“Around the Music” features true life tales: coming-of-age, slice-of-life, and anecdotes, all based around music. Poignant, humorous, weird and wacky. Road trips. Concerts. Good drugs. Bad Drugs. Cups of tea. For more stories and submission information, visit “Around the Music.”
by Patti F. Smith
I was twelve years old in 1984 and, of course, the internet, as it is today, did not exist. Perhaps I would not have even thought of going on a dick quest were it not for Michelle, the sister of my best friend Janet. Michelle was several years older and rather precocious. I do not remember why she hung out with Janet and I that one slumber party night—but there she was. And Michelle—well, that girl spoke of dicks.
Of course I knew of dicks. I mean, I knew girls had vaginas and boys had penises. But Michelle told us something new. Something unusual. Hunched over a bowl of popcorn made by hand by her mother—microwave popcorn really wasn’t a thing quite yet—Michelle told us that dicks “got hard.”
“What?!” Janet and I squealed, upending the tub of popcorn.
With the wisdom of the ages, Michelle nodded solemnly. “Oh yes. They do.” She pointed her middle finger to the floor. “When a boy gets excited, his dick gets hard. And it goes . . .” She flipped her finger up so that it was pointing straight at Janet and me. “Doing! Just like that.”
Enchanted, Janet and I whispered to each other: “Doing!”
My first thought was along the lines of “huh?” My next thought was “I gotta see me one of those.” Janet had the same thought. And thus began our quest.
Our first stop was the place any twelve-year-old would go when searching for a dick in 1984—the medical encyclopedia. Every family had one. That big, heavy tome filled with information, now easily accessed on WebMD. The encyclopedia had pages in the middle with an outline of the human body and several clear overlays that illustrated the various bodily systems—bones, veins, muscles. And, of course, the reproductive system. Indeed there was a dick in this set of overlays. But it was pointing down. Definitely not hard. Not excited. Not a single “doing” to be found in that encyclopedia.
We were young and had dreams and we were undaunted by this initial setback. We merely moved to the next step of the quest—the adult magazine. By happenstance, our classmate Kathy mentioned that her dad had Playboy delivered to the home and that her brothers kept sneaking into their parents’ room to look at it. Janet’s head swiveled about at the same time mine as the same thought entered our minds at the exact same time: “Dick!”
From there it was the small matter of finding a time to go to Kathy’s house. Since her parents were both nurses on the day shift, the coast was clear when went over the next day after school. We quickly found the magazine and opened directly to the centerfold (thanks, J. Geils Band!). The thought that Kathy’s dad might enjoy a magazine free of dick simply never entered our minds. Imagine then how surprised we were to find . . . no dick. Not in the centerfold, not on the pages before or after, definitely not in any of the articles.
The next, most logical, step on our journey was the Playboy Channel. My family was the first on the block to have cable TV. Hooked up to a 1970s console television set, the cable box was almost always set to channel 25—MTV—the one and only channel I watched. But up above lived the movie channels. And my father was not only technologically advanced but he was extremely crafty. For we, in my house and my house alone as far as I knew, had “the black box.”
The black box plugged into the cable box which in turn plugged into the TV. By some feat of magic, this mysterious black box enabled us to watch all of the pay channels for free. It could not possibly have been legal and I hope that the statute of limitations has passed on this one or else a very sweet septuagenarian in Sarasota, FL could well be hauled to jail tonight.
While my friends and their families had to live with just HBO or just Showtime, we had HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, The Movie Channel and PASS. But we did not—and my father probably winced when he realized this—get the Playboy Channel. We did, like everyone else however, get the squiggly, kind of green and grey, snowy, horizontal hold messed up version of channel.
Janet came to spend the night and immediately went to the cable box. There was no remote, no number pad—you had to press the plus or minus button to get to where you wanted to go. And she wanted to go to the Playboy Channel at number 118. When she got there, of course, it was all piggly-wiggly and kind of blue but that did not deter her. “Sometimes at night,” she whispered. “I heard you can see it clearly. But only after midnight.”
This made perfect sense for when but after the witching hour could this kind of magic happen? We simply had to wait patiently for my parents to go to bed. At the appointed hour, we changed the channel from MTV 25 to Playboy 118. Maybe it was a tad less piggly-wiggly—but we still couldn’t see dick. We repositioned ourselves, pounded on the top of the console, perhaps moved the antenna, clearly not really understanding the magic of cable yet, but the blurry lines remained.
But then! It was as if God and Moses had been chatting and happened to look down on our little street in our little suburb. And one of them said, “Yeah, you know, I’m about to do these girls a solid” and BOOM! The picture ungreened itself. It unsquiggly-wigglyed itself. It revealed itself to us.
And the first thing we saw were two naked people—a man and a woman—standing and kissing each other. And then something happened. Something that neither of our twelve-year-old brains had ever contemplated, not even for a moment, because for me at least, the discovery of the clitoris was at least a year off. All I knew of “down there” was pee. It was where pee came out. And . . . the man on the screen bent down onto his knees and began licking the woman. Licking the woman where the pee came out.
In horror, my friend and I turned to each other. “Janet!” I sputtered. “He’s drinking her pee!”
