I’ve alluded to this story a few times in the past, mostly when people ask me the stupidest/weirdest/coolest thing I’ve ever done. In retrospect, of course: flying half-way across the world expecting a rock band to love me? Pretty weird. Believing that “I will never hurt you” text message?… Really, unbearably stupid. Getting to walk away (smarter and more humble) and tell the tales? Very cool… But those are long stories. Not the stories of one-sentence replies, nor the ones whose consequences I want to face in another person’s expression. Instead, I just shrug, and give a little coy smile, and say that I once mooned Keanu Reeves.
It was an accident. Sort of. It was partly Jon Bon Jovi’s fault.
But I realize that it’s not a story I’ve ever told in its entirety. It’s more enigmatic as a single sentence, and it makes people imagine all kinds of things…
The fact was, I was seventeen. I had one friend in the world, and she lived a long way away. We were friends because we were the only two people in the whole country who still listened to Hair Metal. Of course, when I look back: mostly I listened to Hair Metal, and she just nodded in agreement. We were good company for one another though. We never had a fight – not once. She talked a lot, and I was quiet. She had lots of friends who didn’t know her very well, and I had no other friends, but I knew her really well. She was strong and argumentative when I was weak and wanted to hide. But when she broke and lost herself, I was the one who stepped up to shield her. It was very vicarious that way.
When we were both seventeen, we went to several concerts together. We went to small local bands, and the Rolling Stones. In 1995, we both bought GA tickets to go see Bon Jovi the old Mt Smart Supertop. I tried to win a radio contest for a meet & greet, but was denied. I owned all of the Bon Jovi albums, and she didn’t own any.
There were actually three of us going to Bon Jovi: me, my friend, and my friend’s friend. Friend’s friend was the only one who had a car and could drive (barely). On the way up to the concert, I vividly remember nearly getting wiped out by a logging truck on the mountain roads outside of Rotorua. But mostly she could drive, and she had a cousin up in Auckland who said we could crash at his place. Her cousin used to play high-school rugby with Jonah Lomu. I recall thinking that, even in his high-school photos, Lomu still looked unbelievably cocky.
Now I was going to see Bon Jovi. My friend was probably also going to see Bon Jovi, but maybe just going because I was going. Her friend was going to see Keanu Reeves.
Keanu Reeves was in his pre-Matrix, trying-not-to-be-a-famous-actor-anymore stage. Let’s be honest: he had gained some weight. He had started a grunge-type band. His band’s name was Dogstar. They were in New Zealand to open for Bon Jovi. I understood later that this meant that thousands of little girls, who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Bon Jovi, would turn up to the gig and squeal and faint about Keanu. I bought my ticket before Keanu’s band was announced – let’s just get that clear.
Now the other thing it’s important to know is that my affection for attention-grabbing clothes started REALLY early on in life. When I was about four, my mother made me a pair of short shorts with a big red love heart across the backside. At the time, I was mortified… but later on I grew to like them. By the time I was eleven, I was wearing my big floppy sweatshirt to school, cinched with a pink elastic belt (in true 80s style)… and nothing else but bangles and a pair of jelly shoes. I bought my first see-through, muslin, gypsy top when I was fourteen. The year I turned seventeen, I recall sitting on a parade float in nothing but a leather string bikini. People have always accused my “look” of being ridiculous and overwrought (especially by New Zealand standards), but I like it.
At the time, I had started the habit of acquiring a different outfit for every big concert I went to. That year, the Rolling Stones got a lycra purple tie-dye mini-dress that laced up the front… and I got briefly hit-on by a little Maori lady who said I was “pretty”, but that’s another story. Bon Jovi were getting something a bit more unique: red velvet micro-mini and bodice, with a black lace over-dress. I had it made specially for the show. I still have it.
Of course, this was the mid-90s, when even the most feminine of girls didn’t feel complete without her baggy flannel shirt and Doc Martens. I did own both. It’s just that I only wore my Docs and flannel when I was painting scenery. I wasn’t going out like that, and I still won’t. It was, however, the same uniform that my friends wore to the gig. My inability to conform (even with my friends) shone through even then.
