Rock ’n’ roll fantasy?
Down the rabbit hole with the Pageant Dads
Forgive me. Normally I maintain the detached, objective, truth-telling tone of the professional journalist. But … now … this pretense can hardly be maintained. My head is spinning. Let me tell you, dear reader, what happened.
My editor assigned the small article that you are now reading about local experimental-rock/theatrical quartet the Pageant Dads, who have an upcoming show (Nov. 21-24) at the Blue Room Theatre, Pageant Dads Present: The Pageant Dads Experience 3-D (in select theatres). The Pageant Dads, he told me, are super musically proficient guys in their early 20s who, along with playing some kick-ass jazzy-proggy-rock, maintain, on stage, an alternate reality in which they are four beaten-down-by-life fathers in their 30s who met at their daughters’ beauty pageants and started a band.
I am a father in my 30s for whom life has been like a bulldozer running right over my face each and every day. Perhaps that’s why my editor sent me. Maybe he thought it would be funny to have someone who could actually relate to the Pageant Dads’ put-on personas.
Anyhow, I contacted drummer Alex Coffin, whose Pageant Dad alter-ego is the hard-partying Hawk Mahalo, and he set up an interview for just two hours from when I called. This detail is important, because the band couldn’t possibly have prepared to pull off an elaborate ruse in just two short hours. They just couldn’t have.
We met at Coffin’s apartment. He greeted me by showing me the Bic he was lighting his cigarette with. It had a naked girl on it. “These are the sort of ‘perks’ I get being in the Pageant Dads,” he said, pointing at her boobs. “My name’s Hawk.” He smelled of beer. The rest of the band members were late. Hawk started telling me, his voice slurring, about how “Tom” (“Tom Chaz,” actually, aka guitarist Michael Bone) had stolen his wife and how he had lost his kids.
“Ok,” I thought, “I get it.” They’re going to do the interview in character. I’ll play along.
Hawk had to “take a leak,” so I looked around the apartment. On the refrigerator was a faded picture of Hawk kissing a woman, a small baby girl in her arms. The look of love on their faces seemed deep and natural. There was another picture—slightly less faded—of a pretty little girl with a head of curls just like Hawk’s, dressed up in a frilly pageant dress. “That’s funny,” I thought. “These guys are really getting into this.”
Hawk came out of the bathroom and we went back out to the patio. “Oh, there’s Ruth and Craig,” he said. I looked out of the slatted fence and saw two young guys pour out of a minivan. A blond middle-aged woman in a pantsuit was driving, and in the back, I could just make out the silhouette of a girl—maybe 10 years of age—wearing a tiara. One of the guys started toward us, but the other walked around to the driver side and engaged the woman in a very long, passionate, somewhat disturbing kiss. And then the van drove off.
“OK, this is getting ridiculous,” I thought. “How far are these guys going to take this?”
For the next six hours, I tried and then, eventually, gave up trying to get these guys to break character and answer your standard journalistic questions, such as, “Why did you guys decide to assume these alter egos?”
Happily-married orthodontist “Craig D’Anthony,” aka bassist Gavin Fitzgerald, was chastised by his buddies for interrupting the interview to take calls on his Bluetooth, discussing such topics as whether or not he was “bringing the Capri Suns and orange slices.” World-weary “Ruth Wardwell” (guitarist Daniel Wardwell) broke down in tears at one point while discussing his divorce, little rivulets of mucous dripping down into his mouth. Hawk smashed empty beers over his head. Glass ones.
These guys were going seriously Method. In fact, as we drank and they sang into the night, I don’t think I’ve ever related to other dads quite so much. At one point, I’m not ashamed to say, I wound up crying myself, right onto Ruth’s sweet-smelling shoulder.
It’s not that I ever came to believe that these guys were middle-aged dads, of course, I think. But (I’m scared to admit this, as no journalist wants to be made a fool of) I’m not totally sure that they knew that they weren’t middle-aged dads anymore. Which should be a lesson to all of us as we dress up for Halloween. Beware: You can lose yourself.
Editor’s note: The preceding story about a real band of fictional characters may or may not have happened exactly how the real writer imagined it.