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Billy's Birthday

They sat in a horseshoe by the swimming pool.

Girlfriends at one end, lads at the other and I pull up a chair to sit between them.

The DJ inside the house was one of our friends.

I only knew him as Wayne, but from now on, I'd have to refer to him as a friend.

A friend, who's version of industrial techno he'd brought over to Los Angeles from North Wales, was making me want to cry actual tears.

A voice attempted to remove my cloak of awkwardness,

"You must be Adam’s friend”, she said,

“Me and Wayne came over a year ago”.


Everyone sat here was writing their own tales to tell in years to come;

They'd always have that gold plated conversation starter -

‘I used to live in California’.

Dropped jaws all round at that one, back home.

I estimate when an extended holiday could be described as living, and guess at around six months.

Five months and one week still to go.


The LA night sky glistened onto the house party guests nestled in the Topanga Canyon hillside.

Danny from Wolverhampton had called Adam with the address and it’d been duly circulated round the expat circle.

His chauffeur job meant he got to know people, and would tell the story of how Whoopi Goldberg always gave a $100 tip, and them both sneaking off to Taco Bell whilst she was on set.

I expected him to say that she’d tried it on with him at some point, but he didn’t, giving the tale an authenticity I wasn’t prepared for.


Adam had moved to the US prior to the 94 world cup. The fact he'd once played for Everton reserves, now a valuable asset in the cut throat world of personal soccer coaches.


He still didn’t quite believe I’d taken him up on his offer to come and stay with him in LA.

Neither did his live-in girlfriend - who was still in shock that someone he’d only met twice in person had actually taken him up on it.

The fact that I’d walked in on her having a bath twice in the last week, only intensified the whispers in our tiny Venice apartment about when I’d eventually be gone.


I stare into the California night and think of pubs, taxi queues in the rain and Top Of The Pops on a Thursday night.


Adam flumped into an empty poolside chair.

“D’you know whose house this is?” he says,

“It’s only Billy Idol’s”.


Danny told us that Billy'd been to Las Vegas for his birthday but was due back any time.

And how much of a normal bloke he was.

Just like us.


Poor old Billy Idol.

People still slaughtered me for that robot dance I did once at a school xmas disco, so how did he cope with making such a twat of himself on a global scale?

I bet he gets that same line thrown at him over and over again.

He’d exchange nodded greetings at the MTV awards with soundmen and camera crew, then hit with the sucker punch,

‘Nice day for it, Billy’.

'A nice day for what?' he'd reply, walking straight into the trap.

"For a white wedding, mate!"

The ironic backstage cheers, reminding him this is laughing at, not with.

The MTV awards must be a nightmare for Billy Idol.


“Try and join in a bit,” whispers Adam, “you look really pissed off”.

“It’s the jet lag, probably”,

“You’ve been saying that for three weeks”, he calls, as I get up to leave.

The marble floor has steps down into a TV viewing area, where the decks are now set up.

Wayne leans into his headphones, prepping his next vinyl attack.

I wave over in a show of support, then realise that he mustn't have seen me.


A girl dressed in a red adidas tracksuit top with matching shorts, stands blocking the open tread staircase.

“It’s bad luck”, I say, gesturing for her to walk down first,

“I never heard that one before”, she says in southern Californian drawl. 

“Walking under ladders - that’s another”.

“I’ll watch out for any,” she says,

"I'm guessing you’re Australian?”


“I’m looking for the toilet”, I say.


“You mean the bathroom? - That makes two of us.”


I follow her across the landing towards a pair of closed doors where she gestures towards the one on the right with a shrug.

We walk in to see a huge bed built into a black, metal frame with wheels fixed at each corner.

As if the cockpit of a car had been lifted out by a crane and replaced by a giant mattress.

“Is that supposed to be Batman's car?” she says and unfolds the pyjama bottoms from the pillow to show a utility belt printed around the waist.

“I think it is”, I say - resisting the urge to correct her on the name of the vehicle. And decide against  pointing out that the pyjamas are a replica of the costume worn by Adam West in the TV from the 60s not one of the tacky hollywood remakes.


She sits on the bed and unzips the pocket of her tracksuit top, twisting the lighting end of a pre rolled cigarette.


I offer her the clipper lighter from my shirt pocket and we sit with our feet draped over the driver's side of the bed.


She tells me she’s a tennis coach, reeling off the names of clients I should know, and make a mental note to find out who Jason Alexander is, first thing tomorrow.


She asks me to repeat various words after her,

“Say, water bottle”.

“Water bottle?”

and she laughs so hard, she loses her breath for several seconds, like a child who’s trapped their finger in a door.

I try to work out if this is laughing at or with, then realise I don’t really care which.


“I’m missing home,” I say,  “but I didn’t have much to stay at home for”.


She rummages through the clutter on the bedside table then gently returns my lighter back where it came from.

“Maybe, California's your home now”, she replies.


I follow her across the landing, sensing a sideways incline I hadn't noticed on the way there.

“See you around Mr Australian man”, she says before gliding onto the patio and being swallowed up by the other guests.


Wayne fires a nod in my direction, as I manoeuvre back towards the pool, to see a spiky blonde haired figure is now sitting in my chair.

Wearing an black sleeveless t-shirt, he’s holding my circle of new friends on the edge of their plastic seats.


“Alright Billy”, I say.

His eyes flicker at the stranger standing by his swimming pool.

The beats seem to drop for a second, as I try to retrieve the words already departing my lips,

“Nice day for it”.


His mouth droops like a cornered alsatian.

“A nice day for what, mate?”

I see it in his eyes - Billy has been here before.

An arc of expectant faces wait for an answer.

A faded Batman logo is printed across his t-shirt and I think of those wankers at the MTV awards.


“Your party - it’s pretty good”.


His face unfolds into an indebted smile that only I can see,

- then Billy Idol continues with his story.


I retrieve the lighter from my shirt pocket to see it’s been wrapped by a piece of torn cigarette packet.

A phone number is scrawled across, beneath a biro-sketch of a tennis racket.

It feels like a nice day to…start again.


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