We started to laugh. If God and/or Moses were still watching, perhaps they were laughing along with us. We laughed harder and harder. The picture rescrambled itself but it mattered not. We laughed and laughed and giggled and snorted until . . . I peed myself. My entire self. My whole nightie, my underpanties, the floor beneath me. All pee. This just made us laugh louder and harder. Right then, we heard the unmistakable sound of parental footsteps.
“Shit!” Janet raced to the cable box and pressed the minus button until it was channel 25 again and we very quickly had to explain how MTV was really freaking funny late at night.
Through all of this, one thing remained: no dicks; no doings; no hard; no dick!
And perhaps our quest would have ended right there, were it not for MTV VJ Alan Hunter. You may remember him as the plain-looking white guy VJ. He said something one summer day that made me sit up and take notice; that made me realize that our quest for dick was not yet over.
See, back in 1984, your music choices were way more limited. You could be a Wannabee—a fan of Madonna who dressed with the rubber bracelets and the lace. Or a Whammie—a fan of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. But to a one, my friends and I were Durannies—fans of the band that ruled the world for a very brief period in the early- to mid-1980s. We all had our favorite. Badass Janet had Andy, the guitarist who clearly belonged in a thrash metal band but stuck it out with a Top 40 group. Our quiet and sensitive friend Myla had Roger, who was the quiet and sensitive drummer. Flashy and avant-garde Kathy leaned towards keyboardist Nick who wore more makeup—and wore it much better—than we ever would. I was the smart and pensive one, so I stuck with John the bassist. I can’t remember who picked Simon. Really though, doesn’t Simon simply belong to us all?
On a hot day in July of 1984, Alan Hunter played the “Girls on Film” video. He then winked at us and mentioned something about a video collection that included an X-rated version of that video. This meant only one thing to me: Duran dick. Five members—five members! Five dicks! Five dicks-a-doinging! Hard, getting hard, very hard—dicks!
I knew that I had to get my hands on that X-rated video!
As soon as my mom returned home from work, I informed her that I had to go to the library. Since I am an only child and spoiled as shit, I was taken there right after dinner. I ran into that Troy library, my home library, my first library; ran to the section that had a surprisingly decent selection of VHS tapes. But, search as I might, there was no Duran Duran video collection.
A plucky child, I refused to let this get me down. I went to the librarian and woefully informed her of my plight. And God bless her soul because she got on the phone or went into the card catalogue or whatever and found a branch that did have the Duran Duran video collection. Praise it!
I raced to the car, where my mom sat smoking a Virginia Slim—because that is what moms did in 1984. We had to go across town now to get that tape. Now! And so we did. While my mother enjoyed another cigarette, I jauntily sprinted into the library. And there it was! On the shelf! The Duran Duran video collection! The one with the dicks! The five dicks! The five doinging dicks!
I took it over to the checkout desk and plopped my library card down with a satisfied thud. The librarian smiled, then frowned, then looked at me. “Sorry, honey. You’ll need a grown up to check this out.” She pointed to a sticker. I don’t remember what that sticker said and I don’t need to because whatever it said meant that I had to get my mother.
So I ran back to the car, had my mom extinguish her Virginia Slim, dragged her into the library, and had her dig through her Gucci purse and cigarette case and everything else until she found her own library card, ran it through whatever passed for a computer in 1984 and then . . . yes! It was mine! The dicks! In my hands! Sort of, anyway.
Now I’m nothing if not a team player and I knew that I had to wait for Janet and Kathy to come over before I could feast my eyes upon those dicks. After two quick phone calls, we were all set for the X-rated Duran Duran dick doinging fest!
A few hours later, the girls were over. I put the tape on. But it’s not like now where you can scan or select a chapter. No, you had to press fast forward and then stop and then play and—holy shit did we miss one?—and then go back and then forward a bit. We sat through the crappy “Nightboat” and “Last Chance on a Stairway” videos until finally . . . yes, here it was: ”Girls on Film!” The dicks. Oh, the dicks! The glorious dicks! Doinging doinging dancing Duran Duran di . . .
Wait! What? Those aren’t dicks. What? There are no dicks. There were breasts and girls sliding on poles and ice cubes on nipples. But . . . no dicks. Not a one.
By this point, my friends were looking at me. Like I was the one on the set telling Simon Le Bon to put his dick away. “No, no, son! Put that back! Not on this video, lad!”
And so that was it.
The final stop on the 1984 dick train.
It was quite a few years later before I got to see a real dick—one that happened to be in my hand at the time. However, that is also when I learned the sad truth. Janet’s sister, Michelle, had lied all those years earlier. For while they might get hard—dicks do not, in fact, go “doing.”
Ann Arbor townie, PATTI F. SMITH, is a former legal aid lawyer and current special education teacher. She debuted “1984” live in February 2017 at “Bad & Nasty: Not My President’s Day” (celebrating Nasty Women and Bad Hombres!). Patti is a frequent public speaker, with appearances at Ignite, Nerd Nite, and Tellabration. She is also a part-time DJ and has organized two storytelling events: HERsay! and Grown Folks Story Time. Patti lives with her husband, Ken Anderson, and stepcat in the Village; truly vintage living in her favorite city on earth.