He had gotten a faraway sad look in his eyes until the waitress brought his coffee. Then he turned on his rock star charm and smiled broadly, displaying perfect teeth. Lucy shook her head and watched the performance.
A woman with salt and pepper hair had timidly approached the table. “Mr. DeSalle, may I have your autograph?” She handed him a pen and a page from her pocket calendar. Lucy noticed that the date was August 3, Mik’s birthday.
Mik’s smile had broadened and he absentmindedly tossed his hair. The woman told him about the first time that she saw Sheffield Steel in person. When the woman looked over at Lucy, Mik had said proudly, “This is my daughter, Lucy.”
I can’t remember when I met fictional singer/guitarist Mik DeSalle. When I decided I wanted to write a novel about a rock star, I got a certain image in my mind. It was an image of the classic rock star of the seventies – bare chest, long blond hair, tight pants, open shirt – the look of musicians like Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, and Peter Frampton, among others. I remembered staying up late as a teenager to watch Midnight Special and Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert, having rock star images invade my television screen and dreams. Those golden gods were larger than life and light years away from my reality. But I never forgot them or the music they created.
Since my novel, Three Chords One Song, starts with Mik’s untimely demise, he is not a physical character in the book. He only appears as a flashback and a disembodied recorded voice. But his influence on the women he leaves behind is one of the main themes. Even though I have never experienced a rock star lifestyle, I can imagine the toll that it must take on those left behind. But the same can be said for the loved ones of anyone compelled to follow a dream that involves years of sacrifice and dedication.
I created a data sheet for my main characters, but I don’t remember if I ever did one for Mik – probably not, since he was dead. But I knew his backstory intimately – I think that it mirrored my own. Mik was born a few years before me and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. I was raised about twenty miles southwest of Pittsburgh. His dad was a steelworker – so were the fathers of some of my friends and relatives. Music was always a means of escape for me. If I could have been a musician instead of just a music fan, I’m sure it would have made a profound difference in my life. Mik decided to leave Pittsburgh to become a famous musician. I left western Pennsylvania to become a rock journalist – which never happened, except for a few pieces here and there over the years.
An editor told me that she couldn’t understand why all of these women loved Mik. I could tell that she didn’t grow up listening to Led Zeppelin or the Who. She didn’t have posters of Zeppelin and Frampton on her wall. She had never sat in a club or bar and felt the energy change when a rock star entered the room, all eyes turn like flowers towards the sun. I couldn’t really put into words what his attraction was, just like I couldn’t tell you why I fell in love with heavy metal and hard rock while my peers did not. I knew that Mik had to be born in August – a month that is filled with rock star birthdays, including Jerry Garcia, Joe Elliott, David Crosby, Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Rob Halford, Keith Moon, Gene Simmons, and Robert Plant. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, Mik shares his birthday with James Hetfield of Metallica.
But it wasn’t until I was doing the last edit that I discovered Mik’s main flaw. He never grew up. I spent the better part of a decade writing the novel, but it wasn’t until I realized some personal truths that I was mature enough to recognize this fact. He never grew up to be a responsible husband and father, a man accountable for his actions. Even when the fame was gone, he still expected the perks, especially unconditional love no matter what he did, or didn’t do. He got the love, but could never return it. And that is why he left three daughters confused by and deprived of love. Maybe there is a statement in the story about my own confusion about love.
So Happy Birthday, Mik – man who never was but will always be a part of me. We shared some good times and bad times over the years. I hope the world will love you as much as I do. But even if they don’t, I’ll always be here for you. Thank you for being a part of my personal story.
Three Chords One Song is available as an eBook from Genesis Press (www.genesis-press.com).