Rock Star

Taylor, Michigan, a shot-and-a-beer suburb of Detroit plagued by an over-abundance of mullets and homemade tattoos, isn't exactly the kind of place where you'd expect to encounter a celebrity. Especially at a bookstore. But that's exactly what happened today when Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx visited Border's Bookstore to sign copies of his new book, old Motley Crue album covers, skateboards, bass guitars, and whatever body parts were placed before his Sharpie marker.

And by pure happenstance, we witnessed the hoopla. We were driving through Taylor when a radio station announced his mid-day appearance: Well, shout at the devil! Lunch today will be at the Southland Mall food court! And take the camera, we will!

Several hundred people were lined in front of the mall by the time we arrived. Sixx's appearance is probably the biggest thing to happen in Taylor since native son Steve Avery went to pitch for the Atlanta Braves twenty years ago. In a city where many residents trace their roots to the backhills of the rural south (the city is known locally as Taylortucky, a reference to when the town was an enclave for southerners moving to Detroit to gain employment in the car factories during WWII), having a bona-fide rawk star like Sixx visit is a big deal, indeed.

Sixx (born Frank Feranna Jr.) was in town to hawk The Heroin Dairies, his auto-biographical memoir drawn from entries he scribbled in his private journals during the height (or would it be the depth?) of his heroin addiction. The book chronicles his life from 1986-1987 and is equal parts do not do as I did because it almost killed me and no shit, there I was, snorting ants with Ozzy from the sidewalk next to the tour bus. We didn't wait in line for a copy, but we did ask this young man from Indiana (who looked like he could have been a member of Motley Crue, circa 1982) what he said to Sixx during their three second encounter. "I didn't know what the f*** to say", he said. "So I put my arm around him instead." Today, in all honesty, was probably the biggest day of his life.

We do have to give Sixx credit for being one of the most humble and unassuming rock icons out there. If you've ever watched him interviewed on TV, you can't help but be impressed by how articulate and introspective he is. We listened to a recent radio interview where he spoke with clarity and honesty about how he used drugs to mask long-standing unhappiness that, over time, compacted into a festering bullet wound on his soul. Instead of blaming fame or the wrong crowd, he blamed himself. It was a breath of fresh air from the usual chorus so often heard from self-absorbed rocker narcissists who have long lost the compass bearings of self-awareness and humility.

The crowd was vintage Taylor, even if many in attendance drove from somewhere far away. Aging Barbie dolls wearing fishnet stockings and barbwire tattoos sauntered about as if they were next in line for a backstage pass on the Girls Girls Girls tour (We overheard several lascivious comments from the silicone queens, most of which are not repeatable. The funniest was when one gal, long past her skanky 80's prime, blurted how Nikki Sixx is the only rock star she'd be willing to catch a STD from. Er boy). Young and old rocker types, the kind that play in metal cover bands doomed to advance no further than weekend gigs at bowling alleys, brought guitars to have autographed and copies of demo tapes that no doubt went straight into the dumpster. And then there were the trolls, the ones who live on the far outer fringes of society in permanent 1980's exile, where the record players spin Motley Crue songs over and over and the wait for the return of the Rule of Metal goes on and on and on.

But those days are long past, and will never return. Except when Nikki Sixx came for a visit, and Livewire was heard blaring from a Camaro as the driver burned rubber on Eureka Road. For a halcyon moment, it was 1983 in Taylor, Michigan, once again.

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