witches, wrote morbid poetry and hung out in cemeteries. But I was a good student so my mom didn’t give me too much trouble.
On the weekends, I went to L.A. with friends and hung out at a club called Scream. We’d sometimes slip backstage at shows—the Damned, the Cult, Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets, Sisters of Mercy, Fields of Nephilim. Even underage Goth girls get VIP treatment in Hollywood.
The Desert Hippie/Metal Head
There weren’t a lot of kids in the desert. It was mainly a place for old people and gay movie stars. But we made the most of it.
In Palm Springs, the same kids who were listening to Guns ‘n Roses, Motorhead and Jane’s Addiction, were the same ones going on Grateful Dead tours and selling burritos so they could fund their daily dosage.
When the Dead was off tour, we would head up to the abandoned nudist colony. We had a lot of parties there with great hardcore, metal and pre-“prog rock” bands set up on generators. The band that birthed Queens of the Stone Age was one of ‘em. And we used to make fun of those guys. Stupid us.
Up until that point, I had managed to avoid drugs and heavy drinking and was an honors student. That is, until my last year of high school. That’s when all hell broke loose. I barely graduated. And I barely got out alive.
Samantha Campos thinks it’s creepy to continue referring to herself in the third person to fill this space. MTW