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When I Met VANITY…

Written by DJ Crystal Clear

It’s 1986, and I’m working at Tower Sunset (For all you kids out there, I’m talking about the world famous Tower Records Flagship store on Sunset Boulevard, right at the beginning of the infamous SUNSET STRIP).

It was a really great job – I worked in the Art Department, putting my Art Institute Of Philadelphia’s Graphic Design degree to good use. Sometimes I’d hang out or work the floor in the main shop, or in the Video Store (where I was originally hired) and in the Classical Store too.

Anyway, celebrities of all kinds would come there to shop or hang out – some would just wander in without an entourage, some would call ahead, some would ask us to let them in after hours…David Lee Roth used to hang out in the Video Store often (he lived down the street);  I met Michael Jackson (who would sometimes come in costumes), Prince (Jerome drove them there in a, wait for it…little red corvette), Whoopi Goldberg (I babysat her daughter), blah blah blah, it was really groovy.

One afternoon, I was hanging out in the video store, talking with a Manager there named Kevin. We were goofing around talking about some new album or something, and he wanted to show me the stuff he bought across the street in the record store, so we went into the back office to give it the once over.

While we’re talking, a clerk comes back and says, “Hey Kevin, Denise is here to see you.”

Now, I really didn’t pay that much attention to the name he said because I was looking at new records. Kevin made the waving motion that meant, “Yeah, tell her to come back here.”

I put the records down and sit in a big chair while we’re talking. I see a figure walk in the door out of the corner of my eye, and see a fur coat in the doorway. It’s a floor length chinchilla/mink mix and I’m thinking, “This is a crazy looking fur coat that is super expensive” and I look up from the floor (why isn’t this kooky broad wearing shoes?) and get to the woman’s face – HOLY SHIT IT’S VANITY! I sit there, gobsmacked.

Kevin says, “Hey Denise, what’s up?” She smiles. “Oh yeah, this is Crystal. She’s a great artist we just hired, she’s cool, say ‘hi!’”

She stands there smiling at me. Her eyes look glassy, her hands are in the pockets of the coat. Floor length fur coat. I’m in West Hollywood.

It’s July.

It’s 89 degrees outside.

I stand up and our eyes meet. The manager says, “Crystal, this is…”

I blurt out, “VANITY!”

“Noooooo, call me Denise, it’s cool…nice to meet you Crystal!”

I extend my hand to shake hers, but she keeps her hands in the pockets. I’m noticing that her eyes are swirling in different directions. A closer look at the coat and I can see that it’s kind of…unkempt. I lower my hand. She’s still smiling. I’m smiling. Where did Kevin go?

“Hey Crystal, would you like some candy?”

I INSTANTLY THINK THAT SHE IS OFFERING ME DRUGS. OH GOD, IS SHE OFFERING ME DRUGS? I’VE NEVER DONE DRUGS, I DON’T WANT DRUGS!

“Um, that’s okay Denise, but thank you!”

Oh, there’s Kevin – he says, “It’s cool Crystal, Denise always has candy, take some!”

NO, I DO NOT WANT DRUGS. ARE THEY GONNA MAKE ME TAKE DRUGS?  ME, KEVIN, AND VANITY DOING DRUGS. MY PARENTS WILL BE SO DISAPPOINTED IN ME!

Vanity says,“Yeah, it’s good candy Crystal…here!”

She pulls her right hand out of the right pocket, I extend my hand and she drops a small handful of crazy in my palm…it feels dirty – I look down and see a pile of unwrapped miniature Tootsie Rolls, multicolored Life Savers, cracked M&M’s – all of this REAL CANDY, covered in pocket lint, crumbs, dirt and god knows what else. It looked like it had all fallen on a wet floor, and then she put it all in her pocket.

“See? Candy!” Her eyes still swirling independently of each other.

Kevin takes a little Tootsie Roll out of my hand, pulls off some lint, and puts it in his mouth…“Thanks Denise!”

“Sure…here ‘ya go Crystal, lollipops!”

She pulls her left hand out of the left pocket – it’s a handful of unwrapped lollipops, and Tootsie Pops – again, all covered in fur, pocket lint, dirt, etc. I take a step back and say, “No thanks…um the M&M’s are cool.”

Kevin grabs a lint covered Tootsie Pop out of Vanity’s hand and puts it in his mouth with a big smile. I recoil.

Photo by las

I look at Kevin, he’s fine. I look at Vanity, she’s giggling…eyes swirling.

I look down at my hand.

“Well, it was nice meeting you Van…I mean, Denise, thanks for the candy…I have to get back to work.”

“You’re beautiful Crystal, have a great day!” She reaches out to hug me and her coat opens. I can see that she’s wearing a camisole, a thong, and she’s barefoot, and before I know it, she embraces me – “Mmmm, you smell good too!”

“Thank you Vanity!” She giggles.

I look at Kevin and tell him I’m heading back to the shop – he smiles with a half eaten Tootsie Pop in his mouth.

I walk out of the office with a handful of insanity and head back to the shop looking down at my palm.

Denise Matthews (1959-2016)
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