The problem was two-fold (or perhaps three-fold). Our tickets were GA. The entire Supertop was GA (maybe 6,000 people) and had nothing but a flat floor. There were no seats, and so it would be very hard to get a good view. We’d arrived at the Supertop early, and got very nearly to the front of the line. We stood there for hours, and smoked clove cigarettes, and thought we were cool. However, the gate was rushed as soon as it opened and we ended up caught in the crush about six rows back from the stage. I can still remember some guy onstage (the road manager I think) swearing through the microphone about the lack of security, and trying to tell us all what to do. We listened for a while, but then ignored him anyway. He swore a lot and called everyone names. It was most excellent. 😉
Now, there are unspoken rules to rock concert crowds (or at least there were back then). Please note, this wasn’t a mosh pit; it was just a bog-standard rock crowd. The first unspoken rule is: don’t be an asshole. Don’t start fights. Don’t vomit on people. Don’t shove for no reason. And try not to step on anyone’s head if they go down. At least be respectful of the people around you, because we’re all in the same boat. Second unspoken rule: if I am female and you are not, it’s very gentlemanly if you’ll let me move in front of you. You’re taller, so you’ll be able to see over me anyway, and… well, let’s face it, I’m sure most guys don’t mind having a girl squashed against their crotch rather than squashed against their ass. Chicks will NEVER let you get past them, no matter what your relative height difference may be. Chicks are assholes. This isn’t just a sexual thing though: it is The Way since time immemorial. I learned this at my first big rock concert (at the tender age of twelve) when a big, beardy guy in studded leather helped me over one of the barriers (the barrier!!!) so that I could get past him and into the next section, and about 100 feet closer to Bret Michaels. I don’t know who you were, beardy man, but I’ve never forgotten you. Is it any wonder I have a huge soft heart for hairy rocker dudes?
[Edit: Please note that yes, I’m conceited enough to say that the “Chicks are assholes” comment does NOT apply to me. I actually moved off the barrier front row center (!!!!) at an Ozzy Osbourne gig, just because the guy behind me was a WAY bigger Ozzy fan than I was and I thought he deserved the spot more. I then ran into the same guy in town the next day, and he gave me a huge hug in the street and said that I’d changed his life… Of course, he still looked pretty high at the time, so he probably doesn’t remember that bit. And I still have no idea who he was.]
So my friends and I, trapped as we were, tapped on a lot of big, leathery shoulders, and smiled very sweetly, and gradually wound our way through to the front two rows. This wasn’t entirely for the benefit of getting a better view. The fact is, when you’re short, and crushed in a crowd, it helps to get closer to the edge because there’s more air.
But this is where the problems start arising. Problem number one: (complete oversight on my part) when you wear lace over velvet, the fibers of the velvet get caught in the lace and stick to it like velcro. When the over-dress moved, everything underneath it moved to. When I was just walking around, this wasn’t a factor at all. When I needed to raise my arms up above my head… my skirt ended up around my waist. It’s not as massive a problem as it might at first sound, because of course we were crushed in a concert pit at the time, and nobody could see any part of me below my shoulders anyway.
Problem number two: Keanu Reeves fans. Never, EVER, on pain of death, willingly step into a concert pit that is full of fourteen-year-old girls. Big, biker guys might smell a bit funky and potentially obstruct your view, and leave you with a mouthful of hair (From off their head! Get your mind out of the gutter!). Drunk guys might flail around hopelessly, trying to mosh to the walk-in Bob Seger tunes, and might leave you with a split lip or a bit of urine on your shoes. Stage divers will kick you in the head. Massive metal mommas will take offense to your presence and shove you so hard that you dislocate a shoulder… But fourteen-year-old girls are fucking crazy. They don’t know any of the unspoken crowd rules. Fourteen-year-old girls are there for one reason and one reason only, and everything else around them (people included) is just an obstruction to be torn apart in order for them to reach the sole point of their obsession. Yes, they’re little. However, they make up for it by biting, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, squealing in your ear so loud that you pop an eardrum, and taking off their stilettos and trying to stab you with them. I’m not even kidding.
It was actually tolerable before the bands came on. I was in the second row back, dripping with sweat (not all of it mine) under that horrible old circus tent they used to call a venue. We were struggling to get enough oxygen, but we were okay. The guy who’d ended up behind me (let’s call him Mr. Happy) was grinding his package into my ass cleft, but it was hard to tell whether it was intentional or accidental. We were all sandwiched together like sardines, and I guess we were all simultaneously committing sexual assault. I couldn’t move any part of my body from the shoulders down, but I could tip my head back, and try to waft great gulps of air towards my face. There was still oxygen above me.
And then Keanu walked onstage, and the girls went fucking mental.
Okay, okay, I’m not immune to the whole “famous person thing” myself – especially not when I was seventeen – but I don’t know that anybody was expecting the rush to be quite as rough as it was. We all hit the barricade like a car wreck. The crush factor of the crowd doubled, instantly. You heard everyone around you let out a deep, sharp groan as the air was pushed out of their lungs. The squeals, especially from the crowd behind me, surged like a siren. Suddenly the girls around me – fairly mild-mannered up until this point – started clawing over people in order to try and reach the stage. A lot of swear words got thrown around from older people who didn’t like fingernail scars. Someone grabbed my hair and tried to pull my head about three feet sideways, which would have worked better if I could’ve moved my body too. There was blood – which is less than pretty on a girl in puberty. Some people went down and got trapped on the floor – not good. The band just put their heads down and played. It was hard to tell whether they were 90s-mopey or simply petrified. Their performance energy was mediocre, to say the least. They sounded awful, but you couldn’t really hear them over the piercing screams of teenage girls anyway.
As the set barely tiptoed on, the crowd became one of those stampeding surges. Girls were trying to push forward, and sideways, and backwards, and then getting pushed back. The whole mass of people began to move in waves – throwing us all simultaneously ten feet this way and that. It was unstoppable, and my feet weren’t even touching the ground by now anyway. It was like being tossed about in a stormy, boiling hot sea… a sea full of elbows and boots, louder than you can imagine, and which was squeezing the life out of you. My hair got wrenched out in clumps. My watch was knocked off. My dress tore several times. A fingernail ripped away in someone else’s jacket. It was basically impossible to breathe, and even the air above us had now become just a mass of hot, suffocating steam. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I was losing consciousness in a Bon Jovi crowd. A fucking BON JOVI crowd!!!
I still don’t know how but at some point, Mr. Happy (who was stuck to the back of me like glue, but we were all really stuck together anyway) managed to slip a hand down beneath the arm-forest, and try maneuver it into the back of my g-string. I couldn’t reciprocate – I couldn’t get my arms down – but I did manage to show him what I thought of his proposal by repeatedly elbowing him in the face. He either didn’t notice, or that wasn’t enough to put him off. I couldn’t get away from the douchebag, so I tried raking my spike heels down his shins… at least I think those were his shins. It was hard to tell.
I was feeling very dizzy by that point, but I didn’t want to miss Bon Jovi. We were all sweating like it was a sauna, we were all in pain, plenty of us were bleeding, and there was no air – especially not for short people like me. Several unconscious or semi-conscious people were being hauled out over the barrier. I remember looking up at that plodding bassist, with his hair hanging limply in his face, not even making eye contact with the crowd, and decided “Fuck it. The asshole’s not worth dying for.” I managed to tap my friend on the shoulder (thank God she was still within tapping distance) and she turned her head around to see me going really pale. She waved and shouted at the guards behind the barrier, who were pulling people out of the crush every few seconds anyway. One of the guards saw her plea and strolled over, but I was too out of it to even register what he looked like. All I knew was that he was big. He saw me, leaned out into the crowd and grabbed my hands. He hauled as hard as he could, nearly ripping my arms out while I swore loudly, but I was stuck fast. Instead, he resorted to climbing right up on top of the barrier, kneeling on the people in front of me (poor people) and placing his massive head next to mine. “Hold onto my neck,” he shouted. So I did. Then he wrapped his arms around me and tugged with all his strength, with another guard holding onto the back of his belt and hauling too. I popped out of the crowd like a champagne cork, and we all went tumbling back onto the concrete behind the barrier.
Now let’s stop and imagine this scene for a moment. You’ve got all the regular, ear-shattering noise of a rock concert, with a bit of extra high-octave screaming thrown in. The first thing I do is gasp for air – even the filthy, damp, stale cigarette butt air that lingers across the concrete floor. I pull myself up off the ground, still very woozy, to realize that I am now facing this berserk, crying, Beatlemania-level crowd. I am ass-backwards to the stage. I am literally ass-backwards to the stage. Because, of course, my velvet skirt hasn’t moved from where it got rucked up around my waist by sticky lace and stickier fingers. The crowd has a gorgeous view of the minute piece of cranberry lace that forms the front of my panties. The performers onstage, however, have an equally good view of the tiny string that’s up my butt crack.
I turn my face around and find that I’m standing directly in front of Keanu Reeves. He’s still playing his bass in earnest, with his head down. He’s looking straight at me in fact, because I am at his feet. Dude could’ve leaned down and patted me on the head.
So there’s me… and there’s Keanu… and there’s my naked ass.
Of course, this all takes barely a few seconds in real time, but the first thought that sinks into my addled brain (apart from a horrific level of humiliation) is that Keanu is looking at me as though my ass is about as interesting as a potted plant. There is nothing going on there in his expression. Not surprise, not embarrassment, not curiosity, and definitely not arousal. It’s exactly at that point that I decided Keanu Reeves had to be gay. [Don’t sue me, Keanu, it’s just my opinion.] And yes, I know that he’s had girlfriends and lost loves and all that. And maybe he was just being gentlemanly. Maybe he’s seen lots of ladies’ asses. Maybe he was petrified in fear at the melee he’d created… But seriously?!?! “Hi, here’s my naked ass… aaaaand you really don’t care do you?…” With a little huff, I pulled down my skirt and let the guards push me towards the ambulances.
… And the ambulance workers gave me oxygen, and about two liters of water to drink… but that’s the boring part of the story. As soon as I had my strength back, I ran away from them and re-joined the crowd.
So that’s the simple tale of how I came to moon Keanu Reeves, by accident… And how he didn’t seem to care… And how I learned to not wear skirts in pit crowds… And how some random douche at a concert nearly got my digital virginity…
But Bon Jovi were fucking awesome. Well worth all the trouble.